Thursday, December 16, 2010


Henry and Amelia finally saw Santa this past weekend. Twice, actually--once at the Oakland Zoo and once at my mom's club's holiday brunch. Having two Santa sighting so close together posed a problem: the kids remembered what Santa looked like on Friday, and they wanted to know why Santa looked totally different on Sunday.

Which brings us to the fact that the whole Santa story has many, many holes, and a parent committed to the Santa Experience is often forced to perform fantastic feats of split-second spin control. In the case of two different Santas, I explained that St. Nick can't attend all the holiday events himself, what with the prep work for his BIG DAY, so he sends out elves dressed as Santa who report back to him about what everyone wants for Christmas. Sometimes, of course, he shows up himself, so we have to be on the lookout for the real Santa. And that is why some Santas look real and some look very, very sketchy.

I also had to come up with a reason for Toys for Tots, because, really, shouldn't Santa be getting things for the poor children? Shouldn't that be his number one job? I told Henry that parents send money to Santa every year to pay for the gifts and delivery, and that some families don't have money, so we pick out toys for those kids to help Santa out. And that maybe Santa slips in a few extras for us because we're helping him out. That's logical, right? Although the whole pay-for-play deal does seem to suck the magic right out of it.

Anyway, Henry ran right up to both Santas, sat right down, and asked for Star Wars action figures, Star Wars Legos, and an iPad (I'll have to thank my dad later for bringing such a thing to my house before Christmas). And despite my wide-eyed head shaking at Santa, Mr. Claus's response has led Henry to believe that they have an agreement. No amount of explaining that Santa might have other video game systems up his sleeve can shake Henry from the conviction that he is getting an iPad. And he's not. So that will be fun on Christmas morning.

Amelia took a little longer to warm up to the old man. At the zoo she refused to sit on Santa's lap, and instead stood at the foot of the sleigh and shouted up, "I want video games!" When Santa asked what kind of video game she wanted, she shouted back, "Pink!"

She felt different at the Sunday brunch, when she ran up to chat with Santa three different times, once actually climbing onto Santa in the middle of another kid's meeting. By the third time she didn't have anything left to ask for, so she told Santa about our cats.

I'll post a photo if I ever get around to downloading them from the camera.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I seem a lot more fun than I really am

So last week was my turn to go to school with Amelia (it's this "parents and children together" program that was a lot more charming the first time around with Henry). It being winter, I had a slight cold, so the tip of my nose, right around my left nostril, was dry and BRIGHT RED.

It looked hideous, so before I went in, I touched it up with some cheap cover-up stick in pale ivory. And that, of course, looked worse, so I tried to wipe it off. It didn't really wipe off, though, because of the dry skin. Instead it just looked like my nose was red with a light dusting of white powder around the nostril.

I can only hope I'm building an interesting reputation at the preschool.

Monday, November 29, 2010

That person

I'm lucky, right? Look at those faces. I'm really, really lucky. And I have much to be thankful for: two great kids, a nice house, a warm bed, family who babysit for free, friends, a six-day-a-month job, that I'm not bald yet.

Things are good! They're great, in fact. Really, really, really [sob] great.

A couple of weeks ago I went out to drinks with a couple of old friends from high school. One friend is having a particularly hard time--his mom has Alzheimer's and he's working a job he hates--and he said his girlfriend is pressing for marriage and babies.

I leaned toward him, stared him in straight in the eyes, and said, "NEVER get married."

And even as I was explaining how it was a terrible institution, and how only a fortunate few could ever truly be happy being yoked to one person for life, I was flooded with the horror that I have become that person--bitter and jaded, glowing with a smoldering resentment fueled by the carcasses of my dead dreams. All I needed was a cigarette and maybe a limp and the whole picture would have been complete.

I can't say exactly how things got this bad. It's never one thing, just 10 years of things piled up and littering the floor until our home is the emotional equivalent of a cat hoarder's place.
I do love those kids, though. Thank God for them.
On an unrelated note, but still under the category of "Things That Suck," Amelia seems to be suffering from some sort of insomnia. It started with one missed nap on Sunday when we took her to see a play. Then the next day she spent nap time wandering around her room, and the following night she was up for an extra 90 minutes performing stealth excursions to turn up the volume on her lullaby sounds. Since then, she hasn't napped at all, it's taking hours for her to fall asleep, and this morning she was up for the day at 4:30.
Meanwhile, her waking hours are what you might expect from a two-year-old who's missing four to six hours of sleep each day. There's a lot of whining and tears and writhing on the floor.
The poor dear needs sleep. But she won't sleep. So she's overtired. So she can't sleep.
This is not heading in a positive direction AT ALL.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"I hate you"

I honestly thought things were going well between us.

Last night Amelia and I read two books: The Little Engine That Could and Good Night San Francisco. Except for my insistence that she sit with me on the rocker and not across the room on her stool, we got along swimmingly.

Shortly after going to bed she threw up. Half-digested spaghetti, carrots, and Kit Kat were in her hair, in her ears, down her pajama top. Simon did the heavy lifting, washing and rewashing her hair as she sobbed, "I throwed up!" But I was there, too. I got the pajamas, blanket, and sheets into the washing machine, I put new sheets on the bed, dried her, dressed her, and sat next to her, stroking her hair, until she fell asleep.

This morning at around 7:30 I heard her saying, "Daddy, I want to get up!" which is funny because I'm almost always the one to get her up in the morning, especially given that Simon has been sleeping on the couch lately (which is a subject for a whole separate, bitter, weepy post).

I went in, as usual, and said, "Good morning! How are you feeling?" in my sunniest voice.

She sat up in bed, furrowed her brow, and yelled, "I want DADDY."

"Daddy's downstairs," I told her, still chipper as I opened her curtains. "We'll see him when we go down for breakfast."

Amelia folded her arms. "I don't like you," she said.

But she couldn't mean that, right? Surely she was expressing dissatisfaction at, well, something else. An ongoing stomach ache. Hunger. Congressional infighting.

"Why don't you like Mommy?" I asked.

She looked down at her dolly, then straight into my eyes, "Because I hate you," she said.

And, you know, what?!? Was it because I told her to stop asking me for water when I'm driving? Because I wouldn't let her sit on her stool during story time? Did she blame me for the problems between Simon and I? Or did I damage our relationship irrevocably when I had to stop breastfeeding after a year due to a new medication? Had we ever really bonded at all?

I started to say that it hurt my feelings when she said that, because it did. But then I thought better of it, and, trying to be the best parent I could, I conjured up a smile and said, "That's OK if you hate me right now. I still love you."

Then I helped her pick out an outfit to wear, and called Simon to come upstairs because, really, I just want her to be happy.

And to love me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Orange and black

I didn't make it to the Giants parade last week. I thought about it. I even asked Henry if he wanted to go.

"Will there be cotton candy?" he asked.

"No," I said. "There will be a lot of people standing together on the sidewalk cheering for the Giants."

"That sounds super boring," Henry said.

My sister went. She said not taking my kids there was the best parenting decision I've ever made. Sadly, she may be right.

But missed parade and deformed "SF" jack-o-lantern aside, I am over the moon about their victory. Yay Giants!


The build-up to Halloween at our house was epic. In length. We bought Henry's Boba Fett costume in early September. So I had been listening to "Is it Halloween yet?" for about six weeks by the time October 31 rolled around.

Henry was firmly aboard the Halloween bandwagon, wearing his Boba Fett jetpack to school and folding his arms in bored condescension at severed heads and zombie babies alike, declaring, “That doesn’t scare me one bit.” Amelia, on the other hand, was having none of it. Outside of her lukewarm approval of her bee costume and her genuine happiness about her Hello Kitty jack-o-lantern, her standard response to all things Halloween was, “Too scary for me!”

And then it was time to trick-or-treat. We approached the first house, a large Victorian with gravestones on its front lawn and a smoke machine in full operation on the porch. Simon and I each took one kid’s hand, and walked slowly into the foyer. A large man wearing a Jason mask sat at a table, surrounded by cobwebs and body parts. Amelia stood beside me, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Jason silently held out a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. Amelia immediately let go of my hand and ran toward Jason. “Thanks you!” she cried, happily.

She was hooked. For the rest of the night she wriggled out of my grip and ran toward houses that even Henry refused to enter. “That one!” she yelled, holding her Elmo treat basket proudly before her.

As for Henry, a block into trick-or-treating he stopped going into any house with more than a jack-o-lantern for decoration. Two blocks after that he said he was done, and I walked him home (happily, it being Game 4 of the World Series).

Amelia stayed with Grandma for another block or two. She would have gone longer, but it was her bedtime. As she fell asleep that night, she told me, “That scary guy so nice to give me candy.”

So what did my preschoolers learn this Halloween? Ignore your instincts about what looks dangerous! Take candy from strangers! Commit extortion! At least it makes me feel better about the whole Santa charade.


One last thing: A friend sent me this link to a blog post by the mom of a boy who went as Scooby Doo’s Daphne for Halloween and got flak for it by other moms. I hope she feels supported by all the positive comments. Her son looks awesome, too.

Personally, I am a little sad that Henry has moved on from loving princesses to embracing all things Star Wars. I mean, I like the movies and all, but I am so tired of the pretend shooting and light-sabering.

It's so odd to me that boys playing killer is A-OK, and boys wearing mod purple minidresses with kicky pink boots are bullied by grownups.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On not reading and pumpkins with three noses

Monday night I attended the "parent education night" for Henry's preschool. One of the teachers brought out a box of multi-hued composition books. She explained that the box was available at the writing table each day because "I know a lot of your children are already reading and writing." Many parents nodded and smiled beatifically.

My stomach turned over. The reading and writing skills of Henry's classmates are not news to me. I have watched the progression of birthday-party thank-you cards over the last few months--first kids signed their own names, then some were writing "thank you," then a few were including messages and addressing the envelopes. For his birthday in June, Henry signed each card with a large "H," sometimes an "E" with up to eight cross-bars, and some stickers.

I raised my hand. "I know a lot of kids are already reading," I said, flushing with embarrassment, "but Henry has only just learned to write his name." It felt like a confession--Hi, my name is Meghan, and I have failed my child.

And then this other mom, the one who is so pretty and so nice with her hot husband and beautiful children, the one I have envied because her children will likely require far less therapy than mine, raised her hand. "My son comes home talking about how other kids can read and write, and he can't do those things yet. What can I say to him?" She had tears in her eyes.

See, here's the thing about parents. Almost everyone will tell you--if not to your face, then in their Facebook updates--what their child is doing well. My daughter's reading! My three-year-old solved for "x" in this equation! My first grader won first prize in the science fair for inventing a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon! They don't say that their kid threw sand in another kid's face or that they're having trouble expunging the word "idiot" from their 4-year-old's vocabulary.

So those of us whose kid is not reading and has not yet solved for "x" watch our beloved offspring pretend to shoot the cat with his tinker toy blaster and think that we are perhaps failing at this most important of jobs. Worse, we think we're alone.

After the meeting, which I left with a list of 14 things I could to do to become a better parent, a few of the parents stayed around, turning over art projects to see whose kid had made what. (Henry's jack-o-lantern was the one with three noses and the eyes on its chin. For the record, he knows where eyes and noses go. He just thinks it's scarier with them all mixed up.) One woman told me her daughter thought Henry was hilarious because he said he was making a pizza with penises and poop on top, which is yet another thing I won't be posting on Facebook. This other mom, whose son is a certified genius--the kid who made his phone number out of Legos when we had a playdate two years ago--said, "I am so glad to hear that Harper's not the only one who's making fart and poop jokes."

At least Henry is in distinguished company.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Love and marriage

Lately Henry wants to marry Amelia.

"That's sweet," I told him when he first brought it up last week, "but you're not really supposed to marry your sister."

Henry glared at me and crossed his arms. "I don't care, I'm going to marry her anyway."

So, you know, fine with me. I'm certainly not going to argue the point with him. By the time he's old enough to marry, the thought of marrying his sister will make his skin crawl. In fact, after watching Simon and I snipe at each other for a few more years, the thought of marrying ANYONE will make his skin crawl. As well it should.

Unfortunately for poor Henry, Amelia does not share his ardor.

"Amelia," Henry said to her yesterday, taking her little face in his hands, "do you want to marry me?"

Amelia pursed her tiny mouth, looked him in the eyes, and gently replied, "No, Haya."

And Henry began to bawl. Just really bawl as though his heart had been shattered.

I held him and stroked his hair and tried to think of something to say to ease the sting of rejection. "You can marry me!" I offered. That's weird, right? But he's a 4-year-old asking his 2-year-old sister to marry him, so we've already veered off the beaten path here.

"I don't want to marry you," Henry growled. "I want to marry Amelia." And the tears began anew.

For the record, that officially makes no one in our family who wants to be married to me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lies and the lying liars that tell them

Oh, God, it's been weeks. Weeks! I want to write more often, I really do. It's just that lately people have been offering me money for tedious jobs that suck up all of my blogging time, and I like being paid. Of course, I haven't actually been paid yet. Never be a contractor.

So now, at 4 years plus 3 months old, Henry is waist deep into lying.

It started a couple of weeks ago, as we were reading William's Doll, a book written in the 70s about a boy who wants a doll, and although his neighbor and older brother make fun of him for it, his liberated grandmother--looking smart in an orange-and-brown plaid suit--finally buys him the blue-eyed baby he yearns for.

Henry was quiet for a few minutes after we finished the book, then said, "I told Theo I want a doll, and he laughed at me and called me a stupid-head." Henry's eyes were downcast, his voice tinged with sorrow. It was a very convincing story.

Except that I know Henry, and I know that despite years of me pushing dolls on him, he has never shown even a flickering interest in them. He likes real babies, he likes certain stuffed animals, and he likes dressing up like a princess. But if he were in a room of only dolls, he would simply run in circles to entertain himself. It is as if dolls do not exist for him.

So I was suspicious of his doll story. But he repeated it to Simon, and then to my mom, and I began to wonder.

Then a couple of days ago, after Henry had been stomping and growling all evening, I asked him if he was stressed out about school starting. Henry climbed into my lap, and said, in that same small, sad voice, "Well, the other day I was playing with this little school, and my teacher called me an idiot."

This I did not believe, even for a second, which was all it took for the story to change to the teacher grabbing the toy student from him. Then it was his friend Brighton grabbing the toy student and hitting him. Eventually we distilled it down to Brighton taking the toy student after Henry sent the student down the toy slide. No grabbing, no hitting, no teachers calling Henry an idiot.

I proceeded to explain the importance of telling the truth, how I can't believe him it he tells me things that didn't really happen, how other people could get into trouble. He nodded thoughtfully and asked, "Is Chewbacca a good guy or a bad guy?"

Last night my sister was babysitting, and Henry gave her an elaborate story about how I make him wear pull-ups at night because it is too hard for him to climb up and down the ladder to his bunk bed for nighttime bathroom visits. And, you know, Henry hasn't worn pull-ups in months. I didn't even know we still had any pull-ups in the house.

"But he was so convincing," said my sister.

So, fabulous. He's not just a liar--he's a very good liar. Can you imagine what this kid will be like as a teenager?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Poo-poo, the sequel

I know, I know. It's been weeks! I am getting blog lazy (blazy?). That's what happens when I have an actual work project to spend my time on.

I know I wrote about poop talk months ago, but it's returned to our house with a vengeance lately. This time it's not so much Henry as it is Amelia. Now that she's officially 2, there is nothing funnier to her than the word "poo-poo."

This is what it's like to read a book with her now:

Me: In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red...
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: Balloon. And a picture of... [pause to turn the page]
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: No, the cow jumping over the...
Amelia: Poo poo
Me: No more poo poo! If you keep saying 'poo poo,' I'm closing the book.
Amelia: OK, no more poo poo.
Me: Thank you. And there were three little bears, sitting on...
Amelia: Pee pee

And of course it's like hearing something funny at a funeral, right? It's not really that funny, but because you know you're not supposed to laugh, it is hilarious. So I set my face in a stern gaze, and then I snort, and then I guffaw, and soon I am crying tears of unadulterated mirth and Amelia is grinning in victory.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Science camp

I had really started to make peace with myself as a mother. Sure, I was a little moody, a little loud, a little insecure. But I was doing my best, and that counts for something, right? RIGHT?

The problem is that sometimes my best sucks.

For the past two weeks Henry has been attending afternoon camps at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The first one was about bugs and the second was about pond life. The camps are awesome--real bugs, real salamanders, real crayfish--and Henry loves them. They have been amazing learning opportunities for him, and just absolute showcases of parental ineptitude for me.

I don't know what it is about the camps. Maybe it's the fact that the Lawrence Hall of Science is 30 minutes away. Or that once I park, it takes another 5 to 10 minutes to unload everyone, descend the giant staircase, and circle the entire O-shaped building to get to the classroom. Maybe it's the mid-morning swim lessons that leave me with an hour and a half to kill before science camp--too much time to purposefully head to the classroom, too little time to go home or run any significant errands. Whatever it is, I am just a mess around the whole thing.

It took me two days to remember I was supposed to pack him a snack, and when I finally figured it out, all I had to leave him were some sandwich wedges bearing Amelia's tiny bite marks. One day we were at LHS an hour early, and he was still late because I realized minutes before class started that I had left my purse clear on the other side of the building.

This week I didn't even pack lunches, preferring to spend a small fortune in the LHS cafeteria, which was nice, but it meant his snacks consisted of either a free-floating banana with his name written in ballpoint pen on the peel (3 days) or pretzels from the vending machine (1 day). Sometimes I drew a heart next to his name on the banana peel to prove I care, however half-assed the snacks I provided.

Each day I'd see the other kids lining up with their snack bags, their parents looking all grown up and organized, and I'd send poor Henry in with his lone banana. Or I wouldn't see the other kids because we were late, and they would already be sitting in the circle, name tags on, and I would send Henry in and place the solitary banana beside their neatly-arranged pouches. I wanted to cry for my son.

So it has been a bad week, one in which I have been driving up to 70 miles a day to and from various summer activities, while an unfinished 20-page research report due at the end of the month sits neglected on my laptop. And yesterday at pick-up time it finally all came to a head.

I had one phone call to make yesterday--just one!--regarding a part-time job with my old company. I told the woman I'd call between 4 and 5 p.m. Amelia and I picked Henry up at 4, and then they both wanted to climb the giant DNA outside, and I said fine, seven minutes. I warned them at five minutes, and again at two minutes. I announced a one minute warning. Then I told them it was time to go.

"I just have to climb through once more," said Henry, starting in from the front end. It had taken him all seven minutes for him to make it across once.

"No," I said, firmly, "I have to get home to make a phone call."

By then Amelia had run off squealing, her greatest entertainment these days being to either run or hide when I say we have to go somewhere. It took two minutes to chase her down, and another minute to talk Henry off the DNA, and finally, my brittle patience barely holding together as we walked to the car, Henry said, "I have to go to the bathroom."

And I know...grrrrrrrr. What could I say, "no"? "No, you can't go to the bathroom"? "Hold it for the 30 minute ride home"? Of course not. So instead I said, "Dammit!" and dragged the two of them down the giant stairs to the bathroom where Henry proceeded to tell me he had to poop. Poop! This kid can take 25 minutes to poop.

This was all very frustrating in itself, and then my loopy, child-addled mind decided to take it to the next level by declaring this event to be symbolic of the fact that I will NEVER get a job, and that, in fact, I have RUINED my life by staying home lo these many years. Then it pointed out with great indignation that Simon has NEVER, EVER had to choose between getting a child to the bathroom and making a business call.

I started audibly weeping, right there, in front of both children in the Lawrence Hall of Science ladies' room stall. I continued grousing all the way back to the car. I buckled the kids into their car seats while loudly declaring that it was absolutely unfair that Daddy never had to take on drop-off or pick-up responsibilities. As I drove away I saw that the lady on the bench in front of our parking space was one of Henry's teachers. So, you know, swell. I hope they give him an extra hug today.

Incidentally, I still made it home in time to make my phone call. So I further ruined my kids for nothing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

On giant stuffed animals and heartbreak

This is supposed to be Digit, the funny, Gilbert-Gottfried-voiced sidekick on Henry's favorite cartoon, Cyberchase.

But, of course, it is not Digit. It's not even Gilbert Gottfried. It is an unknown PBS intern wearing a large, hollow, stuffed-animal as a suit, peering out from a mesh grate in the mouth.

When I told Henry we were going to meet Digit, I'm not sure what he expected. I don't know if he thought Digit would still be a cartoon, or if maybe he thought he would become a cartoon, too. He may have imagined the two of them solving math problems and fighting the evil Hacker together.

Whatever he was expecting, I could tell by the look on his face when the real-life Digit came back from her bathroom break that it wasn't this awkward, Digit-ish fat suit.

"It's Digit!" I said. "Say hi to Digit!"

Henry slowly walked up and let Digit engulf his tiny hand with her giant, four-fingered wing. He smiled politely as Digit danced.

Digit's KQED representative friend did most of the talking. "Digit is so happy to be here!" she said.

"Henry loves Digit," I grinned wildly, trying to make up for Henry's lack of enthusiasm. Most of the other kids at the science museum didn't appear to have even heard of Digit, and I felt bad for both Digit and the KQED lady. "Cyberchase is his favorite show," I added anxiously, suddenly fearing that this lukewarm reception for Digit could lead PBS to pull the plug on the cartoon.

We snapped photos and took the free activity books and stickers, then said goodbye. But Henry lagged behind as we headed for the roller coaster exhibit.

"Was there something you wanted to say to Digit?" I asked him.

Henry looked thoughtful, then nodded. "I want to ask him what it was like to live with Hacker."

It was a good question. It was, in fact, a New York Times caliber question, and was a testament to Henry's extensive knowledge of the character's backstory. But this Digit had no voice.

"I don't think Digit can answer that, honey," I told him. "He's probably lost his voice talking to all those kids as he toured the country."

Henry took one last, longing look back at Digit. "Yeah, probably," he said.

When you're 4, anything is possible. The real Digit could show up and take you on a cyber adventure. Tyrannosaurus Rex could come alive and roam the Museum of Natural History. A fat man with flying livestock could slide down a blocked chimney and deliver a new Lego set.

But, alas, Digit is just one in a long string of overstuffed costumes that will show up when he's expecting an animated hero. Is this what growing up is? A long stream of disappointments as magic, hope, and eventually your very soul fade to gray? Or is that just me?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Now I have cats

Last week I went and adopted two cats, because what I really, really needed were two more creatures depending on me for their welfare and nourishment.

The acquisition of these cats was the result of a skillfully executed emotional blackmail campaign on the part of my children. It started with our visit to Cleveland, and Henry's deep infatuation with Roy, my cousin's boxer. "I love Roy," Henry sighed, over and over again. "Can we get a dog like Roy?"

"That's so sweet!" I said. "And NO." We had this experience adopting a dog about three years ago, also immediately after returning from a vacation. The dog, despite a misleading show in the socialization yard at the SPCA, did not like small children. She did, however, enjoy rolling in dog and cat feces. Frequently. She was also incontinent, literally leaking pee around the house as she walked. The dog was not, to put it politely, a good fit for our family.

But I saw how much Henry loved Roy, and I recognized that however cheerfully I may talk them up, our goldfish will never fill that fuzzy, cuddly place in his heart. So the idea of cats came about as a compromise. Furry and nuzzly, but not so needy. That was my thinking.

They are lovely cats. Four-year-old siblings (brother and sister) who were surrendered because their owners lost a job and had to move to a no-cat location. They are friendly and pretty and have yet to swat or bite, even in the face of Henry and Amelia's aggressive attempts at affection.

We are still in the "adjustment period," which, according to the SPCA literature, can last from one week to several months. Our adjustment period involves a great deal of plaintive howling and knocking things off tables in the very small hours of the morning. It was irritating the first night, infuriating the second night, and by the third night I was sobbing and calling them "monstrous pieces of sh*t." (Have I mentioned that I have some mood issues related to lack of sleep?) Now I lock them in the downstairs bathroom when the howling begins, and we are all happier as a result.

Oh, and their names are Jessie and Woody. Like from Toy Story. I had some wry, clever names lined up for them, references that would have made me smile when I called them, and maybe have helped endear these quadrupeds to me. But apparently, my kids were the last things in my house I got to name.

Friday, July 23, 2010


We have just returned from our two-week sojourn to Cleveland and New Jersey. I know what you're thinking--the glamour, the excitement. Please, your jealousy is unbecoming.

But here's the thing with small children: it doesn't matter where you take them. The Great Lakes Science Center is just as interesting to them as the Louvre. More interesting, even. Besides, I haven't seen my Cleveland relatives since my wedding, 6 years ago, when I was too anxious and emaciated to talk to anyone.

I'll spare you the day-by-day details of the vacation. Instead, here are a few thoughts:

1. Cross-country travel with small children is the most effective way to dispel the fear that they're growing up too fast. I mean, I love these little babies, but I will love them just as much when I can read a book on the airplane without having to repeatedly apologize to the flight attendant for false alarms with the call button.

2. The good citizens of Cleveland are seriously upset over LeBron James going to Miami. So much so that the evening news identified him only as "The Traitor" on the onscreen tag.

3. I have more cousins than I realized who were secretly given up for adoption decades ago. It's not a closet of skeletons with that family, it's a freaking clown car.

4. The guards at the American Museum of Natural History know that if you are visiting with children under 5, you're looking for "Gum Gum," the Easter Island head in Night at the Museum. They will approach you and offer directions to Gum Gum without even asking if that's what you want to see.

5. The Morris/Essex line of the NJ Transit does not run from Penn Station after midnight, at least not from the NJ Transit area I was waiting in, even though the schedules all say it does, and there are no NJ Transit employees there at that hour. Oh, and a cab from Penn Station to Summit, NJ, will run you about $150 with tip. FYI.

6. We spent more than $200 for our day in NYC visiting the Museum of Natural History (not the same day as the $150 cab ride, clearly). We spent $10 the next day getting iced coffee and Munchkins at the Dunkin' Donuts and hanging around a New Providence playground. Our kids were just as happy, proving my original point that it doesn't matter where you take small children.

One more thing I've been chewing on these past couple of weeks. My cousin Kathleen pointed out that although my blog makes it seem as though I am constantly overwhelmed with parenting, I am not a bad parent in person. She even said I have a "calming effect" on my kids, which she would probably take back if she had witnessed the argument between Amelia and I this morning about the fact that her new battery-operated Hello Kitty toothbrush IS NOT A TOY.

But Kathleen is right. I may be feeling my way through the dark with this parenting stuff, but I'm not doing such a bad job. (Cut to 15 years later, where I sit sobbing and apologizing during the family sessions with my kids' therapist, finally knowing for certain that I was so, so wrong about the toothbrush.)

Monday, June 28, 2010


For months I have been reminding my children to wear shoes when they are running through our back lawn, which, thanks to a field of flowering clover, has become a festive gathering place for honeybees.

My kids usually refuse to put on shoes, and I have stopped trying to make them, because, Christ, they're not my feet. I have better things to do than chase down preschoolers as they yell "hide!" and race away at the sight of me holding their sneakers. (I don't always do those better things, but I could be doing better things. It's more the principal of the thing.) My thinking is, a good sting might persuade them to listen to me in the future.

But it's been dozens of hours of bare feet and bees, and no one has gotten stung. Until I slipped my shoes off the other day. My feet were bare for about 45 seconds before I felt a slight pressure on the underside of my right foot. Thirty seconds later the pressure had turned to agony, and it was all I could do to resist unleashing a string of profanities that would have made my grandmother cry.

Instead, I grinned tightly, told my kids I was fine, and hopped into the kitchen for some ice. I suppressed my own sobbing for fear that I might frighten the babies. It felt like a good parent moment, putting their need to feel safe above my need to roll on the ground shouting, "Oh, f***," over and over again.

And then Henry came in.

"Mom?" he asked, his eyebrows scrunched in concern.

"Yes, honey," I said, rocking back and forth as I held the sandwich bag of ice over my arch.

"That bee spent all day collecting pollen so it could make honey for the baby bees, and you killed her," he said, crossing his arms and scowling in condemnation.

Now I'm thinking I could start a career of talking about my kids to teen pregnancy prevention classes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I think I was just never a baby person.

I loved my kids when they were babies. I loved the gurgling and the cuddling and the toothless grins. But I could have done without the multiple nap-times and trying to guess whether the cry was related to hunger or wetness or an aneurysm. Also the spit-up and the smooshed food all over everything. And various rashes from the smooshed food settling into skin folds. And the night waking. And teething.

But suddenly, my children are no longer babies. They still scream about tooth brushing. They still push (Henry) and whack people on the head with trucks (Amelia). They still whine and demand. But they also talk, they hug, they tell jokes. They can carry their own dinosaurs to the car, pick up their own Legos, and put their clothes in the hamper. They often say "please," "thank you," and "I love you." They have become people, these shorties of mine.

Just as suddenly, these years that just six months ago stretched so long before me seem precariously short. In September, both kids will be in part-time preschool. A year later, Henry will be in full-time kindergarten. Three years from now, they'll both be school kids, and I'll have a job and possibly time to go to the bathroom by myself, and we'll continue slipping towards the day they take wing and I become a tiny speck behind them.

But for now we have time together to lie on the grass and see what bugs we can find. We have self-serve frozen yogurt after a doctor's visit. We have a game we play where they say they want to go home even though we already ARE home, and I get the diaper bag and the car key only to say a second later, "Wait a minute..." and they explode into laughter.

I told this to my mom last night, and she smiled and said, "It gets even better," which is wonderful news, but for now I'm just grateful that it's this good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Anxieties can come true

Last Saturday was Henry's birthday party at Children's Fairyland. It was, to hear the talk in our house, the most anticipated event of the year. The talk went like this:

H: "Is my Fairyland party today?"

Me: "Not today!"

H: "Is it tomorrow?"

Me: "Not tomorrow! Soon! Very soon!"

H: (stamping, shouting) "I want it to be today!"

And this went on EVERY MORNING for the two weeks leading up to it. Toward the end I was threatening to cancel the damn party if the tantrums didn't stop.

I am a terrible parent when my children whine.

So I knew this was a big deal to Henry. It would likely be the highlight of his young life until he starts science camp at Habitot in July. The pressure, for me, was intense. I was on the phone to Fairyland every couple of days. First to follow up on our party application, then to follow up on the invitations, then to increase our head count, then to follow up on the increased head count. Fairyland party planners appeared to be about as dependable as cartoon pixies.

And then I got an Evite reply from a mom that said "Cool! We're going to a party at Cinderella's Shoe at the same time!" And so I was back on the phone to Fairyland. The pixies assured me that Cinderella's Shoe was indeed reserved for Henry, they had the paperwork right there.

You see where this is headed, right? Of course you do. I saw where it was headed, too, but I also have years of psychotherapy under my belt, and was thus able to dismiss my increasing feelings of doom as the product of my dysfunctional upbringing.

Towards the end of the pre-party puppet show, I noticed people I didn't know carrying balloons and presents to Cinderella's Shoe. I raced to the first person in a Children's Fairyland T-shirt I could find. "WE'RE supposed to have Cinderella's Shoe!" I cried, stamping and shouting.

A flurry of activity followed. First the Fairy Party Department confirmed that we did have the shoe. Then they returned and said that the other party had brought their paperwork confirming their ownership of the shoe. Did I have my paperwork? I did not. I had thought that my repeated communications plus close to $300 was sufficient to reserve the shoe. It was not.

By then the puppet show was over. Henry skipped over to me, beaming in the golden crown the puppets had bestowed upon him in honor of his birthday, and said, "Let's go to the shoe!" When I told him we were not going to having the party at the shoe, he began to wail.

And that was when I lost it on the fairies. I don't remember my exact words, just the tears in my eyes and the word "unacceptable" shouted again and again and again. It was both exhilarating and sorely humiliating as I realized the parents of Henry's friends were all watching my very public fury. When I was finished, the Fairyland party staff assured me that I would be receiving a complete refund.

"Thank you," I smiled, sweetly.

We moved the party to the Japanese Tea Garden, which was pretty, but, as Henry pointed out, had no shoe-shaped slide. He remained doubtful until a few minutes later, when Pirate Luna arrived with her box of balloons and face paints. Henry was blissful, making hiring the pirate the best $120 I will ever spend.

For nearly $300, the Fairyland fiasco was an abomination. Once it was free, it was really quite lovely. And in the end, I felt strangely triumphant. In terms of party planning, the worst had happened, and I had survived. Better than survived, I got my money back.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Henry is 4.

What does this mean, this 4? It means the big-boy bunk bed will arrive in a week or two. It means I lay out the clothes and he can dress himself (it doesn't mean he always does it, but sometimes he emerges from his room ready for school and to me it is no less amazing than Superman in the phone booth). It means he talks on the phone with Grandma and then hangs up, because they no longer need me as an intermediary.

Today I went to Babies 'R Us for summer sleep sacks for Amelia, following a poop-smearing incident that convinced me that we will require sleep sacks for some time to come. I was browsing the sale clothes, and could find nothing in Henry's size. It took me a minute, and suddenly, blindingly, I realized that Babies 'R Us no longer applies to Henry. Henry's babyhood is officially over, from both a chronological and retail perspective. Those hours trolling the aisles for bottle liners, binkies, baby food, and diapers while Henry cooed from the car seat that never quite fit in the cart are scenes from the past.

Henry isn't the only one moving on and up in the world. I had an interview for a long-term, part-time contract position at a pharmaceutical company today. I think it went well. Which means I could have saved myself the frantic sobbing last night and this morning that I was so severely under qualified they would laugh me out of the building. When I grow up I want to find some self-esteem.

Friday, June 4, 2010

What keeps me up at night

1. Three months ago, I said yes to cohosting a bike party/fundraiser for Henry's preschool. I love saying yes. I love that moment where everyone loves me and I feel like a good and charitable person for something I don't have to think about for another 12 weeks.

I hate throwing parties. I hate the tiny details like number of forks and how many jingle bells for the kids' craft table. I hate the unpredictability of using a public park (Will there be anyone else there having a party? Will that bearded guy be bathing in the drinking fountain? Will there be vomit in the sand?).

But I went for the immediate glory, and now I'm left with throwing a party that has netted only about $30 after the money I've spent on food and supplies. The worst part is that I'm throwing another party next Saturday for Henry's birthday. I get so caught up in the "yes" moment that I fail to consider things like my son's birthday.

2. We're having Henry's party at Children's Fairyland. And hiring a pirate. And there will be 20 kids there.

How did this happen? I used to scoff--I still scoff--at stories of over-the-top preschool birthday parties. A pony? Ha ha. Hired a bartender? Hilarious! Now I'm throwing a circus for a 4th birthday party.

3. I am going bald.

About three weeks ago I was diagnosed with androgenic alopecia. Female pattern baldness. It's hereditary, except no one in my family, male or female, for at least three generations, has ever lost their hair.

I don't know what else to say about this except that I spent the first week wanting to die. I am doing much better now, but at 4 in the morning I often lie awake wondering how long I have before I have to live out my life in a wig.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Lately Henry is discovering potty talk, particularly the multiple uses for the word "poop" and variations thereof (poo-poo, poopy diaper, poo-poo boy, and poo-poo girl, to name a few). For special occasions, he wheels out his absolute dirtiest word: BOTTOM. He relishes the word. He says it slowly, in a voice deeper than the way he usually speaks, drawing out the first vowel (Baaaaah-tum).

Which brings me to the nuances of policing potty talk. Technically, bottom is not a bad word. In fact, considering the range of possible terms describing that physical region, bottom is maybe worse than "buttocks" and more polite than "rear end," but it is clearly on the cleaner end of the spectrum than "ass."

So I have to consider several factors, such as location, intent, and audience. When he tells Amelia that the squirrel in the yard is a poo-poo head, and she laughs, I let it slide. When he tells me dinner tastes like bottom, I object.

Henry has noted that there are exceptions, and he has become sort of a potty talk negotiator. The other night at dinner, when I invoked the no-poop-talk-while-eating rule after he referred to Amelia as a poopy diaper, he immediately apologized. Thirty seconds later he sighed and flipped his wrist and said, "Oh, poo."

"Henry," I warned.

"I'm not saying 'poo' like what comes out of your bottom," he argued. "I'm just saying, 'Oh, poo.'" He flipped his wrist again in demonstration.

And then I laughed, thereby ensuring that potty talk at the table will continue indefinitely.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ghosts and lies

On Tuesday, I asked Henry who threw the pillows off the living room couch and he lied to me.

"It was a ghost," he said.

I went into a whole spiel about how I wasn't mad about the pillows, but it was very, very, VERY important to tell the truth, and I would be mad if he did not tell the truth right this very second.

"Mommy," he said, looking me square in the eyes. "The ghost came into the room over here, and then he disappeared. Then he was by the table, like this [scary face with waving hands over his head]. Then he flew past the couch and knocked all of the pillows on the floor. Then he left."

It was a good story. It was a great story, actually, because I spent at least a minute considering the possibility that the pillows on the floor were, in fact, the work of a ghost. Remember the kitchen chairs scene in Poltergeist? I had this eerie vision of me returning to the room to find the couch cushions stacked like Stonehenge.

"Henry," I said, "you should be a writer when you grow up."

Henry grunted and rolled his eyes. "I already told you, when I grow up I'm going to be a princess."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Never sign up for anything

I signed up to canvass for Measure E, the Alameda parcel tax to keep their fine, high-scoring public schools alive.

Do you know anything about canvassing? It is a slice of actual hell right here on earth. Here's what it looks like:

Ding dong. Barking dog. Irritated noises from inside. Slow shuffling. The door cracks. "Hello?" someone says, warily.

"Hi!" I say, trying to suppress my desire to run or vomit or run while vomiting. "I'm Meghan, your neighbor from down the street, and this is my son, Henry [I bring Henry on the mistaken assumption that it may keep people from cursing at me]. I'm volunteering for Measure E, and I'm just trying to find out whether you've heard about Measure E, and if so, if you're planning on supporting it." I smile, hopefully.

There are three possible scenarios that follow:

1. Person is not the homeowner, is possibly a son or nephew or friend of a resident teen, appears to have just woken up at 3 pm, and would likely test positive for more than one illicit substance. He (almost invariably a he) is not a voter, does not care, and takes a flyer which no one will ever see again.

2. Person is a supporter of Measure E! He or she shares stories of canvassing for parcel taxes over the years, wishes me luck.

3. Person is opposed to Measure E, to illegal immigrants, and/or to the Obama administration, and would like to take this opportunity to vent 50 years of fury over being last picked at wall ball on me and my 4-year-old, as I say "thank you" and back slowly down the stairs.

There are 62 individual households on my list. I have contacted 10. That was more than a week ago. Since then I have avoided all contact with neighbors. My faith in humanity is diminished.

I hate Alameda.

***On bringing Henry: He was quiet for the first three houses. Then he would stand a few feet away from me on the porch and loudly ask questions like, "Does a skeleton live here?" "Why is this porch so dark?" and "What smells?"***

I also signed up for a writing class. It's called "Finding Your Writer's Voice," from the Writing Salon in Berkeley. On the plus side, the teacher is very nice and employs the Amherst Method, which involves the radical notion that creativity and talent are more productively fostered when people are told the strengths of their writing instead of what sucks about it. On the minus side, everyone in the class is so much better than I am that I again expend a great deal of energy fighting the run-vomit urge.

Also, there's one guy whose "supportive" comments are always something like this: "I liked how that sentence about dead grandmothers was completely incomprehensible." Asswipe.

Monday, April 26, 2010


It's been a week since I've written, which breaks my two-postings-a-week pledge, which matters to no one but me, but still rankles. At this point in my life, clean laundry, regularly vacuumed floors, and semi-regular blog postings are all I can point to as accomplishments, so they take on ridiculous importance.

I know, I know, it is waaaaaay past time to get a job, and I will get one just as soon as I can figure out what I'm good at.

So this morning, as I was about to drive Henry to school, he began to wail that he did not want to go with me, he wanted to go with Daddy. This is a simple request, no? Simon was gone all last week, so Henry wanted Daddy time. Also, Daddy drives a beat-up Mitsubishi truck that requires Henry to sit in the front seat, and that is way cooler than riding in the back of my tiny minivan. Of course a 4-year-old wants to go with Daddy in the truck. It is nothing personal.

And it absolutely slayed me. The ride to preschool three days a week is our time. We talk, we sing, we laugh. It is also one of the few times that I have a distinct destination and arrival time. Sure, we go to the park or the grocery store, but does it matter if we go at 10 am or 3 pm, on Tuesday or Thursday? No, it does not. Preschool drop-off is a rare anchor in my amorphous days.

But perhaps the real issue is the fact that Henry no longer needs me in the way he once did. His all-Mommy, all-the-time years are behind him. We are entering the era of Daddy, soon to be followed by the era of friends, and eventually the era of leaving home altogether except for the occasional 11 pm phone request for extra money.

I am done. Finished! I am Jennifer Aniston to Simon's Angelina Jolie (am I the only one who reads Us magazine?).

Holy crap, I need a job.

Monday, April 19, 2010

St. Teresa

Some days my inferiority complex is so fierce that seeing a cool hair cut on someone in line at Peet's can make me want to shave my messy, split-ended, thinning, graying hair and just give up on hair and the world all at once.

Today is one of those days. Henry got a CD from his friend Harper's birthday party yesterday (Harper is the 4 year old who can read and do math, so you can add that to the complex) with all of Harper's favorite songs. We listened to it in the car on the way to drop Henry off at preschool, and as Weezer blared, I was sick with the thought that my musical taste pales in comparison to this preschooler's, and that Henry's emotional growth would somehow be stunted from listening to Rihanna and Ludacris as a child instead of some soul-stirring indy group.

So after I dropped Henry off I started playing some iTunes to make myself feel better, and "St. Teresa" came on. It reminded me of one night in college, when I was living in the guest room at my aunt and uncle's house in New Jersey, and Joan Osborne was the musical guest on Letterman. I was lonely and depressed and empty, but it was spring, and there was a full moon out the window, and there was "St. Teresa," and I felt electric. Like I meant something. Like I was waiting to begin. I was lost, but I was new, and a blank future stretched ahead, vast and mysterious. I hear the song, and I remember having a burning faith in myself, and for a few minutes my grown-up prison fades, I see an empty road ahead, and I feel like moving forward.

Incidentally, I also feel better when I listen to Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama." His mama was a crack fiend, and he still appreciates her.

You know you suffer from a lack of self-esteem when "at least I'm not a crack fiend" is a pep-talk.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Great moments in parenting

1. Picking Henry up from school Wednesday. I walk in, excited to see him, to see the way he breaks into a smile and a run when he sees me. Instead he scowls and walks right past my open arms. "I want Grandma to pick me up," he grumbles.

"But I'm here!" I say.

"I don't want you," he says.

I smile and tell him he is welcome to stay at school until Friday, when Grandma will come pick him up.

2. Walking to the car after picking Henry up from school. We're headed down the street, and Henry sees a person walking toward us.

"Is that Daddy?" he asks.

"No," I say firmly.

"Yes it is! It's Daddy! That is Daddy!" says Henry. "Daddy! DADDY!"

"Ha, ha! You crazy nut!" I say, lightly, as the black woman Henry was referring to scowls at us. The child is clearly messing with my head.

3. Thursday afternoon, trying to clean the house. After an hour spent folding two loads of laundry, changing a dirty diaper, vacuuming, and cleaning the kitchen, I tell Henry to pick up the game pieces to Busytown.

"Aaaagh," he says. "Why do I have to do all the jobs around here?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Potty training, completed

Although Henry has been potty trained for more than a year, he has still been wearing diapers at night. All the books I've read say that you'll know your child is ready to go diaper-free when he wakes up dry most mornings. Henry has never woken up dry in his life. I was starting to worry that his first sleepover would come along and he'd be bringing a size 11 Pampers with him.

And then Monday night he simply decided he was done. He refused to put the diaper on, and I said fine, expecting a long night of changing sheets. Instead, I woke him up once at 12:30 to pee, and he stayed dry the entire night.

Last night was the same, except that I didn't wake up at 12:30, I woke up at 4:30. I debated, and decided to take him to the bathroom anyway, for fear that he'd wet the bed at 5:30 and then be up for the day. He peed, but he wouldn't go back to sleep. I had, it seemed, made a horrible miscalculation. After 20 minutes, he was pleading to get up, I was pleading for him to go back to sleep, and he asked for Daddy instead. Simon sat with him calmly until he drifted off again, this time until 8 am. Still dry.

Tonight I'll just let the poor child sleep and let the pee fall where it may.

But there you go. For all the books, videos, and consultants related to potty training, they just kind of figure it out for themselves.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Talking to my 3-year-old about death

I was dreading having to tell Henry that his Great-Grandpa had died. I remembered the fly funeral we had a few weeks back. Henry had been inconsolable then. What would happen now that a person he loved was gone?

I called him into the kitchen, then I crouched down and put my hands on his shoulders.

"I have some very sad news," I said. "Honey, Great-Grandpa died."

Henry stared around the room for a minute, then asked, "When will Granny get a new Great-Grandpa?"

"She's not going to get a new Great-Grandpa," I said, gently. "You only get one."

"Will I die?" Henry asked.

"Not for a very, very, very long time," I told him. "So long you can't even imagine it." God willing, I added in my head.

Then Henry placed his hands on my shoulders, rested his forehead on mine, and looked into my eyes. "Mommy," he asked. "Can I play a video game?"

Thus ended our first brush with death in the family. I managed to eke out a 5-minute memorial by setting up a laptop slide show of some photos I had of Philip, but though I was misty eyed, Henry just said, "NOW can I play a video game?"

It was, apparently, less traumatic than I had expected.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lost and found

On Wednesday I lost Henry at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.

I was doing my best to keep track of both of my super-mobile children in the midst of approximately a million other kids who were taking advantage of spring break plus Free Wednesday. And by "doing my best" I mean that I scanned the play area or room we were in every couple of minutes to locate one or both of them, then I turned back to my adult friends.

This strategy worked until we hit the train-table building. I saw Henry run in. Then I talked to my friend Nancy, made sure Amelia didn't get run over by the movable crane, scanned around for Henry, helped Amelia secure a train car, talked to my friend Jennifer, scanned around for Henry, talked to Nate and Nancy and Jennifer. About 15 minutes later, it occurred to me that I hadn't actually seen Henry since we entered.

I searched the building, searched the tunnel, the bridge of the play boat, the funny mirror room (I'm not trying to make myself look better, but you see why it took me so long to realize he was gone. Incidentally, this is exactly how I lost my pet toad in the backyard 30 years ago.). I organized a search party of two 4-year-olds to crawl into the tunnel to look for him.
Finally I grabbed Amelia and left the building. I scanned the writhing walkways and play areas, quickly realizing that unless Henry had found a flare gun, I had no chance of finding him in the crowd. It was exactly at that moment that I heard a blond woman asking the picnic area if anyone was looking for a boy named Henry.

"Me!" I said. "I'm looking for a boy named Henry!"

The blond woman was all smiles, and I felt relieved. As we walked to meet Henry, we ran into another employee of the museum who said, "Yeah, we've had him for a long time," and I felt like a slug.

But then Henry was there, running to me, hugging me, kissing me, and things were fine. I am officially out of the running for mother-of-the-year, but things were fine.

I am still a basket case, but I have not yelled at my kids since my last yelling-at-my-kids entry. Except for the time Henry was simultaneously kicking Amelia and poking her with a chopstick, and even I refuse to feel bad about that one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

PF Harris turns the page

This is great-grandpa Philip F. Harris, walking with the kids to Thanksgiving dinner last year. He died this afternoon (afternoon in England, morning here). He was 92.

You'd think that would soften the blow. I mean, at 92, it's not an untimely death.

But death is always surprising to me. It's like those bookshelves in the old Scooby Doo cartoons, the ones that spin the character into a secret passage while everyone else is looking the other way. Suddenly I'm looking around the room, and everyone else is still here, and I'm thinking, "Where the hell is Philip?" My concept of life is that it's a closed room. And of course it's not. There are any number of exits that someone can slip out of at any moment.
At his birthday party last year, Philip gave a toast. He said the secret to a long life was to know when it is time to turn the page on some phase of life, and not to regret it, but to enjoy the next chapter.

Enjoy the next chapter, Philip. It has been my privilege to know you.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brain sick

It is incredibly hard for me to write at the moment. I am struggling again with my vaguely defined mental illness (Borderline personality disorder? Bipolar II? Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder? I have yet to find two psychiatrists who agree on what is wrong with me.), and I am such a terrible, snapping, sobbing, unjust mother as a result that I am not sure how to live with myself, let alone craft a witty anecdote about it.

This morning, for no other reason than my children wouldn't eat anything except some high-sugar yogurt for breakfast, I threw their little IKEA breakfast bowls into the sink and mango-lime yogurt splashed everywhere. My self-loathing is already dangerously close to being too much to bear, and then the yogurt bowls, and Henry and Amelia's wide eyes, and, oh, I am in very bad shape.

I expend a great deal of energy trying to conceal my lunacy, so I'm not sure why I'm writing about it in a blog. Undoubtedly, this will be one of those things that comes back to haunt me during a job interview 10 years from now.

In the meantime, I tell Henry it is not his fault I am sad or mad, that I am sick in my brain.

"When are you going to get better?" he asks.

"Soon," I say, and I really, really, really hope that's true.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Really, really sorry

So last night Simon and I had a big fight that was 100% my fault.

I hate that. Not just the fighting. I hate when there is absolutely no shred of substance to my side of the argument. I am not wronged, I am simply a stark-raving bitch. And this after he bid on those Giants tickets for me.

Simon and I talked and mostly made up this morning, after a chilly, glaring breakfast during which Henry kept trying to guess what was wrong. "Are you mad because Amelia spit out her sorbet last night?" "Is Daddy sad because I ate the Mommy-candy (a.k.a. dark chocolate)?" "How come sometimes you're nice Mommy and sometimes you're mad Mommy?"

I also yelled at Amelia because she wouldn't get out of the bathroom doorway so I could get dressed. Then she followed me into my room saying, "I sah-ee, I sah-ee," and trying to hug my shins.

I wither with shame.

I try to console myself with the thought that I am much more stable that I was six months ago. But, then, so is Afghanistan, and you see how that's working out for the innocent citizens. They're less likely to get blown up by drones at a daughter's wedding, but it's still a possibility.

For someone who wasn't beaten as a child, I am remarkably defensive. I see insult and malice behind every smile. And I fight back. I yell, I stomp, I scowl silently. Then I spend hours apologizing. I need to get business cards printed that say, "I'm sorry," so I can hand them out when my voice finally gives way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baseball and other games

On an historic note, I just want to say how thrilled I am about the passage of the health care reform bill. Somehow, somewhere, the Democrats found their spines. God bless America!

Now back to me.

It pains me to admit this, because being completely self-righteous is one of my few joys in life, but my husband is wonderful.

Saturday night, at a fundraising auction for my former high school, I grew starry-eyed at the Giants' "Homerun" package listed in the auction catalog: a catered luxury booth for 18 people, 5 VIP parking passes, a ball autographed by every member of the 2010 team, and a Giants jacket. Two members of the group will be allowed on the field during the Giants batting practice. And if those members haven't passed out from the sheer enormity of it all, they get to spend the 7th inning stretch with the finest play-by-play man in major league baseball today, Jon Miller.

Simon joked that we should bid on it. I laughed. He bid. The alumni tables cheered. Simon dropped out at one point, and I kissed him for his efforts, and he bid again. More cheers. He dropped out again. He bid again.

So I am going to be on-field during batting practice, and I'm going to meet Jon Miller.

For the record, we're not just filthy rich people throwing our money around here. The winning bid was technically placed by Simon's engineering company, because he's going to fill the luxury box with clients. It actually ends up being cheaper than taking that many people to dinner. But batting practice, Jon Miller, the baseball: all mine, baby.

Simon's a good man.

I, on the other hand, continue my efforts to drive my kids into therapy before they're 10 years old.

Our latest issue has to do with Candy Land. I got it for Henry last week. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from video games, as well as something we could do together. And then Henry won. Once he got that first taste of victory, he wanted more.

Now it's like playing with John McEnroe. When he pulls ahead, by just a few spaces with a double purple card or by half the board with a Princess Frostina card, he laughs and dances around the room. "I'm winning!" he sings. When he falls behind, either because I slip through the Gumdrop Pass or he gets sent back to the candy cane forest, he throws himself to the ground and screams, "Noooooo!"

In spite of the histrionics, I refuse to let the boy cheat. "Two blues! Not six!" I tell him, making him slide his plastic gingerbread man back a few spaces. I am now the traffic cop of Candy Land. It is not fun for me, and not fun for him. Unless he's winning.

But that's the point of these games, right? Teaching kids to follow the rules of a game, teaching them how to win graciously, how to lose cheerfully. Or something. I mean, I am speaking as someone who once locked herself in the bathroom when a former boyfriend beat her at Scrabble. I only wish I had learned those lessons.

Of course, he's not learning those lessons. He just doesn't want to play Candy Land with me anymore.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Yesterday as I was cleaning the kitchen, or maybe not cleaning the kitchen--more likely I was staring at the pile of unread magazines on my counter with tears filling my eyes at the impossibility of it all--Henry came running in from the backyard, wailing.

I dropped to my knees and held him until he quieted down enough to speak. "I killed my friend the fly!" he said, between heaving sobs.

I told him he could come in and play with the big housefly that had been buzzing around the living room all morning. "That fly is not my friend!" he said through a fresh wave of tears.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Of course he's not." I felt callous for suggesting that his friend could be so easily replaced.

I suggested we have a funeral for his fly friend. Henry agreed, and led me outside to a tiny, half-smooshed fly on the patio.

"Thank you for being such a good friend to Henry, fly," I said as I scratched a thimble-sized hole in the dirt of the planter box and dropped the fly inside.

"Goodbye, fly," Henry added, tearfully.

We marked the grave with a cross made from two sticks tied with crab grass. As Henry ran off to play again, his heartbreak eased, I had one shining moment of feeling truly useful.
And then it was gone. As I was silently congratulating myself on being such an outstanding mother, unsupervised Amelia tumbled down a few stairs. More crying, more hugging. And the kitchen remains a mess.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunny day

Today I will begin with a small confession: I am a little bit manic depressive. For about six months I was bordering on severely bipolar, but now I'm on a new birth control pill, and despite my $225-an-hour psychiatrist telling me that would never be enough to control my severe mental illness (that, in fact, I would require a lifetime of lithium if I wanted to stay out of a mental institution), the pill is enough, and I am back in the realm of normalcy. I may, arguably, be on the outskirts of normalcy, but I am certainly within the county line. And I also have less premenstrual cramping. Win-win.

At any rate, today I am on a mood upswing. This means that I can get by on just 7 hours of sleep, and I feel ever-so-slightly productive. This morning I identified two publications to query, two possible sources to call for information, and questions to ask those sources. After lunch I plan to actually make several phone calls. It is all very exciting, this doing something.

It has not been easy. After nearly four years of staying home with small children, my mind has come to behave like one. I require constant redirection away from Facebook and celebrity gossip columns and even my own old journal entries. I feel like I need parental controls for my own laptop.

I have been thinking a lot about marriage recently, too. Our strategy of venting our resentments sort of backfired, and instead of liking each other more, we came to like each other less. So now we're just working on this revolutionary new strategy of--get this--being nice to one another. We're trying to be appreciative and affectionate and respectful. Weird, right? Of course, we are still left with a warehouse full of unaddressed anger. But we are having sex again. It's really hard to find a downside to that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dirty girl

After the underwear discussion with Simon, I turned over a new leaf and recommitted myself to doing housework. Since then, I have washed and folded the laundry promptly, cleaned the kitchen after every meal, and vacuumed at least once a week. I cleaned out the book boxes, reorganized the downstairs playroom, and created an "art box" to hold the kids' paints, crayons, and stickers. I made Henry and Amelia help me clean their rooms each afternoon before Simon came home.

It was a very educational exercise. Mostly, I learned why I don't do this on a regular basis. First, it's not like you do housework and it's done. Five minutes after I've vacuumed, Amelia tears up tiny pieces of toilet paper onto the floor. Two minutes after we've cleaned their rooms, I turn my back to answer the phone and the two of them proceed to take every toy out and leave it in the middle of the room. It's a sisyphean effort, and, really, didn't we all think Sisyphus was an idiot for continuing to push that stupid rock up the hill? I may be a slob, and I may be lazy, but I'm not an idiot.

Wow, that last sentence was a lot less empowering that I had anticipated.

Second, despite all of my efforts to clean and reclean and keep a perpetual cycle of laundry in motion like a row of spinning plates, Simon has noticed none of it.

Anyway, I'm back to my old filthy ways, letting the dishes and crumbs pile up while I read the New York Times. Which has its own drawbacks. Did you see what Texas is doing to its educational curriculum? They cut Thomas Jefferson out of the list of people whose writings influenced revolutions in the 18th and 19th century. Why? Because he coined the phrase "separation of church and state," and they are trying to emphasize that the founding fathers actually wanted to create a Christian country. And these assholes declare themselves to be REAL Americans. Right, because Thomas Jefferson only wrote the Declaration of Independence and much of the Constitution and was our second president. That socialist, commie bastard.


Now my house is dirty and I'm pissed off. This may not be the best use of my time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old yeller

Reason number 132 why I would have been refused a parenting license if they issued such things: I am a yeller.

I am angry, I yell. I am irritated, I yell. I am tired and overwhelmed, I yell. It's not always screaming and shouting. Often it is just loud and sharp. Over the years, yelling has become an intrinsic part of my personal communication style.

The first time Simon and I went to marriage counseling, the therapist asked us to describe our coming-home-from-work routines. I said I got the mail, came inside, yelled at the cats, fed the cats, and started dinner. She looked up from her notebook. "Why do you yell at the cats?" she asked, cautiously.

"Well," I said, slowly, trying to understand her curiosity about the behavior, "I walk in, and they are meowing, loudly, and tripping under my feet, and I'm just trying to hang up my coat, so I yell at them." I didn't go into the specific profanities I hurled at the cats, or the fact that some evenings I also threw the mail at them. I mean, it's not as if I kicked the cats, or set fire to the cats. Being cats, they barely even noticed the yelling. If I threw the mail they might scatter for a minute, but then they were back at my ankles, mewling for dinner.

The therapist just stared at me, wide eyed, then pursed her lips and went back to writing in her little book. Two sessions later she declared that I was a "prickly pear" whom no one could love.

Still, I didn't really consider that yelling could be a problem until a few years later, when I became a parent. I don't curse at Henry and Amelia, and I certainly don't throw things at them. Early in the day I am even able to calmly say things like, "I know you don't like it when Amelia plays with your cars, honey, but I don't want you to grab from her. What could you do instead?" But by the afternoon, when the grabbing and growling between them escalate, and I am tired and trying to do some tedious chore such as cooking or vacuuming, I am barking little motherly gems like, "If I see you grab something from her again, I will take the item, and throw it directly in the garbage can."

These children, they are not like the cats. They don't see this as part of our repartee. Instead, they cry. Especially Henry. His eyes grow watery and his lip trembles as he says, "I feel bad for myself," before bursting into sobs.

And I feel like a monster. I tell myself I won't yell anymore, I will be patient and kind and will finally take one of those classes on positive discipline. And then Amelia is back in the warming drawer, and I am yelling, "No babies in the warming drawer," and then she is crying, and then I think maybe I am just not temperamentally cut out for this parenting business.