Monday, June 30, 2008

Found Objects

One of the joys of having children is finding little artifacts, archaeological evidence of their imaginative play.

I was cleaning our kitchen, as well as my daughters' miniature one, when I discovered this little tea party on a tray. Each mismatched teacup with water inside, carefully arranged. Abandoned when a more exciting opportunity came along.

I'll look back fondly on this finding when during their adolescence, I unwittingly uncover more alarming evidence of their wild imaginings.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Bit Bereft

It's not unusual for me to feel this way, at the end of a school year. I've given a lot of myself to students and school and now it's time to give back to my family.

Identity-wise, I feel adrift. Not connected to teachers in the same was I was now that I am an administrator, yet my heart not fully an administrator, I wonder who I am in my career, going into the third year of this Vice Principal journey--the year that I knew I would decide what's next.

I couldn't tell you. I really couldn't tell me.

In my house and in my 'hood, I need to reconnect too. I'm ready to settle into a daily routine with my kids, with fewer interactions based on getting ready to get out of the house. Meanwhile, neighborhood mothers are either like me, searching for their own balance and family harmony, or they've organized and planned with more available moms--and I am pawing at the door to be let back in, for the summer season at least.

I've reached my very last straw, going out with a bang as I am: administrator required training tomorrow, all-day test on Saturday, and a workshop for teachers I'm leading on Monday. Tuesday, summer starts.

My family feels my bare nerve endings, perhaps close friends do, too.

I'm not sure if I need Therapy, or just Summer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Have I Told You I Unheart You, Mom?

Saturday morning my eldest daughter and I had a skirmish over her Polly Pocket Collection.

For those blissfully uninitiated into the World of Polly Pockets, "My Pollies," as my daughter affectionately calls them, are miniature Barbie-like dolls--less busty, perhaps--with stretchy plastic clothes and tiny little shoes and accessories.

Our daughter first fell in love with these infuriating little vixens when she was about two years old, when her interactions with the dolls consisted of bringing them to us for outfit donning or removal. If you're the parent of a little girl between the ages of two and eight, then you've likely uttered nasty expletives while wrestling a centimeter-sized rubber skirt onto a rubber two-inch Tart. Or you won't allow Polly Pockets in your home. More Power To You.

The benefit of Polly Pockets is that three years after her first foray into Polly's World, she's still happily wandering around in there. In terms of toy acquisition, we've been able to draft off the Polly Collection, adding few accessories over the years. Our firstborn spends hours, even days, making up stories and variously rearranging her Pollies inside her Disney Castle (Santa Gift '06). If we are gone for a day, or (gasp!) overnight, she runs into her bedroom First Thing to reacquaint herself with the Pollies she left behind.

It's kind of cute, when it's not emotional.

On Saturday morning, shortly after getting up, she was inexplicably tired. Tired as in, I just woke up but I need to go back to bed RIGHT NOW. Yet if my mom figures this out I will deny my exhaustion.

Hence, her irrationalism hit me late in the game.

The saga began when she asked me to search through her Bucket O' Pollies for some inscrutable object. I could not determine what she wanted; she could not meaningfully describe it. And there was no way I was pawing through a foot of rubbery Polly-ness to find some Plastic Mattel Holy Graille in the form of a Polly Purse. I told her, YOU FIND IT.

Her bad mood beginning to reveal itself, she lay down on the carpet and moaned, "No, YOU. YOU, Mommy. YOU," in a most annoying voice. I held firm, refusing to assist in a mission whose objective was getting lost by now in the Battle of Wills.

In frustration, she finally dumped her entire Polly Pocket Bin onto the floor. And then cried about the mess she had created. Her little sister, in an attempt to escape the scene of Polly Landslide, stepped on a sharp plastic Polly accessory and began wailing too.

In a predictable twist, prostrated/frustrated daughter changed the tune of her relentless lament to a whiny "I WANT A SNAAAAAAAAAAAACK," to which I responded, "Not until all the Pollies are back in the box."

Before she could begin pleading with me to HEEEEEEEEEEEEELP her, I realized this was the moment to take my shower, to drown out the whimpering, to see what unfolded during three minutes of relative alone-ness: Polly Clean-Up? Or Heightened Ululations?

Imagine my surprise when I turned off the shower and stepped out of the tub to find a note, sort of crumpled and left strategically for me on the sink.

One look at the illustration gave me an inkling this was my first Mom Hate Mail: a heart, emphatically X-ed out. There was mysterious writing above it: "EVEBUDUHAZ" and her name.

My daughter, silent now, but petulant, blurted that her note meant "EVERYBODY HATES ME."

Thoroughly amused, and impressed with my daughter's invented spelling, I mused, "Huh. So, when we are having fun, playing with you and snuggling you, do we hate you?"

"No, not when you are having fun with me. Only when you want me to clean up."

It's just the beginning.

So many more avenues for communication yet unexplored!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dear Indigo Girls,

Tonight was your annual concert. I waited all year for June 19th to arrive. I tried my best (without being too annoying) to convince you that you could make the waiting less painful and the exhilaration longer lasting if you did two shows in my city in 2009 (yep, that was me, yelling my suggestion for next year from the sixth row).

I would BE THERE two consecutive nights, even THREE. I don’t even care if you wear, say, and sing the same stuff. You can do whatever you want as far as I am concerned. I’m yours.

This year five friends and I splurged for the dinner-and-ticket package offered by the waterfront hotel/restaurant venue where you took stage. The extra cost and meal ensured tickets in the first seven rows. WORTH IT. We had prime rib, halibut, soup, salad, bread pudding and cheesecake (okay, and also wine) in a restaurant filled with other hardcore fans. But dinner was really just the whipped cream on top of being so close to you on stage that I could see the sweat and spit flinging into the air as you sang.

The best news of the night is that you have a new album coming out in February. My paranoid fears that you two will suddenly quit singing together and stop touring were immediately allayed (for a year, at least). I've been wanting to tell you to keep on keepin' on, because I would love my daughter(s) to become fans, to come to concerts with me, to understand how important a community of women is, and how powerful love and the best of intentions are. I want them to know why I have been following you, appreciating your lyrics, and admiring all you do and portray, for so long now. I need a few more years--while the world needs you forever.

I've watched several gifted young artists launch their careers on the road with you (Kristen Hall and K's Choice are notable examples) and last year and last night Brandi Carlile filled the air with her incredibly rich voice and sweet stage presence.

I am so excited for your new album. I've used your songs in my English and Creative Writing classrooms because your use of metaphor is unmatched (example from your song "Ghost": "The Mississippi's mighty/but it starts in Minnesota/at a place where you could walk across with five steps down/And I guess that's how you started/like a pinprick to my heart/but at this point you rush right through me and I start to drown..." and the song "Virginia Woolf" explains why it's worth studying art and literature: "They published your diary/And that's how I got to know you/The key to the room of your own and a mind without end/And here's a young girl/On a kind of a telephone line through time/And the voice at the other end comes like a long lost friend..."

So I wasn't surprised to hear Emily's new song about the sea and Poseidon and safe harbors and stormy allusions abounding. And then Amy sang a song with an almost Spanish melody, and lyrics about having "blackest boots" and "whitest skin"--a soldier blues, perhaps. The most gorgeous melody and words.

I loved that you celebrated the California Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage while you sang "The Power of Two" ("the steel bars between me and a promise/suddenly bend with ease/The closer I am bound in love to you/the closer I am to free...").

That's the thing: you have strong convictions, and they're clear in your music and the organizations you support. But you also understand the human side of the other side--which is often being middle American, being stuck.

I have joked with friends that your concert is like going to church for me. I don't mean to minimize religion or to deify you. But I think it would be nice to find a church that made me feel the way being at your concert does: that I am in good company, that what I am hearing is true, and that the mission is pure and simple.

So, I guess what I really want to say is, Thanks Y'all.

P.S. There's also the amusing restroom situation at your concerts, where all bathrooms become women's loos, except for some Porta Potties over by the smoking section. This area had the shortest line, of course, which is why I headed there during the break between Brandi's performance and yours. One guy leaving the head and walking past the long line of mainly females, declared, hands up, "I just want all you ladies to know: I put the seat up...and then I put the seat BACK DOWN."

No one clapped. But we laughed, for sure.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Missile of Mercy

Be careful what you ask for.

The trend during the past two weeks as our daughter recovered from ureter surgery was Incontinence. And then over the weekend, inexplicably and unexpectedly, it turned into Constipation.

(I apologize to you now, daughter, for this blog entry).

The Zoo Sleepover was a huge success, until the very end, when she didn't want to walk. Didn't want to do one more walkabout the zoo; didn't want to walk to the car. Her legs hurt. Her legs hurt, and well, she needed to go. Needed to go, but didn't want to, for fear that it would "sting."

As Sunday progressed, so did her discomfort. Incredibly, her appetite didn't abate either. As she moaned, she asked for food: Sure! Have more watermelon! And here's a drink of Metamucil, honey! We fed her just about every natural laxative we could conjure, cringing at the knowledge it was all just piling atop a Plug of Poop.

I'm happy to report that I never truly knew what it was To Be Constipated until after the C-section birth of this child, the one that just had her own surgery. We have matching scars now, and near-matching experiences. I won't go into detail about my own Descent Into the Bowels of (FROM) Hell, except to say the solution ultimately involved a relative making a late-night run to Rite Aid, my marriage is all the more intimate, and my brother got a new Hawaiian shirt out of the deal.

At about 9:00 last night, after hours of my little girl writhing in pain while curled up on our bed watching The Complete First Season of Fraggle Rock, I called my mother (my parents, by the way, deserve major props during this Post-Surgery Season: it was my father who called in a prescription for the pill form of the dreaded Raspberry-flavored Ditripan and who suggested we could revert to the preferred oral amoxicillin and shun the already-shunned sulfa antibiotics with which we came home from the hospital, saving us from more Medicine Meltdowns and filings at Child Protective Services).

Mom offered that the merciful thing to do at this point was employ the Suppository. Really, Mom? How do I suggest that to my four-year-old daughter?

YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT IT, was her response.

Hmmm. Let's see: Pardon me, kiddo, while I accidentally slip something somewhere I have told you No One Should Ever Go (until you're of consenting age, at least).

I had to wrap my mind around the concept of Merciful=Glycerine Missile Inserted Into My Daughter's Netherparts, as well as send her father on a mission for such accoutrements. And that was before we actually formulated a Game Plan for this Undertaking.

Needless to say, docking occurred, the details of which I will spare us, and move on to the OUTCOME, hahaha.

Her immediate response was to scream GET IT OUT GET IT OUT GET IT OUT.

A predictable, understandable response.

Unfortunately, her next move was to shriek CALL THE POLICE! CALL THE POLICE! CALL THE POLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE, screaming and yelling with fervor the likes of which we've neither seen nor heard before. It seems pertinent to mention here that it was a warm night and our windows were open wide.

I am still surprised we heard no sirens. Of course, I am now wondering what would happen--if anything--if murderers were in our house and we were screaming for assistance, only twenty feet away from the neighbors.

Less than ten minutes later, however, the Eagle Landed and it was All Over. The actual resolution happened peacefully, almost uneventfully.

And because my daughter is truly a sweetheart, truly a thoughtful little girl, the first thing she said to me was, "Thank you, Mommy, for putting that thing in my bum. I feel much better."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Kind of Dad He Is

My husband and our eldest daughter just left for a Father's Day Sleepover at the Zoo.*

My husband is excited, because he is always excited--ALWAYS EXCITED--to embark on adventures with his children. It would not occur to him to wonder if there is a ball game on TV tonight that he will miss, to regret that they are not serving beer as part of Sleepover Supper, or to speculate on whether it will be dumb or boring or cheesy. He hasn't even figured out that he will likely not be one of the American fathers sleeping in tomorrow morning, as he will wake up in a tent, somewhere over by the camels. He is just simply psyched. And up for anything, as long as he is with his girl.

This dad flies kites with his daughters, takes them on neighborhood clean-up missions, teaches them how to garden, fish, and clean. He colors in coloring books. He swings at the park and splashes at the beach.

He laughs and snuggles and encourages. Though he is a coach, I know he will never push our children to be athletes in his image. He wants them to be who they are.

His temper is long. He listens carefully to the concerns and worries and protests of our children and treats them like thoughtful human beings. He hugs. He apologizes.

He is firm and consistent. He is a parent unto himself--he doesn't defer to me or to anyone else. He is not the kind of father--out with his kids somewhere--that moms feel the need to help out or advise. He is a natural.

He is the Morning Man, because I leave so early for work. He makes our kids (different!) breakfasts everyday and dresses them. He drops them off, fills out forms, volunteers, and attends open houses and doctor and dentist appointments.

And he has his own full-time job.

My husband is the kind of dad that inspires our elderly neighbor to pull me aside and confide that she thinks he is an amazing father...unique in the attention he gives our children and the patience he demonstrates.

Honey, our daughters are so fortunate to grow up in your care. And I am thankful that I raise them with you.

*What I love about the Father's Day Sleepover at the Zoo is that it is for dads and kids. The Mother's Day Sleepover at the Zoo, on the other hand, is for Moms Only. There must be women running the Sleepover Program.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


There was one day last week when we were in a post-surgery Honeymoon Period, when we thought it was all downhill from here. Home from the hospital with our daughter, both parents off of work, our patient spending the day painting, humming tunes, rather peacefully recovering. And going to the bathroom regularly, normally.

Ignorance is such bliss.

We didn't foresee the next nights of quarter-hourly trips to the bathroom, days of repeated accidents, and our daughter's frustrations at not being "better" yet and not being able to "hold it," while her little two-year-old sister returned from preschool triumphant at peeing on the potty. We're tired; she's ready to go back to school; her bladder is holding us--if nothing else--up.

But let's go back to that Honeymoon, shall we? Because last Thursday afternoon while all was calm at the ranch, I made a decadent sneak to Nordstrom, where the Clinique Bonus and all manner of other possible material things to stumble upon serendipitously awaited me.

I rarely make it to The Mall anymore. Whereas I make it to Target often. Because I can get diapers AND picture frames AND nephew's birthday present AND cleaning supplies AND maybe an inexpensive dress I don't have time to try on, but heck throw it in the cart AND even WINE. It's pretty seductive one-stop shopping for a time-challenged working mom.

The Mall, on the other hand, is intimidating and usually pointless, as I rarely have a mission and I am not the Aimless Mall Stroller I once was. Time and money are too precious. And clothes too hard to fit in these days.

I had a strategic mission on Thursday, though, and that was the Clinique Bonus. Not that I need another free lipstick the color of which I don't get to choose. But the opportunity to buy my annual foundation refill AND get some Free Stuff while I was at it was too hard to pass up when opportunity knocked.

But opportunity was actually flawed, because I escaped to Nordstrom during workday hours and left my little invalid at home. Which meant I was not only plagued by guilt, but paranoid that the mother of one of our students would spot me in the Individualist section of the store during the equivalent of 5th period at school and So Bust Me for not being at work. And I would be defenseless, with hangers over my arm and a lipstick in hand, agape, lamely explaining that my daughter just had surgery and I was taking days off to be home with her...well, except for this one wee outing...

I considered wearing my sunglasses, just in case.

Instead, I furtively slinked between displays, fingering dresses and tops while en route to the cosmetics section.

And oh! They were having a shoe sale, tempting racks of footwear filling my line of vision as the escalator descended. I didn't need any shoes. But if there happened to be a red pair...I am always on the lookout for that elusive, perfect pair of red shoes--with a heel--to wear with slacks or dresses (from Target, of course).

My current favorite pair of shoes I bought at a vintage clothing store. They're the first used shoes I've purchased for myself, since the notion of walking in previously-worn footwear generally gives me the heebie-jeebies. But these shoes looked brand new and were so so cool--forties-style heels of mauve/lilac faux snakeskin and a gold luster when viewed from the right angle, complete with peep toe and a little mid-arch strap.

High School Girls compliment me on these shoes each time I wear them.

But lately I have been mourning the fact that they're beginning to show signs of wear, pre-emptively anticipating their demise and the passing of my momentary coolness for having at least one hip item of clothing. Vintage clothing stores, like after all, don't sell diapers (thank goodness).

Imagine my glee when I spotted a Red Patent Leather version of My Favorite Shoes. On Sale. At Nordstrom. The first thing that crossed my mind besides These better fit me/nevermind I don't care/I'll wear them anway, was My two-year-old daughter will dig these shoes. She will totally approve. And wear them before I do.

My littlest girl has a remarkable shoe fetish. It involves her 1) coveting other people's shoes; 2) spending much of her days changing her footwear repeatedly; 3) taking all of my shoes out of the over-the-door shoe bag every day to clompclompclomp around the kitchen (making putting them back while I swear under my breath my own daily ritual). Her love for shoes is a trait recognized by anyone who loves her. She's only two, but she's a Shoe Girl.

So I asked the helpful, hopeful salesman for the other shoe in the pair so I could try them on. Alas, a little too big, with that gap between my heel and the back of the shoe that made them not uncomfortable, not falling off (there's that great strap across the arch!), but looking a little silly. No fear, says salesman, after delivering the bad news that this was The Only Pair In Stock. We have little pads we can add that will solve your problem. I'll throw them in the box. For free.

Ahhh, Nordstrom. You always make it better.

This is how I came home with the Clinique Bonus AND a spanky pair of fabulous new shoes that raised my toddler girl's eyebrows and had both daughters modeling for me within minutes (above).

Post-surgical daughter was fine when I got home an hour and fifteen minutes later. Phew.

And my clando trip remained on the downlow until now.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Someone's Drinking the Kool-Aid

Big Sis just appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, arms outstretched to touch the doorjambs, to ask me, while I was on the phone with my BFF:

"Mom, who is our king?"

"Our king? We don't have a king."

"Yes we do, Mom. Who is our king?"

"We don't have a king in America."

"Yes we do, MOM. Who is our king?"

"We don't have a king in America! We don't. We have a president."

"We do have a king, Mom. What is his name?"

"Okay, fine. We have a king. His name is King Elmo the Great."

She looked at me, dropped her arms, and left the room. I resumed my adult conversation on the phone.

A few minutes later I hear, in that endlessly repetitive, robotic, patented way only children can beckon their parents:


(Sighing, and holding the phone against my chest) "Whhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"


And here I was thinking I was going to have to explain that our world is not a Disney Princess one, with kings and castles and sleeping beauties. Or that England has kings and the U.S. has presidents.

But no. My daughter, enrolled in a Christian Pre-School, was quizzing me.

And by the Transitive Property of Equality, I appear to have proclaimed King Elmo the Great as My God.

Friday, June 6, 2008

She Just Says No To Drugs, Adamantly

So far today we've given our almost-five-year-old daughter her various prescriptions by hiding pills and disguising oral suspensions in:

1. peanut butter
2. applesauce
3. a grilled cheese sandwich
3. strawberries and whipped cream
4. Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream

I'm not proud to admit that this morning featured me crying on the phone with the nurse after threatening to take our daughter in for shots and/or an IV hook-up when she refused to swallow anything but chewable Tylenol tablets. And learning that dropping her back off at the hospital Was Not An Option.

Seems like Everyone Else knows how to get bitter pills down their kids' gullets. And we have no real excuse, especially since this is the same child acclimated to a daily prophylactic dose of amoxicillin since she was three. And we are generally not in the habit of letting our kids Be In Charge of Their Well-Being.

But, she would tell you, these are new meds we're forcing her to take. And, well, you also have to know our daughter: It's not the taste of the medicine, per se, it's the IDEA of it. A "spoonful of sugar" or chocolate sauce (thank you, friends) will not work if she knows medication is in there.

We resorted to pinning her down and prying her jaw open (and then holding it closed--AGAIN, NOT PROUD), but her uncanny ability to spit out and spray every last molecule of drug-containing liquid is why she took two baths yesterday and my sheets are in the wash.

Hence, the evolution in the list of masquerading menus above. Peanut butter and applesauce represent her suspecting that the pill is in that spoonful, but okay, she'll try it. That approach wore off by noon. I stuck the crumbled mid-day pill in her sandwich--and she was none the wiser. Yes.

Alas, the pre-dinner Cherry-Tylenol-with-Codeine Soaked Strawberries and Cream lasted about three bites before being deemed "spicy."

But Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream? A perfect foil for the crushed nighttime dose of Ditripan. She'll be having that for breakfast, unless she's already on to us by tomorrow A.M.

The Drug Wars in our house are perhaps a welcome distraction from her whimpers of pain, her rocking on all fours and begging us to please do something to make this better NOW Mommy and Daddy. about drugs, kiddo? *Sigh*

But I have the luxury of knowing this too shall pass--and quickly, relatively speaking. My respect, admiration, and empathy for parents and children with chronic, debilitating illnesses in whose lives daily yucky medicine and pain are givens.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bilateral Ureteral Reimplantation

Not as bad as it sounds, it turns out.

Our four-year-old handled surgery like a champ. Of all the aspects of her hospital stay and the requisite intrusions on her personal space, only the oral doses of Tylenol with Codeine warranted dramatic protests (which only made her prescription more attractive to me).

It always comes down to the medicine. Even though she is watching Mary Poppins At This Very Moment, she is not amused by my reminders that a Spoonful of Sugar (or M&M's) Makes the Medicine Go Down. In fact, I predict some Medicine Throwdowns in our near future, since we came home with three different kinds.

Me: Look, this one is raspberry flavored.
Her: How do you know, Mom?
Me: It says it, right here. It tastes like raspberries. You love raspberries.
Her: (wrinkling her nose, looking skeptical) How do you know it actually tastes like raspberries? Why don't YOU TRY IT, MOM?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Rocking Ride, But We're Still Rolling


It's a beautiful day outside: the very best kind of weather, sunny but breezy, warm but not hot. The cousins are over and the kids are playing like cousins, with familiarity, ease, sweetness. No other friendships are quite like it.

It's been a wonderful day and it's only late afternoon (and I am vowing to ward off the Sunday Night Blues).

I woke up early and drove to a spot on the marathon course to cheer on my friend in her first marathon. As I watched for her I was reminded how uplifting it is to cheer for strangers who have the guts to run 26.2 miles. My friend was glowing and gleeful after mile 11 and I jumped in for a few miles, then ran back to my car along a pretty quiet, spectator-free stretch of the course, continuing to shout encouragements while heading in the opposite direction.

It's hard for me to believe I ever ran a marathon myself, because I was Very Glad to find my car after five miles.

This four-day week felt interminable, beginning with my post-long-weekend Questioning of Career Path (and Family Sacrifice) and ending with some Sense of Satisfaction that My Work is Meaningful. In between, students disappointed us by disrespecting staff members and defying authority; we responded by cancelling a popular student activity; then, after further consideration of the wide net we were casting, we reinstated the activity and soldiered on.

It goes without saying that while we were asking ourselves what is important/what is right/what is fair?, others were asking us what the hell are you doing/are you flipping crazy/do you want the entire community to hate you? Which felt Not Very Good. Not to mention that altering the course of our decisions midstream came with its own risks and criticism.

It turns out you hardly ever know exactly what you're doing so you do the best you can and try to get it as right as you can and as close to being about what you believe in and care about as you can.

It never feels completely good to make tough decisions, particularly in the public eye. I've learned that the only consolation is if you feel pretty okay inside yourself about the whole thing, as that may be all you have to sustain you.

We do care about kids, which became more evident to us if not to others, and at the end of the week, I care about a Whole Lot of Them a Whole Lot MORE, which is pretty cool.

Hence a sense of accomplishment for endurance of something tough, which might not be that far off from how my marathoner friend is feeling today: exhausted, in some pain, proud of herself, and very very glad the hardest part (of this event, anyway!) is over.