Jun 6 2008

Pass the mayo.

Spread too thin.  Today is Saint James’ last day of second grade.  It brings to a close his time on the sweet lower campus of our school which cocoons the precious kindergartners through second graders.  I decide I will pick him up at school to mark the occasion, maybe go for some ice cream to celebrate this itty bitty rite of passage.  

As I wait, I chat with some moms, keeping an eye on Devil Baby to make sure she doesn’t hightail it into the street in her hot pink Crocks.  I watch her climb into someone else’s jogging stroller.  I know better than to try to get her out and, really, who’s going to care?  I watch her stand up in the stroller.  I watch her tip it over, her forehead passing mere centimeters from the jagged, immutable corner of a brick wall.  Isn’t it funny how when your kid falls, it’s in slow motion but you’re never quick enough to catch them?  Actually, that’s not true – I’ve had plenty of saves in my day – more than I can count.  But those aren’t the ones I remember.  I remember the gasps and screams and slips through the fingers and just out of reaches.  

I hold poor little Devil Baby, her wails muffling into my sweatshirt, feeling like a jerk that I hadn’t stopped her from falling while other moms cluck words of concern around me.  I notice blood on her sweater and am overcome by a feeling of woozy trippy calm while I try to figure out where it’s coming from.  I hold my breath, hoping I’m not a nanosecond away from discovering an ER worthy gash.  At some point I become vaguely aware that Saint James and Supergirl are standing nearby watching.  Devil Baby does have a gash on her chin, but it turns out not to be too bad and, plus, she’s a tough petutie.  So she’s just hanging out in my arms, blinking her teary eyes and making those dear little post-crying hiccupy sounds.  (I hate to admit this, as it sounds like I’m one hysterical tick away from Munchausen’s By-Proxy Syndrome, but sometimes it’s nice when your kid is mildly ill or maimed because they’re quiet and docile and want you to hold them and what can be better than that?)  Since things are under control, I resume my conversation with my friend, ignoring poor Saint James, totally forgetting my plan to make a big hoopla about his last day of second grade.  Worse yet, I snap at him when he interrupts with a whiny can we go home now?  (I hate interrupting, especially if it’s whiny and inconsequential.) 

And now I feel horrible . . . which is pretty much status quo these days.  I start out with the best intentions and then . . . and then . . . something happens, and everything gets derailed and I end up one hundred and eighty degrees away from my original point of destination, like some sort of hapless maternal Gilligan.  

So instead of a big smiley, huggy song and dance with an ice cream chaser, Saint James got a crabby, brow-furrowed quasi-medical emergency and a reckless minivan ride home.  It wasn’t until later, quite a bit later, that he got a proper hug, some words of congratulation and a careful look through the paper bag full of end of the year stuff.  Then I puffed up my chest, pointed my finger in the air and declared that we would have a movie night tonight and quickly shooed Dash, Saint James and Supergirl out the door to go pick something out.

They have returned with The Little Vampire starring that annoying blond troll of a boy with spiky hair, glasses and a lisp from Jerry Maguire.     

Adequate penance for being spread too thin, I think.

Jun 5 2008

Read Drink Love


                                                              Young Girl Reading – Jean-Honore Fragonard

What do we ask of a good book? We ask to be entertained, to be transported, to be surprised, to learn something new.  We hope to catch a glimpse into the human condition, to make connections to other books and to our lives, to experience that unmistakable frisson brought on by words strung together in unexpectedly beautiful ways.

I went to book club a couple nights ago and, as always, I left feeling like my heart would simply flit off into the night for a happy little turn over the trees of our neighborhood.  It is a relatively young book club (about a year and a half old) and I am its newest member, having joined about six months after its inception.  When I started, I knew two of the women, but not very well.  One, I had met at the park and we bonded with our toes in the sand because she thought I was an Argentine Jew – she was half right.  The other, I met at Saint James’ preschool, and come to think of it, we also got to be friends with our toes in the sand.  In this small city, you are bound to run into people you like again and again, which gives you the chance to gently fan an acquaintance into a friendship.  Lucky for me, I kept bumping into these two women and found out about their book club.  And lucky for me, they invited me in.  

It is a true pleasure to read books along side this fabulous group of ladies – all mothers, incidentally.  We manage to pick amazing books by a process that is nothing short of pure and joyful chaos – people just throw out titles and somehow we collectively swoop them up or leave them aside.  Our choices emerge out of crescendos and decrescendos in yelling, cackling and book waving.  Sometimes someone attempts to read a review out loud, but never gets a chance to finish as the gavel is thrown swiftly and decisively by this group.  Despite outward appearances, we choose carefully (no one wants to read junk – life is too short); but not too carefully because reading is an adventure and sometimes you stumble upon the most breathtaking views when you don’t know where you’re going.  

I love this haphazard, caution-to-the wind approach: so far it has yielded great results – books that are incredibly varied, thematically and stylistically, but which all manage to satisfy, challenge and inspire us – books that sometimes make us fall in love – books that sometimes break our hearts – oftentimes, books that do both.  

The women in my book club approach reading with both open mindedness and high expectations.  This is a well read group, so if a book emits even the slightest whiff of schmaltziness or pandering, it’s dead meat.*  These women read with care and undisguised pleasure and bring strong powers of insight and analysis to our discussions (as well as wild gesticulations, melodramatic retellings, shrieking laughter and a sprinkling of profanity).  

Did I mention there is wine?

Our book club has journeyed to the moors of Victorian England, the jungles and shit lagoons of Vietnam, a mosquito-infested Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic, a craggy ailing farmstead in post-apartheid South Africa, a stifling and mannered living room in 1950’s suburban Connecticut, the disorienting beauty of present-day Tuscany, and up and down our ravaged country during the Civil War.  We have read non-fiction and fiction, collections of short stories and big juicy novels, classics and soon to be classics.  Just today one friend sent around an email listing 1000 books to read before you die.  I can imagine that the others, like me, hungrily scanned the list, happy to see so many familiar titles and wistful that there isn’t more TIME! 

Another thing I love:  We take turns holding the meetings in our homes, so somebody’s kids are always scampering about in their pajamas, watching with eyes as big as saucers as we pour drinks, catch up and settle in for a great talk.  What a lovely din to which to fall asleep. 

By necessity, our book club gatherings are efficient affairs with only a brief time alloted for chatting.  We’ve got a book to discuss, people!!!  Plus, we are usually on borrowed time, husbands and sitters having been wrangled into taking over for a couple blessed hours.  Someday, when we’re old ladies we will meet at four thirty for dinner and conversation.  Then we will creak and shuffle over to the comfy chairs with our large print editions tucked under our wrinkly arms and our wine glasses tippling over and begin . . .

*Eat, Pray, Love was one such casualty.  Though they read it before my time, I gather that it was reviled by all but one courageous member of the group.  This book manages to come up in conversation every third meeting or so, therefore I imagine it was worth the read – if only to serve as a collective punching bag.  The title of this entry is a sly wink to this book – which I will never, ever read – I promise.

Jun 4 2008

Some days you just get lucky.

You wake up and it looks like shit outside so you decide to dress yourself in polka dots from head to toe.

Then your fabulous mommy takes you and your baby sis to buy new shoes and you get a balloon on your way out.  But it isn’t just any balloon.  It’s a silver siamese twin balloon! The girl at the Shoe Zoo wasn’t sure it would blow up, but she tried it, and it did.

So then you get to do this:lballoon1


And then this:L2

And then this:L3

But the best part is that you got these:L4


Jun 3 2008

Nocturnal Visits

Having written that title brings to mind the wonderful, unforgettable day when Doctor Dash learned about pinworms in medical school.  Apparently, pinworms go out for what the medical establishment calls “a nocturnal stroll.”  I know, it’s too good.  Now, I’m not sure if I’m making this part up, but I think that the way you diagnose pinworms is by waiting near the afflicted person’s buttocks armed with nothing more than scotch tape and a little patience, and when the pinworms grab their galoshes and head out for their nocturnal stroll you pounce on them with the tape and voila! 

MUST be making this up.  But I’m going to let it stand because, like I said . . .  it’s too good.

Anyway, that was not at all where this entry was going. Our particular wee nocturnal visitor is, fortunately, not a parasite but the inimitable Supergirl.  She has been showing up in our room in the middle of the night for the past week and a half or so.  Sometimes she’s crying that her legs hurt and oh, how I feel for her on those nights.  I remember those growing pains where your bones and muscles and sinews throb as they stretch and pull into new space.  Doctor Dash doesn’t recall having had growing pains, but I sure do.  Usually a little Tylenol and leg rubbing does the trick.  

On other nights Supergirl claims to have had a nightmare.  Again, I feel for her.  I remember vivid dreams where a bad man was chasing me through a forest, but I couldn’t run, I couldn’t get traction.  Other times someone was taking my mom in a parking lot and I couldn’t scream.  The feeling of terror and impotence (maybe impotence is the definition of terror) upon awaking is still so palpable to me.  I also dreamt of flying around in a hula hoop and swimming on the back of a dolphin, so it wasn’t all bad.

The thing is, we don’t buy that she’s having nightmares every night.  More likely she gets up to pee and it’s just as easy to come to our bed as it is to return to hers.  I do have to admit that she’s very sweet and knocks quietly at the door before handing us her bogus story.  Since this has been going on for a while, our reception of her is more of the mumbling and grumbling variety.  My sleep is very precarious.  If someone wakes me up in the middle of the night, there is a really good chance I won’t get back to sleep, which results in hours of tossing and turning, an eventual trip downstairs to eat Frosted Flakes and watch TV, and a relentless search for a flashlight or batteries for a flashlight so I can read myself back to sleep.  It’s annoying to say the least.

But here’s the thing.  Supergirl is one independent little chick.  At the tender age of five, she’s already pretty self-sufficient and trustworthy.  She picks out her own clothes and dresses herself; she rides a bike with no training wheels and knows to ask if she wants to go beyond our agreed-upon perimeter; she swims like a fish, goes off the diving board and has a way of checking in with me from time to time at the pool just before I start to wonder where she is.  She is not a snuggler like Saint James and does not give or ask for much by way of physical affection.  If she wants to tuck her little body between us for a while at night, why would I object?  She may not be having nightmares, but surely she has a reason for this little phase.  We need to enjoy her nocturnal visits while they last.

And maybe spring for a king-size bed.

Jun 2 2008

I ♥ Summer


28271763I love summer with my heart and soul.  I love it and yearn for it as only a Northerner can.  My skin positively tingles at the prospect of the heat of the sun.  It must be my Argentine olive complexion yearning for its dose of Vitamin D and warmth after being cloaked in goose down and fleece for so many months.  

We live in a land of extremes here in Minnesota.  Our winters are harsh and arid, our summers humid and  steamy.  Spring and Fall are pitifully short – feeble weaklings who consistently get muscled out by the bullies Winter and Summer.  

But the turn of the seasons is so invigorating and lovely.  I am consistently awed by the blaze of change . . . that first snow fall that clings to all the branches, coating everything in blurry-edged marshmallow softness . . . or when everything seemingly greens overnight, the leaves and grass pulsing with life, whispering the secrets of nature.  My eyes and heart simultaneously ache and sing from the shock of seeing the long forgotten colors, experiencing the shift in paradigm ushered in by the first days of each new season.

There are certain days in the winter where merely leaving the house puts you in the class of a warrior.  (Especially if you have a detached garage, or like me, choose to park in the street.)  Forty below zero with the wind chill.  (Incidentally, I grew up thinking it was the windshield factor, because my mother, a huge weather buff and native Spanish speaker was always going on about the weend cheel factor.  Doctor Dash finally set me straight early on in our relationship.)  These kinds of frigid temperatures are no child’s play.  This is spit and it hits the ground with a crack kind of cold. God forbid your car stall somewhere cold. Eyelashes freezing shut kind of cold. You could die kind of cold.  

But like everything in life, it’s all about the gear.  If you dress warmly and with adequate layers, you can and should get outside for a spell, pump your fist in the air and scream . . .YAAARRAAARRRRGHHHH . . . FUCK YOU WINTER!!!!  Just don’t inhale too quickly after you scream or your alveoli will freeze sending you into a coughing spasm which will force you to scurry back inside, feeling like a fool.  

And just think of all the nasty organisms that get the shit frozen out of them and can’t survive here:  malaria, dengue, cholera, chagas, leprosy.  Our fierce, purifying winter wipes the slate clean, which is a really good thing considering how mosquitos abound in these parts.

Oh, how I hate those little mother fuckers.  I hate them, hate them, HATE THEM!  Unfortunately the feeling is far from mutual.  I’m one of those people whom mosquitos adore.  I’m Doctor Dash’s personal mosquito repellent.  He just has to stand by me and the mosquitos will literally land on him, take a sniff, pull a distasteful moue, turn up their prodigious proboscises and say, “ahem, no, not when I can have her.”   And don’t give me that bullshit that it’s because I’m sweet.

So putting aside those horrid little disease carriers, I still love summer because everyone around here goes NUTS.  There are block parties and street festivals and neighborhood carnivals and art fairs and outdoor movies and concerts all over the city.  The horizon is filled with more pasty appendages than you can count, the air is filled with the smell of barbeque and the sounds of children’s laughter.  People bike and swim and blade, they read books on blankets in the grass and linger in outdoor cafes.  You reconnect with people you haven’t seen in months. Pregnant women suddenly have babies in their arms, babies are suddenly toddlers, people have new hairdos, new noses, new boobs . . . everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief, smiles and heads to Target to stock up on sunscreen and OFF.

I ♡ summer.


Jun 1 2008

I hear you sister.

hailMother Nature threw herself one mad hissy fit last night.  The global warming induced heat flashes must be leaving her feeling a tad unhinged.  Yesterday was sunny and beautiful all day long and we were able to squeeze in two soccer games, a house showing and a lovely late afternoon swim at the club.  As we drove home with our worn out monkeys, we noticed the brooding sky over downtown – the clouds inky and bruised, flexing for a fight.  By the time everyone was showered and in their pajamas, it had started to hail like I’ve never seen it hail.  Not the “golf ball size” hail that old men in South Dakota like to talk about.  The hail was the size of marbles but thick as snow – it showered down, pelting and crushing everything in its wake.  This went on for a good ten minutes and it was thunderously loud.  The hail looked like big chunks of salt -  stunningly incongruous against the technicolor spring green backdrop of our street.  Baby grass, baby leaves, baby Hostas all got pummeled last night. 

And this morning Mama Nature is probably feeling a little better, if a bit sheepish and bleary-eyed.  


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