It’s amazing what you discover when you change things up. Doctor Dash is out of town for my little brother’s bachelor party, so I told Saint James and Supergirl they could sleep in our bed with me. I didn’t sleep a wink until I finally picked up my pillow and beat a hasty retreat to Saint James’ bed. Holy Moses, he sounds like a cross between an obese man and a wild boar. He sounds like the Industrial Revolution is unfolding up his nose, with cadres of child laborers slaving away at top speed in a tin cup factory. I had to keep opening my eyes to make sure all the snoring and sniffling and snarfling and clanging was coming from one small eight year old boy. Mystery revealed, it is no small wonder he wakes up every morning, his hair on end, looking like he’s been up all night popping No-Doze and writing a paper on Kant. He puts the grog in groggy, the phlegm in phlegmy. First thing Monday morning, I’m calling the ENT. Something tells me we’re going to be wrangling some adenoids this summer.
Santigold tore it up at First Ave last night! She TORE! IT! UP! This girl is blazing hot hot hot! She’s a chica who slinks and jumps and pumps and thrashes her way through genres, yet manages to make it all hang together and groove and swell until she rips the roof OFF the place!
She’s this totally beautiful black woman with a giant voice and I found my mind racing to pin her somehow. A creature of musical mythology, she defies classification, definition, description, even. I feel like I can talk circles all around her, wrapping her in a web of useless strings, without really being able to convey the IT - the her.
If you took Tina Turner and Blondie and Patty Smyth with a smidge of Gwen Stefani and Venus Williams and M.I.A., you might be able to approach the righteous show-womanship that is Santigold. I love her when she’s eighties rock and synthesizer voice, I love her when she’s pumping out a little hip hop, I love her when she looks like she’s doing aerobics – ONJ style, I love her when she’s thrashing her silky black shag and then pulling out a little Flash Dance-fast-run-in-place and then flips to deep, dark, African beats – chanting like a medicine woman and then all of a sudden you freeze and think: punk – of course. She’s a punk, hiphop, ska, electronica princess who had Minneapolis eating out of the palm of her hand last night. She was sweet and gracious and loved us up bigtime. An earthy diva she reads as retro and futuristic both – but street and glam too. I am smitten. Totally gone.
She was wearing a white leather jump suit that had a drapey, animal print cloth pelt over it which was cut in a vaguely eighties leotard sillouette. Amazing. And of course, the huge ghetto fabulous gold hoops. If her earlobes are intact, I would consider it a miracle.
As a testament to how bad-ass she is, how sure she is that we won’t take our eyes off her, she’s flanked by two phenomenal, beautiful and freaky deaky dancer/back-up singers. These chicks go from being mimes to marionettes, to humpin’ flygirls, their faces blank behind white glasses. Ultra cool and totally mesmerizing.
Opening acts, Amanda Blank and Trouble Andrew, both reentered the scene at different points and I’m glad they did, since we had missed them. Amanda is a skinny white chick with a Demi Moore scratchy voice who can rap like a mean mad mo’ fo’ – her lungs are ridiculous and as she flailed around, all pale and skinny in her sexy black romper, I thought to myself: I”m not quite sure what to make of this chick, but it’s working! And Trouble Andrew, I wish we hadn’t missed him, because he slipped on stage, swooped around and sang in his beautiful guy voice and then he vanished on me. Put him on your radars.
I kept turning back to Doctor Dash- ear to ear grin – and shrieking “It’s a SPECTACLE!” And it was! A rockin’, thumpin’, spectacular spectacle of gold – Santigold.
We got donuts before school today. Not that there needs to be a reason to get donuts, but boy, was there ever a reason. Legaus‘ handler came and took him away today. My knee contraption is gone – off to get tuned up for the next unlucky soul. I almost wish I could have tucked a note into it somewhere, a message to be discovered to lighten the monotony, to put the tiniest chink in the frustration. But I’ve got nothing inspiring or clever or enlightening to say. Nothing other than Dude, this sucks so bad. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks to be you. Ohmygod, this suuuuucks. And that hardly seems like a helpful sort of message.
On Memorial Day, our timing was ridiculously off. Doctor Dash was working, so I puttered around the house with the kids all morning, promising them a trip to the pool after lunch.
If you remember Monday, you’ll remember that it got really cloudy and windy from about 1:39 to 2:14. That’s exactly the time frame that we fools were at the pool. The kids gamely jumped in the water and swam for a little while before emerging with a bad case of the blue lips. So we packed it in and stopped by Hollywood Video to see if some great movie would jump out at us and keep us laughing cozily in a pig pile for the rest of the dark and gusty afternoon. Saint James and Supergirl couldn’t agree on a movie and they were being so pigheaded, that it rubbed off on me and we left empty handed and disgusted. Actually, Devil Baby got Snow Princess Dora, because I didn’t have it in me to fight her too. The case looked like it had been chewed up by a dog which was not only gross, it boded ill for the DVD inside. Sure enough, it didn’t work and because I am lazy, I just threw it in the drive-thru return box the next day, foregoing my four bucks and perpetuating the cycle of Snow Princess Dora let down tantrums. My apologies to whomever is stupid enough to rent it next.
By the time we left the video store, the sun had come out so I forced my crabby children to take a walk with me. We crossed the creek, hoping to catch some of our old neighbors outside. As much as we love our new house, we sorely miss our old neighbors. We are pretty much the only people on our stretch who even think about hanging out in front of the house. At our old house, I could step outside for a few minutes to clear my head or take in the view and eventually someone would meander over for a chat, walk by with their dog, or simply wave from their adirondack chair. I am actually quite shy about making formal plans, so this easy, casual, spontaneous socializing with neighbors was just what I needed. As a new transplant to this city, as a mother of babies who couldn’t do much more than follow slowly as they toddled or tricycled up and down the sidewalk, I came to really enjoy and depend on the snatches of adult conversation that I could gather up by just stepping into my front yard. Our friends Cheryl and James used to sit on their front stoop with wine – we called them the spiders because it was impossible to walk by their house and not get stuck in their web. So many times, the kids ran around for so long in a wild pack and we would get so distracted with chatting, that we’d finally just throw up our hands and order pizza for dinner, reemerging from our respective houses with arms full of beers, strawberries and carrot sticks to throw into the smorgasbord.
As we walked up the street, Saint James rang the doorbells of his buddies and Supergirl scootered ahead, having spotted Salt and Pepper Polymath reading in his wobbly wooden chair. A man after my own heart, he’s an outside guy. Before I knew him very well, I saw him sitting outside reading on a cold (by most people’s standards), but beautiful day. I can’t remember if it was fall or spring, but I do remember being secretly gratified that a thick skinned al fresco reader had moved in next door.
With a tiny wince of embarrassment, I watched Irish Laddie and Princess Pea pull up and their sweet girls tumble out of the car. Of course. They were heading to Red Vogue and SPP’s for one of their lovely holiday dinners. Because it was too late to turn around, and because I have embraced my pathetic side, all semblance of pride abandoned as part of my former, pre-crutches life, and because I was sans husband for the day and hadn’t spoken to an adult in over 18 hours, and because Red Vogue and SPP insisted and because I know they were being genuine, and because my kids love playing with Irish Laddie and Princess Pea’s girls, I agreed that we could stay. And stay we did, for a delicious feast of fancy brats, sesame peanut pasta salad, green salad and the most delicious caramelized grill fennel with an asian dipping sauce, topped off with shortcake with strawberries and freshly whipped cream. Deefreakinlicious. The kids requested their own table and as they had done on Easter, sat and chatted over their dinners for a shockingly long time – like civilized, socialized little people – sigh, maybe there is hope. It was truly lovely. Thank you!
So our unfortunate timing turned out to be very fortunate indeed. Now that we’ve moved away from our neighbors, we don’t have all that time swirling around us, putting us in each other’s paths, gently smoothing the way for idle chatter on cement steps and sloped green grass. Now, it’s all about timing. Less shy, more deliberate, and killer timing.
I think I’ve finally done it. I think I’m finally all out of words. I’m off my crutches and the process of climbing out of my head and back into my enfeebled body has left me tongue tied. Like a kid who used up his alloted amount of tokens within the first twenty minutes at Chucky E. Cheese, I feel slightly bereft, slightly sheepish after my greedy, glutinous spew. During my six weeks on crutches, this blog was my lifeline – it was the only thing I could DO, produce, create.
I am surprised to find myself with absolutely nothing. Nothing. Left. To. Say.
When my world shrunk down to my house, my car and anywhere I could painstakingly get to on my crutches, my mind started racing. I felt chafed by my confinement and the words in my head were my only way to run. Now I can go anywhere and I have circled the wagons tight. I have redrawn my circumference within a few feet of my knee. I focus on watching my step, smoothing out my gait, lifting my way to a normal looking quadricep, taking this knee of mine across the finish line. Also in this little circle are my family and the small stuff of life that needs my attention. The angst, the anxiousness, the twitching antenae, the mental chatter, the monkey mind that drive this blog and usually drive me, seem to have quieted. Peculiar.
Nothing about this experience has been as expected. I thought I would go wild when I got off my crutches. I thought I would be euphoric and bristling with energy. But I find myself strangely quiet. Relieved. Cautious. Sated by the simple blessing of being on my own two feet.
Hail Monti, full of grace
Toucan Sam is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst Cocoa Puffs and
Blessed is the fruit of thy loops, Tony the Tiger.
Mother of Trix Rabbit,
Pray for your teeth,
Now, and when you ask for cereal again for lunch.
I would. Alas, these beautiful, sexy Herve Leger bandage bikinis would be a tad out of place at the Minnesota watering holes I frequent with my cheel’ren. Even with the nipslip, I am in love with the black. Aren’t they stunning? Oh to be young, rich, fabulous and heading to the French Riviera.
Supergirl came home today and announced that her favorite show, Zoey 101, is over because Zoey is pregnant. Shit. Shit. Shit. How did she find out? Curse those too-wise-for-their-years-kids-with-older-siblings! When she and Saint James started watching the show, Jamie Lynn Spears’ indiscretions were old news to this pop-culture vulture, and I actually considered banning the show. I decided against it, ignoring the feeling that this might come back to bite me in the ass. I suppose I deserve this for letting them watch crap TV, but no one can be highbrow all the time – and if you are, you’re an asshole. The show is harmless and Jamie Lynn, despite her sad, misguided older sister, is actually rather cute. As long as her abdomen remained innocently flat, I saw no reason to pull the plug.
But the jig is up and Supergirl wants to know exactly what Zoey did to get this baby when she was so young. Oh dear sweet patron saint of child rearing, whoever you are, and I’m sure you exist because there are patron saints for everything, including mice and dysentery, help me, I beg of you! Supergirl is only six and not only is she fishing around for the birds and bees talk, she’s treading on teenage pregnancy issues – the urges, the hormones, the fumbling, the peer pressure, the danger. No way, man. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. I was utterly flummoxed and said something which I fear came out sounding like babies are nothing more than TV show squelchers. I know this was one of those “teachable moments” everyone is always nattering on about, but I’m the one who needs the teaching. What am I supposed to say? How much is she ready to hear?
I begged off in a panic, telling Supergirl that we would talk about it when we had a little more time and Devil Baby wasn’t around to bug us. I need to come back to this with her. I need to close the loop, clarify, make sure she is not left wondering and confused. I need to begin the conversation about sex and sexuality which, hopefully, will go on for a very long time. I feel pressure to make sure I get this right – I want to be the one she comes to when it really matters. I’ve got no problem with the biology part – I think she wants to know the truth. I have trouble with the fact Supergirl has connected pregnancy with this sweet little girl on TV. Were all those judgmental, conservative alarmists kind of, I can’t believe I’m going to say it, kind of, sort of, right?
I don’t think so. No. No. They weren’t. This is why I didn’t ban the show to begin with. I think the atmosphere of witch hunts and sanitization we live in is totally counterproductive. My kids need to learn to separate entertainment from real life. They need to know that you don’t make heroes out of TV characters. They need to understand fallibility and consequences. They need to know that everything is not black and white – they need to see the gray and learn to navigate it with care, with confidence, with open minds, with a strong moral compass, with humor, with humility. Celebrities shouldn’t be their role models. Dash and I are their role models. Their sweet babysitters who play soccer and musical instruments are their role models. Jamie Lynn’s pregnancy is not teaching little girls that it’s ok to get pregnant. With the right conversation, it could teach quite the opposite.
Need. To think.
A bit more.
You may or may not have noticed that new column over there to the right, down a bit, yep, there. I just sort of slipped it in casually, pretending it’s been there all along, half hoping you wouldn’t notice because God knows, I certainly don’t want to diminish my tenuous, paltry readership by pointing you in the direction of other, better blogs! To tell the truth, when I started this blog, I didn’t read many, if any blogs, so a blogroll didn’t even occur to me. Then as I started to wade around in the murky waters of the internet, I realized just how deep it is, just how vast. Wow, I could swim in this! Shit, I could drown! Fashion blogs, mommy blogs, literature blogs, food blogs, political blogs, design blogs, funny blogs, sad blogs, freaky blogs.
Easily overwhelmed, I was overwhelmed. Easily demoralized, I was demoralized. What is the point of adding my voice to this chattering chaos? Who cares? Who is ever going to find me and hear me? Maybe I really am spewing words into the ether. So I had a little freak out and stopped writing for a while until I realized, no, remembered, that spewing words feels pretty fucking good – regardless of whether anyone is reading. So I started spewing again, and here I am. Spewing and also pointing you to other, better blogs. I am one ballsy and reckless fool today.
In my blogroll live both friends and strangers whose words I have come to really like and anticipate. I have figured out that there’s a little clique of mommy blogs – funny, irreverent, mommy blogs that don’t make me want to stick my head in the oven à la Sylvia Plath. They all seem to know each other and love each other and hang out all the time and go on crazy adventures, notwithstanding the fact that they’re scattered around the country. I feel like the girl on the playground sullenly looking on with her fingers crooked around the chain link fence and one knee sock drooping down around her ankle, wishing they would ask her to join in. But they don’t know me. They don’t see me. They’re having too much fun sharing links and laughs and witticisms and Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker. So I’m just gonna turn around, sit on the crabby crass, behead dandelions and scratch my mosquito bites.
One of the funny popular girls is Finslippy, who recently raved about a blog by a friend of hers (see? they’re all friends – I’m not making this up) called The Diamond in the Window, and because I trust Finslippy, I checked it out. It really is wonderful. It’s a blog about books and girls and books for girls (to be fair, boys too) and is written so beautifully that I just want to crawl into my yellow beanbag chair and read The Little House on the Prairie. This woman clearly loves books, but what I find magical is that she is still breathtakingly in touch with what books meant to her as a girl. Maybe it’s because she has girls, but I think it’s because you never really out grow being a bookworm. This blog brings me right back to that heady feeling of pedaling home from the library on Deep Wood Road, my backpack filled with treasures, shimmering and shivering to get out. I loved books. I read at the table, on the toilet, in the tree, in my bean bag chair, on a shag rug, in my bed, in my parent’s bed, on the bus, in the car, at recess. If I had a good book in my armpit, the only thing I could think of was finding a spot to drop and tuck into it.
If you are, were or are raising a bookworm, check out this lovely blog.
And now, back to the playground. Mama had a baby and her head popped off.
This was a Mother’s Day I will not soon forget. It was the Mother’s Day that fell five weeks into my sentence on crutches, the Mother’s Day I wasn’t feeling like much of a mother. Notwithstanding everything, my little family rallied around me and made me feel like a queen. A lucky, lucky queen with some ridiculously cute constituents. I got glazed donuts and hot coffee for breakfast. I got painted frames and water colored cards. I got little pots of flowers and a gift certificate to Cliché. I got hugs and sloppy kisses. I got a picnic in the Rose Garden, some time to lounge on a blanket in the sun, watch them play through sleepy, slit eyes, and breathe Spring. Best of all, I got a little concerto in the basement at the end of the day. They played piano for me in their pajamas, their hair still wet from their baths. Saint James wrote me a song called Rain. It was short and beautiful and pierced my heart like an arrow.
Princess Kurt 1995 – by Elizabeth Peyton
I’m in the home stretch. Twelve more days. I think I’m going to make it. I’m coasting on the fumes of wishful thinking and the kindness of others. In no particular order, these are things I have promised my children, promised myself and to which I am clinging, tooth and nail, for Twelve. More. Days.
1. Tie dye t-shirts with my monkeys.
2. Find a recipe for egg drop soup and make it with Supergirl.
4. Go shopping and buy something freaking fabulous.
5. Farmers markets every weekend.
6. Take the Red Betty and the Bony Finger out on a bike date with Doctor Dash.
7. Go to Shoe Zoo and buy my kids some decent shoes. We will undoubtedly walk out of there with three pairs of Crocs, but also, hopefully, some cute sandals.
8. Go to Cooks of Crocus Hill and buy a juicer (preferably not electric), buy a ton of limes, and make margaritas with all the delicious tequila my sweet friends left on the front porch that scary, sleety Sunday before my knee surgery.
9. Put on a pair of heels and go see New Congress with my betties and anyone else who loves me and who’s up for a ripper on a Thursday night.
11. Cook a feast, possibly in connection with no. 8.
12. Design and plant a shade garden in Melancholy Corner (it’s a spot of the back yard that gets no sun and just plain gives me and Dash the heeby jeebies).
13. Plant my window boxes.
14. Walk around my lovely Harriet.
Cafe Ena – a couple weeks ago Nanook and Crackerjack rescued me from myself and swept me away to this Kingfield Neighborhood gem for a little Monday night love. I’ve always loved Cafe Ena for lunch with the kids because it’s never too crowded, has awesome grown up food but a totally kids are welcome here vibe. It’s the holy grail for foodies with chitlins. This was my first time for dinner and, lucky us, bottles of wine are half off on Monday nights. So we indulged in some beautiful South American whites while chatting and tucking into our toothsome dinners. Were I a real food critic, I would have made a point of trying everyone’s food, but alas I was too distracted by my jambalaya because it ROCKED! I pretty much hovered over my own plate until every last snappy, succulent grain of rice had disappeared. I ordered it spicy and it was perfect – although I was most definitely on the verge in the best way – high color in the cheeks, slightly glassy eyes, fiery buzz. Mark my words. I will be back for that jambalaya.
Birchbark Books – The other day when I was going for my post preschool drop off sanity drive, my minivan somehow ended up parked in front of this adorable Kenwood Neighborhood bookstore. I have always loved Birchbark Books, but since it’s not on my flight path, I don’t often make it over there. Pity, because stepping in, you feel like you are trespassing in the hidden away cabin of an earthy and magical book witch. It really is enchanting. My heart quickens in any bookstore, but more so here. Something about how the books are displayed, the soulful Native American presence, the carefully edited choices, make me feel like a kid in a candy store – like anything I pluck off a shelf will be a treat and a treasure. Maybe the book witch touch comes from its owner, an author I love, Louise Erdrich, who writes many of the handwritten reviews taped up on little cards in the stacks, drawing your eye to the really special books – the ones that really are words spun into magic. I cannot possibly improve upon their mission statement, so here it is: Boozhoo! Welcome! Birchbark Books is operated by a spirited collection of people who believe in the power of good writing, the beauty of hand made art, the strength of Native culture, and the importance of small and intimate bookstores. Our books are lovingly chosen. Our store is tended with care.
Liberty Custard – Apparently frozen custard is a big Wisconsin thing – not surprising that the folks who thought to batter and deep fry cheese curds should think it a fine idea to add more cream to ice cream. But I’m glad they did. On both counts. Liberty is housed in a cleverly converted gas station and manages to be retro, industrial and homey at the same time. Aside from the amazing custard, they serve really fresh sandwiches, (including a new Scott Ja-Mamas‘ pulled pork sandwich that has my name written on it), soups, hotdogs, pizza, and fancy coffee. They have vintage pinball and other games to occupy the kids, as well as a little red car that bumps along for 25 cents worth of minutes and has made each of my children grin and imagine wild rides in their toddler years. Best of all they sell toy guns and candy cigarettes. How’s that for refreshingly un-pc? Independent, indeed!
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1. About three days after my knee surgery, all hell broke loose deep down in my guts. Frantic calls were made, hasty plans drawn up, and copious amounts of overtime were doled out in the frantic construction of a patience factory. This factory, while built under duress and fly-by-night circumstances, has been churning out brand new patience at top speed, and although the quality has been less than consistent, the very existence of this heretofore unknown commodity has been both a blessing and an improvement.
2. I am actually looking forward to stepping back into my life and doing all the things that, a few weeks ago, I felt were chores especially designed to wear me down into a nonsentient nub: groceries, laundry, cooking.
3. My children, Devil Baby included, no longer rely on me for every little thing.
4. The love I feel for Doctor Dash has swelled to weepy, hormonal, postpartum proportions when I would look at him and look at my new baby and think thank you for helping me do this. Dash, thank you for helping me do this.
5. Because of some really sweet people in my community, I have a new understanding of what it means to be aware, to be kind, to follow through. I will never again assume someone is OK. If I have an inkling I could help, I will help.
6. My knee is going to kick ass.
Yesterday, in a rare moment of solidarity, Saint James and Supergirl stood in front of me, grinning secretively with their arms hooked around each other’s necks and asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I practically had to clap my hands over my mouth to stop the words from tumbling out – Nothing, I don’t deserve anything. What? WHAT? Have I gone insane? Have a mere four weeks of disability basically annihilated nearly nine years of mothering? Just because I haven’t cooked them a meal, met them at the bus stop, washed their clothes, made their lunches, picked up their rooms, bathed them or gone to the supermarket in weeks, doesn’t mean I’m not still their mother and deserving of all the love and attention and little kid handcrafted goodness they choose to shower me with! I still clip their nails, read to them, fold their laundry, chat with them, drive them to school, watch their soccer games, but what? Is that not enough? Apparently not for this fool.
Consistently through out this recovery process, I have been confounded by what a mind fuck it has been. The physical upheaval does not begin to approach the mental. I thought I was just feeling humility slash humiliation at having to depend on others for everything. I thought I was just feeling guilty for leaving so much work for everyone else to do. I thought I was just feeling foolish about boohooing my own situation when other people have it so much worse. I thought I was just feeling angered by my physical limitations, with my inability to work out my excess energy, angst, and emotion by moving my body, by sweating. I thought I was just feeling lonely, with only Legasus as my friend. I thought I was just going crazy from the stillness, the introspection, the time in my head. As it happens, that’s not all. I was also losing my identity.
I am floored by this. It turns out that motherhood is more a state of doing, than a state of being. It sounds like crazy talk, but stripped of my “jobs”, I feel useless, superfluous, more like a coddled visitor than the beating heart of this family. I know that’s not true with my head, but I can tell you that in those seconds my kids stood in front of me, half dressed for school, my heart felt undeserving and that’s just sad. And unnecessary.
So I collected myself and said what I always say. I would love it if you wrote me a story.