Jun 29 2009

Pingo R.I.P.

We’ve been plagued by death. The second and final guppy has moved on to fresher waters and while the exact cause of death cannot be determined at this time, let’s just say Devil Baby played a role. She started the chain of events that led to his demise. Coincidence? I think not. Here’s how it went down.

8:30ish – I hear a huge crash in the kitchen and run in to find Devil Baby sprawled on her back, covered in fish food, mouth agape working up to the big waaaaaaah. Pingo’s tub is practically opaque from all the food in there and he’s going nuts trying to eat it all. I have to work fast. I quickly dechlorinate some water in the green bowl I use to make crepes, scoop him into it, clean out his bowl, fill it with water, dechlorinate it and run to check on Devil Baby, who is still wailing her head off. (I know, I should have checked on her first, right? This fish thing has made me a bit crazy.)

9:00ish – I go back to the kitchen to put Pingo back in his tub and am fiddling with the pump when he pulls a total Tale of Despereaux move and leaps out of the bowl, brushes my arm, and lands with an inaudible splat on the tile floor. I yelp and try to pick him up, but the wriggling makes that too disgusting, so I scream for Saint James while I frantically try to get him to hop onto a spoon. Just as Saint James and Supergirl slide panting into the kitchen, I slip Pingo into his water with a sigh. Phew. Disaster averted. Again. 

9:05ish – we watch him swim around for a while, wondering how, why he should have taken such a death defying leap and slowly it begins to dawn on me. Ohhhhhh, good sweet baby Cupid, can it be? Why am I always so obtuse when it comes to matters of the heart? Pingo is in love with me. After the loss of Pearl, he transferred all his affections to the next best thing – me. The combination of watching my heroic efforts to save him and sheer piscine gratitude so overwhelmed him that he found himself with no choice but to risk everything, for just a touch. When he saw me hovering near the crepe bowl, he saw his chance and took his leap of love. 

10:30ish – Doctor Dash comes home from call and sits on the edge of the bed, rapt, as I regale him with the hair raising events of the night and my cool-under-fire heroics. He seems dubious about my theory about Pingo’s fish crush, but then, Dash is prone to a bit of jealousy in such matters and probably doesn’t want to fan the fire.

10:35ish – Doctor Dash, having gone downstairs to decompress from work, comes back to the bedroom and announces that Pingo has died. We both sigh. I find sleep elusive, my mind racing to figure out what killed him. Was it the food, the fall, the water temperature or did he simply, quietly, die of a broken heart?

Jun 27 2009

More 3/50 Project – Buy local, local, local!

Since I became aware of the 350 Project, two local gems, which I have blogged about, have shuttered their storefronts. I am choosing to avoid the paranoid suspicion that I am a jinx, although I have proven myself to be a jinx in at least one boy girl matchmaking attempt gone terribly, terribly awry – but that is a story for another time.

Leuhmann, the tiny, quirky store at 50th and Bryant filled with antiques, shells, fossils, skulls, feathers, branches, vintage taxidermied creatures and all sorts of other intriguing natural curiosities has sadly closed.

Even more personally devastating to me, despite my blustery threats of becoming a vegetarian, is the loss of Galoony’s, home of Minneapolis’ most toothsome steak and cheese sub. I have been satisfying my cravings for these spicy, meaty babies at Galoony’s since 1995 when I first moved to Minneapolis and to my great joy, had most recently turned Supergirl on to the satisfying wonders of what she called “the meat sandwich.” I will never forget the moment I found out I would be losing my beloved steak and cheese spot – I was eating breakfast in the dining room when I read about it in the Southwest Pages and my shriek to the high heavens brought my family running from all corners of the house. Supergirl felt my pain and joined me in my sorry incantation: Nooooooo, noooooo, say it ain’t soooooo. ohhhhh. Galoooooony’s. ohhhhh nooooooo.

So the point of all this drama? This is for real, people. These are tough times and if we don’t make a deliberate effort to support our local businesses, they flounder and they fail. The last thing any of us wants, is to live in a land where big box national chains choke out the people who are creative enough, enterprising enough, brave enough, crazy enough to throw their hats into the ring of commerce and make a go of starting a small business.

Connectedness, conversation, depth of knowledge, passion, craftsmanship, authenticity, uniqueness, diversity – these are all things you find in your corner shop, whether it be a boutique, hardware store or butcher. Sad will be the day when the only person taking my cash is wearing a red shirt and asking if I want to save ten percent by opening a Target card. So with that, here are three more of mine. Please send me three of yours, even if, especially if, you live somewhere else. We all love a hot tip!

purplestrawberriesKingfield Farmers Market. I love all farmers markets, but I was particularly smitten by this one because it’s the one I most often forget about. Open on Sundays from nine to one thirty at 43rd and Nicollet Ave., it’s teeny tiny but it has one or two of everything your heart desires: almonds, tomato plants, fresh eggs, cheese, fancy jerky, homemade cookies, tacos, organic meats, fresh squeezed fruit juice, and a cornucopia of fresh organic local fruits and veggies. There are always musicians and artisans for the kids to ogle and all in all, it’s a quick and easy little jaunt whether you want to bang it out in under an hour or while away the morning, noshing on yummies and chit chatting with people. 

phpthumbphp2                                                       Photo by David J. Turner.

Ladyslipper Boutique. Do yourself a favor and slip into Ladyslipper at 4940 France Ave. S. in Edina. Owned by the Bluebird Boutique ladies (Sasha Martin and Allison Mowery) plus my super stylish pool friend Amanda Rose, it feels like you’ve slipped into the tip of a genie’s lamp, were said genie an accessories maven with an eye for pieces that bellydance between edgy and lady-like, chunky and dainty, modern and vintage. Guilted mirrors, chandeliers, zebra rugs, and plushy rose ottomans, it feels decadent and lovely, yet casual and lively. I was not surprised to find that I loved everything, and I mean everything in the store from the killer boots, to the tremendous bags to the one of a kind jewelry. (Doctor Dash: take note, lover!) These girls have managed to pull together an exquisitely edited collection of goodies at a range price points (some startlingly reasonable). I went in looking for a statement necklace for my brother’s wedding and after a bit of oohing and aahing, chatting, and fondling of merchandize, Amanda pointed out some necklaces made by a local sistah named Tracy Bennett under the name Scout (which I love). Each necklace is unique, made of vintage necklaces, bracelets and brooches, strung together in a way that I can only describe as quirky genius. The necklaces are asymnetrical, chunky, and modern, but derive a drapey, sweetness from the vintage pieces of which they’re made. The one I finally chose has two pretty brooches anchoring a riot of silver and gold chains and simply makes me happy. If you are a girlie girl with a bit of an attitude, duck into Ladyslipper and take a little browse. You’ll find your three wishes in a heartbeat!

Rice Paper. Tucked into leafy Linden Hills, this quiet little spot never fails to hit the spot. With a simple menu of fresh and lively Vietnamese/Thai fusion cuisine, it’s the perfect place for vegetarians or those who want major flavor, without having to roll themselves out the door. While the dishes are light and healthy, your taste buds will be shaking their booties from all the cilantro, lime, chili, and coconut love. The peanut sauce that comes with the spring rolls is to die for and they sell it to go, should you ever want to bathe in it, which, I can assure you, you will.

Jun 26 2009

Michael and Farrah – R.I.P.

farrah-fawcett-anal-cancer1Yesterday was such an odd day – it was the quintessential, hot, sunny summer day in the Midwest replete with a comfortingly familiar level of humidity and mosquito action. We swam, we idled around home, we face painted, we rode our bikes and I even broke out the Deep Woods OFF for the first time this season. It was a good day. It was a regular day. And in the midst of my morning, I find out Farrah Fawcett died, which is sad, but she was sick and it was no great surprise. I always loved Farrah in that sad sort of way a little Argentine girl living in Michigan would. She was the ideal, and I, with my dark hair, big feet, long legs and funny name, was most definitely not. Before a family vacation, I even got my hair cut so that it would “feather,” having no clue that you needed a curling iron to do it. Not to mention that my hair was so thick and heavy that it would have required mad skilz, copious amounts of hair spray and a head immobilizer for me to pull off a feathered do. Instead my hair fell around my face like Cousin It until my mom got so exasperated she bought a barrette from a Disney World gift shop to pin it away from my face. Michigan in the seventies was not a place you wanted to be different. It was a time before Benneton ads, J Lo, Beyoncé, and High School Musical. Little girls swoon when they find out my name now, but back then, Gabriela was odd and ugly – just like me. Revisiting those youthful cringes and tinges upon hearing of Farrah’s death, while not entirely surprising, amounted to more than plenty melancholy nostalgia for a hot June day.

j5era1I screamed and practically jumped out of my skin when I read that Michael Jackson had died. Michael Jackson is dead. Not that he was the picture of vitality, by any stretch, but still – it just doesn’t seem possible! Talk about a tragic life spiral. I’ve always been a fan, but like most people, had sort of let him go as he got weirder and whiter – as he finally succeeded in erasing all traces of the beautiful black boy he had once been. He was so talented that it somehow made his erratic behavior and freaky looks all that much more distasteful. It just became easier to ignore him than to try to understand what was going on chez Neverland. Oh, but what a cool little kid he was, what a voice, what a dancer! And to die at fifty, alone, and hidden away in that big weird house, living out a fantasy most certainly gone awry. Tragic. Check this out, though. The footage from Harlem is breathtaking and I could watch that all day. Hopefully he’s watching from wherever he is and has found whatever he was looking for. Good bye MJ.

And good bye beautiful Farrah.

Jun 25 2009

Summer Lovin’


santi-soccerThump thump thump. Be still my beating heart.

montibrocIt’s as if she’s never seen such a peculiar thing. Maybe if she stares at it long enough, she’ll agree to eat it someday.

sprinker2I never fail to underestimate the joy of an ice cold sprinkler on a hot summer night.

Jun 24 2009

Bloody mess

210240Who makes chili when it’s 90 degrees? Apparently, I do. After a long wilting day at a swim meet, I stand in my boiling hot kitchen, crack a beer and proceed to sweat and chop and mutter and swig and mutter and swig and sweat and stir and cuss. Whoever eats this chili is going to feel mighty ornery. One of my rotten children left the basement freezer door open and most of our share of local grass fed cow and happy pig were subjected to a second death. And I was subjected to a grisly scene this morning when I found a huge pool of blood spreading around the white tile floor in front of the fridge. All the meat had thawed overnight, sweating and bleeding all over the place. I am chucking most of it, but was able to salvage a steak and a few pounds of ground beef that were still cold. There I stood, gagging and cleaning, all before my morning coffee, cursing the name of whichever child was undoubtedly rooting around for the football shaped gelpack to press on some imagined owie, causing a frozen baguette to slip, wedge itself in the door and effectively ruin hundreds of dollars worth of meat. As I threw bloody package after bloody package into garbage bags, I realized the garbage men had just gone by and there was no way I could leave fifty pounds of flesh in our bin until next week without creating an unearthly stench and a Lalapalooza for maggots. I had no choice but to stuff the plastic bags back into the freezer, which made me feel like Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction – shady, beastly. It’s enough to turn anyone into a vegetarian. Right after I eat that steak, of course.

Jun 22 2009

We must break her.

That is a quote. From Doctor Dash about Devil Baby. Yes, he actually said it. And after he said it, I gasped, then nodded, then added “Yes, yes, we must. She’s out of control. She’s a total wild child.”

At this moment she is standing next to me demanding mac and cheese. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Here’s a peek at her food diary for today and you tell me whether I need to make her mac and cheese right now, which, incidentally, she will not eat. Not one bite. My making mac and cheese for her is nothing more than a symbolic gesture to prove that she rules me. It is an offering to an angry and cantankerous god who eats out of plastic bowls and sippy cups.  

8:40 pancakes, peach slices

9:10 bagel with strawberry cream cheese (ordered by herself at club snackbar) – ate one half.

9:40 box of Lucky Charms (ordered by herself at club snackbar) – ate the marshmallows. 

12:00 grilled cheese and french fries (ordered by me at club snackbar) – took zero bites of grilled cheese and ate a handful of fries.

12:40 vanilla frozen yogurt – took a bite, saw Saint James’ ice cream sandwich and demanded one causing us to leave the pool in a ball of flames because I wouldn’t let her get a second desert. Seriously, I had to carry her out of there, kicking and screaming bloody murder, everyone staring at our little parade of chaos and destruction. The towel around my waist came loose from all her writhing so the last look all the club ladies and lifeguards got was of my bathing suited wedgied ass and Devil Baby’s pale, chubby, thrashing legs. Lovely. 

2:20 peach slices – she only agreed to these after harassing me for a popsicle for fifteen minutes. I finally left the kitchen and went upstairs, only to turn around and find her stalking me, her chubby mug saying “peaches” in a deceptively sweet voice.

3:00 I’m not doing it. I’m not making mac and cheese right now. I’m not going to do it.

Any hopes I had for her third birthday ushering in an era of peace and cooperation have been smacked around, hogtied and thrown in the Mississippi tied to a bucket of cement. I cannot even believe I was hopeful, nay, naive enough to change her name to Angel Baby a mere few months ago. What a rube I was. She is naughty with a capital N. She is spitting and pinching and doing all sorts of devious and downright mean things. Today she threw Supergirl’s cheeseburger in the garbage when she got up to get water. Then when we came home she broke the little purple cross Supergirl had gotten at her kindergarten graduation. I’m not even going to begin to entertain the symbolism of that gesture. I gave her a huge time-out (the third one of the day), but not only is she showing no remorse, she’s haranguing me for mac and cheese.

I’m not going to make it. I won’t. I won’t.

postscript: reading over this, I can see my mistakes. Why, you may be asking, would you let her get frozen yogurt when she didn’t eat her lunch? And you would be right to ask. I have no answer aside from the worn out nub excuse, and I know that’s not a good answer. I need to get Circus Lady over here to put the smack down. She has this rule which always impressed me: if you get up from the table, you are done. Like DONE, done. As in, don’t come asking for food. And she meant it. But for how long? If they come back for food in an hour do you give in? Two hours? I need to figure this shit out asap, before she drives me to drink . . . more.

Jun 20 2009


boatOur friend, Duddy, got the ball rolling on this Jersey Shore extravaganza after his visit to our house last October. Our kids pretty much line up and his short stay in our chaotic house somehow led him to believe that our families could spend a few days together in relative harmony. He and Dash planned it all out and before I knew it, we were en route to Saucy-licious’ parents’ beautiful beach house in Avalon, New Jersey. I had a teensy bit of trepidation descending on poor Saucy-licious, seeing as we really didn’t actually know each other very well. She and I had met but thrice: at our wedding, their wedding and our friend Philo’s wedding. I’d say she was very brave indeed to agree to this. She’s obviously a girl whose willing to take a gamble based on her hubby’s whim and you gotta love that.

Hanging out with Duddy, Saucy-licious, her sister (Little J), Little J’s boyfriend Shrimp-Boy and their friends Sweet Scissors, Little A, and a bevy of Mikes, was nothing short of revelatory. Suddenly, in the midst of this big Italian family, I felt like I fit in. Hey people! It’s not me, it’s Minnesota! No wonder! This explains everything! Elbow to elbow with this colorful and sweet group of gourmets, bon vivants and foxy chicks, I’m suddenly not the one with the loudest laugh or the most Italian looking or the one with the tightest jeans or the biggest cocktail ring! (I was actually regretting not having packed some of my big rings, but who knew I would be needing them at the beach?!) I felt like I’d come home! Maybe it’s because a big Argentine family is nothing but a short ship’s voyage away from a big Italian family. Maybe it’s because Detroit really has a more East coast vibe than Minneapolis, especially when you creep into the tony suburbs from where I hearken. Or maybe Duddy is just a genius and knew it was going to work. 

And little did I know that I was going to be getting my dancin’ fix on this trip. My new found best peeps took me to my new found fave bar in the world: The Princeton. What a trip! It’s basically a huge house with five distinct bars chocked to the rafters with revelry and mayhem. And the people watching is PHENOMENAL! It’s like a giant, labrynthian roller rink – you cruise in a huge circle, dancing and shimmying as you go, stopping to bust a few cool moves in a whatever spot you happen to catch your favorite song. One of the rooms always has a live band and Saucy-licious expertly manoevered us to the front, center stage, right up at the bar and hoooooooooo mama, did we have a good time! Great cover band, mucho dancing, ringing ears, base in the ribcage, the works. Ridiculously fun. 

kidsThe kids got along swimmingly and came and went as a little pack – a cute and chatty amoeba. They hunted for tadpoles, threw their tiny bodies up against the crushing surf, ventured out at night with head lamps and flashlights in search of crabs, giggled in their bunks late into the night and generally had the run of this little piece of kid-heaven. mikejr Supergirl, Mini-Saucy, and Hello Kitty braved the cold waters of the Atlantic and body surfed their faces off – tough chickies. Duddy and Saucy-licious’ son, Huggy Bear, had an endearing habit of throwing his arms around Saint James and pulling him around by the shoulders. Saint James might have shrugged him off a couple times, but he was pleased as punch to be pampered by his new protector, guide and all around awesome friend. The two of them even went on an adventure to an arcade! Ten blocks, on bikes, cash in their pockets and freedom, sweet sweet freedom trailing behind them like streamers in the wind. 

suzcookingAs for us, we feasted, drank and laughed like kings. I would happily hang out in the kitchen with these folks all damn day and night, gabbing and drinking and watching them cook. (Saucy-licious had a gigantic pot of the most beautiful red sauce bubbling away on the stove when we walked in and my mission in life is to recreate it when I get home – meatballs, pork ribs and all). The Duddys are masters of the concoctions (solid, liquid and in-between) and they are forever puttering around the kitchen mixing together some sort of tasty libation or tender vittle. Almost nothing goes untouched by them. Whether it’s Seltzer water amped up with a little sour cherry syrup, or homemade chocolate made with coconut oil, or virgin Piña Coladas, or Cioppino, or pancakes, or meatball sandwiches, or Latin pork pernil, or Saucy-licious’ red sauce. There is always a way to make something more tasty by throwing a little love at it and this is what they do best. I picked up many a trick, tip and recipe in the tornado of deliciousness that seems to hover around the kitchen at all times. eggsI even have some seeds for these beautiful peppers called Ancient Sweets that Saucy-licious slowly sauteed in olive oil until they turned into sweet summer goodness in a pan. (Apropos of the whole seed thing, I remember my mother smuggling parsley seeds from Argentina because the parsley available in Michigan in the seventies was not up to snuff).

If food equals love, then I feel like I just got dipped and breaded and lightly sauteed in a whole heckuvalotta love. In fact, I’m bringing a little five pound paunch home with me as a souvenir to prove how much they love me.

Thank you, dear friends, for your warm and easy hospitality. And thank you for more belly laughs and tasty bites than we could ever begin to count. What a blast!


Jun 16 2009

A little slice of heaven.

Especially when you are lucky enough to be under the care of Duddy and his super foxy and hilarious wife, Saucy-licious. I have much to report, but for now nothing says it better than this:


Jun 12 2009

And other clichés . . .

louSo on Saturday, I surprised Supergirl after her muddy soccer game and took her to Hair Police in Uptown for some colored extensions. She’s been begging since last summer when one of her swim coaches showed up with purple and green streaks and I promised her she could get them for her kindergarten graduation. (I was pretty sure they wouldn’t be considered kosher uniform policy). As we scurried through the rain, up the stairs to the destroyed, warehousy salon, I had to chuckle at Supergirl for being so excited about doing something that she perceives to be edgy and subversive. But I was also chuckling at myself, for taking my camera, and for so predictably playing the part of the quote unquote cool mom, who is so hip that she honors her girl’s wishes for colored hair and surprises her with an appointment the day after school ends. As I watched Supergirl chat with the beautiful, dread-locked Satya, I rifled through a magazine and put it down, sighing to myself: I am a walking cliché.

I am a grup. I am a grown up who is pretending she is not grown up. I am in love with youth culture because that’s where all the color and emotion and good seem to live. My take away from the state of the world right now: at best, adults are boring; at worst, they are corrupt or inept. I don’t dress my age. I don’t act my age. But somehow, I feel like I can get away with it because I am aware of my little charade, my little schtick. I’m totally on to myself. Self-awareness excuses anything, right?

Obviously, per the article on grups linked above, clinging to the stuff of youth – music, cool clothes, cool toys – is a bit of an epidemic among thirty and forty somethings. But maybe this is the new age appropriate way to act. Forty is the new thirty and so on. Maybe we stay current with music and fashion because, in and of themselves, they are beautiful things. Why would we give up our claim to the things we have always loved just because we may be getting a bit long in the tooth? Whoever says we should is just bullshit. And if you’re going to look oldish, isn’t it better to look good oldish than simply old oldish? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I may be a walking cliché, but my daughter looks kick-ass. And judging from the bevy of girls and mamas crowding around her at the pool today, I think we may just have started something. Satya’s not going to know what hit her when they all start showing up for their little piece of cool summer color. Makes me smile just thinking about it.satya

Jun 11 2009

Happy Birthday Devil Baby!

monti1If a girl can’t rock a purple jumpsuit and purple boots on her third birthday, what hope is there for any of us? I love you, Devil Baby. You exhaust me. But I love you. And I totally understand the logic behind your wardrobe choice today. Totally.monti2

Jun 11 2009

Guppy Luv

So perhaps I anthropomorphize. A bit. But I think Pingo is pining for his lover. He just hasn’t been the same since Pearl passed. Could it be?

Jun 10 2009

Proud of my girls.

Yesterday I went to a yoga class taught by the one and only Crackerjack and I left holding more emotion than usual. I could feel it sitting under the bridge of my nose, almost prickly, settling into my chest, soft and warm. In part, I’m just so grateful to be back on my mat after my knee surgery that I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I am weaker than I was, but not as weak as I thought I would be. The poses all still flow out of me and I am both humbled and comforted by the immutability of yoga. Yoga is still there, yet I come back to it changed in so many ways. But that wasn’t it. I had gone to two other yoga classes and hadn’t felt like I did yesterday. As I drove home, circling our beautiful Lake Harriet, it hit me – I was proud of my girl.

Late winter, Crackerjack took a deep breath and jumped into an intense 6 week yoga teacher training course. Ever the maternal juggler and control artist, it took a huge leap of faith that her family’s little circus train would keep chuggin’ along. She soldiered through the fears, the nerves, the mind-trips of doing something new and challenging and came out ready for something, anything. She’s been teaching for her neighbors on her deck and for her friends in Nanook’s living room and yesterday was my first class with her. It was truly lovely. You can tell she’s in love with yoga, in love with the idea of sharing it with other people, yet she is completely centered and focused. Her music was killing me. Each new song slipping into the next either made me want to weep or dance – and in many ways,  yoga for me is the ability to hold those two extremes in my heart at the same time, to balance and calm myself, yet acknowledge, even celebrate the far reaches (both low and high) of where my heart can go. And that voice . . . that voice that was made for laughing and talking, was also made for teaching and she filled the room with her earthiness, her humor and all her new found knowledge. I have been to many yoga classes and many teachers and some of those teachers have become my friends. But this is the first time my friend became my teacher. And it was something else entirely.

And then Nanook goes and surprises me with a link. A link to her new blog. She’s been thinking about it and thinking about it – in fact, she’s the one who got me all frothy to start mine – and she finally did it. And like Crackerjack’s yoga class, Nanook’s blog is totally and uniquely her. As I greedily inhaled her first two posts this morning, my coffee going cold in my hand, I felt it again – pride. She took a risk and created a spot to put it all. It is not an easy thing to do, but she will be very glad she did. And when she’s ready, and when I get her permission, I will proudly add her to my blogroll. Until then, I’ll be her number one fan – like she was mine.

There’s something in the air, a drum beat sounding in the distance. A lot of the women I know are taking stock of their lives and trying to figure out what comes next for them. Most are emerging from the young babies phase and finding themselves with enough mental and emotional energy to start thinking about themselves again. I think this holds true for the mothers who kept working as well as the ones who stayed at home full time, but it feels a little more loaded for the stay at homes. What’s my “come back” gonna look like? We are thinking, seeking, plotting, planning, trying to figure out how to make this next phase as fulfilling as possible for us. I think we’ve all gained some wisdom in the last decade or so and that wisdom tells us everyone will be happier if we are happy. And so, mamas, find a way to be happy.

After college, as my friends all went off to graduate school and first jobs, started doing stand-up comedy or catering or coffee carts, it didn’t necessarily occur to me to be proud of them. We were all young, doing our thing, struggling to figure ourselves out. We had no choice but to search and the search was painful.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’ve been thrust back to that phase of life, but now I understand a few more things. I understand that seeking fulfillment takes guts. Acknowledging that you have something to contribute takes guts. Admitting that you wish to be happy, that you deserve to be happy takes guts. And so now, as my friends work hard to redefine their lives, to make sure the path they’re on is the path they want, to be something beyond wife and mother, I feel hopeful, I feel lucky, I feel kinship and I feel proud.

Jun 9 2009

Rest in Peace, Pearl.

You see? THIS is why I don’t want pets. Pearl is dead. After four days in our care. She simply stopped eating, oblivious to all our machinations to keep Pingo away from her food. Last night she got stuck against the filter, overcome with exhaustion. Not a good sign.

Now she is lying on a paper towel, her tiny body a parenthesis. I am drinking my coffee with a sense of foreboding. How will the kids react when they stumble down, the soft webs of sleep dropping from their faces?

I’m sad.

And I don’t even like fish. 

I knew this was going to happen.

Poor Pearl.

Jun 7 2009

Enter Pearl and Pingo.

fishI would wager that there exists a non-negligible percentage of the population who come to pet ownership as a direct result of end-of-the-year class room pet cast offs. Our family was just “gifted” with room 201’s guppies – unnamed at the time of acquisition because of the fact that their predecessors had met an untimely demise. I am not a pet kind of gal – allergies, squeamishness, etc. – and I felt slightly queasy as I got a hasty tutorial from Supergirl’s kindergarten teacher on how best not to kill them. I’m not sure if I felt better or worse about the fact that the two deceased fish were drying out nicely on a tray in the nature corner for all to examine and enjoy. I hear they have a lot of nitrogen in their bodies and will soon be introduced into the teacher’s garden – circle of life and all that. At least Supergirl will know what to do when Pearl and Pingo inevitably move on to fresher waters. As I drove home with them sloshing around in a ziplock bag in the front seat of my minivan, I found myself closing the sunroof so they wouldn’t get sunstroke, turning down the air conditioner so they wouldn’t get chilled, turning down the music so they wouldn’t get overstimulated. I felt less nervous bringing my eight pound first born child home from the hospital. 

We must have done the water temperature and dechlorination thing moderately well because they lived through the night. Pearl has been swimming around with a long piece of poo sticking out of her abdomen, much to everyone’s delight. At least she is passing her bowels – a sign of good health to be certain. I’m not sure how I feel about these creatures. Their tenous hold on life does little to endear them to me. And their poo, well, I don’t find that attractive at all.

We have now paid thirty dollars for a filter to keep 54 cents-worth of fish alive and the fish nerd who made a big show of slapping it together for me as a favor fucked it up because it leaks. Now I need to go back and endure his condescending pimple face again to get him to fix it. As he was screwing it together with his eyes closed, he assured me that I could use the same pump “when I get an aquarium.”

Heh, AS IF, I’ll be getting an aquarium, jerk.  

Except, except . . . I’ll probably be getting an aquarium. Shit.

Postscript: Last night before I went to bed, I noticed that Pearl was looking lethargic and much smaller than she had even a few hours before. Shrewd scientist that he is, Doctor Dash kept exclaiming: but how do you shrink? I don’t understand how you shrink! When I tried to give her a little extra food, Pingo swooped over in all his robust guppy glory and gobbled it all up. Even when I tried to be sneaky, he still managed to beat her to it (apparently fish can smell food – who knew?)  So I took a square plastic tupperware lid and separated them so that Pearl could eat her food in peace. I thought for certain her failure to thrive was a sign of imminent death but this morning she is not only looking a little bigger, she had managed to sneak over onto Pingo’s side, the saucy minx.

Jun 6 2009

Don’t eat the marshmallow.

20080310marshmallowDoctor Dash and I have developed an informal way of sharing written media with each other. Basically, if there’s a novel or an article one of us reads that the other might enjoy, we stick it on the other person’s nightstand. A few days ago he shuffled the May 18 New Yorker over and directed me to this article by Jonah Lehrer about self control. The article describes a set of studies out of Stanford in the late 1960’s where young children were put into a room with a marshmallow and told that if they didn’t eat it for 15 minutes, they would get two marshmallows. They had a bell to ring if the temptation became too great and they wanted to call the proctor back in to ask for the marshmallow before the fifteen minutes was up. Most of the kids either ate the marshmallow without calling the proctor or stared at the marshmallow for a few seconds and rang the bell. Only thirty percent of the kids found a way to wait out the fifteen minutes. 

The article goes on the explain how the ability to delay gratification is an excellent predictor of academic success later in life – more so than I.Q. Walter Mischel, the researcher, argues that “intelligence is largely at the mercy of self-control: even the smartest kids still need to do their homework.” What is interesting is that the ability to wait is a skill more than a natural talent, and the crux of it is the “strategic allocation of attention.” The kids who could wait for the marshmallow didn’t want it less, they didn’t have more will power, they simply knew how to distract themselves. They looked away from the marshmallow, thought about something else, and outsmarted the “hot stimulus.” They figured out “how to make the situation work for them.” When the kids were taught some mental tricks, like pretending the marshmallows were clouds, they all improved their self control.

So of course I’m reading this article with a growing sense of alarm, wondering how my own children would fare at this experiment. When Saint James was a baby I was so besotted with him, so guilt ridden about working, so eager to make him happy and comfortable, that I remember actually running to get him stuff. If I heard him in his crib, I was in there in a flash, lest he experience even a second of anxiety. Obviously, times have changed, as I mindfully try to cultivate a culture of benign neglect in our household. But, really truly, have they changed that much?

Just now, when I sat down on the couch with the laptop to start writing, my icepack on my knee, my coffee beside me, Devil Baby emerged from the basement to demand a snack. I tried to put her off, I tried to remind her that she ate breakfast ten minutes ago, but she is relentless and I am weak. I sighed, whipped the faux fur throw off my legs and stomped to the kitchen to cut up an apple and send her on her way. Saint James never had to wait because I was a fruitcake eager beaver new mother. Devil Baby never has to wait because I’m a fruitcake worn out nub of a mother. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and I basically walk around with grease cans in my holsters, quick on the draw because I can’t bear the whining. She comes at me, her round face set in a determined grimace, her little mouth moving in repetitive syllables and I crumble like a house of cards. She’s a giant, bossy force of nature so I pick my battles wisely: 1. battles that are early in the morning before I get too tired from other battles, 2. battles that involve imminent physical peril, 3. battles with witnesses. Any other battles, you’ll pretty much see me getting creamed all over the field by Devil Baby.

So when Mischel queries of parents: Have they established rituals that force the child to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage the child to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile? I simply cringe and add this to my long list of things to “work on.” Or maybe I just fold this into my new slacker mama schtick – I’ll peel up one cucumber slice from my eye long enough to squint out my new mantra: good things come to those who wait, children.  

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