Wednesday, September 23

State of the Union

Adam's out of town, off on the Left Coast, so here I sit with my wine, my Project Runaway, and my slow-ass laptop. ("Where's your laptop?" I asked him on the phone. "My work laptop?" "No, your at-home laptop." "Yeah, my at-home work laptop. It's right here. With me. In San Francisco." We don't say, "A-hole" in our house, so I won't say it. But I might think it.)

We've been having a rocky few weeks here. Pie has been struck with terrible separation anxiety. It came out of nowhere and has hit with a vengeance. "Mommy, don't go running! Mommy, don't go to your meeting! Mommy, I don't care what you're doing; let me in that bathroom with you right now!" Taking her to school is downright painful. Doodles always started his school years with tears, but his response was "I don't want to go to school!" In those days, I was still working, so it was easy to say, "Sorry, kiddo, you gotta go. Mommy's on a deadline." But now that I'm not working, it's so hard to resist that little crying face. Although it's different with Pie. She says, "Mommy, I want to go to school; I just want you to stay with me!" The first few days were really tough for her but now it's a few minutes of crying, pleading, and grabbing onto me at the drop-off, but then she has a great day.

Today, though, we had a great start to the day. The kids were agreeable, dressing quickly, eating a nice breakfast, cleaning their rooms. A friend drove Pie to school, and she went willingly (and did have tears, but, bonus!, I wasn't there to see them). Lovely, lovely. I ran errands. Bought more books that no one needs, because I'm a total sucker for books. Got the boy a new lunchbox because at the beginning of the year I told him he couldn't have a new lunchbox or backpack because the ones from last year were still in good shape and we reuse, reuse, reuse! And then I smelled last year's lunchbox. Hence the new one he got today. Went to Sephora where they clearly saw "Easy Mark," which was apparently tattooed on my forehead (note to self: not a good idea to walk into Sephora and say, "Um, I know nothing about skin care or makeup. Can you make the spots on my face go away?")

After school, Pie had a playdate with a friend (actually a classmate of Doodles's with whom she gets along really well; my precocious preschool monkey hanging out with the first grade girls). To keep Doodles from interfering, I invited Tab over to play with him.

Tab and Doodles wanted to do some experiments. I was not up for experiments. I let them fill up a bowl of water. They put it on the kitchen counter and I had orders not to touch it. In a few minutes, they came back.

"Look!" Doodles said. "There's a bubble in it now!"

"Wow!" said Tab. "You know what that means?"

"It means that Camelbocher is coming!"

Yes, Camelbocher. At least that's what I heard. I have no idea what that means. I went about my own business. Pie and her friend ventured downstairs to join ranks with Doodles and Tab. Periodically they'd check the water, make exclamations, and then run back to the front porch.

So I decided to have some fun. While they were out on the front porch, I pulled out my food coloring. And I dropped in a bit of green. Back they came.

"It's green!!!" Doodles shouts.

"It's green?" Tab comes running in. "Do you know what that means?"

"It means Camelbocher is approaching with his armies!" By now Doodles is armed with his sword. "We need to wait!"

"Okay, but if it turns black, it means Voldemort is coming!" Tab says. At least that name I recognize.

And that's it! No, "How did that water turn green?" No, "Okay, that's weird." No, "Mom, what did you do?"

They checked the water a few more times. Still green. So the next they go out, I swap the green water for yellow.

Pie and her friend come in. "How did the water get to be yellow?" Pie asks. I shrug.

Doodle comes back. "It's yellow! It's yellow!"

Tab yells, "Voldemort is coming!"

"No!" Doodles yells, "It's Camelboch and his armies. They're coming from Florence Street!"

I make the water black next.

Meanwhile, Pie is starting to truly become scared. So I clue her in. "Look, Pie!" I swap the black water for purple water. "See?" She sees. She laughs. And then she is scared again. "What are you scared of?"

"Camelbocher's army is coming!"

"No, it's not!"

"It's true! The water turned purple so that's what it means!"

Finally after about two hours, Tab finally says, "How did that water change colors?"

Doodles starts with his theories. "There must be chemicals in the air and the water is reacting to them and it changes the color of the water."

"Maybe," Tab responds, "our magic spell really worked and it changed the color."

I'm having a hard time not laughing.

"I think there are chemicals in the bowl," Doodles says, "and that makes the color change."

By now I am laughing. Tab sees me. "Maybe your mom did something to the water?" she says suspiciously.

I give her a little nod.

Doodles says, "I think there are things in the bowl that react to the water."

I pat him on the arm and point to Tab. "What?" he says. I continue to point. "So let me tell you my theory! Chemicals around us are falling into the water and the stuff in the bowl--"

"What about Tab's theory?"

"But I'm giving my theory!"

"But Tab's theory is right."

"How do you know?" he asks.

I walk over and pick up my bag of food coloring. "Because I changed the color."

"Ohhhhhhh!" he finally says.

That's my boy. Full of theories. No facts necessary to back them up. I see an MBA in this boy's future!

And now? Now I finish my wine. I finish my Project Runway. I use my new bajillion dollar face cream. I curl up with the new book I bought for myself today. And prepare to start all over again tomorrow.

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Sunday, September 20

From the Mouths of Babes

Getting ready for bed, Doodles tried to pull down Pie's underwear.
Pie: Doodles! Stop that!
Doodles: Ha ha! I just saw your butt gutter!

In the timeless tradition of my father, we do Quiz Questions at dinner. Tonight:
Me: What's the next holiday coming up?
Pie: Yom Kippur!
Me: And what do the grown-ups do on Yom Kippur?
Pie: Um... fashion!

We occasionally give hints. Because sometimes the answers are off. The past few times, I've asked...
Me: Who's the vice president?
Doodles: Bill Clinton!
Me: No!
Pie: George Washington!
Me: No!
I give the hint every time, using the name of a local restaurant chain. So tonight when I asked, they wanted a hint.
Me: Who's the vice president.
Doodles: Give us a hint!
Me: No! We've done this too many times before. You shouldn't need a hint anymore.
Pie: I know! It's... Not Your Average Joe Biden!

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Thursday, September 17

End of Summer...

The end of summer comes later for our family than most--our school system has the arcane rule that school starts the Thursday after Labor Day (and the Monday after Labor Day for kindergartners). So this year, Labor Day was as late as it can possibly be, meaning the first day of school for Doodles was one week ago and Pie didn't start start till this past Monday. (well, really Tuesday--Monday was a split session day). I actually didn't mind having the kids home. Yes, they make me insane. But I can (generally) deal. But I hate our school's system because everyone else is done with school at the year end almost a full month earlier. Our last day of school for the coming year is June 23... if there are no snow days.

At the beginning of the summer, I made a long list with the family of things we were going to do over the summer. I was sad that much of the list didn't get accomplished. I wanted to go to Portland (Maine, that is). Pie wanted to go to an art museum. Doodles wanted to do science experiments. Adam had listed kayaking and napping in the backyard.

But there was a fair amount on the list that, when I think back, we did achieve. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day we:

**went letterboxing twice--Pie really enjoyed it and the kids designed and I made their own stamps. On our second time doing it (during our camping trip--more on that later), Pie was a real trooper, dealing with missing boxes, a mom who got her lost, mosquitoes, and finally finding the box as it was beginning to get dark out.

**visited a butterfly place. True, it wasn't the one Pie originally wanted, but we went to the butterfly garden at the Museum of Science and she was pretty happy about that. We made about three or four trips to the museum this summer.

**attended a science program (Doodles) and gymnastics camp (Pie). Doodles spent a week at Club Invention, one of the coolest camps ever. He got to take apart a machine to make a new one (he created the Stopinator 3000, a device for stopping Pie when she's about to attack him), make up a new superhero, and work with a team to make a land sled. Pie tumbled and trampled and tally-ho'd through two weeks of gymnastics camp.

**saw some tall ships.

**write a novel (me). I'm about 3/4s of the way done. All I need is for school to start to finish.

**turned a boy into a fish (the boy swims! the boy swims!).

**picked raspberries.

**visited Storyland.

**had our annual 4th of July party and rode in the 4th of July bike parade.

**attend a baseball game (the Red Sox for Doodles and Adam; the Pawsocks for the entire family).

**tried out--and loved--camping. We went with Jasmine's family for a single-night camping trip. Headed out to Harold Parker State Forest, which was perfect. Close, had swimming and fishing and hiking in the campground. Nice playground. Yes, a lot of rain, but I was able to completely overdose on roasted marshmallows, so really, it was fine. The only downer was that the boy's fishing was cut short. That and the fact that Pie and I were seriously covered from head to foot with mosquito bites. The two of us scratched for two solid weeks.

**swimming time at the Res and at the pools friends invited us to, ran some races (okay, just me, but I ran about six of them), had invention time with boxes and recycled materials, bike riding time in the street, playdates and games and books and general fun.

So that's it. Time to put summer to a close. The weather has turned distinctly fall like. On a walk this morning, Pie started picking up bright red leaves. I'm preparing for our Rosh Hashanah dinners and we've just received our Sukkot kit to build our very own sukkah for the first time.

Onward to fall. L'shana tova!

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Monday, September 14

All the People Who Died, Died

I recognize that this is a very introspective (read: masturbatory) blog--the outside world doesn't generally intervene here unless it relates to something amusing/maddening/strange a family member did.

And in a sense this is also a self-indulgent post. Because it's all about how it relates to me. But for a few moments, we shall turn to the world outside of Adam, Doodles, and Pie.

Once upon a time I was a graduate student. I studied creative writing at the University of Washington. It was a magical two years when the only thing I had to do was write. And read. And write some more. My whole life revolved around writing. I read slush for the Seattle Review. I helped bring authors to come read at the university. I dated poets and fiction writers and English lit Ph.Ders. And I wrote, if not well, at least prolifically.

Every year, Seattle has the most marvelous of festivals, Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot is this amazing amalgamation of music, art, film, literature, food, and general fun. Bumbershoot, to me, is the epitome of Seattle. In my day, that meant putting on your Carharts, flannel shirt, and Tevas and heading out for a day of hearing "the coolest band" and mocking that "total sell-out" on the next stage. Of course, no one ever agreed which was which.

My second year in Seattle, two of us grad students, me and a poet, Laura, were offered jobs at Bumbershoot. And what a job it was. "Literary Escort." Yes, it sounds like something out of a Woody Allen story. And, frankly, I thought it sounded kind of hot. I'd read the line-up of authors coming. "What, I get to sleep with Exene Cervenka?" No, I was told. I got to drive her around. Well, okay. That would be a close second.

So I took the job. It was just for the weekend. I was one of a team of escorts. We picked up literary greats at the airport, brought them to their hotels. Took them from their hotels to their readings at Bumbershoot. Take them back. Drive them to the airport again. We could attend the parties. We had backstage passes. We got walkie talkies to use. We got paid. Pretty f'ing sweet.

On my list? Exene Cervenka. Tobias Wolff. Patti Smith. Jim Carroll. A few others you probably haven't heard of.

They were quite nice. I got into a car accident with Tobias Wolff. Actually, a bus sideswiped my van, but it suitably freaked me out, and Tobias had to calm me down, assuring me it was in no way my fault; I was stopped at a traffic light. Patti Smith was way more domestic than I would have guessed. Exene Cervenka was as cool as you'd think she'd be.

And Jim Carroll? Jim Carroll can only be described as a trip. From the moment I picked him up at the airport, he was high maintenance.

"Hello, Mr. Carroll, I'm Jenny. I'll be driving you around this weekend."

"Call me, Jim," he told me. And so I did.

In the car, he immediately became chatty. And I ate it up. The original name dropper. "Yeah, did you know that last time I was in Seattle, I got a call from Eddie Vedder, wanted to hang out. Asked me to sing. Oh, is Patti here yet? You need to get me in touch with Patti...."

We got to his hotel. "Um, I think I forgot my i.d. Can you come in with me just to make sure I get checked in okay?"

Uh... okay. So I go in with him. And help him solve all his problems. "There's no room service? Well, what's the restaurant down here. Will they deliver to my room? Can someone get the food to me? What do they serve? I don't know if I'll eat that..."

I finally left, promising to call him a half hour before I was to pick him up. "Hi Jim, it's Jenny. I'm leaving now to come get you...." Then I'd call him from the hotel, which in these days before the abundance of cell phones, meant my parking the van on a crowded Seattle downtown street, getting out, going into the lobby and using the hotel phone. "Hi Jim, it's Jenny. I'm downstairs ready for you.... Hi Jim, it's Jenny, I'm still downstairs waiting for...."

I took him to the parties. I took him to his reading. I lent him my Cartoon Network watch to wear onstage because he forgot his. Forget the rest of the other writers. My whole weekend was "Hi Jim, it's Jenny. I'm waiting for you...."

His flight back to New York was at 9 a.m. "I'm always nervous about making my flights," he told me. "I'd like to get there at least two hours early." Note, this is years before 9/11.

"Um, okay."

"And could you call me with a wake-up call? I don't trust the hotel. Call me at 5:30." 5:30. Of course now, 5:30 in the morning is par for the course. But in those days, 5:30 was an hour in which I might be falling asleep.

"Of course," I told him.

So I called him. "Hi Jim," I said, trying to hide the groggy from my voice. "It's Jenny. It's time for you to get up."

"Could you call back in a half hour, make sure I'm still up?"

Half and hour later. "Hi Jim, it's Jenny. I'm heading out now to get you."

The ride to the airport was magical. I asked him all sorts of questions, growing bolder as we spoke. I asked and asked. I asked about the "people who died," about who he dated, about heroin, about his fear of AIDS, about, about, about. All the way to SeaTac we chatted.

We pulled up to the airport. Before he got out, I nervously pulled out my copy of Basketball Diaries. "Would you sign my book?"

He gave me the most charming smile. "Of course!" he said, and he took the book. He signed it. I saw him drawing a tiny picture of the space needle before he handed it back to me. He gave me a great big hug and headed back to New York.

I give you this, my final one: "Hi Jim, this is Jenny."

I still have the book. I'll keep it forever. I look at it now. It's Jim. So Jim. Jim inscribed it as only Jim would. He wrote, "For Laura, with love and all my thanks for your help. Jim Carroll. Seattle '95."

Rest in peace, Jim Carroll.

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Wednesday, September 9

The Great Sock Debate

Let's get something clear: Socks are an optional piece of clothing. If you need to go without them, then go without them. It's not like pants, in which case one might find oneself arrested for going without. Socks? Eh. Who needs them?

In what case might one need to go without socks? Let's think of one scenario:

Tuesday was a long, long day. It involved raspberry picking with one child who hates all forms of fruit. It involved a playground trip with children who suddenly decided that it was more fun to hang on mom and whine about snacks. It involved a trip to Whole Foods that was half miserable. It involved not one, but two playdates at our house. It involved a "meet the class" playground trip in which my son refused to meet a single new person. It involved children who didn't want to get into car seats, eat dinner, and who in the process lost their shows. It involved everyone going to sleep, but being woken up at 3:45 a.m. by a false fire alarm. It involved knowing that we have one more day to get through till the big one starts first grade. It involved knowing there are still six more days to get through till the little one starts preschool. It involved Adam going to D.C. for a day trip on Wednesday with a 7:45 a.m. flight that gets back home at 10 p.

Knowing all this, at 5:34 in the morning, would you go back into the room where your wife, son, and daughter were actually sleeping to retrieve a pair of socks that you had forgotten, risking waking up the entire family just before skipping town? No. Of course not. What sane person would?



Sunday, September 6

Fire the Dishwasher

Pie: I'm going to get some water.

Grabs a cup from the drawer. Walks to the fridge. Sniffs. Turns around.

Pie: I need another cup. This cup smells like tushie.

She opens the drawer. Pulls out a different cup. And puts the tushie cup... back in the drawer.

Can I get you something to drink?


The Y Chromosome

There's a loose connection in my boy's head. He's just, well, doing this strange little thing. His latest:

Doodles: Pie, look! I'm going to punch myself in the wiener!

At first I found myself scolding, "We don't punch ourselves in the private parts!"

Now I've resigned myself to, "Go to your room until you're done punching yourself in the p*enis!"

I sent him there about ten minutes ago. He hasn't emerged. But I do hear coming from his CD player--and he's singing along--to "Eye of the Tiger."



The Circle of Life

Today is the day of the birthday parties: Doodles is going Mad Scientist; Pie is going Piggy Party.

Adam: What would you like from the bagel store?
Pie: I want a bagel with egg and bacon on the side. I need bacon because I'm having a piggy party!
Doodles: Bacon is made out of pig!
Pie: I know! So I need to eat bacon today! For my piggy party, I need to eat bacon!

I hope she's not disappointed when I don't serve bacon today at the actual party to her entirely Jewish guest list (she goes to a Jewish preschool).

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Saturday, September 5

A Party-ing We Shall Go

Tomorrow is the Day of the Birthdays. While both of their actual birthdays were two weeks/a week and a half ago, most of their friends return to town this weekend from Summer, so this weekend is the parties (our town is obscenely late in starting school; per Facebook, most of my friends' kids started going back to school a month ago. Doodles starts this coming Thursday; Pie the Monday after that).

Pie is obsessed. First there are the logistics. "I get to eat the face of the pig" (it's a piggy party). Um, it's a big face. And you have a little tummy. Well, not little. But littler than that face (side note: I expressed concern about both my kids BMI to the doc this week--in opposite directions. Doodles too underweight; Pie unsure about her weight. She told me that Doodles is actually quite height-weight proportionate--he's about 4th percentile for height and just under 10th for weight--and that Pie is fine. She said, and I quote, "I have never seen a breastfed child become obese." So yea child who could not be weaned!).

And then there's the "I don't want any six year olds at my party."
Me: That's fine. But then you can't go to Doodles's party.
Pie: [honestly bewildered] Why not?

And of course the fashion. For their birthdays, they each received T-shirts tied into their interests. Pie got one with pigs on it; Doodles got a mad scientist T-shirt.
Pie: Can I wear my kitty skirt tomorrow?
Me: You can wear whatever you want. But you'll be wearing your piggy shirt and hat?
Pie: Yes!
Me: A solid pink skirt might go best.
Pie: I want to wear the kitty skirt.
Me: That's fine, then.
Pie: It has pink in it so it'll go.
Me: That's great. Wear your kitty skirt.
Pie, thinking for a moment, then says: Well, maybe I'll wear the kitty skirt to Doodles's party and I'll wear a plain skirt to mine.
Me: The parties are on the same day.
Pie: I know.
Me: You're going to change outfits between parties?
Pie, giving me a "duh" look: Of course!

That girl is four years old. And I'm already soooo out of my league!

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