Thursday, December 31, 2009

I love/hate Santa

Today's flavor: Fruitcake. It's pretty, often nutty and seems like a good idea...but can anyone really swallow this stuff?

I confess. I hate Santa Claus. At 10, 7 and 4, my kids still believe, and I'm sick of it. It is now a few days after Christmas, and I'm still bitter. I shopped until my credit cards bled, wore out my Uggs, fought crowds and browsed online until I was seeing double. I wrapped 109 presents; sent out 223 cards; went to the post office 17 times; doled out 14 cash "bonuses" to various service providers; Lord save me, I even baked! And I saw nary a single partridge in a pear tree. I was stressed out, worn out and buried under a to do list that couldn't be accomplished by an army of elves. And who gets all the credit, gratitude and adoration for everything I did to make the season brighter? You guessed it. Old fatty himself - Santa. The worst thing is that I've told my kids approximately 257 lies to keep the "magic" alive.
So was it worth it? There must be something I'm enjoying about perpetuating this somewhat disturbing idea of an old fat guy that stalks us (you know, he sees you when you're sleeping, etc.) decides who's deserving of goodies, and then mysteriously gets into our homes late at night demanding snacks. I don't know, but aside from the fact that I don't want to incur the wrath of the uber-moms, I just can't help enjoying that twinkling in the eyes when the little ones talk about Santa. Maybe it's because there are so few things that make my evil little monsters act like angels, and maybe it's because I like to dangle the threat of narcing them out to Santa when they misbehave. It could be that it's nice to have someone to blame when they don't get all 422 items on their list. And it could be the very thought of the end of believing signaling the end of childhood. But, when the mood is just right, and I'm sitting by the fire in a rum-laced-egg-nog induced haze, I just love Santa.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bad Mommy

Today's flavor - apple pie - completely from scratch, made by a really good mom.

I am a great mom. Yup. I said it...Well, maybe not great in the traditional sense. Actually, in the traditional sense I'm probably what many might call a bad mommy. My kids are not familiar with anything that qualifies as a vegetable. I have been known to serve Cheerios for dinner (those are nutritious, right?) and Nillas for breakfast.
My 2 older kids are already highly skilled at shopping for clothes that never need to be ironed. I let them watch TV any time I want to keep them out of my hair. I get a babysitter while I'm home and hide in my studio - where I sometimes just sit quietly. Breathing. I buy peppermint patties and peanut butter cups for them...but I hold on to them for safe-keeping and bribery. I offer them cash to let me sleep 10 extra minutes. I feel guilty about not cooking so I have created special dinner nights - Mac n cheese Monday; Tuna fish Tuesday; Whatever Wednesday; Take-out Thursday; Fast Food Friday; Spaghetti Saturday; Soup Sunday (yeah, it's out of a can, but they can choose double noodle or
chicken and stars!). When I get upset I drop all the naughty word bombs and then I yell "that's a grown-up word - don't repeat it." I do the laundry, but don't put it away for several days because every time I'm about to start folding, something more important - like the arrival of my Entertainment Weekly - takes priority.
This is not at all how I imagined my residence in the motherhood. Here's what I envisioned: I'd love things like mommy-and-me classes; I'd limit TV to 1 hour of PBS per day; I'd teach them to love organic foods and crave veggies; I would have a gorgeous scrapbook for each year of each kid's blissful life; I'd increase my workouts to take off the baby weight and keep it off (if my youngest is 4, can I still call the extra 40 lbs "baby weight"?); I'd bake from scratch and have 3 balanced meals on the table every day.
Cut to 10 years and 3 kids later, and all of this reality is making me wonder what constitutes good mothering. I adore my kids. But they exhaust me and make me act like a crazy person. I want to spend every waking minute with them. But they exhaust me and make me act like a crazy person. I want to cook healthy meals and do loads of educational activities - feed their bodies and their minds. But they exhaust me and make me act like a crazy person.
Turns out I'm not living the motherhood dream. Or, as I now see it, "the motherhood delusion." But my kids are terrible, spoiled little monsters, who laugh all the time, get straight A's and are rarely sick...So, if they are the result of bad mothering, color me bad, baby.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today's flavor: bitter orange - seems like it will be worth the trouble, and will be for your own good, but really it's just bitter. Well, at least it's honest.

I hate to be criticized. I know nobody does, but really - I cannot
deal with even the slightest whiff of a negative comment anywhere near my neighborhood. I just get defensive. There's this hideous tightening in my chest and I get mad as a wet cat. I used to think it was because I'm such a sensitive, emotional and delicate flower. But as I age and can't help but arrive at certain realizations about myself, and I admit that it's not a product of my "sensitive artist" qualifications. It's actually more that I just want to be liked and, more importantly, admired. I want anyone who comes in contact with me to be awed by my, ummm, awesomeness, and say as much while I demurely cast my eyes down and insist that I'm no better than anyone else - just a better way. Ok, I exaggerate, I don't need or even want open adoration from the world at large. Just general approval and respect are plenty. But that's not quite enough to account for the way my hackles rise (and I've just discovered that I may actually have hackles) when any derision is directed at me.Perhaps the problem is that if I listen to criticism - especially that insult-in-disguise variety that comes
dressed up as "constructive criticism" - I might actually agree with it. And if I agree, it follows that I need to fix or change whatever aspect of my heretofore unblemished existence has been identified as lacking. To sum up, there are 2 main categories of criticism. The first is criticsim I concede to be valid and sigh with the realization that I need to get to work on repairs immediately - and no matter how beneficial the resulting improvement may be, I will still seethe with disproportionate acrimony at the assignment of yet another project in my project-filled life. Then there's the criticism that I understand and may validate, but making the necessary change is just beyond me, due to either exhaustion or lack of skill. So while it may be true that I need to lose 40 pounds, or that I've failed to get my kids to ever touch a vegetable, I just don't see that I'll be making the changes necessary to desconstruct those particular criticisms. And whether I take on the project or reject it outright, I'm going to take a little bit of time to soak in the angry waters of resentment at whoever opened my eyes to the offending flaw. Bitter and immature as that may be, it's no worse than being grateful for the critical revelation and immediately getting to the neurotic work of trying to be perfect.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I've Got It All (...but I'm too tired to use it)

Today's flavor: Ben & Jerry's peanut butter cup ice cream - delicious, indulgent, enjoyable until it's gone and you can actually see the bottom of the container and the button popping on your jeans.

Ah, self-pity... indulgent and pointless... down-right luxurious. But more to the point - I can't possibly go off and enjoy something as completely selfish as a little pity-party. Years of marriage and children have completely worn down my resistance and I surrender to truth that I should not actually expect to have anything but scraps. I tick down the laundry list of what I've given up over the past decade: My body - in so many ways that it now has its own list. Privacy. Clean clothing. Expensive clothing. Travel. Alcohol - the kind you drink. The gym - well, the really cool one in the city. The desire to go to the gym. Bars. Clubs - the type where you dance with random guys into the wee hours, not the kind that offer a newsletter with the latest mommy-and-me schedule. Restaurants that don't have a children's menu. Stilettos. Sleeping in. The post-mortem call to a best girlfriend that begins with one of us saying "I got so wasted last night..." Cars that seat fewer than 5 people. Clean floors. Sitting down and finishing a meal without getting up between bites. The remote control. The phrase "I have nothing to do today." The approving scrutiny of any man (please, of course my husband doesn't count). Small handbags. A bare midriff. A presentable midriff. Ignorance of all things Disney (post 1980). A clean car.

Oh, sweetie - you are so chic! What a sad,
sad irony that now that I can finally
afford you, I have nowhere to go in you
and my stiletto walk is long retired.

All these things I mourn and miss while knowing that I made my choices and do appreciate the beautiful life with an amazing man and three perfect, and perfectly horrible children. I like to think there's an alternate universe where that other me - let's call her Otherme - is getting ready to go out just as this Me is getting ready for bed. Oh, I love Otherme! She has worked so hard for that that size 4 body with the booty sitting so high up on those lean legs. Look at her go - getting a cab with a single raise of her arm, wearing that fab shade of MAC red lips, and working those Louboutins. You know she won't be too tired and the dirtiest thing she'll handle is a dirty martini before she sits down to dinner at the civilized hour of 8:30 PM. Is it possible that the morning after her typical night out, she is staring longingly at the couple with the stroller, the mom with a perfectly round bump and the glazed look exhaustion? Is that a hint of envy in Otherme's eyes? Or is she just thinking that maternity clothes don't work on anybody, and "there, but for the grace of..." Oh, please Lord, let it be envy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Travel Amnesia

Today's flavor: chocolate peanut butter pie - oooh, it looks so good and tastes yummy, but not worth the upset stomach or the extra pounds.

Every year Husband and I are afflicted with Travel Amnesia. In our desparation for R&R, and need to go somewhere far from home, we decide to venture a flight - with absolutely no recollection of the last trip and our declarations of "never again." It's not until the morning of travel that it all starts coming back. The kids deciding this is the morning they will demand a large, balanced hot breakfast. Their inability to find the most essential gear, such as DS games and the T-Rex with the red stripe; their claim that the shoes/headphones/pjs/swimsuits/ books/toothbrush/flip-flops /underwear, etc. I've packed for them is unsuitable for travel and "Can we please buy a new one when we get there, please Mommy, please?" And I irrationally agree, as I'm singularly focused on the goal of getting all 3 kids and the luggage into the car in under 4 hours - ambitious, but I think I can do it. When we're nearly at the airport, there's the distressed cry of "My belly hurts," - the 3 y.o.; "I forgot my goggles!"- the 7 y.o.; "Can I call Danielle?" - the 10 y.o. Me: "Try to make a toot. I packed them for you. It's too early to call anyone." I'm absolutely giddy that the ride has been uneventful, with only one accusation of "She called me a turd!" and only one demand of "How long 'til we get there?" At the airport we prepare our boarding passes, drivers' licenses, notorized affidavits that we are wearing clean underwear, blood and urine samples, proofs of purchase, proof of life, declarations of sanity, and flags for pledging allegiance. We're ready. But naturally, we draw the surliest of TSA agents who eyes us all with unveiled suspicion and instructs us to begin stripping. Off come the shoes, sunglasses, belts, hats, bracelets and tongue studs. My 10 y.o. hesitates before stepping through the magic metal blessing portal. "What about my retainer?" she whispers to me anxiously. I can't help myself - I whisper back to her and she steps up to the surly agent and offers her spit-laden oral appliance. The agent is satisfyingly mortified and suddenly we are rushed through. Hoooray! We're in - we haven't been arrested for breathing too heavily or having too many vowels in our names. They've confiscated my daughter's bubble gum toothpaste (it was 4.2 ounces, instead of 3) and I can't possibly give my son his juice after they dip-tested it "for explosives" (seriously - that's what they said), but for only $1200 worth of tickets and a bit of humiliation, we get to fly!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Everything Must Go (Part 2 in the "Junk" series)

Today's flavor: rice pudding - safe and conventional, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

My sofa and loveseat. At a glance they look great - nice lines and a really appealing caramel color. But sit on one, and you'll see how many dirty little feet, sticky little fingers and years of hastily cleaned-up spills have made a life of their own within the fibers. When I decided to make people and let them live with me, I had no idea they would be so disgusting. I take pictures, deciding a visit to Craigslist will be better than a deep clean and new throw pillows. While I'm at it...I decide the guest bed needs to go. We rarely use it - the current catch-all and toy repository is not the use I had in mind. I'm on a roll now, so I move on to the armoire in my bedroom. It mocks me - "you thought you would be happy with me forever," it taunts. Lord, did I make a full-time job of shopping for the perfect piece for my master bedroom - resulting in physical and mental blisters. It's a testatment to my ability to settle and rationalize. The monstrosity was unfinished - couldn't find the shade of rich, but not too dark maple I wanted, so I would finish it myself. This was the sort of project I was willing to take on because I only had one kid at the time. Finished it I did, and managed to convince myself that it was just great. A couple of years later I admitted it wasn't great, but nice enough. More recently - though it showed no signs of wear - it was obviously only ok-looking, but very useful. Today, though it looks just the same as always, I find it to be intolerably ugly. I browse wistfully online at the many superior pieces that could be had with just a few clicks. To be fair, online shopping was practically unheard of when I got the finish-it-yourself beast. It has to go.
I always wanted a comfortable inviting home done in rich, warm colors, but now I fantasize about empty spaces, free of kid-debris and furniture that fearlessly goes about the business of being white.

Next, I head for the dining room. Why do we even have a formal dining room? We've lived in this house 6 years and have used it a couple of dozen times. My dining room is just off the kitchen. I harbor a secret fantasy to turn it into a huge pantry. I mean you can never have enough pantry space, and when you spend your whole day thinking about food, a second fridge shouldn't be banished to the garage. Alas, I know we won't live in this house forever. Some day we may want to sell it, and this type of radical departure would be irreconcilable with the rules of suburban home ownership: you own a center hall colonial = you must have a proper dining room. When was I the woman that got excited about the elegant Tiffany peacock chandelier? Is it a good thing or a bad thing that today I look at it and say, "eh,"? Maybe I just woke up and realized that I don't want my identity tethered to all this stuff. But it's too late, isn't it? I am tethered. And it's not a bad thing, really. I mean, it's not just a house with soiled furniture and completely pointless rooms with silly names (parlor??). It's not just the place where I run around like an idiot picking up crap off the floor, capping pots of cold cream and throwing out expired yogurt just before the cleaning lady arrives. It's where my husband, the three little pigs and I are creating our history. Sure, it's a history littered with lots of material junk, but as I give a shove to my I-need-to-be-more-zen alter ego, I remember this is an easy, easy life and there will be no more bitching (...for today).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Stop Liking Crap

Today's flavor - moon pie - you loved them as a kid because you had an indiscriminate palette for sweets. Now it sounds good in theory, but when you take a bite of this artificial, over-the-top, cheap junk confection, you just want to spit it out.

I am addicted to audiobooks. I have to have 3 or 4 handy at a time because I might be listening to one on my iphone, another in my car and another in my studio. I can finish one in under a day and if I'm all out of book, I start going through withdrawl and - like any addict - I desparately need a fix. So, recently it was slim pickings at the bookmobile and I decided to try a book by a popular author that I never read because I thought she wouldn't be my style. Holy mother of all things crappy. This is a best-seller. I mean, dozens of published titles = multi-million sales = millions of dollars. (I won't name names, but rhymes with fanet yuckanovich) And yet, as I listen to this drek I start to worry that my earphones are going to start spewing out puss. I tear them away, hoping to stave off infection. The writing is putrid. I mean so bad, that I expect the narrator to take a vomit break. So I don't get past the first CD. But I can't stop thinking about this. I mean, everyone knows how hard it is to get an agent and get published, especially for pop-fiction. Many of us have abandoned all dreams of having much than 148 loyal readers. So this, ahem, writer, who seems to sit with a thesaurous, a book of cliches and a map to predictability on her desktop, has struck gold with a publisher that promoted the heck out of her titles and a public with impossibly low standards. Kudos to her. Truly. I do not begrudge her the success - no matter how ironic it is that really, really bad writing got someone to best status. I don't believe that success is available in limited quantities. And I'm not mad at those agents and publishers who provide the resources to make it possible for us to take endless dips in the pool of literary crap - they are in business to make money. As an American, and a capitalist, I don't mind seeing them compromise what surely started out as a love for literature, in the shameless pursuit of dollars.
my grapes are not sour
But I am mad at you. Well, maybe not you personally, because you read my stuff, so clearly you're discerning and extremely cool. I mean the collective "you" - the general public (yeah, yeah, I guess I'm probably in there too). Stop buying the crap that bought the author (and I apply that term in the same way I refer to my 9 year old as mature) the penthouse and the botox. So if you're wishing you could have my clever, laugh-out-loud, relatably flavored novel for your summer reading pleasure, let me break the sad news that it will never happen. I can't possibly compete with the story about the brilliant attorney who looks like a supermodel and has been unlucky in love until she meets the unbelievably hunky, funny and sensitive cop/FBI guy/doctor, and they share the traumatic experience that ends in the most perfect sex ever, followed by a marriage proposal. Ick. Ick. Ick. I feel dirty just describing it. This doesn't even qualify as a guilty pleasure because it's actually painful.

Dear Publisher,
May I suggest a new medium for crappy titles?

Look, people, I'm not expecting everyone to create a Jane Austen book club and reject anything other than high-brow literature. I just want to point out that there is a whole lot of writing talent in this big world, and you have the right to good story-telling. So, please, stop liking crap because you might not be able to escape the stink.

sticky post: Hello, wonderful visitors!

I hope you're enjoying my writing as much as I enjoy your comments. Keep them coming! I don't want to bore you, so send me your feedback and suggest any any topics/stories you'd like me to "flavor" for public consumption. ♥♥