Thursday, June 28, 2007

Old habits die hard

I wonder how old your child has to be before you stop worrying when it's quiet?

G went upstairs to look for a book 20 minutes ago. I haven't heard a peep from her since. The logical conclusion is that she found her book and is reading, but my mom-dar keeps going *ping* Check on her! *ping* Check on her! *ping*.

I know she's going on nine and is smart enough not to drink Windex or stick her finger in an outlet or run with scissors. I know this.

I'm still going up to check.

A night in the life

8:30 p.m.

I lie down with G, telling both myself and her that it's just for a minute and I cannot fall asleep because I have Things to Do.

10 p.m.

I wake up in G's bed and stumble downstairs to the couch.

1 a.m.

I wake up on the couch.

1:01 a.m.

I fall asleep again.

2:40 a.m.

I wake up again.

2:41 a.m.

I fall asleep again

Sometime between 2:42 and 3:59 a.m.

I have a dream in which I am snowmobiling across a vast snowy wasteland with a dark, lowering sky overhead. It's either just before dawn or just after twilight, and there's a bluish cast to everything. I'm a scientist out to study Arctic wolves (I think) and I have a little girl (not G) with me, whom I tell to wait in the snowmobile while I go do something scientific.

... and then I'm at home and Roseanne Barr is in my kitchen. I'm talking to Roseanne and making a salad that contains lettuce and cut-up tangerines. I call Roseanne "Mom" and she says "Oh, you'd better not call me that -- I don't want your real mother to get upset."

4 a.m.

I wake up and think What the heck was that about?

4:05 a.m.

I drag myself off the couch, unwashed, unbrushed and still wearing yesterday's clothes, and go into the kitchen to do dishes and pack lunches.

4:49 a.m.

I finally go to bed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Insta-rec

I wanted to take a minute to mention G's new love: a six-part TV series called Prehistoric Park. It's based on the premise that this group of wildlife experts and conservationists have somehow got a time portal that lets them go back to various periods in prehistory and "rescue" animals that are on the verge of extinction (dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, etc.). They then bring them back to Prehistoric Park and attempt to care for, and in some cases breed them. The animals are done mainly with computer animation and a few animatronics, and it's a really fabulous blend of documentary and fantasy and drama.

I think I may not have been paying enough attention at the beginning of the first episode, because I never heard how they'd acquired this incredible time-traveling device -- it's like a shimmery veil that the head guy, Nigel Marven, drives through in his Jeep -- but in the end it didn't matter. I'd highly recommend the DVD to anyone with dinosaur-loving kids, although perhaps not very young kids with short attention spans, as it's told at the pace of an adult documentary.

Wet blanket

G: I want to go somewhere. What are we doing today?
Me: We could go to the beach.
G: No.
Me: Movies?
G: No.
Me: Zoo?
G: No.
Me: Mall?
G: No.
Me: Swap meet?
G: No.
Me: Library storytime?
G: No.
Me: Take the train down to the mission?
G: What's the mission?
Me: *explains*
G: No.
Me: Grandma's house?
G: No.
Me: Church carnival?
G: No.
Me: Go to that big shopping center and ride the carousel?
G: Have they got gelato there?
Me: I don't know. I think so.
G: No.
Me: You know what I wish?
G: What?
Me: I wish there were a place where moms could drop off pesty little kids who complain about being bored and reject all attempts to help them. It would be called the No-Fun Zone, and the kids would sit around and say "I don't wanna do that" while the moms went out and had fun together.
G: I'm going up to my room to sulk.

I'd be annoyed if it weren't so ridiculous!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm in ur building, harshing ur mellow

Dear Boy With the Skateboard,

I don't want to be one of those killjoy adults who won't let the kids have their fun. I understand that you are just skateboarding and not vandalizing my car or spraying the walls with graffiti. And I know that in this lovely complex of ours, where every inch of ground is sporting a stream or a waterfall or a pond full of ducks, there's really no place for you to skateboard but in the parking lot. But you skateboard directly under my bedroom window all weekend long, and every time I hear an ollie or a nosegrind, I want to come downstairs and break your board over your head like Bruce Lee smashing a plank. For your health and my sanity, I recommend you roll on down to the park across the street and practice your tricks there.

Yours in ever-decreasing patience,

The Next-Door Neighbor

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's not all bad

35 good things about being 35:

1. I don't feel I have to wear revealing clothes just to attract attention.
2. I don't have to go to loud clubs where a lot of drunk people are trying to get into each other's pants.
3. I don't have to drink because my friends do.
4. I finally have good hair (when I can afford to get the grey covered up).
5. I have no desire whatsoever to impress pimple-faced teenage boys.
6. But pimple-faced teenage boys still give me the eye sometimes, and when they do I get to feel like Mrs. Robinson. Damn, that's fun.
7. I can make decisions based on experience.
8. I don't give a crap if I have plans for Saturday night or not.
9. I can put on my pajamas as soon as I get home from work. And I do.
10. I get to annoy younger people by telling them stories about when I was their age.
11. I'm not worried about whether I'll finish college or not.
12. I'm not afraid to tell people what I like anymore. I like what I like. Deal with it.
13. I don't have to pretend I can dance.
14. When stupid fashions from the past come back into style, I remember them and avoid them like the plague.
15. I have learned from my mistakes.
16. I know that everyone else is just as insecure as I am, if not more so.
17. I'm not embarrassed about being intelligent.
18. I can admit that despite being intelligent, I still do and say dumb things on a regular basis.
19. I don't feel I need to hide the fact that I like to read, and when other people tell me they haven't read a book in years, I wonder what's wrong with them.
20. I actually look better at a higher weight now. If I weighed what I did 10 years ago, I'd look like Nancy Reagan. Now pass the cookies.
21. I am much more open-minded than I was when I thought I knew it all.
22. My entire existence is not focused on getting my driver's license.
23. I don't have to wait until I'm old enough to do things. (Except join AARP, but who wants to do that?)
24. I don't think 35 is middle-aged anymore.
25. I don't think 65 is old, either.
26. I can see how the choices I've made have shaped my life.
27. I'm not proud of being a bitch anymore, and in fact I try my best to avoid it. It isn't a sign of strength. It's just a sign of bitchiness.
28. Only $4,000 to go till my student loans are paid off.
29. I wouldn't have huge boobs if you paid me. I got more than enough of that when I was pregnant and breastfeeding.
30. I won't ever have to turn 30 again.
31. I enjoy getting carded.
32. I'm old enough to know better. Most of the time, anyway.
33. I recognize when people are being pretentious.
34. I can usually stop myself from being pretentious too.
35. If heredity is any indicator, I probably have another 50 years to live.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The elephant in the room

"How was your weekend?"

It was an innocent question, but my stomach nearly dropped into my shoes when I heard it. The person who had asked was someone I've only recently met and don't know very well, and I was terrified that the next question was going to be about what we'd done for Father's Day. I thought We visited my daughter's father at his niche in the cemetery might be a bit off-putting, but neither did I want to say Oh, nothing really and make it sound as if we hadn't done anything for P, or worse, as if he'd never existed. Instead, I mentioned movies and shopping, and then the subject changed and I was saved. Until next time, anyway.

Breaking the news of P's death has never been easy. Even after I'd got through the first round of friends and relatives, I kept having to tell other people who knew P but hadn't heard, and no matter how many weeks had passed, it always hurt just as much as it had at the beginning -- maybe more so, since I'd still been in a daze when I made those early phone calls.

Now, a year out from the event, I'm meeting people for the first time and wondering how I ought to deal with this revelation. What do you say to the hairdresser who casually asks "So are you married?" Or a new co-worker whom you're going to be seeing a lot of? Or a friend whom you haven't seen in years? (While I was out doing errands a couple of weeks ago, I spotted an old friend standing outside his car near the space I was about to park in. I drove around the block twice to make sure he'd gone before I stopped, because I just couldn't bear to have that conversation.) Do you wait in dread for people to bring it up first, or do you bring it up yourself and get it out of the way? And then how do you respond when they look like they want to run in the other direction?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions, and it kills me. It kills me that ten years from now, I'm still going to be explaining to people that I had a husband, but he died. And it kills me even more that as time passes, it's going to seem less and less relevant to the people I tell -- a bit of faded trivia, like where I went to college or what my grandparents' names were. It's not that I want to be trapped in the past like some sort of modern-day Miss Havisham, forever reliving P's death and wallowing in sadness. But I don't want P to become a footnote in my own history either. He was important. He is important, if not to anyone else, then to me.

This, I think, is what makes me see red whenever I hear comments from the "she's so young, she'll go on with her life" contingent: it trivializes P and my relationship with him. It's insulting. We're not talking about a guy who stood me up for the prom in 1988 here; this was my husband, whom I knew for 13 years and had a child with. All this going-on-with-your-life business just seems like an effort to diminish the importance of that, to turn him into a passing phase, or as P himself liked to say, "not even a blip on the radar screen." I'm sure people mean well by saying that sort of thing, but it makes me want to throttle them anyway. Not that you would ever know it. If I'm good at anything, it's staying noncommital and hoping the subject will change.

---
So what did we actually do for Father's Day?

G and I went to the cemetery, just the two of us. I'd let her choose a flowering plant to bring, and we put it at the foot of the wall where P's niche is. It's a pretty place, with a little man-made waterfall on one side and shady pine branches overhead. We sat on a bench, and I brought out two bottles of bubble liquid, and together we sent a stream of bubbles floating up into the blue summer sky. When G got tired of sitting, she got up and twirled and skipped all around the enclosure, blowing bubbles everywhere she went.

"Each bubble is a wish," I told her.

I don't know what her wishes were, but every one of mine was the same.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Worth a thousand words

Happy Father's Day, Peter. I wish you were here. We aren't a family without you.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

When it rains, it pores

During Catherine's vet appointment this morning, the doctor tilted up her chin and pointed out that what I had thought was stubborn dirt was, in fact, blackheads. I sighed and paid $16.79 for a bottle of kitty acne medicine, and we went home.

Twenty minutes after we arrived, while talking to G, I noticed little bumps around her nose that look suspiciously like incipient pimples. Apparently we're going to have to add thorough face-washing to the nightly routine.

Did I mention that despite my rapidly developing wrinkles, I also still break out like clockwork once a month?

It's like a freaking Stridex commercial around here.

On a somewhat related note, I've been bemused to discover that thirty-five is the year when age really starts to show in your face. For the first half of my thirties, I could easily have passed for 10 years younger than I was, but now I look in the mirror and the face that looks back is clearly never going to see 25 or even 30 again. I still have an overall "young for my age" appearance, but those vertical lines around my mouth and the softening skin on my neck give me away. I'm not too bothered by this -- certainly not as much as I thought I was going to be -- but I find it interesting that it all happens at once, as if there's a timer in your cells that goes bing on your thirty-fifth birthday. Planned obsolescence is the order of the day for bodies as well as computers.

Friday, June 15, 2007

She will rock you

Carrying on a bit from yesterday's post, a rather unexpected part of P's legacy is that G is the world's smallest Queen fan. While I was at work, the two of them would often blast Queen through the stereo or sit down to watch DVDs of Queen performing at Live Aid and Wembley Stadium. So it makes me smile to see G, at this moment, wearing P's iPod, standing in front of my mirrored closet door and belting out "I WANT TO BREAK FREE ... GOD KNOWS I WANT TO BREAK FREEEEEEE," complete with big campy arm gestures. I don't know who would be prouder, her dad or Freddie Mercury*.

*I can imagine them hanging out together in the afterlife, listening to music, and P saying, "Dude, that mustache. It's got to go. Here, you can borrow my clippers." He was all about good grooming**.

** P would want me to point out here that he also liked football and women's breasts.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Life with P

P and I are on our second date, seeing The Pelican Brief. In the last 5 minutes of the movie, he leans over to whisper something to me.

P: I suddenly have a craving for pot.
Me: Do you smoke pot?
P: No!

---

Circa 1997, we've been married for about a year and are living in our first apartment. I wake up from a dead sleep and see P crawling under our computer desk with a flashlight and a tube of something.

Me: What are you doing?
P: Caulking.
Me: What time is it?
P: Two a.m.
Me: Okay. *goes back to sleep*

---

G is about three and I'm giving her a bath one evening while P watches television in the living room.

P (shouting down the hall): MAKE SURE YOU WASH HER ASS!
G (shouting back): WHAT'S MY ASS?

I can barely finish the bath because I'm weak with laughing.

---

G and I have been blowing bubbles in the backyard with one of those forty-nine cent bottles of bubble liquid. I come inside with the liquid all over my fingers and hold my hand out to P.

Me: Feel this.
P (recoiling): What is it?
Me: It's bubble liquid. It's perfectly safe. Go ahead.
P (rubbing some between his thumb and index finger): Okay, what about it?
Me: It's the exact same consistency as, um, female lubrication.
P (still rubbing): Oh, shit, it is! (pause) But it's not as warm.

---

I'm in bed with the lights out and my laptop open, writing. P joins me.

P: What are you writing?
Me: A story.
P: Is it about that guy called [name]?
Me: He's not called [name]. He's called [other name].
P: Bwahahahahahaha!
Me: What's so funny?
P: He sounds like a real estate agent!
Me: Good night, Peter.

---

It's spring 2005. P is in the hospital for some reason I can't remember and is so sick that for the first time in years, I'm really worried he might die. He's in intensive care, unconscious, and I sit by his bed and hold his hand. The next day he's better, and we talk.

P: Thanks for holding my hand.
Me: What?
P: Yesterday. You held my hand.
Me: I didn't think you were awake.
P: I wasn't.
Me: But you could feel me holding your hand?
P: Yeah. It was nice.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Getting dressed can be dangerous

Today I felt icky all day because I was wearing my Fat Sweater. This is not like my Fat Pants, which are the pants I keep around to wear when I'm fatter than usual and my other pants don't fit. This is a sweater that makes me look fat. It's a perfectly nice sweater from the Gap -- longish and ribbed, with a hood -- but I didn't try it on before I bought it, and so I didn't know that every time I wore it I would look the way I did when I was five months pregnant and still deluding myself into thinking that I didn't need maternity clothes. (I was so against the idea of spending money on maternity clothes that I convinced myself I could just buy regular clothes in larger sizes, and then I would be able to keep wearing them after the baby came, at least until I could fit into my size 1 skirts again, hahahaha. All that happened was that I looked like a tool for several months before I finally broke down and bought some real maternity shirts that covered me properly. And I never wore those extra-large regular clothes again. And I never fit into my old clothes again, either.) I know I should just throw the Fat Sweater away, or give it to a charity that can pass it on to someone whose body it flatters more than it does mine, but I paid hard-earned money for it, and it's still a perfectly good sweater, dammit. (Yeah. Good and fat.)

Wearing the Fat Sweater was not the only clothing-related faux pas I made today. I also forgot that G was supposed to wear pajamas to school for the first day of Spirit Week. She forgot too, and neither of us remembered until she got to the school gate, saw the other kids, and came sprinting back to the car in tears, pleading with me to take her home so she could change. I was ready to cry too, she was so upset, but it was 8:40, the second bell had already rung, and I had a meeting at 9:00. There just wasn't time for either of us to go home and come back, so I sent her back up the sidewalk still sobbing, and drove away feeling like a heel. Luckily, she'd gotten over it long before I picked her up, and as soon as we came home we laid out her outfit for tomorrow (Movie Star Day) so there could be no mistakes in the morning. We've still got Twin Day, Blue Day and some other day to get through this week. I hope I survive.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The editor's daughter

One of the gimmicks of the Captain Underpants series is that each book contains "comics" sections supposedly created by George and Harold, the 10-year-old heroes. They're written with deliberate misspellings of the type kids might make, and this drives G crazy. ("George and Harold are terrible spellers!" she says every time she reads one.) So right now, she's sitting at the kitchen table, going through The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby with a pen and fixing all the misspelled words she can find.

She's my kid, all right.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ceci n'est pas un post

Last night I dreamt I'd discovered that two sections from my blog had been published in a magazine, which was designed along the lines of Interview but was called something else. The section they were in was based on the premise that Andrea Dworkin would read various blogs and choose one to highlight in every issue. (Mind you, even if Andrea Dworkin were a.) alive and b.) scouting blogs for a magazine like Interview. she would never ever in a thousand years select any blog of mine to be in it.) Unfortunately, the two posts that were printed were horrible boring things that mainly quoted and linked other sources, and I was mortified that of everything I'd ever written, those were the bits the entire magazine-reading public was going to see.

I swear my dreams get stranger every day. Night. Whatever.

In other news, I took G to see Surf's Up this evening and was pleasantly surprised; I'd thought the previews looked sort of lame, but it was really quite funny and the faux-documentary format worked well. I don't know how many more penguin movies I'll be able to take, but I enjoyed this one. However, I would like to lodge a complaint against Regal Cinemas for their crappy excuse for salted pretzels -- instead of making a real salted pretzel the way they used to, now they give you a warmish, slightly damp prepacked pretzel in a plastic bag and two little paper packets of salt that you're supposed to sprinkle on it yourself. The salt isn't coarse enough and is more gritty than crunchy, so all you end up with is what tastes like a wet dinner roll dipped in table salt. Bogus, dude.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The razor's edge

Do you ever wake up in the morning and know right away whether the day is going to be good, so-so, or dreadful? Well, that sixth sense works for evenings too. Yesterday I could sense doom in the air within 5 minutes of our arrival at home, and sure enough, by 8 p.m. I was putting G to bed un-bathed and grumpy, with her room a wreck and her homework unfinished. Tonight, even though we got home much later (grocery shopping), the atmosphere was totally different, and now G is upstairs cheerfully washing her hair and singing to herself. Strange but true.

Speaking of G and hygiene, she asked me this morning if she could shave her legs. I gulped down my first, instinctive response, which was Absolutely not! You're EIGHT! and told her I would consider it and get back to her. I'm sure you're all thinking I'm insane, but in fact there are some good arguments for allowing it:

1. G has, and always has had, very dark and noticeable hair on her legs. I don't know why -- she's half Filipina, and Asian girls are not notoriously hairy -- but she does.

2. I don't think it's an attempt to grow up prematurely on her part; I think the hair bothers her and she wants to get rid of it. If she had barely-there blonde hair and wanted to shave it, I'd say no and not even question my decision.

3. On the other hand, if she had hair under her arms (which at the rate she's going could happen any time now) and wanted to shave it off, I wouldn't hesitate to let her. Other than surface area, what makes legs any different than armpits?

4. I'm not planning to let leg-shaving become a slippery slope that ends up with her wearing makeup and platform shoes in the third grade. It's basic grooming, end of story.

Of course, there are also drawbacks, the main one being that she's too young to wield a razor (I started shaving when I was 11, and I still shudder when I remember some of my early accidents), so I would have to do it for her. And I would have to do it frequently, because the only thing that looks worse than thick, dark leg hair is thick, dark leg stubble. I can barely remember to shave my own not-very-hairy legs once a week; how am I going to keep up with hers too? Also, G has already gotten some comments from friends at school about wearing deodorant, and I don't want her to attract more attention by shaving her legs than she would by leaving them the way they are. So ... I don't know. She hasn't brought it up again, so maybe it was just a passing thought and she's already forgotten about it. I guess I'll just wait and see if it becomes a recurring request, or a source of serious embarrassment.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Twenty-seven

In the last few months of his life, P rediscovered the guitar. He'd been playing off and on for more than twenty years, but suddenly his passion for it ignited all over again, and he spent most of his free time downloading tabs and tinkering with his strings and working out tricky chord progressions. Every evening he'd sit down in the old pink TV chair in our bedroom and spend an hour or two or three practicing whatever song he was learning at the moment. One of the very last things he did, less than a week before he died, was to buy an electric guitar on impulse. ("Do you think it was a good buy," he asked anxiously when he called me at work to tell me about it, "or was it goodbye to my money?") Even in his final hours, he was still playing.

A year ago today, he had twenty-seven days left to live. If I had known I only had twenty-seven days left to hear him play the guitar, I would have listened harder, memorized every note, recorded it all to drive out the silence in my future. If I had known that in twenty-seven days I would never see him again, I would have watched him more closely; said and done so many things. If I could have him back for twenty-seven minutes now I'd trade a year of my own life for each one, as easily as throwing pennies down a wishing well.

Creativity, misapplied

Excuses G has given for not being able to do tonight's homework, an essay titled "My Favorite Birthday":

* "I can't choose my favorite birthday. I liked them all."
* "My hand hurts."
* "I'm cold. I have to get under a blanket."
* "There's not enough light." (Well, no, not under a blanket there isn't.)
* "I need to pet the cat first."
* "I have to scratch my head and my pen is in the hand I need to use."
* "I don't need to do homework because I have a really good memory." (After I explained that homework is supposed to be practice for what you learned in class.)
* "I've got a massive wedgie and I need you to fix it for me." (At this point I started laughing hysterically. In nearly 36 years of life, no one has ever asked me to extract their underpants from their butt until now.)
* "I have to go to the bathroom."

Obviously anyone who can think of this many reasons not to do an assignment should be able to crank out a few sentences about her favorite birthday without even trying. But it's been half an hour, and she's written exactly six words. Good grief.

ETA:

Well, we reached a sort of resolution. After she came back from the bathroom, the struggle began again, with lots of sighing and moaning and complaining that she was too tired. At last I said "Okay, G, you don't have to do your homework if you don't want to."

"I don't?" Her voice was full of astonishment.

"No, you don't. But when you go to school tomorrow, you have to tell Mrs. K that you decided not to do it."

"All right," said G, totally unconcerned.

"And since you're too tired to do homework, you probably ought to go to bed right now."

She didn't like that idea nearly as much, but I herded her up the stairs and into her pajamas, and now at 8:26 she's in bed with the lights out. Hopefully next time she'll decide that doing her work is better than going to bed early. If not ... well, it's only two more weeks till summer vacation.