Suburban Snapshots

My Space

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Steve and I bought our Boston condo together, we went shopping for new furniture. We came home with a sectional sofa that seats 6 comfortably. You'd be amazed how fast that thing fills up now. It's like the last lifeboat on the Titanic come 7 p.m.

Personal space seems to be at a premium around here lately.

I totally cop to counting the minutes from the time the credits start rolling on Arthur to the first blast of hot water hitting me in the shower each morning, where I stand, alone. I admit to looking forward to leaving Anna in Steve's capable, patient hands and heading two rooms over into my office, where, for 8 or so hours I sit in a chair that holds only one. I will share with you how I get all kinds of twitchy when Steve leans over my left shoulder to do even the simplest, quickest thing on the desktop while I work inches away on my laptop, or when between conference calls, he'll let Anna wander in to climb my file cabinet or crawl under my desk and trigger the paper shredder ("Anna, FINGERS!").

When my day ends, I'm happy to rejoin my family. Anna and I might run an errand, we come home, I make dinner. Lately though, the act of dinner involves jockeying around 3 dogs who first trip me, then scamper into the exact spot my foot is about to land; explaining to an upset toddler who only wants my attention that she can't help stir the boiling macaroni or take the bread out of the oven, which then leads to repeated attempts to peel a now sobbing child off of my leg while handling hot utensils. When she's not asking to help, she's delivering a list of demands that would rival any stage diva's hospitality rider.

After we eat Steve will sit at the kitchen laptop (if you're playing along at home, that's 3 computers) while I fall into my couch dent, curl Anna up next to me, and read a few books (or one book over and over and over and over) while the TV flickers and blabs. This happy scene also involves the 3 dogs, 2 of whom get on the couch under their own power and the third, being in possession of the shortest of legs, first barks to be lifted, and then pokes and cold-noses his way under my shirt for warmth and cover. Anna scolds him for taking my attention as her feet finally annoy dog #2 enough that he leaves for the bedroom, and the girl dog climbs to her perch behind my head, stepping on my hair as she does.

I wouldn't trade these scenes or these people for a bright, one bedroom apartment, long, lazy baths, or even hours of time begging to be filled with, God, with anything. But man, it would be nice to stretch my legs out the length of this couch every once in a while.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Anna's just half a year from three, and already she's at a deep disadvantage in the feminine arts. See, I'm kind of helpless when it comes to things like buying and applying make up, which isn't to say that anyone in possession of lady business also is mandated to wear blush and mascara, but she's already into my two-dollar lip gloss, and is fascinated by the medieval eye cage that I'm told is used to curl lashes. Inevitably she'll want to learn and experiment, and I am woefully under-qualified.

I have friends who expertly apply eye shadow, putting the darks and lights in all the right places, ending up looking smoky and mysterious, and though I might follow along side-by-side, my results are closer to the hot mess I turned my Farrah Fawcett Make-Me-Up mannequin head into at 8 years old. My mom had to bleach the life-sized head clean an hour after I'd opened it that Christmas. RIP, Farrah.

The first time I experimented with foundation was in the tenth grade. I thought I looked great. I loved how even and smooth it made my skin. I didn't realize it also made me look like my grandmother's eighty-year-old neighbor whose trademark was the flesh-colored chinstrap created where her foundation abruptly stopped; a perfect, clean edge of too-tan. It wasn't pretty. Worse, this had to be pointed out to me.

I work from home now, my commute is about five steps, not counting pit stops for bathroom and coffee. I use cosmetics so infrequently that I've still got months' worth from the stuff I splurged on for my 2004 wedding. When I visit with my youngest sister I raid her stash of fancy bottles and tubes, wondering how anyone knows what to do with all this shimmery, slippery stuff, watching her fill in all the right spots with dabs of this and smears of that, and hoping I don't end up looking like my ex-boyfriend's mom — also a non-doer-upper — who'd get dolled up for special occasions only to emerge from the bathroom looking like a deranged Cirque du Soleil understudy.

So I'm afraid my daughter will have to sit Indian style in front of a full-length mirror with someone else's mom, contemplating which brushes to use, working out what palette works with her beautiful olive skin, figuring out the difference between cover-up, concealer, and foundation. I'll just sit across the room and blog about it.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Monday, October 18, 2010

Or more accurately, Ninja Mom over at Ninja Mom Blog likes me enough to have included me in some kind of pyramid scheme bestowed my little slice of blogdom with the Versatile Blogger Award. Because I'm versatile enough to holler at my dogs to shut their yaps, tell my daughter to go freaking potty by herself already, and provide you all with semi-regular updates on the state of my undercarriage.

But with great power comes great responsibility, so in keeping with the award's rules I thank you, Ninja Mom, both for the award and for cracking me up, and while I can't even think of 15 bloggers to pass this on to, I can at least getcha' 3. And finally, 7 things that somehow in all my constant not-shutting-up, you may not already know about me:

1. I love, respect, and refuse to eat any form of shark.
2. I am not scared to catch frogs in my hands, but hate stepping on bugs.
3. I have a birthmark on the front of my nose that looks like a speck of chocolate.
4. I can burp on command.
5. I once had a letter published in Rolling Stone. It was about Alias.
6. I was kicked out of the Gifted and Talented program twice.
7. I'm left-handed.

Now, the three of you who I'm tagging to keep the lovefest rolling (selections based on post frequency/hilarity):

1. Let Me Start By Saying
2. My Convertible Life
3. Naps Happen

Go spread the award love, you bunch of goddamn hippies.

Party in My Pants

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today was that most marvelous of days we wait all year for, the air was crisp, the sun shining, and I, sitting bare-ass-naked over the side of the tub painstakingly preparing for my annual exam. You know, that annual exam.

It happens every year, just like a birthday, but with less cake and more invasive probing (though, I don't know you people. Probing might be your idea of a birthday party.)

The whole pre-appointment process is made exponentially more difficult by the fact that I'm hopeless without my glasses, which I can't wear into the shower while wielding a rusty, last-resort razor and a cracked sliver of soap — you don't want to throw your legs into the stirrups and have to explain the Dora Band-Aid plastered across your sensitive bits. So after several minutes of delicate navigation, awkward positioning and frequent squinting I was ready to go, and then thought to myself, shit, if they give me the hippie midwife today I'm going to be pissed I wasted all this energy.

I got to the office, weighed in, stripped down, blood pressure etc. etc., talked about the many crappy options for birth control besides our current crappiest and least-convenient method, and our previous method which ended up all, "It's a girl!," and just as we got to the part of the appointment where I begin to actually feel my entire reproductive system trying to tuck itself up behind my esophagus, someone knocked at the door and Jean left with a quick apology and her stethoscope.

I laid myself back wrapped in the green and white johnny, pulled out my phone and checked email, contemplated but thought better of posting a Facebook photo of the knitted uterus hanging on a bulletin board across the room, and responded to a text from my sister who wanted to know "where the f r u?" ("GYN u r jels"). About 15 minutes later a medical assistant came to apologetically tell me that Jean wouldn't back to examine my immaculate business. It was even worse than the hippie midwife scenario.

I climbed back into my jeans, marveling at the all-the-way-up feeling of smooth (because within an hour I'd be clawing at my southern hemisphere like a desperate junkie), and not exactly jonesing to do it all over again in two weeks.

On the plus side, I now have plenty of time to buy a new razor.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

On Saturday I had Anna all by myself, all day long. Any number of you are already like, "Wait, why is this blog-worthy?" I know, but I've mentioned the balance of parenting around here and though I fill all the standard mama roles — snuggling, soothing, actually combing hair instead of strangling a sticky handful of nappy curls into a pony tail, getting all whelmy against my better judgment during cloying commercials and bad country songs, and generally being treated like Anna's intern — Steve handles most of the one-on-one care.

Usually when it's just Anna and me I'll find another adult human to spend the day with, heading up to Mom's or down to a friend's. But I wanted to give her a full day of Mama, knowing we don't have them often, imagining all the sweet moments I'd have with my little BFF.

I woke in the morning not to her usual whimpers, but to an immediate request for water. After we were both out in the dark living room where I turn each morning to PBS Kids while I wait for my mouth and eyes to unstick, she rapid-fired a few more demands: potty (can someone please tell me when she won't need an escort for this?), juice, snack, blanket, and I translated "IT'S TOO BRIGHT, MAMAAAAAA!" to, "Please lower the dimmer on the kitchen light while you urgently pour your coffee, Mother." Once she found her amenities adequate, she did sit quietly watching the Saturday line-up for a good two to three hours I think, I can't be sure but when I woke up Saturday Night Live was on while.

But then, more demands. Requests for everything in sight, and it wasn't that she was being bratty about it, just that it gets really damn ass exhausting to have to say and then explain "No" four-hundred-catrillion times. We took a bath and dressed — now that I'm letting her pick, this is a 25 minute, drawer-clearing process  — and headed to the grocery store where I spent another half-hour refusing all manner of items, from tampons to balloons to calf liver. I flinched at each new aisle, wondering what she'd see and want, then ask for without so much as a hint of good manners. I ran into a friend's sister and made small talk that was necessarily a few decibels higher than, "Mama, Froot Loops! MAMA! Look! Fruit Loops! Mama, I want that. I can have it with MILK! I want milk, Mama! Mama, MORE Froot Loops! Mama, I want money and I want to WALK."

Hey, remember that time I wrote this? BWAH-HA-HA-HA. What a dick I was.

So we headed to our Green Zone: the play ground. Our entire day turned around on that climbing structure.

Anna took off, not even glancing back for me, needing no escort, no assistance, making no demands. She stormed up the stairs and down the slide, she grappled up onto the bouncing see-saw thing, sat at the little wooden table and ate her bag of gummy fruit, happily sharing some with an older girl (here I did intervene, because you never know which kid might be allergic to strawberries, or corn syrup, or you know, dirt or whatever). Then, without asking for my help she climbed up a ladder to a platform higher than the top of my head, and grabbed onto a bar farther than my arms could reach. She swung herself out and onto a twisty, metal death-pole, and just like that, spiraled her little body to the bottom.

She did it over and over, and each time I put my hands close, spotting her from platform to ground, holding my breath. Each time her little feet touched the dirt, she'd smile wide at me and run away back up the ladder. My little girl, suddenly so very, very brave. The day's earlier struggles floated away like the dust under her shoes.

I don't know how you full-time moms do it, but I damn sure know why.

The Goods

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A very wise, very dear friend of mine once said to me after her divorce, "You leave the first man because he throws his socks on the floor, and the second one throws his underwear on the floor." It made me laugh at the time, and now I totally get where she's coming from.

Husbands (OK, to be fair you can say "spouses") pull lots of Universal Husband Shit, y'all. And what's great about it is that when your own husband is doing something that irks you, chances are you've got a friend who can totally relate (unless the irksome habit is like, "keeps leaving bloody clothes in the basement sink." You might have to find a chat room for that.)

I recently complained to a girlfriend that my own dear husband had walked into our bedroom to find me wearing nothing but black panty hose, my sexy "Mama's Night Out" black bra (just the matching is a feat here), and the mad hot shoes shown in that photo, and he shot me a look that said, "Uh, that's an interesting ensemble," then proceeded to walk around me to get to his sock drawer, all feels left un-copped. People, come on.

I know two things for certain about my husband: he will never be fat, and he loves the sex.

So when I e-blabbed my frustrations to this friend, she shot back an email seconds later with her own story: when she was newly pregnant with only larger breasts to show for it, she'd stand by the bed each night and rub her chest and belly with anti-stretch-mark oil. It's ok — picture it, you can come back in a few minutes. Rubbing oil on pregnancy boobs. It's what happens in porn right after the pizza gets delivered. Her husband didn't even glance.

So she and I have scheduled a date night during which we'll do nothing but ogle each other and make crude comments. If the sangria's good, we might make out.

I know there are those of you thinking, "God, what I wouldn't give for my husband to stop groping my boobs/grabbing my ass/looking at me like I was Thanksgiving dinner all damn day," because everyone's got their own greener grass. Obviously we love and appreciate our spouses for a whole host of reasons that more than compensate for their shortcomings, and it's probably true that any one of them could keep a blog based entirely on our own faults. Still, it's  good to be able to commiserate about these things with friends who will laugh, pour another glass of wine, and share potentially humiliating stories of their own. It makes you realize that the grass is pretty much the same color no matter who's mowing it.

In Cars

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

I love my car. I've loved all of my cars except for one. Recently the amazingly hilarious Aunt Becky over at posted about giving up her favorite car and it started me reminiscing.

On my list of reasons for maintaining my one-child lifestyle is that I don't want to be forced into a bigger vehicle. You can judge me.

My first car, Suki, was a 1986 5-speed Chevy Spectrum, a little red tin can that got me places. I was 20 when Dad bought it for me. Barely knowing how to drive stick, I still got it the hour home from New York City. When I needed to stop I'd take it completely out of gear and slam on the brakes. Eventually I learned to downshift, and I'm forever grateful to that junker for forcing me to learn stick. After a while it started to buck in low gears like a mechanical bull, a problem no one could seem to solve. One afternoon I hit the brakes and my foot thudded to the floor. Later, the clutch cable snapped in a similar fashion — I pressed it, and the pedal kept going. My dad was able to rescue me, rigging up a bike cable to get me home. I'm still impressed by that (but do I know how to change a tire?).

Next, the first brand new car I ever owned, Javier. He was a 1995 red Honda Civic CX hatchback. Always reliable, no power steering (hello, parallel parking guns), and a shockingly big cargo area. I moved dressers in that thing. I loved him. I cried the day my good friend Joe, Jav's second owner, texted me a photo of Jav, dismantled and disrespected, left for dead in the woods just outside of Boston. We'd been so many places, through 3 or 4 idiot boyfriends, a similar number of apartments, several parking tickets, and one boot (oh, those fuckers'll find you). I couldn't bear to see him treated so brutally.

After Jav came unnamed, used Civic sedan. I couldn't master the clutch in that car, and while he was pretty, we just never bonded. His driver's side window got stuck open just as Steve and I hit the road home from South Carolina, and that was his swan song.

Steve and I bought the Honda Element together, brand new. I commuted by train so it's always been his toaster car. I loved the 13-year-old Subaru I got when we moved to New Hampshire, it ran perfectly and only had to be taken off the road two years later because of rust. After three years of taking public transportation with people who I swear were raised by deaf badgers, the Subaru was my personal space restored — plus, 100% fewer masturbating homeless guys!

Just over a year ago I went and mommed it up with a 2002 Passat wagon. My love for the car rivals my adoration of Jav. I was never a power-everything-leather-V6 kind of girl, but of all the used Passats we looked at, this was priced best. Now the problem I have is this: I can't go back to unheated seats, 4 cylinders, no cool red light shining down from my rear-view mirror, and seriously, the miniature sun visor that sits between the other two visors. Oh Germans, how I love you.

I know some of you prefer your trucks, need your minivans, or drive Escalades because you're a Real Housewife of the Someplace Trashy, but I'm forever a car girl. I like it low to the ground and tight on the curves, and when Anna's not around I like it ear-splittingly loud. Even with all the smashed up Goldfish, it's pretty hot.

Sweaters for Sheep

Monday, October 04, 2010

Here's the kind of story I find myself telling people and then realizing I'm One of Those People. So I'm telling you, because you're on The Internets and can't give me that "I'm nodding as though I agree with your assessment of the adorableness of this exchange but am actually going to wander into another room now and talk about more interesting things, like the spinach dip en boule" look.

Driving to Maine on Saturday morning, the long road from the highway to my parents' is full of rolling hills, hay bales, and the occasional farm animal. On this day we passed a herd of sheep, each missing its thick, gray coat.

"Look, Anna. The sheep are missing their fur. Do you know why? They cut the fur off and make clothes and warm things out of it." She asks, "By themselfs?" Stifling my chuckle, "No, baby. People sheer the sheep. They take the fur and make yarn, like we see at the farmers' market. And then they knit sweaters."

"For the sheep?" she asks.

Beautiful photo taken by Channing Johnson. He is amazing.