Suburban Snapshots

Our long, national nightmare of ill-fitting drawers is over

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My husband couldn't be more tired of hearing about my quest for (and purchase of many unsuitable pairs of) underwear. Since summer arrived and my wardrobe changed over from jeans-in-boots to flowy, strappy dresses, I've struggled to find unders that meet what I think are pretty damned reasonable requirements:

1. No clinging
2. No wedgies
3. No bumps

I'd been to Target and Macy's, Kohl's, Sears, Marshall's, TJ Maxx and Victoria's Secret. I tried on underwear OVER my underwear. I polled Facebook and got good suggestions, but mostly for online retailers and I didn't want to risk paying to ship back another pair of silky disappointments.

Some were promising initially but failed later. On really desperate days I'd just buy the least attractive, most sex-repellant granny pants, figuring bigger and uglier must = comfortable. I'm delighted to tell you that this is not the case. There's no need to resort to this, at least not until you actually have to tuck your boobs into your panties.

In the middle of all this frustration I was starting to believe that my body was to blame, that my proportions were just so out of whack I'd never find anything that fit right. I like my shape, it just seems that most clothing manufacturers model on either Kate Moss or 12 year-old boys.


All dressing rooms should be this well lit.

So I got out the tape measure. You'd think that being an advocate of getting a professional bra fitting I'd have done this sooner and realized that — with measurements of 36-28-forty-SERIOUSLY?!-four — I'd been buying a size too small in all my previous attempts. I had to suck it up. I had to buy the XLs. Getting the size right solved 80% of my problem.

I found these great hipsters (the underwear variety, not the skinny jean/mustachioed variety) almost by accident at Marshalls for three bucks a pair. I love them. They've passed the getting in and out of the car test, the walking up stairs test, the bending down to feed the dogs test, even the getting in your kid's face to scold her for disappearing in a crowded amusement park test. I bought 6 8 pairs.

So I'll be shutting the eff up about my underwear issues, sparing you all my constant laments about wedgies and panty lines, and finally leaving this whole episode, ahem, behind me.

This is Happening
Again, Already

Monday, July 30, 2012

Today we got bad news about one of our three dogs, Bertie, the youngest. It's been just over a year since we spent over $2,000 trying to save Stella, my favorite, from congestive heart failure. The money -- most of it borrowed -- bought her 2 months.

Anna still talks about Stella, whose ashes sit with her photo and collar on our mantle. She only remembers that we left Stella at the vet's office, and will often refer to her still being there despite the few times Steve has explained that Stella is permanently gone.


This morning as we drove Bertie to the vet to check on a bulging eye that a 2-week course of antibiotics didn't touch, Anna said to me, "He's only going to be at the doctor's for today, not like Stella. He's going to come home, he's not going to be there a long time." And he did come home, but he's not going to be with us for a long time.

Bertie is the only one of our three dogs that I got when he was a pup. God he was cute. 5 months after he came home I found out I was pregnant. I expected him to adapt. Then, when Anna was 11 months old, he bit her face. He missed her eye by millimeters. I wanted him gone, but Steve was so devastated that I agreed to keep Bertie and instead became vigilant about his and Anna's time together. The arrangement has worked well for over 3 years and I've managed to keep my promise to this adopted mutt that I'd give him food, love, and shelter until his last day.

I just didn't expect his last day to be so soon.

Bertie has a bone tumor that's growing into his skull. It's pushing on his eye and expanding into his jaw. Soon it will likely move toward his cranium. Right now he's not in pain, but once we see signs that he's uncomfortable, we've made the decision to euthanize him. Steve and I will be there. Anna will be anywhere else.

I'm not sure how we'll tell her what's happening. This time, we've made a decision. This time, it won't be an 11 p.m. collapse that sends us to the vet. Anna's older now than she was with Stella but she still doesn't understand death.

So it's pretty sad around here, living with this dog we know has such limited time. We'll feed him well and let him hog up the whole bed, pet him extra and give him the warm spot on the couch when we stand up to get a drink or answer the phone. I'm sad that Steve is losing his favorite dog, that Anna will miss 2 animals now.

Bert, our big dog in a tiny dog's body, who dances for treats and is the only one of the three with any manners, who loves to roam the woods at my parents' house in his orange safety vest, who refuses to sit still on car rides and still has puppysoft fur, give us a few months. I'll let you have the good side of the mattress.

My Kid Went to an Amusement Park and All I Got Were These Gray Hairs

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Anna's cousins are in town from Colorado, so we've been doing lots of family activities with multiple kids in crowded, summer fun spots with festering bathrooms that the girls don't ever seem to need to use at the same time, of course.

Yesterday 4 adults and 3 girls aged 3, 4, and 7 went to the local zoo-slash-amusement park figuring that maybe morning weekday crowds would be reasonable. We didn't anticipate that every recreation department within 50 miles would be having a field trip, and so we arrived to lines and busloads of kids wearing matching t-shirts. I immediately went into perpetual inventory mode, taking headcounts of the girls every 20 feet or so, hoping to lure them into our wagon with Rice Krispie Treats and gummy fruits.

We'd done most of the zoo and gone on all the rides, and were standing near the ferris wheel getting ready to pack it in. My sister had met up with us, and as we stood with our kids between us I leaned over to hug her goodbye -- it wasn't an especially lingering hug like that one creepy uncle gives, so no more than 5 seconds must have passed. I stood up and Anna was gone.



Over the course of the day I'd had those little shocks of, "Where's Anna?!" to find she'd just moved  from one side of my body to the other, but as I scanned our group, our immediate area, then down the crowded stretch that led to more rides, and in the other direction to lines of people getting cotton candy or heading back to the zoo, she wasn't there. She wasn't in any direction -- there were so many bodies.

The adrenaline I was barely keeping at bay flooded my arms and legs, my hands were trying to shake, my knees jittered. I called her name, I saw a hundred heads that weren't hers. And then from the wagon, my beautiful 7-year-old niece said, "She went that way, she went over there." I followed her pointing finger and found Anna, about 100 feet from us in a group of kids playing a driving game.

I may have grabbed her too hard by the arms as I stooped to reprimand her in the calmest tone I could manage (I think I did fine, though I'm sure every single passerby heard me telling her to never, ever run off ever again without telling someone.) For good measure, my sister helpfully added a little parable about a man who kidnaps little girls and forces them to live in his basement and eat dog food.

Some of you responded to my post on Facebook with stories of losing your own kids for far longer than Anna was out of my sight, and I don't know how you remained functional. Is this one of those things that gets a little easier once you're on kid #2 or 3? Does that immediate feeling of helplessness dull after the second or third incident? Do you think it'd be weird if I sewed leashes onto all of her clothes until she's 18?

Field Guide to Craigslist
Missed Connections

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For years I've had a habit of reading the Craigslist Missed Connections section like it's the news. There's so much longing and heartbreak there, and so much unintentional comedy: Met at state hospital unit G, or: U and kid at unemployment office, g-string.

After a while you notice categories of posts and posters. Leaving out the most common Guy Who Types Like a Drunken Chimpanzee with an iPhone and Sexting Addiction, I've listed ten.

Here's your field guide to The People of Craigslist.

1. Guy who lists every minute physical detail of a woman, ends ad with, "I'm definitely not a creeper."

2. Couple in the midst of an ugly split whose inappropriately personal posts jeopardize your faith in the marital institution.

3. Daycare dads scamming on daycare moms, who despite posting in a public Internet forum claim to be "totally discreet."

4. People who pass attractive people in cars.

5. Woman who will not give up on guy she made out with at the beach once when she was drunk 20 years ago whose name maybe starts with R or T.

6. Dramatic, heartbroken soul with atrocious taste in music who continually posts the lyrics to godawful ballads riddled with typos.

7. The estranged boyfriend who wants to be sure Craigslist knows what a slut you were, anyway.

8. PEOPLE WHO REALLY WANT YOU TO SEE THIS MESSAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

9. The genital photo ambusher, who clearly confused Missed Connections with Casual Encounters.

10. The romantics are my favorites. The ones who make me want to reply just to console them, the underdogs who've been quietly in love at the office or with a friend, the ones begging for second chances.

So next time you're browsing for a used fridge or trying to unload a 400 lb. tube TV, take a few minutes to peruse the love stories of your local Craigslist users. And if you find a really good one, I'd love to read it.

Better Late

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My grandfather is a complicated man. In my memory, he's always as barrel chested as the Marine he used to be and as tough as the New York detective he was when he retired. He would drink scotch and water from just after waking until he went to sleep, and the alcohol made visits with him tense. But his love is at least as powerful as his temper, his heart twice as big, and in time we'd forgive his outbursts.

In December, Gramps was hospitalized after a bad fall. He was finally sent home a few weeks ago and we visited him for the first time in almost a year. He hasn't had a drink in 5 months and though it's hard to watch him struggle on weak legs it's amazing to be around him sober. I was finally relaxed, not mentally planning our exit just in case something set him off, not looking for signs of agitation — this must sound crazy to anyone who hasn't known an alcoholic.

Grandpa turned 82 in May. I hope he's finally found some peace. I hope sobriety sticks. I know he's frustrated by the new limitations of his old bones. I want to have more visits with him like this, and I am so grateful that the grandfather Anna met on this trip was the version I wanted my whole life to know.

On Treating Others the Way
You'd Want to be Treated

Thursday, July 05, 2012

I found out that last week a friend lost her young nephew in a tragic, freak accident. The news clenched my stomach. My heart broke for her and rest of the boy's family. The story appeared in several local news outlets; I read one article and its accompanying reader comments.

Maybe it's the nature of the Internet, maybe it's the nature of human beings, but before anyone had mentioned sadness or sympathy for the family's loss, they were quick to imply that somehow the parents were to blame here, somehow instead of a freak accident, what happened was neglect. They eagerly pointed fingers and suggested what should and shouldn't have been done in a situation they had no connection to, anonymously reprimanding a family they knew nothing about.

None of us has any right to be smug about those parents unfortunate enough to become headline news. Remember that time you drove just a couple of houses away and didn't make your toddler buckle up? Or the day you had to answer the front door while your 4-year-old was in the tub? That time you left the baby 10 feet away in the car because she was sound asleep? The text you read in traffic?

When my husband was preschool age his family took a vacation in a hotel on a crowded beach. One afternoon as they headed for their spot in the sand, Steve wandered back to the hotel. He slipped out of a group of several family members unnoticed and walked alone to their room. My grandmother once left the house with only 7 of her 8 children, leaving the 18-month-old perched next to the kitchen sink. Once when my mom sent me out to play unaccompanied, I ended up in the wrong apartment trying to find my way home.

Everyone fucks this gig up sometimes. Every single one of us. And any of those stories could have had a different ending.

Still, we rush to judgement; the news can barely breathlessly spit out the "missing toddler" headline before all of us armchair DSS agents have the parents fingered as culprits. And I know that sometimes they are, that real abuse and neglect happen. But in situations where there's been some accident, some one-in-a-million event or two-second misstep that results in unthinkable tragedy, those of us who aren't involved should keep our condemnations to ourselves and instead hope that the affected family finds peace. We have never been the perfect parents we expect complete strangers to be.

I Invented a New Disease,
Let's Recover Together

Sunday, July 01, 2012

In the last couple of months it's occurred to me that I am much happier with my surroundings when I'm not watching $50,000 home makeover shows or cruising Pinterest or reading This Old House's "simple" remodeling tips or prostrating myself on the cool, glassy countertops at Ikea.

We are bombarded by professionally-styled photographs that make our own kitchens seem dark and dated. Entire channels are dedicated to remodeling and while I'm all for home improvement, I think it would serve us well to turn that shit off, look around and ask ourselves whether Brazilian rare wood floors are really the key to contentment.

The Interwebs is giving us all a case of the inadequates, or as I've named this new disease, BAFS (Before-and-After Fatigue Syndrome, trademark pending). If, like me, you are exhausted by the constant onslaught of staged dining tables swathed in ethereal window light and children's rooms with only perfectly symmetrical messes and nary a stray Lego, take a moment to tour my actual house — my company-is-not-imminent state of existence.

Have you overcome BAFS? Do you hate when those people on makeover shows get all nitpicky about double vanities? Leave a comment, let me know what you've decided to be happy with.

The wine left in that glass is a sin!

Where I work.
Where Anna works.

Sometimes the dogs let us sleep here.

Where she's outgrown the playhouse and learned to swing.