Suburban Snapshots

Boston After the Fact

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Steve and I moved out of Boston when after ten years there he grew tired of city living. It's fair to say he dragged me from our sweet condo on the C and D lines and away from many good friends, though I knew it was either fight to stay and live with an unhappy spouse, or move — knowing I'd adapt — with a happier husband.

Most of those we left behind live within the limits of last Friday's lockdown. Some had their homes searched, they woke to SWAT teams in the streets. They heard shots, shouts and detonations. They were afraid of the potential danger but grateful for the police presence. I spent Friday waiting for updates from those I knew were closest to what I could only watch on television. I texted without expecting replies and though I knew they would all be safe, sat anxiously waiting for contact. It seemed impossible that there could be anything else happening in the world, and when friends in other parts of the country posted about their lunches or their weekend plans, it all seemed so out of context.

Taken from my friends' window Friday morning.

When they captured the fugitive bomber and residents took to the streets to thank those involved, I remembered how, from my condo, I always knew when the home team scored because cheers would erupt out of windows and ricochet off the sidewalks. I imagined how joyful that noise must have been in the living room of the old place and wished I could have heard it.

Throughout the week, people who I have to assume were distant from the events took to public forums to promote their own agendas; one Arkansas lawmaker's notorious tweet is by now widely known and ridiculed, but there's also a conspiracy theory about martial law that's wrapped in a pro-gun message and fearmongering over the loss of our personal rights. Seriously.

I haven't asked my friends who were told to evacuate their own home, carrying two little girls over a fence in the hours after midnight how they feel about the theories because it's an insult to their experience. But if I had been in their shoes, if we lived within the lockdown zone on Friday, where a fugitive who'd proven his utter disregard for human life was known to be hiding, I'd feel a hell of a lot safer seeing trained, armed SWAT teams and police officers from my window than roving, gun-toting conspiracy theorists wandering my streets.

There are true professionals with skills and training and the courage to put themselves directly in the line of palpable danger, and there are those who speculate about conspiracies from the comfort of their desk chairs. If you're at all uncertain who would be more likely to step up and save your life at their own peril, go ahead and ask someone from Boston.

How to Travel Like a Decent Human Being

Monday, April 22, 2013

I'll preface this by confessing that I am borderline phobic about flying. I avoid it whenever I can, and I enjoy a pharmaceutical assist whenever I can't. So maybe I'm actually phobic, shut up, whatever. I make up for it by being generally awesome otherwise.

Two years ago I had a work conference at Disney World. The three of us flew down. In addition to my normal stress I was hoping and praying that Anna would enjoy herself and not be a pest to other travelers. The last thing I wanted was for her to pick up on my own anxiety; I could have won an Academy Award that day. So I packed a laptop full of movies, any and all non-contraband snacks, a pacifier (she was three but cabin pressure something something), I'd filled my phone with kid apps and left my husband to manage the logistics of our duffel bag, carry-on, seven-million pound car seat, tipping the skycap, and remembering where I'd parked the car.

If you haven't been on a flight to Orlando, Florida, then you don't know what it is to wait at your gate behind several strollers, wheelchairs, children and high school kids going on a summer field trip. It's just about three hours from where we are to Orlando, and other than rapid-fire requests for snacks, more movies, more volume, and her refusal to let me open the window shade, Anna did amazingly well on her first flight. I did pretty well too, on this my twentieth-or-so flight, as did the woman flying alone with five kids across the aisle.

Can I tell you who didn't do so great? It was the class trip. As I sat wearing my best Turbulence is Awesome face, pointing out familiar land masses miles below us, and laughing myself onto a no-fly list reading Bossypants, most of the high school kids made dramatic "WHOOOOOOAAAAAA" sounds with each bump. There were loud "OMIGOD"s and then someone asked if they were going to die. I felt bad for those kids, because they couldn't even order in-flight cocktails.

I felt bad for those kids the same way I sympathize with parents who are equally unsure of how their flight will go, because "Will my toddler spend 3 hours kicking the seat?" is the parent equivalent of a teenager wondering how often planes spontaneously nosedive.

There's endless advice on flying with kids, ideas for how to make the trip less stressful for both parents and offspring, because there's a huge difference between remembering your passport, enough underwear, and shoes you can easily slip off at security and having to carry on the accouterments that keep the preschool set occupied for hours, on top of the worry that the mere sight of your child will result in audible sighs from 150 strangers.

So I implore my happily no-kid friends, the next time you board a flight to your no-kid destination, don't take to Facebook before taxi to post about your preemptive annoyance over the potential fussiness of the baby next to you. Consider that while you breezed through the terminal Starbucks, your row-mate had to traverse the airport like a sherpa whose client wouldn't stop sprinting toward peril. Try to imagine what it might be like to have to control someone else's bladder mid-flight. We are all using a very public mode of transportation, one that's not especially accommodating to us breeders. Know that we are stressed, uncomfortable, and hoping like hell our kids don't behave like marsupials.

And remember mostly that we were all kids once, and as adults we could stand to do a little less whining.

A Day of Five, in Pictures

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I've definitely been feeling like five is a big milestone. The last traces of baby cheeks have melted into defined features and long legs, and though she still trips over her own shadow, gone are the clumsy grasps of unsure toddlerhood.

As I always do, I took Anna's portraits this year, but I also spent her birthday documenting what she's like right now. I think I'll plan to do this every year.

Five wakes up and asks for the iPad. (Five still sucks her thumb.)

Five adds the sprinkles all by herself.

Five gets herself dressed.

And carries the cupcakes to school.

Five is still small enough to be carried.

And big enough for her new two-wheeler.

Five is a real kid. Five is everything good in the world.

I Will Eat The One Who
Breaks Her Heart

Friday, April 12, 2013

I don't believe in soulmates. Based on pure population data, the chances that my husband is "meant" for me seem slim. And lately I've been a little bristly over the unrelenting stream of "true love" graphics coursing through my Facebook feed. The friends who post them are usually single, somewhere in their twenties. The images have quotes like, "If she's jealous, she cares," or "A real relationship has no secrets." I don't mean to be cynical because I believe in lasting love, I do.

Eventually I want Anna to experience what it is to be on that particular drug that makes her feel impossibly light, the one that pulls from the chest towards a flawless joy. I want her to experience what it is to have someone out-of-their-mind crazy about her, who loves her just for showing up. And when it's time, I also want her to know that this will fade, and that the chaos of love isn't something that can be summed up into the space of a viral graphic, that romance changes shape — at first it looks like flowers and picnics, and later it tastes like shared leftovers on the couch.

I hope her love starts in her belly, that it's flecked with hard kisses and torturous separations. And I hope it lasts into arguments over left-out dishes and forgotten bills. I want that one day she'll see that love is being able to hurt and then reconcile, that romance is sacrificing the better side of the bed or the last slice of cake, and that these are more substantial than all those movie-scene rushes to airports or boom-box serenades.

She should know that at some point she'll choose to stop looking, not because there's no one left, but because she's decided to make a life with someone. And when the day comes that she realizes this wasn't fate but a conscious choice, that she's still sure of herself.

I hope she'll understand that years of love can mean days of needing space, that the separations become more mundane but that there's always happiness in the reunions.

I want her to feel all of these things, so she understands that we don't find "the one," but that we work and compromise and nurture to create them.

That One Week When My
Kid Actually Ate Something

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

I get emails from people all the time asking to guest post on this blog, or suggesting that their content is a 'good fit' for this audience (spoiler: it never is). Most of the time these letters are addressed to Blog Owner and while it's always nice to be thought of, I get tired of non-specific spam.

So when Chobani contacted me to say hey, we want to send you our new Chobani Champions and we think you're funny and we don't even care if you give us a review, I waited for the follow-up email telling me how to wire money to a Nigerian Prince in exchange for my yogurt. But it turns out this gig was legit. A few weeks later a box full of Chobani arrived at my house, and I ate one of the coffee-chip Chobani Bites with just my tongue before I'd even unpacked the rest.

All three of us loved the flavors; if it wasn't socially unacceptable for a grown man driving around in a city truck to suck yogurt from a tube, Steve would have gladly taken those to work. Instead he packed whatever cups I didn't hide in an effort to keep some for my-damn-self. Anna decimated the tubes in a day, refusing to eat just one at a time.

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