Friday, March 28, 2008

Christina

I just found a stack of baby pictures, mostly of me and my brother Josh. Pictures from Cyprus and Venezuela and other places we lived growing up.

It got me to thinking about the people out in the world whom I knew and cared about at one time, and who knew and cared about me, and whose whereabouts and situation are utterly unknown to me now. For example, when we were overseas, we had nannies. Christina took care of me when I was a baby in Cyprus. Olive took care of Josh and me when we lived in Venezuela. She and I used to watch telenovelas together.

Olive with Josh and me outside the front door of our house in Caracas, Venezuela. I'm thinking about getting that plaid suit in an adult size so I can replicate this look. Or maybe track down these outfits so I can embarrass Zeke...

Frances was Sam's nanny in Israel, and she took care of Josh and me as well. It turned out that she stole things from my mother and was let go, but I didn't know that until much later, and I always liked her -- she was nice to me and very artistic and she taught me to knit and sew. Maria Lidia took care of Sam in El Salvador. I was in college and thus a little old for a nanny, but she was always sweet to me and she taught me how to fold my underwear into tiny little balls, a technique I use to this day.

I wonder where they all are, and how they all are. Especially Christina.

My mother was 22 years old when she married my father and joined him in Greece, where he was stationed as a junior Foreign Service officer. From there they moved to Cyprus, where I was born. Soon after moving into their house in Cyprus, a kindly woman in her 40s appeared at the door, introduced herself as Christina, and informed my mother that she (Christina) had worked for the people who lived in the house before my parents, and that now she would be working for my parents.

In my high chair in Cyprus, with Christina

sitting in Christina's lap with my cat, McGee

I don't remember Christina, but I've seen so many pictures and heard so many stories that I almost feel as if I do. I know that she was a wonderful caring woman who was utterly devoted to me from the day I was born. She took responsibility for making sure I wouldn't burn in hell for all eternity by taking me to her village to be baptized (something my Jewish parents obviously weren't going to do -- people ask me if my parents were mad, but their attitude was, "hell, it can't hurt"). She fed me and changed my diapers and took care of me. I learned Greek -- my first language -- from her, including Greek nursery rhymes (I have vague memories of a song in Greek about a little rabbit). She loved me like I was her own child, and was devastated when we left Cyprus.

I haven't seen her since leaving Cyprus 36 year ago. If she's still alive, she would be in her 80s, I think. Wherever she is, I hope she knows that I love her too, and that even after all these years, I still think about her and appreciate her role in my life.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Scrabulous gods are on to me...

I'm currently playing a game of online Scrabble (TM) in which I've played the words "poi," "luaus," and "tit." So the game is covering the two main themes in my life: Hawaii and boobs.

The Gift

As anyone who knows me knows, my family growing up was a model of stability and happiness. My parents have an incredible relationship and were always happy together (and they still are). And they were amazing with my brothers and me. They treated us with kindness and respect, were reasonable and fair in administering discipline, were always involved in our lives, and generally made us feel secure and loved. Mine was the house that other friends tended to gravitate towards, because my parents were so cool. I had plenty of friends that didn't get along with their parents very well, and frequently I would come home late from after-school activities and find a friend of mine in the kitchen helping my mom with dinner. Even as an adult, I have friends that joke about trying to get adopted by my parents so they can bask in the warmth of the family sun. My mother's standard line is that any and all are welcome, as long as she doesn't have to pay for any more weddings or college educations.

On the other hand, Jason's upbringing wasn't the greatest, to say the least. His parents split up when he was about 4 months old, and he had a horribly abusive stepfather that he lived with for a long time and then a less abusive but not very nice stepmother, and finally he said, "fuck this" and left home when he was about 15. He was convinced that he would never get married or have children, and didn't really see any benefit to either situation.

Before we got engaged, we split up for a time because Jason freaked out about marriage and children. He was convinced that he would be a horrible father and revert to the tactics that were employed on him, and that he didn't know how to be part of a family. He felt that if we stayed together, he would ruin my life.

I was mindful of the statistics showing that people who are abused tend to be abusers, but having seen how Jason escaped his predicament, having observed him with my nieces and with the children of our friends, and knowing that his upbringing left him with a massive fear of confrontation (rather than an inclination to seek it out), I just knew in my gut that he would be fine. I told him that being aware of his fears was huge, and that if at any time he felt like he was having trouble, we would deal with it. Whatever he needed from me -- going to therapy, seeking any kind of help -- I was willing to do.

Having Zeke has been a revelation for him. He didn't think he would feel the intense feelings of love and happiness that come with having a child, but he has. And it has made him feel a security, a sense of comfort and love and emotional well-being, from being part of a family -- a feeling that I don't think he's ever experienced or that he ever thought he would be able to enjoy. And of course, he is an amazing father. Zeke adores him and lights up whenever he sees his daddy. Jason is gentle and patient and playful and sweet. I think his skills as a parent have surprised him as well.

Yesterday we were driving home from picking Zeke up at school, and I was talking to Zeke and telling him how much his daddy and I love him. Jason said, "you've made us a family, little man. It's great to be part of a family."

I just about plotzed.

I know how to do happy families. I've done it my whole life, and it comes easily. This family that we've created is miraculous in its own right. But to be able to contribute to someone else experiencing this feeling of love and security for the first time -- it's the greatest thing I could bestow on my husband, or that he could bestow on me.

Is it a blanket, or is it a dance floor?

We are a couple of goofy-ass mofos, that's for sure. And every time I watch Zeke "do" the worm, I lose it all over again.

video

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What a 5-month-old's art projects look like

I absolutely adore Zeke's school. The teachers are all warm and wonderful and he spends his day engaged in play that is all geared toward achieving developmental goals. So he has fun, and in the process, has learned to hold his own bottle, is rolling over and pushing himself around on his stomach in a way that indicates crawling is not far off (God help me), can grasp toys, can grasp his spoon and almost feed himself, is learning rudimentary signs for "milk" and "drink" and "food" and "more." It's so cool.

And they send home art projects, which never fail to completely crack me up. Sometimes the kids actually do the "art," i.e., they fingerpaint. But other times, the teachers make stuff that can only be for the sole purpose of giving the parents something to put on the fridge.

Here are Zeke's Easter projects. When I saw the one with the yellow feathers, I laughed so hard that people were coming in from other parts of the school to see if I needed medical assistance.


The Ten

My 10 "Excellent" nominees, in no particular order:

1.    Lemon Gloria 

2.    PoliTits

3.    Good American Wife

4.    Striped Socks and Skinny Jeans

5.    I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet A Wino

6.    Stuff White People Like

7.    *moosie*

8.    Lawyerish

9.    The Wonder Keeping the Stars Apart

10.    The Slightly Disorganized Mind

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vail was awesome, and I'm not leaving Zeke again for a long, long time

Hi, everyone! I'm back. I missed you. Here's how my weekend went...

By the end of Thursday night, I was marveling at the lengths people will go to in order to go skiing. I took the red-eye from Honolulu to San Francisco on Wednesday night, got into San Fran at 5:45 in the morning Thursday, and then took a flight to Denver that arrived at about noon. Kathleen picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to my cousin's house because I hadn't seen them in two years and couldn't very well blow through Denver, where they live, without stopping to say hello. We had lunch and visited for a couple of hours and then went back to Kathleen's, where we loaded up the car and waited for Michele and David, who had flown in from Atlanta that morning with their three kids. They had to stop in and see David's sister and get the keys to the mountain house, so they rolled up in their big-ass Suburban at around 5 or so. We finished loading up both cars and hit the road, just as a snowstorm started to hit the mountains -- right in our path. The weather was so bad that the authorities were closing the mountain passes. We were lucky in that we managed to make it through before the routes were cut off behind us, but not so lucky that the drive wasn't a nice, hairy, white-knuckled experience (particularly for Rich and David, our trusty chauffeurs), complete with hungry children, crying children, inquisitive children, and tired adults.

But, we finally made it to Vail and the house was gorgeous (though lacking cell service, meaning I couldn't get online the entire time -- very frightening for an internet addict like me). It was a log cabin on a river right in front of the mountains, with a massive fire place and insanely comfy beds. We were well stocked with food and, most importantly, alcohol.

Our cozy fireplace

The view out the back door

The skiing on Friday was decent, but it took us awhile to get out the door and get organized, especially getting the 5 children situated in either ski school or day care, so it was late by the time we hit the slopes. Plus the light was bad -- very flat, making it difficult to see the snow. It was the Friday of spring break, meaning it was crowded. Add that to the fact that it took us awhile to get our ski legs under us, and it made for a relatively fun (it's hard not to have fun skiing) but exhausting day.

Saturday, however, was sublime. It was seriously as great a day of skiing as I've ever had. The morning scramble to get the kids delivered to their respective destinations was a million times easier and more efficient, so we were on the mountain by 10 in the morning, and amazingly, we practically had the entire place to ourselves. I guess Saturday was a travel day for most people, so the lift lines were short. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the winds were mild, the light was good, and we took run after run of wide open, smooth slopes. So, so, so much fun.

the view from the top of the slopes

I did miss my boys. But I talked to Jason every day and they were fine. Jason managed to hear Zeke when he needed to get up at night (I think he slept on the floor of Zeke's room), and they visited friends and went to the beach and watched rugby and had a grand time together. Which is wonderful for both of them.

A little too wonderful.

Because when they picked me up at the airport, I made a beeline for Zeke, and was holding him and giving him kisses when he completely lost his shit. Not just normal "waaah" crying, but hysterical, panicked, "get me away from this terrifying lady" crying, accompanied by squirming and reaching for Jason. The kind of crying that was making people look over and wonder what kind of abuse I was inflicting on this poor child.

He recovered, and when I gave him a bath and put him to bed, he was his normal, smiley self. But it took him a little while to remember who I was, which was very disconcerting. So he's stuck with me for a while...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Letting go

Tonight I'm leaving for Colorado without my husband or my baby. I haven't been away from either of them since Zeke was born, and I'm having a difficult time accepting the fact that Jason is perfectly competent to take care of both of them and that they will be fine without me.

I am spending today doing everything I can think of to make Jason's life easier over the next four days. As I type this, I've got a pot roast and a lasagna cooking, and later I'll make a batch of puttanesca sauce so that he'll have plenty of food at his fingertips and won't have to worry about cooking. I've folded all of the laundry, shampoo'd the rugs, taken the cars to have their oil changed, and made a comprehensive list of phone numbers, insurance IDs, doctors, and bank PINs.

And now I need to get over it. Jason will be fine. Zeke will be fine. The only one I'm not sure about is me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Condiments

Australia is a wonderful country. Its people are friendly, funny, and unpretentious. It's a place with wonderful cuisine -- incredible wines, wonderful local produce, dairy and meats. Eating there is a treat.

Which makes it all the more baffling that Australians feel compelled to slather condiments over every fucking thing they eat.

Jason's sauces of choice are Sriracha chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup (or, as he calls it, "toh-mah-to sauuuce," pronounced like "source," only without the "r"). He puts them on sandwiches, chicken dishes, pizza, eggs, steak, stews, rice and beans, you name it. Sometimes he uses just one or two, sometimes all three in combination.

It drives me crazy.

"Why?" you ask. "It seems like an insignificant thing to get fussed about."

True, it does seem insignificant. And I am a relatively laid-back person. To each his own and all that.

Except for the fact that I really like to cook, and I put a huge amount of effort into my dishes, making seasonings and sauces that are a delicate combination of ingredients. And if you give it a taste and decide that it needs a little more salt or pepper, that's fine. But if you slather it with chili sauce, it's only going to taste like chili sauce no matter what, so all of my work has been for naught.

Last night I made chicken piccata, one of my favorite dishes. The chicken part is relatively simple, but the sauce is a combination of chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, butter and parsley that's just scrumptious.

When Jason got home from work, we started to sit down to dinner, but not before he went to the fridge and got out his bottle of chili sauce.

I lost it. "Goddammit, I swear if you put a drop of that shit on this food, I will take it away and serve you nothing but Spam from now on. What's the point of going to all of this trouble cooking if it's all going to taste like fucking chili sauce?"

His eyes got really big. "I was going to taste it first without the chili."

"I don't care. It's such an overpowering flavor that I could have served you a plate of dog food and it would taste the same."

He got up and put the chili sauce away. He sat down and ate the piccata.

"This is delicious."

"Thank you. I'm glad you like it."

When he finished what was on his plate, he asked in a small voice, "is it OK if I have a couple of chicken cutlets without the piccata sauce so I can put chili on it?"

"Yes."

Marriage is all about compromise. And condiments, if you're married to an Aussie.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Another romantic exchange

The room is very dark.

"Good night, sweetie."

"WHAT?!?" he exclaims, as if I'd just told him to stick his pillow up his mud-button.

"Um, good night? What did you think I said? Jesus. You just said, 'what' as if to say, 'how dare you, you saucy wench??'"

We both start to giggle.

I move over to try to find his mouth to kiss him goodnight, but as I said, it's very dark. I accidentally stick my nose in his eye and then I move in to kiss him, but he's laughing, and as my lips touch his, he kind of guffaws and blows a raspberry right into my mouth. The shock of it makes me snap my head back and smash it on the wall.

"Ow! Holy crap, you just spit into my mouth!"

"Well, it had some toothpaste remnants, so it'll do you good."

Now we're both wheezing with laughter. I try again to kiss him goodnight, but every time I get close we both bust out laughing all over again.

Finally, I give up.

"Ah, fuck it. Good night, babe. Love you."

"Love you too."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I really thought I'd have at least a few more months before it started...

Tonight Zeke spent his entire bath with his hand on his balls, grinning from ear to ear the whole time. *sigh*

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Muse

Most other lawyers find this hard to believe, but I love legal writing, particularly big briefs that analyze the whole case, pick apart all of the evidence, and present the big picture for the court. It's like a puzzle. It's incredibly satisfying to be struggling to respond to an argument the other side makes, and then suddenly you find that smoking gun, that document or that piece of testimony they've overlooked, that blows their theory out the water. Or a way to explain the law to the court in a way that makes it obvious that the other side is full of shit. It's a huge rush for me.

I'm very competitive by nature, and that level of competitiveness is fueled by the type of law practice I'm in. Special education litigation is, for obvious reasons, emotionally charged. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have a disabled child. Parents and their lawyers tend to vilify the school side and their lawyers (I have been personally sued by a parent/attorney who felt that in representing my school district client, I was deliberately discriminating against her child), so their pleadings tend to be full of accusations about how evil and heartless the school districts and their counsel are. As if we sit around thinking of new and creative ways to screw poor little crippled children out of the educational services they're entitled to, as we cackle wildly and rub our hands with glee. Throw in the stress inherent in litigation, and you've got yourself a nice stew of contentiousness.

Earlier this week I was suffering from writer's block. I've been working on a big brief in a big case for work, and even though I knew exactly what the brief needed to say, I got mentally locked up. I couldn't decide how to organize the thing, whether to focus on one argument or another, and how to incorporate another part of the case that isn't the point of the brief but needs to be mentioned all the same.

It happens from time to time. My role in my firm is The Writer -- I do all of the appellate briefing and most of the trial briefing as well. And on bigger briefs that take a long time, sometimes I'll get so into it that I'm too close. I just need to step away for half a day or so and whatever it was that was confounding me resolves itself. And then The Muse is with me again.

The Muse is what makes lawyering fun. The Muse takes me effortlessly from argument to argument, helps me find just the right way to phrase things, to emphasize law and evidence, and to make it all accessible to a judge who will never understand special education law (which is complicated and difficult) as well as I do.

In typical fashion, the other side's pleadings in the case I'm working on have been full of vitriol and hyperbole, if not much substance. I knew exactly how to respond on the merits, but I was having trouble with the organization.

But then yesterday the smoke cleared, the Muse appeared, and all of a sudden I was rolling. The organizational issues resolved themselves with ease. New ways of demonstrating the inanity of the other side's arguments were popping into my brain almost faster than I could process them. I finished the brief, feeling fired up and ready to do battle.

Which is the one problem with The Muse. She appears when you need her, but then she doesn't leave. I'm still feeling fired up and ready to battle, wanting to write write write... but I'm done.

I guess I'll clean my office.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A dilemma

In a move that can only be described as "dickish" (and that's a generous characterization), Jason's foreman informed him that if he takes next Thursday off to go to Colorado (which he would have to do, obviously, since it would be impossible for him to go to work and be in Colorado), then there's a decent chance he'd get fired. Apparently, his company is laying guys off these days and looking for anything to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in terms of making the decision. So he can't take the trip, which sucks.

The question becomes, should I go, and if so, should I take Zeke?

In favor of going with Zeke are:

  1. I really want to take the trip, and I'd miss him terribly if I were away from him for 4 days.
  2. It would be easier for me to take care of him because I'll be with a houseful of other adults, so I'd have help, whereas Jason would have him by himself for 4 days, which is alot of work.
  3. He'll get to meet his cousins. But of course, he doesn't know what a "cousin" is, so I'm not sure if that's such a bonus for him, especially since he won't remember it. Maybe the benefit is to me, in that I get to show off my gorgeous baby to my cousins.
In favor of leaving Zeke with Jason are:
  1. He's still battling his ear infection, and while it's likely to clear up by then, flying with him and then taking him to altitude could easily exacerbate whatever is going on in his little head. Having a sick baby sucks. Having to travel with a sick baby is exponentially worse.
  2. I could actually sleep for more than 2 hours at a time.
  3. Jason would get some quality time with his boy.
  4. I would save the cost of daycare at Vail (required if I'm going to ski - and I am), which is insanely expensive.
  5. I wouldn't have to deal with the hassle of flying with an infant (as much as I happen to love said infant), healthy or not.
  6. Did I mention the sleep?
In favor of not taking the trip at all is that we can just bank the tickets and use them together as a family at some later point.

I'm leaning against that last one.

Oh, the things I have to teach him...

Last night during his bath, Zeke was playing with one of his rubber duckies. And by "playing," I mean he was trying to chew on it, which is pretty much how he plays with anything these days, be it a toy, his clothes, his hands, my hands, whatever. Teething is definitely coming hurling down the pike. (Speaking of, I had the creepiest dream that he all of a sudden had these tiny little sharp pointy teeth, not only in his mouth, but coming out of other parts of his body as well. Ew.)

Anyway, he was having trouble because this particular rubber duckie is too big for him to chew on easily. So I switched it out for a smaller rubber duckie, one that is small enough to chew on comfortably but not so small that he could stuff the entire thing in his mouth and choke.

He immediately stuffed the duck's head in his mouth and bit down.

I said, "that's right, Zekey, bite the duck's head off! Pretend you're Ozzy Osbourne!" Then I made a growling noise.

Zeke just looked at me blankly. I guess he didn't get the reference.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Swan Lake Acrobatics

This was posted over at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. One of the most astounding things I've ever seen -- I felt compelled to post it here.

It's a good thing I like puppies

Yesterday we downloaded Skype so that we can talk to our international friends and relatives cheaply and easily. After picking Zeke up at school, we stopped at Walmart to get a headset. We also decided to go whole hog and get a webcam so we could do video chats. It's so 21st century -- I fucking love technology.

Later that night, Jason came into my office while I was installing the various software programs. I could tell that his first thought on seeing the accoutrements was "oooh! toys!!"

First he put on the headset and started pretending he was Mission Control for the space shuttle, then a soldier in battle directing his troops, then a football coach calling plays. He even used a pair of Zeke's socks to throw a challenge flag for an imaginary bad call he didn't like. Once the webcam was up and running and there was a picture of us on the computer screen, he started doing the "descending an escalator" trick, then making funny faces at the camera, then moving back and forth behind me as if he were walking through a crowd of people.

Sometimes I feel like I'm married to a puppy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Transplants

In the last year, two of my best friends and I, all independently of each other, up and moved to new, unfamiliar places.

My friend Elizabeth recently got engaged, got married and moved from Atlanta to Norway with her new husband, all in the span of 8 weeks. Kathleen and her family moved from Atlanta to Denver last year. And obviously, I'm in Hawaii.

Elizabeth just got to Norway, so let's give her a chance to see how she feels. In the meantime, she started a new blog to chronicle her adventures, so check out Striped Socks and Skinny Jeans and make her feel welcome.

Kathleen and I are having a hard time. Not that we go through our days moping and crying -- at least, most days I don't. As I've said, the activities and interactions of daily living foster a certain unavoidable level of engagement with the world, and that's a good thing.

But we miss having girlfriends around. Yes, we love our husbands and children, but there's something about having a posse of women to bitch with, drink wine or margaritas with, engage in bawdy talk with, that's just so comforting, gratifying and fulfilling. (And truthfully, I think when we say we miss having girlfriends around, what we're really saying is we miss having each other around -- we fantasize about eventually having each of our families occupy half of a really nice duplex, while she and I established a special education boutique law practice together. Seriously, it could happen. Anyway.)

I really thought I would be better at this. After all, I spent my entire childhood moving around from one country to the next -- elementary school in Venezuela, middle school and high school in Israel, finishing high school in India -- and I loved it. It was mostly easy and fun. But of course, I was entering established diplomatic communities that were relatively self-contained, and I was in school, so there was a whole ready-made peer group.

I knew that coming here, knowing no one, it would not be like that. But I didn't really understand how difficult it would be, and how isolated I would feel, especially just having had a baby. It's so much harder to make close friends as an adult, and outside of some structured setting like school or work. I spend lots of time alone. It doesn't bother me most of the time, but sometimes I realize where I am physically - out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - and I feel very lonely. I hate that it takes some serious coin and long, pain-in-the-ass plane rides for my family to see my son. Or for me to see my nieces or cousins or grandparents. Or to see our friends. Or to travel anywhere (except another Hawaiian island). At least if I were on the mainland, I'd be able to get to people relatively easily and cheaply.

But, this is the deal Jason and I made, and truthfully, I see my family a hell of alot more than he sees his, so I shouldn't complain. And it's not like our lives are terrible by any means. We do live in a beautiful place that allows us to surf and hike and be outside all the time, and we are slowly meeting people and making new friends and feeling more at home.

In the meantime, next week we're going to Colorado to ski with Kathleen and her family and David and Michele and their brood. And the month after that, I'm taking Zeke back east to see his great-grandparents and then his uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents. And after that Jason's mom and grandpa are coming for a visit. A healthy dose of family and friends.

Still, there are times when I look around and think, "how did I get here? what am I doing?" I don't always know the answer. But there's nowhere to go but forward. Watching Zeke grow. My teaching gig at the law school. Improving my long-boarding skills, and maybe learning how to ride a short board.

And keeping my eye on the prize -- that duplex next door to Kathleen.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Good Mommy

It's an ear infection. Last night Zeke couldn't lie down to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time without crying in pain, so finally I gave in at around 1:30 in the morning and just sat in the chair holding him so that he could sleep upright. Then this morning he was nice and feverish, so I got him in to see the doctor, who confirmed that he's got infection in both ears. He's now on his third round of antibiotics in about a month and a half. The doc complimented me for seeing the signs and bringing him in right away, so he'll be fine by the time we go to Colorado (*knocks wood*).

There are few things more pitiful or more exhausting than dealing with a sick baby. They're too little to know what's wrong with them and why they feel so yucky, which is sad. And they're too little to stick in their beds with cartoons on and a pile of coloring books and instructions to drink their juice and get some sleep. Meaning I spent the day sitting on the couch holding him, with a damp washcloth cooling his forehead, while he alternately slept and whimpered in my arms. Mommy's tired.

He's now been asleep in his bed for about half an hour. Fingers crossed, but I have a feeling that it's going to be another long night...

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bad mommy?

This morning Zeke woke up with a nose full of green snot. This is distressing not only because I don't want my little monkey to be sick, but also because we're leaving for Colorado in just under 2 weeks, and I don't want to take him on a plane and have him at altitude for 5 days if he's got sinus issues. Because sinus issues in babies generally lead to ear issues, and flying with an ear infection sucks ass. In fact, if he developed an ear infection, I wouldn't take the trip.

I sprayed some saline up his nose and sucked the boogers out with one of those baby snot-sucking bulbs. I took his temperature -- 99.5. Not great, but not terrible -- still less than a degree over normal. So I gave him some infant tylenol and took him to school.

Then I went surfing.

Kathleen called this a "veteran parenting move," i.e., I'm no longer a hysterical newbie who panics at the first sign of illness. Or it might be a euphemism for "you're an unfeeling asshole, going surfing while your kid is at school feeling like dog-shit."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A list

Last night we watched Zodiac, a decidedly mediocre movie that I ordered from Netflix because I'd heard decent things about it and because it's got a really good cast, particularly Robert Downey, Jr. It got me to thinking about all of the less-than-stellar movies I'd watched and enjoyed, notwithstanding their mediocrity, because of actors or actresses I love and would watch in anything.

The actors I would pay to watch even if they were just reading the phone book:
  • Russell Crowe -- he may be a grumpy asshole (and quite frankly, I kind of doubt it, I just think he's gotten a bad rap), but he's always compelling. Completely dedicated to his craft, makes great choices.
  • Robert Downey, Jr. -- crazy-talented, picks interesting roles, and as good a dramatic actor as he is, he's got incredible comic timing
  • Clive Owen -- has more screen presence that it should be legal for one person to possess
  • Ewan MacGregor -- always interesting to watch. No matter what he's doing, you can't take your eyes off him. Especially if he's naked. :)
  • Ryan Gosling -- intense, makes acting look effortless, huge range
The actors I wouldn't pay to watch even if the movie won the "Greatest Film in the History of the Universe" Award and resulted in a cure for both cancer and AIDS:
  • Tom Cruise -- creepy creepy creepy. Whatever he's doing on screen, I just don't buy it.
  • Mel Gibson -- creepy anti-semitic drunken asshole. And not a good actor. And not all that good looking, either. And did I mention he creeps me out?
  • Robin Williams in a comedic role -- I think he's good in dramatic stuff (e.g., Good Will Hunting), but shit like Patch Adams and all of that other goofbally crap makes me vomit. He's not funny. His frenetic comedic style makes me want to lie down in a dark room with a damp washcloth over my eyes.
  • Billy Crystal in a movie in which he takes his shirt off -- which is most of them. Dude, your bald chest is creepy. Just stop it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Surfus Interruptus

"Hey, baby, how's your day looking? Want to meet me for a surf before we go pick up the boy?"

"Sure, that sounds great. I'll meet you at White Plains at 3:40."

"OK, see you then. Love you. Bye."

We meet at the beach. He walks over to my car and from my vantage point, it looks like he's getting something out of the trunk. I get out, toss my purse in the trunk of my car, and then walk over to the van to help him take the boards out. I lock my car, then I put my keys in the back of the van.

He says, "go ahead, I'm going to wax my board, I'll meet you out there."

I head for the beach. A few minutes later he joins me. We check out the water, figure out where the good waves are breaking and where the rip tide is (so we know to avoid it), and start paddling out. It's a bit windy and the water is choppy, but we each catch a couple of decent waves.

Half an hour later, we head in so we can go home, put on dry clothes, and head up to Zeke's school. We're happy as clams. La la la.

"Do you have your key?" he asks me.

I feel a flush of panic. "No, my keys are in your van. Where's your key?"

"In the trunk of your car."

"You're bullshitting me."

"I swear I'm not."

Fuuuuuck. And just like that, the surf buzz, she is dead.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bonding over Kris Kristofferson

I've always had a pretty good singing voice, and have used it in everything from school choruses to talent shows to a bluegrass band that I was in for a couple of years. I always harbored a secret fantasy that I could make money singing, but it doesn't look like that's going to come to pass.

But as satisfying as I imagine it would be to be a professional singer, I'm finding I'm getting just as much satisfaction from the fact that my baby boy loves my voice.

Mondays and Wednesdays Jason has school after work, so he doesn't get home until after Zeke goes to bed. So those are our special mommy-baby nights.

Tonight we went for a walk in the stroller (and for the first time, Zekey rode in the front sitting up like a big boy, rather than in the car seat attachment), and we enjoyed the balmy weather and the pretty sunset. He discovered that he looooooves pears, and he practically sucked down the mashed pears and rice cereal I fed him, smiling and gurgling the whole time. We had a marvelous time during his bath, as he splashed and grinned and laughed when I squirted him with the ducky toy. He got a nice lotion massage before putting on his jammies, and then we settled into the rocker to go to sleep.

He was lying in my arms sucking on his bottle, eyes at half-mast, and I started to sing to him. A lullaby from U2's Unforgettable Fire album, then a couple of bluegrass gospel standards (Angel Band and Drifting Too Far From the Shore), and then Me and Bobby McGee. When I've sung it on stage, I've done the Janis Joplin cover version, but it's too frenetic for bedtime, so when I sing it to Zeke, I do the original Kris Kristofferson version, which is much slower and more melancholy.

When I got to the chorus, Zeke looked up at me and suddenly gave me this huge grin and made a happy little squeal. I couldn't help but smile back, but I kept singing, so we sat there gazing at each other as I finished the song, and he cooed and smiled and gave me the most adoring look. After a minute or so, he sighed deeply, buried his face in my chest, and closed his eyes to go to sleep. I felt so loving and content, I could have rocked him and gazed at his beautiful face all night.

Kathleen once said that as much as you're blown away by your love for your child, what really blows you away is how much they love you. I've seen it in the way Zeke looks at Jason sometimes -- Jason will talk to him and Zeke will reach up and touch Jason's face and smile and make these sweet noises.

And he smiles at me and responds to me all the time, but when we had that little moment tonight, I felt like I could really see all of the love he had for me in his eyes and his smile, and it made me just about melt.


Jason feels the baby love

Naches from kinder

Last night we went to a party at the home of our friends Janet and Sean, the couple we met at the Passover seder when we first moved here last year. Sean is in the Army and just got promoted to "full bird" colonel, and he and his wife threw a big bash at their house celebrating it. It was a blast, we met some really cool people, we had many drinks (Zeke had a babysitter so we got to throw down a little bit), we swam in the pool, we ate yummy food.

And we heard about Sean doing one of the coolest, nicest things for his dad.

Sean's dad, Robert, just turned 86. He served during World War II in the Naval Construction Brigade (the "SeaBees"), and received a medal commemorating his service in the Asia-Pacific theater. But the problem was, he never actually got the physical medal. It was just noted on his discharge papers.

Sean found out about this, and secretly arranged to have the actual medal prepared for his dad, along with a commendation from the President. Plus, when the guys from the SeaBees found out, they were so excited that they had a beautiful wooden plaque made for Robert out of Hawaiian koa wood.

At the promotion ceremony, Sean received his honors and got up to say a few words. After thanking his family, friends, etc., he ordered Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert ______ to present himself. His dad was understandably confused, but finally went up and stood before Sean. At which point, the belated medal was (finally) presented, the full commendation from the President read aloud, and the commemorative plaque presented by the SeaBees.

And of course, Sean's mom was plotzing with joy and his dad was chuffed beyond belief and everyone said it was one of the coolest, most memorable things they had ever witnessed.

At the party last night, Jason and I talked to Sean's parents, and they couldn't have been happier. They showed off the medal and the plaque (which was gorgeous), and seemed like they were about to burst with joy. It was just so wonderful, and it made me feel all goopy and warm knowing that their son had made them so proud and also that he had made them feel so loved.

In Yiddish, the term "naches from kinder" refers to the immense joy parents receive when their children do something to make them proud. Sean, my friend, you are a source of naches.*

Well done, Colonel.

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*The "ch" in naches is pronounced as a gutteral "h", like the noise you make when you're clearing your throat.