Thursday, December 23, 2010

The rocking chair

My life is not peaceful these days.  I'm not saying it's bad or unpleasant, but it's not peaceful.  My daily schedule is jam-packed and I'm up early and getting everyone dressed and fed and organized and making daycare drop-offs and then coming back to catch the bus to work and then working and then coming home to wrangle everyone until bedtime.  It's exhausting.  It doesn't leave a lot of opportunity to reflect or appreciate or even just feel, in a conscious and deliberate way, the intensity of the love that I feel for my family (particularly when they're driving me nuts and annoying the shit out of me).

I feel like it's bad to admit that I'm not always feeling the love.  It's not that I don't always love them -- I absolutely do.  But the feeling doesn't really permeate every waking moment when I'm careening from task to task and just trying to keep my life from spinning completely out of control.

The moments when I experience the proverbial loving feeling tend to occur in a particular place.

Before Zeke was born and we were stocking up on baby gear, I, like a million other soon-to-be mommies, purchased a rocking chair.  This particular type is actually referred to as a "glider," because it doesn't so much rock back and forth on a fixed curved base so much as glide forwards and backwards on a hinge that attaches to a fixed flat base.  But I never use the term "glider" -- it's a rocking chair.
This is just a stock photo I found on Google, but this is essentially what my rocker looks like.
Because furniture in Hawaii is crazy-expensive to either buy locally or ship in from elsewhere, we got our rocker on the cheap.  I went to the crappy local K-Mart in Kapolei, which I hated but it was close and the only other reasonable option was the crappy local WalMart in Waipio, which I also hated.  In their baby section, they had a basic white glider (with ottoman) for $89.  The cushions were thin and covered with a flimsy blue fabric, but it did the job (and when I got tired of the cushions, I simply covered them with a sturdier fabric that I liked).  I figured, it's functional, it serves a specific purpose and I'll only have it for a few years until the kids get a little older, then I'll get rid of it.

But I can't imagine getting rid of it now.  It is where I have had, and continue to have, my most intensely loving, focused, peaceful moments with my children.  The moments when everything calms down and I can just be with them and care for them and tune out all the noise.  Rocking and singing Zeke to sleep as a baby.  Calming Zeke down last week when he had a huge day, didn't nap and completely lost his mind from exhaustion at around 7:00 at night.  I finally got him to stop crying by sitting with him in the rocking chair and singing him a soothing song, at which point he fell asleep with his head on my shoulder and was out for the night.

The other night Josie was having a rough time.  Her daycare is closed for the last two weeks of December and she had spent the day with a babysitter and her schedule was off.  She was fussy and teething and nothing could make her happy, and she worked herself into such a state that there was nothing to do but let her cry and work herself out of it.  I carried her into the guest room, left the lights off and started walking the floor with her as I sang "Goodnight Irene" and "Angel Band."

She finally stopped crying and let me cradle her while she sucked on her fingers.  After about 15 minutes I went back into her room and sat in the rocker with her.  I sang a little bit but then as she became calmer and her eyes drooped I just held her close.  We sat looking at each other listening to the sound of the humidifier and the rhythm of the rocker.  She reached her hand up and caressed my face as I whispered to her.  I thought about how beautiful and sweet she is.  I wondered what she would look like when she got older.  I felt my heart almost burst out of my chest with intense love for her.  I felt blessed.  Long after the point when I knew I could put her in bed and she'd put herself to sleep without a fight, I stayed with her, just sitting and rocking.  Finally, I put her in her crib and she rolled over and went to sleep.

The rocker is definitely looking worse for the wear these days.  The fabric that I covered it with about two years ago is looking dingy and the cushions are lumpy and saggy.  But I'll just recover it again, maybe get some new foam.

I'm keeping the rocker for a while.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In which I pitch up a softball and he hits it out of the park

We're sitting in our bed hanging out with Zeke before bedtime.  I'm reading to Zeke while J lies there and listens.  Zeke has had an awesome day -- great progress report at school, minimal fussing, happy and sweet and lovely to be around.  We're enjoying each others' company.

As we lie there snuggling and reading, J rips a series of outrageous farts.  With the first one, I give him a look, like, "seriously?"

With the second, I exclaim, "Jeeeeez, dude!"

"Oh, come on," he scoffs, as if to suggest that I'm somehow overreacting.

Without thinking for a second about the words coming out of my mouth, I respond, "Please!  Don't 'come on' me!"

His eyes widen, he bursts out laughing and without missing a beat yells, "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!"*

*As we sit there laughing hysterically, Zeke is grinning and looking back and forth between us, unclear of what the joke is.  "What's funny, Mama?" "Oh, uhhhh ....... we're laughing because Daddy tooted."  He proceeds to lose his shit laughing as well.  God, I love that kid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


We have a ghost in our house.

Mind you, I don't believe in ghosts.  I used to work with a woman who insisted her house was haunted and that her ghost would do weird things like rearrange her glassware in her cupboards during the night.  I would smile and nod, but I always felt like there had to be some non-ghost explanation for things that maybe she was overlooking.

But then we started hearing footsteps in the house at night, noises that were louder and more defined than just "old house settling" noises.  And we would get up and there would be no one there.  But J and I each heard the noises, without question.

Then one night, my white noise machine next to my bed suddenly turned itself on in the middle of the night.  It came on much louder than I ever play it.  When I tried to turn it off or turn the sound down, none of the buttons or knobs would respond. 

This has happened a few times now.

Things will go missing and we'll spend hours or days looking for them only to have them turn up in plain sight, in a place where neither J nor I could have possibly missed them.  Like my keys, for example.  I have a set of keys on a red rubber stretchy wrist-band.  The red band is very bright and distinctive, making it easy to spot in a bag or whereever.  When I come in the house, I always put the keys either on the bench by the front door or on a little hook under the cabinet in the kitchen. 

And then one morning, I couldn't find them anywhere.   I looked on every surface, on the key hooks, on the floor, in the sofa cushions, behind furniture, in every pocket of every bag and jacket and pair of pants.  They were nowhere to be found.  I looked for them for days.

Finally, last week I gave up looking and went to the hardware store and had new keys cut.

Two days ago when I came in the house, J said, "Hey, you found your keys." 

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"The keys you lost, the ones on the red stretchy thingy.  You found them."

"No, I didn't."

"But they're hanging from the key hook in the kitchen."

"They are??"

I went and looked.  There they were, innocently dangling from the hook where I had looked for them a hundred times in the past week.  J swears he never found them or put them there, I know I certainly didn't and neither of the children can reach that high.  No one else has been in the house.

Two nights ago I put my driver's license and ATM card on the top of my dresser.  That night, my noise machine turned itself on again.  In the morning, the driver's license was on the floor on the opposite side of the room from the dresser, and my bank card is nowhere to be found. 

I think our ghost is not malevolent, just playful and mischievous.  I just hope he or she doesn't have a big shopping jones to satisfy before my card is returned to me.

Monday, December 20, 2010


So, yeah. 

J went in on Friday and, as expected, was laid off.  Apparently, the guy who was such a dick about the whole workmans comp dealio is the one that he talked to.  J said he was super-nice about it, like they were best mates all of a sudden.  And told him that it's a "temporary" layoff, so that if they get some work in the next 30 days or whatever, he'll be the first one they call up.

Mighty white of them, I say.  Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.

In any event, as far as J starting his own business goes, no time like the present, right?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday ramblings

I'm home sick and feeling like dog shit.  I have all of the joy of coughing up a lung and having my sinuses swollen and impassible, plus dizziness.  Whee.

I woke up really woozy at around midnight and couldn't get back to sleep, but getting up and doing anything left me really wobbly.  So I stayed in bed and practiced what I call "brain mining" -- trying to delve into the recesses of my noodle and see how far back in my life I can remember and what random memories I can dredge up.  I'll do things like mentally tour all the houses I've lived in, trace the route from each house to each school I attended, try to come up with the names of old friends and roommates and boyfriends, go back through old phone numbers and addresses, try to visualize every Thanksgiving dinner I've had, stuff like that.  It's kind of trippy.  I'm terrified of getting Alzheimer's, so in addition to constantly doing crosswords and Sudoku, I feel like brain mining exercises my synapses and helps ward off dementia.

I'd like to be able to get some sleep, but my brain seems to be rebelling against that notion these days.  I'll get these episodes that feel almost but not quite like panic attacks.  It's not the cold flush through my torso or tightening of my chest, but almost like my head is being slightly electrified -- there's a buzzing and a sensation like my cells are expanding, if that makes any sense. 

I dunno.  Maybe I'm nuts.  In any event, I started thinking about Michael Jackson and how he died from an overdose of Propofol, the drug that anesthesiologists use when they put you to sleep during surgery.  Apparently he suffered from horrible insomnia and was desperate for a decent night's sleep.  I can totally relate.

In the meantime, I'm home in bed, feeling queasy, doing some reading and going through AMC's Christmas movie lineup (when TNT isn't showing Law & Order reruns).  They showed You've Got Mail, which I never thought of as a Christmas movie.  I never liked the movie anyway, but watching it - or rather, having it on in the background while I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself -- made me realize that Meg Ryan plays the same uptight bitch in every romantic comedy she's in (including When Harry Met Sally, which I love notwithstanding that its two main characters are totally unlikeable).  I don't get her appeal at all.

J's supposed to go back to work on Monday.  Except that when he called in to touch base and find out where he's supposed to go, they asked him to come in this afternoon so they could talk to him.  Which means he's probably getting fired.  So now we've got that hanging over our heads.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

They said "Show and Tell," so he did

Every Monday at Zeke's school, they do show-and-tell.  Of course, we didn't even know about it for the first few weeks, then it would hit me on Wednesday that I had forgotten about show-and-tell, then I finally started remembering.

I'm not as dumb as I look, people.  You give me a task and I'll figure it out eventually.

Last week, I asked Zeke what he wanted to take to school for show-and-tell.  He picked out one of his whiz-bang trucks that has flashing lights and makes noise.  I put it in the car when we loaded up to head to school on Monday morning.

But given that living with him these days is like living with a 14-year-old girl, with the mood swings and the totally irrational reaction to everything, when we got to school and I grabbed the truck to take inside, he yelled, "NOOOOOOO!"

"What?" I said.  "I thought you wanted to take your truck for show-and-tell."

"I don't want it.  I DON'T WANT IT!"

Heavy sigh from me.  "Well, is there something else you want to take?  Your dinosaur is here in the car, do you want to take that instead?"


"Jeez, you don't need to yell.  I don't care if you take anything or not.  But are you sure you don't want me to just give the truck to your teacher in case you change your mind?"


"Oh, for God's sake.  Fine."

So I left it in the car.

Turns out he had other plans. 

Another charming characteristic of being three is the total obsession with all things poop-, pee-, booty-, booby-, and other body-part-related.  So when it was time for show-and-tell, Zeke decided that that thing to do would be to show everyone his underpants.  I guess they do a scheduled bathroom break before show-and-tell, so he went into the bathroom, took off his underwear, put his pants back on, and then took his undies out to show everyone. 

I was telling a co-worker about this and she remarked that he's obviously really smart because his actions showed a level of planning and thinking ahead that is advanced for his age.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Honey vs. Vinegar

J is in the early stages of trying to start his own business.  He's tired of working for The Man -- who is an asshole -- and of being paid shit to do it.  A couple of his buddies from work are feeling the same, so they're thinking about starting their own shop.  I think they could do really well, particularly given that J seems capable of drumming up business without even realizing it.

He was at Home Depot the other day getting wood for our new headboard and was having a hard time fitting the plywood into the back of the truck (it was too wide).  Suddenly he hears this guy with a heavy New York accent say, "hey, buddy!  Need a hand?"

Long story short, the guy is a home inspector and contractor and is looking for a new electrician to work on his jobs, or to refer to inspection clients that need work done to bring their house up to code.  "My guy that did electrical work for me, he was a drinker.  ("A DREEN-kuh").  A real heavy drinker!  Took off on me!"  And now he wants J to be that guy. 

Then there was a lady in the neighborhood gathering signatures for a petition opposing a liquor store that is trying to open up across the street.  She wrangled J as he was coming out of Ace Hardware with the parts to wire up an outlet for our new dryer.  They started chatting, she asked about what he had bought at Ace, he explained that he was wiring an outlet, she warned him to be careful and he said, "no worries, I'm an electrician, I know what I'm doing," or something to that effect.  Then he signed her petition.

Later that night, we had been out somewhere and picked up the mail as we walked in the house.  There was a letter from the petition lady.  She's renovating the top floor of her house (she also owns a hundred-year-old beater like ours) and is looking for an electrician.  Oh, and by the way, she's also an architect and can refer clients needing electrical work.

So he's now got a decent-sized job for this lady, for which he will be charging enough to allow us to have a significantly nicer Christmas than we otherwise would have.  All because he's a friendly guy.

I should take a lesson from this, I know.  Because when the lady approached me about her petition the day before she met J, I asked, "what's the nature of the opposition to the petition?"  She responded (a bit huffily, if you ask me), "the nature of the opposition is that I don't want a liquor store in my neighborhood."  Thinking how convenient it would be to be able to dash across the street if I needed some cooking wine or a bottle to entertain guests or something, I said, "honestly, I don't really have a problem with it.  But good luck with your petition." 

I guess if she ever comes by the house to drop off a check or something, I'll hide.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wood Anniversary

For our fifth anniversary, for which the traditional gift is wood, we built ourselves a headboard.  We've had our bed for almost 4 years but have always just had it pushed against a wall.

We had a fifth anniversary and a parent's night at the daycare.  Bingo.

J built the frame and cut the plywood while I was at work on Friday.

While J took Zeke to a birthday party on Saturday, I bought upholstery foam, batting and fabric.  Saturday night, we assembled the headboard.

Putting the foam on the plywood.
Putting the batting over the foam.  And enjoying a little vino.
Laying the fabric over the base.

Attaching the headboard to the frame.

Drill, baby, drill.
Getting ready to drill holes to attach the headboard frame to the bedframe.
Finished product.  And a riot of stripes
All those hours watching the DIY Network pay off. 
 Happy anniversary, us!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Five years ago today...

I remember the day so vividly.  The early morning nervousness allayed by a long trip to 24 Hour Fitness and some makeup shopping with my mom.  Losing my shit while getting ready because I couldn't find any of my hair accoutrements, so Michele found everything for me and talked me off the ledge and did my hair.  The ride in the pretty car up the mountain.  Losing my shit again right before the ceremony and being talked off the ledge by the marriage celebrant, this cool lady with bright hennaed hair who was the kind of person that wore caftans and was into new age-y stuff.

But then I calmed down and the rest of the day was lovely, if exhausting.  My mom and dad walked me down the aisle.

J and I said our vows, which we wrote ourselves.  I think the picture below was taken at the part when I vowed to always make sure the house was well-stocked with vegemite.

After the ceremony, we hiked through the bush to a rocky ledge for pictures.

When we went back to the reception and were "introduced" as a married couple, it was to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger."

We had cake.

J picked the cake out -- layers of german chocolate cake with strips of white chocolate around the edges, decorated with native Australian flowers and our surfing couple cake topper.

I sang some bluegrass.

My Australian father-in-law, who also happens to be a bluegrass enthusiast, surprised me by inviting some bluegrass musicians that I had met and played with when I visited J in Australia in 2004. Having these guys show up and play (and let me sing with them) was seriously one of the coolest parts of an already wonderful night. In the picture above, I'm singing Old Home Place, one of my favorite bluegrass songs.
We danced.

And then, when the night was over, we got on with our lives. 

Five years seems like forever ago, but also like yesterday.  It's been a jam-packed five years, that's for sure.  Sometimes I've loved being married, sometimes I've looked back with intense longing on the days when I was single and childless, with lots of time and disposeable income at my fingertips.  Some days J and I get along great, other days I could happily put him on a plane back to Australia and tell him to never come back. 

But we do love each other, we do take care of each other, we've produced two beautiful, sweet children, and we continue to build our life together, step by step and day by day.  I guess that's what it's all about.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I don't ever remember believing in Santa Claus.  Not being Christian, and only sporadically observing December 25 as a day for celebrating or giving gifts (I'm more into the Elena Kagan way of observing Christmas), Santa Claus was never a big part of the traditions we observed growing up and I was so hyper-rational, even as a kid, that it never occurred to me to believe that Santa was an actual person who flew around the world handing out presents.  I mean seriously, what a ridiculous notion.

Our ecumenical household
At our house, we put up a tree because J wants to, but beyond that there isn't really any discussion of Christmas as a religious holiday or even of Santa or any of that stuff.  Zeke's exposure to Santa has only been either seeing pictures on TV or around the neighborhood or when someone dresses up and comes to his school once a year.

Turns out, he's afraid of him.

His first exposure was when he was 2 months old, and his reaction was equivocal, at best.  Last year he went to a "Breakfast with Santa" event and totally hated it.

"Who's this jamoke?"
Then yesterday at his new school they had a Christmas party, which J and I somehow didn't even know about (or else completely spaced on), so J arrived to pick him up in the afternoon only to discover that Zeke's the only kid without a parent there, and Zeke would barely talk to him and told him he's a "bad daddy." 


But anyway, when it was time for Santa, Zeke wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. 

Later that night he said, "Mama, I don't want Santa to come here."

"You don't?"


"Did he scare you?"

"Yes.  I don't like him.  He's weird."

This was my opening.

"Honey, Santa isn't really a person.  It's just pretend.  But if you don't want him here, then I will make sure he can't get in the house."

"Yes.  Keep him out.  He's weird."

Amen, son.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Potato, Po-tah-to. Also, how do I get into these conversations with a 3-year-old?

I have this beautiful ivory carved necklace that I inherited from my Grandma Ruth that looks like a figure of the Buddha (capitalize?  no?  I'm not sure.  Anyway.)  I wouldn't buy ivory, but Ruth had some beautiful ivory pieces from way back before anyone gave a second thought to the process by which it is extracted from animals, so I wear them because they make me feel connected to her. 

I think it's the Buddha.  I dunno.  Could just be a guy sitting around. 
But I have always thought of it as Buddha.
Anyway, I'm wearing it today. 

When I was dropping Zeke off at school, as I picked him up to get him out of his car seat, he was right at eye level with my neck.

"What's that, Mama?"

"That's a necklace."

"Who's that man?"

"That's Buddha."

"Buddha?  Who's Buddha?"

How does one explain Buddha to a 3-year-old?

"Uhhh, he was a man who lived in India a long time ago who taught people about how to live peacefully and without fighting."


"Right, Buddha?"

"Who was Buddha?"

We're in a phase of repeating questions ad nauseum.  It's really fun.

"Like I told you, Buddha lived a long time ago and he taught people about his ideas of how to live properly and behave properly."

"And that's the man in your necklace?"


"Buddha buddha buddha!   Buddha buddha buddha!"

I think he just likes the word because it sounds like "booty."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Lock up your daughters

We're getting settled into our seats, me with Zeke and J with Josie in the row behind us.  I let Zeke take the window seat.  Zeke practices buckling his seat belt and I make sure that all of the essentials are in easy reach -- the DVD player, Zeke's DVDs, his Thomas backpack with books and toy trucks, the bag with the snacks.

I breathe a sigh of relief that we're on the plane and the stress of getting to the airport and getting through security is over.  As expected, all of the doomsday hype about endless security lines and body scanner boycotts was total bullshit, so we breezed through, got some breakfast when we got to the gate, and boarded without incident.

Don't get me wrong, getting through security still totally sucked.  I had Josie in a pack on my back, pushed Zeke in the stroller and carried a 47 ton carry-on in addition to Zeke's little backpack.  Because J is still recovering from his surgery, his only task was to carry Josie's car seat that she would be using on the plane.  The one consolation was that with me hobbling through the airport like an overused pack mule while J carried the equivalent of a feather, he got a lot of, "Jesus, what an asshole" looks.  To get through the security process, we had to collapse the stroller, get Josie out of the backpack and get everything onto the scanner belt, get everyone's jackets and shoes off, and then reassemble ourselves on the other side without losing either a child or our minds.  Honestly, the TSA people were so insanely nice and helpful that I don't think I could have made it without their assistance.  But in any event, that's what it's like flying with small children, regardless of whether it's Thanksgiving.

Anyway, we're finally on the plane.  We haven't taken off yet, so I don't want to start pulling out all of the toys and whatnot only to have to stow them for take-off, so we look out the window and count the planes and marvel at the construction equipment.  I take out the SkyMall catalog, which has a picture of a giant inflatable football player that I guess you're supposed to put out on your lawn on game day, and think, "this should be good for a few minutes worth of distraction before we get into the air."  So I give it to Zeke and we leaf through it and laugh at some of the silly things for sale.  He then takes it from me and sits with it in his lap and flips through it on his own.

A few minutes later, I look over and notice that he's been on one page for a while and is staring intently at one particular ad.  Of women in their underwear (it was an ad for a Spanx-like product -- body shapers, that sort of thing).  He's totally transfixed.

Nonchalantly, I ask, "hey, Zekey, what are you looking at?"

He points to a specific spot in the ad, gives me a big smile and says, "I'm looking at that lady's bum, Mama."


This is the ad that had him so absorbed.  Try to picture a little 3 year old squirt sitting in an airplane seat, his feet barely hanging over the edge, staring at a scantily clad woman while pointing one chubby finger at her booty.  I do have to give him props for having good taste, though.  Her ass is fabulous.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Is he doing it for the jokes?

Tim: Jerry, it's our sense of humor that sustained us as a people for 3000 years.
Jerry: 5000.
Tim: 5000, even better. Okay, Chrissie. Give me a schtickle of flouride.
-- Seinfeld, "The Yada Yada," original airdate 4/24/1997

I am Jewish.  A full-on Chosen Person, a Member of the Tribe descended on both sides from the Levites.  The real deal. 

My husband, on the other hand, is not.  Not that I care, obviously (particularly because as Judaism is matrilineal, our children are Jewish regardless of his affiliation or lack thereof).  But he continuously refers to himself as being Jewish as a result of marrying me ("I'm a Jew by proxy, baby"), or how he's really into certain holidays "since he became a Jew," that kind of thing.  I try to explain to him that we don't make it that easy for people to join up, we don't encourage conversion, that you don't become Jewish simply by marrying one, yada yada yada, but he is undaunted in his insistence to the contrary.

Coming from him, particularly with his Aussie accent, it can be quite hilarious.

Tonight is the first night of Hannukah, so J, being on short term disability leave while recovering from his hernia surgery, is the one that's home and available to run errands and "honey-do" items.  So I sent him off to the grocery store with a list including Hannukah candles and latke mix (I know, I know, I should grate the potatoes and make them from scratch, but honestly, my life is mishegas these days and I just don't have the time or the energy).

He sent me a text from the Target saying, "Target doesn't have ghannuka (sic) candles."

I called him and expressed incredulity and prodded him to ask someone (his ability to find something 3 inches in front of his face is appallingly bad), but he insisted that he had asked someone and that somehow, they carried menorahs but not candles.  I told him to try Safeway.* They didn't have any either.

"I'm sorry you're having such a hard time.  I'm really annoyed they're so hard to find -- you'd think it was some obscure religion and that no one in the world celebrates Hannukah.  Anyway, I appreciate you running all over town to get them," I told him.

"No worries, love.  It's all part of the oppression we've endured throughout history."

"Who's this 'we'?"

"You know.  Us Jews."


Anyway, Happy Hannukah, everyone.  Here's to beautiful lights, fried foods and religious freedom.  Not necessarily in that order.

*I called them and they told me they carry Shabbat (sabbath) candles but not Hannukah candles.  Whatever.  If I were a betting woman, I would wager a significant pile of cash that most Jews in the United States have never bought shabbat candles in their lives, but the good majority of them at the very least have jewed up for Hannukah by lighting Hannukah candles.