Friday, March 24, 2017

Tell me about it, dude

When Zeke was in his room getting dressed this morning, he pulled out the old "all about me" poster than Jason and I made for a daycare project when he was still a baby in Hawaii. It had been stashed behind Josie's dresser and I guess he never noticed it before now.

He and Josie and I looked over it, marveling at how cute he was.

"Awwwww, look at that picture of him as a tiny baby!" Josie cooed.

"I know, wasn't he adorable? That picture was taken the day he was born, when we were still in the hospital."

That led to a conversation about hospitals.

"Were you born in a hospital, Mama?"

"No, I was born in a clinic in Cyprus. It's like a doctor's office, much smaller than a hospital and without a lot of the services that most hospitals have."

"So you've never been in a hospital??"

They were incredulous.

"Of course I have, you silly monkeys. You were both born in hospitals, and I was there when you were both born, right?"

"Oh, yeah," Zeke said, kind of chuckling to himself.

"Plus I've had a few surgeries, and I was in hospitals for those."

"What kind of surgery did you have? Butt surgery?"

Nine year old boys. So predictable.

"As a matter of fact, yes. When I was your age, Zekey, I had a mole at the top of my butt-crack that the doctors didn't like the look of, so it was removed."

"Really??"

"Yes. And I had back surgery when I was 29, and then surgery to make my boobs smaller when I was 35."

Their eyes grew wide.

"WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?"

So I explained how the doctor did the surgery and showed them the very faint, barely visible scars that are left.

Zeke was gob-smacked.

"You had them made smaller?"

"Yep."

He shook his head.  "So they were even bigger than they are now?!?"

"Yep."

"Wow. Just wow."


Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday, Monday, can't trust that day

Let me start by saying that I think that bitching about Mondays, or doing something like responding to a "how are you" with something like, "well, I'm alive, which is all I can ask on a Monday," irritates the crap out of me. It's boring and demonstrates an utter lack of imagination or conversation skills. You will never hear me say anything in the neighborhood of "someone's got a case of the Mondays!"

Image result for someone got a case of the mondays gif

But good lord, today tested that.

My kids had a hard time falling asleep and thus had a hard time getting up and so the morning routine was a lot of "pleeeaaase, Mamaaaaaa ... five more minutes....." while I ran around getting them clothes and breakfast and then herding them out the door. I take great pride in the fact I pulled up to the school exactly as the bell was ringing.

In the meantime, I inadvertently outed myself to Zeke as the tooth fairy. He pulled out a loose tooth last night after I had fallen asleep. He came and showed me and told me about it, but I was half asleep during the conversation and went back to bed and promptly forgot about it. So when he woke up this morning and saw that his tooth was still under his pillow, he was all bummed, and I blurted out, "oh, honey, I'm so sorry, I forgot!"

D'oh!

"Mama, what do you mean? Is the tooth fairy not real? Is it parents?"

"Weeeeellll...." I sighed. "Did you really still believe in her?"

He's almost 10, for God's sake. I don't think I believed in the tooth fairy past the age of 5.

He shrugged, but looked defeated.

I'm an asshole.

Anyway, after dropping the kids off, I parked at home and got ready to catch the bus to work (I didn't have time to walk). But couldn't find the little plastic sleeve that holds my bus pass, my work ID, and my magnetized pass for my office building that lets me into our suite without a key.

I always place it in one of two places when I get home from work. It was in neither of those places. It wasn't in my bedroom, the bathroom, the laundry room, under furniture, on a bookshelf, in the kitchen, in any of my purses, in the pockets of any of my jackets, or in the car. I looked everywhere a million times and couldn't find it.

Meaning that I had to scrounge around to find exact change for the bus. I rarely have cash or exact change for anything. But after going through various baskets and junk drawers and old purses and the bottom of my backpack, I had $2.60 to get to work.

I walked outside, locking the door behind me.

"Shit, I forgot my coffee mug," I thought.

And then realized, as I headed back to the house, that I had locked my keys inside. And I had given the spare key to the cat sitter that I hired yesterday to take care of Scooby while we're in California for spring break.

At least I still had my phone. So I texted the cat sitter and asked her to please leave the key I had given her in the hiding spot so that I could get into the house later.

I went to work and began the process of replacing my various ID badges and my bus pass.

The building was able to issue me a new badge within minutes. But it cost $10 to replace it, so I was going to get some cash at the ATM.

But my wallet wasn't in my purse where I was sure I had put it.  The same wallet I had lost skiing at Vail a few weeks ago, so I had just gone through the hassle of replacing my driver's license and all of my cards.

And in addition to needing cash to get my passes replaced, I had a waxing appointment at noon, and I doubt my waxing lady would have been ok with an IOU.

At this point, I felt like I was losing my fucking mind. The thought of having to cancel and replace my cards again and show up at the DMV at 7 in the morning to replace my driver's license again was almost more than I could bear.

I scrounged around my office and managed to find another $2.60 to take the bus home.  The cat sitter hadn't been by yet, but then I remembered my neighbor has a key, and she happened to be home, so I got into the house. My keys and my wallet were sitting on the table.

I went to ATM at the market up the block to get cash, including money for bus fare.  But the ATM was broken.  So I went back home and went through couch cushions and coat pockets and found another $2.60 and took the bus back to work.

Finally, I got my building pass, went up to the state general services office for a new work ID, and then got the bus pass replaced.

Then I went and got waxed (the first of the spring - bathing suit season is approaching). It hurt.

So really, all is well and everything was fixable. Except the tooth fairy part. But he'll survive, right?

Long story short - holy shit, what a Monday morning.


Friday, March 17, 2017

I'll have what she's having

At first glance, I thought she was drinking out of a wine glass.

I was in the elevator at work at the end of the day, sharing a ride down to the lobby with a woman who looked to be about my age, maybe a few years older.  Turns out she was drinking water our of a clear water bottle, but for whatever reason - the way the light hit the water, who knows? - my eyes had played tricks on me at first.

Making conversation, I told her about my initial confusion. She laughed uproariously, and we had good chuckle as we walked out into the lobby together.

"Now, if it were Friday, you might be on to something!" she exclaimed.

"I hear you," I said. "Keep a flask in your bag to start the weekend early."

"Exactly. If it were Friday I'd be getting drunk."

I am not one to either "start the weekend early" in such a manner, nor do I generally drink on Friday nights, but again, I was making conversation.

"You know who has a great happy hour around here?" she continued. "That Lime place."

"Oh, you mean that Mexican place up by the movie theater? Yeah, I've been there. They have good margaritas," I recalled.

We headed out of the building and down the escalator to the street.

"Their drinks are strong!" she said.

"You know, I've only been there once, but I remember thinking that. You definitely get some bang for your buck."

"Yeah, that's not something I'm going to complain about, but I definitely noticed it."

I nodded in agreement.

She went on, "I was there last weekend with some folks after work. I got totally fucked up. Fell down and hurt my hip."

Why do complete strangers tell me things like this?

"Oh, that's terrible! Sounds paintful!" I responded.

"Yeah, I threw up. Pissed on myself and everything."

At this point I didn't have anything to say but "oooooh..."

"Yeah, but the guy still wanted to go home with me.  Well, bye! Have a good night!"

Indeed.





Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Stabbing monsters and dancing around poles on a perfect Colorado day


"Mama, are you still the 20 year old surfer chick named Tammy?"

Josie grinned up at me, a cheerful little Easter egg in her purple helmet, turquoise jacket, royal blue pants, and bright pink mittens.

We were at the top of the Strawberry Park Express Lift at Beaver Creek, getting ready to take one more run down the mountain before calling it a day.

And it had been an amazing day.

I had the kids for the weekend and the weather in the mountains was forecast to be beautiful, so I decided to take them skiing. They were excited to go, but they wanted me to teach them how to use poles.

I had been reluctant to teach them for a couple of reasons. First, I'm not a ski instructor. Second, I'm their mother. It is a truth universally acknowledged that children learning a new skill should learn from someone other than a parent. They're going to listen better - and have more fun - learning from some 25-year-old stoner named Tristan than from mom or dad.

But they really really really *please mama please* wanted to learn how to use poles, and ski lessons are expensive, and I figured I could give them the basics if they were willing to listen to me and not be all, "OKAY I HEARD YOU I'M DOING IT LEAVE ME ALONE!!" as they careened down the mountain doing the opposite of what I had instructed.

I decided that an alternate persona was in order.

"All right," I told them. "I will get you poles and teach you how to use them."

"YAAAAYYY!!"

"BUT..."

"What?"

"But we are going to treat this like a proper lesson. I am your ski instructor and I'm going to teach you what to do, and you are going to listen to me, do you understand? No arguing with me."

"Yes, Mama."

"And in order for it to be a proper ski lesson, I'm not going to be Mama."

"Who are you going to be?" They were intrigued.

"I'm a 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy. I'm spending the winter in Colorado as a ski instructor so I can make money to go surfing in Tahiti this summer."

"If you're a surfer, wouldn't it make more sense to be a snowboarding instructor?" Zeke asked.  They were already buying into the concept.

"Perhaps," I responded. "But I happen to ski as well as snowboard, so this winter I decided to teach skiing."

He shrugged agreeably.

We went to a ski rental place and got some poles for them. Places like that order cheap poles in bulk and include them in a ski rental package, so if you're going in just needing some poles, they will often give them to you for free or for a nominal charge.

The guy said, "sure, 'rent' the poles for the weekend. No problem."

"How much is it?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing, don't worry about it."

"Wow, that's great. Thank you! Do you need my name or contact info?"

"No."

"When do you need them back?"

"Whenever."

See what I mean?

It turned out the hardest part about skiing with poles was not losing them.

We parked and caught the shuttle bus to the lift. After we got off the bus and were buckling our boots and putting on mittens and such, Zeke said, "OH NO!!"

"What happened?"

"I left my poles on the bus."

"Oh for God's sake, Zeke."

"There's a rental place right there. Let's go get some more."

So we got some more. The guy charged me $5.

Later, Josie dropped one of her poles getting on the lift.  The liftie gave it to a guy on the chair behind us so he could give to us at the top. After having lunch, when we went outside to retrieve our gear, Zeke got confused about which poles were his and almost took the wrong ones.

Chair lift selfie. Miraculously, we all have our poles.
But the lesson itself went swimmingly. Skiingly?

"What's my name?"

"Tammy!"

"OK, kiddos. Here's what you do..."

And I showed them how to hold their arms out and to use the poles to guide their turns.

"Just kiss the tip of the pole to the snow..."

They followed my line down the hill, giggling and kissing.

"Mwah! Mwah!"

They thought it was hysterical. But they learned to do it properly,

Borrowing a trick from my friend Christin, I explained how to use poles on moguls.

"Pretend the top of the bump is the eye of an evil monster. You need to get around the monster, and in order to kill it, you need to stab it in the eye. So as you're going down, reach forward, stab your pole into the monster's eye, and then ski around it."

Zeke practiced a few times and proceeded to bomb down a black mogul run, woohoo-ing all the way.

"I think I nailed that one," he told me afterwards.

We used a different idea on steep groomers. Josie and I were at the top of a run with a pretty intense pitch, and she was nervous.

"Mamaaaaa..." 

Her voice wavered.

"I'm not Mama. I'm Tammy, remember?"

That made her laugh.

"You're going to do fine. Touch the pole to the snow and turn around it. Just dance around the pole. I'll be next to you the whole time, doing the same thing."

She took a deep breath, pointed her skis down the hill, and did exactly what I told her.

By the end of the day, she and Zeke were zipping through the trees, doing little jumps, and shaking their butts with glee as we explored the different parts of the mountain. Zeke even tried some tricks in the terrain park.

Blue skies, perfect temperatures, and beautiful vistas. And for some reason, Josie insisted on holding her poles up over her head like that every time I took her picture.
Finally, they were ready to go home.

"Mama, are you still the 20-year-old surfer chick named Tammy?"

"Yep, for a few more minutes," I answered.

"Well, Tammy, you're a good teacher."

"Thanks, chicklet. Let's head on down and you can show me your stuff."

We drove home, tired and happy, ready to call me "Mama" again.


Friday, March 03, 2017

A Jewish kid with a rosary walks into a bar...

I get a lot of phone calls from my mother while she's in various business class lounges in airports around the world. The other day it was from Melbourne, as she was getting ready to board a plane that would finally bring her back stateside after a two-week jaunt confabbing about international adoption through various countries in southeast Asia and Oceania.

I was relaying to her the email I got from Zeke's teacher about the difficulties he's having in school. Not with the content or curriculum, but with behaving. He's been defiant, argumentative, occasionally destructive (not majorly, but doing stupid shit like breaking pencils and ripping up assignments when he's pissed off), doesn't always focus on his work and is lazy about finishing it, and it's affecting his grades.

It's obviously very upsetting to me on a number of levels - I hate that he's having a hard time, I hate that he's being a dick to his teacher, who is really good with him. I also find it utterly bewildering. As a child (and throughout my entire educational career, actually), my self-worth and self-identification were very much immersed in living up to the expectations that my parents and my teachers had for me. I was lauded for being smart and good, for the teacher's plaudits during parent-teacher conferences that "she's such a pleasure to have in class," and I basked in that praise like a flower rotating to catch the rays of the sun. The notion of angrily rejecting a teacher's demands, or of not working hard enough to get good grades, was anathema to me. I would have sooner drunk a bottle of Windex than disappoint anyone.

But my son. My dear sweet, bright, exuberant, difficult son. My son who is so much more emotionally fragile than his sister or I are, with his mood swings and overdeveloped sense of righteousness. Lately he seems immune to such concerns.

The latest incident involved a rosary that he was wearing around his neck. He would get fidgety in class and take it off and start swinging it around, annoying the shit out of everyone in the vicinity and disrupting the teacher's ability to maintain order and keep everyone focused on their work.

He was repeatedly asked to stop. He didn't stop. He was told that if he didn't stop, the rosary would be taken away. He refused to hand it over. He was told to either hand it over or miss recess. He opted to miss recess. He yelled at his classmates and broke pencils and ripped papers and at one point when they were outside, took off his shoes and threw them at the wall.

The teacher gave him space to cool off, and he did. She then told him that he needed to write a letter of apology reflecting on his behavior, identifying different choices he could have made, and expressing contrition. He refused to do it in school, so he was told he could do it at home.

That's what prompted the email to me - she wanted to tell me what happened, but also ask for my support in making sure the letter was written. I told her that of course I would make sure it got done.

"Another thing I couldn't figure out is why the hell he was wearing a rosary, given that he's Jewish," I told my mom.

"Where would he have gotten it?" she asked.

"No idea."

"So what are you going to do?"

I sighed. "Make sure he writes the letter. Talk to him about what's going on with him, figure out if there's something bigger that's upsetting him."

"Oh, my poor Zekey," she said. "I hate that he's going through this."

"Me too. But I'll tell you what, that behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Whatever he may be dealing with emotionally, he can't act that way in school. He and I are going to sit down and have a real 'come-to-Jesus.'"

"Absolutely. Particularly if he's wearing a rosary."


Wednesday, March 01, 2017

It's all Greek to me

Growing up the way I did, my family and I were immersed in other cultures. We experienced non-American holidays. We traveled to far away places. We had friends from all over.  We learned languages.

My first language was Greek, though I don't remember any of it anymore. I still speak Spanish and though I was conversational in Hebrew when we lived in Israel during my early teens, I haven't retained it at all except for a few words (but I can still read it, oddly enough). 

My dad is also pretty good at languages, and he still speaks some Greek and Spanish. 

My dad is, shall we say, not a shy, retiring type. He is gregarious and talkative and likes to connect with people. He is a congregant in the church of finding common ground - you know that guy? He's a friend of mine! You're from that place? Hey, I've been there! You're Salvadoran? Let me speak to you in your language!

It's a wonderful quality. I am a sociable person, but it's not in my nature to strike up a conversation with strangers wherever I go. It makes me feel intrusive. My father, on the other hand, is more of a hail-fellow-well-met, unencumbered by an overdeveloped sense of embarrassment.

We like to go to Greek diners. There's one near my parents' house in Virginia that we go to for breakfast every Thanksgiving after the SOME Trot for Hunger. There are many near where I live, owned by a Greek guy who has a bunch of local diners and restaurants. We hit them up when we are all in New York City together.

And every damned time, my dad walks in and starts speaking Greek with the waiter, or the hostess, or the busboy, or whomever we happen to encounter. And almost every damned time, the person is from Guatemala or Minnesota or Long Island, and they have no fucking idea what he's talking about. 

My dad shrugs it off. It makes my brothers and me cringe. 

This past weekend I went to a play with my friend Christen, and we had dinner at a Mexican place beforehand. 

Our waiter was a young black-haired, olive-skinned guy who spoke with what sounded like a Hispanic accent. Denver has a large Hispanic community. We were in a Mexican restaurant. I felt like it wasn't a stretch to assume that he spoke Spanish.

When Christen ordered the chile relleno, the waiter asked if she wanted it crispy.

Bouncing with certainty and confidence, I asked, "como se dice "crispy" en espaƱol?"

He scowled at me and barked, "I have no idea."  I recoiled like a toddler who reaches for that second cookie, only to have her hand unceremoniously slapped away.

This is why I don't talk to strangers.

And apparently, I have become my father.