Someone Who Reads This

In a few weeks, this blog will be six years old.  Anniversaries always make me take stock, and when I think about where I was six years ago when I started this, or where I was when the planes hit the towers or where I was when Katrina stormed, those events make me realize how different I am now and at the same time how little I have changed.

If nothing else I find it remarkable – the things I once wrote about here, when I thought no one was reading.

Because lately when I sit down to write I seem to censor myself at every turn, for no other reason than because of someone who reads this.

I want to talk about my marriage and complain about my husband, but someone who reads this once changed his diapers and doesn’t want to hear about our sex life.

I want to swear like a sailor and talk about abortion, but someone who reads this is religious and will be offended.

I want to write funny posts with lots of exclamation points and THINGS THAT ARE CAPITALIZED but someone who reads this thinks that all my jokes are tired, that “amazeballs” should be banned in print form and that only Dooce is allowed to use capital letters.

I want to tell you what I thought about the books I read, but someone who reads this wrote one of those books or loved one of those books or thinks one of those books is insufferable sludge.

I want to tell you to come to the Blathering and then I want to make jokes about much wine we’ll be drinking, but The Blathering makes someone who reads this feel left out.  I want to tell you that the jokes about wine are just because I’m socially awkward and people make me nervous but then someone who reads this would know that I’m socially awkward and people make me nervous.

I want to complain about breastfeeding.  Then I want to talk about how much I love breastfeeding.  But we all know that’s the fastest way to offend someone who reads this.

I want to rail about “authenticity” and I want to tell you what I really think about the famous ladies of the internet, but someone who reads this thinks I’m just jealous, or that it’s my own damn fault I’m not a famous popular blogger or that I’m ugly or that I’m fat or that I smell and my blog sucks.

I want to vent about the dirty socks on the bedroom floor and the beer bottles I find every morning in the living room, but someone who reads this thinks I’m lucky to be married and that picking up socks is my job and that hearing about dirty socks is boring and that I should do something about my problems instead of just whining about them.

I want to write about how awful it was when we thought K Dub might have Down Syndrome, how scared I was, how frustrated I got with the people around me, but someone who reads this has a child with Down Syndrome and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  And someone else who reads this thinks the word “retard” is funny and that the world has just gotten too politically correct and we should all just chill out.

I want to write about how my brain feels like a ticking time bomb, how for the rest of my life every time something goes wrong I’ll wonder “Is this something that needs to be medicated?  Or is this something else?” but lots of someones who read this know me in every day life and that makes talking about my mental health awkward.

I want to talk about how days without naps are hard.  About how we can’t afford preschool and I am not sure what to do about it.  How I have been waiting two months for a three hour stretch where I can just relax and how it doesn’t help when you tell me I’m just not going to get that.  But  someone who reads this thinks I am a terrible parent.  Someone who reads this can’t have children and doesn’t want to hear me complain about the ones I was blessed with.  Someone who reads this thinks I’m lazy.  Someone who reads this is thinking I should just get a real job.

Someone who reads this thinks I am a terrible writer.  Someone who reads this can’t believe I talk about my life on the internet where anyone can read about it.  Someone who reads this thinks my children are homely, that my feet smell, that I’m pretentious and boring and all I ever do is complain.

I want to complain about my neighbors, but someone who reads this could BE my neighbors.

Someone who reads this thinks I’m mean.  Someone who reads this wonders why I never respond to comments.  Someone who reads this can’t believe I once put my baby on top of a running dryer.  Someone who reads this would never give her baby Zantac.  Someone who reads this has a child much sicker than mine, a life much harder, a day much longer, a problem much larger, a plate more full.

I write here for a simple reason, and it is the same reason I have always written things down.  I write because I must.  It’s something I have to do, like breathing or eating or sleeping.  I’ve got these words, and they have to come out.  But lately these words of mine knock around my head and when I go to put them down, I think first of someone who reads this, and the words stick, and will not leave.

And I am just not sure how to fix that.

Still Fighting

I wrote this for Maggie’s writing group, which has already been a really interesting and helpful experience.  You would not think that sitting down to write something that’s not a blog post would be that much different from blogging, but it is.  Funny.

*********************

She spends all morning at war.

They fight over a muffin, and how much of it he has to eat.  They fight over bath time, and whether or not he has to take one, and then whether or not he has to get out, and then whether or not he can use a blanket to dry himself off.  They fight over getting dressed, the longest battle of the morning, because he won’t put on his own pants and she’s too stubborn to give in today, to wrestle pants onto him, even if it would mean she could send him next door to play, if he would put on pants.

Nap time comes, and he’s still not wearing pants, and she drops him quickly in his crib and wearily scatters blankets over him and grumbles out the door and drops, exhausted, to the couch.

And he doesn’t take a nap, and they fight over that, until the fighting wears her down and she comes to the end of all that she’s got.  It wins out over her sense of propriety and she no longer cares about imposing and so she puts his pants on him and watches from the front steps as he walks across the driveway and then across the small clover filled lawn and then up the front steps of the next house over.

She spends her quiet 45 minutes alone, in careful silence, afraid to wake the baby, hoping the phone won’t ring.  When he returns, carried upside down, squealing and happy, in the arms of the neighbor, she has to first coax him back inside, and then grab the back of his shirt collar and pull, and her teeth are gritted in a smile for the neighbor and her shoulders tense as she readies herself to return to battle, and he turns to her in the doorway, and pauses, and under long dark eyelashes and with a small serious voice he says “Lucille had a little boy, but he grew up,”

And she swears to god she hears a sudden sucking whomping sound, loud in her ears, and then there is a movie highlights reel.  There are freeze frames of the next eighteen years, birthday cakes and sidewalk roller skating and roller coasters and first cars and proms and weddings and babies flash by, and as she leans against the doorway with his shirt collar still gripped tight in her hand she wonders how this one day can be so long and so short, all at the very same time.

Not Comfortable

I’ve always thought of parenting drive bys as another one of those mythical hobbits of the internet.  They make a good  story but the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing one is the older lady down the street who always tells me that my children need socks, and I usually just laugh at her and try to figure out a good time to leave a box of poop on her doorstep.

This weekend we went to the zoo, because we’re idiots, and it’s a been a year so we forgot why we don’t go to the zoo.  Mainly we don’t go to the zoo because 1. it sucks and 2. it costs way more than a zoo as lame as our zoo should cost and 3. no one likes the zoo.  Eli doesn’t like the zoo, I don’t like the zoo, and Mr. E doesn’t even like the zoo because they have birds in cages and birds need to fly free or god knows what, by this time in our relationship my brain sort of turns off at the first mention of birds or license plates or Sufjan Stevens, I’ll be honest.

We were at the zoo because by Saturday morning my “I never do anything with my toddler his life is so terrible” guilt had reached a tipping point and I felt like after a week of being told to hush up because his sister was sleeping he deserved to do something fun, and instead of remembering that his favorite thing in the world is to inflate tires and I should have just taken him to Les Schwab I decided we were going to the zoo.

Anyway, minutes after acquiring a second mortgage on our house in order to gain entry to the zoo, I was skipping metaphorically towards the monkeys and announcing brightly that we should get a zoo  membership and come here all the time and blah blah blah.  The Sacramento Zoo consists mostly of monkeys of various forms, it turns out, which is why it was convenient that mere moments into our visit Eli stopped in front of the oringbos or whatever they’re called and turned and announced, loudly, “Dad? I HATE MONKEYS.”

Well then.  Fun times at the zoo!

Eventually Mr. E decided he’d just give up trying to look at monkeys with a three year who hates monkeys and he stood in line for half an hour waiting to take Pants on the zoo train.  I lurked around the gift shop because I’ve always wanted a fanny pack that looks like a giraffe, and then I stood around outside, wearing Lighting in the Moby and wondering where in god’s name the zoo train was and doing that baby jiggle jounce dance where you try to keep your two month old from crying, although she’d been asleep for three hours at this point so that was nice.

From about 20 feet away I noticed someone making sort of strange direct eye contact with me, which is weird because mostly at these crowded family type places you’re trying to pretend you’re not there with half the population of Northern California, you just sort of ignore everyone, and here’s this lady making eye contact with me as she books it towards me, and then she walks right up to me and says “HI! I love your wrap!” and then takes a deep breath, and here is where I thought she was going to ask me where I got it, but instead it is where she started to tell me, brightly, in a tone reserved for children and the mentally incapacitated, that I was DOING IT WRONG.  “You know what would be more comfortable for her? Is if she was up higher!”, this lady says to me.  And then, because that’s not enough, she adds “Awesome baby wearing! But you need to make sure her hips are higher than her legs.  That’s more comfortable for her.  AWESOME BABY WEARING! I love your wrap!”

And this whole time, instead of telling her to cram it, I’d just been saying “She’s fine. Thank you. Thank you. She’s fine.” over and over, patting Lightning and trying to turn my body away from Ms. Correct Sling Wearing is My Life’s Mission, and I think I may either have looked like I was about to cry or about to kick her in the shins, so she eventually turned and walked away.  I swear the entire thing must have taken no more than 2 minutes tops but it was so horrifying, so awkward, so intensely the kind of thing that I cannot deal with AT ALL that time had no meaning, it felt like I was standing there in perpetuity, and then afterwards I just started shaking and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was SO mad or SO shocked or SO stunned or SO tired.  And it was worse because I had thought she was going to do what everyone does, to ask me about the wrap or to say how cute the baby is or to coo over her and say “look at the tiny adorable baby” and then when it wasn’t that, I was just so shocked, and I’m just trying to do my best here with these two children, one of them brand new, and public criticism is just so…uncool, you know?

And this is why I never do anything! God obviously wants me to stay home.

This is one of those totally annoying situations where you think of all the good responses 20 minutes after you needed them.  I SHOULD have said “Oh lady, that is so none of your business.”  I SHOULD have said “Ha ha! She’s asleep! No one cares if she’s comfortable! (you asshole).”

But what really boils my butter is that it’s obvious to me that this beotch thinks she is being HELPFUL and awesome and supporting mothers and her baby wearing advocacy is just what the world  needs and that just pisses me off, because holy shit did I not feel awesome and supported and you know what would make ME a lot more comfortable? If random strangers would mind their own damn business!

Anyway, I’d like to on record as saying “Lady, you suck.” Anytime you walk up to a mom in public to tell her what she’s doing WRONG, you make the baby Jesus cry, for serious.  I was at the zoo, however foolishly, to have a fun day with my family, and you made me feel JUST TERRIBLE.  I hope you’re happy! I hope your correct baby wearing mission is worth crapping on new mothers all over town!

How do people like this not know what jerks they are?  Lordy.

Also, I hate the zoo.

The Year of the Rat

I’m trying to think of how to explain this without using the word passionate, because I’m pretty sure it’s not possible to say ” I am passionate about home grown tomatoes” without sounding douchey.  Maybe I should just bite the bullet and go whole hog.

Ok.  Picture the following statement accompanied by one of those over used shots where the tomato I am holding is in focus but the rest of me is artfully blurred.  Got it?

I am a total passionate douchebag when it comes to home grown tomatoes.  Someone once told me that all over Italy, old women grow gardens full of nothing but dahlias and tomatoes.  These are two of my favorite things.  This became my dream.

And when we lived in Nebraska I thought about planting a garden, but we didn’t own that house and we didn’t have any extra money for things like rakes and compost, and we didn’t know how long we’d be staying there, so I ate other people’s home grown tomatoes as caprese salad with a side of bitter for not having grown them myself.

Then we moved to California and we still didn’t own our house, and I thought about planting a garden but we had a new baby and the right time to plant slipped us by, and it seemed strangely inappropriate to announce “I hate this place” right off the bat, but Mr. E and I both really hated Redding and I don’t think we wanted to put down roots.  Literally.

Then we moved to Sacramento, and we bought a house, and when we moved here, in June, we piled all of our stuff, hundreds of cardboard boxes, in the backyard and I was understandably nervous about what might happen to all of our crap when it rained.  Until Mr. E explained that it wasn’t going to rain.  It wasn’t going to rain until September.  Maybe October.  It was going to be hot as hell for a wicked long time and then it was going to be hot some more.  And then it would be hot again.

And then I knew that I had found my spiritual home and it was time to plant, and the following spring, armed with my Burpee catalog and some seed trays, I became a gardener.

I planted 24 tomato plants and I worried that I wouldn’t have enough tomatoes.  I fretted over those plants and I nursed them along until they were taller than I was.  I almost murdered my dog when she crushed a few of them while exhibiting the tremendous stupidity she’s wildly famous for, and then finally my beloved late ripening Brandywines started pinking up and I spent hours out there every day, watering and waxing rhapsodic about the smell of tomato leaves, stacking up whole laundry baskets full of tomatoes and eating a few of them fresh every day for lunch, still warm from the sun.  And I loved every freaking minute of it.

We grew some cherry tomatoes and some yellow tomatoes but the star of the show, at least in my backyard, were my Brandywines, a giant pinkish heirloom tomato that is purported to be the best tasting tomato ever grown.  I canned them and froze them and served them to bloggers and eventually even I was kind of sick of them, and that’s when it really gets magical – when you’ve eaten so damn many fresh summer tomatoes that you are dreaming of fall, when summer starts to ooze from your pores and run from your mouth and you’re just as full up of it as you can stand. This is what you have to do to get through February.  It’s your store for the winter, your hibernation plan.

This year, when we they pimped my yard, the tomatoes were already in the ground.  I’d started them early and planted them early, only to rage against the weather when god said ha and sent down a hailstorm.  I almost told the yard pimpers to take a hike, in fact, because I didn’t want to displace my beloved tomatoes and I swear to god I’d rather have 24 tomato plants going strong than a fabulous back yard, I really absolutely would, but somehow I couldn’t say no to a free back yard and the designer, thank goodness, got my “I NEED A PLACE FOR MY TOMATOES” message and added in a garden box to the yard pimp plan.  And  I dug up the tomato plants and saved them in cardboard boxes in the shade and then replanted them, and some of them lived and I tried not to obsess about “SAVING THE TOMATOES” because indeed, there is always next year.  This is the year I got a free yard, maybe this is not the year of Tomatopalooza, but there is always next year.

And then came the rats.

The tomatoes grew and grew but the Summer of 2010 came after a cold, wet, craptacular spring and still wasn’t very hot, and SOMEONE left an entire bag of birdseed in the disaster that was our garage after Turf Wars, and the World’s Dumbest Dog started to get very interested in the back section of the yard over by the garage and by the time we started cleaning out the garage, our neighborhood was overrun by rats.

I hate rats. I really really really hate rats.

But it turns out rats LOVE tomatoes.

It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that something was eating the tomatoes.  Ripe ones, ones I was leaving on the vine for one more day to achieve maximum tomato perfection, would disappear entirely.  Unripe ones would be gnawed in half, and so the debate began – rats or squirrels?  We weren’t sure, but then one day the Worlds Dumbest Dog got very interested in the garden box and would not stop leaping into it and it turned out there was an ENTIRE LIVE RAT SITTING IN THE GARDEN BOX ON TOP OF A TOMATO CAGE.

URGH.

The internet, in this case, has failed me.  I have googled the shit out of “rats are eating my tomatoes how do I get rid of these bastards” and most of what turns up can be summed up as “sucks to be you better luck next time” and that day? That day we found the live rat and the half chewed tomatoes and then couldn’t find a solution to “rats are eating my tomatoes?”.  That was not a good day.

And I started to get mad.  I started to get really really mad, and I needed to figure out where to put that rage.  I wanted to break something. I wanted to yell. I wanted to blame Mr. E.  I wanted to un-do my new yard.  I was so mad I wanted to implement some kind of fire bomb system and wipe the entire world of all vermin ever created.

And then somewhere under all that rage, I had what I can only think of as an honest to god self help moment, and I realized something.

I was getting mad because it was safe.  I was chunneling up anger, flinging all this anger mud up, because it felt like power. It felt like doing something.  It felt like the opposite of weak.  Getting mad made me feel strong.  But it wasn’t a healthy way to be, and it sucked for everyone else, and all this anger and all this rage? It was just a smoke screen.  Because really?  Really?  I was sad.

I was sad that something was eating my tomatoes, my beloved tomatoes.  And I didn’t want to be sad, because sad felt weak.  Sad felt like defeat.  Sad felt like failure, and sad felt embarrassing, like everyone would see these weak feelings just leaking out of me and pity me.

But I have learned the hard way that creating rage instead of admitting my actual feelings leads to nothing good, and so I sat in the glider in Eli’s room and I rocked my four week old baby girl and as Mr. E stood in the door way I took a deep breath, and I FELT SAD.  And then I started to talk and to cry at the same time, and I said ” I am very sad about my tomatoes.  This is something that is so important to me.  It’s something I love to do. It something I am good at.  It’s one of the things that I love most about summer.  It’s something really fun that Eli and I did together last year, and it’s being ruined, and I am really sad.”

And I sat there, and I felt it. I really felt it.  And I cried. I cried, and some tears dripped onto Lightning’s head, and then I wiped them away, and then I stood up, and I moved on.

We bought some rat traps.  That rat sitting in the garden box…did not live, let’s put it that way.  And some tomatoes have been eaten by rats and some escape and some get picked early and ripen on my windowsill.  And I’ve commiserated with my neighbors and bought yet more traps and googled “snub nosed 45” and for awhile there I actually considered getting ANOTHER DOG.  It’s a battle we just fight one day at a time.  Us versus the rats.

In the mean time, I am waiting for the Brandywines to ripen. I harbor a secret fantasy that rats do not like Brandywines.  And I am planning next year’s tomatoes.  I am hoping for a really hot summer so maybe we aren’t overrun with vermin for second year in a row.  I am eating cornbread and tomato salad for dinner made from the tomatoes that the rats don’t get, and I’m waiting for that moment when I’ve given away all the tomatoes I can give away and I never want to see another caprese salad for as long as I live and I’m hot as balls from canning tomatoes on the hottest day of the year and I can feel that the tomato saturation level has reached high enough to get me through another February.

Most of all, I am learning my lesson from the Year of the Rat.  That sometimes it is ok to feel.  That sometimes saying to someone you love “I am sad” isn’t as scary as you might think.  That letting it out means maybe it will fade away, instead of boiling up.  And that maybe sometimes strong can mean tears, not smashing plates.

And so, we fight on, to save a tomato for another day!  Viva la revolution!

Strike A Pose

Some of the pictures from K Dub’s newborn photo shoot with the very talented Leslie Callan are up on her blog…you can check them out here:

http://lesliecallan.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/baby-katie-is-six-weeks-old/

And if you’re in the Sacramento area I highly recommend Leslie.  She was so friendly and sweet and unobtrusive – it sounds dippy to say but I had no idea that these amazing images were being produced while we chatted about how much we love mimosas.

Cheater

Hot damn, people.  I know this is bitchy, but I am so over the life list.  So so over it. (Except your life list.  I love your list list, I promise.)

And I even have one somewhere, left over from when everyone else was doing it and I needed blog fodder.  I’m sure you can track it down if you really want to, but I don’t even remember what was on there.  Probably mostly bullshit like “take 30 hot air balloon rides in 30 days” and I don’t know about you but I’m guessing all the hot air balloon operators out there are pretty over the life list too.  I picture some dude whose been doing this FOREVER and just wants to collect his golden handshake from the hot air balloon owners and get out of there and never see another hot air balloon for as long as he lives and probably right about now he wants to punch the next person who turns to him and says “It’s on my life list!” in the face, but I could be wrong.

Anyway.  I have carefully observed the evolution of the life list.  (And by carefully observed I mean I thought about it in the shower for seven minutes while also singing “The Chiquita Banana Song” over and over to my three year old to get him to stop screaming “SING THE BANANA SONG MOM”.)

After the regular old life list, we had the Branded Life List, the Hollywood Treatment Life List, the Ironic Life List, and of course what I am referring to as The Best Life List Ever, which I cannot hope to top, now or ever.  I think you’ll agree with that.  However, I have come up with a plan of attack as regards the Life List, and I have invented such a good invention, you guys.  It’s called Elizabeth’s Fake Cheater Where I Only Add Things To It and Cross The Things Off AFTER I Have Done the Things Life List. (I am still working on the title and also who I should sell the million dollar concept to.)

And this weekend was such a super big success in the Fake Cheater Where I Only Add Things To It and Cross The Things Off AFTER I Have Done the Things Life List.  Look at all the stuff I did!:

1.  Talk about vaginas (yours, mine, and ours, but mostly hers) at afternoon tea.  Check!

2.  Scream “Don’t eat that lemon, it was in Eli’s pants!” at my house guests. Check!

3.  Realize I have given birth to Wallace Shawn. Check!

4.  Invent a new catch phrase, courtesy of Amy.  (BRING ME FIFTY CHEESE SANDWICHES!)  Check!

5.  Laugh hysterically when child projectile vomits in husbands face.  Check!

6.  Win Wife of Year award after shouting “OH MY GOD NO” when professional photographer says “Now you two kiss” during family photo shoot. Check!

7.  Eat five ice cream sandwiches in one day. Check!

8.  Hear Baby Girl laugh for the first time. Check! (That one was pretty awesome, I won’t lie).

9.  Consider falling down giant grassy hill at Fort Mason just to have something to blog about. Check!

10.  Discover they make root beer slurpees, give one to three year old, find out that Slurpee cups leak when left under the dining room table for six days, curse husband, child, and god as regards the fact that I am the only one in the entire world who cleans up anything ever and also who gives a Slurpee to a three year old anyway?!  God. Check!

I can’t wait to see what I fake get to cross off the life list next weekend.  So exciting, this inventing shit!

Survey Says

Somehow I got hooked up with a  site where you can earn gift certificates (to American Eagle, and now you know why I dress like a 12  year old) for answering surveys about a bunch of random hoo ha.  A lot of the surveys are about cell phones and when I’m going to get a new one, and they always ask, essentially, if I’m an early adopter, if it’s important to me to be the first one in my group of peeps to have the latest gadgets.  Dang gadgets.

Answering these things always reminds me of taking personality tests.  There’s a range of choices and even though to everyone else on earth the box I should be checking is probably pretty obvious, I always ponder the possibilities at length and think “Sure! I like to try new things? Who doesn’t like to try new things?  Just last week I ordered a new flavor of ice cream.  That’s adventurous!”.  Meanwhile everyone who knows me is rolling their eyes and pointing to the box marked “new things make me very very very  nervous and I’m still thinking about how I shouldn’t have ordered that new flavor of ice cream last week”.

Anyway.  New things make me nervous.  I don’t want any part of any broad social movements.  Even if I do something FIRST and then everyone else loves it later on, it still pisses me off.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not unique.  I discover the same damn things the rest of the world thinks are wonderful, but mostly around 4 weeks to 4 years after the everyone else, and by then my very valuable opinions are obsolete.  Does anyone care that I loved An Education two years after it came out?  Or that I just read Finnikin of the Rock and could not put it down?  Or that I really like my phone with a keyboard?  The only tv show I watch on time, when it airs, is Top Chef, and honestly, when I watch it at the same time as the rest of the world, it always makes me feel like I’m cheating.

I have no idea why I am like this.  I think I’ve always been like this, but no, I’m not an early adopter, and when I do spend any time at all thinking about a phone, which isn’t very often, it’s not an Iphone I’m fantasizing over.

The phone I really want is the wall phone that was screwed into the wall of my parents living room.  Everyday I’d rush home from school and then either I’d call my best friend Sara or she’d call me, and we’d sit on the phone for hours and talk about nothing.  It had one of those super long curly cords – so long that you could take the phone into the kitchen if you wanted to, and I’d fix myself apples and peanut butter, or grab a diet coke and a handful of chocolate chips, stretching the line taut if I needed something from the garage.

There’s a picture someone took of me right around that time, and I have a bad perm and I’m wearing my St. Mary’s uniform, and my legs are slung over the side of a chair and I’m rolling my eyes and I’m on that curly corded phone, and I look like a happy 13 year old girl.  Those few hours I spent on the phone every day were the closest I got to the normal teenage life I was missing out on and that I so very desperately wanted.

I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, or why we were on the phone for eons every night, or what we had to say to each other in those hours that we couldn’t say in the hours we were together at school, but I miss those days.  I’ve never had a conversation like that on a cell phone, I’ll tell you that much.