Friday, June 25, 2010

Tonight we had a visitor! A big brown visitor with waving antennae! He was in the bathroom! At first, when Lula informed me of his presence, I tried to act cool, like, I LOVE cockroaches--cute little harmless critters! And then, after I'd captured him with a bowl against the wall and was trying to slide him onto a book to throw him outside, he wiggled out and I FREAKED! Screamed a garbled command to Joedy to get his butt off the downstairs commode and get it upstairs so he could do his manly duty and get rid of the horrific, disgusting beast!

Normally I don't believe in gender-specific duties, but I'm totally working this one: let the more muscular person fight the vermin. I'll scream and whimper pathetically like a good lil' wifey while you, O manly man, dispose of it. All I ask is that you don't use my flip-flop to smoosh it. And please don't get any of that toxic cockroach spray on my toothbrush. Also, could you sleep on the bathroom side of the bed tonight? In case we have another visitor? You have more muscles, you see, and you're emitting your own toxic gas from those refried beans--heck, you're scary to me!

It's strange that I'm making Joedy be the cockroach killer--that I'm playing the lil' wifey role--because just this afternoon I almost bit a friend's head off for projecting a "female gender role" on me. He'd (kindly) told Malko not to dismantle the pile of laundry that "Mommy folded," and I reacted by saying, "I didn't fold the laundry--I hate folding laundry!" Don't assume the laundry was folded by me just because I'm FEMALE!

I had just come home from the thrift store with Lula, who'd chosen, for her upcoming week at summer camp, two pairs of shorts, three t-shirts, and a pair of board shorts--all "boy's clothes," in the sense that there was nothing frilly, fitted, or pink--and when she tried on the new jean shorts and the black and blue striped t-shirt she really looked exceptionally un-girlish. We're used to seeing Lula in shorts and t-shirts, but the jean shorts bumped the tomboy factor a little higher, prompting Joedy to ask, "Did you get any girl's clothes?"

What a silly question. No, of course we didn't buy any "girl's clothes"--Lula hasn't worn a dress since she was three. She'd rather die than wear tights; she vastly prefers board shorts over a normal bathing suit; she can't stand having her hair down, or up, or any way but just in a plain ponytail, right in the middle of the back of her head, and her favorite color is blue, blue, blue--dark blue, sky blue, medium blue, navy blue...

I looked at Joedy. "She got normal clothes for a kid--shorts and t-shirts. What's wrong with a 6-year-old girl wearing shorts and a t-shirt? What's so boyish about these clothes?" I HATE gender role conformity, especially when it's pushed on little kids, and I think "girl's clothes" are often idiotic and demeaning. I understand Lula's tomboy inclinations and feel defensive about any real (or imagined) criticism of her clothing preference, of who she is. Joedy understood and changed course: "Yeah, what's unnatural is when little girls are made to look like little women," he said. "That's what's screwed up."

Thank you, baby, I thought, you are perfect. You're earning yourself some serious brownie points with this lil' wifey--this lil' wifey who will fight! Anyone! Who pushes gender role conformity on her kids! Who reacts kind of rudely when a friend assumes she--gasp--folded the laundry! This lil' wifey who throws herself unabashedly into a "female role" when cockroaches are around. This lil' wifey who DEMANDS that her poor, cockroach-phobic, sweet husband "be manly" when she's freaked out by a (gross, hideous, gigantic) bug. This lil' wifey who claims to be all anti-gender role conformity but then works it to her advantage when it's convenient for her...

This lil' wifey who's a little contradictory!

This lil' wifey who's a little hypocritical!

This lil' wifey who doesn't care!



Monday, June 21, 2010

Galloping goosebumps, I'm soooo tired! We got back from Corpus today, having spent the weekend there with Joedy's family, and right after we walked into the house and spent forty-five minutes deodorizing it--it smelled, Lula said, "like a pet shop"--we (I) had to turn right back around and get right back in the car, which we'd already been in for 4.5 hours, and drive Malko to the doctor for not just two, as I'd expected, but THREE SHOTS! Wooeee, what fun--I love clamping fat little limbs down so they can get stabbed with needles!

Why did the house smell like a pet shop, you ask? I have no friggin' idea. The dogs were at Joedy's cousin's house, and Lapis was locked outside, poor neurotic overly-meowing kitty, so what was it that created the stink of unwashed bodies and unchanged litter boxes? Maybe the couch "ripened" with the AC turned off--I don't know. Anyway, it smelled funky in here. It helped us get on the ball with the dirty dishes in the sink, left over from my cookiebaking extravaganza Saturday morning, and we actually got a lot done during the rest of the day, which was nice. Something about banging an empty water bottle on your head (to keep someone from screaming during the remaining forty minutes of a long drive) makes you feel so...underproductive! Like your "higher skills" are seriously underused! Although your "lower skills" come in handy again, later, at the doctor's office, when you find yourself tearing up the paper sheet covering the examining table, rolling the pieces into balls, putting the balls in your mouth, and blowing them, with a loud, satisfying whoosh, across the room to--again--keep someone from screaming while waiting...

When we got home from the doctor's Joedy and Lula went to do some grocery shopping and pick up the dogs, and for a while Malko and I were alone in the house. Since I'm a freakomaniac I got nervous when two young men stopped to sit on the bridge below the house; I thought they were very probably pretending to be all casual and nonchalant when IN FACT they were going to sneak under the bridge, sneak up around the other side of the house, and break the back door down with machetes!

A little aside here, so I don't seem like a total cuckoo bird: we don't live in a very good neighborhood. The street was known for its prostitutes until a few years ago, and there are some very shabby buildings and very shady people very close by. Two weeks ago, Joedy was woken up (I had my earplugs in) by a SWAT team surrounding the house two doors down; we still don't know what they were after. Meth? A human smuggling ring? Black-market maple syrup? It's ANYONE'S guess!

So anyway, I was nervous, and I lowered the blinds, checked that the windows and doors were locked, and ran upstairs (with my phone, in case I needed to call 911) and unlocked the sliding glass door in our bedroom in case I needed to jump out (holding Malko). I figured by the time I jumped and was running into the street screaming, the guys with the machetes would just be coming up the stairs. It was a fail-proof plan! I peeked out the curtain, but couldn't see the guys anymore, so I went to the back window; all I saw was a work truck taking some stuff to the buildings behind our house and our neighbor sitting in his back yard, talking to someone.

Wait a minute--our neighbor? Sitting in his back yard? Talking to someone? Like, everything was happy-dandy? Like, it was just a normal early summer evening and, in fact, a pretty nice evening at that? Perfect for sitting outside and not worrying about fictitious attackers and their fictitious machetes? He was just sitting there, a little hunched over, partly obscured by the potted roses in the yard. He had a blue shirt on, and he looked so normal--the whole scene looked so normal--that I immediately felt relieved and stupid. What a dork I am, I thought. Who the hell is going to machete down our door in broad daylight? I kept going to the kitchen window and looking at our neighbor, and I felt so damn grateful, I wanted to give him a big FAT HUG!

Or a beer. I thought I could at least give him a beer--he might find me more normal if I gave him a beer instead of a teary, grateful hug--but while debating the judiciousness of opening the door I took a sip of the beer and then decided to just finish it, and then Malko woke up and Joedy and Lula and the dogs came home, and then the normal early summer evening merged into the normal early summer night.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Last night I had a nightmare and woke myself up yelling, or trying to yell: I was dreaming we were still in California, where there were six inches of snow on the ground from a climate gone awry, and I was driving our old Volvo through the snow, braking by sticking my foot through the broken bottom of the car. I had Lula with me and was trying to get home as quickly as possible because Joedy was leaving on a work trip; as the car skidded and slid in the snow a family ran across the road and I hit one of the children.

That should have been enough, but the dream continued: we got home, and after trying different doors and stairs it became clear that the building had turned into a maze--Joedy and Malko were in there somewhere, but we couldn't find them. I started up one stairway that looked vaguely familiar, and came to a room where three men stood. They eyed Lula appreciatively as we walked by, and--horror of horrors--reached out for her, grabbed her...I tried to yell, but I couldn't--my voice was trapped in my throat. My daughter was in danger, and I couldn't save her; I couldn't call for help, I couldn't tell the men "NO!"

When I woke up I just lay there, shaken, wondering why my mind would pile so many horrible things into one dream. Then I realized it was a pretty good reflection of my life, or at least my inner life, because I'm constantly imagining horrible scenarios, thinking about the "what if's"--all the awful things that could happen to a kid, parents, a family...

At the gym: We'd better not let Lula and Malko stay in the (unlocked) Supervised Play Area. What if a crazy person walks in there with a gun?

While driving: Better not drive in the center lane of this road. Any of the drivers coming toward us could be drunk and crash into us.

At home: The doors and windows should always be locked, and no one should ever be alone at home without the dogs, because a psychotic meth-head could drop by for visit!

Still at home: These flies seem to be getting smarter. Do you think they're evolving? What if they start attacking us?

Glimpsing the news, by mistake: Wow, that oil spill sure is gigantic. I guess this is it, eh? The environmental disaster that will kill untold living creatures, catastrophically disrupt the food chain, and end the world as we know it?

As I lay awake thinking about these things and my propensity for dramatic, depressing thoughts I began to feel silly and sheepish. Very few truly bad things have happened to me; my life is filled with love, beauty, and happiness. I recognize, on a daily basis, how lucky I am. Why should I always feel like disaster is around the corner? What a waste of time and energy, what a waste of thought; I could be putting all this effort into something productive, something that helps people who really need it!

Maybe I'm a bit overly-imaginative, or maybe this is just what being a parent is about: constantly imagining the worst-case scenario so you can have a backup plan, an escape route, a way to deal with the awful things that can and do happen. In the end, it doesn't really matter why I'm a paranoid worrier, I guess--what matters is that I try not to let it get out of hand. When I look at the situation objectively--when I see myself scan the inside of stores for exit signs, prepare to grab Malko by the feet and shake him upside down if he chokes--I think about Sapporo, the rabbit we left behind in California. Sapporo, and all the other rabbits I've had, were always looking for escape routes. It's their nature, it's their way of protecting themselves: in a sense, it's their way of fighting for survival.

Although I can get carried away, I accept my anxiety-based, rabbitlike qualities; to a certain degree, I'm even proud of them. If yelling "NO!" isn't always an option--if you can't wake up from the nightmare--it's good to have an alternate strategy in place.

Once the escape route's been determined, we rabbits can settle down, chew some grass, relax and think happy thoughts--until nighttime, that is, when anything goes...


Monday, June 14, 2010

That's what the time just said: 10:01. Which means, much too late. To be starting an entry. But: too bad! I'm drunk. Or at least, almost. Off this very enjoyable white wine we got at Central Market this afternoon! Between the free coffee and free fresh-baked strips of bread! Betwixt my armpit and my head!

Hello? Hello. I can HEAR you! You can? Yes! And? SHUT UP!

Golly, my alternate personalities are arguing!

Against my better judgment I'm going to try to write a lucid, interesting entry, with lots of fun-filled facts and a minimum of hyperbole, but, as usual, I can't remember what I was going to say, sooooo....hmm.....better drink some more wine...

Joedy just walked into the living room in his orange polka-dotted underpants, the ones my parents gave him last year; he has a band-aid on each shoulder from the shots he got at the doctor's today. For some reason the clinic he went to actually gave him medical care; they not only gave him the two shots but THREE prescriptions! And tapped his knees with the little wooden hammer! I was rightfully jealous when he came home. Especially since I'd been mauled all morning by Malko, who's tweaked his tackling technique to include a post-tackling stepping-on-the-victim's-windpipe-with-his-fat-foot, while laughing, and then a slamming of his big butt in the victim's face! Ha ha! What fun!

This couch I'm sitting on (it's not our couch) smells like cheese. Really--it's remarkable. It's like someone rubbed a hunk of cheese right where the back cushions and the arms meet. Or, it could be that someone who lies here frequently, a canine someone, emits a certain smell from a certain body part and that body part rubs on the couch. That's totally possible, and it just makes me feel so...close to the dogs! So intimate with them! Yay!

My teeth are tingling. I haven't been to the dentist in seven or eight years and I brush a lot to make up for it, but now they feel like this and it's weird: they're, like, vibrating. Maybe it was the steel wool I used tonight instead of a toothbrush? Or the Ajax? Probably both. Anyway, the wine seems to be helping.

Last night Joedy and I were all set to have a rare "movie night"; without realizing it would be so horrific and gruesome Joedy rented an EXTREMELY, UNBELIEVABLY, HORRIFIC and GRUESOME movie, about a boy and his father post-Apocalypse, and for about an hour, until we couldn't stand it anymore (I spent a good part of the time moaning, in the fetal position), we watched scenes with jolly, happy cannibals and meat hooks to hang up their human "harvest"! They were harvesting humans because, of course, they had nothing left to eat, because there was a nuclear disaster, and everything was dying, and the planet was turning grey, and they were all going to finish each other off au jus and oh, happy day! Happy, gay humanity!

It didn't help that the boy looked like Malko, and when he cried he sounded so much like...a young boy. A young boy stuck in a world of death, with only his dying father to protect him: a sweet young boy, a nice young boy.

Joedy didn't think the story was believable, but call me gullible--I kind of think it could happen. Or at least, I think people could go that crazy--turn violent and cannibalistic and deranged--if the circumstances were right, and it's that I went to sleep thinking about, and it's that I woke up thinking about, and most of the day, when I found myself getting annoyed at Lula for requesting ANOTHER piece of toast after I just made her one, after I'd put the butter away and wiped the counter, I thought how lucky I am. To be able to make more toast. For her.

"Gosh, I'm lucky," I thought, pressing the toaster button again. "If this were the future, and people were cannibals, we probably wouldn't eat so much toast! And toast, by George, is good! A life without toast would be a wasted life."

That's what I thought about: how lucky I am to have toast and to not be a cannibal.

Yay, toast!

Yay, wine!

Yay, cheese!

On the couch! Right behind my back! Filling my nostrils with the smell of a sharp, rancid cheddar or maybe a dog's body part!


Good night.


Monday, June 7, 2010

After a morning of domestic duties (groceries, cleaning the fridge, laundry, dishes, lunch, dishes) it's finally 1:30, Malko's nap time, and while he drinks his bottle in his crib the house becomes quiet. Relieved, I sit down on the couch to write; Lula, now in her third day of summer vacation, plays with teddy bears on the rug.

A minute passes while I try to remember what I was going to write about. It was something important, I think...frowning, I look out the window. There's a bunch of big black birds in the tree in front of the house. They're making a racket, screeching and whooping like a tequila-fueled bachelor party, and I'm sure they're going to wake Malko. Damn it, birds, I think, shut up! Don't you know nap time, a.k.a. quiet time, is sacred? Huh, birds? Huh? Can you please SHUT UP?

The birds don't shut up. I look at the computer screen: it's 2:15. Malko's going to wake up in an hour, give or take a little. What the HELL was I going to write about?

Lula's voice breaks the not-so-quiet silence: "Maman."


"What are you doing with your finger?"


"With your finger. What are you doing with it."

"My finger?" What's she talking about?

"Yeah. You had it in your nose."

"Oh," I say, glad I know the answer so I can tell it to her and she can be quiet again. "My nose was itching."

"Yeah, but you had it inside your nose. Why was the inside itching?"

Jesus. I roll my eyes. "I don't know, Lula. I don't know why the inside of my nose was itching."

"Do you think, uh, do you think...Maman!"

"Mm." I look at her.

"Do you think you have poison oak in your nose?"



"Why what?!" GOD!

"Why don't you think you have poison oak in your nose?"

"I don't know." Could you please just be quiet now, I silently plead, looking at the clock in the corner of the screen. It's 2:30. "Quiet time"--clearly a misnomer--is dwindling. I've written two sentences.

"Well, you said when you touch poison oak it can come out anywhere, so maybe you do have it in your nose." I don't answer. Maybe if I pretend I'm deaf she'll stop talking?

"Maman." Staring intently at the screen, I fake-type, rattling the keys like I'm in the middle of a very deep, very important thought. Surely she'll see I'm busy and leave me alone.

"MAMAN." She says this in a mock stage-whisper. She's about as quiet as the birds outside who, judging by a new hooting sound, are at the stripper stage of their bachelor party antics; she's about as quiet as my phone's alarm clock, which just went off, inexplicably (maybe it's time to shoot myself?), emitting a muffled mechanical "song" that reminds me, at this particular moment, of an electric chair being dragged across a bumpy concrete floor. I put my head in my hands.

"Maman." I look up. Lula's face is hovering three inches from mine; her body is blocking the computer screen.

"What?" I say. Fuck it! Fuck quiet time!

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing, Lula," I say. "I'm not doing anything." It's true. I've given up. Reaching around her, I close the computer screen, and then I go lie down on the rug. Lula builds a lego castle around me, and ten minutes later, when Malko wakes up, alerted by the sound of crashing legos, he practices tackling me, jumping on my stomach and grabbing my face, laughing maniacally when my amused protestations turn to shrieks.

"No! No! Leave me alone! Please! LEAVE ME ALONE," I wail, but it's no use: my cries mix with those of the birds outside (they just scored an eight-ball) and with the general din in the house. It's no use protesting, because nobody's listening: I'm lost in a sea of chaos and noise.

Quiet time is over.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Today I woke up at 6:30 so I could call the pediatrician's office RIGHT AT SEVEN, like they told me, so I could make an appointment for Malko to get two of the remaining four shots he's behind on, and after making the call I started some pancakes (very lumpy and then, after adding too much water, very watery) and went to wake up Lula and Joedy so Joedy could take Lula to the OTHER pediatrician for HER checkup/shots at 8:45, and while heckling Joedy about his speed, or lack thereof, in exiting the house, I forgot to give him Lula's shots record, so when they came home at 11 she still hadn't had her shots, so I made ANOTHER phone call, to Malko's pediatrician, for Lula in the afternoon, and after taking Malko there and coming home I picked up Lula and listened, in the car, to this:

"Is it going to hurt? I don't want to DOOO THIIIISSSS! I think I want to go home right now. Maman, can we go home now? Please, Maman, pleeeease?"

Given that the last shot Lula had, in December, provoked an all-out terror fit and required the firm grip of not one but two nurses, I didn't have very high hopes for the successful (i.e., calm) administration of these three shots. I tried to comfort her by saying that Malko hardly cried when he got his shots this morning, but she was unimpressed, and rightfully so: Malko is bulky. There's lots more cushioning on his body.

I switched tactics: "You know how I wax my legs, Lula? Remember how I said it doesn't really hurt anymore? Well, it actually does hurt, but I'm used to it now, so I'm not afraid of the pain--it's not as scary. You know what helps? Telling yourself it's not going to hurt. That's what I do. If you tell yourself something's not going to hurt, it won't. It's kind of like magic!"

She was quiet for a while, and then, in a perfectly normal, happy voice, asked if she could have a prize later for being good. I sensed that someone was being worked, but I didn't care who as long as the shots went well. "Sure Lula, you can have whatever you want," I said. Just don't bite the nurse!

We got to the doctor's office early and waited seventy minutes to be called, during which time we observed an extremely loud and bratty young man make a big fuss because he "got kicked, and tore his ACL, and now he needs surgery, and...what? They don't do MRI's at this clinic?! Well then"--to his friend--"what do I do now? Mary, you're the one with the knowledge about the medical world, WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST I DO???" I had a few suggestions for him, starting with coming over to my knee so I could give him a good spanking, and not in a "fun" way, but all I really did was pronounce very loudly in French to Lula that it's a good thing we speak French because we can talk about bratty people who need spankings without them knowing! We can talk loudly about them as they're trudging, on their spoiled-brat crutches, right by us! What FUN!!!

Right when I'd decided to throw in the towel and go home Lula's name was called and we followed a nurse down the hallway to the Shot Room, where Lula fell into an inconsolable panic. "No, I don't WANT TO DO THIS, nooooooooooo, Maman, please don't make me do this," she cried, hiding in the corner behind the chair, welding herself to the wall so I couldn't drag her out. "Maman, please, don't let her hurt me! Don't let her do this to me!"

Glancing at the nurse, who appeared unruffled--in fact, she seemed totally used to this--I grabbed Lula and flew, at warp speed, through every motivational tactic I knew, listing the presents, spankings, groundings, and ice cream she'd get if she'd just sit down, extend her arm, and be quiet!

It didn't work, and a few seconds later, while I held Lula on my lap, trying to get her to be still, for god's sake, so the needle wouldn't go into her eye, her screams alerted another nurse, and between the three of us we got her to be pretty still, although she was staring RIGHT at the needle coming RIGHT at her arm and she was hyperventilating, crying, saying, "Please don't be mean to me, please don't hurt me," when I suddenly remembered our conversation: "Lula, remember what I said? Tell yourself it's not going to hurt!"

Sobbing, she turned her face the other way, and, her voice cracking as the needles pierced the skin, said: "It's not going to hurt, it's not going to hurt, it's not going to hurt..."

And then it was over! The nurses left the room, we stood up, Lula asked about the ice cream, and then she said, of her own accord, "I'm sorry, Maman. I promise I won't cry so much next time."

She looked so contrite, and with her face all red and splotchy, her gangly little arms hanging at her sides, I melted and leaned down to give her a hug. "It's ok, Lula, just try not to be so...dramatic next time." She nodded, and I wiped my eyes. Next time is going to be in four years, when she's ten. We have a lot of time to tell ourselves it's not going to hurt.