Thursday, January 30, 2014

Franken-Meatballs and Disembodied Iguana Tails

This is a story of the perils of working at home, as the mother of three young sons. This was my afternoon, and I have lived to tell the tale.

At around 4:30 Middle Son (age 8) came bouncing into my home office like a miniature Tigger, chanting in his inexorable way: "Hey mom mom I wanna icicle there's this big icicle outside a my window and I want it mom I want it I want that icicle will you get it for me mom huh huh? Will you get me that icicle mom huh huh?"

"I'm working right now. Can you please wait?"

"I want this one big icicle can I have it now huh huh mom? Can I have it now? Itsa really big icicle and I need to have it I want it I need to have it it's an awesome icicle and I want it now mom so can you get it for me now huh huh?"

My mind nearly snapping like a dry twig, I agreed to acquire the icicle so that the kid would bounce away somewhere else. I opened the window and leaned way out. The icicle was a lot further than it looked. The screen, open above me, suddenly slipped from its frame and banged me on the head and sproinged out onto the rooftop. I yanked it back inside and threw it into the room. I reached way out, hoping I wouldn't slip out onto the rooftop. Success! I got the icicle and snapped it off and handed it proudly to my son. He looked at it and hurled it away into the yard.

"What did you go and do THAT for?"

"That way I can grab it easy from the yard when I go outside! It'll be all nice and cold out there and stuff and won't melt nor anything!"

I was just getting back to work, where one of those painfully cryptic and pithy emails awaited me (you know, the ones that say something like "plz call me!!!!" or "what's ur #????"). I began to hear a soft wailing from Eldest Son, my fifth grader, downstairs, a low moan that devolved into racking sobs. When I came down he was slumped over his math homework and begged me for a calculator.

"I'd give you one, really I would," I said. "But it won't do you any good. You have to show your work. Common Core, you know, and all."

He collapsed in a fresh wave of tears. "These problems are stupid!" he cried. "I know how to do them. They are just a waste of my time. My time! When can I PLAY? Mom, when can I PLAY?" And he looked at me with a hunted look of a trapped animal. He had, by the way, already attended an hour-long "Math Olympiad" enrichment program after school, for students who are advanced in math. It wasn't that he couldn't do the problems. It's that, for him, they were dull. He wanted them over with and gone.

I maybe did one of his 867 math problems for him. Yeah, one. It actually invigorated me as I haven't done paper-and-pencil math in years, so there's that. I destroyed the evidence so you can't prove it on me, you can't PROVE that I did it so, yeah...he did his own work, all of it, sir.

Then he announced that he had a science project due, and it was due tomorrow. We had to get teaspoonfuls of flour on dump them on sheets of black construction paper, and then drip water on the piles of flour from varying heights with an eyedropper. Except I couldn't find an eyedropper. Not only that, it was gluten-free flour and I don't think it reacted the way most flour does. Most flour is light and fluffy; gluten-free flour is stodgy and Lumpen. It just kinda sat there when most flour would have reacted in a more scientific and buoyant manner.

We tried drizzling the water from our fingers, pouring it off a spoon, etc., but it was impossible to aim it right for the little piles of flour. Finally I thought the most effective method might be if I spit the water at the mound of flour. I missed as well. The floor was sodden in water and spattered with flour (gluten-free, of course). Goopy piles of black construction paper lay about. I suggested to my son that he might piddle on the flour. At least then he would have something surefire to aim with.

"I don't care if I fail! This is the stupidest thing I have ever seen!" cried Eldest Son. "And, I'm even supposed to take a PHOTO of this."

It looks like a bird exploded on its way to the potty.
Littlest One, in the meantime (age 5), was swinging around his lovey, Iggy. Iggy is a Beanie Baby iguana. He looks like this but more threadbare:

My tail will be torn off by a vengeful elder brother.

Iggy has grown from being a bedtime snuggle-chum to a completely sentient being with mystical, magical powers who needs to be kissed goodnight and goes everywhere with the Littlest One.

(His other favorite "loveys" are turtles and snakes. Should I be concerned about the reptilian theme?)

So it was quite horrifying when Littlest Son and Eldest Son got in a tussle over Iggy and—the horror!—his tail came quite unattached from his body and lots of little "beads" poured out. The screams were astounding.

"He BROKE Iggy! He BROKE Iggy!" It was like the next 18 years of therapy in one terrifying session.

"Iggy is real hurt," sobbed Littlest One, as I stitched him up with my poor 4-H sewing skills so that his tail looked like a Frankenstein monster. He then quickly proceeded to accidentally drop Iggy into the toilet post-pee, such that Iggy needed to be bathed and laid upon a towel for recuperation. The screams, then, were also terrible.

Meanwhile, our houseguest, who will merit a few blog entries of his own, was serving meatballs and pasta for the boys' dinner. He is an exceptional cook and very gifted in the kitchen, which was welcome help at this time. Unfortunately, he is not as gifted with cleaning as he is with cooking. It looked like a meatball explosion. And these meatballs were GINORMOUS. There were meatballs dangling from every surface and a thick crust of detritus under the kitchen table. A meatball rolled from the counter into the leftover "gluten-free" flour from the science experiment. Fettucine noodles were adhered to the table. Little bits of cheese floated in the air like motes in God's eye. A smoke alarm was wanly beeping, and needed new batteries.

I heard an ominous "ding" from my work computer and shuddered. There was no doubt another cryptic email, this time saying something like "u have been gone for 45 minutes, where r u???!!!"

Eldest Son saw weakness, and he made his move like an adder.

"Can we watch one of those shows Mom, can we can we? Can we watch just one of those shows? Y'know just one? Just one?" and he smoothed his new, long, girl-magnet hair and added, "So you can get your work done, you know."

"Yes," I said, giving him a bit of the grateful stink-eye. "By all means, yes!"

Thursday, January 23, 2014

50 Things That Make Me Happy

December, January, and February are very terrible months. I thought that writing this list might help.

50 Things That Make Me Happy

1. Throwing a baseball with my sons, the afternoon sun blinding me for a moment
2. Shoveling snow, pushing the planes of whiteness ahead of me like surf
3. Finding a hidden pane of winter ice in a wheelbarrow and pressing it with my hand until it cracks and the cold water floods out onto the surface
4. Snipping scallions
5. The accidental tangle of my five-year-old's hand in my hair and his gentle efforts to pull it free
6. Writing a paragraph that I never saw coming
7. Writing an entire book that I never saw coming, either
8. Birds wheeling in symphony over the buildings
9. Early crocuses, confused by temperature changes but startled up alive nonetheless
10. I have recently noted that my Christmas lights, still hung, look rather like droopy breasts

11. The scent of lavender
12. Thinking of packing for summer camp. Which happens in July.
13. My child threw a gobbet of bubbles at me from his bath and it stuck in my eyebrow.
14. That same child needed help with his undies because his skin was "sticky."
15. He also said he had to "port-a-potty" his troops ("fortify") during a game of Risk.
16. There is a small leaf-shaped birthmark on my right calf; it is something constant and unchanging. How many times have I changed over, like water, and still that birthmark remains?
17. Green olives with pimentos inside them
18. The same olives inside a chilled martini
19. The taste of a grapefruit, cut into slices

20. Kneesocks that don't fall down
21. The softest blanket in the world ( I OWN it!)
22. A fresh shipment of The Hundred to my doorstep, to be sold and given as gifts
23. The cashiers at the Larchmont Trader Joe's, ever cheerful
24. Capture the Flag with my boys, the territories Upstairs and Downstairs in the house. Front and back stairs neutral ground. High stakes!
25. Very, very small turtles—especially peevish ones!

26. Uni, especially at Hajime in Harrison, NY
27. The Hundred: Book Two (Working title: The Vision and the Clock). Every word I write is a surprise to me.
28. Playing "Karma Police" on the antique Chickering Baby Grand piano. And then playing "Gavotte." And then maybe "Minuet in G" followed by "Jet Plane."
29. Extreme weather events. Provided no one gets hurt.
30. Hot showers in my 54-degree FREEZING FUCKING COLD SIEVE of a house
31. This. Note the date, people. JANUARY.
32. I'm having a hard time getting to 50 things on my list. Did I mention that it was January, and people generally just keel over and die with despair during this most awful of months? Okay...thinking about lemons? They are fine. And they are yellow. They smell nice. Fuckeroo. I am getting desperate.
33. This morning's poo was well-formed and attractive. (It was not my poo, it was my son's. But I was pleased to find it floating in the toilet exhibiting gleaming evidence of good health on its pelt.)
34. I only hyperventilate in certain places. I totally stop hyperventilating as soon as I go to the Caribbean.
35. When I went to make my tea this morning the teabag stayed intact.
36. Cheese is nice.

37. Somewhere in this world, a child may be having a birthday party right now. With ponies! And atop the ponies are clowns. But I dislike clowns. Now I am having a panic attack. This 50 Things list sucks.
38. I have two kneecaps.
39. I have never been to Abu Ghraib.
40. My middle name is not "Marmaduke," "Ton-o-Lovin'," or "Pol Pot."
41. I don't own anything that poos on the ground. Mwa-ha, poo scoopers!
42. The mosquitos are all absent. But there are crickets in my basement during the winter! Bad bad bad.
43. I didn't accidentally hammer any nails into my duodenum today.
44. Butter atop a slab of lobster
45. I did not name any of my children "Oofhy," "Unmentionable," or "Tudleriffic." Including middle names.
46. Tiny....turtles? No, I already mentioned them, the lil' fuckers. How about tiny OWLS! No bigger than a thumbprint. Or tiny cattle? Bonsai cattle? Or tiny goats!

47. I have not started any fires nor burnt myself on an errant grilled cheese sandwich today.
48. Beans cause gas.
49. Little shirts and suits for tiny turtles. Sewn by arctic maidens wearing lovely wool sweaters and playing zithers.
50. I am still alive. I am waiting for the thaw, and I will never, ever give up.