Thursday, December 31, 2009

My year in review.

I’m kind of envious of ol’ Dooce, who can take pretty pictures and stick them together with a hip soundtrack to tell you about her fabulous year. I’m a shitty photographer and wouldn’t know the first thing about trying to make an appealing slideshow out of them, so the best I can do is toss you a few snaps and summarize the year as: “I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.”














































I pretty much operated in a sleepless blur this year, the constant hum in my head pierced only occasionally by a particularly adorable laugh or some woman telling me her child slept through the night at 8 weeks. I feel like I have yet to completely emerge from the cottony fog that descends at childbirth and, from what I read, seems to lift from most women by about the 3rd or 4th month (presumably in conjunction with their kids learning to sleep through the night). By then, other mothers are writing sharp exposés in magazines, bending into skinny yoga poses and otherwise getting back to their hard-charging selves. Any mental acuity I have is exhausted by my job and making sure nobody eats the cat food or sticks a fork in an electrical socket, so that when night rolls around the best I can do most nights is to pour myself a glass of wine and fall asleep during the 9 o’clock news. Somehow, though, when my mom pointed out at Christmas that I am the happiest she has ever seen me, I can't find it in myself to deny it. If I believed in a god, I'd say I've been blessed. The only things I don't like about my life for the most part I have the power to change (apparently you just have to live through the whole toddler thing).

Still, there's some room for improvement. I’ve got my humor writing class starting in January, in an attempt to recapture an ability that I think used to show up on occasion in my writing. I’m trying the 300th “it’s not a diet, it’s a way of life, and one I can see myself following forever” eating plan in an attempt to lose the remaining 10 or 15 pounds I can blame on Ian, Alex and Haagen-Dazs. And most importantly, I want to have more sex.

“Er….,” you say, but come on. It’s incredibly easy to let parenting become a life led in parallel with your spouse as you each attend to the seemingly endless needs of the smallest additions to the household. And not to be crass, but it’s become clear to me that sex is the most important way to ensure that your marriage (or “my,” if you prefer to think this doesn’t apply to you) remains strong. I think there is something of a chicken and the egg problem here, since to generalize grossly I’d say men need physical intimacy to feel emotionally intimate, while women often need the opposite. But the end result is the same – if you’re not having enough sex with your spouse (whatever “enough” means for you both), you are likely losing out in the emotional intimacy arena as well, even while you still share quick shoulder rubs and discuss the day’s news over a mutually appreciated glass of your latest favorite wine. Plus, you know, I’d really like to be in a position to stop caring about whether my friends with small children are telling the truth when they say how often they sleep with their own husbands.

So there’s more sex on the agenda. If you’ve ever met my husband, I think you’ll agree this is not exactly a hardship; it just requires a conscious decision to remember that it’s a lot more fun to shag than to clean the kitchen for the 5th time that day. I’m not sure how one can get so bogged down in the crappy minutiae of life that that most simple fact gets lost in the shuffle, but so it can.

I hope your new year brings you lots of happiness!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Workity work.

It’s funny to watch the dynamic between coworkers on opposite sides of the table during a negotiation. If you met these people at a social event, would colleagues be huddled together making snickering asides and taking a generally confrontational tone toward each other, or would they be trying to bond over the canapés?

I have a different perspective today than usual. Somehow, the cardinal rule of face-to-face negotiations has been broken and I find myself seated smack dab in the middle of the customer’s team at the opposite end of the room from my own. This leaves me alone to face all questioning solo, and to sit quietly to overhear their whispers.

There’s not much more to say about it than that, other than that if you are a lawyer you would be taken aback by the subpar level of lawyering going on in this room, and I don’t mean my own. Santa’s not going to bring me any presents for saying something so nasty, but since of course there is no Santa I’m not going to lose too much of my precious four hours of interrupted sleep per night on that.

In other news, I have been working frantically to be able to get out of the office for the next two weeks. I’m not sure why it’s always so that the week before a vacation is especially awful, but at least I will have our nice, relaxing flight to North Carolina on Saturday to cap off the fun. Just three seats filled with four people: two rigid and mortified adults and two squirmy, bellowing, and likely pooping children. I’m prepared to cast aside any self-satisfied, TV-free parenting for the day (or even more so than other days) in favor of hours and hours of Elmo DVDs, if it will help to keep things calm. That and one opiate-like pacifier and hopefully our only concern will be keeping Alex entertained. Which I can’t even imagine – what the hell are we going to do other than let him stand on our laps and bounce forcefully up and down? For three hours. I can’t imagine he’s going to snuggle in and snooze. I have been living in terror of this day for months now.

But work: this year we were asked essentially to write our own evaluations; to provide what we think are our strengths and weaknesses, etc. I loathe that kind of exercise because (1) I don’t love to brag about myself (no, really), and (2) especially when I don’t really buy what I am saying. All that normally makes for a pretty weak self-evaluation, but for some reason I decided it would be a good idea this year to follow up my short, sweet self-endorsement with the suggestion that the time was nigh for a promotion. My boss told me a few months ago it would likely be a couple of years until I was considered for the next level of bureaucracy in this middle-management hell, but I figured, what man would sit around and take that as God’s law? So I decided to more forcefully request a seat at a new table of drones. After all, there is no partnership in a legal department; just that same corporate jockeying for the brass ring of the meaningless vice-presidency playing out in shitty office spaces across this great land. If you’re going to bother to go in-house, you might as well play the same pointless game as everybody else. If anything, it’s almost like your average unpleasantly ambitious lawyer’s wet dream – “sure, you were promoted to partner, but that was only the once. I’ve been promoted TWICE.” Of course, then you start talking $$ and you realize that two promotions doesn’t get you much more in the end than cold, wet sheets.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving leftovers.

Oh dear lord, there are less than two weeks until I fly cross country with a highly active two year old next to me and a squirmy, mercurial 9-month old on my lap. This is my biggest nightmare mortification scenario EVER. Not to mention just plain old exhausting, what with the strollers and the diaper bags and the running off and laughing and the general there-will-be-no-magazine-reading nature of the whole ordeal. I just have to remember that no matter how bad it is, it is at least for a finite period of time and when it’s over there will hopefully be a large glass of chardonnay waiting for me. Not to mention several sets of eager hands waiting to bounce the exalted ones on their knees for 2 weeks.

You know, twice in the last week I have used adjectives when writing this blog that, had I not looked them up in the dictionary before posting, would have resulted in literary embarrassment. The first example is the worst: I referred to my kids as succubi, thinking it meant they were sucking the life out of me. Er, no. I would have been referring to my tiny children as “demons assuming a female form to have sex with men in their sleep,” and I think that would have been perhaps less than accurate. Then above I wrote “bounce the prodigal ones,” harkening back to the expression “prodigal son” which I vaguely thought meant favored or something similar. Again, no – it means “recklessly spendthrift,” which isn’t at least directly true. I guess you can tell I don’t read the bible, huh.

Speaking of which, this weekend I took Eeyore with me to the library to pick up some books I had reserved. I rarely do this, because he is like a loud, motorized butterfly among the stacks; flitting and buzzing and shouting about books and how nice the library looks, but this time I did. He acted as anticipated, but he also alit briefly on a shelf of books from which he wanted to choose a book. He spied one with big, colorful photographs of animals and held it up: “How about this one, Mommy!?” “Sure…. Oh, no,” I said. He had chosen a big picture book of “Farm Animals of the Bible.” Is it wrong of me that I automatically removed it from his hand and said brightly, “Not that one!” My knee-jerk reaction was to avoid exposure to anything using the word “bible,” but really, it was only a bunch of pictures of donkeys and stuff. I guess I just don’t want to get into the discussion yet about what is the bible and what is God and why don’t we go to church and on and on. I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with that.

The good news is if my kids ever choose on their own to be Christians, they have both already been emergency baptized as Catholics by their grandparents. Apparently “emergency” baptism by laypeople is permissible in extreme circumstances such as those in our heathen little home – since our children’s fates were in jeopardy due to our callous renunciation of organized religion, my dad was able to save their souls while giving them baths in the kitchen sink. God takes ‘em where he can get ‘em!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving thanks for exhaustion.

Thanksgiving: why am I dreading what is supposed to be such a mild-mannered, inoffensive little holiday? Perhaps because the thought of trying to prepare dinner in my tiny house with two little attention-suckers at my knee is thoroughly depressing. It’s not like they’re going to ooh and ah over my dressing and gravy, either, so why am I bothering? I had been relieved of all this angst when a friend invited us to join her for the big day, but a couple of weeks ago she rescinded her invitation because one of her other friends who would be there “wasn’t up for a lot of people.” I can’t really blame my friend for capitulating to her other friend’s antisocial request, as this is the other friend’s first Thanksgiving alone since her husband died last year, but it does leave me back in the unwanted position in which I started. And, let's just be honest here, maybe a little irritated with the antisocial friend.

My plan has been to cook just a few things from my family’s traditional repertoire: a turkey breast, dressing, and asparagus casserole. Then R. said he wanted the sweet potato concoction with marshmallows on top (although he graciously allowed we could make one half with the brown sugar and pecan topping I prefer), so we’re having that too, plus (if R. makes it) a pie. So that should take the better part of Thursday, and then we will sit down around the table and have a family dinner that will be less than relaxing. And if you think I should just be thankful to have my little family around the table, let me just ask you – have you ever tried eating dinner with one kid who insists on:

(a) sitting on his knees just far enough from the table that all foods end up on the floor,
(b) feeding himself with his hands, no matter what the food
(c) feeding his brother bites of his own food, perfectly sized for lodging in a baby’s throat,
(d) shrieking,
(e) getting out of his chair repeatedly to play with a toy or look in the fridge for an item of food or drink not on the menu,
(f) interrupting any attempt to conduct a conversation on a topic not of his choosing,
(g) sitting on my lap to more easily kick his brother or reach the light switch,

and another who:

(a) has to be fed or watched like a hawk while he feeds himself,
(b) rubs his eyes when his hands are covered with anything wet or grainy, which is to say constantly,
(c) shrieks gleefully to copy his brother,
(d) dances in his high chair by rocking side to side, forcing you to spend the entire dinner singing to him, and
(e) has been known to fall asleep while you are sticking a spoon of something in his mouth?

Okay, fine, of course I am thankful for all that. It’s pretty great. But I could get the whole experience with McDonald’s hamburgers and fries, and not have spent the entire day cooking.

I just had a revolutionary idea – even though I have bought the ingredients, I’m bagging it. I’ll roast the turkey breast, because it’s easy, and I will make the dressing the night before, but other than that butterbeans and canned cranberry sauce are going to have to round out the festivities. Does that make me sound like Scrooge? If so, you are welcome to join us for dinner as long as you agree to cook everything else. See you there!

Friday, November 20, 2009

I want.

Goddamn Rue La La. Why is it that the only time I find something there I really want, my credit is all sucked up in my fifth return process? My last purchase was a Vera Wang gray cashmere cardigan marked down to $250 from $1150 (are you f*&*% kidding me?), thus exhausting my Rue La La credit. The problem with this item is it fit as if I were wearing the cardigan of somebody’s 6’2”, 250 pound grandpa; is that considered fashionable these days? I didn’t think so, so it’s currently making its way back to Kentucky or wherever it came from. Today they have a Taryn Rose boutique, with a fabulous pair of boots marked down to $250 from $675. I considered pushing the ol’ “buy now” button for about five minutes, but then came to my senses and remembered I have two small children, drive a Hyundai and live in a city where I could wear stonewashed jeans and white tennis shoes out to dinner should I ever lose my mind and feel so inclined. Just the thought of that made me die inside a little bit. Am I closer to looking like that than I think? I should have just bought the shoes and chalked it up as necessary to save me from suburban, maternal entropy.

Instead, the item I most recently spent money on was a night guard. Apparently I spend most nights acting out dreams of tearing antelope flesh from the bone with my massive jaws. Last night was my first night sleeping in it, after walking around the house with it in my mouth for awhile pretending I was fourteen. It’s a strange contraption, snapping onto my bottom teeth with a satisfying, plasticky click. Sleeping in it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, although it does seem to cause one’s mouth to generate an unseemly amount of drool.

I’ve made my first dinner reservation for New York next month; at DBGB Kitchen & Bar. Has anyone eaten there? I’m not convinced yet that it’s where we actually will be having dinner, having as it does both an overemphasis on sausages and an appearance akin to a bomb shelter, but it did get a good write up in the Times so it has that going for it. Other than that I’m compiling a list of shops I want to visit, so between thoughts of shopping, food, martinis and sharing a bedroom with my husband with neither of our children lying between us watching the Wiggles and smelling like diapers I am getting positively feverish with excitement!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A smile for the good life.

Oh, sweet candy corn, I love you so; your first, delicate taste of honey that with every jam-packed mouthful builds into a sugary, chemical wad of paste. Why do we eat you only at Halloween?

Damn it. I just wedged two pieces of candy corn under into my mouth to resemble fangs, intending to snap my picture for your viewing pleasure, only to realize that I lost my blackberry in a bar last night. Luckily, the girl who found it is meeting me later, since I feel horribly unplugged from the matrix without it, but that hardly helps me now.

Yes, last night I found myself at the intersection of Hipsterville and Working Woman Lane, in the bar at Root Down. That place is crawling with armies of young urbanites with tattoos and expensively messy haircuts on the one hand, and herds of drab female office workers letting their husbands put the kids to bed tonight on the other. It’s not really a successful mix so much as an uninterested coexistence. Last night, however, my place at the intersection was more literal than figurative. I was there with a woman I work with, W., and another woman, C., that I met through W. but have become friends with on my own. W. is 8 years older than I am; C. is 8 or 9 years younger. W. and I get up every day and serve the needs of our kids and head off to work. C. is a free spirit and is heading back to France this weekend to continue life with her American artist boyfriend. She described their house in the countryside to me last night, and it sounded like perfection.

It’s old and made of the local stone and there is nothing to do but read in front of the fire and have sex. And make art.

I could do that.

I wonder what it would be like to be the person who can avoid the traditional trappings of American existence: the house, the car, the mall, the narrow world view. Even if you do have that bone in your body, it’s still a different ball game once you have kids. Then you have to be creative to make that kind of life work and still get your children the education and stability they need. I guess it’s made up of attempts at sabbaticals from “real life.” When I lived in Paris as a kid, one friend of mine was there with her dad who is an architecture professor at Penn. I don’t know if he was teaching or writing or doing nothing at all, but they had a nice apartment where I was exposed exhaustively to Peter Gabriel and explanations of what life was like in Philadelphia. Sometimes my mom and I would go out for Chinese food with my friend and her dad, and Siobhan and I would sit at a separate table. I’m sure our parents thought it was worth the tab not to have to share their table with two 14-year old, self-obsessed little girls.

As an aside, France doesn’t really understand the concept of doggie bags, so when we would ask for our leftovers at this restaurant they would very sweetly create aluminum foil packages in the shape of swans for us. The graceful silver birds would leak their sticky contents all the way home.

Anyway, clearly there are ways to finagle a life abroad for a year or two, but whether or not it can be orchestrated to include lots of time for art and sex is another matter entirely. Maybe when the kids are older, but then you risk your children enjoying the same things.


I got my phone back. The girl who brought it to me was from an army, not a herd.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pain and faithlessness.

Do you ever keep reading something you know you shouldn’t, that no good can come of it? For me, the topic is usually something awful that has happened to somebody; something I don’t want to ever happen to me. Today, I happened upon a blog by a dad whose daughter would have just celebrated her second birthday if she hadn’t died a few months ago. He started it when she was born and he became a stay-at-home dad. Now it’s somewhere for him to let out his grief. His wife has one, too. They are excruciatingly painful to read, but I couldn’t stop. They are trying so hard to keep moving forward in their lives.

No matter how painful it is to read about, it can’t be anything compared to experiencing it. I have one old friend who lost a daughter when she was only six months old, although I didn’t know him when that happened. When he told me about it, I could appreciate that it had been an awful experience for him and his wife, but I was unable to truly empathize; to feel it viscerally. Not ever having spent that much time with children, I didn’t have it in me yet to truly appreciate the value of a tiny little life, only just starting to be lived. Now that I do, I’m embarrassed by my old self.

Of course, when I go down the road of my newfound empathy with other parents, it can be tough to watch or hear about all sorts of things. I haven’t yet learned to steel myself completely against images of children starving to death; their mothers swatting flies away from their dull, listless faces, or from photographs of small children smiling from their hospital beds; machines and tubes and teddy bears everywhere. It could all be so overwhelming if we didn’t have some built in mechanism to shut it out and continue on with our own existences. And we do, although I don’t expect that mechanism to do much good when it’s our own child who has suffered.

I have such a hard time understanding how people can believe in a benevolent God. It's all well and good when you're thanking him for your game-winning touchdown, but when he's taking your child away? What's so benevolent about that? The only faith I have is in the inherent goodness of the people I've been lucky enough to surround myself with in this life. Beyond that, I can't comment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The road always traveled.

California was much as I expected: I put on my eager-to-please persona and got through the day. It was long hours of work punctuated by the consumption of bagels. When else but during a meeting would you ever eat more than one bagel in the space of a couple of hours? But they were Noah’s Bagels and they were good and I’m perpetually bored and hungry so I ate them.

My plane left sunny San Francisco and landed in snowy Denver. Yay. Sometimes I wonder why I live here, since the older I get the more I dislike winter. It snowed all weekend, and on Sunday I bundled Eeyore up and we went in the back yard to build a snowman. I only had time to lob a couple of snowballs at him and build the bottom of the snowman before he announced he was cold:

Eeyore: “Mommy, I want to go inside.”

Kate: “Honey, we’ve only been out here for as long as it took me to get you dressed. Are you sure?”

Eeyore: “Yes.”

Kate: “Would you like to take a walk?”

Eeyore: “No. I want to go in and have some cocoa.”

A boy after my own heart. So we went in and I made him cocoa in his special mug and we had whipped cream on top and it was pretty great. Thank God there are some sweet moments to temper the incredible crash into willfulness we’ve had recently. I can’t believe we are in the midst of the big, fat cliché of the Terrible Twos in our house.

On another note, the other day I realized I have been driving the same path to work for the last SEVEN YEARS.

















Sure, sometimes I take the road that takes me by Einstein’s, or down by the Safeway to get their discounted gas, but mostly it’s just seven straight years of the same thing, every day. That’s just depressing, and unless something changes I’m likely to be following that same path for the next 25 years. Then I’ll retire and they’ll give me a watch and I’ll be 65 and shopping at J. Jill and CHRIST.

But today I signed up for a January “humor writing” class at Gotham Writer’s Workshop, so tomorrow, the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Step outside the four corners.

Here I am in sunny California, on a somewhat surprise business trip. I’m out here to negotiate a really high-flying deal with a SUPER exciting company. You know, the kind that normally involves two days of sitting in an airless conference room, sizing each other up in a somewhat hostile manner. However, I have an almost pathological need to get some kind of favorable response from the “other side”; some indication that not only do they see me as a person, but that they would pay money to see me perform at a comedy club should I chance to revisit their fair city, or at the very least invite me to a dinner party. As far as I know, this particular technique is not taught in any negotiations class, nor should it be. When I’m lucky, it results in a friendlier atmosphere for negotiations, but more often the other side is a humorless bunch of stiffs who sit around oversized tables all day for good reason.

If my attempts at lightening the mood are met with resistance, I will usually just shut up other than to make my points and wait out the day until cocktail hour. Ah, cocktail hour. That is the one nice thing about the kind of work I do now; most people who work for companies want to hang it up at 5 to get home to watch reality TV or go bowling, or, sometimes, to drink cocktails. When I was with a law firm, being locked in a room for two days meant just that, and maybe someone would bring in some beer from the law firm kitchen around 7:30, and maybe not. Then there was going to the printer, which was a different story altogether: endless hours of excruciatingly boring work, but more snacks than any young associate could ever eat. How nice that I measure the success of my career by the amount of food and drink made available to me.

Somehow on this trip I have ended up driving a Prius. I care about the earth, I really do, but I think Priuses are a little silly-looking and it’s not a car I would normally choose to drive. However, after the clerk at the Avis counter somehow tricked me into (1) renting it (I’ll spare you the details), and (2) pre-purchasing a full tank of gas, I found myself out on the highway in my overpriced, surprisingly peppy little tin can. The first thing I realized after driving the car for a half hour or so is that it’s unlikely I will use two gallons of gas zig-zagging back and forth around the Bay Area, let alone the eleven I paid for. It must kind of suck to work for a rental car agency and have to try to upsell to people as if they worked at the Starbucks drive-thru: “Good morning; would you like to try our venti peppermint mocha caramel macchiato with eggs and turkey bacon?”

Being here without my whippersnappers, I’m sure I’ll have time to post again soon…

Thursday, November 5, 2009

So then I says...

I had a conference call this morning, and I am coming to the horrified realization that I might be one of those lawyers who sounds like they are talking just to hear themselves talk. Sometimes, like today, it’s as if I am standing back from myself in my head, listening to myself go on and on about whatever useless-in-the-grand-scheme-of-the-universe point I’m so desperate to make. “Kate,” I tell myself, “please be quiet.” On occasion this translates into my abruptly clamping my lips together, mangling the sentence I had been showing off. I don’t think I oversell a point; just that I take longer to make it than strictly necessary.

I need to know the answer to this. I’m going to conduct a scientific poll of three people and I will get right back to you.

They are taking long enough to answer that I think I have an answer.

Oh, dear.

Ten minutes later: Two answered “no,” but I could read the “yes” between the lines. One came out with it: Yes. She tried to play it off like it was a nice thing brought on by birthing children, like before I’d been some tight-lipped battleaxe so that this was just a friendly improvement.

I’m more concerned than ever about my performance these days because it’s that joyful time of year when companies contemplate how to cut $$$$ from their books. And by $$$$, I mean real live human beings with mouths to feed and mortgages to pay and Christmas a-comin’. As usual, I don’t have any reason to think I’ll be one of the unlucky ones, but you just never know. It makes me feel all nasty and powerless inside. Who is hiring garrulous commercial lawyers these days? Nobody, that’s who.

So for the sake of getting through the day let’s just assume for now I miss this round of head-chopping. In the meantime I’ll work on my brevity in work conversations. Let’s take an example of before and after.

NOW:

Customer’s counsel: “So Kate, how’s the weather out there?”

Kate: “Oh, it’s beautiful! We’re supposed to hit 75 degrees today. That’s why it’s so nice to live in Denver – it can snow one day but it’s completely melted the next. Keep the snow up in the mountains, that’s what I say. I’m really not one for cold weather. I don’t ski, either, but it’s nice to be up in the mountains and look around and drink cocoa and all that. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my kids are old enough to ski and I’m going to have to be up there all the time. Have I told you my husband’s an architect? He’s going to design us a house up there one day, and then I will probably just stay back at the house and make chili for everyone while they’re out getting cold. Although I get kind of jealous just thinking about it, like why do they get to be out having fun but I’m just the galley slave back at the house? But it’s scary thinking of trying to learn to ski when the rest of your family is already really good at it, you know? God, sometimes I am just so self-defeating.”

CC: “Right…”

LATER:

Customer’s counsel: “So Kate, how’s the weather out there?”

Kate: “Fine.”

CC: “I read about all that snow. Has it melted?”

Kate: “Yep.”

Brief and to the point. So they’ll think I have some kind of socialization disorder, but as lawyers they run across that with half their colleagues every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bonjour, Kettle. C'est moi, Pot.

Having children is so frigging expensive. Putting aside the obvious, like child care and enough diapers to outfit a small nation of naked-butted children, you really start to feel the pinch when it comes to travel. We’re going to North Carolina for Christmas, which means we will be flying. Right there, add one $500 ticket for Thing One (I will be balancing Thing Two in one hand and a $6 soothing alcoholic beverage in the other). Then there’s the need to rent a grandparently ride instead of the cheap compact car that would have been adequate When We Were Two. Add to that 2 rented car seats, and that’s an extra $300 for the car rental. What happens when the kids are old enough that we have to start renting those interconnected hotel rooms you don’t read about on nice hotel websites? Sigh. It’s enough to make me run out and buy a pair of Jimmy Choos in backlash.

Speaking of which, did you see that Jimmy Choo is doing a line with H&M? I won’t actually be taking advantage of my 10-minute time slot to check out the wares, however, because we don’t even have an H&M in Denver. That’s right – some strip mall near Dulles airport has one, but not the capital of the entire state of Colorado; no sir. No Trader Joe’s or Harris Teeter, either – sometimes this place seems like such a wasteland. Maybe THAT is my calling: to open Denver outposts of all my favorite shops from around the world. I’d need to buy up a whole block of property somewhere like Wash Park, and do it up UK high street style. Anchor tenants would be Marks & Spencer and Trader Joe’s, with cheerily lit branches of Waterstone’s booksellers, Prêt à Manger (the UK version, not the watered down NY version), all the high street favorites like Next and Oasis, a nice big Monoprix… ah. It sounds like a little bit of heaven to me, although who knows if I would still be as enamored of those places if they were filled with the same people as this:

CLICK HERE

Views like that tend to temper the experience a bit. The worst part is that many of the People of Walmart really do look like that. I don’t go to my local Walmart too often, because there’s nothing I want there that I couldn’t get in a more attractive version at Target and not risk being carjacked in the parking lot, but really it’s because I get overwhelmed by the clientele. The checkout lines are always so long, so I’m stuck for a good long time observing an aspect of America I’d rather not think about. And before you get a head of steam going to tell me about how poverty isn’t pretty and all that, I know. So I have a lot of guilt and conflicted feelings sandwiched in there with the revolted awe. But seriously, look at some of the pictures on that website. Does a low income have to translate into THAT? The answer is no. Not having much money might lead to little education about nutrition, which can translate into shopping carts full of Doritos and Mountain Dew, but it doesn’t have to lead to the results of those nutritional transgressions being mapped over with a crazy web of tattoos, jean shorts and a buzz cut. I mean, really; how many times have you been in line behind someone at Walmart where it takes you a good minute of staring before you decide that yes, she IS a woman? Don’t lie – a lot.

No, we're much classier around these parts:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This American life.

Well, despite my best efforts I didn’t quite get around to writing last night. Perhaps that’s because I actually made no effort whatsoever. Instead, I met some friends after work for a couple of glasses of wine at this place, then closed my eyes and pointed the car towards home. After saying goodnight to the boys, making dinner for and fighting dispiritedly with the husband, who had enough time to write? Not me; I barely had time to brush my teeth before succumbing to blissfully solitary sleep.

And now it’s today.

Oh, my; someone just laughed in the hall and it took me straight back to my grandmother’s house in Marietta, Georgia. One of her daughters has a very distinctive laugh; she shares it with nobody I know except for her one sister from whom she lives right down the street. It’s like a seal’s bark, and it’s really not Southern and it’s really not pretty. Neither of those girls seems Southern to me at all, and yet they were the only 2 of my grandmother’s six children who were actually born in Georgia. It’s interesting that they share the same flat inflection of their California parents and siblings, even though they were raised in the same crickety cradle of leafy green summers that I was.

Speaking of the South, they are finally selling sweet tea at McDonald’s and Wendy’s here in Colorado. And I’ll tell you what – they are nothing like sweet tea back home. You know, stop me if I’m repeating myself, because I’m obviously a hamster on a wheel that says the same shit over and over, but really, the tea thing is a disgrace. I’d say they are not only using a different brand of tea out here, but God only knows what chemical slop of high fructose corn syrup they’re dumping in it. At least in Georgia they have the good sense to use something that at least tastes like Karo syrup, whether or not it’s the real thing. There is no comparison. Which is probably just as well, or I’d be ordering it every day. As it is, I’m usually happy to stick to the chemical nightmare that is Diet Coke to wash down my “All American Cheeseburger Meal.” Which it is – All American circa 1956 or for small children, consisting as it does of a simple cheeseburger and a small order of fries. A truly “All-American Cheeseburger Meal” is one of those 1500-calorie monstrosities with 2 all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, which I can no more imagine ordering these days than one of those giant turkey legs so prevalent at all the Denver food and culture festivals (no comment).

Food. Time to go home and try to think of yet another easy, healthful meal for two tiny tots. Chik’n patties, you say? Yes, that kind of cop out sounds just about right for tonight.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A diet book for my life.

I was reminded this weekend of how stagnant I have become by both my mother and my husband. Each made an offhand comment that caused me to rumple my mouth in a chagrined, Kermit-The-Frog expression. It wasn’t their intent to embarrass me; they were just stating the facts.

I bought a book on Friday called “Your First Novel.” It looked like an interesting, practical guide to getting started on the true calling I continue to believe is buried in me somewhere under the layers of cotton wool and self-defeat. When I pulled it out of the bag to show R., he said, “Oh – a diet book for writing.” What I understood him to mean was that I have about thirty different diet books and a fat ass. Or, more politely, that I have a tendency to buy books about a subject but not actually follow through on their contents. I talk about wanting to be a writer; I do nothing about it. Buying this book is just another fruitless exercise in self-deception.

Yesterday, I was chatting with my mother and mentioned I was trying the “No-S Diet.” “Oh yes,” she said, “I remember you telling me about that a year or so ago.”

Is it any wonder my teeth ache constantly from my ever-clenched jaw? I am treading water, generating just enough buoyancy to keep my children afloat while I forget about my own interests in favor of freaking out about how there is no way I can cook Thanksgiving dinner with two small children so maybe we just won’t celebrate it this year. Bo-ring.

I see what is wrong with this picture, but how does anyone find time to put their own needs first while not sacrificing the growth and happiness of their kids? Do you just say “today I will skip this 4th round of dishes?”

My assignment for tonight is to write a blog entry completely unrelated to self-flagellation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's not ironic.

If you’d ever like to be reminded just how old you really are, and I can’t think why you would want to do that, but IF YOU DID, then I suggest you wander into an Urban Outfitters. Urban Outfitters was around when I was a teenager, and my 14-year old self spent plenty of Saturday afternoons poking around the M Street store, looking for ways to waste my allowance. Twenty-five years later the store is pretty much the same, which is to say that it sells some reasonably cute, hipster clothes and a lot of ironic t-shirts and ironic posters and ironic furniture and pretentious classics for the young, urban readers among us. Of course, the hipster element is belied by the fact that the store has an outpost in almost any urban shopping mall, which lets me know it was probably the same level of cool when I was 14, too.

My point, though, and I did have one, was that when I walked into the store the other day I felt like I had been hit over the head with my own irrelevance. The doughy young clerk folding t-shirts near the door struck the tone for me with a decidedly unimpressed sneer. Even her pimples regarded me mulishly. I was tempted to moo at her. Instead, I walked through the store, eyeing the various displays of clothes too tight, too short or made of material too unforgiving for a frame that has been stretched out from providing a crash pad for two separate human beings. I didn’t even touch anything; what was the point? If I ever have occasion to wear a tiny, ironic t-shirt again, I have several in a bin in my basement. I guess I need to give up the ghost and donate them to some overprivileged 15-year old they were designed for in the first place.

It’s hard to make peace with bidding adieu to one’s youth. But when my personal trainer says perkily, “I thought you were 35!” not realizing her marketing plan doesn’t have quite the ring it was probably supposed to, I have to face the facts. And the facts include the requirement that I stay out of stores for our up and coming young citizens. I’m sure I’ll be back in them soon enough anyway, shopping for the next generation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Huh?

Pretty soon you’re going to drop me from your list of work time-wasters, if you haven’t already. I have an excuse, although it’s not one I’m happy about. My head is in a fog. Any energy I have for thinking goes into my job, and the rest of the time you’d be forgiven for wondering if maybe I’d been in a car accident or something since the last time you saw me. I just don’t feel that right in my head.

I hope it’s all simply attributable to the now 8 months of horribly interrupted sleep, and not to the anti-crazy pills I am on. Because while the bone-tiredness hopefully one day will be gone, I really, really don’t want to give up my happy candy. However, if it means exchanges like the following also go away, then maybe OK:

Kate, in an email: “They were supposedly happiedly married. I can't remember how to spell happiedly. Is that a word?”

Kate’s Friend: “Uh, do you mean “happily’”?

Kate: “Mmm. Perhaps.”

And everything about my head is like that now. When I drive to work and hear an interesting story on NPR, I think I should write about it that day. By the time I am at the office I have very little memory of what I heard or what sort of opinion I should have about it. My mind is like the floating tentacles of a jellyfish, pale and ephemeral and sort of prehistorically unchanging below the ocean’s surface. Shit, that doesn’t work, because with jellyfish you’re expecting that diaphanous, billowing creature to suddenly tense up and sting the crap out of you. There’s no caffeinated spark behind the marshmallow fluff that passes for my brain these days.

Although, the more I write here the more I feel reassured it’s just the exhaustion and not the potentially lobotomizing antidepressants. I can almost feel my brain tuning up below the fog; like a pencil sharpened with one of those old-fashioned, hand-cranked sharpeners.

I sound nuts, but for somebody who considers herself pretty sharp normally, it feels so strange. I don’t think about the future anymore, and I rarely think about the past. Everything is very much “now” – as in, “now” we are going to the park, and “now” I will be feeding you dinner and “now” I will be cleaning the kitchen for the 4th time today and “now” I will be tucking you in and reading you stories and giving you the requested “up-hug.” Part of that is not so bad; I have wasted way too much time in my life not living in the moment and instead obsessing about what should be different that would make me happy. Well, now I actually am happy, and I know it because when Ian asks me every day, “Mommy, are you happy?” I am able to honestly reply to him that I am. Even when I see myself in the mirror and I see that I am finally starting to look my age; that all this is taking a physical toll on me, I’m still happy. Just a little concerned about when I am going to get an important part of my brain back.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The ends of the spectrum.

Try not to look at my granny hand as you revel in this cuteness:





















Although, honestly, what is up with that hand!? I’m 40, not 85. I remember when I was a kid, and I’d look at my mom’s veiny, 30-year old hands from behind my smooth, youthful eyes and see it as a reflection of the great chasm between our ages (23 whopping years). I couldn’t even imagine being old enough to have age reflected on my body, and 30 was OOOOLLLLLD. Of course, I had no idea that having veiny hands wasn’t even an issue of age; it’s just a genetic trait and one which I inherited.

The other day I was looking at my own children’s perfect skin, still so fresh from creation as to be plump and unblemished. I wondered how old they will be when they start criticizing me for my age: Mom, you are so old and so out of touch and your clothes are horrible and please don’t make me be seen with you, gross gross gross gross gross. Not yet, at least, although I do get plenty of giggles from Ian when he drives a little fist into the doughy non-resistance of my tummy. Ha.

I wonder if boys are as casually cutting as girls are, or if they just view their mothers more as fossils to be ignored. I’m sure there will be plenty of snide comments on a wide range of comments, but I don’t know whether boys waste time remarking on a parent’s physicality. Or, whether it’s more of a same-sex thing, and R. will be the target of the boys’ sartorial disdain. Ooh, I can hardly wait to find out; to endure the good time I put my own mom through.

Here’s another picture; rest assured that they don’t share a bed. No, Ian is pretending to like Alex for ten seconds because it means he can enjoy a relaxing hit on a pacifier. Ian isn’t allowed to have a binky unless he’s taking a nap or down for the night, so he likes to climb into Alex’s crib and pretend it’s his naptime, too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hanging by a thread.

As I started my file for “October 2009” this morning I realized it’s been four years since I started this blog. Four years of spouting off to the world about the silliest or most distracting things going on in my mind, which according to what I glanced over this morning has rarely carried a lot of intellectual weight.

October 2005 found me trying to make the best of being somewhat lonely through music, alcohol, cigarettes and lame interactions with lame guys, all described in my tough-chick persona that clearly belonged to someone who came of age in the Breakfast Club years. I think it’s fair to say that the way my life has evolved since then has mellowed me a lot, and thank God for that. I think all that bravado would have aged poorly. It’s not like I didn’t have the gooey center even then that would allow me to cry at Disney movies and Hallmark commercials, but now I don’t have the energy to keep up the hard candy shell. My kids would just hit it and eat the pieces.

On another topic, another thing about me that is apparently dissolving is my cornea. I know, that’s a nice segue, isn’t it? Today my eye was bothering me enough that I dragged myself into my opthamologist, only to learn that the little corneal scratch I had a couple of months ago has morphed into another abrasion. How can that happen? Well, apparently it’s not uncommon for the cornea not to heal properly in the first place, and if you have dry eyes then when you sleep your eyelid can attach to your slightly roughened cornea and when you wake and blink, pull off corneal cells. Yuck. Now I have to apply a greasy ointment to my eyeball every night until the tube runs out, followed by nightly gel drops until I die:

Doctor: “Use this until it runs out, then you’ll need to use these gel drops for the rest of your life.”

Kate: “Forever!? You mean, IN PERPETUITY!!??”

Doctor: “Uh, yes, Kate, if that's how you'd like to phrase it.”

Tonight my husband and I and my ragged eyeball are going to see the movie “Paris” at our favorite movie theater – the one where they sell you glasses of decent wine in real glasses that you can take into the theater. Since we last saw a movie there, the thought of seeing a movie in one of those big ol’ movieplexes teeming with wretched, pimply-faced teenagers (or, in the one near our house, teens with guns shoved into their britches) just hasn’t held the same appeal. Popcorn goes just as well with chardonnay as it does with diet Pepsi, my friends – maybe better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blind in one eye.

I’m falling apart. I’ve lost count of how many weird lumps and bumps and pains have turned up in different spots on my head in the last couple of weeks. Today my right eye hurts again, and the vision in it is a bit blurry. Since that’s my “bad” eye, if I hadn’t been through this a couple of months ago I would be panicking. When my vision suddenly got very blurry then, I ran to my retinal doctor to have it checked out – only to discover I had an eyelash growing inward that was acting like a dirty windshield wiper on my cornea, scratching it up. They plucked it with tweezers – very advanced science.

Anyway, it turns out months without sleep will send a person into early decrepitude. I can only pray that the last two nights, during which both children have slept reasonably well all night long, are not a fluke. This has been a LONG road. We tried Ferberizing Alex, only to discover that the supposedly gentler method of coming in at increasing intervals did nothing but enrage him. Every time I came in to let him know I hadn’t completely disappeared, his furious screams would ratchet up another few notches, he’d shake his clenched little fists, and generally make himself incredibly unappealing. After a few nights of that unsuccessful tack, we said, “Fuck it.” Who was it helping for us to keep getting up to reassure him that Mommy and Daddy were there for him when it only served to make him madder? So R. reverted to his earplugs, and I just stopped waking up. I don’t want to jinx things by saying that maybe we’ve crossed the bridge, but… please let it be so.

So what do you think about this Roman Polanski thing? I have to say, I am amazed that he has so many “supporters” who think it’s terrible that he was arrested after all this time; people who think that 30 years of making films somehow eradicates the fact that he repeatedly "had sex with" a 13-year old girl after plying her with drugs and alcohol. As if his “art” cleans up the filth of rape, like so much Lysol. What about the fact that he’s basically been on the lam for 30 years, specifically to avoid incarceration for his crime?

Apparently there was some question about the objectivity of the judge in his original case, and whether he was about to renege on a plea bargain agreement that had been reached. I suppose that could explain Polanski’s feeling the need to flee, wondering if he was about to have to do hard time. However, it doesn’t excuse the original act, and it doesn’t make the act of his fleeing legal. It seems to me that at this point he should just face the music; after all, he is a celebrity of sorts, with some incomprehensible wellspring of sympathy from the film community on his side – how much time would he have do anyway?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's me, already.

Hello, my friends. This is called "lousy parenting."

Everyone knows you don't just leave a baby with a propped bottle. How can you bond when you're not holding them? How can he drink when the bottle is pointed the wrong way? Ah, he can stand to lose a few pounds anyway, and denying kids human touch toughens them up. Plus, who would even want to hug a kid who looked like that?

So, yeah, it's been awhile. But given the state of my last couple of weeks, which includes a full family bout of the swine flu (or some other flu with exactly the same symptoms) and busy, busy work, well, I've been lucky to even think any words much less put them to paper.

I had been waiting to write about this, because it was supposed to be a surprise for R's birthday, but then he guessed it and it's a little spoiled from that perspective but will still be fun in the end:

We're going to New York for a couple of days in December. Yes, we're leaving our darling children with their extended family in Charlotte while we jet up to that chic gateway that is the Newark airport and get cracking on 50+ hours of solid fun and romance. I snark, but in reality I am terribly excited. How long has it been since I have traveled anywhere at all other than to the hospital? Granted, those little 4-day "vacations" were pretty awesome, what with the blood and the painkillers and the unfamiliar babies, but they weren't quite a trip to New York.

I can't believe I am getting so crazy for a two-day vacation, but I'm betting that if you too have or have had small children you know exactly of what I speak. Love 'em - but I also love my husband, and man could we use a little break (I'm still hopeful for a trip to the Caribbean in March, but we'll probably need to spring that proposal on Grandma after she's had a chance to deal with this one). It seems like forever since we were alone together, and in fact it's been about 16 months. So this will be nice.

If things had gone according to plan, this Friday I would have been giving R. a birthday card with a copy of a reservation for Saturday night at the Ritz in Beaver Creek. Since I had been going on and on about how much he would like his present, a night at the Ritz would have been nice but likely a bit of a letdown since we've been there several times before. Then, as we were seated alone at some bar in Vail on Saturday night, I would have handed him another card - this time with the tickets to NYC and a copy of our hotel reservation. I was very pleased with my plan, which now that I think about it benefited me awfully nicely as well.

But alas. I was so stupid as to leave a copy of Lucky magazine open on the table, foolishly opened to a page of New York boutiques. Now, I don't think most men, seeing a copy of some random fashion mag opened to a page of stores would have automatically leapt to the conclusion that their wife was taking them to NY, but that's my darling!

"Is my birthday present a trip to New York?" he asked as he came into the room. I could feel my jaw clench and my eyes glass over.

"No," I said.

"Yes," I said.

"God damn it," I finished.

I suppose I could have stuck with "no" and he would have believed me, but then when I gave it to him, he would have just been like, "I guessed that." So I just went ahead and told him, and even though I had pictured we would chatter about it excitedly every day from now until December, we've barely mentioned it since. He hasn't had time to even think about it (again, with the swine flu), but hopefully soon we'll start to figure out what to pack into our short adventure.

Here's the hotel where we're staying: Ink48. It's in Hell's Kitchen, which I'm told is an area of town much improved in the last few years. I got a great deal at this place because it's only opening this month, which means it could be a total cluster when we're there, but it looked pretty nice. It's a Kimpton hotel, which usually means I'll like it.

Uh-oh. I just looked it up for the website and now it's opening November 1. Hmm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lack of sleep breeds discontent and profligate spending.

Rue La La strikes again. My credit just gets larger as I impetuously buy things and return them. This is what I fell for today:




















Yes, I know. Kind of cute, kind of tacky, kind of instantly dated. But hey, they only cost $40 after applying my credit, so why not, right? At this rate I’ll soon be able to use my credit to buy a Gucci handbag.

Meanwhile, my smallest child is the devil. Last night he screamed non-stop from 2 am until 5 am, at which time I finally fell down on the Ferberizing job and plugged his pie hole with a bottle. He promptly fell asleep, which means I, too, could have promptly fallen asleep at 2 am if I had only cut out the nonsense in the middle. To make matters worse, he has developed a hideous new pitch to his screaming that I’m surprised didn’t have the neighbors calling 911 on us. Needless to say, this development in the sleep-taming wars sucks – particularly when it’s inflicted on two parents still suffering from the Swine Flu or a cold or whatever.

I’m getting the sense that whatever rewards there are to being a parent could be quickly squashed by all the complete and total shit you’re expected to endure, unless you put some serious Pollyanna-power-of-positive-thinking strategies to work:

“Just think - if I hadn't stepped in this steaming pile of horse crap, I would never have found this little gold nugget! We’re going to be rich!”

Oh, and I forgot to mention I got this girl's haircut:






Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Inmates running the asylum.

Um, ew. So Nicole Richie had another kid, which she gave another completely frightful name: Sparrow James Midnight Madden.

What is it with these celebrities and their bizarre naming conventions? Where do they even come up with these things? SPARROW? This is a little boy's name? Thank God they at least threw a "James" in there for him to fall back on when he is old enough to reclaim his own identity.

It seems to be a requirement now that even the most normal-seeming parents have to pick sucky non-names; see, e.g., Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's choice for their daughter "Serafina." OK, it's not the worst of what's out there (Apple and Moses' mommy, I'm talking to you), but it's still silly. Do they consult with each other before landing on their chosen moniker ("Jada, Tom and I are thinking about "Suri" for our baby's name. You haven't heard that anywhere else, have you? It means something in Jewish, I think."), or do they get drunk and write nonsense words on little scraps of paper that they take turns pulling out of each others' asses?

Anyway.

Things have been pretty grim in our house full of normal-named people. We were all bed-ridden this holiday weekend, and because I have contracted such delights as West Nile Virus in the past, I'm inclined to think we were all touched by the piggy flu. There were varying degrees of symptoms among us, but there were plenty of bodily fluids to go around. Which is always nice. What was nice, in a sad little way, was curling up on the couch with Eeyore to watch marathon episodes of Elmo's World. He was happy as a sick little clam and I got a little rest. Unfortunately, Alex is already a teevee fanatic, and even if I face his bouncy seat away from the screen he contorts himself to look back at it. So I just choose sometimes to suck as a parent and face him more conveniently so he doesn't strain his neck. I mean, he's going to watch it either way, right?

Now we are recovering and there will be less TV and more normal activities. Ian's latest phrase, which gets me every time, is, "I LOVE that, Mommy!" It can be about anything, from a song such as Ring Around the Rosy ("I LOVE that song!") to last night's turkey burgers ("I LOVE that hamburger, Mommy!"), so it behooves me to offer up a variety of delightful experiences such as those rather than to stifle him with incessant viewings of that scraggly red monster.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yum yum globalization.

This is just bizarre to me:












That, my friends, is a Whole Foods store in my old neighborhood in London. I knew there was the big outpost in the Barkers building on Kensington High Street, but I didn’t know that American Corporate Organic had started to reach its pebbly Twiglet-tentacles out into Zone 2. That’s just surreal.

I remember when I was a kid living in Paris and the excitement I felt when a lone store opened that sold (at exorbitant prices) American staples such as Kraft macaroni and cheese, Oreos, and Nestle chocolate chips. Before that my mother had let me load up my suitcase with such culinary delights whenever we took a trip back to the States. Otherwise, I would have had to make do with snacking on my Parisian concoction of potato chips in a dip I fashioned from mayonnaise, mustard and some paprika, or with the giant bars of Milka chocolate I would devour in an hour of sitting on the couch after school watching French music videos or playing Atari.

By the time I was an adult and living out in my neighborhood of Battersea known as “Between the Commons,” there was plenty of processed American kids’ food you could buy at specialty shops in central London, but not too much out in my neck of the woods. That was OK with me; by then my love for UK supermarket fare had long surpassed any desire for the chemically created “food” I’d learned to crave from a childhood full of Saturday mornings in front of the TV. I could dither in a Marks and Spencer food shop for hours, loading my basket with chicken tikka masala, jacket potatoes with tuna and sweetcorn, and other such exotic ready-made fare.

Organic food wasn’t really on the radar as a big marketing tool in London in 2001. There was one sort of “health-food” shop in Notting Hill that had a grotty ambience I associated with dreadlocks, B.O. and bedsits, even though it sold expensive meat and produce and probably had quite a wealthy and “enlightened” clientele that spent its winters on yachts in the Balearic islands.

Now, however, it appears the push to market the expensively healthful, whole-grain lifestyle has arrived in England full force. Ain’t globalization grand! Now I just need an unadulterated version of my favorite Prêt-à-manger right here in Cowtown.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Busy bees.

Oh, dear, but things have been busy around our house. Exciting goings-on:

1. Eeyore turned 2.

We opted to have an “end-of-summer barbecue” for our friends with kids rather than a strictly child-oriented birthday party, and ended up with a kind of limp mish-mash. It was successful enough for the kids, who ran around the yard chasing balls and blowing bubbles and smearing Elmo cake on their faces, but it wasn’t quite the adult party I had imagined. In retrospect that probably ought to have been apparent; making sure nobody loses a tooth (which one girl did while trying to pry the plastic plug out of a water pistol with said tooth) doesn’t lend itself to drinking with abandon. And I’m not used to the vibe of a backyard party not fueled by alcohol – Mormons must have very dull parties indeed.

2. Ferberizing Baby.

We started this last night, since at 6 months Baby has become ruler of the household with his need for firm butt-pats, liquid refreshment and pacifier-reinsertion upon waking in the night. R. and I have created this monster while trying to keep him from waking up his brother when he wakes during the night (they share a room), but while we have managed to preserve Eeyore's sleep we have totally ruined both Baby’s and our own. So last night began the whole “progressive waiting” thing where you let the baby wail his miserable head off and you visit him at intervals of increasing length until he passes out from despair over the fruitlessness of his attempts to summon parental love and affection.

He cried for about an hour last night, but what would have been comical were it not 3:30 in the morning was the sheer fury in his screams. He wasn’t whimpering with sadness or fear; he was PISSED OFF that there was nobody there to stick that binky back in his mouth for him, or peel his grapes, or whatever it was that he wanted. It’s our own fault for getting him used to having slaves, but it’s time to nip it in the bud. We’re having to conduct this operation by moving him into a crib in the living room when he wakes, which probably makes him even more out of sorts. The whole thing blows, frankly, but we can’t back down because we need sleep desperately. I bet I could drop 10 pounds just by sleeping through the night for a week. And avoiding the malted milk balls at the shop near my office, but that’s another issue altogether.

3. Happy Anniversary.

Today is my wedding anniversary; 3 years ago today R. and I got married in an outdoor square in Savannah. That evening we drank pink champagne, celebrated with our families, and later sat alone together in our crowded hotel bar, still gussied up in our wedding togs. What happened next is a gigantic blur, but it involved a trip to London, getting knocked up, and then that’s pretty much all I remember until this:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Autumn.

It is cool and gray and a little rainy outside and I love it. The cooler, damp air is soothing after hot, dry days that leach all the water out of my hair and skin and make my eyes ache from the brightness. The weather today is like a cozy, dewy cloud all around me, and excites me with the prospect of the upcoming season of day after day of snuggly gray sweaters.

I ducked into Peet’s at lunch, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee was warm in the air. People were clustered around the few small tables, huddled over their coffee cups and talking animatedly about subjects of apparent great interest. You know me – not content to take in the scene on its face, I was instead transported back to the perpetual autumn of London and the pleasure of ducking into its coffee shops, pubs, wine bars and tea rooms for a little bit of cheer to brace oneself against the bite of yet another gray day. Perhaps because it is so often cold and rainy there, the British seem to have gotten coziness down to a science. It’s largely as simple as the use of warm lighting that spills out of picture windows into the chill of the street, but there is also something about the décor. For example, this is a picture of the bar in my favorite hotel in London, the Cadogan.














In the winter, by 5:00 pm it is solidly dark outside, and this room glows with the warmth of the lamplight on the polished wood and the small, silver dishes of nuts and crisps. My mother and I settle back against our cushions, usually with various shopping bags at our feet: Waterstone’s, Cath Kidston, Selfridges… always a good day. The bartender brings my mother her whisky and ginger ale; the small pleasures factor amplified by the use of Schweppes American ginger ale – a ginger ale with less sugar and a stronger tang of ginger than one would ever find Stateside. A champagne cocktail for me; a rough sugar cube dissolving under its iodine splash of bitters, merrily spinning thin ropes of the tiniest bubbles towards the surface. Really, that is my idea of heaven.

Do you ever just completely disappear into your mind? Writing that, I was practically there, ready for a fun conversation with my mom. I’m sure we’d be discussing the books we bought and whether we wanted to keep our reservation at whatever happening new restaurant I had painstakingly researched from the comfort of my office or just walk over to the Enterprise.

But then I snapped out of it, and guess what: here I am at work and the sun is back out and I have a conference call in 30 minutes and then it’s home to a teething baby and another sleepless night. But that is what vacations are for, right? To give you memories to trot out when you need them most.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mom Jeans (and Everything Else.)

Have I mentioned to you that I am doing “Body for Life”? Probably not, because it’s queer that I’m doing it at all, plus I’m only doing a sort of half-assed version that handily avoids the dietary deprivation and focuses instead on the weight-lifting and cardio program. Which undoubtedly means that I will continue to sit here 20 pounds above my desired weight for another 5 months, but at least I will have rippling muscles underneath the flab, the wrinkled belly skin, and the map of spider veins across my legs. Sweet!

(Yes, yes, I am feminine beauty incarnate and amazed at “what my body is capable of” bearing two gorgeous, healthy children; hear me roar, blah blah blah. Give me back my perky boobs.)

The Body for Life book includes lots of pictures that are supposedly taken at the beginning and the end of the 12-week journey. The sad-faced, lank-haired couples limply holding hands between their rolling hips and doughy bellies are replaced with dynamic, muscle-bound specimens with big grins and small swimsuits. The floppy skate wings and hairy ham hocks that were their arms are replaced with sleek, toned triceps and stringy biceps; the Pillsbury Dough Boy tummies with rock-hard abs. One can only assume they are now having loads of athletic sex. Twelve weeks to this kind of change seems exceedingly unrealistic, but the book makes the claim that it IS possible (if you only believe, Virginia).

I haven’t taken a “before” picture of myself because I feel a little too much like those sad sacks in the book, and I don’t really care to have that memorialized. If by the end of my own cookie-popping 12-week journey to physical perfection I have that kind of miraculous transformation, I will, however, don my skimpiest bikini and flaunt it for you. I can say this because I know there is no chance in hell that’s going to happen. I don’t have the will power to swing serious exercise AND a diet. Oh, let’s just face facts; I can NEVER swing a diet. The moment I tell myself I have to eat a certain way, I rebel against myself and start loading the sweets onto the conveyor belt to my stomach. I can’t stand this ornery, self-defeating quirk about myself, but try as I might I have yet to find a way to outwit myself.

I don’t really want to have to start hosting Denver Fashion Week for Moms, though, so maybe I need to figure this one out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

While I am away.





Downbeat in America.

Is there really any good news in the world right now? All the headlines are such a downer, from the state of our economy to the Taliban to the typhoons in Taiwan. Bob Herbert of the New York Times writes an especially upsetting editorial today: American unemployment is an even bigger issue than is being reported, and will ultimately lead to an unraveling of the domestic fabric. Apparently the unemployment statistics for young people are even higher than for older workers, meaning that

“When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.”

How on earth can all of this be solved? What’s going to happen to the large number of young people who are losing traction in the job market? How are they going to establish careers or even steady jobs? Are people who do manage to get good jobs or even cling to crummy ones going to pass them by for the long term? How will they feed their families? How can this not result in higher levels of depression, of crime, of suicide?

God knows I don’t have an answer to any of this. It’s frightening. I know if I lost my job I’d be in a very scary place indeed, even though I tell myself that as a well-educated lawyer I’d certainly find something somewhere, sometime: “Hi, can I get you started with a venti sugar-free, fat-free, no-foam, extra-dry, extra-hot caramel latte?”

When we drove to Aspen a couple of weeks ago for our misguided stay in a lovely condo just off the slopes in Snowmass, we stopped for lunch in a little town called Fairplay. Fairplay is like lots of other rural towns across the country that haven’t been able to capitalize on any kind of charm; there’s not a lot of money there and it shows in the landscape and on the faces of the people who live there. The only place we could find to eat was a Pizza Hut, so in we went. The room was pretty dumpy, and there was only one young waitress tending to the two or three families who had stopped on their way to somewhere else.

Our waitress could not have been nicer, and she fawned over Ian and Alex. It turned out she had two children at home the same ages as they are. Once I learned that it was all I could think about even as I ordered diet Coke for me and milk for Ian; as I cut the tasteless, cardboard pizza into Ian-sized bites. Here we were, blowing through town on our way to Aspen, of all places, and here she was working for what couldn’t have been more than $50 a day in tips. We both had the same mouths to feed and needy, soft-skinned little bodies to clothe. Not for the first time, I marveled at how the luck of the draw affects us all. I had the good fortune to be born into a well-educated, reasonably financially secure family, which gave me the ability to create the same thing for myself (you know, until the downward spiral of the economy whips me into its vortex), and now hopefully to provide that same foundation for my own children.

If you start at an educational and financial disadvantage from birth, what are the odds you’re going to end up fulfilling your potential? Obviously, some people do, and conservatives like to make much of pulling one’s self up by the bootstraps, but overall I think it’s fair to say the deck is pretty well stacked.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Travelogue: Saturday night in Denver.

I reread my last post last night and I actually cringed. Talk about overuse of foul language! I’ve long been someone who swears like a sailor, but maybe having to temper that around small children has finally had a positive effect on me. When I was younger, my mother (at whose knee I gained all I know about language, foul and otherwise) told me once that the danger of swearing too much is that it can limit your ability to come up with other, more apt or creative words when called upon to do so. She was right, not that I stopped cursing. It’s probably better for the world that I am not a broadcast journalist. I would be the one pursing my lips and rolling my eyes when I disagreed with someone, crying about all the highway accidents and abused kittens, and of course, tossing in frequent instances of “fuck that.”

But unlike the Kate of yore, who had no such compunction, now seeing “shit” and “fuck” over and over again in one paragraph just looks like kind of cheap. Perhaps, at 40, I am becoming a lay-dee.

As if. I even hate the word “lady.”

How was your weekend? I have little recollection of mine, other than I had an actual date with my husband on Saturday night. First we went to the Mayan for a movie, (500) Days of Summer, which was delightful not only for the movie but because they treat you like a grown-up and sell you wine in a real glass that you can take into the theater! They even had reasonable selections; it wasn’t all Corbett Canyon or some other dross I wouldn’t even cast a glance toward at the wine store. [See, normally I would have said “shit” or at least “crap” there – dross is instead a delightful 50 cent word; baby steps.] After the movie, which wasn’t as good as I had expected but was still pretty cute, we walked down the block for a drink at a quirky place, Beatrice and Woodsley. It’s sort of fairy tale woodchopper meets girly cottage in the forest. Finally, we moved on to Sushi Den, which as I’ve mentioned before has the best sushi I have had in the U.S. It’s odd that should be true in a totally landlocked cow town, but the owner’s brother has another restaurant back in Japan and so twice a week chooses fish from the markets there and has it flown here. I assume they have another good source somewhere since otherwise by day 4 they wouldn’t be a very popular restaurant. Then it was back home to pass out from lack of sleep. So romantic!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Self-indulgence.

So I tried again today with the Rue La La – I had a nice credit for my return of the misguided Marc Jacobs bag. Today was Vera Wang Lavender, and I bought these 2 delightfully discounted pieces:




















I really wanted this:




















But where is a 40 year old mother of two with a pretty non-existent social life going to wear it? That could make me a little sad in concept, but for the fact that I’m not sure I ever had a social life that would have given me occasion to wear this more than once a year anyway.

R. and I have halfway decided (okay, 7/8) that next March or April we are going to dump our kids with his mom and sister in North Carolina and jet on down to the Caribbean for a few days. Just saying “jet” sets me off in my fantasy world where I choose an overly expensive resort and justify it because (1) it’s only 4 nights, not the usual 7, and (2) we’re so tired and in need of romance that we deserve it. Sure, “deserve it.” Why not? People starving in Africa and a few blocks away from us, but we deserve a luxurious trip to Anguilla or some such. Putting liberal guilt aside for a mo, a pampered beach vacation sounds fabulous.

Now for the trouble of figuring out where to go. It takes a long time to research those pesky islands, trying to find the magic combo of fabulous beach and reasonable airfare. Why does it cost so much to fly to the Caribbean? Once you factor in the last 10 miles of sea plane or speedboat or whatevs, it’s really quite prohibitive. That’s presumably why those of us in this half of the nation who have to consider budget usually just go to Puerto Vallarta. The one time I went to the Caribbean on a budget (aka the only time I’ve ever been to the Caribbean), I ended up at a semi-dump in Negril, and I’ll just say it wasn’t to my liking. White plastic pool chairs and non-stop requests that I either buy pot or give up my watch because I’m a rich American = less than satisfying experience. This time, I’d like to experience the plantation shutters and 4-inch thick chaise cushions of my fantasies.

OK, back to reality, or at least to August. There was a piece on Colorado Public Radio this morning about a conservative group that is demonstrating against the “stupid” proposed health care changes espoused by our president. Many of the comments were made by old people already receiving government assistance who think that benefits should not be extended to others: “it’s not an entitlement.” OK, so, give it up, then, you old bat, is what I have to say about that…. I especially enjoyed this comment from one younger woman: “To think that we can make these kinds of changes to health care is a fantasy… like global warming.” Ah yes, that old saw. I swear to god; do these people know how greedy and/or ignorant they sound?

Which reminds me, on CNN last night they were showing the results of some poll that says Americans give Obama about a C for his first 200 days in office. Are you fucking kidding me!? The man has been working non-stop since his first day in office to make significant changes in government policies and programs to better Americans’ lives, and is measurably improving the way in which we are perceived by the rest of the world. I’m kind of dumbfounded that the populace thinks that somehow a new president is supposed to be a Superman who can eradicate overnight all the shit perpetrated on this country in the last 8 years. There is a LOT to clean up. And then there’s the pooh-poohing of his actual governance; Christ! Not only do I support a lot of the choices he has made, I also give him a lot of credit for daring to forge ahead with politically difficult issues like revamping health care. I just appreciate so much having a thoughtful, measured person in office; someone who I genuinely believe can make this country better. I wish the frigging Republicans in Congress would sit down and shut their goddamned, showboating mouths and let some shit get done.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Home sweet home.

Mmmm. I just scarfed down a satisfying lunch of cottage cheese and blueberries. I’m trying to think of it more as a kind of prototypical 1970’s country club luncheon menu selection than as the dietetic soul-destroyer it really is. Yes, that’s me with my kelly green, knit shirt dress, hair caught back in a brightly patterned, pink Pucci scarf, daintily forking tiny morsels of the pale, blobby mess from betwixt the folds of the watery iceberg leaf on which it was served. It’s really all I need, darling, as long as you pour me a gin and tonic to wash it down.

Meanwhile, it seems like quite a few bloggers are on hiatus here in the dog days of summer. It’s vacation time, or at least it used to be before I had kids. Around this time every summer, I’d be gearing up for the annual trip to Hilton Head – planning what novels I would take, making sure I had a thick Dell book of variety puzzles and a blue ball-point pen, adding another bikini to my collection. Oh, how times have changed. Vacation this summer was a long weekend at my mom’s (which was fabulous – no kids meant I slept and read and drank wine before 8 pm) followed by a nonsensical three-day trip to Aspen with R. and the kids.

I say three day; that means an entire day to make the 4 hour drive to get there, one day there, and another day to make the drive home. And could I really tell you much about Aspen now? I could tell you there’s a nice playground a few blocks away from the main downtown area, and that there is a pizza place in the Highlands area that has NO customers in the evenings, which sadly made it perfect for us. I think that pretty much sums it up. It turns out that when you have 2 kids under 2, it’s really better to just stay at home and save your shekels. At least at home one has all the paraphernalia necessary to deal with the constancy that is small children; on the road there is inevitably something missing. In our case it was both a crib and a pack-n-play, meaning that Ian slept in the king sized bed with Daddy and Mommy, until Mommy had to move to a twin bed in the guest room around 4 am to feed and snooze with Alex.

It was too bad; our condo was really nice and Aspen looked like it would have been lots of fun if R. and I had been on our own. I could happily have filled my day with perusing the blandly extravagant shops and hanging out at any of the cute restaurants with outdoor patios; as it was, we just wheeled our land yacht of a double stroller right by them and sighed.

Now we are home and today some good news – the Zoning Board granted our appeal for a variance. Our house can be built as R. designed it! Now comes getting the plans finalized for the actual building permit, getting financing, finding a place to rent, packing up and moving out for 6 – 9 months, and finally moving back in to our fabulous, modern home. The fireplace in our room will make up for not seeing Aspen again for at least 5 years, right?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No appetite.

One summer evening a few years ago I was at a rooftop bar in DC; maybe Perry’s in Adams Morgan. I was talking with some guy who had a pretty good appreciation for himself. After some idle chat, he asked me what I did for a living. I asked him to guess.

Guy: “I’m pretty sure I can tell what you do.”

Kate: “You can? What’s that?”

Guy: “You’re a teacher.”

Kate: “Huh! A teacher! Why do you say that?”

Guy: “You’ve got that hungry look.”

Kate: “Hungry; wow. Hungry… And what do you do?”

Guy: “I’m a lawyer.”

Kate: “Right…”

Guy: “I’m right, right?”

Kate: “No.”

*Update: apaprently I have posted this before, which means I am running out of memories. Hmm.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sporadic memory lane.

When I was sitting on the couch at 2:30 this morning, feeding Alex, my mind drifted back to my high school days in Palo Alto. It seems like a lifetime ago, and … ugh, it was. I’m more than twice as old as I was when my mother and I moved out there the summer before my junior year in high school.

In some ways it was an unfortunate couple of years. I had been very happy back at my small, private school in Washington, D.C., and it was a big change to suddenly be at a huge public high school in California, with all the typical cliques you might imagine. I spent my two years there wishing I had been able to better infiltrate the “in” crowd, which a little surprisingly consisted of the kids who would all be heading off to Stanford, Berkeley and the Ivy League schools. Those were the same people I had been friends with in D.C. (although at my school by 11th grade we were pretty much done with the “popular” group nonsense as everyone had known each other for so long), but here I only managed to sort of hover around the periphery. Instead, my high school fate was sealed the first day of class, when I walked into the administrative offices and met another new girl.

Stephanie came from a background pretty different from my own. Her mother had hair like Brigitte Nielsen’s, sported inch-long fake nails, and supported herself by sharing an apartment with her overweight, pasty boyfriend who sold Amway products and wore a lot of brown polyester. In contrast, my mother had been a model in New York before later practicing law in Paris and then joining what would become the most renowned law firm in Silicon Valley. Nonetheless, we were both new to town and had not made any other friends yet, and so we latched on to each other.

Stephanie had an elaborate makeup routine that I found fascinating to watch. She wore foundation and powder, and she curled both her eyelashes and her bleached blonde hair. She and her mother had moved to Palo Alto from Texas, and she told me that’s just what girls did down there. I, on the other hand, wore nothing unless it was for our Saturday night sorties to underage, underground clubs in San Jose, when I obscured myself behind the palest ivory foundation, black-rimmed eyes, red lips and half a can of Aqua Net.

I’m not sure why, but I can’t really remember the ins and outs of our two years together; only a few snippets here and there. For example, we:

1. Bought vodka by my waving wanly at the liquor store clerk from the car while Stephanie told him her mom was sick in the car but had sent her in to buy booze;

2. Worked together at the bakery across the street from our high school. Sometimes she wouldn’t ring up what she sold and would pocket the money instead.

3. Went to a bonfire out on the beach at Half Moon Bay one night in summer. She drove as usual, since for some reason I didn’t get my license until I was 18. That night, I thought it was the coolest thing ever to be a teenager in California.
4. Went with our friends to our prom at some place called Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz, with an after party at the illustrious Glass Slipper Motel on El Camino.

You know, it’s not that there was anything that bad about my time in Palo Alto, or that Stephanie and I got up to anything worse than I would have with anyone else. It’s more that I wish I had made friends I would have liked to have kept in touch with. The friends I ended up making there were ones I made more through her than on my own; at least those I hung out with most. Now, when I go home to visit my mother, I have nobody to call.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Awww.


Dear Diary.

Today’s post reads like the crummy diary entry of a 40-year old wife and mother who you would never even guess once had a high-flying and semi-fabulous existence. Of course, it’s fabulous for me in a different way, but it sure as hell doesn’t read like it.

TRAVEL UPDATE:

Assuming I remember to take my camera/reattach my head, I should actually have something bloggish to share over the next couple of weeks – real life, actual TRAVELS!!! This Thursday I am going to the Bay Area to visit my mom for the weekend. Who’s going? That’s right – “I” and I alone. Three full days without children, which translates into: sleep, books and uninterrupted conversation on topics other than poop and merry-go-rounds. So of course every time I think about it all I can think is how much I will miss them. Maybe that will wear off when I get one night’s sleep that doesn’t require me to get out of my bed multiple times to address another call of “Mommy, Mommy…” or prepare “waffle! eggy!” at 6:30 a.m. But I doubt it.

When I get back from Palo Alto, R. and I are packing up the car with the kids and all their shit and going to Aspen for a couple of days. This will be our first road trip with both boys, and given Alex’s recent inclination to cry incessantly in the car it has the potential to suck. Still, once we get there it should be fun, if only because I’ve never been there before. Actually, I’ve never been much of anywhere in Colorado, despite having lived here for more than 8 years. Since Aspen is known for its good restaurants and shopping, walking around with a fat baby wedged in a Bjorn on my chest and holding hands with a fairly wild toddler might not have been my first choice of ways to experience its delights, but it’s better than sitting in our house for yet another day and so we’re going.

MEDICAL UPDATE:

So until Thursday and the start of my limited domestic travels, I will be sitting at my desk trying in vain to focus through the greasy film of antibiotic ointment on my eye. For four days I have to squirt a ribbon of erythromycin onto my eyeball every 4 hours to heal a scratched cornea. Saturday I noticed that the vision in my right eye had become blurry, and because of my medical history with that eye (a detached retina 5 or 6 years ago) I freaked out. I called my doctor’s practice, and they had me come into the office at 9 on Saturday night to see the doctor on call. Since I had been planning to crack open a bottle of Cloudy Bay that evening I was a little bummed, but hey. Anyhoo, after much examination of my “sluggish” pupil and thankfully flat retina by a rather good-looking (my vision wasn’t THAT blurry) young doctor, I was informed I had an eyelash growing inward that had been scraping my cornea with every blink. He plucked it out with tweezers and sent me on my merry way. How lame can you get? The poor doctor had to see me and basically perform an aesthetician’s job just because of my history. And now I have greasy goop oozing anew from the corner of my eye every four hours. But my eye still works and for that I am thankful.