Monday, May 29, 2006

The only good thing about the stomach flu... weighing yourself the next morning. Like instant diet! Not quite worth the effort, which is why I never could become a bulemic (correction...that's bulimic) or anorexic, but it's nice to see a lower number that would have normally taken weeks to! Now the trick is to keep it there...and work on the target number.

So we've recovered. I actually misspoke, or rather, I was writing in shorthand, about who was sick when. The first to get sick was A who became ill Thursday morning. I picked his puking self up from school and proceeded to sanitize the house while corralling him to his room and the boys' bathroom. I cleaned often. I sprayed with Lysol whenever I could. I cared for my sick child who threw up like ten times before collapsing into sleep the rest of the day and night. He was fine the next morning. He was playing. Saturday rolled around. Nobody was sick. Whooo! I thought the risk was over. The one-time deal. J played with a friend. The babysitter came over. D and I were off to dinner and the movies.

I did notice though, right before leaving, that I wasn't very hungry. I slipped into a state of denial.

While D and I ate at our local BBQ place (I did notice that neither of us ate very much - more denial), the sitter took the kids out for burgers. They all ate happily. They watched t.v., skateboarded outside and played on the computer. J had said though he wasn't feeling all that great and spent much of the time on the couch with the remote control in his hand. More denial. The sitter was sitting with M while she drew some pictures, sitting happily until M threw up over the dog in the park with the purple-red skies. Within a few minutes, J was running down the hall to the boys' bathroom to toss his cookies.

The sitter called us while D and I were at the very end of Mission Impossible III. The phone call came (the cell was on vibrate mode you cell phone haters!). We took off without catching the end, just as my stomach did a turn and caffeine seemed to be coursing through me. I definitely had something. When we got home, the toilets and one sink was plugged (as M was sitting on a chair in front of the sink, crying). We pushed the sitter out of the house with fair warning and apologies for thinking our one shot with A on Thursday was it. Still haven't had word on whether she's sick. Not sure I will hear as I told her please don't tell me, I'll feel even more horrible!

So...while D was clearing out the plumbing, I moved M into our room with a pan, and moved J to his room with a pan. Luckily, he just knocked off to sleep. A went to sleep, happy that he wasn't sick. In fact, he was having quite a good time following D around tending to the sickies and helping with the plumbing.

D slept on the couch. So while M was puking into the pan, I was puking in the master bathroom. Which was horrible - because I could hear my poor child crying and puking while I was spitting the remnants. Can I say horrible again?

This lasted until 2 or so. At the end, my poor daughter was waking up and turning slightly to throw nothing but bile while I held the pan. Then she'd roll right back over and resume her sleep as if nothing happened. In fact, I suspect she doesn't really remember those last heaves. She'll make a great sorority member.

At five in the morning, D staggered into my room, asking for the compazine.

"Honey, the pill won't do a thing for you."

It held him for three hours. Then he proceeded to get sick every half hour until about 2 in the afternoon.

Throughout the rest of the day, D and I laid about the house like beached whales while the kids ran amok. Nobody to cook for them, nobody to break up the fights, nobody to serve their every whim.

"Get turkey out of the fridge. Have some chips. A popsicle would be good. No, even better, just eat the Halloween candy that's in the cupboard....just...just...zzzzzzzzz."

Today, we're alive and kicking. Still not as good as should be, but enough to clean sheets, wipe down counters, write some e-mail, make sandwiches, rest in between spurts. The kids are fine, super fine. much for our long weekend.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

When it Rains it Pours

We've got the stomach flu - all five of us. This has never happened before! OY! Be back soon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Quickly, before sleep, I write this.

I've a cold and am sitting on the couch with a blanket and a towel-as-handkerchief because I'm using too many tissues. Not the most sterile thing to do, but I kept thinking, "a penny a tissue," and had to stop even though we just spent many pennies on you-know-what passes, the DVD of M's upcoming ballet recital, portraits of our little ballerina and her fellow ballerinas, her big costume, and a rose bouquet to give her at the end of the recital, even though I know she'll be falling all over herself with shyness.

Had a long conversation with J's doctor at $250 per hour to talk about anti-psychotics (Abilify) to ease his vocal tics that have become painfully disruptive at school. Kids tell him to be quiet which makes J angry which causes him to tell them to shut the fuck up which gets him in trouble with the teacher which upsets his father since his father teaches at the same school which upsets J and aggravates the tics even more so. He's breaking my heart when he says to me, as he walks past into the garage to get a soda, no, it's less a saying to me and more an agonized groan, "I hate these tics, Mom. Why do I have to have them?" The door slams shut because it's on a spring. The door slams shut and it breaks my heart because he's beyond my help. Tics can't be loved away, the moods can't be kissed away, there is nothing I as his mother can do to alleviate the actual, physical problem. The door has slammed shut and I cannot see him or hear him, just as it is in the morning when the car door slams shut and he walks onto campus where I cannot help.

So I talk anti-psychotics with his $250 per hour doctor that Blue Cross won't pay for since he's "off the plan," since the best doctors stay, "off the plan." I talk side effects that mimic Parkinson's disease which is why he'll not just have the Abilify but an anti-Parkinsonian medication to prevent any possible muscle reactions.

"The important point is that all of these rare possible side effects are completely treatable. The one that leads to death can be stopped immediately in any emergency room that is equipped to treat a heart attack."

My soap operas are boring today and I delete them off the DVR. Hey, I say to myself, I'm done with the semester at last. Dance a jig. Dance a fast, bouncy jig. Finished grades early and I'm glad for it. How funny that for three semesters in a row, the moment I'm done I get sick with a cold or flu or sinus-thing. No dancing tonight.

Still dealing with A's intense irritability. He's a different person, an unrecognizable child, not MY A that I KNOW when he stands at the sliding glass door, about to go outside, refusing to do one colum of spelling words, when he stands there and scowls ugly and says, "No, I won't do it and I guess you'll just have to take away everything first because I'm just so stupid, huh? HUH?" That angry sarcasm is not the child I've known for eight years. He's a different boy from the one who cuddles with me later on my bed as we both read a new fantasy book about dragons and kings and Shadow Lords, as he kisses my arm and asks me to give his arm a tickle. I wonder how to learn to love this new boy in my house.

"Increase the medication," the doctor says at $250 per hour because he's the best that's out there.

I sit on the couch thinking about food. Thinking the cereal with pecans was good, but a small dish of leftover Chinese food would be better as would a sweet pickle or maybe some chips and salsa with extra salt because why weigh just 145 when I could shoot for 160? Forget it, I'll just suck on a square of mint chocolate while I down a cup of Cold Alka Seltzer. Maybe I'll follow up with a banana and milk to get rid of the lemony taste.

Exercise? Yoga? I watch a recorded show from FIT TV, watch the man lift the weights and dance about the mat and watch the "easy" way, thinking I'll get up and exercise, but then I hit the mute button because M is calling out for me, no, no, it's not M, it's J and his tic has started now that he's awake. I put the TV back on and sink back into the couch to watch yoga being done by a pretty Island woman in scarves. It looks easy and I'm thinking the night cold medicine is kicking in as is my very last Vicodin, the one I've been saving for when I needed it most.

I'll have to call a doctor to get a new prescription to ease all those slamming doors and waiting food.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Costs and Benefits: Disneyland

Late as usual, the sole time to write without distraction. The computer hums, the refrigerator kicks on, the husband is snoring and so does the dog who’s buried herself among our couch pillows. When I’m done here, I’ll carry her to A’s bed where she’ll burrow under his blanket and cuddle next to his feet. J’s finally asleep having suffered with insomnia this evening – I can always tell when he’s finally dropped off because only then does his vocal tic (a squeak he makes in his throat) subside. What’s M dreaming about, I wonder. She sleeps so peacefully with her arms straight above her head, too warm to be under anything. No covers. She kicks them off every night – the total opposite of how J used to sleep when he was her age. He used to mummify himself, wrapping the sheet and blanket in such a way that the only thing showing was his little face. I used to read about that method in text books. I’d sometimes stand there and just look at him, the oddest sight, all bundled up. I don’t remember when he gave it up, when he changed.

But then one such change is hard to keep track of when he’s changing so much these days…

…which leads me to our Disneyland trip on Friday.

What does change have to do with an amusement park you might ask? Well, let me start by saying that in calculating the costs of the one-day pass, D and I decided we’d get more out of the annual passes. Relatively speaking, Disney-speaking. The only snap decision we made was at the parking entrance – no parking pass. We’re just going to pay the ten bucks whenever we go. It would take seven trips to make up for the up-front cost of $48 for a parking pass. Realistically speaking we're probably going to come only four or five times on the park passes.

We passed on that particular pass.

Anyway, in printing out our shiny new passes, the cashier at the booth out front used the same pictures from the last time we had passes, nearly three years ago. J’s picture showed the most dramatic change. Back then, he wore glasses for his strabismus and his hair was spiky short. He looked very much like the fourth-grader he was. Fast forward to today…with his shoulder-length hair, no glasses, and maturing face…we HAD to redo his picture. The poor thing would definitely be stopped by the Guards had they tried to compare the old picture with the current child.

Once we had our passes in hand, we were off and running into California Adventures. First the Tower of Terror (a rare “thrill” ride because of the sense of humor. The repeated up and down of the “elevator” and the opening and closing of the “elevator doors” to show the expanse of Disneyland shows unique character of the attraction that one doesn't often see in traditional roller coasters), then the water ride (which totally soaked me and A, but left the M and J dry as well as the lady right across from me with her beautiful outfit! The unfairness of that!).

Next, we headed into Disneyland itself, meeting up with my sister and her family, in-laws in tow. We celebrated my nephew’s birthday with a cake-decorating event in one of several cafés on Main Street. Basically, my sister reserved several tables to have the privilege of getting sung to by a character with a cake hat on and getting visited by Minnie and Mickey themselves. It was cute – the cake tasted awful, but the kids didn’t notice. All the kids, J included, seemed to really enjoy the cake decorating. Of course, J had even more fun once I noticed and pointed out two new chin hairs! Yes! Two little black hairs to go along with his peach-fuzzy moustache!

“Is it really there, Mom?”

“Yes, there are two.”

“It wasn’t there yesterday, I looked!”

“They’re there now.”

“Wow! Mom, take a picture!”

He was so funny. The baby of the group, Sister’s twenty-month-old IH, loved the icing, getting it all over herself. M loved the sprinkles. A and AH ran around doing the Birthday Conga with the six-year-old birthday boy, TH.

Despite the joy, Sister later relayed, “Not worth the cost.” I never asked the details, she never told. Just pursed her lips and shook her head.

So on to the rides. And the lines. When we’d first arrived at 1:00, lines were tolerable. Once school let out the place became quite the proverbial zoo. However, it was still less than on the busiest of days. The weather helped – cool at about 80 degrees. We managed to get through Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Space Mountain, Autopia, Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, the Matterhorn, and Star Tours. That pretty much wiped out our day.

In between a couple of the attractions we ate in Tomorrowland. Needless to say, the cost was ridiculous ($60 for five) for what qualifies as basically less-than-mediocre fast food. In McDonald’s-speak, we paid that obscene amount for one Premium Chicken Salad, two Chicken Sandwiches, one Big and Tasties, one Chicken Nuggets, one bottled water, three regular soft drinks, and one small drink. No deserts included. Condiments were free. Bless them for straws and napkins. On the upside, we were serenaded by a very good disco band. We all bobbed and danced at the tables (not ON the tables…after all this IS an alcohol-free zone), Baby IH included. She was the best dancer of all, raising her little shoulders in time to “She’s a Brick House” and “Fire.”

Slipping into teacher mode, I'll give Disneyland's dining experience a “D” grade for food and an “A” for ambiance.

As far as security goes, I’m giving it a “C”. Let me explain. My darling M thought it would be funny to knock over a left-over soft drink that had been left on the railing as we wound our way in the line for Space Mountain and nobody came to investigate. Maybe my description isn’t clear for you. Picture this. We’re upstairs and there is railing all around, railing that is wide enough for someone to place a regular drink. The railing, of course, is to prevent people like us, in line, from falling onto the concrete below. The concrete below serves as a throughway for exiting Space Mountain folk. So there are people beneath the ledge, leaving Space Mountain, the Arcade, and a café. The balcony is built in such a way that we cannot SEE the people beneath though. And neither could M (which could account for her being unable to think through the consequences of her action).

So as we were in line, M runs up to the regular-sized soft drink on the railing, laughs maniacally, and pushes the drink over the ledge, down many feet, onto unsuspecting tourists. Much to our horror. We never heard screams or shouts, and nobody ever came looking for us. By the time we got downstairs (after the ride of course…we’d never break out of line), there was no evidence of the calamity which must have ensued. My only thought was, what with the lousy “security” inspection (the inspectors never looked in my camera case) after the tram from the parking garage, I could have thrown a grenade down there with my anonymity fully protected.

M, the soda-dropper, got away clean. As could my imaginary terrorists. I’d hope not, but I wasn’t impressed.

The night ended in a dramatic manner, with the fireworks show. Very good – lots of computerized timing there on the explosives, the Castle engulfed in a computerized light show with lots of changing colors to reflect the changing music. The music was Disney-pure featuring sound bites from their attractions, such as the currently-being-refurbished Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, and an homage to the famous Electric Light Parade. Tinkerbell flew from the top of the Matterhorn to the Castle, evoking lots of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd (a very polite crowd by the way). There was fire and lasers and fireworks from several places in the park, not just from the Castle.

So…the show got an “A” for presentation, a “C” for over-the-top advertising.

All in all, we enjoyed ourselves. The company was great, the park was welcoming, the park had a little bit of soul despite the expense and…corporate frenzy that surrounded us at all times. The kids even had an “unsafe” moment (much like my own at their age) when my niece, AH, turned around in her seat on Thunder Mountain as we sped through the town, screaming to me, “We’re so unsafe, Tia!!” She was referring to the safety bar not being set firmly against her and A’s little bodies, to there being too much space between themselves and the bar, to why she and her cousin had to grip the front of the car for their dear lives.

I wasn’t worried even though Thunder Mountain had experienced the death of a passenger. I took their dilemma as a life lesson, offering the only possible advice for such situations, advice that hopefully she’ll retain long into her future, “Hold on tight, honey!”

Southern California Passes for five: $750

Fast Food Dinner for five: $60

Cotton Candy for three on the way out: $9
Snacks: $15

Philosophical Challenges: Priceless

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Now that you're finished with the semester, what are you going to do?

We're going to Disneyland!

No, really, we are. Tomorrow we'll be celebrating my nephew's sixth birthday at the Happiest Place on Earth. Say hello to crowds, blistering heat on asphalt, and $60 a pop for snacks and drinks! The one thing I don't get about Disneyland is why they charge for parking. Right now the entrance fee for a One-Day Pass is near $70 and near $60 for kids between 3 and 10. Every person who walks through those whirly gates will spend a minimum of $150. So why charge for parking? With the costs of those tickets, one would think they'd throw in for the compact-sized spot in the high-rise garage. But noooooo...

Greed is all I can think. Or knowing that tourists and locals will pay ANYTHING to get into Disneyland. I wonder when the park will reach the breaking point? Ever think there'll be a day when the tickets are just "too much"? Imagine Disneyland empty. No lines, free stuff because they can't pack the park if they tried.

"$675 for a One-Day Pass was just too much. Not to mention the cost of gasoline to drive from Duarte to Aneheim at $7 a gallon! How can I possibly afford the $4,000 monthly rent for my 2-bedroom apartment AND tickets for five to Disneyland, the most expensive place on earth?!"

So lines at Disneyland. Riding Space Mountain like ten times in a row, shooting through the makeshift space ship and hopping on the little cars, one car per person! Imagine getting apple fritters without having to wait? The mint juleps...right away! Coming up, sir! No wait! No heat! Dumbo...ON! Pirates...ON! The Bear show...ON!

Oh wait, there is no Bear show anymore. Boo hoo. There's also no women chasing men for sex anymore on Pirates of the Carribean, or vice versa. Now they chase each other for food. If that's not a statement on American culture, I don't know what is. Damn political correctness. You know, Disney, if more people chose sex over food, we'd all not be as fat as we are!

Ahhh Disneyland, the place of dreams. I used to go to Disneyland every summer with my parents and cousins. Tom Sawyer Island pickles were the best. The Matterhorn was THE ride. One of the scariest experiences I ever had was on the Rocket ride. Remember that one? Was in Tomorrowland near the People Mover and the Submarine ride. Don't know anymore the actual name but I do remember that it had no seatbelts. Or the guy that put my cousins and I on it thought it would be funny to scare the shit out of us. Well, whatever happened, there we were, W, S, and I, huddled down in the rocket ship as it spun around and around at hundreds of feet in the night air, with NO damn seatbelts to hold us in. We just hung on for our dear lives, depending on the force of gravity. White-knuckled the metal railing inside the pod. I remember looking over the edge down all those feet and seeing the fireworks and thinking, "I'm going to fall." For long minutes, I hung on and grit my teeth and imagined falling. I was probably about 7, and my cousins were 10 and 9 respectively. Boys. They were scared, but thrilled at the same time. To this day, heights give me a shiver.

Shiver me timbers...

For my family and I, Disneyland became the ultimate in defining "vacation." Whenever there was time off of school, Disneyland was first on our list as a chosen destination. I always preferred the Magical Kingdom to Magic Mountain - the former always had an international feel what with all the tourists from all over and the "Small World" attraction. All you had to do was sit in that boat and hear the same song in all those languages and were transformed. You were...INTERNATIONAL.

Better than International House of Pancakes.

Muy pequeno el mundo es...
Diese Welt is ja so klein...
E un mondo piccolo...
Car le monde est tout petit...

Yeah, Magic Mountain seemed dirtier, soulless. Six Flags in Valencia had no character. We're talking Sam's Club to Nordstrom's with personal shoppers. Sure the coasters were wilder, more intense, but that's all it was, a collection of coasters with no similar theme, no quality, no soul. Just like the warehouse aisles of Sam's or Costco.

Now, Knott's Berry Farm did have more character - they had great fried chicken and the ghost town was awesome. Good pickles, too. Sitting on those benches next to the "cowboys"? Couldn't beat those photo-ops. But still, something was missing that Disneyland never failed to deliver. A certain friendliness? Classiness? Could be familiarity. After all, we saw the Magic Kingdom every Sunday at 7:00 in the form of a movie or an hour-long program. We lived and breathed the Aristocats when it came to our local theater, again. Remember that? You couldn't just pick up the DVD, you had to wait for the re-release. The NEXT re-release.

Yeah, good times. Nothing was better than Disneyland.

Well, maybe I'll pay for parking. The extra $9 is worth the celebration, I suppose. After all, it's only money.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mothers and Daughters

Insomnia grips me tonight, thoughts ranging from final exams to mothering to children to love to self-identity and self-awareness to body image to exercise to food to acid reflux to the hot night to perceptions to sleep to wakefulness. Six in the morning will come quick and still her voice bangs about in my head, her tears sticking to me like guilt.

“I was so hurt by how she spoke to me,” the sixty-five year-old mother said, dabbing the folded and refolded tissue to her reddened eyes, her long hair disappearing way beneath the edge of the table. “Why does she do that? We gave her everything and when I walked into the house, she didn’t hug me or come up to me like you did, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day, she just stood there. Distant, cold, you know? What did I do wrong?”

“Maybe it’s fear. She lost her father and you’re all that’s left. She can’t take when you cry or are needy because that means you’ll die next. That means you’ll be leaving her, too.”

“You really think so?”

I have no idea, I thought.

“Yeah, sure,” I said.

What happens with mothers and daughters, what happens to tear apart their connection that so early on is so deep and fulfilling? I remember being unable to sit with my mother in her last days of coherence, unable to let her hang on to me to walk from room to room. I could barely look at her as she handed me her checkbook to write out bills, as she fumbled with the papers at the messy desk in the back room because she could not control her muscles very well. I was furious with her for being ill. I cringed when she touched me, physically recoiling from her increasing dependence. I stormed out of the house, ignoring her call to me. Days later she cried on the phone, trying to tell me she couldn’t see.

“What do you mean you can’t see?!”

“I can’t see, I can’t tell you what I need.”

“You can’t just look in the refrigerator and tell me whether there’s milk or not?! How can I help you if you can’t tell me what you need?!”

“No, mija, I can’t see! I can’t see!”

The conversation deteriorated from there, ending with her sobbing into the telephone and me hanging up the phone so I didn’t have to hear anymore. I hated her. I hated her illness because I didn’t believe it. I already lost my father and refused to accept that this was happening again.

Please, dear God, not again, not so soon.

In my mind, dying wasn’t happening. Dying wasn’t a possibility. She was immortal as always. She was making the whole thing up for attention, I told myself, and acted in response to that presumption. She was a liar.

Nothing makes up now for how I behaved. To this day, I still cringe, only not from her touch but from thinking of those months I cannot take back, thinking of what should have been. If it had been any other sort of disease…something I could see

Why could I not wake up to her final illness? Yes, she burnt us out as her children on her many emotional disorders. Yes, yes, yes, there was reason for my tuning her out, for my shutting down and becoming a distant, cold daughter. Any therapist would rationalize and explain and urge me to forgive myself. A relative once said in an open moment, “Perhaps it was for the best. Who would have taken care of your mother? She only would have gotten worse emotionally. Sometimes I’m relieved to think of her being safe and sound in the cemetery.”

And yet…I want her.

“Have you tried talking to her, without accusation,” I asked, hesitating a bit because I was stepping into personal ground.

“She gets so angry, I can’t say anything.”

There are always reasons for daughters shutting down on their mothers. My aunts have a harder time accepting the various moods of my grandmother than me and my sister. They are often much less patient with her, visibly. I can listen to my grandmother go on and on about her aches and pains and yet I know my aunts have to cut the conversation short. I often hear their anxiousness.

They have their reasons.

Blog-touring shows me this breakdown over and over again. Books, I know, have been written about the strain. Competition, jealousy, a desire to toughen up the girls for the hard life that surely awaits them, self-absorption, illness, depression, insecurity, a myriad of reasons collapses the “sweetness.” Something goes terribly wrong somewhere down the road and I wonder about it now, tonight.

I think about the collapse when M cuddles up to me as I’m leaving to teach and says, “I want you!” When I prefer to disappear into the blackness that lurks always, I hear that cry and choose to step away from the isolation to embrace her and to be there for her. She demands in a way the boys don’t. She stomps her foot and screams, “I WANT YOU!”

“I love you,” she says when I show up.

What happens to shred that connection? What happens to deafen both mother and daughter to each other’s furious demand?

“Before her father got sick,” the mother recounted, “my daughter said in no uncertain terms, ‘I’m not going to take care of you when you get old.’ I told her we knew that, that we never expected it or asked her for it. But still it hurt what she said. We never understood it.”

Ancient hurt, I wanted to say. You must have hurt her first. You cannot be innocent in this problem. I shrug though, offering her only my empathy. I remembered a time when I bent to kiss my four year-old son and he bumped his head against mine, not wanting me to touch him. I cried all the way to my mother’s house, broken hearted at being rejected by my child. I know the hurt, on both sides, but I don’t know the pain of an adult child bumping heads, pushing away a kiss.

"I'm so sorry," I said.

“We gave her everything she ever wanted. I’ll never forget her telling me she couldn’t get me when I called her from the freeway after the car accident. She never called me back. I could have been killed and still she didn’t call me back. What did I do to her?”

“I don’t know – I wish I had an answer.”

There were hugs all around when it was time to leave, lies maybe. Hurt shoved down. The mother headed down the walk towards her car. I carried her things for her. She is alone now, widowed. The rejection intensifies the grief for her lost husband. We stood together under the branches of a large tree, the leaves shuddering in the summer night’s breeze. She spoke of a missing headstone and a memory of his fishing trips and the doors he never finished. We hugged and I said I loved her.

"You don't know how much that means to me," she sniffled. She got into the car at last and drove away, a crock pot half-full of uneaten baked beans in the trunk. Hours she'd spent making it and the daughter didn't keep the leftovers. She disappeared around the corner into the darkness.

M looked up at me as we walked to our car, her fingers in her mouth, her other hand grasping mine. The boys climbed into the truck and I shivered in an imagined chill, the Los Angeles sky devoid of stars.

“I love you, daughter,” I said.

M said nothing, curling up in her booster seat while I seatbelted her in.

Insomnia grips me tonight.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother's Day Weekend

With the sun has come a lighter mood in our house - A seems less irritable, J has jumped into skateboarding again so he's spending most of his time outside, M has been immersed in practicing for her dance recital (accompanied by imaginary friends), D has been more willing to take time and just relax, and me, I've been grading and drafting final exams. In preparation for the new season, we bought bathing suits, swimming goggles, and beach towels. We'll barbecue tomorrow for lunch, entertaining company (the husband will BBQ and make salad, I will stick some potatoes in the oven) and watching the dogs chase each other around the house and yard. Simple, uncomplicated living.

I spent yesterday morning with M at her preschool for Mother's Day - the school set up stations under rainbow umbrellas where the kids could paint Mom's nails, curl her hair, decorate her hair with flower clips, and put makeup on her. We painted t-shirts together and made a necklace out of beads. The day was topped off with hot dogs and fruit in the elementary school cafeteria. Moms (and grandmothers, too) walked around with blue eyeshadow spread across their eyelids and bridges of the nose, with purple blush and pink lipstick. Moms had orange fingernails and red toenails. Their hair had curlers and plastic flower barrettes. The mothers all ooh'd and aah'd the efforts of their children to make them beautiful. As I walked with M, hand in hand, gifts in my purse, I couldn't help but think how "beautiful" the moms really were - how sweet to sit with the little ones, special time that's normally skipped in favor of working, cleaning, cooking, tending to other children.

In a selfish sort of way, I'd considered not going to the event. I don't know why I considered it - maybe a certain laziness - maybe a certain unfamiliarity. I never did such things with my mother - different times, different expectations. I thought we'd just have lunch with my sister or my grandmother. Do the usual. In the end, M was too aware of the day so participation became a necessity.

I have a trivet now that sits on my bedstand for my glass of water at night that's a drawing by M of her and me on a sunny day with Sassy at our feet. I have a t-shirt that's covered in pink, green, blue, purple and red with the date, with hearts and flowers and rainbows.

Just sweet.


My grandfather passed his driving test. Makes me wonder about the DMV. His driver's license is good until 2008. My grandparents are relieved and triumphant. We are praying for two years of safe driving.


Last night I attended school function for the paralegal students I teach. The evening took place at a restaurant that doubles as a dance club. All the way there, stuck in the worst traffic on the 60 freeway, I laughed about a night of debauchery back when I was a single, brand-new lawyer. I went dancing with some of my co-workers, really paired up with my secretary, ML. She and I had become friends, working closely together as I learned to be a "lawyer." Well, we started drinking and before long we were dancing really close to the mailboy. Yes, the mailboy. He had to be 20 years old, was Italian, and a little on the pudgy side. At one point, the lens of my glasses popped out and ML and I were on the floor, hunting for the lens, in absolute stitches and absolutely toasted. At another point, ML and I were on the ground looking for lost money. Don't know how we all made it home, but we swore on our lives never to talk about that night ever again. To this day, we do talk about it and always end up in tears with laughter...that night with the mailboy.

I walked into the restaurant and was greeted by the modest group and sat with my particular students and ate and chatted and made it home by 9:30, touched by the many faces that had shown up. I'm always moved by how hard these students work to improve themselves, to move ahead in this society of ours.


I'm writing the civil procedure exam this afternoon while M jumps around the office and talks to herself to her "friends" and J complains that I'm on the computer too long. D is sleeping on the couch. A is playing a video game.

A sweet Saturday.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Last Day of Classes

Today marks the last day of classes for me. Final exams are next week and then the reporting of grades, and then...hello summer vacation. The balmy weather is a perfect signifier of the shift in the year - too hot for my black, wool blazer, or my boots, or any sort of sweater. Grey skies made summer seem impossibly far away.

The other morning as I walked from the classroom towards the car, I smiled at another professor in the outside hallway and she smiled back, chiming, "Two more weeks!" I laughed out loud because I understood her, I was a full-fledged "teacher," not being able to fathom a year where work never ends and there's only a two-week vacation to relieve the Groundhog-day-ness. We have fourteen weeks! Or something like that. I haven't worked it out. How special though to belong to that club where we are not alone in marking the days for the long summer vacation. Every year my husband (a teacher of junior-high-school) periodically tells me the number of days left of the school year, 140 days, 98 days, 60 days, the best saved for last, "Two more days!" On some level, the anticipation of the "end," is sweeter than finally getting there.

As I listen to the ticking off of days remaining, I envision a prison wall's scratched lines, or a calendar with the days violently x'd out (in red of course).

At the same time, I'm saddened a little at this ending. In the year-long classes I teach, I get to know students more personally than in one semester. I know these students' pains, their struggles, their goals for the future. Most likely I will never see them again, I may even forget their faces and names. In these last days, I try to memorize my "favorites" and wish them well. There is an awkwardness in this final separation. How does one say goodbye to someone who will disappear into the busy forever? A pretense is what happens, "Let me know when you get your first paralegal job, send me a picture of the baby, don't ever hesitate to e-mail me if you have a question about the law or school."

So summer is almost here and there is much to think about. Much to do.

1. Clean up my office, top to bottom, side to side.

2. Clean the garage.

3. Paint the inside of the house.

4. Do early preparation for classes which will start in September (hahahaha!).

5. Read all the books on my nightstand.

6. Write some short stories.

7. Play with the children.

8. Take a museum trip every week.

9. Swim in the pool several times a week.

10. Work on the children's scrapbooks.

11. Work on my novel.

12. Print out my blog.

13. Be happy.

14. Breathe.

15. Sleep.

Things to repair:

1. Two broken windows.

2. Light switch in the boys' room.

3. Dead television in the family room.

4. Heartfelt wounds.

5. An angry soul.

6. A myriad of misperceptions.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

What do you covet? (updated)

Got tagged by Rodger Jacobs for an interesting meme-birthday-list this morning. He urged that we not focus on general concepts like world peace and the like. Practical things, he said. Funny, on my birthday, I thought and thought what I'd like to have and couldn't come up with anything. What I wanted was the impossible. No practical thing could satisfy me.

But certainly, there must be something?

1. A large, obcene amount of money in my checking account. Not that interested in small monthly deposits. No, there's nothing as satisfying as seeing a 5 or 6 digit balance for those on the lower economic end of things. The thrill of potential, the rush of the immediate future. All those things we've been wanting to do!

2. A new computer. I'm virus infected but don't have the time to wipe the drive right now so I'm living with that same ridiculous bug I've had since January. JANUARY? Yes. Damn Windows and Microsoft.

3. A vacation house either on a beach bluff or in the mountains. I have visions of taking weeks off to write, to recoup. A place to watch the kids search for pretty rocks on shore or pine cones in a stretch of forest. A place to study the stars at night because here in the city that is an impossibility.

4. Two extra rooms in our house so J can have his coveted own room, and another to house a library full of books.

5. A housekeeper-gourmet cook. Someone to clean up on a constant basis and cook all our dinners. I'll handle lunch, but how satisfying to have healthy, whipped-up meals without my having to get started at four in the afternoon for such a thing. How wonderful to sit down each night to something delicious. I have images of smiling faces and beautiful china and candlelight. All without my having to work at it.

Who do I tag? Lori at Lori's Place, Hurricane Shirley at Excellent Fodder, Diana at Diaphanous, Patrick at Full Blue Moon Dementia, and Carolyn at the Ginger Quill.


Today, I'm unsociable. As I write, the family is at a community dinner, the kids hanging out with neighbor kids, the husband listening to speakers talking about our…community. The idea of it just grated on me. So at the last minute, I decided to stay in and grade papers. I managed to get in a nap. The papers still sit. The husband is irritated at me. He called and asked, “Come over and serve the kids their food, please.” I gritted my teeth and said, “No.” I’m certain to hear about it later. I’ll let you know how it all goes down.

Last night, however, I wasn't feeling unsociable. I had the pleasure of meeting Hurricane Shirley of Excellent Fodder, and excellent she was! We enjoyed ribbing Rodger Jacobs about his mild grumpiness while surrounded by a noisy crowd at the Acapulco. The waitresses were passing out beads a la Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s day. The three of us nodded kindly and passed on the green baubles which evoked a flash of horror on the waitress’s face.

“What do you mean you don’t want the beads?”

“No, no beads.”

“But they’re happy beads. Take the beads.”

“No beads.”

“TAKE THE BEADS YOU VILE, UNSOCIABLE CUSTOMERS!!” At which point she flung like ten strings at us, the strings breaking apart and mixing into our Fiesta Plate. A beautiful sight really.

That didn’t happen. Completely made up. Total, utter fiction. About the beads, that is. The waitress wanted that to happen though, I could tell. When we rejected her offer of plastic jewelry, she blinked, her mouth stiffened, her blond hair shook with simmering tension. She turned and left to bother others about the beads.

Our afternoon dwindled as we drank our margaritas and over all enjoyed the company of one another. The 210 freeway was amazingly open as I drove home near seven beneath a darkening sky, zipping through Eagle Rock and Pasadena, and onto home, Nelly Furtado accompanying my drive.

I’ve decided what I covet most is unscheduled free time.


Update: You can find Diana's thoughtful list here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Laughing Out Loud

"Laugh-out-loud hilarious!"

"...deliriously funny comedy..."

"Sharp comic edge."

What's the movie about? A mother who's dying of cancer gathers her family and their respective loves for her last Christmas. Yes, "The Family Stone," starring Diane Keaton as the dying mother. While watching the film, DVD in my hand, I kept wondering if the writer of the ads had some serious mother-hate going on my day and age, a person dying of breast cancer just isn't funny. There was no way anyone could see this movie and say, "deliriously funny comedy." In my day, we called this, "drama," or even a "dramedy."

Oh I'm sorry, did I just ruin the spoiler? If so, I'm sorry, but I'm just warning you for your own good. I spent my lunch watching it - a last minute rental - a desire to see the uptight Sarah Jessica Parker. Luckily, I had prior warning. I knew what it was about, but did not expect the cover of the DVD to lie so openly. Strange. Quickie review: it had funny moments, SJP did a great job as the tightly wound fiancee. That's it, folks. Not worth the time.

At least I had company: my husband.

D took a much-deserved day for himself and allowed a substitute teacher to manage the kids at school. Our lovely day started with breakfast at the Vault restaraunt in Glendora, a small cafe that has the intriguing history of once being a bank. Today, a part of the vault is still there and it serves as a fine curiousity to the local residents. After lunch, we wandered the quaint main street, hand-in-hand, peeking in windows, happy to be free of the little ones.

I'm always amazed at how easily we capture our old friendship when we separate from our chain-gang. Makes me look forward to a time when we can get more of this kind of time. There are moments when I think the friendship is strained to the point of breaking - I worry for that time in the future.

In the meantime, we celebrate together Cinco de Mayo - back when my mother was alive, I used to tease her on this day by saying, "Happy Independence DAY!!" She'd get so angry because of course, the independence day for Mexico is September 16. Today, on the other hand, is a day to celebrate the unlikely triumph of the burdened Mexican army over the arrogant French in a famous battle - they lost the war, but the battle still survives as a reminder of strength and spirit. It is a day of beating Goliath. Oh she'd get angry at me! Funny, funny, funny.

Well, happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone. Here's to independence!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Looking Forward to Summer

Summer's coming, thank God. Three weeks from today, I’ll be done with Academic Year 2005-2006. Let me tell you, I cannot wait for the day I turn in my grades. I'm chomping at the bit to get out – tired of whiny students, tired of lecturing to people who don’t give a damn about learning. My nerves are shredded. Likewise, my kids and D finish up in June.

Then what, you ask?

D and I have been asking the same question and in answering it, we're facing the decision of whether to send the boys to summer school. In hindsight, we didn't like the effect of the summer session on our household at all. The fights to get up and get to school continued through the end of July. The thought of getting no break...well, it breaks us. So this year, we're saying, "Hell no, we won't go." Instead, we're going to fill the summer with swimming, bike riding, picnics and naps in the park, beach trips, movies, television, and video games. Sure, the boys could use the extra boost of more math and reading. Sure, it's not like we've got valedictorians on our hands.

Sure, some out there might say, "But their education will suffer! They need more, more, more!"

Yeah, well, fuckit. We're gonna play. We're going to enjoy the break, sleeping in and staying up late. And all those things I mentioned hereinabove. I'm determined to grab onto some happiness before school starts again in September. This year's been tough on everybody - we deserve some free-wheeling joy for a change no matter what our society says.

My middle one, A, has been really suffering from severe irritability - he's so angry at everything, so angry at school work, so angry at nothing, it breaks my heart. There's nothing I can do to soothe him except to relieve him of all this goddamn responsibility. I have to try something other than the routine of writing up worksheet after worksheet after worksheet. He brought home some good tests this week - 90% and above - which makes me think we can forego the summer school. Not having worksheets for 12 weeks won't doom him to life in a gas station, ya’ know? And if that's where he ends up...well, I'll still be here to barbecue his favorite steak, give him a kiss on his nose, and tell him I love him.

Both of them.

All three of them if that’s their paths.

I’m so tired of the worksheets, of the demand to learn.

Learning has never been harder in my entire life than right now.

Can’t wait to wake up to a sunny morning where the biggest decision is, bacon for breakfast or eggs…or maybe chocolate ice cream cake?