Friday, January 23, 2009

Fairy Firsts

I recently experienced two firsts...

On Saturday, I took the kids on a "Faery Hunt." This basically means I forked over my shekels to tromp around Griffith Park for an hour plus in search of actors dressed in tights. We were met by a fairy docent, who spoke in an alarmingly high-pitched voice. She wore khakis, as if going on safari, however, instead of a pith helmet, an incongruous purple church hat perched on her head. Before the hunt, she convinced the children in an over-rehearsed tea and crumpet accent to collect leaves and twigs and pine cones as offerings for the fairies. She kept referring to pine cones as fairy condos. (Try explaining that to your six year old.) Then we were off, in search of wee folk with wee plot lines.

Here's what I understood. The quirky, sidekick fairy led us to the incredibly attractive blond fairy, who taught us to bow before the grand queen. (So far, a typical night in West Hollywood.) The queen, who helps us humans with our slumber, had her "light" stolen. She believed the smelly troll took it. We were then encouraged to laugh and applaud, a ploy to bring the troll out of hiding, for evidently he loves to ham it up. (Once again, any Saturday night on Santa Monica Blvd.) He made his entrance with overly large ears and two cohorts, a gnome in need of an English as a Second Language class, and an inbred brownie named Cletis, who sounded like a long lost day player from The Beverly Hillbillies. Turns out, it wasn't the troll who took the "light" but the half-man/half-bird. Some hilarity ensued. The half-bird part was somehow magically removed, leaving behind a hunka hunka burnin' love. The "light" was returned. And the queen got the hunka in the end. (The conclusion to any decent gay porn.)

Towards the beginning of the show, one of the patrons, a mommy with bitter etched deeply onto her face, started to complain loudly to the fairy docent. She asserted the material was too young for her precious daughter. And she continually spat out, "and it's her birthday," as if to verbally tear a mortal wound into Fairy Docent, or at least knock the hideous, grape hat off her head. Now, Precious Daughter and her posse of four looked to be in fifth grade. With arms crossed and whatever attitudes, they were definitely too old for fairies, Santa Clause, My Pretty Pony, Strawberry Shortcake and plays in Griffith Park depicting any of the above. How could Bitter Mommy not know this? I immediately judged her for lack of insight.

Contrary to her daughter, my six year old son and his friends had that look of wonder plastered on their faces from the get go. They willingly bowed to the queen, clapped for the troll, and gathered fairy condos. If asked, these believers would have stripped naked and eaten dirt.

My two year old daughter is another story. She loved dressing in the wings and frou frou skirt, but once she realized the event was not about her, she lost interest. As we slowly meandered from fairy scene to fairy scene, she'd stop to show me rocks and twigs. When I insisted we watch the play unfold, she burrowed her head into my shoulder in defiance. And I missed when the half-man/half-bird divested himself of anything avian, because I had to take my out-of-control tot to a nearby picnic table and force feed her Goldfish.

Here's the gripe: I paid the same for my two year old as I did for myself. Isn't that a kick in the tender vittles. Ten smackeroos for each of us. (Thank God Michael wasn't there. Well, he's so fairy friendly, we might have received a sprightly kickback.) The other parents from Sebastian's class didn't complain as loudly. Made me feel like a cheap somabitch. But thirty simoleons, people!!

If the "Faery Hunt" folks happen to read this... I called you and asked about age appropriateness. I was assured that my two year old would be suitably fairy smitten. Well, you were wrong. (It just now occurs to me, you might have said the same to Bitter Mommy about her fifth grader, totally justifying her anger. Sorry, Mommy, I humbly take back any judgement.) I have a suggestion to keep patrons like me from blogging their dissatisfaction. How bout you charge only five greenbacks for the little ones, for pixie's sake. Still pricey, but I wouldn't feel so entirely ripped off. Or at least offer me incentives: dry martini, shrimp cocktail, Cletis lap dance. I could live with that.

The other first, coincidentally another theatrical event costing ten clams, last Friday I performed my first blog entry, Orts which was reworked for the stage. I'm excited about this cross over from computer screen to stage. Who knows where this could go. As a matter of fact, I already have my second blog performance on the books. On Mother's Day, I'll be performing Mommy With a Penis in Santa Monica, in an evening that will include Laraine Newman.

Lately, it doesn't feel like my life is filled with many firsts. The routine of mommydom has taken care of that. But if this inauguration week has taught me anything, change is in the air. Perhaps I have to make myself chase after the firsts. MommyWife could become a book of witty stories. Or a television series. Or my own one man show. If I go that route, however, I can guarantee you, my antics will be a different kind of fairy tale entirely.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Orts...for the Stage

There has been concern. Where are you MommyWife? Are you alive? Have the kids finally dragged you under? Fear not, my lovelies. I am still afloat...barely. I was preparing for a performance, which took place this last Friday night. I reworked my first blog entry, Orts, and made it stage worthy. Thought you might enjoy how it turned out. Bon Appetit!!

My morning routine...

I bounce out of bed at six-thirty. I make some coffee, start breakfast. Sebastian, my good-natured six year old, hears me clanking about, gets up around seven. At seven-ten I call out to my devoted husband, who’s impervious to clanking about, "Michael, breakfast is ready." He gets our adorable, two year old Maxie, and the four of us sit down to a nutritious breakfast. Then, Michael gets Sebastian dressed and spruced, while I myself spruce and dress. Then I walk my kindergartner to school, just in time for the eight-oh-six bell. Which is really more of a blare. That, give or take, is how it's supposed to go.

But not today. Today, I hit the snooze button twice. I rush to the kitchen. Crack some eggs, grind some coffee. Seven o’clock rolls around. No Sebastian. Seven-oh-five. Seven-ten. I open his bedroom door. "Time to get up, sleepyhead." Then back to the kitchen, skillet on the stove. This is when I take my first sip of coffee and my last deep breath of the day. Maxie starts to cry. and when I say cry, I mean scream, sounding very much like the eight-oh-six blare I'm determined not to miss. But now, I'm in the thick of it. Eggs on the skillet, sausage on the Foreman. I call out. "Michael!" No answer. I make a break for our bedroom. Daughter still screaming. Husband out cold. "Michael, Maxie is up. Breakfast is ready." He grumbles something resembling understanding. I turn, go by Sebastian's room. Also out cold. "Sebastian. Up. Now." Back to the kitchen. Place mats, forks, juice. Breakfast is ready. Scrambled eggs, sausage patties.

Firm food. My kids don’t like runny. They don't like buttery, syrupy, hot with melted brown sugar, soft boiled, poached, over easy, sunny side up. That makes breakfast choice limited: cold cereal, left over Chinese, anything spread with Nutella, or scrambled eggs, sausage patties. I usually serve this with toast, but the bread was blue.

Sebastian stumbles into the kitchen. "Sit down, sweetheart." He returns my warm tones with, "I don’t want any breakfast!" And he runs to my bedroom to seek refuge in the form of my husband. I call after him, "It will get cold." No response. No movement. I hate cold food. I have a few bites. Eggs need salt. And still no movement. I go back to my bedroom. The three of them, husband, son, daughter, in my bed. "Breakfast is ready." I turn before there is a grumbled response this time. Back to the kitchen where I seek my refuge in the form of glistening counter tops, crisp LA Times.

Finish breakfast. Finish coffee. Finish sudoku. Still no family. It’s twenty to and Sebastian has to be at school by eight-oh-six. I will not let this get to me. I shrug, make a grocery list. Chicken legs, bagels, bananas. Non threatening firm food. Eight-oh-six? It seems arbitrary. A hold-the-curtain mentality for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

My eye falls to the table. Three breakfast plates Martha Stewart beautiful, minus toast. One plate, only orts. Ort. A crossword puzzle word. It means crumbs. Bits and pieces. Remnants. I will not get cross. I go back to my bedroom. The three of them lie there. I will not get cross. They look at me. Perturbed that I deign to interfere with their cozy moment. I will not get cross. "Michael, I’m going to the store. You’re taking Sebastian to school. You have twenty minutes. Your eggs...look like rubber vomit." Not only cross, but glib.

For some reason I start doing chores I’ve neglected. I grab the pack of Al Gore light bulbs I bought two months ago. Michael should have supported the hot breakfast in the kitchen. He broke the routine. I swap the outdoor bulbs, those in the basement. It's only fair that he be on the receiving end of Mrs. DaMate's cool kinder-teacher glare. Besides, I’m proactive. I’m changing light bulbs that will help Mother Earth. Bravo me. Doing my part to maintain a green household.

Note to self. Don't forget to get Clorox.

My children finally come to the table. One is two-year-old terrible. The other acts like sitting down and breaking bread, even though there is no bread, will snap him in two. They look at their plates. Pick up tepid sausage. Maxie nibbles. Sebastian licks. That’s breakfast. Neither touch saltless eggs. Neither ask why the butter is out when there is no toast. Two nibbles and a lick. Tomorrow, I pour them coffee.

It’s ten to and still no Michael. I keep doing chores. I pack Sebastian's lunch bag. Put away the butter that is never used. Put away the fat free half and half. Doesn’t half and half, by its very half and half nature have to be half fat? That's when it hits me. Michael didn't break the routine. I hit the snooze button. Twice. Everything takes on a patina of ruin.

Saltless eggs. Fatless half and half. Plate with orts. Table scraps. Coffee grounds. Broken shards of glass and bone. Body parts of warriors overseas. Spiritual doubt. Financial ruin. National apathy rasping our throats, darkening our lungs. Increasing unemployment. Decreasing hairline. The Christmas invite my family did not extend to me. The deep, deep hurt over a constitutional law denying me human rights. That maybe most of all. The missing tooth I keep tonguing. Just to see if I can hit the exposed nerve, relive the pain all over again. It consumes me. Morsel by morsel. I am chum. Being devoured. I might as well, with three plates of saltless eggs and nibbled and licked sausage patties as my witness, just stop. Right here. Right now.

I hear Michael. He’s finally up. He’s picking out Sebastian’s clothes, washing his face. He’s trying to get the routine back. But it’s too late. That bell has blared. Life as we once was is no more. It's over. It’s toast.

Which, of course, reminds me. We're out of bread.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loving a Goat

Unlike what the title might imply, this is not about goat fucking. I do not visit rural areas to scratch an itch or loiter menacingly around petting zoos. Rest assured livestock owners, my pecker is not going anywhere near your peckers. That's just fowl. In my wildest dreams, I cannot imagine writing about goat fucking. I'll leave that to Edward Albee, who in my humble opinion, is the best goat fucking writer there is.

My friend says children are either goats or bunnies. The goats being demanding, non trusting, cranky and rude; the bunnies, cuddly, gentle, agreeable and easy-going. Our six year old, Sebastian, was a bunny baby. Loved people, traveled well, ready to offer an easy smile. Our two year old daughter, Maxwell Pearl, is a goat through and through. She whines, moans, cries and screams seventy-five percent of her wakeful day. "No" explodes from her mouth like artillery much more frequently than "yes," only to be outnumbered by "Idonwanna!"

She is frustratingly independent. She has to do things herself and is reluctant to ask for or accept help. This is a bitch if she's failing at the task at hand, because invariably she'll scream. But God help you, if you offer assistance without her asking, she'll just scream louder.

Michael and I were unloading groceries yesterday and Maxie was running around naked, which is her wont. She entered the kitchen holding the end of a long strand of toilet paper, about twenty feet I'd say. We both watched as she went over to where, unbeknownst to both of us, she took a dump. Although unsanitary, in this instance her independence worked in our favor. She insisted on cleaning up her own mess.

Maxie started school this week. And as I dropped off my cloven-hoofed child on her first day, it crossed my mind she might cause such a caterwauling we will be banned from every pre school in the LA area. But I underestimated my little girl. She has a sense of propriety. Her carrying on is for in house only. Lucky us. Rather than scream, Maxie's independent spirit kicked in. So she wouldn't have to share, she handed me her thing-in-hand. She then turned and walked away without looking back. No tantrum, no kiss goodbye either. My strong-willed daughter.

And I warn you cooers, if you approach my girl expecting an infectious smile or a coy head toss, you will be disappointed. One of two things will happen. Either she will pretend you do not exist, looking off in the distance. Or she will cut her eyes at you, the likes of which I haven't seen since teaching special ed high school students in inner city Brooklyn. "Who the fuck do you think you're looking at?"

Is she persnickety because she's the only female in the house? Because she's the second child? Because we saddled her with the name Maxwell Pearl?

There are days when the goat is left behind, she leads with a throaty laugh, and is just plain goofy. I cherish those moments. But for the most part, terrible doesn't cover the twos Maxie Pearl experiences from day to day. They are treacherous, even torrential.

Here comes the corn pone... I love that little girl deeply. I wouldn't trade her for a lifetime supply of sleep-in mornings and inappropriate massages. Her growth and development astound me. Her intelligence, off the charts. Her sense of humor, impish and quirky. And I look forward to knowing the woman she will become.

Last image: Maxie at Michael's and my "legal" wedding in October. Such an open face that day; full smile, eyes full of joy, an absolute bunny. I pity the fools who try to invalidate her daddies' marriage. My taciturn goat will return, and they will have to deal with the wrath that is Maxwell Pearl.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Alton: A Love Letter

The place: Alton, Illinois. The time: Christmas week. The purpose: in-laws.

I am still decompressing from my foray to the Midwest. I have to be careful. I do not want to offend. But I feel extremely uncomfortable when I'm in the middle of our country. In the early eighties, I spent some time in Topeka. I'm not sure which was more depressing, the flat flatness of Kansas, or the mental hospital in which I was ensconced. But I'm not willing to divulge those skeletons just yet, except to say, chalk up those years to teenage angst and an overindulgence in pharmaceuticals. So, quite possibly any trip to the Midwest summons up latent feelings of depression and inadequacy. Whatever the reason for my discomfort, I'd much rather fly over that part of the country in a tranquilized haze than kick off my shoes and set a spell.

To those of you unfamiliar with Alton, it is a river town in the Southern part of the state, across the Mississippi from St. Louis. There is an active steel mill and rock quarry, which produce many jobs. Alton has a riverboat gambling casino and three statues of note. Two of the statues are of Lincoln and Douglas in a feisty debate; Lincoln looking like a string bean in a waistcoat, Douglas looking like the Mayor of Munchkinland. And the other statue is of Robert Wadlow, Guinness Book's tallest man in the world. He grew to be eight feet, eleven and a half inches, wore 37AA shoes, and went on to be an employee of Ringling Brothers. On the outskirts of town, there is a huge mural of a piasa bird painted on a cliff. The piasa has reindeer horns, eagle talons, and a werewolf fangs. Native Americans believed this demon creature swooped out of the sky to take naughty kids away. Alton has brick lined streets with beautiful homes, and streets in great need of repair with boarded up homes. It personifies Midwestern values and traditions. Its cars are up on blocks, its porch swings creak, its mason jars are filled with sweet tea or hooch. Oh...and Miles Davis was born there.

Now that I've caught you up to speed, I need to speak directly to Alton itself...

Alton, you and I have been bickering ever since we've known each other. I come to your town every year with my children and my husband, who is one of your own, and we still can't seem to get along. To start with, why can't you acquire just one GOOD coffee shop? It isn't a luxury. It's a necessity!! But for eleven years, your waitresses unceremoniously plunk tepid brew onto the table, a good portion sloshing in the saucer, as if coffee were nothing more than Midwestern backwash. Coffee should be a strong consideration, not a watered-down afterthought. Weak Maxwell House does not suffice, and tiramisu creamer doesn't make the weak Maxwell House taste any better. Coffee should be a steaming, rich, unapologetically strong cuppa, rather than a mug filled with something that resembles the polluted Mississippi. If you don't want to go the megalithic Starbucks route, I understand. But for Pete's sake, at least get some Peet's.

And how about a bookstore, Alton? Then you can fill your bookshelves properly, rather than with dusty knickknacks of watermelon eating children and large-eyed raccoons. Never in my life, has the query, "Any good books lately?" been met with such empty stares. But an appealing bookstore, not a florescent nightmare. One that has armchairs and story hour for the kids and GOOD coffee for the adults. If it sweetens the pot, those bookstores also sell magazines about knitting and ammo and kittens.

And what's with the TV? Now, don't get me wrong. I like TV. But twenty-four/seven? Surely, Alton, you can turn it off every now and again. Especially when the Game Show Network plays reruns of Match Game '77. How many times can we hear Gene Rayburn set up Charles Nelson Reilly, "Dumb Dora is so dumb, she cooks bacon wearing only a blank."

I'm going to key you in on something, Alton. Couches and twenty-four hour televisions are traps. Let's say, you want to have a twenty minute visit, but once you sit in that well worn spot with the idiot box blaring, all sense of time is lost. You'll finally get up four or five hours later, and that's only because you have to pee. And when you play back what happened, any conversation you might have shared, how you spent a fifth of your day, you will not recall a single thing.

On the third day of our visit, my family succumbed to this unfortunate malaise. We were at my sisters-in law's. Two TVs were on in two different rooms, both showing children's programming, their volumes turned up, their content fighting to be heard. Michael's sister Karen, asleep on one couch. Michael asleep on the other. Michael's other sister, Rita, asleep with Sebastian and Maxie on the bed. Everyone in a state between dozing and comatose, except me. I was wide awake and getting progressively anxious and pissed off. I felt trapped in the straight-backed chair listening to the battle of the televisions, Cory in the House vs. Phineas and Ferb. I began to pace between living room and bedroom, hoping my movement would bother someone enough to wake. I focused on Michael, moving his big toe, slapping his knee. He'd rouse, I'd suggest we leave, he'd grumble and then go back to sleep. It would have been easier to budge a pig in shit.

But then I thought about it. Where would we go? What would we do? We'd either end up at his mother's where there is another couch, another TV, or at a restaurant where gravy is considered a vegetable.

This leads me to a very delicate subject. You are getting fat, Alton. It's time to watch what you eat. And I'm not talking about watch it go down your gullet. You must cut back on the red meat, the deep fried, the processed sugar, and anything that goes on top of anything else: gravy, sauce, Ranch, Thousand Island, whipped cream, sour cream, cream cheese, Cheez Whiz. Because I know you, Alton. You will eat the topping and leave the meal!

I'm going to use two words, Alton, and I don't want you to cringe. Fruits and vegetables. Fresh, not smothered in cheddar cheese or creamed in mushroom soup. I have two suggestions that had positive results for Michael's family. First, Greek salad. I made one for the Christmas family meal. Creamy dressing is not used and everyone loved it. Nothing was left in the punch bowl. That's the other thing, Alton, go out and get yourself an inexpensive salad bowl, and salad tongs while you're at it.

And if making salad sounds too labor intensive, sheesh, how bout a nice, juicy clementine. You know, those small, seedless, kid-friendly oranges that I am sure are genetically engineered. While you're lolling on the couch you can practically snarf down a whole box.

I don't mean to kvetch. The thing is, I really care. And perhaps my feelings run deeper than that. I've made a realization, Alton. Even though the McPike Mansion is known as the most haunted place in the country; even though the piasa bird may swoop out of the heavens; even though gang violence has escalated; and even though you have been home to both backwards-thinking ERA denouncer Phyllis Schlafly, and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassin, James Earl Ray, you are Everyplace, USA. You celebrate in your accomplishments and stand in the shadow of your mistakes. You're what Sarah Palin called Real America. You cling to your Gods and your guns and your fried Oreos unabashedly. You are Joe the plumber, Joe the exterminator, Joe the psychic, Joe the manicurist, Homo Joe the bartender. I know it sometimes seems easier to belly up to the drive thru, but do it for me, Alton. Get up off of the well-worn couch. Go for a walk. And next time I'm there, some GOOD coffee would be appreciated. Say it can be so, Joe.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Baby's First Brass Knuckles

On my son's sixth birthday he unwrapped his first gun and then the family sat down to a breakfast of pain au chocolat. Now, let it be known that chocolate croissants and armaments are not a mainstay of our household, but rather a special treat. Let it also be known, when I say armament, I mean cap gun.

Immediately, we went outside and shot off a round. And anyone who's ever owned a cap gun knows, only one in seven caps really work. You got to jiggle the paper and release the mechanism, realign the caps, really one of the most frustrating toys ever made. Sebastian was thrilled.

I realize guns are a tetchy subject in today's mothering world. As a matter of fact, even I have been part of the parenting faction that openly chided gun play between children. "I am raising my boy to be a sensitive, caring individual and that means no guns, no weaponry of any kind, and while I'm at it, no McDonald's."

But let me say as a previous gun owner, squirt not .45, I never wanted a real firearm after my various array of water pistols and BB guns. Sort of like I never wanted to capture the neighbor child using some elaborate ACME booby trap, because I watched numerous hours of The Road Runner. I mention The Road Runner because professionals cited that as the most violent cartoon in my day. I'm not really sure why Wile E. Coyote's hijinks were considered more hostile than Sylvester's or Dick Dastardly's or Bugs Bunny's.

On his birthday, Sebastian was going to open his presents after dinner, but I wanted him to have a small something before going to school. I ended up at Von's, our version of Safeway, at eleven pm the night before. This is where the cap gun comes in. It was all they had, besides pretty ponies and plastic insects, of which my son has an entire plastic swarm. I was at such a crossroads as to whether the gun was a good idea, I called Michael. With an unsure quiver I explain the situation, and without hesitation he says, "Get the gun," sounding like a small time hood from a Dirty Harry movie. Of course, I recognized my own overprotective programing and blithely tossed the gun into the cart. I bought me a firearm at the super market!!

I have to wonder if raising soft boys, even girls, has to do with the war. Reading today about the Gaza Strip has gotten me all touchy-feely with my kids. It makes me want to cultivate their sensitive sides and have them only eat organic vegetables. But let's be reasonable, the occasional Big Mac will not ruin a well balanced diet, much like owning a toy gun will not make our youth want to go out and cap some guy's ass. It's moderation, pure and simple. We have tipped much too far towards soft and cuddly, and to all of us namby-pamby parents, I say, "Hassenpfeffer!!"

There's a story my dad tells, and please apply an Oklahoma accent as you read the following: "My father, your grandfather, had this German Luger. And he was showing it to a friend and didn't know it was loaded. Well, he pulls the trigger and that thing fires. The bullet makes a hole in the living room wall, goes through the next room and almost hits that colored gal who used to work for us."
I should mention that this was the first time my dad met my future husband, and Michael is very much African American. As I nonchalantly picked my tongue up from the floor, Michael calmed me with a look. Everything was going to be okay. He figured my dad was just living in the moment.

The point is, I am not handing my six year old a loaded Luger. And of course we have rules... Only outside (the gunpowder smell is reason enough.) Keep your fingers away from the hammer when firing. Do not aim the gun at anything living, your sister, the dogs, anything. And never ever use the phrase "colored gal."

I am sure, soon enough, he will emotionally have to deal with the world of real gun violence and actual prejudices and warring factions and even the stark reality that he has two dads. But for now, let him enjoy his cheap piece of molded plastic. Bang, bang.