Monday, September 19, 2005

Life Ballet

Sometimes it’s fun to set yourself up with so many tasks that you think you will explode! Sometimes the life you’re living seems like this weird unlikely jumble of bizarreness. That has an odd cheesy cohesiveness.

Saturday we hosted my sister’s T’s birthday party. There were some “logistics” involved. I put out four lined sticky notes on the counter and listed all the different things--by schedule times, with accompanying lists--of what we needed to get, and who would go where for what, etc.

Nick had karate at 10:15 and a soccer game at 2:00. I was a door buster at Safeway with my store mate Ian at 7:00 a.m. Balloons, cornbread ingredients, angel food cake mix, juice boxes, seltzer water, flowers. Back to the house. Pillsbury Flaky Grands with apple slices for the hungry mob.

MZA takes Nick to karate; stops at the liquor store—wine and champagne--I call in the order to Famous Dave’s . MZA picks up Nick from karate; stops to retrieve food from Famous Dave’s. He gets stuck in traffic. I look at the kitchen floor and realize there is a Cat in the Hat bathtub type ring around the perimeter of the floor. Our nanny does “light” cleaning and apparently she only cleans the center region of the floor. That’s OK. It’s not good to be a hardass about someone who is taking care of your kids, you know?

So I get down on my hands and knees with a brush and scrub the neglected outer rim of the ceramic tile floor. I feel like Joan Crawford! I am covered in a lather of sweat, Clorox, Mop ‘n Glo and Lysol All Purpose Disinfectant. WIRE HANGERS! A little soda water will get that out…etc.
All creative fabulous child entertainment options are sapped and so it is time for the Aristocats, better known as the “kitty cat movie.” When it comes time to sing “Everybody Wants to be a Cat,” Ian gets up on his wood kiddie table and sings and dances along. Every once in awhile the tots appear at the door to the kitchen and I look at them psychotically—like Joan Crawford!—and say, don’t come in! It’s c-a-c-a!!!!!” Because the last time I had a fit of similar floor washing mania, Daisy waddled in and bananapeeled it right onto her head. It wasn’t pretty and girlfriend can WAIL. I set up a barricade with the trashcan and the stool. They looked at me like confused Victorian moppets.

I make the angel food cake—with Ian’s toddler “assistance.” Manic stirring, dollopping in the water, licking the spoon. Daisy tries to clamber onto the stool with him. Cooking with kids is fun! Especially if your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp.

The cake comes out of the oven and I place it on an empty bottle, hanging upside down to cool. Then I make my aunt’s jalapeno cornbread. I set up the hors d’ouevres tray—Boursin cheese and Stoned Wheat Thins. It’s funny how hors d’ouevres have their own milieus. Up at the lake we always eat Triscuits, summer sausage and horseradish cheese spread. Seriously! But back home we come back to our senses and serve foofy French cheese and appropriately austere crackers that accent the flavor of the fromage. Doncha know. Chips and salsa and Capri Suns for the kids.

Run up to take a shower. MZA comes in lugging enormous bags from Famous Dave's—chicken, brisket and LOTS of ribs. And cole slaw. My sister pulls up and she’s smokin’ mad because there was traffic on the Beltway. People in Virginia like to blame you for the traffic if you live in Maryland. It is a time-honored tradition. Miraculously, there is no traffic OR crime in Virginia! It is Utopia and Maryland is the sleazy hellish stepchild. WHATever.

My mother emerges from the car with her usual happiness and gracious wonder. Being the daughter of an eternal optimist was something I loathed as a dark and quagmired teen, but as an older dame I really like it. She gets totally excited about our neighborhood and the yard. It’s sad to see her struggle to climb the stairs to the house, tho, but she is well tended by my considerate brother-in-law, husband and nephews. She comes in and marvels at EVERYTHING. Says it’s all so beautiful and pulled together. Which is nice, you know.

She sits in her leather chair and we get the bevvies going ASAP. Wine all around! Or was that just me? Then we tie on the olde feed bag and tuck into the southern fine feastie. It was fun. We had cake and champagne afterwards. My mother kept saying it was the best day she had had in a long time.

Everyone left and I cleaned the kitchen and made my polenta and black bean casserole—new cult favorite—for a party that afternoon at our neighbors’ house. The babies were sleeping; Nick went to his game with another kid on the team. He came bounding home about 3:30—they won, again!

Daisy Faye woke up around 5:00, just as the casserole was reaching its bubbly browned conclusion. We slipped across the street to Barbara and Marie’s and ATE SOME MORE. Something light—Moosewood lasagna and Silver Palette carrot cake. Yum! The kids ran around the yard like—well, like kids. We went home and put them, noodly-tired, to bed.

Sunday we did our weekend fall back and went to Broooooooooooooooooookside Gardens. A beautiful respiteful landscaped garden with Asian themes. They have Canada geese, turtles, ducks and lovely wandering paths that showcase Latin named plants. Plantus erectus, with a conservatory that is sometimes filled with butterflies and sculpture exhibits.

There are also lots of NERDS at Brookside Gardens, I have noticed. You know how horticulture and ornithology bring out the nerds? Yep. Anytime you have Latin plant environs with a good selection of ornithological specimens to cluck over, OBSERVE, finger and discuss in hushed tones, there will be nerds. Wearing fanny packs, semi-hats with wide brims, long shorts (not long enough!), showcasing fish belly pale legs with hanging flesh, sensible tie-up shoes, and nerdy glasses with flip-up shades.

And bird and plant lovers are, by nature, not kid lovers. As a matter of fact, they all look pretty steamed that small mammal-type creatures are allowed to traverse their sacrosanct paths, interrupting their nature-ly reveries and NPR barley conversations about how thin the golden rod is! Yet how plump the koi fish! What a marvelous strain of Cladonia rangiferina! Cecelia, have you ever! Why when father used to grow it, it was always so perforated!!

Like all parents I look at them, waiting for them to melt with the cuteness of my own Daisy exuberantly running her side-to-side toddle in a pink flowered Hanna Andersson dress. Do you think they care? I wear sunglasses and wait for the molten smiles to cross their faces, and yet I am met with irritation. Don’t they see how cute she is? Does she not recall Wordsworth’s child of the fields, the symbol, the raison d’etre of Romantic poetry? The blissfully innocent muse. The calming influence of a suckling babe to her mad mother, "Sweet babe! they say that I am mad/But nay, my heart is far too glad…” Yeah, but the nerdy natura amoria are thistly about sweet babes running with their sturdy little legs through their stultified, catalogued flora.

It’s funny, when you don’t have kids you look at them like little monsters—obnoxious loud invasive sirens-- and when you have kids they are suddenly these poetic little emblems of perfection, traipsing along the landscape like ingenuous silky-haired nymphs.

ANYHOO, beauty and love are certainly in the eye of the beholder, eh? I was tired Sunday, the tiredness of the damned. But I was happy too. When MZA and I collapsed on the couchapalooza Saturday night after a day of fullness eternus, I said, “I am exhausted.” He said, “Me too. But it’s good.”


Cynicism is another word for reality

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