Sunday, June 6, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are: 9516 Ewing Drive

I am making myself write this down, because if I don't I'll block it and someday, when asked how our lives were at this time, I'll draw a complete blank. First, I looked at this week coming up as a miniature Fall of 2010 (when I will be starting work, Jack will be starting school, the kids will be starting before- and after-care to facilitate all of this while John leaves for Baghdad, all pretty much on the same day). At present, I am starting classes Monday, sending the kids to before care at the Y for just one week, Elle is picking them up after school, various sitters we love are stopping by to care for Kelbi (she is very picky about her people) just to facilitate John leaving for the week tonight. So just this week, while diving into the 8-5, eat-sleep-dream rigors of the Montessori course, I am going to have to negotiate end-of-year performances (I HAVE to go to Gabby's; Kit scored Hannah's appearance at hers) and a couple of yoga classes I am still committed to teach. This is followed by seven more rigorous weeks of insanity, but John will be in town.

With all that in mind, this weekend was about having all our ducks in a row, all the laundry done and outfits ready, food prepared, yard work complete, John packed up etc. so John and I could have a Saturday night date. So why is it 9:30 pm on Sunday, and I am standing in a veritable abandoned battlefield full of wailing and debris?

Yesterday afternoon at 5, Elle showed up to entertain the kids and I bolted upstairs to get dressed, John bolted downstairs to grab a shirt from the laundry. And that's when it ALL began. Only, we weren't really aware of the "ALL" part yet.

The washer hose, free of the sink it was supposed to be draining into was instead, filling the carpeted basement, turning it into one big, wet sponge. Every towel and blanket we could grab went to the floor, and every toy and book went into a very big pile on the "dry side" of the basement. Before six, with a yard full of towels and comforters, (and a very nice Persian rug draped over lawn chairs) we assessed the situation, grabbed a phone number of our trusted floor guy and the cell phone and said, "Let's go drink about what to do next."

This time, when I ran upstairs to grab my shoes, Gabby was busy with a paper towel and a spray bottle of Clorox Cleanup (read: bleach), "cleaning" our room: the dresser, our comforter, quilt . . .think little white dots and you get the picture. She was . . . cleaning. Undeterred, we said, well, the quilt could be turned over, and thank goodness she didn't spray the doorless closet with all of John's suits, and off we went. (One of my favorite yoga studios was throwing a soiree with gourmet chocolates and live music, and we were going to meet Geneva and Brian there, then head for margaritas.) In the car on the way we put our stories together and realized . . .Gabby had also been in the laundry room and freed the hose from the sink. Hmmmm...

But when we got home, everyone was happy and sleepy and we thought nothing more of it, until every time we left Gab alone for more than five minutes today . . . mischief (which is actually stipulated as a non-coverable cause under "water damage due to . . ." in our insurance policy. And so, by noon, after Gabby had broken her sundress strap at church, left us at same Mass to join another family (never met them before, but decided to stand between this chosen husband and wife and hold the lady's hand, and stand and listen like an angel as opposed to annoying her sister, slamming down the kneeler, whining, or reading while sitting on the kneeler); and at the Silver Diner, after she had ordered pancakes, fussed over how they were cut, refused them then insisted she wanted something else completely- something with french fries-then spent 45 minutes eating; and after returning home and moaning that her stomach hurt (really? why?) when I tucked her into bed she slithered out and slithered under my bed taking every dust bunny with her then spreading thick dust (that gathers quickly: the dog sleeps there) on our bed; and after I was trapped in the bathroom while outside the door I could hear her taking a picture and it's glass out of a metal frame, an act for which I drew ever so deeply to find the patience to bring her to the broken glass on the stair to show her that this was not a good thing only to have her step in a piece of it on the way and wail for 30 minutes (while I, Cruella, mused, "Huh. Just like the stove. Glass teaches it's own lesson.") . . . . well, I was not at that moment suitable for motherhood, Montessori and DEFINITELY not any thing yogic. So I gasp --- took her with me to Costco as punishment. ( . . or maybe it was self-preservation, because I knew if I left her with John and the others he would have to avert his eyes and then what? Would I have to unfork the dog from the ceiling?)

She was an angel, of course. Sat in the cart, used beautiful words to remind me of all the things we usually get: "Milk! Orange juice! Bread!" I was even beginning to like her again, and she, me.

It didn't last, of course. At home she turned the central ac to "heat" (it's like 90 degrees here), unplugged the ac in her room, hit her brother, threw cards at the ceiling fan . . .and these are just the things I know about. Finally, Kit and Jack and I stood at the front door saying our goodbyes to John (with Jack screaming, "No Daddy! Don't leave!") when we heard the final crash: forget Daddy leaving, she had climbed onto the counter to search for the chocolate chip cookies, thereby releasing, from great height, a full crystal sugar bowl.

Go ahead. Call social services.

John, my angel, my saint, stayed a few more minutes to sweep up the Barbie crystal sugarscape that the kitchen had become, and, as I love him so, I added another wet comforter and a few beach towels to the collection he took in large garbage bags, bound for a laundromat some evening this week after training (he's driving there). Now there's where this week's trip and Baghdad seriously diverge.

We all calmed down. The kids brushed their teeth, and I read them stories . . . rocked Jack . . . .and rubbed toes, and bellies . . . and pulled Kit's tooth out.

Her tooth! Her tooth! Finally! the second one! just when there was peace, she could not stop: "I am SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO exCITED!!!!!!!!!" she kept yelling.

. . . right. Pack four lunches, get books ready, write list for Elle (now bound to walk Kelbi AND stay for the flood repair people), do laundry, tear down barrier that was keeping kids from basement so flood repair people can get in, and, oh yes: don wings, sprinkle dust . . .

Friday, June 4, 2010


"Girls! Girls! Girls!" I remember calling out, trying to restore order to the chatty-wild young ladies in my Sacred Heart classroom many years ago in Hoboken. And everytime I shouted, I remember amusing myself thinking, "Geeze-I sound like a Camden billboard." (Yes, sometimes Billy Crystal lives in my head.) Admittedly it is hard not to draw a line to sexual innuendo at every turn when you are the English/P.E. teacher to a bunch of high school girls who are trapped inside a boyless institution for hours on end. I had to be prepared because they drew that line every chance they got. I always thought, when my kids ask, I'll surely be ready to answer. And I am.

I thought of my readiness again when Uncle Pat (my Godfather, the best one there is, a fact that is important) sent me an email-giggle regarding one of Kit's cute little sayings. "The day is not too far off when you will be hit with the big question of where did I come from and how did I get here, etc." he wrote.

We were both wrong.

Instead, one night before bed, my darling six-year-old with her covers tucked up under her chin told ME where babies come from: "May said that to have a baby, a man . . . " shall I save you from her clear and correct description? (If you are trying to think what it was like to be me, make sure you insert those two, big, innocent baby blues looking at you for confirmation. Blink. Blink.)

First, I silently forgave May (who has teenage brothers and clearly academic understanding of biology), then aided by angels, I answered "Yes, but that doesn't decide that there is a baby. That's still up to God. It's a big mystery. That's why some people have lots of babies and some people have none. It's alllll up to God."

Still young enough to cling to all things magical, she liked that, and I hadn't heard from her since. Until early this morning, when she was reading a newspaper and asked, "What's sex again?"

I decided to think animals, and came up with a cursory but usable definition for reproduction. I spoke slowly and clearly, with my heart stuck somewhere in my throat. Then I held my breath.
"No," she looked at me blankly. "I mean like here, it says "Sex:Female. What does that mean?"