Wednesday, December 17, 2008

THAT ONE THERE

I don't know which was funnier, the stuff he said or the wandering around.




Much has been made of the moment in the second presidential debate when John McCain nodded his head toward Barack Obama and said, "That one there." It was an odd thing to say in a very odd debate, I think we would all agree. What did he mean by that? Was it a way of saying "That punk over there" or a way of pointing out that he was the senior member on stage? Was it simply a disrespectful thing to do by not using his name or title? I wasn't really sure but it was noteworthy and gave Saturday Night Live even more material.

I was reminded of the strange expression this past week at church. Our minister was wrapping up the Christmas pageant by thanking all the adults involved...she thanked them all by name and by title, "Thanks to Pam for leading the choir, to Jan for playing the piano, and of course, big thanks to our writer...." and here she hesitated, struggling to remember Becky's name. We all held our breath. It was clear she could not remember her name. Finally, she just said, "That one there," which got a laugh since it came close enough on the heels of the debate for all of us to get it.

I totally sympathize with my minister (who by the way is about my age). She managed to forget the name of a very prominent church member, the woman who has written the play for about 10 years, who is also a friend, and member of a book club we all belong to. I feel her pain.

Yes, most of us are really, really bad at remembering names. I don't know why that is. I am not talking about forgetting the name of someone you have only met once or twice casually. I am not talking about forgetting the name of someone you knew a long time ago and just ran into. I am talking about forgetting the names of people very close to you.

Don't worry, I already checked and this is, unfortunately, fairly normal memory loss. It's like when a word is on the tip of your tongue and you can't retrieve it. You will eventually, it just takes longer.

This happened to me the other day over coffee with my Coffee Friends. I literally forgot Coffee Friend 2's name. I said, "Hey, I came by the other day and...." I looked at my friend helplessly. "Val," she supplied, "Yeah, Val was out front shoveling," I went on as if I hadn't just done that.

But alas, she would have none of it. "You just forgot my name you crazy old hag!"-- she called me out on it. Errr, yes, ummm, maybe I did.

Another time I called my good friend Martha. I have known her 12 years. I was expecting to hear her voice but her husband, Dan, answered. I was so flummoxed by having him answer that I forgot his name. I've known him 12 years too. They are among our closest friends. We all have dinner out at least once a month. But I could not think of his name. I panicked and said the first thing I could think of, "Umm, is your mother home?"

He chuckled, "No, I'm 55, I don't live with my mommy anymore."

Shit.

So it was with great empathy that I watched my minister make this mistake on Sunday. And since misery loves company, it made me fell a little better because at least I have not done this in front of a large crowd. Yet. And when she said, "That one there," a light when on in my head.

John McCain did not call Barack Obama "That one there" as some sort of old man disrespecting a young man or as an insult or as a way to demean him.

He simply forgot his name.

As I am more than 20 years junior John McCain I can hardly hold that against the guy.

Still, I didn't vote for ole' what's his name. I preferred that one there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

MOMS IN PAJAMAS

No, I never look this good in my pajamas.


On Wednesday I drove Grace to school because the bus never showed up after a night of snow. As I came back down our street I saw Coffee Friend 1 out shoveling her driveway. I stopped the van and rolled the window down.

"Can you believe the wife?" I said referring to the drama that has been unfolding all week about our incredibly inept/corrupt governor Rod Blagojevich.

"I haven't heard the details about her, what?"

"I skimmed the complaint. I'll forward it to you. They have her on tape yelling over her husband's shoulder 'You tell that F***er he can forget his deal on the F***ing Cubs if he won't fire that editorial staff!'"

"Holy shit, I knew she was a bitch," Coffee Friend said as she leaned on the handle of her shovel.

"Yeah, but really, who does that? Who stands over their husband's shoulder while he's on a business call telling him what to say?"

We both shook our heads, trying to imagine the scenario. It was really one of the most shocking revelations in a shocking week of revelations. We talked a few minutes more about the scandal, the possiblity that Rahm Emmanuel dropped the dime and the prospect of hearing him on a tape cursing like Ari from "Entourage" the character based on his real-life brother, and then I drove on.

As I pulled into the driveway it occurred to me that the entire conversation had taken place while we were both in our pajamas. Both of us had been wearing winter coats and boots over our pajamas, bed-head hair, and not a stitch of makeup (by the way, that expression makes no sense, makeup does not come in stitches).

This is not that shocking for me. I can often be found in my pajamas until 10:00 or so (I am right now actually, polar bear flannel, thank you) and even on my wedding day I don't think I wore anything more than mascara. But for Coffee Friend...well she was a model in her youth. I'm sure there was a time in her life she wouldn't have been caught dead outside un-showered and in p.j.'s.

I thought about this the next day when I drove another child to school for band and I saw a mom in the pajamas/boots/winter ensemble as she helped her special needs child on to the bus and I realized, consciously for the first time, that I LOVE seeing my peers like this.

To be sure, I usually see them fully dressed, coiffed, and made-up, and many of them could audition for a part in "Desperate Housewives" but I like them best this way--when they've just rolled out of bed. They look more vulnerable, more approachable, more human, and much younger. Like a sleeping child, an un-groomed mom is the sweetest mom of all.

This made me feel better about the time I went out to get the paper wearing the shorts of one summer pajama set and the top to another, my sad post-breast-feeding boobs hanging low in their natural braless state only to look up after scooping up the paper to see my children's principal as he jogged by our house. I played it cool, "Good morning, Mark," I said. "Good morning, Judy," he said as he continued on. He never spoke of it. What happens in the driveway stays in the driveway.

I wonder if Patti Blagojevich is ever caught in her jammies. Probably not. She is the daughter of a prominent Illinois politician who bought the governor job for her husband when she was only 35 so she's probably been the picture of an entitled brat her whole life. She probably hasn't taken out the trash or shoveled a driveway in her entire life or, God forbid, been caught in her jammies. And therein lies much of the problem I suspect.

So here's to all my mom friends today. If I see you in the 'hood with your hair rumpled and your snowflake patterned jammies peaking out from under your coat as you run kids to school or fetch the paper, rest assured you've never been more beautiful to me.

Monday, December 08, 2008

ADVENT CALENDAR


Last year instead of getting the cheap, $2.99 advent calendar from Trader Joe's I got a substantial advent calendar from Crate and Barrel that is a sturdy cardboard concoction in the shape of a Christmas tree. The tree is formed of a stack of tiny drawers and each drawer represents a day. When you open the drawer you find your treat. It's so cute I saved it and this year I stuffed each drawer with a piece of Halloween candy or a note with something on it like "You get to ride in the front seat for two days" or "You get to choose dinner" which I hoped were things of value to my children and of course congratulated myself on the incredibly clever, cheap, green use of things we already had in the house.

Yesterday, Lilly (10) pointed out that there was nothing in the drawer for day 7. Hmm, that's funny, I was pretty sure I had systematically filled each drawer but sure enough it was empty. I threw a quarter in there and forgot about it.

This morning however, the mystery was solved. Several of the drawers were open and there were candy wrappers all around the advent tree.

"Atticus! Did you eat all the candy from the advent calendar?" Lilly roared.

He shrugged as only a 15-year-old boy can and said shamelessly, "Yeah."

"Dude," Jeff said, "You got a problem. That's like something you do just before they send you to rehab."

Atticus tried a diversionary offensive tactic, "Hey, those things are like $4.00, you couldn't have bought a new one this year?"

"What the hell does that have to do with it?" I asked. "I'm reusing it because I can not because I'm cheap. And, hey, eating the candy from the advent calendar sounds familiar. Oh yeah, that's what Billy Bob Thorton did in 'Bad Santa'. Nice, you're Bad Santa."

"Whatever, I just didn't want to eat frozen candy. I meant to replace it with the other candy from the freezer. "

"But you didn't," Jeff pointed out.

By now Lilly had gone to the freezer and found the frozen Halloween candy and refilled the tiny drawers. As she did this she spoke in her parent-voice to her brother, "Now Atticus, you are forbidden from taking anything from the Advent calendar. You have to learn there are consequences for your bad behavior."

"Yes I see the consequences--my little sister will lecture me and my parents will make fun of me. I can live with that."

And that, my friends, is the problem.

Clearly Atticus needs better parents. Just the other day I asked Lilly to help me put away a complicated building toy he'd left out for weeks. "Didn't you ask Atticus to do that?" she asked skeptically as she started to help me dis-assemble the tiny pieces.

"Yes, but he'll take forever to get to it," I said realizing how lame that sounded as soon as I said it.

"You would not train a dog that way," she said calmly.

"You're right," I admitted and we left the project there and he did indeed eventually put it away.

There's a lesson in all of this. Something about parenting and dog-training but I'm not really sure what it is.

I'm hoping that Lilly will explain it to me later when she tells me how to punish a puppy who eats all the candy in the advent calendar.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I SPEAK MIDDLE SCHOOL

Today I will helpfully translate the names of the classes our children in junior high are enrolled in.

Let's start at the very beginning a very good place to be:

Middle School means Junior High. At orientation night they will tell you that middle school is a more nurturing and transitional educational experience than junior high. Instead of moving every hour on the hour to a new class as they do in high school, the kids move from "block" to "block" every hour or hour and a half or two hours depending on the complex scheduling grid that only a Homeland Security spy or a junior high kid can even keep track of. Whatever. If it's a school full of 11 to 14 year olds with poor personal hygiene habits and an obsession with the word "popular" it's still Junior High to me.

English class is now called Language Arts: I have no idea when or why this changed but I strongly suspect it is due to the propensity of all vocations to invent jargon to make them sound more knowledgeable/inscrutable. Because it is "arty" it means a heavy emphasis on the creative-writing and not so much on the grammar and punctuation but that switch occurred way back when. Diagramming sentences and using good grammar is so 1950's.

The Library is now the Learning Center: Now this one I can embrace a little--I mean the need to rename a library. As books are replaced with computers it does seem a little silly to keep calling it a library. Still, "learning center" is a little vague --isn't the whole school a learning center?

Foreign Language is now Global Language: Who knows why? Maybe foreign sounded derogatory? But isn't any language that isn't your own foreign? Whose feelings were being hurt here?

Art is Visual Art: So as not to be confused with the other arts such as music and dance, I suppose. But isn't this derogatory to the sightless? I think it should be "visual if able art".

Good news--Math, Science, and Social Studies are still Math, Science, and Social Studies. For now.

And now, for my personal favorite. The other day my son said he'd have time to finish his homework in PCT. Please elaborate, I said. Productive Choice Time, he said, snickering. Do you mean homeroom? I asked incredulously. Yes indeed.

Now I don't know about you but I'd have to say that in Junior High, a time in which I made more unproductive choices than any other time in my life (with the possible exception of the last term of my senior year in college), I made the MOST unproductive choices of all in homeroom. Passing notes in the form of quizzes (How bored are you? Check one: bored enough to 1. Yawn noisily 2. gouge my eyes out 3. actually do my homework), discussing who likes who and who said that to whom and endlessly ranking my crushes though the list was almost always topped by bad-boy Joe Doga and boy-next-door Kenny Gratton. Sigh. Now that was productive choice time.

So, if you have kids heading into Junior High, consider yourself a little more prepared now that you've read my handy guide but remember that Junior High, like politics and sausage, is best if you don't look at how it is made.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FROM THE BACK SEAT

The tooth fairy.
She's very forgetful now that she's in perimenopause.







It is from the back seat of the car that all momentous pronouncements come. So it was inevitable that the curtain came down on the Santa myth from the back seat of the car on Sunday as Lilly and Grace and I drove to pick up our fast-food Sunday dinner at Steak N Shake.

"Umm, Mom?" Lilly says "I know about Santa."

Oh thank god. I had not been looking forward to that conversation but I had also not been looking forward to another year of playing Santa. Frankly, I'm not cut out for that role.
Too much sneaking. I'm not sneaky. Too much planning. I'm not a planner. Way too much to remember. I have no memory. Thus I would all too often say, "The doll I got you, no I mean the doll Santa brought, hee hee, I'm so confused, who gave you that?"

It is perfectly appropriate that Lilly would tell me. With three kids proper protocol diminishes with each child. When I told Atticus he was crushed like kids are supposed to be; Grace asked me outright and just shrugged when I broke it to her; and Lilly told me.

"I've known for two years," she adds.

"Why did you tell me today then?"

"I told Grace and she told me I had to tell you."

"Thank you Grace." Grace is well aware I do not relish my Santa job. I've been pawning more and more of it off on her in recent years--first under the guise of "softening the blow" of the truth but more recently out of sheer laziness. Here, help me pick something out. Hey, would you wrap that. Oh, here's a twenty, ride your bike to Toys R Us and find something. Go ahead and get yourself a little something too.

"So that means I can stop all the nonsense? Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy?" I confirm.

"Yeah. And that tooth fairy trick you do...it's lame. We know about it."

I know exactly which trick she means. In fact, it's the only way the Tooth Fairy has delivered money in the past four years. Here's how it goes. She tells me she lost a tooth. She puts it under her pillow. I forget and go to bed without taking care of it. In the morning at the breakfast table Lilly says, "The Tooth Fairy forgot to come. Again." and I say, "Oh, I have to get something in my room," and slip away with a dollar hidden in my hand. From her bedroom I call, "Hey, look the dollar must have fallen down behind the bed!" and she comes in and acts surprised.

Over time I got sloppier and sloppier on this until the last time when I think I walked to my purse took out a dollar and said, "Oh look, the Tooth Fairy left the dollar in my wallet."

And so it was that when Lilly made the pronouncement from the back seat I surprised even myself by not being remotely sentimental about it all. No tears, no regrets, no sadness at the obvious marker of a childhood slipping away.

All I felt was great relief at finally being able to drop the facade I had erected so long ago and maintained so poorly over time.

Ho, ho, whew.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OBAMALAND

A view from the Chicago River








We live in Chicago, often called the "Second City"--second to NYC, LA, and DC really. Unlike those cities, we don't host a lot of celebs. To be sure we have Oprah, and Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston show up now and then. You can't swing a cat in Wrigley Field without hitting a Cusack or a Piven or a Murray. But that's really it. And none of those celebs attract world-wide media attention. Well, Oprah does but not on a regular basis.

As for global recognition, Chicago is of course known by other countries--but not well-known. Tell a European you're from Chicago and he'll hold his hands like a tommy-gun and say "Ah, Al Capone." Not exactly the image we'd like projected around the world, but there it is.

So it's kind of weird to have spent a week in the eye of the global media storm after the Presidential Election. Of course, we expected it to happen on Tuesday but when we woke up Wednesday and the traffic reporter mentioned he wasn't sure what was happening in Hyde Park because of the new "no-fly zone" over Obama's house it was noteworthy.

We're not used to presidential motorcades. Cokey Roberts on NPR said we'd better get used to it after we heard some unaware fool tried to pass the motorcade down in the Loop and got pulled over by the FBI, guns drawn. Oops. My bad officer, I was just trying to get to my lunch at Gene and Georgettis.

Barack's first press conference was at the Chicago Hilton, the same hotel we stayed in last week and the same hotel I've attended numerous events at. He and Michelle went to dinner at Spiaggia on Saturday a restaurant I've been to also for date night. It was odd to see all of this on World News Tonight.

At a church fundraiser on Friday the talk was all about our new family-elect. An architect friend of ours, Bill, was saying that his client's children attend school with Sasha and Malia (we're already on first name basis with these girls) and that they had shown up to school on Wednesday morning, on time, despite the fact that they'd been on stage the night before in front of the entire world until nearly midnight. Many of their classmates did not show up, using the excuse that they'd stayed up late to watch the elections. You gotta love that. And where else are you going to hear a story like that but here in Obamaland?

"Are they nice girls?" I asked Bill.

He smiled broadly, "They're very nice girls," he confirmed. We all sighed and sipped our drinks.

The President's daughters are nice girls and they're our girls from our town.

Chicago and for now the "Second-to-none City".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

YES WE CAN

Michigan Ave after the rally in front of our hotel.


I should have written yesterday to tell you about our election night in Chicago but I'm still trying to digest it all and process it. I can't. It's just too much. So I'll give you some highlights/observations and we'll go from there.

For now, I'm walking on sunshine, bouncing off the walls. Life is good. Change happens.

-The best moment was when we were standing on Michigan Avenue waiting to get into the park. We went late deliberately, not wanting to stand in the crowd for hours, and mistakenly thinking there would be no line at that point. Instead, at 9:30 when we left our hotel we found a line, five people wide and about three blocks down. We got in line and everyone was pumped. Cell phones were on and friends were texting to keep us up to date. We knew victory was close. All we needed was for the California polls to close. There was a roar coming from the park and everyone wanted to know what happened. A man leaned out of a hotel window across the street and shouted "He took California!" and everyone started going crazy. Hugging. Crying. Laughing. Another few minutes passed and the woman in front of us looked up from her cell phone and shouted, "They're calling it, they're calling it! We did it" and then we really heard the roar from the park and even though the street was closed a few cars snuck through with people hanging out the windows, waving signs, screaming "We did it, We did it!" and we hugged and cried again. Horns honked and everyone screamed. It was unreal.

-We stayed at the Chicago Hilton and Towers a storied old-school hotel and as I hoped it was full of reporters and movers and shakers. When we got out of the car in the parking garage three vans full of TSA agents were unloading. They smiled and joked with each other. One of them said hello to me and I asked "Hey, you going to keep us safe tonight?" "You know we are!" The party was on.

-Grace and I stopped in the hotel gift shop to get a snack. We paid $3.99 for a bag of cheezits. Next to the cash register was a basket of McCain buttons. The sign on them said 99cents.

-The Defender, a black Chicago newspaper, was hosting a big party upstairs and we saw Jesse Jackson and several other black politicians I recognized. Everyone looked like a journalist with their perfect faces and being followed by cameramen. I can't remember ever being somewhere where it was so obvious that you were in the middle of something big. The kids and I waited over an hour to be seated for dinner. Jesse and his posse came out of the restaurant and we just hung around watching people come and go in the hotel lobby. More than half the crowd was black. At one point a white man in a suit walked by and I was struck by how out of place he looked. It's a new world.

-We finally got seated for dinner. Kenny Mayne a reporter for ESPN was sitting next to us. I only recognized him because he has been on Dancing with the Stars. A few people approached him for a picture. He was gracious. Every few minutes the crowd in the lobby bar would erupt into cheers and Atticus would run out and then run back to tell us the news, "He took Pennsylvania!" The food was tasteless and I was too excited to eat. It was one of the best dinners I ever had.

-When we got to the park we stood on the edge of the sea of people with a clear shot of the Jumbotron. A man gave an invocation. We said the pledge of allegiance. I haven't said it in years-- it's my silent protest of the man in the White House but I said it Tuesday. When it was over a girl on her boyfriend's shoulders shouted to the world, "I've never said that and meant it before tonight!" A woman came out to sing the national anthem. I don't know who it was but she didn't know the words and we had to laugh at her mangling of them. And then, a voice came over the loudspeaker and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the first-family elect of the United States of America" and the crowd went wild and the crying really started in earnest.

-Barack spoke. You saw it. It was solemn. It was great. The crowd was jubilant, triumphant, but subdued, weighed down I think with equal parts disbelief and the heft of the moment.

-When it was over we all turned and went as quietly as 150,000 people can go into the night. Later at the hotel bar we sat and watched more returns, dazed at what we'd seen. Two British journalists started talking to us. They wanted to know why the crowd was so civilized and where had everyone gone? It was nearly 1:00 and the street was almost empty. Jeff and I thought about it long and hard. Finally, I summed it up, "This is the city that works. We had our party but we're all getting up and going to work tomorrow. Jeff will go to work, I'll take the kids to school. That's what we do in Chicago-- we work."

And as it turns out, that's what our president-elect did too.

Godspeed to Barack Obama.

More of my pics at http://www.facebook.com/photos.php?id=552537016#/album.php?aid=49115&id=552537016

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'M GOING TO THE BIGGEST PARTY EVER!


Obama in the rain. Let's hope for better weather next Tuesday.
I am so excited for the election next week I can hardly breathe. I cannot even imagine how the people who were very close to the campaign must feel about all of this.

Last summer when there was a buzz that Obama would notify people by email of his Veep choice I fell for the gimmick and signed up to be a supporter. Every day since I've gotten a "personal message" from Barack, or Michelle, or Joe (not six-pack or the plumber) Biden. At the end of each email is a request for money. Twice, I hit the donate button. It's brilliant of them to make it so easy. I've never given money to a campaign before in my life but here I am doing it cheerfully.

But I have to say, the emails, which I admit have been a little irritating at times, have been a very small price to pay for the ultimate payoff because yes, it's true, I have been personally invited to attend the rally next week when he makes his victory speech downtown at Grant Park. The invites were only sent to Illinois supporters and I happen to be one of them. Yes. Envy me.

Next Tuesday night, I, my children and my darling husband will be at the epicenter of the universe when Barack Obama announces he is the next president of the United States of America.

We will stand in a ridiculously long line waiting to show our IDs and go through security. We will stand in the freezing cold (it's November in Chicago--on the lake) and wait what will seem like hours for the man to come out and give us the good news.

And I'm looking forward to this.

Let me explain the importance of this. I am not a person who likes to be uncomfortable. My family jokes that I have a four-degree comfort zone. Below 68 and I'm cold. Above 72 and I'm hot. I'm precious. My daddy even installed an extra heater at his home just for me in his chilly game room because I'm his favorite or maybe because he is sick of hearing me whine, whatever.
I do not like to wait in lines. I do not go to ANY event that requires me to stand in a line. This means my kids have actually had to miss a few plumb lessons (the much coveted golf lessons and the even more coveted swim lessons that you have to get in line for at 6:00 am ). If I can't sign up by email then forget it. And I think people who camp out overnight to get season tickets for the Cubs are certifiably insane (they even might think that after their swift elimnination from the playoffs this year, but I digress).

I do not like to wait to see anyone and this includes the Pope. After waiting an hour in the sun we gave up and went to get icecream and beer. We did see his hand waving but that was it. We didn't care. We enjoyed our treats.

So for me to be willing to put up with the inconvenience, the crush of the crowd, the freezing cold, and the no-doubt interminable wait, is more than just a little bit uncharacteristic. It's apocalyptic is what it is.


And so is next Tuesday.


It is nothing short of apocalyptic that the first Senator from Illinois since Abraham Lincoln and the first black man will be elected President of the United States of America.


And I will be there to see it.


Did I mention I'm a teeny bit excited?

God Bless America






Thursday, October 23, 2008

A SHEEP IN THE BASEMENT


WonderBunny: Pirate of the seas



My friend Ann R. grew up here in Glenview (a suburb just out of Chicago) which is close enough to the city to be more city than suburb. A hundred years ago there were a handful of farms but all that is left is Wagner Farm which our Park District bought and runs so our kids can see what we used to see when we visited our grandparents. But Ann is a real city girl and did not even have grandparents with farms.

So I imagine it was rather a surprise to her when her daughters expressed interest in joining the 4H club .

Ann is a good mom and so she signed her girls up and they went to their meetings at Wagner Farm and they bought their animal. They were to raise it, show it at the fair, and ship it off to where all farm animals get shipped off in the end (and I don't mean a petting zoo). During that first year, they started small, with a sheep (they have since graduated to cows). They went every day in all kinds of weather to feed the sheep and muck out the barn. Her daughter Olivia was a tireless caregiver but since she can't drive yet that means her mother was a tireless driver. At one point in the dead of winter sheep grew ill and needed round the clock nursing.

So Ann did what any good mom would do. She put the sheep in her car and took it home. It stayed one week in her finished basement.

This is really one of the greatest things about being a parent. One day you're pregnant and the next you have a sheep in the basement. At no point in the process before having kids do you think, "Gosh, what fun my kids will get me into! Maybe someday I can have livestock in my own basement." No. You really cannot see where these wonderful people will take you. Which is probably just as well because what sane person would sign on for that?

But it turns out that if you're really doing your job and letting your kids be who they should be (and not just some creation for your own amusement/fulfillment) you will find yourself not just learning new stuff but learning stuff about stuff you didn't even know existed (4-H in Glenview?).

And this is how I found myself last night at an animal shelter in the city, sitting in a crappy concrete building, watching WonderBunny (that's him above, isn't he fetching in his pirate costume...don't ask, that's another blog altogether) have a "bunny bonding" session with a girl bunny named Suzie Q (they're both fixed, get your mind out of the gutter). Because it turns out that if you want your bunny to have a partner (and Lilly makes a compelling argument for this) you need to first have your bunny spend time with the potential pal. So they meet in a caged-in area while a trained rabbit professional keeps them semi-separated with a special tool (a grease-spatter shield) so they can sniff each other but not bite or scratch. You must repeat the bunny bonding process several more times. Then and only then will the two buns bond. Who knew? Lilly did. She'd done all the research and knew all of this ahead of time.

As I sat on the cold metal folding chair, watching the "bunny bonding" process and keeping an eye on the incontinent shelter cat who had already peed on my purse and reflecting on the many other ways I may have chosen to spend my Thursday evening, I had one of those "What the hell am I doing here?" moments that happen so frequently as you parent.

Then Lilly sidled up to me and whispered in my ear, "Oh Mama, I'm so happy that WonderBunny will finally have a partner that I can't breathe. Thank you so much for bringing me here."

And I had my answer.

GO AHEAD, YOU KNOW YOU WANT IT


You can drink the blue stuff on the left but the white stuff on the right is better for you.






The other day when I ordered my latte at Starbucks I asked for my usual...whole milk. At this point the woman behind the counter who is so used to North Shore Skinny Bitches asking for skim milk that she actually gasped and looked up at me, no doubt expecting to see a fat-as-a-circus lady person. When she saw my skinny self she smiled slyly and said, "Good for you!" as if I were treating myself to something very, very naughty, a rare indulgence. But she guessed wrong. I was not treating myself. I always have whole milk.

That's right, the ONLY milk in my house is whole. And even more sinfully, I give it to my kids. When people see it they ALWAYS comment. "That's whole milk!" they say in the same tone they might say, "That's crystal meth!" Yes, I smile proudly, we drink whole milk. Then I prod them on. Go ahead. Have a little. It won't hurt. You know you want some. It's easier to corrupt them if cookies or cake are involved. Sometimes they do have some but they only take a small juice glass full.

So it's come to this. We are so brainwashed into thinking fat is bad for us we no longer enjoy whole milk.

Well, sisters, let me tell ya. There's a strong body of evidence that says we've been grossly mislead on the old low-fat thing. If you want to read a really indepth report on this topic take a look at

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E2D61F3EF934A35754C0A9649C8B63


an article that appeared in the New York Times by acclaimed scientist Gary Taubes. By the way, his main premise, fat doesn't make us fat but processed carbs do, has been embraced by many including Dr. Weil and Oprah's pal Dr. Oz.

If you don't feel like reading the article let me summarize: you can and should eat healthy fat: whole milk, butter, olive oil, red meat, eggs. You can't eat crappy carbs: processed food, soda, anything sweetened with fructose/corn syrup. Fat doesn't make you fat or lead to diabetes, the processed crap does. Fat fills you up and gives your body something to burn. Carbs burn off quickly and leave you starving for more.

I have embraced this way of eating for some time but it's been difficult to wean my kids off the white food (bread, pasta, macaroni). So when I realized my son was eating everything in sight and still hungry, and not so fit, I took him to a nutritionist, Elsa, who works with our holistic doctor. It turns out she embraces this kind of eating too. I told her he could eat six english muffins and still be hungry. She smiled and said, 'That's because you are feeding the furnace with paper. He needs good fuel. He needs fat and protein. He needs eggs." So now for breakfast he eats an english muffin with canadian bacon, and a cheese omelette on top. Then he's all good and full until lunch. No sugar dip when the six english muffins wear off. It's all good.

She also said he should drink organic WHOLE milk. The fat in it is essential to make us feel full and our bodies recognize whole milk as something familiar we know how to digest. Skim milk, not so much. Not to mention the process to remove fat from milk is one of those shady endeavors we don't really want to know too much about that leaves our milk less than whole in a lot of ways. Oh, and breakfast cereal according to Elsa, is a total waste of time nutritionally speaking. Just because they spray it with vitamins doesn't mean it's good for us.

So, my friends, do some investigating yourself. Nose around and see what some of the research says on this. Even the mainstream medical profession is starting to admit that the Atkins diet does seem to have better results than a low-fat diet. If that doesn't convince you let me introduce you to my grandmother who is 93. She only drinks whole milk and she's fit as a fiddle and lives on her own. And her mother who ate lard sandwiches (not kidding) lived to be 103.

Today, I urge you, order your latte with whole milk. If nothing else it's a good way to shock the Starbucks lady.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

LILLY'S BUNNY SPACE

Lilly (10) has found a new place to hang with her peeps on cyber space. It is called "bunspace" and it is a site for people who own and love rabbits. No really. They have "virtual sleepovers" with their bunnies and "playdates". You do not really need a rabbit to hang out here. You do not really need your sanity or a life either.

If you go to this link, you can see Lilly's tribute to the bunny she lost this summer. The text and pictures are hers...a nice fellow BunSpace person put it together with music. You may need a tissue.

It's a brave, and slightly strange new world.

Enjoy

http://www.onetruemedia.com/otm_site/view_shared?p=71bc00e22b7d195b9651ef&skin_id=1704&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=text_url

Thursday, October 09, 2008

BAILING OUT THE JONESES

So here I am in my modest, affordable home, playing by the rules, with my very affordable mortgage payments (15% of our monthly gross income--that's crazy talk) watching people buy crazy big houses and wondering, "How can they afford that?" for the past ten years. Multi-million dollar homes with granite countertops and rain showers and media rooms. How can that many people make that much money?

This has never really bothered me, it was only a point of interest, incredulity, and speculation. The truth is I don't really want a giant house even if it were free--too much to clean and decorate and you keep misplacing things like your children and your family values. If they want the stress that comes with having to worry about a interest-only mortgage that will balloon like a "Biggest Loser" competitor in three years, I figured, then knock yourselves out. That is not for me but it doesn't harm me either.

But now, the chickens have come home to roost. Okay, I have no idea what that saying means but people keep saying it. I think it means "Now the jumbo mortgages are due and you can't make your payments because you bought a gas-guzzling SUV and signed your kids up for traveling soccer so the rest of America will bail you out so you aren't homeless." Ahem. Wait, now I'm not taking such a Zen-like dis-interest in the topic. Now I'm wondering, "How is it I have to pay so you can continue to live beyond your means?"

Let me be clear. I am NOT talking about truly uneducated, unsophisticated people who really did not understand what was going on and were put into a bad situation by a greedy mortgage broker. I'm talking about two college educated affluent people who willingly got themselves into a giant mortgage knowing full well they could barely pay it and the other expenses in their lives too but just really wanted to have the biggest McMansion on the block. Am I really supposed to help you so you can stay in that house?

Well. I guess I am. Because as I tried to explain to a friend of mine yesterday who was saying pretty much what I'm saying, if our McMansion friends go down we all go down.

But what is the lesson here? We want a tortoise/hare ending. We want an ant/grasshopper finish. We want some consequences for the actions.

Is there one? That remains to be seen I guess.

For now, those of us living well within our means (all sixteen of us) can take solace in the fact that at least we aren't worried about making our mortgage payment.

At least not for now. But if my hubby loses his job because of this bad market, can I come live in your media room?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

HERE AND NOW

Carly Simon
Great Western Philosopher




I do most of my writing in my head as I go about my fascinating day of emptying the dishwasher, folding clothes, and driving children to a myriad of activities. That's why this particular blog is ironic because it's going to be about the value of living in the present moment...which is exactly what I'm not doing if I'm writing in my head while pretending to listen to my daughter tell me a story about the dream she had about the pony.....blah blah blah. What did you say?

At the yoga retreat I attended last year the instructor said, "The body is always in the present but the mind is almost always in the past or the future. Yoga tries to bring your mind into the present." Most yoga instructors remind us that the word Yoga means "yoke" or unity--bringing together the mind and the body.

It is a noble goal. Hey are you paying attention or is your mind wandering to your TO DO list right now?

Eastern religions are big on this concept. If we never live in the moment we never live. We are the only creatures on earth who have the ability to think about the past and the future. We seem to be too good at it. A dog doesn't do that. A dog is always in the moment. Stop thinking about your dog now, and pay attention to this moment.

Carly Simon a great Western philosopher first introduced this idea into my consciousness in her song "Anticipation" in which she so accurately addresses this notion:

And I tell you how easy it feels to be with you And how right your arms feel around me But I, I rehearsed those lines just late last night When I was thinkin' about how right tonight might be

And tomorrow we might not be together I'm no prophet and I don't know nature's ways So I'll try and see into your eyes right now And stay right here 'cause these are the good old days

These are the good old days. No matter where you are in life. For my contemporaries that means these are the good old days, not ten years ago when our babies were babies and not ten years from now when they are grown and out of the house but now. Right now when their noisy, dramatic, teen and tween aged selves are banging in and out of our door, eating all the food in the house, and leaving towels all over the floor (what is with those towels?)

So today, as you drive around town or sit at your desk or help your kids with their homework or yes, fold the damn laundry, try to be in the moment. Think about what you're doing. Get off the cell phone, quit trying to write your next blog, or fiddling with the radio. Just drive. Roll the windows down. Enjoy the fall day and its sounds and sights. Stop making dinner and cleaning the kitchen while your kids do homework. Stop and look at your child as she struggles with her vocabulary words. Don't try to catch up on the fascinating world of celebrities on Entertainment Tonight while you fold the towels. Just fold them and feel how great it is to have a clean towel between your hands and enjoy the fresh smell.

Today, tell your mind you're not going to travel forward or backward. You're going to be in the moment.

As another great Western philosopher, Natalie Merchant says: these are the days you'll remember

Monday, September 15, 2008

DRIVING TO THE FOOTBALL GAME

Remind me, is a rain poncho cool when you're in high school?


Atticus is a freshman this year and we are horrified to find ourselves re-living our high school years vicariously. Last Friday he wanted to go to the football game. He was meeting some friends there so he needed a ride. As we drove, Jeff cheerfully recalled his years of playing on the old gridiron, and I talked about being in the marching band as we shared a tiny bit of the excitement of a Friday night football game. It started raining and this was cause for alarm for Jeff. The following conversation ensued:

Jeff: Hey it's raining, do you want to take one of my umbrellas?
Atticus: (can't respond he's laughing so hard)
Me: Good Lord! Would you have taken an umbrella to a football game?
Jeff: (Catching himself) Oh, right, no one has an umbrella. Well, do you want me to stop at Walgreens and we'll get a rain poncho?
Me: (Laughing too hard to speak)
Atticus: Dad! A rain poncho?
Jeff: (Thinking he's used the wrong word) Oh, you know a slicker.
(Atticus and me, now doubled over laughing)
Atticus: Dad, I'm pretty sure no one has worn a slicker since 1952.
Me: You might as well offer him some galoshes or rubbers.
Jeff: Okay, okay
Me: So, you're meeting some friends in the marching band?
Atticus: Yeah. They said the band parents put up caution tape around the band so the non-bandies can't try to mingle with them.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, that's a real concern. People rushing the marching band.
Me: Caution tape? Like it says "caution, band nerds"?
Atticus: I have no idea what those crazy parents are worried about. But I'll just sit on one side of the tape and Joanne will be on the other.

Joanne?

Jeff: Okay,where should I drop you?
Atticus: Here's good. (opens door as it begins to rain harder)

We watch as he lopes off into the rainy night, coatless, outlined by the giant lights of the football field. Two girls wearing not enough clothing with their lovely lady humps hanging out walk past the car and I resist the urge to shout "Stay away from my little boy you whores!"

We drive off, heading to our favorite restaurant for a martini and a steak. We'll valet park and stay nice and dry while Atticus gets soaked in the stands watching a game he doesn't really care for and eating a hotdog sitting next to Joanne with caution tape between them.

It's no contest: he'll have a hell of a lot more fun than we will.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

OVERHEARD IN THE ZIMMERMAN LUDWIG CAR


Mom: That looks like a pimp car (observing really old Cadillac in the Target parking lot with very un-pimplike old man at the wheel)
Lilly: What's a pimp?
Mom: A pimp is a man who is the boss of prostitutes. Prostitutes are women who sell their bodies for money. And pimps dress a certain way, umm, like with hats and lots of jewelry...
Dad: And we know this from watching TV
Mom: Yes, (realizing she has NO idea what she's talking about) there's that one, in that show...
Dad: Starsky and Hutch
Mom: Yeah, his name was, Pookie, or something like that.
Atticus: Huggy Bear (he's seen the movie version)
Dad: No, he wasn't a real pimp he was pretending.
Mom: No, I think he was a real pimp but he was an informer.
Dad: Oh, yeah maybe. He was always talking to the one guy....
Mom: Yeah, wait, what were the names of those two lead guys in that show?
Dad: Umm, what were their names?
Atticus: That would be Starsky and Hutch.
Mom: (laughing hysterically at herself) OH MY GOD I CANNOT BELIEVE I JUST SAID THAT
Atticus: (with pitch-perfect teen exasperation in his voice) Morons.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

RELIGION AND POLITICS


I have a confession to make; the Olympics bore me. While the rest of the nation was glued to the TV set a few weeks ago I only glanced at it on occasion. The gymnasts were pretty, the volleyball girls in the sand were silly, and yes, Michael Phelps can sure swim but none of it really holds my interest. (By the way, was anyone else repelled by Michael Phelps when he does that frat-boy victory yell and screams like Tom Cruise in "Top Gun"?)

But give me a good old fashioned political convention and I am in my glory. I watched nearly all the coverage of the Democratic convention and not just that CNN crap where the announcers keep talking over the speeches but the boring as dust, unfiltered coverage that PBS brought us. I was rapt from the first to the last speech every night. This week I'll be watching too. Not as raptly but I'll be there to see Sarah Pallin try to explain why we should vote for a woman who can barely keep her trailer in order.

It's all good fun, entertaining, and more importantly--important.

I'm a bit of a political junkie I guess. I majored in poli sci in college and I like to follow the political scene especially in an election year. Jeff says he doesn't know why I don't get involved in politics but I know why; while it is great fun to watch and study I would not want to be inside of it all and see the ugliness. You know, I'm a sausage lover and all but....I'm not sure why people make this leap anyway--does anyone tell the lover of Broadway musicals they should audition? Do I suggest that because he loves college football he should go volunteer to schlepp water to the players? No. Let me watch and talk and keep my distance.

I also like to talk politics but it isn't easy to find people to do that with around here. For some reason, they take the old adage "It isn't polite to discuss politics and religion" quite seriously. This is a mystery to me. It's not that way where I grew up in Michigan. There we are regularly impolite and discussed politics fairly openly and frequently.

I don't know why things would be so different here. I'm quite sure in this town just 15 miles from Chicago (also known as "the machine" as in political machine and "the windy city" not because of the gusts that come off of Lake Michigan but because of the hot air our politicians blow) that most of the people here are a phone call away from the mayor or a legislator. But they are NOT interested in talking about it.

Even on the Fourth of July I could not stir up one single comment when I deliberately tried to be provocative by wearing my Barack Obama t-shirt to a barbecue. Not ONE!

I can't even figure out why we're told it's not polite.

Is it because we might disagree? That's silly; it's like telling Cubs and Sox fans it's not polite to discuss baseball or stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms not to discuss child rearing.

Is it because people don't care? I find that hard to believe. Only a very naive or ignorant person believes that who's in the White House doesn't directly affect his or her life (federal income taxes, Roe v. Wade, declaring war, you get the idea) and the people I hang with are not naive or ignorant.

At any rate, I say, the heck with that old adage about not discussing politics. If I'm in the room, bring it. I don't care if you're an Obama mama or a McCain fan or even a nutty Ralph Nader supporter, just come informed and come talk to me.

Now more than ever, with us poised to elect either our first African-American president or our first female vice-president, this is an election to get excited about, to find out more about, and yes you polite North Shore ladies, to talk about.

To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, if you don't have anything political to say, don't sit by me.



Thursday, August 28, 2008

FEATURED ELSEWHERE


If you're at all interested, you can check out the interview some nice folks over at storyofmylife.com did of me at http://www.storyofmylife.com/User/user_suzy_story_view.aspx?storyId=2311&CategoryId=1470&UserId=4020

This is a website that offers a free template for writing and archiving the story of your life. Their goal is modest--they hope to one day have the story of every man, woman, and child on their website. Check it out. Maybe you'd like to add your life story.

Thanks!

Judy

Friday, August 22, 2008

SCHOOL DAYS

It's back to school this week in Glenview and as I drive Grace to Junior High I wait behind a school bus that has stopped to pick up a young child. The mother and father are both there as it is the first day of school and I guess the first day of kindergarten judging by how wistful mom looks and anxious dad is. Dad places his hands on the child's shoulders as if he could hold him back from getting on that bus and maybe keep him a moment longer in the preschool world. I know what the parents are thinking. How quickly it went! Wasn't it just yesterday they were in the hospital with that newborn wondering how on earth they were going to take care of this new wondrous creature? Finally, the parents kiss him goodbye and reluctantly let go as he boards the bus with confidence. The bus pulls away and I'm not sure there's a more forlorn sight than that of the parents left behind.

I glance at Grace sitting next to me. Goodness, she's nearly a full-grown woman. She wears her new skinny jeans and has a new hairstyle with bangs that hang in her eyes and make me offer to trim them nearly daily. How did this happen? Wasn't it just a few days ago that she was in her new denim skirt, the one she picked out with Jeff on that special shopping trip in the city as they prepared for her first day of school?

Back at home Lilly is ready to head out to her elementary school. She has a backpack shaped like an alligator and wears her bike helmet without being reminded. She waves and pulls away from me, happy to meet her friend and ride to school. How could this have happened? Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that I told Atticus and Grace that they were going to have a new baby brother or sister?

As I turn to go back in the house I see my neighbor, Ralph, come out of his house. He's an attorney who works in the city and takes the train every morning. He and his wife Gundy are now the senior members of our block at the age of 70. He sees Lilly riding down the street and he stops and watches her for a moment longer than I expect him to. His face grows dark with something that looks like grief and I know what he is thinking. How could Lillly be riding her bike to school already? Wasn't it just a while ago that Kurt, his 50-year-old son used to ride his bike down this same street to that same elementary school?

I wave at Ralph but he is lost in reverie and does not see me. I turn to go inside and get my coffee before the gravity of the moment can move me to tears.

And so it goes and so it goes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I CAN FEEL YOUR HEARTBEAT


I drove to my class reunion with my best friend Lisa and her husband, Steve, who did not go to our high school. Steve asked casually if John M. would be at the reunion. John M. would be the boy from Lisa's past who still has the ability to make Lisa blush. You know the guy--we all have one or two. He's most often not a former boyfriend but much more intriguing--the biggest crush you ever had that was never reciprocated.

As we drove, Steve reminded me that they had run into John about ten years ago. Here, is the story, more or less as he told me:


"When Lisa was pregnant with Brendan her doctor told her she could keep up with most of her fitness activities as long as she wore a heart monitor. It seemed like no matter what she did, the monitor did not go off since she's in such good shape. We were living in Northville (our home town) then and one morning we went for a long, fast walk. Her heart monitor didn't go off of course, in fact she wasn't even out of breath.

Then we went around the corner and I could see two people walking towards us. All of a sudden I heard this beeping and I didn't know what it was. I finally realized it was Lisa's heart monitor. I was worried--nothing had set it off before. I looked over at her and saw she was frantically trying to rip the monitor off. 'Oh my God, are you okay?' I asked. She just kept trying to pull that monitor off."

Here Lisa takes up the story: "I knew it was John and his wife from way off. I had a crush on him all through high school. As soon as I saw him my heart monitor started beeping like a code blue. I also knew both he and his wife are phys ed teachers so they would totally know what was making the beeping sound. That's why I was trying to rip the monitor off, before they walked up and heard it going like mad."

So there it is, proof positive that those crushes in high school, even 20 years out, can make your heart race. We all laughed at the story and wondered just how awful high school (and the bar scene and yes, a class reunion) could be if we all wore heart monitors to let the world further know how much we liked someone. As if the blushing, sweating, and stammering weren't enough.

I loved hearing that story again and I loved knowing that in this life we are lucky enough to feel so passionately about someone that our heart monitor will beep. I'm happy to report that I am married to the one who set my (figurative) heart monitor off most frequently and loudly in my early 20's. In fact he still does.

I wish the same good fortune for you all.

Monday, August 04, 2008

CLASS REUNION

Mikey Luckett at the 30th reunion. Is he snoozing?



Once upon a time I was a high-school student. Now, you may find this hard to believe since I am the glib, world-traveling, clever, and witty woman that I am today, but I was not the most popular girl in my high-school. I was not even friends with the most popular girl in my high-school. I don't even know who the most popular girl in our high-school was.

I was not exactly the biggest loser either, target of bullies or anything like that, but let's just say, I was in the band.

Which is why, my junior year, I had not really had many (did I say many? make that any) dates yet. When the fall Sadie Hawkins dance (girls ask boys) began to approach, I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns and change my sad fate. I would be brave and ask a boy to the dance myself.

I chose as my target, Mikey Luckett. Mikey was a good-looking guy I had known since first grade and since he was in the band and a friend of my brother's as well as a friend of mine I figured I had a decent shot at it.

I waited for the perfect opportunity which presented itself to me a week or two before the dance. We were all in the gym for a 24-hour volleyball marathon raising funds for--you guessed it--band camp. At about 3 in the morning, a group of us sat in a remote corner of the gym, our backs to the folded up bleachers chatting. Slowly, the group began to break up and eventually it was just Mikey and me. Perfect. We continued to talk, our backs to the bleachers, not making eye contact. I popped the question, "So, Mikey, would you like to go to the Sadie Hawkins dance with me?" I asked tentatively. My question was met by silence. I waited a full minute and still nothing. Finally, I turned to see if he had heard me. He sat with his eyes closed, snoring softly. At first I thought he was actually asleep but slowly it dawned on me (I was not popular but I wasn't stupid)--even a narcoleptic doesn't fall asleep that fast--he was pretending to be asleep so he didn't have to answer me.

Now the funny thing is Mikey went on to be my brother's roommate in college and they keep in touch which means I run into Mikey every five or ten years which means I get to remind him of that story every five or ten years. He has the decency to look embarassed (though he never denies the story) and I think he may be regretful; not regretful that he never went out with me regretful that he had the misfortune to entangle his life with mine enough to have to run into me every few years.

We both attended the 30th class reunion last weekend and I looked forward to giving him shit about all of this yet again. I saw him as soon as I got near the bar. There weren't many people there yet and I was ready for a drink. No one offered to fetch me one so I decided to give Mikey the chance to make it up to me after all these years for feigning sleep. "Hey Mikey, would you like to get me a drink?" I asked, not so tentatively. Without looking up from the yearbook he was looking at he said in a perfect Beaver Cleaver Girls are Icky voice, "Now why would I want to do that?"

It is said that the definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing and expecting a different outcome. I am a lot of things but I am not insane, which is why, in ten years, when I ask Mikey Luckett to dance with me at the 40th class reunion and he pretends he is paralyzed from the waist down I will be embarrassed yet again but at least I won't be surprised.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

INFORMATION TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

This picture is not really what I'm talking about, but you could bring your own, I suppose.



Okay, this won't really change your life, but it may improve your life if you spend much time in a bar. Lean in, sistah. Listen carefully.

Many, many bars have hooks underneath to hang your purse.

There it is. I was saying to Jeff one night, "If only they had a hook here," and I looked and there it was. The bartender told me that most bars have them. Who knew? Not me. Men put their suit coats there, the bartender said and often leave them.

I do not know the history of the hooks. They are usually in good-old-fashioned bars so they were probably not invented for our purses. Maybe they were once there for men's hats. That was my friend Martha's thought. She also did not know they were there until I told her and when I mentioned it to my friend Christie Mellor, author of "Three Martini Playdate", she too admitted she'd just discovered them quite recently.

I suppose if you've ever ended up under a bar you may have seen them but surprisingly, I have not ever done that.

I managed to live some 47 years without knowing about them. So brilliant. So much better than leaving your purse on the back of your chair to be stolen or on the floor linked around your foot for safety reasons. If you've never done that you must live in a very, very nice place with no theft.

A word of advice though: Never ever grope around blindly to find a hook under the bar. Always LOOK underneath. I think that requires no explanation.

Hang your purse. Forget about it. Order a martini. Enjoy. Remember me when you do.

Cheers,

Judy

Monday, July 28, 2008

REUNION SEASON

Our friend Max, his mother, daughter, and Lilly in Oak Park. Max will not tell you if you order a chicken accidentally.

This summer seems to be the season of reunions for me. So far I have returned to Spain to have a reunion with my carefree youth; I had a reunion with Max, a Dutch friend Jeff and I made when I had an internship in The Netherlands; I've been to Jeff's 30th class reunion; and my 30th class reunion is next week.

The reunion in Spain didn't go so well. I showed up but my carefree youth was nowhere to be found. You really cannot go back. You will not be able to recapture the heady, halcyon days of backpacking through Europe and making out with complete strangers when you are with your husband and your children. Well, you could try, but it would look so bad. And all those young men who used to "echar piropos" (shout poetic compliments at you) are only doing that to young ladies who could be your daughters. It's not that you aren't attractive to them, it's worse. You are invisible. As Coffee Friend 2 put it so succinctly, "You can go back to places from your youth but in the end you will just feel old as shit."

Our reunion with Max went much better. He came with his 87 year old mother and 12 year old daughter and we had fun visiting and touring around Chicago. We also had fun reminiscing about travel mishaps we shared in our twenties like the time in Berlin when I thought I ordered a coffee cake to go with my coffee at 10:00 am and instead got an entire chicken with potatoes. Why, I asked him as I did all those years ago, did you allow me to order a chicken with my coffee? Well, he responded, you seemed so very sure about it. It's true, I was always reluctant to ask for help when ordering in a foreign language. We also remembered the time Jeff ordered a Gin and Tonic with lemon in a Dutch bar and was served a glass of gin, a glass of tonic, and a glass of lemonade.

Jeff's class reunion was fun. I have a working knowledge of the key players in his class and it was fun to see that none of the cast of characters disappointed me: the queen of the hop is still the queen of Jackson, Michigan, the king is now a successful attorney in Arizona. Everyone else looked pretty good but I suppose almost without exception the only people showing up at a 30 year reunion are those who have aged well.

For those of you who still have big class reunions ahead of you, I offer some preview of what you can expect:

10 year reunion: You realize that high school and the pecking order really was bullshit. Some of the "cool people" got knocked up and married losers. Some of the losers are doing extremely well on Wall Street. For the most part though, everyone is faring as you'd expect. No one looks much older. You will talk to some people you would never have dared talk to in high school but it's not exactly as if you are suddenly buddies with the "cool kids". This is the first time in your life you realize that what is a very clear, unforgettable memory to you is most likely an event that is completely forgotten by the other people involved--this leads to a lot of conversations that start with , "Don't you remember that time....?" and a person looking at you as if you are crazy. Don't worry, the same thing will happen to you.

20 year reunion: Some people are starting to age badly but for the most part you all look pretty young. You stop asking people what they do and ask them how they are. You actually listen when they talk about their kids because you have some now too. There are very few surprises: if the queen of the prom is now fat, ugly, and divorced she is not going to make an appearance. Unfortunately for her, her mere absence leads to much speculation that she is probably fat, ugly, and divorced. You are having real trouble remembering who the cool kids were. This surprises you. You will remember someone very well--you knew her since kindergarten, remember where she lived, her parents, siblings, and pets but you cannot remember one single conversation or event you shared with her. However, you will remember very clearly how she made you feel and the kind of person she was.

30 year reunion: When you first walk in the room you will be SHOCKED by how old everyone in the room is. Then it will dawn on you that they are just normal looking 48 year olds. Some look better than others but you all look OLD for the first time. Careers and status are totally unimportant. Most of the conversation centers on where you live now, what your kids are up to, and remembering various teachers in your mutual past. You realize that by the time we all meet up in heaven we really won't care who was who in high school. At the end of the evening as you leave, no one looks very old to you anymore. They just look like a grown-up version of their high school selves.

If you have a reunion of any kind this summer, remember, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, no one remembers what you did or what you said but they will remember how you made them feel. So make someone feel good--you will not be forgotten

J.

Monday, July 21, 2008

MOMMY'S COCKTAIL HOUR

As I am entertaining out of town--actually, out of country, guests this week, please enjoy this previously viewed piece. Judy

“Mommy, you need to sign this sheet on our ‘Drug and Alcohol’ unit,” Grace says, shoving a piece of paper in front of me and nearly knocking my martini over.“Hey, hey, watch my cocktail there!” I say. Grace giggles and I’m grateful she isn’t one of those self-righteous kids who protests if you have a drink.

It’s common knowledge around the ‘hood that once they hit the “Drug and Alcohol” unit in fourth grade science you may have to go underground with your cocktail. I have one friend who started hiding her vodka tonic in a coffee mug. Can you believe she does that? It’s barbaric; the only thing one should drink from a coffee mug is coffee. A good cocktail deserves the proper glass. Are they teaching that in the drug and alcohol unit?

I look at the worksheet Grace has dutifully filled out for today’s assignment. It covers the dangers of using someone else’s prescription drugs. Well, I’ll drink to that. I peer at the paper,looking confused.“I don’t get it, Grace. This isn’t teaching you a thing about drugs and alcohol. Like how much Vermouth is in a dry martini? Where to go to score some smack? Now how are you supposed to learn that stuff?” I ask her.

“Mommy,” she sighs then peers over her cat glasses at me and shakes her head in exasperation. She’s an old soul and deserves a better mother than the one she got.I sigh too. I long for the days before someone told us to just say no. I prefer to just say, “Sure why not,” and “You can just freshen this up”. The sad truth is that I was born several decades too late. I want to go back to the days when mommies were encouraged to have cocktails while playing bridge and daddies had three martini lunches. When doctors handed out Valium like mints to harried housewives. Nowadays you have to see a specialist just to get Prozac. Hell, my doctor wouldn’t give me antibiotics without a full physical.

Instead of all that, I'm left with a paltry five o'clock cocktail. It does the trick, I suppose, but even that some people frown upon. I should explain; I didn’t always have a cocktail at five o’clock, but then again I didn’t always have kids.

As any mom knows the five o’clock hour is known as “the witching hour”. Like the perfect storm there are many forces at work that converge at once to form the witching hour. They are as follows:

1. Playdates, formal or informal come to an end as most mommies start to gather their brood for the evening.

2. The kids start to melt down: regardless of age, from infancy to teen-hood this is the time of day the child realizes he has not had enough of something. Not enough sleep, food, social interaction, time to get homework done…whatever; he hasn’t had enough and it’s time the universe paid for this injustice. He decides to take his frustrations out on the universe by (depending on the age of the child) wailing inconsolably, whining until his mother’s ears bleed, or sulking conspicuously (which isn’t noisy but does have the effect of sucking out all positive life-force in the room).

3. Market forces begin to take effect: the value of the TV sharply declines as PBS Kids winds down causing the value of the Play Station II to incline sharply. The result is that all the children in the household will begin to fight over the PS2.

4. The mommy realizes that, yes, once again, she has neglected to figure out what dinner might be. This is because after months or years of trying to feed her children properly she has lost a wee bit of her enthusiasm for this task. In fact, despite the fact that she is resourceful enough to come up with a Halloween costume that doubles as a winter snowsuit she can no longer think of a single meal that simultaneously meets her criteria and the children’s criteria for a proper dinner. Her criteria are that the foods must be healthy, contain no refined sugar or flour, no trans-fatty acids, be pesticide-free, and ideally be served with three vegetables. The kids’ criteria are simpler: no vegetables and all food must be white. Now if you draw a ven diagram of these two subsets you will see there is no overlap whatsoever. Oh, and I forgot, it should be something her husband likes to eat too, on the off-chance that he may get home in time for dinner. Which leads me nicely into item number 5.

5. The daddy calls from work to say that he will be late. By late he means later than his usual 7:00 p.m. time. He means well after the wild and chaotic time of day that the family euphemistically calls “bedtime”. He also does not mean he will be toiling at his desk through dinner, snacking on a banana and a glass of skim milk. He means he is headed somewhere for cocktails, adult conversation, and a meal prepared, served, and cleared away by someone else. This makes the mommy a bit resentful.

These five things almost always happen at just around 5:00. Together the fine balance of order that has been established since the children returned from school collapses like the house of cards it always was. Children begin screaming, mommies begin slamming cupboards and pots and pans, pets howl, and potted plants wither as an evil wind blows through the household. It was at just such a moment as this on a Tuesday in February (is there anything drearier than February?) that I had an epiphany. I was dumping the Kraft Mac-n-cheese into the pot (the creamy kind not that powdery stuff, what kind of mom do you think I am?) when I thought to myself, “If only it were Friday, I’d have a beer.” Then I thought, “Wait a minute! I’m not pregnant. I’m not nursing. I’m over 21. I could have a beer on a TUESDAY!” and I popped open a Sam Adams and began a new tradition.

Now when the witching hour starts winding up I simply walk over to the fridge and say hello to my good friend Sam. He takes the edge off. I’m able to concentrate on whipping up a healthy meal (like homemade macaroni and cheese) and calmly and quietly referee the melee around me.

I have shared this revelation with many friends. Most are already aware of the medicinal effects of the nightly cocktail. Some are a little concerned that it is a slippery slope that could lead to substance abuse. It is my job to reassure them that there is nothing wrong with a single cocktail. Look at the French! They have wine with lunch and dinner and have you ever seen a more relaxed country? They can’t even muster the energy necessary to fight back when invaded that’s how relaxed they are. I’ve become sort of the Dali-lama of the drinking mom set. They come to me with their concerns.

Isn’t it wrong to drink alone? Hey, you’re not alone, your kids are home (remember they’re the ones who drove you to this to begin with).

But I look so forward to having my cocktail, isn’t that wrong? You look forward to a cup of coffee and a good dump too, does that mean you need to cut them out of your life? Christ, we live in a puritanical world when you go hunting for reasons to give up the things you love.

Besides, after having given up booze for the last decade when you were trying to get pregnant, you were pregnant, and then you were nursing, you’ve got some catching up to do. Remember that wedding you went to with your office mates when you were eight months pregnant and the only sober one at the wedding (besides the flower girl) was you? Didn’t you have to watch as your friends, co-workers, and husband did the conga line through the kitchen, leaving you to waddle to the bathroom, sober as a judge. What you’ve seen sober no one should have seen. You’ve earned that drink.

My husband has no problem with this habit of mine. In fact he encourages it. On the nights when he does come home early enough, he and I have a cocktail together in the living room, threatening the children with the following: “You may not disturb us unless there is blood, vomit, or broken bones involved,” (which is exactly what we tell them when we take our Saturday afternoon “naps” too).

Even with this threat, our youngest has managed to inveigle her way into our ritual. She found my collection of tiny martini glasses; the ones I stuffed in my purse after I sampled a half-dozen Apple-tinis that those cute little girls from Absolut were serving at a fundraiser. She likes to fill them with apple juice and join us in the living room. She never interrupts us so we let her stay.

Recently, we had friends over for drinks and Lilly went and fetched her mock-tini and sat down. Our friends, parents of a newborn, looked at her slightly amused and partly horrified.

"What is that?" asked the mother.

"It's from her 'Barbie Cocktail' collection," I said smoothly. They didn't know if they should laugh or call DCFS. I ignored their faces and called Grace into the room.

“Grace,” I said, “Look at your sister. Now she’s going to do well in the fourth grade when she gets to the ‘Drug and Alcohol Unit’.” Grace shakes her head and walks away but Lilly, who is in first grade, raises her mock-tini in salute.

“Cheers, Mama,” she says.I raise my glass in return.

“Cheers indeed.” It’s nice to know a mother can pass on her wisdom to at least one of her children.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

My daughters, last month, when I still liked them.






Usually I reach this stage in the summer vacation near the end of August but this year I am ahead of the game. I'm at that stage when I'm wondering when school starts. As I type this, my daughters are having a raging fight over who lost the black leggings which the oldest daughter HAS to wear to camp tomorrow for their "Favorite Decade Day" Christ, who invents these things? Like we don't have enough of this crap during the school year when my kids seem to constantly remember on a Sunday night that they need something for a school project the next day like poster boards, and hot glue guns, and weapons grade plutonium.

You might say my kids are kind of crowding me these days. They're in my personal space. They're all up in my grill. Last week one of them stepped on the back of my flip-flop. Again. I turned and said between clenched teeth, "Would you all PLEASE stop stepping on my flip-flops?" Do you know how close you have to be walking behind someone to step on their flip-flop?

I'm not the only one feeling this way. When I brought the subject up at coffee ( I escaped from the buggers for a whole hour last week) Coffee Friend 1 agreed that she too was feeling a little cramped by having her four kids follow her everywhere. "One of them stepped on my flip-flop and it actually broke," she said. "And I want to know which parent started the email that's going around asking for a longer summer vacation." She was starting to rant a little. Her youngest looked up from the strawberry-playdough creation she was eating, amused as her mommy got hot, "I mean who the fuh wants these little bastards around one more day than they already are!"

Exactly. Yesterday, while driving my progeny around in the shuttle bus, I mean mini-van, the youngest and the oldest started bickering like my grandparents. Pushing buttons, annoying the crap out of each other, and getting louder and louder until finally, I slammed the car into park and said under my breath, "Get. Out. Of. My. Car."

To their credit, they did not argue or protest. They simply got out of the car and started to walk the few blocks home, resuming their bickering and annoying each other all the way.

I wasn't always this way. I used to love summer vacation. I mean, I still love summer vacation, but I used to love nearly all of it, not just the first six weeks. But alas, the kids get older and nature takes over. It isn't right to want to spend as much time with your 14-year-old son as you did when he was a 3-year-old. So nature turns that delightful little boy who adored you into a snarling sarcastic beast who rolls his eyes a lot. And the mommy who used to cuddle and take him on errands now kicks his sorry ass out of the minivan. Ah, the circle of life. We're right on schedule for a touching goodbye when he goes to college that should look like this--Me: Don't let the door hit you in the ass, Him: Up yours old lady.

When we took that long trip to Italy a few years back the kids got desperately homesick in the middle of it. I explained that when you travel, you will have bad days but on balance it will all be worth it. And it was. They got over their homesickness and we had a fabulous vacation. I'm hoping the same applies to summer vacation and that this too shall pass and we can enjoy the back end of our vacation as much as we enjoyed the front end.

So, here's to the dog days of summer. It's hot as hell and the cicadas are singing. My kids are arguing and I'm looking a little frantically at the calendar.

Good times.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

SUBSCRIBE

A bit of housekeeping...thanks to the suggestion of one kind fan, Cindy V, I've added the option to subscribe to my blog. If it works as I understand it to, you fill out a form and you get notified by email whenever I post a new blog.

Go ahead, the button is on the right there. Let me know how it works.

Thanks!

Judy

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

HOUSE BUNNY YARD BUNNY


WONDER BUNNY our house bunny.

We have a pet bunny named WonderBunny who lives with us. He is fed and watered and taken to the vet on a regular basis. I often think how silly that is when I look at the bunnies in our backyard who run free. How little separates them from him and though I worry about him and take him to the vet I don't really do that for his little yard cousins.

This all came home to roost this weekend when Lilly found an injured baby bunny in the back yard. Something had already eaten the bunny siblings (we found the remains scattered around) and the mommy appeared to have abandoned her. Lilly begged to try to nurse her back to health. I knew how this would end but how could I explain the difference between caring for OUR bunny and caring for THIS bunny. Well, I couldn't really and I could not refuse her when she said, "But Mommy, I have to at least try to help."
And so we began the timeless ritual of finding a shoebox, feathering it with grass and fur and purchasing an eyedropper with which to feed the bunny. I made my stand on the issue clear, "I will buy the eyedropper but I will not take her to the vet!" I also informed her that I would not be buying kitten milk which some website said a baby bunny needs and is available at your local vet. Who milks cats?

Drawing that line in the sand is a little odd. After all, I would buy WonderBunny kitten milk if he needed it to stay alive. Hell, I'd probably milk a cat to keep WonderBunny alive.

It made me think of the kids at McNair Elementary. They're my own backyard bunnies, I guess. McNair is a school in a very bad part of Chicago that my coffee friends and I have adopted as our sister school. After railing against the disparities of education in this world (our kids have laptops, those kids don't even have crayons) we approached our principals about adopting an underpriveliged school. They were all for it and we've been able to help out a little by sending them school supplies.

I send them crayons but I don't take them to the doctor. Another line in the sand. We do what we can and hope it's enough.

It was not good enough for the wounded bunny. She died yesterday and Lilly went into deep mourning, refusing to get out of her pajamas and bursting into tears all day long. She railed against a world that allows babies to get killed when they are just days old and I could not cheer her up much with talk of nature and the circle of life.

To make it even worse, when we looked out back at dusk we saw the mommy bunny. She'd come looking for her babies but they were all gone. The import of this moment was not lost on Lilly. She burst into tears again, "Would she would have lived if her mommy could have taken care of her? Is it my fault she died because I moved her? Should we take the body to her so she knows she's gone?"
I had no answers. Maybe the bunny would have lived if we hadn't tried to help. Maybe she wouldn't but the truth was I just didn't know.

Where to draw the line in the sand? When to help and not to help? When does our help do more harm than good? These are questions for all of us and they are not easily answered.
For now I guess I'll just have to stick with Lilly's first words, "I have to at least try to help."


Monday, June 30, 2008

COUSINS

Some girl cousins I love.
My latest essay which appears in Chicago Parent (http://www.chicagoparent.com/article.asp?aID=08720295.4539608.59020.6204594.5715862.803&aID2=4531) has spawned a flurry of emails regarding go-go boots. Well, a flurry of emails from my friends and family anyway. It seems that almost every woman of a certain age has clear memories of her go-go boots, or the go-go boots she never had.

My cousin Beth remembers that she did not have a pair but our cousin Joette did and to make it worse, she lived down the street from Beth so she was forced to see the said go-go boots on a regular basis.

Of course Joette had them. She was the most glamorous cousin of us all. She had hair so blonde it was white, large wide eyes, and a smile that beguiled men.

This got me thinking about cousins and just what a special place they have in our hearts. I never had the good fortune to live in the same town as my cousins so I'm not sure my observations apply to those who are that close. But for the rest of us, whether we see our cousins weekly, monthly, or annually, I hold these truths to be certain:

COUSIN TRUTHS:


1. Some cousins are always more glamorous and cool than you: Joette wasn't the only cousin I envied. I also envied Joyce, Jenice, and Beth. They were a family of all girls. They didn't have to put up with no stinkin' boy siblings. Jenice, the one just a year older than me, was the epitome of all that was cool. She wore short, shorts. She smoked cigarettes. Meanwhile, I was in the marching band and had braces. Though I knew that if we went to school together she would have had nothing to do with me, by virtue of our blood relationship, she not only tolerated me but took me under her tutelage. From her I learned that when you kiss a boy you should purse your lips like you're saying the word "prunes". This we practiced for some time on our arms. Never mind that it would be YEARS before I could put that information to use. I also learned that although the song "Sha Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye" sounded stupid to me, it was in fact, quite cool. Which is why I purchased the 45 and played it repeatedly one summer.

2. Some cousins always have better stuff and often better parents: My cousin Marilyn had a pink bedroom with a pink canopy bed. She had bee-yoo-tiful blond hair too which she put in pink curlers at night (curlers! how glamorous!). Her mother, my Aunt Dora, would get up every morning and go into the kitchen and put on an apron. Then, as you came into the kitchen she would smile and say, "What do you want for breakfast, honey?" Everyone was honey to her, and not that fakey grown-up honey but the real deal. She would make you ANYTHING you wanted. Even pancakes. On a Tuesday. Suffice it to say, that is not exactly how breakfast went at our house. That is why, when my sister learned that the contingency plan for us if something happened to my parents was to go live with Aunt Dora, she began to fantasize about my parents' untimely demise. Who can blame her? If you met Aunt Dora and Uncle Dick, you would too.

3. Cousins of the opposite sex are useful for learning how to flirt: This I cannot say I learned first-hand. All the boy cousins were much older: there was Rick Ross (I learned years later, not a blood relative) who was like a real-life Ricky Nelson and Mike McCoy who was like a young Elvis Presley but they were as old, and remote, and un-attainable as the celebrities they resembled. There were no boy cousins near my age to flirt with. Oh, wait, there was Tommy but he did not move me to flirtation. He moved me to beat him up whenever I could. But I have observed this flirting among my older siblings and cousins and now among the current generation of cousins. Sometimes my cousins would flirt with my brothers. This was weird. Last year, at a family wedding, I noticed that the two teen cousins of the opposite sex who live in different states kept sneaking off together. I assumed they were developing schemes to get margaritas at the bar and comparing MySpace notes, (which they were). But then I grew suspicious. "Hey, do you think they're messing around?" I asked my husband. "Of course they are. What do you think cousins are for?" Okay, ewww. He is from Wisconsin where they are a lot more open-minded about these things, I guess. He clarified, "Why do you think they call it kissin' cousins? It's not like they're getting married." Well, then, I guess that's okay.


4. Cousins are better than friends and siblings. Friends come and go and siblings are too familiar but cousins are just right. You share last names, facial features, and grandparents. They call your parents "aunt" and "uncle". How cool is that? They move away and do exotic things and take jobs you never dreamed of but they will always be in your life no matter what. And that's the best part about cousins of all.



To Joyce, Beth, Jenice, Nan, Denny, Joette, Tommy, and all the other fantastic cousins in my life. I don't see you often but you are always in my heart.