Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Story #3: The In-Laws

I am in my in-laws' kitchen wiping S.'s nose. I guess it was a paticularly gross, copious, green, end-of-a-cold runny nose, because I turn around to see my sister-in-law M. looking on with apparent horror. She notices me noticing her.

"I guess you don't mind so much when it's your own child," she theorizes.

After she leaves the room, my mother-in-law rolls her eyes at the squeamishness.

"Yes," I laugh in maternal solidarity, "Wait till she has to clean up a crib full of vomit."

My mother-in-law looks at me in confusion.
"I've never had to clean up a crib full of vomit," she says.

Story #2: The Pancakes

I just realized that the vomiting part of this story actually predates Story #1, and I was trying to do them chronologically...

Not-so-little-R. was 17 months old and a friend called me:

"They're having a polka party at St. Charles Borromeo parish! We're all going! You have to get a babysitter!"

A babysitter. I had never had one. I drove four hours to my parents or my parents came to me when we had somewhere to go (rare).

Perhaps my oldest friend, S., and her boyfriend M., who had recently moved to DC, would like to do it?
Sure, why not?

So that evening I fed R. many pancakes and pears for dinner, because my big fear was that he would wake up because he was hungry and be upset to find me gone. I had found that when he ate a particularly good dinner he slept particularly well. I let him have as many pancakes as he wanted, which was many, many pancakes.

We had a wonderful time at the polka party. When we got home M. and S. were kind of smirking.
Did everything go well?
Fine, fine. Yeah. All except for the part when R. woke up and threw up all over the place. M. had cleaned it up while S. consoled him. He went back to sleep, bunch of foul stuff in the laundry room. Good night.

As their car drove off, I said to not-so-big R. "Now he will never marry her. He'll be afraid this is what family life is like all the time."

Six months later S. showed me her engagement ring.
After you babysat, I was afraid M. would never propose, I said.
Actually, she said, I think that night helped.

Story #1: The Tow Truck

Not-so-little R. was 20 months old, and S. was 6 months in utero. We were on our way to our college 5th reunion. Somewhere in rural Maryland our beloved red Jeep Cherokee made a terrible grinding noise and gave up the ghost forever. This was before cell phones were common. R. had to walk to a pay phone and call AAA. The tow truck driver kindly agreed to drive us to BWI airport to rent a car after we dropped our car at a service station: totally against the rules.

Not-so-little-R. vomited thoroughly all over the inside of the tow truck.

And I distinctly remember, as the tow truck driver chuckled and reassured us that he had three children, and R. and I cleaned everything as best we could with paper towels and Fantastik, and I was tired and pregnant and it was past midnight--I remember thinking, This is okay.

I didn't like it or anything, but it was where I wanted to be. With my husband, with my son, taking care of things. It was sort of emotional chaos, but I didn't have to remember it in tranquility for it to be funny. I was tranquil right then.

Three Stories About Vomit

So I see that La Flanagan's book is reviewed in the Wall Street Journal (subscriber-only online). I begin to realize that I ought to read this book, having eagerly devoured Caitlin's work in the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly thus far. I come to this as someone who has been fortunate/myopic/financially sacrificing/inertial/convicted/fulfilled enough to stay home with my children for the past 11 years. It is easy to judge others for their choices, so I hesitate to say that I think it is awful that Caitlin Flanagan stood in the doorway and watched her nanny tend to her little son when he was vomiting. But I do think it is sort of awful, and so does the WSJ reviewer, who thought up until this point that tending to vomiting children was common ground for "working" mothers and "stay-at-home" mothers alike.

I hereby present to you three stories about vomiting children, marriage and motherhood.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Turns Out Our House Was Full of Garbage

I put a full can plus a pile of random stuff at the curb Friday night, and I've got another one waiting for Tuesday. Among other things, I finally threw away the old medicine cabinet, now that the new one has actually been installed and painted around. I had left the old one in the basement because I had this sneaking feeling that we would eventually give up on our non-standard-size hole and reinstall the old cabinet in sad defeat.

I washed all the winter jackets, snowpants, hats, gloves, and scarves and put them in the attic. Including, ahem, some winter jackets etc. that were washed last spring and then lived in the basement for a year.

Planted my herb garden, including lemon verbena, the scent Scarlett O'Hara associated with her beloved ladylike mother, Ellen.

All this feels good, but damn it's exhausting. This must be how normal people, who are not lazy and addicted to reading, feel all the time!

It's funny, I was over at my mother's house a few weeks ago and she said,
"I just don't feel like doing anything today." I made sympathetic noises.
"This must be how Daddy feels all the time," she opined.
"Mother, that's how I feel all the time," I told her. She looked at me in mild surprise, but made no comment. I think she has been under the impression that the children kept me too busy to function properly. Since she only had two children and they were 8.5 years apart, it was a convenient fiction for both of us: that my life is so much harder than hers was.

Now I've blown my cover.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Relentless Assault on our Checking Account

Last Saturday we went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, not because we are ignorant thrill-seeking philistines but because we've already visited Colonial Williamsburg* so many times that we can recite along with the interpreters, and it makes them kind of mad. Not-so-big R., in particular, has been known to roll his eyes and sigh very heavily whenever he hears the word "apothecary." So we decided to go lowbrow on this visit.

After each of us had had either an arm or a leg (your choice!) amputated, we entered the grounds. We were staying in the Marriott Courtyard five minutes away from the park, which features a flat-screen TV in the lobby playing a continuous loop of a 30-second spot advertising the park. As we discussed in which attractions we were most interested, I said my number one ride priority was "Curse of Dark Kastle."

Not-so-big R. said "Really?" in that leading, incredulous, Michael-Bluth way.
"Yes, really," I replied.
"That's fine," he said, "I'm just surprised, because there was something on the TV in the lobby....some phrase they said that made me feel you wouldn't...R.?"

Not-so-little R. recites, savant-like: "Relentless assault on your senses?"

"Yes!" R. says. "That's it. You don't usually like a relentless assault on your senses, honey."

*Incidentally, if you are indulgent enough to actually hit that CW link, you'll see that they had what I can only call the audacity to reserve the URL "," and as much as I enjoy the place, which is like a Disneyworld for history buffs, that pretty much sums up the smugness and superiority wafting around.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm Back (and really boring)

I had so many things to say, and now I can't remember them. It's good to be back. I did not finish my book, but I did write eleven more chapters. I hope to be finished soon, and then I can rip the whole thing to shreds and start over.

Let's see, let's see. S.'s First Communion is rapidly approaching. It wasn't so long ago that I had oodles of time to clean the whole house from top to bottom and cook ten tons of food. Now I have considerably less than oodles, and I have done nothing, NOTHING! Except work on my book, that was important, right?

We have paid others to do things to the house, though. We now have a back yard that is a beautiful private retreat, complete with big curvy brick patio and little whimsical slate patio around the corner in what S. calls rather grandly "the meditation garden." Depending on who we're with we call it that or "that little area next to the dining room." Martha Stewart patio furniture. Little bushes that will grow up to be bigger bushes. Sod, which you have to water, which I hate doing. If I could find the cord that connects my cheapo digital camera to the computer, I would show you.

And, after almost seven years in the house, we managed to get the upstairs bathroom painted. It's too depressing to go into the whole timeline, but just suffice it to say that I ripped down the wallpaper before we moved in, the exhaust fan was installed....I'm going to say three years ago?...and there was a big hole where the medicine cabinet should be for about a year and a half. No sense rushing things. Now if we could get rid of the ill-advised primary-color eighties wallpaper in the downstairs bathroom we'd really be getting somewhere.

I now know the national anthem of Denmark, because not-so-little R. had a school presentation on family ancestry, and one of the options was "sing a song from your country of origin." I told R. this was a gift from God that we had to accept. How many times in your life are you given the choice between making a hideous and time-consuming diorama or sitting at the piano with your mother for half an hour and then going to school and doing something that is (for you) as easy as falling off a log? Not many times. Part of that, of course, is that only architects encounter a lot of diorama-type projects in adult life.

Well, I'd better go clean the house and make ten tons of food.