Sunday, March 29, 2009

The way nature intended (patent pending)

My husband and I were perfectly happy with our standard-issue; single-setting; no fuss, no muss; fixed shower head. It was roughly the diameter of a half-dollar and probably cost the same way back in the '70s when it was initially installed in our rinky-dink little stand-up shower unit.

But then someone — a houseguest (and I’m not naming names, not even if you twist my arm) — decided that we needed something more exciting, more robust … more in keeping with the times. And that person bought us a super-duper 10-setting, pivoting shower head that, for a time, did everything except change the light bulb above the sink.
It had all kinds of spray options:

Simple massage
Nebulizing mist
Power rain
Full rain with massage
Directed pattern spray
Random pattern spray,
Aeration spray,
Twirling spray,
Pulsating jet spray

It was Class-ay!

After that, and this was a while ago, my husband and I started having the hassle of having to change the other's selection of shower spray to the water-dropping-pattern-ratio of spray we preferred whenever we were scrubbing up.

I had the added problem of having to turn the shower head towards the wall so as to keep the water in the tub, something my husband can't really do because he'd never be able to get all the soap of his body. I figure the fact that the shower head is the size of a salad plate and our shower is the size of a gym locker is the cause of that added adjustment.

Of course time and minerals conspired against us, and eventually no matter what setting we wrestled the shower head into, what we got for our trouble was Do-it-Yourself Carwash (Patent pending).

We eventually stopped adjusting the spray, but continued to adjust its direction. Neither of us wanted to sandblast the sheetrock or cause a wading pool to collect on the floor.

Lately though, I noticed the shower head has been providing a rather unexpected, but pleasant effect; big, soft, fat drops seemed to be falling lightly now in a concentrated area. I found the change to be quite refreshing. The effect wasn’t really comparable to nature, nevertheless I tend to equate it with a summer rain shower, and I imagine THIS is probably what the shower head designers had in mind all along.

Soon, the spray wars in our house began anew.

I mentioned this revelation to my husband as we begin the dance with the setting once again. He likes his shower to be injected with little needle spindles of water whereas I'd be fine if mine were dumped over my head in a sudden rush of water as if coming from the spigot of a pump. My newly discovered “Rain Drop” was a few clicks to the right of his “Sand Your Skin Off Blast.”

"You know, I kind of like the way the shower isn't all scrub your skin off anymore."

"Oh, that," he replied. "You didn't notice? I just wiped the crusty mineral build-up off with my thumb."

"Now that's class-ay."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Having sleepless nights over sleepless nights

The Champ’s room is empty save for a trundle bed bought for a handful of dollars at a yard sale and a corner dresser filled with clothes he’s still months away from fitting.

A beige towel — remaindered and untouched from the last overnight guest — lays folded on the chest’s blonde-colored top. It serves as a rough terry mattress for a smattering of keepsake toys with which he’s never played.

The tiny corner boudoir — more extension of hallway than bedroom — has been a concern since the moment the ultrasound technician detected his wand with hers.

Thus he’s never spent a night in his room. He rarely spends the night in his crib.

His clothes — the ones that do fit him — are straining a cheap chest of drawers pushed into the back of my closet. The ones he’s outgrown make their way to a bag tucked in beside it, presumably to be left, like an orphan, on the steps of a charity in a moment of eyes-closed-shut resolve.

My husband wonders if we’ll have to wait until he goes to college before we get our room back. His jokes have sharp teeth that he wraps in humor to dull the effect on my soft flesh.

I refuse to talk about it.

I don’t want to give voice to all that I am thinking:

* That we are showing a kind of deep seated favoritism to our boy since we shuffled our girl off to a room of her own when she was barely one year old.

* That he is my last child, and losing his baby-ness with each passing day.

* That things are progressing in the other house — the house that is not the home we brought our children into but the one in which they will grow up — and that means more change. It means moving our stuff into new rooms; reconfiguring, becoming unsettled to resettle. It means moving him into his own room; a real room — a room that rivals his sister’s.

I don’t want to be reminded that my babies are growing up even though the fact of it confronts me each morning at breakfast. Each day they get taller and taller, able to reach previously unattainable objects as they perch on tippy-toes.

Such happiness I feel in their accomplishment, and yet a somber tone sounds in my head '... soon they won't need me.' Not in the way it feels nice to be needed. When the night time feeding is over; when they’ve mastered the stairs and understand that the woodstove is HOT.

I’m probably going to be the mom who rolls her eyes and goes boneless when her kids want her to find their soccer gear … or get them a glass of juice when they’re mere inches away from the refrigerator.

The day is coming when we will have our room back. When we look at each other and have to figure out how to be alone again. How to just be us.

I don’t want think about that day if it means it will be missing the equivalent of the children’s weight in joy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

If you're looking for me, I'll be where the sun doesn't shine

Daylight Saving Time always makes me want to go into hibernation.

It’s not that more daylight isn’t welcome or that I’m sad to see winter melt away. I’ll admit, every February 2nd, I’m the first person who’d like to send that infernal groundhog in Pennsylvania – the one that ALWAYS sees its little rodent-shaped shadow no matter what - to its maker.

No, by the time DST rolls around I am ready for warmer weather and a few more hours of light after the workday ends.

What I miss is that one single solitary hour of sleep.

I’m a creature of habit, until Eastern Standard Time rears its ugly head again and I get that hour back, I know I’m just going to be a growling, sleep-deprived monster that would just as soon go back to bed than revel in the budding flowers.

My husband, though, until recently, hadn’t quite figured out how to circumvent this beast, and often plunders right into its lair.

In our house, DST is usually heralded by a protracted disagreement between him and me over whether we lose an hour or we gain an hour in the Spring-Ahead scenario.

Each year he charges right into the argument that because the clocks go FORWARD we must GAIN time. To him going forward means to progress, and all progress must translate to gains or some other form of profit.

And each year I retaliate by calling him names like “Troglodyte” and “Doltish Buffoon,” whilst showing him how the clock actually works.

By the time he begrudgingly agrees that, "yes ... it does appear that when a person goes to sleep at midnight and the clock mysteriously jumps ahead an hour at 2 a.m., that hour seems to disappear from the sleep cycle," we’ve already missed more than an hour of shut-eye.

It matters not that we have the fight every year, nor does it seem to register that he ALWAYS concedes that I was, in fact, correct. The argument is still more a harbinger of spring than the first robin.

This year, though, we never spoke about the time. We didn’t bother setting the clocks back before we went to bed.

In the morning as we were waking up at our usual 7:30 he quietly reset each clock to read 8:30.

I got out of bed and changed the baby’s diaper without making any comment. I brushed the big kid’s hair with my fingers and pestered her to wear clothes that actually fit. When I made my way out to the kitchen I took the coffee he offered.

I puzzled a while over the quiet. Where was the rant to come? Perhaps he had finally understood that his instinct for this particular argument – as I understand my instinct for spelling the word CALENDAR – is always just plain wrong. ... I’ve learned over time it’s best just to go with one’s second choice, too.

But then I thought maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s a result of the recent economy. Maybe the fact that so much presumed progress has really translated to regression ... or recession ... or depression.

We have yet to see.

In the meantime, I get the kids ready to walk to the playground. It's been months since we've seen the swings.

After all, it’s not going to cost us anything but maybe an afternoon nap.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Some ground rules for 'Goodwill Hunting'

Ever since college (when I was trying to make the nightclub money stretch as far is humanly possible) I’ve had a thing for Goodwill Hunting — the thrift store experience, not the feature film.

I mean, if you are a person who can enjoy the better part of an afternoon wading through racks and racks of color-coordinated outerwear (you’d never be caught dead in) to find an armload of bargains (now half-price because it’s Blue tag day) why would you ever endure a trip to the mall and empty your pockets for the sake of style?

It’s a sport unto itself. What woman, when asked about her Marc Jacobs’ anything, doesn’t absolutely DELIGHT in telling her inquisitor how much of a steal it was? The only thing better would be if she actually stole Marc Jacobs or fished him out of the trash.

I’m that woman, although I probably wouldn’t know Jacobs or Louis Vuitton if they tapped me on the shoulder to say ‘oui.’

But I digress.

Even when I had something resembling a disposable income I flatly refused to spend more than $15 for sweaters, $10 for jeans and $6 for t-shirts. Of course adherence to such an outdated formulary in the acquisition of new clothing components means that my wardrobe will always be “new to me.”

Now that I have children who are outgrowing clothes by the hour, Goodwill Hunting has even more meaning for me. I’m thankful that Ittybit, who is now fashion conscious, isn’t thrift phobic.

I can’t tell you how her wanting to spend her hard-earned “I-was-bribed-to-sleep-in-my-own-bed” money on new pajamas from Goodwill warmed my cold consumer heart.

But like all sports, Goodwill Hunting has some rules its players should understand:

1. DON’T SHOW UP EMPTY HANDED:* Need a new coat? Why not bag one (or three) of your old coats and drop them off in the collection bin?

While you’re at it throw in those pants you never wore, the paisley shirt you outgrew, and you might as well ditch the sweater you got last Christmas that had to have been a gag gift.

You can’t do much about the cosmetics counter mistakes that are filling up your bathroom drawers but you can absolve yourself of any and all clothing sins via tax-deductible donation.

*Of course in this vein, Ittybit – like all children – in an effort to get her hands on a new plush animal (that might have come straight from the CLAW machine at the local bowling alley) is keen on getting rid of the heirloom toys she has no current use for. “But I’m never going to play with that wooden pull toy (that was handcrafted by someone’s grandfather 100 years ago) THAT’s A baby toy!”

2. SPEND TIME NOT MONEY: There are bargains to be had if you are willing to spend time and look beyond and between the Circo and Massimo overstocks. If it’s not really worth $9 new, don’t pay $7 when it’s been dumped.

3. SHOP EARLY, SHOP OFTEN: Thrift stores are constantly getting new merchandise. You never know … you may be there one day just as those new fangled ride-on toys -- the very ones that snagged an Oppenheimer award and cost $70 each – are being donated by someone “whose kids just weren’t that into them.”

4. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF: Your Neiman Marcus mistakes will always be pricier than your Goodwill gaffs. SEE RULE ONE.

Speaking of gaffs and Goodwill Hunting, I’ve never mentioned the time I quite literally ran into Matt Damon in Boston have I? I wasn’t watching where I was walking and nearly knocked him over. I apologized and he held a door for me. I thought he was quite a gentleman. But come to think of it, he never mentioned my sweater, which was new ... well, new to me.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A mother's day begins at the crack of covers

Cold. Air.

Ittybit has pulled the covers off my bedraggled head and now she’s screaming into the sheets.

"Mom. Get. Up."

"No. No. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! … I don’t want to get up. I want to lay right here. Like this. Until you go to college."

She doesn’t believe me.

I squeeze my eyes shut and drag the quilt up to my shoulders. I shove the rest of me under the pillow.

I can think of a thousand things I don’t want to do. Why bother getting out of bed to face them?

Her father snorts back a laugh. He’s been awake for hours.

Together the pair has been milling about the house breaking eggs and fixing coffee, waiting impatiently for the pair of lazy bones to get a move on. They’ve emptied the dishwasher, started a load of laundry. They’ve learned what happened in the world overnight and they’re beginning a list of what the day has in store.

Meanwhile, the boy and I have been ignoring the clattering of empty pots for at least 45 minutes now. Every so often he lifts his head - his face screwed into a puzzled look as if to say ‘Morning? Already? No. Can’t be!’ - only to plant his face back into the pillow and resume a pleasant snore.

"Mooooooooooooooom!" she chides, undeterred by my lack of forward motion. "… You are missing out on everything."

With the exuberance of youth and boundless energy, she tells me of all that the day could hold:

We could go sledding. … Or I could take a ski lesson. … We could go to lunch … or on a play date … or to the movies … or to the park.

"I know. We could go to Disney World.

My silence in the face of this revelation is not a deterrent to her.
"I’ve always wanted to go to Disney World," she chirps away to herself although I am listening.

I brood over the images now swirling in my head.

It occurs to me as she continues to sing the praises of a place she's never been, that if Disney World were a warm, dark cave filled with fluffy pillows and warm down comforters — if Mickey himself never so much as opened his mouth, not even for a muffled chortle — it would be a very happy place for people like me: People who not interested in seeing a marketer’s version of the Happiest Place on Earth.

People such as myself need to sit in the dark like mushrooms, for as long as we are allowed, and bask in the glow of anti-social oblivion.

We are people who sit on the edge of that one last straw, the one that threatens to fracture the dromedary’s back.

If we're lucky what we wait for is some little someone to peel back the covers, open the windows and chase away the dark.