I admit, I'm a children's book snob. If it's not a classic I enjoyed when I was a kid, or if it lacks a Caldecott award on its cover, I'm skeptical. My kids, however, sometimes like to choose their own library books, and so I've had to embrace the likes of Jack and Annie and their magic tree house, and Arthur and all his politically correct little animal friends. In one story, Arthur's Uncle Fred, who wears a sporty red cardigan, secretly puts Arthur's gift tag on the present he bought for Arthur's mother after Arthur's gift for his mom gets broken. Come on, there's no one that nice. Or is there?
Here's a little story meant to illustrate that when you pull yourself together, leave the house, and do the errand that needs doing, something good and unexpected can happen. On Friday the one thing had to do, and I had all day to do it, was drive to the store for cottage cheese. I needed the cottage cheese to make the macaroni for the preschool pot luck. If you remember, it was rainy and cold on Friday. I contemplated asking my neighbors to sit with the twins while I ran out but the babies had been crying on and off for most of the day and I didn't trust myself to return home. I thought of calling work and asking Pam or Esther to drive some cottage cheese to my house. Don't worry you guys, I'll hit you up next time, when I've got all four of them at home and I'm craving chocolate covered almonds. At four o'clock I drove one mile down the road to the West Falmouth Market. I schlepped the boys into the store, grabbed two containers of cottage cheese and checked out. Taking twins shopping in their infant car seats generates a lot of attention. The cashier and a woman in the store said how cute the babies were even though they were crying. They got the door for me. In the parking lot a man waved me over to tell me my right front tire was low (can I blame that on Bush too?). I got out of the mini van and took a look. A little low was being kind, it was flat. I drove it home and called Ken. He talked me through using the air compressor to inflate the tire. Look at me I thought. I'm a mechanic. And why is a flat tire a good thing? Because finding out my tire was flat at 4:15 was a lot luckier than finding out two hours later when I would have panicked with four kids loaded into the car and a double batch of macaroni and cheese in the front seat. Even without a flat tire we were still the last family to arrive at the pot luck. It was worth it though. The children showed off what they'd learned about reading, William's dad brought steamed mussels, and the funniest thing happened but I can't write about it because it would embarrass Ken. So I wanted Susan to know it was a good thing I went out for the cottage cheese after all, though next time I'll go with the chocolate covered strawberries or maybe I'll get that calzone recipe from you.
song: Block Cheese Dance Party • artist: Toe Jam Puppet Band
Being a mom means graciously accepting, and putting in a vase, the cut flowers your sons bring you. Flowers they picked off the top of the compost pile. Flowers you put on the top of the compost pile on Tuesday. At least I put them in a different vase.
A friend passed along an e-mail of funny questions posed to computer tech support personnel. Things like customers who call in and say, "Hi, good afternoon, this is Martha, I can't print. Every time I try, it says 'Can't find printer'. I've even lifted the printer and placed it in front of the monitor, but the computer still says he can't find it..." They are all very funny though I can't confirm whether on not they are true. I once interrupted my college video production professor in the middle of a staff meeting because I couldn't get the video editing equipment to work. As it turned out, it wasn't plugged in, which explains why today I'm not a Hollywood film producer. When I worked for New Wave Printing and fax machines were a novelty, a woman came in to fax a letter. After the letter was sent she wanted to also fax the envelope. "Why do you want to fax the envelope?" I asked. "Because the letter will need an envelope." she replied. "But it won't be an envelope when it comes out of the other fax machine." I said. "It won't?"
Perhaps it's not that our children grow up that makes us sad, but rather that they lose all the great qualities of childhood: innocence, belief, and imagination being some of them. The other day C explained to me how he thought God made mountains. "He poked his fingers up and pushed them out of the ground," he said. Then he said that God must have made Mount Everest with his longest finger. He elaborated by showing me which finger that was, thereby flipping me off in the name of creation. I looked around for Alan Funt and the hidden cameras, but because he's five, he was being totally sincere. I thought that it will be sad someday when somebody tells him that's an inappropriate gesture. Of course by then he'll have forgotten the day he used the gesture to explain how mountains were made. Maybe I should have told him but I didn't. Not yet. Today we were driving down to Peterson Farm and I could see him in my rear view mirror. He was turned around in the back seat of the car looking out. We were stopped at a traffic light and the man in the car behind us was tapping rhythmically on his steering wheel. C lifted his hand and gave a little wave. Knowing we have tinted windows and that the man didn't see my son made me sad. How insular we've become. On the one hand it's great to have built-in tinted windows and to know the sun isn't beating down on my children. H was always ripping the suction cup pull-down shades we used on the Subaru. But here was my eldest son trying to wave to people in surrounding cars, something that every kid has done, and he can't do it. Remember how great it was when the occasional driver would wave back? And the driver too, he missed out, though he doesn't know it. A greeting from a five year old is nothing substantial really, but charming enough to be uplifting, if only briefly, on a gray March morning.
Song: Ain't No Mountain High Enough • artist: Diana Ross
C has taken to asking me to stop the car at the beginning of our street so he can get out and run home. Not my idea I assure you but once daddy lets him do something it's hard for me to take it back. We live six houses in, on a dirt road, and so far we haven't passed another car when he's been out running though I give him a big lecture about looking out for cars every time he hops out of the mini van. My real fear, given Ken's moniker of "the fastest man in Falmouth," is that the neighbors are going to see him running by and think, "that poor five year old, his cruel parents are making him train for the track team already."
The twins and H were all loaded into the mini van this morning for a well-baby check up when the car wouldn't start. I called AAA, the doctor's office, and Ken, and then trooped everyone back into the house. For a few minutes I cursed my bad luck and reveled in a why-does-everything-bad-happen-to-me moment. Then I remembered that I was a middle-class, stay-at-home mom, who was late to a doctor's appointment for her healthy children, all of whom I have health insurance for; and that I was waiting in my warm house for a service technician to come out and jump start my paid-for mini van. So okay, no one was really going to feel sorry for me. But I'm still a citizen of the United States, and as so, it was my god-given right to look for someone to blame. Could it be my fault because I let my children play in the car yesterday afternoon and leave interior lights on? No, it's un-American to take responsibility for your own actions, there had to be someone else. Was it the fault of my children? Of course it was but they are a little too young to shoulder the blame. What it Ken's fault? Of course it was. He should have noticed when he came home from work that my interior lights were on. But it was still light outside making it hard to notice auxiliary lighting. No, I blame the President. If he hadn't moved daylight savings back a month it would have been dark out when Ken got home. He would have noticed that my lights were on and I wouldn't have had a dead battery at 9AM this morning. Yep, just another thing to blame on George W.
There's a story I once heard about Mr. Rogers that goes something like this. A little boy wrote to Mr. Rogers asking him where he could buy a train like the one on the show (it's really a trolly but let's not quibble over the details). Instead of cashing in with a free trolly in every happy meal, Mr. Rogers wrote the little boy back and suggested he try and make himself a train out of a cardboard box. I'm wearing my sweater. Are you?
We visited the newly-renovated library yesterday. It's so beautiful it almost made me cry. Of course lately, everything makes me cry. Two rainy days in a row can make me cry. Luckily we have 24 eggs to decorate for Sunday. That should keep H and C busy for at least 20 minutes. What makes white eggs more fragile than brown? I just hard boiled four of them and two came out cracked. I'm going to let the kids paint them anyway. Maybe I can even convince them that they cracked them.
The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard about yesterday's bus vandalism was: "The town has 40 busses? That sure is a lot of busses." As a taxpayer and a parent I realize I should be outraged at this deliberate destruction of property. However, compared to school shootings and bomb treats, which is what we usually hear about, flattening tires, even 92 of them, seems harmless in comparison, even quaint. As for the possibility, as a taxpayer, of having to foot the bill or pay for extra police detail to patrol the area around the busses, that's routine as well. I'm already paying off the 60 million the government spent to shoot down that disabled spy satellite last month and I hear that the farm bill is full of pork again, so what's a little more money for cops and new tires.
The Subaru is finally sold. This is the first time we've ever had a car to sell that was worth something.In the past our old cars have had to be hauled away on flatbed trailers or pawned off on a friends. Selling a car is like giving away a puppy, what you really want is a good home for it. So when people start to pick the car apart by implying the breaks are shot or commenting on superficial scratches, you bristle a little, it's like they're asking if the kitten sheds or does the puppy chews shoes. Sure, there's normal wear and tear on the vehicle, but in my mind the car is perfect in every way except that it doesn't seat six. Go ahead, take it for a spin and kick the tires, just don't insult it. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of newspaper classifieds have been greatly exaggerated. The more colorful responses came from Craig's List, like the woman from New Jersey who wanted to come see the car (they don't have Subarus in New Jersey?). Then there was the woman from New York who's moving to Boston and having twins in April. I gave her all sorts of expert twin advice over the phone and still she never called back. But in the end, the people who bought the car saw the ad in the newspaper. They said they liked the way the car handled, that they were "impressed with it." Which again is like saying they think your puppy is not only adorable, but also well behaved. In dealing with people over the phone it's interesting who asks for directions and who doesn't. I think people who don't want my directions are missing out. I'm very thorough with directions. Yes, it's nice that you have map quest or GPS but to me it's more reassuring to get directions from a real person. Those directions will include descriptions of reassuring landmarks such as "Old Silver Beach on your right," or "the set of lights by the House of Pizza." It's more colorful. I even advised one couple who were coming from Foxboro to stop for lunch at the Silver Lounge. Initially C suggested we sell the car for a million dollars. I explained that nobody would buy it for that much money so he wisely lowered his asking price: "Let's sell it for two dollars," he said. "Then we wouldn't make very much money," I said. "We'd make two dollars," he said in a way that left me thinking he'd make two dollars and the rest of the family would make squat. Also not appreciated in the car selling process are people who come out to see the car and then ask what I want for it as if they didn't read the price, which was clearly printed in the ad. "Well I was asking a million, but for you, how's about two dollars?" When the couple came to get the car last night they asked directions to the very restaurant I would have recommended for dinner, Chappy Grill. The Subaru could have driven there itself.
song: If I had a Million Dollars • artist: Barenaked Ladies
This weekend started off with the ice show on Friday. Then there were dinner preparations Saturday morning, running out to the beach to collect scallop shells for the twin's baptism, dinner for 10, birthday cake, and the ice show again. Sunday was the baptism, the last ice show, finally selling the Subaru (phew!), and dinner at Alex and Laela's. When you consider that the most excitement in my day usually consists of preschool pick up, it was a busy weekend The other night Ken came home from a meeting and asked me if I'd heard about a certain restaurant on Main Street that might be going out of business. Unless someone physically came up the driveway to personally deliver me that news, how would I know, I said, coping an attitude not unsnarky. In the boy's dressing room (a concrete utility closet) Friday night C asked me if I was ever in the ice show. It's bad enough I never leave my house, now I'm a has been as well. Of course I was in the ice show, I told him. I was in it dozens of times. I soloed for six years. He was unimpressed. "What's concrete made out of," he said.
song: Get Out of this House • artist: Shawn Colvin
In the ob/gyn office the other day I pondered why the nurses always ask me how many pregnancies I've had. They follow that question up by quizzing me on the number of times I've given birth. It's the ob/gyn office - shouldn't this information be in bold letters on page one of my chart? Besides, now it's getting confusing. Do twins constitute two births or just one? After some consideration I've decided the questions are more of a litmus test to see if, as a new mother, I'm still sane. Similarly, at the hospital as one way of checking for confusion they ask patients if they know who the president is. Yesterday H insisted on bringing our red rotary phone in the car with him when we left for afternoon preschool pickup. The red rotary phone no longer works, unlike the white rotary phone that I still keep in the guest room for when the power goes out or I can't find where I've left the cordless phone. I've been keeping the red phone for use in a still life painting that hasn't materialized yet. Beyond being a prop, any parent can tell you that no toy is ever as interesting as real things: old telephones, a keyboard, a typewriter, or tupperware. As so, the red telephone sits on the bottom shelf of our built-in bookcases, waiting to be called into action like it was yesterday. I drove through North Falmouth while H placed imaginary calls to Nana and Papa. "Hi Nana, how ya doin?" I felt like I was the secret service driving the president around while he placed informal calls to foreign heads of state. That's President Bush in case you didn't know.
Kindergarten registration was last week. I tried to persuade the school administration that the twins were precocious and that I was signing them up for fall semester, but they didn't buy it. In examining the passage of time I wondered if the past five years felt like five years or did it feel more like that Monty Python skit "The Argument?" "That was never five years." "Yes, it was." "No, it wasn't." "Yes, it was." What I do know is that when school registration rolls around for my other children each time it will feel as if it came up faster than the time before. It's like seeing a movie for the second time, once you know what's going to happen, the film seems half as long. At the elementary school, lots of paperwork needed to be filled out, most of it names and phone numbers. On the creative writing side, one question asked parents to describe activities their child enjoys. I drew a blank at first but then pulled it together and scribbled something about blocks and making up games with his younger brother. Too bad I couldn't think up a more colorful response, sometime along the lines of, "my son enjoys taking apart and rebuilding small engines and creating computer programs."
Since the one thing I can do while nursing a baby (or two) is order things off the internet, I was going to order some new nursing bras. But I won't be ordering them from the Motherhood website. Couldn't they get a model who looks as if it's remotely possible that she gave birth in the last three months? If this woman's had a baby then I've flown the space shuttle. Even the baby looks incredulous. What's more, this pseudo mom's not even doing it right. She's got the baby all arranged to nurse in a cradle hold on her left side and she's unhooking the right side of her nursing bra. I know I'm tired and cranky and I smell like spit up - but I am not stupid. Speaking of stupid, H keeps getting up on the couch and demanding that I bring him a twin. "I nurse him," he asserts. "Only girls can nurse babies," says C in his best, boy-are-you-stupid voice. I don't bother pointing out that H isn't that stupid; at least he wants to nurse a real baby. When C was the same age and had only recently become a big brother he insisted on nursing his stuffed animals.
song: Girls, Girls, Girls • musical: The Merry Widow
Boo hoo to Major League Baseball. They aren't making enough money hawking logo emblazoned sippy cups, key chains, beach blankets and Christmas tree ornaments - now they need a piece of the Cape Cod Baseball League as well. Hope they don't find out that last spring my son's T-ball team was called the Red Sox. We'll have to hold a bake sale to raise money for royalties.
Diapers have images on them, both front and back. With the exception of the most generic of diapers, these images are of licensed characters, my least favorite thing. It seems a waste on a newborn diaper, the baby can't see the diaper well enough to form a lifetime attachment to Pooh or Thomas or Baby Muppets. Unlike toddlers, who the diaper manufacturers hope might be media savvy enough to state a preference for a particular diaper character. Normally this diaper preference would be stated in a very loud voice while said toddler was prostrate in the baby aisle of the supermarket. So far my two year old hasn't shown much of a diaper preference. Perhaps he'll grow up to be like his dad and buy whatever is on sale without a bit of brand loyalty. Instead, what H has become adamant about is putting the diaper on himself. I say, if he's big enough to put on his own diaper, he's big enough to use the potty. But infant diapers should forget the cartoon images and put useful information for exhausted, sleep-deprived parents on them instead. "Front and back" would be good for starters. "You left the car keys in the refrigerator again," would be even better.
song: I've Gotta Get a Message to You • artist: Bee Gees
Time to weigh in on some of Falmouth's pressing issues, as reported on in the news and op/ed pages of my favorite local and locally-owned newspaper, The Enterprise.
40,000ft Supermarket on Rte. 151 in North Falmouth: I think Mr. Callahan should "grow corn there." It would certainly taste better than anything that comes out of that, or any, supermarket.
Logos on Obits: Flags on obituaries are causing quite a debate but if the paper acquiesces where will it end? First it will be flags, and then the war protesters will want peace signs. Then the Masons and the Eastern Star will want their symbols or maybe it will be a college seal or a family crest. The simple solution is to have people read the obituary, and, as John Hough said, if the deceased was a veteran it will be in the article. Those little flags in other papers are paid for you know.
Wind Farm: And as for the the folks who don't want the see Nantucket Sound "gone forever," define gone forever? There's no eel grass anywhere in the water anymore so the bay scallops are gone, and fish stocks are down all over. The only thing that seems to be up is nitrogen and the number of recreational boats out on the water. What does "gone forever," actually mean? Where is the Sound going to go? Is Cape Wind planning to drain it? It seems to me that it doesn't matter if there's anything left living below water level in the Sound as long as wind farm opponents can look out over it or skim across it via a 200 horsepower engine with an unobstructed view.
So I'm at the coffee shop (me and the twins) checking e-mail because the internet is down at the house and to quote my husband, "it will be down for a while." A while being at least tomorrow morning between 8 and 11AM when Comcast is due to arrive. Anyway - here at the coffee shop they are playing Led Zeppelin I. It's funny, I want to claim Led Zeppelin as music of my era but the truth is they were old even when I was in high school. I think every generation "discovers Led Zeppelin." Sunday at the skating rink I noticed one of the ice show group numbers is performing to a Go Gos song. Everything old really is new again. Speaking of old, recently I read that after age 40 people start being less adept at handling doing more than one thing at a time. Great, now that I really need to multitask I'm not going to be able to. In fact I'm not sure I can handle typing and drinking this cup of tea - heaven forbid one of the boys should start to cry.
song: Your Time is Gonna Come • artist: Led Zeppelin
It's a Herculean task to get everyone into the car these days what with coats, hats, gloves, car seats, and fighting over who gets to push the button to open the mini van's electric sliding door. What used to take five minutes now takes fifteen, so we have to plan a half hour ahead just to drive five minutes down the road. Then there are the unexpected tie ups. For example, I was late picking C up from art class last Thursday, not because I underestimated how long it would take to get the twins into the car but because I didn't factor in H insisting on crawling to the mini van on his hands and feet. And why was he crawling around the driveway on all fours in February? Because he wasn't a two year old, he was really a cat - of course.
song: Everybody Wants to be a Cat • soundtrack: The Aristocats