Taco Night

Last night we went to a new friend’s house for dinner. The parents are very friendly and interesting, and they have three daughters. Our kids are all in love with one another, but it’s very Shakespeare-in-the-woods because none of it is reciprocal. Their 3 year old is starry eyed over Fergus; he is gaga for their 8 year old, who keeps asking where Cooper is. And so on.

They invited us over for “taco night,” which I fully intend to steal as an entertaining idea, if we ever start entertaining. Taco shells and ground beef, made elegant with the little bowls of fresh cilantro and jalapenos diced by our hostess. There was plenty of wine, the kids were having fun, everyone was fed and it was not from our kitchen– it should have been a Night Off for me.

Not quite. Our friends’ home, which we had only seen previously once (and without our kids with us), is the most perfectly decorated and least child-friendly home I have ever been in. Toys get very prominent real estate in our home- they are quite visible from the front door. I know that’s a no-no according to Architectural Digest, but I feel that since, in our home, we are outnumbered by our children, it would be folly to try to deny it.

This home, I kid you not, was the most perfectly decorated abode I have ever been in. You, too, would immediately want to move in and be this cool. Everything was lime and persimmon and modern; the problem was, it was also glass, and sharp, and ceramic, and expensive.

Our children surveyed the place upon our arrival. “Where are your toys?” Fergus asked, always one to cut to the chase.

“Come on up to our room!” his young hosts said. “We have lots of stuffed animals up there!”

Up the open-plan, railing-free staircase they went, Maddie struggling after them. I watched from the bottom of the steps, smiling, pretending I was following the conversation.

A few minutes later, I excused myself to check on the kids. I found them all in the girls’ room, a Lily Pulitzer paradise of pink and kelly green. Any child’s wonderland, except… no toys. The “lots of stuffed animals” turned out to be one, on each bed. However, they did have a large television, and all the kids were already deeply engrossed in some Nick tween thing I would never let my kids watch at home. Ohh kay. Maddie seemed happy, however, chewing on the bedspread fringe, and so I told Cooper, “Keep Maddie in here with you,” and returned to the adults downstairs.

A few minutes later, as I sipped my chardonnay, I felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck- you know, that mother Spidey sense? I turned and looked to the top of the stairs, where I saw Maddie, who lives in an apartment and does not know how to negotiate any staircase, let alone one without a railing, stepping confidently out into space like a very young (and female) Mr. Magoo.

Somehow, as mothers do, I made it to the top of the stairs in 1.5 seconds, and caught her as she stepped into my arms. “Hi, Mommy,” she crowed, as if she had known I’d be there to catch her.

And HERE is my point: where was my husband, this whole time? Still deep in Final Four conversation in the living room below, completely oblivious to the death-defying acts happening right above his head. Why is it that in these situations, it’s always the mom’s job to run around and save the kids from leaping to a certain leg fracture? Why is it only the mom who even NOTICES that such things are happening? Cocktails continued for another hour before tacos were served, and I had to save Maddie’s life another eleven times, from various jagged-edged and hazardous artwork. “I’ll take her for a few minutes,” David murmured offhandedly as he and our host wandered outside. Two minutes later, I look through the plate glass window to see Maggie one centimeter from the SWIMMING POOL, behind my dear husband’s turned back, while he was having a meaningful discussion about Villanova’s defensive strategy in that evening’s game against Duke.

And here’s the thing: he is quite bright. He knows he has a toddler next to him, and a swimming pool nearby. He has many much more complicated concepts well within grasp. And so I think he must do this on purpose, so I won’t LET him take a turn, so I will do all the child-chasing myself, and always sit next to the baby and/or crankiest child on the plane, or at a restaurant, or in church. So that no matter where we are, the children are always, for the most part, My Problem.

Is anyone else with me on this? Are our husbands playing us? Because those tacos were really good, and I’m still mad that Maddie’s visit to the powder room toilet meant I didn’t get to go back for seconds.

making memories

On vacation with the kids in Florida this week, and relearning the motherhood lesson that while Making Memories must be the priority of spending time away with one’s children, what those Memories consist of for my children may not be what I set out to create.

The Space Shuttle mission STS-119 took off 4 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes ago, as of this writing, and I was thrilled to tears to be on the beach in Cocoa Beach, about 15 miles away, to see (and hear) the grandeur of a space shuttle launch, perhaps one of the last in history, since the space shuttle program is due to be phased out over the next few years. I haven’t uploaded my photos yet, I’m lame that way, but it was a Bucket List experience, I assure you. Both of my boys love space, and I’d been talking it up to them all day. “You’ll tell your grandchildren about this!” I exhorted. “We are going to see the REAL space shuttle going up to SPACE with REAL ASTRONAUTS INSIDE!”

And yet, as we stood on the beach, with hundreds of others, watching the smoke trails reflect orange and pink in the sunset, watching what I was told was the clearest view on the clearest night that anyone on the beach could remember, my two boys were much more interested in rolling around in the sand. “Boys! Watch!! The rocket boosters are separating!!” I yelled, and they looked for a moment at the tiny balls of flame falling to the ocean, and then get distracted once more by their sand-throwing games. Maddie, in the sling, at least pointed to the sky a few times. “Yes, honey,” I said, glad to have a captive audience. “That’s the space shuttle, you’re never going to forget this.” Not.

The next day, I was at the beach with Fergus. “Want to dig a hole, Mommy?!” he said. Trying to match his enthusiasm, I dug with him, using our hands since I hadn’t thought to bring a shovel. “What’s this hole for, honey?” I finally asked, once it was big enough for him to stand in up to his waist. “All the ocean water is going to go in dis hole!” he declared. Then we sat together and waited for the waves to overtake the hole.

After a while, it started to dawn on me that the waves seemed to be getting farther away rather than closer. So I checked the tide schedule on the lifeguard’s chair, only to find that, indeed, the next time that the waves would fill our hole was about 18 hours away.

I broke the news to Fergus gently, expecting a meltdown. Instead, he jumped up, grabbed a few handfuls of dried up seaweed, and threw them in the hole. “Now we buwy dis tweasure!” he declared. “And den, somebody else will FIND de tweasure!” And we put all the sand back in the hole we had just dug, negating, at least in my mind, the entire point of the last half hour.

But that wasn’t how he saw it. Digging a hole, and then filling it back up, was his idea of a perfect afternoon. And if his trip to see the space shuttle launch was more memorable, in his eyes, for the two Shirley Temples he had at the restaurant beforehand, then so be it. I had set out to make memories with him, and while they weren’t what I expected, they were wonderful, just the same.

Fergus Facts

The kids and I were driving down the highway in our minivan, listening to our favorite CD, a mix created for Fergus’ birthday by his Aunt Mollie and Uncle Tim, each of us lost in our separate reverie.

Fergus loves music, and always listens very carefully, especially if The Beach Boys happen to be singing, and usually no talking is allowed as far as he is concerned. However, after one song he felt compelled to speak up.

FERGUS: Not evwybody.

MOMMY: What, Fergus?


MOMMY: What do you mean, not everybody?

FERGUS: Some old people are not.

MOMMY: (competely lost) Some old people aren’t what?

FERGUS: Suwfin’ USA.

MOMMY: Ohhhh.

FERGUS: Yeah. Some old people aren’t suwfin’ USA, because dey too OLD.

Brian Wilson, he’s got you there.

as we change… from old to really, really old

OK, somebody please tell me that they gave me an e-subscription to the As We Change catalog as a funny, funny joke. Please tell me that I am not, as deemed by the privacy-invaded details of my online wanderings, old enough, just yet, to be a member of their core demographic.

As We Change offers products for women in transition,” the website says, putting it gently, “helping you experience midlife in a whole new way.” Their product line includes “Tummy Tuck Jeans,” washable walking sneakers, and the No Headache Visor. Well, thanks, As We Change, but I am not old enough to wear visors with my beauty parlor ‘do, let alone old enough to complain that my constant visor wear, at the retirement development where I live, is giving me a HEADACHE.

No, what is giving me a headache, today, is that you sent me this email, and reminded me of my own encroaching mortality, and the Carol Wior Emerald Bay 3-piece Skirtini that I am going to have to start wearing one of these days, much sooner than I would like to think. Thanks for the ego boost, As We Change!

bouncin’ and behavin’

I love to hear from readers of this space, by the way, and today’s post has been suggested by a mother of two from New York City, who writes:

I would love if on your blog you could explore why its ok that stars wear what amount to wigs, basically, and no one thinks that’s weird. The following headline is on yahoo: “katie ditches her short ‘do for glamorously long tresses”. Um, huh? You can’t ditch short hair for long. U can wear a wig.

It may not be mother-related exactly, but I’m curious as to this phenomenon.

Thanks for writing! This is a curious phenom, you are right there. And I’m going to consider it mother-related after all, since Katie Holmes/Kate Cruise is shoved down our throats ad nauseam as a Symbol of Modern and Carefree Motherhood.

Regard this photo, if you will:

On the left is our Katie with short hair, and she’s been making it look good enough that I was seriously considering going there only this week. Only to have her show up, at some movie premiere last week, with hair that’s a foot longer. Which is– let’s be clear here–not hair, it is hair extensions; or, perhaps, as our reporter in the field is suggesting, an actual WIG.

Why isn’t it more interesting to report “KATIE HOLMES WEARS WIG!” than “Katie Holmes Sports New, Gorgeous Hair, Which She Grew Effortlessly and Overnight, Further Distancing Herself From Any Resemblance to An Actual Person”? Why does the entertainment reporting world go along with the idea that stars have the same hair-changing powers as aBarbie Fashion Fever Hair-Grow-n-Styling-Head Doll?

This blind eye of the gossip world has bothered me ever since Sarah Jessica Parker’s hair got long, straight, and blonde overnight. I saw her hairdresser interviewed on the Today show. “He is the world’s foremost wigmaker,” Meredith Vieira said, by way of introduction, “and also does the hair of stars like Sarah Jessica Parker.” “Who does NOT wear a wig,” SJP’s wigmaker hastened to add. Whoops.

Why can’t they admit that they ARE wearing fake hair? Wouldn’t that be grand, if wigs came back? My mother, in the early 70s, had a wig that exactly matched her short, dark, curly hair, for when she didn’t have time to fix it. What an idea! I would so wear a wig of my hairstyle that takes half an hour to create. I HATE doing my hair. I have “shitty Irish hair,” as a hairdresser once told me, neither straight nor curly, and if I leave it to its own devices, or go a single day without washing it, it’s just BAD. As I type this, my hair is drying on its own, and although I’m not going anywhere today except to pick up the kids from school, and so will not waste 20 minutes of child-free time blowdrying it, I will still have low self-esteem all day at how bad I, and my hair, look.

So I’m either going to cut it, or get a Kate Cruise to the middle of my back. You heard it here first- I’m bringing wiggy back.