Friday, August 31, 2007

unique (and it's okay to use that snarkily, if you wish) opportunity

Today my poor kitten who was mauled by the raccoon went back to the vet. He had developed a large seroma on the top of his head, which may be why he has been unable to open one eye (he opens his other eye a little bit and manages to see quite well through that slit). The poor baby had to be put under general anesthesia to get shaved, have his seroma drained, and get and a surgical drain installed. Next week he'll go back to have his drain removed. In the meantime, I have to continue medicating his eyes and giving him antibiotics and a painkiller.

Labor Day is traditionally a time to raise funds for medical treatment (remember the Jerry Lewis telethons? I saw that in person once when I happened to be in Las Vegas over Labor Day. In person, it seemed really dusty and boring, but yes, it was a very good cause. We soon drifted away from the telethon room and back to the blackjack tables, though).

Here at Drunken Housewife Industries we are hoping to raise some funds to help defray the kitten's large veterinary bills from his mauling. (Some of his care -- such as, thankfully, today's surgery-- is free to me, his foster mother, but I have to pay for his emergency treatments which occur after regular office hours, and I'm out over $400 to date). In the tradition of public radio (where I used to work as a young person. Indeed, back in the late 80's I could be heard live begging over the air for funds to pay for a new transmitter), I have exciting Donor Packages available. How to contribute: the easiest way is to send a Paypal contribution to, OR, more labor intensively, email for a mailing address to send checks or cash. Include a shipping address.

What's in it for you? Well, aside from the karma and good feelings about sponsoring a young animal caught in a crisis, you'll receive a Drunken Housewife Donor's Thank You Package. I'll give each package a theme, such as "For A Sot" or "High-brow" or "Lowlife in High Heels" or "Sober Husband Geek-style." These packages will contain such items as
- autographed photo of the Drunken Housewife in a silk evening gown, leading a naked man (NOT the Sober Husband) on a leash,
- original artwork by Iris and Lola,
- Linux or other geek-themed T-shirt,
- stuffed penguin imploring you to use Linux systems,
- trashy paperback thriller,
- high-minded hardback nonfiction or highly erudite fiction,
- vegetarian cookbook,
- assorted alternative, artsy comic books,
- lesbian porn mags from the Drunken Housewife's "bicurious" phase,
- forty or fifty year old collectible paperbacks (for a very generous donor, there could be even one of my treasured Richard Stark "Parker" paperbacks, which are very hard to come by indeed).
etc.., etc... Just like with public radio, the more you donate, the more you receive. Feel free to specify your own theme or leave it up to me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a special guest post: an expose of the strange world of ballet stage mothers!

Today at Drunken Housewife Industries we are happy to present a searing expose of the dark, twisted world of Ballet Moms. The Drunken Housewife herself briefly experienced that world, and quailed. The delighful Missy, current reigning holder of the Mrs. Drunken Housewife title, is made of sterner stuff and has stuck it out for over a decade of ballet parenting while maintaining her personal sanity. Thrill to her tales of psycho stage moms:

Sometimes when I take one of my daughters to class and we walk past the preschool moms with their adorable little dancers, so cute and sweet, I think, "Oh, those mothers just don't know what's ahead for them. It's too bad they are going to turn into balletmoms." Then I see one letting her toddler son bang his toy car on the window of the class room, another letting two more kids spill water all over the floor without cleaning it up, another one complaining because this class is clearly too easy for her daughter, while a third baby is howling and his mother is gabbing away, and I think: Too late.

Caroline's Mom is "Flake Mom." You go by your kid's name for the first two or three years of balletmom, until you earn the right to your own name. Flake Mom has the same first name as three other moms so she still gets called by her daughter's name, though.

Flake Mom, at Nutcracker auditions, laughs: "We missed the WHOLE first week of class! I didn't know we had class last week!"

Flake Mom used to call another balletmom regularly on holidays and such to ask if we had class. Like swallows returning to Capistrano, if it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Flake Mom was on the phone. Info about class dates comes to Flake Mom the same way it does to the rest of us, in the registration forms, posted in the studio, on the website, and in emails.

"What time is this thing over?" Some one else says an hour, and I say, "3:45, that's what the form said, didn't it?"

Flake Mom, laughs: "I never read those things!"

"Stage Mom" is also back this year. Two years ago Stage Mom's younger daughter (9 years old or so) was a Young Party Girl along with my younger daughter (11). I feel badly about Stage Mom because she's exuberantly friendly and always cheerful! and I can't stand her.

This summer Stage Mom's younger kid had jazz class with mine. The summer classes are more mixed in level, which can be a nasty surprise to some balletmoms, who then assume their child has been promoted up to so-and-so's level, and then the fall class schedules and arrive and reality returns. (Incidentally, the mixing levels has never once, ever, been to our benefit, but I'm not bitter about it).

"Tracy is SO THRILLED to be dancing with the same girls her sister Lacy danced with!"

"Oh. How nice for Tracy."

Stage Mom repeats this several times for the first three or four weeks of class (poor older sister Lacy). Tracy is photogenic and very cute and very talented. In fact, we regularly were told all about Tracy's talent as a gymnast and her awards or whatever.

Gymnasts and ice skaters often take ballet to help "develop grace" as their mothers tell us. Gymnastmoms and skatermoms always make sure everyone knows their daughter is "JUST TAKING BALLET FOR GRACE." We used to silently hate one gymnastmom who would say things loudly like "I can't believe the kids in this class can't do full splits! Lindsey's been doing that since she was TWO!" Oh, we were so thankful when Lindsey no longer needed grace and quit ballet.

Stage Mom's older daughter, Lacy, on the other hand, loves horses and wanted to ride (away from her younger sister Tracy). Finally Lacy kicked over the traces, revolted, and told her mother she didn't want to do dance anymore, ever. Stage Mom had to be dragged from the younger girls' dressing room where she was taking photos of Tracy, to come and help with Lacy's group.

"But Tracy needs me!"

"You signed up for Lacy's group, and there's no other mother there. And Tracy's group has plenty of other parents to help."

So Stage Mom walked through the dressing room with all the older girls saying, "Now y'all, this is Lacy's LAST recital! Let's all try and talk her into staying in dance!"

Lacy, alone in the corner, barely even looked up from her Nintendo DS.

During Nutcracker, when Tracy and my daughter Katie were both playing Young Party Girls, requiring tedious Victorian style ringlets and costumes of multiple pieces that had to be tacked down before each show, and checked meticulously afterwards, I glanced over from my work to see Stage Mom sitting on the floor in the dressing room.

Curling her own hair. For almost an hour.

On her way out she said cheerfully, "You're SO welcome! I love to help!" when the office manager thanked her for volunteering.

There is also "Granny" who accused me of cheating on the carpool schedule to take advantage of her, and "Time-Challenged Mom," who has been late every single time for for four freakin' years it's her turn to drive carpool. Or "Diva Mom," whose daughter was so incredibly gifted and beautiful as a dancer that it barely compensated for two of the most excessively controlling and detail obsessive parents in the world. Diva Dad once stood over me as I put framed posters in easels on a table, directing how they should line up. This is not a task that requires managerial supervision.

The two Latin American Moms are always talkative. One sighs and asks questions constantly about how my daughter and comparing answers to her daughter. "Does Mea-ghan....Because Ga-bri-ella...." This includes dance, school, menstrual cycles, and anything Gabriella is currently fighting with her mother over.

The other Latin American Mom just glares and glowers at the director and talks about how when she was in ballet in her country they use leather pointe shoes and leather pointe shoes are SO much better and why, why, why does the director not allow them here?

Last year she almost created a mini-revolt with Granny about the leather pointe shoes. Granny is Irish and always up for a rebellion.

"Crazymom" was legendary, though. Crazymom had a certain kind of Spartan warrior mentality about her daughters and dance. Once one came out tearfully from class with an injury from and without raising her eyes from her book Crazymom ordered her back in the class before the director noticed she was making a fuss over something like that.

Crazymom reluctantly put her time in volunteering, but they let off after she went off in a screaming fit at a group of girls for taking up too much time changing in the restroom stalls when she needed to get in. My daughter Megan happened actually to be using the facilities at the time of the nuclear meltdown, huddling in terror behind the pitiful protection of the metal door while Crazymom was screaming "You have to get over this modesty thing!"

Thus causing a nuclear reaction with at least two mothers who weren't in any hurry to see their fifth-graders get over any modesty thing.

After that, Crazymom went back to painting her toenails and reading her novel in the corner.

I heard later that Crazymom got hormone therapy for menopausal mood swings and her daughters both quit ballet, but sometimes we all still reminisce about the legendary Restroom Rant.

My daughter told me last night that in Tuesday's class, the girl I call "Pretty Girl" came out and was taking off her shoes when Pretty Girl's mom came over and said,"You weren't very good tonight. You need to be more graceful."

Then she patted her daughter's arm. "Otherwise, you won't make Nutcracker, and you want to make that, right?"

If I ever did that to either of my daughter, they would either say, "Shut the crap up, Mom!" or,in a very patronizing tone, "Mom, you need to go back and sit down, because you clearly don't know what you are talking about."

I stopped going so much to watch this fall, especially after my honor was impugned with the Carpool Cheating accusation. The girls are both getting older and it makes them nervous when I watch. Eventually as the dancers get older most parents just drop the girls off. They say they're "doin' the drop and drive this year."

Besides, I'm pretty sure that at least one of the other moms out there is making up names for me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


"I wish I were a bird, so I could poop wherever I want," said Lola wistfully. "A bluebird! I wish I were a bluebird."

update on the raccoon-mauled kitten

The baby is doing much better. Yesterday he batted at Iris Uber Alles's hair playfully and purred, and later he initated some mild horseplay with the other kittens. That was a breakthrough: feeling well enough to play again! His wounds are healing up nicely.

He keeps one of his eyes shut and the other open only a slit, but he is able to find his way around. I'm very happy with his quick healing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

breaking news

I just heard some spell-binding news: an acquaintance of mine, Paul Addis, set the Burning Man on fire and was arrested! Ha ha, this just makes my whole day. I cannot really explain why this amuses me so, but it does.

When I first started going to Burning Man, the ceremonial burning of the Man was not choreographed. We all just sat in a big circle and watched him burn. By the time I dropped out of attending, due to being pregnant with Iris (whose due date was right around the time of the Burning Man festival; I got some pressure to be the first to give birth at Burning Man, but it was not hard for me to decline that particular glory. I wished to celebrate that painful passage in a hygienic, air-conditioned hospital), the burning was a long, ornate ceremony, with approved fire dancers here and there and much pageantry. As a member of the audience, I found it all a bit too constrained and formal.

On the one hand, it's a hilarious prank bringing the festival back to its roots to burn the Man early. On the other hand, it was the destruction of a painstakingly built thing of beauty before its time.

My acquaintance, who is under arrest, is a long-time Burning Man aficionado. His mugshot is truly a work of art: I predict there will be an upswelling of support for him (and a defense fund) amongst the Burning Man crowd, but others who'll back the festival organizers in having him arrested. I used to be one of those organizers (I was general counsel for the festival for a couple of years), and I'm ever so glad not to have to deal with these issues any more. It's enough controversy for me mandating Iris and Lola's bedtimes.

Sidenote: my friend Joyce called me to tell me this had happened, and I could not hear enough. She signed off, telling me to be sure to tell the Sober Husband. I snorted. "He's gonna say, 'Who's Paul Addis?'" We both laughed (the Sober Husband and I have both been acquainted with Mr. Addis casually for over a decade, but the S. H. doesn't remember people well who aren't either (a) uber-geeks or (b) well stacked). Joyce said that immediately upon hearing this news, she had phoned her husband, Phil, who was satisfyingly enrapt at the news. "He's so much better at gossip," I said enviously.

Eventually the Sober Husband arrived home. "Paul Addis burnt down the Man!" I told him. He stared at me blankly. "Who's Paul Addis?"

"I should ask Joyce's permission to call Phil when these things happen," I said. "You're just not satisfying to talk about things with."

"Let me try again," he said. Rearranging his face in a truly horrifying manner, he said brightly, "Oh my God! Someone burnt down the Man??"

Update: you can contribute to pay my old friend Chris Radcliffe (I miss you, Radcliffe; I haven't seen you in aeons) back the bail money and contribute to Paul Addis's defense fund at

no time

Since the Sober Husband took his fabulous new job at Doggy-o, we see little of each other. He used to work at home several days a week, and we'd have a leisurely cup of coffee over the papers together, and often I'd make a nice lunch for us all. But now, he's gone from before I get up until 7:00 or later at night, and he also works at home whenever the children permit. When we are together, we've been intermittently squabbling about the kittens and housework (the children and I had a virus last week, and the house went to hell in a handbasket. I dragged my feverish carcass around to clean the litterboxes regularly, but that was about it).

Then last night Lola found an old batch of pictures from when the husband and I were first dating. We both got quite sentimental (me over my lost looks as well as over how adorable we looked when we were first together. We looked so young then!) This morning, the husband woke me up to say goodbye and said, "I don't get to see you enough." That wasn't as sad, though, as what Lola said. At breakfast, Lola pored over a book about the Simpsons and pointed out a picture of Homer and Marge kissing. "You never kiss any more because Daddy is only for Doggy-o." Oh, the wisdom of a four year-old.

the lazy days of summer are over

Although it's not Labor Day yet, yesterday was my personal End Of Summer. It was Lola's first day of pre-k, and my first day of Extreme Parental Busy-ness.

In the morning, my friend Joyce dropped off her two year-old, the Baby Violet. I owe Joyce a bunch of babysitting favors, so I had jumped at the chance to help her out while she was at some meetings. (But whether I'm evening up the balance of trade is debatable, since today I'm already leaving Iris Uber Alles with her for the afternoon. Iris is old enough, a seasoned eight, that she's not going to choke on any coins and doesn't need help with her pottying habits, but she CAN drive you insane with her constant yammering. "Do you believe in Satan? What's your favorite 'Simpsons' episode? On 'King of the Hill', do you think Peggy is like Marge? Where did you live outside the country? Did I live outside the country? Is Jesus God?" Just yesterday I fobbed her off on the local Comic Book Guy when she was hounding me as to why Hell Kid has horns and Hell Boy Jr. does not. "See that guy behind the register? He knows much more than Mommy does. Go ask him").

I fed the children breakfast, and since Lola's breakfast included a piece of Iris Uber Alles's birthday sour cream fudge cake, the Baby Violet decided to join in. This went well until Violet got over-excited gesturing and tipped over backwards. A good sport, she soon calmed down and got back to finishing her cake.

After breakfast, it was time for my shower and for everyone to get ready to go to Lola's swimming lesson. I had them all assembled at the door, fumbling for footwear, when the Baby Violet announced thoughtfully, "I have poopy diaper." It was just like old times. Just as I was ready to leave to take Iris Uber Alles to any activity, baby/toddler Lola always befouled herself at the last minute. After cleaning up Violet and washing my hands, I loaded the children into the car, but Lola freaked out that Violet was using HER carseat. Lola cried hysterically for about ten miles. Needless to say we were quite late to the thirty-minute swimming lesson, but I felt just getting there at all was victory enough. We would have been later, as Lola observed, if I hadn't told Iris and Lola to run ahead. (We all crossed the street together holding hands, but then I bade Iris and Lola to sprint ahead down the block and go in together, with Iris escorting Lola, who was already wearing her bathing suit, to the pool. I had a clear view of them as they ran down the block).

Then it was time to get Lola to pre-k. I had packed snacks for the car, and I had to break it to Lola that we had no time to stop at Starbuck's. Earlier I had put Iris in charge of helping Violet, and she did a wonderful job, including scolding Lola fiercely for making faces at the Baby Violet. (The Baby Violet's feelings weren't hurt, and indeed the Baby V. reportedly made faces right back at Lola, which, hypocritically enough, offended Lola, who complained to me). We got to pre-k just on time, but I had to double-park (the shame, the shame). Baby Violet behaved very well, but was completely puzzled by why we left Lola somewhere. "Where Lola? Where Lola?" she asked over and over again.

Iris and I delivered Violet to her mother, who was much more visibly excited at this reunion than the blase Violet. We hung out for an hour, and then we went to the pet supply store and the grocery store. Iris was dragging, having developed blisters from wearing her new birthday present shoes all day (these are extremely impractical strappy sandals, with a clear heel and a big rhinestoned flower on the toe strap, a beloved gift from a grandmother. Who knew they made stripper heels for eight year-olds?). Then it was time to pick up Lola from her big first day of pre-k. Tired and cranky, Lola refused to go into detail. "It was almost good." She reportedly made one friend, but declined to go into detail about this friend.

At home, Lola and Iris squabbled until Iris refused to be in the same room with her sister. "I need a break!" "You're telling me," I thought to myself. Around 7:00, I instructed Iris to call her father at work and tell him we needed him at home. We were all of us exhausted and cranky. It was definitely the end of our relaxing summer.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

wan' cake?

I just explained, in possibly too much painstaking detail, how to make the world's most delightful chocolate cake over at my food blog, so if you're in a cake mood, wander on over.

Last week I actually made two cakes, as it was both the Sober Husband and Iris Uber Alles's birthdays. For the Sober Husband, I made a very fancy cake I'd been longing to try for ages. It was a lemon bundt cake with caramel, which took over 4 hours to make. The cake had a limoncello syrup brushed over it when it was fresh out of the pan, and then a layer of caramel was applied to create a crisp shell. I actually burnt the hell out of my left hand on the caramel and had to finish the cake -- and indeed the entire festive meal -- clutching an icebag in my left hand. The cake was then served with whipped cream made with fresh lime juice. It was good, but honestly I'm not going to bother to make it again. It wasn't good enough to justify all those hours of work, although perhaps my outlook is flavored by the fact that my left index finger still hurts.

For Iris's birthday, I gave her my big Cook's Illustrated baking book and let her pick the cake she wanted. She chose a sour cream fudge cake, which Lola simply adores. I don't think this recipe is half as good as the easier cake recipe I posted at Cooking with the Drunken Housewife, but Lola is in heaven eating this cake.

Anyhow, we're suffering from a surfeit of cake here. I threatened to compost the remains of the Sober Husband's cake to make space for Iris's cake, but the Husband was appalled. He's still enjoying that cake and takes the position that one can not have too much cake about the house. Bon appetit, y'all!

Friday, August 24, 2007

portrait of strength

I'm amazed by the recovery my little orange tabby foster kitten is making after being attacked by the raccoon. This morning he climbed the stairs by himself, and tonight he has been purring and rubbing his poor injured head against me.This picture shows him AFTER the swelling has gone down; he looked so terrible yesterday that the children were unable to bring themselves to look at him (and indeed it was pretty hard for me to administer his eye medicine; I didn't want to touch the top of his head, where his poor skull has a little crack, but I needed to hold his head still). (I would never traumatize y'all by showing you something like what he looked like at his worst; that was the stuff of nightmares. I was the only one in the family willing to touch the poor, gory baby).

The ordeal seems to have bonded him to me; he fusses sometimes until he finds me, and he purrs ecstatically (although the poor mite must still have a horrendous headache; I have a painkiller for him, but I can only give it to him once a day). I really admire this little animal's proud spirit and the warmth of his personality. He's a pretty amazing little cat.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

it's a hard world for the frail

Last night I was sewing while I kept Lola company, who had turned the sound up very loud on "The Simpsons." I had a freshly made Manhattan by my side. The Sober Husband, who had come home from a company party at which he had been made to play beer pong, shouted, "Why aren't you checking on that kitten?"

"I can't hear anything!"

"There's a kitten in distress!"

I tore downstairs after him. "Come out here! Come out here!" he shouted at me from the backyard. I fumbled for the flashlight I keep near the door, but he already had it outside. The neighborhood raccoon had come in through the cat door and dragged our tiny orange foster kitten back out. The Sober Husband scared the raccoon off, but he wasn't willing to touch the kitten, who was gushing blood and crying pathetically.

I grabbed the kitten. At first sight, it looked like the kitten had lost both eyes and a lot of blood. "Get me a towel!" I shouted. I carried the kitten inside; the husband got me a towel. "Hold the kitten! I've got to put pants on!" (I had been lounging about in a t-shirt and underwear). I had blood all over me, but I didn't take time to clean it up. While I was pulling pants on, I told Lola to get her shoes on. She refused. I had no time to get into a war of wills with stubborn Lola, so I ran downstairs. I grabbed the phone book with the address of the veterinary night hospital, put the crying kitten into a carrier because Iris was too freaked out by the blood to hold him, and ran off with Iris. We didn't take the time to get books or sewing or anything.

It was 11:00 when we got to the hospital. I parked in front of a fire hydrant and we ran in with the kitten, with no jackets. I was glad I hadn't had my cocktail, since the kitten had lost so much blood that it would have been dangerous to wait for a cab. The veterinary hospital was crowded with a variety of dogs and a very sad waif with her pet rat. I pushed past the other pet owners. "This animal was just attacked by a raccoon!" They took the kitten back immediately. Iris and I went back to the car, parked it legally, put on our jackets (which weren't warm enough for the middle of the night), and went back to settle down in the waiting room.

We were in the waiting room for two hours, tired, cold, and bored. But it is truly an ill wind which blows no one any good, and the kitten's trauma gave Iris the long-desired chance to watch an entire episode of "South Park." I have forbidden the Sober Husband to show "South Park" to Iris, which has been an ongoing source of strife. "But Cartman is one of the great comedic inventions of all time," he has argued time after time. "I just want to share him with Iris."

"NO ONE BUT YOU thinks it is appropriate to watch "South Park" with a little child!" I've said again and again. "Do you want her to go to school and call people 'unclefucker'??"

But in the veterinary waiting room, the television showed "South Park", and Iris hung on every word. "I am so lucky," she said reverently.

Finally we were called in to see our kitten. It turns out that although his eyelids were lacerated, his eyes were still intact. He had gone into shock and had a fractured skull and hematoma. The little tabby was admitted to the hospital for the night, but I had to come back and get him before 8:00 AM, when the night clinic closed.

We got home around 1:00 AM. Unbelievably Lola and the Sober Husband were up waiting for us. Lola was happy to hear the kitten wasn't dead, but the husband was angry that I'd put a $200 deposit down at the clinic. He went off to sleep in a separate room.

I slept less than three hours. Iris couldn't sleep either, and we went together to pick up the kitten. At the clinic, we were happy to see the kitten had improved after getting painkillers, IV fluids, and spending the night in an incubator with oxygen and heat. I paid another $200, and we took the kitten home. He was visibly happy to be reunited with his littermates.

In the afternoon, we took our little fellow to the shelter's staff vet, who gave us two antibiotics, medicine for the kitten's wounded eyes, and painkillers to dole out to the little mite. We were all happy to see the kitten eat a little Trader Joe's tuna ("I buy this because it's the smelliest tuna there is," the vet explained). It looks as though he will survive his ordeal, but he'll need special care during his convalescence.

I'm going to have to suck up to the Sober Husband to make up for this budget-breaking emergency. Sigh. My rescue is a nonprofit, and I can get free veterinary care for my foster kittens IF I get it during business hours from the shelter's vet. If I have an emergency off-hours, I'm on my own financially. (Should any readers wish to contribute to the veterinary bills, their contribution would be gladly welcomed. Email me at

We felt we had learned the fate of the poor missing kitten from our prior litter: eaten by the raccoon, who we always thought was a jovial and pleasant animal. But then this evening, as I was making dinner for the children, I looked out the window and saw a large redtailed hawk perched on the back fence. Cat-eating raccoons and redtailed hawks on the property: the kittens are under siege. It's a hard world for a tiny fluffball that weighs less than a pound.

heaven is a cruel place

Iris Uber Alles (who turns 8 tomorrow!) and four year-old Lola have been playing heaven lately.

"I'm going to have a fashion show," said Lola happily.

"There's no fashion show in heaven!" said Iris sternly.

"Well, there could be a fashion show."

"No! Lola, Jesus is going to be mad at you."

"I want a fashion show," said Lola stubbornly.

""LOLA, Jesus is going to hate you! He's going to hit you if you have a fashion show."

more beautiful than a vacuum cleaner

"I'm a rock star, and I have five babies! But I'm still a rock star. I'm not gay. I met a beautiful girl, and she asked me to marry her, and then before I could marry her, I met a handsome boy, and he asked me to marry him. So I said yes to the boy and no to the girl. I had to tell the girl. My husband is so handsome! He is more beautiful than a vacuum cleaner or animals. We own a zoo! And I am a rock star."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

like old home week

Next week Lola will start pre-k. She's going to a new preschool for this, the same preschool Iris Uber Alles attended. Lola herself is puffed up with pride over this and has been informing the world (including disinterested strangers), "I'm in pre-k!" She'll spend four hours a day at her new school, most of which will be playing freely indoors or out. I'll be there at least one day a week, working my assigned shift.

Last night I said to myself, "It all begins again" as I headed off to a three hour evening meeting. The two co-op preschools we've been a part of are very, very different, and one of the biggest, glaring differences is that at Lola's new school, there are A Lot Of Meetings. Parents must attend at least two night meetings a month, while at Lola's old school, we could go several months without a single meeting. Last night's was the most annoying in many ways, because it was an orientation for first-time parents. I am not a first-time co-op parent. This is year six of toiling in the co-op preschools for me. I'm past seasoned and into overcooked and oversalted by now. It's ridiculous for me to be required to spend three hours listening to someone explain how It Is Deathly Vital That You Be On Time for Your Workday, and, unlike six years ago, I'm not wound up about potty training my child.

My entire goal for the evening was to wangle a seat on the single couch. The evening passes so much more pleasantly if one is not perched on a tiny preschool wooden chair. As I strode quickly towards the couch, I was so happily surprised to see two returning families, delightful European families. We had all been there six years before together, and we'd served on the same committee together and had our children in the same room for years. The husbands gallantly yielded the good seating. "Look at us, we're like princesses," one wife said, as we veteran mommies relaxed on the couch.

At the midpoint of the evening, the no-nonsense vice president said that at the break, we needed to sign up for our committees. Immediately the princesses of the couch tensed up: There were about sixty people on little wooden chairs between us and those pieces of paper. "You need to push in there," hissed one to her husband. "Don't stand in my way," I said to that same husband. It was just as well I didn't have my husband for this; he's far too polite and sees the humor in these situations too much, rendering him ineffective. The year I let him go to the meeting alone where the sign-ups were out, he hung back and called me on his celphone to inform me that there were only two choices left, each a horrible, hateful choice. That's what you get when you send a Sober Husband to do a Drunken Housewife's work.

One of the husbands got up to start making his way over, and the vice president, with an edge in her voice, told him to sit back down. We got more tense. I put my sewing down. At the break, we were off. "Excuse me, excuse me," I pushed among the poor, overwhelmed new parents. One woman said to no one in particular, "Why are they racing to get to the table?" "As you'll know for next year, this one moment will determine your happiness for the entire year," I said. I wriggled in and managed a spot on a happy slacker committee, my old committee from the happier days of the past. Equipment! Feeding fish and mending broken toys! So much less stressful than fundraising or event planning.

Once that was done, we were free to mingle. I had a lovely chat with a woman I'd happily spotted in the sea of little wooden chairs. Our life stories are similar: back in the nineties, we were hotties roaming the Burning Man playa in skimpy clothes, with a trail of broken hearts in our wake. Now we are older and heavier, wearing much more concealing clothing, with husbands we picked from the playa throng and little children. It turns out that we've both taken up sewing. She has a serger, though, the hussy. (I want a serger and an embroidery machine, dammit). We're going to get together and sew.

I asked the vice president if my husband truly had to attend an orientation as well, given that he'd spent six years laboring in the preschool mines and had been to various orientations before. "Everyone has to go to orientation," she said with no humor. "Look over there at Maria, she TAUGHT pre-k here, and she has to go to orientation." This struck me as patently ridiculous. Why be proud of wasting the time of Maria (who used to teach Iris Uber Alles's preschool room and was greatly loved by all)? (Let the record reflect that the extremely patient and good-natured Maria had no complaints herself and was as cheerful and warm as ever, truly a woman of a superior nature to your old Drunken Housewife).

At home, I filled the husband in. "The main thing is they outlawed alcohol." In the old days, we used to bring bottles to share to our evening meetings and work parties. (The Europeans and the Drunken Housewife all murmured disapprovingly when the new, abstemious policy was announced. "We used to have wine," one European mother said mournfully). "And you're going to have to do an orientation, too."

I pity the vice president who must orient the Sober Husband; the man has a low tolerance for being made to sit in meetings. My old playa acquaintance is much better suited for co-op life in that regard. "As a civil servant, I have acquired a very high tolerance for meetings," she said perkily.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

when we amuse others

We were waiting to order bagels this morning, and Iris Uber Alles asked me, "Mom, when you were an attorney, were you ever on the news?" (Seven year-old Iris Uber Alles has taken up watching the McNeil-Lehrer hour, much to her little sister Lola's disgust. "I can't believe it; it's so BORING!" shouts Lola).

"No," I answered honestly (although a brief I helped write was quoted in many newspapers, I knew Iris only wanted to hear about television appearances). "I was on the news when I was a lawyer, but not for being a lawyer. I was on the news for doing wildlife rehabilitation and for being at Burning Man."

A middle-aged woman waiting for her bagel let out a big snort of laughter and turned around and stared at me. The children were a bit nonplussed at her reaction. After all, Mommy was just answering a question.


The Sober Husband has been at his new job for several weeks, and he's still happy as a clam at high tide. The only criticism that has been levelled at him to date came from his new company's founder. "We need to do something about your cubicle," said the founder, as he gazed around at the completely blank walls and the lack of personal effects. The Sober Husband had failed to bring in any trinkets or toys, while the other employees all have decorated their cubicles. In his own defense, the Sober Husband said on the spot, "I have a whole house at home for that kind of thing", but that didn't stop him from devoting a large portion of the weekend to going through his things and putting together a box of crap, err, treasures, to decorate his cubicle.

Today he reports that another colleague stopped by his cubicle and poked through the Sober Husband's gewgaws. "What's all this?" The Sober Huband explained about the founder's remarks, and the coworker instantly got it. "Ah, this is your seventeen pieces of flair." Precisely. (Note: if this makes no sense to you, rent the delightful comedy "Office Space").

It's been a long time since I had an office, and I don't remember having much "flair" on display. I had a little stuffed lion on top of my monitor and a small photo of the Sober Husband when we were dating, and I used to hang a big watercolor on the wall which I bought for myself when I graduated from law school (it's currently hanging in my kitchen, along with my framed diplomas. My kitchen is the closest I have to an office). When I worked at a large law firm, I wasn't into having executive desk toys or special paperweights or anything of the sort. I did, however, crave having an office pet. In particular, I used to wish I could have a pet rat at the office. I knew better than to attempt having one as a mere junior associate. If I worked at the Sober Husband's hip start-up, I'd agitate for an office rodent.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Four year-old Lola asked her speech therapist today, "Do you have a boss?"

"That is a very good question," said Jill the therapist. "No, I don't. I have my own business."

Excitedly Lola said, "I have my own business, too! Being pretty!"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

secrets that should best be left unshared

From ""Sex Secrets of an American Geisha" by Py Kim Conant:
Create a shrine to his manhood. Your man will be very pleased when you create a shrine to him in your bedroom. He’ll know how much his sexuality inspires you when you devote some space in your bedroom exclusively to his maleness. Your shrine may contain a naked framed photo of him or one of the two of you, small notes and poems you have written for him, incense, candles and other personal items that reflect your relationship. You may change the elements that make up the shrine from time to time, always pointing out to your man what is new.
If I were to follow this advice, I know the person most interested in the shrine to the Sober Husband's manhood would be seven year-old Iris Uber Alles. She would be constantly cross-examining me over each object and monitoring any additions or deletions. And a nude photo? Four year-old Lola would shriek, "I SEE A PENIS!" and would doubtlessly confide artlessly in the world at large, "I have a picture of my daddy's penis!" (because of course everything in the house not nailed down or previously claimed by Iris belongs to Lola).

Beyond the Oedipal issues, I think it's outright creepy to worship a specific man's "maleness." There are plenty of sacred lingams about in India, but those are more generic. Appreciate, yes; make good use of, certainly; but worship, no.

I myself would be frankly creeped out if my husband were to create a shrine to my sexuality and perhaps burn a candle there on days when he especially wished to get laid. I should be worshiped indeed, no question about that, but in a more subtle manner which doesn't traumatize the children or raise questions of either heresy or mental stability.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


"I dreamed I was wearing a pair of leather shoes," said seven year-old Iris Uber Alles.

"I dreamed I had a GIANT REMOTE, a BIG REMOTE, and I used it on Iris!" said four year-old Lola excitedly. "And you'll be mad if I tell you what happened!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

the Drunken Housewife: one of the rudest women on earth????

As a devotee of Miss Manners (who attended elementary school with my mother-in-law, but I gather they were not fond of one another; I have a class photo showing Miss Manners smiling at the camera demurely, as good as gold, while my future mother-in-law looked about to bolt away), I like to read etiquette columns and discussions. I'm not going to claim, though, that I have perfect manners. Once someone scathingly said to me, "You do that Miss Manners shit about 95% of the time", going on to vividly describe the remaining five percent in a way which time has mercifully obscured from my memory. But! Despite my studies of the world of polite protocol, I had no idea of how incredibly rude I am, sinning against etiquette on a grand scale.

What is my unforgivable crime against Western civilization, committed on a regular basis? Brace yerselves: I invite people over to dinner, and I serve them a vegetarian meal, even though they are usually not vegetarians themselves. I'll understand if you faint dead away at the mere contemplation of this unholy action.

If you peruse etiquette discussion boards, you'll find that there is a lot of hatred and anger directed towards vegetarians. Mass opinion holds that vegetarians are a selfish lot, demanding rudely that their hosts provide meat-free foods for them, which is unbearably difficult for the poor, beleaguered hostesses of the world, and then when these hellish vegetarians begrudgingly return the hospitality, they selfishly refuse to buy and serve meat for their guests. How dare they????

I've held a lot of dinner parties over the years, and in general, when someone leaves, they usually say, "God, that was so great, Carole, thank you so much." It turns out they're a pack of liars. Secretly they are suffering from indigestion at best, dangerous health conditions at worst. As I have recently learned, vegetarian hostesses should inform their guests ahead of time that they will selfishly not be serving any meat, because many people become "dangerously imbalanced" if they don't get a constant flow of meat into their flesh-eating maws. My God, who knew every time I opened up a bottle of Prosecco and set out some h'ors d'oeuvres that I was actually risking my friends' health??

As I pause to solemnly reflect upon my evil, evil ways, I remember the most ambitious dinner party I ever held, a tapas feast. This was actually sold (and many foolish, foolish people bid upon it) at a preschool auction, and some friends of mine I love bought it and invited two other couples to join them. I worked hard for days in advance, and I enlisted another father from our preschool to be my waiter. The Sober Husband was drafted as a sous chef, but he kept drifting off to the garden to smoke and drink with one of the guests (I actually called him on his celphone once to summon him back to the kitchen. We vegetarians are a particularly cruel race. Never forget: Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian!!)

The guests were greeted at the door by my assistant, who wore a snappy suit for the occasion, and presented with glasses of cava (Spanish sparkling wine). They were then seated casually in the living room, and served the following there:

First courses, accompanied by garrapinado (a sort of white sangria)

manchego cheese with tapenade
marinated potatoes

The next courses came accompanied by traditional red sangria:

tortilla a la espanola
two kinds of tostadas: one with a smoky spread (incorporating vegetarian sausage, will the horrors never end) and one with romesco sauce

These were trickled out sequentially, so the guests could nibble as they talked and drank. Towards the end of this part of the evening, I forced my assistant (who felt it was a bad idea) to serve the guests each a foster kitten for the evening. This was actually the hit of the night, as there were enough kittens for each dinner guest to cuddle one, and after the bonhomie from several courses of tapas and several glasses of sangria, the guests were loosened up enough to truly appreciate kitten antics.

By the time the guests had been here for about an hour and a half, it was time to transition into the dining room. I had my assistants help them carry their glasses.

The transitional course, served at table: white gazpacho (with peeled grapes as a garnish)

Next, served all at once at the table, along with red and white Spanish wines:

cauliflower with manchego and almond sauce (a time-consuming dish to prepare which is one of my favorite foods of all time)
ensalada with salsa xato
vegetarian paella (I used the occasion as an excuse to finally buy a proper paella pan)

And then, the digestifs and coffee, followed by lemons filled with pudding. (These had to be prepared over a day in advance and chilled).

My friend who bought the meal brought me a huge bouquet of flowers the next day in thanks. As far as I know, no guests were sent into sudden health crises as the result of having missed meat. I can't imagine, with the quantities they ate and drank, that any of them ate any flesh later at home.

Now those were truly the victims of the greatest torture, being confined in my home for many hours and served many foods. Other sufferers might only get desserts (I do a lovely tiramisu) and a glass or two of wine. But think of the true victims of my kitchen of horrors: a husband and two children, served vegetarian meals day in and day out FOR YEARS. Shudder. That is my confession, dear readers, my terrible, terrible confession. I hope you can find it in your heart to accept me as I am, but know that I repenteth not and amendeth not my evil, evil ways.

Monday, August 13, 2007

well, talk about observant

As I drove home today, I noticed a stop sign had been installed at the end of my block. It was always a dangerous intersection, where you can't see oncoming traffic, and now it's a dangerous intersection with stop signs on my street, but not the intersecting street. The only thing which stops this intersection from hosting regular bloodbaths is that we get very little traffic up here in this corner of the city.

"When did they put stop signs here? I never noticed them before," I observed.

"At least a month ago!" Iris said snappily.

"That long?" I stared critically at the signs; one of them had graffitti already.

"Maybe back in June." Iris was positive.

I usually drive the other way on our block... and I always stopped, even with no stop sign, because to drive through that blind intersection without stopping for a little look-see would be the act of someone either much more arrogant than me or more suicidal.. but still, only a particularly unobservant idiot would have failed to notice the installation of a stop sign on her very own block. Sigh. Lola once accused the Sober Husband of "dumbening every day"; I think that I am.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

doctrines we have known and not loved

I took some psychology classes in college, and I couldn't believe the absurdity of much of it, Freud in particular. (Penis envy, what a larf! I do think it would be lovely to pee standing up with out having to squat and worry about peeing on my shoes, but that's the end of it. I can remember seeing my first penis as a child, and rather than becoming consumed with envy, I recoiled with disgust at the wormy, snakelike object. "Eww!" My own body seemed so much superior and tidy).

Every now and then I am amazed by people who accept psychological theory as gospel. (I should clarify that I'm not claiming all psychology is ridiculous; I certainly do not mean to disparage "talk therapy" or group therapy, which obviously help so many people. I'm just dissing the more outre beliefs).

As an urban mommy, I'm certainly exposed to so many people who speak the word "Montessori" with such reverence, but after I read Dr. Maria Montessori's book, "The Montessori Method", I was not enthralled. My theory is there would not be such a fetish for Montessori schools and methods if the founder had been named Lipschitz or Snodgrass. Montessori, oh how it trips off the tongue.

Dr. Montessori's ideas did splendidly with her charges, poor orphans in wartorn Italy, but in my opinion, some of these ideas don't translate well to the modern day. (N.B.: I'm sure there are wonderful Montessori schools with delightful teachers where the children revel; my point is just that some of her ideas strike me as wacky and I find it annoying that people speak her name in such reverence while often being unacquainted with the actual philosophy). For example, Dr. Montessori felt that the best way to teach children about measuring was to weigh them every single day and have them record their weights on charts to be posted publicly. I'm terrified by the idea of my daughters developing an eating disorder, and the idea of getting a child so focused on her weight disturbs me (I wonder if anyone actually follows this stricture of Dr. Montessori's nowadays. A lot of Montessori schools vie for authenticity and for being most in the original spirit, so perhaps some do).

Constantly weighing children in a public way seems wrongheaded, but not wacky like some psychiatric concepts. The Sober Husband's father was a Freudian psychiatrist, and he had at least one extremely wacky idea (his most famous work involved giving LSD to dying people, which seemed to both cheer them up and effectively prepare them for death, and you won't find me dissing that). The idea the SH's husband had which I will diss is that there would be no sibling rivalry if everyone knew their place in the family. The father was the final authority and most important member, and his word was law. Next came the Eldest Son (the Sober Husband won this roll of the genetic dice, lucky for him). When the father wasn't about, the Eldest Son/Sober Husband was the next authority figure. The big loser in all of this was my brother-in-law, just a year younger than the Sober Husband. In any disagreement, big or little, the parents always automatically took the Sober Husband's side. "He's your older brother; you have to do as he says", they would say to my poor brother-in-law (as a youngest child, I automatically feel the pain of my poor brother-in-law). My deceased father-in-law felt that this would preclude any sibling rivalry, and my mother-in-law went along with it. It never bothered her to constantly quash my brother-in-law, but it did bother her once she had her first daughter, who as a girl was automatically a lower class than her brothers. Of course, far from quashing sibling rivalry, it gave my poor brother-in-law a lot of legitimate room for resentment of his older brother.

I asked my mother-in-law about all of this once, and she didn't have much to say. "He said it was Freudian, so I accepted it, but later I read Freud, and I didn't see it in there." My husband, the golden Eldest Son, felt it was all gravy for him, but as a parent, he would never impose this system on our children.

This weekend I read a fascinating memoir, Stephen Eliot's "Not the Thing I Was", which retells Eliot's childhood locked up at famed Freudian Bruno Bettelheim's Orthogenic School, a sort of asylum for insane children based at the University of Chicago. This book was fascinating in many ways. Like the author, I do not wish to dismiss Dr. Bettelheim's work as a whole, he obviously helped a lot of people, BUT some of his ideas were obviously crazy but nonetheless were treated as gospel by his staff and devotees. The one which stands out the most as insane is Dr. B's rule outlawing deodorant. Dr. B. felt that giving his adolescent charges permission to use deodorant would symbolize that his staff felt his young patients smelled bad, and therefore because it was important for the staff to be loving and accepting, they had to forbid deodorants. The author went to some trouble as a 17 year-old boy to smuggle in and hide a contraband deodorant when he was granted permission to leave the asylum to attend high school.

This really seems to say it all. There is a reality, which is that hormonal teenagers sweat and have a natural tendency to smell bad, but that reality has to be ignored for the sake of theory. Hold your nose and keep parroting doctrine!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

mad for power, mad like a cow

I asked four year-old Lola today, "If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?" I was expecting to hear about princesses, but the answer was, with no hesitation, "You! I would be you, Mommy, because I like you so much." (The child was born to shmooze).

Lola continued on: "And then you would be ME." She expressed some quiet happiness at the thought of being in charge of me.

Later, Lola got to exercise some authority when seven year-old Iris suddenly told her to throw their father out of the room. The Sober Husband was in mid-sentence when the order was issued, and Lola immediately assumed a bulldozer like stance and pushed her father out the door. Iris went back to thumbing through her new Simpsons comic without saying anything else. I was initially speechless, and then Iris explained. "She's my security guard! She's the security!" (The husband just went back to work on his computer without complaint).

Evidently I'm popular today, as no one invoked the security four year-old to push me around. I should be, as I bought them cute plush microbes with googly eyes. Lola picked a representation of the mad cow prion, Iris, after much hesitation, got a white blood cell (she came close to getting flesh eating fasciitis), and I got myself a plague bacteria and a giardia (as shown in the picture). Oh, how I love these educational toys. We saw them days ago and at that point I resisted getting any, but we couldn't get them out of our minds, and as the children had been good lately, I took them back to get bugs today. (From the educational tags, you can learn a lot about these microbes, including that they're available online at]. Lola likes to pretend her mad cow prion is eating our brains, and Iris thinks her white blood cell makes a lovely security object.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

you need this

I treated myself to a boa made by my friend M (seen in the picture modeling her work) and her talented boyfriend Jovino, who sell their work under the name of Bunnywarez, and I'm just in love with it. I want to wear it every day. Mine is black and white, snuggly but elegant.

I wish M had been making these back in the late 80's and early 90's, when I used to run around in cute dresses all the time. Not only would I have been styling, but I could have used the secret stash pockets so cunningly designed into the boa for my credit card, cash, flask, etc... (I was brutally mugged at age 22, and for about a decade after that I was quite fearful about carrying unconcealed valuables. I used to affect a punkish leather wristband with a hidden cash compartment, but the boa would have been a better solution. It's amazing how well concealed and unobtrusive these pockets are; why, even I can only find one of the two in my own boa).

In the past I wore a black and silver feather boa from time to time, which suited me well (apart from the inevitable vegetarian guilt)but had the terrible habit of dropping feathers. Lord only knows how many feathers I've left in my wake. The children took my feather boa without permission and somehow tied it into an insoluble knot, the little demons. They have been forbidden so far to wear my new, non-feather boa, except that I did ask Iris Uber Alles to model it once for a friend when my hands were unclean from cooking, but I kept my eagle eye upon her.

Now once again I have a wonderful boa, and now I'm in need of occasions upon which to be fabulous (sadly I am not attending Burning Man this year). Pick up a boa for yourself or for the most fabulous person in your life!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

zen koans from Iris Uber Alles

"If someone wrote a word on a cake, could you smell it and tell what the word was?"

"Can pudding make a sound?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

annoying best-selling fiction and amazing semi-obscure stuff

My mother gave me a Jodi Picoult novel, which was timely enough as I keep hearing about Ms. Picoult's works. I was sucked into "Vanishing Acts" immediately, but now by page 156 I'm thoroughly annoyed and ready to quit. Ms. Picoult writes beautifully in the manner of a graduate student in creative writing, but she has no sense of dialogue. Her shtick, in this book at least (I must give her the credit to assume her other works may be different) seems to be to set up an interesting situation which already occurred, and then write in her different character's voices to tell us all what they think about what already happened. There isn't really much action, just people thinking about stuff that already happened, and they all sound alike and fake, like they all happen to be taking the same creative writing workshop. Be they alcoholic litigators, old men, or young mothers, they all sit around mulling things over with the same sorts of beautiful cliches.

Here's just one example of how Ms. Picoult annoys me to death: Eric, our recovering alcoholic lawyer, is representing his fiance's father in a criminal matter, but he's interrupted by a message that his little girl is sick. Rather than just pick up the phone and call his fiance, he stops to ponder pretentiously. "I have a feeling this isn't the last time I will be asked to choose between Delia's present life and her past." Oh, please, why is HIS LITTLE CHILD'S FEVER "Delia's present life"? And why all the sturm und drang over returning a personal call in amongst representing one client and one client only? (To be fair, Eric does have one other potential client, a redneck who's concerned about the legal status of his pet crow, but that client seems to obligingly step out of the picture when Eric hysterically runs out of their initial meeting without a word of explanation).

So should I suck it up for another 253 pages of this poetic dreck, or move on? I can't understand a world where Ms. Picoult is a bestseller and my new literary darling, whose baby I would gladly have if we weren't both married to other people and if I weren't so prone to overwhelmingly traumatic morning sickness, Antoine Wilson, can't even get his book out in hardback. People, I implore you: seek out Antoine Wilson's brilliant "The Interloper" and shun the banal bestsellers.

I went to some trouble to find "The Interloper" after reading a one paragraph rave review in the New Yorker, and it did not disappoint for a minute. I cannot understand why this went straight to paperback, when it is so gripping and unusual. It's very hard to believe this is a first book; it's just so perfect.

"The Interloper" is a gem in the "unreliable narrator" genre, right up there with the astonishing "The Debt to Pleasure" by John Lanchester. Here's how our unlikely hero introduces himself:
"My name is Owen Patterson. I am thirty-eight years old. I am in fine shape medically and psychologically. I have been checked out on both counts. Despite my being far away from her, and my not having talked ot her for several months now, I remain married to Patricia Patterson, nee Stocking. We have no children. I consider myself a civilized person, probably around 80% acclimated ot the society in which I lived, if not more. A solid B. I miss working for the software company. Life had a nice routine to it. Software manuals are pleasingly logical when written right, and we used to write them right. If I could wake up from this bad dream, I would wake up in my cubicle at the software company, face creased from the edge of a binder, and ask mouth-breathing Neil, in the next cubicle over, if he wanted to get some coffee downstairs."
Owen struggles to deal with his wife's sorrow after her brother is brutally murdered. The book tells the story of his imaginative attempt to seek revenge upon the jailed killer, a quixotic attempt to restore his wife's happiness which ends up taking over Owen's life.

Unlike Ms. Picoult, Antoine Wilson has a genius for dialogue. His characters all speak in their own voices, even the dead brother who leaves a frat-boy journal behind. I stayed up one night reading the whole book, and I'm sure I'll go back and re-read this again and again. I love "The Interloper" and can't wait to see Mr. Wilson's next work.

Another first-time author amazed me this summer, Lee Vance, a former Wall Street hotshot, wrote a thriller, "Restitution." Vance is amazingly good at creating a likeable but flawed main character whose life suddenly falls apart when his estranged wife is murdered. Like Wilson, Vance is surprisingly good at believable characters and dialogue for a first-time writer. "Restitution" is well worth a read; I ripped through it in a day because I couldn't stand to put it down. I loved it up until the end, where Mr. Vance seemed to have run out of ingenuity and fell back on that old cliche, the chatty villain who explains it all. Mr. Vance's evil genius could well have said, just as the tiny villain of "The Incredibles did, "You sly devil, you've got me monologuing!"

So: "The Interloper", "Restitution", and that older work of genius, "The Debt to Pleasure": wonderful works which bring so many hours of transported reading. Ms. Jodi Picoult's "Vanishing Acts": not even a feh, it's more of a meh. Happy reading, my darlings.

Monday, August 06, 2007

well, la di da

So the big news around here is that the Sober Husband started a new job. He's as happy as a clam at high tide, as we used to say back in Maine, but the children and I are feeling distinctly testy.

Why should we begrudge him his happiness? Part of it is that we got spoiled over the last six or seven months. In the past, the poor man worked two jobs, and we became accustomed to letting him work and not making demands upon him, but then we entered a more carefree era, where the Sober Husband worked from home more often than not. He used to join Lola and me for lunch, and he always made the girls breakfast. He did his share of the housework and errands, and our household ticked along fairly well. Four year-old Lola in particular cherished extra time with her beloved father.

Now we are in a new world, one where the Sober Husband leaves early in the morning before the children are out of bed and returns home late, with nothing on his mind but his fabulous, wonderful job. I'm genuinely happy for him that he has such a congenial and exciting new job, but the children frankly don't give a damn about his personal fulfillment. Lola cried several times the first week, pining for her beloved daddy. Iris Uber Alles shed no tears but instead deployed a forked tongue the second week of the job. "Ever since you started working at Doggyo (note: the names of employers are always changed to protect our income), it's all 'La di da, St. Doggyo! Oooh, la di da, I'm going to work at St. Doggyo! It's not Doggyo, it's St. Doggyo! La di da, la di da!"

We all had a good laugh over that, including the Sober Husband, but we're not always laughing. On Saturday night, the children and I were making ourselves fabulous to go to our old friend M's birthday party, but the husband was dragging his heels. "It's too late to go out! It's already their regular bedtime! I need to be fresh for Doggyo on Monday morning!"

I would brook no such nonsense. "It's Saturday night! You are NOT staying home on Saturday night because you need to be fresh on Monday morning! You have all day Sunday to rest up!" The children backed me up, chanting "Well, la di da! Saint Doggyo!" in a disrespectful manner.

Despite having left the house on Saturday night, the husband was up bright and early Monday morning for his exciting day at Doggyo. "I am still on my honeymoon, you know." Lola's not enjoying any honeymoon, though. When she realized her father had left before she woke up, her face fell. "He didn't say goodbye!" She stamped her foot peevishly. "La di da, St. Doggyo!"

Saturday, August 04, 2007

one up, one down

Al, the idiotic orange cat who is allegedly allergic to his own teeth, had been living in the backyard and refusing to enter the house and interact with us.

Suddenly two days ago he had a change of heart, and as I write this, he's purring on my legs. Last night my sleep was disturbed because I could barely move due to a wealth of cats crowding in on me: Al, Iris's cat known as "Frowstomatic the King of the Universe", and a puffy foster kitten. Al hasn't completely mellowed out; he kept waking me up with his growling at the kitten, but he's following me and the girls around purring and meowing for attention.

When I came downstairs this morning, Al was closely following me, just like the old days when he was a treasured lapcat. "Look, I have a new housecat!" I said. "Well, that's good, because you lost one," said the Sober Husband accusatorily.

And that's the horrible thing which happened: two of our foster kittens went into our tiny, fenced in "yard" (which consists of a deck, a few tiny flower beds, a magnolia tree and a tiny lemon tree, and a small square of cement in lieu of a lawn) yesterday, and only one came back in. It's a complete mystery what happened. I called the head of my rescue program to painfully confess this morning that we've lost one.

For three years, hundreds of kittens have been going into that yard, and we've had no injuries or losses. Now suddenly one went missing. The husband's theory is that the raccoon who comes into our yard ate the kitten, but raccoons do not normally attack anything larger than a mouse. They are famously inept as hunters.

The husband has been cross-examining me as though I were the Jeffrey Dahmer of the kitten world, but honestly I did nothing different than any of the other days in which all kittens were safe. We were home most of the day, leaving just to return another litter of kittens to the shelter to go up for adoption and to take Iris to her swimming lesson (and we got dinner out afterward). I thought the tiny yard was completely safe, and indeed there's no way I can prevent larger kittens from going out there. The children are constantly going in and out (there's a door in the dining room leading onto the deck) on nice days. We're going to make some posters to put around the neighborhood, sigh.

I feel terrible, and it comes right on the heels of one of my biggest triumphs as a kitten fosterer. The litter I turned in for adoption were feral kittens who were rejected by the SPCA as unadoptable due to their lack of tameness. We worked so hard to tame those kittens and succeeded. When I got them, they could not be held, and they constantly hissed and growled. When we returned them, they were perfectly biddable kittens who would be a joy in any household.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

aaaaall the way

"What is your job?" four year-old Lola asked me.

"Well, my main job is looking after you. My volunteer job is fostering kittens. I don't have a paying job, though. I used to be an attorney when I had a paying job."

After some discussion of the perennial What-Is-An-Attorney question, as well as the ever-popular How Can It Be Considered A Job To Hang Around with Iris and Lola, the conversation turned to jobs of the future, after I allowed that I might want a paying job after Lola got into kindergarten or first grade.

"What are you going to do? What kind of job?"

I hate being asked that from anyone, much less pint-sized wiseasses, so I deflected the question. "What do YOU think I should do?"

Lola was quick off the bat with an answer. "I think you should be a ballerina! A ballerina!"

I didn't quite know how to explain that I am too old (and not anorexic enough) to take up ballet seriously. Iris tried to explain to Lola: "If Mom was a ballerina, she wouldn't be able to pick you up at school! Don't you want Mom to pick you up at school?" (Iris obviously remembered a prior conversation about careers, where I explained that people with important jobs need to pay nannies to look after their children because they needed to be at their jobs a lot. Clearly "ballerina" is one of the most high-powered careers). Lola was not persuaded, though, and said dreamily, "If Mommy was a ballerina, she'd dance all the way to my school! All the way to my school!"

a fledgling food blog

Food is such a passion for me, and I write about it occasionally here, but it feels inappropriate to let it take over this blog (which is really more about my weird little kids and my neuroses). I've started a second blog to focus on food:

The Drunken Housewife Cooks

Check it out, if you wish.

cats are out of the doghouse

I'm pleased to inform you that my formerly-despised foster kittens have gone a full day without confinement to a pen and without a litterbox accident. Hurray! One is dozing on my legs right now.

UPDATE: Dammit, I spoke too soon. I discovered when I slipped my shoes on that a kitten had taken a crap in one of them.

something to look forward to

"When I die," said seven year-old Iris Uber Alles, "I want you to pass out T-shirts at my funeral to everyone. They should say, 'Let her R.I.P.' Get it? R. I. P.?"

She paused in thought, then went on. "No! We should do it at YOUR funeral! Then I can get one! And I won't have to wait so long!"

With heavy sarcasm, I said, "Oh, that will give you something to look forward to," but Iris was too happy with the thought of the t-shirt to pick up on the undertone. "Yes! It will!" she said cheerfully.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

our night of fashion and gaiety: The Bad Boys of Project Runway

Local gay event organizer extraordinaire Marc Huestis has a fan in seven year-old Iris Uber Alles. One of the peak experiences of Iris's life occurred at age four, when she attended Huestis's "Sing Along Wizard of Oz" extravaganza dressed as Dorothy. She was called up on stage and fawned upon by drag queens, which is heady stuff for anyone, but especially a small, impressionable child.

This summer Huestis put together a gala called "The Bad Boys of Project Runway" to kick off a fashion-themed film festival. Project Runway stars Santino Rice and Jeffrey Sebelia judged a fashion show (local aspiring designers were charged with creating a dress inspired by a film).

I resisted the "Project Runway" experience for a long time, since I'm not much of a TV watcher and don't have cable, anyhow. But when Iris and I saw a couple of episodes with friends, we were hooked We ended up renting and buying the episodes (and in my case, obsessively reading the delicious Project Rungay blog). We loved Santino's sassy attitude in season two, and we loved to hate Jeffrey Sebelia in season three (we believe Laura! Sebelia cheated! Why do I say that? Michael and Laura were in a position to tell that the sewing on Jeffrey's final collection was different than what he'd been doing all season. Everyone forgets that the easy-going, politic Michael agreed with Laura. Finally, it's just unbelievable that he had no work left to do if he'd done it all himself. In every season, every finalist EXCEPT JEFFREY feverishly slaved up to the last minute to finish the collection. The amount of work the finalists must do is astonishing, and it strains credulity that only Jeffrey could finish so early and so effortlessly without help. Okay-- calming down now -- just had to get that off our collective chest. If you think that was a testy outburst, you should have heard the abuse our fortyish and seven year-old throats hurled at the television when Jeffrey won).

Anyhow, we were looking forward to "The Bad Boys of Project Runway" for months. Iris literally counted the days. (In general, July was a cultural peak for us: the last Harry Potter, the Simpsons movie, the Project Runway event. What have we got to live for now?). There was no way the event could have lived up to Iris's expectations, but it did okay. The best was a Tim Gunn look-alike MC, who had Gunn's voice down pat and who did an over-the-top dance. We most loved a dress inspired by the Clive Barker horror films, all red and black and elegant, but we were okay with the winner being an extravagant dress inspired by an Asian action film. (The winning designer was engagingly tongue-tied and adorable). In person, Santino was warm and friendly, kneeling on the front of the stage during a break to mingle with fans, while Sebelia pulled back and didn't make eye contact with the masses. I took Iris up to meet Santino, who shook her hand and encouraged her to follow her dreams and keep drawing. What a darling he is.

In general, we were most disappointed by the lack of sartorial effort by the fellow attendees. The audience was primarily gay men, gay men dressed in jeans and dull T-shirts (at least our host Marc Huestis's t-shirt was a Michael Kors one, which he cattily observed that he had bought at a garage sale). Iris Uber Alles was not only the youngest audience member but one of the most fabulous, in a dramatic red velvet cape-like gown. My friend Natasha was resplendent in fishnets over freshly-waxed legs (she managed to get her legs waxed with three children along for the appointment, bravo indeed my darling), and our dear Joyce had, as always, put on a fetching dress. (Your Drunken Housewife plucked her eyebrows for the occasion and broke out the sparkle gel for her hair as well as her new chandelier earrings, but stuck to her sensible pirate ballet flats for comfort in standing in line).

Gossipy highlights:

* Santino and Sebelia agree that Heidi Klum seems so sweet and bubbly on air, but in real life, nooo. There was some dark reference to a day on which the Project Runway contestants were made to face a wall and stand that way for some time, ostensibly for some Heidi-related reason. Evidently one should not make eye contact with Ms. Klum and should not inflict one's all-too-subhuman presence upon her.

* It makes Santino very happy to hear that people shout, "Santino wuz robbed!" at Nina Garcia. So if you ever run into the poised editrix, consider shouting at her (and then contact Santino via his myspace page to let him know you have avenged his honor).

* Most of the contestants swallow down their bile and obsequiously accept the bitingly vicious criticism given by the judges. Santino, however, got into a fight with Nina Garcia once. In person, Santino shared that this argument went on for NINETY MINUTES. My God, the stamina of that man, to stand on the runway under those bright television lights trading abuse with the sharp-tongued "Elle" editor for an hour and a half.

* Winning hasn't made Jeffrey Sebelia any warmer. He's not exactly gracious in victory, taking some time to diss Laura as an "uptown bitch" (he seems to feel that Laura should not have entered Project Runway because obviously she doesn't need to win as she already owns a massive Manhattan apartment. Honey, your bitter is showing!). Sebelia also took some time to criticize fellow designer Angela and her poor, shy, morbidly obese mother (whom Sebelia famously humiliated and reduced to tears). This went on and on, and my friend Joyce leaned over and said, "They are so misogynistic!"

* The $100,000 prize is a cruel joke, as no one can put together a fashion line for that kind of money.

* Sebelia has a "men's knitwear" line coming out soon, as well as his Cosa Nostra clothing line. (Men's knitwear???)

*Neither contestant had much love for judge/successful designer Michael Kors. They feel that his taste is far too stodgy and that the show needs a more cutting edge designer/judge, someone like Kors was in his youth.

We are so ready for Project Runway: Season Four AND more Marc Huestis events. Bring it on!