Monday, March 30, 2009

more bad timing

So my mother-in-law is supposed to be arriving on Thursday for a week-long visit, while the Sober Husband and I are barely coexisting.

I'm contemplating making a run for it and leaving her and the Sober Husband here to supervise the children, and I actually looked up flights to Barcelona on the internet, but it was all too expensive (and seemed to require lengthy layovers in Cleveland, of all places). I found a really great fare to London, a place I adore, but I've been to London in late March before, and it's not really the best time of year to visit, to say the least. I've seen an English "spring", and I'm not interested that much in seeing another one, thank you. I also contemplated going to L.A. or Washington state to visit friends (er, impose myself at very short notice).

The first problem with me leaving is that I'd be leaving the children behind, and I feel adverse to that. It's not that I don't trust the Sober Husband to keep them alive, but I don't feel good about leaving them with my mother-in-law without me, particularly when the reason for my absence is marital discord. I don't want them crying for me and having my mother-in-law storing up anecdotes to torture me with for the rest of my life. (Way back in the early days of my relationship with the Sober Husband, his mother was visiting us, back when we lived in my old rent-controlled apartment, and the Sober Husband was doing this annoying thing he used to do where he tore out all the ads from the New Yorker right after it arrived. I like looking at the ads. He tore right through part of that issue's long article, and, without losing my temper, raising my voice, or swearing, I told him to be more careful with my New Yorker in the future. Years later the MIL was visiting and saw a New Yorker and said in a sprightly manner to me, "Remember that time he tore your New Yorker and you got SO MAD at him?" She stores this kind of thing up for ammo, even a trivial thing).

I also contemplated emailing her and telling her that her son and I are on the brink of a separation and that it's a terribly bad time for her to visit, but I really just don't want to go there. I don't want to feed her negative information.

Additionally, I have three classes while she's here ("Family Clay Day" with Iris, collage, and pottery), and I'd like to attend those classes, which militates against leaving town. Sigh. I'm also considering checking into a nice hotel here in town, which feels depressing to me because I'd probably just be reading and playing World of Warcraft, whereas if I left town, I'd be exploring and having fun.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

bad timing

Over the years (nearly twelve), the All Time Number One Top Cause of Vicious Arguments in my marriage is my mother-in-law ("the MIL"). The Sober Husband has his mother on a a pedestal (during one argument, he memorably said, "My mother has never felt jealousy or anger in her life. She doesn't know those emotions", to which I snapped back, "Notify the Vatican; we have a new saint"), and there's no love lost between the woman and me.

Last week I noticed, while writing all the art classes I'd signed the children and myself up for on the calendar, that the MIL was coming soon for a full week. I counted the days on the calendar to make sure. Years ago, during a prior bout of couple's counseling, we reached a marital treaty on the MIL's visits, where we agreed that a long weekend four times a year would displease both of us equally and was therefore acceptable. The Sober Husband had told me a week or two ago that he had invited his mother out for five days "to make it up to her" that we weren't going away together leaving her alone with the children (neither Iris Uber Alles nor I had turned out to be ready for that). Five did not sound like fun to me, but seven? I was instantly furious.

When I finally brought it up to my husband, he claimed it was only six days (it's seven days and six nights) and that it was a mistake, he thought it was five days. I worked at letting it go and didn't say anything more. A few days later, on Thursday, it was time for couple's counseling, and I raised this as an example of how we've been getting along well lately. How ironic that was, as within seconds the Sober Husband was in a rage and I was in tears.

Our counselor asked me for examples of problems I have with the MIL, in order to understand this dynamic, and I gave two examples off the top of my head: (1) after meeting me for the first time, the MIL then met my parents... and told them that she thought I was having a severe mental breakdown; (2) she used to lie on the floor in my kitchen while I was cooking, and this behavior escalated until once she was lying prone on the floor right in front of my stove. This lying-on-the-floor behavior was famous among my friends, and I was asked to act it out more than once. The counselor was taken by these examples and asked the Sober Husband for his feedback. After expressing the general sentiment that his mother is a perfect guest, a sheer joy, he went on after some time to say that actually, come to think of it, for most of our relationship I was having a severe mental breakdown and could have benefited from commitment to a mental hospital. Oh, and it wasn't true that his mother had ever lain on the floor. I was prone to exaggerating and misunderstanding things and inventing things and believing things that weren't true.

On top of that, when the counselor drew him out about his feelings of me coming between him and his mother, the Sober Husband said with considerable emotion, "Carole comes between me and my work, me and my friends, me and my family, me and the children, me and EVERYTHING." I cried. The therapist made a bravura effort to get the Sober Husband to admit that although in his eyes, his mother might be flawless, she might be hard for me to get along with. No dice.

I left, shattered and unable to look at the man to whom I have had two children. He, weirdly, was smiling and chipper.

"One of us is going to a hotel," I said. "I need to be away from you." The Sober Husband, smiling, suggested that I go to a hotel, but when I informed him that he would then need to pick up the children between five and five thirty, his smile flagged. "Five?" he stammered. I gave him a withering glare as he jumped onto the subway.

After I got home, I informed him that I would pick up the children and he should NOT come home. Then, however, he said he was ready to leave work early to get the children, but I curtly told him not to. Feeling extremely distraught, I managed to safely drive across the town, gather up not only my own two darling hellspawn but one of Iris Uber Alles's best friends, drive them all home, cook a a nutritious but beloved dinner of broccoli pasta, coax Iris and her friend down from the fence, clean the kitchen, supervise Iris's homework, and turn Iris's friend over to her mother. Then we were all unwinding in the living room around 7:30, me with a glass of wine, when the Sober Husband arrived with a weird, fake smile on his face.

"What are you doing here?" I asked. He kept the fake smile on and suggested that he thought I was going to go to a hotel. I said that I'd made it clear that I wasn't, and he said that he'd needed to come home anyhow to get his stuff. The children, who hadn't had a clue before that anything was amiss, asked him what was wrong. Smiling, he said, "Mommy got mad at me during couple's counseling and wants me to go to a hotel."

I felt white hot rage. "How dare you make me the bad guy? He said I was crazy and that I make things up!" I glared at him again. "I was going to tell them you were working late!" Lola cried; Iris looked stressed. I whisked them upstairs, fetched their favorite stuffed animals, started a video, and made them chocolate milks, hissing at my husband on the stairs, "Thanks for being an asshole."

The children calmed down and went to bed a bit troubled but all right. I stayed snuggled up to Lola until she fell asleep. In the morning, I got us all up and out to school early, everyone seeming fine. I spent most of the day at the school, since it was my day to supervise the kindergarteners and first graders at lunch and recess. When it was time to pick up Lola, I recoiled: she was carrying Clover.

Clover is a massive stuffed giraffe who takes turns spending the weekends with the different kindergarteners, whose parents are supposed to record his adventures in a scrapbook. This feels like a contest amongst the parents to show who has the best, most wholesome and fabulous weekends, and here I was, having thrown out my husband. I quailed. I don't even know how to get the pictures off our new digital camera. I cravenly told Lola she should call her daddy and ask him to come help her with pictures of Clover.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

the crown jewels visit the kindergarten

Thursday is Lola's "Sharing Day" at kindergarten. She is supposed to bring in a small object, NOT a toy or something which would spark avarice and materialism in the hearts of her fellow five and six year-olds, but something with personal meaning and experience to share with the kindergarten. Lola decided today to bring nine year-old Iris Uber Alles's blood type test sheet.

Iris had been wanting to know her blood type for years, and so I gave her a blood typing test for her birthday. She was happy to get it until she realized we'd have to cut her open to get some blood. Then she decided to save the kit until one of us had some sort of terrible accident and then use the already flowing blood to determine that person's blood type. (Mommy was disqualified due to already knowing her blood type from her youthful past as a blood donor).

Finally Iris got tired of waiting for opportunistic bleeding and decided to take the test. The Sober Husband assisted her, but he was too squeamish to use the little lancet to draw her blood, so I did it. Iris let out a squawk when her skin was pierced (which was Lola's favorite part), but she enjoyed the rest of the testing process very much. Months later Lola decided to take Iris's testing sheet, with the four little smears of dried blood in different boxes, for sharing. Iris was disapproving. Finally Iris relented, on the conditions that Lola bring the test sheet in a plastic bag; that Lola keep the test sheet in her locker, NOT the classroom; that every time Lola left the classroom, she had to go check her backpack in her locker to make sure the test sheet was safe; no other child could touch it; and Lola could only remove sheet from her backpack in her locker at the actual sharing time. There were more conditions, including that Lola help Iris look for her misplaced money (Iris had accumulated about thirty dollars or so in allowance money but then lost it somewhere around the house).

The most ridiculous part of all of these conditions to me was that Iris hadn't wanted the old, blood-smeared paper any more and told me it was okay to recycle it... until her little sister showed an interest in it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

some quick book reviews

I read several very satisfying books lately to commend to you. I've noticed a trend in my reading: I'm gravitating towards books by Scandinavian authors. I guess I should say "North European" authors, as I have learned that the term "Scandinavian" is deeply offensive to many. Indeed, a Scandinavian may recoil and react as though you used the word "snownigger", so offensive is the Sc word for inexplicable reasons. I don't want to say "North European", though, because to me, that does not signify that group of snowy, fjord-infested countries home to so many brilliant authors. If I hear "North European", I think of places like Poland. But then again, I'm just an ignorant American, drawn to the books of that region like an ant to a picnic. I figure that with those long, hard, dark winters, a lot of people stay inside and write, and they get very polished and clever indeed. The only problem is that their work doesn't get translated into English and published over here as quickly and thoroughly as it should.

Knowing that we're missing a lot of great reads from that region-formerly-known-as-Scandinavia, be sure not to miss what does make its way to these uncouth shores. In particular, I'm commending "Nemesis" by Jo Nesbo to you. This thick and thoroughly satisfying book is more than a murder mystery; Mr. Nesbo manages to combine several murder mysteries into one, with lots of thoughts on the impact of 9/11 in Norway, the historical and psychological underpinnings of revenge, Sun Tzu's teachings on the importance of consistency, alcoholism and other kinds of escapism, etc., etc... Mr. Nesbo is a great writer, and I'm glad, seven years after it came out in Norway, that "Nemesis" made it here.

"Let the Right One In" by John Ajvide Lindquist was a big blockbuster in Sweden and the rest of Europe. I intend to write about modern vampire fiction on another day, but I'm just throwing this one in here as another example of an original and greatly talented author from the world zone formerly known as Scandinavia. Dark, depressing as hell, and violent, but very, very gripping, "Let the Right One In" is a thoroughly engaging read for the more stouthearted reader.

"Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts" by Laura Benedict was a weird and compelling book I hated to put down. Three well-off middle-aged, Midwestern women have their lives turned upside down, the repercussion of something terrible they did together as teenagers. Ms. Benedict is a beautiful and imaginative writer, and she packs a lot into a page. My only bitch was that she put her lengthy flashbacks into italic font; it gets really old, reading page after page after page in italics. The reader can figure out that it's not the present without that, Ms. Benedict! Give us some credit!

"Chasing Smoke" by Bill Cameron: this talented Portland author gives us a hero who is a lonely policeman on convalescent leave for bladder cancer. Skin Kadash, nicknamed for an eyesore of a birthmark, is an alcoholic who has managed to ruin almost every corner of his life. I loved this book; Bill Cameron has a great updated noir style.

"The Zero Sum Game" by Brad Meltzer: a quick read set in D.C. politics, with the conceit that jaded staffers and politicians are manipulating legislation as part of a game with prizes. This book started off very engagingly but then was less winning, for me at least, after the narrator was summarily dispatched a quarter of the way in. I loved this book at first but then turned on it. At least Mr. Meltzer had the backbone to resist adding a romance to his story. This one would be a fine book to take to the beach, but turn to the formerly-known-as-Scandinavians for a more deeply satisfying read.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

at the gas station

Sometimes, if I'm feeling perky and yet don't have anything pressing to do, I drive the Sober Husband to work (this saves him about twenty minutes from his usual two bus routine). Yesterday after dropping him off, I stopped for gas. The man at the next pump called over, "I like your tattoos." I thanked him, and a conversation sprung up about them. He turned out to be from Tonga originally and had a tattoo on his ankle done the traditional way, with a fishbone dipped in ink. It was a great tattoo.

This man, who was very good-looking at probably a decade younger than me, asked me which was my first tattoo, did they mean anything, where did I get them, etc... During this conversation I said I'd have a lot more tattoos if my husband didn't hate them so much. He was disbelieving. "He hates them?"

"Oh, yeah, that's why I don't have more. I'd have a lot more otherwise. After I got this one (holding out my right forearm), he didn't talk to me for days."

My new acquaintance shook his head. "He's crazy." He looked me over. "The guy's CRAZY."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the torturing of the teeth

After a long time of procrastinating and agonizing, I geared up and tried another dentist yesterday. The procrastination and agony were the result of some bad dental experiences in the past, and it would appear I'm not yet through with this dark chapter in the history of my teeth.

Today my mouth hurts, a lot. X-rays and a cleaning should not be traumatic and painful proceedings that leave a person feeling like her mouth was raped and and in discomfort for days. I've decided never to return to that dental practice for another x-ray or cleaning again.

The x-rays took over half an hour. They did a total of 18 x-rays, EIGHTEEN, which each involved cramming a large, painful piece of equipment into a slightly different place in my mouth, while I fought to control my gag reflex. I believe there are bruises on the roof of my mouth.

I asked for gas during the cleaning, which I was refused because it is the policy of that dental office not to pamper patients. I should have gotten it, because the cleaning had some agonizing moments that had me leaping with pain out of the chair. Afterward I just wanted to go home, curl up under one of my homemade quilts, and cry for hours, but instead I had to race down to pick up the children, whom I discovered squabbling on the playground at their school (nine year-old Iris overheard Lola describing her to another kindergartener as "a weird, bossy little thing"), take them home, oversee Iris's homework, and take Iris to her writing class in the Mission, plus pick up the Sober Husband and buy cat food, all done on the brink of tears with a hurting mouth.

End diagnosis: I have two cavities and a cap which needs to be replaced. My dilemma: get the work done at that office, which has the extensively thorough x-rays, and then let my teeth go to hell for a few more years until I feel like braving the dental wilderness again OR just try another dentist to get that work done, which may or may not be better. I could also just wait until my teeth actually start hurting. Another option would be to fly to Arizona and go see my old, beloved dentist who moved away for the cavities, but I can't get a crown replaced that way because that means more than one visit spaced a few weeks apart. (I don't think asking for the x-rays to take to another office is an option, because there are no physical x-rays. It was all computerized, and given my bad luck with dentists, I have no reason to be hopeful that a prospective new dental office would have compatible software).

There's a special dental office down the Peninsula for people who have dental issues, and they sedate you completely before doing a thing, gently waking you after all your work is done. I really want to go there, but the Sober Husband is deeply opposed, thinking this is unhealthy. I don't think it's particularly good for my physical or mental health for me to be awake in a dental chair experiencing pain and stress, on the other hand, but he is freaked out by the sedation dentist enough to deter me from booking an appointment (and I would need someone to drive me home, obviously).

My children now have a lovely pediatric dentist, lovely, and I wish I could just go to him. Sigh. I'm starting to wonder if American dentistry and maybe this whole having-teeth thing altogther are overrated.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the extreme version of us, and I hate what I see

I don't watch very much television (although that is less true than it used to be; I'm insane for "The Amazing Race" and "Project Runway", and Iris Uber Alles and I have been watching old seasons of "The Office"). In particular I haven't watched "Wife Swap" other than one episode years ago, which I watched after I was approached online by someone purporting to be a producer of that show recruiting me for it (I didn't follow up). Over the last some weeks I've heard mention now and again of a local venture capitalist whose shameful behavior on that show is creating a lot of stir. I decided the other night to see what the fuss was about, with a little help from Youtube:

I soon found myself full of rage at this smug Noe Valley couple for going on television to represent San Francisco environmentalists. As if people don't hate us enough already, we had to have bullying Stephen Fowler spouting his superiority on national television at a perfectly nice woman who committed the unforgivable sins of being born in Missouri and not going to college. His wife, while not abusive, was just as snobby. As Stephen's wife Renee sniffed, the other family didn't have advanced degrees, and she gave an interview to ABC where she espoused the feeling that the only positive thing that came out of participating in this show was that her children have been vividly taught the value of a good education. The children are now terrified of ending up like Gayla, a pleasant, friendly woman who seemed bright enough and who took a genuine interest in their well-being and tried to influence their blowhard father to lighten up on them.

Stephen Foster, who brags about having once scored in the 99th percentile on a standardized test (assuming everyone is too stupid to understand what that means, Foster spelled it out in irritating detail that it means he has an IQ of 158 and is smarter than 99.9 out of a hundred of the rest of us), blames the producers for manipulating him into being a bullying elitist snob. Well, Stephen, if you're truly smarter than 99.9 % of the rest of us dumb Americans, then you should have been smarter than 99.9% of the producers and realized that it is not a good idea to behave badly on national television. Calling a nice woman a "dumb redneck" to her face and sniffing that you're surprised she can read is pretty rude, and Stephen Fowler added hypocrisy by saying to his child in front of Gayla, "She's a rude lady, isn't she? That's because she doesn't have an education." All his education didn't train him in etiquette to any noticeable extent. He seems shocked now that his charities have canned him from their boards and that his house was egged.

I'm fascinated by the fact that Stephen Fowler is so obsessed with his superiority due to his advanced degrees from Cambridge, but yet he's married to a New Age charlatan whose career, "certified life coach and certified destination coach", is lacking in intellectual rigor or scientific basis (Renee's bouncing about to demonstrate how she physically wafts energy back towards her clients is usually the sort of thing which irks a highly educated person). But I'm not fascinated enough to ever want to interact with him. I'm thoroughly irked that he portrayed people of my ilk so horribly.

I told the Sober Husband that I felt Stephen and Renee were an exaggerated version of us, and that is why I found myself actually caring over how someone acted on a foolish reality show (although I certainly don't care as much as the person who went to the trouble of creating He was drawn aback by that, but I noted the following similarities: a couple with two children, living in San Francisco, who both have advanced degrees and place an extreme value on education. We also have a "no shoes" policy in the home, and I'm a rather gung ho recycler and composter (but that is typical in San Francisco, where we have a municipal composting program). I also pride myself on my foreign travel and am trying to raise my children as citizens of the world. We also send our children to an expensive private school, and like Stephen, I'm overly fond of a bottle of wine. I buy a lot of organic produce and care about my carbon footprint.

I meet parents like Renee and Stephen who drive their children far too hard (Stephen and Renee's poor children have to earn the right to a playdate, and Stephen and Renee have already determined -- for these little, little children -- which athletic pursuits they must perfect while learning three languages and the piano in order to get into the top colleges of Renee and Stephen's choice). At our school, I admired a self portrait of a second grader who'd painted herself with elaborate bloodshot eyes, until I found out that the child in question had painted herself that way because she'd been crying so much because a tennis injury had caused her parents to freak out on her that she was no longer on track to become a world-class professional tennis player.

I used to feel a bit guilty that I didn't push the overly bright Iris Uber Alles harder. Then I did some research on "gifted children" and came to the conclusion that the best gift I could give my daughter would be not to turn her into a perfectionist who was expected to constantly excel. Recently I let my children quit piano lessons, which surprised everyone. I had by happenstance heard Dr. Laura (I always feel ashamed when I admit to my secret love of Dr. Laura) lecture a mother about the importance of letting children quit. Dr. Laura opined--- quite convincingly to me-- that it discourages children from trying new things if once they start something, they can't quit it if they end up not liking it. Meanwhile grown-ups hypocritically quit things all the time.

I wish I could lock Stephen and Renee up in a room with Dr. Laura. Or perhaps exile them to the Mall of America. I'm ashamed of them, deeply ashamed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

to cockatiel or not cockatiel?

Nine year-old Iris Uber Alles fell in love with a cockatiel at our local bird supply store, while waiting for our crabby old Amazon parrot to get her nails and wings trimmed. "I couldn't believe it, Mom-dude," she reported back to me. "A bird that LIKED me and let me touch her!"

This amiable cockatiel was the topic of conversation for weeks, with Iris constantly asking me to take her back to see the bird again. Today we did go back, but as I'd predicted, the sweet, friendly cockatiel wasn't there any more. We peered at some cute owl finches and tried to strike up a conversation with some African Grays, but there weren't any birds who struck us. Then, after having us carefully wash our hands, one of the store managers brought us out a tiny baby cockatiel wrapped in a towel. He was so little and fragile that the skin over his neck was see-through, and Iris cradled him carefully. I stroked his head and beak softly. He seemed too small for his feathers.

Some other children ventured over. "Is that real?" one asked me.

We were in love. I carefully gave the baby back after almost half an hour of our cuddling him. The manager told us that if we wanted him, we needed to buy him before Sunday, as he was sure to be spoken for by then. He would not be ready to go home for another six to eight weeks, but during that time, we could visit him frequently, and then he'd know us well when time came to go home.

Positives: I've been intrigued by cockatiels for decades, and Iris has been longing for a bird for a long time. Cockatiels are legendarily charming and easy-going. Also, you can buy 110 cockatiels for the price of one Amazon Gray.

Negatives: we already have five cats (yes, I got one I haven't formally told my blog about --- I didn't mean to adopt him, it's just that he, the last of the 2008 kitten season fosters, went up for adoption and NO ONE WOULD TAKE HIM. He rotted down at the San Francisco pound for a couple of months, because no one particularly wanted a nondescript short-haired black cat) and one crabby old parrot who only likes the Sober Husband. An Amazon parrot, like cranky Zoe, is big enough and powerful enough to more than defend herself against a cat (our cats don't even make a move against her), but a fragile cockatiel would need to be scrupulously chaperoned.

Update: It would appear that we won't be adding a cockatiel to the household just yet. Iris didn't push very hard.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

no, actually

Today at the grocery store I ran into another third grade mother from the children's elite private school. In the checkout line, she breezily asked, "Is it true that you own a tattoo store?"

I was a bit taken aback. It turns out there is a rumor circulating around the third grade that I own a tattoo parlor. This mother said, "When I heard it, I thought, 'Oh, I guess that adds diversity.'" (There is always an ongoing self-flagellation at our school over our diversity, or lack thereof. The quintessential family from our school would consist of a hedge fund manager, his size zero, bleached blonde trophy wife, and their adorable children with either old-fashioned names or last names for first names).

"Actually, I was a litigator," I said. "No diversity there."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

the battling martyrs and the stimulus package

The Sober Husband and I made a deal some months ago, sort of a reparations package for the Martha's Vineyard Fiasco of 2008 [in a nutshell, he manipulated and guilt-tripped me into going on his mother's Extremely Expensive Celebration of Herself in an overpriced resort town on the other side of the continent, and I was angry and resentful]. In this deal, he would not travel to see his family this year unless there were a wedding or funeral of significant importance, and instead, we would take a trip together. This made me happy, and I started planning our trip, especially after my mother agreed to come to San Francisco to watch the little hellspawn for us. I felt that this was affordable, because I thought that if we took the money wasted last year on going to Martha's Vineyard, plus the expenses from two personal trips the Sober Husband took by himself (one to Chicago against my express wishes, one to the East Coast which I was in favor of), that would equal a nice, short vacation for two to somewhere exotic. If we could afford the hellish Martha's Vineyard boondoggle, which the Sober Husband obviously thought was in our budget, we could afford a week away somewhere exotic.

Some little time of happiness went by, with me bubbling from time to time little witlessisms like "September and October are really the best months to travel; airfares are always so low! And everything is so deserted!" and "I'm going to present this to you like a menu: Barcelona, Cuba, or Angkor Wat?

Then the Sober Husband turned on me. He began speaking in depressed tones about how "we don't live within our means; I'm just presenting that to you as a fact" and not talking any more about a vacation. In marriage counseling, with all the enthusiasm a corpse would have for taking the formaldehyde drip, he mustered up a lifeless, "I'm willing to go on a vacation with you even though we can't afford it." I was livid. "I refuse to go on any vacation with you!"

So there we were, a pair of battling martyrs. The Sober Husband kept insisting, "Oh, even though we can't afford to take a trip, I'm willing to do it to make you happy," with me rebutting, "I refuse to do anything expensive that you're going to bring up to me later" and "Oh, it's fine, I'll never go on a vacation again for as long as I live" and "Why is it when your MOTHER wants to go on an expensive trip you can afford it, but when I want to, we can't?"

"Now, now, Carole," chided the marriage counselor. "I'm not sure that is productive."

After a few rocky counseling sessions, the Sober Husband has arrived at a new, cheerier, less martyr-like attitude. He explained it to me today: "I forecast a deficit year, but I'm in favor of a stimulus package."

"A what? What is it stimulating, my happiness in the marriage?"

"Precisely. I believe a stimulus package will have payoffs."

We'll see how his mental state fares over the next few months. I'm tentatively raising my hopes for a trip again, fearful of disappointment.

Meanwhile I've already had one smackdown from another mother. I confided in the mother of one of Iris Uber Alles's closest friends yesterday that I am hoping to save up to take a vacation later in the year, without children. She drew herself up and said, in an icy voice, "Well, I must just be unusual, because I wouldn't dream of going anywhere without my child." Ouch!

In my case, I've been a martyr for long enough and am dying to spend a week drinking in sleazy foreign bars, spending whole days in art museums, and having sex. I'm quite eager to dream of going somewhere without my children. However, if the husband switches back into competitive martyrism, all bets are off. I predict then the vacation will be recancelled and there'll be an upsurge of catty remarks about his mother and HER expensive trip.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lola's got a fever of a hundred and three

The other day I dropped kindergartener Lola off at her ballet class, where she ran up to the introverted teacher and shouted, "I'm hotblooded!" The teacher looked nonplussed. "I was born in the year of the horse!" Lola shouted for explanation.

Someone put it into Lola's head that people born in the year of the horse are hotblooded, and she's never going to get over it. I suspect that future suffering boyfriends and husbands will never know that the seed of their torture was implanted in Lola's brain so early as kindergarten.

The day before ballet we were driving home from school, and that cheesy classic, "Hotblooded", came on the radio. Feeling nostalgic, I turned it up. As soon as it was over, Lola shared that she, too, unlike me and her big sister, Iris, was hotblooded. We, being born in the years of the dragon and rabbit respectively, were relatively coldblooded. Iris instantly put the kibosh on this. "EVERYONE is hotblooded. That is because we are mammals."

Lola was indignant but unable to articulate her issues with that blanket statement. I helped her out. "There's a difference between 'warmblooded' and 'hotblooded.' Birds and mammals are warmblooded, and that means we don't depend on the sun to warm us up. But hot-blooded is different. It means you're unusually full of love and hate."

After some argument, Iris tried to salvage a victory where she could. "It means you're FULL OF HATE, Lola! FULL OF HATE!"

With no hesitation, in the sweetest, piping little voice imaginable, Lola replied, "And it's all for you, Iris!"