Category Archives: dog

The Widening Gyre

The roaches appear to be gone. We haven’t seen one in over a week; and have begun using the dishwasher again without mishap. It’s a slow journey back to recovery for some of us–OK, for me. I still jump backwards every time I open a drawer, shriek at the stray  raisin, and squeal at every shadow, but at least I’m in the kitchen. And cooking, even. After a month of eating takeout Whole foods salads and microwaved Trader Joe’s burritos, it’s nice to have home cooked food again. Although I did enjoy the burritos profusely. I could eat one for every meal and be pretty much fine.

I’m a routine eater, like my child. Left to my own devices, I’ll eat the same thing over and over again, happily, for years on end. When Mike and I started dating I had one type of food in my kitchen: an obscure brand of organic turkey chili. Of course, I had enormous quantities of it, but that’s because I ate it for pretty much every meal. I used to clear the shelves of it at Whole Foods. Until Mike and I started dating. At that point I slowed down on my consumption, and soon after discovered that Whole Foods had stopped carrying it. I soon realized that I, and I alone, had been keeping that chili company in business. It was hard to contemplate the jobs lost, the lives disrupted, simply because my love life had taken a turn for the better, but it’s a guilt I’ve learned to live with.

I digress. The point is, I could eat TJ’s burritos for every meal, but because the roaches are gone I don’t have to. It’s luxurious to have the choice. Plus, Mike would rather shoot himself in the hand with a nail gun than eat a frozen burrito for dinner once, let alone ten times; if we’re going to dine together, I have to be willing to expand my menu.

Speaking of expanding menus, I forgot to give Mina her Frontline last month, and now she’s infested. This means that in the last month we’ve had roaches, ants, and now fleas. All of them killed with pesticides. This makes me wonder, first, if we’re going to get cancer, and second, if some new type of bug is going to come into our house to eat all of the insect corpses we’re generating. I really can’t think about this, though, because I’m too busy worrying that MJ is going to get bitten by a flea and come down with the plague.

When I don’t think about that I dwell on Donald trump and become sick with fear.

And when I’m not incapacitating myself thusly? I’m planning MJ’s 7th birthday party.

This is a source of stress, too, as she’s decided she wants to have a “falconing” theme. What this means, in her little, curious, brain, is that she and her friends will hold stuffed birds, wear gloves, and run after “flesh-colored” bags filled with “carrion candy.”

What it means to me is planning hell. Let me tell you, falcon-related party favors are not a thing. There are no falcon plates, cups, or napkins. No falcon toys. No falcon anything. Google falcon party. You’ll see. Get ready for a lot of Angry Birds.

I went to Michael’s today to find flesh colored bags. There I thought for sure I’d at least find some falcon stickers to put in with the candy. After all, Michael’s has stickers in every possible theme: beer, Ireland, dalmatians, snorkeling! But not, it turns out, a single bird sticker of any kind. Except for owls. Since bringing owl stickers to a falconing party is sort of like bringing a kielbasa to a PETA brunch that’s not going to help.

I decided to try my luck in the plastic toys section. There I found packages of dinosaurs, fish, horses, kittens, even vegetables! Vegetables? Surely there would be a falcon set. Or at least a bird of prey collection. Eagles? Birds of any kind? A god damned chicken? Nothing.

So, aside, from the “find the flesh bag” game, plus an amorphous activity called “pin the falcon on the glove,” we’ve got nothing. I did, though, find a bakery that will make me a falcon cake–for an indecent, breathtaking amount of money. The sort of John-Edward’s-Haircut amount that would quickly take down my career if I were a politician.

Other than the cake, though, this party is going to be about as falcony as a DAR potluck. Which is to say, not at all. Hopefully the kids will bring their imaginations, because they’re going to need them.

In the meantime? I am dreaming of “days after.” The day after the party, the day after the election, and maybe—should Trump win—the day after the apocalypse, when the roaches will emerge from their hiding places, nibble on falcon cake, and say “who needs a theme? We own it all!”

IMG_3828.JPG

 

 

A Roach to Hang With

Los Angeles, for all intents and purposes, has only two seasons: a mild, temperate one of great brevity that we refer to as “winter,” and a second, which lasts for about eight months and is known, informally, as “hot.”

Autumn, as one typically understands it, doesn’t exist in these parts. While people in other places get out their chunky cardigans, plan leaf-peeping trips, and shake the dust out of their duvets, we in L.A. gag on forest fire smoke, stagger through week-long heat waves and slather our kids in sunscreen so they don’t fry at the Pumpkin Patch.

And then there are the insect infestations.

Usually these involve ants, but this year Mike and I got a new and completely unexpected kind: roaches. To say that this was unexpected is to put it mildly. One of the reasons I live in L.A., aside from lethargy and a mordant fear of the unknown, is the fact that there are no roaches here. Earthquakes, yes. Traffic? Fine. Stucco, plastic surgery, rampant and vapid fashionistas? I can take all of it. But roaches? Objection, your honor. Out of order.

I’m from Brooklyn, and grew up in an apartment building with a bug problem so profound that you’d consider yourself lucky if you saw only ten or twelve roaches in a twenty-four hour period. On a good day none of them flew. Bonus points if they stayed out of your shower, but that was rare.

I’ve said it before: I am phobic of all insects. But roaches have a special place on the entomological spectrum for me. I think of them as the Devil bug, evil incarnate, the filthiest, most terrifying, most repugnant, and least desirable of all pests on this or any planet with existing life. I would rather have lice. I would rather have fleas. I would happily take lice, fleas, and pantry moths while enduring an earthquake and roasting over charcoal briquettes before having a single roach in my house.

Yet the season of “hot” had different ideas.

Two weeks ago I saw my first. “Couldn’t have been one,” I thought. “Impossible.” It scampered away, and I relegated it immediately to the giant bin labelled “denial” in my brain.

Three days later, a second sighting. “Mike,” I said, shaking my head. “The weirdest thing. I thought I just saw a cockroach…”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied, not missing a beat. “I saw one yesterday. Strange.”

This conversation, too, went into the box. Denial is my friend. Roaches are not. I thought no more about it.

Two days later another, on the pantry door. Then, an hour later, one in the dishwasher.

“Jesus!” I shrieked. “They’re really here!”

Mike looked up from the plate he was drying and considered me, his head tilted questioningly.

“The roaches!” I snapped. “We have to do something about them!”

The next morning at 8 AM sharp I was on the phone with Corky’s. Discerning my hysteria, they promised they’d have someone out the next day. They also told me calmly, as if it were no big thing, that we’d have to prepare our house by emptying the bathrooms and kitchen of every single thing in them. Like we were moving. All cabinets would need to be wiped down. As for the food in them?

“You’d be best off just tossing it,” said the young woman on the other end of the line. “Any of it could be infested.”

I got off the phone looking, I’m sure, like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Head spinning, eyes pinned, mouth in a ghastly grimace. When I spoke, it was in a stream of profanities so intense it would have made a pirate weep. Roaches and my house torn apart? This was my idea of hell.

Mike and I spent all that night packing up. It was a nightmare. Not only was it  labor intensive, but I was terrified of running into a roach. Jumpy doesn’t begin to describe it; I was like a meth-head on an eight-day run. Every time a shadow moved I screamed shrilly. Spoon dropped? “SSHHHRRRIIIEEEKKK!” Dog scratched? “AAAAGHH!”

“Do you want me to do this by myself?” Mike asked at one point, palpably annoyed.

I took a deep breath. I had to man up.

“No,” I said, with all the bravery I could summon. “I’m OK.”

But I wasn’t.

Still, Mike and I got everything packed up. Exhausted, I went to bed, visions of brown insects clicking at me furtively as I drifted to sleep. My dreams, I assure you, were not good.

Corky’s came the next morning. That was six days ago, and it’s been four since our last sighting. We’re not out of the woods yet–I’m told it can take a month to kill every roach–but things certainly seem improved. I can be in the kitchen again without cringing in fear. Tonight I cooked for the first time. It’s getting better. It will continue to do so.

But man, it’s been a rough, long, season. Tomorrow it’ll be 103. The air quality still sucks.

The roaches may be gone. As for “hot?” It’s a lot harder to kill.

Potty Deux

I had to deal with some pretty intense “share shame” after writing my two last posts. My husband’s acerbic comment, made after reading the first one, didn’t help:

“Jesus. You’re either going to gain a lot of readers from this one…or they’re gonna desert you in droves.” Such a cheerleader, that Mike.

And it was eerily quiet after I published what I have begun to refer to, in my mind, as the “poop posts.” Very little in the way of commentary. Even from the regulars.

“I can’t wait to hear what your mom says about this,” Mike asserted.

She didn’t say anything. Crickets. Struck dumb with horror, I suppose. Very unlike her.

And speaking of likes? None. Not that I care, really. But, OK, dammit, I do. Just a bit. As to how many dozens of followers deserted me? Hard to know.

One thing I do know? You’ll find no poop on Goop. I checked. The closest I found was “The Dirty on Getting Clean.” Which sounds pretty interesting, actually. And not at all fecal. No wonder Gwyneth is so popular.

Tonight, to distract myself from my recent perceived humiliation, I hacked into my mom’s HBO Go and watched an hour of Louis CK. I’ve been obsessed with stand up comedy lately, due to the free trial of Sirius radio I’ve had in my new car. At first I didn’t like Sirius–how the fuck do you navigate through all of those channels?–then I found the Comedy Central channel and my life changed. Commute? What commute? I’m listening to people being stupidly hilarious–I don’t even know I’m driving! It’s a superb, elating way to pass the time; now that I’ve experienced it, I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to NPR.

But I will; my free trial is about to be over. And I’m too cheap to pay for it.

Back to stand up. Louis CK is my all-time favorite. I’d be in love with him, if he weren’t so gross. And masturbatory. And, yes, scatological. But these are exactly the things I also adore about him. He did a whole segment tonight on his leaky asshole. He said that sometimes he’s just sitting around, and suddenly he sniffs, and realizes he has to go wipe it. I quote: “My asshole is like a bag of leaves that no one remembered to tie up.” He utters such words. He paints such pictures in our minds. Nobody abandons him in droves. Jeez.

Feeling buoyed by my good laugh, I decided to get back on the literary horse. I know, this is hardly literature. But here I am. I’ve decided not, ever again, to discuss poop, assholes, or anything south of the waist on this blog. I leave that to the comics, who do it elsewhere–in my car, for starters!–with impunity and absolutely no shame. Me, I’m heading back to safer territory–laundry, my dog, our fucked up dishwasher, the fact that my daughter has now declared her middle name to be “Falcon,” (which sounds amazingly like “fucking'” when she says it quickly.)

And cute pictures of birds. I have tons of them. I am developing a collection. I’ll share them with you. You’ll “like” them, I’m sure.

But if you want to laugh your ass off? About shit, assholes, and other forbidden topics? Oh My God, you need to get HBO.

Or steal it from your parents.

*Cooper's Hawk Spotted Woodpecker

(L.A.) River Bed

“Mama?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“Can we play something?”

A long pause. “It’s 6:30 in the morning.”

Impatiently: “I know.”

I have been awake all of fifteen seconds. “What do you want to play?”

“L.A. River, of course.”

I sigh, and pull my robe tighter around me. “I need a cup of tea first.”

This is all the assent she needs. Myra-Jean leaps from her bed and flies into activity. “I’ll get it set up.”

Ever since our trip there last week MJ has wanted nothing more than to play this new game of her own invention. It’s a simple one, really. She spreads a bunch of blankets on her bedroom floor, gets out her bird dolls, drags me (or Mike) down next to her, and spends the next hour squawking. And making us squawk. That’s it. Basically.

Oh, except for the random and assorted objects–a handful of hair clips, a rubber prickly toy, a wooden spoon, a green shopping bag, a plastic vial of bubbles–that have come, inexplicably, to be essential to the game. The ball is hidden and found. The clips go on birds beaks. The rest? I’m not sure. MJ has reasons for each of them. I cannot begin to comprehend them. It matters not at all. I am there merely as an accessory–another player to talk to, a placeholder, an outline to be filled in. I am a tricolored heron, an eared grebe, a pintail. I am a character of MJ’s making; I contribute nothing to the “plot.” True, generally I suggest taking a nap–this is a tactic of mine in every game–but otherwise I have no more agency than the clips, the blankets, or the birds themselves.

Except that this prop requires caffeine. Once I get this I am happy to play. Until breakfast, at least.

One additional plot point I insist upon: the blankets get cleaned up in the end. I don’t want the dog lying on them.The L.A. River may be dirty, but have you seen Mina? We’re talking a major pollutant.

Image

Salt And Pay-Per-View

A couple of nights ago I ate a jar and a half of pickles. In one sitting. A jar and a half. Admittedly, it was spread out over three episodes of “Girls,” but still. That’s a lot. Enough to make me wonder, at the time, if there is such a thing as saline poisoning. And, if so, whether I had contracted it. Turns out I was fine–just really, really thirsty. A bottle and a half of Gerolsteiner later I was as right as rain. No worse for wear the next morning, either. If salt bloats me I am unaware of it. Having eaten such ginormous quantities of it, I believe I’ve become immune to its water-retaining properties. I could ingest it the way a deer does–right off of a salt lick in the middle of a frozen woods–and be completely fine. Except for the hunter gathering me in his sights.

At least I’d die unpuffy.

All of this is to say that I’ve not written in ages. But after the pickle incident I knew it was time. One can only, after all, watch so much TV–especially when such ruinous culinary conduct accompanies the endeavor. I have, since my last post, consumed not only many high-sodium foods, but also six seasons of Sons of Anarchy, half a dozen episodes of “Downton Abbey,” and an hour and a half of “Girls.” Before I start watching–or should I say shooting up–whatever brilliant entertainment comes next, I’ve got to break the cycle. I am becoming a TV junkie. A VOD fiend. The Sid and Nancy of Amazon Prime.

You may say I’m being hard on myself. After all, I’m just doing what most people do, right? This is the American Way! I work hard, I have a plethora of responsibilities, my days are full and dizzying. This gives me leave to vegetate at the end of the day. I’ve earned it. I have sold, clientelled, fundraised, cooked, cleaned, shopped, swept, laundered, counseled, bathed, and entertained. I have played “babies” with my daughter for hours. I have read multiple dinosaur books. I have walked the dog, fed the cat, made the bed. I have stain-treated, book-clubbed, bill-payed, friend-helped,  thank-you-card written,  photo-uploaded,  battery-charged,  filter-changed,  customer-service-called,  paperwork completed, password updated, breakfast-dish-washed, lint-filter-cleaned, and toilet-scrubbed for dozens of waking hours. I have fulfilled my responsibilities. No one in my charge has gone unattended. I am done.

The last thing I want to do now is concentrate. On anything.

So I watch. And watch. And man, it feels good.

But then I think of my readers, the few, the quirky, the persistent. And the historians, the ones for whom I claim to write. And my daughter, for whom I really do. And I know I need to put. Down. The. Remote.

For just five minutes.

So I have done it. Bravo! I will again tomorrow, if I can. And the day after. For if I don’t I’ve left nothing behind. Nothing. Except some empty jars, a crumpled napkin, and the scattered palpitations of other peoples’ stories. Rape? In the servants’ quarters? How could it be???

Anyway. I’m back.

And now I’m going to go watch an episode of Boardwalk Empire. Just one. Heck, I’ve earned it.

Pickle, anyone?

To Done, 12/1/13

  • On early shift. Woke up at 6:30 with MJ. Gave her breakfast, read half of “Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs.” Played six rounds of Candyland. Won more than I would’ve liked.
  • Fed both animals.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Did breakfast dishes.
  • Said good morning to Mike. Apologized for forgetting to make his coffee.
  • Still didn’t make it.
  • Swept part of living room.
  • Stripped bedroom sheets.
  • Put in another load of laundry.
  • Showered.
  • Got dressed.
  • Went to put on makeup. Found cat in the toilet, where he finds his happy place.
  • Took cat out. Dropped him on floor.
  • Realized toilet was filled with pee.
  • Tried to clean up. Promptly stepped in cat-wet floor in stocking feet.
  • Realized I did not have time to change.
  • Said goodbye to Mike and MJ and ran out, cursing cat, in wet-footed haste.
  • Worked from 10:00 AM to 6:30.
  • Raced home.
  • Changed clothes.
  • Put MJ to bed.
  • Had quick dinner with Mike.
  • Washed dinner dishes.
  • Switched laundry again.
  • Worked on raffle tickets.
  • Checked weather for the weekend. Worried in spite of good forecast.
  • Wrote 23 e-mails re Saturday’s fundraiser.
  • Made a double batch of candycane cookie batter for same.
  • Talked on phone to girlfriend about her romantic problems. Her boyfriend is allergic to her cat. Told her I am allergic to mine. Or at least my feet are.
  • Put batter in fridge.
  • Checked weather for Saturday again. Still worried.
  • Wrote 21 more fundraiser-related e-mails.
  • Shooed persistent racoon away from front porch so dog would stop growling.
  • Walked said dog.
  • Checked child.
  • Put cat in back room. Away from all toilets.
  • Left pantyhose soaking in Woolite.
  • Checked weather.
  • Went to bed.
  • Worried some more.

Picture 3

Sums of Manicky

If this blog is the second kid I never had, I’m guilty of some serious neglect.

I’m sorry. I want to be more regular about writing. I have been in the past. Why, back in the day, when I was home with MJ all the time, I was a veritable posting fool. Before she went to a co-op preschool, that is. Back when she napped! But now, this life! The work–in high-end retail at holiday season–the fundraising, the childcare, the housecleaning, the pet chasing, the board meetings, the volunteer days at MJ’s school. The giant event I am planning for same. The need to consume great amounts of “Sons of Anarchy” on my scant downtime. I swear to God, there aren’t two spare moments to rub together. At least two spare moments when I have a functional brain cell left for creative thought. I’m a zombie. A never-stopping, always-behind, constantly number-tallying, guilty-binge-TV-watching zombie.

Even now, I have nothing to say. I am tapped. Zapped. Sapped. My every moment, in these last two weeks, has been consumed with selling raffle tickets, (when I am not at work), and selling overpriced jewelry, (when I am.) In between I try to sell my family on the idea that I am a competent wife and mother. They’re buying, but only because I’m the only shop on the block. God forbid a Walmart should open up next door. Figuratively speaking. Although what a figurative Walmart looks like is anyone’s guess.

Finally, I clean poop. Because our new cat has feces that stink viciously, absurdly, brutally, like dead bodies on crack. If we don’t scoop it out right away the entire house becomes an intolerable, unbreathable haz-mat zone.

He also likes to pad around in our sinks and toilet bowls, leaving dirty little footprints on the porcelain.

So glad we got a second animal.

Anyway. I just wanted to tell you that I’m here–that the blogger in me is still alive, if currently buried in receipts, petty cash, and five-dollar raffle tickets. She will re-emerge. Probably after December 7th, when this damn event will be over, and definitely after December 25th, when the other damn event (otherwise known as Christmas) will be similarly behind us.

Until then, exhausted, distracted, and enfeebled by her desire to raise funds, she will poke her head up only occasionally, with some effort, and with predictably mediocre results.

Then she’ll poke it back down, to watch her favorite motorcycling sexpots run more guns.

A girl’s got to decompress somehow.

Raffle ticket, anyone?

IMG_1410

Candy Barred

You know you’re getting old when you start off a sentence with “Back when I was a kid–”

But that’s exactly what I did this morning when my daughter woke up, found out Halloween was over, and burst into copious tears.

“B-b-but Daddy told me Halloween goes on for days!” she wailed.

“I think he meant days in advance,” I said drily. Off her blank look I added “you’ve been celebrating it for roughly two weeks.”

Time means little to a four year old. Elapsed time, even less. Elapsed time during which the child was eating more candy than any adult should in a decade and feeling absolutely fantastic about it? Unintelligible.

“Look,” I went on, “back when I was a kid, Halloween was only one night. About three hours. That was all we got.”

“Really?” Myra-Jean responded in a quavering voice.

“Yup.” I cuddled her a little closer–we were in her bed together, she under the blankets, me on top of them. “We didn’t have the Halloween festivals leading up to it, the block parties, the “Boo on the Boolevards.” We didn’t trick or treat at Starbucks a week before. We didn’t even have Starbucks. ”

She looked at me, obviously pained. “Whoa.”

I built up steam. “It was one night. A little sliver of time. We didn’t even get face painted at school. Heck,” I went on, musingly, “I don’t think I got face painted at all until I was, like, twenty.”

MJ started crying again. I should’ve quit when I was ahead.

“The point is,” I went on, stroking her forehead, “you get a lot more Halloween than me or Daddy ever did. So I’m sorry it’s over, but–”

Myra-Jean sobbed harder. “It’s really over?”

I looked at her in disbelief. “Didn’t we just discuss this?”

Her cries rose loudly in the small, morning-shadowed room. Jesus. You’d think her dog had just died. She would definitely wake Mike.

“Let’s go get some breakfast.” The kitchen was a bit farther from our bedroom.

Feeding the animals distracted her for a few minutes, but soon Myra-Jean was whimpering again. Standing by the dining room table, she poked at the ruined finish of the wood with a stray fork. “Mama. I’m not happy.”

“You don’t say.” Grabbing the utensil gently out of her hand I tossed it into the sink. Just because she was grieving didn’t mean she got to be destructive.

“I want to go trick or treating one more time!”

I sighed, staring at her uselessly. I was out of ideas. At my feet, Walter mewled. Mina nipped at him. Walter hissed. Myra-Jean screamed.

“Mina!” I shouted. “Walter. Myra-Jean! All of you calm down!”

Enter Mike. No big surprise. Hard to imagine how anyone could sleep through an uproar of such Biblical proportions.

“What’s going on?” he asked blearily.

Handing him a cup of coffee, I explained. “Mina’s trying to kill Walter, as usual. Also,” trying to keep any trace of sarcasm out of my voice,”Myra-Jean is feeling really sad because Halloween is over.”

Mike nodded gravely and turned to MJ. “You know, you can still wear your costume any time you–”

I had tried this tack already, and knew where it was going. I covered my ears.

“I don’t care about my costume! I want to trick or treat!”

“OK,” Mike said calmly. Really calmly, considering the hearing damage he’d just incurred. “You know,” he continued, “back when we were kids–”

“I tried this,” I interjected quietly.

Deaf to my warning, he went on. “Back when we were kids Halloween only lasted for one night.”

Shaking my head, I began washing dishes. Mike talked for a few minutes, repeating essentially what I’d said earlier. But he closed with something new, something said in a fun and conspiratorial voice:

“Even though trick or treating is done, we still have the candy! Lots of it! Candy eating goes on for awhile.”

MJ’s head swivelled towards me. “But Mama said no more candy after Halloween.”

Wuh-whoa. I’d forgotten about that conversation.

MIke cocked his head at me, then looked back at her. “I think she meant no more trick or treating.”

“No,” MJ declared. “Mama said I could only eat candy on Halloween, and after that it was only for ‘special occasions’.” She emphasized the latter phrase carefully, although she had no idea what it meant.

MIke shot a look at me.

Wincing, I muttered ruefully “I think I might have said that.”

Silence.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” I squeaked. “Sugar’s just so bad for you.”

Mike nodded slowly. “So that’s why she was shoving candy in her mouth last night like a just-freed prisoner of war.”

How poetic. I nodded. “It might’ve been.”

“Is this what your parents did?” Mike demanded.

“No.” I winced. I could feel the word HYPOCRITE flashing over my head like a Broadway marquee. “We ate candy all month.”

Mike shook his head, then smiled. He wasn’t mad. He was just laughing at me. Which is worse. I couldn’t blame him.

I turned to MJ. “I’m sorry, honey. Of course you can still eat your candy. For many days to come. Forever.” Or at least a week, I added in my mind.

Myra-Jean smiled for the first time that morning.

When I left the kitchen she and Mike were happily sorting her booty into piles. There was a lot of it. An indecent amount. Absolutely no more trick or treating was necessary.

Just a little bit more give and take by the old timers.

Or one in particular.

If only you could trick or treat for that.

photo-39

Four for Four

Birthdays come but once a year. And it’s a damn good thing. Any more, and parents would be dropping like flies.

Or I would, anyway. MJ’s party was four days ago now, and I’m only just feeling human again. As for my pocketbook, well, it may need a bit more time to recover. Because you know what? It turns out that even a super casual, bagels-in-the-park,  cupcakes from Vons, no favor bags birthday party can be extraordinarily expensive. It might’ve been cheaper to rent a yacht. Who knew?

But it was worth it. I think. Myra-Jean seemed to enjoy it. Mostly.  I mean, let’s be honest–by the end of such a party pretty much any preschooler is in a stage five meltdown. What with the sugar, the attention, the pinata, the grownups goosing their cheeks–it’s enough to make even the most phlegmatic of four-year-olds blow a gasket. MJ, being no exception to this rule, spent the last half-hour of the party refusing to acknowledge departing guests and screaming “I just want to open my presents!!” I thought we were going to have to sedate her. Good times.

But then it was over–the invitees headed home, the cups and plates cleaned up, the smashed Jupiter pinata stuffed in the trash, the remaining cupcakes tossed. We headed up the hill to our house and ate takeout lunch with our family. Everyone was starved. One thing you forget to do at these things is eat.

As for MJ, she was all over the place. One minute she played with a new toy, the next she was sobbing over getting served the “wrong kind of chicken.” She said she’d enjoyed the party, but it was hard to tell. She was tired. She was mean. She was edgy. And this edginess lasted for the next three days.

It only seemed to lift yesterday–the actual day of her birthday. I’d had to work–a fact deemed unforgivable by my daughter–and it looked like the day could be a total debacle. Myra-Jean was furious when I left.

“You may never go!” she screamed. “Ever!”

The four birthday-themed postcards I’d left her notwithstanding, I felt like the worst parent alive.

But as the day went on, I heard that she cheered up. School was fun. The weather a bit cooler. In the afternoon she did some gardening with her father.

And then I was able to get off early to meet them for dinner! At our favorite restaurant!  We ate pho and crayoned pictures of Walter and Mina on small white pieces of scrap paper. MJ chewed french fries with fish sauce and seemed ecstatic to be up past her bedtime. After dinner, we went to ice cream; when we were done eating it I watched, grinning stupidly, as my husband and daughter danced to “American Pie” in the middle of the empty parlor’s floor.

There, in that moment, I found the joy of her fourth birthday. And, judging by their faces, I’d have to say Mike and MJ did as well. No pinatas, no space decorations, no craft table, no hats. Just a quiet dinner, a sweet dessert, and the hard slate floor of an empty shop.

Perhaps next year we’ll just skip straight to that.

To Done, 10-15-13

Ah, Tuesday. My half day “off.”

  • Dropped MJ at school.
  • Went to car wash.
  • Returned a phone call while waiting for car to be cleaned. Counseled a girlfriend on boy troubles.
  • Drove to Target, still on phone. Continued talking to friend while  looking for stuff for MJ’s space-themed birthday party on Sunday. Uttered phrases like “some mens’ brains really are in their dicks” while perusing the kids’ paper products. Found nothing. Left with cotton balls, candy for the pinata I hadn’t yet purchased, and streamers.
  • Went to Michael’s to return a huge bag of wrong stuff Mike bought for the party. Planned on buying more wrong stuff, but the clerk wouldnt let me return because I didn’t have Mike’s Amex. Spoke angrily to her. Told her I would never shop there again. Knew I was lying. Still, to save face had to leave without making any purchases. Decided to send Mike tomorrow.
  • Dropped suit at dry cleaners.
  • Did a shop at Fresh and Easy, worried the whole time about pinata candy melting in car.  Noticed giant lumpy pumpkins for sale. Got one for MJ. Also bought four bags of groceries, several cases of juice boxes for party, toilet paper, and various kiddie snacks.
  • Raced everything home, unloaded car. Put groceries in fridge. Put candy in fridge. Put toilet paper in bathroom. Lugged lumpy pumpkin to front steps. Worried it would die in the sun. Wondered if it was actually alive. Left it.
  • Changed sheets on our bed
  • Changed sheets on MJ’s bed.
  • Put in a load of laundry.
  • Raced back down hill to nail appointment.
  • Read entire September 3rd edition of New Yorker while getting mani pedi.
  • Went with still-wet nails to bakery to order MJ’s birthday cake. Tried to find solar-system-themed decoration. No luck. Ended up ordering a Transformers cake without the action figures. All that will remain is a partial, fuzzy picture of an unnamed planet. I will supply additional decorations myself. From where, I don’t know. Probably Michael’s.
  • Drove to party supply store to reserve tables. Far more expensive than last year. For a “low key” gathering, this thing is starting to break the bank. Looked for a rocket ship pinata. Nothing close. Sales clerk suggested I buy an R2D2  and cut the legs off. WTF? Left.
  • Went to another party store. It had tons of pinatas, all of them star-shaped with media characters on sides. Contemplated the saturation of corporate branding in kids’ products. Contemplated painting over a Barbie face to make a plain star. Contemplated suicide. Left empty-handed.
  • Picked up MJ, who was grouchy and tired.
  • Brought her home, showed her new pumpkin. Was informed it was the “wrong kind.”
  • Wondered if pumpkins are returnable.
  • Walked dog.
  • Brought in trash bins.
  • Switched laundry.
  • Fed animals.
  • Made dinner.
  • Got MJ ready for bed. Consoled her when she found out I have to work tomorrow and cried for half an hour.
  • Put her down.
  • Straightened house.
  • Wrote post.
  • Considered going back to work full-time.

IMG_1103