Category Archives: laundry/ironing

To Done, 10/8/13

Today MJ was in school from 9:15 to 2:15. Here’s what I got done while she was gone:

  • Picked up all toys, clothes, and artwork from floor.
  • Straightened MJ’s “studio.” Put all beads, pipe cleaners, stickers, “treasures,” and stamps back in their designated bins, muttering under my breath the whole time.
  • Vacuumed whole house.
  • Mopped kitchen and utility room.
  • Cleaned both bathrooms.
  • Did three loads of laundry.
  • Wrote fundraising e-mail to committee of Winter Faire at MJ’s school.
  • Attempted–twice–to reach donation department at Home Depot. Want them to give two Christmas Trees for our Faire. Won’t get hopes up–they won’t even spring for voice mail.
  • Wrote e-mail to work, asking for days off so that I can attend important Halloween events with MJ. Worried I’ll be denied.
  • Attempted to play with cat. Desisted, due to lack of interest.
  • Washed kitchen rug.
  • Wiped windowsills.
  • Dusted living room.
  • Removed one more alphabet sticker from flat screen TV. At this rate it will be cleared of them completely by 2014.
  • Attempted to remove glue from coffee table. Failed.
  • Attempted to remove piece of construction paper pasted to bathroom sink. Failed.
  • Loaded dishwasher.
  • Wrote another fundraising e-mail.
  • Scanned and e-mailed banking forms for our life insurance company. We fell victim to fraud again (!!) last week, and have had to close our old checking account and open a new one. This has meant contacting everyone we do online billing with and giving them our new routing number, etc. Next time an innocent-looking teenager comes to our door selling newspaper subscriptions “for her school” and asks me for a voided check I plan on assaulting her with a stepping stool.
  • Made bed.
  • Brought in trash cans.
  • Ate lunch.
  • Wrote this.
  • Left for pickup.

Tomorrow, at least, I get to go back to work. Maybe I’ll even get a manicure on my lunch break. That’ll feel like a day off, indeed.

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To Do or Not To Do

Who says grownups don’t have homework? We’ve got a shitload. And there’s no blaming the dog if we don’t get it done.

I’ll speak for myself. I can’t catch up. If life were a graded class I’d be scrambling for a D.

These days, with work added in, I feel unbelievably swamped. Because everything now must be squeezed into the four days when I’m home. Or the parts of those days, that is, when MJ is not demanding my undivided attention to make up for my absence the rest of the time.

Which boils down to about, oh, forty minutes a day. Into which I try to squeeze the numberless quotidian duties of a modern mom, wife and homeowner. Plus:

The fundraising. It’s always on my mind. Always. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Or the committee chairmanship. How, I ask myself, will I raise thirty thousand dollars for my kid’s school? How? I lie in bed at night worrying. Plotting. Despairing. When I finally fall asleep, I dream about car washes, bake sales, ebay auctions, bank robberies. Only the latter is effective. Because it’s carried out by three-year-olds, with sticks for guns. Riding on bananas. Who’s gonna say no to that?

Then I wake up. And we’re still at zero.

Anyway. Then there’s this blog. I love it. But it’s an obligation, too. Self-imposed, but aren’t most of them?

Next: the garden. Jesus Christ, what a time suck. A while ago, in a fit of impatience and shortsightedness, I had Mike tear out the sprinkler system. Now everything has to be watered by hand. Every other day. Because it’s 150 degrees out there. Plants wilt easily. So do people. It’s a drag. And it takes seventeen hundred hours. I hate it. But I hate looking at bare dirt, too.

Next: the lunches. If we don’t pack those the night before, the morning is a disaster. Even under the best of circumstances our days begin frantically. God forbid we should add in one more task. Especially one involving mayonnaise.

Then there are the phone calls. To friends, family, insurance companies, tax assessors, veterinarians, doctors, handymen,  exterminators, board members, possible fundraising connections, old acquaintances whom I’ve been promising to call for years and haven’t and now they hate me.

And don’t forget the straightening. And straightening. And straightening. And dishwashing, laundry, bathroom cleaning, garbage emptying, sheet changing, doghair sweeping, toy picking up, dusting, organizing, mealmaking and melted-crayon-scraping.

Once all of the above is done (hah!) there’s the book club assignment. “Gone Girl,” at the moment. I like it. But I hate it more. Especially as it has to be done by Wednesday, and I still have 100 pages to go. Each of which will drip with venom, duplicity, and perfidy. Good for the outlook! Next book: “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

Speaking of positives. There is one homework assignment I love. It’s the postcards to Myra-Jean. These are crucial now. They are the sole reason she no longer bursts into tears when I tell her I’m going to work. They actually make her glad. Glad I’m going, so she can look for them. It’s that easy. Or so it seems. It probably isn’t. But it’s helping.

And guess what? I like drawing them. I do it the night before. It relaxes me. Crayons are a cooperative medium. Unlike life.

Anyway. I imagine her face as she finds them, her tapered finger pointing as she sounds out the letters “O-W-L,” her delight at the image of a favorite planet, her soft smile as Mike reads my words. This makes me happy. I need no dog here. Nothing to snatch away this highest and most pleasurable of tasks: the lightening of my daughter’s day. I love it.

And it makes me feel better about everything else that’s been left undone. At least I’ve got my priorities right.

That and thirty grand will get me a decent night’s sleep.

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Hired and Tired

Saturday morning I said goodbye to Mike and MJ, left the house in my new black suit, and drove to Pasadena to work the counters of high-end retail. It’s a job I did for years before MJ was born. Although I excelled at it, and my company treated me kindly, I swore never to return. Mostly it’s the dress code. I abhor hose. But it’s also the whole rich people thing. And the chain store thing. And the mean-spirited nature of for-commission sales. And the long hours. And the–OK, I could go on. But I won’t. Suffice it to say that, a year after my daughter was born, I gave all of my suits to Goodwill.

“No matter what work I go back to someday,” I told myself confidently, “it won’t be that. Plus, I’ll never be a size zero again.”

It turns out only the latter was true. Now I have to buy all new suits. In a larger size, of course.

Because I am back. Three days a week. That’s what will get me benefits, and right now we need them badly. A fact that hasn’t stopped me from feeling pretty sorry for myself.

It’s not that I mind working, per se. Like most of us, I’ve done it my entire adult life. I do, however, long for work that utilizes my brain, creativity, and twisted, occasional wit. But I still don’t know what that work is. Funnily, being a stay-at-home mom is the closest I’ve come.

It’s the hours of this job that are the hardest. When I say goodbye to MJ in the morning, now, it is for the day. I don’t get home until nearly eight, at which point she is asleep.  I’m losing, then, nearly half of my time with her. For someone who has been with her nearly every moment of her life, this is no small thing.

And I knew it would be tough.

But the pain of it, on that first day, surprised even me.

I was fine during the day. Lunchtime, with its quiet break room, almond butter sandwich, and buzzing fluorescent lights, was melancholy, but otherwise I stayed busy. “I’m OK,” I told myself. “I’m doing this.”

It was when I got in the car to drive home that things fell apart. I didn’t see it coming, either. It was like one of those stomach flus that arrive out of nowhere–one moment you’re fine and the next you’re heaving into your Crate and Barrel waste basket.

There I was, leaving the parking garage, fuming to myself about their $7 charge. “Rip off,” I muttered. “What’s the point of even working?” I pulled out into Pasadena traffic. Made a left on Green Street. Stopped for some pedestrians. I dialed Mike on the cell phone–perhaps I could at least speak to MJ before she went down. No answer. Dropping my phone dejectedly in the cupholder I looked up. There was a group of women  in the crosswalk. All were blonde and snugly dressed, but of disparate ages. Maybe they were related. It was hard to tell, because all five of them were sporting huge quantities of plastic surgery. One of them, with lips like tire rubbers and a face like pale jeggings, let her gaze drop on me. Mostly in a “you are going to stop, aren’t you?” way.

Our eyes met. It’s then that I started sobbing.

Each of her companions, now, turned to gaze at me–five exotic gazelles scanning the urban tundra. One cocked her head as she stared. “She’s doing something weird with her mouth,” her face seemed to say.

It was all I could do not to shout “so are you!”

But I didn’t. I was too busy crying.

I cried all through busy Pasadena. I cried on the freeway ramp. I cried down the 134, and onto the 2. I cried, smudging rivers off of my face, as I drove into Mt. Washington. I sobbed as I passed the spot where I got my ticket. (I also stopped, of course. I was upset, not stupid.)

When I got home I cried at Mike for a good long while. Then I peeled off my work clothes, dropping them carelessly on the wooden arm of a chair, and trudged, in my underwear, into MJ’s room.

Out like a light, as she should be.

Kneeling by her bed, I stroked her hair, adjusted her covers, and wiped my face on her stuffed animals. Snuff, snuff. It was a pathetic picture. Especially because I was wearing a garment–recently acquired at Target–that can only be described as a Granny thong. I got it for yoga. Which, I wept to myself as I gazed down at my garb, I would never do again now that I work.

And so it goes. It wasn’t until I had written a self-pitying epistle of great length and emotionality to a friend of mine that I was snapped out of my spell. She is in Brazil right now, and wrote back, via e-mail, quite immediately:

“You need to grow up a little about this,” she started. She went on to remind me of my good fortune in landing this particular job. “Maybe it’s just that I’m in a poor country, the backs of people being broken by inflation and NO jobs.  A job to support their families?  People would kill for that.”

And I know she’s right.  I’m going to get grateful. In a few days. For now, though? I am an emotional wreck with one wrinkled suit, another shift to work tomorrow, and a daughter I can’t stop kissing.

The good news? She’s fully potty trained. At last. It happened just this week, seemingly out of the blue. Maybe she’s more ready for this change than I know. Whatever the case, I’m glad I won’t have to teach any new caregivers the “drip catcher” technique.

Thank God for small favors.

And good benefits.

And the resilience of humans everywhere.

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The Doctor is In(sane)

Something seems to have happened to my child.

She turned three-and-a-half recently, and since then she’s gone mildly psychotic. I mean, she was always eccentric, but in a quiet way. A basically manageable one. Now? She’s wearing me down. I’m going grayer by the minute. Not just my hair, either. My skin. My brain. The soles of my feet.

First, she’s become a Diva. She goes on tears that rival Streisand’s. Tantrums about the way I’ve sliced her pita bread. Wild-eyed rants about where she will and will not poop. Shrieking fits when–God forbid–we attempt to wipe her nose with a paper tissue. Only cloth napkins for our little princess!

But she’s also gone OCD. She’s obsessed, for example, with playing doctor. Obsessed. She wants to play it eight hours a day. More. Her work ethic is spectacular. She’s like that guy from “House,” but on steroids. Maybe he is on steroids. I’ve never actually watched the show.

Anyway, the trouble is, she’ll only play it with me. Because here’s another problem: The days of her amusing herself happily for hours are gone. It’s all Mama, all the time. I’ve never wanted another kid in the house so badly. I’d rent one, if I could. But we’re on a budget. So, for interminable hours every day, I’m at “the office.” Myra-Jean brings me “patients,” one after another. I reluctantly put on the plastic Fisher Price stethoscope that maims and tortures my ears. Who that thing was designed to fit I’ll never understand. A giant, it seems, with bare gaping holes on the sides of his head.

I say to whatever stuffed animal MJ puts in front of me–an owl, perhaps–

“Welcome. I’m Dr. Jessica. What brings you to the doctor today?”

The owl–via MJ–replies. “I’m coughing. And throwing up. I have a fever.”

I make concerned sounds and listen to the owl’s heart. My daughter watches raptly. Not because she’s admiring my work. No, she’s waiting for me to slip up. Her entire reason for being there, really, is to tell me what I’m doing wrong. She’s like a vulture swooping down ravenously on my every misstep. I can almost feel the breeze from her approaching wings.

I pick up a pipe cleaner lying on the examination table. “Let me give you a shot–”

“Not with that!” MJ shrieks. “That’s the tongue depressor!” She picks up a plastic fork. “This is the needle.”

I take it, chastened. “Sorry.”

I give owl the shot. MJ makes crying sounds. “You hurt him.”

“I apologize,” I say. “Shots hurt.”

She is stern. “He needs a band aid.”

“Right.” I search around. Spotting a scrap of construction paper on the floor I pick it up and press it to owl’s wing. “There.”

“That’s not a band aid!” MJ rips it from my grasp. Tears well in her eyes. “That’s a stool sample. For the lab!” She begins to cry.

“Just tell me what to use,” I say, helpless before her frustrated grief.

She wipes her tears. With a cloth napkin. You have no idea how many of them I wash. Every. Single. Day. God forbid paper should ever touch her face. Some day, if MJ ever poops in the potty, I will be wiping her bottom with silk.

Speaking of which. We had book club on Wednesday night. It was raucous as usual. Among the things discussed: sea sponge tampons (again), possible uses for a 14 1/2 inch dildo, and something called the “family cloth.” The latter is, apparently, a new environmental movement wherein families use fabric instead of paper to wipe their bottoms. It is then washed and reused.

That night I proposed “family cloth” to Mike. His eyebrows went so high they almost penetrated the ceiling. I should do it for a week, he said, then talk to him.

He lacks zeal, I’m afraid.

I probably would give it a try without him, too, except that I have no receptacle in which to place my, er, wasted fabric. Had I not thrown away our Diaper Genie in a fit of rage it might have filled the ticket. As it stands, though, I fear I must recuse myself for lack of equipment. Not to mention marital support, which seems vital for such an undertaking. It’s too bad, too, because I just retired my favorite sheets. Cut into small pieces they would’ve been just what the doctor ordered. Instead they’ll act as reserve troops for MJ’s vast and well-trained napkin army. No civil service for them, either. They’ll be in combat in no time.

Cue “Taps.”

Anyway. I’ll say one last thing on the subject of playing doctor. Fisher Price’s kit comes with a toy blood pressure monitor, too, and it turns out it comes in mighty handy when your daughter puts bread up her nose and it gets stuck there. In the end you’ll have to go to the doctor anyway, where they’ll lie her down and spray saline solution up her nostril in a way that reminds you–just a tiny bit–of waterboarding. But before that, when you’re still at home and she’s screaming “Don’t take me to the doctor! Pleeeeeeeeease”?

You’ll pull the yellow squeezy thing off and try using it like a bulb syringe. It won’t work. But you’ll congratulate yourself on your resourcefulness. And wonder if you shouldn’t have gone to med school after all.

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Bra-Vado

Talk about a stay of execution.

I’d been feeling really tired for the last week or two. Like, exhausted. (And no, I’m not pregnant. Waah.)

As there seemed to be no other ready explanation for it, I came to the eventual conclusion that I had a terminal illness. Probably breast cancer. What can I say? I’d been reading a lot of Lisa B. Adams’ blog. I’m impressionable. If only my wild imagination had powers of good, like coming up with awesome screenplay ideas or new ways to save the coral reefs, what a star I’d be.

But it doesn’t. And I’m not. I just get a lot of diseases.

This latest one terrified me. But it also got me thinking about underwire bras.

I’ll explain: I’ve eschewed them my entire life. Mostly because I don’t have the boobs for them, but also because I’d heard somewhere, a long time ago, that they might be a cause of the aforementioned illness.

Cut to today. I’m sitting on the couch. I’m feeling tired. I’m worrying about breast cancer. But I’m comforting myself with the fact that, while there is, of course, a chance I have it, it’s not high. I’ve never, after all, worn underwires. At least I have that going for me.

Then, just to be sure, I reached under my shirt. And I froze.

My hand touched hard steel.

In that moment I realized something. Something awful: that not only had my breasts changed irrecoverably when I gave birth to my daughter, but that my relationship with them had too. We were so distant now–like married people asleep in separate rooms–that I didn’t even know what they wore. They were like teenagers, sneaking out of the house in one outfit, then changing into another when my back was turned.

“When,” I almost shouted at them, “did you start gallivanting around in that getup?”

I was seriously losing it. I was apparently in possession of a whole drawer full of garments I am deeply opposed to. How did this happen? Last time I checked, my bras were all of the flimsy cloth variety. True, they provided no support and little “nipple discretion,” but neither were they life threatening!

I must’ve purchased the underwires in some kind of lingerie-related blackout. It wouldn’t be the first time. I shopped for bras last year and accidentally bought a bunch of padded ones. Super padded. So padded that every time I hold MJ she jabs her thumbs into the cups like they’re some kind of finger trampoline. “Boing,” she crows. “Boing boing!”

I can’t feel it. But it still irks.

The pads are bad. The fact that the bras are pushups is worse. And more ironic, as there’s literally nothing to push up. Except the padding itself. Which is, for the most part, too busy being stabbed by my daughter to go anywhere. It just lies there, pleading for mercy.

But underwires? I didn’t think I’d stooped so low.

Clearly my breasts are no longer my own. We don’t speak. We are estranged.

Thank God I have other friends. It was one of them who informed me, this afternoon, that I wasn’t dying. Not now, anyway.

I’d mentioned my allergies, which are ghastly at the moment, and which I’ve never really had before.

“I know,” she replied. “They suck. Doesn’t the fatigue just knock you out?”

I sat up straight, a faint shaft of hope tapping at the uncleaned window of my mind. “Do allergies make you tired?”

“Oh, hell, yes.” she said.

I almost hugged her. “I’m not dying!”I shrieked, and danced–listlessly, but still–around the kitchen.

So the good news is, I may have a clean bill of health. The bad news? The pollen count is really high. I’m trying to use only cloth napkins for blowing my nose. Or rags. Made from old sheets. Which feels like blowing your nose on a bed. It’s sort of a disaster.

Wait a minute. The bras. I need to get rid of them anyway. I could–

Excuse me. I feel a sneeze coming on. I’ve got to get my shirt off and start working on these hooks and eyes.

The Goddess of Small Things

Ask the president what he’s gotten done in the last few hours. “Oh,” he’ll say modestly. “I talked to Angela Merkel for a while. I raised three million bucks. Strengthened emissions guidelines, too. Oh, and I defused that whole ‘best-looking attorney general‘ kerfuffle.”

Ask Ben Affleck. “I wrote another screenplay. Met with a bunch of execs. Had lunch with Jen. Talked to Redford about a possible presidential run.”

Ask a scientist: “Cured a rare childhood disease.”

A novelist: “Wrote three chapters.”

A hedge fund manager: “Made a billion.”

Ask me.

“I cleaned the utility room.”

Do I feel unimportant? Not at all. Someone has to keep this house running. And nobody does it like me.

So eat your heart out, Barack. Oh, and watch out for Ben. I think he’s gaining on you.