Category Archives: Shopping

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!”

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Striking a Bad Cuord

“I’m a good mother,” I thought, as I pressed “place my order” on the Mini Boden website.

I was buying Myra-Jean some leggings to replace the ones she owns that are too short, too tight, or have holes in inappropriate places. Kids’ leggings are a constant challenge; they wear out in seconds, their sizing is bizarre, and, unlike other clothing types, you rarely find nice ones used. So I have to shop for them. Which I dislike.

This is mostly due to my inclination towards overwhelmedness. There are too many options; I don’t know where to go. I’m trying to avoid H&M, which used to be my go-to place for kids’ gear. They have great stuff, but their labor practices are an issue. Especially for Mike. Every time I shop there he asks me how it feels to buy clothes for a six-year-old that were made by…a six-year-old. It’s a real buzzkill.

So I’ve been shopping elsewhere, with varied success. MJ is tall and has the hips of a grasshopper (I don’t know if grasshoppers even have hips. But neither, effectively, does MJ.) She’s also extremely sensitive. If the elastic is too tight she says the pants are “choking her waist.” So much for Crew Cuts. If the seams are too thick she rejects the pants as itchy. Adios, GAP Kids. Where to try next?

One of my mom friends suggested Mini-Boden, so last week I ordered three pairs of leggings from them. One was a digression from my usual choices: a vivid orange “stretch corduroy” that I was almost certain MJ would reject. “Screw it,” I thought. “Returns are easy. Finding decent leggings isn’t.”

To my surprise, the corduroys were the biggest hit. Myra-Jean wanted to wear them immediately. Partly because of the color, and partly due to the novelty of the material. We tried them on briefly; they seemed fine. The waist wasn’t too tight; in fact, it seemed relaxed. The leg part was snug, but within acceptable bounds.

“You sure these are comfortable?” I asked?

“They’re awesome.”

We were running late. No time to waste. Off to school she went, day-glo legs blazing in the morning sun.

When I got home from work at the end of the day, MJ didn’t seem up for her usual jumping-on-the-bed routine. This was strange; she always hits the mattress at 6:30 sharp. Tonight she just sat listlessly on the edge of the bed and watched me change out of my work clothes.

“How was your day?” I asked her. “Great, bad, or indifferent?”

MJ wrinkled her face. “Indifferent.”

Surprised, I asked why.

“Those leggings,” she said, “can NOT be worn on school days.” It turned out they had fallen down all day. Especially when she bent over or squatted.

“And I squatted a LOT today, Mama. We had drama class!”

“Oh, buddy,” I said, taking her hand. “I’m so sorry.”

MJ made a pained face. “Two girls were laughing at me on the playground. They said my butt was showing. It was really awful.”

When things like this happen I want names and phone numbers. Not that I’ll do anything. Just so my rage can fester.

“Who were the girls?”

MJ named two kids I knew. One of whom she’d had play dates with. “I thought she was my friend,” she said sadly.

“Oh, honey.” I wanted to kill them. I also wanted to kill those pants. Corduroy leggings. Idiotic concept. What was I thinking?

There was nothing I could do but make sure it didn’t happen again. “I’ll return them tomorrow,” I said adamantly.

MJ raised her drooping head to look at me, horrified. “No!” she cried. “I like them. I just can’t wear them to school.”

I didn’t have the heart to contradict her. Not after the day she’d had. But man, do I have it in for those leggings. I haven’t returned them, but only because I can’t stand to touch them yet. They’re sitting on the toy chest in our hallway, where I can shoot them evil glares every time I walk past them. Call it a sartorial purgatory.

And I will return them. I may not be able to punish those little schoolyard rats, but I can sure as hell wreak havoc on the Mini Boden returns department.

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Butt Why?

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No. I wanna betta bus bench.

Nothing like having a daughter who is just starting to read to fire up your feminist leanings. Do we really have to look at this crap? Does she? This particular ad is ubiquitous in the East LA neighborhood I live in. I passed it three times on my way to Trader Joe’s this morning.

“No,” I muttered each time, growing more caustic-sounding with each sighting. “No, I don’t. No, my butt is fine. No, her butt is fine. All of our butts are fine, you idiots!”

This last bit I yelled. A lady waiting for the bus shot me an alarmed look.

“Sorry,” I muttered apologetically. Then I rolled up my window.

Another turn, another bench. I pondered the model’s ass, which she is dutifully raising for us to inspect. Annoyed, I moved on to her face. So vapid, so anodyne. What is she really thinking? Impossible to say beneath the exuberant airbrushing. Maybe she’s calculating how much she’ll make on this shoot. Maybe she’s thinking about sushi for lunch. Maybe she’s trying not to pass gas. Butts do that too, you know.

What’s for sure is that she’s not thinking about my kid, and neither  is the company whose jeans she touts. But I am. I’ll have to explain this ad, and every one like it, to her. No billboard, placard, or sign escapes her notice now that she can read. We’ve discussed “Little Caesar’s” at great length (perhaps she was too young for the Ides of March?) We’ve learned about STDs (as I said, this is East LA). We’ve dissected watch ads, liquor ads, car ads, ads for things even I find disturbing.

And now we’ll have to start dissecting this. The pouty-lipped, unnaturally posed, slightly hostile-looking girl on billboard concept. And allllll that it entails. Oh, MJ. How can I explain?

I want a better bus bench. I want a better world. Or I want my kid to forget how to read.

She Sells Sea Kelp

Bag of old kelp, going cheap!

The back story: It’s March, 2011, and I’m in in a panic over the Fukishima nuclear disaster. Convinced that vast waves of radiation are about to hit Southern California and poison my young daughter, I order a bag of dried kelp online. I’ve read somewhere that eating seaweed will protect her thyroid gland from the toxic effects of radiation exposure. This stuff, in particular, is premium–I’ve gotten it from a place in Maine that promises it’s the purest, highest-grade variety available–the Humboldt County Thai stick of seaweed.

“As opposed to the commercial crap you get at Whole Foods?” Mike teased.

“Whatever,” I replied, not laughing. “It’s got to be the best. This is serious.” Not to mention that I’d already been to Whole Foods, and their entire seaweed section was sold out. I wasn’t the only paranoid mommy in L.A.

The kelp arrived in a huge plastic bag inside of an even huger box. I’d ordered a pound, not quite registering just how much that would be. It was a lot. But I was happy to have it. For an entire year I fed it to Myra-Jean in everything–smoothies, soups, salads, you name it. I even gave her great, desiccated chunks of it to chew on whole. She was young enough to not complain–sometimes I even thought she liked it.

But time passed, and my fervor to protect MJ’s thyroid gland abated. It had been a year. Most of the radiation had surely dissipated. Plus, she was getting pickier about her food. You couldn’t just toss the kelp into anything now and expect her to eat it. It had to be hidden, and even then she often found it. Slowly I cut back on adding it, and one day I stopped altogether.

There was a lot left. I gave some away, but even so, we had a huge bag remaining. A shocking amount.

Being me, I threw it in the back of the cabinet.

And there it stayed, a dark, solitary hulk squatting behind bags of white beans, dusty cans of baby corn, and a never-opened box of instant miso soup packets. Even though it took up an absurd amount of space, I liked seeing it there. It felt reassuring. Bring on the next nuclear disaster, I thought; we’re ready.

So when Mike periodically asked if it could be tossed, my answer was always the same:

“Let’s hold on to it. You never know if we’ll need it again.”

Finally, about a month ago, Mike drew the line. It had to go. At least from the kitchen. I knew he was right. It was ridiculous to keep it any longer. It probably wasn’t even edible anymore. Although does dried seaweed really go bad? Has anyone done the research? Oh, well. It wasn’t going to be me who found out.

Pulling it from the cabinet, I headed for the outdoor trash bin. But I couldn’t do it. It was just too drastic of a move. So, in a burst of my usual non-pragmatism, I stuck it in the utility room. On the dryer. That’s on the way to the trash, I reasoned, but not there yet. It’s like purgatory, for bags of seaweed.

And there it remained for weeks, waiting for someone to decide its fate.

This morning Mike picked it up and raised it before my eyes. “We need to make a decision about this.”

“I know,” I said guiltily.

“Can I throw it away?”

“No. Yes. No! Um–look, can we just stick it in the emergency supplies box?”

Mike shook his head sadly. “There’s no room for it.”

Damn. I sighed. “I’m just not ready to let it go. It’s the purest kind of kelp. From the Atlantic. No radiation, no pollution…”

There was a pause. Finally, looking slightly defeated, Mike placed it back on the dryer and threw his hands up.

“You deal with it.”

And I will. In the next year or two. In the meantime it’s making the utility room smell pleasantly of the sea.

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Bird Flew

Stages of grief. There are the ones famously described by Elisabeth Kubler Ross. But there are other, lesser known types as well. Those, for example, experienced by a four-year-old girl who has to return a favorite bird book to the library. A book she has had out for two-and-a-half months. A book that can no longer be renewed and is many days overdue.

These stages look something like this:

Denial.

Realization.

Meltdown.

Strong-arming parent into buying book on Amazon.

Whereas Kubler Ross’s stages can take months, we went through all of ours in a couple of hours.

First, MJ lost it with the babysitter. I wasn’t there for that part. But I heard about it.

“MJ was a little tender tonight,” the sitter told me when I got home from work. “She realized her bird books had gone back to the library,” here she gave me a meaningful look.

I winced. “Oh, right.”

“So she had nothing to read at dinner…”

“But we have other books.”

She nodded sadly. “She wanted the library ones.”

I felt myself growing defensive. “I told her. She knew they had to go back.”

“I know. She was just really upset.”

Shit. “Like, freakout level?

She nodded, “Pretty much.”

After she’d left–I paid her extra for her trouble–I went into the bedroom. MJ was putting her stuffed owls to sleep under a cloth napkin. She barely looked up when I came in.

“Hey,” I said gently, putting on my best horse-whisperer-near-skittish-colt voice.

“Hi, Mama.” she still didn’t turn around.

“Hear you had a tough night tonight.”

She looked up at me. Her face was streaked with dried tears, long salt stains on each cheek. “My bird books are gone.”

I knelt beside her. “I know. Remember we talked about this? We’d had them out for nine weeks. We had no more renewals.”

The tears immediately recommenced, tracing new paths over their predecessors. “I want ‘Look Up.’ I miss it. And the other one. ‘Birds!'”

“Which ‘Birds?” We had two–”

“The one with Blood Lust!” she sobbed. “I want my Blood Lust book!”

The situation devolved from there. She wanted the books back. NOW. Nothing could console her. I tried telling her calmly that it couldn’t happen at night–the library was closed. Big mistake. Reality was not of interest to her. We were at an emotional Defcon five. I could almost hear the sirens.

Opting for a different tack, I told her we could go tomorrow and try to take them out again. This worked for a second. But then I saw her face change.

“W-what if they’re gone?” she sobbed, voice quavering wildly.

“Well, they…might be. But–”

“They’re going to be gone!” she wailed. “My books! Another kid will get them!”

“Oh, honey,” I crooned. “I know. This is hard.”

Aimless sympathy was not what she was looking for. “I need to own them,” she screamed. “I want them always here!”

Ah. So this is was her endgame. Possession. I got it, but I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. After all, I couldn’t go buying her every library book she got attached to. We’d end up looking like Strand Bookstore. And being just as broke.

I told her as much.

“Then I’ll buy them!” she cried.

Really. I decided to call her bluff. “Well, you have loads of money in your piggy bank. Do you want to use some of it for this?

An upturned wet face, desperate with hope: “Yes!”

“It may not be cheap…”

“I don’t care. I have, like, ten hundreds of money.”

So, for the next half an hour, MJ and I traipsed around the house gathering cash from her various stashes. Most of it was coins, but she had some dollars, too. Adding it up as we went, we piled it all into a paper bag she occasionally uses as a purse. Once we’d gotten to $14–an amount I thought fair for two kid’s hardcover books–we went to my laptop and ordered.

“Fortunately for you,” I said, as I clicked the final button, “we have Amazon Prime.”

“What’s that?” asked Myra-Jean.

“Today’s Friday. You’ll have your first book on Sunday.”

She smiled beatifically and cuddled into my chest. “I’m ready for bed now.”

As promised,”Look Up!” came today. Myra-Jean was predictably thrilled. We read it this afternoon, at dinner, in the bathroom, and before bed. Tomorrow, God willing, we’ll receive “Blood Lust.” It’s coming from a third-party seller because–big surprise!–it’s out of print. Probably banned in some states. Used as kindling. Sold for mulch.

As for the money? It’s the first MJ has ever paid for anything. She had a hard time parting with it, in the end. But I think it’s important for her to understand that sometimes you have to buy the things you want. Not every day is Christmas. So I’m not giving it back.

I can’t, however, bring myself to put it in my wallet, either. I don’t want it. It’s her precious loot, after all. Meaning far more to her than it ever could to me.

So there the bag sits on our kitchen counter. A reminder of a sad night, a cycle of grief, a problem solved. Some good memories, some bad…

And some just out of print.

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Of Foam and Feathers

Another day, another crafting anxiety spiral.

In an hour I have to go teach Afternoon Enrichment class at MJ’s school. Remember AE? My anxiety attack over the spiders? My misery as I tried to come up with novel ways to make perfume? It rolls around, once a month, as inevitable as the tides. And as relentless. Work got me out of it for a while, but now I’m here again. The theme today? Birds, of course. How could it be anything but? When your child is waking up in the morning and screeching “Don’t call me MJ! I’m a blue tit!” you don’t have a lot of alternatives.

For days I’ve been googling “bird crafts for preschoolers.” There are plenty of ideas, believe me. But none seems quite right. Or easy enough. Or doable in a sixty-minute time period with eight antsy five-year-olds.

I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over it.

So yesterday I did what I always do. I went to Michael’s and wandered the aisles aimlessly, hoping for inspiration. Last night, when Mike came home from work, I told him the outcome.

“I got some styrofoam balls.”

“Ah.”

“And some feathers!”

“OK…”

“And, um, some lollipop sticks.”

“Some–what?”

“And now I’ve got to go to book club! Can you figure something out for me?”

Look–he should be helping out. He’s far more creative than me. Plus, he knows the stress of this gig. He’s had to do the last three. I think it’s the main reason he worked so hard to find another job. That, and his unemployment running out.

I came home from book club to find a variety of foam ball birds on the counter. Pinterest-worthy they may not be, but they’ll have to do. I hope the kids can emulate them. I hope they get us through an hour of crafting time. I hope no one turns on me and screams “This is lame!”

I hope Mike is unemployed again next time AE rolls around.

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Car-Oh Mio Ben

Have I mentioned? I’m blotto in love. You can tell my husband; he already knows. The symptoms are classic: I think about my new love all the time. I touch it gently whenever I walk by. I sing songs extolling its virtues. I tell everyone I know about it. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis kind of thing–it does, after all, involve a car. Mine.

My new electric car. I’m in love.

Friends, family, and co-workers have had it up to here. They’ve been listening to me for weeks. I’m like Shakespeare, but without language skills. I wax absolutely un-poetic. I can’t stop going on about it: my good fortune, its good mileage. My fellow salespeople roll their eyes dramatically when they hear me telling yet another customer about my Nissan Leaf.

“It’s all electric!” I gush. “No tailpipe. No gas!”

“None?” my customers ask politely.

“None!” I croon.

“There she goes again,” my co-workers mutter.

I can’t help myself. This is a huge deal for me. I’ve wanted an electric car for, oh, ten years, and this is the first time I’ve been able to afford one. Used to be, in order to buy an EV you had to have the extra $2500 to install a charging station at your house. Now that’s no longer required. My car–my beautiful roadster–charges from a regular extension cord run (OK, rather unglamorously) out of our garage. Plug it in just like it’s a lamp. The next day–presto!–a full charge. Which, admittedly, only gets you 85 miles, but that’s far enough for my needs. And much farther than any lamp I’ve met.

Here’s what I love: the sound it makes (none), the emissions it puts out (repeat the former), the $2500 I’ll be receiving back next month from the state of CA, the little digital song it plays when I turn it on (“ding ding ding ding DONG”), and the heated seats. Which are, of course, an unnecessary drain on the battery, but provide such profound comfort that–hell, if it comes down to it? I’ll walk.

Anyway. It’s just a car. But with news about climate change growing so dire you don’t want to read it after 8PM (for fear of wrecking your night’s sleep) it’s a little bit more than that. It’s a statement. It’s a gesture of hope. It’s a source of encouragement.

And it’s many, many, many trips right past the gas pumps.

Can you hear the angels singing?

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