BFFs, Farms, and American Girl

We went on vacation this week. We feel more tired than when we went. Technically, we’re probably just as tired as before we went, but we’d been packing up the house for a week before our departure. A renovation began while we were away. (As a side note, the contractor is awesome. Demolished everything while we were gone, and got the bathroom into usable condition for our return. So that’s good.)

While we were away, my husband threw out his back. I also had back issues–and I’m not prone to those–that I attribute to really pushing myself on a run and to the “beds” at Girl Scout Camp. Our car also decided it was time to die, and since we’d put about $2k into it recently and it was still going to pieces, it was time to buy a new car.

On the night my husband’s back went out, we were supposed to go out to dinner. Our usual babysitter up yonder was out of town, but she suggested her friend–who was looking after the three kids of her housemate, who ran a seedling farm. The babysitter’s friend said she could still babysit, but we’d need to come to her.

After Daniel’s back went out, we reconsidered–but my daughter begged to go. Kids! A farm! It was the playdate of her dreams.

So, we trekked out there, only to find the farm was, in fact, fairly remote. Two kids, a boy and a girl, who looked like Weasleys-in-training trooped out, to be followed by their toddler brother (who looked nothing like a Weasley).

We left my daughter there for two hours and when we returned, they were all fast friends. She had seen their chickens, gathered eggs, fed their guinea pigs, patted the stray cats who really lived there, and helped the kids make a “house” in the buckwheat plants. (This entailed trampling some buckwheat to make “rooms,” but no one seemed to care.)

When they said goodbye, my daughter and the eight-year-old girl embraced like they had been best friends since birth, and begged for a sleepover. They took a picture together and hugged some more. The new friend ran after Arden as she left, and it was like Miss Piggy and Kermit running through a field together in The Muppet Movie (from my era). I won’t lie–it was very cute.

A random thing that struck me–the house was very plain, and the little girl’s room essentially consisted of a bed, a dresser, and a giant guinea pig cage. Still, in place of honor in her otherwise bare room was an American Girl catalog.

I guess even surrounded by boys (including a toddler who “spits,” according to my daughter), a girl’s got to have some girly, overpriced items. How did Ginny Weasley make it, surrounded by so many wisecracking brothers?

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One Reason I Love My Daughter

Tonight, my six-year-old daughter and I were walking, and ahead of us, two men were holding hands. We’re seen stuff like this many times, and it’s no big deal–this is New York City, after all. (In fact, the members of her school van had a discussion about gay marriage. A second-grader insisted men weren’t allowed to marry other men, and the other nine kids on the van were like, “Uh-HUH, yeah, they can!”) So, anyway, we’re walking, and she sees the guys ahead of us. This is what she says: “Look, they’re in love! That’s nice. I’m not gay, because I like boys, not girls. (pause) Unless maybe I’m gay and I don’t know it yet? I mean, I’m only six and a half. But I’m pretty sure I’m not, because I like boys.” PS – She told me that she writes in her diary about the boy she likes. Her father is dying to read it–but has vowed not to.

I’m glad we can talk, but as long as I don’t become this mother:

 

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On a Bicycle Built for Two

You can tell a lot about a person when you share a tandem bike. Sure, at first, it seems like a fun novelty–hey, look at that! A bicycle built for two. Just like that song, the one that goes….something, something, on a bicycle built for two. (Okay, never mind the song.)

the perfect date

So JCrew!

It’s pretty much the picture-perfect Sunday outing, and it’s all cute and good at the beginning. You and your boyfriend set out on the bike, feeling so J Crew catalog. (Note: This works best if you are both adorable and of different ethnicities.) You’re all like, “I feel the wind ruffling my Esplanade skirt in seersucker eyelet!” while your beau fights to keep his printed jacquard baseball hat on his head. Since you’re not steering, perhaps you pull out a compact (so retro!) and apply the perfect shade of orangy-red lipstick–just like in the catalog!

But then, when you actually do start pedaling, something seems off. You and your boyfriend are…out of sync, somehow. Plus, he calls this steering? The bike is veering all over the boardwalk like your Aunt Gertrude after a couple of drinks after bingo. Just when you think it can’t get worse, he stops outside some dive and says, “Hey, sweetie, let’s just check out a few minutes of the hockey game. You don’t mind, do you?”

After you’ve nipped that in the bud and have taken over the steering, a cat runs across the boardwalk in front of you. What the hell is a cat doing at the beach? Of course, being an animal lover, you brake hard. How were you to know that your boyfriend would go flying headfirst into the sand? He seems kind of annoyed, especially since he had road rash and his printed jacquard baseball hat is now jammed down over his eyes.

Damn it. At this rate this is going, you’ll be stuck wearing that Sophie dress in classic faille in all eight colors. I mean, always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right? You’ve already worked your way through Haven Blue, Sea Spray, Coral Sunset, and Crushed Berry. It’s just not fair. Not fair at all.

Note: This bizarre and random blog post was inspired by a conversation I overheard about a disastrous second date that involved a tandem bike ride.

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Bribes Work

So, my evil plan seems to be working.

Not the one to control the world. That’s still in the works, although so far, it’s not as smooth as I thought. The giant diamond I need to focus my Extra-Lethal Super-Sized Death Ray Laser just does not seem to be coming up on Ebay at an affordable price. (On the plus side though, I did find a darling vintage dress.) Image

No, the plan that’s working is my plot to get my six-year-old daughter to love to read. To clamor for it, even. I suspect that she doesn’t love to read because she had eye tracking/teaming issues that needed to be corrected by vision therapy. She’s had twenty sessions and she’s almost done. In the meantime, she’s jumped more than a grade level in her reading. (Just FYI, “they” suspect up to 25% of people have this condition, but it’s not routinely screened. Because why would you want to help kids having trouble reading? I mean, really. It just builds character to have them tough it out, right?)

But back to my plot…

I decided to offer my daughter $1 for every chapter book she reads. She is, at heart, an entrepreneur and I’ve had to dissuade her numerous times from setting up a lemonade stand on the sidewalk or selling her paintings to people on the playground. She also always has her eye on an American Girl doll, and will flip through the catalog lovingly–the way I imagine Kanye admires himself in the mirror in the morning. I told her that if she read 100 books, she’d have about enough to buy Isabelle, the Overpriced American Girl Doll of 2014. (Limited edition!)

So. She tore through three of the dreaded Rainbow Fairy books, and then picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and announced that would be the next thing she conquered. I told her that it was much harder than the Rainbow Fairy books, and that it was fine if she read it–but there are a lot of big words and she could ask me if she couldn’t figure something out.

She’s been reading it like crazy. I’m not sure if she’ll make it through, but I’m impressed that she’s trying. I told her that, because it’s a much bigger book than the others, I’d give her $5. She told me it was worth at least $10 and argued her point pretty convincingly, but I didn’t back down. (I mean, I may already be bribing her, but I need to stand by my principles, right?) Plus, I may have a lawyer-in-training here, so I need to watch my back in case we get into billable hours or something.

The moral of the story? Bribes work.

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A Boy Named Valentine (With Apologies to Johnny Cash)

My six-year-old has been very, very excited about Valentine’s Day. In fact, she was contemplating naming her new stuffed animal Valentine, but then said “That’s not a real name.” I told her about St. Valentine, and also mentioned I had once known a man named Valentine. I hadn’t thought about the story in ages, but it all came back to me.

Image

Many years ago, I had just moved to New York City. I didn’t have a job or a place yet, and I temped for a while until I found something more permanent. Of course, this made finding an apartment rather difficult, as I didn’t yet have a steady income. After answering a million Craig’s List ads, I finally found a place to live. It was a converted commercial space, and to say it was less than desirable aesthetically would be an understatement. It was kind of like an authentic version of Friends, if they actually had to pay for their apartment with their character’s salaries–very few windows, low ceilings, the occasional mouse. I had five roommates: Jill, actress, model, and bartender; Gerry, a nightclub manager; Kristen, a morose aspiring writer/grad student; Jen, a free spirit who loved skydiving; and Andrew, a junior accountant (whose mother, hand on my heart, would fly up every month from Florida TO CLEAN HIS ROOM and do his assigned apartment chores).

But I digress.

So: Valentine. My friend from California told me that her former coworker, Val, was moving to New York, and asked if I’d mind getting together. Since I’d been in the same boat only months before, I agreed. We met in an Irish bar, which was appropriate, because Val turned out to be Irish. He explained that he’d been named after St. Valentine. While it wasn’t that unusual back in Ireland, his name resulted in lot of teasing in the US.

We got together a couple of times–always platonically. Then, one weekend night when I’d decided not to go out (for whatever reason, since that was a rare thing then), I got a call. Val had been out drinking and he’d lost his keys. He couldn’t reach his roommate and he wondered if he could sleep on our couch. I said okay, but warned him that my roommates might be trickling in as the night wore on.

He came over, and fell asleep on the couch. I also fell asleep, but was awakened by yelling. I ran out, thinking that perhaps one of my roommates somehow missed the note on the front door that a friend was sleeping on the couch. No one had come home, but Val was yelling at the top of his lungs. He swore that he’d seen a ghost. As in, a real, honest-to-God ghost. I was sure he believed he had seen it–he was truly panicked–but I told him that he’d probably fallen asleep and dreamed it. He told me he couldn’t sleep out there any longer, but he still couldn’t reach his roommate.

It was beginning to cross my mind that perhaps this was some sort of guy scheme, but the panic seemed genuine. Luckily, my roommate Jen was out of town, probably skydiving or wrestling alligators or something similarly adventurous, and I knew she would probably think it was funny if a drunk Irish guy who sees ghosts stayed in her room.

As I settled him into the room, Valentine chose that moment to declare his undying love for me, and went in for the pass. His bad timing was not helped by the fact that he kept mumbling about ghosts. (Apparently, ghosts didn’t preclude make-out sessions.) I dodged and ducked and eluded him, getting more annoyed by the second. I think I finally got him into Jen’s room by telling him that if he didn’t stop, I’d not only never talk to him again, I’d throw him out on the street.

At this point, I was pretty peeved by the whole situation. I called my California friend, and got her voicemail. I hissed something to the effect of “I just fought off your drunk friend who said he saw a ghost and then jumped me, and I really want to kill you right now even though technically, it’s not really your fault.”

The next morning, Valentine would not leave. (He was “too tired” aka hungover.) As I was new to New York, and was not yet the raging bitch I would eventually become, thanks to crowds and mass transit, I let him stay while I was out at brunch with some friends. (I know, I know.) I did tell him he’d need to be gone by noon, when I planned to return. Thankfully, he was. He called me a few times, but of course I never saw him again.

According to one source online (thanks, interwebs!), St. Valentine had a three-part execution: beating, stoning, and when he lingered on, decapitation. I could see it. Those Valentines are nothing if not persistent.

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A Dear John Letter to Foodtown

Dear Foodtown,

It’s over. You and I just weren’t a match. I mean, don’t get me wrong–we’ll probably run into each other now and then.

But the crowded aisles, the meager organics section and almost non-existent organic produce just made me realize that you just weren’t good for me. My mental health suffered every time we got together. Face it–we had an abusive relationship. Always playing games. Never enough cashiers and certainly never enough space to stand in line without being slammed face-first into a goddamn Goldfish display. (Rainbow! Pretzel! Whole grain! Original! I know them all by heart now.)Image

Let’s not even get into the fact that you couldn’t fit a stroller through the checkout lines, so bone-weary parents of newborns had to abandon their groceries on the conveyor belt, then fight their way through the lines stretching around the store. Then, just to give you money, those same parents had to battle through the home delivery guys, stacks of boxes, and cashiers who needed voids. It was like the friggin’ Hunger Games, but with Katniss Everdeen in diapers. No wonder her mom had no hope! She didn’t have a bow and arrow to get her bags.

Let’s not even get into the old ladies. Did you bus them in from retirement homes? Don’t get me wrong. I like old ladies. I hope to live long enough to be one one day. But these old birds were tough. They were SERIOUS. A word of advice: If you’re standing in line and you feel the cold, hard steel of a granny cart pressing into your back, don’t turn around. Don’t make eye contact. Just don’t. Not if you value your life. I’ve seen some serious shit go down.

So, I’ve decided I need a calmer relationship. No, stop. Don’t tell me that I’ll miss the passion, that I’ll miss the angst. Sure, you added excitement to my marriage. You riled me up and gave me some good anecdotes, and you knew that my husband would never, ever darken your doorway. He’d heard the stories. He’d just duck into the corner bodega, and I’d pretend like I didn’t know. It worked for us. Just like he pretended he didn’t know about you, Foodtown.

What was I thinking? I mean, even your name sucks. Foodtown. Who thought of that, a toddler? Hey, we have food! And we’re kind of like a town! Maybe? Kinda sorta? I think someone was drunk. I know someone was drunk when you switched over from being MetFoods, and the only thing that changed was the sign. Oh, yeah–and you added those red and blue lights outside to better illuminate the posters of the enticing deli ham.

Yeah, I know I sound bitter. Maybe I am. I can’t help but be angry when I think of all the garbage I just accepted from you.

But, baby, times have changed. Now I have FreshDirect, Lemon Farm, and Downtown Naturals. Sure, maybe the people who named Lemon Farm were also a little bit drunk, but they were drunk on wine instead of Colt 45. When you say their name, you think of agriculture and citrus fruit. Classy. I’m upgrading. Because, frankly, it’s not me–it’s you.

Ciao, Foodtown. We’ll always have our memories.

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Another Conversation With My Teenager Babysitter (and Daughter)

Disclaimer 1: Teenage Babysitter is a very bright and personable girl.

Disclaimer 2: I have an ungodly fear of cockroaches, (also known as water bugs and palmetto bugs). This is probably because I grew up Florida, where the cockroaches are gargantuan and, God help us, sometimes FLY THROUGH THE AIR.  My daughter shares my phobia–most likely because I unleash a bloodcurdling scream whenever I see a cockroach. (This annoys my husband, who thinks I am being murdered.) I put EVERYTHING in containers and throw away my garbage every night. Regardless, this is New York City, and we occasionally encounter one.

Now, my story: A few weeks ago, I asked Teenage Babysitter to watch my daughter while I went to my writing group. I came home to find my kitchen in ruins. Specifically, smashed crackers, stalks of broccoli and chocolate cookie crumbs were strewn in front of my oven. It was like Hansel and Gretel collided with a toddler armed with Cheerios.

Me: “Okay…what happened?”

Daughter: “There was a COCKROACH!”

Me: “What does that have to do with all these crumbs?”

Teenage Babysitter: “The cockroach ran under the stove. Your daughter was convinced that we needed to lure it out, so we decided to scatter crumbs so we could kill it.”

Me: *blinking rapidly* “Interesting.”

Daughter: “He didn’t come out yet, but HE WILL!” (Yeah, that’s what I said about a friend of mine ten years ago. Still waiting.)

Teenage Babysitter: “She insisted. She said you were really afraid of cockroaches, so we needed to kill it before you came home. “

Me: *still blinking* “That was very…creative.”

Babysitter and Daughter: Smile broadly.

So, cockroaches: welcome to my house. Apparently, we’ll feed you well.

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