Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bird Poop on My Excitement Dress

Violet has a tennis match in 45 minutes, so I'll make this brief. We just got back from our annual week at the Jersey Shore with my extended family. This trip has been mandatory for decades.
Activities include leisurely walks on the boardwalk, and hours at the beach huddled under an umbrella while coated in sunscreen and swathed in hats and muumuus. Some enjoy burying one's father in the sand, nightly viewings of Jeopardy, the playing of board games, trips to the water park and frequent consumption of fish followed by Kohr's brand soft custard.

On our last night, we were sitting outside the Berkeley Fish Market waiting for our table. Suddenly, a tar-like substance landed on the menu I was perusing and splashed all over my dress. Bird poop, but a bird poop darker and thicker than any I had ever seen. And more copious.

I was wearing my Excitement Dress. I should explain. Each season has its own Excitement Dress. The Excitement Dress has been recently purchased and is the one you always wear when going somewhere special. Past Excitement Dresses: a tight black mini from Betsey Johnson (1984), a pale blue lace A line mini from Jill Stuart (1994), a black mini from Comptoir des Cotonniers (2009). This year's excitement dress indicates a general death of panache in my wardrobe. I mean, things are bad. I blush to tell you it was purchased from the Hanna Anderson catalogue, is fitted through the bodice, and has a full skirt to the knee. It is red, and I've worn it at least ten times since it arrived in May. Perhaps this bird is some sort of fashion arbiter.

A nice lady told me that being pooped on by a bird is good luck. I went to the bathroom to clean up as best as I could, but I never recovered, emotionally. Sulking, I stabbed without enthusiasm at my mahi mahi, while wearing a dress covered with the excrement of some berry-consuming bird.

Soaking and stain remover did not eradicate the evidence, which is maybe for the best. I really deserve a better Excitement Dress.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Egg Baby

Yesterday at 6:40 am, my eighth-grader paused in his waffle consumption to sweetly say: "Mom, I need your help with something this morning."

His tone was so pleasant. "I need to make an egg baby."

I must have looked confused. "Do you know how to make an egg baby?" he asked. I did not. "You just use an egg and a pin. You put a hole in either side and blow all the insides out of the egg. It's due today."

I had a vague memory of my father trying this when I was a child, maybe for Easter? I remember him actually sucking out the raw yolk because the blowing method did not work.


My son had to leave for school in 40 minutes. I took an egg out of the refrigerator and found a large needle. I put the needle on one end of the egg and drove it through. The egg cracked. One dead baby.

My boy took a look. "Do you have any white eggs?" he asked.  He was supposed to name the egg baby and carry it around in a safe container for a spell, take care of it like a parent. I only had brown. No problem. We decided that his baby could be biracial or adopted. 

This time Dale put the pin through both ends without cracking the egg. Using a combination of running water and blowing, we cleaned it out. He drew a face and hair and named his progeny Ovi Juan Kenobi. 

We lined a tissue box with bubble wrap and off he went. This was a project for health class. The point, I guess, is to deter teens from having children? I have no idea. 

But an eggshell is a good metaphor for a child. An eggshell is fragile. It will break unless you take precautions. Yes? 

Likewise, everything you say to your child can make or break them. I could have snapped at my son when he sprung this project on me at the last minute, made a comment about planning ahead. But I didn't. Because the previous night, out of nowhere, sitting at the table eating a snack, he gave me one of the most important parenting lessons I've ever received, way more valuable, probably, than carrying an egg baby.

It was quiet. My daughter was asleep and my husband, out of town. "Do you know when I am happiest?" he asked. "When you're happy with me." 

At the end of the day, the egg, miraculously, was unbroken. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Wrong Soccer Field

Yesterday, at about 1:15, I drove my son to Fortunato Field for a soccer game. I pulled into a spot down the block.

 "Dad always drops me off in front and then parks," he said, with great irritation.

"Dad's in Nicaragua," I replied.

He stormed off to the field, and I sat in the car for a few seconds. I hate driving, I hate parking, and if you really want to know the truth, I hate soccer. I'm a tennis gal. I felt like crying. Instead, my daughter and I got out and walked to the field.

A lacrosse team was warming up. I checked my phone. Ugh. Dale's game was at the OTHER home field, Pittser, at Montclair State University. So he would be ten minutes late for the warm-up.

"Try driving faster than 10 miles per hour," said my precious little boy, the one I carried for nine months, birthed after a 20 hour labor, and then breast fed for a year and a half. I sped up to 25 mph. This time I dropped him off prior to parking.  He jumped out of the car before I had completely stopped, which did not foster my good will.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. The sun shone brightly and it was hot but not too hot, as long as you were nowhere near the field. Something about artificial turf causes the temperature to rise exponentially.

One thing I don't like about being a soccer mom is the lack of climate control. I have certain weather requirements. Nothing too picky: I just can't stand it when the temperature falls below 60 or rises above 80, or if there is any kind of precipitation. Also, I don't much like humidity. And I need to be in the shade.

The other team arrived. They were from Union City. Everyone--players, parents, coach--was speaking Spanish. Violet's friend, the sister of one of Dale's teammates, arrived. They went off together.

I found some shade, which was available several yards from the sidelines in a little gazebo. The temperature was just right! I pondered the graffiti that the college kids had left. I would just sit this one out.

Though I have been watching my kids play soccer for 10 years, I still don't have a strong command of the game. Once, my husband called me while he was working and I was on the sidelines.

"How is the game going?" he asked.


"What is the score?" he asked. I did not know. "Well, how is Dale playing?" he asked. I had no idea. "What can you tell me?" he asked.

"Well, there are a bunch of people," I said, "and they are all chasing the same ball."

So that's how it is. I wouldn't say I am the worst soccer mom in the world. The worst soccer mom in the world is the one who berates her kid from the sidelines. I don't do that, because I don't care.

As I sat peacefully waiting in the gazebo, blissfully disconnected from the game, three people approached me with a bible. The leader said he wanted to talk to me about the mysteries of the bible. I am a churchgoer; in fact, we had just left our church two hours earlier. And yet, I know from experience that you should never be polite to people who approach you wielding a bible. It took me months to shake the Jehovah's Witnesses who kept showing up on my doorstep.

But now I was trapped. The three of them entered the small gazebo. The talker showed me bible passages that he said proved that there was a God the Mother. He was very long-winded, but  I listened quietly. What choice did I have?

Five minutes passed. He was still yammering. I started wondering if this was some scam to steal my wallet. "The Holy Spirit has a name," he said. "If you do not know the name of the Holy Spirit, then your baptism was not valid. " My patience was wearing thin. "I actually don't think that makes a difference," I said. "Anyway, what is the Holy Spirit's name?" I was sort of curious.

He wouldn't tell me, or get to the point, which--I'm just guessing here--was to tell me I would burn in hell unless I switched to his church. At least, that is how it went with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Finally, I extricated myself by explaining that I had a soccer game to watch. The blazing sun would be less torturous than this. The boys were losing 3-0. I remember enough high school Spanish to decipher the gist of what the other parents were yelling, which translates roughly as "continue to kick the ass of these boys."

Our parents were saying something similar in English, but in reverse. The dynamic is very unsettling, come to think of it: two groups of parents urging their children to kick the ass of other children. I think the final score was 6-0.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bad Shampoo Alert

Good afternoon. I have emerged from blogging hibernation to shine a light on a very important matter. In brief, Nexxus Color Assure sulfate free shampoo and conditioner are terrible products. Do not buy them. After using them for several weeks, my hair has literally never looked worse (I am including the spiral perm episode and the time I accidentally dyed it purple). It's frizzy yet lifeless; at once greasy and dry.

I bought the Nexxus crap several weeks ago, because CVS was out of my preferred Salma Hayek products for color treated hair. As I am well into my dotage, I've been crankily coloring my hair for a few years; my stylist says the color lasts longer if one uses a special shampoo. So I obey.

The purchase of the offending items coincided with a visit to the salon, which had just switched to Aveda hair color from Goldwell. At first I suspected that my hair didn't like the Aveda. Or that this horrific winter we've been having has rendered it dull and dry, with random greasy areas.  So I carried on using the Nexxus every third day, which is how often I wash my hair.

Finally,  it dawned on me: the shampoo! It's "Sulfate Free." Apparently, sulfates, while bad for the environment or human health or whatever the problem (I was going to research it, but I can't take it on), are what make shampoo actually work.

Yesterday, I used some hotel shampoo and conditioner, and my hair looked immediately better. Not fantastic, mind you. It may take a while before the memory of the Nexxus has faded from my follicles. I don't like to waste things, but the shampoo and conditioner will be disposed of.

To recap, this stuff stinks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Demented Product of the Day: The Power Nap Head Pillow

Clearly overwork has distorted the perspective of this poor man

Hi. Flipping through the detritus of the day's mail while Vi is doing her homework, I just spotted this item for sale in Hammacher Schlemmer. According to the copy, it "blocks out noise and light to create a private zone for catching a quick power nap...at a crowded airport or recharging between meetings at work." !!!!!! It costs $99.95.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Further Proof That I Am Psychic

There was a strip of tape on my bicep. It looked like some sort of medical tape, and it had been there for longer than I could remember. I had tried to remove it over the years, but it was hard to get off, so there it stayed. Finally, one day, I yanked the tape hard. It gave way to reveal a raised scar, in a  straight Frankenstein line. Also, there was a bloody hole an inch deep. How had I gotten that? When?
I began calling and meeting up with friends to see if anyone could help me remember. No one knew.

Suddenly, the light switched on. My husband and kids were wishing me happy birthday. It was 6:21 am. It was so disorienting, being woken from this dream, so early on a Sunday morning. "Give me a minute," I said, and told them about the dream.

I wrote the above paragraphs back in September, a few days after my birthday, for a post I had titled "The Birthday Monster." It was to be about my birthday tears and joys, but I never got past those few words. Long story short: I was weepy and feeling sorry for myself, until my sweet daughter did everything she could to make my day special. Love her.

 I am sharing the writing now (I have not changed a letter) because it is proof that I am psychic. I have long believed this to be true. My husband rolls his eyes, and maybe you are, too. But listen to this: I now have a Frankenstein scar, acquired after this dream. A few weeks after my birthday, during a routine skin check, my dermatologist (I have had trouble but finally found a good one) discovered a suspicious growth on the back of my neck.

 This thing was not even on my radar. It was small, reddish, hard and pimple-esque and had shown up about 3 weeks before. Nothing like the brownish moles I worry about. The doctor removed it for biopsy,  and called me with the results a few days later.  It turned out to be squamous cell skin cancer.  Squamous cell skin cancer is not as deadly as melanoma, but a little more deadly than basal cell. If not caught early, it can spread throughout the body, or disfigure a person. This was caught early.

I was not terribly surprised by the diagnosis. Though I have been very careful about the sun for the past two decades, I grew up in a time before SPF and thus endured many sunburns. As a teenager and young adult I would sunbathe, trying to get tan, which I regret whenever I see the milky white skin on my unsunned abdomen. If only I had stayed out of the sun, my entire epidermis would look so good.

My mom has had a few squamous cell growths removed from her face. My grandmother had numerous large basal cell skin cancer moles. I mean, they were gigantic. I pray that nothing like that ever appears on my body. It motivates me to sunscreen up and regularly get checked at the dermatologist. I have had so many suspicious skin growths biopsied, but before this, they had all been benign.

The doctor said: "It's absolutely nothing to worry about." So I did not worry that much. I worry about all kinds of things you are not supposed to worry about; still, I was not THAT worried. She explained they would have to remove a little more skin to see if the cancer had spread, which I took to mean they would numb the area and scrape a little off. She did say I had to see a dermatologic surgeon for this procedure, called an excision.

So last Tuesday, I took the train into the city, and made plans to meet a friend for lunch. I did not look up "excision" on the internet. Or ask many questions. That is why I did not realize that a hole five millimeters from the outside of the growth would be cut into my neck. The train was 45 minutes late. Thus, I arrived that late at the fancy doctor's Fifth Avenue office, across from Central Park. I sat under a crystal chandelier on a white leather couch. The leather was buttery soft, unblemished, like the skin of an unsunned belly, if you will. The lillies on the coffee table were dead, which I found odd.

The doctor had beautiful red hair swept into an elegant chignon. She and her receptionist were looking at tile samples for the bathroom while I filled out my paperwork. Later, when I was in the room, "excision" was explained to me. A hole five millimeters from the edges of the growth would have to be cut. Honestly, it is probably better that I did not know too much beforehand. After a monster amount of local anesthetic was injected into me, the cutting began. Then the doctor cauterized the edges. Maybe to kill any stray squamous cells? I was not really listening.   I could smell my own flesh burning, and it was like chicken cooking. That was gnarly. Finally, she sewed the circle closed in a straight Frankenstein line. Ten stitches.  See! I am psychic.

They sent out my flesh for biopsy.  The nurse showed me how to change my bandage, then she stuck on a pressure bandage, which I guess was to impede any bleeding. I was told not to move my neck, carry anything heavy or travel for the next two weeks. When I emerged, my sweet friend SueAnne was there in the waiting room. I was walking with a stiff neck. I also had a bandaid under my eye because another growth that was bothering me had been removed. So I was looking pretty gorgeous.

We went to lunch, but I had no appetite and was finding it too much effort to eat without moving my neck. SueAnne paid, and insisted on taking me in a cab to Penn Station. Due to traffic we missed the train by one minute, so I had a one-hour wait. I spent the time thinking about my many loved ones who had had cancer-- those who had made it, and those who hadn't. Both parents, cousins, uncles, in-laws, grandparents, beloved friends. They had endured unspeakable treatments. I merely had a hole cut in my neck and a Frankenstein scar. I probably should have gotten someone to drive me instead of taking public transport, but my issue was so minor, hopefully. I reflexively turned my head to look at the board, and learned why I had been advised not to move my neck. Ouch.

That night was Back to School Night, my daughter's last at her elementary school. My husband Dalton thought I should stay home. But I did not want to miss it. He had to carry my purse. "You are walking like a robot, you have a bandaid on your face, and I am carrying your bag," he said. "You are raising a lot of questions." I laughed.

Long story short, my biopsy came back clear, which raises the question of why it was necessary to cut a hole in my neck. But, I am not a doctor. The stitches come out next week. I have nice friends who brought me lunch. I realized I wait on my family like a servant, and I taught them how to do chores I can't right now. Another silver lining: now that my daughter has seen the scar, I don't think she'll argue about the importance of sunscreen. I made up a hilarious song: "You say squamous (short a)/ and I say squamous (long a)."

Anyway. My point is, I am psychic. And also, you should wear sunscreen and get a skin check.

how it looked one week later

Friday, April 5, 2013

My daughter knows about sex and still wants the tooth fairy to come

 "Alana says they teach the reproductive system in 5th grade at her school," my 10-year-old daughter Violet told me earlier this week.

That got my attention. "Yes, at your school too," I said, mildly. She is in fourth grade. Our plan was for me to have a sex education talk with her right before the school curriculum was presented. I was waiting until then in order to "preserve her innocence," or avoid giving her information she would not be ready for. (I had explained menstruation when she was three, and asked about some tampons in our bathroom.)

Vi continued: "We are studying bodily systems in school, and (name redacted) says his favorite system is the reproductive system." (Name redacted) is a piece of work. During a field trip into New York City that I chaperoned,  he made sure to point out every "inappropriate" (sexualized) billboard we passed. "I can't wait until I am grown up, so I can kiss," he announced in the back of the bus. I raised an eyebrow. "Trust me," he said. "You've done it thousands of times." Must keep this child away from my daughter. But how? I fear they will end up attending some middle school dance together three years hence.

Now it seemed clear that Vi wanted to discuss the reproductive system, so I asked what she knew about it. "It's when a man and a woman have sex to make a baby." Okay. I asked her what sex was. She giggled when she replied, but had a pretty clear understanding of the mechanics and used the clinical terms, as we have always done.

Damn. I did not get to her first. I tried to act matter-of-fact, while imagining myself storming into the fourth grade classroom demanding: "Which one of you bitches told my daughter about sex?" Instead, I asked, "how long have you known about this, and how did you find out?" Vi told me that at a sleepover in December, this fifth grader had clued her in, describing a "sex book" that her older brother had. WHAT WHAT WHAT? I remember that sleepover. She was catatonic the next day, but I assumed it was because she hadn't gotten any sleep.

"You don't have sex with just anyone," I said. "Only someone very special." She said, "I know." I also pointed out this is something that occurs when she is much, much older.

I am not sure why I was surprised about what went down at the sleepover. I myself was schooled about sex when I was FIVE years old. The first time I was sent outside to play alone, a girl who lived down the hall in our apartment building, my same age, whispered in my ear. "Do you know what F-U-C-K means?" she asked. I shook my head. "It's when a boy sticks his"-- she pointed to her crotch--"into a girl's"-- again she pointed downward. I went inside, catatonic. I told no one. There was never any elaboration from my parents, naturally.

Vi, happily, seems less bothered by the knowledge than I was. Her innocence is pretty well intact. The day after our little talk, Violet lost a tooth that she had been wiggling for weeks. She offered a theory of how the tooth fairy operates: "She gives the parents the money, and then they put it under the pillow." I left that one alone. I'm not too invested in perpetuating the tooth fairy myth at this point, so my policy is to neither confirm nor deny.  And after her big revelation the day before, I have to be honest, I was not too focused on my tooth fairy duties.

Violet put the tooth under her pillow, but the fairy, she did not come. We all agreed the fairy must have been unusually busy. So she put it under her pillow last night as well, but the tooth fairy flaked again.

I am clearly just doing a bang-up job here at Fallen Princess HQ.

Signing off,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist Housewife