Saturday, February 24, 2007

Frankly, my dear

Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I.

But if I'm somehow able to get my hands on said wind when next it passes by... well, somebody had better hold my earrings and pass the Vaseline, because I am some kind of ticked off right now. At yes, the wind.

Winds of the high, gusty and cross variety have conspired to cancel Trey's flight home this evening. And I wish I could say that I'm angry (at yes, the wind) because I miss my husband so dearly and want him by my side. That's true, of course.

But this irrational peevishness and frustration stems more from the fact that after three uninterrupted days of kid-wrangling without a safety net, my every nerve is frayed, my voice is shot to hell and I. really. need. a. break. Like, ten minutes ago.

So, looking at the clock and repeating affirmations of will and strength like, "Six more hours. I can totally hold on for six more hours," has given way to throwing up my hands in apathetic resignation and just trying not to cry. 'Cause my good mood is gone with the wind.

I really, really, really don't know how single mothers manage. And I am honestly, deeply, prayerfully grateful that I only have to manage for occasional bursts of time.

Deep breath: tomorrow is another day. So sweetie, hurry home, but safely. And forgive me for dipping into the philanthropy fund to make a little donation here.

Love, Scarlett

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My peeps

My friend Karen, goddess of wisdom and insight, once told me that cohabiting with toddlers is like being pecked to death by baby chicks.

With that graphic image ever in mind, here's a list, incomplete and in no particular order, of how the little peckers are conspiring to send me to the funny farm today:

- Repeatedly opening and slamming the refrigerator doors because they like the "thunk" sound that's made. Also, occasionally deciding that gourmet mustards and sticky jars of jam might look nice stacked in a tower in the front room.

- Dashing to the CD player, as I'm restocking the fridge, and turning it on and off, on and off, on and off, to watch the tired old CD carousel open, grind a half-turn, then stop. Special treat: extracting errant CDs that become stuck in the process and flinging them like Frisbees. Now my Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is irreversibly scratched. UNforgivable.

- Washing their hands obsessively. Using a half-bottle of foamy soap and no water, because the handle is just out of reach. Then pretending the foam, now up to one's elbows, might serve one well as a hair mousse. Yes! A lovely new 'do. (Until, ow! It drips into one's eyes. Then: stinging and burning.)

- Locking themselves in the pantry. Sometimes, to clear the shelves and trample the recycling bin. Sometimes, to stand very quietly and not even giggle while I search the house for them, calling, "Spencer? Katie? Spencer? Katie?" in an increasingly panicked voice.

- Repeating every. single. word. I say. And not quite in unison, so it's like having a really bad echo that echoes. When I get so irritated that I quit talking altogether, Spencer does a dead-on mimic of the little noises I make in lieu of curse words. Like "grrrr" and "whew" and "Jesus, give me strength."

- Stripping off their shoes and socks precisely ninety seconds before we reach our destination. When I implore them to stop, stop, please, please stop? They cackle and strip faster.

Sweet yellow, fuzzy chicks. With serrated steel beaks. Sigh.

P.S. At this rate, here's me in the very near future. Want more sassy chicks? Happy to oblige.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A thousand words

Really, now: what is the proper way to observe President's Day? Should I attempt to teach the muppers the Presidential ditty that I learned in the eighth grade? That's the chronological listing of American presidents, set to the tune of Yankee Doodle. This mnemonic device served me well during high-school history quizzes, although I suffered occasional embarrassment when the swiveling heads and shocked expressions of my peers meant that I'd accidentally begun singing it out loud. Again. My bad.

Since S and K are still mastering the ABCs, perhaps we'll hold the music lesson for another year. Instead, I've seized on the holiday as an opportunity to make pancakes, a standing kiddo request. On a typical Monday morning, we're racing 'round the house to the frenzied beat of the Keystone Cops theme song in a far-fetched attempt to get Carter to school on time, so frozen waffles are the breakfast of choice. Fast and easy: nevermind that, on a good day, only a lone waffle edge may be nibbled. I can lead a toddler to a healthy meal, but I have come to learn that I can in no way make him eat.

In this same vein, I've been giving Trey a hard time of late about his contributions to our blog, or lack thereof. (Hello, pot? This is your wife, kettle, informing you that you're a rather dark shade of graphite.) It's not been from lack of interest, he assures me; just a dearth of free time. Unfortunately, he's got no real shot at redemption this week: the poor guy's completely booked through Saturday night. So I'll step in for him and share a slideshow he created last week for his photography class.

His assignment was to tell a story in twenty pictures, and the result is a fair representation of this morning's mess and mayhem. Minus me in these ratty pajamas and my hair wrapped in a towel turban, like some colonial wig. Oh, yes: I'm a vision. But nevermind that; click here, and enjoy.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yin and yang

Last night's date was a study in gender differences.

With our favorite babysitter tending to the kids but without a plan or any sense of direction, we popped over to the mall. No points for originality did we curry.

I kicked things off with a visit to Sephora, under the guise of shopping for a new perfume. Within ten minutes, I was suffering from olfactory overload, so I wandered over to the skincare section. I was idly examining eye creams when I was suddenly accosted by the effervescent Dustin, who took my split ends and crow's feet as a personal challenge. Or offense. It was hard to tell.

Clucking his tongue, he whipped out a tube of tropical-scented hair stuff and smushed my errant frizzed and broken hairs into place. Trey materialized by my side and nodded his approval; emboldened, Dustin moved on to the land mine that is my face.

An unfortunate explanation might be needed here: some combination of hormones and stress and, I suppose, bad karma have conspired against my complexion for the better part of a year now; where I used to have an occasional blemish or two, I now boast clusters of spots that pepper my cheeks and jawline. It's quite easily twice as bad as when I was in junior high (and if Debelah's reading this, she just audibly gasped: she remembers those days when our personal soundtrack was Duran Duran, and I reeked of Noxzema and Oxy-10).

Now I have the extra advantage of (ahem) aging skin, so when I attack my skin with products that promise to banish blemishes, they a) don't, and b) suck the moisture right outta my epidermis. In other words, they leave wrinkles in their wake.

The worst part of the above is that when I meet someone new these days, I have to fight the urge to explain to them that this isn't really my face. Nor, while we're at it, are these really my hips. But this lacks plausibility, so I say nothing.

Anyway. I don't have to say a word to Dustin; he sizes me up in about a nanosecond with one perfectly plucked eyebrow raised in a critical arch. Then he begins grabbing bottles off of shelves and piling them into a basket at a startling rate of speed. This cleanser, that toner, let's try this moisturizer; and oh, honey, your HAIR... I am powerless to argue with any of it.

Before long, we're chatting and chirping like girlfriends, dishing about dermatologists and drag queens and fine dining. It's only when I hear Trey clear his throat that I remember: I am on a date. So I bid Dustin good-bye and promise to return in three weeks with my fabulously healthy brand-new skin and the name of that book we talked about.

How to balance so much estrogen? Two words: spy movie. It's Trey's turn to choose a flick, and his selection is Breach, with Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe. Now I know how he felt listening to me discussing pore size: this is so not my cup of tea. There's no outright bloodshed, thank goodness, just some implied violence and a fair amount of psychological tension. But in my highly biased opinion, it's not especially smart and less suspenseful than any weeknight rerun of "Law and Order."

But that's just me. Trey seems pleased with the choice and relieved to have dodged the bullet of Music and Lyrics which, truth be told, would probably be a better rental than a big-screen selection anyway. Hughie, darling, where did it all go so wrong?

So: Sephora and spies. In between the two, I'm relieved to report that we managed to meet in the middle for dinner. Food really is the great equalizer, isn't it? We supped at the restaurant in Nordstrom where, we agreed, you get a pretty decent meal considering that you're in the mall. A glass of wine for him and a mojito for me, and we were a million miles away from a diaper genie. And for a few hours at least, that was a good thing.

You know, when we were newly wedded, even though we weren't newly coupled, compromise sometimes seemed an impossibility. I want what I want. He wants what he wants. How can we ever find a happy medium? With time, with maturity, with experience, I think, we've learned how to build bridges and when to stand our ground.

Some debates are easy: what movie should we see? Some are more complex: which car should we buy? We don't see eye to eye on every issue, and that's probably for the best. We balance each other. We complement each other. And when we finally convince Spencer and Katie that it really is more fun to ride the tricycle together rather than trying to tear it apart, spoke by spoke, we look at each other and laugh.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Here I sit, in this quiet house in the middle of the day.

Clarification: it seems quiet until I tune out the humming refrigerator, our old rumbling heater and the intermittent whir of the wine chiller, which holds a bottle of champagne that had nearly reached the proper temperature just as we nodded off on the couch last night. (Sorry, Trey.)

Underneath that layer of white noise is a sound I shouldn't be hearing right now: Spencer and Katie are conversing in the nursery.

They're supposed to be napping, a task that should be easier now that Daddy has snuck into the house and kidnapped Carter, who often provides an irresistible nap diversion. Those two are en route to the pediatrician's office, where Carter will be diagnosed with one of those "Holy cow!" double ear infections that makes me feel terrible for not taking him in earlier in the week. Antibiotics for all!

I'd expect his siblings to be in dreamland, worn out from a full morning of dismantling the house and disassembling every toy we possess. Instead, they're chattering away, a half-hour after I unceremoniously plopped them into their cribs and turned off the light.

Until recently, I loved listening in on their twinspeak via the baby monitor on my bedside table. Then Spencer "helped" me with the laundry one afternoon, and the receiver end of our monitor, which had served us well for over four years (thank you, Cobbs) did not survive its wet and tumultuous adventure.

So now I creep down the hall on little cat feet and strain my ears to make out what they're saying. First, there are peals of laughter. This is followed by a moment of silence and then, somewhat surprisingly, the following exchange:

K: "You see, Pepper? Everything seems better after a giggle. Sure, she has us cooped up in here like dogs in kennels, but if we pretend that we're having a wonderful time, then we will. That's the power of positive thinking, manifested."

S, sighing heavily: "What pablum have you been sampling, Dadie? I think you need to check out of the Dale Carnegie library and examine something a little less simplistic."

K: "Give me a little credit, brother. Let's talk for a moment about the theory of autosuggestion, courtesy of Emile Coue. I'm assuming that you're aware of the 19th-century French philosopher?"

S: "Please! 'Every day, in every way, I'm becoming a better and better toddler?' Nah, I don't buy it. How about... hey, what was that? I just heard something in the hallway."

K: "You're being paranoid. You know she's asleep on the couch with the remote control in one hand and the laptop on her chest. Although, now that you mention it, I don't hear her snores echoing off the walls. Hmmm... "

S: "Better play it safe. Mamamamama puppy love door Daddy bye-bye?"

K, whispering: "Keep it up. She may be on to us."

S: "Pepper sleepy. Night-night."

K, almost imperceptibly: "Nice touch."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hallmark holiday

He tries. He really does, and I give him credit for it.

There we were: bobbing gently along the Venetian canals in (what else?) a gondola built for two. I leaned back in his arms and we watched the city drift by as if in a dream.

Occasionally, the gondoliers would, on unseen cue, begin to warble some gondolier-approved, gently worn tune like "Santa Lucia," and the notes would echo down a lonely passage and reverberate under a bridge.

Back on terra firma, we wound our way through the streets, passing throngs of revelers in full costume for Carnevale. Confetti littered every alley. We held hands as we walked from island to island, and we blushed and giggled when a group of masked musicians pointed to us and crowed, "Amore!"

That evening, we sank into red velvet seats in a faded old opera house and laughed with the crowd as Elvis Costello tried his hand at an Italian introduction. After a moment's struggle, he picked back up in English (to our relief) and went on to play a wonderful set of unforgettable music.

It could have been the perfect Valentine's Day, one that would set the bar impossibly high for the rest of our lives.

But he forgot to buy me a card. Oh, well. Better luck next time, big guy.

Nine years pass. He packs Carter's lunch, kisses me good-bye and heads to the office before the sun rises. In the middle of a hectic day in a hectic week, he blocks out an hour to attend Carter's classroom party. En route, he calls to check on the patients (S: ear infection; K: sinus) and tell me he loves me.

After the party ends and he unfolds himself from a seriously uncomfortable miniature chair, he walks Carter out of school and to my car so I don't have to unload the sickies. Kisses all around, then back to work for a few more hours. He stops by Central Market to grab some flowers and ingredients for our favorite meal, farfalle carbonara.

He cooks, he serves, he cleans; he referees, he bathes, he showers his adoring fans with kisses and hugs. Finally, the house is quiet. "Happy Valentine's Day," he says, wrapping his arms around me. And then, with a hang-dog look, he adds, "I'm really sorry, sweetie. I forgot to pick up a card."

Well, I suppose, no one's perfect.

Happy Valentine's Day, Trey. I love you.

Monday, February 05, 2007


If you're not sure you can handle the answer, best not to ask the question.

The question, sputtered in exasperation: "Carter, why don't you listen to me?"

The answer, delivered in wide-eyed sincerity, "Because, Mommy, I don't like your feelings."


Sunday, February 04, 2007


Oh, fine: there wasn't anything overly improper or titillating about our date tonight. But then again, it wasn't exactly holding hands in church.

After a harried couple of weeks, I decided that Trey and I could use another just-us night, so I called for a babysitter earlier this week. And then never quite got around to actually planning anything.

So the sitter arrived and tried mightily to engage the kiddos while Trey and I played a rousing game of date-night Pong. That's when we lob the questions "What do you want to do?" and "I don't know; what do you want to do?" back and forth at each other until someone finally sacrifices a point and offers up an option. Said option may be rejected outright, at which point the game resumes. Sometimes, I am so sorry to say, there is pouting.

Well, bickering while the clock ticks not only gets date night off on the wrong foot entirely, it also means that the babysitter is actually being paid to watch us watch the kids. That seemed silly, so we kissed our brood good-night and headed out the door. Trey steered the car toward... well, somewhere.

"Somewhere" turned out to be an old stand-by, West Village. We grabbed a movie menu at the resident theatre, then settled into a booth at the wine-centric Cru. After some grown-up conversation with grown-up beverages, Pong became a distant memory.

The movie selections this evening offered us two basic genre choices: war or infidelity. A tough call. Over my seafood linguine and his sea bass, we flipped a coin and landed on Notes on a Scandal.

Consulting the clock, we decided that we had just enough time before the movie to share some chocolate fondue. Good thing we did: there was nothing sweet about this film. Tense and taut and tragic, yes. Compelling and a little bit creepy. (Dame Judi Dench in the nude? Shudder.) Racy and darkly comic in parts. Marvelously acted by absolutely everyone.

Lots to think about and talk about as we stood in line at the valet stand. And totally surreal, we agreed, to then get in the car and hear John Legend croon "P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)."

So we switched tracks to "Save Room." And date night was saved. Scandal averted.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Many hands make light work

"Raise your hand," said the woman at the podium to the gathering of mothers, "if you love your children."

A few eyes might have rolled, but every hand shot up.

"Of course," she said. "Now raise your hand if you tell your children you love them every day."

The room filled once again with hands held high.

"Now," she said, "close your eyes. This time, raise your hand if you love yourself."

In the silence, I could hear some movement, but the energy in the room had palpably shifted. I hesitated for a second, then held my hand up about half as high as it had been before.

"Now raise your hand if you tell yourself that every day."

"Okay. Open your eyes and look around the room."

Every woman in the room sat with her hands in her lap and a sheepish expression on her face.

The topic was promoting positive self-esteem in children. The message of this exercise, one of many, was that as mothers, our own self-worth has a direct effect on our children's self-worth. Feeling negative about yourself, we were told, is a choice that can be changed. That, when changed, will be duly noted by the small eyes that watch every move we make and the small ears that hear every word we say.

Of course. It seemed so simple and obvious, every word of it. But it took seeing two dozen mothers... confident, attractive, well-dressed women, with their hands by their sides... for me to see the light.