My plan to be asleep by 11 tonight, and thus to miss the dreaded New Year's moment, is foiled. Drat. I'm all hopped up -- some new drug my shrink added to my cocktail -- and there's no hope for sleep without an Ambien. I've finally managed to wean myself off the damn drug (don't believe the package where it says it's not addictive) and I'm loath to start the whole process anew. Plus, I've got a ten-year-old desperate to see in the New Year. I remember what it was like to want to witness that magic moment. Unfortunately, my daughter seems to be having some kind of phantom pre-PMS and the last thing I want is to have her sleep-deprived.

What to do?

Plus, I have to prepare a talk on, get this, keeping your kids off drugs. Now that makes sense. First of all, I support total decriminaliztion. Second of all, while my drug experiences in my long-ago youth were not vast, they were certainly substantial. Third of all, I'm currently taking so many drugs that I had to order a pill case from a website humiliatingly called productsforseniors.com. I'm going to talk harm reduction, and I'm going to talk mandatory minimum drug laws, and I'm going to talk drug policy reform, and if they boo me off the stage, so be it.


Taking A Page Out of Chez Mis's Book

The darling, delightful Grrl today posted a list of things she is angry about. So, because I admire her blogging above all else, I've decided to do the same.

1. Funding inequities. Close your ears, Bush-dudes, because I'm pissed about it. Sorry. It just maddens me that we can spend 400 billion dollars on this war, 50 billion a year on the war on drugs, 185 billion to clean up Florida in an election year, and have not immediately commited even a tenth of the Iraq War budget to help the millions of people devastated by the tsunamis. 40 billion, right off the bat. Is that too much to ask? And don't give me any of this, 35 million is only the beginning crap. Spain, a county with significantly fewer resources than us, already pledged 68 million. We are the only superpower around. We should be in front of all others in funding the clean up and providing for the multitudes. If our priorities were more obviously altruistic we would find ourselves less loathed in the world.

2. Pharmaceutical Companies. Why can't they invent a mood stabilizer that doesn't make you both fat and stupid? I'm actually not so much mad at them as I am at the body chemistry that makes me need a mood stabilizer in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I actually think there is a certain benefit to having bipolar disorder. Hell, I wrote three novels in the past year. Try doing that without hypomania. Still, I'm dragging around at least ten extra pounds that I lay squarely at the feet of my drugs.

3. Winter vacation. God I hate school vacations. They are the worst time of year. If I have to scream, "So go read a book" one more time, I'm going to go drown myself in a bathtub. They've gone to the science museum, they've gone to the Exploratorium, they've seen every remotely appropriate movie, they've had playdates. It's pouring rain, there's nothing left for them to do, and I've reached not only the end of my rope, but the end of every ball of string, twine and thread in the house.

4. Bjartur of Summerhouses. They're just sheep, for Christ's sake!


How Bad Does It Have To Get?

Another massacre in Iraq today today. Which leads me to wonder, what magnitude of catastrophe would cause people to stop? Any? At what point does a natural disaster become so catastrophic that your average suicide bomber thinks to himself, "You know what, maybe my piece of this world is so tiny, compared to the horror, and my issue so tiny compared to what's going on, that I'm going to take a little break, here." Would a huge asteroid careening toward earth be enough or would he try to get in just one more explosion before the big one?

I've been letting my kids listen to the news on NPR. It's pretty awful, but I feel like they need to hear this. This is one of the worst things that will happen to the world in their lifetimes (I mean, I hope so, kenehora poo poo poo) and I want them to understand how lucky we are to be here, eating our dinner of Swedish meatballs and parsley noodles.

We should also be eating a cake. The Tunnel of Fudge from Sunday's New York Times. Michael made it yesterday, and it looked amazing. Truly fabulous, all gooey in the middle. I only like milk chocolate (lay off, I already know how lame it is. Michael says he never would have married me if he'd known.) so I didn't eat any, but Michael and Zeke each had a piece and nearly expired from delight. They were all excited to dig into the rest of it.

The goddamn dog ate the cake. The whole cake. Isn't chocolate supposed to be poison for dogs? She doesn't look sick at all. She just looks smug.


Presidential Navel Gazing

I will admit (and how could I do otherwise given my endless blogging) that it has taken me two days to figure out the magnitude of the tragedy in the Indian ocean, and to realize just how devastating and horrific it all is. I admit to having finally been roused out of my self-indulgent torpor when I realized that tourists (people like me!) in Thailand (places I've visited!) were killed. I admit to thinking as much about alopecia and the bruise on my knee (why do I bruise so easily? Could I have leukemia?) as about the massive death toll.

But I'm not the president, goddamn it. Guess what, you blithering idiot. When you're president of the only remaining superpower and 68,000 people are killed in a matter of moments, your vacation is over. You don't keep clearing brush while the heads of the rest of the world's nations are doing their best to figure out how best to provide aide.

Wow. 35,000,000 dollars in US aide. What is that? Half the athlete's foot powder budget for the Iraq war? A day's pay for your basic Halliburton subsidiary? Oh, no, wait. It's the Christmas bonus for a Goldman Sachs partner.

All Those Children

I'm just beginning to assimilate this. All those children. 60,000 people is what BBC News just said was the number of people lost, at least 1/3 of those children.

Koh Phi Phi

Right after I graduated from college, my Israeli boyfriend and I went to the far east for a year. We spent four months of that in Thailand, much of it on Kho Phan Gan. It was almost deserted then, very small villages and only two guesthouses. We slept on the beach in huts that were no more than a wooden platform and a straw roof.

People were just starting to go to Koh Phi Phi around that time. We never made it, and since then it has become a huge tourist attraction complete with posh hotels, and a Holiday Inn. I keep thinking of the people dead there. The websites have forlorn messages from parents looking for small children, wives looking for husbands.

And then from Aceh there's this aerial photograph of an entire town, showing little sign life.

It's just so incredibly sad.

Complicated Slut

Sigh. I really do like that bookslut blog. The blog is funny, it keeps me up to date on what's coming out, it has a healthy regard for genre.

But what is with the loathing for the marvelous Dave Eggers? Like his writing or not, the guy is a goddamn saint. He founded and funds a writing-center/pirate store that does amazing work with children all over the city. It gives college scholarships and awards for teachers. His exoneree project works with people who have been exonerated of death penalty crimes, writing their stories. McSweeney’s publishes people that no one would ever consider putting into print. He does countless events for children's charities.

What can she possibly take issue with?

The World's Most Shallow Person

There are two reasons why I'm desperately shallow and should have no friends.

1. Reading today's New York Times about the horror resulting from the tsunami moved me, especially the picture of the dead children and the weeping mother, but the true tragedy of it all didn't hit me until I saw the photograph of the white father kissing his baby's head. Sure, I'm sad for all those brown folks, but I only really empathize with people who look like me.

God, I suck.

2. What has really obsessed me about today's paper, what lingers in my mind with a perverse tenacity, is this. Because, really, what's wholesale destruction compared to the cataclysm of losing my hair?

What the hell is wrong with me?


Photos, Finally

Messy Room2
Originally uploaded by Ayeletw.
I finally got myself a flikr account. For my first photo, I'd like to present...Rosie's room. This is what she accomplished in the short time we were reading the Sunday paper.

Never Cool Enough...Or At All

My friend Amanda Davis, who died almost two years ago in the world's stupidest plane crash, was the most exciting, warm-hearted, delightfully bitchy person I know. When she was killed, there was a massive outpouring of agony and love. People from all over the country, most of them writers, posted letters about her, about how amazing she was, how funny, how quirky, how she was their best friend.

One of the things I loved most about Amanda was the ribbon of insecurity that ran through her personality -- so similar to my own. She was always suspicious that there was a party out there that she wasn't invited to. When she died and became the party, with people actually mourning the fact that they hadn't come to know her well enough to write one of those painful, funny, longing posts, it was a beautiful irony. The geeky girl makes good. Well, except for the going down in a ball of fire part.

I thought of Amanda today, when I read the Sunday Styles section of the Times. That part of the paper exists to make me feel out of it, and at the same time to make me feel disgusted with myself for wanted be part of it. I mean, why in God's name would anyone want to spend Christmas in St. Bart's with a load of Manhattan social Xrays? Can you imagine the conversation? "Oh, I'd only ever allow Svetlana to do my Brazilians. She's just so much more interesting than any of the other women who've made their livings yanking pubic hairs from around my anus. And I hear she does Paris Hilton, too." Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they spend their beach hours discussing Vladimir Nabokov's lectures on Russian literature and arguing about his analysis of Gogol's Dead Souls.

And let's not even discuss the wedding announcements.

In today's paper there's a piece about the National Arts Club, and the Boho Hip crowd hanging at the Accompanied Library. I'm reading about the gatherings to fete LFL, Jhumpa Lahiri and Waris (Chelsea art gallery, Pulitzer Prize-winning short story writer, and "actor/jeweler" who appears in Wes Anderson's new movie. And don't worry, I had no idea who the first and third in the list were, either) and I'm feeling this intense sense of "why am I so uncool?" It's the same feeling I got when Dierdre Brown and Ginny Scott told me I couldn't sit at their lunch table anymore, because I was such a loser that I was ruining their precarious reputations. That, by the way, was in 7th Grade. Yeah, I remember it like it was yesterday, so sue me.

The thing is, if I actually were invited to one of those events, or to Dierdre and Ginny's lunch table, for that matter, I'd probably end up at such a loss that I'd spend the whole time trolling for the perfect hors d'oeuvre. I suck at parties, and what in God's name would I talk to a 26 year-old socially adept socialite about? Literature? Kids? Um. Probably not. In situations like that -- cocktail parties -- I somehow always end up turning the conversation to obscure medical conditions. You and I may have nothing in common, but your recent gynecological surgery is bound to make me perk up my ears. When Michael and I are doing our party-post-mortem he says things like, "He was the youngest conductor in the Boston Symphony's history" and I say things like, "By the time they took it out of her, it was the size of a canteloupe!"

I really suck at parties.

Every once in a while someone fabulous tries to make Michael's acquaintance. Usually it's a fascinating gay man, some hot young playwright or grafitti artist. They swoop us into their social orbit for a few days or months. I get all excited. Now! Now I will finally be cool. It never lasts for long. Because at some point they realize that this long-haired dude is not only straight,but he's married not to someone like Sofia Coppola, but to me.


The Best Baby Toy Ever

Flashlight with a handle. For half an hour Abie ran around holding the flashlight and chasing the beam, all the while laughing hysterically.

Man, that boy is cute. He's definitely the sweetest of the bunch. Lucky for him, because he's so homely. People are always commenting on how gorgeous his siblings are, but nobody ever says anything about him. I think it's the eyebrow. Singular.

Would it be child abuse to have it waxed?

I'm kidding, for Christ's sake.

What's the Point?

I just spent the past two hours reading Chez Miscarriage. All of it. Every last post. I'm completely jealous of a friend of mine who was actually quoted in the blog, because I'm obsessed with the blog. I love the blog. I am a ninteenth century matron waiting for the next monthly installment of Bleak House or Great Expectations. Inevitably, the marvelous Chez Miscarriage makes me wonder what is the point of a blog that doesn't have a real narrative arc. There is a compelling trajectory in Chez Miscarriage, a reason to keep reading. And it's not just that the author is so appealing (although she certainly is). It's not just that it makes me laugh so hard I cry, and then cry so hard I disturb the pleasant man sleeping next to me. It's the structure of the story, the propulsive plot. What's the point of a blog that has no similar plot, that is just a meandering recounting of someone's day, with a dollop of neurosis and a good measure of fluctuating mood? I mean, why would I read my own damn blog?

Do NOT reply to this. Seriously. This isn't one of those "Do you love me" posts. I'm just pondering, at midnight, my reason for blogging. Other than a fundamental narcissism.


Heckler Mom

That's what the ER triage nurse called me. Perhaps it was because I chose the moment she was looking at the monster gash on Sophie's knee to say to my poor daughter, "Once, when you were a baby, you had to get stitches and they taped you to the table because you were wiggling and crying so hard." The nurse looked up at me like I was crazy. Then she said, "Good job, mom. Freak the kid out." For some reason I replied with some comment about being in labor for forty-four hours. And then I asked if there were any really horrible traumas going on. By the time I was done, the woman was ready to toss me right through the double doors.

I guess I was a little nervous.

I think the reason they make you wait so long in the ER is that they know that after five hours, even a terrified ten-year-old's fear will just sort of trickle away. Yes, five hours. When we arrived, they told us that there was only one person ahead of us. Four hours later, they told us that we were in luck, because there was only one person ahead of us.

Poor Sophie. She didn't even feel it when her uncle skated over her knee (they were executing some elaborate triple lutz that involved tumbling ass over elbow, whacking their heads on the ice, and stabbing one another with the points of their skates). What got her all upset was the prospect of stitches. But they did a nice job of numbing her, and I spent the whole time distracting her by crossing my eyes and making faces, and describing the plot of the children's novel I am planning to write.

So that was fun. If it hadn't been for Michael's brother (or "the perpetrator," as the resident insisted on calling him) telling me stories about his in-laws and his job, I would really have lost it. Did I mention we waited for five hours? But what are you going to say? “Stop treating that gun shot wound and the child seizing due to head injuries. We’ve got a sore knee here!”


Creepy People

Following a link on my friend Allison's blog, I came across this delightful blog. Wow, are those people bitter, or what? This particular post was my favorite:

I had an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life yesterday. I am an ultrasound student and an currently doing a rotation at NYU Hospital. Yesterday we were ordered to do a gallbladder scan on a woman in labor. We went up to her room and the first thing I see is her hairy twat sticking out of the covers with a catheter coming out of it-GROSS. She was in the early stages of labor and her stomach looked like there were like 7 fleshloaves in there. She mentioned that she was having identical twins-whoop-de-fucking-doo, like I give a shit, lady. While we scanned her, she was crying and screaming for God to help her and squirming all over the fucking place. It was very traumatic for me to watch. I couldn't wait to get out of there! As soon as we left, I said to my instructor Denise-who is CF herself, (yay!)"Why the fuck would anyone want to do that to themselves??!!! She should've used one of these" and pulled out a condom-like device used to cover ultrasound probes which are inserted into the vagina and put it over three of my fingers. She cracked up laughing and said "Really!!" I want my tubal NOW!!

-CF Julie

I'm just speechless. Can you imagine this "ultrasound student" caring for anyone? Especially a pregnant woman? What exactly did she think she would be doing as an ultrasound technician? The very idea of this person being a health-care provider of any kind gives me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

I keep thinking back to what happened when I was pregnant a couple of years ago. On the day I went for my CVS (genetic diagnostic test) I was supposed to be 10 weeks pregnant. The technician began the ultrasound, and then her face got very still.
"How far along are you?" she asked.
"Ten and a half weeks," I said.
"What's wrong?"
"I'm going to go get the doctor."
And you can imagine what I did next. Two years or so before, Michael and I ended a pregnancy due to a genetic abnormality, and I was convinced it was happening again. What our baby had was not something heritable, so I lay in the bed crying and raging at what felt like miserable luck. When the doctor came in he told us, gently, that the baby was only sizing at 9 weeks. I insisted that that wasn't possible. I knew the date of my last menstrual period, and moreover, we had had an ultrasound more than two weeks before that had showed an 8.5-week-old fetus. That, apparently, was the problem. No growth between the two ultrasounds. Or very little growth. I browbeat the doctor into telling me what he suspected -- trisomy 18 or 13, the really ugly ones. Fatal. Horrible. I browbeat him into giving me a number. How sure was he? 99%.
We scheduled another ultrasound for a week later, and an abortion for the day after that with the same doctor who had cared for us two years before (a prince among men who should be deified). And then we went home to cry.

It was like reliving a nightmare, but at least this time I couldn't feel the baby kick.

It was Rosh HaShana a few days later. I'm not a religious person, but after I married Michael I started accompanying him to High Holiday services. We go now to this lovely congregation called Chochmat HaLev. Very alternative, lots of singing, etc. We were holding hands, crying in shul, when I suddenly felt the most amazing thing. I felt warm, confident, sure. I knew the baby was fine. I whispered to Michael, "The baby is okay." He gave me a pitying glance and squeezed my hand. "Honey," he said, "Don't do this to yourself. We need to accept what’s happening." I shook my head, and smiled one of those scary, beatific smiles that the Jehovah's Witnesses always give you when you turn them away from your door. "No," I said. "I know the baby is okay. I know."

For the rest of the day we had this conversation again and again. And let me make something really clear. I am the pessimist in this relationship. I'm the one who knows for sure that everything sucks, that everything will continue to suck, and that we just need to deal with the horror, the horror. Michael is the optimist. He's always singing a happy song, counting his blessings, tra la la. Finally, at the end of the day, he looked at me and said, "Well, if the eternal pessimist finally has an optimistic moment, she should be trusted." Then he went on the web and input the words "delayed ovulation" and jetlag. You see, we'd traveled home from Italy that month. Low and behold, he got thousands of hits.

I called the woman who had done the first ultrasound, the lovely and warmhearted nurse practitioner at my doctor's office. I asked if that first test could have sized the baby too big. If it was possible that when I'd gone to see her I was only 7 weeks pregnant, instead of 8.5. "Sure," she said. "That machine is often off. I usually don't even use it to measure, but since it agreed with the date of your last menstrual period, I figured it was probably right."

"Okay, " I said. "Is this scenario just too unlikely? Maybe I ovulated late because I had jetlag, and then your machine sized me too big? So the baby is fine, he's just younger than we all thought?"
"Anything is possible," she said.

For the next few days I was content. Happy. When we went back to the genetic diagnostician, they greeted us with the special sad faces they reserve for people whose babies are doomed, but we just smiled. I was all chirpy and sweet, laughing even. The ultrasound tech said, "Don't even take off your clothes, just get up on this table right now so we can see what's going on with this baby."

Perfect growth. And we found out a week later, that he had perfect genes to go with that perfect growth. That was Abraham. He's got a weak chin, and one eyebrow, but as far as I know they didn't test for that. He’s adorable, and sharp as a tack, and just the most perfect child ever. In my unbiased opinion.

If the ultrasound technician had been that Julie, I can only imagine how her cold and miserable demeanor would have made me feel. But I had a warm and lovely woman, instead. Thank God.


If I don't post tomorrow you will know it's because my water heater exploded. Today I awoke to this odd hissing noise, like a hiss and a ring combined. Actually, I awoke to Abe calling for me (he yelled Mama! Not daddy! Oh joy!), and then when I got him out of bed I heard the ringing thing. Abie, Rosie and I explored the whole upstairs looking for the noise, and then finally tracked it to the attic. The GAS VALVE of the water heater.

I promptly woke up my Israeli plumber. I love this guy. You call to tell him you have a leak and he says, "So? Get a bucket." Anyway, he comes by and whacks at a few things and then tells me that except for the fact that everything is wrong with the water heater, there's nothing wrong with the water heater.

You see, we live in a house that was built in 1907, and then untouched for the next ninety years. Seriously. One family lived here, and they gradually let it fall in around their shoulders. They were busy with other things, including sexually abusing teenage boys (a friend who is a prosecutor told me that. "Oh, wow, you live in the house where that notorious pedophile lived in the seventies." Great. And I thought the house had such good joo joo. Shows what a sensitive and psychic person I am.)

When the last creepy relative died, the guy across the street bought the house and had the brilliant idea of being his own general contractor. He made fabulous decisions like putting in a new heating system, and then scraping all the lead paint off the walls and windows so that the brand-new, never-used ducts would be completely covered in lead dust. That was fun. He also chose to laboriously restore the old windows, instead of putting in new ones. Nice, right? Wonderful attention to period detail. Except they rattle like there's an earthquake every time the wind blows. We're keeping the shim business alive. Now it turns out that he put in a brand new water heater with too-small valves. And schlepped it up to the attic where it can do maximum damage if it leaks or...um...EXPLODES. If he weren't such a sweet guy with the nicest girlfriend and kid I'd t-p his house.

The Israeli plumber insists all will be fine. He also told me he can't believe I have enough hot water with such small valves. Really? And I thought all families were compelled to bathe together because there was only enough water to fill one tub. Actually, the truth is that I just assumed that was normal, because that's what it was like in my parents' house (we didn't bathe together, God forbid. We just took cold showers).

Meanwhile, there's this festive ringing throughout my home. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.


A Troll of One's Own

Oh joy! I finally have a troll!

I was just complaining about my lack of trolls. Since I can't get my site meter to work, I have no idea if three people are checking the blog, or 300. But the fact that I have my very own troll makes me feel so great. It's like when I got all those horrible Amazon reviews. Someone actually cared enough to go after me!


I was whining about my lack of trolls to Michael when I saw him this morning. He felt like he absolutely had to see House of Flying Daggers, so I went into San Francisco and met him for a 10:30 AM movie. It was sort of romantic – a quick movie in the morning. I felt like his mistress and we were cheating on Ayelet.

I know I'm not supposed to respond to the troll, but I'm going to, because he/she makes a valid point. If I bitch so much about the kids, why the hell do I have so many of them?

So, first of all, of course I love my children. I feel the same gut-clutching bliss when I see Abie wobbling across the floor, his arms open and his little toes peeking out from his too-long pants, that most mothers feel. I let Rosie sleep with me, despite her constant (and I do mean constant) kicking, because there’s something delightful about her chubby arms wrapped around my neck in the middle of the night. She’s yummy, even if sleeping with her is like trying to bed down with a weasel.

I'm a sour, bitter bitch for a couple of reasons. 1. Because, well, I'm a sour, bitter bitch. 2. It's funnier. And 3. As an antidote to the aggressive marketing of the perfect-mother myth that we are subject to, and have always been subject to. The 1950s image of June Cleaver in her perfectly pressed apron has morphed into Gwyneth Paltrow all aglow, commenting on how being Apple's mommy is just the hardest and most amazing job in the world. What? You don't have a similar glow? Maybe it's because you don't have the emotional capacity of a true mother. It has nothing to do with the other things you lack. Nothing to do with, for example, the team of nannies, the personal chef, the full-time housekeeper, the private yoga instructor. (Let's not even bring up the 20 million dollars.) I talk about my negative feelings about parenting because if you do this parenting thing with any kind of focus, you're going to feel shitty sometimes. And the fact of most mothers' lives is that the burden falls most heavily on them. So I see it as my job to validate the nasty shrew in all of us.

Because, hey, someone's got to do it, and I'm so well-suited for the job.

It's Amazing How Much You Can Care

I've been compulsively checking Chez Miscarriage for days, waiting to see if her surrogate lost the baby. It's odd, this storytelling over blogs. It's like a novel in many many parts, but the main character is someone who is real, and who just might email back if she has a moment, and doesn't get too many hits. I followed this delightfully acidic and charming woman's story for a while, and now I feel like I'm getting the happy ending I deserve (knock wood, kenehora, poo poo poo). Note that I said "I deserve" not "she deserves." Of course she's the one who needs the happy ending, but I'm so involved, the way one gets involved in a good book, that I feel like I'm personally invested.


Oh God, How Insanely BORING

Is it me, or could this column drop you head first into a coma? I'll admit to only reading parts of a few entries, so maybe the rest of them drip with the kind of biting cynicism that makes essays about parenting even remotely tolerable, but right now I can't keep reading because I have that ache in the back of your throat that you get when you've eaten an entire package of Starburst in three minutes or swallowed a teaspoon full of sugar just to see if it really would make the medicine go down.


Maybe the problem is me. After all, this blog is called Bad Mother, not "Bringing Up The Charming and Adorable Waldman-Chabon Children." That's because they're not charming and adorable, especially not at 2 AM when they're wailing, "Daddy! Daddy! Mommy, no! Mommy, no!" Or at 3:30 AM when they are still awake and practicing different ways of saying the word, "No," using tonal language as if they are little Chinese babies practicing their Mandarin. No? Nooo. NO! Naoo. Nuh! Etc. Neither are they charming and adorable when I dump them in their beds at 3:30 and lie to them, actually saying, "Abie, I'm just leaving you here for a minute. Don't worry, I'll be right back," when I have not the slightest intention of opening that door again until the little wretch’s sixteenth birthday. Nor are they charming and adorable when they wake up (a different one this time) just as I have collapsed into bed at 3:32, having deceived their brothers into going back into their cribs. Charming and adorable? Right. The better question is how can a three-year-old have such sharp little toenails, and was she awake or sleeping when she dug them into my back for the rest of the night, until I finally shoved her into her own room with strict instructions to play quietly with her Hamtaros and give me five minutes to rest. Just five minutes. Would that be so hard?

Then, of course, tonight I took the littles (as opposed to the bigs, who are in Kansas City with their grandfather, because having seen them like six times in their entire lives the logical next step was to invite them to stay for five days) out for dinner and as Abie ate one bean at a time with a very large spoon, he smiled his dopey little grin at me, with his one eyebrow, and I wanted to put him on the spoon and gobble him up, he was so damn sweet.

"Womb theft woman' faces charges

Lord, this freaks me out. Isn't it just the most horrible thing? Perhaps because I've had four c-sections, perhaps because it's so viscerally vile, but I can't stop thinking about this. I imagine it in my head. How did she keep from harming the baby?


Vacation Blues

Michael's gone again -- this time to a hotel in San Francisco to try to pound out a good portion of his movie script. Because for some reason he's having a hard time concentrating what with me wandering into the office and asking critical questions like, "Is it worse to wear pants with an unfashionably high waist or to let my belly hang out like this." That, by the way, is just a contemporary version of the ever-popular question, "Do I look fat in this?"

It's not my fault I'm on vacation and he's on deadline.

I think I'll go to the movies this morning. That's what vacation is supposed to be about, right? I'll eat raisinettes and popcorn for lunch (adding to the seven pounds I've gained in two weeks) and sit among the lonely widows and crazy nose-picking men in the early show.

Oh the Horror

Okay, so I was fine with turning forty. Fine with it. Downright cheerful in fact. So why is my body smacking me in the head? It's like the little misery-maid who lives inside of me woke up and said, "Wow, she seems actually happy. Must do something about that."

See, I'm okay with the forty thing, because I look a couple of years younger. But if I'm going to go into goddamn menopause, that is just so not okay with me.

The Most Amazing Evening

Last night I saw the most incredible thing. I was part of the most incredible thing. My lovely friend Sylvia turned forty, too. Her gift from her husband was ... (get this)...

Ricki Lee Jones


Sylvia had a party at her house -- you know, the usual. Family, friends, good food. Good wine. And then, in the early evening, Ricki Lee Jones walked in with her guitar. And played in Sylvia's living room.

She started out by explaining why she was there -- she said she'd been watching Turner Classic Movies and noticing how in the 1930s people used to have concerts in their houses, real musicians playing in the living room. She wondered what it would be like to play in someone's living room. And then Sylvia's husband called.

It was incredible to hear her. She was so...well...Ricki Lee Jones. You know what I mean? She sounded exactly like herself. She played my favorites, Weasel and The White Boys, We Belong Together -- and also Christmas carols. Which was lovely, but what do I know from Christmas carols?

I was sitting right up in front. I mean, like, a foot away from her. And she was gorgeous. She was wearing red kilt with lace underneath, slit up on either side. It managed to be sexy and retro-demure at the same time (sorry boys, but the ladies are interested in these details). She had on little black ankle motorcycle boots, and I immediately wondered where I could pick up a pair. Perfect for those events where you want to dress up, but still seem ultra cas and cool. Perfect, for instance, for playing in someone's living room.

The only song she wouldn't play was Chuck E, and you can probably understand why. I mean, how many times has she been forced to play that? Every single time she's ever appeared?

Anyway, I was out of my mind. My friend Peggy said she felt like she was at a Beetles concert in 1968 and it was all she could do to keep from screaming. Which would have been a little bizarre in Sylvia's living room.

What an AWESOME birthday present. I felt like it was for me, too, because I'm still celebrating my own birthday. Don't worry about this forty thing, guys. It rocks.


Warms a Jewish Mother's Heart

Nothing makes this particular Jewish Mother happier than seeing her little boy playing one of the three wise men in the Nativity play. He was adorable, and gave his box of gold to the baby Jesus with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance.

Why, you ask, is my Jewish son in a Nativity pageant? Because my kids go to St. Paul's Episcopal School in Oakland. The school is amazing -- fabulous academic program, a true service learning curriculum, and real diversity. Actual real diversity. Unlike every other private school around here with their claims of 40% minority student body, all of whom just happen to be Asian. Have you ever seen the brochures for these private schools? There are like two black kids whose images are sprinkled throughout the brochure, conspicuously arrayed at the forefront of every photograph. Seriously, their parents must be under extraordinary pressure to keep them well-dressed every day, what with the constant demands of the publicity departments. St. Paul's has true diversity, and not just racial. They have a fabulous financial aid program, so there's actual economic diversity, instead of just rich people of every color. If I've got to pay for that with a few Christmas carols, I'm fine with it.

And it makes my parents crazy. So that's fun. (Just kidding mom. Sort of.)

The Heartland Has None

In today's New York Times some moron by the name of John D. Morris, who calls himself a "retail analyst ... who [leads] 'shop-alongs,'” announced that the reason stores are hawking Live Strong bracelets and Teddy Bears for charity is because "This is a born-again Christmas" with "echoes of the Heartland."

Where do I even begin?

First of all, I'm willing to bet that average giving for born-again Christians is a fraction of what it is for us selfish and evil liberals. I'm willing to bet that the only thing the vast majority of born-again Christians give to is their local televangelist to help him buy his-and-her matching jets. I don't know for sure, but if someone tracked charitable donations, I'm willing to bet that the blue states would leave the red in the dust. After all, us liberals are the ones voting against our interests. Us liberals are the ones all tied up in knots about things like the family farm. Us liberals are the ones who tax ourselves to death to support the crackers riding around in their pickups in Arkansas.

But I'm sure they buy more Live Strong bracelets then we do. Maybe that's because on average we give more than a dollar to charity. And maybe it's because we don't need to make a fashion statement advertising our generosity. You know who wears those bracelets in my house? My kids. And you know why? Because other kids do.

Think before you pink!


Joshua Micah Marshall exposes Nannygate

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall has a terrific series on the whole Kerik fake nanny thing. Turns out there's a roiling sea of possible criminal conduct, and the nanny thing was just a sham.

Lemony Snicket

Tonight we saw the new Lemony Snicket movie. It was a screening to benefit 826 Valencia, one of my favorite places on earth. The movie was visually stunning, and the lead actress (Violet) was very very good. I thought Jim Carey was excellent, too. But overall the movie was disappointing. The thing is, Daniel Handler is such a genius, so perfect in his tone, hovering between humor and despair, archness and pathos, that I suppose it's hard to imagine a director getting this right. Or a screenwriter for that matter. Also, my daughter was pissed off because the heroine does not save the day, like in the books, but rather her brother Klaus is the ultimate savior of his sisters. That irritated Sophie to no end. She felt betrayed since one of the things she loves about the book is the kick-ass female main character.

Still I'm sure it will be monstrously successful, and make everyone involved buckets of money. Since I love very much one of those involved, I'll be happy to see it succeed.

We came home to find our dog gone. It was only after Michael ran frantically out to the street that we realized that she had not run away. No. Fanny the Bernese Mountain Dog was not dog-napped.

I forgot her at the groomer.

I dropped her off this morning and never bothered to pick her up. Michael is convinced that the Department of Social Services (Canine Services?) is now going to put her into foster care and seek to terminate our doggie rights for neglect. I can't believe I did this. What kind of an awful person forgets a dog? I wish I could say I was just too busy, but in all honesty all I did today was story conference with Michael for three hours (working on the plot of his Kung Fu movie, Snow and the Seven) and play with Rosie and Abie. Oh, and I went to pick up my glasses, which were made with the wrong prescription, and took Rosie out for gummy cherries. And Heimliched her. Because you see, three-year-olds choke on gummy cherries. Actually, she choked, turned beet red, I smacked her between the shoulders, and she vomited saliva and gummy into my cupped hand. Not a drop spilled. How 'bout that for competent parenting? I can catch your vomit kids, that's how much I love you. Please don't take my dog away, I forgot to pick her up from the groomer because I was so busy carrying around handfuls of vomit.


Family Drama

There's been so much drama in my family today that I feel like a wet sponge slapping at the keyboard. I'm totally exhausted, and I've got one of those creeping headaches that make you feel like you're having dental work in your eye. Also, who the hell invented the whole eight nights of Hanukah thing? I am so goddamn sick of Hanukah. So sick of the "Just let me open one more present," so sick of the "It's my turn to light the candles," so sick of knocking down boxes for the recycling and digging packing peanuts out of the couch. Enough with this mercantile hell! I want to get back to ignoring my children!

I am pretty pleased, as many of you must be, by the Homeland Security fiasco. Mostly because I like the idea of a man's career being tanked by a childcare situation. And I like anything that makes Bush look bad. However, when is this country going to wake up to the ludicrous...


Man, that's nasty. Where was I?

Right. Nannygate, part III. Look, here's the thing. It's really really hard to find a nanny. Even for us, and I pay twenty bucks an hour, plus healthcare (full healthcare benefits, Kaiser, not the crappy insurance we get from the Writer's Guild), a cell phone, two weeks vacation plus holidays and a Christmas bonus. Even so, it's incredibly hard for us to find someone who wants to do this job. It's no fun taking care of other people's children. Children are boring, they move their bowels thoughtlessly, and they don't wipe their noses except on your shirt. So it's seriously challenging to find childcare. I'm not going to take on that whole Caitlin Flannagan, Atlantic Monthly article. Read it if you want to. All I want to say is that if so many people are compelled to break the law, the answer should be that the law is wrong, not that we need to imprison every one of them. This goes for the upwards of 75 million Americans who smoke pot (Do you need to hear that number again? 75 Million.) and it goes for the who-knows-how-many millions of families who hire nannies with no papers. And let's not even talk about the women who are desperate for work, need these jobs, and do them well, responsibly, and with love. All the while getting puked on by my little vermin.

The Buddha is Here!

Oh glory days, the Buddha arrived. Not the actual Buddha (although if he were to check out of Nirvana I'm sure my house would be his first stop) but the Buddha Michael bought in China. A fat stone Buddha sitting on a huge pile of coins. It goes near the front door of the house and is supposed to ensure fabulous riches. That's what I love about traditional Chinese culture. We're all greedy and covet wealth, but they don't try to pretend otherwise.

Speaking of wealth and greed, I sit on the board of three different charitable organizations, and I have to say what blows my mind is how little most people give to charity. There are individuals who seem to genuinely enjoy donating to things they care about, and then there are those who just don't want to part with a nickel. I've often found that the wealthier the person, they less inclined they are to donate. Someone for whom I know 100 dollars presents a huge portion of their disposable cash will gladly and proudly donate it, and another person who wouldn't even notice if they misplaced ten thousand holds onto it with his teeth. I wish I could explain to them that donation is the supremely selfish gesture. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel needed, even powerful. With the simple scrawling of your name on a check, you can become a superstar to someone, or some organization. I always know my mania is in full swing when I start writing those big checks. It's a tremendously fun thing to do.

My kids get two allowances every week, one for their greedy little selves, and one for their tzedaka boxes (their fund for charity). Every Hanukkah they get to decide what to give money to. This year Sophie and Zeke made a $101.81 donation to the World Wildlife Fund. They're so impressed with themselves that if their gesture doesn't result in a dramatic increase in the worldwide panda population, they are going to be pretty stunned. They also made a lunch for a "poor person." (Look, I don't censor the wording on their 8-point Hanukah good deed list.) They packed a bunch of sandwiches, milk, cookies, a chocolate pudding, two apples, a bottle of water and a spoon and we gave it to the guy who sells the Street Spirit outside our market. I put a couple of bucks in the bag, too, so he wouldn't be disappointed. Now they've got to do their Toys for Tots delivery, and somehow I've got to browbeat some elderly shut-in into letting them clean up her yard.


Today is My Fortieth Birthday

And you know what? I feel kind of fabulous (Kenehora, poo, poo, poo). I woke up this morning to the most amazing pile of gifts. A T-shirt over a long-sleeve shirt from Zeke on Sophie's advice ("I've noticed Mama's wearing this style nowadays."), lovely earrings from my parents, and...an opera-length string of the most beautiful Akoya pearls any oyster has ever vomited up. Salt water, Japanese, faintly blushed pink, and just about the sexiest thing I've ever known. Why are pearls so luscious? It's something about the weight of them, and the smoothness. I wanted to strip naked as soon as I put them around my neck.

My husband is a dream when it comes to gifts (really in all ways, but I don't want you to send me hate mail). He's got an amazing, innate sense of what I'm going to love. And he knows I'm the kind of person who needs to see things wrapped in boxes.

This whole forty thing is not so bad. Skip the next part if you can't deal with birthday-smugness. In this past decade I've produce four children, transformed myself from a lawyer into a writer, published six books and written three more that will be published over the course of the next year, bought a house, and, most importantly, made friends. A whole pile of wonderful friends. At my thirtieth birthday Michael made a tea party for my girlfriends and me. He rented linens, a silver tea service, dishes etc. He made cakes, tea sandwiches and scones. He dressed himself in a tuxedo (all but the jacket) and served. It was fabulous, but the sad part was that none of the women there were really good friends. They were what passed for friends in my life then. Now, he's making a little dinner party, and I love everyone who is coming. Each one is a tremendously important part of my life.

I'm a little fatter now than I was at thirty (OK, about ten pounds heavier) and my boobs sag. I've got a little flap of loose skin at my belly, courtesy of four C-Sections. I've got some crows feet, my jaw line sags, and there are a few lines showing up on my upper lip. But my husband thinks I'm more beautiful than I've ever been, and part of me thinks he's right. I'm certainly happier than I've ever been. Thanks to my shrink and the glories of psychopharmacology, I'm finally able to enjoy the good things in life.

So all is good. (Kenehora, poo poo poo.) Knock wood. All is good.


The Worst Mother in Preschool

I know just what they're thinking when the give me that look. Who do I think I am, showing up at the preschool Hanukkah party when I've been entirely absent all year? "She doesn't even know our names," they probably whisper to one another. OK, maybe that's giving in to delusions of grandeur, maybe they have no idea that I not only don't know who they are, but I don't even recognize their children. Why? Because I never go to the school. I don't drop Rosie off, I don't pick her up. You know who does? My nanny. Yes, I'm one of those mothers. The mothers who opt out of the whole nursery school experience. When Sophie (now ten) was in preschool, we had one of those mothers in the class. I know what the moms think of me, because it's exactly what I thought of her. What a crappy parent! What an uncaring wretch! It's Mommy Dearest in that house.

That mom had two older children. Just like I do. What the mommies don't understand is that before Rosie stepped a foot into preschool, I'd already done five years of it. FIVE YEARS. Two with Sophie and three with Zeke. Five years of fingerpainting. Five years of pasta collages, five years of Playdoh menorahs, five years of clean mud (that stuff they make with grated soap flakes), five years of the water table. FIVE YEARS. A person could go crazy. Is it any wonder that I have to buy out my volunteer hours?


Bonobos are Being Eaten!

As if there weren't enough reasons to be horrified by the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now it looks like people are eating bonobos. Bonobos are my very favorite animal, which is not the only reason to be devastated by the fact that they may be down to 2% of previous levels. TWO PERCENT. This is appalling. It's appalling that people are hungry enough to engage in what has to seem almost like cannibalism. It's appalling that the people in this country are engaged in a war so brutal. It's appalling that all of Africa seems to be fast approaching an order of hell as yet unimagined. It's appalling that we in the west are so unwilling to get involved.

And it's pretty goddamn appalling that I'm only blogging about this because of the pending extinction of these sweet little Bonobos. These poor little peaceful, matriarchal, sex-obsessed creatures have inspired me to all sorts of outrage, when the horros of Africa inspire me to little other than despair. I'm disgusted with myself.

Donate If You Feel Moved

I like Media Matters. They're a good organization and, as Eschaton says,

Media Matters is doing the kind of work that our side just hasn't been doing enough of. It takes a lot of manpower to do comprehensive media monitoring. And, frankly, you can't pay people enough to force them to watch that much Fox News.

So if this appeals to you:

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Conservative misinformation is defined as news or commentary presented in the media that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda.

and you've got money to spare, go ahead and give them some of it.

Why Are Parents of Small Children So Awful?

Lord, if there is one thing that could make you subsist on a diet of birth control pills and Depo-Provera, it's the other parents you are bound to meet if you reproduce. For every wonderful woman with whom I've shared parenting horror stories while our children snatched toys from one and another and threw matching temper tantrums, there are two dozen more to whom I've wanted, as my father would say, to give a good zetz.

What is it about reproducing that turns a parent into a selfish maniac? A while ago I wrote an essay for Child Magazine called "The Blessing of the Average Child."

At every parents' night I've ever attended -- and with four children I've been to more than my share -- I have waited for the inevitable question.

"Excuse me," someone asks. "What accommodation do you make for the exceptionally gifted child?" We all look around to see who the lucky speaker is; who is the parent of this future Bobby Fischer, this Stephen Hawking of the second grade?

So many parents, particularly those of the older, wealthier variety, are convinced that their kids are stupendously special. Unique in their genius. So many parents are convinced that their children deserve everything, even if it's at the expense of someone else's children.

In my daughter's preschool there's a mini-drama going on. One head teacher left, and no good replacement was found. Because my daughter's class is lucky enough to have two fabulous teachers, they've decided to take one to head the other class, but just for the rest of this year. Next year, we'll have our amazing team back together again.

Well, some parents are fine with it, but others have their panties all tied in knots. "Why should my child suffer?" "Why should the problem be solved at the expense of my brilliant little boy/girl?" Oh gevalt. Look, they couldn't find a replacement. So for a few months, in order for other kids not to be really screwed, your kid is going to be a tiny bit put out.

I suppose I understand the impulse. I mean, I love my children and want the best for them. But doesn't anybody remember Hillel's golden rule? Why do normally decent people lose their perspective entirely when they have babies? I think a good test of a decent human being is this: When we have had a situation arise where we have more children than car seats, I always put other people's children in the car seat and make mine ride without. If I'm taking a risk, better it should be with my own child. (And before you freak out, this almost next happens, and I even make my ten-year-old ride in a booster seat.)

So what would you do? Which kid would you put in the car seat?


Can't. stop. eating. See's. gelt.

Thanks for Showing Up

To all those delightful souls who've emailed or posted, thanks for reading my daily musings. And if I could figure out how to use the damn blogroll function, I'd blogroll you. My sys-op is home from China, so I anticipate having that blogrolling thing up and running ASAP.

Yesterday I made seventy-five latkes, assuming that that would suffice for the two Hanukkah parties we're having this week. Who was I kidding? Last night's guests gobbled up every last greasy potato. So tomorrow I will be waking up a dawn to drench my kitchen in oil one more time. I was complaining to my mother-in-law that my new drugs are making me fat, when she glanced over at the table, and then gently reminded me that I had just consumed my weight in latkes. And that’s in addition to the three Thanksgiving dinners.

For those of you who have read my blog and haven't figured this out yet, I'm bipolar. Damn that Jane Pauley for beating me to the tell-all memoir. I've probably been like this all my life, but only since my last pregnancy has it really been a problem. I'm lucky – I’ve never had a full-fledged manic episode, and my depressions have been pretty mellow. It's mostly that without the drugs, I'm moody as hell and kind of a bitch. You're thinking, "Hey, so's my mother, and she's not on any drugs." Well, a few months ago I had a similar thought (not about my mother, but about half the people I know) and decided to go off the meds. As soon as I did, I lost myself. I became what I used to be, especially around my kids -- MEAN. Just plain old mean. Maybe I suffer from an as-yet-unnamed kind of bipolar disorder -- bipolar III, nasty mother syndrome. Anyway, when my meds are working I'm much more easy-going, I'm productive, my work goes well, and most importantly, I'm a much more pleasant mother.

It's funny, I've always had huge problems thinking of myself as a writer. It seems so unlikely that this type-A trial lawyer would end up writing. I felt like a fraud for so long. In fact, it took three published books before I'd even call myself a writer. I was a "stay-at-home-mother" or I was on the world's longest maternity leave. Having the bipolar diagnosis makes it perversely easier to think of myself as legitimate. I might not have spent my life longing to put pen to paper, but I'm the same kind of crazy as Lord Byron, Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath! Talk about your street-cred!


Spa Day

Today, in order to compensate her for allowing me to steal her life as the plot of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, I took a good friend to the Spa at the Claremont Hotel. All very lux and fab. I had something called a Rosemary, Sea Salt rub. As far as I can tell, there is some person standing in his kitchen staring into the pantry and making up this stuff. "Hmm, a little sage, and how about some sugar? No, I know. Cinnamon sugar!" Can any of this do anything, really, other than give you an hour in a room with a stranger fondling your body? And, really, who doesn't want that? My friend was asked to fill out a long questionnaire (stress level, sleeping habits) in order to determine her "rebalancing formula." I suggest if they were to give you the wrong essential oil you would slip into a permanent state of unbalance.

I am glowing, though. Positively radiant.


Tree Trimming

Last night we went to my friend Lucy's house to trim her tree. Us Jews just love a good tree trimming. Her children are totally cynical about the tree -- they want it done, but they'd rather play the X-Box. Mine, on the other hand, were in Seventh Heaven. Even Abraham stopped whining for long enough to hang a little wooden sleigh on the very lowest bough.

The one time I had a non-Jewish roommate who wasn't going home for the holidays (crazy loft in Soho, crazy Australian roommate, crazy fight that had me packing up and leaving in the middle of the night) I insisted we get a tree. I had in my mind exactly what I wanted: full boughs, squat and not too tall, white lights, wooden ornaments, nothing too big or flashy. I'd thought it all through. In fact, I had the whole thing decorated when I was in fifth grade. I love Christmas trees, but I would never do a Hanukkah bush. Way too cheesy. Instead I just covet.

Nowadays I force my family and myself on our non-Jewish friends. We show up, ornaments in hand, and interject ourselves into their tree rituals. Of course no seems to have the kind of elaborate Brady-Bunch tree trimming ritual that I'd fantasized about my whole life. Nine times out of ten, it's mom trimming all by herself, with occasional shouts for a tall man to nail something to the ceiling. They generally don't object to our presence, because at least there's someone in the house excited about the process, even if those someones aren't relatives.

Now I just have to figure out a way to get us invited somewhere for an Easter egg hunt.


Sex and the Married Woman

Fiona is mad because in my last post I did a bait and switch. I didn't talk more about my sex life, and instead raged about my fender bender. In order to appease her, let's talk about sex, baby. The topic of the Juliet Applebaum mystery I just finished (out in the summer) is sex. Sex or the lack thereof.

It's no secret that people aren't having sex. I have one good friend, a mother of four, who claims that she's had sex with her husband three times since they were married. (She has a set of twins.) Another friend who's been married for 16 years (she and her husband married right out of college) can't honestly remember the last time they did the nasty. And I'm willing to bet that what they did way back then wasn't all that nasty. So what gives?

I blame the feminist movement.

Relax. I'm a committed feminist. I embrace the term, unlike so many of my contemporaries who believe wholeheartedly in women's rights but are terrified of calling themselves feminists. I'm proud to be a feminist. I'm proud to align myself with the whole hairy-legged Boston Women's Health Collective thing. (I'll tell you about the unshaved armpits, my cousin Marcie's wedding, and the pink strapless dress another time.) But I still blame feminism for the fact that no one is getting laid.

I think it's just a fact of hormones that, by and large, most men want sex, they think of sex, they desire sex, more than most women. Don't lynch me, but I think it's really true. A man is exhausted, drained, stressed out, and what does he want? Just a quick blowjob to relax. A woman facing similar anxiety and fatigue just wants to read a novel or go to sleep. Or blog. Back in the days of yore, a woman felt an obligation to provide sexual satisfaction to her husband. Whatever she was going through, however exhausted she was, little wifey would lie back and think of England every Saturday night (and on alternate Tuesdays). Nowadays, women no longer feel this sense of obligation. He's been out there working? Well, so has she, or if not, she's been schlepping from soccer practice to ballet to nursery school committee meeting.

Are you waiting for some personal revelation? I'm a little hypomanic this morning, so I'm willing to be somewhat indiscreet. The secret to a good sex life, I think, beyond having an absolute obsession for your husband that borders on the psychotic (can you stalk the man you live with?), is to take a lesson from the Queen. Within a moment or two, as long as your partner has even basic fine motor capacity, Victoria will be gone, and in her place will rise Lady Chatterley.


Missing My Husband

Pornographic ichat is not only insufficient, it feels kind of dopey, especially since I just saw the very terrific movie, Closer. I expected to loath that movie, but I thought it was fabulous. It has a sex-chat in it.

I dropped the kids (the older two) at Spongebob with a sitter and went to see my own movie. The best part of the day, however, was when I was parking. I told the sitter (a highschool student) to watch out her window and tell me if I got too close to the big, huge, massive cement pole. I watched the car in front of me. Ten seconds later, SMASH. I looked over at her and she says, "Oh." Just, "Oh." "Didn't you see that?" I say, horrified at the HUGE SCRATCH on my car. "No." That's all. Not, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry." Just, "No."

Here's the thing. When you screw up, your job is to apologize profusely, even hysterically. Then it's MY JOB to forgive you. That's what I do when I make a mistake. I immediately throw myself on my sword, beg forgiveness, and plead for whomever I have offended to accept my apology. If nothing else, it's a good technique to circumvent rage. You sort of nip it in the bud. And, it's the decent thing to do.


Oh well. It's just a car, right?

Wait a minute

Let me get this straight. Bush is replacing his entire cabinet, but he's keeping Rumsfeld? Because old Donald has done such a good job? I'm speechless. I can think of nothing funny or even bitter to say. Mark Danner's pieces in the New York Review of Books say it all.

And Speaking of Holidays

Why do I do this insanity around Hanukah? It's all my parents' fault. They gave us one day of Hanukah with presents. (I remember in particular a green velour pants and vest set in Junior High School. Went well with my pimples -- a kind of festive, Christmas colors look.) And that was it. None of this eight nights of Hanukah nonsense for us. So now, of course, I'm obsessed with doing all eight nights. Which means I end up with the same kind of hideous consumer excess as the rest of the country. Eight presents each, for four children. I spent a fortune this year, and most of what I ordered hasn't even showed up. (You want to bet it'll be here in time for Christmas, though?)

Why do my kids and I end up buying into this hysterical frenzy of consumerism? They aren't allowed to watch commercials when they watch TV -- we have TIVO and they are supposed to skip through the commercials. The problem is that they cleverly design children's television so that there is no distinction between the commercials and the shows. The show is a commercial, for the toys. Even Rosie's PSB shows all have marketing links. Remember when Sesame Street had a kind of purity? And now? Now we have Tickle Me, Elmo.

My children only watch TV on the weekends, and still they are made hysterical by the marketing. They want. The want everything they see. But what is it that they really want? The crappy toys that are advertised by and large last about a week, if that long. The kids play with them for a minute, and then go back to their tried and true toys. Blocks, dolls, and stuffed animals. Even Lego has managed to make itself pointless with the sets. Once a set is put together, then what? They sure don't want you taking it apart and playing with the blocks. Hell no. They want you to go buy another set. My house is swamped with crappy toys, even though every couple of months we clean out all the junk from every kid’s room. Before Hanukkah we have a rule that each child must remove eight items (big ones, not individual Legos, Zeke!) and either donate them if they are in decent shape, or throw them away. Only then can the new festival of consumerism, er, lights, begin.

Every year we try to figure out more ways to make this meaningful. This year's plan is to have them do eight things for other people or the world. I'm hoping they'll choose what we will do, but I'm giving them some ideas. Give gifts from those giving trees set up all over town. Make sandwiches for one of the homeless shelters. Write a letter to a child in a refuge camp and send a gift. And of course, donate money to issues they care about. The older two get two allowances every week -- one for themselves, and one for their tzedaka boxes. (Charity for those of you who aren't Jewish). They'll figure out what organizations to donate to as part of one of our nights of Hanukkah.

So isn't that nice? Blech. Perhaps I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning -- the sour, cynical and bitchy side -- but I just don't think any of that means anything. It can't compete with the hysterical frenzy of consumption that their lives have become. What do I do? Turn off the television forever? (But I love TV. I love The Daily Show, and the Sopranos, and the Office.) HOMESCHOOL THEM???? Yeah, right. Wasn't Andrea Yates a homeschooler? Two weeks of homeschooling and all of us would end up floating facedown in the bathtub. Move to another country? Where? About the only place I can think of that hasn't been infected by the American marketing machine is Darfur, and for all I know the rampaging Jingaweit are all wearing Incredibles T-shirts.

I'm going to go drown my sorrows in a two-pound box of Sees nuts and Chews.

Wretched On Line Businesses

I am fuming this morning. Hanukka is on Tuesday, and the vile and evil scum at BabyUniverse.com haven't even sent the toys I ordered two weeks ago. What is the point of offering express delivery if that doesn't include mailing the goddamn items? I am purposely not linking to these wretches. Don't ever buy from them.

And where the hell is Zeke's chess set? If I could remember what site I ordered it from I'd trash those folks, too.


A remarkable essay

Today my friend Allison pointed me to a truly amazing essay on the Electric Venom blog. Beyond just the whole ego-surfing aspect of me and Michael being referenced in this blog, the essay brought up so many things for me. I write very autobiographical fiction, and I also write personal essays. Moreover, I am constitutionally incapable of keeping my mouth shut about my own life, particularly the aspects of it that make me look the worst. I have an essay coming out in the new Mother's Who Think collection about how I love my husband more than my children. I know I'm going to get grief for that, even though the editors wisely discouraged from putting in a line about how I love my husband so much that I would toss any one of my children in front of a bullet if that was the only way I could save his life. They recognized that for hyperbole above and beyond the usual. But the feeling I was trying to express is still in the essay -- it's the whole point of the essay. And I know there are going to be people who are made uncomfortable by it, people who will dislike me for it. (That is, if anybody reads it at all.) I continue to write this way because I am convinced that for every person who debates whether or not to call DSS and report me, there are others who recognize the emotion and are relieved to see it in print.

I hope.

So, Venomous one, I want to see your personal essays. I admire your honesty, and I'm blown away by your prose.


sample sizes

The problem with internet shopping, which I do all the time, is that is it quite nearly impossible to tell what size anything is. For reasons that will probably sooner or later become clear to readers of this blog, I take a lot of pills. A whole lot. So I decided to buy one of those handy-dandy pill organizers. I found a delightful website, designed to make me even more suicidal at the approach of my fortieth birtday (9 days, and counting). It's called productsforseniors.com. On it I found what I thought was a nice, generous pill organizer. What arrived today was the size of my ARM. I kid you not. At least a foot long and as thick as, well, a cucumber. Or something else that thick. Thicker than what you're thinking.

Well, don't this just beat all.

Distortion, falsity found in abstinence programs / Waxman report says teens told abortion can lead to suicide

I love this. So, in addition to being responsible for teens getting diseases and getting knocked up, Bush's crazy abstinence program is disseminating complete lies. Sure, abortion leads to suicide, but having a baby at age 13 makes you the happiest lassie in the land. And did you hear that HIV can be passed in sweat? Better stop participating in those school athletic activities; you might end up touching a sweaty body by accident. And let's not even talk about the cybex machines.

Is there no end to the idiocy of the religious right? Why is it that Sweden, for example, manages to produce intelligent people, and the US creates millions and millions of blithering idiots?


Last Day of Class

Today was the last day of the class I teach at Boalt Hall, the law school at UC Berkeley. It's a seminar on the War on Drugs, and I've been teaching for seven years. My students will probably agree that it's time for me to move on. I'm still fascinated by the topic, but I think I've lost the capacity to be fascinating. I was also so focused on the election, and then so focused on my rage and despair after the election, that I'm not sure I accomplished much in terms of my teaching, other than inspiring similarly incoherent rants.

Michael is having the time of his life in China. He and the Master are having story conferences, touring Shaolin Kung Fu schools, visiting various temples and dining with Buddhist masters. But hey, who would want to dine with a Buddhist master when they could dine at the Merritt Bakery on fried chicken and cupcakes? With four screaming children, only one of whom spilled an entire glass of orange juice on himself? I definitely had the more elegant meal, highlights of which included trying to make Rosie blow her nose hard enough to get the frosting out of it, racing behind the counter in pursuit of Abie who had his eye on someone else's strawberry shortcake, and holding a weeping Zeke after his sister told him she wished he had never be born.

Abie ate 1 spaghetti noodle, 1 pat of butter, and all the green, blue, and pink frosting off a very large cupcake. I have obviously underestimated his fine motor skills, because he was positively artistic with the cake frosting, sketching a perfect circle over one of my breasts. Pastel frosting, it turns out, doesn't come out of rayon knit. Anyone need a bronze shirt with ruching and a pale green splotch at approximately nipple height?