Thirty Six looks like this / by Susie Lubell

I don't know what it is about birthdays but mine always suck. The last great birthday I can remember was when I turned 14. My friend Andrea and I planned my own surprise party and no one figured it out. Ever. All our friends came over right before school started and we swam and played silly games in the backyard and danced around. There was a big cake and singing and music and it was a FRIGGIN BIRTHDAY PARTY. The kind that celebrates your BIRTH. Best day that ever was. Since then, it's been hit or miss and mostly miss. Last year my plan to spend the day with my husband was quashed when my son started begging me not to leave him at preschool and I had a total come apart in a lovely cafe. Although I did make a list of everything I wanted to change in my life and short of a four bedroom house, I pretty much did everything else (note to self: must make new list for this year).

So this was my day yesterday. I wake up and the house is having post vacation stress syndrome. Everything is everywhere. I have the kids for the the last day of summer before they start their new school (which was today and went fairly smoothly). We have to be at the new school by 9:00 for some meet and greets with kids and teachers. I hustle the kids into the car and we're off. Instead of playing with the other kids and exploring their new surroundings my kids play with each other and even that is a lie because that mostly fight over who gets to put the doll in the oven over at the play kitchen. No big deal. I hadn't expected much more than that. Then we go over to the JCC membership office and I have to fill out some paperwork. Meanwhile my kids are running up and down the stairs throwing my daughter's rat Julio at each other. I call them to go and my son hucks Julio way up and he gets stuck on a beam that crosses the window about 14 feet off the ground. Fabulous. So I climb the stairs and hoist my 36-year old ass up on top of this beam and walk across to get the goddamn rat. I can't even describe what I'm talking about because it is so ridiculous. But instead of just laughing it off, which would have been fine, I get annoyed with my son and tell him as much. Now he's unhappy. We leave and they fight over who gets to push the elevator button and I let both of them have it in the car. So it's only 10:30 and I've already lost my temper twice today. Nice.

Now we go to Starbucks because at the very least I deserve to have some coffee. We run into two of my kids' teachers from the old school who they were thrilled to see but instead of being cute and charming they start acting squirrely and whining (chanting actually) about wanting vanilla milk and a morning bun, which Starbucks has run out of. We finally leave and head north because I have a rush order to drop off at a shop in San Francisco. Both kids sleep on the way which affords me 50 minutes of much-needed quiet after essentially three weeks straight with my kids. And I have the pen in my eye to prove it.

We arrive and deliver the goods. I have a second cousin who works there so we meet her for a few minutes. After about ten minutes my daughter wants to leave so we say our goodbyes and in the elevator on the way down they have another fight about the button so I lose my temper AGAIN. At this point my threshold for ridiculous behavior is at an all time low. And even though I've promised to take them to the big carousel by Yerba Buena Gardens I tell them we're going straight home. So they wail for about five minutes and then stop crying long enough for me to reconsider. We find a place to park and even though I have $39 in change, that only buys me twenty minutes of parking so we run as fast as we can up three flights of stairs and across the park to the carousel. They ride twice and I get some more change so we can book it back down to the car and feed the meter another $47 so that I can have thirty more minutes for my kids at the park.

On the way back up the three flights of stairs my daughter tells me that she has to pee and since it's been about six hours since she peed last I waste no time lifting her dress and pulling down her undies as I scoop her up and over a bush in a secluded corner of the park. She pees and pees and pees for a very long time and what ever doesn't land on the bush has landed on my shoe. Not a problem. I wipe my foot on the grass and roll my eyes. I've reached that point in motherhood that piss on my shoe is totally unremarkable. I'm not even sure why I mentioned it.

We finally head back to the car and I drive home with kids but midway through the journey my daughter tells me that she wants to hear her favorite song on the radio. She doesn't understand that I don't control the radio. And who can blame her since it's true that I control everything else in the universe. Just not the radio. I frankly don't even know what her favorite song is though I have a feeling that it is Happy Birthday since she makes me sing that every day to everyone we know while I'm putting her hair in a ponytail. It's the only way she'll let me touch her hair. And since Happy Birthday was not on any station, I just left Lady Gaga on the dial to which my daughter made clear this was NOT her favorite song and for the next 15 minutes, no matter what I did - open the windows, blare the music, explain patiently about this whole radio concept, she shrieked over and over again: MY WANT MY FAVORITE SONG!

We finally get home and no one wants to nap. I feed them and then try to get some work done while they're
fightingplaying. At 5:00 I take them to the car wash, an activity that is satisfying for all because the car gets clean, the kids get to ride the penny pony (a much better deal than metered parking in San Francisco) and everyone gets popcorn. It's really the best show in town.


We drive home around 6:00 and my husband is waiting for us. I give him the "take these kids before I kill myself" look and he asks how my day was. I tell him it was fine and burst into tears. Then I see the half dozen roses he bought me. Pretty. I leave and go to Target to buy my kids thermoses for their first day of school and some other stuff we need for the house. Then I get my eyebrows waxed so now my eyebrows are as red and puffy as my eyes and I'm looking my most gorgeous. By the time I get home it's time to sing my kids to sleep, which I do. And while I'm doing that my husband makes me an (amazing totally delicious) omelet. We spend some time with each other which helps to erase a lot of my crappy day and then we go to bed. And that's how I turned thirty-six.

Next year I'm throwing myself a surprise birthday party. Don't tell anyone.