chaos

Art Garfunkel is Not Dead by Susie Lubell

The view from our town after the biggest storm since Noah and the Ark

On the day before the storm I actually didn't even believe the weather report. I mean how could the weather drop thirty degrees in three days.  It would take an act of God to make it snow tomorrow, I think. But that's exactly how it played out. In EPIC. BIBLICAL. PROPORTION. As usual.

On the first day of the storm which was Thursday morning, we wake up to a foot of snow on the ground. I think, ok, it'll be like last year when it snowed for a day and melted by the next day. We get notice that school is canceled and Mr. Rosen gets the call that roads to Jerusalem are closed so we hunker down for a snow day, a novelty in this part of the world.

I take out all the old ski clothes but the kids don't want to put on that crazy stuff. They head outside in their sneakers and jeans until they are freezing. Then they put on the snow clothes. The baby is excited to see the snow from behind the sliding glass doors within the comforts of our warm and dry living room. We bundle him up and take him outside for a few pictures and he makes it known that he hates us and snow.

My mom is visiting and is less delighted by the snow. She puts on three more layers and goes outside to frolic with her grandkids. They build a mini-snowman on the roof of the car. I make chicken soup. The kids watch a movie. We read books. The snow is pretty and still coming down. Snow is fun.

On the second day of the storm we lose power around 2 AM. My mom wakes me up at 4 AM because she is freezing. I go downstairs to see if any circuits have popped. It looks like the neighborhood is out. I crawl back into bed and pray to the Electric Company.

By 7 AM everyone is up and freezing. We put on more layers. I make oatmeal. We get on our phones to see if anyone on Facebook knows what's going on. No one else in town has power either. No school again. Another foot of snow has fallen. I start making onion soup. It's looking like another long day. The kids can't figure out what to do with themselves. My son can't work on his lego project because he can't feel his fingers. The baby is barefoot.

Why is the baby barefoot?

Everyone wants to play cards with Grandma. Grandma wants to go home. The kids take food coloring outside and make snow cones. I do dishes. Grandma reads her book as the steam rises from her nose.

By 4 PM the electricity is back on in our house. Mr. Rosen's parents have arrived from down south to see the snow as has his sister and her family. We make tea and enjoy the heat. We think the worst is over. Maybe we'll go to the museum on Saturday, we think. By 5:30 PM it is snowing again. Everyone drives home for fear of being stuck here. We prepare Shabbat dinner. Shnitzel, butternut squash soup and beet salad. We hear a knock at the door and it's our house cleaner who lives in an apartment down the street. He asks to borrow a heater because he doesn't have one. We give him a heater and invite him to stay for dinner. The lights flicker a little and we worry about the power. We light Shabbat candles and a few extra just in case. After dinner I run the dishwasher, do a load of laundry and charge all of the laptops and phones. I have a bad feeling. Everyone goes to bed early. The three kids sleep on the floor in our room since we gave their heater to the housekeeper.

On the third day of the storm, the baby wakes up at 6:30 AM and wants Cheerios. We go downstairs and I see the power is out again. I make oatmeal and boil water for tea. I put on my down jacket and ski hat. The tea warms my hands. The kids watch a movie. The baby stares out the window and talks about the snow. The snow is on the car. The snow is in the tree. Aba is in the snow. The doggie is in the snow. I make more chicken soup. Facebook friends report that Israelis are hosing down their driveways to get rid of the snow. I wonder how Israelis manage to win all kinds of Nobel prizes andnot know that when water freezes it makes ice.

By 3 PM the kids are annoying each other. The kids are annoying everyone. The baby is sleeping under six blankets. I try to summon up my inner home schooling super mom to think of crafts to do with the kids. I can't feel my fingers and decide that crafts are stupid. We are checking our phones for weather and Facebook updates. The snowfall has abated. Phone reception is spotty. Grandma announces that Art Garfunkle died.

What?

She remembers meeting him at her senior prom. He was her best friend's funny looking date. 

So sad to lose him.

I ask where she heard he'd died and she says she saw a picture of him on an Israeli website but it was in Hebrew so she couldn't read what it said. My phone has no internet connection so we are left to mourn Art Garfunkel for another hour. We sing Feeling Groovy and Sounds of Silence. Grandma finds Mr. Rosen's harmonica and plays Oh Susanna for the kids. Internet is restored and I google Art Garfunkel and it turns out he'll be recording a new album. We are relieved. There is still no heat. Grandma is starting to lose it. I make carrot soup. Snow sucks.

On the day after the storm, electricity is restored. We are elated. School is canceled.  We are destroyed. No one can get to school because the roads are too icy. Can we not salt the roads here people? Is there no spare salt in this country? Did Lot's wife not turn into a PILLAR of salt? Isn't Jerusalem like less than an hour from the Dead Sea, or as I like to call it: THE SALTIEST PLACE ON EARTH?  For the love of ginger, three feet of snow has fallen and the country has completely shut down. Grandma goes to read like her fifth book in four days. We are happy to have heat and hot water. Everyone showers for the first time in five days. I make tomato soup. I have now made every fucking soup I know how to make. I make grilled cheese sandwiches. I go for a walk down the street and see a car has plowed through our neighbor's gate and nearly into his house. Serves him right for hosing down his street. I come home to find an enormous snowman near our walkway. He is wearing my scarf and has on a cowboy hat. He is outstanding. Leftover soups for dinner. We read stories and go to sleep all five of us in the same room again. I admit, it's cozy.

On the second day after the storm, we wake up and school has been canceled again. Some of us moms decide to burn down the school. Instead we drop off the baby and head toward Tel Aviv. Chunks of snow fly off our car as we descend from Switzerland. By the time we park in Jaffa, the last chunk slides down our windshield. We have coffee and snacks in a cafe and walk around the flea market for an hour or so. By 3:30 it's time to head home.

On the third day after the storm, school starts at 9:30. Mr. Rosen goes to work. Grandma and I meet a friend in Jerusalem. The sky is blue. The drivers are cautious. Art Garfunkel is not dead. Life is good.

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Perspective by Susie Lubell

Ancient Mama
She hasn't had her coffee yet either.
The Americas Wing, Israel Museum


I was having one of those mornings. First day of the week. House still wrecked from the weekend. Kids lunchboxes still packed (and stinky) from two days ago. Dishes piled high. Frowny McSnotFaucet indecisive about breakfast. That is, until he decidedly poured the soup crackers still on the table from last night's dinner into his bowl of cereal. All of them. My son and daughter are tormenting each other in the way only they know how. My daughter can't find her favorite shirt. Head is pounding. I ask tell everyone to be quiet. My daughter shouts back that if she has to be quiet then so do I. I tell her to "be careful of me". That's a real phrase in Hebrew that parents use and I'm glad I'm allowed to use it too. It means "don't fuck with mommy." The other phrase I like is "I forbid it". Very direct and culturally sanctioned. I get the baby dressed and go to tackle the dishes and lunches. The baby pours a bag of almonds on the floor. Mr. Rosen takes the baby far away from mommy to daycare. The little girl is still mad that she has to be careful of me. The boy is singing. He has not stopped singing since yesterday. We get in the car and drop him off. Little girl says sorry and feels better. We hug and walk to school Lavern and Shirley style. I get home feeling dizzy which can mean only one thing. I have not yet had coffee. I see my neighbor friend walking her dog and she can tell I am having a morning. And she giggles because she remembers those mornings. Her boys are teenagers now and she looks back on soup crackers in the cereal with an aching fondness. Her oldest son who is sixteen just got his first draft letter. I guess kids start getting the letters two years ahead of time. And there are many meetings and placement tests and physical exams leading up to the day we all dread. The day that even coffee can't wash away. And I think, you know what? I will happily endure many more years of piled dishes and morning tantrums and snotty toddlers and teasing siblings and spilled almonds and the kinds of things easily fixed by a little coffee and a little perspective.

Parenting in the Middle East by Susie Lubell

Code red alpaca. Sorry, you weren't doing it for me. You will rise from the paint again. Have no fear. #codered
I went code red on one of my paintings this morning.

I've spent the last few days painting in my kitchen and listening to the radio. They're playing requests all day long from southern residents. And sporadically throughout the day you hear the override system announcing a code red and a location. Code red - Ashkelon. Code red - Ashdod. Code red - Beer Sheva. All. Day. Long. We have been lucky and our daily lives have not changed much since we live near Jerusalem. Trips to Tel Aviv have been postponed and plans for get togethers in the South have been cancelled. But we are not running under our staircase every fifteen minutes and for that I am grateful.

The rest of this article is posted at the Times of Israel.

The honeymoon is over by Susie Lubell

Hoffman was right, whatever that means
I guess Hoffman was right, whatever that means.























We arrived in Israel a year ago. Today. A year ago today. I remember thinking to myself in the days leading up to our departure, I wonder how long we have til there is another "incursion" in Israel. Another operation. Or assault. Or war. I wasn't worried. If I was worried I would not have gotten on the plane. I had always felt safe in Israel. Though the years I spent here were always just before or just after a major something or other.

Anyway, I have the answer. A year. It took a year for something to escalate to the point where my people in America are emailing me to be sure I'm safe. I guess the honeymoon is officially over, thank you very much Hamas.

It's really been far less than a year, since missiles have been falling on southern Israel every few months, even weeks, since we arrived. My in-laws live in the south as do many of our friends. I used to live there too. But I have kept the radio and the television off. And it is only today, now that Israel has finally retaliated, that we have made the mainstream news. Because the 2,000 rockets that were fired from Gaza this year alone were not so newsworthy. Maybe if they had better aim. Or if we didn't have the badass Iron Dome anti-missile technology. Booyah!

But as bad as it is (and it's bad for our residents of the south), I went to the mall yesterday to mail some packages at the post office and buy my daughter some leggings for winter. The mall was bustling. And I heard as much Arabic as I did Hebrew. Let me just say this, for my left leaning Californians, if a Jihad attack of this magnitude had happened in the US you can bet that no one with a hijab would leave the house for a month in fear of random retaliation. Not true at the Mall of Jerusalem. It's business as usual.You can be full on burkified and still buy your daughter leggings for winter. I'm starting to ramble.

I have refrained from posting much on Facebook even though I know the news that most people will hear is not the whole story. I don't have the whole story either. I don't know what it's like to live in Gaza. I feel compassion for those in Gaza who just want to live their lives and hate the violence as much as I do. I have to believe those people exist. I wish we heard more from them and less from the militants and cyber bullies you hear from on twitter. Boys on both sides, come on. Spare me your my dad can beat up your dad bullshit. It's embarrassing. I do have some idea about what it's like living in southern Israel with reports from my people there. Cloudy with a Chance of Missiles, by my friend Faye Bittker, sums it up pretty well.

But back to my life. Today Mr. Rosen and I decided to celebrate our anniversary anyway by having breakfast together in Mahane Yehuda, the open air market in downtown Jerusalem. Which was also bustling. I had a cheese bourekas with sliced egg and tehina and Mr. Rosen had the spinach one with spicy sauce. And we had sahlab, a warm orchid milk drink topped with peanuts, coconut and cinnamon. Then we bought fixings for a delicious shabbat dinner tonight with Mr. Rosen's parents, (who are hoping for a siren-free night's sleep) including some goods from the Persian spice cutie pie who can always get me to try something (an then buy it) just by cocking his head to the side and winking at me. Mr. Rosen fell for it too. We even went ahead and bought a "shuk bag". One of those rolling bags you absolutely need if you're schlepping 20 kilos of food home from the market. So I guess that means we'll stick it out for at least another year, since now we have a shuk bag and everything. Stay tuned.

Nachlaot
 Beautiful Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem


Street art, Jerusalem
She needs a better shuk bag.


Spicy!
My spice guy.


Nachlaot neighborhood, Jerusalem
local color

Facelift by Susie Lubell























Busy times around here, what with all of the holidays (I still need to show you a picture of our sukkah. All in good time), and my son's birthday and then his birthday party. Now everything that was on hold until after the holidays is suddenly off hold and urgent.

So it's back to work. My latest project has been to organize my files - my digital files - a task I despise, which is why they are in such a state of disarray. And why also I have dozens of superfluous gigabytes junking up my computer. Just taking up space and taunting me with their sloppiness. My sloppiness. Ugh. I'll take regular filing any day.

But in the process of giving a facelift to my saggy, worn out, not-so-hard drive, I've come across some interesting gems. Like a word file with a bunch of one line stories about people with no faces. I must have once thought about adding them to some of my Inner Toddler characters. I kill myself sometimes. 

Anyway, it was nice to stop my filing for a brief chuckle. Let me know which is your favorite.
Back to filing.






Pssst... by Susie Lubell


The kids on a photo shoot inside our container.

I'm still here. Surprise. I did not intend to take a month off the blog. In fact I think I only took a week off after the baby was born. That will give you some idea as to just how hideously busy we have been in the last month. Let me explain.

No, too much. Let me sum up.
  1. Mr. Rosen flies to Israel to interview for a job in Jerusalem.
  2. Mr. Rosen takes the job.
  3. I find a house outside Jerusalem on the Israeli version of Craigslist and Mr. Rosen goes to see it
  4. Mr. Rosen loves the house and rents it for November 20.
  5. Mr. Rosen starts work December 1.
  6. We are moving to Israel for real.
  7. We need to pack everything and ship it to Israel.
  8. We need a to do a lot of shit.
  9. We panic.
  10. We make a spreadsheet. Color coded.
  11. We get the baby an American passport.
  12. Our son turns seven. We skip the birthday party and camp out in his cousins backyard instead.
  13. We hire a shipper.
  14. Mr. Rosen gives notice.
  15. I spend two weeks running around between IKEA, Cost Plus, Target, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, TJ Max, Bed Bath and Beyond, REI, Best Buy and Costco to fill up our container with America.
  16. I lose my wallet (in one of the above places).
  17. We starting sorting, shifting, purging, packing.
  18. We start seeing friends to say goodbyes.
  19. The shipper drops a 20 foot container in front of our house.
  20. I cancel all my credit cards.
  21. We think all of our stuff will fit in it.
  22. Movers come to fill the container.
  23. After it's half full we fear we have too much stuff. 
  24. We realize the movers packed all the kids toys and a bunch of crap we don't need while our furniture is mostly still on the driveway. 
  25. We buy more space in someone else's container to avoid getting a divorce.
  26. Our stuff is gone.
  27. Feeling guilty I organize a bowling party for my son on his Hebrew date birthday. 
  28. More goodbye gatherings.
  29. Someone emails to tell me he found my drivers license on Highway 85 north while he was taking pictures of garbage and mangled car plastic for an art installation he's working on.
  30. I sleep train the baby.
  31. I develop mastitis - the kind with vomiting, fever and a giant red boob. 
  32. Mr. Rosen runs out at 2am to get me antibiotics and narcotics.
  33. I cancel our magazines and forward our mail.
  34. What's left of our stuff goes on Craigslist.
  35. Mr. Rosen transfers half our money to Israel.
  36. I pick up our medical and dental records.
  37. We get the baby an Israeli passport.
That brings us to today. We are leaving the Bay Area on November 1st with our kids and whatever fits in two suitcases each. Before then we have to sell our car, get rid of remaining items and go trick or treating. And say goodbye to everyone we love. We'll be at Grandma's house for a week which may involve a trip to Disneyland and then we fly to New York where we'll be for another week. And then on November 15 we fly one way to the holy land. God help us.

Liberated by Susie Lubell

That ghostly figure in the background might be Elijah the Prophet.
The two bottles of wine in front of my husband are definitely empty.

I think it was Eisenhower who said something like Planning is essential. Plans are useless. Boy if that doesn't just smack of reality right now. I don't even know where to begin, except that on Monday we had an offer on our house - one that annoyed me because we had already lowered the price considerably and the offer was even below that. But we took it. It was the first night of Passover and all I could think of was redemption from slavery. And we had become slaves to this house over the last three months. So it felt like the right time to move on. Dayenu.

And we had an epic seder that night. Elijah the Prophet showed up and the kids went wild. This time all I could find was a twin fitted sheet and some kind of head wrap plus Mr. Rosen's tallis. So we wrapped up my oldest brother and he danced in all hunched over to cover his bare chest where the sheet didn't quite fit, drank some wine and got out of there before any of the kids realized that Uncle Aaron and Elijah never seem to be in the same room at the same time. And on my mom's suggestion we each wrote some Passover poetry and read aloud at the table. All attempts were well received and some made me cry laughing, mostly my brothers teasing my husband - a family pastime.

It went mostly over his head though because by then Mr. Rosen was quite drunk on the four (maybe seven) cups of ceremonial wine. But he had good reason to drown his sorrow, and not just because we were once slaves in Egypt. In fact on the way over he had received a call from our agent to say that there was a complication with the offer. The buyers were pulling out because the property was misclassified at the county. Two years ago, in a panic over our home value and soon to expire 5/1 ARM, I had asked if it was possible to change the designation from a condo to a single family home since the property is half a duplex and the only other people in the Home Owner's Association are Fred and Susan, owners of the other half of the duplex. A nice, pushover man at the county said that was fine. He never bothered to mention that it was for county tax purposes only and that the legal description of the property would remain a condo. And so would the records at the city level. So our buyers were very concerned and rightfully so. It was a clusterfuck of biblical proportion. And might require parting the Red Sea to undo.

My husband only mentioned all of this the next day so that my family could enjoy what may be our last seder together for some time because that is the kind of ridiculously awesome person that he is. And the two days after that were spent making calls and going down to the county to ask for records to be changed so that all legal documentation could be matchy matchy. Our buyers agreed to submit a new offer but at a much lower price. We tried to negotiate, because that's what we do. We're Jews. But this couple couldn't take the pressure anymore and withdrew their offer completely. No counter. Nothing. Apparently their parents, who were bankrolling the 50% deposit, were not happy with all of the hoopla and the young couple who adored the house crumbled.

And we couldn't be more thrilled. Because it's over for the time being. We get to have our baby in this amazing little house and stay here until all is settled down and we are mentally prepared for our next move. The stager came on Friday and took all his stuff away and the sign came down. And we spent the weekend putting a few things back in our house and enjoying all of the space. We also stayed home all weekend. No open houses. No showings. No previews. I didn't even make the effing beds. We played music and ate Nutella on matzoh on our porch and didn't give a rat's ass about the crumbs. We even planted sungold tomatoes from the farmer's market which we'll be enjoying all summer. In our home.

Night Owls by Susie Lubell

Owls
Night Owls, acrylic and pastel on wood panel

I painted this the morning after I'd taken my daughter to the ER when her fever hit 105. They checked her out and, besides the fever, there appeared to be nothing wrong. The ibuprofen hadn't worked earlier so they gave her Tylenol which brought the fever down to 99 and they discharged us. The next morning she was weak but her fever was still down. I went back for the last day of my art workshop and this image of a mama owl and her baby emerged. I checked in with Mr. Rosen every few hours the rest of the day and her fever continued to rise, though never passing 103. Then she started complaining of chest pain. When I got home she looked gray. Her breathing was super rapid and very shallow. But of course by now we were nearing night, when all things medical become extra scary because nothing is open and no one is available. She and I were up much of that night too. She came into our room around 3am asking for medicine so I knew it was bad. She has never willingly taken medication. She finally fell asleep on the floor by our bed with her panting breath and I was basically on watch the rest of the night.

I took her to urgent care the next morning and her xray confirmed what I had suspected. Pneumonia. She got a shot of antibiotics in the tush, affirming her disdain for medication, and we met my husband and son at a motel near our house because the painters had already arrived. Our plan had been to drive down on Monday to be at my mom's for the week while our house was painted in preparation for sale. But not with this sick baby owl. So we set up shop at the Tropicana Lodge and spent the day in and out of sleep while Mr. Rosen and junior continued moving our stuff into storage. Another restless night.

Finally Tuesday morning we saw her pediatrician. The antibiotics were working. She was getting her coloring back and had an appetite. I filled the rest of the prescription (I will spare you the story of how she then refused to take her oral medication saying she'd rather have another shot in her ass followed by the hour and half negotiation that ensued when I said, among many other equally ridiculous things, that she should be grateful her medicine tastes like strawberries because when I was a girl the medicine tasted like gasoline.) By noon we were medicated and on our way to Grandma's. 

She's getting better everyday and I'm happy for an excuse besides my laziness to not take them to Disneyland. Thanks everyone for your well wishes. xo

Metamorphosis by Susie Lubell

Metamorphasis background
Metamorphosis on Day 1

There is much to say about the three days I just spent painting with Jesse Reno at An Artful Journey retreat in Los Gatos. While I did meet some lovely women and wonderful artists, some of whom I'd already come across on ETSY, my experience was not the life-changing, soul-sister bonding, love fest that I think many people experience. This was mainly because I have too much other stuff going on, I elected to stay at home rather than the dorm and unfortunately my daughter had a 105 fever last night which landed us in the ER until 2am (we got her fever down but she's not out of the woods).

That said, something in me cracked open in these three days and I discovered a new way to make art and love making art. We approached each painting in exactly the opposite manner that I usually go at it. I normally have in my head exactly what I want to paint and then I sketch it several times and then I trace it onto the final watercolor paper and outline it in black ink. Then I fill it with color. Except I can go for weeks and weeks with nothing I wan to paint.

With Jesse we painted only with our fingers for the entire first day. We created what he calls the grounds. A rich and layered background with no subject or expectation. Then we spent the next day reducing the chaos of the grounds into an image or a collection of images. In some cases, when nothing appeared, we went in and drew a figure or a posture on top of everything and blocked out the rest. This was HARD. In this particular piece I only really saw the bird head thing in the upper right corner, which was originally the lower right corner. So I made a big figure and blocked out the rest.

 Metamorphasis day 2
 Metamorphosis on day 2

We worked on three or four paintings at a time wiping excess paint from one piece onto another one. Finally we tied our pieces down with some detail elements. In some cases we wrecked half the painting before we could go back in to resurrect it some other form. No attachment.

We worked mainly on 18x24 Bristol paper but some folks brought in wood. I tried a piece on wood at the end and really liked the feel. My hands were covered in paint the entire time. And Jesse was a riot. I am exhausted now. And need to pack up the rest of the house before the painters arrive tomorrow morning. Hopefully my daughter will be well enough for the drive south to Grandma's. I'll share my other four paintings over the next few days.

Metamorphasis day3
Metamorphosis on day 3
"She surrendered to the magic."

Stirring the sauce, getting the guns to Jimmy by Susie Lubell


This is the line we use in our family when things are starting to spin out of control. When we have a hundred things to get done and the feds are closing in. It's a line from Goodfellas and Henry Hill is on the phone saying he has to get his brother from the hospital, drop off some stuff for Lois, make sure to stir the sauce and then get the guns to Jimmy. Meanwhile the feds are flying over his house in helicopters because the jig is up. Time to join the witness protection program.

So that's what it's like here. We're juggling a million little things, stirring the sauce AND trying to get the damn guns over to Jimmy's before we put our house on the market. Which is in two weeks. Meanwhile I signed up for a three day workshop to learn some new media techniques with Jesse Reno, which will likely be completely awesome if I can keep myself focused, which starts in TWO DAYS. But before all that I need to get keys made for our realtor, get paint chips for the painters who are coming at 9am on Monday and box up everything else that's still in the house while staying on top of my orders in what has been a freakishly fertile February (sales-wise) so that on Monday morning we can drive down to southern California to see my mom and go to Disneyland. And the day after we get back the stager comes and the house has to be immaculate for the next 2-3 weeks or until we sell. This is starting to make me twitch since we usually can't go more than 12 hours before the house looks like a helicopter actually landed in the living room.And those are the twelve house when the kids are asleep.

Other items to share:
  1. Daily deal is still on. Several boxes of Inner Toddler gift cards are left. Get them before they move to storage and from storage onto a slow boat to Israel...
  2. Please go vote for my friend Jenn Louis, who runs an incredible restaurant in Portland called Lincoln, in CNN's Eatocracy poll. This is the restaurant where I took Aimee during that fabulous weekend last December.
  3. Sign up for my friend Liv's Feel Good Deal of the Day. Liv is magic. And she may possibly have the ability to stop time. This is the only way I can explain how she's able to put out a daily newsletter (and blog everyday!) with great inspirational, motivational content and fabulous deals!
  4. How cute is my new(ish) watch in the picture? It's from this company and the whole this is biodegradable. I think you can bury it and more watches will grow.
And now I'm off to stir the sauce (and then get the guns to Jimmy). If you don't ever hear from me gain, it's because I joined witness protection.

Moving by Susie Lubell

house
Our house when we bought it, April 2004
OK I have another good reason, besides the astrological shift, as to why I am not blogging much these days. We're moving. As in we're packing most of our belongings into a 10x15 foot storage unit, having our house painted and staged, adding some needed mid-winter curb appeal to the front landscaping and putting our home on the market March 2. You want it?

We have had the discussion about whether or not to sell our house every January for the last three years and this is the year it is happening. There are several reasons we need to sell including but not limited to THE THIRD BABY. Our neighbors, bless them, raised four kids in a house the same size as ours (900 square feet). But their twin sons lived in their room in bunk beds until they were twelve. No thanks.

So we are heavy duty into the process. It's amazing the things you acquire in seven years. We don't have a lot by some standards, and way too much by other standards. Mostly I am enjoying the purge. Just today I took three giant bags of adult clothing over to a homeless shelter. And bags and bags of baby and toddler clothes of the sex we won't need going forward (yes, we know what we're having) are being divvied up among friends. By February 18 we need to have most of our stuff in storage so the house can be magically transformed into a Pottery Barn catalog spread. So the kids' room will have a few cute stuffies and a stack of classic children's books. And three discreet bins under the bed where they can hide their favorite things. Everything else will be packed or "lost in transit".

We actually took them to the storage unit on Sunday and they thought it was totally bizarre. My daughter asked in all earnest if we were moving there. Let's hope not.

So the house is upside down and I spend my days packing up our belongings trying not to lose too much time reading old letters. In the evenings Mr. Rosen loads the boxes into the utility van that my brother conveniently left in our carport while he's in Mexico through the end of March. We could not have planned that one better even if we had both remained Virgos.*

*Mr. Rosen is also a former Virgo, genotypically speaking, though he exhibits none of the classic characteristics.

Sinking our teeth into the Big Apple by Susie Lubell

T-Rex

We are back. We've been back since 2 am on Tuesday morning but we're still in recovery. It was a trip of epic proportion! Huge! Urban! Filthy! Exciting! Nostalgic! We took many forms of transportation. We endured a heat wave. We ate a lot of candy. We walked a lot and my feet are disgusting. So much for my biennial pedicure. But we did it all - the arranging, the flight, the trains, the museums, the Long Island Expressway to the Meadowbrook to the Southern State to Sunrise Highway to Country Road 16, the Atlantic double red flag rip tide, the three hour delay at JFK. All of it. Solo.

It was not such a gargantuan undertaking. It's not like I have two year old triplets. Nonetheless, there were a lot of logistics and a lot of coordination so that we could see our family and indeed spend much of the trip traveling with my brother's family who also flew out from California. The first day my cousin picked us up and took us to the train station just as our train was arriving. This is apparently her M.O. Why waste time waiting for public transportation when you can jump onto the train with your two kids and your stroller as it's pulling out of the station? We arrived safely at Penn Station and caught a subway uptown to the American Museum of Natural History where we met my brother and his family in the whale room. We eventually made it to the dinosaur room but my own kids were a little nonplussed, which I found annoying. I guess once you've seen one hundred and fifty MILLION year old reptile the size of ten elephants, you've seen them all.  The buttons on the elevator continue to trump all other marvels. Maybe next year.

We headed out in the 100 degree sun and found our way to a clean and inexpensive burger place with an air conditioned downstairs big enough for a party of seven and a flat screen playing world cup soccer . I highly recommend the shroom burger. Here's where it would have been nice to have an iphone, which I decided not to buy before the trip for fear of completely neglecting my children. Even though the burger place was a block away, like a schmuck I convinced everyone to follow me up and around the museum so we walked an extra twenty minutes in weather I can only describe as a sauna inside an active volcano on Mercury. All the while accompanied by the constant drone of the sun is too hot, the sun is too hot. Really? Huh. I hadn't noticed while I was bending over to pour out the pool of sweat that had formed in my cleavage.

Central Park Spa

After lunch we walked south to a section of Central Park with big splashing fountains and joined a group of intrepid NYC summer campers for a little cool down.  We spent more than an hour running around pouring water on each other before we bid farewell to our cousins and headed on the subway back to Penn Station. Well first we mistakenly took an uptown train one stop but then we got off, stood dazed while two express trains created a sudden wind inferno on the platform, then dragged the stroller up the stairs, crossed over, and down the stairs to the downtown platform. I don't know how NYC mommas do it. I imagine they don't take the subway if they can help it. And taking the train back to Manhassat at 6:00 was a little claustrophobic. But we survived and my uncle picked us up, brought us to my grandmother's for pizza and we called it a day.

Some observations:
  1. Car seat coordination while traveling is annoying.
  2. New York pizza beats the crap out of all other pizza in the universe and beyond.
  3. Having a home base is key. My kids were so happy to go back "home" at the end of every adventure.
  4. Bringing a bag of snacks from home meant we didn't have to waste the first day of our trip looking for a supermarket. And incidentally, eight juice boxes fit perfectly in a small flat rate box from USPS and can be packed in a suitcase without fear of crushing/exploding.
  5. New Yorkers are not as familiar with protective swim wear as Californians.
Tomorrow - Dylan's Candy Store, 30 Rock, the subway elevator where we almost perished and the Second Avenue Deli.

Leaving on a jet plane by Susie Lubell

Packed

We're flying to New York on Tuesday and I have a few (hundred) things to do. Thankfully my daughter is all packed. This is a picture of what she thinks she's taking on the plane. Who is this girl? For the last few months she has this thing where she pads round the house holding a bag and just starts putting stuff in it. All kinds of toys, balls, dolls, silverware, trivets, napkins, food items, candles, batteries. By last Tuesday I counted five large bags (beach bags, shopping bags, backpacks, purses etc.) filled with her "stuff". Just looking at all of these things thrown together with no common attributes makes me just about have a brain hemorrhage. And she wonders why she can't find her flip flops (well one of them is in this box, I'm pretty sure, under the wallet). It turns out several other girls in her class are also exploring this kind of hoarding bahvior but I have a feeling she's the one who started it all. She's a bag lady. I finally dumped the contents of all five bags on the floor and made my kids sort everything to put away. They actually got into it and she then started rushing around the house looking for things that were out of place. But half an hour later she was asking me for another bag like it was crystal meth. Please mommy, I just need one bag. Just one. This is the last time.

So since I can think of nothing else right now except all of the stuff I have to get done before we leave, and by we I mean me and the kids. by myself. on a plane with them. forever. I'm just going to list it all out here in no partifular order:
  1. Let everyone know that they can vote for me for best artist or ketubah maker (or both) in the J Weekly Reader's Choice poll. go here: www.jweekly.com/readerschoice and click through til you see Ketubah Maker and a page or so later Jewish Artisan. And do it by July 5. And tell everyone you know. Yeah.
  2. Get a new battery for my watch.
  3. Pack.
  4. Print and ship current orders.
  5. Reserve a rental car.
  6. Find some unsuspecting family member to pick me up at 11:00 pm from JFK on Tuesday.
  7. Schedule a hearing test appointment for my daughter.
  8. Schedule dental appointments for both kids.
  9. Order niece's birthday gift.
  10. Buy snack food for flight.
  11. Print out itinerary.
  12. Check out videos from the library.
  13. Charge all electronic devices.
  14. Buy an iPhone and learn how to use it. (Question: is it better to by an iPhone at the Apple store or the AT&T store or online?)
  15. Print out Long Island Railroad train schedules in case I don't end up getting my iPhone. 
  16. Post blog. Check.

Pillow and Basket Case by Susie Lubell

Pillows

Come. Have a seat. I saved this tiny little portion of my couch where you can rest one butt cheek.

I have put all of my throw pillows on this one little couch to dramatize my utter disdain for throw pillows. Why do I have so many? How can I get them away from me? When did Pottery Barn throw up all over my sofa? And these are pillows that are somewhat meaningful. One of them we carried home from Nepal. Two others are made from Syrian silk that we got in the Arab market in Jerusalem. Another was handmade by a Bedouin woman. But I still want them gone. You see we are in the process of selling our futon to make room for the MURPHY (yah baby) bed in our office/guest room/studio which is part of a larger project to make the studio more efficient and more inspirational. Currently it is neither of those things. It is covered in throw pillows. Ones that used to be on the floor in the living room as a kind of pull up a pillow and smoke a hooka corner. That corner now has toys in it. So the pillows are in here on the futon. Other pillows have migrated to the attic. Still more pillows are currently on the living room couch. I am done with pillows.

And you know what else I'm done with? Baskets. Sick and tired of crap in baskets. I'd just as soon throw out the crap and the baskets along with it. At first it was a nice way to hide the crap. But then you have a house full of baskets you even need a basket to hold all of your extra baskets. But I need places to keep toys and supplies and chingaderas. And I can't afford furniture that might hold all of that stuff. But it can't just be out in the world. Free. Loose. Multiplying. I shudder.

Anything in your house driving you bananas? Do tell...

Houston - we have a problem by Susie Lubell

Cockpit

Sometimes I wish I had a kind of control panel like this one from the Aviation Museum where I could just turn a dial and dinner would be done. And press a button for laundry. And another for grocery shopping. And one for paying property taxes. And I'd have a dial to know the current disposition of my children and husband. And if someone was going to blow a gasket it would be right there on the dial. So I'd flip the happy switch and we could change course. And I could switch on auto pilot in bed every night, you know, so the mr. could get some action on a more regular basis. And I would definitely want an eject button.

This would have been especially handy yesterday when we got home from a long weekend in Tahoe (skiing) and our belongings were spread out all over my studio (read: triage) but before I could clean it up I had to help my son make his "friend of the week" poster which put my disposition dial in the danger zone because while I was trying to figure out why my printer was printing his hair purple he would not stop talking. Mommy, my hair's not really purple so I can't put that on my friend of the week poster because then my friends wouldn't know it's me. Maybe it's printing it like that because the black ink isn't working and we could take it out and put in a different ink that's really dark black so that my hair comes out right and then we could restart the computer and the printer so that it works better and then print all the pictures..I would definitely want a button for his mouth. Or maybe just the volume.

So we added construction paper, markers and photos to the mess (did I mention that I ironically don't enjoy doing this kind of crafty school stuff? Need a course redirection for that one too). And then we noticed the ants. The ones that show up whenever it rains. Which it is. Now. Raining.

I could have used my control panel to clean the place up, make the poster, do the laundry, exterminate the visitors. A million other things. It could be awesome. A girl can dream.

Home by Susie Lubell

Scream

We're home. This is a picture of my daughter screaming about something. There were certainly plenty of things for her to scream about on our 34 hour trip home. 14 of those hours were spent in London. Thankfully not on the floor of terminal three in Heathrow airport. We had the good sense to reserve a hotel room next to the airport which may have been our saving grace. All in all, it was a pretty good travel experience. Just long.  I even got to watch parts of some movies. The guy two rows in front of my to the diagonal was watching Precious so I saw some of that without sound which was probably the most I could handle from that movie. I also got to watch a little Bollywood action. That may be new favorite genre. And I watched the second Twilight movie in its entirety which was awful, but having just read three of the four books, highly entertaining.

I have a lot of things swirling around in my head. Stories from the trip. Thoughts on the Middle East. An open letter to President Obama. Some constructive criticism for Virgin Atlantic and Boeing. Thoughts about travel footwear. Confusion over where to live the rest of my life. The soundtrack to The Sneetches DVD.

In the meantime I am swamped. Orders to fill. A commission to finish. Taxes to file. Not to mention a severe case of luggage creep that must be nipped in the bud. I'll see you on the other side.

Quarantine lifted by Susie Lubell

Hi. I'm Susie. I write this blog. Remember? Little stories about my family and life? I know. I've been gone a while. Bad blogger. No, we didn't take the kids to Disneyland.

I stayed home with my daughter last Wednesday and made some headway on Project Garbage House. I also took her to see Dr. Murray who said she had an upper respiratory tract infection and a gunky ear. I'm not clear if that was a separate thing or what. Not important. Here's where it gets hairy for your protagonist (that's me). We both develop fevers Wednesday night. 102.5. For the next three days I could not regulate my body temperature. I was freezing under my covers, then sweating like crazy, then frozen from the evaporating sweat. And my daughter was basically her happy go lucky self with a little more apple in her cheeks. During this time I sneezed so many times I basically made myself incontinent. TMI? Too bad. My blog. On Thursday morning I decided there was no way I could take care of my daughter since I could hardly get out of bed so I kept my son home from preschool to entertain her. Brilliant move it turned out. They left me alone to sleep all morning, I fed them lunch and then my unbelievably wonderful husband came home at 2:00 to take them all on a field trip and away from Mommy. On Friday I sent my son to school and stayed home again with my daughter. We managed somehow and my husband came home early again and took the kids again. Love him. And the whole weekend was more of the same. Lying around in our pajamas, taking temperatures, administering fever reducing agents. On Saturday night my son developed a fever too. So we took it easy again on Sunday and by Sunday night it seemed like he'd be able to go to school on Monday but then I noticed the eye booger.

GEORGE JESUS! So I vigilantly cleaned his eyes out and made him wash his hands a hundred times and washed his pillow and his kitty and prayed to God that he didn't have pink eye. Monday morning, no gunk but slight fever. So I kept him home but sent the girl. At this point I don't have a fever either but plenty of post flu nasal garbage. And also keep in mind it's been three weeks since I've had any time during the day to work on my business or paint or anything so I'm very close to having a major come-apart (although I did paint Tiny Village on Saturday night. Dab painting, dab nose, repeat). The text says "spread over us a shelter of peace". This was literally an S.O.S. painting.


Someone heard my painting prayer. This morning everyone was fever and gunk free and back to school/work. When the kids left this morning at 9:00 a hush came over the house. I made myself a cup a coffee and just sat on my couch listening to myself breathe. I'm actually so relieved that I work for myself now because trying to juggle sick kids when you don't have a nanny is awful.

In other news, I gathered up the kids on Sunday morning and we went room to room setting aside baby toys to give to our new baby friends. Five boxes of stuff these kids were willing to part with! And guess what we found during the great purge? Softie the scarf!!! On the very same day that my husband switched the mezuzah. Coincidence? We'll have to ask the carpet cleaners.

Buried by Susie Lubell

My daughter's had a runny nose the last few days and her school asked me to keep her and her nose home tomorrow because I think they're tired of wiping it every three minutes. I know I am. So that means I'm home from work for the day and I could not be happier. My home has reached a state of disarray that it has not seen since we moved in here and I just can't get on top of it. I apologize for ranting about my domestic chaos for the last several posts but it's really all consuming. I have basically ceased to function normally. Now I take out jars of jam and just leave them out. With the lid off. Sometimes even the milk doesn't make it back into the fridge. My clothes are all over the place. There's a giant pile of shoes and socks at the front door. Toys are everywhere. And there's laundry in every available position. Washer. Dryer. On the top of the dryer waiting to be dried. On the futon in the guest room. In the laundry basket. And in the hampers. And the worse it gets, the less I am able to deal with it.

WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE!! WTFP!!

Now I am starting to understand those people who are just buried under the junk in their homes. Because once you pass a certain point you almost need an Oprah style intervention. You just lose all motivation. Like right now, for instance. I could be straightening. But I'd sooner put a pen in my eye. And I have a housekeeper who comes once a week so I have no right to complain. But she ends up putting whatever's out back in bins willy nilly and now we are going on three weeks of random stuff going into random places which is why I still can't find my soft scarf (see previous post)! And in all honesty it's not even bad by normal standards but I am a very tidy Virgo and believer that everything has its home which brings me to another issue of worldwide proportion that's been on my mind and that is what to do with all this stuff that I want to get rid of because no one's home should be a landfill. I am dying to get rid of a ton of our things - a ton of toys, appliances, just crap we don't need. Little things. Hangers, for the love of ginger! Who the hell needs this many hangers! But how to do it? You can't just throw shit away anymore. You have to give it to Good Will so it can be thrown away in Africa.

But back to my daughter, who as it turns out needs to see Dr. Murray again since my husband looked in her ears with a microscope and saw one ear looking shiny and happy with its tube in place and the other ear looking like Chernobyl. So I'm more than happy to take a sick day with my daughter, for her sake and mine. And while she's playing dress up in her room, I'll be casually putting away her clean clothes. And while she's playing top chef in her kitchen, I'll be cleaning mine. And next week, when I'm back to being a Work From Home Artist, I'm sure I'll have something else to write about. If not, I will make something up for your entertainment.

Dear Home, by Susie Lubell

I don't know how to bring this up without sounding overly sensitive or confrontational. So I'll just put it out there. Are you mad at me? Did I offend you in some way? Are you not happy with the rain gutters or the color we painted the kitchen door? I'm only asking because I can't figure out why you keep taking my stuff and hiding it. Like my keys this morning. I took the keys to open my trunk and get the kids' lunchboxes still sitting there from yesterday so the Mr. could make their lunches and I could leave for work. I brought the lunches in, grabbed my purse and then couldn't find the keys. So I spent the next ten minutes looking all around the house and they were no where. What gives? And this isn't the first time you've taken our keys. What about when our daughter was born and you lifted both my set and my husband's set within a one week span? Do you know how much those goddamn electronic keys cost? Like $150 smacks. So for the next year we measured everything in VW keys. The plane ticket was two VW keys...And then what about my badge for work? I've been there less than two weeks and I already need to ask for a replacement? So I need that back. And also my favorite scarf. The one I've slept with every night since I bought it in on the street in Chile in 1996. The one my kids call softie because it has reached a level of softness unparalleled in the garment manufacturing industry. We can talk about why a 36 year old sleeps with a scarf later. After I get the scarf back. And as long as I have you on the horn, I'm not thrilled with the ants. Or that nail that keeps coming up in the dining room floor, that I have snagged my big toe on seven hundred and twenty-one times, even though I bang it back in every four months. And the way you've started piling up little stacks of papers and legos and cars and small socks and magnets in every corner of you. Every friggin' corner! It's enough already! Put your crap back where it belongs! Including the etch-a-sketch that's on my bedside table. And then give me back the keys.

Sincerely,
Susie

Pause by Susie Lubell

So it turns out that taking on this little part time temporary contract at my old job is kind of kicking my ass. Not because it's taxing or difficult or unenjoyable. In fact, it's pleasant work in a nice office with lovely people. So far I haven't had to be at a single meeting. It's kind of the best possible scenario. Except that I run out of there at 12:30 to get my kids at 1:00 and then spend the next six hours trying to clean the house, get my daughter down for her nap, play cards with my son, worry about the mounting orders I've yet to fill (or the lack of orders depending on the day), make some prints (this is next to impossible), make dinner, do some half inspired craft with my son and fold some laundry. And then at night I'm filling the orders I can't fill during the day, returning emails, doing some framing, figuring out what the hell my kids will be for Halloween, paying some bills and recovering from the tantrum I had in response to my son's tantrum du jour.

Things that don't get done: No time for the gym. No time for the super market. No time to finish the drawing I started two weeks ago. And no time to blog. Sorry peeps. Nada tiempo.

And somehow I used to do this. Although working full time gives you a little flexibility. When someone else picks up the kids you can, get this, GO TO THE SUPERMARKET. You can also go to the bank. You can even get your eyebrows waxed, in case your daughter got her Frida looks from you. And you can do it all in half an hour. And don't think I haven't done all of these things with kids in tow. Even the eyebrows. They sit on the end of the bed and wonder why the little Vietnamese lady is torturing mommy. But it takes four times as long and by the end someone is crying and it's usually me.

So today, since my son had his five year well-child check up and by the time I got him to school it would have been silly for me to drive to work only to leave an hour later, I went to the post office instead to ship a consignment order I've been sitting on for three weeks. Then I went to two supermarkets. Then I deleted 200 emails. And put away some laundry. BANNER MORNING. And the afternoon went equally well. Baby was down in ten minutes. Son and I played several hands of Go Fish which I won. Then we made a collage. The house was clean and the laundry away so my son received my undivided attention. Then I taught him that if he could figure out how to hold his cards facing him instead of facing up on the carpet he might not lose every time which he did and then we tied. Baby woke up. Met a friend at the park. Came home and made dinner. And by the time darling husband arrived I was able to greet him looking like this minus the flowing hair (my hair is short):

Namaste. Incidentally, this beautiful card arrived a few days ago with two other cards from a wonderful artist named Lori Portka. She just exudes joy and hope, which shines through in her work, right? (and her blog - check that out too).

We'll see what tomorrow holds when I head back for my second week of work. The fridge is full so I have that in my favor. My daughter has a runny nose and we appear to have ants. Two strikes against. It's anybody's game.