miscalculations

The long and winding road by Susie Lubell

Interstate 5
photo courtesy of AARoads

Indeed we had a lovely week at my mom's in southern California, thanks for asking. It's a seven hour drive including two half hour stops for stretching and gassing and eating. That's, of course, when the stars are aligned.  When they're not aligned, it takes a lot longer. On this particular trip we were making very good time and the kids were both enjoying a mid afternoon slumber as I arrived at the Grapevine, specifically the exit right before you ascend 4,000 feet over the Tehachapi mountains and land in Los Angeles, but also referring to the winding stretch along the freeway itself. On a good day it's still a little harrowing and involves a lot of jockeying between big rigs. In the winter it's icy. This time of year it's windy and hot. So when your dashboard suddenly lights up with this cryptic message: STOP ENGINE - you know you're in for a super stress-free couple of hours. Ohmmmm...

This was not the first time I had seen the light. This particular light anyway. On our way home from camping the day before this trip, the oil pressure indicator lit up followed by anxiety producing beeping and the STOP ENGINE message. We stopped and checked the oil which was oily but we were two hours from home and it was dark so we kept driving. There was no logic in that decision; it's just what we did. The light didn't come back. Terrific! It's just a dashboard fuse thing! I brought it to our mechanic, a 97 year old German man who only works on German cars, and he confirmed that he saw nothing wrong with the car. It now appears that this is because, at his age, he can no longer see.

So four hours into our trip south and with three hours to go, possibly more as it is now approaching rush hour in LA, the light reappears and all I can think is we are so screwed.

Which incidentally reminded me of when I was birthing my daughter and at one point while her head was stuck right there in my vagina I thought well, this is a fine mess. She's not going back in and yet if she comes out anymore my pelvis will shatter. But I digress...

So we pressed on watching the light flash and beep, praying that I wasn't completely destroying the engine and, more importantly, that we weren't going to explode on top of a mountain in the Angeles National Forest. But, as was the case with my daughter, we white-knuckled through it and arrived home safely albeit completely traumatized. Fortunately the rest of the week went a lot more smoothly than the first day. Except the part where the VW dealership told me my Passat needed bypass surgery and, feeling my own oil pressure begin to rise,  I asked if they could schedule my bypass for the same time.

STOP ENGINE.

Global Economics 101 - or how I ended up with 72 spoons by Susie Lubell

Package
exhibit A

We needed more teaspoons. My kids use them to eat everything and I am constantly getting them from the dishwasher to hand wash. We had ten when we got married and now we have maybe six. I don't know what happened to them. No matter, we need more.

I googled the name of the spoon that we had registered for eight years ago at Crate and Barrel. Why this name was still in my head indicates the kind of useless crap I keep in there for a rainy day. Arctic. They're called Arctic. So I look up Arctic teaspoon and I get a list of places selling them, namely Crate and Barrel, Replacements.com, and a site called Cookware.com (sometimes known as Dinnerplates.com). Hmmm...suspicious.

I actually did this search about two years ago during the great teaspoon shortage of 2008 and found they were $11 each! ELEVEN DOLLARS for an effing teaspoon. So I passed. This time I saw that they were $6.95. OK. I was willing to pay $42 for six teaspoons even though that is highway robbery. I wanted them to match. Because in my mind, if nothing matches, that's eclectic. But if everything matches except the extra six teaspoons, that's annoying.

But just to be sure I checked the other sources where I saw the spoons listed for $9.95 each. And then I noticed one place, cookware.com, where they were listed for $5.95. Done. They had a four spoon minimum which was fine since I wanted six. Shipping was a few bucks so at the end of the day it was about $42. Whatever.

Three days later this giant box (see exhibit A) arrives and I'm thinking what a waste of packaging for six measly spoons.  I open the box and underneath all of the bubble rap are six boxes. Heavy boxes. Oh shit. I open one box and there are twelve spoons. Six boxes of twelve spoons each. I now have seventy-two spoons. So I panic and check to see that they only charged me $42 and indeed they did. I then call the company to tell them I want to return the spoons because I only need six total since I don't own a restaurant and I'm not a circus spoon performer and I sure as hell am not paying for return shipping because NO WHERE on the website does it say that they come in boxes of twelve. And since they have a four spoon (box) minimum, I can't even keep just twelve. She gets her manager. yadda yadda yadda. Next week they will send me a return slip with paid shipping.

So here is my issue. I still need spoons. So I can either keep the 72 spoons for $42 or buy six spoons for $42. The MBA in me is excited by the arbitrage situation that has presented itself, but how on earth would I be able to sell 66 teaspoons? I have a friend with the same set and she has three kids so for sure she needs more teaspoons but she lives in Cambodia. It would cost $42 just to ship them to her. I could also donate them to our preschool since they frown on plastic, but I'm pretty sure they have spoons for every class. Anyone else have the Arctic style place settings? And the kicker is that they are the exact same spoon - same specs and everything - except the ones we originally bought are made in Korea and the ones that just arrived are made in China. It's like they arrived straight from the flatware source in China via some wormhole where no middle men exist. That's a piece of the global economy right there. Thomas Friedman was right. The world is flat. Or spoon-shaped, in this instance.

Deserted by Susie Lubell

Desert

The last few days have been outstanding. We've mainly stayed in the south going on short hikes, looking for water holes in the desert (because it's unseasonably hot) and playgrounds in the towns we pass through on our way home. The kids are doing great. We took them to the old city of Beer Sheva to buy pita at the oldest pita factory in town. And around the corner is the little Turkish style stone house where my husband lived until he was three. The door his dad built some 37 years ago is still there.

Factory

Door

Pool

Today was supposed to be another wonderful day. I was supposed to meet a lovely woman that I 'met' though ETSYChai, an ETSY team open to anyone but primarily for Jewish sellers or Israeli sellers or sellers of Judaica or all of the above. I had mentioned to the team that I would be in Israel and few people said they'd be happy to meet me. In the end I planned to drive to Tel Aviv and my husband would drop me off at Nahalat Binyamin which is a great craft market on Tuesdays and Fridays. I love to go even though the stuff there looks about the same year after year. I don't care. It's nice to have a strong coffee and relax and then walk around looking at the goodies. And Tuesdays are always less crowded than Fridays, the only other day it's open. In the end only one woman could meet me, Lisa, which was fine. We seemed to have a fair amount in common - moved to Israel from elsewhere at some point (though we left), young kids, artist, home studio. She makes wonderful papercut art - cards, little boxes, notebooks - beautiful little treasures. Go see her shop and blog. I was excited to meet her. But last night right as I was going to bed I started to feel horribly nauseated. If there's one thing I can't deal with it's nausea. So I basically didn't sleep. And this morning it felt worse. So I emailed her that I couldn't make it and maybe we could reschedule for Friday.

And then I got the call. Where are you? Gulp. She had taken her kids to school and gone straight to the train to meet me. I don't know if you know this about me, but I hate when I fuck up. I HATE it. Not that this keeps me from doing it all the time. But I don't like it one bit. Especially something like this where someone else is involved. I've actually been on her side and wasted my time getting somewhere only to be left hanging. I am usually very conscientious. I don't know why I just didn't call! And now I'm feeling awful because, well I'm nauseated still, and also I deserted this nice person at a cafe in Tel Aviv, so now I have to feel bad about that until I stop feeling bad, because that's what I do. My son has this same quality and I hate seeing it in him too. He hates making mistakes and when he makes them, he is harder on himself than I could ever be.Although he often feels like his shame is enough and he doesn't deserve a secondary punishment for, say, hitting his sister. Not sure about that one.

Half Baked by Susie Lubell

Half Baked

I have mixed media envy. I paint entirely with watercolor. I always have. There was a brief period while living abroad when I painted a few canvases in acrylic. One was a large chicken. In fact there might have been two chickens. One was a naked girl. Then I did some Rothko squares because we needed something to cover up the hideous mirror over the fireplace. Anyway, they all sucked. Mainly because there was no depth to them, no texture. Flat as my stomach was four score and seven years ago (apropos President's Day...) Where was I? Yes. My brief foray into something besides watercolor.

Because I love the way mixed media looks. The good stuff anyway. Heck, even the so-so stuff looks pretty good if there are enough bumpy parts and bits of stuff and drippy gobs. And you know what's also great about painting on canvas? You can just hang up the canvas. You don't have to frame it. Just put a nail in the wall and hang the thing.

I can't really do that with my work. It's a piece of paper. So I have to frame it and be sure that everything's archival and then there's glass involved which makes it heavier and more of a pain to ship. Who's feeling my pain here? Well I'd had enough of all that and so when it came to pass that I would be in this Enormous Tiny Art show, I went searching for a solution to hang my work as is. No glass.

I found Plywerk. I got a bunch of their maple panels that have notches in the back for hanging. They come with archival sticky on the back. Peel and press. And that's exactly what I did. And I used my exacto to trim the edges. Voila. They looked great. I packed them up and sent them away.

Let me digress for a moment. You know those blogs that are ever cheerful and always talking about how wonderful life is and how every moment is full of truth and how when your heart is open to the universe, the universe will give you a book deal? blah blah blah. Inspiring, true.  But they never tell you about the fuck ups. About the time they spilled a gallon of gesso on a near finished commission. Or how they went to a craft fair and sold nothing. Actually Marisa at Creative Thursday once posted about her experience at a craft show that was not going well and how she turned it around and I thought, this girl is awesome. Because she's real. But back to my story...

After a week, the panels that I did not send started to warp. Because my original work isn't flat. I tape it down when I'm painting but it still dries with a little warble to it. I know I should use those watercolor blocks but I always end up cutting the damn painting when I try to get it off. And then the edges started to peel away from the panels a tiny bit. And my growing concern about this was legitimized by the Enormous Tiny Art people who emailed me to tell me they were sending back the ones that were on panels (thankfully I'd also sent a bunch that were framed). They were kind about the whole thing. Nevertheless, I was mortified.

Now I'm out the money for the panels and my original art is half stuck to them and so much for my first art show. And as I was berating myself for being such a dope novice lump head, I thought maybe I should put them in the oven and see if they become unstuck? And, hoping they wouldn't spontaneously combust, that's exactly what I did. 250 degrees for fifteen minutes to be exact. And every piece came right off the panels without any sticky left on the paper. So I have my artwork back in tact and filed away safely for framing at a later time. And it turns out the sticky panels are great for prints because prints are very flat and every part of them sticks to the panel. Live and learn.

Do you have any disasters to share? Miscalculations? Half-baked ideas? Fully-baked ideas that sucked anyway? Come on. I won't tell anyone.

More than meets the eye by Susie Lubell

The other day my son got a package in the mail - a belated birthday gift from a buddy of his. I had forgotten that a week before the child's mom had asked me what my son wanted for his birthday and after I begged her to please not buy him anything because I had just bought him a bunch of new toys and still he prefers to play with my camera, cell phone and hairdryer, she insisted to know what he wanted. So against my better judgment I told her that he seemed interested in his cousin's Transformers. Those vehicular robotic toys that are supposedly saving the world from the Force of Evil. Well don't be fooled. It's the Transformers themselves that are the Force of Evil. Here's what went down.

My mom actually bought him a Transformer for his birthday. We had both seen him play with his cousin's and thought he'd like one of his own. I picked it up for her in hell at the toy store. I got him a car and it said on the package that it was level 2 (easy) for age 4+. And it's not that I underestimate his fine motor skills or his mechanical intelligence - he's the one that figured out I have speaker phone on my cell, after all. But I had a suspicion, after having watched him try to play games marked for his age, that he would fiddle with it for a few moments and then get annoyed that it's a piece of junk and doesn't snap nicely back together. And I would have to show him how to do it. And that would suck for me because I have no interest in vehicular robots even if they are trying to save the universe. Once again, I was right. After he ripped it apart and saw all of the robotic innards underneath, he wanted it to be a car again. Here mommy. So I put it back together and thank God I picked the level 2 because it was plenty challenging. I failed to mention this important distinction when suggesting a Transformer to this friend. So she sends him a Transformer that is level THREE, age 5+. Two of them actually. The horror. The horror.

The first one is a motorcycle. He hasn't been holding it for more than ten seconds before it is transformed into a sinewy many-tentacled thing with one wheel here and the other stuck onto some other limb and I am thinking, George Jesus, how am I ever going to get this monster back together again. After a few minutes of jangling it around he hands it over. Here mommy. Now it's my turn to "play" with it. Cleansing breath.

For the next HOUR I am sitting on the couch trying to snap this mother effing piece of Made in China injection molded garbage back into a motorcycle. I actually start to feel sweat collect around my brow. Meanwhile, my two kids have now taken to playing with the handful of packing peanuts that came with the package. In the middle of what feels to me like a nationally televised Rubik's cube-a-thon (I suffer from performance anxiety) I look up and my kids have turned the packing peanuts into a winter wonderland. I am not exaggerating. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of this event but rest assured the entire living room floor, spilling into the hallway, kitchen and dining room, was covered in Styrofoam bits. And my motorcycle is still undone. And there's a blizzard in my home.

I rise to the occasion. Of course! I say, children of your father, you go and have yourselves a snow ball circus for the next twenty minutes while I bash this robo-cycle thing into my head repeatedly and then we'll reconnoiter and clean up this giant mess.

And that's exactly what we did. I managed to turn the Transformer into something that resembles a motorcycle while my kids laughed hysterically pulling pieces of Styrofoam out of my daughter's hair and netherlands. It was a scene. And after, we swept like mad and my kids ran in every direction screaming "she's going to get us" while I vacuumed. My floor has never been this clean.

Anyway, heed this important advice. Transformers are NOT for five-year-olds. My husband is a 37-year-old mechanical engineer and he can't even put one back together. Do yourself a favor and get your kids some packing peanuts. The environmental kind that turn into compost or whatever. This blog may self-destruct.

The Carpet Cleaners by Susie Lubell

Today I had the carpets cleaned. We have carpet in the two bedrooms and in the studio/office/garage/guest room. It needs to be done more often but I just never get around to it because it's a pain in the butt to schedule, get all the crap off the floor, keep everyone off of it til it dries and anyway I'm always a little nervous about letting strangers in the house. And for good reason. The first time I had the carpets cleaned, like an idiot I went to the corner store to buy some stuff while the men where doing their work and two days later I realized our camera and charger were missing (if it had just been the camera than it's possible I could have lost it, but also the charger?) Oops. And then there's my friend Dianna who the last time I was trying to schedule a clean happened to mention that she knew someone who knew someone who was assaulted (or worse, I don't remember) by a couple of carpet cleaners she let in her house. Great.

So instead of more often I do this once a year on average and by then the carpet is gnarly having just been through a recent potty training season and such. Then last week I get one of these robo-calls and it's a cleaning service and they're having a special in my area - four rooms for $99 etc. so I beep myself through to an operator and get set up to clean our three rooms for $69. A steal. Except I know well that after all is said and done this will be more like $200 because they come with their hoses and their steamers and their special fluids and they tell you that $69 only covers steaming and odor removal. But stains are more and deep cleaning is more and scotch guard is more and you can't really get anything clean unless you deep clean and is that a pet stain over there? No, a daughter stain. Hmmm....

But we set up a time and today at 10:30 I hear a knock at the door. It's the carpet cleaners. Two guys. A tall skinny white guy and tall skinny black guy. The black guy introduces himself and his partner. His name is Daniel and I detect a slight accent. Maybe Jamaican? Hard to say. The white guy doesn't say anything but his name is Joe and he shakes my hand. I'm already on my guard and let them enter the house while I stand behind them close to the door (for my speedy getaway). They ask where the rooms are and instead of leading them there I point around the corner. They go look and come back and then they go look at the garage room. And then Daniel asks if I want to have the deep clean which is an extra $1 per square foot blah blah blah. Exactly what I expected. So I ask him how much it will be and he starts measuring the rooms with his actual feet. 6x8 is....(long pause)...I chime in with 48. He does this a few times and more than once takes out his phone to do the calculation. Yikes. Finally I decide, you know what? Clean the whole place; it's a cesspool. Have at it.

So they go get their equipment and I stay in the office as long as I can before Joe comes in to clean it. I leave through the back door and come back in the house through the front door to make myself a cup of coffee. I'm feeling more relaxed around these young men now. They appear to be doing a nice job and they ask me for towels to wipe up where some water has spilled so I stop planning my getaway strategies and enjoy my coffee.

When all is done, Daniel and I figure out the the total is $278 and I'm feeling like that is actually FOUR TIMES the price I was quoted. So I say how about if I give you $250? Then Daniel says, well....OK. But first I have to tell you one thing and he motions me to come over to the front door.

Your mezuzah* is on the wrong side of the door.

This is what he tells me. The skinny black kid. Huh?

Your mezuzah should be on the right side of the door, the visitor's right, because your right hand is connected to your heart and God.

And I think, son of a bitch, he's right. We've lived here six years and hundreds of Israelis and Jews have walked in and out of our house, rabbis even, and the first I hear of this mezuzah misplacement is from the carpet cleaner? So of course, I ask him how he knows this. Turns out he's Israeli, of Ethiopian decent. And so is his buddy Joe whose real name is Yossie. Well Yossie's not of Ethiopian decent obviously - he's the white guy. Though that reminds me of a funny story when I was in college. I worked as a waitress at the Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley and we had to wear these traditional dresses which would have been beautiful if they did not smell like turmeric. And one day as I was taking an order my customer asks me if I'm from Ethiopia. And thankfully I had on my polite waitress filter so I just said no and smiled. But I'm thinking, really? Because I am as pale as a ghost. And not albino African pale. I look Irish. With freckles and fine, wavy reddish hair. Just call me Shannon. And there were travel posters all over the walls with gorgeous Ethiopian men and women and I resemble none of them except maybe the dress. But I digress...

So we chatted in Hebrew about how hard it is to find work in Israel now and how Joe just got here a week ago because a friend of his used to work for the company (which is owned and operated entirely by Israelis). Apparently carpet cleaning is a quick study...and Daniel has been doing this for eleven months and he's not sure if he'll stay longer or go traveling or take his money back to Israel to start his own business...and now I love these two boys. And I'm happy for the reminder that most people are good and are just trying to get by.

And tomorrow the mezuzah gets switched.

* A mezuzah fulfills the commandment in Judaism to put the words of the Shema (central prayer declaring there is only one God) on the doorposts of your house.

The best laid plans of mice and moms... by Susie Lubell

Last night we did end up going out for dinner for our anniversary. We wanted to take advantage of some free babysitting so we brought our kids over to my brother and sister-in-law's house in a neighboring town figuring we'd just go out for dinner around there with local friends and our easy-going, flexible children would play with their same-age cousins. What could be easier? We get there around 7:15 and my brother's family is wrapping up dinner with friends of theirs who have twin three year old boys and a 15 month old boy. Throw in my niece and nephew and the house is a little chaotic. Fun chaotic. Kids running around. Eating popsicles. Playing outside. Parents drinking wine. Good times. My daughter jumps right in and gets herself a popsicle. My son is hesitant. This isn't his kind of fun. But he's keeping it together. Then I set up all of their stuff in my brother's bedroom - two sleeping bags, two sets of PJ's, two toothbrushes, two toothpastes, a stuffed kitty and a stuffed rat. Then I explain to my son, for the twelfth time, that he will be going to sleep here. I even fib and tell him that we're ALL going to sleep here. And his stuff is set up so not to worry. But he wants to sleep with us in the guest room. Meanwhile the guest room floor is covered in paperwork and junk because it's a room in transition. I offer for him to sleep with his older cousin. No. His little cousin. No. On the couch. No. And he starts sobbing. Don't go. I don't want to stay here. Don't leave me. I want you to go out for dinner here. And I just can't bear it. I mean in those moments I just can't stand this kid. So I tell him in my best impression of nice mommy that he doesn't even have to go to bed; he can stay up and wait for me to come home. My brother even tells him that he'll clean up the guest room so he can sleep in there. Nothing is helping. So I say goodbye and leave.

And as I walk toward the car where my husband is waiting for me I can hear him screaming and sobbing from inside the house. And I know he will quiet down and enjoy himself in two minutes. And he'll behave well. And he'll play. And he will fall asleep somewhere. But as I'm sitting in the car seething, I never actually want to see him again. These are his cousins for the love of chicken nuggets! He begs me to take him here. He loves his aunt and uncle. He loves their yard, the toys, everything. Why can't he just keep it together? I know that he's not trying to ruin my life anniversary, but he does. He can. How can a five year old be so tortured? Will he be doing this when he's six? Seven? Eight? I know it's me and it's my problem. I just have to let it all roll off of me. But it's actually painful for me to feel so much resentment and rage (yes, rage) and not be able to scream YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE right in his face. I need to find some other way to release or channel all of this negative energy. Sometimes I even ask if he would ever act this way with his teachers and he looks at me like I've lost my mind because he would NEVER throw fits like this at school. Which makes me wonder how the behavior is serving him at home? And what on earth am I doing to reinforce it? And can someone please send over a pita with nutella?

But back to the car. So I keep my eyes closed all the way to our friends and I stay in the car two extra minutes after my husband got out so I can collect myself. I didn't want to bring my negativity to dinner. And, in fact, dinner was lovely. I called to check in and my sister-in-law confirmed that two minutes after we had left my son calmed down which was no surprise. I guess I just thought we were past all of this nonsense. He's done well with babysitters for the last year or so and plus these were people in his family that he knows well and loves which is why this whole exercise felt less like an anxious preschooler expressing his insecurities and more like a purposeful act of aggression. Like he's some kind of vengeful, conniving monster.

I have to keep reminding myself that he's just a little shit boy.

The IKEA Incident - Part II by Susie Lubell

We set up the mattress in our room because there's no space for it in his room yet with his toddler bed still set up. At least he seems to be excited about the bed if jumping is any indication. But as we're getting him into his pajamas I realize that I don't have a mattress cover or any kind of plastic thingy to put under the sheets in case he has an accident. So I rationalize to myself that he hasn't had an accident at night for several months and I'll just put a little quilted blanket underneath him and it will be fine.

But of course, this whole experience has been everything but fine and the poor kid probably still has some left over resentment for having been made to leave his shopping cart upstairs so at 5 am I wake up to his crying. He's peed all over his new bed.

I know that it is my fault for not protecting the bed and that he is only three and three year olds have accidents but why now? Why tonight? Why on the new bed? Pissed off about tiny tim and the shopping cart? Don't take it out on the bed! I let him know I wasn't pleased. Not my finest moment.

So he's back to sleeping on the floor with his old green bambi blanket and his mattress is stripped and leaned up against the wall, a pile of laundry for me to do sitting in the hallway. I deserve it. I am a crap mom sometimes. I was such a good mom before I had kids.

The IKEA Incident by Susie Lubell

Yesterday was a beautiful day but instead of spending it with my husband and my daughter on a hike with our friends, I decided we needed to buy my son a twin mattress, a comforter and some sheets. And we needed to do this at IKEA on the busiest day of the week. He'd been sleeping on the floor in either his room or our room for the past six months and I just wanted him in his room. His toddler bed was too small and he didn't like sleeping in it anyway and since his sister is now sleeping through the night I just decided it was time. We talked about it and he was excited about his new mattress so we set out on what would turn out to be the worst day ever or at least since last Thursday when we flew home from Israel (a story for another time).

We arrived in good spirits. I found the comforter I wanted, he picked out the comforter cover and sheets, all we had to do was go upstairs to look at the bed, find out where to get it in the warehouse, buy it, and drive home.

Next to the stairs going up I ask my son if he wants to take the stairs or the elevator. Big mistake for we soon spiraled into an epic session of toddler remorse. He picked the elevator. So I get a cart to put our things in, put him in the cart and we take the elevator. We are not out of the elevator more than a minute when he starts to whine that he wanted to take the stairs. I have a "no re-do" policy now having suffered through months of toddler remorse tantrums so I try to redirect his desires. I spy a stuffed turtle. Do you want to hold tiny tim while we're in the store and then we'll take the stairs on the way down? He scoffs at the turtle idea. I point out the slide in the kids section, he forgets his troubles and goes to the slide. Tantrum averted.

After two slides we find his bed and he starts whimpering about wanting tiny tim. So we go back and get him, I take the stuff out of the cart so that we can take the stairs as promised, we get to the bottom and I put the stuff in a new cart. This is when the drawbridge comes down on the MOAT (Mother Of All Tantrums).

Him: I want the cart from upstairs
Me: Sweetie, we're not going upstairs to get our cart. All of these carts are the same.
Him: I want my cart from upstairs.
Me: But you said you wanted to take the stairs so we had to leave that cart upstairs. We'll just take another cart.
Him (sobbing): I want to go upstairs to get the cart!!!!!!!!!!
Me: Son, if you can't stop crying we are going to leave the store.
Him (shrieking): I want to go upstairs!!!!!!!!!!

So I pick him up and he's kicking and sobbing and shrieking so I have to hold him sideways with both hands like a ramming post and walk out of the store while he's screaming I want to buy my mattress. No mattress for you muchacho.

By this point I am livid because we have just wasted two hours, we have no mattress, my son is basically having a seizure over a shopping cart. So I throw him in the car and slam the door and get in on my side and turn on the car as if I'm about to drive even though his seat belt isn't on and he starts to FREAK OUT. I'm not safe! I'm not safe! which of course I know but I want him to feel extra bad for making me hate him. So I put the car back in park again and put on his seat belt and then I go into my quiet voice. I am not buying your mattress. I am never taking you to any store. You do not know how to behave. We are going home.

He's still begging for his mattress and in my head I'm thinking I really don't want to have to spend any more time at IKEA. I've already wasted one day of my weekend. So we drive to an empty part of the parking lot and stop and I wait until he stops crying. And finally we're at a point where we can talk about what all went down in the store. He promises to behave so I lay out exactly what our plan is when we go back in the store including an explanation of shopping carts and how they are ALL THE SAME (FUCKING) THING. He understands. By now it's lunchtime so the return visit also includes a stop at the cafeteria for some Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce (I love that stuff) and some macaroni and cheese for the kid. All is well again. We buy our items and he falls asleep in the cart. A wave of peace washes over IKEA.

But the IKEA incident doesn't end at IKEA. More later on inaugural night with the new mattress.

Joy ride by Susie Lubell

Some days you have a near miss and for that reason only you can laugh about it.

I took the kids to Michael's the other day to buy some glue. It's a new Michael's and the parking lot behind the store is newly paved and on a very very slight slope. I parked on the side and grabbed a cart. Put the baby in the seat, buckled her in, and then angled the cart in toward the car while I reached in the front seat to grab a piece of Hanukkah gelt for my son since his teacher wouldn't pass it out to the class. I forgot about the no candy rule. But gelt's not candy...it's traditional food for the festival of lights symbolizing the richness of life and Jewish fondness for chocolate...We get into a discussion about which piece he wants. The gold one. No, the silver one with the gold in the middle. No, the other one! when I hear a distant rattling. I look up and my daughter is about ten meters away rolling through the parking lot, clapping and saying weeeeee...

Him: Baby's flying away!

So I'm running after her and I'm laughing because she looks so cute waving her arms and smiling. It was only much later that I felt that tightness in my chest and that little wave of dread playing the "what if she'd tipped" scenarios in my head.

Scarred by Susie Lubell

We spent the night on Saturday at my husband's aunt's house in Santa Cruz. It was great actually because my son LOVES Aunt Jenny so we dropped him off with his sister and then went to my sister-in-law's 40th birthday party. They also live in Santa Cruz. Can't beat free babysitting from a favorite auntie.

And if Aunt Jenny were a blogger she would write her own account of the evening but from this end of the wine bottle, it was a really fun evening.

The next morning was less fun namely because while I was in the other room putting on my clothes (I swear, the minute I turn my back...) my son tripped over himself and whacked his face on the brick fireplace. OUCH! So I heard the ominous thud, then the eerie silence, then the wailing. And there was lots of blood but I couldn't really tell where it was coming from because for the ten minutes before the accident he was putting Aunt Jenny's rouge all over his nose and forehead.

Did he break his nose? Crack open his forehead? In fact I think he bit through his lip. Hard to say. But it was bloody and scrapey. So I held him and pressed a washcloth against his mouth and rocked him and sang songs until he caught his breath. And once the bleeding stopped I washed off all the make-up to get a sense for the real damage which thankfully was limited to the right side of his mouth. He looked like he'd been in a playground brawl.

This morning he commented that his boo boo is brown now and not red.

Me: That means it's getting better honey and it's going away.
Him: Ya, it's going away by himself. To Aunt Jenny's.
Me: Your boo boo's going back to Aunt Jenny's?
Him: Ya, to the fire where I got it. It's going back there.

So THAT'S where the boo boo's go when they're all gone. I learn new things from this kid every day.

Confessions from a crappy daughter-in-law by Susie Lubell

I called my husband today at around 3:00pm and when he answered I started singing happy birthday to me because I just bought myself a new iMac for my birthday (which isn't until September, but never mind) and in the middle he says, "Oh shit!" And it's then that we realize that it's his mom's birthday. And since she lives ten time zones away, we are totally screwed.

In my defense, my watch actually says it's the 19th. That's a fact. It's an analog watch and it goes to the 31st every month no matter how many days. So it's been a day behind since June. What's worse is that I'm actually creating a family calendar for my husband's family reunion in September so everyone, including my mother-in-law, has, as recently as two days ago, sent me their birthdays and anniversaries. But the worst of the worse is that she actually emailed both of us this morning having heard that there was an earthquake an hour north of us and were we okay. WE BOTH REPLIED WITH NO MENTION OF THE BIRTHDAY. Oh the shame of it.

Had we not BOTH replied that we were fine we could have surely used the earthquake as our excuse. We were trapped under the rubble of our house so we couldn't call or email! Alas, foiled by our own honesty and oblivion.

And now that I am a mom too I would be pissed if any of my kids forgot my birthday. I cut them some slack now because they're only five months and 2+ years old, but that free pass expires pretty soon and if I don't get lavish birthday greetings and presents on the actual day of my birth in the time zone that I currently reside (but mom, it's still your birthday in Western Samoa...), well they will both be grounded. I mean the years of sacrifice my mother-in-law endured to raise her three kids (okay it wasn't THAT painful, I'm sure. Especially in retrospect. It was actually probably pretty worthwhile, by her account) to then have your middle son and his poor excuse for a wife FORGET and then try to back pedal by sending a video of their son singing happy birthday on the porch (cheap shot, I know). Well it's a disgrace.

We'll find a way to make it up to her. If it means making her one more grandchild, well I'm willing to make that happen to rectify this terrible transgression. But first I need to change the date on my watch.

Milk brain by Susie Lubell

My maternity leave is quickly coming to an end. I'm actually very grateful for the extended leave (six months!) and I'm only going back three days a week which is delightful. But I'm sad to leave my baby girl. That, in addition to the fact that I detest pumping, my daughter won't take a bottle from anyone but me, or tolerate being held by anyone but me, and there are seven other runny-nosed germy kids at the family daycare where she's enrolled. How I hate snot...

But I'm especially nervous about being a professional again with responsibilities outside of the domestic domain. Because I tell you my brain is mush. And it's not so obvious at first glance. I don't say things like, "I'll be in the meeting in a second; I have to make poopy." I just can't remember anything and the wiring in my brain is a little wacko.

An example:
I took the baby to my mom's house in southern California for a long weekend a few weeks ago. I knew that my flight home was at 8:00 pm so we got to the airport at 6:45 but San Jose (my destination) is not on the monitor so I ask the curbside guy to go inside and see when the San Jose flight is leaving. He comes out and says it’s been delayed until 7:20. This makes PERFECT sense to me for some reason. I figure I have a little extra time. Baby is screaming and now I've leaked through my bra and shirt so I need to change in my mom’s car. By now it’s 7:00 and I bring her inside to nurse her before we check in, knowing the plane is leaving at 7:20 (!) but also knowing that my flight is at 8:00 (?!). At 7:18 I jump up panicked with the baby hanging off my boob and run up to the counter blabbering about having probably missed my flight to San Jose. They look up my name and I’m not even on the flight, which is currently taxiing down the runway. This makes no sense. Then they take my credit card number and look me up and apparently I am scheduled to leave at 8:00, as I thought, but to Phoenix! I booked my return flight to Phoenix! So they put me on the flight to San Jose for the 8:00 am the next morning and my mom comes back to get me at the airport. We get in the car and drive to a Chinese restaurant for dinner (15 minutes from the airport) and I realize my suitcase is not in the trunk. I left it outside the airport on the sidewalk. Praying that they haven't called in the bomb squad to blow up this "suspicious item" we drive back and it’s waiting for me at the Southwest desk. The woman there was about to send it off to Phoenix.

I asked my mom, did it make sense to YOU that my 8:00 pm flight had been DELAYED to 7:20? She said of course not, but apparently so much of what I say makes no sense to her that she just decided to go with it.

There was a study once which showed a statistically significant correlation between lactation and loss of brain functioning. I'd quote from it right now if I could remember where I put it...

The kindness of strangers by Susie Lubell

Mornings are always hectic. My husband and I have a schedule where he takes our son to preschool on certain days and I take him the other days along with our baby daughter. And if the stars have aligned in my favor, the baby will wake up just as we are leaving. I put her in the car seat and we're off and I've had all morning to get my son ready, make lunch (how much do I hate making lunch), pack his bag and exit. With no help from hubby because on these mornings he leaves at 6:30 am so he can pick up early from school to go swimming. It's a nice little schedule.

Unfortunately for me, most mornings are not so smooth because the baby's up at 7:30 and my son refuses to take off his pajamas, and there's no bread for his pbj, and he wants to brush his teeth himself, and he'll only wear his blue shoes, which we can't find.

Today was a good morning though, for him at least. No tantrums. No battles. We were out of the house by 8:30 at which time I noticed the car was on empty. We have a VW and it actually tells you approximately how many miles you have left before you're out of gas. We had 5.

At this point I remember that my wallet is in the trunk of our car in the backpack carrier from the hike we went on the day before. So we leave and my son is singing in the back and my daughter is staring at him (she's usually screaming because she can't stand the car - anyone with some insight on that one has a personal invitation to write in). We get to the gas station and I look in the trunk to find that the backpack is not there and thus no wallet. My husband had apparently unloaded the car which makes perfect sense now but had not crossed my mind at the time. I like to blame it on the fact that I'm lactating and all of my brain cells are slowly leaking out of my boobs.

Now I'm on 0 miles. I can't go home. I can't buy gas. So I walk into the station and explain to the man that I need a $5 favor and I'll bring the money right back and I just need to drop my son at preschool. He's looking at me like I've lost my mind when the guy behind me says he'll give me five bucks.

It is, as my friend Heidi would say, an iconic Torah moment. I told him I'd pay him back and please give me his email blah blah. But he refused (I also probably wouldn't give my email address to a nutty woman who leaves her two kids in the car at the gas station). I gave the guy a hug which I'm sure freaked him out and then after I put in a gallon and a half, I drove past him and gave him a little hands together namaste sign and he smiled.

It's so refreshing to find there are really good people in the world. And to know they fill up at the Valero on the corner of San Antonio and California.