random lessons

Wednesday's Child by Susie Lubell

This past Sunday we hosted the first annual reunion of the Lubell siblings and the Rubin brothers. The Rubins are a family that grew up with us - elementary school, Little League, July 4th parties. You get the idea. The youngest Rubin was three years older than I am and a year younger than my middle brother. The middle Rubin was my oldest brother's age and grade. And the oldest Rubin was two years older than that. So I was significantly younger than all of them. But somehow, when I was about 16, I reconnected with the oldest one, Adam, who was then 24, and he became a kind of mentor to me. We've stayed in pretty good touch over the years even though our brothers, much closer in age, lost touch after Bar Mitzvah season.

Anyway, my husband and I went to Adam's wedding back in March and I got to hang out with his younger brothers - two extremely funny and likable guys. I decided then and there to host the first annual Luby-Ruby reunion and get everyone together with spouses and kids at our house for pizza and beer. Amazingly we found a date that worked for everyone and I have to say it was ridiculously fun to hang out and reminisce. There's something about growing up with people. There's a crazy bond that goes along with living on the same street for ten years or carpooling to Hebrew school with someone that makes you connected forever. And so the Lubells are connected to the Rubins.

But all that is just set-up for what this post is really about. Half an hour into the love fest, the youngest Rubin, Matt, said something like, weren't you kind of brooding and freaky as a little girl? Who remembers that? And the other Rubin brothers chimed in unanimously in agreement. Adam's been telling some version of this narrative for the last twenty years but they went on to paint a picture of me as Violet from the Incredibles - thick-banged, awkward, painfully shy. Or Wednesday from the Adams Family - just plain creepy. Really? I can imagine at social gatherings where I was the youngest by many years I probably didn't have a ton to say. I certainly wasn't playing capture the flag with the rest of the pack. But I wasn't casting voodoo spells on people either. I was too busy lacing their drinks with laxatives. After I defended my endearing, if not peculiar, childhood mystique we moved on to making fun of the size of Adam's hair in the early Eighties.

That's maybe the one downside of childhood friends. Their perceptions of you are locked on a particular moment in time when you were who you were for whatever reason. You had mean brothers. Your parents' friends didn't have any kids your age. You were extremely shy and fiercely independent. You were the only four year old on the planet who wore glasses...where am I going with this...

Oh yes. I even see it now with my own kids - how I already have them labeled the sensitive child and the free-spirit even though there is obviously so much more to each. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw, not to be confused with value vintner Charles Shaw, who wrote:

"The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them."

More swim lessons by Susie Lubell

Today we tried swim lessons again. Let's just say the universe is conspiring to keep my son from learning to swim. I signed him up for a two week session. It meets Monday through Thursday for two weeks. Today was our first meeting and we talked through some early anxieties. He was concerned about swallowing water. About falling in the water. About drowning basically. Valid concerns. I tried my best to validate his concerns and assuage any fears. I likened his use of swimmies to his use of training wheels. It's unclear if he was able to complete that analogy.

Anyway, the lessons are at a middle school in Palo Alto so we give ourselves 25 minutes to get there which is PLENTY of time. And indeed we get there with ten minutes to spare. Fabulous. We'll get set up...check out the pool area...go pee maybe... do some deep breathing...

Wrong pool. This pool was a swim school that does private lessons and swim team. Any idea where our pool might be? Try Rinconada pool. It's around the corner.

So we walk back to the car and drive around the corner and park and then walk very quickly to the pool. We don't see anyone we know and it becomes clear that this is also not our pool. By now it's 5:45 and we're already ten minutes into our half hour lesson. The lifeguard there tells me it's at JSL - another middle school - ten minutes back in the direction we just came from. So we rush back to the car and of course my son trips and skins his knee and now he is shrieking and trying to walk while holding his knee and I feel kind of bad for dragging him along but I mostly just want him to shut up. It's not even bleeding.

He cries the whole way in the car and FINALLY we get to the right place just as everyone is getting out of the pool. I ask if he can drop in on the next class to which they agree but my son wants nothing to do with the pool and is still hyperventilating about his skinned knee. Meanwhile his friends are all squealing YOU MISSED THE CLASS and I feel like a chump.

So we stick around for the next class just so he can watch and see what it's all about. And of course a girl gets in who is three and maybe a little too enthusiastic because she starts to make heaving coughy noises and then of course she throws up though thankfully not before the swim teacher lifts her out of the water. So my son and I are sitting by the side of the pool looking at the little girl's barf and listening to the woman I presume is her grandmother yelling at her for throwing up in the pool and she's crying because she threw up but also because she wants back in the pool but of course she can't get back in because she's the barfy girl and has to wait til tomorrow. And I'm thinking I'd rather have the barfy girl because at least she wants to get in the pool. But I don't say this out loud which means I'm not as mean as the the nasty grandmother. So I give myself a pat on the back.

Halfway through the lesson my son starts whining to go home and I'm annoyed because I want him to stay for the whole thing but eventually I relent and as we get up I say to him, I'm so disappointed. To which he replies in a very teary small voice, don't be disappointed in me mommy.

I've been using this new method (or trying to at least) of talking to him where I really name the emotions he's experiencing and we talk about them and we've had amazing results. I've been able to completely diffuse tantrums. We go whole days without incident. Sometimes just talking through our frustrations makes them dissolve as quickly as they appeared.

So I tell him, sweetie, I'm not disappointed in you. I'm disappointed in me and everything else. That I took you to the wrong pool. And then another wrong pool. That we missed your lesson and all of your friends. That you didn't get to have fun in the pool. And he agreed. Mommy, I'm disappointed too. And frustrated. Tomorrow will be better though because we'll come to the right pool and I'll go in the water.

Life lessons for the price of a swim lesson. I'll take it.

Lucky day by Susie Lubell

Yesterday I had a lucky day. It was one of those days when plenty of things went wrong but then magically corrected themselves.

First I left for work in the morning and stopped at the drug store to pick up some OTC stuff for my relentless cold and my daughter's rumbly cough. I go to grab my wallet from my purse as I'm leaving my car and I see that my wallet is MIA. Crap. I'm already late for work and I don't want to go home and cause a commotion (after a smooth parting). Then, what luck! I see a lone credit card with the activation sticker still on it. A card I never use that I threw into my bag last week when it came in the mail. Rejoice! I call the activation number as I'm deciding between Triaminic and Mucinex and leave the store $40 poorer.

On my way to work I begin to rummage through my purse to look for my phone and I feel the pair of clip-on earrings that I have recently purchased for my son's jewelry box. The kid likes bling. Who am I to quash his pursuits. So I bought him a pair of $5 earrings at Sears - big, red shiny circles which happened to go so well with my outfit. I put them on.

At around 2:00 my cold is in overdrive and now I'm starting to feel a dull pain in my ears. I've had this cold for two weeks now so I call my doctor to see if there are any openings. Providence! There's an appointment at 3:15. It's only after I hang up the phone that I realize the dull pain in my ears is from those clip-on earrings. When I take them off I feel a rush of relief. But since I already have the appointment I go anyway. Turns out I have a sinus infection and need antibiotics! Had I not put on those earrings, I would have never bothered with the doctor's appointment. What luck!

I leave the doctor at 4:00 and stop at home before I go to get the kids from school. I realize I don't have my house key. I left it with the babysitter last night and she made off with it. Oops. So I go around back and let myself into the back room which leads me to our garage/workshop and then the kitchen. We usually lock the kitchen/workshop door. It was open! A Tuesday miracle!

So all in all it was a great day. I left my wallet at home, I gave myself an earache and I lost my keys. But I found some perspective.

Wax on, wax off by Susie Lubell

I think much can be learned from the communication styles of the Vietnamese woman who waxes my eyebrows. Or at least two things:

1. Tell it like it is. When I was pregnant with my daughter she asked if I knew what I was having and I said no. Everyone had told me I was having another boy because I carry pretty high. I was desperate for a girl so very pleased when the woman told me she knew that I was having a girl. You getting very fat around your butt. You have girl.

2. Repeating the question or concern shows that you are listening and puts to rest any doubt that what I've said was never heard. If I say, "this time, keep the length," she says, "keep length." And so it goes:

Me: I want to keep the thickness too.
Her: You want thick.
Me: So just keep it the same but clean it up.
Her: Same but clean.


Maybe I'll write a book called The Manicurist's Guide to Relationships.

Big undies by Susie Lubell

A few months ago I noticed my son's underwear was starting to get a little snug and dilapidated. I end up having to rip out the tags because they bug him and then the elastic starts to come out and after a number of washes (and believe me these things get washed a lot. If I had a nickel for every time I heard mommy, I made a tiny bit of pee pee in my undies...) they start to fall apart. Anyway, I found some at Carters that were tagless so I bought the 4T-5T with dinosaurs and presented them to my son. He took one look and burst into tears.

Him: These are for Aba!
Me: No sweety pie, these are for you. You're getting bigger so I bought you bigger undies.
Him: I'm just a little boy and these are too big for me. Aba can wear them.
Me: But if you're going into preK honey then you're big enough to wear bigger undies.
Him: But I'm not in preK yet. I'm just a little boy.

I've used the preK card a few times with surprising success. He's very excited about being in preK so sometimes I can say, if you continue to behave like that, Miss Rhonda won't let you into preK. No dice on this occasion. Apparently he doesn't want to wear anything that might suggest he's older than he is and underwear is no exception. I guess. This is all conjecture. I have no idea what the hell he's thinking. But to his credit, it will be a cold day in hell before I start wearing those giant granny panties so maybe he has a point...

Then yesterday he was getting ready for bed and wearing his too tighty whities when he started scratching at his back and complaining that he was getting a rash. So I told him that his underwear is too small and giving him a rash and that he's probably ready to wear his bigger ones.

Him: You mean Aba's with the dinosaurs?
Me: Yes. We could try them?

He relented and agreed to put them on. I sent him to the mirror to look and he was DELIGHTED.

Then tonight we put the baby to bed and the three of us were eating melon for desert. My husband and son had two little bowls and I was lazy and just eating from the big bowl in the middle. And then my husband started to eat from the big bowl too.

Him: Can I eat out of the big bowl too when I finish with my little bowl of melon?
Me: Sure honey
Him: Because I wear big underwear like you and Aba so I can eat out of the big bowl.

Pretty solid argument. Who knew underwear could be so empowering. Wait, duh. Of course I knew that.

The Schoolkeeper by Susie Lubell

After I picked up my son today from preschool we were pulling out of the parking lot and my he noticed the woman who cleans the school entering the building.

Him: Hey mommy, there's our Maria for the school.
Me: Oh, you mean, she's the housekeeper?
Him: No mommy, she's the schoolkeeper.

I stand corrected. I then had to explain that not all people who clean buildings are named Maria. I don't think he got it. But tomorrow he's planning to ask Miss Courtney what the school Maria's name is so we can clear up the confusion.

Today he also told me that he has to wear his feety pajamas to sleep because otherwise he will get goose bumps and turn into a duck.

How can I argue with that kind of brilliant logic?

Tambor Tambol Tambog by Susie Lubell

On the way home from preschool the other day I asked my son what he did all day and after prodding for some time I came to understand that he rode the tricycle, he ate his peanut butter sandwich, he played with Miss Cassia and Miss Lorena outside, he went down the slide with Gracie, he played "get me" with Pablo, and he drew something with a red marker. A full day indeed.

Then he said he got in the Tambor.
Me: The sandbox?
Him: No, the tambor.
Me: The Tambor?
Him: No, the tambor.
Me: pause
Me: The tambol?
Him: No, the Tambor. And Miss Chen Jin do it to me.
Me: (completely perplexed)
Me: What did you do with Miss Chen Jin?
Him: She put the tambor off me.
Me: She played with you in the sandbox?
Him: (Angrily) No! The tambor!

This went on for a while. I had no idea what he was talking about. Usually if I say the word enough times it morphs into the word he's trying to say. Or if I add an R where he says an O. That sometimes helps. But I am telling you I was totally stumped. And then I remembered a year ago when my nephew, who's a year older than my son, came home from school saying POPOSSI. No one had any idea what he was talking about. We spent probably an hour pointing at different things in his room. Is that a popossi? Nothing. But he kept saying it. Whispering it in fact which made it funnier and likewise more intriguing. Two weeks later we were visiting them again and I asked him about the popossi and he drew a total blank. And that is how the elusive popossi disappeared from our vernacular forever. I was sad to see it leave because whispering it still makes me giggle.

But back to Tambor. What the hell is tambor and why is Miss Chen Jin doing it to my son? And why whenever I pronounce it exatly like my son is pronouncing does he get all huffy and correct my pronunciation? Pardonez moi, Moiliere...How dare I bastardize your langue. I can only imagine that's how he feels when he pronounces a word and I correct him and he says it again the exact same way and so on for weeks.

For instance, the city is doing construction on our street and we have a book about big trucks so we look at all of the trucks outside and find them in the book. Apparently not everything is called a tractor. Who knew.

Me: You see the excavator outside?
Him: Ya, the accelrator.
Me: Right, the excavator. It's so big.
Him: That's a big accelrator.
Me: EXCAVATOR
Him: ACCELRATOR

Whatever. He gets the idea. Me, I'm still in the dark about this tambor tambol tamborg tampon tanbork. I'll report back if I figure it out. Your guesses are welcome.

Careful what you kvetch for by Susie Lubell

I finally got my son to wear short pajamas. It took an entire summer of sweaty nights but he finally relented and agreed to wear his winnie the pooh pajamas with the red shorts and the big pooh face on the yellow tee. Super cute.

The next morning he woke up with nine mosquito bites in and around his neck and arms, including one the size of a quarter in his armpit. Poor kid. Damn those short sleeves!

The next night he was trying to go to sleep and tossing around, scratching himself scabby. I dabbed him so much he looked like he'd been dipped in a vat of calamine lotion. No relief. So after much whining and contorting to get that itch in the middle of his back, I whispered in his ear do you want your sleeves?

Big grin.

Toddler: 40
Mommy: Love

Sleeves and Socks by Susie Lubell

I picked up my son the other day and it was 94 degrees at 4:30 in the afternoon and he's wearing long pants, a t-shirt, a longsleeve shirt, socks and tennies. And his face is bright red and he's sweating. So I asked him, sweetie, you want to take off your longsleeve?

NOOOOO!!!!

I get that it's my fault. I dress him usually. But he insists on the second shirt. I always figure he'll take it off at school when it gets hot. To his credit, it's a little chilly and overcast where we live at 7:30 in the morning. But he almost NEVER takes the thing off. And he always insists on socks. It started about two months ago when he got blisters on his two big toes from walking around in wet sandals. They must have scared him because he insisted on socks to cover them up. He even wanted to take his bath wearing socks. Well the blisters healed of course but he's still insisting on the socks. Especially at night. I just don't get it. IT'S HOT! And he sometimes has trouble falling asleep because, oh...I don't know, he's COOKING IN HIS OWN BED. One night I conviced him to wear short pajams and he slept great. I thought we were in the clear. but the next day he wanted feety pajamas.

And for whatever reason it makes me INSANE. Just be a normal kid and walk around barefoot in the summer!

I guess I should be grateful to not have to worry about stepping on bees or rusty nails. Even yesterday, he and his aba were riding his bike in the park when suddenly I see him walking toward the house completely naked but wearing his socks and shoes. Happy as a clam. Apparently his pants had been falling down and he had to pee anyway so he just took everything off. It's just as well anyway because his father dressed him yesterday and he was wearing plaid madras shorts and an aqua, red and yellow stripe shirt.

I'm losing my train of thought. And my mind. Where was I...yes, the longsleeve shirt issue.

But I'm reminded that in elementary school I started wearing turtlenecks to school year round. We live in California so this is absurd. I didn't like the hair on my arms so I just covered them. Up to my neck in fact. My teachers probably wondered if I was being beaten at home. I'm sure my mom was thrilled about that. And, come to think of it, I always wore socks too. I actually remember that in 8th grade I thought well I'd really like to NOT wear socks but by now I had a sock tan going on thirteen years. My feet had probably never seen the light of day.

This kid is ME. And it's driving me freaking crazy.

Riverdancer number 11 by Susie Lubell

I tell you, no matter how clever I think I am, someone else came up with it before me.

I remember about ten years ago I was chatting with a colleague of mine about how if only we could invent something and get rich and never have to work again. I said, wouldn't it be great if there was a kind of technology that would make it so the computer would remember you no matter what site you went onto and then you wouldn't have to continually fill in your personal information or payment details. Apparently that's called a cookie. Who knew?

The other day my daughter was bouncing around in her new jumpy thingy that hangs from the door jam. A friend of mine gave me her old one so we tried it out and baby girl was pretty into it. In fact she was so cute we decided to videotape her and put it to River Dance music because she was stiffening her legs in that "doing an Irish jig" fashion.

The video was so cute and he we were feeling all clever until we posted it on google videos and noticed another 10+ videos called Riverdancer featuring babies in door jam jumpies. None as cute as my daughter (naturally), but still...

There's just nothing new under the sun.

Although this morning, I was in such a fog, I put my acne serum in my hair. It actually made my hair quite manageable. So there you go - a brand new application for Benzoyl Peroxide. Stay tuned to see what I come up with tomorrow. Perhaps I'll rub shampoo on my zits.