You Better Not Shout. You Better Not Cry. by Susie Lubell

The annual preschool holiday pageant is coming up and I'm torn whether to go or not. She's torn? What an awful mom! Who wouldn't want to see their kids dressed up like reindeer?! Let me explain. I'm dying to go. I went the first year, when my son was two. I sent him to school dressed in a white sweatshirt and black pants as instructed. When I came back later to watch the production I spied him grinning and wearing a top hat with giant black buttons on his belly. My little Frosty the Snowman. I should have taken the shot right then. But no, instead I waved, "Hi sweetie!" That was it. He started bawling. The show is starting and all of the other two year-olds are marching on stage singing Frosty the Snowman (or at least standing there, holding hands and swaying.) My son is shrieking like a mermaid. I scoop him up. So much for the pageant picture. Maybe next year.

Last year we avoided the agony altogether by taking a vacation. We left before winter break started so I missed the opportunity to watch my son prance around like Rudolph. Or rather sob and throw a tantrum the minute he saw me.

So this year, I'm in a quandary. Should I go? He's been singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town for the last month and waving his finger around. (Sing it with me now: you better not shout, you better not cry…) If only that was a sure thing—no shouting and no crying. Maybe now that he's four he'll be able to hold his ground in front of the parent paparazzi. I don't blame him. We're like a sea of smiling, nodding, best-intentioned crazy people. I'm sure it's intimidating. All I want is for him to enjoy himself. Who am I kidding? All I want is for him not to be that kid. There's always one in the lot. The one that's not singing. The one that's crying or sitting down or has fingers up both nostrils. It's usually my kid. Well, que sera sera. All I can do is send him in his red shirt and hope for the best.

The Perfect Storm by Susie Lubell

And I'm not weathering it well. In fact, I am having a major come-apart. So if you read about our Thanksgiving weekend you know that we were hit from behind by a drunk driver which turned into a serious pain in the neck. Literally. Two days later I found myself at a chiropractor's office. Then the next day I had a previously scheduled minor surgery to remove what was left of a mole on my upper abdomen, determined by my dermatologist to contain some funky cells. This visit would require stitches. So she cuts everything out and sews me up with six stitches.

Now when I go back to the chiropractor there's not a ton they can do since it's painful for me to lay on my belly. Meanwhile my neck pain has subsided because my belly is so sore. That's good right? But then I've been so careful not to further tweak my neck or pull out any stitches on my abdomen, I throw out my lower back. Now my belly is hurting less, but I can hardly walk. Maybe I should feel lucky that my pain receptors can only focus on one thing at a time.

This happened once before (throwing out my back). It was ten years ago. So what did I do? I called in sick. I stayed home for three days. I slept and read all day with a cozy hot water bottle relaxing my back muscles. It was delightful. What am I doing this time around? Let's see. I'm lifting 60 pounds of children into my car and wrenching over to secure their seatbelts. I'm sitting at my desk all day typing. I'm putting my two year old in and out of her high chair. I'm making dinner, doing the dishes, folding laundry, straightening the house and watching The Berenstain Bears with my kids (that part's actually nice - although I can barely get out of the couch once I'm in there). Indeed my husband is doing more than his share, but there's just so much. It's enough for three people.

So how is my back, four days later? Worse. And how does that make me feel? Grumpy and resentful. That is why this morning when I was trying to get my squirrely kids out of the house I snapped at them—even my daughter who shines sunlight from her ass most of the time. I was all bent over and twisted trying to get her diaper on and his pants on and they were whining and crying so I just barked at them which made them cry more. It was awful. I'm just in so much pain and everything I have to do for them causes more pain. And all of it together—the accident, the neck, the surgery, the stitches, the back, not to mention the stress of figuring out which elementary school to send my son next year or if even to send him at all—has me coming apart at the seams. Specifically my newest seam, the one three inches above my belly button. Stitches come out Friday.

Thankful by Susie Lubell

Even though Thanksgiving is last week's news I wanted to update everyone on the "what I'm thankful for" placemat that my son created in preschool this year. You may remember, though I doubt it, that last year he wrote on his placemat that he's thankful for his black car. The other kids wrote that they were thankful for their mommies and daddies and other, slightly more meaningful entities. Not wanting to relive the humiliation I coached him all year so that when Thanksgiving came around again he would write on his placemat (and these things are laminated so there's no making any changes) that he was mostly thankful for mommy and aba. Well I didn't actually coach him—but I clearly should have. This year he wrote that he was thankful for…drum roll…chicken nuggets and dumplings. What am I doing wrong here? At least I feed him, albeit processed food.

But then, it all came full circle when, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we were driving home from a little lake by our house. We stopped at a red light and a drunk woman in a Prius plowed into our car at 30 miles an hour. We're all fine, though somewhat shaken by the experience. Apparently my son had it right all along. You bet your ass I'm thankful for my black car too. The Prius was totaled and our Passat wagon had a measly dent in the back. Thanksgiving took on new meaning this year.

“Crack” of dawn by Susie Lubell

This morning my daughter woke up at 6 am. I generally make my husband get out of bed because I’m evil. He’s a good sport. So he went to get her and I fell back asleep only to wake up ten minutes later and find her naked butt right in my face. These days after she has a little morning beverage she likes to get out of her pajamas and tickle her own toes with her stuffed rat’s whiskers. That’s her new thing. And since her early morning diaper weighs about ten pounds, it's usually next to go.

So here she was, in her post-bottle bliss, all toasty and soft like a giant butterball, wiggling around between me and my husband, ducking down under the covers and whispering kaboo (peekaboo). I mean I would so much rather that she slept another hour, but since it’s not something I can control, I’ll take the pre-dawn naked snuggling as a consolation.

Weird ideas that work by Susie Lubell

I tell you if I’m ever in a position to hire anybody and the job requires unlimited capacity to generate new ideas and problem-solve, 9 out of 10 times I’m hiring a mom because a day doesn’t go by when I don’t have to yank some crazy scheme or remedy or solution or explanation from my rumpus in an exhausting constant effort to love, protect and shape the small children that live in my house.

Here’s what is working lately.

I’ve been focusing a lot of my energy on smooth transitions (i.e. when I leave the house in the morning or when I drop the kids off at school) and my work seems to be paying off. Three days a week my husband takes the kids to school in the morning and I leave early so that I can then pick them up on the early side. It used to be that one or both of them would throw a fit when I left scarring me for the rest of the day. The kids were fine thirty seconds later of course but I was a hollowed by the ordeal. Now we do “bye bye from the window”. Every morning, no matter who’s leaving early, we say our goodbyes with the traditional hug and a kiss, high-five and thumbs up. Then the kids jump onto the sofa and watch for me (or my husband) out the window. I leave and quickly run around to the front of the house and do a silly dance and sometimes come all the way up to the window for high-fives at the window. The kids shout their goodbyes and wave and laugh and I can leave with my heart intact. This has been working for several months actually with only the occasional break-down.

On the days when I deliver the kids to school I’ve been trying a modified version of “bye bye from the window”. My son comes with me to drop off my daughter. In her classroom I kiss her goodbye and then do a “one-and-a-two-and-a-three” ali-yoop full-body swinging motion and land her in her teacher’s arms. Then her teacher does the same thing landing her in the middle of the room on the carpet next to various toys and distractions. She’s probably so dizzy she doesn’t notice I’ve gone. Then my son and I go over to his room and we do our hug and kiss routine. Then I say, “bye-bye from the window”. He runs to the window and I walk outside and over the window and we do our window high-five. Then he meanders over to his class and starts his day. No tears. No looks of despair. Drop-off perfection.

How I need to work on our nighttime ritual. “Night-night from the window” seems a little irresponsible. Goodnight kids! We’re going to the movies…

Toddler Election by Susie Lubell

You’ll forgive me if I’m a little giddy. I’m still enjoying the post-election after-glow.

I’ve mentioned this before but it warrants repeating on this historical day following an outstanding presidential campaign and win by President elect Barack Obama. Using some tricky site metering magic I can see what terms people are searching for when they end up at my site. The most popular term by far is “toddler erection”. So I alternately feel thrilled to be able to offer some comfort to parents shocked by their little boys’ unpredictable wee wees and freaked out to think that maybe people without little boys are searching on this term for reasons I don’t even want to consider. A distant second to “toddler erection” is “toddler mariachi costume”. Odd, but true.

So where is she going with this…? I was mainly just free associating. Election. Erection. I actually intended to write about my experience watching as Brian Williams on NBC called the election last night at 8:00. I was sitting on the couch with my little boy. This was his second presidential election but we won’t count the first one since he was only a month old and we elected Bush. That one’s a throw-away. He took a little bit of interest in this election. In the last few weeks we’ve been talking a lot about Obama and McCain. Or rather, I’ve been brainwashing him to think like me.

Me: We like Obama
Him: We like McCain too.
Me: No, we only like Obama.
Him: Who likes McCain?
Me: Other people, but not us.
Him: We like Obama.
Me: Right.

And while we were waiting for Obama to take the stage my son got bored and wanted to go to sleep. So I read him his stories and tucked him in just in time for me to watch our new president make his acceptance speech. And what a speech. I especially loved when he channeled his inner preacher and got a little cadence going in his voice. Yes we can. And how he wove in the story of Ann Nixon Cooper. Yes we can. And conjured up the spirits of Lincoln and MLK Jr. Yes we can.

I mean the Republicans may have Joe the Plumber but darn it all if we don’t have our own Bob the Builder.

Can we fix it?
Yes we can.

What happens at Trader Joe's stays at Trader Joe's by Susie Lubell

My daughter has moved to the dark side. Just when I thought I'd have to close up shop with this blog because my son, while still quirky and challenging (more later about his latest fixation on nail polish), appears to be finally leaving the terrible twos. My daughter is now entering them. It seems I'll have plenty to write about for the next while. This is how we began our weekend on Friday.

I pick up the kids from school and drive to Trader Joe's to buy groceries. My daughter refuses to sit in the front of the shopping cart so I put her in the bigger part and my son volunteers to sit in front. And as we're moving through the aisles getting our goods my daughter decides she must have strawberries. She sees them and starts to do her point and shriek.

So I get her the strawberries (organic, so I don't feel as bad not washing them) and she starts packing them away. Then she stands up in the cart. I tell her to sit down and she looks right at me and says "BAH!" in her biggest voice. So I take her out and put her on the ground. She runs over to the dried fruit and sits down and starts sobbing angry sobs - how dare I order her to sit in the moving grocery cart. The nerve. I scoop her up and put her, flailing, back into the cart. That's when she really turns up the heat. She becomes full-body red, assisted by the strawberry slobber that's all over her face. She starts sweating from her head and her curls start to get pasted to her forehead. Steam is literally coming from her nose. And snot. And she launches into a tantrum the likes of which I have not seen since the IKEA incident. By now we're standing in line. She's coming out of the cart again so I hold her and she's arched all the way back and screaming like she's about to whip forward and bash herself into my face like some kind of Lucha Libre star. Now my son is crying because he gets upset when she's upset. He's also upset because I told him we couldn't have dumplings again for dinner. But he keeps asking and asking until I can't take it anymore so I tell him if he opens his mouth one more time about his dumplings he won't get any dinner. Genius, right? Do I get a parenting award for that one? Then he's mad for saying that and when my daughter drops her rat right in his lap and I ask for it back he throws it over my head into another check-out line. Meanwhile all of our groceries are under the cart (since my kids are usually in the cart) and I'm trying to put them on the counter while holding a baby who's moving every which way to free herself. So I look my son in the eye and tell him no dinner (in Hebrew - lest someone actually understand what I'm saying...). He starts to cry even harder now. I can't contain the baby so I put her down and she crawls over to the black mat where the cashier is standing and starts rolling around sobbing. Now her face is completely black with shoe soot. Then an older woman comes over and asks what's wrong with her. So I politely reply that she is two and sometimes two-year-olds have tantrums. Why do people ask dumb questions? She couldn't think of anything else to say? Some suggestions: "it gets better." Or "I have a damp washcloth to wash her face". Or "here's a check for $100K." Or "I know they're a pain in the ass but I really love your shoes."

I finally collect everyone and a nice kid (who's thinking thank god for condoms) helps us to the car and loads the groceries. I buckle everyone and they're both still screaming so I open all four windows and turn up the music really loud and drive home cursing under my breath.

What am I doing wrong people? (I know the empty threat of no dinner was weak, but besides that). I keep my voice even. I do redirects and create distractions. I reinforce positive behavior. I buy organic strawberries. I know the economy's shit so I'll forego my 401K for a little return on this other LONG-TERM investment I'm managing. Some days I have had it.

All this while I'm trying to convince my husband that we should have a third.

Dairy Ere by Susie Lubell

I decided that I'm off milk. Well, I decided this for my daughter since she's had a runny nose and post-nasal drip for the last 19 months. But she decided that I have surely lost my mind and refused her grande decaf soy bottle last night. I guess when she's 35 she can decide for herself that she is tired of her cranial plumbing problems and make the switch. As for me, I made the switch today. I walked my congested self over to Starbucks this morning and ordered a tall SOY latte. 

And let me tell you, for the record, that drink tastes like ASS. Uch, it is seriously disgusting. I guess I'm off coffee too.

Birthday surprise by Susie Lubell

We celebrated my son's birthday last Sunday at a local park. For the weeks leading up to it I was going back and forth about how to plan this thing. I'm just not a good party planner. My birthdays always suck. Although I did plan a kickass New Year's party at my brother-in-law's house in Israel. We partied like it was 1999. In fact it was 1999. Uch, I'm old.

My husband and I decided we'd just do something simple at the park and invite a few of his friends from school and a few family friends. Then my husband spoke to our friends who were having their daughter's fourth birthday party the day before in Berkeley. And they were having everyone from her preschool, baking homemade pizza, planning all kinds of games and MAKING a pinata. George Jesus. How I am going to compete with all that. People. Take it down a notch. You're making the average mothers look really bad here.

So then my head started to spin a bit. Not unlike a bashed-in, homemade pinata. What the hell can we do to spruce up this party? I wasn't super excited about the thought of leading a bunch of four year olds in games. And yet we had reached the point where we couldn't just invite folks to play at a park and call it a party. The kids needed some structure. But I never thought of my son as a kid who likes to participate in games. Since he never does.

So I came up with one game - the going to work race. My son's favorite activity when he gets home from school is to put on my shoes, get his purse with his keys and go to work. He works in San Francisco he recently told me. I figured I'd bring twelve pairs of shoes and twelve purses or bags and line them and make the kids walk across the lawn "going to work". I also ordered a cake from my brother's neighbor in the shape of a Motorola flip phone with happy birthday written in the screen. Then I decided I'd pimp out my husband and make him do gymnastics tricks for the kids and maybe teach them a few tumbles. The only wild card was my son. Who knew if he'd participate at all. Or if he'd want any attention on him. He had the power to completely sabotage any and all plans. So we stuck with our two random party games and hoped for the best.

The day finally arrived and I channeled the spirit of Barney. As my son's friends started to arrive he greeted each one with a sprint in their direction and a bear hug. Who is this child? Pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Once there was a critical mass I called all of the kids to do follow the leader and I marched them around the lawn doing overhead claps and giant steps and shark claps and monkey jumps. Then my brilliant mom came up with the hokey pokey. My son actually knew the words and sang the whole thing. Then we did the "work" race which was a hit. And after we went to a little hill and my husband showed the kids how to tumble down. Then he walked on his hands and did some cartwheels. The guest were sufficiently impressed. That completed the entertainment portion of the party and then it was time for lunch. So we sat around on blankets and ate pizza. Then we put Shalev in a little chair and sang happy birthday to him and lifted him four times and one for good luck as is the Israeli tradition. Then he saw his cake and just about died. MOTOROLA CAKE! I know, we're weird.

All in all I have to say it was a surprisingly great birthday. No tantrums. No whining. And no one threw up. The three criteria by which every party should be measured. I give it a ten.

Oh God by Susie Lubell

Last week on our way home from the children's Rosh Hashana service (which by the way is definitely the way to go since it's only 45 minutes long and includes a funny skit) my son says, what's Adonai?

Me: Huh?
Him: What's Adonai?
Me: Adonai? (I'm buying time here).
Him: Yes, Adonai. What is it?
Me: Adonai is God.
Him: What's God?
Me: God is something that's inside of people that helps them make good decisions and be good to each other. Like sharing toys. And being honest. And helping mommy. Everyone has Adonai inside them.
Him: What about the bad man?
Me: What bad man? (Oh jesus. I mean, Adonai. Where is he going with this?)
Him: The man who rides the giant lawn mower at the park.
Me: He's a bad man?
Him: Yes. He makes a lot of noise with his lawn mower.
Me: That's why he's a bad man?
Him: Yes.
Me: (with a sigh of relief) He's actually a good man and has Adonai in him because he helps keep the park nice for us to play in even though it probably hurts his ears when he does all that mowing.
Him: Okay.
Him: What's Oh, Adonai?
Me: Oh God.
Him: Okay.

Nice way to start out the year. Having an existential conversation with a three year old. Pretty cool.

By the way, today is his birthday. My son is four. I remember soon after he was born I took him with me to go vote. And as we watched in horror as Bush was re-elected, I thought ADONAI, my son's going to be FOUR by the time we'll have a chance to get rid of this clown. And here we are. My son is four. The bad man's term is dwindling. Maybe by the grace of Adonai we'll have reason to celebrate in a few weeks.

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.

PreK update by Susie Lubell

A quick update: my son is doing much better and so is his mommy. Let's just say he probably gets high proclivity for emotional outbursts from yours truly. I still feel pretty strongly that three and four-year-olds shouldn't be doing worksheets and cutting practice but moving him to a new school altogether would probably send him into a tailspin. And anyway these teachers actually do seem to care about our kids quite a bit. I had a pretty good conference with his teachers and the director and we came up with some separation strategies that appear to be working. Mornings have been uneventful for an entire week. So I'm grateful. My kid is amazing, what can I say.

The last week I've been trying to get him to tell me more about some of the kids he's getting to know in his class hoping that he's slowly reaching out. I also have an ulterior motive to figure out which two or three friends from his class I should invite to his birthday party in two weeks. I'm starting to understand the power of the playdate. For whatever reason seeing your schoolmates outside of school can really solidify the relationship. A few days ago he mentioned playing with a girl called McKenna so everyday I ask about McKenna. Yesterday I asked if he played with McKenna outside and he said no.

Him: I just talked to her
Me: What did you talk about?
Him: I didn't talk. Only she talked.
Me: What did she talk about?
Him: I don't know. I didn't listen to her.

He went from having no friends to being married to McKenna in one week. That's my boy.

Repeat after me by Susie Lubell

So what all went down. It started when I took my kids to school that morning. My son has to be there at 8:30 sharp for his "cutting exercise". They sit at table for 15 minutes and cut up paper. We arrived at 8:32 and my son started clutching my legs and sobbing that he wanted to go home. He's been doing the leg clutch thing for the last few months in fact, since they moved him to the older class. He has an October birthday so until now he's been the oldest in his class. Now he's the youngest. One girl is 14 months older. Don't even get me started on crazy parents holding their summer birthday kids back. It started with just the leg clutching and the rough drop-offs but since preK started a week ago, it's gone from bad to worse. He's started asking if there's school every morning and panicking all weekend that there will be school again. Then he started saying that he didn't want to go to school and on an on. He doesn't like nap time. Gabriel called him a monster. Henry was being loud. Etc.

So I tell him he just has to go and give his teacher a big hug and get settled but of course he's late and so he's not allowed to participate in cutting. He has to sit on the carpet and wait until circle time. Meanwhile no one has said a boo to him - no greeting, no hug, nothing. So I hug him and say goodbye and he's standing there lost and crying out not to leave him.

I drop off my daughter in the other room and she's also crying but she's new here and I know she'll stop ten seconds after I leave. I come back to the preK room and he's still standing there. No one has invited him to sit down or asked him what's wrong. He's just sobbing and the teacher is giving her cutting commands and it occurs to me that this place is all wrong. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE. Somebody engage my kid! Take two seconds out of cutting and figure a way to get my son involved and calm. But my hanging around is not helping so I leave and meet my friend in the parking lot and I sob to her about how suddenly my son is in military preK. Our play-based school is now all about worksheets and tasks and standing in line and repeat after me and circle the ladder and when you're done put your hand above your head! It's more than I can handle on my birthday. I suddenly and tragically realize I don't want this for my kid. And for the last three months I've been kidding myself that he'll be fine. He'll adjust. But he's not adjusting. He's regressing.

The rest of the birthday went like this. I then drive to a cafe to have special birthday breakfast with my husband but instead I cry for an hour about this terrible school and our tortured son. Although I did have a really good latte with a leaf design in the foam. My husband and I then sit down and on the back on my receipt we write down all of the things that we need to do to change this situation and make life here good for us. One of the items was finding our kids a new daycare. So while I had planned to spend the day painting or seeing a movie, I spent the day calling up preschools none of which have even one space, let alone two spaces. My last call was to a woman who was recommended to us by an Israeli guy we'd met at Starbucks eight months ago whose son went there. Turns out it was his second marriage and his son from his first marriage went to medical school with my brother in law. Small world. Anyway, he raved about this woman and said she had two spots but I never bothered to call because we were content with our situation. And I prefer not to rock the boat since that would require me to examine past choices and then beat myself up for being a bad parent. No thanks.

But I did finally call Sherry's Daycare and I told Sherry the story and we cried on the phone (seriously) and she broke the news that they had no spaces. But invited us to come over and see her place and get to know her in the event that she does have space. So I walked over there (did I mention that it's two blocks from my house) and met Sherry and felt like I had a lemon stuck in my throat. I got teary again. It was a perfect place. The perfect yard - a big mess of stuff to do and places to hide and tomatoes to pick and eat. A wonderful and warm house filled with toys and games and puzzles. Kids' artwork everywhere. But best of all there was Sherry and her husband Bob. Big quiet Bob who schlepped a kid in each arm and read stories while playing his accordion and rallied the kids around to wash down a dirty pretend kitchen set outside. No lining up. No worksheets. And no cutting practice. And yet it was not chaotic. Kids put away their toys and moved from one activity to the next. Sherry and Bob provide meals and snacks. They're open 6am to 6pm. They have a 14 person bus and they take the kids on field trips to museums and parks and libraries. They even pick up the older kids who go to morning preK classes and bring them back to spend the rest of the day at their home. It was daycare heaven. And it was cheaper than what I pay now.

So then I had to contend with the guilt of having not found this place four years ago when my son was born even though it was literally two blocks away. Wondering how different my tortured son would be had he spent his days in this amazing environment.

But in fact I know that he's been well-taken care of all this time and it's only recently that things aren't going as they should. So I made a decision that we need Sherry in our lives even if the transition will be tough and a little late in the game. I realized that I had been settling somewhat in the decisions I'd made about daycare and I wasn't doing that anymore.

There's more to the story but it's getting late. I actually brought the kids over there after school to check it out and they enjoyed themselves. My son found a dead motorola and a pair of sparkly high heels so he was thrilled. But when I asked if he wanted to go to school at Sherry's he said no. He wants to stay home and be with me. I don't blame him. But I'm still banking on Sherry and have been broadcasting to the universe my wish for two spaces at her house. Repeat after me boys and girls: How wonderful that Sherry has two spaces for Susie's son and daughter!

Excellent job! You must have gone to preK.

Second worst by Susie Lubell

I'd have to say that my worst birthday was when I turned 18. I had been living on a kibbutz in Israel for about three weeks and I was miserably homesick. The program that I had signed up for was postponed so I was completely lost. It was hot as hell. I was young and scared to just up and travel around by myself. I'm not even sure how I ended up in Israel with no friends, no family and my only plans postponed. The kibbutz found me a job in the interim so I worked in the chicken hatchery sorting baby chicks and cleaning incubators. My birthday was also the eve of Rosh Hashanah. So that day I worked from 4am until noon. Then the guys in the hatchery gave me a box of chocolates and sang happy birthday. They were adorable actually and had I been a little older and a little less pitiful I would have probably gotten a kick out of it. They even sang in English. But I was wallowing in a kind of self-pity that even chocolate could not cure.

I had made plans to spend the holidays with the sister of a rabbi that I had known from California. His sister had become religious and moved to Israel with her family and they lived with their three year old and six month old in a town about an hour away. So I had called them a week before and asked to be invited for the holiday. They were certainly happy to have me. So I took a bus and met the husband at the station and he took me home with him where I spent a weekend with a religious couple I didn't know from Adam and their two little kids. And these kids could have been actual Botticelli angels and I wouldn't have given a fart about them because I was a self-absorbed teenager. Anyway, to cut a long story short I spent my birthday depressed with strangers, dragged to synagogue for hours and hours in 105 degree heat. I was never happier to be back in that hatchery. I'm sure my adoptive family thought I was a giant pain in the ass. I can only imagine if some 18 year old showed up at my house for Rosh Hashanah and acted like a pill. Me with my two kids and husband and mortgage and job and you with your teenage angst and not a care in the world. How embarrassing to think back on it now. Anyway, this is not the point. Or is it. Where was I going with this...?

So yesterday's birthday was a close second. But I'll have to finish the tale tomorrow because I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Venti thank yous to the fabulous four by Susie Lubell

Thank you to Jenni H. who schlepped over with her beautiful three-week-old baby.

Thank you to Rebeca who schlepped her 37-week-big belly.

Thank you to Linda and Jessica who are so dear to indulge a total stranger's birthday wish.

And thank god for the little people in our lives that generate so so much fodder for Sunday morning coffee chatter.

I hope we can do it again.

Back to my regular programming following this message...

Meeting of the minds by Susie Lubell

In celebration of two major milestones, my 100th blog entry and my 35th birthday (gasp!) I am inviting local readers (all three of you) to join me for birthday coffee on Sunday September 7th at the Starbucks on the corner of El Camino Real and El Monte in Mountain View at 9:00 am. If no one shows up, I will just drink my java and read a magazine and enjoy my hour to myself. BUT I would love to meet those of you who are available. I will not have my kids with me, though you are welcome to bring yours (especially the kind that still sit in their carseats and sleep a lot). This is a major thing for me as I am usually quite shy and misanthropic (just kidding - sort of).

Looking forward to meeting/seeing you (special call out to Jessica, Linda, Jenni H., Rebeca, Veronica, Claire, Clara...)


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.

Eat. Play. Dough. by Susie Lubell

What a great weekend we had. The highlight for today was sitting on our porch reading my new book, Eat Pray Love, which I am enjoying so much, while my daughter played with her play dough. She was in her usual post-nap happy spirits. There was a slight breeze. The play dough was still in a malleable state (which is not always the case after months of non-use). It was divine.

So for an hour I read and she mashed the play dough and mixed up all the colors into a big swirly mess. And then she tried to sort them back into their cylinders. And then she took a taste and grimaced, then laughed. And I laughed. What a great girl. What a treat to spend the whole weekend with her.

Girl's weekend by Susie Lubell

It's just me and the baby this weekend. The boys went to Lake Powell in Arizona to rent a boat and go camping with my husband's brother and his family. I have to say that it is so easy to take care of one baby. Even solo. I mean, really. Why did I think it was so challenging when my son was born to manage with just the one. It used to take us like an hour just to leave the house and meet friends. How embarrassing...

Anyway, the good news with all of this, in addition to some nice mellow time with her majesty, is that I actually have some time in the evening to do what I want to do. With my son he goes to bed sometimes at 9:30 and after the struggle with the bath and then pajamas and then a snack and then teeth-brushing and then stories and then lullabies and then he needs his water bottle and he forgot to go pee pee and I literally just want to put a pen in my eye from the whole production. So by 9:30 I'm knackered. Just throw me in the hamper.

But not today. 7:45 and baby was out. That wasn't the case though a few nights ago. I just couldn't get the baby to bed. And my son wasn't helping the situation. So I just threw up my hands and said who gives a rat's ass anyway besides Julio. And instead of fighting and dragging on the struggle, we just all went into the living room and watched Olympic platform diving. They loved it. The baby clapped her head off every time a diver hit the water. My son was mesmerized by all the acrobatics. And then at 10pm when my husband came home (he had to work late, which is quite rare thankfully) he put the baby down and I shuttled my son off to bed without incident.

And I gave myself a little pat on the back for going with the flow which, often times, is not in my nature. But baby and I are going with the flow this weekend. I'll let you know where we end up.

Birthday by Susie Lubell

My brother called me today at work and completely caught me off guard. Do you remember Dad's drink? he asked. I hadn't thought about my dad's drink in years. Stoli Gibson straight up, not to dry, with a twist. It rolled off the tongue. What a random question for a random Thursday in August. But then I checked the date. It was (is) his birthday. My brother was in DC for a short business trip and out to dinner with a friend. So he ordered my dad's drink, said a l'chaim and swigged it. He would have been 69 today. But he died when he was 52. And I was 18. And I was thinking about college, not preschool.

I was startled when my brother called because I actually hadn't thought about my dad all day, which is weird because I usually think about him a few times a day. My son looks just like him. Unfortunately I mostly think about everything he's missed and how he would have enjoyed being a grandpa. I'm not sure how much he enjoyed being a father though I have no way of really knowing. I tell myself it was a different time. Fathers were less involved. Less engaged. He provided for his family. But he spent his free time playing golf. At least that's how I remember it. My husband spends his "free time" at the park.

But I think he would have really loved being a grandfather. That would have felt just right for him. He would have been silly and made up words and sang songs. He loved show tunes. And sometimes I can just picture him doing a puzzle with my son or reading a story to my baby girl. Or I'll see her toddling through the park with her crazy brown curls bouncing and I'll think he would have really loved this crazy girl. Thankfully they don't feel the loss. Just me.