Thursday, July 12, 2018

I need a vacation

Handling my mother’s affairs in Brazil is proving to be complex - my poor sister has taken on this task, which is a full time job at the moment, and god bless her for it. As I had suspected, it’s not so easy to have a body cremated, shipped abroad, and her things protected until they can be looked over. As far as we know, no notes, will, or instructions were left for anyone. I’m sure she died a pauper. I’m very curious about the autopsy report - my guess is cancer and/or kidney failure from a long term untreated infection. And so it goes.

In “you still have to pick up your dry cleaning” news, we had a bit of a household crisis around here this week. In the middle of an intense heat wave (112 degrees last Friday and about 100 for several days after), my almost new refrigerator died. By almost new I mean three years old, so out of warranty. And because the digital temperature readouts said the fridge and freezer were the right temperature, when things slowly started melting I thought I was just imagining it or that the fridge couldn’t keep up with the intense heat. So by the time I knew something was really wrong most things were beyond saving. I spent a rage-filled day Tuesday stuck at home with a recalcitrant four year old waiting for repair men - the first guy said it was beyond his scope (thanks a lot); the second guy after two hours said it was probably the compressor which is thousands of dollars but should by law still be warrantied by the manufacturer for at least five years so I should really call them. I paid $75 for this information. The Sears guy can’t come until the 26th. So I spent the whole day frantically researching new fridges only to see none could be delivered until next week (why is that???), then looked into renting a fridge, also none which could be delivered until next week. Finally the BF tracked down a used mini fridge that could be delivered; it arrived yesterday, and I crammed what few remaining items could be salvaged from our hot fridge and the leaking 1950s cooler I’d been using for the more sensitive items. Now, we wait. 

Part of the complication is, if I do have to buy a new fridge, I can only buy a counter depth one because of my tiny 1906 kitchen doorway, which limits my choices to about 5% of available fridges and raises the price about $1500. If I can hold out until the kitchen renovation begins in Sept, I can get any damned fridge I want. Well, my hope is this fridge can be fixed for free. I mean, I spent $3500 on this in 2015. Why on earth should I have to pay to replace the compressor three years later?!?

That and the price increase for my event have been the big news this week. It started off horribly when I woke up to see that the guy who programmed the price increase on the online registration accidentally set the prices back $55 to an early bird price, and a day earlier than the increase was supposed to happen. Thank God I wake up early now and am hyper vigilant enough that I just happened to check this and was able to get it fixed before I lost too much money. I mean, come on, people!

The rest of the day went smoothly, however. I was on hand to answer questions and fix people’s mistakes for them, and with no paperwork this year it was a breeze. 

I have just slightly more people than I did this time last year. Which is really terrific considering that this should, as the 21st year, be “off”. 

One thing I can’t figure out, though, is why I have so much less money if I have the same amount of people paying the same prices. I’m consistently about $30,000 down from last year. Why? I don’t think anything nefarious is going on - and it’s possible it can all be explained away by paying more things up front this year than last. Plus just living more expensively, period. But. I’m a bit worried. It shouldn’t impact my kitchen plans since that money is already put aside, but if I get to September and still have way less money I’m going to have to really look over everything with a fine tooth comb. I should be just as flush as last year, but I’m not. 

Thankfully we leave for Hawaii on Sunday. Between the mother’s death, money woes and all these petty annoyances, I can’t tell you how much I need this. 




Sunday, July 8, 2018

You still have to pick up your drycleaning

My sister called early this morning to tell me they found my mother. They think she died Thursday.

So it is upon us. And so far...I actually feel ok. I don’t see some big debilitating breakdown in my future. I already had that when our relationship first broke twelve years ago - and have been having mini-episodes of it ever since, up until the first news a month ago that she may be in her last stages. There is relief there - not that I’m happy this happened; it’s a tragedy all around - but knowing that “it” is over; her story ends here. I don’t have to do anything anymore. The door is closed. There is freedom in that.

Whenever I think I need a good cry the thought comes to me, “I’ve cried enough tears for her.” I don’t think I’ve cried more over another person in my life. I’ve been grieving the loss of her for years - decades, even. How is this any different?

She lives on in us, anyway - I have her voice, her humor, her mannerisms, her artistic sensibilities. If ever there were a more powerful argument for having children, this is it - she definitely has attained some semblance of immortality through us: me, my sister, and the boys, who unknowingly carry her legacy. They will know her full story and all it’s ugliness some day...but not yet.

A couple of years ago randomly in the car Bobby asked how old my mother was, and I told him, and he said, “I guess she’ll probably die soon.” I said yes. He asked if I would be sad, and I said yes. I don’t want them to know about this - Bobby will definitely go to, “but that means you’re going to die!” and I don’t want him worrying about that. I intend to live a good long while. My mother died at 76; her mother died at 77. I hope to outlive both of them by a good stretch. 

In the end...life must go on. These boys have their whole lives in front of them and I do not have the luxury of checking out either mentally or physically. My sister and I had a joke about our former religion - with all its carrying on about material life being an illusion and only God and Spirit being real...my answer is, “yeah...that’s great and all, but you still have to pick up your dry cleaning.” Nothing absolves us of the every day tasks of being a human, illusion or no - cooking, wiping counters, laundry, putting gas in the car, picking up groceries, going to the bank, filing taxes. I can be sad and wish things were different all I want, I can moon over sad Morrissey songs, I can wonder “what if?”...but I still have to pick up my dry cleaning. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The fourth

The Fourth of July is such a tricky thing since the Orange Menace took office. Had it been me on my own I probably would have just worn a black armband all day and otherwise ignored it, posting virtue-signaling protest selfies on FB all day. And reading the letters from the new civil war twitter feed, which is brilliant.

But I have kids. So instead we went to an old timey festival in El Segundo during the day and then went to the fireworks and Go Go’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Bobby was all in - Theo, not so much. But being as Bobby went there to see Kraftwerk as his first concert a couple of years ago, he’s kind of an old hand. 

I am torn between not wanting the right wing nut jobs to co-opt our flag and traditions and patriotism and just saying fuck it and letting them have it. I am torn between wanting to move all of us to Canada before the US becomes a totalitarian theocracy and wanting to stick it out and fight. And I also realize this country that I thought stood for peace and freedom is actually built on the backs of slaves and stolen from native people. What, exactly, do you do with that???

You dress in red white and blue and stuff your feelings with ice cream because you have kids and you want them to have a nice childhood. 

Some day they will know about the Trail of Tears and the atrocities of slave culture and all of the other terrible, brutal things that made the US what it is today. But right now all they care about is Batman and swimming and ice cream. They are innocent, and that is precious. I’ll miss it when that innocence is gone.




Thursday, June 28, 2018

Preschool countdown

Tomorrow I leave for Boston, the (2nd to?) last trip my original babysitter has agreed to cover. I say 2nd to last because I am hoping to beg her to take the kids during my event over Labor Day - she had said she might be able to. The idea of having a completely new person taking the kids for five days with both me and the BF not available scares the crap out of me. Also, based on the people I’ve interviewed since my last post, even if I could find someone it looks like I’ll now be paying two times what I used to for these weekend trips. So...let’s hope I can convince her to stay on for one last hurrah. 

Bids are finally coming in for my kitchen. It is not going to be cheap. But...I’m not doing this to have a crappy, low-end kitchen. I want a tile floor instead of linoleum, more than one dim light fixture, extra windows...it’s a lot. But I should be able to just barely manage it this year, most likely leaving myself broke but happy. It will be the most ambitious and invasive project I’ve done in this place. And in the end, working with such a tiny space, it’s hardly going to be transformative. But it’ll be pretty and functional and have all the vintage touches that make my heart sing. So...worth it?

The boys are doing well - the pool has increasingly become a part of our daily lives, and summer suddenly has meaning again when you’re on a standard school schedule. I am counting the days until I no longer have to drive Theo up to his Pasadena preschool three times a week; I am SO over it. We have also stopped our twice weekly “nap drives” since he doesn’t seem to need it anymore; he is tall and skinny and more and more a boy and less and less a chubby baby every day. Things are a-changing around here.




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Separation Anxiety

Like just about everyone with a conscience, I’ve spent this week in absolute horror over the travesty going on at our border right now. Children being ripped away from parents and held in cages...thousands that will probably never see their parents again, their only crime trying to escape gang violence and crushing poverty. It’s horrendous. I can hardly function for how much stress and anxiety this is causing me, and it’s not even happening to me. And the monsters in my Facebook feed trying to justify it. A friend called these people out as Nazi sympathizers and I agree. I am beside myself.

It doesn’t help that right as this story was ramping up over the weekend, my nanny of more than three years abruptly quit Saturday night, leaving me stranded for the ten + traveling weekends coming up in the next few months she had agreed to, including my event, and my trip to Budapest, and my ten days in Thailand in December. It was nothing personal - she is just feeling burnt out, and now has a very demanding weekday job working with a new baby where she can’t just take off Fridays and Mondays every couple of weeks. I get it, and I knew this day would come. But I am thoroughly freaked out. It would be one thing if I had a normal fall with just a couple of trips - but it’s literally about two or three weekends I’m gone every month until December. Where am I going to find someone who has that kind of availability?!?

I started my search on Urban Sitter where I found a good sitter years ago before I started using this lady exclusively. It’s a lot like online dating - you look at the profile and try to get a vibe from their picture, send a bunch of copy and paste introductory messages, and then wait. So far I’ve written to about fifteen people and gotten five responses. I’ve scheduled three interviews, one which happened last night. I really liked this girl, but to my surprise she has a full time job and couldn’t do the Friday-Monday school stuff. I think this will be the case for most people. Yes, they can work nights and weekends, but they can’t pick a kid up from school at 2 PM. And Theo is too young for any after school programs, otherwise none of this would be an issue. Ughhhh.

This is where having a partner really helps. The BF had already been coming home the occasional weeknight to watch the boys when I go to my book clubs, go DJ, etc, and watching them on those long weekend days when I have something else I need to do. This is a fairly new phenomenon, and I am extremely grateful I have someone who actively wants to spend this time with the kids. I think I never asked before just out of habit - I was used to paying sitters for every little thing. But as our sitter became less and less available he really stepped up. Still - he does need to work, and can’t take entire weekdays off plus the whole weekend. So we’re trying to figure out a patched-together system wherein he can get the kids to school in the morning, he can pick them up and then wait for a sitter to come by in the evening and then he can get back to work. It’s kind of a mess but it’s the only way right now, unless I find someone who’s free on weekdays. 

Once next summer rolls around and Theo can be at afterschool with his brother until 5:30 everything will be different. But for now this is our life. How I wish I didn’t have those two long international trips back to back-!

I’m having all those feelings I’ve heard mothers describe when their long time nannies quit - the betrayal, abandonment, sadness. The fear of having to start from scratch with a new person with a thousand details, the fear of getting someone who turns out to be a nightmare. I’m triggered.

Oh, and of course this week’s (well, every week’s) episode of Handmaid’s Tale is all about mothers ripped away from children...of course. 

When does that Mr. Rodgers documentary open, again? I seriously need some feel good entertainment right now!




Monday, June 11, 2018

Summertime, summertime

Our usual spring gloom has lifted, and summer has at last arrived. With it, a couple of awesome things - today, the start of my summer schedule which means sleeping in another hour, and this weekend, discovering that after seven years I can finally enjoy the pool with the boys. I’ve hardly stepped a toe in the pool in all these years I’ve had small  children; finally I feel like the boys are big enough/pool savvy enough to be able to safely be in the pool with just me there. Water wings help them doggy paddle around, and they’re getting more and more comfortable putting their heads under water. Summers are going to be dramatically different from now on.

On the last day of school I wrote the dismissal time down wrong and was sitting at home when I got a text from the after school pick up lady saying Bobby was crying and wondering why I didn’t pick him up. This after days of telling him I was going to pick him up on his special last day. Ughhhh. I felt terrible. Hopefully the ice cream we got later made up for it.

The next day a group of us got together at a local park as a little kick off summer celebration. I chatted with the grandmother of one of the nicer boys who always comes to the school functions, and she told me a harrowing story. Apparently the boy actually started kindergarten the year before but they pulled him out of school because the teacher abused him - kicked him repeatedly while he was sitting on the floor, and apparently has been known to slap and pinch other kids. According to her, police have been called, but all the kids swear nothing happened; this teacher refuses to have assistants in her class or to allow parents in the classroom. I was horrified and am still shaken by it. The poor kid, and the other kids-! I’ve seen this teacher and I’ve got to be honest - she’s got the crazy eyes. I’m so glad Bobby dodged that bullet! However, I still have Theo to worry about. If I find out he has been assigned to her class I will do everything in my power to have him transferred - even if it means keeping him at his ETK school for a second year. There is no way I’m exposing him to that! I had an abusive, shitty kindergarten teacher, so HELL no.

We are going to have one of Bobby’s friends over next weekend. Having other kids over is WAY out of my comfort zone, but I know it’s something I’m going to have to get used to.

In mother news, we got a hold of her building manager in Rio and he said he just saw her and she just got a food delivery. So, she’s hardly in a heap on her floor. She ignored emails from my sister and cousins and friends; she is just isolating. This may have been another in a series of false alarms. It does become a boy who cried wolf situation after a while. 




Thursday, June 7, 2018

First lost tooth!

After about a week of wiggling, Bobby lost his first tooth yesterday at school! As weird as it sounds, teeth falling out was one of my favorite parts of childhood, so I was very excited for him. I finally got to use the little felt tooth fairy pockets I made years ago. I left him a dollar coin.

He’s got “shark teeth” - teeth growing in behind the baby teeth, not under. I may still need dental intervention - he’s going to need to lose at least another baby tooth to make room. I’ll see if one of the others starts to loosen up in the next few days. 

Today is Bobby’s final day of kindergarten. He was never late nor absent. It’s a small thing, but I’m proud of it. I’ll pick him up and we’ll go celebrate with ice cream. Today was the last day I had to get up at 6:45 AM. Hooray! 

In other news, my mother has cut off communication with our go-between. My sister somehow managed to get a hold of someone in Rio who can go check on her and get us contact information for her apartment’s management. I think I need to apply for a visa now so I’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Sigh.