Listen Up, Santa

Dear Santa,

Unless you have finally started to suffer that inevitable hearing loss after years of screaming kids on your lap, you’ve undoubtedly heard my kids’ Christmas requests.  In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone in a 25-mile radius has heard them cite, at the ready, what they would like you to bring down the chimney for them in t-minus 17 days.  Correct me if I’m wrong, Santa, but that’s really soon and, presumably, you have your house in order.  Right?  I hope so, because I sure as hell don’t.

Anyway.  Enough about the kids.  Can we move on to me for a second?  Because it has been a long year and I’ve been a good girl.  Mostly. Well, relatively.  Whatever.  The point is that I’d like to make sure I don’t get overlooked in this whole down-the-chimney endeavor.  Alternatively, I can leave the front door wide open if it’s easier, because the last thing I need is to be sued for your injuries on my property.  As you may know, I am already up to my scalp in an endless renovation that is sucking the life out of me.

Back to my list.  It’s short.

No, I don’t want expensive clothes or that ribbon-wrapped Lexus.  And please, whatever you do, don’t go to Jared.

Since you can’t deliver my youth or four extra hours of sleep every night to me, I would like this:

Yes, Santa.  Bring me a Keurig coffee machine.  Check your damn list twice — or more, if you have to — and get me some K-Cup action {this sounds dirtier than I intended}.

What’s that?  You’re confused by my request?  Yes, I know — I am a Starbucks junky/loyalist/quasi-shareholder.  And I don’t take my FourSquare mayorship over there lightly, as it took 108 visits (also known as approximately $378) to reach this notable achievement.  Without my leadership over there, who will make sure that the line forms to the right?  Who will see to it that the Crazy Super Fit Moms don’t suffer a fat overdose and, by extension, a nervous breakdown by erroneously being served — gasp — whole milk in their drinks?

But, as much as I enjoy my daily stops at Starbucks, it’s not always convenient.  Or easy.  Or cheap (see figure above).  So I’ve been considering the alternatives.  First, there was the obvious intravenous drip of espresso solution.  And, although highly appealing, I guess it would appear unseemly at my weekly playgroup.  Another option would be to give up caffeine entirely.  But that won’t work either, since there is not a local methadone clinic where I can detox before picking up the kids from pre-school.  One of the many drawbacks of suburbia.

Plus, I hear I can now purchase Starbucks blends in K-Cup sizes, so I don’t lose my entire Starbucks buzz experience if I convert to the Keurig.  I know, it’s not the same as a latte, but I’ll bet that, for a premium, I’ll soon be able to purchase an upgrade to the Keurig model that comes with its own barista.  And that’s really the win there, Santa.  In fact, I bet Keurig has that in the works to coincide with their Mother’s Day marketing plan.

So.  I want the Keurig for Christmas.  Please.  I think my reasons are clear and compelling.

Is that all?  Well, since you’re asking, there are a few other things:

–A case of wine.  Or five.  Ask my husband which kind I like best, since he is in charge of tracking my fickle taste.

–A new General Contractor.  Oh hell, skip that and just give me a shiny new basement, like the one that was supposed to be finished in late September.

–Oh, and a lifetime supply of Purel.  Since my two year-old is about to start potty training — and I so love a public restroom.

All of that would be great.  But, to be clear, the coffee is the priority.

Please don’t let me down.  I promise to leave your Italian hero sandwich in its usual place on Christmas Eve –– I hope you enjoy it.  It’s so funny, my dad has always liked those too…

Thanks in advance, big guy.  See you soon and good luck with the last-minute prep.

* * *

{This post was part of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt was “An Open Letter to Santa.”}

Mama’s Losin’ It

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Coming Clean

I’m not an officially diagnosed germaphobe, but I play one every so often.

To be clear, I don’t wear masks in public.  I don’t walk around my house with rubber cleaning gloves on.  {My house is not even that neat.}

But I do confess that I have become increasingly obsessed about cognizant of germs.  I think I’ve seen one too many of those news segments.  “Tonight at 11:  You’ll never believe what our scientists found after swabbing doorknobs, elevator buttons and escalator handles.”

I shouldn’t watch.  This stuff stays with me.  It makes me want to wear a Hazmat suit.

Not really.  But let me come clean here, so to speak.

First:  I may or may not be addicted to Purell. I bust it out a lot.  Travel sizes in the diaper bag, the car.  A standard size pump at the ready at home.  I should probably sit on their Board of Directors.

Next:  Wet Ones.  You know, the wipe things.  Also in my car, my house and my bag.  I guess in case I fall victim to a Purell thief.  I have a back up.

And of course:  Hand washing.  I know this is really the solution here.  So don’t you worry, I get maniacal insistent about that too.  Again, not like I-need-my-own-reality-show levels, but I hear myself saying to my kids all the time “Did you wash your hands?”

“With SOAP?”

I wasn’t always like this.  Au contraire.  But somewhere along the way, years of living in the city got me hooked on Purell.  That was the gateway drug.

Then I had my first child and I became an unrecognizable Sanitation Crazy.  You know the type.  I blame it on post-partum hormones.

It started with one of those steam sanitizing machines that people get for a newborn’s pacifiers, bottle parts, etc.  I latched right onto this thing like a lifeline.  I boiled water.  I steamed.  I washed my hands.  A lot.  The thought of that small infant getting sick became a bit of a fear.

I think it sort of snowballed from there.  Because I can’t really blame post-partum hormones four years later.  And aren’t you supposed to relax about this stuff with your second kid?  I missed that memo.

But, look, I know there’s a fine line between “Let’s not be covered in filth” and “Hi, I’m Crazy Mom.”  And I know you can’t shield kids from everything.  I know, I know, I know.  So, before you go calling TLC to film a segment on my craziness, just know that I’m trying to let this go a little.

But it requires baby steps.  Meaning, I am learning to relax about this stuff in general.  But please don’t expect me to loosen up my Purell Death Grip in any of the following environments that don’t have soap and water:

–Public restrooms

–Petting zoos

–Grocery shopping carts


–Restaurant high chairs

–New York City in general (just kidding — partially)


Purell seems to do pretty well.  So it can’t be just me keeping them in business.  Right?

Anyone else want to come clean here?


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For the Love of Taco Night

If you’ve been here before, you know that I freely admit to some neurotic tendencies.  Some are more rational than others.

Today, I present to you my fear of food borne illnesses and how I, uh, swallowed that in the name of a great Fordeville tradition:  Taco Night.

I’m one of those people who is leery of undercooked food.  Not at nice restaurants or — for the love of all things holy — sushi bars.  I’ll eat beef tartare or some sashimi at a nice place.  Any day.  But in my house, when I run the stove, I’m conservative.  I don’t like to poison people.  Well, maybe there are a few people I have been tempted to undercook for.  But that’s a different story.

On a related note, I also file food expiration dates under “things we should abide by.”  My husband, ever the skeptic, likes to think of them as mere suggestions.  You know, if we’re within a few weeks of the date, it should be fine.

Those are meals he eats on his own.

Anyway.  Back to Taco Night.

Taco Night is a year-round occasion in our house.  It’s more frequent in the colder months, but we still tend to go for it once in a while during the summer too.  And we were overdue.  I had all of the ingredients on hand.  I was ready to go.

Then, right before I started cooking, I saw this online:  “Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Ground Turkey Unsolved.”

Of course I read it.  Which I never should have done.  Because there was zero helpful information.  They don’t know the source.  They don’t know if it’s contained.  They’re not sure if they’ve given a complete list of impacted brands.

All this, as I stared at the package of ground turkey on the counter.

Fuuuuuuck. I love Taco Night.  I don’t want to give it up.

Now, as much as I can be neurotic, I’m also prone to gambling.  So I considered that only 77 people nationwide have died of the Salmonella outbreak since March — most of whom had compromised immune systems.  OK, yes, hundreds of others got sick but whatever.  I spun the Salmonella Roulette Wheel in my head and decided I would go for it.

With a few conditions.

First, in my state of justification, I figured I’d cook the meat to the point of no return.  I mean, I wasn’t making burgers that had to be juicy — or recognizable, for that matter.  This is ground meat that’s getting saturated by taco seasoning in the end anyway.  It’s just the vehicle for flavor.  So I decided that cranking the flame up well beyond a normal “done” status would kill the germs.  And since my husband got home late, it had to be nuked again later.  Score.  More Salmonella-zapping heat opportunities.

Then, I looked at the incubation period for salmonella poisoning.  12-72 hours.  This does present a problem.  We have some big plans on Friday to go away for the weekend with friends — a trip we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  So as I’m charring the hell out of the meat on the stove, I’m praying that I won’t have to miss the fabulous spa appointment I have booked at the hotel Friday evening.

Because my priorities are clearly in order.

Then I decided — based on my vast expertise in science — that we’d be more likely to get sick within 48 hours, which would give us just enough time to bounce back for half of the weekend.  You know, if it came to that.  Plus, after our recent road trip to North Carolina, we are accustomed to people vomiting in the car.  So we’d be OK.

Did I mention we love Taco Night?

This was verified by my husband’s reaction to this evening’s menu selection.  It’s sort of like a fist pump/guy/sports thing.  I think.  Or maybe just a little dorky holdover from the 80s.  I’m not sure.  I don’t want to know.

The point is, my decision to gamble our lives for Taco Night was met with appreciation.  Well, and mockery.  Let’s compare the time we have spent worrying about us contracting Salmonella.

Him:  0.8877664 seconds.

Me:  3 hours and 12 minutes, consecutively, since I read that first headline.  And counting.

But now we were in it together.  We were both going down if we lost the spin of the Salmonella Roulette Wheel.

So I savored the tacos, knowing they might be my last meal for a few days while I’m hospitalized and hooked up to an IV.  With that in mind, it made perfect sense to give that wine glass an extra pour or three.  I mean, hospital food is horrible so I may as well enjoy this.

At one point during our last meal, my daughter came over to the table (the kids had eaten something in the Breaded-Nugget-No-Flavor Toddler Food Pyramid earlier) to see what we were eating.  As my husband went to hand her a bite of the taco to try, I sprung up to swat it out of his hand.  Like one of those dramatic slow-motion reels, complete with “Nooooooooo!”

He stared at me in cluelessness.  Because his 0.8877664 seconds of thinking about Salmonella poisoning had ended light years ago.

He wondered why it was OK for us to eat the probably-only-contaminated-in-my-mind meat, but not the kids.

“Well, because we really love Taco Night.”

“We really do.  Hey, is this the sour cream you asked me to throw out last week?”

{If anyone wants my appointment for a killer massage on Friday evening in Rhode Island, I’m now accepting names for the wait list.}






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A Week of Freaky

Yikes — a week without a blog post went by.  That’s what happens when you run away with Bono after last Wednesday’s epic U2 show.  Oh wait — that was only in my head.

Speaking of things I may or may not exaggerate in my head, let me tell you about a few recent oddities.

1)  Blackout Flashbacks/Panic

If you were in one of the 40-something states under extreme heat advisories last week, you know that it was the ugly side of summer.  Here in New Jersey, we had a brutal stretch of 100+ degree temperatures. 

I hate the heat.  It makes me cranky.  Because, at the end of the day, there is only so much clothing you can remove.  You know, without getting arrested. 

You know what else I hate?  A power outage during a heat wave.  Which is what happened last Friday afternoon.

At first I thought it would be quick.  Don’t ask me why.  Mainly because, I figured, it just had to be.  Because my house heating up to 93 degrees was totally unacceptable.  But there we were, an hour later, at 93 degrees inside.  And climbing. 

I started to have flashbacks to the massive blackout of August 2003.  The one when I had the good fortune of living in the last neighborhood in NYC to have power restored a day later.  The one when my block started to look like downtown Baghdad with looting and limited food.  When my sister and I sat in my sweltering fourth-story walk-up apartment with a transistor radio on our ears, just to understand what was going on. 

That one.

But the truth is that last Friday was nothing like the 2003 episode.  Because only eight houses on my block lost power (there’s that geographic luck again) and because I could load my family up in my air-conditioned car to drive around, go out to dinner and get ice cream.  It’s an SUV, so I figured we could live there for a while if need be. 

Blackouts make me dramatic, I guess.  And, as you may have guessed, it never became necessary to move into our SUV.  Five hours later, the AC was cranking inside again.

2)  The Bear

In the camp of more legitimate drama, I have this.  Last week, a bear cub made his way through the neighborhood before being captured.  We don’t live in a rural area and, frankly, I didn’t sign up for a town that comes with menacing animals.  So I was freaked out.  And promptly considered moving back to Manhattan, where the wildlife mainly consists of insane humans.

With the cub in captivity, everyone was relieved.  Except me.  Because all I could do in my paranoid head was wonder: “Where is the pissed off mother bear, looking for her cub?”

This was met with collective eye rolling. 


Last Sunday, we had my daughter’s birthday party with about 30 people in our back yard.  You know, because it was down to a chilly 92 degrees, and that was refreshing.  I’m on the lawn and I notice something out of the corner of my eye.

No, not a bear.

It looked like a massive black mushroom in the grass.  And I don’t want to get overly detailed here but the important information is that it was a giant pile of, uh, waste.  That did not come from a dog.  No way.

My husband also raised an eyebrow at this.  But we decided it wasn’t really backyard BBQ conversation, so we enjoyed the chill in the 92-degree air.

The next night, after a few cocktails with one of my dearest friends and her husband — who were visiting from out of town — we decided to re-open the mysterious case of the Unidentified Yard Poop.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Google really is magnificent.  How else do you go about identifying random piles of poop in your yard? I’ll spare you the images. 

You’re welcome.

And according to Google, it came from a bear. 

Holy shit.  {No pun intended}

A bear.  In. My. Yard.  Where my kids play.  Where my small dog, who can easily resemble an oversized kielbasa, hangs out. 

Why did we leave the city?  Oh, how I suddenly missed those oversized mutant urban rats.

So I called the local Animal Control office.  It went something like this.

“Hi, I had a bear in my yard.”

“You saw a bear?”

“No, but I have, uh, evidence of a bear in my  yard.”

“What kind of evidence?”

“A pile of waste.”

“How do you know it was from a bear?”

“Because Google said so.”

“Oh.  Right.  OK.  Well, thanks for calling and we’ll, uh, patrol that area a little more closely.  Let us know if you actually see a bear.”

They were clearly thankful for my research and diligence.

So now I’m holed up inside, in fear.  So the power better not go out again.

3)  Bride of Chucky Doll

It’s not nice to say bad things about gifts.  I know.  So call me mean.

I’m sure it was expensive and collectible and came from a place of love. It really is a thoughtful gift.

But this doll that my daughter received for her birthday.  It freaks me the hell out.

Is it just me?

She’s judging me, isn’t she?  She’s watching me.  I swear, she moves when I turn away for a moment.

And we’re stuck inside together.

Avoiding the bear. 

And hoping the power doesn’t go out again.

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Pre-Vacation Stress: A Top 10 List

I’m one of those annoying people who gets stressed out before vacations. At least when my kids are involved.  Which is usually the case, since there’s no Maria Von Trapp in sight to watch them and make clothing out of curtains while we whisk ourselves away.

In just a few days, we’re getting in the car and driving to The Outer Banks. That’s at least ten hours by car.

Ten hours. Without traffic. Each way.

I realize that many people do the long-drive-with-kids-thing all the time.  This will be our first attempt.  And I’m skeptical.  Because, I don’t know about you guys, but my kids are not what I’d call road warriors. In fact, they often make me a little crazy just driving within a five mile radius of our home. But in a moment of either insanity or drunkenness, I overlooked this detail.

And now departure time is drawing near.  So here are the Top 10 Points of Concern (not necessarily in order):  

1.  The drive. As I mentioned. And no, we don’t have a DVD player in the car. But my engineer husband has assured me that he has fashioned some sort of homemade contraption to keep our iPad in place for optimal kids’ viewing. I am picturing some balsa wood and a bungee cord.

2.  The packing. I hate packing. And I since I like to have options, I tend to overpack — which results in a lot of stuff.

3.  The mountain of laundry that, despite all my staring and willfulness, just won’t wash and fold itself.  Don’t the shiny new front loaders have that feature?  I need to get some of those.

4.  The fact that there is a birthday in this family to be celebrated between now and then. A birthday belonging to a certain youngest child.  And that means I need to get on the stick and ensure that merriment ensues.

5.  The dread of my husband’s horrible Sirius radio stations never going out of range on the drive.

6.  Did I mention the drive?

7.  The more-than-casual curiosity about the availability of wi-fi. You know, because I start to twitch if there’s no signal. Yes, I know it’s America and all. But you just can’t be sure.  It would be reckless of me to prematurely rule out the need to tweet using carrier pigeons.

8.  Bringing the translucent-white, pasty skin of my whole family ten hours closer to the equator. (See also: Where is the closest natively grown aloe plant?  Or ER?)

9.  Can the blender at the rental property handle the amount of alcoholic concoctions I plan to prepare and consume, or will a back-up generator of sorts be necessary?

10.  How many baby gates defines crazy? My daughter is still a stair risk, and this house — as far as I can tell from the photos — has about 367 steps encompassing multiple levels.

Here’s the thing.  It’s all going to be great.  We are sharing the house with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their four kids.  This fact has not been revealed to my children because they will spontaneously combust with excitement.  And they will also pepper the ten-plus hour drive with questions about the color of their cousins’ bathing suits, who will get first pass at the Teddy Grahams and who is bunking together. 

So the aunt/uncle/cousins component will be in the “pleasant surprise upon arrival” category.  Right after we exhaust the “Why the hell are we still in the car and where are we going?” category.

The point is that, despite my preparation anxiety, everyone gets along famously and we’re going to have a fabulous week. 

Once the laundry is all done.  Once the birthday girl blows out her candles.  Once the balsa wood/bungee  contraption is built.  Once I figure out how to block the 80s British Pop station from Sirius. 

And once I pack the industrial-sized blender.  Just in case.


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The Dark Ages

My husband just told me that he has to do some traveling for work over the next few weeks.  I’m upset.

Not because the trip has screwed up any grand plans.  But because it makes me face one of my biggest fears.

Yeah, I’m a grown adult afraid of the dark.  It’s ridiculous.

I have several mainstream fears, like heights and flying.  I have others that are perhaps less common — like crock pot infernos and being struck by a flying baseball.  But being home alone overnight really shakes me up.  I’m a complete and total chicken shit.

It’s worse since we moved out of the city.  You would think I’d be more scared in Manhattan, but I felt right at home there.  And I liked the fact that, 13 stories up, nobody was going to climb into my window.  There was plenty of crazy to go around, but it had to get past my doorman and seek out my apartment in a huge building. 

Here, in pretty suburbia, I feel like someone could just walk up to a window and smash it.

And if that’s not neurotic enough, I’ll disclose that my fear is not exclusively reserved for the living.  I am also afraid that my 100 year-old house will, one night when I’m alone, make itself known as haunted.

Could all of this crap happen with my husband home?  Yes, of course.  But the neurotic mind doesn’t work that way.  Except for last week, when I realized around 3am that P had left the side door to the house open (not unlocked — open).  I was convinced a serial killer was hiding somewhere in the basement.  So of course doing laundry down there was out of the question for at least a week.  Safety first.

You know how you have those moments of “I’m so not qualified to be a parent”?  That’s how I feel when I’m home with the kids on my own overnight.  Like a 13 year-old babysitter who has seen one too many horror films.  Who has also broken into the liquor stash.  But without the forbidden make-out session with the boyfriend on the couch.

I do blame some of this fear on a very specific memory bank of images culled from scary movies over the years.   I’m seriously scarred for life, but am finally wise enough not to even try to watch them anymore.  Even commercials.  Like the one for Paranormal Activity.  The baby monitor image, with the kid standing in the crib and the dog barking.  Areyoufuckingkiddingme?  I can’t even think about it.  Or those ghost-chasing reality shows.  Because this is the crap that my mind conjures up late at night when my husband travels. 

And, for the record, logic has no place here.  I can make any far-fetched horror movie plot fit into my life at 2am when all alone in my bed.  At that hour, it seems so obvious that an evil leprechaun is of course living under my stairs and trying to kill me.  Or one of my kids’ dolls has morphed into the Bride of Chucky.  Or Charlie Sheen is on a bender and roaming the streets. 

So.  What do I do to get through these nights?  A few things.

First, it’s a good thing I have my ferocious guard dog. Pffft.  The only action he would take is to demand a belly rub from an intruder.

I do a full sweep of the house before I go to bed.  And I mean full.  Closets.  Under the beds.  In the showers.  Within the mountain of dirty laundry.

Of course I lock every part of each door and window.  Depending on how many strange noises I’ve heard — like cars driving down the street, heat coming through the pipes — I may or may not put a chair in front of the back door. 

I shouldn’t share this — but why stop now?  My secret weapon is closing the baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.  If anything will slow down an intruder, it’s taking the time to unlock those gates in the dark.  This will buy me precious minutes to wake up the guard dog by promising him bacon wrapped in chicken for a week.  Unless the intruder is a father to toddlers and can master the gate latches blindfolded.  Then I’m done for.

Naturally, all of this will not help me against the undead who may be angry that I’ve put a monstrous swing set on sacred ground.  Or don’t like the color choice I’ve made for the dining room.  So I sleep with the phone by my bed (to call who, I’m not sure — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis?).  Maybe I leave one little light on in my room, too. 

I also keep the TV on for white noise — but not Poltergeist white noise, to be clear.  More like Real Housewives white noise.  Because that’s calming.  And as much as I’d love a bedside flask to keep my nerves calm, I can’t risk compromising my speed and agility if confronted.  Priorities, people.

Who allowed me to be a parent?  Or an adult with voting privileges?  I’m as mystified by this as you are. 

I swear, I have heard and overcome some scary things in my life.  Things like “We’re going to induce you to deliver this nine and a half pound baby now” and “Shoulder pads are totally coming back in style.”  But this fear of the dark, I can’t shake it.

So, go ahead and laugh at me.  I understand.  Or send me any suggestions you might have for me to pull it together.  Or tell me you are the same way (yes, lie to me).

Or just offer to come and sleep over while my husband’s away.  Pretty please.

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Dial D for Desperate


Here’s something I may not have noticed if I hadn’t recently left my full-time job.  But you can’t get away from it around town.  It’s all the talk. 

The Annual Calls for The Town Pool Wait List.

Sadly, I’m not kidding.

There are wait lists for many things in my town.  At first, this made me feel right at home after years of living in Manhattan, where people have been known to call day care centers and secure a future spot for a child not yet conceived.  

But now this is sort of annoying here in suburbia.  Can’t there be plenty of room for all of us?

Right after we closed on our house last year, at the direction of our realtor, I promptly drove over to the Town Hall to put our name on two critical wait lists:  1) parking for the train (which I no longer need, but my husband does) and 2) membership for the town pool.

I asked the municipal employees which list I would succeed in climbing before my kids (remember, ages 3 and 1) went off to college.  They just laughed, but not in a “You’re so witty” way; it was more of a “Your guess is as good as mine” reaction.  It wasn’t encouraging. 

I have since been told that, for train parking, the average wait to get a spot in the “secondary” lot (read “highly undesirable and inconvenient”) is three years.  And then — then — maybe another year until you get to roll into Parking Nirvana every morning for the privilege of boarding NJ Transit. 

Then there’s the pool.

I knew we wouldn’t get in last summer because we got on the list too late, and I was OK with that.  I thought.  Then the temperatures soared.  Still, I figured I wasn’t missing too much — it’s just a pool, after all.

But then I noticed the military precision with which the playgrounds emptied on the weekends at the stroke of 11am — the time the pool opened.  I also started to get insider information.  Members told me all about the gorgeous renovations, the perfectly planned kid area and the  mindset of “I just couldn’t live without it all summer.” 

So I decided I needed to see this for myself.  A stake-out was in order.

I showed up one Sunday last August.  I brought the baby with me so that nobody thought I was just some pool stalker (which, of course, I totally was).  I really wasn’t even sure if they’d let me in “just to take a look.” 

But they did.  And it was sort of like the Gates of Heaven. 

Where I grew up, we didn’t have a town pool and I wasn’t expecting anything really nice — I figured it would be some kind of utilitarian-looking and dated facility with a distinct municipal decor.  Not so.  Everyone looked like they were on vacation.  At a nice resort.  That my tax dollars are subsidizing. 

This may be a slight exaggeration

I never should have gone there.  I wish I could un-see the whole thing my mind — because now I really want my damn spot.

As a natural progression, I decided to casually stalk the Recreation Office at the Town Hall to determine what, in fact, my spot was.  This strategy was met by laughter when I told my friends and neighbors.  They assured me that nobody gives out the list placement numbers.  There’s a Cone of Silence. 

Have you met me?  This wasn’t going to do.

At first, nothing.  No dice.  Nobody was talking.  It was like an Aquatics Witness Protection Program.

Then, finally, a crack in the foundation.  Either I got a newbie or someone who was experiencing a mid-afternoon sugar low that resulted in clouded judgement.  Whether she continues to be a government employee after the following breach of security remains unknown.  In fact, I don’t think she’s been heard from since.

“Uh, let’s see here.  Ah, yes, there you are.  Number 251.”

“251?  Are you kidding me?  Is that individuals or families?”


Then I really pushed my luck.

“OK.  Well, what are my chances for 2011?  I mean, how many families did you turn over last year?”

“About 300, actually.”

“Seriously?  So there’s hope?”

“I’d say so.  Now I need to get going.”

I assume that her abrupt end to our chat meant that she had been discovered by the wiretaps and was about to be confronted for her inappropriate divulgence of information.  I hope that wherever she is, she’s OK.

But back to me.


And here’s the really crappy part.  We were victims of a new system implemented last year.  In years past, there was one night a year when hopeful new members would line up at the Town Hall and it was first come, first served for a spot at the pool.  It became the stuff of legends.  Guys  — grown men with children — were out there at 1 or 2 in the morning with folding chairs, lining up for the 9am start time.  A woman I know told me her husband got there at 3am and still didn’t get a spot.  She told him not to come home.

The town has now put an end to this practice and instead instituted a straightforward, come-and-get-your-name-on-a-list-policy instead. 

See, we would have rocked the old model.  P and I, for better or worse, are well-trained tailgaters.  This gig was made for us.  Or him, I should say, because why should both of us suffer when he could go out there while I slept in our comfy bed cared for our children?  Anyway, he would have come home with a bright and shiny pool pass.

Not now. 

Now, I’m stuck at 251 and here’s how it works:  The current members have until April 15 to renew or forfeit their spot.  And then, the phone calls start going down the wait list for whatever space is left.  Always a student of process, I am dying to know if it’s one part-time senior citizen named Fran who makes 2-3 calls a day for weeks — or is it a well-oiled machine of filling that list in a day or two?  Basically, I want to know when I’m going to know.

Because, in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to increase my odds.  In doing so, I’ve considered the key factors that would cause one to forfeit one’s spot. 

  • The kids moved away (and you now want to spend the cash on a cruise)
  • Moving out of town (to a utopia where everyone can use the damn pool and park at the train station; see “Europe”)
  • Boredom/Social Alienation (you have no friends at the pool, possibly from pissing everyone off when you lined up at midnight under the old model)
  • Financial windfall (“Fuck this, I’m putting in my own pool.”)
  • Forgetfulness
  • Financial hardship
  • Death

The last three require no further explanation.  And, to be clear, I don’t wish death, injury or poverty on anyone.  But let’s consider the folks in the “I forgot to renew category” for a moment.  This is the sweet spot, I think.  If I can mount a coordinated, covert campaign of distraction over the next few days around town, I can capitalize on the forgetful souls who still have not sent in their renewals. 

I’m considering the following:

  • Starting a rumor that the Bronx Zoo Cobra is on the loose once again, last seen in our town.
  • Implementing a “tax returns only” line at the Post Office to prevent pool checks from getting in the mail.
  • Talking loudly in public about the regrettable Caddyshack-like pool incident (“This time, it wasn’t a Baby Ruth”) last summer and the resulting sanitary concerns.

And you guys worried that I wouldn’t keep busy enough after leaving Corporate America.  As if.

I mean — if you haven’t gotten your check in yet, it must not be that important to you.  And, people, I need a place to hang out with my kids this summer.  Remember, I’m a woman without a country here.  I left my job.  I need adult interaction.  And town gossip. 

But I’m not buying my bathing suit just yet.  I have to wait by the phone first and see what happens once April 15 comes and goes.

I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, I’ll be at the Post Office.  You know, just hanging out.

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A Year in Suburbia


This week marks a full year since we packed up our city life and moved to the suburbs. And not only did we live to tell, but you know what?  I love it.  It’s true.

Most of the time. 

However, after 365 days in this new world, I’m here to report there are still a few things that I could do without:

  • The reliance on a car:  I miss walking all over the place.  Of course, I can walk in the suburbs — it’s permitted — but the truth is that the car is usually the more realistic option.  And along with that comes the endless in-and-out-of-the-car seats nonsense that makes me just a little more insane every day.
  • Lack of anonymity:  In the city, there wasn’t any small talk or chit-chat with strangers.  And that was fine by me.  I’m terrible with small talk.  It was perfectly acceptable to stand in your building’s lobby and stare straight ahead while waiting for the elevator.  I did have some very sweet, older widows who lived on my floor, and it was nice that they stopped to check in on me when I was very pregnant (though there was a certain “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe that I tried not to overblow) — but they stayed largely out of my business.  I’ve since had to re-learn social graces like inviting someone in when they knock on my door.  The week we moved into our house, several families stopped by with trays of  cookies and cakes to welcome us.  I have to be honest — it freaked me out a bit.  And as I reluctantly opened my door to them, all I could wonder was if I now have to bake every time someone moves into the neighborhood.
  • No quick errands:  At times, I miss the corner bodega more than I can express.  Like when I just need a can of beans to finish a recipe.  No problem — I’ll just walk to the corner and…nevermind.  Now it’s back in the car, finding parking, going through the whole big grocery store.  It  just takes longer than it’s worth.  {That’s right, I don’t have much patience.  I’m not really working on it but I will own it.}
  • New Jersey Transit and the PATH Train:  They are the 8th and 9th circles of Hell, respectively.  I never thought I could miss the NYC MTA so damn much.  It’s a well-oiled machine by comparison.
  • Suburban Starbucks:  Yes, I have a Starbucks problem.  You know it and I know it.  Now, if we’re all done judging me for my overpriced coffee habit, can we just weep in solidarity over the hoops I must jump through to secure this beverage?  Before, I walked to the corner.  Now, I drive (just a mile, but a drive nonetheless).  I circle for parking.  I pay for parking.  And I have to make small talk while waiting for my coffee.  I really think there’s a viable business model in a Starbucks Addict Premium Delivery Service.  I know I’m not alone here, or the green coffee goddess wouldn’t still be in business.
  • BYOB:  I know that, in many respects, it’s better that you have to bring your own booze to restaurants. It’s cheaper.  You get what you want.  There are many upsides.  Except when you are me (or my husband) and you never, ever remember that this is part of going out to dinner in our town.  And then what — a dry meal?  Uh, no, sir.  It’s instead this: “You run, as fast as you fucking can, to the wine store, before they close — quick!! — and I’ll find an appetizer on the menu to order for you” (translation: an appetizer of my choosing so that I can enjoy half of it).

OK, OK — I sound horrible, I know.  So let’s be nice to Suburbia — she has quite a lot to offer.  Though my love affair with her started slowly, I am now pretty enamored.  And even though New York City will always be my first geographic love — I lived in four of the five boroughs over my 16 years there, so I’m not just talking Manhattan — let’s fight fair and point out some annoyances of urban living that I really don’t miss.

  • Lack of living space:  Do me a favor.  Take your hand and open it up as far as you can.  That was about the size of my bathroom in my last apartment.  For a family of four.  And did I mention I pathologically hate clutter?  It was a battle I could not win. 
  • Circling for parking:  You could pretty much bet cash that, any Sunday night when we returned from a weekend trip with the kids, the dog and all of our stuff, it would be raining, sleeting or snowing.  So this insane dance would ensue of double parking while unloading our kids and our stuff curbside while someone ensured the car wasn’t ticketed. 
  • Being accosted by crazies:  Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of nutters in suburbia — but they keep more to themselves.  The New York crazies really get up in your face.  It’s been awhile since an amateur preacher screamed in my face about the end of days or my sinning ways.  Or a one-armed ukulele player spit at my feet for not giving him my half-eaten soup.  I don’t miss that so much.  If I want crazy, I know plenty of people I can call.
  • Planning for higher education of a child in utero:  Pre-school lotteries and interviews — with college-sized tuition bills to match.  No thanks.  If I told you what I paid in day care costs for two children in the city…I can’t even think about it.  In fact, I had to tell the day care place that I was pregnant with my second child before most of my relatives knew — so that she could have a spot in a year.  For day care.  Not Harvard.  Not even private kindergarten.  Day care.  Anyway, I felt like I won the lottery when I was reminded that my property taxes in the suburbs cover the cost of a very good public school system.  Now I can keep up my Starbucks habit.
  • Escaped Egyptian Cobras from The Bronx Zoo:  OK, so it was just this once.  But, still — it gave me the creeps.  Who can live in fear like that?

In full disclosure, I’m still in Manhattan every day for work, so I probably haven’t had a proper chance to really mourn the death of my city life yet.  But I do get wistful about it now and then.  Central Park.  The West Village.  Delicious food at all hours.  The energy and the diversity.

And then I think about that tiny, tiny bathroom.  The windows that didn’t really close all the way.  That occasional but nasty rat running out in front of you on the street.  The navigation of the double stroller through the endless winter.  The day care tuition bill. 

So I guess what I figured out, after this year of change, is that my heart belongs to both the city and to suburbia.  But a girl can have more than one great love, right?

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My Other Husband

One of my irrational fears (sadly, there are many) is that a musician has died whenever I hear several of his/her songs in a short span of time on the radio.  If it’s not Two for Tuesday or Perfect Album Side time on some of my NYC stations, I assume the worst — that I am bearing witness to a posthumous musical tribute.  In reality, it’s almost always just stupid coincidence from one station to the next.

Today, I nearly panicked.  My Other Husband’s band had songs popping up all over the radio.  My concern for his well-being immediately skyrocketed.

Who is he?  He fronts my favorite band ever.  Our relationship spans 23 years.  Well, in a one-way sort of manner.  If you know me in real life, none of this will be news to you.  Importantly, this includes my Real-Life Husband.  But for everyone else’s sake, it’s time I came clean about my Other Husband.

1987: My first concert ever.  Brendan Byrne Arena (now Continental Arena), NJ – aka The Meadowlands.  I was 15.  Tenth row floor, people.  I had no idea at the time how amazing these seats were, and that it would take me the better part of 20 years to occupy them again.  Some obscure band called Lone Justice was the opening act.

And then – then – this.

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{I know, the clip says Syracuse, not New Jersey.  But the music and the vest were the same.}

I remember, in my virgin mind, looking at Bono in his sleeveless vest and long hair (remember, 1987) and thinking that this must be the definition of sex.  Seriously.  And it didn’t hurt that The Joshua Tree was the biggest thing since, well, any contemporary album I had ever known at that point.

And so, our relationship was born right there.  At least on my end.

He was busy traveling the world, though, getting famous.  Over the top famous.  And I was just in high school.  But I visited him often when he came to town, in my horrible nosebleed arena seats.  I visited him in the movie theater over and over to watch screenings of “Rattle and Hum.”  I visited him when he played other towns.  I even visited him in other countries (who wouldn’t love chanting “Ooo dos” with 90,000 Spaniards?).  I lined up my resources to flood the Ticketmaster phone lines at the stroke of 9:00am whenever the new shows went on sale.

I bought every album and committed it to memory.  Yes, even the bad ones.  (Yes, even Pop.)  I bought the posters that lined my dorm walls.  I bought the bootlegs.  The B-sides.  All of it.

He got more famous still, my Other Husband.  He became a quadrillionaire or something.  He met with world leaders, philanthropists, humanitarians.  People started to turn on him.  They said he was an egomaniac.  They said he cared more about celebrity than the music.  But I forgave him because he kept on singing for me.

Over the years, there have been a series of close calls and near misses of meeting my Other Husband that I have learned to live with.

  • His Manhattan apartment was ten blocks (yet worlds away) from mine.  But I was never the person who saw him at the local deli.
  • That video when U2 rides the streets of Manhattan on a flatbed truck?  I missed it.  By about three blocks.
  • Don’t even get me started about the day he showed up at my workplace and attended a meeting in a room adjacent to where I sat.
  • And then the narrowest of misses – the time he pulled a girl up from the audience who stood four feet from me.  It should have been me.  I deserved it.  She didn’t even know the words.  But her boobs were huge, so there you go.

I guess it’s just not meant to be.  And maybe it’s for the best.  Because, I’ll tell you, I’ve spent more time than I’ll admit here on what, exactly, I would say if I met him.  It all comes up short.  How do you tell someone that their music has been the soundtrack of your life without seeming like just another nutter?  It would make me feel ridiculous.

And I know what our relationship has meant to me – even if he doesn’t.

I lost count of how many times I’ve seen U2 in concert but I could tell you almost every set list for each show.  I could tell you what was happening in my life just then and what song I liked the best.  And I’ll argue with you all day that, pound for pound, The Joshua Tree was not actually their best album.  I mean, if you want.  Or we could talk about normal things, I guess.  Just don’t bring up the current Spiderman on Broadway debacle that my Other Husband is desperately trying to salvage.

No, I’m not a stalker – not by the technical legal definition in the State of New York.  I’m not crazy.  In fact, I’m probably too guarded and cautious as I get older.  But not about my Other Husband and his music.  It’s probably the one thing that I’m sort of loopy and obsessive about.

So, guys, great news – he’s not dead.  There was a ton of U2 playing on the radio this morning because the tickets went on sale for this summer’s shows.  And I didn’t know this in advance – I’m slipping.  But that’s OK.  I’ll be there – even if we have to move that summer vacation we just planned.

So, now that you think I’m certifiable, I’ll leave you with this.

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It’s one of my live favorites.  It makes me feel 15, 22, 29 and 38 — all at once.  Say what you will about Bono, about U2, but you can’t argue with any piece of music that transcends all the periods of your life.

And for that, I truly love my Other Husband.



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My Formerly Glamorous Life

Since we left the city for the suburbs last April, people seem to be shocked that I don’t miss it more.

It goes like this:

“You must miss the city so much!”  (head craned in sympathy)

“Nah.  I mean, there are days.  But, surprisingly, I’m really happy with the move.”

“Oh.  So, you like, uh, New Jersey?  How’s that…going?”

The truth is that I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would.  But, now and then, I do get wistful about my old life in Manhattan. 

But not always.  And not today.  Not when it’s bone cold outside.  Because it reminds me of a very stressful period in my life last winter when the morning ritual of getting two small kids to daycare in this weather pushed me to the brink of insanity. 

At that time, my husband had a new job that required him to leave before the kids woke up and to come home too late to pick them up at daycare.  And I also have a full-time job — one that expects me to be generally on time and pretty much mentally together.  So these were character-building days, folks.  If you had flashed back a year ago, this would have been my morning in Manhattan.

  • 6:15 — Tiptoe out of bed into the shower so the kids don’t wake up.  Promise God a new soup kitchen for the needy if the  baby would just sleep through the night.  Check Blackberry for work-related fires/crises that transpired overnight.
  • 6:20 — Attempt to have five minutes of peace in shower before the chaos begins.
  • 6:22:30 — Have shower interrupted by 1) two year-old announcing his arrival in the bathroom and opening shower curtain for morning conversation about Elmo, 2) six month-old crying in crib and 3) ringing Blackberry.
  • 6:30 — Retrieve Blackberry voice mail.  Check email again.  Respond to three colleagues in Japan before they go to sleep for the night.
  • 6:35 — Feed kids.  Dress them, perhaps more than once if someone spills/vomits/spits up.
  • 6:55 — Dress self, forgetting belt, jewelry or other random accessory.  Attempt to dry hair and look presentable.  Conclude this look is overrated.  Fantasize about breakfast that will surely not materialize.
  • 7:15 — Ignore red flashing light on Blackberry out of corner of eye.
  • 7:17 — Assemble the following items to cart to day care:  Bottles, diapers, jars of baby food, extra clothes (baby); lunch (toddler); various permission slips, medical forms that are long overdue.
  • 7:30 — Pack breast pump and all related accessories for work.
  • 7:35 — Wrestle toothbrush into mouth of two year-old.  Oh and self also — must brush own teeth.
  • 7:40 — Begin excruciating process of convincing two year-old to put on jacket, hat and gloves.  Bargain.  Plead. 
  • 7:50 — Ignore Blackberry. 
  • 7:55 — Strap toddler into double stroller in front of TV while wrestling baby into full bunting.
  • 8:00 — Place writhing baby into double stroller, strap everyone in.  Ensure that all day care items are stowed in bottom of stroller, breast pump on one shoulder and briefcase on the other.  Put on coat, hat and gloves even though apartment is sweltering because 1) heat is not controlled by tenants and 2) body temperature is at 101 degrees from wrestling children into stroller.
  • 8:05 — Dog!  Feed dog!  Sorry!  Keep kids in stroller, wedged against open apartment door.
  • 8:07 — Pine for coffee.  Fear looking at clock.
  • 8:10Negotiate double wide stroller into packed apartment building elevator, eliciting eye rolling and audible sighs from fellow tenants.
  • 8:15 — Stop on every floor on the way down (13 in total).  Sweat through winter coat.  Beg two year-old to stop crying about being strapped in stroller.
  • 8:17 — Arrive in lobby to find it is sleeting outside.  Again.  Find rain/snow cover thingy for the stroller buried under daycare supplies and attach it around entire perimeter of stroller while both children cry.  Consider selling soul to Satan for coffee.
  • 8:25 — Navigate snow/ice piles pushing 40 lbs of child weight in stroller.  Resent feeling of numbing ice pellets hitting face.  Panic briefly over possibility of a 9:00 conference call that may or may not have been confirmed.  Will never make it.
  • 8:30 — Realize, when strong wind comes along, that stroller cover is not properly secured and is now flapping about in the wind like a tarp.  Stop on sidewalk.  Drop all bags from shoulder and resecure stroller cover.  Answer questions about trucks, buses and police cars from two year-old.
  • 8:35 — Begin to display signs of pathological need for coffee.  Food would be nice, too.
  • 8:35:30 — Realize [any item — insert here] was left at home and decide that there is no going back. 
  • 8:35:37 — Curse out husband’s new job.  Repeat.
  • 8:40 — Manipulate double stroller through day care entryway and begin the unloading process.  First, the baby and her supplies.  Then, the toddler and his stuff.  They are in separate rooms, of course.  Chat with caregivers about necessary instructions for the day and kiss kids goodbye. 
  • 8:52 — Catch glimpse of clock.  Feel early warning signs of stroke.

  • 8:53 — Trade cursory niceties with other parents, who don’t seem to be experiencing the same type of morning.  Ponder why this is the case.
  • 8:55 — Break into sprint, carefully (watch the ice!), for the subway station.  Check Blackberry with one hand while running.  Assess just how late work arrival will be.  Pray for expeditious subway experience.
  • 9:00 — Curse out the MTA for delayed and overcrowded subway.  Repeatedly.  Question if Mayor Bloomberg *really* rides the subway every day or if his PR people are, in fact, that good.
  • 9:35 — Arrive at desk in full sweat and without coffee. 
  • 9:37 — Begin the day.  Repeat at 5pm for day care pick up.

Isn’t city life glamorous?  My life in the burbs isn’t so bad on days like today.

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