Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Grass Is Greener.

Kiyomi had a dentist appointment on Friday morning to fill two cavities. Turns out that diet we've had her on of juice boxes and lollipops isn't good for her after all. And that toothbrush that I carved for her out of a solid block of sugar? Not helping.

I came home after dropping her off at school in the morning but barely had time to drink my coffee before it was time to go pick her up for her appointment. I only had a few minutes, but in an effort to make myself presentable to other humans I sped through my morning routine:

1. Start to brush hair and give up after realizing it will take heavy machinery to finish the job.

2. Start to apply makeup and give up after realizing it will take heavy machinery to finish the job.

3. Start to put together a smashing outfit but give up when I realize it will take an act of God to find anything clean in my clothes pile.

4. Put on sunglasses in hopes that no one will recognize me in my current state.

We got there early and I was relieved to see they had US Magazine in the waiting room - I was beginning to feel woefully left out of the whole Nick/Jessica debate and I seized this as valuable research time to catch up on the facts. I was busy using a Sharpie to blacken out all of Nick's teeth when a woman walked in pushing a baby in a stroller and accompanied by a small boy who appeared to be around four. She sat down next to me and I couldn't help but notice how neat and put together she was, maybe because at that moment I had attempted to sweep the hair away from my face and now my entire hand was inexorably stuck, tangled for life in my matted mane.

She was dressed in a skirt and neatly pressed (ironed!) shirt, the boots on her feet shiny and scuff-free (polished!) Her (untangled) hair was pulled into a smooth ponytail and her makeup, if she was wearing any, was flawless (glowing!) Why, put a glass of chardonnay and a cheeses plate in front of her and she could have been holding court at a cocktail party instead of waiting for her kid's teeth to be jackhammered.

I managed to free my now bloodied hand from my tresses and started to say something, to ask her how she managed to look so decent with two young children but I knew it would come out as "I hate you, you impeccably-groomed freak of nature" so I stopped myself. While I was patting myself on the back for this remarkable show of restraint I happened to look down at my own outfit, my rumpled jeans, my reasonably hip but wrinkled t-shirt and suddenly felt so...un-together.

Much like being able to tell the age of a tree by counting its rings, I can do the same with the stains on my jeans. Coffee? Ketchup? Hoisin sauce? Crissakes, according to my calculations Id been wearing those things since February. 2005. My t-shirt was clean, thank God, but how long had I been wearing the same pair of socks? And my jacket? I believe Clinton was in office the last time that thing saw the inside of a washing machine.

The question is, when did I go from being that woman to this woman? And frankly, was I ever that woman? I honestly feel like the day I popped my first child out nine and half years ago strangely coincided with the day that all personal grooming products mysteriously vanished from my home. And the last time I actually ironed a piece of clothing? Let's just say that it was taffeta and I was getting ready for the Junior Formal. And I guess the bigger question is, why was I comparing myself to a stranger in a dentist's waiting room?

Luckily Kiyomi's name was called before I was able to spiral down into that deep dark hole of despair I was hovering over. As I was getting up to leave I took one last look at the woman sitting next to me and noticed a small, almost imperceptible spot on the sleeve of her otherwise spotless shirt. Spittle? Milkshake? Grey Poupon? I felt a small tingle of relief - she was human after all, and probably fraught with some of the same insecurities and uncertainties as me. I was enlightened and walked out of the waiting room with my head held high. Now somebody buy me a hairbrush.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yeah, Van Gogh Was Okay. But The Guy Who Draws Pokemon? Now There's Real Talent.

Recently Rigel and I decided that our lives were in need of a cultural boost. Nothing drastic - a museum here, a concert there - anything to get our right-brains out of the house and away from the TV. While we have no intention of turning into art snobs, we feel some sort of intervention is in order when you hear your daughter using 'Hilary Duff' and 'musical genius' in the same sentence. Also, we were starting to worry that their cultural deficiencies would end up haunting the girls after they were grown. "Why yes, warden, I'm certain that my inability to appreciate 18th century vase painting is what led me to hijack that plane."

Before the girls were born, and even for a short time when they were younger, we spent a lot of time going to museums and galleries, but nowadays the most we can muster is a trip to the Getty Center a couple of times a year. We rarely make it to any of the exhibits, though - most of our visit is spent roaming their gardens and having lunch in the museum café. I admit it does get a little embarrassing when anyone asks us afterwards, "Oh, did you enjoy the Renaissance exhibit?" and I am forced to answer "No, but the corn chowder and caesar combo was excellent."

On Sunday we went to see ashes and snow. I highly recommend it to anyone, even if you are not, like us, desperately trying to rescue your family from the cultural abyss. The structure it's housed in is amazing in itself; boxcars that have been stacked in a checkerboard pattern and connected by fabric-like material to form a huge structure that is 56 feet tall. The show consists of photographs and short films by a Canadian artist and shows the natural interaction between humans and animals. Animals! Surely it was the hook that would draw in our two little pop-culture addicts.

What was made clear to us was the vast differences in our two daughters and, while only two years apart, their varying abilities to appreciate what they were seeing. Kira was drawn to the photographs and was excited that she could identify some of the wild cats in a few of the pieces. While she was pointing out the cheetahs and meerkats to Rigel a small crowd started to gather. By the time I made my way through to her she was just ending with, "...and in conclusion: let not the looming extinction of the lynx be traced back to your bloodied elitist hands. Thank you for your time."

Meanwhile Kiyomi could be heard snickering 'boobies' and 'butt' as she moved through the exhibit, walking backwards and with one eye closed, just for fun. I tried my best to get her involved in the experience, but have you ever tried to explain the photographic process to a seven year old? She had a look on her face that I've only seen on Rigel when I've tried to explain the difference between a maxi pad and a panty liner. At one point she looked deeply engrossed in a photo and motioned me over. Expecting to hear her version of an artistic epiphany I leaned in and she whispered, "Seriously, if I don't get something to drink I'm going to die." This came only after we had been there fifteen minutes so I knew that leaving wasn't an option, but it did suddenly remind me that I hadn't yet had my afternoon cappuccino. And it got me thinking: Would a tastefully designed food kiosk have been so out of place here? Nothing fancy - coffee, mixed nuts, maybe some corn dogs. After all, don't snooty art patrons have to eat sometime too?

I'm looking forward to the next leg of Operation Enlightement in spite of the mixed reviews that ashes and snow got from our girls. When Rigel asked Kiyomi what her favorite part was she replied, "Right before we went inside" and Kira, while enthusing over some of the images she had seen, made it a point to express her disappointment in the caliber of the gift shop. So, yes we have a ways to go, but we already have plans to see this next month. And the best part? According to their website, they definitely have a snack bar.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Couldn't You Just Do It For Me?

"I'm locked inside the storage space. I know it says they close at seven, but I didn't think they would close at seven."


"Are you writing about this?"


(Five minutes later.)

"Okay. I called the emergency number. They're opening the gate."


"Well, sorry to ruin such a great story for your blog."

"Are you sure you can get out?"

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Fudge you? Why, Don't Mind If I Do.

I remember an English teacher I had in the tenth grade whose style of teaching was extremely old-fashioned. In fact, I was convinced she had time-traveled from another century, wandered onto our campus with it's fancy electricity and running water and was now absolutely perplexed as to what to do with these rapscallions she was in charge of educating. She spent a great deal of time just being exasperated by us, her high school students, and barely hid her disdain for our room full of miscreants. Hey look here! Rascally young people! No-good long-hairs, the lot of them! Have a seat, sonny, before I tan your hide!

The one thing that seemed to bother her the most was our foul language, in particular our use of the word fuck. And, while it was not a part of our everyday classroom vocabulary it was muttered enough during times of duress to cause her to explode one day, and ban the word from her classroom. From then on out, she scolded, if we had the urge to utter the profanity we could civilly substitute for it the word 'fudge.'

This proved to provide just the entertainment a bunch of smart-assed teenagers needed to get us through dreary days of Shakespearean soliloquies and group readings of The Scarlet Letter. Word games were fun, and we embraced it with all the gusto that a bunch of profanity-starved adolescents could muster. Soon we were moaning, "Oh, fudge!" upon hearing of an upcoming test, or using "Fudgin' hot" to describe the latest 'Kool and the Gang' album. And then there was the ever-popular, "That's fudged up! Fudge you, motherfudger."

Just a few weeks of these monkeyshines were enough to push her over the edge once again, and she proclaimed one day that the substitute had become just as notorious as the original, and we were now prohibited from using the word 'fudge.' This made us all giggle, and of course it was just too good an opportunity for some of us (not me, for once) to pass up. My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but I remember someone bringing up a visit to grandma's and baking up a nice batch of yummy fuck brownies. I feel bad about it now, but I recall hearing that the last anyone saw of that teacher she was running screaming from the campus, tearing up her credentials and cussing a blue streak.

I thought of that poor woman recently when I noticed that Kira and her friends were using the word 'frick' in their everyday, fourth-grade conversations. "Fricken homework" could be heard at the end of the school day and "What the frick?" greeted a lame 'American Idol' performance. As with many things our children do, it started out being unbelievably cute and amusing and then, after the hundredth time, quickly became downright annoying. Finally, the other day when she came home complaining she had to do a "Fricken report on a fricken disease" I put my foot down and told her it bothered me to hear her say ‘frick’ so often. She looked at me quizzically and asked, "Why? Is it a bad word?" "Well, no," I answered, "but I just don't think you should say it. No more saying 'frick!'"

As I was uttering those last words, my voice went up an octave and I could hear it coming out of my throat, sounding eerily like my tenth grade English teacher. It was mortifying, really, one of those moments that makes you feel so old, and it left me wondering, "Who the fudge am I turning into?"

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Baby, You Can Clean My Car

When I was getting out of the car this morning I knocked over my purse and it spilled all over the floor of the van. As I was reaching behind the seat to gather up the quarters and dimes that constitute my life's savings, my hand brushed up against something dry and scaly and I pulled back and screamed a little, convinced that I just had my first ever snake encounter. Snakes! In A Car! You know, this movie is coming out, so it is entirely possible.

As I looked closer, though, I saw that it was in fact not a reptilian creature out to eat me whole, but a rather large, burnt french fry. On closer inspection I saw that it was being kept company by several other mummified french fries, a pencil, an unwrapped gumball and what appeared to be an old piece of hamburger bun that had fossilized into solid rock. Funny, but I think I see the face of the Virgin Mary in it, so I put it in my pocket for safekeeping.

I would lie and say that this was an anomaly, that I had fallen behind in my car maintenance and had let things go, just this once. But, in fact, this is the perpetual state of my neglected vehicle, as much a receptacle for trash and old food as it is a means of transportation. Look inside on any given day and you are likely to find: Food items in various states of decay, DVD's and DVD covers (not necessarily matching), cups with unrecognizable liquids in them, broken writing instruments, juice boxes advertising movies that left the theaters months ago, and copious quantities of Starbucks napkins and wooden stirring sticks (Should an emergency arise and someone needs to stir the hell out of their cappuccino.) There is an unidentifiable stain on the floor in the middle aisle - I suspect that the origins of Bird Flu, West Nile and several strains of hepatitis will eventually be traced back to organisms found in this very carpet.

With three rows of seats, there is ample opportunity for trash-accumulating. This and the fact the the girls have a tendency to sit in the back row where I hardly ever venture to do any housecleaning. I fully expect one day to discover a homeless man living back there, comfortably hunkered down between the pile of forgotten sweaters and that bag of clothes I've been meaning to drop off at Goodwill. He will berate me for driving around with such squalor and then thank me for all the half-drunk Jamba juices and spilled trail mix he's been able to live off of for the past two years.

As you can imagine, this doesn't always set well with Rigel. For most men, a dirty, messy car is an abomination, a crime that should be punishable by law. When we first bought the van he would clean it out occasionally for me, falling for my complaints that I was just too busy to be cleaning cars when I had children to raise, damnit. Lately he's given up, though, and will only attempt a minor purging on the weekends when he knows he'll actually have to set foot inside. On these occasions he can be seen making numerous trips back and forth between the house and the car filling and then emptying several grocery bags filled with trash and various other items that have accumulated and turned our seven-passenger vehicle into a four-seater. He usually does this stoically and silently, although he does stop occasionally to give me an exasperated look that says, "If you really loved me you'd throw your empty coffee cups away."

Rigel's birthday is coming up, and I am seriously thinking of surprising him on that day by waking up early and taking the car to be detailed, one of those deluxe jobs where they use a Q-tip to clean the radio buttons and soak all the interior fabrics in battery acid to get out all the ketchup stains. I think that this will be better than those concert tickets I was thinking of getting him, or that guitar even. When he sees the van in the driveway, clean and shiny and without a single Cheeto smashed into the armrest, I'm sure he'll cry real tears.

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Monday, March 13, 2006


Little Guppy is dead.

He was Kiyomi's goldfish, one of four given to my girls almost two years ago by a classmate's mom when she arrived to pick up her children after a playdate. She walked in bearing two small bowls housing two fish in each, and asked me, "You don't mind, do you?" as plain as that, as if she hadn't just thrust four more lifeforms into our household unannounced. In light of the fact that Kira and Kiyomi were so excited they were practically licking the sides of the bowls, I didn't have the heart to say no, although I so wanted to ask her, "You couldn't just bring over a goddamned pie?" The family moved to another city shortly after that, which saddened me because I had planned to return the favor by gifting them with a corral of ponies or perhaps a newborn infant at the conclusion of our next playdate.

So, although we were being dragged into fish-ownership against our will, we went out that night and spent almost a hundred dollars on an aquarium, fish food and various overpriced aquarium decor. Because no goldfish of ours, no matter how unplanned for, were going to live in a home without a teeny castle, an undersea cave and a simulated ocean floor made from neon-blue rocks! They promptly named them: Kiyomi chose Little Guppy and Burpie, Kira decided on Melanie and Max. The girls stayed glued to the front of the aquarium, watching their new friends in awe, for all of one week - after that the novelty wore off and the job of feeding the fish and maintaining the tank fell to Rigel and I. (In all fairness, I have to admit that the actual cleaning of the tank is done by Rigel. I was assigned the arduous task of shaking a capful of fish flakes into their watery home every night. Also, it is my job, every couple of weeks or so, to announce, "This here tank stinks to high heaven. Somebody maintain it already.")

Well aware of the short life-span of the household goldfish, we had spent some time preparing the girls for this inevitable day. So when I noticed Little Guppy's lifeless, upside-down body floating at the top of the tank right before bedtime last night, I steeled myself and launched into my "Circle of Life He's Up There With The Angels What A Long Good Life He Had For A Fish" speech. Seemingly unmoved by my passionate discourse, they just continued to stare at the tank and then after a few minutes Kira said, "Should we just flush him down the toilet?"

Kiyomi seemed unaffected at first, too, eagerly volunteering to scoop him out of the tank and into a waiting container, but afterwards, when she buried herself under her covers and wouldn't come up for her goodnight kiss I knew she was crying. I tried comforting her but it wasn't working, so I asked her if it would help to draw a picture and write a letter to her departed friend. She said yes, and came out from under her blanket, although she seemed suspiciously more excited by the fact that she was going to be delaying her bedtime by an additional fifteen minutes and kept telling me, "Do not rush me, mommy. I am sad." She didn't want me to read the letter because it was "private, between me and Little Guppy" so I promised not to. But here is the picture she drew.

We buried Little Guppy after school today, right behind the girls' playhouse. We made a marker and Kiyomi spent some time gathering rocks and flowers. Kiyomi said, "Goodbye Little Guppy. You made life interesting" and I tried not to laugh when Kira said, "You're in a better place. In the dirt." Here is his grave.

And thus we have experienced our first pet death. I hope nobody comes over for a playdate and gives us a puppy.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Home Sweet Home.

Tonight Kira and Kiyomi are going to a slumber party to celebrate the birthday of one of their best friends, Samantha. This won't be the first time we've been away from them, since once a year Rigel and I dupe some unsuspecting soul into watching them for twenty-four hours while we steal away for our anniversary. Also, they've been on sleepovers individually but not together, and this is only the second time since we've had children (ten years) that we will be spending the night in our home without the two of them. The first time was when we were moving into this house and our friends took them overnight while we dealt with the chaos. That almost doesn't count, though, since it's fairly impossible to feel romantic when you're surrounded by five thousand moving boxes and obsessively scrubbing the toilets because, oh God, strangers' butts have sat on them.

Tonight we'll start off with dinner with friends, and after that the possibilities are endless. Once we've come home, changed into our evening gown and smoking jacket and filled our cognac snifters, here are some things that we could do that aren't possible with a seven and nine year old underfoot:

Tantric sex while hanging from the chandelier. (Oh, wait, we don't have a chandelier. Oh, wait, we actually have time to go buy a chandelier.)

Sit out by the fire pit without having to roast marshmallows or yell, "I'm not going to tell you again. The cat does not like fire."

Go naked. Without anyone pointing and laughing. (Rigel, is that asking too much?)

Have a conversation without the theme to "SpongeBob" playing in the background.

Give each other a kiss without hearing, "Ewwwwww!" (Unless the neighbors are around.)

Go to the bathroom without feeling like you're being watched. (Once again, unless the neighbors are around.)

Sleep soundly knowing we will not be awakened to dispense water or any varieties of Triaminic.

Go an entire evening without hearing "Can I have a snack?" unless it is used as a euphemism.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


There are days when the words flow freely. I have moments when the ideas emerge in bursts of clarity. There are times when my thoughts are effortlessly interpreted into words and then develop into a coherent, thought-provoking essay or discourse that I hope will ultimately both entertain and inform. And then there are days when I know that no matter how hard I try, no matter how deep I dig, I will never be able to come up with something as good as this:


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Monday, March 06, 2006

Work It.

In early January I was asked by a client to take on a design job for a major software company, whose name I won't mention here as I would hate for them to be associated with a site that can be found by Googling the words gagging crack whores. I will say that the owner of the company is an extremely wealthy man, so wealthy that I've heard his mansion overlooking Seattle is made of solid gold bricks and that he can often be found on his lawn raking $1000 bills into big piles for his children to jump into. These may be rumors and in no way influenced the sudden spike in my hourly design fee nor my uncharacteristic enthusiasm for earning a wage.

This whole recent job started off smoothly enough but soon evolved into a much more complicated project. As the deadline neared the time constraints became apparant and as usual I found myself struggling to figure out where my priorities lay and how to successfully manage my career and home. For instance, if the client is asking for a complete re-design of the piece I just sent out, do I have one margarita or two glasses of wine to dull the pain? These are the types of important questions that have plagued me in my quest to find a meaningful balance between a professional and personal life.

For the past ten years I have worked out of my home. Prior to that I had a studio downtown with several employees, but once I got pregnant with Kira I decided that it was the perfect time to scale down and set up a home office in order to spend time with her and the ten subsequent children I planned to give birth to. Although that number was reluctantly scaled down to two, I feel my decision to work at home was a good one. I'm grateful every day to be able to earn a living while avoiding human interaction with clients and vendors, an activity that used to put a serious crimp in my personal time. Call it sick, but there is something unmistakably subversive in being able to conduct business over the phone with the biggest software company on the planet while wearing only your pajama bottoms and a bra.

In the beginning of my work-at-home odyssey I struggled with the degree of professionalism I could manage to uphold. I felt that even though I spent entire days with my hair unbrushed and wearing a bathrobe stained with baby spittle, it was best not to disclose that to a client. I became accustomed to explaining the wailing in the background as 'some crazy neighbor's cat' and making scribbling noises on the diaper pad to simulate furious note-taking. I soon found, however, that attempting to discuss serious business while trying to hide the fact that a ten-pound human is suckling at your breast is inherently impossible and I decided to come clean. Anyone who couldn't handle the fact that I was a working mom was not anyone I would want to work with in the first place, I declared, pumping my fist in the air Norma Rae fashion. The three brave clients that remained were rewarded handsomely with riveting stories about sleep deprivation and musings about various hues of baby poop and their number coordinates on the Pantone color chart.

These days I still try and conduct business in the same manner I vowed to, although the subject matter has evolved over the years and I've gotten more selective about the details of my life I choose to disclose, especially with new clients. So when the job came in early this year from that company I made it a point to be a little more discreet. While I was still honest about the fact that our conference call would have to wait until I got back from my daughter's school orchestra performance, I stopped short of admitting that that night's cable showing of 'EuroTrip' would hinder my ability to get those layout revisions done overnight. I felt this allowed me to have some semblance of professionalism along with the appearance of involved parenting, while also concealing from these captains of industry my poor taste in television. It's a win-win situation.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

There are many things I could have done last night. Paid some bills. Cleaned out a closet. Written something intelligible for my blog, even. But instead, I chose to watch an entire hour of American Idol followed by another mind-sucking hour of Skating With Celebrities. Sure, I could say it was for Kira and Kiyomi, a real bonding time between mother and children, but the sad truth is I love that crap. Yes I do. So now all I have for you is this:

Introducing The Bob Costa-nettes.

My favorite quotes of the Winter Olympics came not from any of the TV announcers or athletes, but from my own children. Of course, there may have been some clever quips out there - I just didn't hear them because I was too busy fawning over my own progeny.

Kira (watching the clowns trotting out during the closing ceremonies): Omigod. They're a bunch of clowns. Literally.

and later that evening:

Kiyomi (obviously disapproving of Avril Lavigne's new glam look): You are DEAD TO ME!!! DEAD TO MEEEEE!!!!!

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Internet Is Damned.

Holy crap. Make your own here.


The Internet Is Shaken Not Stirred.

This is Jack. Go to him. Go to him now.

(thanks Rigel)


The Internet Is Funny And Meloncholy
At The Same Time.

Must. Watch. Them all.

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