Category Archives: Complaining

The Bright Side of My Singlemotherhoodlife: A Top Five List

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600px-Nutella-1

What bright side?

No, no, that’s too depressing. On the eve of The Scientist’s return home (also known as a brief visit), I am determined to think about all the good things that happened while he was away. Because, you know, silver lining and all that.

So here’s my top 5:

5. Nutella. I grew up believing Nutella was disgusting (thanks, Mom). But, on a whim, I decided I was going to let the kids try it this week since The Scientist, who has a fatal nut allergy, isn’t here anyway. And in the meantime, I tried it, too. Let me tell you (and Mom) something: Nutella is NOT disgusting. It’s AMAZING. Best food discovery of my adult life.

4. Fresh Direct arrived in my neighborhood precisely the day The Scientist left! Coincidence or divine intervention?? As LL said (and I couldn’t agree more),”Now THIS is the way to shop.”

3. The Boy Babysitter. He’s come twice now. Booked for 3 more visits. And there will be even more, I assure you . . .

2. My beautiful, sexy, smart iPhone. Yes, after years of whining to you about not having one, I got one. My justification? Facetime! How else to remember I actually have a husband somewhere out there in the world. (Baby MoFo is a huge fan, too. In fact, he calls his dad, and they “hang out” while he watches Batman/Phineas and Ferb/The Backyardigans in Spanish because for some reason they’re gone from both TV and Netflix in English, and Dada does work. It’s great!).

1. Baby MoFo told me he loves me! Normally, he says, “I just love Dada.” If pressed, he will admit he also loves LL because “he’s my best brother.” But today, when I absolutely wouldn’t give him a popsicle until he said he loved me (that’s legit, right?), he said, sighing, something that he would never say if Dada were around: “OK, Mama. I love you a little.” Good enough! I’ll take it!

And that’s my list! If there’s more, I have been too steeped in vomit to notice!

Shana Tova

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Overheard at the nail salon today:

“Hey, Rachel, how are you?”

“Good. Tired.”

“You hosting?”

“Oh, Sarah. I am. Both nights!”

“Oy. Poor you. That’s so much work.”

“It’s OK. I hired a girl to help out with the cooking, the serving, and the clean up.”

“Oh good! So it shouldn’t be too bad.”

“No . . . I thought this was the best way to do it. Why should my nanny have to do everything by herself?”

. . .

Shana Tova to all the Yidden out there — the rich, the richer, and the rest.

Shana Tova! Love, Poor Princess, The Scientist, LL, Cool J, and Baby MoFo

Shana Tova! Love, Poor Princess, The Scientist, LL, Cool J, and Baby MoFo

Why I Can Vagabond My Kids All Over the World and Not Worry

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Yesterday, my kids started a new school. Not one of their friends from their old school are at their new school. It’s not in our neighborhood (or state; my mission is to have them try out Jewish schools in every American state and Canadian province and whatever they call them in the UK so that by the time they grow up, they will the world experts on Jewish schools. And NHL players, because that’s what they say they’re going to be. And doctors, because I always tack that on to NHL players). How will they make friends? Who will they talk to? Will it be like our arrival in the US a few years back when I got weekly calls from LL’s kindergarten teacher who would say encouraging things like “LL spoke in class today! I said his name and he whispered “Here.” Most of us even heard him!”?

In nervous anticipation of the transition, I turned–where else?–to Facebook. I scrolled through hundreds of friends. On the list: someone I spoke to twice at a conference in Barbados one year when she was dating someone who was a student in the program where The Scientist was a postdoc. She has since broken up with said student, who graduated, wrote a novel, and moved to England, and as for her, FB tells me she moved to Turkey and married a Turkish guy, and is having a birthday today, and all this is to say I am highly doubtful our paths will ever cross again, and I have no idea why she is on my friendlist. “Friend”? Marky Mark, can you come up with a variety of terms to designate these people who end up on our daily feeds?

Aha! I discover that a fellow who spent the year in Israel with The Scientist and me two decades ago has kids at the school my kids are about to attend. Thank you, Marky Mark. Loose ties are awesome. Sorry for the complaint.

I ding him. Back then, he was loud and obnoxious, which I don’t mean as an insult, because I’m also loud and obnoxious, and I was even louder and more obnoxious then. In fact, I rather liked him and his loud, obnoxious crowd.

He’s a rabbi now. Which somehow makes perfect sense. Who wants a quiet, mousy rabbi?

“We’re meeting Rabbi Loud’s kids tonight,” I tell my kids after arranging a date with his absolutely fabulous wife. “Please pretend you’re not obnoxious.” I have the word obnoxious in my head. Also, my kids are obnoxious. In fact, as I say this to them, they are beating each other with sticks. “You need to have friends in your new school.”

LL pshaws me. “Oh, mama, of course we’ll make friends.”

We arrive at their house, the kids all run off to play Wii, and they’re immediate besties. Guess LL was right.

He and Cool J start school. They’ll be taking the bus, but I drive them on the first day, worried they will be worried. They are not worried. I go home, and I wait anxiously for them to return. “Hey, Mama,” they call out as they burst through the door. They are all smiles. I ask a hundred questions; they ask to play Wii. “Can you tell me one thing?” I ask. “Did you have any friends? Did you talk to Rabbi Loud’s son?” LL looks at me like I’m crazy. “Of course I did,” he says. “He’s my best friend.” “He is?” “Well, of course he is. He’s the only person I know!”

I get fewer details from Cool J, but today he comes home with double the smile he had on yesterday. “Did you have fun at school?” I ask. “YES!! It was the best day at school ever!!” “It was?” I ask, delighted. “Well, sure,” he says. “It was better than yesterday, and there have only been two days, so it was the best day at school EVER!”

My kids are happy, positive people. Sometimes I think LL has something of my grandmother’s spirit in him (she was rather a glass half empty kind of person), but maybe I’m just mixing them up because they both love(d) to eat matzah year-round. Remind me of this when I’m obsessively scrolling through my FB friendlist next year in anticipation of our move to the UK.

new school

The Long, Long, LONG Way Home

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There is still a bit more to come before our house comes into sight–a few dozen miles, an accident that closes the highway, a bodega stop for bread, juice, and milk–but with only an hour to go, the boys at last descend into sleep, some 48 hours, 4 flights, 7 airports, a train, a monorail, two double decker buses, a subway, a rental car, two shuttles, a taxi, one hotel room, and four major cities (Istanbul, London, Washington, and New York City) after leaving the apartment they’d briefly called home in Tel Aviv.

Sleepy time NYE

A little respite at a highway-side hotel.

Oh, but what a fun trip! We went on the London Eye and up Masada! We rested our foreheads against the holy stones of the Kotel and admired the art of the Tate Modern! We floated in the Dead Sea, ate our weight in hummus, and once, briefly, saw the sun shine over the UK. What more could we have asked for?

So what if we had to get up at 2am in Tel Aviv for our 5:20 flight–but still had to run to make it after an argument with our car rental agency over the amount of gas in the car, the dead GPS, and the random charges tacked on at the last minute, nevermind the multiple lines of rigorous security? So what if, starving, I tried to buy the only edible food at the airport in Istanbul–a 3-euro chocolate bar–only to be told that the system declared it to be 4 euros, and, when I refused to buy it (on principle) and then handed the cashier a 2.50-euro chocolate, I was only given 1 euro change (“I don’t have 50 cents,” she said, “So you will take 1 euro.” “Um, yeah, no I won’t.” “You will.” “I won’t.” “Then here is your 10 euro and leave my store.” Well screw you too, lady!), and in the end I came out with nothing? So what if we had to wait in line for hours at Stansted, were exhausted when we got to the hotel in London, and then, attempting to take one last doubledecker bus around town to please the kids, found that after paying our 2.30 pounds each, our bus only went a block past our hotel? So what if we had to get up in the middle of the night–again–to catch a flight from Heathrow that flew directly over our house and way past it to Washington, DC? So what if we then flew not to where we left from (and where our car was), but to La Guardia instead, and when we arrived, the jetway was broken and we could not get off the plane? So what if after finally getting off the plane, we bought a ticket to the other airport, but the shuttle, instead, dumped us at Grand Central, telling us it’s New Year’s Eve (oh, really?) and all the roads are closed, and this is the last stop, so–goodbye and good luck!?

GC NYE

A few blocks and a few hours away from the ball dropping.

According to The Scientist, the only thing the kids are going to remember from our 3-week adventure is our arrival in NYC: me yelling F-You at the driver who dumped us at Grand Central and doing my one-person sit-in on his bus.

Does this mean it wasn’t all worth it? Did I mention the boys rode on a camel?

Gamal gadol

Gamal gadol

Did I mention we saw thousands of drunk Santas handing out candy at Trafalgar Square?

Santacon

Santacon

Did I mention we floated in the Dead Sea?

The requisite "I'm pretending to read a newspaper" in the Dead Sea picture

The requisite “I’m pretending to read a newspaper in the Dead Sea” picture

Oh yeah, I mentioned that one already.

But I guess the long and short of it is: 48 hours of hell on the return was worth a lifetime of memories that–for some of us anyway–should extend beyond my rear end on the stair of a bus parked in front of Grand Central in NYC while I shouted a bevy of swear words and threats.

“Oh yeah? Well, then, do call the cops on me! I dare you! Please please do! What’s that? Happy new year? Don’t you ‘Happy New Year’ me! Fuck you! Fuck you and your new year!”

By which I mean, of course, happy new year to you all.

The Worst Tooth Fairy Ever

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The Scientist leads a glamorous life. Last week he jetted off West; this week East. Well, OK, the West was Minnesota (be sure to pronounce like a toothless hockey player)–not so glamorous. The East, however, is Portugal–not too shabby. He jets off here, he jets off there, and poor Poor Princess–I jet off nowhere. I stay home playing mommy–chef and chauffeur, judge and jury, teacher and trainer. And tooth fairy. Twice.

It was me who couldn’t handle the tooth.

The first time LL lost a tooth during the Scientist’s trip to Minnesota, all went smoothly. LL wrote the tooth fairy a note kindly asking for $2, put his tooth under his pillow, and I swapped his note and tooth for 2 dollar bills. Fait accomplit. Good Tooth Fairy. Good mommy.

But the second time–the second time The Scientist was also gone a second time–a second time in the span of a week. And this time he wasn’t only gone for 3 days across the country, but 7 across the ocean. And even though it was only a couple of days into those 7, back-to-back full-time mommying was making me tired. Damn tired.

That evening, the kids kept getting out of bed with one excuse or another. “Mama, I’m thirsty.” “Mama, I need to poo.” “Mama, can you come cuddle with me again?” “Mama, can you give me a math problem?” “No fair–I want a math problem!” “Me too!” And then finally, “Mama–come see all the blood!”

“What??”

“I lost another tooth!”

I debate getting up. “Come downstairs,” I finally say. “Let me see.”

Bloody Hell. It was true.

Bloody Hell. It was true.

“OK,” I say, too tired to even rise from the sofa. “Stick it under your pillow, and I’m sure the tooth fairy will come.”

Only–she didn’t.

She fell asleep on the sofa, and then woke herself up long enough to brush her teeth before collapsing in bed.

The next morning, I’m awoken to a wail. “Maaaammmaaaa! The tooth fairy didn’t come! My tooth is STILL here!”

“Uh–um–uh–”

Cool J sits up in bed. “Did you write her a note? Did you ask for anything? How would she know she had to come and give you something?”

Ah, Cool J. My savior.

***

That night, LL sat down at the table and wrote the Tooth Fairy a note: “Dear Tooth Fairy, Can I please have $2? Thank you.” He turned the two o’s in Tooth into eyeballs with long eyelashes, and signed his name, first and last.

“I’m sure she’ll come this time,” I say. I write my own notes–at least five, though they’re virtual, not physical–and I plant them in different places in my brain. Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget. “I’m sure she’ll come this time,” I say again.

Only–she didn’t.

Repeat of the previous night. I was watching Kristen Stewart (I’m committed to trashy TV during the Scientist’s absence: the night before it was stuttering Stewart in New Moon, this time in Eclipse) trying to be oh-so-cool in her Northwest grunge (seriously? Is that still in style there?) and wondering how Robert Pattinson is not getting that awful red lipstick all over her, and just feeling generally uncomfortable by their permanently-pained facial expressions (are they constipated??) (Thank goodness for Jacob–Ooooooh, Jacob . . .!). And then my brain went dead.

When the alarm went off the next morning, I hit snooze. But when I started dreaming of teeth falling from the sky, I bolted awake. Shit!!!! I dashed down the stairs, grabbed my wallet, took out 3 one-dollar bills–the kid deserves interest at this point–and ran upstairs to arrive precisely at the moment that LL is sitting up, hands on his pillow, about to lift it. I slide my hand under the pillow just as it rises from the bed. I swap the tooth for the cash. Success! I am unable to grab the note–LL has already noticed its presence and is asking me why the Tooth Fairy didn’t either a) take his note, or b) write him back–but who cares. My mission was a success. A last minute, under-the-wire success.

I am relieved.

LL, however, is not. “Why did she give me $3?”

“I guess she felt bad that she didn’t come the first night, so she gave you extra. Well, that was nice of her, wasn’t it?”

“No, it wasn’t right. I asked for $2.” A child’s justice is highly inflexible.

“Oh, that’s OK. Just be happy you got more.”

“No, I’m not supposed to get more. That’s not right.”

“The Tooth Fairy didn’t do good?”

“No!”

The whole day LL sat there with the three dollar bills in his hands, wondering aloud what was wrong with the tooth fairy–can’t she read???

That Tooth Fairy needs an early retirement–or at least a vacation!

Dear Scientist, come on home, won’t you?

Poor Princess Meets Frankenstorm

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At 4:21, I’m getting on an airplane to Go west, Young woman! —Not that I’m really young, but I’m about to behave as though I am. After all, here’s what I’m going to do when I arrive in Scottsdale, Arizona, where today’s high is 87 degrees and–what else?–sunny:

I’m going to meet with 7 other fantastic mamas from far-flung cities.

We’re going to go on an artwalk. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. Maybe dance?

Tomorrow, we’re going to get up early and go on a canyoneering trip. What’s that? Well, let me tell you: We get driven in 4x4s across the desert. We then hike and scramble; we rappel down waterfalls; we swim across crystal clear springs. We do some other stuff. It’s all insanely awesome and beautiful.

Check out the pictures.

Then, when we’re good and tired, we go home, quick shower, quick-quick beautification–

PP and Salsa Shaker — Jewish Mamas’ Annual — 2011

and then off to dinner at Cowboy Ciao where some of us will indulge in duckfat ice cream (and some of us will definitely not!). Where then? The night is young, and all that is calling our names in the next couple of days is the pool, long runs, perhaps a hike,  some shopping, lunches with aguas frescas, dinners with lots of alcohol, and who knows–maybe we’ll have to hit the V Spot again, as we did on one of our previous Jewish Mamas’ Annual Scottsdale Trip–

2010 –where we all learn the word “vagazzle” — but none of us were daring enough to try it. (Tatazzling seemed a safer bet).

Now there’s a business model I bet you didn’t think of!

Or maybe find a post-Halloween Halloween party–

The trip will end with me meeting some very old friends for a much-needed catching up. And I will return to my family happy, refreshed, and full of love.

It’s the perfect Fall Break and the perfect Girls’ Weekend. Which is why it’s the THIRD annual.

Except — poor, poor, poor Princess.

That’s not what is happening today. I can sing “I’m leaving on a jet plane” all I want (FYI–it’s Chantal Kreviazuk I’m channeling, not John Denver), but I am not leaving on a jet plane today, thanks to this baby–

Instead, I am huddled in my house where the temperature is not 87 or 77 or 67. It’s 53F.

I’m under 4 blankets with four other people and we’re all hacking away like a bunch of consumptives sleeping together in a freezing Lower East Side tenement at the turn of the 20th century.

From Jacob Riis’s time — not so different?

We have no heat, no electricity, no home phone service, no cell service, and no internet. When we’re not under the blankets, we’re smushed together in my office–surrounded by offices where people are trying to actually work–and fighting over the screens (oh internet, I miss you so!). And when we get good and hungry, we’ll wait in line with the rest of the town to get into the one restaurant that’s running. It’s all good.

I really really really want to leave on a jet plane today, but with roads blocked or jammed, and transit not running, there’s no way of getting to the airport and getting the fuck outta here. Poor, poor Princess.

The Congenial Academy

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“Whatever you do, do not be nice to anyone. No favors. No help. No collaboration.

If you want to get ahead, only think of yourself.”

The speaker at the panel was not, as you might imagine, Gordon Gekko. The conference was not on Wall Street. The theme was not–quite–“greed is good.” This was, instead, a roundtable at a conference on ethnic American literature, and the speaker was a distinguished professor of English. The room was packed, more than any other panel I attended at the conference, as finishing graduate students looking for jobs, tenure-track faculty hoping for T&P (tenure and promotion), and even tenured associate professors hoping to become full professors listened and asked question after question. The title of the panel was “How not to Perish.”

I’m pretty sure my friends who are not academics think we’re all a bunch of hippies, the men too lazy too shave, the women too feminist to shave, everyone sitting around, wedged between books upon books, some piled in corners, some stuffed into milk crates or Ikea furniture. All are frizzy haired and bejeweled in some kind of “native” chunky jewelery purchased at a conference in Africa or India or South America or New Mexico, all busy thinking of ways to satisfy their Marxist, or better yet, lefty pinko dreams (I take these adjectives directly from my the lips of a family member), all completely disconnected from the “real” cutthroat, demanding world, evident, of course, in their not grooming (my sister, Nancy Botwin, tells me I’m the lowest maintenance person she’s ever met). We fight a lot, one imagines–against oppressive regimes, bankers, Republicans. That kind of thing.

The failures to wax, thread, shave, visit the hair salon, or apply lipstick aside, academics don’t strike me as dreamy idealists who spend all day writing petitions that no one will ever read. I wish, frankly, that were the case. Instead, I cannot help but note that this advice given by Distinguished Professor is the norm in academia. You think Wall Street is cutthroat? I can one-up you, Wall Street. Minus, of course, your fancy salary (but don’t worry–I am writing a petition against yours, you lowdown capitalist pig! I’m going to circulate it to all the class theorists I know!). How many times have I heard DP’s words from the mouths of advisors and colleagues? World peace, yes, but departmental peace? The word on the academic street is this: Screw all you all. I will get to the top (tenure, promotion, that book contract) by stomping on your head (of frizzy undyed hair) with my kick-ass steel-bottomed Birkenstocks.

Ah, what a world.

Now wish me luck on the job market ’12!