22 February 2008


There are events every parent dreads- yet expects- will happen. Like the kid who asks why that man is so fat- in front of that man. Or repeats something unsavory you said about the neighbor. Today I exited the shower to find the kids playing tug-o-war with my vibrating dildo. Moments before, when it became suspiciously quiet, I peeked around the curtain and saw Otto waving a naughty feather duster. Hastily rinsing only half of the conditioner, I told the kids to stay out of mommy's drawer and rehearsed all the answers to all the questions I would hear. The experts recommend preparing for such challenging times. Scripting your answers just in case. Like when the 4 year old walks in and sees naked Mommy on top of naked Daddy and asks, "What are you doing?"

I am very interested in raising sexually healthy future adults. I want to my children to have confidence and pride in their bodies. I want them to learn to love in their own ways. I read a great book on the subject before I was even pregnant. Every day at work, I hear and give advice on the intimate details of a wide variety of sexual issues. I love asking my 70 year old patients if they are sexually active. Stella knows what her vulva is and that touching it is a private affair. And yet, I was wholly unprepared to see the Blue Ripple in Stella's hands and the speed controller in Otto's.

"What's this, Mama?"


"Give it to me."

"What is it?!"

"It's a tool. Give it to me."

"What kind of a tool?

"It's a tool that Mama hasn't used in a long time. Let's put it back in the drawer now."

I walked out of the bathroom and saw the contents of one bedside drawer strewn on the floor. Things I honestly forgot were there, but instantly knew I should have put under lock and key long ago. Edible Undies. Liquid Latex. A colorful volume on intimate massage. The naughty feather duster.

"Is this a pompom?"

"Yes, it is!"

"Can I play with it?"

"Right now you can."

I replaced the toys with a mix of emotions. Here I was in one of those Moments I had waited for, albeit earlier and different, of course. I felt sure I would be the mother who could talk with her kids about sex. I would give them the information they needed to make safe and healthy choices. I would make sure they felt comfortable asking tough questions. Yet here I was putting away sex toys I received at my bachelorette party, mostly unopened and waiting six years in that drawer for what? Time? Inspiration? Boredom? Six years. And who finally plays with them? My children. And how did I answer the questions? It's a tool? Yes, it's a pompom? You can play with it. Geez.

So we haven't used the toys in years. Texans waited how long to be able to buy butt plugs without breaking a law? It's not that I think sex toys make sex better, or that sex without toys is boring. I'm bothered by the waste. The waste of drawer space. The fact that they sit there when someone else would love to play with them (and I don't mean my children). That they were well intentioned gifts gone stale. And know I know for sure the time to use them has passed. If we can't get some action in the 10 minutes before I pass out, then forget it. It's comical to think there's time for role playing or cleaning the "tools." But can I give them away on Freecycle? Sell them on Craigslist? Drop them off at the Salvation Army? If you, gentle reader, want a tub of paint-on latex clothing or a bright orange soft rubber whip, let me know. My girlfriends were generous.

But the other emotion is joy. Everyone always says that kids call us on our own shit. Help us to see ourselves. Help us laugh at ourselves. You can't hide a bad day from a teen or fake listening to a toddler. And you can leave it to a one year old who will open any drawer and his question asking sister to remind you that you don't need a drawer full of sexy toys to feel sexy. You don't need edible undies to feel consumed. But you do need some clever answers pretty darn quick if you don't want the whole preschool to hear about it in your 3 year old's version of events.

So I'm back to the drawing board. What will we say that time we forget to lock the door? Will it ever be wrong to dress or shower in front of the kids? And what if we differ on these answers, how will we be ourselves? How will our words and body language affect their sexual development? The drawer was a warning, a practice session for the foibles ahead.

16 February 2008

Coffee can't fix everything.

Tonight I saw a woman doing something I have done more than a few times before. She was waiting outside the bathroom door at Barnes and Noble, determining if intervention would be needed, curious and scared to see who emerged. A kind gesture toward a child or other recipient of someone's wrath. The sad part is that this woman was waiting for me.

The evening had gone well up until about 10 minutes prior to the bathroom. Augusto is out of town, so I took the kids shopping. We picked out a twin futon for Stella to delighted mattress diving and lollipop games. We went to the noodle place at her request (load back in the car, drive, wrangle the van into a spot...). We waited for a table. We got silly and impressed the patrons with two charming kids scarfing down tofu and broccoli. I cleaned Otto's mess. I let Stella eat a lollipop. We paid and left the restaurant.

And then Stella asked to go to the bookstore. I knew this meant play with the train table and then ask for a book. It was already 7:40. I wanted to go home. Otto was tired. I was tired. I sensed a tantrum in the air. She had already hit the pavement before we went to the noodle place. I just couldn't handle another melt down. So I said yes. My first mistake. She wanted another Dora book. Dora is ok in theory, but she is a TV series, not a book character. We have never seen her show, but the books suck. Thin TV-based plot, stupid lines. "Say no swiping, Swiper!" Say, what?! She loves Dora books, but they're killing me. The she wanted Strawberry Shortcake. I could only imagine how much I would like it. I don't want to squelch her desires, but how does she even know about this crap? She doesn't watch TV! I want to read real stories with her. Or poetry. Or at least cool rhyme. So I directed her to some Caldecott winners. And some Dr. Seuss. We were on to tantrum three and she still had a jumbo Blow Pop in her mouth. And it was 8:30 or some similar ridiculous time. And I had to pee and change Otto's diaper before we left.

After threating to take away the lolli, leave her in the store, and not get her any more books, she hastily picked an actual book (as opposed to every crappy book with batteries). Somehow I managed to storm her off to the bathroom. Of course, on the way in she wanted to drink from the fountain (to high for her to do it on her own). My arm was killing with Otto. My bladder was dying. I said no. The stall time was equally perfect. Otto touched every disgusting surface and Stella whined about wanting to finish her lolli, not go home, etc. We made it to the sink. Otto first, Stella second. While I was washing Stella's hands, Otto sneaked off and put his hand into an unflushed toilet. I was already obviously peeved at my kids and not even trying anymore to conceal my anger, frustration, and general sense of impending doom. But the dirty toilet sealed the deal. I slammed down her new book and told her to stop making trouble as she cried for her book while I washed Otto's hands about 23 million times.

That's when I exited to the eavesdropping woman. I don't know what she thought. Maybe she heard the slamming book and, "SHIT!" and though I had hit my kid. Perhaps she just felt bad for Stella who more than once said (tears streaming), "Sorry, Mama."

Walking to the car, Stella asked, "Are you mad at Otto?" No, I was mad at myself.

08 February 2008

Just a Day in the Park

Coffee changes me from a bitchy grumpy monster to a cheery gal who wants to fix the sewing machine and make those recycled cashmere hats. Or clean out that old filing cabinet. Or just play with my baby that isn't really a baby anymore.

Otto and I went to the park today. When I popped him out of the stroller, he actually beamed from ear to ear and charged the playground. He dove with glee into the sand, squealed with delight down the slide, and made friends with everyone there. And no wonder, when Stella was this age, we went to the park almost every day. This is the first time I have gone with Otto alone. If I dwell on that one, I'll get too sad. The point is that we went. The sun was warm enough for a t-shirt and Rex kept quiet enough under his tree. It was just what we needed.

01 February 2008

Thrown Back In

A little vomit never fails to clear writer’s block. Or writer’s absence, really. Blogging is low in the order of my life- down below pedicures and exercise and massage- none of which I have accomplished recently. That is not to say I don’t love to write and find it helpful/ relaxing/ whatever. But it just gets buried. And we traveled four out of the last eight weeks. After all that time, I lost my momentum. Several phrases have popped into my head over the past two months. Opening sentences, full of charm. But they always come while driving, or holding a screaming child, or in the room with a patient. So I can’t write them down, and like everything else I don’t nail to my skull, they’re gone. Poof.

But the vomit stuck without a hammer. I wrote about puke at least once before. So here we are at the vomit’s silver lining- the inspiration to blog. The vomit was minor, actually. Just once and not too much. But the timing was stellar. Otto had a vaccination on Tuesday and fussed most of the wee hours of Wednesday. Augusto was holding him while I made breakfast and said, “Can you hold him a sec?” No sooner had Augusto walked out of the kitchen when Otto retched all over my clean from the hamper fuzzy sweater. Right then I announced that I would be going to work and Augusto would be home with the puker as he had NEVER been thrown up on by anyone in our household, and I had been lucky one too many times. Off I went, working mama who knows how to put her foot down.

These days, work at work is easier than work at home. The clinic’s problems are within my control. People don’t whine too much, and I can shut the door at the end of the day. At home, we have certainly rounded the one-year mark. Otto’s birthday was last month. We are night weaning. I remember the clearing when Stella turned one. And I feel it now, but we have this giant baby of a dog who hasn’t rounded whatever mark he should. He is improving with less ankle biting and fewer destroyed toys (nice wooden ones which have survived and been handed down through three families). I think I feel a change coming. Soon.


We went to Baltimore for Thanksgiving and Brazil for Christmas. We also went to my 20th high school reunion in Philadelphia. I recognized many people, but I couldn’t remember how I knew them. I didn’t know if we had been friends, or lab mates, or just been trashed together at a party. It was weird, to say the least. And I connected with others I held dear long ago. It was good. The pictures of our 1980’s hair were worth the trip.

It was a joy to see family. Otto is a sensation everywhere we go. His charms and easygoing way pull in strangers and family alike. Even Stella copies him and is becoming more outgoing. The best gift from Brazil is Stella’s Portuguese. She started speaking when my in-laws were here, but now she digs it. She invents new lyrics in Portuguese. It’s cool.


Tonight is the first Friday of February. Otto and Rex are napping, Stella is at school. Augusto is at work. I’m going to get started on our monthly soup and enjoy the quiet while it lasts.