“It’s really frustrating when each lifeguard has a different set of rules,” I tell the one who’s just started her shift.  She’s just reprimanded my son for doing something that the lifeguard she’d just relieved allows him daily.  “He can swim,” I tell her.  “Well, how old is he – is he four?” “Five.” “Is he in lessons?” “He’s been in lessons.” “Well even if they can swim and they’re five, they still don’t know things, so they have to stay over here.”

I love our YMCA, and my kids and I use the pool – which is awesome – several times a week.  But the rules are nuts.  I am literally going to write an article for my (new, online) zine and link to it soon because you will not believe the weirdness. Non-swimming kids are supposed to be five feet away from you at all times.  But you can bring up to ten kids in the pool per adult (I picture the one-adult-ten-child-5-foot organism moving about en masse like some human kind of paramecium, with the todlets in attendance as cilia. Sounds perfectly logical and fun for everyone).  Deep end of the rec pool only if they’re a certain age.  No wait, it’s not age-based, it’s if they can swim they can test and wear a certain wrist band.  No, actually we don’t use that system.  Yes, your kid is on the swim team and swims laps for 45 minutes but no, she can’t swim laps in the lap pool unless you go with her.  Yes, flotation devices are allowed in the ‘lazy river’.  ZOMG GET THAT CHILD WEARING THE LIFE JACKET OUT OF THE ‘LAZY RIVER’!  I could go on, but I’ll spare you, dear reader.  Not to mention, as I’ve alluded to, each lifeguard chooses to enforce the rules with a kind of “logic” I have not yet figured out.

Here’s one cool thing about lifeguards and rules (enforced and non-enforced; changing and up to the caprice of the employee): I tell the kids I pretty much have to do what the lifeguard says (although they do get to see me, today, discussing it in an attempt to make sense).  I know my kids can handle the different-people-different-rules thing and it doesn’t even really drive them nuts.  But:

“I can swim,” Nels says.  And he gets out of the pool and walks over and tells the lifeguard as much.  They have a conversation for a while, he standing with his arms around his tummy and feeling completely comfortable discussing it with this authority figure (I swear I was intimidated by lifeguards until I was in my mid-twenties!)  Then he gets back in the pool and repeatedly “drills”  himself, turning back to smile at the lifeguard after every paddling experiment (she smiles and waves). He knows the lifeguard’s name now and they’re on completely friendly terms.

Tonight I’m baking brownies.  I announced my husband these intentions while driving through a burgeoning windstorm and after a dinner at one of our favorite taquerias (Sophie had stayed home to watch cartoons and rest; she had a total of about three hours in the pool including swim team).  On our drive Ralph reminded me the last time I baked brownies it had tortured our family. What? I’m thinking.  You know, he tells me, brownie drama.  Checking on the brownies. Begging for the brownies.  Talking about them obsessively.  I don’t remember it being that big a deal, but whatever.

I make two batches: a dark Ghirardelli for our family, and then a large pan of chocolate / marshmallow / mint chip (the marshmallow is homemade and amazing).  Ralph’s been getting pounced on at work when he brings in my cooking, and we’re running a kind of experiment – how much do people kiss your ass if they know they may get rewarded by chocolate et al.?

i’m guessing their world is kind of like being on a hallucinogen

Ralph’s made a pile of 11″ by 17″ paper for the kids to draw on. It’s allowed them to expand their art to the edges of the paper. Nels draws elaborate botanical gardens and tall, thin houses with many vertical-lined fixtures; Sophie illustrates mermaid families, dragons, and some kind of a spiky weapon hurling above us all like a vicious sun.

Yesterday one of her many mermaid family drawings had been amended. Above the four of us it now read: “Chart of mean People” and then below that, “X’s are mean”). Ralph and I had two big X’s drawn through our faces. I’m not sure what we’d done to offend, but I do like our daughter was ready with an infographic regarding the character of our family.

We were a topless mermaid family, of course. My breasts looked like two adjoined capital “Y”s. Ralph sported an arrow over his right shoulder pointing to “nipls” (just in case you weren’t sure what those two milk-dud sized dots on his chest were); he was also annotated “(with a sweet stash)”, the “w” in the word “stash” (which meant mustache, of course) sporting it’s own mustache like a tilde.

Last night my mom took Sophie to pick up her van at the shop. While they waited they shopped at the Dollar Tree and my mother bought Sophie a tube of plastic lizards. My kids love plastic animals, Sophie most of all – especially dragons and reptiles. By that evening in the bath the kids had named the lizards:


In the bath with my daughter I spent several minutes committing each lizard’s color and name to memory; this morning while putting away clothes I noticed she’d put each of the eight to bed in these wee baskets, each with their own pillow (cut from fabric scraps).

Very, very sweet. Until one of the lizards offends my daughter and she writes up a blistering exposé.

little boys say the derndest things

Our younger cat Harris is an odd one; since kittenhood he has been amenable to baths and water experiences most cats fear and loathe (a blog search regarding the infamous toilet-bath administered by Nels revealed the entirely unrelated but equally infamous piss-in-a-cup-while-inside-the-van, a performance Nels repeated after his Christmas concert last Wednesday. I smiled innocently at parents exiting the church as I poured steaming urine out the van window onto the rain-soaked ground). When we take a bath Harris likes to be there up on the bath ledge, purring and accepting drips of water and stroking from wet hands. Recently he’s taken to crouching down and dipping a long paw (his front right one in fact) into the water, about four inches down, and carefully cupping the water to his mouth to drink).

Tonight as Nels and I take a bath Harris eventually moves back to the floor next to us. “Here you go, water-swiper,” Nels says as he leans forward and puts a container full of water on the floor (a large yogurt container; it’s what we use to help rinse the kids’ hair after a wash). The cat drinks and drinks and drinks.

“He wants to sip your breasts,” Nels says (my son’s parlance for breastfeeding).

“There’s no more milk in my breasts,” I tell him, thinking with a bit of regret that it’s going on three years since since this was the case.

“You should drink some milk to fill these up,” he says, gently patting me.

“That’s not how it works,” I reply. I explain it to him briefly – I’d need to have a baby. “Well Harris is going to be your baby,” my son responds. I repress the involuntary shudder. Before I can reply Nels says conversationally, “When I grow up to be a girl I will nurse him. But I’m kind of scared to nurse a cat because it might bite my nipples off.”

I turn my head to the left to meet my cat’s unnerving stare, inches from my face. It’s a bit eerie and at first I can’t think why; then I realize his head is level with mine and he’s looking directly, almost threateningly, into my eyes No blinking, no looking away. I have heard the old myth that cats suck breath from infants; perhaps they want something of more sustenance from adult females.

Tonight as I pen (or type) my blog entry Nels emerges from the tub and decides to redecorate the tree: like the scene from Elf he vaults halfway up the noble fir in an attempt to secure a candy cane. Then he’s back at my desk, climbing over me to grab a piece of technology Ralph secured from the college’s library. I take it back from him: “You can play with this after you put on some underwear.” I am nothing if not creative at bribing the savage spirit.

The weird thing is I’m sure the camcorder, candy cane, and nudity are all part of some Master Plan of my son’s; I’m just not always willing to let him carry this stuff out.

trabajo mucho hoy… y como comidas buenas

Have I mentioned that I waitress a few hours a week – and I love it? The money is nice enough (and the tips surprisingly high sometimes), but I like the work far more for other reasons. Namely, I enjoy being a good waitress (or trying to be one), I love my boss (love her!), enjoy my coworkers (especially that little trollop Jz.), and believe in the restaurant I work in more than I’ve believed in any other restaurant. Hard to explain the place – called a Deli, it seems to me a combination of a diner and a bistro – and it’s pure magic!

A few highlights of my day: a Latino family who visited our restaurant for the first time and I was able to speak some of my (poor, limited) Spanish – an enterprise I love!* Halfway through their meal the gentleman at the table saw my parcel of pan dulce from La Unica Panaderia (I’d asked my mom to bring some to share) and came up to the counter to ask after it (eschewing the one hundred thousand types of ice cream confections, muffins, pies, tarts, etc. that we actually sell in the Deli). In fact he almost took some off my plate. I offered him some (“free gratis”) and in the next hour watched him continue to come up for more.

My favorite customer, though: the gentleman who ordered a large bowl of clam chowder (Award-Winning!) and an egg salad sandwich.

When I asked him what kind of bread he wanted on his sandwich, he said: “I don’t care… I’m not a pussy!”**


* This might seem odd, but I actually speak Spanish an awful lot in my mind and the rest of the day kept thinking: ¿Mas café, Señor? and ¿Necessitas una cajeta para llevar?

^^ edit – g-d ASCII characters!!! ^^

** Ralph points out that this meal – an egg salad sandwich – is, in fact, exactly comfort food for a ten year old kid. So I’m not sure what all this brusque reply was meant to convey, but it may have been a wee bit defensive. “Can I heat you up some milk and smash some saltines in it, little tiger?”