I’m back. I’m fat. Get used to it.

So, I haven’t done this in a while. Like, you know, not for a big company. And so much has changed since we last spoke. So much.

But I’d rather not go into it all right at this moment on a Tuesday night when I really should be in bed. And I’ve had a port or two.

But we’ll talk, we will. And the first order of business will be that I can not find a photo of myself taken in the last 2 years that I am willing to post (which is sad in all the feminist, I-love-myself, sort of ways). In fact, I can’t think of a way in which it is happy.

And that’s what prompted me to write after ALL this time: sucky body image, or perhaps, just sucky body. Jury is still out. But the truth is, I got fat. And I hate it. And I am in an awful pendulum swing between “I-love-myself-the-way-I-am” and “I-am-fat-and-I-hate-it-no-matter-what-the-lesbians-say.”

But tell me, when was the last time you looked in the mirror and thought, “Awesome.” Because I’d like to know your trick. Unless, of course, your trick is being naturally skinny. In which case, let’s just talk about something else–like maybe how much we hate Rand Paul–because weight is not going to be our common ground. Which is ok. I still like you.

And I leave you with this, in case you think I am just belly-aching.

That’s me at 16 and then me more recently. I mean, right?

Book reviews based on my terrible memory

I’ve missed writing about books. I’ve had a stellar summer and fall, reading-wise, and it’s reignited something in me. I’m always an avid reader (which is why I married a bookstore guy—he keeps me awash in my drug of choice), but lately I’ve had this desperate love affair with the act of reading, as if, along with eating and breathing, it is one of the pillars of my very aliveness. It feels a little like having a crush.

The catch in all this, is that I can’t remember shit.

I’ve always been envious of people who can quote lines from their favorite authors or make clever literary asides. I am not one of those people. I am the kind of person who will claim passionately (and honestly) to have loved a book and then recall almost nothing about it except the pleasure of reading it.

The other day I tried to remind myself of the plot and character names of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I’ve read this book at least twice, probably three times. I’ve written papers in graduate school on it. I’ve discussed it in class, and I can’t remember the basic plot of the thing. An American girl named Isabel Archer goes to Europe—England and I think, Italy—and well, I suppose some bad things happen to her. She has a cousin who tries to protect her.

It’s not exactly a New York Review of Books caliber examination. And it’s not the only book I’ve been awed by but fail to remember.

Some reviews of my favorite books based solely on memory:

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore: there’s a girl named Agnes who pronounces her name An-yez, like the French, and there’s a really funny line about modern dance. At some point some raccoons burn up in a chimney.

A History of Love by Nicole Krauss: Jewish post-911 New York. There’s a key or a lock with a lot of significance. Reminded me a lot of her husband’s novel Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: A tiny boy named Owen Meany is growing up in a working class granite town in New Hampshire. I think there’s a boarding school in it. I think there’s a scene having something to do with Christmas decorations. His voice is small and strange but people love him anyway.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros: Mexican-American girl from Texas moves to Chicago. Some of it takes place in Mexico. At one point I think she has sex with her boyfriend in a cheap hotel overlooking the plaza in Mexico City. Rebosos play an important role but I forget how.

The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury: Dry humor. Story of a Midwestern town. There is a water tower and a lot of people drive trucks. There’s a grocery store that closes, I think. And one of the main characters is a high school teacher. There is also a romance. I loved this book.

Look at Me by Jennifer Egan: There’s a model who gets in a car accident and it’s in the Midwest and somehow there’s a terrorist in it. I found it ambitious and prescient.

I’m over here!

Thank you for stopping by. As it turns out, I am finding it difficult to keep up two blogs. But please, stay here a while. Peruse. I’ll be posting here on occasion. So you should keep checking back.

In the meantime, check me out here, where I’m posting four times a week about things like bitchy moms, the insidiousness of Disney, and cute hats.

That’s BAgina to you, buddy

Oliver has been really into taking photographs lately. Recently, while at Yosemite, the Mister and I asked him to take one of us with a view of the valley behind.
He snapped this:
Then looked at it and said, “I tried to get you both, but I only got mom’s vagina.” And that, my dear readers, is the danger of teaching your kids anatomical terms.

Where I answer nearly all your questions and survive house guests

A couple of things:

I am not dead. I am blogging for Baby Center four times a week and getting ready to take a red-eye to the east coast for a little family vacation. And those two things, along with the twins, are about all I can handle. More than I can handle, actually, if today’s parenting techniques (mostly yelling with the occasional vacant stare into space) are any indication.
Oh, plus we had house guests. I forgot about the house guests.
I promised I would link to my Baby Center posts and so here I go. You can gorge yourself. You can live vicariously through me for hundreds and hundreds of words. Or you can buy things. Every Friday I write about cute things on Etsy. Your choice.
Read about:
All the other stuff I write about is here.
Feel free to write comments over there. It makes me look good.
Oh, and wish me luck on that red-eye. Maggie has a cold and I have a bad attitude, so it’s not looking good. But we will discuss later. At length.

It pays to sit around in your underwear blogging

The last time we met, my family and I were about to go camping and I promised some exciting news upon my return. Well, I’m back.

And here’s the news: I am now a blogger for Baby Center’s Momformation channel (just between us, I think “Momformation” is kind of a lame name, but the site is great). I get to do exactly what I do here, there. And they pay me for it. Which is more than I can say for you people.
I’ll be there four times a week. On Fridays I’ll pick some things out on Etsy and encourage you to buy them. The rest of the time I’ll just be rambling on about me and my kids. But in a funny and erudite way.
I do hope you’ll join me. Really. I’ll even post links to all my posts there, here.
And I’ll still be posting here sometimes so you should be sure to check back. We can talk about all the things we can’t talk about with them. We can bitch about working for the man.
Oh, and about that camping trip. You can read all about it here. And no, the nail scissors didn’t turn out to be necessary, but boy was I happy to have the alarm clock/ipod dock.

Family Camping: Take III

It’s 6 am and I am up baking biscuits. They are from a can, but still, it is nearly impossible to express how unlike me this is. In my natural state I sleep until 9 and go out for brunch. Alas. My natural state is long gone.

I am up at this ungodly hour (it gives me headache to be up before 7) because Maggie woke up to announce her need to pee at 5 and the thought demons took this as the cue to worm their way into my consciousness, where they enjoyed a rowdy game of monkey-in-the-middle until I gave up on further sleep. Everyone else in the house is still snoozing away.
I’m keyed up because tomorrow morning we leave bright and early for Camp Mather. It’s a family camp up near Yosemite that only residents of San Francisco can go to. You have to enter a lottery to get a spot. We did. We won. And now I spend my dawn hours making mental lists of things like nail scissors and duct tape and bug spray and all the other 5,011 things that will supposedly help us to actually enjoy this experiment in group family camping.
As many of you know, I’ve been scarred. I was never a big camper to begin with (I like soft pillows and showers too much). Then I went camping with one-year-old twins. Now I get the tremors when anyone mentions the words “Coleman Stove.” Seriously, our track record as a family is bad.
But this is supposed to be better. It’s all sing-alongs and lifeguarded lakes and cafeteria dining (no Coleman stoves!). And our kids are four now, not one, or three. And we have a cabin and I am bringing down comforters and Christmas lights and a couple of cute throw rugs (I kid you not), so I think we have a chance. I’m counting on it actually. Because, honestly, I really need a vacation. And a little sleep.
I’ll be back in a week or so with tales to tell and an exciting announcement. I’ll let you know if those nail scissors came in handy. In the meantime may your days be filled with the comforts of modern civilization.

The pediatric ward hosts a feminist princess party

I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to see my funky little house, bread crumbs on the floor and all. Oh joy, hallway rug that slips and burbles. Oh joy, broken soap dispenser and crowded bathroom sink. Helloo, paint-warped kitchen cabinets that won’t quite close, come to mama!
We are home! Maggie, despite still looking pale as a Victorian orphan, is healthy and happy and catching up on her sleep and fresh fruit. Hurray! As grateful as I am for the wonderful care she received in the hospital, that place sort of sucked.
Maggie summed it up best in her thank you card to the staff: “the worst part was the needle. The best part was the playroom.”
Below is a sample of how I managed to entertain myself in said playroom. Upon seeing my handiwork, the Mister said: “you really need to get out of here.” Duh.

I am also, in my way, grateful for Joan Rivers

I, like Joan Rivers (have you seen the documentary? It’s surprisingly good), believe there is humor to be found in absolutely everything. Your husband committed suicide (as Joan’s did)? There’s a zinger in there somewhere. Lost your job? That one’s just easy. Teenager’s a drug addict? A veritable gold mine of jokes. It’s been said a million times, but seriously, if we can’t laugh, where are we?

Except now I can’t laugh. I am sitting in a dark hospital room watching the mesmerizing blinking of my daughter’s heart machine while she tries to sleep tangled in the various cords and wires coming off her body. Before you get too worried: she’s fine. They are figuring it out. We should be going home with our rapidly growing collection of My Little Pony stickers very soon and that pale, feverish girl with the dark circles under her eyes that they’ve swapped for my daughter, will go back from whence she came and my vibrant girl shall make her triumphant return. Possibly even tomorrow.
So it’s not worry that makes this unfunny. I am surprisingly calm and unflapped about all the poking and pricking and monitoring she’s been through in the last 24 hours. It is a feeling of intense gratitude that makes this all so seriously unfunny. I am thankful for everything right now. I’m positively gooey with it.
For medical insurance for one. For pediatric nurses who stand in a line as you enter the ward for the first time and greet your child by name as if they have been waiting all day just for a glimpse of her. For Japanese restaurants that deliver to the seventh floor of the hospital. For handsome Korean orderlies who push you and your daughter around the hospital in a wheelchair. For toy rooms with baby dolls and volunteers who read books. For doctors who introduce themselves using their first names and then take such detailed medical histories you feels as if they really, really care about figuring this out. I’m thankful for ibuprofen and antibiotics and in-room DVD players.

But mostly, of course, I am so thankful to have kids who are not chronically or critically ill. I am awed and bowled over by the good fortune that is good health. Every time I think about riffing on this hospital experience (and it’s ripe with cute ice cream jokes and “buh-gina” references, let me tell you), I think about parents who have to spend a lot of time in the hospital with their children and I am snapped right back onto the straight and narrow. Because that, my friends, is suffering. And if you are not suffering in that particular way, you have much to be thankful for. And that’s what I’m left with: one giant thank you, thank you, thank you Buh-Jeezus!

Why can’t I be more like Angelina Jolie?

My kids are never sick (knock on wood, throw salt and turn around three times). Except for now. Maggie has been home with a fever all week, poor thing.

What this means, in addition to way too much screen time, multiple readings of Rainbow Fish, and yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is that I have been home all week with a sick child. Seriously, I didn’t leave the house for two days. Not once. No fresh air. No clean underwear.*
Then, on the third day, I got to go to the corner grocer for some supplies and witness the astounding miracle of real adult humans moving about in public. The next day, still high on my recent exposure to the outside world, I also got a haircut and took my kids to see Toy Story 3. I paid dearly for it with much feverish whining and a serious case of popcorn bloat (me, not them).
All this is not so bad.
What’s bad is when, on the fourth day, your completely delightful old friend from college comes to visit for the first time since the kids were born and you suddenly see your life in stark contrast to what could have been.
That’s her on the far left. That’s me, wearing pajama bottoms and pearls.
Her: Saving the world by doing important global peace-building projects with the U.N and other impressive NGOs.
Me: Trying to remember when I last administered the Children’s Tylenol.
Her: Cocoa-colored linen suit with adorable flats.
Me: Ripped jeans, dirty underwear, clogs.
Her: Teaching at Columbia’s graduate program in International Studies.
Me: Trying to teach my children to wipe their own butts.
Her: Hobnobbing with the rich, influential and powerful.
Me: Hobnobbing with two four-year-olds and the occasional corner grocer.
Her: Mother of one super-genius, chess-playing 7-year-old.
Me: Mother of four-year-old twins who try to impress guests by toppling the coffee table and throwing pirate hooks in the air.
I think you get the idea.
And I know that here I am supposed to write something about how worthwhile it all is and how I wouldn’t trade anything for anything. But that’s not true. I would trade being an unemployed stay-at-home mom (not the kids themselves, mind you; them, I like) for a career that required me to travel all over the world doing good work in a second. At this point I think I would trade it for a career that required me to get dressed in the morning and travel to downtown San Francisco.
All of which is to say that, when the time comes, I’m going to strongly suggest that my children don’t major in English. Cause it’s too late for me.
* having a sick kid does not preclude changing ones underwear, but really, why bother?