Saturday, May 30, 2015


My daughter made up a card game and played it on the floor, against a plastic lizard.

"I think I'm winning at Pingo," she said after a while.

"That's good," I said.  "I don't want that lizard to win."

It's never too early to learn to play a made-up game, against yourself, and take it quite seriously. 

That's pretty much life, come to think of it.

* * * *
 Postscript:  She just made me play Pingo with her.  Worst.  Game.  Ever.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

All the single ladies

[Occasionally, I get a bee in my bonnet and write a mean letter to, say, the characters on a TV show.  Now in its fifth season on FX, Louie is about a stand-up comic / divorced dad in NYC.]

Re: The Lonely, Desperate Single Moms of Louie
To: All y'all
From: Me

Hi there!  I'm a single mom, too!  Early forties, school-aged kids, coastal sophisticate: check, check, and check. 

And may I just say, I cannot identify with a single (no pun intended) one of you?  Watching this show makes me feel like single moms should be banned by law: They are too unstable, too needy, and make too many poor choices to be entrusted with the care of children.  (I find myself wondering if there is a kind grandmother in the picture, or a mature-for-her-age babysitter, to model dignified adult behavior for Manhattan's 12-and-under set?)

I know it's hard being a single mom, and dating can be tricky, but from what I've seen: You're doing it all wrong.  Look deep inside yourselves and realize you're better than this.  (Except for Pamela.) 

To the mom who began sobbing uncontrollably when a male acquaintance wouldn't help her move a fish tank: Get a grip.  You have a perfectly nice apartment, filled with Persian rugs and tchotchkes, and the damn fish tank is fine where it is.  Plus, your daughter is in the house!  Is this really something you want her to witness?  ("Oh, that's just Mom.  She did the same thing when the UPS man wouldn't help her frost a cake.  Let me just add this notation to my feminine 'bag of tricks' . . . ")

To the terse, affectless mom who propositioned a man outside her child's classroom, sent him out to buy blueberries late at night, then made him act out her disturbing "daddy issues" while she cried: You are, put simply, a human disaster.  I say that not to be unkind, but to encourage you to enroll your children in as many extracurriculars as possible so as to limit their time in your home, until you get some help.  Also, do these kids have a dad?  Call him!  Ask him to take the children to the country to see the autumn foliage, because "I really need to get my shit together."  They'll enjoy the leaves.

To the mom who didn't want to date a guy with kids:  Are you an idiot?  Men without kids should be -- in all but rare cases -- disqualified.  Like all non-parents, they just don't "get it."  And neither do you, maybe?

To the mom who wore a white fur coat to lure a stranger into her car, brought him home to her mansion and swinger husband (played by F. Murray Abraham), but had to attend her kids' soccer game the next morning:  I know you're not a "single" mom, but you're not exactly June Cleaver, are you?  I just hope your luck holds, and little Grayson does not come tripping down the marble steps to see you and Antonio Salieri ravishing some hapless jokester before the fireplace.  (Talk about a "bad dream"!)  Still, you seem able to afford the long-term psychotherapy your antics will necessitate, once the kids figure out what's what.  Stick all that money in a trust fund, I guess, and call it a wash.

To the nine-months-pregnant mom who had sex with Louie in her foyer after meeting him at a potluck, causing her to go into labor:  Sigh. Where to begin?  Oh, wait: You were just a paid surrogate for a lesbian couple.  Never mind.  Carry on!

To Pamela: After Season 1, you left your son "Sir" in Paris with his dad and never spoke of him again.  This freed up more time for you to mock and abuse the one (other) person who loves you.  Good call!  I can only imagine what life was like for Sir back in the States, "cared for" by a caustic, deeply cynical mother whose reaction to any sign of human vulnerability is "Ew!"  Anyway, Pamela, just keep doing . . . whatever it is you're doing.  It's super cool.  No, really!  I hope for Sir's sake that his dad marries a nice lady in France.

To married people watching Louie:  Before you start feeling too smug, please know that single moms aren't all like Louie's hookups. And thanks for listening to my rant.  Now back to bathing the kids, doing light housework, playing Words With Friends with my boyfriend, and not throwing a lamp out the window after not picking up a random monologist between sets.  Crazy, right?

It's just the Single Mom way.

(Image: Louis_CK_Kuwait.jpg (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memory lane

This week, the blog was overtaken by events.  Nothing got written, though we successfully rode out a stomach bug and a software malfunction, among other calamities.

All week, the kids ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  At some point, distracted, I threw out the jelly, or we ran out.  I can't remember.  Somewhere in there, pizza was ordered, consumed while standing up, and left out on the counter overnight -- to ripen and bloom, like a bottle of red -- before someone ate or threw out the rest of it. 

On Saturday, I took the children to the cemetery.  Not because it was Memorial Day weekend, just to get out of the house and turn my thoughts to something else -- the numberless dead, for example.  Since they were babies, I've done this once or twice a year, just for the fun of it.  At eight and six, they are almost past the cherubic stage that is so charming to see playing among the headstones.  I always thought, if I were dead, I'd like preschoolers tromping around, making too much noise and posing impertinent questions about the afterlife.

On this spring day, my son surveyed the cemetery with approval.  "This place is perfect for me," he said.  "Do you know why?"

This was a question I felt confident I could ace.  I knew him so well, after all. "Because there are Chinese people buried here, and lots of stones with Chinese writing on them."

"No.  Because it's a spiritual place, and I can meditate."  Oh!  Wow.

As can be seen -- very tiny -- in the above picture, to the left of the middle stone, he then assumed the lotus position in front of the Veterans' Memorial Fountain. 

I found a large headstone with a tractor on it and sank down on the grass in front of it.  (A tractor?  Really?  No actually, it was the cab of a big rig truck.  Well, to each his own.) 

My daughter set out to examine the tokens on people's graves and straighten a flower or two, which had fallen down.  I always tell her not to touch anything, but her interest seems a sort of tribute.  A few years ago, she became convinced that a bit of organic matter in a cemetery vase was a "little piece of brain."  This thought did not seem to disturb her in the slightest.

On the small hill behind the cemetery lives a family of hares.  Dragged from his reveries, my son sat on a bench and watched my daughter stalk them.  I didn't think she could get close, but she really did get quite close.  We took pictures of them.  Around four o'clock, it was time to go home.

Last fall, Dave and I rode our bikes to the town cemetery.  He'd never been there and didn't know why I brought the kids there every year.  We had a brilliant time, and by the end, he understood: "It's like Disneyland.  You can't do it all at once.  You have to just keep coming back." 

You really do.

Friday, May 15, 2015


"That's a nice demon you summoned bird you drew!

"I'll just fling it back into the acrid hellfire from whence it came display it in our living room, so that I can worship it in a Black Mass after you're asleep admire your artwork.

"Do you need therapy have a push pin?

"No, no, I love it!  I wouldn't lie to you because you might stab me at the bidding of that infernal creature, who even now fixes you with its commanding gaze.

"Did your art teacher show you how to make it?  Wow!  I'm quitting my job to homeschool you.  School is fun!

"Great.  Now I'm terrified to be in my own home.  Kids!  Dinnertime!"

Hey bro

As we drove home from school today, I told my daughter to show her brother her loose tooth. 

("Loose" is perhaps not the right word: The tooth was sideways in her mouth, with its thumb in the air.  It was ready to go.) 

She'd spent the last few days at home and/or my office with a stomach bug, so I was minutely familiar with the progress of the tooth -- her first to wiggle.  Her brother had been gone several hours and was due for an update. 

From his booster seat, my son regarded the tooth with a practiced eye.  A second-grader, he had lost many teeth, most within a couple of months one gummy winter.  "I assure you," he now assured her, "it's gonna come out today." 

While trying to figure out how he picked up this phrase (had I ever "assured" him of anything?  And if so, what?  "You'll be fine.  I'm not getting up." ??), I could see him in the rearview mirror.  His expression was solemn, knowledgeable, medical.

"Try this," he said.  "Just press down on it a little." 

There was a silence from the back.  "IT CAME OUT!" she squealed with joy.  "It didn't hurt at all!"

The mood was suddenly post-natal: The mom was my daughter, the baby was the tooth, and the wise old physician was my son.  High-fives all around!  

Yet when we got home, he had no interest in taking victory photos:  All he wanted to do was go to his room and play Kung Fu Pets.  He has perfected a tone of polite disinterest in whatever we are doing: Regrettably, he must decline, for he would prefer to be in his red-and-white Dr. Seuss hat, lying on his floor, eating a sandwich, gaming. 

I watch his development with interest.  On the one hand, he is a sophisticated consumer of Minecraft parody videos -- some of which are funny, but none of which I really understand.  When my phone got a new interface, he figured it out in seconds, then explained it to me. 

On the other hand, he is an intense fan of Beatrix Potter's stories about small animals in waistcoats.  If, after a long day, I beg off reading The Tale of Pigling Bland or The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, he is genuinely pissed.  Just read the tale, already! 

Overall, I feel like no one could ask for a better brother or son.  He often strikes me as brilliant . . . or wonderfully odd . . . or something. 

A few hours after school, my daughter was in the backyard, stirring a large bucket of garbage with a stick.  She had put dish soap, dirt, trash, and food coloring in water and let it sit overnight.  "Come out!" she called him through the window, the air whistling through her tooth-gap.  "The soup looks delicious!  Come try it!" 

"You are a nincompoop!" my son screamed out the window.  Then he laughed a long time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Summer lip

"Watch this," I said.  "This is my summer lip."

We were sitting on a patio at noon, drinking wine (me) and beer (him).  Fresh from a Mother's Day brunch with my children -- which was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong -- I'd felt the sudden need to talk to an adult: someone whose food I didn't have to cut up.  And yes, to drink a glass of wine.

From my Peruvian-print purse, I now extracted a small tube and applied its contents to my lips.  It was not lipstick, but tinted lip balm in the color Petal Soft.  (This was on par with my other makeup: tinted moisturizer and, simply, tint.) 

"That's great," said Dave, with seemingly genuine appreciation for the Petal Soft summer lip.

Emoji hearts!

It was a beautiful day.  What did we do next?

Oh yes: Banter.

No one says "banter" anymore, but for me it is an indispensable term.  It means "lightly arguing about nothing, while walking the fine line between amusing and annoying the other person."  It is the lifeblood of any relationship (at least in my experience) (which may not be representative).  You know: Banter. 

Looking back, I realize that this may be a minority taste.  While other men woo women with jewelry and surprise trips to wine country, mine do it by quibbling with me about movies, books, the mind/body duality, politics, string theory, what restaurant we should go to for dinner (and what's with this "restaurant" thing, anyway?), the precise placement of a spice rack, and every other blessed thing on Earth.

This is known as "holding my interest." 

The trick is not to overdo it, otherwise it becomes exhausting.  Yet if your significant other cannot banter, I believe you are better off watching good TV.  The dialogue is written by professionals, and there is a person on set whose only job is to create a mood through lighting.  This beats a bland, go-nowhere chat under a CFL bulb any day. 

On our third date, wrapping up two hours of conversation, I made a few teasing remarks about -- of all things -- his backpack.  I will not describe the backpack, except to say it was unusual.  (It used to be his daughter's.) 

He looked at me quizzically and did not make any effort to defend the backpack.  He merely looked like he was thinking one or two things to himself.

"It's just banter," I said.  "We're bantering."

Were we indeed?

We both went home. 

Twenty-four hours later, at around midnight, I was lying awake when it occurred to me: He truly does not care what I think of his backpack.  He will bring a weird backpack on a date because he likes it, and that's that.  Hell will freeze over before he swaps it for a presentable messenger bag. 

This was promising.  This was someone who -- despite being an extremely nice person -- could hit the ball back over the net, with some spin. 

Hey it's Maya, I texted him the next morning.

That was two summers ago.  I wonder what we'll banter about this summer?


(Image by Jorge Barrios (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Don't push me, spiders

This weekend, posting will be light.  I'm working on an essay for . . . drum roll . . . print publication!

After fourteen years doing I-don't-even-know-what (law school, practicing law, having kids), it will be nice to see my name in print again, with all the attendant emotions: Pride, astonishment, embarrassment, and more embarrassment. ("Was that piece terrible? Did I make a mistake? My name is on it.  Gah.") 

But first -- literary endeavors aside -- I am going to take a walk, pop by the nail salon, and buy some bread.  It is amazing how much bread this family eats: all kinds of bread!  Yesterday when the kids were at their dad's, I brought home sushi for dinner, then proceeded to eat half a loaf of cinnamon bread dipped in milk.  And then the sushi.  #fail #yum #bread

To top it off  -- and please do not read this as an endorsement of divorce, because it is far preferable to have a happy family in which everyone is together all the time, etc. -- this morning I slept till 9 a.m.  Nine, ladies!  The kids are at another house and doing fine.  Every time I go over there to pick them up, they've gotten in a fight with a large mallet-shaped balloon I foolishly bought my son at a parade, and I'm like: "Yep, things are exactly the same here.  Except their dad cooks more than I do.  Cool."

One final, disorganized word, then I am off!  About the spiders:  I am beginning to wonder how many spiders are going to boldly take up residence in my bathroom, the kids' room, and everywhere else in this house, safe in the knowledge that I am a softie who can recite large swaths of Charlotte's Web?

Since we concluded James and the Giant Peach, which ends with the solemn admonition to "never kill a spider," the local spiders have pretty much set up camp in here and told their friends.  It is all over Spider Facebook now: The humans at [our address] have been thoroughly propagandized and, at most -- if you are huge and menacing -- will throw you out the front door in a plastic cup.  (You can keep the cup! It makes a wonderful bassinet for spider eggs.) 

With all due apologies to Charlotte and Miss Spider, you are a presumptuous species.  Do not push me.  Find somewhere else to "spin your webs," or you will be unceremoniously flushed down the toilet like every other flushable thing I wish to never see again.  But first, can I get the number of your amazing PR firm? 

Oh, they're busy with their other client, Ryan Gosling?  Okay.  Just a thought.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Whither hats?

Spring has come to Sacramento!  And I am, once again, shocked.

I often walk during the lunch hour: to get a sandwich, collect my thoughts, or replace my son's fancy Sees chocolate egg that I (surreptitiously, or so I thought) ate.  (He was not happy.  And, in hindsight, I should've thrown the box out faster.) 

On a warm day like today, I look around at the crowds of people, out getting exercise and enjoying the weather, and feel the urge to ask each one:  You seem to care about yourself, and show no signs of textbook masochism.  So what possible reason can you have for not wearing a hat?

Like all my standards, my beauty standards are strongly influenced by the 1986 John Hughes film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  As a hat advocate, I would like to introduce into evidence a recent photo of Mia Sara ("Sloane") in her mid-40s.  (Yes, the hat itself is hideous.)  She looks fantastic, right?  (And her late father-in-law is Jim Henson, so she is just a little cool.) 

My hat kick started several years ago, after my son was born.  Due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy, I developed faint brown blotches on my face.  They mostly faded, but exposure to the sun brought them raring back.  So for purely cosmetic reasons, I started wearing hats everywhere.  Eight years later, my skin is nothing great, but does not look baked like a cupcake in the California sun.  Thanks, hats!

Over the years, I have observed that the only other people wearing hats are elderly Asian women.  Now, every time I see a Chinese grandmother in a wrap-around visor, I want to fist-bump her and say: "I know, right?"

Next up: Driving gloves.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In our religion

. . . a Cyclops and a high-functioning alcoholic miraculously produce a baby alien whose heart is full of love.  A little girl stops by to venerate the slug-like creature.  Cheers! says the Dad, his legs and feet a blur of action as he pedals a unicycle in place.  And thus begins the wonderful story of . . .

No, honestly: I forget what this picture is about.  But it's been hanging in my kitchen for two weeks and, for some reason, I am not ready to take it down. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

If only it were Stubman

My second-grader, who has a slight (and I maintain, adorable) lisp, will be introducing the Harriet Tubman segment in the school play about famous Americans.  He is memorizing his speech, which begins:

The Underground Railroad was a secret system of people sympathetic to slaves.

At some point, he will wonder why I keep asking him to say it again.

"No reason!  Oh, and don't ever change." 

Hate you, hate Kansas

Last weekend, the kids' dad and I took them to see the community theater's production of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a lot of fun, due to the -- in its own way, bold -- artistic choice to simply recreate the film, down to the line readings and the Wicked Witch of the West's green face.

Within ten minutes, the audience had relaxed into the understanding that the director knew, the cast knew, and indeed, everyone in the world knew, that the 1939 George Kukor version could not be improved upon, only celebrated. This made it feel like a communal rite -- a Christmas pageant, say -- where the pleasure lies not in novelty, but in seeing a girl who works at a local car dealership put on a gingham dress, clutch a live terrier, and for a few hours, embody the quasi-divine figure that is Judy Garland's Dorothy. 

Where is my Dorothy pin?  I thought afterward.  Isn't it still around here somewhere?

At age fourteen, my academic career began a precipitous slide.  It was my first year of high school, my parents had separated with all the usual drama, and I was midway through a record-breaking stint of wearing braces (six years), probably because no one remembered I was in them.  Still, there was a grace period in which I still had the aura of an "A" student in my small-town school.  Thus, in ninth grade, despite earning a D in Algebra, I was a member in good standing of the Math/Science Team. 

As in junior high, the team met in the mornings before school to practice speed-answering math and science questions with light-up buzzers, like game show contestants.  On weekends, we traveled to other schools to battle competing teams.  I was never a Math/Science Team star, but I held my own.  Or at least, this had been the case in junior high.  By ninth grade, I had no answers to anything and mostly just kept quiet.

In spring, we headed to the regional championships in El Paso. We took a bus there, stayed in a hotel, and went to an enormous mall.  My prized possession at the time was a Guess! denim jacket (size XL, though I weighed 80 pounds), and I was delighted to find, at a mall kiosk, an assortment of ironic pins.

One of these was hot pink with Dorothy Gale on it.  It said, in a girl's neat cursive:

Auntie Em, Hate you, hate Kansas.  Took the dog . . . Dorothy
OMG!  This pin expressed everything in my heart I could not -- dared not -- say.  (Much later, I understood it to primarily appeal to gay men, but this was true of a number of things I liked, and a Venn diagram would have shown broad areas of overlap.)

Did I have $2?  I did!  (My mom had given it to me, along with my Guess! jacket.)  In the most subversive act of my young life, I bought that pin and pinned it on my goddamned pocket. 

Where it remained, for years.  No one said anything about it, ever.  Still, it made me feel like I was allied with thousands of people, all over the world, who dreamed of a better life "somewhere over the rainbow."  And in fact, I was. 

I like to think my daughter's ninth grade year will be different.  If her grades drop, her dad and I will be at that school in five minutes.

Still, no matter what we do, at around age fourteen, she's going to find that pin.

"Hey, can I have that?" 

"I've had it for thirty-six years." 

"But can I?"


Friday, May 1, 2015

New Yorker Cartoon Idea (1)

A frumpy, tired-looking woman is pushing a double stroller down a city street.  Inside are two crying toddlers.  The woman looks resigned.

She is wearing a T-shirt that says: "Mother of Drags."

For reference, see link.  (Thanks, C!)