Archive for June, 2006

My Bra Angel

June 26, 2006

Pamela may be spending her lovely New York City getaway checking out the art and culture, a.k.a naked statues. I’m in lovely New York City as well, here for business meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, and yeah, I, too, spent some time today studying the human figure, but not in an art museum. I went bra shopping.
    Certifiably insane? Not at all. I was making a very rational attempt to eliminate one of the major frustrations of my life—the fact that the last time I had a bra that fit right was back when I was nursing—and I stopped nursing six or seven years ago. And even that bra only fit part of the time, since a nursing mom’s boobs cycle through many many different sizes during the day.
    Since those nursing days, I have spent hours and hours in department and lingerie store dressing rooms trying on bras, and more money than I care to think buying bras that didn’t really fit, but were the best I could do that day, and I really really needed a decent bra and after so many hours invested I couldn’t leave empty handed. I now have a drawer full of bras that don’t quite fit, but will sort of work. That is, because, though each has a flaw, each flaw is different, so some work with some shirts, some with others, some are comfortable for a couple of hours, some for longer. This means, of course, that it takes me longer in the morning to pick out a bra than it does an outfit. And as often as possible I punt, by wearing a cami with a built-in bra or a really loose top.
    I never gave up my hope, however, that somewhere there was a bra waiting for me. So about a year ago, when I saw a newspaper story that said the best bra store in the world is in New York City—the Town Shop, in the bra business for 80 years—I clipped it. And when I booked this business trip to New York, I dug out the newspaper clipping. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to make it up from my mid-town east hotel to the upper west side, but I figured I’d bring the address just in case.
    And when I reached my hotel room I could think of nothing else. I checked my watch, calculated that I had enough time, speed-walked to Grand Central Station, bought a subway fun-pass, took the crosstown shuttle and the Broadway express, and went bra shopping.
    The store was tiny, not much bigger than my living room, and the 20 people or so milling about pretty much filled the place. Nearly half of the crowd, I soon figured out, were staff. The store had a few racks of bathing suits and lacy underwear, but no bras in site. A woman with a clipboard wiggled through the crowd to greet me. “Are you here for a fitting?”
    “Uh, yes.” She seemed to be waiting for more. “I don’t have an appointment.”
    “Let me get your name.” She wrote it on the clipboard, I fought the urge to say “Party of One.” “It’ll be about 15 minutes.”
    I looked at the bathing suits—nothing interesting. I studied the sign halfway into the room that said “No men beyond this point.” Eventually, the hostess suggested I sit in the single chair, because I was next.
    My fitter, I guess she should be called, an attractive black woman, early 30s, I guessed, with bleached-white assymetrical hair, followed me into a dressing room. I took off my shirt and my badly fitting but comfortable old bra. She glanced at me for only a second. “OK, I know what size you are.”
    “A 3X-X?” (Some things are private, even in a blog.) I figured I knew my size.
    "Oh." I told her I wanted to leave that day with two basic everyday bras, one with a little more padding than the other, preferably not much going on in the way of lace and frou-frou, no underwire. She disappeared and returned with three bras, one fit amazingly well, the other two I didn’t try because I didn’t like the styles. We talked about my vision of the perfect bra, briefly digressing into a discussion of post-baby belly, comparing our handfuls of floppy skin that didn’t leave with the pregnancy pounds. Now properly bonded, we returned to the problem of the second bra. She asked if I would consider an underwire, and, told yes, disappeared again and returned with another handful of bras. One in particular she was convinced would fit; it didn’t. She didn’t know what was wrong until she checked the label (European sized, incomprehensible to me); the bra had been misfiled, it was the wrong size. She replaced it with a new one, but swapped its little cat’s-eye shaped pads with different ones, scavenged from a rejected bra. “There.” She stepped back and surveyed her work. “That’s it, I think. Let me leave you for a minute and then we’ll see what you’ve got.”
    I tried on one, and then the other, and then the first again. I had two completely different bras that fit; it seemed too good to be true. Should I buy a couple of each? But what if they didn’t fit tomorrow? I got dressed and stepped hesitantly out of the dressing room.
    “Those two?”
    “Yes, but…”
    “And then if you’d like more just call us and we’ll mail them, postage is on us.”
    Is this woman my bra angel? Could my bra problem finally be solved? If this really is true, and these bras don’t turn into straw when I leave New York, this was definitely worth missing an afternoon of art or culture for.

What was she thinking?

June 23, 2006

Puppy3 A friend of mine got a new puppy. She’s not the first mom I know who added a puppy to the household once all her kids were settled into elementary school. And don’t get me wrong, this is a very cute puppy. But I can’t help thinking she’s lost her mind.
    I mean, look at the facts. Her youngest child is seven. Her kids have slept through the night for so long she barely remembers a time in which they didn’t. She dumped her childproofing gear years ago. She’s got new furniture that has never been peed upon. Her kids’ toys don’t squeak when squeezed or make obnoxious fire-engine sounds when a button is pushed. She can take the family on spur-of-the-moment trips and her kids can pack their own suitcases.
    Now in comes the puppy. He has a big crate to sleep in. It takes up a fair chunk of the kitchen—about the same amount as a standard playpen. His toys are scattered everywhere and squeak loudly when accidentally stepped on. Everything breakable or chewable in the house, including shoes, has to be placed on high shelves. Brand-new baby gates (the first time her husband had gone to Baby’s R Us in years) are installed in every doorway. But still panic regularly ensues—get the puppy, he’s chewing on the electrical cord! Get the puppy; he slipped out the back door! 
    Many of this mom’s conversations lately revolve around the new puppy. She and I were at her house, getting ready to go out for dinner. The dads intended to take the kids to a baseball game that same evening. But who would take the puppy out for his pre-bed potty stop? Heavy negotiations followed. A few days later she called me to chat for a while—but she quickly cut the call short. “Get the dog!” I heard her shriek as she hung up the phone. “He’s peeing on the floor!”   
    Discipline is an issue. The dog is not supposed to sit in laps and be snuggled. But my friend can’t resist snuggling him when her husband isn’t watching.
    Then there is the dog’s schedule. The dog is primarily supposed to be the dad’s responsibility, but mom can’t help but keep track of the schedule. “It’s been two hours,” she’ll say, looking at her watch, “it’s time to take him out.” Keeping track gets to be a habit, and she’s already tracking her son’s piano practice, her daughter’s ballet lesson, homework, soccer, and countless other kid activities. I know after years of keeping track of diaper changes and potty visits, it would be hard not to keep track. But again, I wonder, why is it that she wants to do this?
    The kids love the dog. They feel powerful as they hold his leash and walk him around the yard. But they forget to close the safety gates and the back door, and they leave shoes and backpacks within chewing distance.
    The day after the baseball game Dad was tired. He got to bed late, and the dog got him up during the night. Mom barely rustled (maybe she mumbled something about, “it’s your dog” as she snuggled back under the covers). Maybe that’s why she doing this puppy thing—maybe she wanted to know what it was like to be the one who doesn’t get up at 2 a.m.
    Or maybe a house without toys on the floor, and safety gates, and potty schedules to worry about was just too quiet. I can almost imagine that, though we’ve gotten rid of the safety gates and diapers and things aren’t anywhere close to quiet around here. But if quiet ever descends, and we feel inspired to add to the household population, the next new member of the household will absolutely not wake me up at 3 a.m. or pee on the floor. I’m thinking goldfish? Ant farm? Hermit crab?

Laundry List

June 15, 2006



    Eventually, it all comes down to the laundry.
    Beth reminded me of this fact this morning; sending around her tenth iteration of a logo for this blog, she wrote that we really needed to make a decision because she’s stopped folding her laundry until it’s done. Enough said, Beth, we know what that means. The laundry is winning, and that’s when life as a mom gets ugly.
    When did laundry start to become such a force in my life? I suppose it was about 24 hours after I brought that first baby home from the hospital.
    Laundry wasn’t always a constant battle. Laundry in college was a party down in the dorm basement every couple of weeks and an optimum time to check out guys. Laundry post-college was still more social than suffocating, and my laundromat pals usually remembered when it was their turn to bring the beer.
     Laundry was even fun as a newlywed. I married into a house renovation, so for the first few months, anyway, when the laundry needed doing my new hubby and I drove together to the nearest San Francisco laundromat, he parked the car and picked up coffee while I sorted, and we folded together. It almost seemed romantic.
    But for some reason I couldn’t wait until we got that washer/dryer installed in the basement because I just knew it would make my life so much better. Hah!
    I got that washer/dryer; and a baby. And then laundry took over my life. (Sure, the baby did too, but the laundry was somehow even more relentless than a colicky kid). My first new-mom breakdown came at the end of a laundry day. The washer was in the basement, my bedroom was on the third floor. I spent the day hauling up and down two flights of stairs (parking baby in the bassinet on the middle floor) trying to get a week’s worth of laundry done in between nursing and baby-walking. The pile of unfolded clean clothes on my bed grew throughout the day, because every time I tried to fold them, the baby fussed. That day I never took a shower, barely ate—but that didn’t bother me. It was those unfolded clothes on my bed that represented failure—an entire day in which I attempted to do nothing but fold laundry and I couldn’t even do that? My baffled husband just couldn’t understand the tears…what was the big deal?
    When washer died while I was pregnant with child number three, I briefly rediscovered the local laundromat, where Spanish-speaking moms went to party on Friday nights. I didn’t exactly fit in (I couldn’t understand a word they were saying), but they jumped in and helped fold my laundry when the dryers stopped, just like they all joined in to fold each other’s. Sure, I was happy to have my washer repaired (and yes, I bow down before it and give thanks every time I’m up all night with a kid with a stomach virus), but it was a reminder that there is a different way.
    Laundry sparked a major mom explosion a few years ago. Feeling completely unappreciated, I briefly went on strike. Since then, my husband does his own laundry. I still wash and fold the kids’ clothes, but hubby helps them put the folded clothes in their drawers. Sure, the clean clothes sit in baskets for days, and they only take 10 minutes to put away, but handing off that part of the job makes me feel that I’m not a complete slave to laundry. I’m not the only mom who’s had laundry explosions—last year a Barcelona inventor tried to market a washing machine called "Your Turn," that uses a fingerprint sensor to make sure the same person doesn’t do the wash twice in a row. Not a big seller; seems like it would cause  more problems than it would solve, but you can just imagine the domestic dispute that inspired that invention.
    When we’re on vacation, I dread devoting a half a day out of every eight or ten to laundry. I procrastinate; I wait for bad weather. If it doesn’t rain, the family wears dirty clothes. But when I finally do drag myself to the local laundromat, I usually have a good time—everyone’s on vacation, everyone is chatty; it’s fun to talk to other moms, a break from my husband and kids.
    My kids’ first year at summer camp brought an unexpected laundry crisis: they brought home wonderful memories—and mud. I’ve learned; I don’t let the camp bags in the house—they dump them on the lawn, I sort them outside, and try to shovel them directly into the washer without trailing dust onto the floor. I keep saying I should just burn the camp clothes, they never ever do come clean.
    Laundry isn’t always evil. Sometimes, when I slow down a little, I notice how big my children’s clothes are these days, and remember those little onesies of babyhood. I think of the relative that picked out that special dress, the friend that passed on a favorite sweater. My first sign of my son’s impending puberty a few years ago was a change in the smell of his clothes; since then I make sure to notice the different and distinct (but not unpleasant) smell of each child’s shirts. And I daydream for a bit, until the dryer buzzes and reminds me to get it in gear or I’ll never finish.
    And the dryer just buzzed—the laundry calls. Again.

Playing the Mom Game

June 8, 2006

  Life is not a competitive sport, I tell my kids. So we pretend not to keep score at second-grade soccer; we pretend not to keep score at T-ball.
    But every night, after the kids are in bed, I know exactly the score of that day’s Mom game, and whether it was a win, a loss, or a draw. It’ll never make ESPN, and the announcer is only in my head.
    “Her first up today is a good one, a 2-point bonus: she blow-dries her hair instead of doing the school drop-off dripping wet. The kids are out the door on time; they get to school with their lunches, no deductions there. In fact, it looks like she scored 2 points for extra difficulty in lunch preparation; she dusted off the multi-compartment glad-ware, put assorted veggies in one compartment, dill dip in another, and cheddar slices and whole wheat crackers, individually bagged so the crackers wouldn’t get soggy, in the third. Excellent presentation!”
    (Now for an extended intermission while the kids are at school and the mom is at work in her home office.)
    “OK, we have another scoring opportunity; the kids are home from school. This could be a big score, she’s not on a conference call and shushing the kids, she could potentially take 10 minutes to get a snack in front of them and hear the high points of their day. The hopefully empty lunch boxes are tossed on the counter and—Bzzzzzzt! It’s a 5 point penalty; the kids are starving because she mixed up the bags—boy-child got two bags of cheese, girl-child got two bags of crackers, and heaven forbid they should find each other at school and switch.”
    “Now we’re moving into the critical after-work activity-juggling event. She’s got five minutes between the end of the work day and the time she leaves for T-ball. She sends boy-child up to change while  she starts a load of laundry—2 points.”
    “Boy-child comes back downstairs—the T-ball uniform was in the laundry, it is now hopelessly wet and sudsy—minus 10 points.”
    “The mom is only a little late when she drops her son at T-ball wearing a plain blue shirt, just a half-point deduction there. And she’s saving gas because she did the drop en route to girl-child’s flute lesson, plus 5 points. Halfway to the flute lesson she calls spouse to check the T-ball schedule, with a nagging feeling that something is wrong. It is, she dropped boy-child at the wrong field! (Why does Little League have so many different venues?)  Another 10-point deduction. The mom does not wait at the curb to watch daughter walk into the flute teacher’s door; doesn’t even put the car in park—minus 1 point. Every red light raises her anxiety level—what is boy-child doing? Is he freaking out, since he’s at the wrong game? No, boy-child is fine, he’s playing on the play structure. He calmly gets into the car, and tells her that he’ll likely miss the first two innings. The mom tries to appear calm.”
    “Back home after flute pickup and T-ball pickup she spends two minutes on the internet googling her list of leftovers, clueless as to what to make for dinner; she finds out she can combine them all and call it jambalaya—5 points.”
    “The kids eat it—2 more points.”
    “The kids are on track to be in bed by 9 pm—2 points.”
    “The kids turn on the TV; she’s too tired to intervene—that’s a 2-point deduction.”
    “She decides to take a quick bath before putting the kids in their bath. No one is yelling for “mom,” so the quick bath turns into a long soak. Bedtime slips to 9:30—minus 2 points.”
    “Final score for the day—minus 10.5 points; a crushing defeat.”
    But tomorrow is another game.