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Zen and the art of toilet cleaning


Transitioning to the world of toddler co-op and upped mama work hours has made it a tricky week. Not horrible, not exasperating, not out of control. Just tricky.

In an effort to calm that trickiness on Friday, I decided Lil E and I would skip our 9 a.m. Wiggleworms music class and instead, try to make it to the 10 a.m. class. Since we were happily in our jammies at 9:30, nibbling on "peopoh cereaoh" and playing Lil E's version of wooden screwdriver-Superball golf, I opted to try to make the 11 a.m. class instead.

Making that one little decision - not to hurry, not to get all worked up - was like a sigh of relief for the last day of our week. We took it easy.

And Lil E complied, happily helping me search for a dropped earring and bringing me things to pack into his diaper bag. In an unprecendented move, he brushed his teeth - alone - for ten minutes, while I stood behind him, brushing my own teeth and pulling my hair into a neater-than-usual ponytail.

I was amazed. We were, like, so going with the flow.

So much so that I pulled out my make-up case to get pretty for the hour of Old MacDonald and You Walk and You Walk and You Walk and You Stop ahead.

Lil E squealed. He loves my make-up case. It is like the Mommy version of a Little People village, full of colorful, tiny things to twist and shake and try out. The make-up I use is comprised of little pots of powders and shadows that fit perfectly in his palms, and in the past, this has been an ideal distraction while I look at the mirror for a moment or two.

"I want a brush!" he yelled out and I handed him the big one I wasn't yet using.

"I like ano-er sumping!" he yelled out and so I handed him one of those delightful pots of glittery powder.

I looked to the mirror with my concealer in hand. For a moment. Just for a moment. When I looked down in front of me, Lil E was pouring that powder in a precise pile on the bathroom sink.

Oh no! I tried to be calm in spite of that cha-ching cha-ching in my head as the pot emptied on, of all things, the potty Lil E was standing on.

Zen, Zen, I reminded myself, swiftly removing Lil E and the grainy, glittery, quickly-staining bronzing powder from all of the white surfaces around us.

"Here, here," I said, handing him the mascara with one hand while scrubbing tile with baby wipes with the other hand.

He quickly unscrewed the top and pulled out the wand.

"Ooh! A bat!" he said. How could I have forgotten that that he can unscrew, uncap and unplug now? I took the mascara back swiftly. How could I have forgotten that?

"But I need the brush, Mommyy-yyyy!"

He was all sing-songy and sweet and having no idea that the lady at counter in my head was tsk-tsking me for letting my little one make toys of cosmetics. I handed him the brush.

He was happy and I got back to the business of eye liner.

"Mommy, mommy!"

"Yes, boo?" I asked while I used that bat to quickly clump on some length and curl to my lashes.

"Mommy, I cleaning the toiyet!"

"Oh good, honey! I --" and then I saw that he was cleaning the toilet. With my brush. With my $30 blush brush.

Even in the crevices between the tank and the lid. Even down by the base and carefully around the little bolts and flushy thingy. Good, good.

I looked away just for a moment to rifle through my bag. There was nothing left to do but hand him another brush and get back to my lip gloss.

"Mommy, now I cleaning da floor! It needs it!"

"Yup, it does," I said, applying a nice, even second coat of Pink Diamonds. "Go crazy, babe."

"I going crazy cleaning da floor and da toiyet!" he giggled.

Soon after, I ushered us off to music. Me pretty, he happy, bathroom bronzed and potties shiny.

On a late Friday morning, it was all good.

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Rock Star is my friend. Really.

So Rock Star: Supernova is over.

I will no longer be able to hold a conversation. I am now officially the most boring person on earth.


I don't think a day has gone by over the last thirteen weeks or so that I have not had at least four conversations about Rock Star. So those conversations are mostly with my husband, but come on...that is why we are meant to be. We are both hopelessly. addicted. to. crap. TV.

We ushered the small child off to bed, settled in with our carry out pad Thai and got down to the business of making SuperNova interesting and marketable to budding tween rocker grrrls a complete band.

And it was a good show. It didn't have to be. We all know Tommy Lee and the two other dudes made their decision after the first show long before tonight's curtain call, so it's not like Dilana, Lukas and Tobey had to kick it up. But they did.

After the shocker of Toby get the big steel-toed boot (I so thought he was going to win this bad boy), I have to admit the Big Reveal was a bit anti-climatic for me. Yeah yeah yeah, Lukas won. Now Mac can sponsor their worldwide tour and Lukas can (please please) stop playing that horrible Headspin song. Dilana and Storm can finally unbraid each other's extenstions, move to Vermont, get married, make records with Dave Navarro. It's all good.

Maybe my need for their to be more fireworks and glory in the show's finale is really about my sad, sad attachment to The Rockers. Just saying out loud, "Wow, I'm really going to miss these folks...I mean, show" really says it all, doesn't it?

It reminds me of this study my mom read a few years ago about how some alarming percentage of the American Public really, truly believe the people on TV are their friends. Friends.

When she told my family about this one night, we laaaaaughed (and then quickly turned our rapt attention away from fellow human contact to Phil from Amazing Race or some such with an exclamatory sssssssssshhhhhhhhhh!, probably from my father).

"Yeah, " I said (during a commercial), "that study is probably full of those freaks who watch The Bold and The Beautiful. You know they are lonely enough to believe it all has an element of reality to it."

Spooky, isn't it?

Not the study, but how closely it mirrors me, who swears up and down she saw Katherine from The Mole in a parking lot a few months after winning the big money on season one.

Why fight it? I love Rock Star. I love it. I love it. I love it. And maybe, just maybe if I go to the concert all rocker chic-ed out enough and scream along loud enough, they'll raise the horns right at me.

Even if I don't get Rocker love I (desperately) seek, you know I am asking Bruce to buy me tickets for our anniversary (four years is three vodka-cranberries and a torn-and-tied-back pleather halter top, right?).

And when the Rockers realize they really are friends of mine, here's who you can bet your black duster coat they'll be:

Lukas, the creepy dude who works the back of the house at the Hooters (I know, we already know this part) where you work just to get yourself through the Women Studies program in grad school (it ain't always pretty what you do to keep yourself in the Erica Jong, people). He's all look and no touch for the ladies in the front of the house, if you know what I mean. And by look, I mean, "Oh. mah. gaw. What aisle in Sephora do you find that sparkly-creamy highlighter shadow?"

Toby, that frat guy from the "cool" (*eye roll*) fraternity you hooked up with junior year who is forever known in your circle of grrrlfriends as "That Sorta Hot Guy Who Incessantly Talks About Getting Wasted." You know that guy? Of course you do. All your grrrlfriends in that circle do (*wink*).

Ryan, my second husband. Or possible the brooder you were fascinated by but failed to fascinate in return when you could not name one single Jeff Buckley song off the top of your head after four Black Butte Porter pounders.

Zayra. Borrow her clothes on the off chance your work friends will actually let you on the float at the Queer Pride parade this year? Hecky yeah. Renew the lease? Prolly not such a good idea.

Phil. Didn't you go to high school with Phil? Or was it Hebrew school? Oh wait...he looks sorta...No. Hmmm. What was his last name? Was he Julie's little brother? Phil Who Again? Never mind.

Dana, your college roommate. Ummmm, nice and...ummm, well, she did teach you how to sort laundry and send you a lovely little thank you note for those boxers you puffy-painted for her for finals good luck.

Storm, who you dragged Dana down the hall to visit during her How To Give A (Really Good) Blow Job workshop for the floor, only asking that participants bring their own curling irons or vodka bottles to practice on. (Somewhere in the world, Tommy Lee just felt the overwhelming need to say, "School of Hard Knocks, dude!" while he-he-heing to himself).

Dilana? Oh no, honey, you were way too intimidated by her to even think of being her friend. Even if you thought she was hella rad. Even if you secretly wanted to be her. Even if she did cry during Kumbayah when the week of camp was over. No no no no no.

I don't want to brag that I clearly am friendly with way more of these reality folks than you, so I will stop there. But please, feel free to chime in if your BFF is Patrice or your uncle's neighbor's favorite cashier at Fred G. Meyer's sister is Jill or whatever.

I'll just take the rest of the evening to be alone with my thoughts and my memories. Until Survivor: Segregation Island starts tomorrow, that is.

Then the popularity really begins.

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Off he goes

Today is Lil E's first day of co-op.

100_4056_0369_368_6 The kid is completely at ease in front of a camera.  After thousands of pictures since birth, who wouldn't be? Today, the only way I could get him to smile at me for his First Day of Co-Op shot was to say the hilarious phrase du jour: Pee a river.

Pee a river, as in the phrase that slipped from my tongue early one morning this week while changing the first diaper of the day: Good God, Lil E, you've peed a river!

It worked.  Fits of giggles later and several repititions of "Mommy, I pee a riiiiiiiver!" later, I had a good shot of the boy, his orange backpack and Bobo the stuffed chimpanzee peeking out as a little security for us both.

It was good to get off to a laugh because I was feeling a bit sniffly and Lil E was a bit more huggy than usual. Lil E's been in playgroup and classes and had sleepovers at my mom's, but leading him toward eight semi-structured hours a week of preschool with a backpack and thermo-lined lunchbox just seems like a big step.

As we arrived, we saw other children with their backbacks and mommies with cameras. Lil E patted my arm and said, "I have a backpack too, Mommy."

"Yes, I told him. "An orange backpack and a lunchbox with a yummy lunch inside."

I pulled him in a little tighter. My boy, my boy.

We walked down the stairs together, slowly, with Lil E holding on to the rail and me holding on to my own bag, his bag and a big bag of supplies for the classroom.

"LIL E!," another parent exclaimed. "Look, honey, Lil E is here too!" 

It was The Hair-Puller and his fervently-warning mama we'd befriended at the Meet & Greet last week. The small child with a small backpack still too big for his body turned around to see us but quickly turned his attention back to the room. Lil E stopped and eyed the room as well.

He was quiet for just a beat and then, "Toys!"

"Yes!" I said, a sigh of relief for the toys.

In the room, the kids all dashed off to the play kitchens and plastic wonderment. I sat down to fill out a form and fill in the teachers.

"If he asks for paci and Bobo, just know it is his pacifier and stuffed monkey, there in the front pocket of his backpack," and just as I whispered the words, I conjured up the emotion I was so hoping wouldn't take hold.

Out of the center of the room, already full of trucks and baby dolls, Lil E emerged with a familiar look on his face. Another child started to cry as his mother swiftly exited the room. Lil E caught on, pointed to his backpack and let out a little squawk.

"Paaaaaaci. Bobohhhhhhh. Paci. Bohhhhhbo," until it became one word, "Pacibobo! Pacibobo."

I fished it out for him, handed it over, hugged him and got up to go.

The co-op's Kiss & Good-bye policy is there for a reason and a good reason, I agreed. I tried to comply as quickly and lovingly as I could. I bent down, hugged him, told him I loved him and would be back later.

I love you, I love you. Bye-bye, my sweets. See you later, I whispered.

And then, as a kind teacher scooped him up, I fumbled my way out of the baby gate and up to the parent room.

Big breath. I wasn't overwhelmed or over-wrought. I just hated to hear him cry when I was so convinced he would be more interested in the big bin of small balls than if I was there or not.

In the parent room, I signed out with the phone number where I could be reached, signed us up for the October outing to a pumpkin patch and chatted with another mama from Lil E's class. She was pacing and I assured her that her daughter was downstairs, wheeling a little around the room with a big smile.

She launched in like she was ready for someone to ask how this would go.

"I didn't put an ice-pack in her lunch and I'm nervous about the strawberries and string cheese. Plus, I'm going downtown and I hate to be that far away even though my mom's close by.  She takes a nap at 11 like clockwork, so I don't know if she'll make it. Maybe she will just take her lamby and curl up like she does at home. I've been reading that keeping a regular sleep schedule is the best way to avoid tantrums."

I smiled.

"That's optimistic, " I said. And with that, I felt better, felt ready to go.

I couldn't hear Lil E crying from downstairs anymore and I wasn't interested in hanging around alone for muffins and coffee. Plus, I thought it might be easier for us both if Nervous Mommy and I left together.

She peeked down the stairs and I held the door to our few hours of freedom together.

"See you later, " I said to her as well, and headed down the block toward our apartment.

I did call my own mom on my way home and fought back a few tears when I relayed the details of the morning (so far) to Bruce. But I felt reassured even if that walk was quicker and a bit lonelier without a dawdling toddler marching beside me, checking out everything that could possibly be a worm on the sidewalk.

Lil E would be safe and have fun, and just getting through the first day would be a big event for us all. Pretty soon, this would all be a glorious routine.

I warmed up my cold cup of tea and got to work on a big inbox of email. There, at the top just recently pinged my way, was a message from a friend, another mother with a child Lil E's classroom and two older kids who made her much more experienced in the ways of co-op.

"I checked in before I left" she wrote, "and Lil E was playing happily. Enjoy your hours."

Those compassionate words lit up my screen. And I felt happy, supported, OK.

My boy is at co-op, not prom or college or climbing a mountain far away. These baby steps might lead him in those directions, but for now, he is just three short blocks away, playing happily.

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