Monday, August 30, 2010

Nobody's Fool(ed)


Get up off the couch, Tuttle! Your kids are playing Zingo together on the floor. They're not fighting and neither of them has smacked the other yet. There are dishes to be done and a living room to be picked up. Tomorrow's lunch to be packed, the laundry to be rotated. They need baths, you sent them to school today smelling like the woods, remember? Smelling like wild animals, if you're going to be honest. Isn't honesty what you're all about? Isn't your dream to stand for truth, like Tori Amos? You sent your kids to school smelling like camp smoke and matted fur. That dutch apple-scented hair detangler you sprayed in their hair made no difference. You're not fooling anybody.

You have things you need to do. You're supposed to volunteer at two schools now. There are fundraisers already, coupon books to be sold. You wanted to start volunteering for a non-profit this year so that by next year you could be working for one. So that you can afford that excellent education for your daughters next year, because you can't count on any scholarships coming through again, remember? You wanted to launch your freelance writing career. You were going to polish up some blog posts, work up some mock reviews, send out queries to content editors. Send out a resume offering to do anything from make copies to write blog posts for your non-profits of choice.

But you decided to let that go, didn't you? Remind yourself why again so that you don't feel guilty: some little voice in you kept clearing its throat and "hem hem"ing, like Dolores Umbridge at her worst. Something quietly insisted you finish your book first, before you go exploring the non-profit or the freelance thing. You decided to listen, remember? Because Tuttle: what else have you got? You are running on instinct here. You are feeding on raw hope. You believe in little voices. That and omens are your new thing. You didn't know you were on the right track until you started to veer off it. Be glad you didn't veer any farther.

Because maybe something will come of it, and maybe something won't. Maybe your spirit will benefit from finishing it, maybe your pride and your bank account won't. That's fine. Remember what matters more, Tuttle?

Your kids have stopped playing Zingo. They've moved on to the Wii. They're half-naked, dirty-faced, changeling babies. What kind of mother are you? They're eating candy again. They ate apple sauce and bananas and ham and croissant sandwiches for dinner. Call it smorgasbord if you want. Remember again: Still not fooling anybody.

Don't worry, Tuttle. It's better this way. Better if no one is fooled. Try this: Sleep a little more. Worry a lot less. Eat more salmon and spinach, blueberries and dark chocolate. Make time for ritual. Read to your kids. Lie down with a book. Listen to your spirit. Listen to your gut, too. (Especially when it tells you to lay off the ice cream). Forgive yourself. Waste no time on guilt. Believe in the bright side. Be thankful. Remember you are cherished because of who you are. Not for what you do.

Just a gentle reminder, Tuttle.

Who are we kidding? This is a note from your own underground. You don't do gentle.

Tuttle, those are orders.

I am Vesuvius and I edited a pimple out of that photo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


ayla first day kindergarte

Dear Ayla,

You were so mad your sister got to start school two days before you did that you stomped your feet and hopped like a little pitch-forked devil.

Then I told you we were going on an outing for new shoes and suddenly you had a different outlook altogether.

I took you to Kohl's and you ran immediately to the Sketchers. "Look," you cried. "Sketchers twinkle toes!" and then it was my turn to be hopping mad because Sketchers had marketed to you so heavily you were able to recognize a brand simply by looking at the fat purple heart and the too-skinny girl on the box.

I sort of held my breath while you tried on one pair but declared them 'too fancy' and Ayla, you were right. You have excellent taste, just like your Great Grandma.

You tried on a second pair of Twinkle Toes, but you just weren't thrilled. I told you we could go to Target and see what they had there. You wanted to know did they have Sketchers at Target. "They make you go fast," you said.

I reminded you of the time you were disappointed with the Littlest Pet Shop play house. You had thought it would be as wonderful and thrilling as they make it look on the tv. When you opened the box and it wasn't as big or sparkling or bejeweled as you had expected, you said, "Mom, why do they lie to kids? Someone should tell them they can't lie to kids, because it's mean." And I agreed with you.

But you insisted Sketchers wasn't lying and that their shoes would make you faster.

So we went to Target. I handed you a pair of shoes and told you they were Sketchers and you tried them on. You needed to test them 'for fastness', you said. You sprinted up and down the aisle a few times. I declared you quick as a flash. I told you you were running so fast I couldn't see you pass by. You were pleased, but still a little hesitant.

You said, are you sure they're Sketchers? And I said, yep.

I told you if you picked that pair, I would buy you an ice cream.

"I'm definitely getting these ones then!" you said. And then you said, "See mom, they didn't lie! The Sketchers do make you fast!" and I agreed with you.

But Ayla, I lied. Those Sketchers from Kohl's not only looked like shoes for hookers at Field Day, but they cost twenty-six dollars! The ones at Target are actually Circo brand, and they were fifteen.

I know it is too much to ask for you to see this as 'the day mom took me out and bought me new shoes and ice cream' instead of 'the day mom lied to me about the hooker shoes and my running speed'. I wouldn't have had such perspective when I was a kid, either.

You always have anxiety after making any kind of decision and on the way home, true to your nature, you regretted not getting the Twinkle Toes and asked for them for your birthday. So I hope to make it up to you then.

As long as I can find a pair that don't make you look like a five-year-old floozie.

I love you and I want you to know, someday, that when I went to pick you up from your first day of Kindergarten you gave me the stink-eye and did not wish to leave.

I also want you to know that I did not take it personally.

Future Ayla who is reading this, you look too skinny. Are you eating enough? Put on a sweater.



PS: Call me!


I am Vesuvius and in college they used to call me Twinkle Toes.

Monday, August 23, 2010



Indy passed out after fourth birthday celebrations,

We went to Walmart to get Indy ready for school. She looked so small, too tiny to be carrying that big backpack on her shoulders. I asked her if she was excited and she said "uh-huh". I'm trying not to talk it up to her too much. I don't want her to sense what a big deal it is and freak out. Indy rarely freaks out, but when she does it isn't pretty.

I have visions of her lying prostrate on the circle mat, the one with the letters and numbers, screaming 'NO!" and refusing to leave.

We met her teacher. Indy wanted her attention and tried to charm her. The teacher wasn't having it. She wasn't being mean, she just wasn't going to be charmed. It made me sad. I want everyone to adore Indy the way I do. I want her to go through life being as loved by everyone she meets as she is by mom. All she gets from me are shining-eyed, adoring, smiles. I don't want her to realize she won't be able to elicit that from everyone.

Noah says it will be good for her to learn that. But I have my doubts.

On the other hand, I'd rather her grow up to be an authentic person than a manipulative one. Charm and manipulation are the same coin, you know. This is why I never trusted a charming man.

She feels younger than Ayla did when Ayla started preschool because she is. Younger by almost an entire year. There are only two other girls in her class, but I'm not too worried about that. Ayla's best buddies in preschool were two of the boys. I'd arrive early to pick her up and see her wrestling with them in the leaves. Once one of them was running with a football and Ayla tackled him. The boy's mother informed me that her son wanted to marry Ayla.

I hope that mom was ok with a daughter-in-law who wouldn't hesitate to tackle her son, should the need arise.

And Ayla, my little bird, my first born, who has had near SIX years at home, is starting the full time school. 8 to three. Her class is full of boys too, I don't know why. She's so excited. I hope school doesn't disappoint her. I hope they give her time to paint, my tender little soul who calls herself an artist. Who told me when she grows up she wants to brew beer with dad. I was feeling emotional that day and said a little too passionately that when she grows up I hope she will take time to travel. To travel all over, I said. To see the world.

Then I added a guilty little: "If you want to."

Because more than I want her to travel, I want her to grow up free from the weight of my own expectations. I want her to feel adored. I think mothers should adore their children to excess.

Because who else will?

I am Vesuvius and I have always dreamed of adventure.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Noah Versus the Volcano


Dear Mr. V:

This just isn't working out for me.

I mean, as if I weren't feeling enough anxiety as it is over not posting a blog lately--as if I hadn't been sitting at my computer every afternoon during the girls 45 minute 'nap' (HA!) trying to think of something to say and coming up with nothing. As if I didn't feel bad enough about that already--

Now I get home from Target (I didn't crack this time and only let each girl pick one item from the dollar section [they picked the cotton candy both, sorry]) and what do I find in my inbox but a note from you politely demanding more blogs please.

Something witty, you say, but not chipper. You do not like it when I come across as chipper. (You know I am not chipper in real life).

Well. I haven't posted a blog in a week and I've realized the fault, as it almost always is with matters between us, is yours.

I don't see you enough anymore. When I leave before 7 every morning you are sleeping in bed or sometimes on the couch (by your choice, I would like to add, and not by angered wifely force). (I don't mind, I know you sleep better with the tv on.) Our children are rolled up like swaddled babies again and snoring in their room. It's just getting light out and sometimes I feel bad for leaving you. Alone with the girls for four and a half hours before going to work for an eight hour day! But I know when I get back, you will have fed the girls, and made sure they're wearing clothes--clothes that don't match, yes, or that might be a little dirty, but clothes nonetheless--and underwear and shoes.

Maybe with socks.Maybe with hair brushed but usually not. I know you don't enjoy the sweet symphony of their frantic screams during hair brushing the way I do. That's fine.

You will have cleaned up the kitchen and the living room a little bit. You will even have cleaned up the wet tea bag I left sitting on the counter or put away the almond butter and honey that I left out.

(Well, if you are in a really good mood you will have done that. Sometimes you clean around my little messes and leave my baggies and lids and knives out on the counter. It's ok, I understand. Usually I leave all your dirty socks on the floor. Although right now I would like to point out that the thick moss of hair you leave in the sink after shaving your head is much worse than a couple of dirty dishes. Just saying.)

Then I leave, and I don't see you again until 8 at night. Eight at night! We get to spend the drive home together. You'll tell me about work and I'll tell you about hearing Ayla scream "Mooooom, Indy's PEEING out here!" loud enough for all the neighbors to hear. Then we put the girls to bed and by then I am too tired to enjoy you and I fall asleep before I want to.

So you see, I miss you.

I more than miss you. I despair. And in my despair, I find myself unable to write or to throw my used Irish tea bags in the trash.

I want you to come home right now, and snuggle with us on the couch. Come home and you will make me something delicious to eat and this time I will pour the drinks. We never have time to get drunk and talk about God anymore. We never talk anymore at all. (I know it doesn't help when you try to start a conversation and I, rather tersely, tell you that I just sat down with a book.) (Maybe next time start the conversation before I sit down with the book?)

Remember when we used to sit at Barnes and Noble together for hours and hours? We used to read and talk about things other than school supplies and work schedules. Now we crash on the couch together and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But one day soon our kids will be leaving for college--I'll be wrinkly and wearing Lee jeans, you'll be deaf and senile but still getting carded at the liquor store--and then what? We'll miss those times when we were too exhausted to do anything but watch Buffy. We'll probably miss Buffy too, while we're at it. You will miss her lithe body and commanding tones and I will miss her lithe body and commanding tones.

I'll be all like, "What kind of girls have you raised not to call their mother!"

And you'll be like, "WHAT???"

And then I hope I will throw my dentures at you.

(You are going to be the one to go senile because you watch tv while I read books. Buffy and BSG don't make one senile, but I know for a fact that Top Chef and Iron Chef and Captain Chef and Cheffy Chef do)

I've forgotten to tell you things like:

sorry I was such a wreck before Indy's party. I hate throwing parties. Next time I'm going to opt out, ok? You think up a child's birthday party full of microbeers and pipe tobacco and Conan the Barbarian and that's fine. I'll just go along with it.

I keep fantasizing that we'll get on the wrong plane when we leave for Vegas and you and I will end up somewhere like Bora Bora or Bismark and I won't care because I'll have three days finally alone with quiet and you.

I know we've been dreaming of going to California alone next year for our 30th birthdays but I keep wondering if we shouldn't take the girls to Disneyland instead? Then I remember the thoughts I stated above and realize I'm crazy.

Then I think about taking the girls to Disneyland again. . .

I'm proud of you for finally becoming a brewer. Even though everyone I've met since you became one doesn't drink beer. Even though I keep offering free beer to people who turn out to be recovering alcoholics.

Thank you for throwing away my dirty tea bags.

Well here it is. You asked for a blog that was witty. Sorry. But I think you will find what this one lacks in wit it makes up for in vim? I like it when you compare to me to Buffy and those other two women you compared me to. I also think that if we keep seeing each other as little as we do, we can go strong for around another ten years without getting terribly sick of each other.

Oh and look at your daughter. She is so beautiful it took my breath away.


That's your daughter, Noah. YOUR DAUGHTER, AYLA. That's AYLA your DAUGHTER. Nevermind.


I am Vesuvius and I was very proud of myself when I came up with the title for this post.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The girls after swimming, August 2009

We went to the pool today to catch the end of summer.

It ends next week when the girls start school. I hate the way they schedule school. It should go two weeks into June when it's still not hot here anyway. Then the kids wouldn't have to to back until September.

September is the proper month for school starting. No one should be putting on their backpack and walking to class until that chill is in the air. Until the light has changed.

But any day now, it will start to.

I read an article in which a man said "Summer for me is all about the search for the perfect peach. You find it, you eat it, it's gone."

It's enough to make you melancholy until you remember: Peaches come back every August.

I remember the last time I ate a perfect peach. It was August and we were living with Mr.V's mom (for the first time) at the old farm house in Windsor. Ayla was on her way to turning one and not yet walking. She'd scoot around those hard wood floors in the onesies I didn't like and saved for days at home. She still had curly hair and I loved it so. I was reading "Angry Housewives Eating BonBons" and "The Bergdorf Blondes". You know it's a time of stress for me when my reading material goes light. We were eating a lot of spicy dumplings from Hunan Taste back then. Noah was doing some kind of labor (it wasn't clear to me exactly what even then) building a massive house for the Barr's of Spradley-Barr Ford, where I had been working when I met him, at 20. When he got home--around three or four back then, but it always felt like he'd been gone for ages--we'd put Ayla on the trampoline and bounce her around. I'd tell him what I did all day. (Chased after Ayla, read chick lit, watched the marriage of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson slowly dissolve on their reality show.)

I bought the Palisade peach at Safeway and ate it in that little room with the Murphy bed and the dust bunnies and the big view of the sky. I went back that night and bought more.

There's a good chance I've eaten other perfect peaches since then, but that's the one I remember.

Hunan Taste is called something else now and no one lives in that little farm house off the country road. That was the house where Mr. V fell out of a tree and bruised his own perfect peaches all black and blue. The house where we'd sit on the back steps eating Mercy's fried pepperocinis. We saw clouds that looked like jellyfish. The house where Ayla fell head first out of the deep bathtub. The house by the road that I drove down to get Noah and Josh the black lab jumped out the car window when I was going 55 and I thought I'd killed the family dog and it would have been the second one to die that summer. The attic was full of bats and the upstairs bathroom smelled of guano but we could watch them in the evenings when the sky went violet and the grass grew cool. We would lie on our backs staring at the sky.

I don't miss that house. The man getting maudlin about the peaches just made me remember.

I put down the article and looked around. There in front of me Ayla was splashing in the pool. Her hair is stick straight now, her limbs have lost their plump and gone gangly. She wanted me to watch her first real attempts at swimming. I held up her back and she smiled, eyes squinted, at the sky. Every few seconds she'd kick and sink, but I always caught her. She doesn't trust the water yet. She still trusts me.

Indy asked if I wanted to see her "super cool show". The show was her slapping the water and twirling with her arms in the air. But oh, how she smiles. Back at the farm house there was no Indy, and I remember: what a miracle, to have this little person in front of me. Fragrant and soft, like all late harvests. I don't remember who I was before them. I don't know how to live without them. Ayla lifted herself out of the water and curled up on the pavement in the sun. She burrowed into my thighs and belly like she used to as a baby. The hair on her back was thick and downy, like a peach.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Still Have

I feel like summer is almost over and I'm sad, I said to a co-worker. Walking through the empty parking lot to work at seven in the morning on the first day of August. Already hot.

Oh I don't get summers anymore, she told me. Kinda scoffed.

I thought, do I look like I'm in high school? Isn't that the last time any of us had 'a summer'?

I was thinking about all the things we hadn't done. Hadn't gone camping, hadn't made it to Elitches, had only made it to the swimming pool once.

Count it: Once.

The season isn't changing yet, but is about to change. It's tilting but hasn't turned. At night I comfort myself with this mantra: We still have August. We still have August. Autumn begins September 21st.

But I had this secret, scratching at me with claws in the dark: I was going back to work full time.

I got home late from Bookstore Job one night. (The job that is part time and demands no daycare). Noah was in bed. The girls were asleep with 'The Sound of Music' playing at the best part--the part where Christopher Plummer is singing "Edelwiess", his eyes all misty with the weight of everything that is about to end.

I crawled into bed with Ayla and began to sob. I couldn't believe it was over all ready. The seasons of the earth change, but we are prepared. Change is on the wind. We see it in the light, feel it hovering in the air. The seasons of your life can change without warning. And they don't come back. Summer ends, but it comes again. The season of having infants only comes once. When it's really over, it's over. It shocks me, realizing the time in my life when I will be pregnant, await a birth, cradle a sleeping infant, change a diaper--it's over. A season that--barring a night of heavy drinking and extreme unpreparedness--will never come again.

And then, without much warning, another season was ending too. I was going to work full time, 8 to 5, every single Monday through every single Friday. I thought about my daughters, home on Christmas break. Except they wouldn't be home. They'd be at daycare. And we wouldn't be baking cookies and taking walks in the snow and trips in our boots and jackets to the coffee shop for lattes and hot chocolates. And if they got sick? If they just had a bad day and didn't feel up to school? What would I do? I'd have to go to work anyway. They'd have to be with someone who wasn't their mom, even on the days when mom was what they really needed. I thought about summers--next summer, the ones after that. The season of going to the library, to the pool, to the park with a picnic, was already over. Instead I'd be taking the girls to day camps, different ones throughout the weeks, while I went to work. 8 am to 5 pm.

Yes, I had gone out and sought a job. But somehow it still hit me without warning. Another season was coming to a close, and I?

I just wasn't ready.

All this time, all this time I've spent at home, and it's over before I know it. It's been so hard. I've enjoyed it whenever I could. I've felt deep insecurity. Low self-esteem over the fact that I don't have a job, that I 'just stay at home', that I spend my days bargaining and begging and pleading with two tiny tyrants. I've felt deep guilt over not doing it well enough, over not wanting to do it, over not being able to afford more toys or more pairs of shoes or fancy birthday parties, because I was 'just a stay-at-home' mother. All these days, day after day for six years, of being home alone with two beings who demand and drain and take every moment of it for complete granted, who may never, ever realize everything their mother--who was once a volitient, confident, independent human being, who had a life before and beyond them, who is something in her heart that isn't 'mom' or 'lunch-maker' or 'mess-cleaner'--has given up for them.

All of that was about to end and I held Ayla for as long as I dared and cried silently the way I do because I wasn't ready for the season to change.

(Then I got up pretty quickly and left because I'm sure I can't imagine anything more terrifying than waking to find your mother sobbing and clutching you in the dead of night. And lord knows I can't afford the therapy she'd need after that.)

The season was about to change. A huge change. A time of rushing to work and rushing home and wearing fancy clothes and talking to adults and bringing home a large paycheck. Of bagged lunches and babysitters and daycare juggling. Like it or not (I think I like it) the season of diapers and formula and tiny babies who want nothing more than to sleep on your chest and gaze in wild rapture at your own miraculous eyes has ended here. We are headed into a season of teachers, home work, art projects, science projects, spelling bees, math quizzes, book orders, lunch money.

And I could spend it being away from my kids every day from 7 am to 5:30 pm, at a job I didn't care one whit about--or not.

You can't stop what's coming. But you can stop how you react to it.

In the end, we went with not.

No lots of extra money. No fancy private education. No day care or babysitters or child juggling or summer spring and winter breaks at the office and day camps.

The lesson I have learned is this: If someone asks you, "Is this a position you feel you could be happy in long-term?" And everything in you screams, 'No!'--

Then just say it. "No."

Especially when, after you pay for day care, you're only going to be able to afford an extra pack of gum a week anyway.

Miss Indiana Sophie in August 2006/yesterday.

I am Vesuvius, and I can't turn back time but I can turn down office jobs.

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