If You Don’t Read This Post, You Will Be Confused

Katryna says I should not call my children by their real names on this blog. I think she’s right. It’s dangerous and also, even though most of you know their real names (or even know the real kids who belong to the names) it creates a little artistic distance to give them pseudonyms. So from now on, my daughter is Elle and my son is Jay. Get it?

Today is Saturday. Saturdays are notorious in this household for being reservoirs of elevated expectations for great family times, full of outdoor adventures, creative communal projects, music, get-togethers with extended family and friends. Often, instead, we have a big fight in the morning. Usually the dynamic is that Tom wants us to do something organized and timely (say, before lunch and/or whenever it is I leave for my gig) and I want to do nothing. I want to sit around and be lazy and maybe listen to Scott Simon on Weekend Edition, but only with half an ear. After five days of being “on,” I want to check out. Tom, after five days of being at work, wants me to be present.

But today, even though I was really in the mood for a knock-down drag-out fight, I avoided even a skirmish. When Tom said he wanted to go to Look Park, I was able to say, after sulking for 20 minutes, “OK, but I don’t want to be rushed. I want to go for my run and waste a lot of time first.”

My run takes 23 minutes, but the lead up to the run takes roughly forty-five. First I have to wash my face and put in my contacts and get into my running gear. Then I have to check and re-check my email, check the weather, check the blog for comments, check the phone for any messages. Then I have to tidy up the breakfast dishes and pick up the kids’ toys and maybe read my mail from the day before. Then I get this tight feeling in my stomach that tells me if I don’t run NOW Tom’s going to leave for work and I will lose my window (or else Tom’s actual voice tells me this.) So at that point, I put on my jacket, find my iPod, maybe download one more podcast onto it and go out the door. Today, Elle called out from the second floor window, “Bye, Mama! Bye! Have a good run! See you later! I wuv you! Bye! Bye!” I called out to her too, and we continued to shout, “Bye!” “Bye” until I was halfway inside the park. Ten minutes later, I was home from my run. It may not be much, but it’s my time, and I guard it like a rottweiler.

Speaking of dogs, there is a kabal of bassett hounds that lives in our neighborhood. Or maybe several. Different people seem to walk them. Sometimes there are three bassett hounds; sometimes as many as five. They are walked on one leash with three (to five) branches. Today, I saw the hand-off; a couple who clearly had been walking them gave the leash to a single woman who continued.

This would be such an excellent beginning to a murder mystery.

Eventually, we loaded the kids into the car and headed for the park. Elle has gone ten days without wearing a diaper except at night, and last night she slept in undies that were dry when she woke up. Today was totally cash-in day, and we had promised her a trip to the toy store after the park. The lovely thing about an almost three year old is that she was way less focused on the eventual trip to Child’s Garden and way more focused on whatever it was she was doing in the moment; climbing on the play structures, sliding down the slide, swinging on the swings, looking for her friend, Sam. And then, when we did arrive at the fabled toy store and she did claim her prize––anything in the store, which turned out to be a $6 kick-ball, pink with yellow daisies painted on it––she had the biggest, shiniest grin of sheer joy one could imagine. She clasped that ball to her belly and ran back to the car, shouting, “Look at my ball, Dada!” She is outside as I write this throwing it to George Harrison and running after it, kicking it, chasing it, loving it up. That’s a kid who knows what kind of toy she wants. I had suggested the $200 Plan Doll House, but no; she wanted the ball.

We also picked out a present for Jay, since in our family, we give a small gift to the non-birthday kid on the birthday kid’s birthday (which will be a week from Monday––are we prepared or what?). Elle chose a small gender-neutral cloth-and-wood doll in a red and white striped outfit, and I bought some lovely wooden numbers that can sit in a leaf for future birthday circles. I don’t yet know what a birthday circle is, but I think once I do know, I’m going to want to have one at every opportunity. I’m hoping some reader out there will inform me what a birthday circle is.

We had lunch in Whole Foods, and on the way home, while Tom drove, I played with my iPhone. I was trying to match up photos I’d taken of friends to their phone numbers so that when they called me I’d see their pictures. As I was doing this, my phone rang.

Me: Hello?
Tom: Hi.
Me: Oh, hi.
Tom: Is Nerissa Nields-Duffy there?
Me: Um, maybe. I’ll see.
Tom: Cause I’d really like to talk to her.
Me: Yeah, she’s good to talk to when she’s around.
Tom; I really like her.
Me: She’s got a nice smile. And she’s got a really great husband.
Tom: And her kids are great.
Me: The best.
Elle: Dada, who are you talking to?
Tom: (Hanging up the phone) I’m talking to your Mama!
Me: (Also hanging up the phone) And I was talking to Daddy! Isn’t that funny?
Elle: No, not really.

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