Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recent Developments, Part Whatever: Freakout with a Side of Lede-Burying

No decision on houses, but our landlady told us how much she wants for the one we're in and it's...well, it's a lot. It's a lot more than we thought it would be. I'm sure it's what the house is worth in this market, but I don't think it's what we're willing or able to pay, especially with the trouble & responsibility of maintaining a place like this.

We haven't decided for sure, though. And in the meantime, we looked tonight at a house that a friend of a friend is about to put on the market. It's very nice and well maintained, and right near the school, and we like the sellers a lot, and trust them. It has a good feel, this house. But even though it's actually bigger than where we live now, I'm not convinced that the layout is right for us (big living room, smaller bedrooms, and I need a place to put my desk for the home-based work I do. Right now it's in the corner of the master bedroom, which works fine; I don't know if any of us would be happy the mess of it sitting in the living room.) We're going to go back with a measuring tape.

Or we could just sit tight & see if we can go on renting here.

And then there's the question of selling the Seattle house: if we want to buy anytime soon, we have to get started on that now now now, which means telling the tenants & fixing it up and lots and lots of time & negotiations.

Oh, and we need a car, as in a week we'll be losing the loaner that we've had since September. What to do?? Buy a new car? A slightly used car? An old beater for cheap so as not to rack up more debt?? And all of it takes time, time, time we don't have: to research, to test-drive, to finance, and in the meantime I'll have to take taxis or rent a car, and even setting up a rental car takes time, and did I mention? I have a new, permanent, benefitted job starting at the end of the month, at the same library where I had my old temporary job, so it's a good thing, a good thing, a good good good thing, though I need a car to get to it, and clothes to wear to it, and I don't have time to do laundry let alone shop.

So the laundry is piling up and I have no clean socks and contract work that's not getting done, we're staying up late crunching numbers and debating options; we're not sleeping enough, we have no food in the house, our stomachs hurt, we're tense and anxious and MG's childcare provider is on vacation until early June so whenever we're both working after 3:00 we have to hit up our new friends for playdates, we are racking up playdate debt left and right.

I have to remind myself that we're incredibly fortunate to be in the situation we're in, to have the options we have, to have enough work to support us--and I have a job! a permanent job! Did I mention? A job!--even though that work comes with crazy weird evening and weekend hours, to have a school that MG loves, to even be in a position to think about buying something.

I do know all that, but it's hard to remember through the buzzing in my head that comes from forgetting to breathe.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's-- or Mothers' --Day

I like Harlyn Aizley's recent post about Mother's Day on her blog. She's right: it is problematic for lesbian moms. Until this year, it hasn't been a big issue for us, even though starting in Kindergarten the Mermaid Girl's classes have done big Mother's Day (and Father's Day) projects. Last year and the year before, MG--by her own choice--worked extra hard to do two Mother's Day projects, and then sat out the Father's Day one, acting as a helper for the other kids. As far as I can tell, both her Kindergarten and First Grade teachers just let her decide what she wanted to do for both holidays, and that was her choice.

This year her teacher is more rigid in general, and also more old-fashioned--not old, just old-fashioned. She knows MG has two moms and has never made it an issue; though I get the sense that she's not thrilled about the idea, I also have the feeling that that's more about her general rigidity about how things Ought to Be than about homophobia in specific. Neither the Renaissance Woman nor I have been crazy about her from the beginning of the year, but MG hasn't seemed to have an issue with her until recently.

But in the last few weeks she's been complaining about this teacher a lot, with complaints that are--to my mind-- a mixture of the legitimate and the dismissable. Like, I agree with MG that the way her teacher praises and critiques the kids' work makes me uncomfortable ("even when it's my work she likes, I don't like the way she talks about it and shows it to the other kids," MG said), but unlike my daughter, I don't think it's a problem that her teacher made them "practice over and over and OVER" for their dance performance. Yay high standards, boo put-downs (even if those put-downs come in the form of praising my child's work).

Meanwhile, the teacher has complained (in passing, always in passing so there's no time to really talk about it) about MG's "attitude," her unwillingness to participate, and her continuing issues with finishing her work (we all agree that it's not that the work is too hard for her; it's more a time-management and, maybe, a power issue). Because it hasn't seemed to be affecting her learning or her enjoyment of school in general, and because it's close to the end of the year, and because we've had a crisis-level number of other things going on, we haven't met with the teacher to talk more deeply about any of this.

Then, yesterday, MG came home with a partly-finished "book" of pictures and writing for Mother's Day. When I glimpsed it in her backpack and coyly suggested that she might not want me to see it right away, she didn't scurry off to hide it until Sunday as I'd expected; instead, she flung it angrily onto the couch, then into the recycling, and started crying about how much she hated her teacher, how mean the teacher was, how the teacher yelled at her about not being able to finish her book, how the teacher didn't let her do two books or two projects but said she could do one for Mama for Mother's Day and one for me at Father's Day, and how she never wanted to look at that book, never never never ever again, how she knew it wasn't my fault but she was so upset she just HAD to yell and cry.

After she'd calmed down a bit, I asked as gently as I could if she'd let the teacher know how she felt about this, and she said she hadn't, she was too scared. I asked her if she wanted us to talk with the teacher, and she seemed unsure.

I told her I thought there were two things going on here: one was about this particular teacher, and how she just likes things to be a certain way. And the other was that--as we've talked about before--even though there are all different ways to be a family, a lot of people aren't used to that, and even though they know she has two moms they might forget that that might make a difference in, say, what she might need to do for Mother's Day. And that it's hard to be always reminding people that your family is different, especially when you're a kid.

"Yeah," she said fervently, "it's REALLY hard."

We agreed that this teacher probably isn't going to change how she thinks about things, but that we could think about what to do for next year. I asked if I could suggest something, and she said, sure, and I suggested that maybe next year she could talk with her new teacher early on--maybe even the first week--about how she'd like to do two Mother's Day gifts and then be a class helper for Father's Day.

"Or maybe in the first month," MG said, "after I've figured out how nice she is."

"Sure," I said. "Or we could talk with her. But it might be good for you to, since you're the one in the class."

I asked what she thought might be best to do about this teacher, this year, and she said, sort of resignedly, "I'm going to try to just let it go and ignore it." But she seemed more at peace with the whole thing.

Later, I snuck the Mother's Day book out of the recycling so RW and I can keep it forever. It has some of her best writing in it, and wonderful pictures. It is full of writing prompts: "My mom likes to..." "My mom doesn't like..." "My mom is the best because..." On every page--even the one where she didn't have a chance to write her own completion of the thought--MG has inserted an "s" after the word "mom." On one page she even adjusted the grammar, crossing out the "is" and writing "are" above it.

She knows us well; we like "to read, to cook to play games to go camping, see movies to eat chotolete and to see rainbows. They like flowers to." And if she could give us something special, it would be "a gold ekoe [Echo--a car we've been eyeing] a wunderfle house with a spectacyouler veiw."

On the last page, she didn't have time to draw anything but here's what she wrote: "My momS is are the best because: they are very incriging, they take good cear of me and they love me."

I want to take good cear of her and to be incriging. I want to incrige her to be her own person and to stand up for what she wants and needs, but I want to take good cear of her so she doesn't have to do that on her own. I'm afraid that this time around I didn't take good enough cear, that we're letting this teacher off too lightly in the name of expediency and picking our battles and the damn holiday--as with that Christmas back in kindergarten--being practically over anyway before we realized there was an issue. As the commenter on Are You My Mothers said, it's unfair for the kid to always have to do the explaining.

In the end, though, I have to think that what happened in class matters less than what happens in our home. Tomorrow we'll drive her to circus class, and maybe go buy a used Echo to replace the borrowed car we'll have to return soon. Then we'll pick her up and make popovers, and maybe play a game, or read together, or even watch a movie. She'll give each of us the gift she secretly made or bought with the other.

Even though neither of us will get to sleep in or have breakfast in bed, we'll have a happy Mother's Day. And even though she didn't want to give it to us, I'll have the book she made, with its handwritten, un-prompted inscription: "Dear moms, Happy Mothers Day! I love you more and more every secened."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Interlude: Selective Memory

*Ring! Ring!*

Me: Hello?

My hometown friend Nell, a/k/a Little Latke's mom, who also went to the same summer camp as me: Guess who I'm going to see?

Me: Uh...I don't know?

Nell: I'm going to see Joe Schmeggege! He's doing a reading!


Nell: Don't you remember Joe Schmeggege?


Nell: He was Pippin! At camp! You were in Pippin that session!

Me: Yeah, I remember Pippin. I just don't remember Joe Schmeggege.

Nell: Well, what about Harry Whoever? He was in it too.

Me: Nope.

Nell: I can't believe this. Do you remember anything from Pippin?

Me: Why, yes. Yes, I do. *I proceed to sing several entire songs from Pippin, which shall be excised here to protect the innocent and the show-tune phobic*

Me: ...Gotta find my cornerrr, of the skyyyyy!

Nell: Okay, fine. I gotta go now. Love you!

Me: Love you! Bye!

*I pick up the phone and call Nell back*

Me: Join us! Leave your fields to flower! Join us, leave your cream to sour! Join us, come and waste an hour or two...doodle-y do!

Me: *more excised Pippin lyrics, with Nell joining in on the chorus*

Nell: Okay! Okay!

Me: You can't see me, but I'm doing the hand motions, too.

Nell: Fine. But you really don't remember Joe Schmeggege? Or Harry Whoever?

Me: Not in the least.

Nell: What about the girl? Do you remember her? [NB: There is only one girl in Pippin. No, wait, two. There's his wife and his mom. But Nell meant his wife, I just know it.]

Me: Oh, I totally remember the girl.

Nell: You don't say.

Me: See, that's because I'm a LESBIAN. You're bisexual, so you remember EVERYONE.

Recent Developments, Part II: Big Yellow Taxi Syndrome

On Saturday, just as I was starting to feel halfway normal, our landlady told us she's selling the house.

Background: The house we live in is a triplex. We have the middle apartment. Our landlady lives in the upstairs, which is slightly smaller but presumably has an even better view. The downstairs apartment used to be occupied by a couple of loud and obnoxious yahoos, but our landlady finally evicted them in January and now a relatively quiet guy with a dog lives there.

More background: Our lease runs through the end of July. Thanks to Arwen's dauntless research, I now have a clear understanding that [unless we break windows and bounce checks like the yahoos] no one can kick us out before then, even if the house is sold. But then the new landlord could ask us to leave if he/she wanted to remodel or move into this apartment or just for any old reason.

So, when our landlady, Starina, a/k/a The Nicest Person in the World [so nice that she waited until the end of the school year to avoid disrupting MG's life more than necessary] broke the news on Saturday, our family had a quick impromptu conference, wherein we all wept and wailed for a short time, not just at the prospect of moving (all those boxes!), but at the possibility of leaving our apartment with the view and the short walk to RW's school and the huge if slightly wild backyard.

Now, both RW and MG have spent parts of the year grieving for our old life in Seattle and, in particular, for our old house, tiny and weirdly-arranged as it was. It was in a great neighborhood, it had a front porch, and it had the best next-door neighbors in the world. And it was ours. RW has said outright that she's not ready to sell it yet, and MG similarly seems to take comfort that the house is still really ours, even if other people are living in it right now.

So I was taken aback at how attached both of them seemed to have become to this apartment.

"Well, you know how it is," RW explained. "Sometimes you don't know how much you like something till you might not have it any more."

"I never want to leave," MG declared. "We can't leave this house."

"You really like it that much?" I asked incredulously.

"YES!" they more or less chorused.

"Well," I said, not really thinking as I spoke, "Maybe we could buy it. Let's call Starina and ask how much she wants for it."

We all absorbed this idea for a moment. Then the Mermaid Girl ran for the phone and held it up. "Call her!" she said. "Call her! Right now!"

"We might not be able to afford it," we warned her.

She considered this. Then, "I know!" she said. "We could sell the Seattle house and buy this one!"

Now RW and I were both gaping at her. "MG," the Renaissance Woman said slowly, "I want to ask you something. Not that you really have this choice, because Mommy and I will make the decisions. But if a fairy came and said you could stay here or move back to the Seattle house, which would you pick?"

She did hesitate, but just for a moment. Then she said, quietly but resolutely, "This house."

So RW called Starina and asked about the price. She also offered to look after the house for Starina while she travels if she decides not to sell it yet. Starina seemed pleased at the idea of us buying it, but she hasn't gotten back to us with a price or even a definite decision about selling.

Meanwhile, RW and I started thinking about triplexes in general, which, it turns out, are more affordable even than a townhouse as long as you're willing to be a landlord. I've spent long and absorbing hours online in the last few days looking at other triplex units for sale, for comparison and just in case this one doesn't work out.

For now, we're in limbo once again. We could wait it out and see if the new landlord lets us stay; we could stay and look after the place for Starina if she doesn't sell; we could buy the place and stay on as the new owners. Or, if we can't afford her asking price, we might buy another triplex. Or we could even rent somewhere else, though the instability of being at the mercy of yet another landlord's whims and/or life crises isn't appealing right now.

Meanwhile, we're spinning dreams: what we could do with the yard. Where we'd put everything if we ever have enough money to take over the basement apartment. Which of our friends might want to live here as tenants, or even go in with us on it.

We have to remind ourselves: this isn't necessarily going to happen. We didn't even know last week that we wanted it to happen. We're afraid of wanting it too much, and jinxing things.

I'm even kind of afraid of posting this post, lest the Fates notice.

But what the heck; here goes...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Recent Developments: Part I

I better post now before anything else happens, because events have been eventing up faster than I can get to the computer.

First, I was going to post about how sick I've been. You might have guessed from the last post. Long story short: I had to drop out of the clinical study before I qualified, because I was too sick to go the whole two weeks. I know when most people think "psoriasis" they think "unsightly and possibly itchy rash," not "too sick to get out of bed or go to work or do housework or pick up your kid from school," but that is how sick I was. I was scarily sick. I almost made it, even so. But then I had to start the two-week waiting period over again due to complications too irritating to go into, and on the third day of that round I had to go home early from a shift at my brand-new on-call job because I was shivering uncontrollably. The next day I started back on my old meds.

That was almost two weeks ago, and only in the last few days have I felt healthy enough to function fully. I worked eight-hour shifts on Friday and Saturday, and got through them okay. Yesterday I did four loads of laundry. Today, for the first time in a long, long time, I walked the Mermaid Girl to school. It doesn't hurt to wear jeans now, and I can take a shower instead of a colloidal oatmeal bath. All these are things I appreciate in a mind-blowing way that goes beyond being or not being embarrassed about how my skin looks.

In the meantime, I missed most of April. I couldn't take on-call shifts; I missed the big conference at my other job; I missed the community Seder at our synagogue; I even missed the Can I Sit With You reading in Seattle where I'd been planning to perform and also to see friends I hadn't seen for months or in some cases years.

So, that sucked.

The one event I didn't have to miss, out of all the big important things I had planned in the last month, was the Seder for the first night of Passover. It's not our first Passover in Vancouver (that would've been last year) but it's our first Passover living in Vancouver, and I was excited about hosting it at our apartment. My dad and stepmother came into town, and our friends Mexicowithkids and her husband and kids (otherwise known as Camille, the littlest existentialist, and her sister and parents) drove up from Seattle and slept over.

We used the Cut-to-the-Chase Haggadah that I put together two years ago, with a few additions spliced in from the Reconstructionist haggadah. The centerpiece was an improvised play of the Exodus story. Camille's little sister wanted to be baby Moses and Camille wanted to be Pharaoh's daughter. Their dad played Pharaoh, and Camille did some great Method acting--throughout the duration of the play, she'd periodically drape herself across her dad and whine, "Daddy, why don't you LET THEM GO?!"

So MG got to play Miriam, her favorite part. It's her third year in the role, and she's especially proficient at popping up behind whatever piece of furniture has been designated as the Tall Grass and chirpily volunteering, "Would you like me to find a nurse for that baby?" Also, dancing around with tambourines and singing in celebratory manner when we all crossed the Red Sea.

I hid the Afikomen inside MG's pink cowboy boot, in the front entryway, and it took them a long time to find it.
We did the whole thing in 3 hours, and then sat around talking and eating macaroons and chasing the kids into their pajamas and setting up beds and sheets and things. I didn't do any of the active stuff, but I got to sit and talk and feel semi-normal for the first time in a long time.

Even the food came off well. I wasn't up to actually cooking, but I planned the meal and RW and my dad shopped and my stepmom followed my directions about putting the food together, and Mexicowithkids made the salad, and everything was done at the right time so we could eat when it was time to eat, and it tasted good, and the kids all managed to eat something.

It was a bright spot in a gloomy month. I'm sad about everything I didn't get to do-- especially the Seattle reading--but I'm happy to remember the Seder.

And now this is so long that I'll have to tell about the other Recent Developments in another post.

Happy May, all.