Sunday, April 29, 2007


A poem for CG but not about her.

His tiny feet
In tiny shoes
Make tentative steps
Across the kitchen floor

He wonders at his upright freedom
Delights in the newness
Catches himself before he falls

And when he falls
Which he does, often—
The shoes are stiff,
In need of play—
He stops
Rights himself
And starts again

Determined to take on
His new grown-up responsibility with pride.

“Shoes!” he exclaims
As his fingers wiggle through sleeves
And his feet find their way through
the long pant legs
He makes a pass at the tiny white boot
Holds it between his palms
Turns it over to examine it on all sides

“Woo-woo!” he says
Pointing to the tiny train embroidered
on the outside heel.
He knows these shoes are his.
The steps are his to take
The path is his to walk
The world is his to explore

Monday, April 09, 2007

Buff enough to fly?

En route from Seattle to Cincinnati
27 March 07

Ranting about airline travel has become the standard among even casual, leisure travelers. Long after the dust on the 9/11 horror finally cleared, we are still removing belts and shoes, folding jackets into neat squares, removing laptops from their cases, and silently praying that loose pocket change doesn’t inadvertently set off World War III.

On my most recent flight, to Seattle to visit my brother, sister-in-law and new nephew (so adorable, oh my God), I had a long moment of leisure time alone, waiting to clear security, to reflect upon our current state of screening. Long because the lines vaguely reminded me of Disney World attractions pre-Fast Pass, and leisurely because for the first time in nearly four years, I was traveling without my children.

Clearing security with two small children is an exercise in patience, stealth and timing. My first trial at doing so was without my husband’s aid, when my children were five months and three years old. The pass through security involved a double stroller weighing 31 lbs. that had to be x-rayed on the belt, a Baby Bjorn carrier that also had to be x-rayed on the belt (which I did not know until I had just settled the baby in it), a diaper bag, three winter coats and a rogue tube of lip balm that didn’t make it.

That security check ended in tears—mine, not my children’s—as I learned while standing in holey socks on a cold, linoleum floor, cradling the baby, tethering my elder child to my body and wondering how in the hell I was going to manage both of them while removing the stroller from the belt, opening it and loading all of our paraphernalia on the stroller without dropping my daughter’s blankey or my son’s paci, that I had indeed been singled out to undergo additional security screening. Because I didn’t look hassled enough, I guess. Or maybe they thought my bulging, post-partum tummy was concealing explosives. Or maybe I was just that lucky.

I digress. Today’s pass through the TSA security line and detector was minimally invasive. With 20 people left to pass before me, I removed my sandwich-sized clear, plastic ziploc bag containing lipstick, lip balm, lotion and hand sanitizer from its home in my black sling shoulder bag. With 10 people to go, I undid my belt and pulled it free from its loops. I immediately felt my jeans sag several inches, which threatened to reveal a plumber’s crack usually reserved for my husband’s unfortunate eyes. With five people to go, I slipped off my shoes and held them next to my belt. When my turn at the table arrived, I placed my bag on the table, binned my shoes, belt and fleece jacket, ensured I had my ID and boarding card out and available for inspection, and waited for the TSA employee to wave me through the metal detector.

I grinned self-assuredly, as the woman before me was sent back to the table to remove her belt, and the one before her was not allowed through until she removed some 20 pieces of jewelry that adorned her appendages. Not me, and not this time, I sighed, walking through the detector and watching a woman and her husband struggle with a baby, a stroller, a toddler and two carry-ons. Today, for once, I brought my security A-game. I had met the metal detectors head on, and for the first time in four years, I emerged victorious.

I did have a moment to reflect, however, as I was threading my belt back through its loops, and sinking my feet into my loafers, putting the ziploc bag back into my backpack and the jacket around my waist, that in this crazy, fear-induced, strip poker-like TSA reign, we as passengers are down to our final hand. We are already removing coats, sweatshirts, shoes and belts. Will jeans be the next to go? Will we all have to adopt FAA-approved, spandex flight suits for air travel in the future? The bonus, I guess, could be built-in climate control. But I wouldn’t want to see 75% of today’s current travelers in spandex—myself included.

I already feel as though I lose my shirt every time I purchase a ticket departing from CVG, one of the country’s most expensive places from which to fly (damn you, Delta monopoly). But I don’t want to lose my literal shirt as well. I already think twice about the socks I wear to the airport (double layer, no holes so as to ensure minimum exposure to the thousands of feet who trod the security line trail of tears before me). If measures continue to be put in place and our security level is raised to iridescent pink or some equally alarming color, will I have to schedule extra crunches at the gym?

If I lose my shirt, I know I’ll never be buff enough to fly.

Spring Break?

I now understand why parents don’t like spring break. It is no break for the parents; rather, it is a time for parents to try to figure out what the hell to do with their children to keep them from killing each other, or from being murdered by the very creatures who brought them into being. What sadistic twit came up with the phrase “spring break?” Spring torture seems more appropriate.

My house is in shambles. I have just given up and given into the clutter, crumbs and various articles of clothing that litter each room of the house. I will do laundry when they are back in school, back to work, back out of my space. Markers have taken up permanent residence on my floor, popcorn crumbs litter the only carpeted area of the downstairs—it must have a magnetic force field around it for snack food—and books and toys lie strewn about like yesterday’s newspaper.

Then there is the “I’m bored” phase that every parents remembers oh so well, because she or he muttered it ALL THE TIME when they themselves were on spring break. “Mom, I’m bored, there’s nothing to do.” If it were warmer than 30 freaking degrees outside, I could send the munchkins out to play, away from the tv, my computer and the pantry. But alas, our late winter has decided to bleed into spring. What say you, Al Gore?

Not that my children are old enough to understand the word “boredom.” Actions speak volumes for them. Endless sitting, zoned in front of the television, waiting for a new episode of Wonder Pets that the programmers at Noggin promised long ago. Walking (or crawling) to and from the pantry, looking for something besides matzah and kosher for Passover tam-tams. Crawling up and down the stairs for exercise, wondering when it will be warm enough to cut loose outside. And that’s just me.

I have tried suggesting activities or play zones, and have done my fair share of “programming” for them, setting up playdates and museum trips, only to be foiled by illness or an irrational fear of the Easter Bunny that might, gasp, look at you in the mall, and therefore constitutes an immediate exit. I even had the coping mechanism of “girls night out” but the joy of drinking wine with new friends was shadowed by the inevitable 7 a.m. shake-awake asking for milk, ‘cackers’ and ‘what are we going to do today?’

School resumes Thursday, and brings with it a litany of activities—physical therapy for one, ballet for the other, a workout for me, and the opening of a two week-long film festival for my husband which spells nothing but A-B-S-E-N-C-E from the nest for many nights in a row.

There is never a happy, built-in balance, is there? So I sit in half-lotus amid the popcorn kernals and crumbled matzah squares, staking out my piece of dirty rug. I breathe and release, breathe and release, as I have been taught to do. I let the mess pass through me. I feel it rain around my body, which is coated in silicone, so as not to absorb the crumbs or petty issues of life in the trenches. And if I try really hard, I can almost feel the sun on my face.