I read a lot on blogs about goals, and how setting goals is essential to getting where you want to be in life. Then instead of being inspired I think about how I have not achieved many of my goals. I have not completed a novel or even a really polished short story. I haven't traveled as much as I would have liked, and I haven't enabled my kids to become bilingual while their minds are still in that language-acquisition stage. Et cetera.
But today, I rode my bike across the bumpy wooden bridge to Bay Farm Island, taking in a crystal-clear view of the San Francisco skyline, and that glimpse of Alcatraz beyond the Bay Bridge, and that scrap of red that makes me wonder if I am seeing both bridges, superimposed, from this angle.
My 3-year-old son was behind me in the trailer, telling me with great seriousness about all the things he was going to write on his Christmas list this year: Spiderman pedals for his bike, more engines and cars for his train table (specifically, Gordon and Emily), Spiderman pants, a Spiderman shirt and Spiderman underwear, and also for his birthday he would like a Spiderman cake with four candles because he will be 4.
I rode through splotches of sunshine and shadows of trees. And I thought, this may be the happiest moment of my life.
I certainly never planned for that. I didn't sit down when I turned 30 and say, "At the end of this decade, I would like to take bike rides on beautiful mornings and have deep conversations with my son." But there I was, and I realized as I pushed the pedals, that even if I hadn't known where I was going, I had arrived.
A friend recently broke the news to her 9-year-old twins that there is no Santa Claus. They asked, and she found that a lie just wouldn't come out of her mouth. Out came the truth instead.
It got me thinking. When I was a child myself, old enough to be in on the adult secret of Santa but young enough to know that this is the tiniest of the truths that adults keep from children, I swore that I would never lie to my kids. Not about Santa, not about anything.
I have one friend who holds himself to this standard today, but not me. I lie, lie, lie to them, and I plan to lie to them some more. I've lied about how babies get inside mommies (mommy and daddy share a special kiss), I've lied about having not only eyes in the back of my head but also on both sides, and I plan to keep lying about Santa as long as I possibly can (Could this really be the last year for Nutmeg?)
Just yesterday I lied again, by omission.
Why describe the carnage at our house on a Monday morning? Oh, I don't know -- in case anyone is trying to decide whether to have more than one kid? Because if you do, you might have a morning like this. Or hundreds of them.
The alarm goes off and I stumble into the kitchen to make two Aeropress lattes. After grinding beans, heating water and milk, pouring, squeezing every last drop of coffee out of the grounds and stirring, I sigh with anticipated pleasure and take a sip.
And spit into the sink. Because the milk went sour before its expiration date.
I start over with the other gallon of milk in the fridge, and lower the temperature, which I notice has been set at two notches warmer than "recommended" since we moved in here three months ago.
When Epu emerges from the shower and claims his coffee redo, I try to tell him what happened, but by this point all three kids are at the breakfast table and Nutmeg is singing "It's the End of the World as We Know It" and Toth is screaming for Nutmeg to stop so Epu can't hear me.
I try again to tell him what happened with the coffee and the fridge, and then give up. Instead I read the kids today's lunch menu, which is corn dog, Nutmeg's favorite food ever.
"No way," Nutmeg says. Because apparently the school food tastes bad no matter what the menu choice is.
"Aren't you ever going to get school lunch?" I ask her. "Because we put $100 on your account."
"Maybe another time," she says. "But not today."
I stand at the counter, filling out the form for Pebbles' school picture today. Epu appears in the kitchen and tells me, "It's Picture Day."
"I know," I tell him. "That's why we gave them all baths last night, remember? That's why I picked out a special outfit with each of the girls." "I set an alert on my Google calendar," Epu said. "Because sometimes in the past I didn't know it was picture day, and the kids looked messy in their pictures."
"How would YOU not knowing it's picture day affect how they look?" I ask him. "I always made sure they were nice outfits on those days. It's not my fault if their hair got messy after I dropped them off at school."
"Also it was in the e-mail newsletter from school," he tells me.
"Why aren't I getting the email newsletter from school?" All school emails are supposed to go to both of us, because of an elaborate email system Epu set up. But apparently it's not working.
"Anyway, it's picture day," he says, and I ask if perhaps he would like to fill out the order forms, or do the girls' hair.
"Gotta go," he says.
I remind Epu to take a lunch and he leaves for work. I decide to order the kids' pics online instead of with the form and sit down a the computer. I have to get up twice to tell Nutmeg to stop singing "It's the End of the World as We Know It" because for some reason it causes her brother to scream and he is never going to finish his breakfast if he keeps screaming, and then we are never going to make it to school on time. She finally stops singing and makes her own lunch -- a jelly sandwich.
I send the kids up to get dressed and put the girls' printed out picture forms into their backpacks along with their recess snacks. When I get upstairs the girls are dressed but they can't find their hairbrush. We need to leave in 10 minutes or be tardy. Toth is still in his footies and whenever I try to grab him to start dressing him, he crawls under the shelf next to his bed where he knows he's hard to reach.
"I want to play iPad!" he yells at me.
I give the girls some flack about not putting their hairbrush away when they're done with it, and Nutmeg reminds me that I was the last one to use it, when I combed out their hair after baths last night.
"Everyone look for it!" I tell them.
While they stand still and watch me while I pull back the covers of their beds and feel underneath their beds and search their bathroom.
"What is all over all these wet towels in here?" I ask.
"Marker," Toth tells me.
I don't really want to ask any more questions about that. I drag a huge plastic storage container out of their bathroom, which apparently had been used to add extra height to a stepstool so someone could reach the top shelf.
I give up on the hairbrush hunt and have them use mine, while I get Toth going brushing his teeth. I dig some clean clothes for him out of the clean laundry bin. Then, just at the moment when we absolutely must throw on his clothes and dash out the door to beat the tardy bell, Toth makes the morning announcement I dread most:
"I HAVE TO POOP."
Like all males, he will now spend a ridiculous amount of time in the bathroom. I put the finishing touches on the girls' hair and tell them to go without me, and I pray that Nutmeg will get Pebbles to the kinder entrance without ditching her.
Then minutes later, Toth is suddenly all cooperation, gets into his clothes practically unassisted, and tells me, "Now I'm fast."
Sure, now you're fast.
I remember that Pebbles was supposed to have show and tell today so I grab her Halloween costume, and get Toth out the door and into the bike trailer. As we ride toward the school on our way to Toth's school, I notice that all the parents and students are on the blacktop, because Mondays are assembly day.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
This is actually good because although I missed the assembly, I am able to visually confirm that both my kids made it to their classes, and I give Pebbles her devil costume as she heads into her classroom. I have a quick word with the already-busy kindergarten teacher about when Pebbles might be able to fulfill her dream of bringing one of our cats for show and tell.
Wednesday, we agree.
Pebbles starts crying because she wanted to do it today. She buries her face in her hands.
"DON'T MESS UP YOUR HAIR!" I beg her. "It's picture day!"
And then I look over her shoulder and notice that the other kids brought apples to school today, and I do not remember any note coming home about bringing apples.
I kiss her goodbye and bike Toth off to school.
Another post about a movie, but this one is not a paid post, guys! Just all me.
I just finished watching this movie on Netflix: Following Sean. Did you ever hear about a film from the '60s about a 4-year-old boy living with hippies on Haight Street, who claimed that he "smoked grass"? This second movie shows what happened to that little boy when he grows up.
I won't spoil the movie by telling you whether people's predictions that he would grow up to be a drug-crazed criminal are true. Watch the movie, it's pretty good. But I will say that I found it comforting to watch the 30-year-old Sean talk and see how much of the 4-year-old survived in the man. There is enough footage of 4-year-old Sean in the second movie that you know his little mannerisms and his face, and to see those same things come out in the adult is thrilling.
This weekend I let go of some of the kids' baby things. The Parenthesis Sale happened, and since we are moving at the end of the school year, I took this opportunity to sell our old Dutailier glider -- for $5, I'll get $2.50. I miss it already. I spent so much time in that chair over the past 8 years.
Last night I was washing dishes when I heard a loud clunk over my head. I ran upstairs, shedding my rubber gloves on the stairs, and found poor little Toth sitting on the floor and rubbing the back of his head. Normally, I would have scooped him up and sat down in the rocking chair to soothe him.
So, I climbed into his bed with him. Within seconds he was breathing deeply, his cheek against my chest.
It was the best moment of my day. I stared at the bedroom and hallway walls that we've had painted to prepare the house for new occupants. As the rhythm of Toth's breathing calmed me, the constant worries about all the things I am supposed to do to move our family across the country began to fade.
I thought, I can do this without my rocking chair. I can do this without our house. I can do this even as the children stop being babies, because the kernal of who they are will endure, and I will never stop being their mommy.
In Jack and Jill, Adam Sandler plays a guy named Jack, and he also plays Jill, his "identical twin sister." Looking at the Jack and Jill Web site got me thinking about other twins in movies, and how some twins are played by real-life identical twins while others are played by the same person.
I wonder what the casting calls are like when movies need to cast identical twins. Are there hundreds of sets of identical twins available who fit the age and general physical description of a given role, or are the pickings pretty slim? Do a huge percentage of identical twins go into show business to fill the demand for such roles?
Here are some of my favorite sets of twins in movies:
The WeasleyTwins in Harry Potter. Of course you love these guys. Twin teenage troublemakers with red hair who like to say things simultaneously? I was kind of wondering if they are actually twins or if they are really played by just one guy. So I IMDB'd them, and found out they are real twins, named James Phelps and Oliver Phelps, and oh my, they are now 6"3. Is that silly of my to think that they might have been played by just one actor? I guess that movies never have one person play a set of twins out of convenience. Obviously, in Jack and Jill, the movie is written around the idea that it would be funny for Adam Sandler to play both parts. For a supporting role that is not showcasing a star, I guess that even with modern video effects, it would seem unnecessarily tedious to digitally splitscreen scene after scene.
1961 Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills and Haley Mills, because, well, need I say that both Hayley and Hayley were adorable with those bangs? It blew my little mind as a kid when I was told how the scenes were filmed. Once I knew, I had fun searching out the dividing line between the two frames, semi-hidden by a doorframe or other prop on the set.
This was turned on at grandma's house one day and has since become a favorite of theirs. I can't vouch for whether Lindsay is as good as Haley because I have not sat down to watch it with them. It would make me too sad to see Lindsay all young and innocent, knowing the troubles she would have in the next few years of her real life.
One thing that cracks me up about the premise of this Adam Sandler movie is the biological impossibility: Identical brother and sister? I love it, just as much as I loved that other biologically improbable opportunity for one actress to play two parts.
In my post about my first night in Montreal, I mentioned having poutine for dinner. What is poutine, you may ask? Why, it's a Montreal specialty -- french fries with cheese curds and gravy. Here's the one I got that first night, at Franx Supreme, a hot dog restaurant in a mall food court.
It didn't taste very good. The gravy was kind of nasty. But I felt I should press on. After all, there are all sorts of poutines and chances are this just was not the best poutine Montreal had to offer.
The next day, just before we climbed Mount Royal, the city's namesake, we stopped at a cute little cafe where the French guy behind the counter was chatting with an English-speaking friend. We got the house specialty poutine, which was covered with grilled vegetables.
I'm not usually a big curd fan, but the heat of the fries and gravy melts the curd into gooey globs and makes it palatable.
Epu's unemployment has not in general been a good thing for our family, but a couple happy side effects have occurred. One is that the number of companies inviting him to interview and urging him to consider relocation has been a great confidence boost to him. He did not realize his skills were so much in demand!
The other side effect, we are living right now. We were offered the opportunity to travel to Montreal for a job interview/getting-to-know-you trip this weekend. Our only expense would be my flight, which I got with miles, and of course our meals while we are here. We're still in Montreal as I type this at a cafe near his possible future employer.
When you get an email on a Wednesday telling you you fly to Montreal on Friday, some scrambling ensues. We had house guests for the weekend, who willingly converted themselves from guest status to babysitter/cat sitter status. I demonstrated diaper changing for them and thanked my stars that one of them has worked as a lifeguard and therefore knows CPR. It would just be for one night, until my parents could get there to pick up the little ones and Nutmeg's best friend's parents would pick her up.
You have to appreciate friends and relatives who are so willing to step up even though they DON'T want you to move away. It kind of makes you think, would I be able to get this kind of support if I moved 1,000 miles or more away? Well, maybe, after years of cultivating new friendships.
We flew separately, because the company put Epu on a flight on a different airline than my miles. I strolled through O'Hare kid free, enjoyed a smooth flight with an empty seat next to me (wish I could have given it to Epu, who had to take a later flight with a connection and layover), and touched down in Montreal at 5:30 p.m. local time. The customs line zigzagged through a large room but moved pretty quickly. I was sad to realize that my smart phone would not get data here in Canada unless I paid for roaming or upgraded my plan to an international one. Oh well.
Once through customs, I took a bus to the city center for just $8. Canadian and US dollars are about the same right now, I guess, but you can assume I mean Canadian when I quote prices here. The bus driver was the first person I met who did not speak English, so I was able to pull out my dusty French to ask, "Is this stop No. 7?" It was, and our hotel was just a few steps away.
Downtown Montreal looks much less dense than downtown Chicago. There was a parking lot directly cross from the Hyatt hotel charging just $8 a day. Not a parking garage, just a lot. With a car wash next to it.
I soon found out that what Montreal lacks in high rise, it makes up for with low, um, sink? That is, there are several levels of corridors, stores and other stuff below the street level downtown, and you can walk for miles without going outdoors.
So after I checked into the hotel, I strolled underground, bought some poutine for dinner at an underground mall food court, and then wandered through the Place des Arts -- a museum/theater complex -- until I ended up at the subway entrance. There was a drunk man with a very bushy black beard singing The Doors' Riders on the Storm, keeping perfect time by stomping with his big winter boots. His deep voice sounded just awesome in the underground chamber, and yet, with him booming out, "Killer on the road ..." I was not about to go close enough to give him any change.
I went back to the room and watched the local news in French, pleased to discover that I could follow most of it. What I didn't pick up the first time, I caught the second time they played it, and by the time Epu showed up around midnight, I was able to fill him in on local events (unarmed man shot by police in the subway, that afternoon before we arrived) and the weather report (cold, snow).