Dress Up

When TB was born we got a lot of hand-me-down clothes, one of the many benefits of showing up late to the adulthood party. (Which, by the way, kind of lame party. I thought there’d be more cocktail weenies.) Besides being a great money saver, hand-me-down baby clothes give you interesting insight into your friends and family. Like, for example, I found out my sister finds baby boy tank tops much less skeevy than I do. I can’t put my finger on why; they just give me the willies. I feel they’re a slippery slope to baby mesh crop tops, which pave the road for this. But that is just me.

Infant fashion preferences aside, it’s amazing to have all these free clothes. We have bins of them, sorted by size, scattered throughout our house. TW is constantly shifting clothes from bins to TB’s drawers and back out to bins to be used for the next round of babies in our family. It’s exhausting to watch. I don’t know how she does it. And yet she still finds the time to remind me I should be helping. What a woman.

So we haven’t consciously picked out too many of the boy’s clothes. Which may be why, when we do buy him an outfit for a special occasion, we get a little too excited.

What with all the screaming and feces involved in a normal dressing session, “outfit” is way too strong a word for what I normally put TB in. I just grab two things in the same general color palette. On a good day one thing will be a shirt and the other, pants. But that doesn’t mean, given the time, I don’t enjoy dressing the kid up for my own amusement.

This weekend we’re flying back East for some general family visiting and a bar mitzvah. And if you don’t think we’ve had TB’s bar mitzvah outfit picked out for weeks, well, you haven’t been reading this post. Which would be odd. Why are you starting in the middle? What’s wrong with you? Commitment problems?

Not only did we buy TB a special outfit weeks ahead of time; we made him model it one afternoon. And as I dressed my 10-month-old son up like Little Lord Fauntleroy, I realized I’m now one step away from being a person who puts a sweater on a dog. And only a half step from that lady who puts a Santa hat on her cat.

The whole baby fashion industry relies on the fact that parents use their kids to amuse themselves. And especially in those first few months when your kid gives you nothing back but blank stares and bodily fluid, maybe that is a great service. Who knows how many baby shakings a well-placed argyle sweater vest has prevented?

To Give Or Not To Give

So Chanukah is here. Or Hanukkah. Or maybe even Hanukah. Who knows? Maybe there will finally be peace in the Middle East once we Jews agree among ourselves how to spell things. But my more immediate concern this holiday is what to get The Boy.

His doting grandparents, aunts and uncles have all been asking what he wants. He is 10 months old. So obviously I think he wants better waterproof headphones and an electronic drum set. The new kind with mesh pads. Really, he’d be happy with a gift certificate to Amazon.com.

But predictably, TW would not let me use our son as a conduit for my greed. She’s become rather adept at not letting me do things for myself while claiming they’re best for the boy. Like when I try to put him to bed at 4 in the afternoon on Sunday. “Look at that yawn, poor guy’s exhausted.” Maybe I’m not as subtle as I think.

Anyway, what did surprise me was that TW actually had non-joke answers. In an organized Google document. This is not because she is a presumptuous, greedy bitch but because she is a natural at this parenthood stuff. And she knew some people would want to get TB presents and that they’d be asking what he wanted and if we didn’t have answers they would begrudgingly sulk off to Target, aimlessly wander around for twenty minutes looking for something clever, give up and give us something that involved a loud, dancing monkey. As the aunt to 8 kids under 8 she is well aware how much better it is to be told what a kid wants.

Especially boys. TW is not a girly girl by any stretch. I think she’s been working on the same container of eye shadow since our wedding three years ago. And I mean that in a good way. But she is still a girl and understands little girl tastes. A doll, a set of beads, something you can take care of or control. Girl stuff. But nothing puts her in a bad mood quicker than the boy toy aisle. To her it is just a sea of pointless plastic crap that will probably just take someone’s eye out. Boy stuff.

I thought she was being dramatic until I volunteered to get the presents for my nephews on our last Target run. As a former boy myself, I thought I would “get” the boy toy aisle. I love all that crap: Star Wars figures, Nerf balls, B.B. guns. But, seriously, I think to handle the boy toy aisle these days you have to have spent a year in Japan and not be prone to seizures. My nephews wanted Bakugan which, from what I can gather, are action-figure warriors that tuck into spheres which then pop open and give the owner ADHD.

So TW was just trying to save people from what she knows can be a painful task by compiling a list of what we think our 10-month-old might want. A list intended solely for those who actually want to get something for a 10-month-old. Which I’m not 100% sure is me. I obviously will not deprive his grandparents of getting him presents on his first Hahnooka. I am not a monster. But do we really need to go through the motions of buying and wrapping gifts for a 10-month-old? And if so, are we sure he doesn’t really want those BOSE waterproof headphones?

Trash Day

We’ve been in our house 2½ years now. Which I admit is a long to time to actively not throw something away. One of the first things I did when we moved in was remove a valance hanging over the large window in our living room.

My grandmother ran a drapery business with her siblings when I was a kid. Well, business is a strong word. What do you call ten retired immigrants working on heavy, lead machinery in an unventilated garage? Let me rephrase: my grandmother ran a Polish shtetl sweatshop in her backyard when I was a kid. They would let me and my sister run around with magnets tied to sticks, picking up stray pins and needles for five cents apiece — because OSHA and the Department of Child Services have no jurisdiction over the shtetl.

My point is, I know what a valance is. And I know a horrendously ugly one when I see it because my grandmother made them. (And made me clothes out of the spare material, but that is a story for another time.) The thing had to go, is the point. And I was fairly impressed with myself for removing the 7-foot-long monstrosity with minimal structural damage to the wall.

Now what to do with it? In our apartment we could pretty much set anything out on the curb and it would disappear within 2 hours. Old chair? Broken TV? Half of a bookshelf? No problem. Slap a handwritten “FREE” sign on something and it would be gone. We called it the “magic curb.” I liked to imagine the neighborhood squirrels were decorating a clubhouse.

So I was surprised to learn L.A. County’s official trash policy: all trash must actually fit inside the trash bin. No matter, I put the valance out with the trash anyway. I figured, really, what are they going to do? Just leave it on the side of the street?
Yes. That is exactly what they will do. Motherfuckers. The squirrels would have killed for that valance. Probably would have used it to make a beanbag. Those crazy squirrels.

So I get back from work on trash day and see the valance lying on the street. And here is what I hate most about homeownership: this is now my fucking problem. No landlord to complain to, no magic curb, no anthropomorphic squirrels. Just me and TW and anyone we want to hire. So I dragged the valance into the garage and propped it up in the corner, its flowery pink material mocking me. And I figured I’d deal with it the following week. That was 2½ years ago. The valance has not moved. Every time I pull into the garage I briefly think someone’s grandmother is trying to build a fort in there. What I don’t think is, “Wow, I should deal with that.”

I am a very adaptable person that way. To a fault. My cubicle at work is decorated not with keepsakes I consciously set about, but things that have been set down and forgotten — by me or random passersby (or “co-workers,” as some people call them). Right now there is a 2008 cat calendar leaning against my monitor facing out to the aisle; a discarded Secret Santa gift…from last year. I believe it’s open to March (cat in a basket). I don’t so much create my environment as work around it. Then every once in a while I’m motivated enough to rip something down.

And so instead of dealing with the valance I took down a pair of accordion closet doors that somehow pissed me off. They didn’t even make it to the garage. I optimistically left them out by the trash cans thinking that if I passed by them every day I’d be more motivated to deal with them. Here’s how that plan went:

Day 1: Oh, man, I really need to deal with getting rid of those doors.
Day 2: Oh yeah, those doors.
Day 3: Hey, there are those doors that we keep by our trash cans.

As any rational adult might guess, this is an annoying quality in someone you are trying to build a home and family with. Especially since TW’s default response to most situations is worry. So her experience with the doors was probably more along these lines:

Day 1: Those doors look like they’re going to fall.
Day 2: Are those a fire hazard?
Day 3: I bet there are black widows living in there. If we don’t get rid of those today, we’re probably going to be arrested for child endangerment.

So with another kid on the way and our lives about to spiral even more out of control, I’m trying to be a bit more proactive. In fact, I just Googled “oversized trash pickup los angeles,” and guess what? There’s a simple online form. Who knew? I’m going to go fill that out right now. Look at me, shaping my world. And, here, as a public service, I’ll even save you the Google search. The Bureau of Sanitation Service Request Form. Happy trash day, everybody.