Saturday, March 17, 2007

Things really *do* get better

Sixteen days since my last post- I'm getting a little bit better...

I have two pieces of very good news. The first is that my husband has, almost twelve years after he graduated from law school, gotten the job he has wanted since he started law school. He is working for our state's agency committee which represents and supervises the representation of the indigent. Public defense if you will. If you have not held onto a dream of your own for that long, you cannot realize just how huge this is. I *knew* that he would get it as soon as he told me that he had been invited to apply, but I didn't want to jinx it by telling him I knew. He's got it, and that's what's important. He's happy- we're all happy.

I knew he would get that job just as I *knew* my next piece of good news would come to be as well. Boston, as you may know has guaranteed full-day Kindergarten, or K2, as we call it here. That's pretty big and huge, considering how many places across the country don't or, at best, have half-day programs, which sound like an even bigger pain than daycare. In addition, Boston has been slowly but surely adding K1 seats. K1 opens for children who are 4 or older as of September 1st of that year. There is no guarantee that anyone will get those assignments, but we were fortunate that J got into K1 at the most coveted school in Boston. Of course, since she turned 5 one month afterwards, it didn't feel that fortunate, but I still know how lucky I am.

The big, lottery-worthy prize is K0. There are very few seats available throughout the city, but there are some. When J was eligible, we applied, but she didn't get in. This year, I applied for the twins. I went on the second day of the week that we were first eligible, and I sat on top of one twin or another while I dealt with a mix-up over the health form for one of them, whether they could fax it to a third party and applying for two at the same time. I am very grateful to Claire, a lovely young woman who was on loan from the temporarily closed Children's Museum and who did her best to occupy my sons while I applied. Did I mention that it was close to zero degrees that day? It was.

All of which is to say that even though I had to wait almost two months to hear and that the chances of *both* of my sons getting into the same program were extremely small- they're in! Everyone, especially my daughters, are very happy that the boys will be starting school. However, this has the biggest impact on me. As of September 10th, 2007, the only thing keeping me from writing the Great American Trashy Novel Series, as I lovingly think of it, is me. Since I already have 70,000 words done and hope to have 100,000 by the end of the summer, even I am not the hindrance I used to be. Having written, exercised and (to some extent) been a homemaker over the last few months with my ever-more-curious boys, I think I should also be able to run a small country at the same time. It would be less work.

So, that's my story. I'm doing more Pilates, more Kundalini yoga- go check out Ravi and Ana's site if you haven't already- and started adding more qigong. Some stubborn pounds are starting to come off thanks to watermelon juice- God, that is my favorite food in the world- and vegetable soup. Hopefully more to report next time.

Til then,
Deb in the City

Thursday, March 01, 2007

My excuses

Really, it's just one: my daughter S's bat mitzvah. I commented about it sporadically here, but believe me when I say that it consumed my thoughts up until Christmas and then my activities until, well, February 10th, 2007.

A little background on me: I can be a compulsive control freak. Years ago, when my sister S (different name) was getting married, I took it upon myself to throw her bridal shower. My home is small, and it did not get any bigger that day. I also did not have a lot of money to spend on this. So what do you know when you are low on resources? You plan, plan, plan. I am not exaggerating when I say that I had my schedule for that day planned three weeks in advance, down to what time my mother and aunt were coming to my home to help me make tea sandwiches. And other than the fact that my sister's friend/roommate totally tipped her off that morning, it was a lovely shower, down to the homemade petit fours that another friend and I made the midnight before.

So fast forward seven years later. There were a lot of things I was worried about, in part because the occasion demanded four times as many guests as my last function. So my tiny apartment was out. The logical choice was the function room at our temple, which had seen many bat mitzvahs during its time. And for $100 per hour, it wasn't a bad choice. Still, using that room seemed to necessitate (at least, according to my husband) that we cater almost everything. That jacked up the cost (on a budget of about $3000) even more. On top of that, this room, as with most function rooms, was very bare. Therefore, I was going to need to spend at least a few hundred dollars on decorations as well as tables and chairs. Hmm. This looked a little bit like an insurmountable obstacle, but something told me that before I tore my hair out trying to plan for this, I should sit back and see what happened.

In December, when it was decided that we were, indeed, going to have a bat mitzvah, I began sending out invitations. I think I wrote about that. If I didn't, let's just sum it up with the statement that Paper Source is the best store ever. Oh God, I could get totally lost there. With postage and a little extra labor, I think the invitations came to about $222- and a third of that was postage. Not bad.

Enter S, the sister. She and her fiance returned from Asia to Boston for a few months. After a couple of days of scurrying right after New Year's, S calls me and asks if I can pick her up from swanky apartment number 1 in the North End to even swankier apartment number 2 in the South End. After a little navigation- isn't the Big Dig over by now?- I do just that. The next day, the boys and I visit her in her new digs and yes, indeed, it is one of the nicest homes I have ever been in. Right near Whole Foods, my favorite addiction ever, our alma mater, Northeastern, and the Reflecting Pool. And the place itself is totally gorgeous and huge.

We meander to Whole Foods, despite my sister's disgust over a place that "exploits our fears and desires", buy some mac and cheese (for the boys) and some ravioli and pesto ingredients (for the adults), make lunch and chat. I, just having been blown off by a couple of Brookline vendors who are close to the Temple, start rambling about my other options. All of a sudden, my sister turns her head from side to side and says very calmly, "Deb, why don't you just have it here?" And after a couple of logistical pauses, I say, "Why don't I just have it here?" And then it was just a steamroll from there.

The three big obstacles: my husband, my daughter and the invitations. The invitations because they had already gone out, and they said we were having the follow up lunch at the temple. I stressed about this right up until the event. In the end, I solved this by 1) arranging with some friends and family members to give rides to parentless children, 2) sending a note to school with my daughter to tell her friends that the party had moved, 3) creating directions to my sister's home from the temple and 4) offering to sponsor parking for those who needed it (not too many people took me up on that). Easy enough once done, but of course I had to make a big, huge deal out of it every day.

The obstacle of my daugther was solved as soon as she and her sister spent 30 minutes at my sister's new place. Because parking is so scarce on my sister's street, I dropped them off and then drove around. When I picked them up, I asked, "So, S, do you want to have your bat mitzvah there?" "Yeah," with the facial expressions which said, "of course, you dope, it's the coolest place ever." And that made me realize that not only would I not have to pay a rental fee, I also wouldn't have to buy decorations (save for flowers) because the place (decorated by someone who used to own a gallery) was so inherently beautiful and cool that decorations would detract from it. So... yay!

And then there was my husband. He saw the place and liked it, but couldn't get past the potential logistical complications (the second floor walk up, the lack of chairs, the diversion from the invitations, etc.). He actually didn't come around until the day of the party, but he grudgingly agreed to let me handle it my way.

Once that was settled, it was all about the food. I have to give my daughter snaps for her food choices, because almost all of them ended up being perfect for parties: naan, with the accompanying sauces (date/tamarind, mint-cilantro chutney and raita); dumplings/mandoo; sushi (of course... it's the new "it" food for the urban prepubescents); quiche (that was my choice, but she went with it) and baked pasta. She really wanted lasagna, but I was worried too much knife and fork action would highlight a lack of seating, so we compromised on baked tortellini and mini-ravioli.

Then there was the cake. You should all know that the reason I have been looking forward to this event since my daughter was five was because I wanted to make a cake on par with the one Martha Stewart made on Julia Child's baking show. You know what I'm talking about. For J's birthday, I got pretty darn close and I really felt like I could bring my game to the bat mitzvah. Sadly, though, I lost my nerve. No one likes buttercream. First she wanted red velvet, then she didn't. My husband didn't want to deal with the baking and the attendant stress. What if I went to all that trouble and no one liked it? So, like a coward I caved. After Party Favors in Brookline blew me off- I will never, ever use them for anything again- I frantically searched for someone who could do the off-center Mad Hatter cake she wanted. Finally, I settled on Rosie's. Why? Because they called me back and they were nice. People, it doesn't take much to get my business. I groaned, but we settled on cake that would serve 60 for about $360, including delivery. I cringed, but I figured it was worth the money if it would be what S wanted.

As the weeks drew near, it became apparent that we were looking at closer to 70. 70! My sister and I worried about whether we would have enough food; I wondered if we'd be calling out for pizza. Would we have enough cake? Generously, S offered to make cupcakes to supplement. In addition, I'd decided a while ago that we needed a make-your-own-sundae set up to accompany the cake. So I called JP Licks and ordered 3 party tubs of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate and raspberry sorbet. $150, but hey- it's ice cream.

The majority of the cooking was done the week before. We made quiche; we made baked pasta; we bought lettuce for salad; we made dumplings- actually, S made dumplings, because she decided that she had to make us all look good by pleating the dumplings, and I don't do that; we made cupcakes; we made frosting; we made Indian dipping sauces; we bought naan (because our desire to cook everything went only so far). And we did all of this in the presence of at least one child, because by the time I realized it would be money well-spent to get a baby sitter, my husband promised that he would watch the boys on Friday, right before the bat mitzvah. That day I also had to go to J's school for a family presentation, as well as clean the car. By the time I got back with my frost-nipped fingers (it was really cold that day), my husband told me that he needed to go visit a client in prison. After a little bit of screaming, he asked his mother to take the boys, but I had to take J. She was pretty good, but she fell on the way there and skinned her knee, so that was a little bit of drama. But, shockingly, we got it done.

The service itself was beautiful, as was S. My husband cried, our friends and relatives cried, the rabbi did a great job- it was beautiful. After hugging friends and accepting congratulations, we got children into cars, parked in the garage and rushed over to my sister's home (she and her fiancee had left a little bit early to start prepping). M was late getting there (a sushi pickup snafu) so the baby sitter had to stay an hour longer than she had planned (M had the cash). Very sad- she's a good baby sitter. But that was the only tragedy. By 2:30, the kids were playing, the adolescents were screaming the Rent soundtrack, people were eating and everyone was having a good time. When the second to last guest left, S screamed spontaneously, "This is the best party ever!" Need I say more?

There were, however, some mistakes:
  • About one-tenth of the cake was eaten. It was a beautiful, delicious cake, but people were pretty stuffed by then.
  • About one-twentieth of the ice cream was eaten. See above.
  • The pasta, which took forever to reheat, was barely touched.
  • Only half of the truffles we ordered as party favors were eaten, and those came to about $225. I realized later that I could have spent probably about a third of that if I had taken my sisters up on their offer to bring home truffles from Italy and package them ourselves. But they were good truffles...

What kills me about those mistakes- although not too much- is that those were the "big ticket" items that I thought required a splurge. Take it from me, there is nothing that requires a splurge. For J's bat mitzvah, we'll scale back even more, and if we end up ordering some last minute pizza, so be it. But I still might get my chance to pretend I'm Martha Stewart.

Still recovering,

Deb in the City