Hide and Go Seek.... And WIN at ALL Costs

So last weekend we were playing hide-and-go-seek.

We play as teams --

1) Zoe and Zack vs. Mommy

2) Mommy and Zack vs. Zoe

but never Zoe and Mommy vs. Zack because when Zack hides by himself just stands in the middle of a room with his hands over his eyes.... then, when found, shouts "surprise! kiss me!"

There is one rule ---> My team ALWAYS has to win.

Challenge #1
Our house isn't that big.

The "good spots" all go out the window after the first few rounds.

The kids hide in the bathtub (together) the hamper (together) under the bed (together) and under the coffeetable (together, giggling)

Challenge #2
My kids are pretty small..... so they only count to 20.

This doesn't give me a lot of time to find a spot. Gotta think fast, move quietly.

Well, on Saturday, during round #4 (Zack and Zoe vs. Mommy) I found a great spot.

I slid behind the door of my walk-in closet, then got a bolt of inspiration.

Anne Frank's family covered the door to their hiding with a bookcase during their time in hiding.... so I wedged a big blue exercise ball in the closet doorway.

Ha! **Brilliant**


I could hear them look by the bed... under the nightstand.... then back out to the entry hall... they looked behind the sofa.... then I couldn't hear them anymore.

After about 5 minutes, I allowed myself to stop pressing up against the wall. I slid down to a kinda kneeling position and waited.

And waited.

Fifteen minutes passed.

Plates clacked, glasses clinked.

What the hell? Did they forget about me?

I didn't move.

I was winning the freaking game, even if they forgot it was going on.

Thirty minutes passed.

I had to pee.

Winners don't quit. Quitters don't win. I stood my ground.

Forty-five minutes passed.

The game isn't over until *I* say it's over, people!

An hour passed.

I was writing chapter 27 in my head.

What? What's that noise?!








I choked.

At last they were going to find me!!

They banged on the bathroom door.


Now I'm biting my lip. Silly kids!
I win. I win. I win!!!


Daddy comes into the room, gets the key to unlock the bathroom.

I hear the three of them barge into the unlocked, unoccupied bathroom.





Now I laugh.

The kids walk to the closet and I jump out ROARRRRR.

They scream, giggle, cling to me like the velcro children that they are....

I'm was in the CLOSET this WHOLE time!

Why were you in the closet "this WHOLE time?"

Because we were playing hide-and-go-seek, and I WON!

How did you WIN?

No one found me!

You sat in this dark closet all this time? I was keeping the kids busy so you could write.




Are you really that competitive?


Fine. You win.


And you know what?

We haven't really played the game since... I think my family is kinda afraid of me.

Which, in my little world, is *not* a bad thing.

No Funeral, No Food Fight

One of my very favorite pictures in the world hangs above my office chair.

It's my mom, her mother (abuela) and my grandfather's sister (Josefina, aka Fifi).

I was about 7 weeks pregnant with Zoe and had flown from Tallahassee to South Florida for a little, well, let's be honest... a little shopping. And pool-sitting. General relaxation, South Florida style.

I didn't look at all pregnant, but I wanted to take a picture with my family so I shoved a pillow under my dress. Mom and abuela did the same with their shirts. Fifi sat on a chair telling us we were loco y sinverguenza.

The picture dad snapped at that moment caught 4 women laughing loudly.

Fast forward to today. Zoe gets a box from the Cuban tooth fairy, sent to my abuelos for them to forward to her. You remember the story.

I call to say thank you.

And find out Fifi died today.


I can't even wrap my mind or heart around this yet. But I think there won't be a funeral.

The last funeral we had in the family was for Fifi's daughter, Miriam who was murdered in the 1980s. Long story, big tragedy. Miriam was only 24 and laughed like me. Like Fifi. Like all the women in our family.

So it was hard to sit quietly at a funeral. We had relatives visiting from Cuba, and it was -- well, tense. Everyone was shocked, exhausted, edgy.

My brother was eating a merangue -- and I shoved it into his face. It squished like a big old cream pie.
He retaliated with lasagne (what was it doing in Little Havana anyway???)
More people joined in our silent fight. I think there were maduros, black beans and rice, and some sort of fried meat.

My mother was embarassed, stern, angry. She managed to get us to clean up QUIETLY and several non-English speakers didnt even notice the tiny melee.

Fifi? She laughed at our food fight. Probably the only laugh she got for weeks.

When it hits me that she's gone, I'm going to cry.
A big sobbing cry. I can't do that now, alone at home with the kids.

Every time one of us dies, I think a bit of Cuba goes with them.

The Mommy Files

Almost no one sees both parts of my life.

Mother. Professor.They don't mix. Not well.

At least, not in my mind. Mothering is so... well - unnnatural to me.

I can dress the part of Mommy ( jeans or a skirt, wedge heels, and a tshirt with a purse big enough or apple juice and 2 diapers), talk the game of Mommy (put your brother down! Say hi to the nice lady! I love you, too...), and load both kids into the back of a sweltering car without losing my cool or bending too far over in a skirt (I hope).

Still, it's unnatural.

I'm not very maternal.
OK, maybe I am.
But I try hard not to be.
I've worked hard over the past fifteen years to be fair, direct, firm, straight-shooting.
Maybe that's kinda maternal too.
But I don't bake cookies.
Unless I feel like it.

I'm not very cuddly.
OK, so I like to cuddle up with the kids.
I still try to sit on my father's lap.
Strike that one.

I don't really like to be the authority figure.
Oh. Nevermind, I guess I lose that round too -

I can't stand being responsible for other people.
This one, I stand by.
I hate doing the laundry for other people (and yes, KIDS are "other people"), cleaning up after other people, cooking for other people (unless I feel like it) and having to miss work because someone else is sick.

Of course, responsibility is part of the whole growing-up game, so I guess it's part of me.

I like being alone.
That's probably the hardest part of motherhood for me.
I would've made a great hermit.

Yes, when I was single, I do remember putting a lot of energy into finding boyfriends & companions to hang out with. Not live with, not be with all the time. I still had my own home, always, until the day I got married (and even 2 months after that).

No one has ever loved me like my kids do.

They stalk me.
They on the bathroom door when I'm in there too long.
(Hey, it's huge -- I have a lounge in there....)
They suspect I'm in there, hiding with a book or writing something really interesting that they can't yet understand.

They send me mail under the bathroom door.
Pictures of our family, rainbows, flowers, hearts.

They worship and praise me, stick to me like velcro, proclaim my wisdom, generosity and beauty to all they meet.

This is weird.
And uncomfortable.

I'm wondering how much longer until they become teenagers and hide in their rooms, text-messaging their friends about what an idiot I am. How oldfashioned, conservative and dorky I am.

That'll probably happen around the time I decide that my kids are growing up too fast, and that I've wasted precious years hiding from them in the bathroom, writing things like this for you.

I'll probably color pictures for them and mail it to them, under their doors.

A Letter to Vacationers in the South

An open letter to my northern friends who visit Florida in summer.

First of all, as I keep telling you, I’m not rich. I spend less than $700 a year on clothes, shoes and makeup for myself. I don’t have the luxury to have different wardrobes for each season. I have to be strategic. Right now, it’s in the 80s and I’m wearing a skirt – ok, a skort. On top, a long sleeve featherweight pj-like, almost see through light gray shirt with a longer olive, body fitting (no, not tight) shirt over it.

I look good.Why? I have a strategy.

Hello. I see you.

I see that you bought some cute clothes for your vacation, and yes, I think you seriously believed you would lose those 5 pounds before vacation, but things come up. I know.

Here’s the thing.

Not only are those clothes a little too tight, they are also way too formal for Florida in summer.

I am not an authority on many things, but I have spent most of my life in the South.

Yes, there were 2 freakish years of exile in Boulder, but I’ve recovered from the culture shock. My time there would’ve been so much easier if someone had helped acculturate me.

Because I know what it feels like to look like you don’t belong, to look uncomfortable, and all that good stuff, I’m taking time out of my super-hip vacation to shoot a list to you.

Makeup melts in the heat.

1) Please, please, ditch the foundation. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should go bald-faced. You might be in the background of my picture, and forever I’ll be looking at you, wondering why you’re so splotchy. Here’s what you do. First, wear moisturizer with SPF. Yes, moisturizer. Your skin will get dry in the heat, and every single crack will show. Of course you won’t be standing in front of the mirror so it technically isn’t your problem. But you’re reading this because you care, so please do it!

2) Take your concealer – and if you don’t have concealer, buy some or stop reading here, because every civilized woman has concealer – and use it strategically. Dab dab here and there, cover the red spots at the bottom of your nose that everyone has, cover the blue-purple darkness that everyone has where their nose and eye meet. Then dab a bit on any other yucky spots. Cover it all with the lightest dusting of pressed powered (and if you don’t have that, buy some like yesterday) and you’ve got melt-proof foundation.

3) Go easy on the blush. If it’s dark enough to wear during the evening, it’s way to dark to wear in the middle of the day in the florida sun. Try a bronzer or a sunny shade of blush on the apples of your cheeks. The middle of the day is NOT the time to carve out cheekbones with your contour brush. It will look awful, and no one will tell you.

4) Summerize your lipstick. I’m a big fan of lipliner and a bit of shimmer gloss. Nudes, pinks, berries. Beware of corals – unless you are 100% sure you have the coloring to pull it off, you might just have a garish red-orange smile. Aim for sheer, glossy, light. But please, do wear lipstick. Something awful happens to a face when the lips look all dry and shrively, They aren’t kissable, they don’t look young and friendly, and you might ruin my pictures.

5) Give some serious thought to your eye makeup. When I watched Lake House with Sandra Bullock, I truly admired the job her makeup artist did framing her brown-black eyes in a smokey mahogany liner. In real life, regular women who try this often just end up looking crazy. A great summer daytime look is a nude sheer wash across the eye, then little shimmer in a darker color in the crease and as liner. Please please if you’re over the age 30, try to avoid dark, bright, and/or harsh colors during the day. No aqua liner, no purple smears. These evoke images of a woman drinking too many mimosas before showering and trying to pull herself together.

OK. Let’s be honest about your clothes.
1) Tight is bad. It makes you sweat in places that… well, sweating is not desirable. Really tight and white is worse. Even if you are ridiculously rich, tanned and hardbodied.

Now, really tall and lean women can pull this off, but it helps if they’re Paris Hilton. If you absolutely must wear white pants, go for some swoosh factor, some sort of lightness to them.

I personally haven’t owned white pants since middle school. And, for the record, they were tight and I word them with rainbow suspenders. So, if you want to be like I was, go right ahead.

2) A bathing suit is not a bra. If you’re over 30 and have had kids, you probably need a decent bra. OK, most of you don’t know what a bra should do. It’s simple. Your nipple should line up exactly at the midpoint between your armpit and elbow.

Unless you’re on your second set of boobs (and, hey, when I sell my book I’m buying new boobs before any other luxury purchase) you probably need a bit of a boost to get the nipples to where God herself intended them to be. Most bathing suits allow a little droopage, and in return, reward you with some great cleavage. This is all lost when you toss a t-shirt over it. The result is… well, dumpy.

Low boobs add pounds, and every freaking picture you take will make you hate yourself. I warned you, so don’t hate me, too.

3) Feet need to breathe. If you’re on vacation, plan to show some toe. But not in heels. High heels plus open toes, during the daytime, equals hooker or stripper. Not what you’re aiming for, huh?

4) How are your arms?

Have your arm muscles disappeared? Do you have arms so white that they look blue? Have you forsaken shaving for the last few months? Do you have acne on the backs of your arms?

If you can answer yes to ANY of these questions, please please please don’t wear a tank top.

We southern belles who find ourselves in this (temporary, right?) situation wear longer sleeves in lighter fabrics. Still look super cute, but you don’t’ reveal anything, well, ugly.

And yes, flabby white acne-full upper arms are an appetite suppressant.

So if you see me taking your picture, it’s only because I’m out of Trimspa and I don’t get paid again until the end of the month.

How is your hair?

Did you spend an hour blowdrying your hair during the humid Florida summer? Wow. What a waste. Summer hair is happy hair. Easy hair. If it took an hour, it isn’t happy, it wasn’t easy, and you’re probably sweaty and annoyed at the people who screamed at you to hurry up.

No one is having fun and you look bad.

Now, put on something light and comfy, smile, and be happy.

You're in Florida!

Once Upon a Time... ( From June 2006)

Once upon a time, a kindly professor named Melissa hopped a plane (by herself, of course) to South Florida for a four-day whirlwind tour of relatives, former colleagues, and other assorted odds and ends.

I amexcruciatingly aware that several people are sitting on pins and needles waiting to see what I will write about them.

Or if I will spare them. Please!

Let's just skip Stuart. He is perfect.

If he weren't a high-powered attorney (power being measured by the type of BMW he drives and the quality of the earpiece he wears while driving it....) he would make an amazing physician. Enough said?

Then the triumverate of Lory, Anne and Jene, the three of whom look like a poster of "after" pictures for Gold's Gym. Brilliant, successful, hardbodied women who are stuck in perpetual great hair days.

My lowpoint of the wonderful evening seven of us spent together was Lory's proclaiming "I've never weighed more than 110 pounds."

It was *HER* night, so I didn't give her a swift kick.

Honestly, the woman doesn't have a smug bone in her, so she didn't deserve a kick.

Maybe a pinch.

Or a good-natured shove.

Into a pool.

Oh, Jene? Hello? Next time I order a CD, I'd like it on a CD.

Not a zip drive.

Not on notebook paper, not on a floppy disk from the 90s.

But honestly, I didn't mean to leave it at Anne's house.

So, um, burn it to a CD (there isn't a lot of room for negotiating here) or email me the playlist and I'll visit my special music place that I know better than to list here.

Anne. Anne. When I grow up, I still want to be you.

With less kids. But I'll take everything else.

And, Nancy? Is the Lucy-shower still on? Because I'm free to come down and draw obscene pictures again. But this time, I'll be adding breasts. Have you registered anywhere, yet??

Martin. You have not been given clearance to date.

You are supposed to be working 90 hour weeks, then going home. Alone. To think about how you are too busy for women. There is no woman good enough for you. None worthy of your charm, intelligence or wit. So you're going to be alone for a long time. That's an order.

Then there's Melissa, the other Melissa. Not me. I'm not making this up. I have a friend Melissa, a successful atty who -- like Stuart -- drives a BMW and can kick your ass if she has to.

I am totally indebted to Melissa for letting me slip by with something.
She knows what I mean. I owe her one.

My Dad. I spent a bit of time on my mini-vacation at home, staring into space, listening to dad talk to customers.

They don't just call about hibiscus.

They call to flirt, to tell him how beautiful his flowers are... and how big they are... and how interesting his accent is... oh my G*** it's almost nauseating how people love to compliment my dad and shower him with money. It's a good life.

Mom is doing well. I spare her my blogging. She and Abuela are sacrosanct.

So, back to life.

Except for an email I'm about to answer in another blog.

Favorite Person: Vive, Of COURSE!

Her name is Vive.

Rhymes with today. Sashay. Hooray.

Recovering cheerleader and honor student who was the epicenter of the cool crowd.

Breathtakingly honest writer.

Has a vegetable garden, compost pile, and the breasts of a sixteen year old.

Feet firmly planted in reality, eyes toward the sky.

Fearlessly following her own path, building a future with a man who is clearly her soulmate.

A person I would choose for a friend, again and again.

The Iceberg Cometh

ICEBERG: mass of ice that has become detached, or calved, from the edge of an ice sheet or glacier and is floating on the ocean.

Last night was one of those nights where I was thinking so much, writing so much in my head, that by 3:30am I was marking time until I could get up and make the words real. Permanent.

Much of what I was thinking about will go directly into the book. I
need to write them like I feel them now - raw, bare, bold. Those words are not for my blog, sorry.
But the inspiration? It was real.
As real as these words you are saying along with me, wherever you are.

My inspiration was journey I took last night, a boat ride south. Past the Caribbean, around Venezuela, Brazil, still heading south.

Drifting aimfully to find an iceberg.

It was a journey I could not explain, even to myself, and one to which I was both ridiculously and expectantly attatched.

When I finally found the iceberg that I hoped -- knew? -- would be waiting, it woke me with a bump.
I was not startled. Just grateful. I did not anchor, for fear of scarring the giant.
It was a work of art, entirely. Magnificent, beyond what I could have hoped for. At least the part I could see.

For hours I sat in my boat, chin resting on my left knee.

It was a quiet, reflective position, one that felt like the warmth I was seeking.
I should have felt much colder, but it felt like home. Safe, strong, familiar.
Icebergs are not silent. They crack and pop, like someone tapping their pen on a desk to punctuate points. I listened, listened so carefully for a word - a sign - an answer.
It mocked me, gently, because there was no question needing an answer.
So I spent hours admiring it. Combing every bit of it with my eyes, memorizing the beauty of every groove.
The smile from that dream is still bright on my face.
Maybe, just maybe, that was what the pilgrimage had been all about.

Flashing Gorillas, stuff like that ---

I talked to my brother for a minute yesterday. I was at work -- sorta -- laying outside on a bench, sunning my stomach, having happy time.

After commenting on the raspiness of my voice, he turned the conversation to an admission that he can't sleep, either.

That always throws me. I don't know who reads these words, althought I have an idea of the quantity of traffic. My brother's conversational curveball was the third in a week.

At a picnic on Saturday, Aron's mom started talking about book.

I was kinda dazed. I can't carry a smart conversation with small children around. Or cake. Or trees. I was in a daydreaming mood, and talking was work.

I write because I can't talk.

Because sometimes I have things to say, and there is absolutely no one to say them to.
So I just scribble them down on the blog and leave them, like a note on the table, and walk away.

Lots of times I forget what I've written, so it's weird when people bring up things I've done, like

But anyway, today is another day.

With lots to say.

Like my sudden realization that the best way to teach a kid to use a spoon is by giving them a bowl of M&M's and a very very long DVD.

Or the fact that I honestly hide from my kids. They think it's a game, but it isn't.

Yes. I have a lot to say. I'm just wondering who I'm going to say it to...

But back to my brother. What's keeping him up at night is his 3 month old twins (not identical).

Now, I'm not being competitive, but I think that what's keeping me up is a bit more interesting. Melancholy, creativity, wistfulness, and writing. Quadruplets (non-identical).

So, um, again - I WIN.

Not that anyone's counting, right?

Practicing Hiding Eggs


So yesterday -- at Zoe's command -- we started the ceremonial "practice run" of hiding cheap plastic eggs and making the kids find them.

This is ridiculously fun, because I follow the kids and take the eggs back out of their baskets, pass them behind my back to Chuck to re-hide.

The kids think we have a gazillion eggs and after about an hour, they get tired.

Serves them right.

Because finding eggs before Easter is like putting candles on lasagne and singing Happy Birthday.

It just isn't done.

Not even by Cubans.
At least not this one.

Turning On the Gorilla

Valentines Day evening, 2006.

Long-suffering husband says "did you leave this note?"

Huh? I take a minute to respond, because if it's GOOD, I'm taking credit. I come from a family like that (Hi Dad!!).

It's a note written in crayon, taped to one of the columns between our kitchen and living room.

I have been BANNED from using tape on the walls by the "treat our new home with respect" Nazi, so I shake my head ADAMANTLY.

OH. It's a note from his step-mother, my mother-in-law directing us to look in the fridge, apologizing for missing us.

I don't read it to Chuck - I just head to the fridge.

THREE BOXES OF CHOCOLATE *and* a $50 bill.

Clearly  the $50 bill is a traditional aphrodesiac, yes?

So I liberate the cash from fridge, put it in my bra, and shove the chocolate behind the milk and OJ.


There is a life-sized stuffed animal in her room.

A life sized SHEEP DOG in her room, on top of a laundry-basket.
Guess what's in the laundry basket?

Enough chocolate to fuel a class of 5-year olds pushing a minivan up Mt. Everest.

I try NOT to curse.

I want to be happy for her. But my kids on chocolate are... miserably wound-up. Loud, aggressive, tearful. High, low, everything in between.

Chocolate brings out the latent teenager in them.

I get husband's attention, and direct him to grab a few bags and he shovels chocolate into them by the HANDFUL while I distract the kids who are now trying to pull each other around on the above-mentioned sheep dog.

Then Zack goes to HIS room.

You guessed it.

A life-sized GORILLA, sitting on a laundry basket full of chocolate.

He doesn't notice any of it, except for the fact that the GORILLA is holding a sheet of Dora the Explorer stickers.

I'm trying to figure out how to distract my son while rooting around for the 10 pounds of chocolate nestled under the gorilla.

Then Zack sees the gorilla, pokes it a few times, and says "Mommy, turn it on."

I wink at it.

Flip my hair.

Lean over to tell it a joke.


So I slipped it the $50, wished it a Happy Valentine's day, and watched American Idol.

The High Heeled Blues

I hate wearing comfortable shoes.
I love wearing heels.
I wear them with suits, with jeans, with skirts.
They just make me feel happy. Powerful. Womanly. Rita Hayworth-y.

This high-heel habit is rather new.

I think it emerged forcefully during my sabbatical from academia, when I was in the corporate/non-profit world, and figured I should dress like Ally McBeal's (fictional) sister, the one who got the GOOD hair and big boobs.

But I see that I am still twenty pounds heavier than I was when I got pregnant with Zack, my son who just turned 2.

In my defense, I was extra-skinny and on diet pills when I got pregnant.

know, from years and years of reading trashy girl magazines, that one of the ways people stay skinny is by being active not just by working out but by marching around all day at work, talking instead of emailing, carrying paper to another building instead of sending it by inter-campus mail.

I know that. I get it. I need to do more walking. Fine. Fine. Whatever.

Like spending 12 hours a week pacing, gesticulating, performing -- in high heels -- while teaching history isn't exercise???
((( I guess it depends on how many donuts you eat afterwards.)))

It's HARD to be exceptionally active and walk very far most "as part of my routine" in cute high heeled shoes. I don't care WHAT you saw on Sex in the City. HIGH HEELS AREN'T COMFORTABLE.

There are many days I act like a person on crutches, planning every step, going nowhere I absolutely don't have to go -- because even the best high heeled shoes get 1) painful 2) ruined.

I'm not giving up my heels!!
I wear suits to work, and I don't know if I'm ready to be one of THOSE people who toss comfy shoes (and SOCKS! GAG!) on and go for a walk during lunchtime.

Just wearing tennis shoes with a suit officially ages a person 10 years.

Even if they're wearing J.Lo. oversized sunglasses and bopping to an ipod.


Lights, Camera, Lipstick

No Carmen today, slipping into my office, putting his feet up on my desk, tapping his pen, asking penetrating questions that leave me banging my head against my desk. In a good way. But still.

Today's person-who-came-racing in is Peggy.

She just appeared in my doorway, announcing that the TV people are coming.

Great! I have lots of friends in TV and film.

I'm all about appearing for a shot here and there, a minor character, a cameo.

A quick quip about the state of the union, Alan Greenspan, the need for government subsidized charm schools. Whatever today's topic is.

Peggy sees my mind race.
She realizes I think she wants advice, not makeup.
The woman is a natural beauty.

Melissa!!! I need LIPSTICK. I NEED Bobbi Brown.

Hmmm. I stand up, point at my chair. I had NO idea today would suddenly become so fun!

Peggy got a full coat of of Brown Lipstick (yes, there is a Bobby Brown lipcolor called Brown. And NO it isn't Brown. It's a nice peachy brownie shade with a hint of shimmer).
Then a dabbling of Sugar lip gloss, a sheer glossy that lightens everything up.

Next step, a bit of bronzer. She looks a bit afraid.

Will it make me orange?

No. It isn't a bronzer-bronzer, it's a "hey you'll look a tiny bit richer if you wear this but no one will be able to figure out why" bronzer. A bit of shimmer. I swirl the brush, rub it on the back of my hand.

Peggy scrunches her nose, looks at my hand, which is inches from her nose.

I can't see anything.

It's that subtle.


Peggy stands, up, ready for action.

As she walks out the door she looks me over, points at my neck and says "Hey! The pearls."


I gave her the pearls, triple-wrapping them around her neck so the lowest point hits ABOVE the breasts.

Very important. It's a rookie mistake to have droopie pearls.

Now I feel so naked!

And that's something to write about.