Running up that Hill

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

little boy legos

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kate Bush. She’s there in my car, in my kitchen, filling my house with her soprano warble. I played the song “Wuthering Heights” for my daughter a couple of weeks ago because she’s got her own soprano warble going and I thought she would connect to the inherent drama of Ms. Bush. She liked it okay, but it was my son who took time out from his most recent obsessions with KISS and Joan Jett to become a full-fledged fan of Kate Bush.

I told him the short version of “Wuthering Heights” — gloomy moors, angry guy, angry girl, love, rain and ghosts – and he was even more hooked. He started to make connections with the whole album. He wondered if it was all part of the same story. “Cloudbusting,” he said, was “like it was coming from Heathcliff, because it’s raining and he’s thinking of Cathy, and the sun comes because he’s in love.” The song, “Running up that Hill” was a song they both could sing “because they probably have a lot of hills around the house and they are walking a lot.”

“Did you tell Papa about how I made the connections with Wuthering Heights?” my son asked, his shy smile paired with his sparkly blue eyes. This smile and sparkle mean he’s proud of himself. He smiled like this when he wrote a report on chameleons and when he jumped for a basketball at the edge of the court and kept it from going out of bounds. This smile fills me with joy.

School this year has been hard. Everyone says third grade is when the homework ramps up; the expectations suddenly shoot through the roof; education suddenly becomes a job. It’s been a chore for my boy. I don’t want his excitement to be lost in the deluge of multiplication drills, alphabetization lists and homework drudgery. I know that our children need to learn to multiply and add and subtract, but I’m not sure that they are learning these things in the most interesting way.

When I was a child, a school bus came to the top of my driveway and I got on it and went to school. My parents didn’t think about any other options, they just put me on the bus and assumed it would all work out. And I think it did. I was lucky enough to go to public school in the 70s and 80s when there was still money for arts and physical education. My classes were small and I felt like my individual needs were met.

I enrolled my kids in public school because I had a great experience in public school and because I believe that public school should be great. The idea of community is incredibly important to me and I think one of the best ways to know the people in your community is to send your kids to public school.

That said, this year has been hard for my boy. Hard because his class is large and his teacher is overwhelmed. Hard because there is no money for physical education and so he has precious little outlet for his eight-year-old energy. It’s hard because there is a test coming up and his teacher has to get everyone ready for the test no matter what. They race through material, rushing to cram information in their heads so that later they can pencil in bubbles on an exam. My boy is asked to make connections, but he is given precious little time to actually make them. He does not smile and his eyes do not sparkle when he talks about school.

I am trying to keep him excited outside the classroom, trying to find new ways to talk about math and language and story structure. I play music and read books and ask questions. I am looking at possibilities. I don’t want to abandon the idea of public education, but I cannot abandon my son.

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A City Dwellers New Year

January 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

sketch drawing with hearts

About four days into this New Year, I took my holiday money to a local spa and booked a massage. I’d spent three weeks in the near constant company of my children and while we had a mostly marvelous time, I was in sore need of an hour alone. Bonus if that time included chime-y relaxation music and scented candles. About half an hour into my massage, just when I was drifting along, letting little odds and ends of thoughts bump together in my mind, just when I was sort of nodding off, my massage therapist leaned down and said in her best gentle voice, “There’s a gas leak. We have to evacuate immediately.”

The news pulled me from my dreamy state leaving me to jerk into consciousness like a fish on a line. Reality. What a bummer. Amid murmured apologies, I stumbled into the ladies locker room and pulled my clothes over my oiled skin. Outside, in the parking lot, a glimpse in the rear view mirror assured me that my hair was standing on end, my face a mass of wrinkles from the massage table sheets. So much for that.

I write about this day now because I realize that it has somehow set the tone for all the days that have followed. I am almost through the first month of the year and every day has left me jangled and rattled. Rushing from one thing to the next, picking-up, packing up, driving, driving driving… Despite all my attempts to land gently into this New Year, I have crashed. We have crashed.

We have to evacuate immediately.

Just as I was pulled from a wonderful situation, I can pull myself from a bad one. It’s time. It’s time to start fresh. February, full of chocolate hearts and kind words, is looking like a new year. Another chance to start again.

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Marriage and Kids: Sticking It Out

January 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tosha Woronov

By: Tosha Woronov

happy couple on wedding day

Several months ago I wrote about my and my husband’s decision to not have any more children. [My One and Only] I wrote a little about his enviable conviction in our choice to stop at one and I wrote a lot about my angst. (Of course, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I stood on the sure side of any important decision. Unfortunately, I just don’t roll that way.)

A big part of my uncertainty rests not at all in wanting a baby now, but in needing (or thinking I’ll need) a child later. Down the road. When there are no more tears to wipe or Cheerios to buy or artwork to organize. When I am suddenly needed…less. What will I do with myself then?

This has always been the part of parenthood that worries me most. L growing up. Growing up, up, up and away.

I know that I’m supposed to welcome L’s growth –foster it, in fact. It’s my job, right? (And no parent believes you should relish or enjoy it, our chicks leaving the nest and all. I’m well aware that I’m preaching to the choir here.)

And I know that it would be freakish if he didn’t want to establish his independence and move on; that the outcome to aim for is to have your child grow up and leave you, but to do so with your relationship intact and strong…so that he eventually comes back. Comes back to share a meal, a slice of his life, his new favorite music, the washing machine.

For six years I’ve felt a disconnect between my husband and me that existed for no other reason than that another bond had taken its place. This baby rocked my world. A love like no other, etc. My husband had to take a backseat.

Until now.

Now that L is really growing;

-and starting to ignore me;
-and becoming annoyed by my inquiries about school;
-and wanting to play games on my iPhone instead of Twenty Questions;
-and not approving of the baseball hat I’m wearing (what the f-?);
-and wanting to go to his buddy’s house instead of “doing art” with his mom;
-and talking about farts rather than my eternal beauty…

Now that these events -these natural and healthy events -are occurring, so is a new disconnect. Between L and me. So guess what?

I’m open to my husband again.

And I wonder if that’s the secret to a marriage surviving kids? Stick it out and allow the connections to form – and break – as they may. Ride it out until it’s just you and your spouse again.

He never stopped being my best friend, an amazing father, a great date. But now I see…he’s my rock.

And he won’t grow up. And he won’t grow away. And if I play my cards right, he just might, with me, grow old.

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City Dweller: My Family is a Rock Family

January 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

kids in the water

My family is a rock family.  By that I do not mean we are in a band.  We like rocks.  We cannot help but pick up round stones and hold them in our hands as we walk.  Our dryer rattles with the sound of loose gravel, our yard is filled with odd shaped minerals, rough edged or worn smooth by sea and sand.  We collect rocks on beaches, trails and roadsides.  We let them weight our pockets, our piles of paper, our windowsills.  We covet those rocks too large to lift into backpack or car trunk.  We are a rock family.

These rocks help bind us to the earth, help to give ballast to our helium light souls.  We are drawn to these rocks because they give us a sense of permanence or a sense of history or simply because they are a beautiful color or the shape of a heart or a cloud or a hippopotamus.  These rocks bring the outside into our home; let the beach rest on our bedside tables and the desert blow through our dining room.  These rocks remind us of our need to explore the world and give thanks for a home at the end of the road.

My father was a rock man.  My mother keeps a collection of stones.  They taught me to take comfort in the perfect skipping stone, the round of a pebble.  My children learn from me.  And the world opens.

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Reading The Paper

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

afternoon sky

In the newspaper today, I learned a little about the six people killed in Arizona.  I learned that a little girl wanted to grow into a veterinarian; I learned that an older couple had found each other after a long life.  I learned that a young man was looking for an engagement ring.  All of these facts are powerful to know.  Knowing them makes the loss of these six people that much harder.  I am reminded that I have a young daughter who loves animals, that my neighbors have been married for sixty-five years.  I think of the story my husband tells about finding my own engagement ring.  These facts bring these strangers closer to me.  And I mourn their loss.

In other parts of the paper, I learned that a man had been mauled by a dog while on vacation, a plane had crashed, more people had died in Iraq.  It didn’t say whether the man was married or whether he’d played baseball or been a member of his church choir.  I didn’t learn anything about the people lost in the plane crash or the men and women snuffed out by yet another exploding bomb, but I thought about them.  I thought about how some of them probably liked toast with jam or the smell of jasmine.  I thought about how each of these people had a favorite song, a best friend, a beloved pet.  Like me they might have enjoyed a good book or secretly spooned ice cream from the carton at ten in the morning.  Like my husband, they might have watched football or made their own barbecue sauce.  I don’t know anything about these people and yet, this morning, because I knew a little about six others, I felt more connected to everyone.

Terrible things often remind us of what is good in the world.  Loss reminds us of that with which we cannot bear to be parted.  Today I was reminded that underneath all our opinions and emotions and frustrations and despair, we are still people who might eat ice cream, go to the movies, bake pies, join bowling leagues, chop firewood, volunteer at school, sing songs, fall in love.

I looked at each person today not just as a body, but as a life, and when I did that, I found that I could be more forgiving, more accepting, more understanding.  That guy driving fast down my street might be late for a job interview; the surly kid behind the coffee counter might have been up all night working on a history paper.  I tried to imagine these people laughing on the phone or playing cards around a table.  Details made them human, made them capable of making mistakes, and of making reparations.  These are hard times filled with angry words and I am doing my best not to add mine to the mix.

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Island Holiday

January 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

After ten days on a nearly-deserted island, we arrived home to a crispy Christmas tree and piles of mail.

Nearly-deserted island?

It’s true.

This year, for the holidays, we packed up the fam and braved numerous (and increasingly smaller) airplanes, arriving finally on what is referred to as a “family island” in the Bahamas.

The island, just shy of 100 square miles, boasts a population of just under 200 people.  There was lots of white sand and even more blue water.  There were days when the only footprints on the beach belonged to my kids and me.

The people on the island said, “don’t tell anyone where you went.”  The people on the island said, “tell them there were lots of bugs.”  The people on the island took us out in their boats and invited us to wonderful banana pancake breakfasts.  The people on the island fried up piles of fish and conch and loaned us their cars and opened bottles of Kalik beer.  The people on the island were some of the nicest folks I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

We went to potlucks and picnics and bonfires.  We built a giant sandcastle that my daughter dubbed “Shellville.”  We snorkled with manta rays and parrot fish and once even a barracuda.  My son dove to the bottom of the sea to gather sand dollars and my daughter buried herself in sand the texture of baby powder.

We sat on the porch of our little cottage and watched the sun sink down into the sea.

We ate boiled eggs and packets of English biscuits that we bought at the small grocery store.  We drank lots of coconut water and learned how to tell the difference between a young conch and one old enough to be a fritter.

Our family members on the island were warm and welcoming and they introduced us to their friends who became our friends and we left feeling a little more connected to each other and a little more connected to the world.

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Terrific Tuesday

December 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

Hip LA mom writes about things to do in the city with your children.

Took the kids to LACMA recently on the first of what I’ve decided will be “Terrific Tuesdays”. Thanks to constant LAUSD budget cuts they get out of school early on Tuesdays and rather than spend these extra hours battling over who gets to watch television and why we can’t play computer games until nightfall, I thought it would be good to get out in the world and take advantage of some of the wonderful things Los Angeles has to offer.

I chose LACMA for our first adventure because I wanted to check out the brand new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Pavilion where there is currently an exhibition of gigantic stone carvings from Mexico. I thought the big primitive heads would be a source of great delight to my children, but they gave them only a quick glance and then headed into the costume exhibit where they oohed and ahhed over hoopskirts, bustles and corsets. My son chose a fox hunting costume complete with top hat and crimson-tailed jacket as his favorite while my daughter gravitated toward the all-white lace dresses from the 1800s. We made a quick run through the decorative arts exhibit and I asked pointed questions about the differences in the bronze sculptures of Roman gods and godesses and the big, crudely carved stone heads.

“They’re all people,” my son said.

True enough.

The real treat for my kids was the bright red escalator that ascends three stories up the side of the new building and affords a terrific view of the surrounding neighborhood. They also greatly enjoyed the gigantic glass elevator in the Broad Contemporary museum while being only marginally impressed by the Koons balloon dog. We wondered why the inflatable pool toys stuffed into ladders and chain link fences were art, until a guide informed us that the toys were actually made of metal and painted to look like plastic. This crazy Koons magic trick was enough to temporarily “wow” the kids until my son started to wonder “why in the world you’d want to make an inflatable out of such heavy stuff as metal.”

We made a quick trot past the Picassos, a Matisse mosaic, a Rothko, and a couple of Pollacks before my son drew up quickly in front of a troupe of emaciated Giacometti sculptures.

“Hey, we’ve seen these before?”

“Yes,” I said. “Do you remember where?”

“They live at the Norton Simon,” he said.

“That’s right,” I said. “They were made by an artist named Alberto Giacometti.”

“He is a good artist for Halloween,” my daughter said.

“Because these people are a little like skeletons?” I asked.

“No,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Because Jack-O-Metti is like Jack-O-Lantern.”

Duh.

Outside, we counted the streetlights in the arrangement dubbed “Urban Light” by Chris Urban. My son estimated somewhere between 175 and 200 while my daughter methodically counted each one and arrived at 21-million-billion. (Later, because I like to know these things, I looked it up. There are actually 202.)

We ran across the rain-sprinkled grass and checked in with the Mammoths in the tar pit (still stuck).

In two hours, we saw more “official museum art” than I saw in my first 10 years of life.

“What’d you think of the museum?” I asked as we braved the rainy afternoon traffic jams along Beverly Blvd.

“Boring,” my son said.

“I liked the elevator,” my daughter said.

Terrific Tuesdays. One down. Hundreds to go.

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The Magic Sweater

December 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I returned two sweaters today and one the day before.  All three sweaters are similar – funnel neck, wide cuffs, boxy shape.  They were all black or dark charcoal gray.  They were very nice sweaters.  They did the things a sweater should do.  For example, they were all warm.  But they were not THE sweater.

THE sweater is black.  It has a funnel neck, wide cuffs and a boxy shape.  It should be easy to replace.  But there is something wonderful about THE sweater that I cannot describe.  THE sweater makes me feel like I am dressed up or dressed down.  It makes me feel sleek and stylish and can be worn with jeans and boots, a skirt or yoga pants and still it is wonderful.

Or, I should say, WAS wonderful.  THE sweater has aged.  It is becoming A sweater.  It is losing its shape and pills of wool mar its surface.  I pick these off when I am bored, but I cannot reach them all.  I’ve attempted to remove them with the “sweater shaver” I purchased especially for the purpose.  The rehabilitation process is fruitless.

I’ve realized that THE sweater will join a long line of what I refer to as “magic” clothing.  This list includes a pink, shaker knit sweater with a deep v-neck (usually worn in the back,) a wheat colored chambray dress with dropped waist, pearl snaps and ruffled front, a navy dress I twisted when wet to achieve an extremely crumpled look.  There was a violet linen dress and a pair of sheer pink harem pants (don’t even ask).  There are, of course, lots of jeans, beginning with an acid washed pair with the zippered ankles and ending most recently with ones so often washed the fabric is tissue thin, the indigo faded to pale blue-gray.

I’ve realized you can’t go looking for the magic.  It just happens.  I didn’t know any of these items were magic when I bought them. But all of them, at some point, transformed into something more elevated than mere clothing.  Some of these items I’ve worn to death; others perished prematurely.  (The chambray dress was lost to a flooded Chicago basement. Heat and prolonged exposure to moisture encouraged mildewed designs as abstract and imprecise as a Jackson Pollock painting.)  Now, I can’t imagine wearing this dress – just as perhaps in months or years, I won’t be able to imagine my sweater.  I may have moved on from acid wash and harem pants, but the memories of these things and the girl or woman I was when I wore them stay with me.  The chambray dress took me through Thanksgiving with my first love, the navy blue, crinkled number showed off my collarbones to excellent advantage and swished around my cowboy boots making me feel like Annie Oakley, all cleaned up and ready to dance.

THE sweater.  THE dress.  THE jeans.

I am realizing more and more that whatever I wear, I am comfortable being me.  And that is magic.

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Black Friday Under Blue Skies

December 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

We spent Black Friday under blue skies.  My kids wanted the beach.  My visiting mother wanted the beach.  We headed to the beach.
Though it was freezing cold, my daughter wore her bikini.  “Tanya Ward Goodman,” she said, when I questioned her choice, “I am warm, I am hot, I am burning for the ocean…”

And so she was.

We headed south to the very tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula where there is a wonderful little beach covered with perfectly smooth rocks in every shape and size.  We wandered, heads bent, stooping now and again to scoop up a particularly beautiful stone.  My boy searched for flat rocks to skip and (dangerously) huge rocks to create larger and larger splashes in the water.  My girl (in her bikini) sought out creatures – snails and small crabs – to enclose in little houses built of rocks.  My mother sat on a rock, her long, silvery hair blowing in the breeze and listened to the sound of all the rocks clack-clacking in and out with the tide.

We picked up trash and found a shell the size of my child’s fist.  We found what might be the breastbone of a bird and lots and lots of lobster tails hollowed of the meat by winged predators.

We did not say, “please stay dry,” but instead brought a change of clothes.  We didn’t say, “don’t throw rocks,” we just said “throw them into the sea.”

When we were hungry, we climbed up the steep hill and followed hand painted signs to Walker’s café where the grown ups had patty melts and beers and the kids split a root beer and ate hotdogs and French fries. Walker’s was an amazing collage of imagery from the 1940s through the present – Mickey Mouse and Frank Zappa living in harmony on the walls, a collection of china dogs sharing shelf space with Miller signs, motorcycles out front, and a crew of locals parked at the little counter.

The kids played some kind of made up game with baseball cards and we watched the light change across the wide swath of grass separating us from the sea.

It was a perfect day.  I don’t say this lightly.  I do believe that there are days that are perfect.  Days when one thing slips easily into the next, when the sky is bluer than other days, the food tastes better and the company is rich.  There have been other days like this (cake for dinner, trips to the Getty, beers with my father on the sand, garage sales with my brother) and there will be more.  And for that I am grateful.

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A Good Day

November 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

On Sunday, I went to a yoga class and then hit the farmers’ market.  Blinking in the sun (gotta love November in Los Angeles), I sorted through piles of tomatoes and zucchini and little round sweet peppers, red as Christmas lights.  I grabbed a couple of bunches of kale, some brand-new baby asparagus (SoCal, where it’s spring all year round), and some fresh sweet onions.  Those onions were gorgeous. Dewy and pale, they felt cool and heavy in my hand.  They had the moist, taut skin of my 21-year-old cousin. Youth is impressive even in onion form.

I bought a pile of dusty purple plums and half a dozen crisp, sweet apples and then headed for the barbecue stand.  I’d promised to bring lunch home for the menfolk (husband, son and friend) who were planted in front of Sunday football.  The daily special at Bigmista’s BBQ read, “Pulled Pork Parfait.” Oh, alliterative yumminess.  Basically a sundae of mashed potatoes, barbecue sauce and pulled pork, the thing was a brimming cup of love.  I added a combo platter, a side of beans, and greens and took the whole warm, savory pile home to the dudes who cheered my entrance.

In my absence, my girl had taken one look at the fellows in their football jerseys and had the sense to request a play date with our neighbor.  The little ladies had retreated to the back yard for tea parties and blanket forts and what my daughter calls “chatting.”

I unloaded my bags and chopped that gorgeous onion.  Most of it mixed with celery and carrots for the base of white bean and kale soup.  The rest got sautéed with beet greens and added to a bowl of cooked buckwheat, subbing for parsley in a kind of tabouli-ish salad with butternut squash in place of tomato.  I quick pickled the little red peppers and let them rest for stuffing later in the week.  The numerous blackened bananas that have been languishing in the fridge turned into two loaves of banana bread.  For a little while, I had all four burners going and the oven on and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving.

The game went into overtime, the baking bread filled the house with sweetness, and when the Jets finally made that winning point, the dudes let out a joyful shout and clumped together in a group hug.  My daughter made up two new songs and drew a picture of me with a smile on my face.

It was a very good day.

Not every day is like this.  In fact, a great many of them bear absolutely no resemblance to this day.  On other days, games are lost, we eat cheese toast and everyone seems angry for no real reason.  Sunday was a good day.  Worthy of notice.

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