Julia and I begin spa day with an invigorating hike. We don't have fields of lavender and sage perfuming the desert air, but I love the smell of bus fumes in the morning, and Amsterdam Avenue is lined with teachable moments. At the spa, I marveled at the gophers and bunnies and exotic peacocks roaming free. Here in Manhattan, Julia reaches for a pigeon feather by the curb and I explain how hepatitis is spread. At the spa, I gazed at a cactus and our guide explained how to make prickly pear jam. At the bodega on West 93rd, we grab a box of Hot Pockets and I explain that you can microwave an entire meal in just a minute or two, no plate or utensils required. It is a magical morning.

We return home with an Enya CD, a candle, a block of tofu, a bottle of romaine-kale-parsley-celery-apple-lemon-ginger juice, the new Jane Fonda workout, and one box of Ninjago Ultra Sonic Raider Legos, because I need my able-bodied young assistant to be busy when I'm ready to zone out.

I light the freesia-scented candle, marinate the tofu, and switch on Enya's "Orinoco Flow." I lay out the many products supplied to me by the beauty editors of O magazine, and decide to begin with a little softening butter salt scrub. The instructions tell me to "melt in [this] amazing scrubbing butter and let the luscious blend of natural oils, antiaging Dunaliella seaweed, sugar, and Dead Sea salts go to work for you." I have spent half my life trying to steer clear of oil, sugar, salt, and any seaweed that's not wrapped around sticky rice and high-grade tuna—now I am massaging it into my stomach, hips, thighs, back, arms, legs, and duvet cover. The scent is giving me a headache, or perhaps it's the candle, or maybe it's all that Orinoco flowing through my brain. "Jules," I call to the living room, "let's eighty-six the Enya!" My child, who has been known to play the thoroughly obnoxious theme to My Little Pony upward of nine times in a row, actually yells back, "Thank God!" I rinse off the salt scrub, lotion up my hands, slip into a pair of rehydrating cotton gloves that are printed with words like indulge, soothe, and enjoy, cover my eyes with cucumber slices as any spa girl worth her salt scrub would do, and try, if not to indulge, soothe, and enjoy, then at least drift into a catnap.

"Mommy," my daughter whispers, "does wearing pickles on your face relax you?" I murmur that I'm asleep and attempt to wave her off with a gloved hand—effectively ending my shot at Mother of the Year. "Because," she continues, "I wanted to ask you about bringing Pogo"—the class lizard—"home for the holidays." My first thought is: I do not want to spend Rosh Hashanah with a lizard named Pogo. Besides, isn't placing cucumber coins over one's eyes the universal sign for don't bring up house-sitting Pogo, the class lizard? "You just relax and think about it," Julia suggests, adding, "he eats roly-poly bugs" before tiptoeing out of the room.

Next: Feeling "totally youthful and completely radiant," despite a sticky situation


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