Monday, December 28, 2009


I am a Mac. Okay, so I'm not really a Mac yet. I own a Mac but it takes a bigger genius than I am to actually be a Mac after 4 days. I'm sort of in transition, like Kafka only without the antennae and penchant for dung.

The computer has beautiful abilities that may include world domination. I haven't seen all the tutorials yet, but I'll let you know when I come across that one.

Wanna know the feature I love the most? The computer automatically, without any help from me, turns itself on and off at a set time every day. Yup. That in itself has made my world brighter. In fact, if nothing else works on the computer, it’d still be worth the switch just to have that one magical ability. I go to sleep at night and so does my computer. I wake up in the morning and--voile--it’s started itself up, had its morning cup o’ coffee, and is ready to go. Oh, how it knows me. How it reads my every mood, catering to my whims. Now, if it would make a healthy breakfast, clean the dishes and take the kids to after-school activities, we'd be set.

Oh, and I no longer have the “you may be a victim of counterfeit software” sign with accompanying black-hole screen that sucks away creativity and, if left long enough, life itself. I have a lovely National Geographic picture of a swan launching off of a fog-covered pond. Wow.

I feel that the Mac is sort of like my camera. Way too much for my small abilities. And what has become of the ghetto-PC? It sits next to the Mac because I think that's funny. Also, the kids use it. Because ain’t no one touching my new computer but me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mr. Krueger's Christmas

“I wish I could be Mr. Krueger ‘cause he has a cat.” The four year old offers a new perspective on Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.
Every year, I think it will finally be the year I don’t cry when I watch this movie. I think it will be the year that I don’t feel depressed at the end. And every year, I’ve failed. Okay, so I fail at many things, like being 5 foot 9 inches and rumba dancing. But this is a failure that has haunted me. Even knowing that it’s fake, that Jimmy Stewart only pretends to be a rheumy eyed lonely man has not helped.
But this year, even though I still got weepy, the four year old made me smile and that changed the whole movie. Mr. Krueger has a cat. He’s lucky. He has that magical, elusive dream withheld from the four year old because her father is allergic and her mother has no intention of having cat hair all over her counters, anyway. When I told the child that in order to have a cat we’d have to get rid of her dad, she said, “Hmmm,” and thought about the idea. “Dad could live in the basement,” she concluded. Clearly, her parents do not rate very high on her list of important items. We’re background noise at best, candy-and-cat-quelchers at worst.
But I’m okay with that, at least today, because I watched Mr. Krueger’s Christmas without sobbing hysterically all the way through. So it’s a successful year, at least for me. For the four year old, she still needs a cat.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Among the Leaves So Green

The sun beams fresh and new, strangers’ voices raise in song and despair makes way for hope. Mountains cast their shadows more tenderly and birds land, chirping, on my shoulder.
It must be seed catalog season again.
I have a goal this year. Well, several. First, I’m going to stretch my wings and move away from tomatoes and melons. Last year, we got nary a one ripe melon. The season was short and wet and they all rotted on the vine before ripening. I’m sure a more educated gardener would have had a solution, but I believe in letting the plants raise themselves, so they got no help from me. In fact, last year I relied on a couple of friends to plant my garden while I walked around trying to figure out spacing, so I really was no help at all to the whole process. I think I’ll try some long beans, maybe an eggplant or two and I’m thinking about committing to asparagus. It’s a long-term investment and I’m not sure I’m mature enough, but it would at least be a new plant to kill.
My second goal is to actually read the Baker Heirloom Seed catalog. Have you seen it? Truly a work of art. Political art, but art anyway. Besides, I think I might be a better gardener if I move away from the “Oooh, pretty” method of choosing plants and try, instead, the “yes, that will grow in my garden” method. I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.
My third goal, and this is a tough one, is to figure out a better tomato staking plan. I hate the cages, mainly because I don’t do any cleanup after harvest so the cages over-winter and, as a result, I have to buy new ones every year. The best solution would be to take them out in the autumn, but since I haven’t done that, ever, not once, then I’d better think of something else. I’m tempted to make my children stand in the garden to hold up the plants. This would accomplish several goals, not the least being a quieter, cleaner house, but I have a feeling a well-meaning neighbor would report me mid-season. And then what would I do for the tomatoes? I’m open to suggestions.
So, happy seed shopping. Oh, and Merry Christmas. I wish you all a very joyous, agricultural New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa the Guitar Hero

“You mean we have to do this AGAIN?!?” The 10 year old looks in disbelief at the fairway before her. We’ve just finished hole one (she maxed out at 11 hits and I made it in a mere 9) and I’m thinking that golf won’t be our sport of choice. Not even on our new Wii, which is one step below the physical demands of real golf, although with Wii you always have to be your own caddy. Of course, you can sit the whole time, but I don’t think it really offers an unfair advantage. After all, one of us would have to be any good at the pseudo-sport, and since we both stink, no one’s calling ‘foul’.
I have sold my soul this year for Christmas. Back when I was a perfect parent (pre-kids) I swore that I would never allow such a soul-sucking, time-wasting, society-destroying toy like a gaming system in my house. I also swore I wouldn’t allow rodents, and we see how that’s gone. This year, not only did I keep the Wii sent by the grandparents, but I’m actually allowing Santa to give my oldest 2 children DSlites—pink and blue so we can tell them apart. My step-mum joked that everything we’re giving this year includes batteries, and she's about right. I don’t think we need batteries for the pajamas or the oranges that sit in the bottoms of the stockings, but I haven’t actually checked.
Years ago, when I still had ideals and beliefs, I pictured my little family nestled close on Christmas morning. We’d gently unwrap (without ripping the paper) our homemade gifts and gaze lovingly into each others’ eyes as we expressed our joy at being together. In the afternoon, we’d volunteer at the local homeless shelter or food pantry, giving back to the community some of the blessings we had during the year. So much for my Hallmark fantasy. Our lives are more like a Disney sitcom than I want, only our hair isn’t nearly so beautiful.
The 4 year old has a wish this year. She wants to open presents while we sip cocoa by the fire. Maybe it’s genetic. And maybe that’s one unplugged vision I can fulfill.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saints and Angels Sing

The hymnbook at my church contains 341 songs. Here’s a math problem for you: with 341 songs, and 52 weeks to sing, assuming 2 songs each week, how long would it take you to sing each song in the book? The answer: you’d never sing them all because no chorister has ever chosen “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” or “God’s Daily Care”. But you would grow deathly bored with “Called to Serve” and “Israel, Israel, God is Calling” because you would sing those at least once a month.
Here’s another math problem for you: if you have 4 weeks between Christmas and the New Year, and you have 15 songs that can be sung only during that time, how many songs would you need to sing each week in order to sing them all? The answer: 8 songs, because the chorister wouldn’t choose any Christmas songs the first 2 weeks of December. I suffer through the singing during the rest of the year largely on the hope that, come Christmas, we’ll sing “Once in Royal David’s City” or “With Wondering Awe”. And if it’s a very good year and I’ve been especially obedient and docile, we sing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I absolutely swoon when I see that on the register.
I must have been particularly rotten this year. We have yet to sing a single Christmas song and we’ve only got 2 weeks left in the season. Today we sang 2 songs that, while lovely, made me want to weep with hopelessness. Another week out of my favorite season wasted on songs that can be sung any ol’ day of the year. Last week, I threatened Hal. I told him I was going to sing “Far Far Away on Judea’s Plains” in stead of “Where Can I Turn for Peace,” which is what the rest of the congregation was singing. I cajoled, bullied and pestered him, but he refused join me. The chorister is a friend of ours and Hal is slightly afraid of her.
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going Christmas caroling at the house of every church leader in our local area. When they hear my caterwauling, they’ll beg me to stop singing. But I won’t. Nope. First, they’ll have to promise to coerce the chorister into singing Christmas songs the entire season next year. And this year? I want “Ring Out, Wild Bells” on the 27th or I’m going to record myself singing Christmas songs and play it through the intercom system at church. One way or another, I’m getting my Christmas fill or someone’s gonna suffer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ding Dong

I know it has an apostrophe that isn’t supposed to be there. I’ve been racking my brain to come up with some pithy explanation about why it’s correct to put the possessive apostrophe on “Bahama Mama’s” when we do not, in fact, possess anything. At least, the Christmas cards we sent out don’t say what we possess. I tried to tie in “possession” as in “spawn of the devil”, but I couldn’t make it work. I also briefly thought about going to Strunk and White to see if I could pull out some archaic reason, but then I remembered that I hate that book and only keep it around as a threat to myself. “Put down the cake, girl. Don’t make me get out the Strunk and White!” I could have lied about why “Merry Christmas from the Bahama Mama’s” is correct and I’ll bet only a handful of you would have checked up on me, but it’s really, really close to Christmas and I’m tottering on the verge of Santa’s Naughty list, so I decided not to push it. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a pony.
What can I say? I’ve been too long away from Henry James. I even caught myself misusing “I” as in “He brought chocolate for Hal and I.” I spent a whole night reminding myself that objects are always “me”. Well, not the whole night. I spent part of the night wishing I had majored in something less related to my life, like math. Interspersed with wishing someone had, in fact, brought us chocolate.
So, I apologize for disturbing your perfect Grammar World this holiday season. I think I’ll go possess myself a giant Cadbury with raisins and nuts as consolation.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rut Ro Tiger

I’ll say up front, just so there’s no scandal later on, that I am not one of Tiger’s mistresses. I know I look the type—leggy, blonde and well dressed—but don’t worry. You won’t have to face the paparazzi asking for stories of “when Big Bahama Mama seduced Tiger” or anything like that. Maybe you’re disappointed. If so, feel free to make up stories and sell them to the Enquirer. If you get rich, give me a percentage and we’ll all be happy. Everyone except Tiger, that is. Oh, and his super-model wife who is, apparently, a dupe.
And, no, my mega-rich golf pro husband did not cheat on me. Far worse. I made fresh bread and he toasted it. Yup. Steaming hot from the oven, he sliced it and stuck it in the toaster and glopped butter on it when it was done. I feel so violated. Toasters are for bread that is past its prime. It’s the AARP for bread. But in no way can one call burn-your-hands-hot bread “past its prime.” I may relegate him to store bought bread for the duration of his miserable, gluten loving life.
I feel the same way about vegetables. Store bought veggies can be buttered and salted to high heaven. But if I pull broccoli from my garden, don’t you dare cover the taste up with sauce. A bit of balsamic vinegar on a tomato is okay, but garden veggies are not conduits for Ranch dressing. I feel strongly about this, and if I had a prenuptial agreement, I would still consider divorce a viable option for a man who treated my produce like haggard, trucked-in stuff. Deep breath.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


When the now-10-year-old turns 13 and starts screaming that I never loved her, never supported her, never understood her, I’m going to pull the last 24 hours out of my memory bank and parade them before her.
She had a concert last night, her first since taking up the viola. Ahh, string instruments. I strongly encouraged the bells or the drums, but of course she wouldn’t be swayed. So last night, my family and I sat through a remarkable hour listening to rousing numbers like “Boil the Cabbage” and “Scotland’s Burning”. Wow. Nothing finer than 86 kids playing a concert with instruments they picked up for the first time 2 months ago.
Nothing finer, that is, unless it’s the Holiday Meal I had the opportunity to share with the same daughter today. Her school puts on one of these lunches every year, and so far I’ve been wily enough to convince my children that they would much rather sit with me in the car eating Sonic or Einstein Brothers. But this time, the oldest thought about what I really wanted and chose the very most opposite thing. So I paid way too much money for pressed turkey, cold canned yams, whipped potato-like substance, green salad made 3 months ago and bagged for convenience… You get the picture. The whole reason I left elementary school (well, that and the too-old-to-be-here thing) was to get away from the smell of the cafeteria. Oh, and to top it all off, my oldest sat in the middle of a gaggle of girls while I sat next to Ben. Ben is my new best friend. We sat by ourselves and discussed whether mushrooms have a flavor. I say yes, but Ben said his Grandma comes down firmly on the ‘no’ side. Ben likes me because I gave him the whipped cream from my florescent orange pie they called “pumpkin”.
My sister sat in the car and waited with the baby while I “ate” with my oldest child. Hal says she got the best end of that deal.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Talking Dirty

I’m at Ulta buying products to make my oldest daughter a blonde instead of a green. She’s green from chlorine, not from birth, just in case that was confusing. Anyway, I’m at Ulta and it’s going on my 3rd day of not showering. I’ve just come from the gym where I did, indeed, sweat and where I did not, in fact, shower. I have time constraints, you know, most of which involve nursing. So in an effort to be as productive as possible, I carted the little man to the beauty shop without first cleansing my stinky body. I look like it’s my 3rd day without showering. I smell like it. And I’m starting to itch. I’m just one sniff away from being mistaken for homeless.
There I am, in my glory, and a woman says to me, “Excuse me, do you work here?”
Blink blink.
Me? You’re seriously talking to me? First, do you see me in all black? Second, do you smell me? Third, does my face look like it’s seen makeup in the past year? Fourth, unless Ulta has begun a “Take Your Infant To Work” program, then, no, I don’t work there. The ladies behind the counter all cringed and saw their prestige plummet when they turned, en mass, and saw that I had been mistaken for one of them.
Poor woman. She’s probably at home right now, blogging about how foolish she felt asking a homeless chick if she worked for Ulta. Obviously I was there begging for handouts.
Just so you know, I fully intend to shower today. Sometime. Probably when I’m done with this blog. Or, when the 10 year old gets home and can hold the baby. Or after the kids go to bed and the husband can hold the baby. I really don’t think I can stand my filthy self another day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Being a Pet Person

What to do about the dog?
Last week, she dug under the fence (such a pretty new fence) and ran away. She runs away a lot. It wasn’t the brightest thing to do when she was young: now that she’s deaf, blind, and forgetful, it’s a really, really stupid thing to do. Seriously, what does she think she’ll gain by the outing? This last time, she got thorns imbedded in her paws that required a vet, antibiotics, and pain killers. Ahh, that’s the goal. Pain killers. Hmmm, time for me to think about running away from home.
Now that she’s back (no thanks to me because I wasn’t looking for her), she’s in worse shape than ever. She spent 20 minutes circling the couch. Round and round and round. We thought she might try attacking it, but she never did. It could be that she just didn’t know she was going around in circles. Maybe every time she made it around to the front of the couch, she thought, “Oh, look, the front! That’s new!” Or, maybe she thought she was half way to China when she finally made her way to a different part of the room. It’s like a doggie vacation without having to get into a kennel.
This morning, she pooped all over my daughter’s pink floor mat. And then she smeared the poop, just in case she’d missed something. Perhaps she was offended by the color pink. Maybe she thought it would be a nice distraction from the child’s homework. Or maybe she was sharing.
She can’t make it up the stairs without taking a break. On each step. She makes it down, but usually only by hurtling herself from the top and bouncing down. Hal tries to create nice, cushioned beds for her, but she ends up sleeping on our shoes, on books or on the cold bathroom floor. Last night, I found her asleep with her butt on the floor and her head on top of the 2-foot-high garbage can. She can’t find her food and water, even though they’ve been in the exact same spot for 2 years. We can’t pet her because she’s so jumpy and her skin hurts so much from the cysts that she doesn’t like to be touched. It hurts her teeth to eat, it hurts her legs to walk, it hurts her body to stand up. In short, she’s failing and it’s about time to put her down.
But here’s the hard question. When? Do we do it now, while she’s still got some life in her but she’s pretty miserable? Or, do we wait like they did for my Mom’s dog? Her dog had lost all body functions and was slowly disintegrating from the inside out. At what point is it the kinder, more gentler thing to help the dog “pass over to the other side?”
I’m looking for your opinion. Oh, and if you want a 17 year old dog, we’ve got one you can have.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Argument For Euthanasia

The four year old wants to go to McDonald’s. She always wants to go to McDonald’s and I always (almost) say ‘no.’ Of course, I have to say ‘no’ about 70,000 times because when I say ‘no’ she hears ‘ask me again, please.’ So our conversations about not going to McDonald’s last for hours on end. Literally.
I decided to try a new tack. Instead of my standard ‘no because McDonald’s will eat away your insides and destroy your mental abilities and make you fat and ugly and smelly and I love you too much to let that happen while you’re four,’ I tried the ‘we don’t always get everything we want and this is one of those times’ avenue. In my most sympathetic voice, I explained that sometimes we go out to eat and sometimes we don’t and this was a case where we were not going out to eat.
She said, “When I’m a mom can I?”
“Sure, when you’re a mom, you can go out to eat whenever you want.”
In an excited voice, “When you die I can!”
“Uh, yah.”
Thoughtfully, “Maybe Dad will take us.”
Okay, in three sentences, the child managed to come up with three different scenarios that get rid of me, the Fun Destroyer, in order to do what she REALLY wants to do, which is, apparently, eat junk food and play on bacteria-infested plastic structures. Too bad I don’t drink, because after conversations like that, I think I’d really like some vodka.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is He Calling Himself a Piece Of

Let’s play a game of “Guess Who Said It”. I’ll go first.
“We need to flush the toilet and get clean water in there,” speaking about term limits for Congress. And the speaker is… Mike Huckabee. Gotta love a guy who so accurately describes his profession…
Why does the image have to be so ugly? Couldn’t he be more up-to-date and use a vampire analogy? Something along the “fresh blood” lines? He’d get the younger crowd to vote for him, maybe. Or, he could have used a sports analogy. Sports are always popular and they have a lot in common with politics, especially full-contact sports. He could have said something like, “When you’re 35 and your RBI has dropped by 50%, it’s time to retire your bat and make room on the bench for the new kids.” Or, he could have used a cooking analogy to get the suburban housewife vote (not mine, but someone’s). How about, “You can’t use nutmeg all the time. You’ve got to shake things up, add a bit of coriander, substitute hot paprika for parsley.” Then you have the traditional “allusion to famous generals” version. “Caesar can’t fight the same war Nelson fought.” My last suggestion panders to the over-50 crowd. “Those men at Dunkirk, they knew they might not see the end of the war. But they went in there, guns blazing, ready to make way for the men who would come after them. That’s what we need. We need men and women in Congress who can give it their all, knowing that their time at the front may be short.”
I’m in favor of term limits. I think every few years, we ought to shovel the whole mess out, fumigate the halls, and start over again. I think playing politics makes men and women dirty. Not because they start off that way, but because they give a little here, a little there, and soon, you can’t tell that they used to have ideals. And then, give the down-trodden-for-too-long a moment to shine, like Pelosi and Reid, and you’ve suddenly got Bozo the Clown running the show. But, gee, he’ll be so green.
Another true confession: I didn’t vote for Obama. And before my Republican friends start gloating, I didn’t vote for McCain, either. Far worse. I voted for Nadar. Oh, I didn’t really want him to win, which was a pretty safe bet for me, but I did want to send a message, which I’m sure the two parties got loud and clear. Clean it up. No more slime on Capital Hill, no more feasting with the lobbyists, no more telling me one thing and sneaking around to do another thing. And get out of there before you become an icon. If I’ve seen your name on the roster for my entire life, you’ve been there too long. And Huckabee, that goes for you, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I’m such an idiot. This is not a plea for ego stroking: this is a confession.
Today, I’m standing with 4 people in a small room at church. One woman, who was recently asked to teach music to the children, wanted to know about the woman who plays the piano for the children. I said that the pianist is one of the nicest people I know. But. Oh, the ‘but’. She doesn’t really play well. She’s fine for practice, but she’s not very good, certainly not good enough for performance. The new music leader complained a bit and said that she’d ask for a new pianist because she’s used to having good accompaniment. I replied that this might be something she just has to learn to work with and maybe the pianist will start practicing more because I didn’t know if she actually practiced much.
And several hours later I realized that one of the four people in the very small, very quiet room was (drum roll) the pianist’s father-in-law.
Someone should glue my mouth shut.
The thing is, I know better than to say anything negative about people. I know to shut up if I can’t make it all nice. I could defend myself by saying that the music leader needs to know what she’s working with, but in reality, there is no defense. Here I am, teaching children to be more Christ-like, and I sit around gossiping about someone who is doing a very difficult job, without pay, all because someone asked her to. She didn’t request the job. She didn’t try to sell herself. She just agreed, cheerfully, to sit behind a piano while 60 rowdy children learn songs which they may or may not decide to sing.
Sure, this is a learning moment. I’ve learned that I will never learn, and the family of the pianist can learn to forgive.
Maybe I’ll become a hermit. Hermits don’t have to work with other people. They also don’t have to shower, so I’m well on my way there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Running the World

I’m going to start bagging my own groceries. Seriously, who puts tender mangoes in the same bag as acorn squash? I don’t care if it’s all produce, they belong in different worlds. Put the mangoes in the bag with cheese. Put the squash in the bag with the box of tissues. Put bananas on top of the egg carton; the grapes and wonton wrappers fit nicely together; the apples and oranges can hang out for a car ride home. But do not, ever, put the apples on top of the eggs, the bananas in with the bread, or the grapes with anything that has corners or sharp edges. Do I need to run the whole freakin’ world? Can’t anyone make decisions on their own?
Thanks for letting me vent.
I’m hiring a maid service. I don’t think they’ll wear the black and white outfits, so don’t get your hopes up, but I do expect them to clean my house as if it were, well, my house. One ad I read said, “We’ll clean your home as if it were our own.” Not what I’m looking for. I don’t want you to shove the dirty underwear under the bed, cram the pans into the cupboard on top of the random food bits that hide in the corners of the shelves, or sweep all the crumbs down the air vents. I don’t want you to fill up the bucket with Pine Sol because it smells good and then go outside to play while the smell floats around the house making it smell clean without actually being clean. I want the floor swept before it’s mopped, the bathrooms cleaned behind the toilets and the toothpaste glue to be removed from the sinks without me yelling at you. And I don’t want you to smack my furniture with your vacuum, thank you. Because, honestly, that’s how my house gets cleaned by the majority of people who live in it. So, if the cleaning crew’s house runs like mine does, I don’t want them to clean my house like they do their own. I want them to clean it like I’m a real customer with real needs that really have to be met or they will really be fired. I’ve tried to fire my kids and they just laugh at me. In fact, the 4 year old sticks her finger in my face and makes a rushing water sound. “What’s that?” I ask. “I’m firing you,” she replies. Ah. So her finger shoots fire at people. She will be a useful tool to have when I run the world.
And, when I run the world, there will be none of these tedious fundraisers on public radio. NPR will be quietly funded through a silent campaign that does not interrupt my listening pleasure.
And schools will only be in session from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Give me a week at Thanksgiving and keep your Presidents Day and your Columbus Day. It’s bad enough I don’t get mail those days, but you make me keep my kids, too? I love them through the Summer, I love them on surprise snow days, but bank holidays? Sheesh.
One more thing and then I’ll put the megalomania to bed. When I run the world all the clothing manufacturers will have to size things the same way. None of this “size 10 at Anne Taylor and size 6 at Target” stuff. I want to walk into a store knowing what size I’ll be so I don’t have that embarrassing “can you get me a larger size, please?” encounter with the oh-so-helpful bouncer who monitors the changing stalls. And I don’t want to see any size 0 lurking on the racks. That’s not even a real size. How can anyone be 0? That’s the same as saying “nothing” and if there isn’t anything there, then the body doesn’t exist. And if the body doesn’t exist, she doesn’t need clothes, anyway. So take her clothes off the rack that my not-size-0 hangs on.
And now I’ll leave you in peace while I plot my take over.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A House of Pets

I let a rodent into my house. In fact, I spent a decent chunk o’ change to create the right habitat to welcome this rodent. It’s a Russian Dwarf Hamster and its name is Nutmeg, which would sound like something I should like but which, in fact, is still a rodent and still makes me want to visit the trap department at Ace. I caved because the 7 year old spent a year feeding and watering the dog to prove that she’s responsible. And she is, by comparison. Just today, she cleaned the cage, replaced the bedding and washed off the hamster poop that has accumulated over the last week, all without a single word from me. Of course, she washed the poop off by using my kitchen sponge, the one I use to wash dishes. Is it luck or the love of the Kitchen Gods that told me to walk into her room at just the right moment? I’m doing some anti-nausea breathing even as we speak so I don’t throw up. Just think of it: “Mom, what’s the tiny black thing on my toast?” Oh, why that would be a bit of hamster poop. Eat it and call yourself lucky, child.
The perky, eerily rodent-like worker at PetSmart said to us, "Oh, you must love pets!" To which I replied by making a vaguely threatening gesture and muttering under my breath, "Gotta raise kids, gotta compromise, better than a snake."
For my part, I’ve never wanted a hamster or a mouse or a rat or a guinea pig or any other kind of animal that normally requires a homeowner to set bait. Wait, scratch that. I never wanted a rabbit, but I was never opposed to the idea of them as pets, either. Maybe that’s because, knock on wood, so far I haven’t had one in my garden.
On the other hand, I have had my children in my garden. They eat a lot of the stuff I produce and they don’t offer that much help. I let them stay in my house and they make a mess and spread disease and germs. So, maybe I’m not so far removed from loving rodents after all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Worth More Than Two Cents

I just got an email from some company offering me $500 for my opinion. If only my family valued my words of wisdom as much as Scam Emailers. As my Grandma says, now that I’ve figured out all the answers, no one asks the questions.
My oldest daughter got a “think sheet” at school recently. This is the current warm fuzzy trend for modifying behavior in children. The idea is that the child writes down on a form what she did wrong, what the consequences were, and how she can correct her behavior in the future. Under the consequences section, she wrote that her parents would yell at her. We did not. I asked for her side of the story, listened in my best Montessori way, asked questions and repeated back to her what I heard her say, and signed the paper. Her side: the aide had said, in a sarcastic tone, “I’m waiting for you to be quiet,” to which my pre-teen replied, “We’re waiting for you,” and rolled her eyes. Okay, rude and completely unacceptable. I told her that. I supported the aide, did not say what I thought, and let my daughter know that if she rolled her eyes at authority figures, even if she thought she stood in the Corner of Virtue and Right, she would get in serious trouble at home.
Some background: the aide is not the best example of a thoughtful adult. She asks the children why they act like idiots. Now, in political speech, that isn’t the same as calling them idiots. But in the real world, with real, intelligent children who know what you mean even when you don’t say it, what they understand is that you think they’re idiots. Great way to instill confidence and raise thinking adults, right? (Wonder where my daughter gets the sarcasm.)
Here’s what I kept to myself while listening to my daughter: where are the think sheets for the adults? We expect behavior from children that we do not require from the staff. My daughter had a teacher one year who replied with sarcasm and caustic words to honest questions. But the one time my daughter repeated back to her the tone she’d just heard from the teacher, she got a think sheet. And this time, responding to an aide who clearly did not respect the children, she gets a think sheet for not respecting the aide. We tell these kids to use their words, to mediate conflict, to work out their differences, and then we refuse to let them try out those skills with us. And I include myself in that because I can see those same power-mongering maneuvers in my own actions.
Now, if my daughter had used violence, or refused to comply with a reasonable request, or acted in some way that would cause danger to herself or others, then I wouldn’t care what the aide had said because my daughter’s actions would have moved her beyond the range of words. But, to try to defend herself and her peers, albeit erroneously, by using her words, well, it’s wrong to punish her. Because no matter what they call it, the “think sheet” sets the adult up as the one with power, demands retribution and embarrasses the child in front of her peer group. Which is definitely justified at times. But for what my daughter did, I believe the most effective behavior modification would have been to pull her aside, apologize for the aide’s own sarcastic tone, and ask the student to speak respectfully in the future. Or, another approach would have been the “close your eyes and pretend not to see” method of dealing with pre-pubescent girls. I often pretend my children don’t exist and it seems to work pretty well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Reward

“I love the baby more than you,” the four year old says.
“Oh, you mean you love the baby more than I love the baby?” I try to clarify.
“No, I mean I love the baby more than I love you. I love Papa more than I love you, too.”
Charming, kid. Guess who’s getting nothing but canned spinach for the next week.
Repeating the conversation to my husband, he laughed uproariously and then said, “What did you do to earn her disapproval?” Nice. Blame the victim here. And the answer? Nothing. I was sitting on the couch, coloring with her and snuggling her. Next lifetime, I’m going to work in an office where at least if I’m not valued, I’ll be paid.
To put it in perspective. I got out of bed at 5:00 AM today. I nursed the baby, folded a week’s worth of laundry…
Wait, let’s pause on that agenda item. A week’s worth of laundry; that means more to you if you have children. If you don’t have children, you have no idea what a week’s worth of laundry means. A friend tallied it up for me yesterday. With 6 people in the family, one shirt per day equals 42 shirts per week. 42 pairs of pants, 42 pairs of undies, 84 socks to find and combine. And that doesn’t include the sheets, towels, washcloths, jammies, and random dress ups I find. Then, if you have a newborn, you’ve got to double the numbers, because newborns run through burp clothes and blankets like they hate me. They also poo out the sides and up the back of their diapers, which means not only extra clothes to wash, but extra stain-fighting, too. We’re moving to Belize and going native.
So, back to my litany of accomplishments today. A week’s worth of laundry, folded and put away (my children put their clothes away, but only after 18,000 reminders and a threat to mail all their clothes to the starving naked children in Africa). I made 2 loaves of cinnamon bread, the dough for 2 more loaves, and measured out the ingredients for a final 2 loaves so I could demonstrate how to make the bread to friends at a church function. I made breakfast for the now-awake children, nursed the baby while I ate, read a book to my daughters while they ate, washed the dishes, wiped down the counters, cleaned out the kitchen sink, loaded a bag with all the stuff I needed to demonstrate the bread making, showered and steamed the baby at the same time, let the dog out to walk 3 times because she has dementia and can’t remember that she already went outside, made my bed, dressed the baby, changed at least 4 diapers, loaded everyone in the car with all the stuff they needed to be entertained for 4 hours, including lunch, snacks, movies, coloring stuff and a birthday party gift for my youngest daughter to hand to her friend whose birthday was right after the church function. And it was barely 9:00 AM. On the way to the church, I realized that I had forgotten yeast. Hard to make bread without yeast. So, I went back to the house, got the yeast, returned to the church. And I didn’t yell even once, so that’s at least 10 minutes spent counting to “10” and breathing deep.
But the four year old loves everyone more than me, apparently. I’m so gonna remember this when she has kids.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catches Thieves Just Like Flies

I “may be a victim of software counterfeiting.” I don’t know that I’d use the word “victim” so much as “participant.”
Although the copy of Windows on my computer at this time was purchased from a non-licensed dealer on the internet, I do, in fact, own a copy of this exact version of Windows. I just can’t find it. It’s in one of a multitude of safe places. When my computer went on the rampage and ate itself, Hal searched for our disc, legally purchased. No luck finding it. So, he “salvaged” a copy from a recycler on the internet. And now, I have a warning that pops up every few screens that lets me know that I can, in fact, buy a legal version of any Microsoft product I want to use.
That’s the funny part, because I don’t, actually, want to use any Microsoft product. But I also want to be able to interface easily with other programs. And I don’t want to spend a bazillion dollars on a Mac. So, here I am, cheap and illegal, sort of like many men’s dream girl, except instead of getting a free meal, I’m stuck with a black desktop and threatening letters from my friend Bill.
Speaking of computers, a thousand years ago, way back in the ‘80’s, a friend of mine who called himself “Spidey” tried to convince me to start using this great new friend-getter called the Web. I told him I thought it was absolutely stupid, to type out messages to people he’d never even met, people who disguised their names and who were often rude or a thousand miles away. I said it would never catch on. And that, folks, is why I don’t play the stock market.
Well, that and the fact that I’m too busy searching for my legal version of Windows.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Big Rock Candy Mountain

“Come on, Barbie, let’s go potty,” the four year old sings. She knows this song because it’s Mattel’s new theme song for Barbie, complete with accent-man singing, “Come on, Barbie, let’s go party.” Of course, the four year old has never “partied” and will never do so as long as she comes home to roost in my house. Apparently, a boy singing to Barbie that they should go potty together makes complete sense in her world view. Of course he says “potty.” Have you ever seen Barbie in a diaper?
The whole famous song as jingle thing doesn’t bug me. In fact, I quite enjoy a good Black Eyed Peas to liven up my Oprah. But some things jangle in my head and make the liberal beast come out. For instance, Sting singing in the back of a Jaguar (that’s Jag-you-are if you’re British). I guess everyone needs a ride, especially coming back from a Save the Rainforest or Liberate Tibet rally. Sheesh. He might as well buy stock in Hummer. Next we’ll have Bono singing at the Queen’s Birthday party. Or potty, if you’re my four year old.
So I hate the whole “had a moral but will sell to the highest bidder” move. Like the Barbie song. You’ve got to know that the song is anti-Barbie, right? I mean, the Mattel people have to know that. They have to know that the Mommy Dearest (me) who kept her oldest daughter away from Barbies until she could recite the 6 Deadly Sins of Barbie, I know the song is anti-Barbie. Catchy tune, lovely male voice, but as a jingle? And Aqua, what about them? Hal says they’re laughing all the way to the bank, being as how they only had one good song. But isn’t that sort of like selling your child after they pass the everyone-loves-a-cute-baby stage? Just because the song is no longer on everyone’s mind is no reason to offer it to the Corporate Gods.
Of course, it’s all good and easy to have morals when you’re sitting behind a computer waiting for someone else to bring home the eating money. Maybe that excuses Aqua: they didn’t have much of a buffer zone with only one hit. But Sting? The man could live off his earnings from Fragile alone. What, suddenly the price of organic tofu is so expensive that he needs to sell his soul to the Ford behemoth? I feel so dirty.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Apple Bottom

The post-baby weight free fall has stopped. That means I have to actually stop shoveling food in my gullet and start moving my slug-like body. I hate my metabolism. Why can’t I have been one of those people who have a hard time gaining enough weight? I’d gladly change my cold-climate birthing hips for a pair of, say, Twiggy hips. I always wanted to look like a pre-pubescent 12 year old, even when I was 12. And since I can’t change the world and go back to Fertility Worship, I try to change myself to fit in with the dying-from-anorexia Italian runway models.
Except that Italy has enacted a new law, according to NPR, which includes a weight-to-height ratio for models. Too skinny and they’re unemployed. Or they go to France.
Not that I actually want to be too skinny. But I do not enjoy booty butt. It may be the music I listen to, but it ain’t the culture I run with. I’m telling on Hal, but I don’t think he’ll mind. I once modeled a new pair of Banana Republic jeans for Hal. I mention the name of the store so you know I wasn’t shopping at a place that lends itself to “going downtown” if you know what I mean. Anyway, I had the new jeans on and I turned my backside to him and asked the stupidest question a woman can ever ask. “Does my butt look big?”
Hal’s response?
“That’s the style, isn’t it?”
Now, he knows that the correct answer is, “No, sweetheart, your butt could never look big.”
And I guess it was better than some other answers: “The jeans don’t make your butt look big. Your fat butt makes your butt look big.”
Still, whatever the style may be for the nightclubs I couldn’t get into even if I wanted to, I’m still a church-going (not choir singing, but close enough), liberal-voting, kashi-eating, no-makeup kind of girl. My friends do not wear their hoop earrings seriously; they only dabble in hip hop. Which means that I do not want my booty to be a focal point. Now, some in my crowd may choose to wear sweat pants with “Juicy” across the butt, but I think that’s just a style-glitch in their brains and 20 years from now they’ll shake their heads and wonder what on earth they were thinking. As for me, while I’m not a Junior Leaguer, neither am I ghetto enough to get a way with an apple bottom.
Which brings me back to my topic sentence. I have to lose weight. I’ve briefly considered just letting it sit, but then I remember that I have really cute clothes, all in a size that won’t fit around one leg at my current weight. Besides, I have a 20 year reunion coming up, which I may or may not go to. But even if I don’t go, I want to be able to put in my bio “weighs the same as she did on graduation day.” I don’t have a lot of accomplishments to list, and since I’m not any closer to figuring out cold fusion or reconciling Dark Matter, I’ll have to fall back on my weight. Which I’m banking is at least 20 pounds lighter than most of the chicks who will be showing up to the reunion.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Service with a Smile

In terms of customer service, Land’s End has it down. First of all, the person who answers the phone, and it is a real person, always sounds like your Grandma. Or the woman you wish you had for a Grandma. She sounds like she’s just made oatmeal raisin cookies. Okay, so in my case, that would be my Grandfather, but you get the idea. She sounds, well, warm and plump, with “set” hair and a ruffled apron. She always has a pleasant “little pink houses” accent—Minnesota, I think?
Second, she’s patient. You never hear phones ringing in the background, or that edge to her voice that warns you that she has other customers and if you can’t find that item number quick she’ll cut you off and you won’t get your snowbibs after all and your bountiful bottom will freeze when you play in the snow with the kiddies. In fact, the way she sounds, you’d think you were Land’s End’s favorite (and, perhaps, only) customer.
The last phone call I made, L.E. Grandma enthused over my choice of a white squall jacket and ice blue coordinating ski gloves and fleece hat. You’d think I had just put together the most gorgeous skiing combination ever. The fact that I do not ski, have no intention of skiing this year, and only bought the coat because I have a nursing chest and post-partum belly did not occur to me, either. When she said, “Ohh, lovely!” I saw myself shredding the slopes, toothy grin and all.
L.E. Grandma also approved of my decision to buy the 4 year old a pink coat but the navy snow pants and boots. Why? Because I have a boy who will eventually want to be outside, and I’m thinking I can’t get away with pink everything. So, he’ll have a new coat, but hand-me-down everything else. After all, no point in spoiling the child. (There’s a long family squabble about the amount of money per item spent on the boy child my mother loved better than anyone else. We know she loved him more because none of us got $200 shoes. Never mind that he only had 2 pairs of shoes and we had, between us, the whole DSW factory. Don’t you love it when a completely non-related topic turns into an airing of my teenage angst?)
L.E. Grandma shared a story of her daughter bundling up her granddaughter in a blue jacket, blue bibs, blue gloves, hat and boots. When she toddled off to play, she looked like a giant blueberry. L.E. Grandma and I laughed at the image and I felt a kinship, a bonding. I wonder if she wants to have tea sometime? Maybe she’ll bring oatmeal raisin cookies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

She Said

The four year old does not like to be cute. Cute is little kid, and she’s a big sister (when it suits her.) When it comes to getting dressed, getting in bed, or doing chores, she is, of course, still a baby and can’t possibly be expected to do that sort of stuff on her own. However, when she says something cute, no one is allowed to react. If we smile or laugh or tell her she’s adorable, her face turns eggplant purple, veins pop out of her neck and she screeches, “STOP SMILING AT ME! I DON’T LIKE THAT!” Which, of course, makes us smile more. So, in order to pass along the charm of the child before she can read my blog and scream about what I write, I’m posting a brief outline of some of the things that she’s said that have made me smile. But I haven’t let her see me. Because no one wants the cute kid to turn into Damien.

When asked what she’d done that day at preschool: “I drew a picture of a carantula!” (They were studying arachnids and it was tarantula day.)
Practicing the songs for an upcoming performance: “Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the cantaloupe play.”
Working on an online puzzle: “They make these puzzles hard for little Chrissies.” (Okay, that isn't her real name. But this blog is public and I'm old enough to be cautious.)
Unsolicited comment about sleep diapers: “I’ll try to wake up dry.”
Whenever she’s had enough of adults talking she rolls her eyes and says: “Blah blah blah!”
Said to a friend of hers on the way to preschool: “I’m a thinking child.”

Things the 6 year old said when she was 4:
Referring to a penguin movie: “They sweetie me with their penguin ways.”
Having chosen the fabric for her curtains: “I’ve already put all my love into this one.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wise and Beautiful

12 Things I’ve Learned In My Old Age:
1. You will not “earn big money” by answering a handwritten sign on a frontage road.
2. Noses and ears grow your whole life. So do moles and black facial hair. So, yes, you will look like a witch eventually.
3. All babies are beautiful. Except that really skinny, wrinkled one I saw years ago. He was super, super ugly.
4. There is no dry cleaner in the world who can do sequins.
5. “Outpatient procedure” with “minimal recovery time” refers to the amount of energy the doctor puts into the surgery. From the patient’s point of view, it should be called: “hurts like the dickens, laid up for 4 weeks and no refills on the Percoset.”
6. No, they don’t want to hear your birthing story. They do, however, want to tell you theirs.
7. “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” is not cute when it refers to a bunch of artificially endowed trophy wives talking about breast augmentation scars.
8. Your baby’s poop does not smell good to anyone else. Change the diaper!
9. The amount of time you’ll spend in the line at the grocery store is the direct inverse of the amount of time you had budgeted for that event.
10. The day you drive your kids to school in your jammies is the one day they won’t shut the car door and you’ll have to get out, walk around the car, and shut it yourself.
11. The alcohol does not actually cook out. But, you can probably get 5 good bites in before your husband tastes it and looks at you in shock and disbelief.
12. You do not get an award for taking your baby to church the Sunday after she’s born. She may, however, get RSV.
13. That cute kid in High School? His nose and ears have continued to grow, too. The grass is not greener…

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Low Rider

We ventured out yesterday, the kids and I. We went to Target (do you hear angels singing?) When I lived in Massachusetts, the nearest Target was a solid 25 minute drive, and it wasn’t even the full-service, get your eyebrows waxed and pick up some milk variety. It was a Greatland, which is Targetspeak for “more than the regular store but less than you want.”
So yesterday we went to our local Target, which takes up one city block and comes complete with direction kiosks to help you navigate your way around this brave new world. That’s a bit facetious, but the point is, we’d committed ourselves to a major operation while still on a 2 hour nursing schedule. Fortunately, this Target is part of a mall (or unfortunately, depending on how shop-savvy you are.) While the 3 oldest rode the merry-go-round, I nursed the youngest. Fun was had by all.
We finished shopping, and made our way out to the car. I had the baby strapped securely to me via Baby Bjorn’s 1990 edition and I also pushed the overloaded, who-needs-all-this-junk carriage. The oldest child carried a large storage bin that wouldn’t fit in the carriage, the middle child carried my large diaper bag/purse, and the youngest child played a fun game of Dodge Car (similar to Dodge Ball but less emotionally scarring.) I realized when we were almost to the end of the row of cars that we had parked on the opposite side of a median which would not allow us to cross over it without a good pair of wings. Since we were almost at the end anyway, I thought the smartest move would be to continue on with the direction we were headed, thus going around the median and saving ourselves the headache of backtracking all the way to the store and heading down the correct row. Some people would have remembered which row they had parked in, but those are the same people who organize their shopping trip by aisle and who actually write down lists. I write down lists, but, like every other thing I write down, those lists then get thrown in the garbage before I go shopping. It makes the adventure that much more exciting. Anyway, back to the whole wrong-aisle, just go around to get to the car idea.
In theory, that’s the best answer, right? Except that Target grocery carts are equipped with front wheels that lock when you cross a certain point. Like, say, the last parking spot on a row. Which means that if you’re trying to go past that last parking spot in order to get to the other last parking spot across from it, you’ve got to work some major juju in order to get your stupid carriage to move. And, if you’re trailing 3 kids and carrying another, this ain’t no picnic. Oh, and if you think you can simply back up and the wheels will start working, you’re wrong. You can’t turn around, you can’t back up, and you’ve got a cart full of stuff, three tired kids and an aching back. What do you do?
You pop a wheelie and continue on down the road like you’re the Hell’s Angels, Mother Version. Can you picture it? A cart full of eggs, milk, hair dye, etc, being steered on the back two wheels by a mother slinging her 2 week old baby and being cheered on by her now-dancing daughters. I think we’ve found a new family activity.
I understand why Target puts the breaks on. After all, you don’t want all your carts to end up at the nearest bus stop. But, really, give a bit of latitude to those of us who are too stupid to remember where we park. Because it ain’t the 15 items or fewer people who take the carts out of the stores in the first place. It’s the “get it now ‘cause I’m not coming back for a month” people like me who really need to have the cart work all the way to the car, not just to the general area where cars are parked. Or, better yet, offer a pickup service. I’ll do the shopping, you wait with my carriage, and I’ll bring my car to you to load with the stuff I’ve bought. Ooooh, I like that idea.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't Fence Me In

Hal’s done a little work on our fence. I say “little” tongue in cheek because, to date, it’s been approximately 200 man hours. (That’s about 50 woman hours, if you’re translating.) Actually, it would have taken me about one hour, because I would have started tearing down the old fence, burst into tears, called my husband, and he would have done the rest. Oh, wait, that’s almost exactly what happened.
We (that’s the Royal “We”) decided on vinyl fencing because it looks better, has a no-sliver factor, and lasts forever. Did I mention it looks better? My house is not an oil painting, to quote Rushdie, so anything I change about the outside has to add to the charm. Okay, so the best way to add to the charm would be to pick up and move to a house with style, but since I’ve put my whole heart into the garden at this house, and since I have the kitchen of my dreams, they’ll have to pry my cold dead fingers off the door frame before I agree to move. So, to help the outside, my husband has spent every coherent moment, and some non-coherent ones, working on the fence.
It should be done before my kids graduate.
Apparently, “tear out the old and put in the new” doesn’t quite cover all the steps involved. First of all, he had to dig out all the cement posts from the original fence because the cedar was rotted, could not be reused, and the new post holes overlap the old ones. Which means, of course, that he had to dig out approximately 50 cement slabs, each about 2 feet deep and with a 2-3 foot circumference. You should see the size of his biceps now! Next, he had to dig the holes for the new fence. In some places, this would be easy. But, we moved from Gumbo Ground Houston to Clay and Rock New Home, and so each hole took about 2 hours to dig. Yes, that’s with a machine. No, he does not take smoke breaks. He did occasionally take a Gatorade break, but only when driven to it by the scorching heat.
Then, he mixed the cement. But because it’s quick-drying cement, it has to be done one post at a time. That means moving the 80 lb bag of cement from the garage to the wheelbarrow, adding water, mixing with a hoe, and shoveling it around the post while it’s being held by a helpful friend or neighbor. Note: your wife will not help you with this part because she just gave birth and feels that that excludes her from all other chores. Yesterday, the job of digging holes was done in the Fall Sleet, which added to the joy of the experience. The back yard is posted and just waits for the panels to be slipped into place.
And last night, my sweet husband informed me that he would gladly pay for someone to do the front yard fence. Seriously. Now. Can I remember any of the information of the people who gave us quotes?
I’m smiling. While he was paying for home improvements, he mentioned a new garage door. Which, as of 5 minutes ago, I have put a deposit on. I can make phone calls. Phone calls don’t weigh anything, do not involve standing outside in the rain, and are done in minutes. Besides, I find people in the service industry particularly friendly right now. I don’t know, call me crazy, but it seems that the response time has picked up over the past year. Can’t imagine why.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I’m feeling fine, thank you for asking. For what it was (a major medical procedure involving squeezing a watermelon out of places not meant to be seen), it was a non-event. My step-mum was there, Hal was there, I had the mirror in place to focus my pushing, I had a great nurse, a fantastic doctor, a crash team of pediatric nurses/doctors because the baby’s oxygen levels were plummeting, which meant I wore a mask to force oxygen into my system (all of those turned out to be unnecessary). I spent 24 hours in the hospital, but only because they wouldn’t release my baby before then. I’m recovering nicely, am napping every day thanks to great support, and the baby blues have not been as bad as in the past.
I’ve lost 15 lbs so far (still have a whopping 34 to go, but we’re looking at the good side right now so I don’t burst into tears.) My baby slept for 4 hours in a row last night and then nursed like a charm and went back to sleep. What do I have to complain about?
Here’s the problem. I keep waiting for the Bad Thing to happen, whatever that Bad Thing turns out to be. Will he be autistic? Will he have some genetic defect that takes him from me too soon? Will he marry a girl who hates me? Will he turn out to be a Bramwell to the Charlotte and Emily and Anne that I’m raising?
In other words, my Mom Psychosis won’t let me just thank God that this child is perfect. I’m waiting like Job for the first servant to arrive. It clouds my interactions with my daughters (“Don’t touch him! You have germy school hands!”) It clouds my sleep (the nightmares that were non-existent during pregnancy have now begun to make up for lost time.) It colors the peaceful times when I stare at him and think about the crush I have on him.
I think mostly it’s hormonal. I think mostly I’ll give it a couple of weeks and then I should be back to normal, whatever normal is. I think that I live in suburbia, have no known genetic markers of concern, and that this, too, will pass. I think, too, that perhaps this is Nature’s way of protecting children through the Sleep Deprivation stage. If I’m so fearful that he won’t be protected, that some unknown danger will take him from me, then I’ll be extra cautious, extra pleased to hear his cry at night.
But, mostly, I feel fine. Mostly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Milking It

What is it about night pediatric nurses that makes them the most evil influence in the hospital? Every time I’ve given birth (and that’s a lot of times), the day nurses have been perfect. Cheerful, helpful, not over-bearing, attentive but not in-my-face. The night nurses, on the other hand, have universally been devils. They insist that my fat child, just born, must nurse or they will give him/her: 1. A bottle of formula 2. A tube down his throat to suck stuff out of his stomach to make him feed 3. An IV to keep him hydrated.
Now, understand, it’s been exactly the same with each large baby. In fact, with the newest member of our family, the night nurse expected him to suck on each side for at least 10 minutes within 2 hours of being born. Hello, but I’m just thinking that if someone had squeezed my body out of a narrow opening, and if it had taken pitocin, an epidural and lots of oxygen to make it happen, well, give the poor kid a chance to rest before you make him work.
With the first 2 children, I tried and tried to nurse as much as I was told to nurse them. The second one spent 3 hours screaming uncontrollably after I kept insisting on sticking my boob in her mouth when all she wanted to do was sleep. I don’t think she’s forgiven me yet. With the third one, she got hungry sooner, and she was born earlier in the day, so we narrowly avoided Nurse Nazi (by midnight, the third baby was happily sucking every couple of hours.) But this baby, born at 6:30 PM, made it just in time for the night shift to start. And, as with all larger babies, it took him a good 36 hours to get hungry. He’d suckle a bit, but other than one good latch, he wasn’t much interested. Add to that the bottle of sugar water they gave him when they circumcised him (poor, poor kid), and the Tylenol, and he wasn’t having anything to do with mama’s milk. But, other than a warning that his bilirubin was slightly high, we didn’t have many problems with the nurse. Why? Because I lied, lied, lied. Every 2 hours, when the nurse would come in to check on our progress, I would cheerfully report a false nursing time. “Oh, 9 minutes on the left side, 4 minutes on the right.” As the night wore on, I increased the amounts, usually without having nursed him at all. Amazingly, he’s now my best eater, sleeps longer at night, and loves me more than any of my other children (alright, I don’t know that for sure, but he hasn’t slammed any doors, stomped any feet, or threatened to move out, so I’m thinking he’s a keeper.)
Now, I love La Leche League, but before they weigh in with statistics that say he’s going to be a mass-murderer because I didn’t feed him in the first 24 hours, I’ll defend myself with this. The 6 year old was nursed for over a year, from the moment they laid her on my chest with the cord still attached, and she’s much more likely to do bodily harm than any of my other children. Also, this last baby was 9 lbs. 4 oz. It’s not like he was on the verge of starvation. In fact, if you’re thinking of sending a gift, please don’t make it newborn anything. He’s already benchpressing 150 and working on his distance for the next marathon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Payoff

Monday, Labor Day. Kids aren’t in school. The youngest two assume that means they don’t actually have to do anything, like clear their breakfast dishes, brush teeth or flush the toilet. The oldest one, on her own and without any screeching from me, rounds up all the laundry, sorts it, and throws a load in the wash. This is not her assigned chore of the day. This is voluntary. So in spite of the flying hormones recently, I think we’ll keep her. In fact, in the “who’s mom’s favorite” fight, she just gained some extra points.
The four year old asked me to open a portable doll house that she and her friends wanted to play with but couldn’t unhook. After I opened it, she went downstairs singing, “Look what my Mommy did! My Mommy, Mommy, Mommy did!” I am SuperWoman!
Last night, the Whislter, AKA 6 year old, snuggled up to me and asked if she could read me a book. Heck yes, kid. I’ll just close my eyes and listen as you giggle your way through Junie B. Jones.
I’m feeling sentimental. Must be the Delivery Hormones kicking in. My home is clean, my car is clean (I recently removed all the seats and spent hours vacuuming out the congealed biomass), my bag is packed, my church assignments are passed on to other women and my fridge is stocked. I didn’t can any tomatoes this year, in spite of the abundance, but we probably won’t starve anyway. I charged my Ipod and cell phone and camera(s). I have babysitters lined up. And tomorrow, I’ll have another child, regardless of what my body decides to do or not do on its own. I’m not excited about midnight feedings. I’m not excited about my end-of-the-day breakdowns that have come postpartum, every single time. I’m not thrilled about poopy diapers, moving my breakables out of reach, or all the diet and exercise that I’ll have to do to get back to the pre-baby weight.
But, then, my children do something sweet and unexpected and I think, “Ah, so that’s why.” And suddenly I’m sad that this will be my last baby.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Peacable Murderous Life

You’ll be happy to know that I’m single-handedly supporting a vast and diverse wildlife population, all in my garden and garage. I have the habit of harvesting in the early morning hours, when the tomato leaves release their scent and the crickets haven’t started attacking. Usually, it’s a very still time. Birds aren’t chasing meals, and unless there’s a breeze, the whole world seems very peaceful and contemplative. But, this morning as I carried my bucket, I noticed lots of scurrying underfoot. Leaves rustling from the ground up and bugs being disturbed in areas of the garden far away from where I stood. I walked to the edge of the garden and watched. Sure enough, I saw at least 5 mice running around, thrilled with all the work I’d done for them throughout the summer.
That would also explain our newest resident, the Striped Whipsnake.
He came to my attention 2 days ago as I walked past the garden on my way to the garage with the 4 year old. Apparently, he’s found a nice city location: the garage as condo, the garden as restaurant.
Now, you’ve got to understand that the 4 year old is not like the rest of the family. The oldest would often watch ants for hours, poking holes in their nests to see them carry their babies to safety, trying to label them with their various jobs (guard, builder, nurse). The middle child, while not as interested in the inner workings of creepy crawly life, doesn’t mind being out and about in nature. She’ll notice unusual lifeforms and will often bring me to the back yard to look at a brightly colored beetle. The youngest child? She collects roly poly bugs, which I’m sure they enjoy, but other than that, she has nothing to do with anything walking around on more or fewer than 2 legs. In fact, she screams hysterically if she even sees a spider, which really stinks for her, being my child and all. “Yup, that’s a spider,” I say. “Whatcha gonna do about it?” To which she replies, “AHHHHHHH!!!!”
I tell my kids they can choose one thing to be scared of, and it can’t be spiders. I hate that girl-scream. I hate whimpy chicks who do the freaky dance every time a bee flies by. And I especially hate girls who can’t even kill the spider they’re so afraid of. Bunch of pansies. So, of course, I get one of those because God has that much of a sense of humor.
Point being, a snake living between our garage and the garden is not good for my sanity. Not because I mind the non-venomous snake, but because I need my youngest kid to be able to walk past the garage and the garden without me carrying her. I’ve got enough weight to tote around. I don’t need the extra screaming 35 lbs.
And when winter sets in, I know what’s going to happen. The mice will move from the garden to the warm garage. Where the warm car with the warm engine will be housed. And the snake will curl up in obscure places unreachable by human touch, coming out only to feast or to frighten the 4 year old. And suddenly, the Texas roaches aren’t looking so bad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home Birth

I wonder if I can plan to give birth on my bed? It’s not that I look forward to a home birth (I look forward to drugs) or that I think it will be a more welcoming, loving environment to greet my last-born (he’d better get used to pain and bright lights if he’s going to earn my retirement as a football player). No, it’s just that I hate my mattress, and if I can schedule a time when a lot of nasty fluid sits and ferments, well, then a new mattress suddenly shoots to the top of the don’t-go-into-debt-for-it priority list.
My husband and I have exactly two debts: our home and his schooling. So, technically, he has 2 debts. I have one. We buck trends that way. I turn down Target credit cards, in spite of the discount offered at the time of sign-up. We have no Sears card, no Home Depot card, and I pay for everything I buy with the money in my checking account. I don’t earn points on a credit card, thinking that I’ll pay it off at the end of the month because I know I won’t. I know that slippery slope, and I’ll stay very much on the summit, thank you.
This isn’t to say I’m so great with money. I did, after all, keep that camera. But being out of debt means not buying things you really, really want or really, really think you have to have. Being out of debt means not eating at Sonic even if it is only $2.50. It means turning down events with friends, not just once or twice, but lots and lots of times.
Is it worth it?
Well, I saw my parents repeatedly declare bankruptcy (like clockwork). We had foreclosure notices on houses and my mom hid money in random places so she could feel more secure when the past-due bills started piling up. All this, not because my step-father couldn’t earn a decent income, but because he didn’t take care of the income he earned. He’d buy my mom a diamond necklace and then we’d go on church relief in order to eat. He’d shuffle off to Wendover, Nevada for the weekend and come back experience-rich and pocket-poor.
My brother and some of my sisters will see that as a condemnation of their father. Whatever. It’s a life-experience that taught me the very-real stress of growing up in a house that refuses to control finances.
So, about the mattress. You see my difficulty? It isn’t a priority. If I could get new siding by giving birth on top of the house, I’d consider that. We don’t have an HOA, so in terms of the neighbors, there’s not much they could do about it, although there may be some sort of public menace rule. And it’s not like my mattress is that bad. I don’t wake up in pain because of it or anything like that. I just don’t like it as much as I’ve liked other mattresses and I wouldn’t mind having a new one.
Hey, I know. Why don’t all you mattress companies out there send me free mattresses so I can let you know which ones I like best? We need a king size, please, since my husband is a dangerous man when he’s asleep. And I like pillow tops. And, if it comes with a handsome check, I might like it even better. I figure, if Oprah can sell herself, certainly I’m worth at least a mattress.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bringing Up Baby Modern Style

Single handedly, without any input from the Y chromosome in my house, but with helpful suggestions from the 4-year-old, I put together the Graco “convenience travel system”. For those of you who haven’t had a tot in your house for some years, this means a stroller/car seat/carrier combined. The purpose of these devices, I believe, is to see how much molded plastic you can pack into your house in one box. So far, Graco seems to win. We do have a molded plastic playhouse in the back yard, but it came box-free, so I think Little Tykes cheated on that one.
Graco has created a very convenient instruction booklet for this system. Two, actually. One for the carrier and one for putting together the stroller. I say it’s convenient because it has a minimum of words. It uses pictures instead to detail the steps for hooking the wheels, brakes, snack tray, etc. together to form a handy-dandy, tip-resistant, withstands-winds-up-to-55-MPH baby holder. Parents like me need pictures. We often cannot remember even the simplest of words (like our children’s names), so pictures might seem to be a good idea.
Except they’re not.
I think even the pictures were translations of the original Chinese.
And in case I get confused about what’s supposed to happen when I press a new piece onto the frame of the stroller, each picture has a large caption, in bold black. It says, and I quote:
Exactly like that.
With the exclamation mark.
I find exclamation marks particularly annoying in directions (I also find them annoying before 10:00 AM, but that’s a personal problem.)
In case you’re wondering, it took me a total of 30 minutes to put the 6 pieces onto the frame of the stroller. I couldn’t get the SNAP! right on the first piece. It mainly said, “Oomph.” And I mainly swore at it. Silently, of course, because the 4 year old was, you remember, offering me advice. Like she’s done this so many times that she’s the expert.
Anyway, my molded plastic travel system is put together, 6 SNAP!s and a hammer later, the base for the car seat/baby carrier is installed, with the latch system in place, in the minivan which is now full of kid seats, and I’m ready to join the throng of mall-walking mothers trying to work off the baby butt in the middle of winter.
And in case you think I get anything from Graco or Little Tykes for all the free advertising, I’ll remind you of my track record so far. Eggland’s Best got a free comment, but failed to send me even a coupon; Arbor Day Association told us all when Tree Day was, but they didn’t offer to install my now-thriving Asian Pear Tree; really-nice-but-too-organic man frequently shot us to his website (where are you, anyway?) but didn’t offer to pull my thistles for me… In short, if Graco or Little Tykes would like to comment, I’d love to hear it. And send me a coupon at least. I’ve got a boy to raise and I’m thinking the pink molded slide should be replaced before he invites his friends over.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Photographer For Hire

I lost $40. I didn’t even have the fun of sticking it into a slot machine and pulling the handle. I got out of the car at Walgreens with the money tucked into a pocket, and by the time I got back to the car, the money had disappeared. I called Hal to confess. I called my sister. I would have called my ecclesiastical leader, but restrained myself. I felt sick. Still feel sick.
I have money issues. Even when I save for a purpose, I have a deuce of a time letting the money go. I have that nagging thought, “What if I need it for something else? What if the world ends and that money is the only thing keeping my kids from starving?”
Next part of the story: for the past 4 years, I’ve been studying cameras. I used to have a lovely Nikon, but it died (apparently, beaches have sand and sand gets into cameras where it clogs the inner workings and causes a slow, grinding death for the apparatus if the person who owns the camera is not very diligent about servicing the camera. Which I’m not because that costs money.) Anyway, jumping to the end, I saved and saved and shopped prices and plans and finally bought a Canon EOS 50D. Go ahead, envy me. I’m waiting for Best Buy to ship it to my nervous little hands—this camera may be more than I can handle. But more than my concern about having to figure out aperture and ISO speed again, I spent 24 hours thinking that I was, literally, going to throw up. I couldn’t focus, I broke several traffic laws, and I had to sit down suddenly numerous times. Because the camera, which is the bucking bronco of the semi-professional photography world, comes at the same price as a bucking bronco. But you can’t eat it if the world collapses. And I didn’t buy it for my children, although they certainly will be the center of my lens more than they want. I didn’t buy it to improve the comfort or beauty of my home, although I hope the prints turn out well enough for that. I bought it because I wanted it. Just for me. For my hobby because I’m a bored middle-class suburban soccer mom who doesn’t drink and who doesn’t get her nails done. And I’m still not convinced I should keep Pandora’s Box. I remind myself that Best Buy has a great return policy, that I can sell it on Ebay, that if the world ends, I can take pictures of the destruction and be the next Dorothea Lange or Arthur Rothstein.
I have the idea that maybe with a bit more investment (lights, a better lens, a few backdrops) I can recoup what I’ve spent. But spending more to make more is the side of capitalism that my puritan/pioneer/frugal-divorced-parent-who-refuses-aid heritage balks at. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. It’s hard to be simultaneously a greedy capitalist pig and a hard-core, string-saving woman of the brutal West.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Memorium

We had a special connection, Sen. Ted Kennedy and I. While vacationing on the Cape, I watched as he pulled up to the hotel we were staying in, stepped out of his convertible (which he left running), and went in. Behind, in the car, sat a gorgeous, dark, curly-haired…
Not a toy or a miniature, but one of the large breed. She was sitting in the passenger seat, and from the back, I thought she was a woman. And then I caught her profile and knew that one of the most powerful men in the US could certainly do better than that long snout.
He didn’t stay in the hotel long. And no, I didn’t get out of the car, ask for an autograph, tell him how much I love his latest work, etc. I sat still and watched him drive away. What does one say to the pop stars of Senators, anyway? ‘Gee, they sure under-rated you, didn’t they?’
Politically, I don’t know where you stand. You may hate every bill the man wrote. You may think, politically, that he should be strung up and quartered. I can accept that. Liberality aside, he worked in Washington for so long that some of the muck must have stuck. In fact, I can buy the idea that he single-handedly produced a fair percentage of scum himself.
And on a personal-life level, you couldn’t call him “squeaky clean,” in spite of the post-dead-euphoria that inspires people to forget the deceased person’s misdeeds and only remember the cleaned-up version.
But there’s no doubt that for a great many people, Ted Kennedy wore armor and fought deadly battles and won. For a huge part of the population, Kennedy provided more services, more aid, and more hope than any other politician, including his brothers. Kennedy was tangible. He brought home S-CHIP, expanded welfare benefits to women and children, and helped stop the Republican Rampage or the Contract with America, depending on which side of the aisle you sit on. You may hate all these things. You may think that he, and his kind, are the reason America is failing. I’m not arguing with you. I’m saying that you can see how, to so many people, Kennedy represented everything good about government. His kind of government touched individual people on a real level. It put food on tables, doctors on call, and focused a lot of government spending on those who appreciated it most. I can respect that. And I admire a man who stops in at a middling hotel on the Cape, leaves his dog in the convertible and doesn’t look around to see if anyone is going to steal it (the car or the dog, whichever.)
So, wherever you are now, Senator Kennedy, I wish you well.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You Say Tomato

The now-4-year-old walks back into our church meeting, bringing with her a noticeable bathroom smell. Hal discreetly whispers to her, “Did you wipe?” Rolling all over his lap, because she never just sits, she screws up her face like she’s trying to explain Chaos Theory to an amoebae. “Well, I did. Just not all over.”
I wish I could get behind the thought process there. Obviously, there’s a reason she hadn’t wiped all over. I didn’t feel that that particular meeting was the best time to delve into her hygiene habits. She talks really, really loud, and she uses words like ‘vagina’ which seem louder when old people are sitting all around us.
When we lived in Houston, I took my 2 oldest to the art museum. The youngest was 5 at the time. We paused in front of a painting of the Madonna with John the Baptist and Jesus as infants. Of course, there were no clothes on the babies. The 5 year old looked at the picture for awhile, then said loud enough for the old biddies in hats to harumph at us, “Why is his penis showing?” I didn’t really have an answer for her. I’m sure there’s an artistic reason, showing innocence or youth or something like that. I pointed out the way the artist had used shading to create a feeling of morning sun. She knew I was bluffing, of course, but uncharacteristically let it slide.
When Hal lived in Brazil, he learned how to say “up your @$$hole” from a 3 year old who also happened to go to his church. My first “native” word in Spain was puta, which means “very very bad lady” or something like that. I asked my friend what it meant, and she clapped her hand over my mouth as soon as the word left it. There’s nothing like a slap on the face to help you remember the nasties. And one group of recovering drug addicts who were trying to learn English asked me to translate AC/DC songs. I told them in all honesty that I couldn’t do that because I had no idea what those words were in Spanish and they weren’t in my dictionary. Which, of course, made them giggle. Have you ever seen grown men giggle? It’s a scary thing.
Words that in Spain are used in polite society would make a Mexican cringe. Don’t you think that’s bizarre? An arrangement of letters, to which we’ve given an arbitrary meaning, can cause a grown man to blush or a mother to rinse her child’s mouth out with soap. Once, while a teenager in Chicago, I left the car my friend was driving because he kept repeating a certain word over and over. It’s not that I had a clean mouth growing up. But there were a few words that made (still make) my skin crawl, and he’d latched onto one of them. I’d rather brave the dark underbelly of lower Wacker Drive than listen to them. And yet, if you said them to some people, they’d nod their head and ask what the problem was. Hal had a friend in Brazil who, when asked by a child to teach him some bad words, got all serious and said that the worst word you could say is ‘appliances.’ The child ran off, thrilled with the taste of the swear word in his mouth. But here’s the question of the day: does his believing it’s so make ‘appliances’ a dirty word?
And if it does, does it matter that to any other English speaker, the word is completely innocuous?

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's a Talent (of Sorts)

The middle child has learned to whistle, bless her heart. Some parents might rejoice in this musical talent. Some might smile and think that their sweet cherub has passed another milestone. This particular parent wants to duct tape the child’s mouth. Did you know that it is possible to whistle while brushing teeth, while praying, while eating corn on the cob and while your oh-so-patient mother is trying to discipline you? This last one really drove me crazy and I think I actually threatened to ground her from whistling at all, ever, until she went to college, which may not happen because one must actually hear the teacher’s instructions in order to pass 1st grade, and it’s hard to hear when you’re whistling.
Most of the time she whistles Ode to Joy. I could brag and say that we’re so cultured at my house, that Beethoven is considered a demi-god around these imported-cheese-eating, ascot-wearing parts. Truth is, much as I love cheese, the fanciest we usually get is Tillamook, and I’m not sure what one would do with an ascot except blow one’s patrician nose on it. I have YouTubed Ode to Joy, but only after months of listening to that particular child play the beginner version she learned on the piano. And now that she can whistle the dumb song, I’m thinking about boycotting classical music altogether. In fact, it would almost be a relief if she’d switch back to Hannah Montana. At least then I could grouse about Disney’s effects on my life.
Whistling is hard for another reason (besides the off-tune, middle-of-church aspect). It’s portable. Never had a problem with her suddenly playing the piano in the middle of the grocery store. But with whistling? Try taking that away.
Good news, though. She’s back at school. I’m grinning right now. Good luck, 1st grade teacher! Hello, 8.5 hours of whistle-free home living.

PS—Hal: Glad you were born. Glad you survived the jump off the reservoir. Glad you didn’t get any horrific parasites in Brazil. Glad you let me bully you into getting married. Happy, happy birthday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Never Thought I'd Meet a Girl Like You

South African runner Caster Semenya is undergoing a series of tests to confirm that she is a female. Apparently, the IAAF, which monitors races like the 800-meter that Caster won, had a Lola moment, not unlike my rec center locker room experience, and have decided they need to verify. They have a team of at least 3 specialists looking into the issue.
Uh, 3 specialists? I’m thinkin’ if the IAAF needs that many people to determine gender, then they've never hung out in a High School locker room. Other than the blood tests, DNA tests and simple “pull ‘em down” test, how about a few well-placed questions to ferret out a man-cum-woman?
1. How far can you pee in a single stream?
2. When watching TV, what do you scratch?
3. Beef or chicken?
4. How many pieces of furniture in an bedroom suite?
5. What is a “valance”?
6. Which goes on first: cover up or powder?
7. What kind of car is that? (Trick question. If the runner answers by anything other than color, you know she is actually a he.)

Okay, that’s about sexist, I know. But 3 specialists, all doing different tests? If Caster wants to win enough to change her yoo-yoo to a whoo-whoo, then call her a girl and let her win. Good grief, you’ve already ruined any chance of romance she has, regardless of her birth-gender—give her some sort of premio to compensate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

But They Won't Go Topless

A town in France, that bastion of liberality, has banned burquinis. For those non-Muslims out there (or for those of you who don’t look for options to Summer Shaving), a burquini is a head-to-toe covering suitable for swimming in. Material, fit, etc, all lend itself to water wear, while the amount of skin showing makes it modest enough for Islamic law. A local French pool banned the use of a burquini due to “France’s pool hygiene standards.”
Blink Blink.
So, what you’re saying to me is that having a whole body covered is dirty, while allowing men in Speedos is, what, clean? I’m thinking the more skin that’s covered, the fewer pubic hairs I’ve got floating around in my local pool. And I, personally, think more women ought to engage in the head to toe swim suit idea. In fact, gracias a las vericose veins mapping out Toledo on the backs of my legs, it would beautify the scenery considerably if I went Islam and wore more clothing to the seaside. Not to mention that I would be much more comfortable and less gossipy if the artificially endowed 2nd wives at the pool covered their flat stomachs so the rest of us could enjoy swimming without sucking it in.
I would also like to mention, in passing, that France is the nation of topless beaches. I assume that’s because it makes breastfeeding easier. Apparently, though, the 18-35 crowd isn’t falling in with tradition. Those girls wear tops, while the mamas and grandmas let it all hang out (or should I say, hang down?) Makes ya wonder what, exactly, is hygienic about wrinkled boobs scraping the sand. So, in summary, if you wanna go to France, and ya don’t wanna break any laws, you’re safer stripping.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bad Press

Wishcraft by Chasing Fireflies. You can go onto their website if your children are more precious than mine. I’m looking at their Halloween catalog (can you at least let me get over school registration before you Halloween me?) One item I love (read that with your tongue in your cheek): the Bewitching Witch costume. The dress, which comes in 5 convenient sizes, is $68. You can get the hat (one size fits all) for $18. The black sequin choker is $8; the Feather broom (35”) is $16; the petticoat is $28. So, if you want your child to look oh-so-charming underneath her thick coat as she trick-or-treats this year, you can deck her out for a whopping $138 plus $14.95 shipping and handling. Okay, so maybe you’ve got a church party to go to, maybe the kid down the street is having a to-do for Halloween. Let’s say your cherub wears the costume a total of 4 times, which I think is pushing it for Halloween-ing, but some people love the holiday, so I’ll give you four separate events. $138 (plus $14.95 s/h) for 4 wearings. I’m thinking you should put the money to my child’s college fund, but whatever. Go into debt however you want, I guess.
And then, if your sweet witch wants to really feel part of Hallow’s Eve, you can buy her the Ouija board ($29, but it raises your shipping to $16.95). Oh, and I won’t mention the whole selling-of-the-soul to the devil cost.
Back to the costumes. No doubt they are absolutely adorable. There’s a Queen of Hearts outfit ($220) that I’d wear if I thought I could get away with it. But who lets their kids into clothes like this? Maybe once my kids learn to wipe chocolate on napkins and boogers on Kleenex, then we’ll talk about letting them wear clothes that don’t come from Target’s sale rack, but until then? Maybe not even for their wedding days (we haven’t made much progress on the whole nose-picking business).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Do It With Sincerity

I love women. I know, so do you. But I have more reason to love them now that I’m facing Imminent Birthing.
I’ve been feeling, how shall I put this delicately? Like a Sumo wrestler in need of hip replacement. The kid is sitting on my pelvis, which does not make for graceful standing and encourages waddling rather than walking. I have one pair of pants and 3 dresses which fit because, with my due date less than a month away, I refuse to buy more clothes. My face glows, literally, because I’m constantly sweating. I’ve taken to wearing my hair in a pony tail with multiple bobby pins holding it in because I can’t stand to have anything add to the heat. In short, I am not Angelina Jolie right now. People confuse us when I’m not pregnant, but no such luck when I’m expecting.
So I penguin-walked into school registration. And bless those angels who work there. 4 of them, separately and without any prompting, gushed over how good I look, how small for my advanced state, how lucky I am to be in such good shape. And then, while treasure hunting for the not-to-be-found school supplies at my local store, I ran into another friend. She weighs about 2 pounds. And she raved about how skinny I look and how she can’t believe I’m only 4 weeks away from having a baby.
I tell you, next teacher appreciation day, I’m sending Godiva chocolates to the ladies on the staff. Bless their lying little hearts!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

10 Points For Trying

I’m checking out at the grocery store. I have 4 nectarines. The cashier puts 2 on the scale, types in the number and weighs them. That bugs me a bit because the scale rounds up the amount owed, but whatever. I figure, it’s an extra penny or so. Then, he takes one nectarine off the scale (for you math whizzes, this leaves one on the scale), types in the number and weighs that single nectarine.
“Um,” I say, in my best “is this your first day on the job?” voice. “Nectarines are charged by the pound, not individually.”
“Oh, sorry,” he says. And proceeds to weigh the other two nectarines.
“Wait!” I stop him, irritated now. “You need to void the other nectarine. You charged me for it twice.”
Of course, the machine won’t let him do that. Or, he’s not, um, cashier-y enough to know how to do that. So here’s his brilliant plan. “Why don’t I just charge you twice for the original amount, because you bought 4 nectarines and I weighed 2 each time.”
Bright idea, Galileo, but you see, you’ve actually charged me twice for the same nectarine, in addition to charging me ALREADY for every other nectarine I have. So if I let you charge me again, that will make twice that I’ve paid for each nectarine. Now, I like my produce, but not at what amounts to $4 a nectarine. I was pushing it on the $2/nectarine.
I explain in the voice used to tell my 3 year old that she can’t use my carving knife to operate on her stuffed kitty that charging me AGAIN would not actually solve the problem.
Then, suddenly having an Einstein moment, he says, “Oh, got it. How about I just take the extra money out of the cash register, since I can’t void the sale?”
Okay, I’ve been a cashier. I know you’re not supposed to do that. I know that it will throw his till off, that the tape will read 7 pounds of nectarines when they only sold 5 pounds, etc. I also know that if I stand there talking to him any longer, the line behind me might start chucking their produce at me. Besides, it feels like my uterus is trying to find its way to daylight and sitting, immediately, is a good idea. Fine, I say. Give me the money. Of course, I have to tell him how much it is, because I don’t think he really understands what’s happening.
And, when he opens his till, he discovers that he has dollar bills, but no change. So then he starts asking the other cashiers. “Do you have any change? I need to give this lady 76 cents in change.”
I’m quick witted. Well, not really, but faster than he is. I pull out a quarter, tell him to give me another dollar and we’ll call it good.
And I bet he’s still struggling to figure out why all of that happened in the first place.

In a like story, I was buying fabric once. 2 yards. Off the same bolt. I told the perky 12 year old at the cutting desk that I needed 2 yards. She measured one yard and cut it. “Oh, I need 2 yards,” I said, in louder than normal cutting-desk volume. She stared at me. After a good minute and a half she said, “Oh, did you want 2 yards together?” Well, yes, sweetie, usually when someone buys multiple yards of the same fabric, they don’t want you to cut it into 1 yard pieces for them. It makes sewing clothes a bit more challenging. But thanks for thinking through that!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't Mess With a Hormonal Pregnant Chick

I’m standing in line at the grocery store. The cashier says, “When are you due?” I respond, “5 weeks.” She says, “Wow. It’s going to be a big baby!”
I’ll give you a moment to digest exactly how rude that statement is.
Okay, moment’s over, now I get to unload.
So, first of all, the part of me that is like my mother wants to respond, “No, you idiot, I’m just fat!” Of course, I don’t do that because I have a 10 year old daughter with me and I’m trying not to make her die of embarrassment. Yet.
Second, it’s probably true. All my babies are big. Is this something that I look forward to? Do I hope that in 5 weeks I’ll be trying to squeeze out a fully grown adult male ready to shave? Do I look forward to the whole “slight pressure” thing, as though giving birth to this 10 pound baby will feel just like stubbing a toe? Thanks for bringing that up, lady. I need chocolate.
Third, I’m glad my stomach was pointed at her and not my butt. All I need is some well-meaning statement about how big that’s getting.
Fourth, just because my belly protrudes does not make it public domain. I wish we’d go back to the whole Victorian-don’t-mention-it thing. And, besides, did I mention how large her stomach was getting? No, I did not. Well, I mean, I just did, but not to her face. Just on this private forum.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I couldn’t believe it. The kid was at least 12 and he just marched right into the women’s changing room with his mom and sister. Talking on his cell phone. He sat on a bench like he belonged there. Now, this particular recreation center has 3 changing rooms: men, women and family. Not only had this particular group selected “women” instead of “family”, but the Mom hadn’t even done any recon! No checking to see if there were naked old ladies like me, or blushing young girls like my 10 year old. Understandably, I was furious. Instead of taking matters into my own hands, though, I tattled to the woman at the front desk. She immediately got up to address the situation. And I went home and told all my friends and my husband and would have ranted to strangers in the grocery store if I had actually gone to the grocery store.
Today, when we walked through the front door of the rec center, the front desk lady stopped me. Laughing. Motioning for me to lean closer, she said, “It was a girl.”
“Yup. I walked in there and saw ‘him’ on ‘his’ cell phone and I turned to the mother and said, “He’s a bit old to be in here.” And his mother said to me, “She’s a girl.””
Now, in our defense (front desk lady thought it was a boy, too), her hair was almost shaved, she had on those long baggy basketball shorts and a long baggy t-shirt and tennis shoes with no socks. Now, I know that not every girl wants to wear sparkles and pink. All I’m sayin’ is that if you dress like a boy, wear your hair like a boy, and you have a deep voice (she was on her cell phone, remember), you shouldn’t be surprised when Angry Mom tells Front Desk Lady to get you out of the women’s locker room.
And, gee, I’m glad we’re done with swimming lessons for the year.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On The Road Again

There’s a porta-potty sitting on our street. It comes in an attractive beige and the Road Gods have left it on a small trailer, for convenience, I assume. If you’re interested in acquiring one, it shouldn’t be too hard to move. You can just hook it up to the hitch on your truck or mini-van and ya esta, you’ve got yourself a lovely addition to any back yard party.
It’s sitting on our street because the road leading up to our neighborhood is being resurfaced. All the streets in our area have been resurfaced this year, much to my olfactory joy. Here’s how to resurface a road (now that you’ve got the porta potty, you may as well go whole-hog and start your own business). First, you put up lots of orange cones and narrow the street down to one lane. The less obvious the route, the better. For instance, our road was narrowed down to one lane in the center of the road, where people are only allowed to drive if they are turning either left or right. This means that, in order to obey the cones (if you can figure out what the cones mean), you’ve got to disobey every other traffic rule, including not crossing double yellow lines, etc. And believe me, once your kids know about the double yellow line rule, breaking it is no easy task. So, after you’ve put the cones out, you need to disappear for about a week. Leave the cones. That way, the people frequenting the road will have many opportunities to drive over them or, if they’re teenagers, just plain rearrange the cones. That makes life fun for all of us.
Once you’ve given the cones time to “settle”, come back and scrape up the road. I don’t know why you have to do this, but it seems to be a very important stage. It’s more effective if you can get the road a good 5 inches lower than any of the side roads so that women driving large mini-vans scrape their trailer hitches over the road every time they turn onto their street. Not to mention the good it does for tires. As with the cones, once you’ve got the road scraped, you need to let it air out for a week or so. I think this gives it time to enjoy the summer sun, which makes it a happier road and thus more pleasant to traffic.
Then, on the hottest day of the year, when toxic fumes can combine with ozone, pull out all the big machines, randomly move them across the road, and lay down the most vile smelling swill you can concoct. It’s a known fact that if you want good potholes by the end of winter, you’ve got to start by laying a road that smells so bad it kills most of the wildlife in the area. If you can make people wait for long periods of time when they’re in a hurry, even better. You’ll know they’re in a hurry because their kids will be screaming (10 minutes late to swim practice already) and the mother will repeatedly look down the road, wondering why you’re holding the STOP toward her when there is nothing going on that she can see. But this can also be dangerous: you’d better flip your sign to SLOW before she guns the gas because you do not want to mess too much with a Mom on her way to Swimming.
Now, after you’ve repaved the road, leave the porta potty on the side street for at least another week. Give everything inside a chance to stew a bit. You’ll know it’s ripe when the mother in the minivan hooks the trailer up and moves it, free of charge, to your next repaving assignment.