Friday, December 30, 2011

Wimpy vices don't qualify.

Ah, New Year’s resolutions. It’s the only time I ever wish I could slam my hands on the table and shout, "ENOUGH! This year, I will stop shooting heroin." (If you’re a real druggie and you're actually supposed to sniff or smoke heroin, keep the criticism to yourself. I don’t really need to know.) Or, "This year I will finally lose half my body weight!" or "This year I will stop stealing from my company!" or "This year I will stop torturing small animals!" or anything equally as dramatic.

No. Any resolutions I make will be positively pathetic in comparison.
I mean, sure, I could lose five (okay seven) pounds. I could be a little more tolerant of my husband/kids/friends/siblings/father who lives in the basement. I could say I’m not going to drink any wine FIVE nights of the week instead of four (but in that case, it might be best to concentrate on getting to the four before I up it.) I could say I’m not going to just eat chocolate for lunch, but maybe that’s a corollary to losing a few pounds and not a standalone resolution. I could resolve to redo a bathroom or write more or organize my digital photos into books but those aren’t really resolutions, they’re to-dos.

So the idea of a New Year’s resolution makes me feel sort of inadequate. I mean, we’re talking a whole year...that’s a huge commitment. It’s worthy of a huge gesture. I just don’t have a huge gesture.

Now, I like Lent, personally. 40 days. For 40 days, I can give up wine or chocolate and oh, boy, do I feel every minute of that sacrifice. It’s like a ten-mile race: short enough to be doable, but long enough to count. And the payoff, be it a medal and a new personal running record or Easter brunch, is worth savoring. Lent requires a smaller gesture, so those of us who have smaller issues have a sacrificial home. Leave New Year’s resolutions to the big boys with serious baggage.

My husband says he likes three-day resolutions. You know, work out for three days, note that you’re not really sleeping better and your ass hurts from the bench presses, and bag it. Or eat really healthily for three days and then note that pizza and beer actually are food groups and bag it. So there’s another option.

Hey, maybe my New Year’s resolution could be to develop a really bad habit just so next New Year’s Eve I could resolve to break it, and then I’d get that satisfaction that I had really overcome something.

Maybe it could be to seek psychiatric help because I think these weird thoughts and then publish them on the internet.

Oh, well, bottoms up. Happy New Year. And good luck with your resolutions, whether they’re huge, Lent-sized or the long weekend type.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oooh, Santa screwed this one up...

I have a good friend whose daughter also asked for one thing, and one thing only, this Christmas. No, not an iTouch, that would be my daughter. Her daughter’s request is worse. She wants a hamster. Badly.

So, ahem, "Santa" dropped off a hamster, just like this little girl wants. But it arrived yesterday. (I just know my kids will find this blog some day, so play along.) So my friend, the mom, has had to hide and care for this hamster until the big reveal on Christmas morning.

Yesterday, she called me. “Oh, it’s not a rodenty little thing, it’s cute. He has a cute little nose and a nub of a tail and OH I think he likes me! Oh, you cute little hamster! I think I’m in love!”

“No, wait, he just pooped all over me. He is using me as a toilet. Not loving the hamster right now. I’ll call you later.”

So, later: “My husband is threatening to call an exterminator. He thinks the hamster looks like a mouse and said he will not lift a finger to take care of it.”

Then, today: “Holy shit! Holy shit! The hamster chewed through its wooden box (damn dumb Santa) and it ran away. It’s somewhere in this house. Oh shit. What do I do?”

Later: “We found it. Hiding in a little crawl space under the Jacuzzi. It won’t come out.”

“It won’t even move toward us if we hold food.”

“If we beg.”

“If we offer hamster cash.”

“Julie, this fucking thing is going to DIE under my bathtub.”

Then, later: “Oh, no. Oh no oh no oh no. I told my husband to get the leaf blower to get it out. He tried, but the leaf blower is gas powered, and now we’ve all been asphyxiated and had to leave the house.”

“I’m on my way to PetSmart. I need a backup hamster.”

Then, on the way to church, my cell phone rang.

“Juuuulie I just remembered there are mouse traps all over the basement. Even if she gets the backup hamster, she might see a little dead hamster the next time she comes down to play with her Polly Pockets. What do I do?”

A good friend would have come up with a plan. A good friend would have googled “hamster whisperer” and found a solution. A good friend would not have suggested letting my dog loose in her basement so the little hamster would have a heart attack when a big wet nose sniffed him out.

I did none of that. I laughed, and offered to say a little hamster prayer when I got to church.

Secretly, I called PetSmart, and asked them to relay this message to their hamsters: if you see a crazy blonde coming into the store at midnight tonight screaming about needing a Plan B, then run. Very fast. Or play dead.

‘Cause that’s how you’ll end up if she takes you home.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hum Jingle Bells. NOW.

Whiny. That’s what I am on the eve of Christmas Eve. And I’m whiny because I’m trying to be festive and no one will cooperate. Usually there’s no forced festivity around here because I traditionally hold an annual Christmas Eve party that consumes us with Christmas and excitement and WORK and fun. I’m not having it this year, so I need festive.

And Whit’s sick and that’s not festive. It’s boring. I get it, he’s really sick. Yesterday the doctor told him if it was 1920 he’d be dead. But could I get the guy to raise a glass and toast the power of antibiotics? No. He’s now a teetotaler who goes to bed at 8:00 and can only drink Gatorade. Bo-ring.

So I’ve been baking. Like I am in some Pillsbury bake-off and I can win a million dollars if I can produce a record volume of homemade cookies. I brought in a tray of cookies for the school secretaries that was so enormous it guarantees my children will never actually get a tardy slip, they’ll just be waved on through for the rest of elementary school. I have delivered plates of cookies to my neighbors every single day. The kids are so sick of the gingerbread men with creative expressions that they’ve banned them from their lunchboxes. I actually had a thought that I needed to find a charity to which I could donate all my cookies but then I ate a lot of them and started to get depressed about feeling fat. So baking didn’t work.

Then, I tried to recreate the way Whit and I like to sit in front of the Christmas tree and have a glass of wine and talk about our days. But then I started to feel slightly nervous. I was some crazy lady sitting in the dark, drinking and talking to herself. Thank God I don’t have a cat or that just would have been cliché.

Then I tried shopping but the mall irritated me because everyone was frowny and rushed and definitely not festive. And the sales were all sneaky, like "90% off *select* styles" but those select styles were all ugly and unrealistically weird sizes. Even the Santa looked like he wanted to ditch the snotty kids on his lap and hit a bar. He was definitely not feeling festive.

Then I tried wrapping but I’m very unhappy with my wrapping paper this year. I’m particular about my paper and usually do a big wrapping paper shopping trip but I waited too late and they only had Hanukkah paper left so all my presents are silver and blue and white and that’s not festive. (I mean, if I was celebrating Hanukkah it would be crazy festive, but I’m not.) There’s one paper I found that I liked but they were out of it and I’m trying to get Whit to drive two states over to pick some up from another store but he’s playing the "I have pneumonia, you moron" card and saying no.

Then I tried to get my brothers and sister to come over to make me laugh but my sister had an emergency appendectomy and my brother’s family all got strep and my other brother’s got "issues" so they are all damn far from festive.

Then I tried to mail out my Christmas cards but the picture, which is cute in real life, is dark and yucky and the cards look dumb so I only mailed out about 20 to people who might actually die of old age in the next 365 days and really do want to see what we all look like before they go. (If you’re not old and you get a card, no, you’re not going to die, you just slipped in. Okay?)

Then my car wouldn’t start because the battery got in a bad mood. Is a car dealership festive with its tinsel and limp Santa hats? I think not.

Bah humbug, you non-festive people. I’m going to go drink wine and talk to myself. Anyone got a cat I could borrow??

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A sneeze is just a sneeze. And then it’s not. Damnit.

(This is the post I wrote at 5:00 this morning. When I was feeling quite like a superhuman superstar. Hey, at 5:00 in the morning, there’s no one around to argue with me, okay??)

When my husband sneezes, he’s catching the mother of all colds. When I sneeze, it’s dusty.

When Whit gets sick, no symptom is minor. “My entire body aches like it’s going through a meat grinder. It’s awful. It’s so painful. I can barely move.” When I get sick, no symptom exists. “Oh, that raised red rash all over my body? My swollen tongue? Perhaps anaphylaxis, perhaps I’m just tired.”

When Whit gets sick, his schedule is cleared so he can lie in bed and moan. When I get sick, I *might* skip the 6 am run I had planned.

When Whit gets sick, he needs a prescription. Written by a doctor. Even sugar pills will cure him as long as they come from behind a pharmacist’s counter. When I get sick, I dig a dusty Advil from the bottom of my purse and swallow it dry.

When Whit gets sick, he issues a self-imposed quarantine. "Can’t get you kids sick. Stay away. I’m not sure what I have, but it could be bad." When I get sick, I cough into my elbow, purell my hands often and kiss the tops of little heads rather than their cheeks.

When Whit gets sick, he needs the sick comfort groceries of his childhood. Gatorade. Ginger Ale. Doritos. When I get sick, I’m still the one doing the grocery shopping.

When Whit gets sick, he wants meals served in bed. When I get sick, I skip meals and then step on the scale with delight.

So I wrote that. Feeling quite satisfied with my toughness and his baby-ness.

Then, at 7:00 this morning, I got tired of all the above.

Then I started googling meningitis. And a few other diseases. You give me NIGHTMARES,

Then I suggested he head down the street to our friendly neighborhood ER.

I thought they would say "viral" or "faker" or "strep" and we’d be done with it.


Pneumonia...they want to admit him...IV...flu?...dehydration...blah blah blah...


Is "neglectful and arrogant wife" grounds for divorce?

Sorry, honey. You just lie there. Can I get you some more Gatorade? Make you some soup, perhaps?? Fluff your pillows?

Yeah, I’ll never live this one down. And next time I get sick, you know I can't complain, even once.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hey, look!

Bet you thought I had been taken hostage by one giant louse since I've been silent this week...but alas, no. It's just called "that magical time of the year in which I'm so busy I forget to wear underwear unless I put a sticky note on my mirror." "Or unless someone dares me." "Or unless I lost it somewhere questionable in college." But those are all other posts for other days.

Today I'm psyched because BlogHer, the publishing network that promotes women in social media (which sounds so much better than "moms who write about poop"), syndicated an old post of mine. This means they'll promote it for me, which ROCKS.

So yay! Please take a look by clicking here!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So long, suckers.

Okay, back to the regular blog, and me offering up all my weirdness to make you feel like you’re normal. (P.S. You’re probably not, because none of us are, and I happen to like all my friends a little weird. But that’s beside the point.)

Where am I the weirdest, you might ask? Then someone who knew me well would say it. The L word. Lice. Lice and ticks are the two things that just freak me out. I don’t like things that stick on and multiply. (Stop laughing. Some people are afraid of house plants.)

So this week I found out that I (not my kids) had been exposed to lice. Not like sharing-a-pillow exposed. Not like rubbing-heads-together exposed. Not like we-used-the-same-headrest-in-the-car exposed. Meaning a little girl I was near ended up with a relatively mild case of lice.

I took the news well. I was calm, shrugged my shoulders, furtively scratched my head and said, "Well, it happens." The picture of maturity, right?

Mmm hmm. Until I got home. At which point all of my clothes and my jacket went in the dryer on high heat. Twice. I ran upstairs and threw open the door to the closet where I’ve stockpiled lice remedies for years, just in case. I found the sharpest, meanest looking lice comb in there, and I proceeded to remove my scalp. Literally. I combed every inch of my head and hair, looking closely for anything that could potentially be lice. I found nothing. Thank God I don’t have dandruff or I would have freaked out and chopped my own head off.

Whew. All’s clear.

But...what if I missed something? What if, right now, there’s an egg on my head and it’s hatching? What if I have bugs all over my head by the morning? What if they take over my whole house? I got itchy again just thinking about it.

So pulled out the Big Daddy of chemical treatments. The Whopper. The Be-Glad-You-Already-Got-Your-College-Degree-Because-I-Will-Fry-Your-Brain box of stuff. The Leave-No-Louse-Behind-And-Take-Brain-Cells-Too treatment.

And, in my defense, it was about to expire (I bought it three years ago) and I would have had to throw it away anyway. And I can be a bit frugal.

So I had a brief moment of silence and bid my brand-new blonde highlights a heartbreaking farewell, and then slathered the stuff all over my head.

The directions said not to leave it on for more than 10 minutes. At 25 minutes, Whit walked by. He saw my hair wrapped up in a towel turban, smelled the air surrounding me, and saw my eyes tearing like I had been pepper sprayed by renegade college cops.

"Someone mentioned lice to you, huh?"

Sniffling, I nodded. He just shook his head.

At 30 minutes, I couldn’t do simple addition in my head anymore. (Whit will argue this had nothing to do with the chemicals.)

Finally, I rinsed it off.

My head smoking like Chernobyl, I could finally rest, knowing I didn’t have lice. Especially because I didn’t think I had it to start with. But then I was sure.

The end.

Except this, because I'm wordy: Caroline went to a day of this rugged outdoorsy camp on a school day off in October. She came home and regaled me with stories of her day. At one point, she told me about a long zipline through the forest. She told me the counselors made the campers wear helmets.

"But Mom," she said, nodding wisely, "I pulled my hoodie up BEFORE putting on the helmet." She gave me a thumbs-up.

I was so proud. A chip off the old neurotic block. What more could a mother want?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book review: The Lake of Dreams

As you may have noticed (to the left), a little while ago I joined the BlogHer Publishing Network. Doing this allowed me to join a community of bloggers that could inspire me and promote my blog. Another benefit is the BlogHer Book Club, in which a publisher sends me a book (always a treat!), which I get to review. In the next few weeks, I’ll also join some online discussions about it. This is a paid review, plus I get the book for free, but it’s all my very own opinionated opinion.

The Lake of Dreams was written by Kim Edwards, who also wrote the wildly popular The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. It tells the story of Lucy Jarrett, living a somewhat unsettled life in Japan. Though she lives with a boyfriend she loves, he’s caught up in an exciting career while her own career has stagnated and she’s between jobs. She’s also still reeling from her father’s sudden death. When she finds out her mother has had an accident, she heads back to the States and her hometown of Lake of Dreams, where she’s plunged into both the past and the future: it’s a life that’s intimately familiar and yet changing rapidly. While poking around her mother’s house, she also gets caught up in a tantalizing and complex ancestral mystery. The story is both the resolution of the mystery as well as Lucy confronting her own past, and how she tries to release control of her family’s future while also trying to determine her own.

The book has a lot of layers, but two of them spoke to me in particular. The first was the theme of change, and how Lucy was resistant to so much of it. When she returns to Lake of Dreams, she is stunned to see land being sold and developed, her mother dating, and her brother doing a very uncharacteristic u-turn in his life. She doesn’t like or understand why things are changing so much and her family must gently remind her that she left Lake of Dreams and doesn’t have too much room to judge their actions. I could relate to how Lucy wanted so many things from her childhood to stay the same, even though she had moved on. I can’t drive by the village stores of my childhood without yelling at the kids, "That bank used to be The Happy Pickle!" or "There was an old bike path I loved, right where these houses are now!" and I feel irrationally angry when schools or churches I loved are torn down and replaced. I’m constantly perplexed that certain kids aren’t, in fact, three years old and are now headed to college, or that my parents' friends have become senior citizens. Though I’ve moved on with my life, there are times I wish I could step right back into the comfort of the childhood I remember.

Another layer that spoke to me right now was the mother/daughter dynamic. Lucy was willful and somewhat critical of her mother, and I’ve certainly been on both sides of that coin. The ancestral mystery contains a mother/daughter bond that was destroyed, and story lines like that always give me pause and help me get through some of the trying moments with my nine-going-on-sixteen-year-old daughter. At the end of the day, and the end of the book, the mother/daughter bond holds tight in all cases, and that’s how I believe life usually ends up as well.

In my opinion, this is a good book for quiet winter evenings. You can’t rush through it or you’ll never get the characters straight, and, similar to the Memory Keeper’s Daughter, you need to pay attention to the nuances of the story so you experience the book fully. I also feel that if you rush through parts of it – which I confess I occasionally did – all the characters won’t be as well developed as the author likely intended.

And as you read it, see if you start having some really weird dreams. I did.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It would be easier if Santa went on strike.

I am the meanest mom ever.

Why? Because I’m the anti-mom. Anti-screens, that is.

I am anti hours of TV and on-demand movies. I am anti Wii and anti Xbox 360 (because, really, I will actually take you bowling or skiing or skating. You don’t need to pretend to do it in front of the TV). I am anti DSi, anti computer games in which you take care of virtual pets (have you fed your real guinea pig today? Thought not). I am anti iPhone and Droid, anti anything that keeps kids in front of a screen, playing alone, inside, without even their imagination for company. I am totally and vehemently anti all these expensive electronic gadgets for children.

The kids will tell you I am against anything cool. I am against anything their friends have. They’ll say I don’t care if they are the last kids in the WORLD to own an iTouch. (Really? You’re the last kids in the WORLD to step foot in a McDonalds and I’m actually kind of proud of that.)

So what do those little sneaks do? They write top secret letters to Santa. That they mail. That I am not allowed to see. (Note to Caroline: if your letter to Santa is supposed to be top secret, don’t type it on the computer and save it on the desktop. And don’t name it "Top Secret Letter to Santa." And note to Jack: if your letter to Santa is supposed to be top secret, don’t ask me to spell words for you.)

Because they, wisely, still believe in Santa. It’s probably because I’ve confided that Santa will bring them presents as long as they believe in him, and then, once kids don’t believe, he asks the parents to take over. And Santa will buy things they know darn well I won’t.

And they WANT this stuff. Caroline’s letter to Santa, which was brief and filled with clip art, listed one thing. Four times. Jack wants things Caroline wants even though he barely knows what they are.

Now, they’re grateful kids. They’re quite spoiled with love, but there is nothing (other than, often, books) that they get as soon as they want it. But Christmas gives them the license to pour their secret material desires into a letter and mail it off, and it gives them the blind faith and childlike belief in magic that there will be THAT festive box under the tree with their name on it.

So then I can imagine Santa. In his workshop. With a stiff drink. Opening their letters, sighing and calling Mrs. Claus over. "Well, crap, honey. Here are these kids, and they’ve been good, and they don’t want much, but the one thing they each want is the one thing their mother doesn’t want them to have. I’m getting the feeling the father secretly likes these things, which is why I brought him Madden Football and Tiger Woods golf for the Wii last year, but the mother hates these electronic gadgety toys. What do I do?"

And I’d imagine smart, smart Mrs. Claus saying, "Well, dear, you have two choices. Don’t send the electronic game things and break the children’s hearts. Go on strike, just to make that mom happy. She’ll be your biggest fan."

Santa looks worried.

"Or, dear, tell that mother to write a hell of a list. Tell her to put all her secret wishes on there. Then give her everything she wants, and she’ll forget all about what you give the kids."

Santa puts a finger aside his red nose (too much scotch, probably), his eyes twinkle (ditto), and he says, "Great idea! That’s just what I’ll do!"


Dear Santa,

I’ve been very good this year, and this is what I want for Christmas:

1. I want my house redecorated. Or, in the case of 90% of it, decorated for the first time.

2. I want to lose ten pounds, now.

3. I want to run a ten-mile race in eight-minute miles.

4. I want puberty to pass right by our house and not come in.

5. Every night, I want my family to gather around me and tell me how much they appreciate everything I do. And they have to mean it.

6. I want a new wardrobe, every single season, including shoes and accessories.

7. I want a pool guy. And I guess you can throw in a pool, too, for authenticity.

8. I’d like a separate car, just for me, one that doesn’t have Cheerios and Jolly Ranchers and melted chocolate matted into the crevices of the seats.

9. I’d like Bo, the dog, to live for much longer than it appears planned. But maybe he could stop pooping. Totally.

10. I’d like an absolute assurance that my children will grow up happy, healthy and well adjusted, and that they will call home a lot but not live with me.

Okay? So there you go. Get on it, big boy, because if there’s an iTouch under that tree, there damn well better be some curtains hanging next to it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My list

One of the most annoying things lately has been this rush of pressure to be thankful. Check Facebook and Twitter; people are grateful for everything from the soldiers fighting wars to the crust on their homemade apple pie to the Midol relieving their cramps.

Am I not thankful, you ask? Oh, please. I spend almost every minute of every day being thankful. I’m still stunned, sometimes, to realize that I am happily married and have incredible children and great friends and a nice house and excellent health. Part of me fears one day I will wake up and realize it’s all been a dream and I’m actually some big fat lady with lice who can’t get off the couch because even if I did I couldn’t fit through the door and I have 100 cats, like on Hoarders, and they crawl all over me all day long. And I really don't like cats. So yes, I’m thankful, but always, not just today.

But then I realized there actually are some things I am particularly thankful for today:

I’m thankful for the blog post Caroline had to write for school, in which she talked about how much she loves me and Whit and Jack. (As my brother pointed out, the guinea pig, frogs and snails also got top billing, but I’d like to think she didn’t prioritize her list.)

I’m thankful Jack still thinks it's funny to put his Star Wars underwear on his head.

I’m thankful my mother-in-law caved and said we could eat Thanksgiving dinner earlier than the usual time of 7:00 pm, at which time my children are about to fall asleep in their mashed potatoes and everyone is drunk from six hours of cocktails.

I’m thankful for Al Roker and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I like him. He is funny and sharp and I like the way he dresses. And I’m happy for him that he lost so much weight. And the parade...well, it's just Thanksgiving. It always has been.

I’m thankful for Twitter. I love Twitter. It’s like walking around at night and looking in lighted windows and seeing what people are doing. How else would I know Katie Couric is eating creamed spinach and sweet potatoes?

I’m thankful that my husband’s iPhone is a wireless hot spot and can give him a wireless connection anywhere, even on top of a mountain, which is where we are.

I’m thankful for my friends, because DAMN they make me laugh and they listen to me and they are the village that helps me raise my children and stay married to my husband and not shoot myself when my dad texts me and says, “Where’s my dinner? It’s getting late.”

I’m thankful for sales, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve been afflicted by this weird and totally satisfying desire to save money. I used to get the same rush from spending $300 on shoes so my husband is much happier with the new me.

I’m thankful I don’t have cancer. Yet. It scares the crap out of me.

I'm thankful for Jack's placecards at dinner tonight...particularly the one for "Ant Dale."

I’m thankful I like to read.

I’m thankful I started this blog and I am so, so thankful every single time someone tells me they think it’s funny or interesting because you have no idea how good it feels to do something I love and actually be able to entertain people. So I’m thankful for you.

And, yes, I’m thankful for wine, a glass of which is waiting for me right now.

Hope you all have a very relaxing, very entertaining Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's ALMOST the most wonderful time of the year

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving to the friends I’ve talked to in recent weeks...the ones who have regaled me with their plans for the holidays. Thanks for making me laugh.

In particular...

Happy Thanksgiving to you, the one with the happy turkey and the odd houseguests. And the bears.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, the one who will have to taste the pies of two warring great-aunts and submit your vote to be tallied, so that the winner can gloat and the loser can get drunk.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will travel hours to sit at an abnormally small table with distant relatives and an OCD hostess who can’t stop cooking and will have made two turkeys, eight pies, four stuffings and three applesauces.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, matron of the family with the most drama, where divorces and diagnoses and affairs are always inevitably announced at holiday dinners. And no one drinks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who has acted like a camp counselor planning a day of turkey bingo, turkey mad-libs, a scavenger hunt and a football game just to keep your two kids from killing each other.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will use planes, trains and automobiles to go over the river and through the woods, only to be insulted by a mother-in-law who thinks her son could’ve done better.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who told all your family members you’re busy so you can sit inside and spend the day with your own immediate family and watch movies, which is exactly how you want to spend the day. Even if it's a little strange.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will bite your tongue, smile politely and accept your in-laws' traditions as your own, despite the fact that yes, you're right, they're illogical and only acceptable to senior citizens and kids under three.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, already so exhausted by your children's pre-Thanksgiving excitement that you might actually expire before the turkey does.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who has vowed to hide in the bathroom with a bottle of wine. And a straw. Starting in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, desperately trying to come up with a unique and slightly raunchy answer to the round-the-table game of "what are you thankful for?" so you can shake things up a bit.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who will nervously attend an elegant dinner with two messy little boys and an old guy who coughs up phlegm and says, "WHAT???" often.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, who already plans to wake up at 4 am on Black Friday to hit the sales. Because that’s what Thanksgiving is really about. (And you've got my list, right?)

And happy Thanksgiving to my little family, and the extended one we will visit. For better or for worse, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we weren’t all together, in one tightly wound, thoroughly dysfunctional group. We could be worse off. Trust me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mommy’s little green helper

I am, to use a term parents know well, a Terrible Sleeper. I do not nap. I sleep so very lightly that a breath of air will wake me. Truly, I wake up if the heater kicks on. Or off. I wake up if there’s a light or a noise or a child's footstep or a cry or even if, in my sleep, I divine that we’ve forgotten to turn on the ceiling fan. And if I physically get up, to go to the bathroom or check on a kid, I am then up for hours. I haven’t enjoyed uninterrupted sleep for years. It used to make me the really vigilant mom of babies; now it just makes me tired.

Lately, I’ve caught a cough from the preschoolers. I am rarely sick, so this cough has been a big pain in the butt. And it’s a yucky, my-chest-hurts cough that wakes me with coughing spasms every hour and a half at night. I’ve been more exhausted than ever, to the point of actually feeling sympathy for the toddler throwing a temper tantrum in the grocery store. To the point of almost joining him.

So yesterday I had one kid at the doctor’s office and asked what I should take to sleep through the night.

He glanced around and then said, in a low voice, "The nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine." (Okay, he actually named it, but I can’t hear the name without singing the jingle. And now I bet you can name it. Excellent marketing, if you ask me.)

I looked at him in horror. "Why, doctor," I exclaimed, "that’s like shooting a mouse with an elephant gun! I fear that’s far too much medicine for my little cough." (Total lie. What I said was, "Will it kill me?" To which he replied, "Nah, probably not." Good enough. I went and bought some.)

I took it with trepidation. Seriously, who takes that, unless you’ve got every single symptom they list? I honestly thought if I ever took it, I’d be profiled on the news as the mom who overmedicated herself and never woke up. You’d all shake your heads and click your tongues and feel superior to me, the one who went with the low-rent, overkill medicine.

People. I am here to tell you that the nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine is THE GREATEST THING EVER. I didn’t make a sound. I didn’t roll over. Whit TALKED ON THE PHONE and I didn’t wake up. I didn’t cough or sneeze or probably even swallow. Apparently our bed was a literal train station: Jack came in, Whit moved over, Caroline came in, the bed got too crowded, Caroline left, Caroline got lonely and came in again to get Whit, Whit left to go sleep with her...I knew none of it! Pure bliss! There I lay, motionless, in the throes of the best sleep I’ve had in years. I probably got kicked and pushed and had the covers pulled off me, but guess what? Either I didn’t know or I didn’t care. I was in heaven.

So thank you, nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can rest medicine. I may still be coughing today, but last night, I didn’t make a peep. My coughing apparatus was medicated into silence.

You were the best (and only) one-night-stand I’ve had in a while. I’m sorry I made fun of you and called you low-rent and thought you would actually put me in a coma. On the contrary, even if you did put me in a coma, it was a great coma. And, truth be told, you didn’t do a damn thing to actually get rid of my cough permanently, but you gave me a good night’s sleep, and coming from a tired mother, that is worth more than gold.

I’m sorry, but I no longer plan to be such a germophobe. A little cough every now and then is not a terrible thing if you’re there to help me.

But I won’t tell anyone. I don’t want there to be a run on the stuff in case my cough sticks around a while. Everyone else can stick with the plop plop fizz fizz product over the holidays, and I’ll keep mommy’s little green helper in the medicine cabinet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nine. It’s the new sixteen.

My morning started innocently enough. They always do, right?

Until I called Caroline in to my dressing room so I could help with her hair.

Like I do every morning.

And then I learned a few things that illustrate the disconnect between moms and daughters who, I swear to God, must start hitting the moody part of puberty around five. Despite years of organic milk.

For example...

If you offer to put your daughter’s hair in a ponytail, then you are insinuating her hair is messy.

If you offer to cut the bagel she’s trying to saw through like a prisoner attacking handcuffs with a nail file, then you are treating her like a baby.

If you help her clean her room and you throw away frayed and broken headbands, then you aren’t respecting her things.

If you put the wrong flavored Go-Gurt in her lunchbox, then you don’t care about her.

If you ask her if she wants a playdate with a boy who is a good friend of hers, then you’re telling her who her friends should be.

If you ask her if she’d like you to feed her guinea pig, then you don’t trust her.

If you ask her about an upcoming test, then you think she doesn’t study.

If you try to hold her hand walking to school, then you’re just pretending that you love her.

But...if you try to hold the hand of her little brother, then you love him more.

If you’re still annoyed with her six hours later, THEN YOU’RE HUMAN, despite being a mom.

If she comes home from school and she’s still in the same mood, then you will want a big glass of wine as soon as she goes to bed.

And, if you remember what you were like at nine, then you’ll sneak into her room before she falls asleep, cuddle with her, and tell her how much you love her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

St. Francis might smite me

Author’s note: If you’re not a dog lover, don’t read this. Because then you’ll feel all vindicated in that you don’t like dogs and you shouldn’t, because it’s weird to not like dogs. And Bo isn’t representative of most dogs, so you’d feel vindicated and you’d be wrong.

And if you already feel like you might throw up, I'd stop reading now.

Do you guys remember Bo’s “interview” a few weeks ago? Well, that woman has a special place in Heaven with the poor, knocked-over St. Francis, because she’s letting Bo come and stay with her for a few days.

She asked me to write a letter describing him. I thought she saw everything she’d need to know, but maybe she’s on a lot, because she wants likes, dislikes, physical characteristics, diet, quirky habits, what he likes to do for fun, and his sleeping preferences. So I composed a list of salient details to prepare her for his arrival.

1. He eats anything he can find. And then he poops out remnants. A bagful of Hershey’s Kisses will lead to one tightly compacted foil ball in his poop. He could eat a small animal and it would probably come out intact on the other end, so please don’t worry if he’s eating mulch, dirt, rocks, or metal toy cars. And then please don’t be alarmed if you see a pale pink arm sticking out of the poop; chances are it was a Barbie and not a midget that happened into your yard. (But keep the gate locked, in case.)

2. You asked me to describe any abnormal bumps on Bo’s body. Well, the thing is, he’s covered with lumpy things that I fear are malignant tumors. They’re everywhere. His body is like a relief map. Don’t be alarmed because if they were really malignant he’d probably be dead and I wouldn’t be writing this letter warning helping you.

3. He’s also got some bumps on top of his skin that are like warts. They’re everywhere, and if I get them taken off, they grow back, so I stopped. There’s one on top of his head that I think is leaking brains but the vet says not to worry.

4. He is aggressive in bed. By this, I mean he will wake up in the middle of the night and stand over you, barking loudly, until you lift the covers to let him under them. Then, he will want you to spoon him. And he might fart. But he won’t move.

5. Until he gets hot, at which point he’ll get up and shake until the covers have flown all over the bed and the floor – everywhere but on you. And your butt will get cold.

6. If given the chance, he will run away from you, as fast and as far as he can. And he will be laughing.

7. His diet? Well, he (pointlessly) eats two cups a day of that expensive organic dog food. Then he generally snatches a sandwich off the counter while I’m packing the kids’ lunches and eats their leftover breakfast from the plates on the table. At dinner, he only eats if one of the kids excuses themselves to go the bathroom and leaves the table. (I wouldn’t leave the table if I were you.) Other than that, it’s just whatever he can grab when I leave the dry food closet open by mistake.

8. You need to put your trash cans up high. Like on the counter. Or suspended from the ceiling. Because he finds them, knocks them over, and eats everything in them. Including Styrofoam, dirty diapers, if you have them, and chicken bones.

9. He’s strong in a superhuman, superdog, superhero kind of way. So don’t try to put him on a leash. You can’t handle it. Trust me. You’ll go into labor, even if you’re not pregnant. He’s that strong.

10. When he runs toward you, spread your legs. Because he’s headed straight for your knees, where he’ll screech to a stop so you can scratch his butt. Really, take note: you will have eighty pounds of Lab hurtling toward your knees, so be prepared.

Then I read what I had written and realized there’s no way in hell I can tell her the truth. So this is what I sent:

Very friendly and affectionate Lab! Great with kids! Loves exercise! Super healthy and strong!

And I’m sort of afraid she’s going to sue me. For false advertising. But he loved it there, and it's kind of a vacation for him, and I won't feel the oppressive guilt I feel when I put him in a kennel with crates.

I guess it’s like sending a serial bedwetter on a highly desirable sleepover. You just lie, smile, and pray it’s all okay in the morning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy, day?

My friend is hosting Thanksgiving dinner. As is usually the case, she’s already thinking of the hoops through which she will be hurtling her body to please a husband, two picky kids who hate everything she cooks, a mother-in-law who follows her around so closely that when my friend turns around suddenly their noses hit, a step-father-in-law who has such a weird obsession with little stuffed bears that he brings them to her house and lines them up so they can watch him, a sister-in-law who is...ahh..."precise" in what she wants and the sister-in-law’s boyfriend who, my friend thought, was the easygoing, non-picky, non-precise member of the bunch.

Thanksgiving dinner requires a lot of planning under the best of circumstances, but in this case, there are a lot of dietary preferences and time of eating preferences and vegetable preferences and what to watch on TV preferences and what type of toilet paper she should buy preferences (not really, but there are a lot of opinions being bandied about).

So we were talking and she was telling me about all these people and all these preferences and I had to ask her about forty times to explain about the bears because it’s happened for so long that my friend has now accepted it as normal and I can’t explain that it’s far from normal that there are ten stuffed bears lined up on the dresser in her guest room.

Then, this:

Friend: My sister-in-law called me. The boyfriend has a request. Sort of a line-in-the-sand request.

Me: Yeah, him too? So what is it?

Friend: He needs to eat a happy turkey.

Me: A what? A happy turkey? Can’t you just get an expensive turkey?

Friend: No. Apparently there’s a movement toward happy food. And now I need to find a happy turkey.

Me: Like you interview them?

Friend: I guess. No turkey with postpartum depression or an anxiety disorder. Not one on Prozac, has to be happy.

Me: What turkey would be happy knowing his whole family will get beheaded in November?

Friend: A stupid turkey, I guess.

Me: Hey, that’s it. Be passive aggressive like me. Get a turkey that is happy but get a really stupid one. Or maybe one with multiple personalities. Just really screw with the guy.

Friend: Maybe I’ll find really mean potatoes. Or psycho brussel sprouts. Or depressed cranberry sauce.

Me: Use skim milk and margarine in the mashed potatoes. Then they’ll get all insecure and think you’re calling them fat. Then they’ll get a complex. And be COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES!!! Get it?


Me: Or you could just drink. Then you’d be happy, regardless of how the turkey felt.

Friend: There’s that.

Wow. And I thought my husband’s family was weird. This happy turkey crap has them beat.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

From magical to Halloween journey

Magical Halloween memories of my childhood:

1. How it thrilled me, year over year, to choose between dressing up as either a nurse, a doctor, a firefighter or a mouse. (I have no idea why, but I think I always chose the mouse, without fail. Now that I wouldn’t be caught dead parading around in a gray leotard and tights, I’m happier than hell I showed off that cute figure before it went down the toilet.)

2. The stuffed pillowcases of candy. How my arms hurt from carrying the loot around all night. How I’d dump out all the candy on the floor, let my mom make a cursory inspection to rule out the razor blades that some evil, crabby old man was sure to slip into our Tootsie Rolls, and then go to work on it with a laser-sharp focus.

3. And by work, I mean what should have been the earliest indication of my as-yet undiagnosed OCD. Sort by color. Sort by type. Sort by type of chocolate, which was a subset of type. Sort by size. Sort by filling. Sort in order of how much I liked it. Then trade. Trade with all the siblings...John and Jennifer, since they could carry tons of candy, too, and then with the twins, Michael and Mathew, who were younger and easier to boss around.

4. Remembering the awe with which I would gaze at the candy, not really believing it was all mine, all for me, and I could hide it from my siblings, but they wouldn’t even come looking for it because they had their OWN. And then I remember that really sick feeling when I realized my mother was right, and too much candy would make me throw up.

5. The feeling of excitement so intense I would almost burst, because I knew it went HalloweenThanksgivingChristmas and that all the magic was about to start and that it was almost too much for one kid to take.

So that was then.

This is now.

Miserable Halloween memories of 2011:

1. That I had to buy the bags of Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups three times because I (wisely) hid all the Halloween candy from the kids and then (unwisely) remembered where I put it. Every day. For a month.

2. That I have a little pair of jeans and an (ahem) larger pair of jeans and now the little pair only fits on the days I decide that breathing isn’t important.

3. The fact that, as I’ve made abundantly clear on Twitter, Caroline decided to dress as a DJ with her friends. The whole outfit, since she had to match everyone, cost $150 and made her look like a crack dealer. A high-end crack dealer, if such a thing exists.

4. The fact that Jack wielded the sword to his ninja costume so enthusiastically, for so long, that Caroline got sick of it and whacked him with it and he got a major defensive wound on his hand and she started to cry, which was totally backwards, since he’s the one who had blood streaming down his arm.

5. That a little girl came over and told me her mother thought our Halloween decorations were tacky and we retaliated by allowing Caroline to park a puking pumpkin in our front yard.

6. The moment I realized we had launched HalloweenThanksgivingChristmas and I freaked out because I know my stress level is about to skyrocket because the lists and the decorations and the traveling and the gifts and the parties and just shoot me now so I don’t have to get started.

My mom hated Halloween and I thought she was nuts. Now, as with many things, I’m starting to see that maybe mama was right on.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yes, these really are the conversations we have

(First of all, let me admit that I am known for asking very weird and random questions, and fully expecting an immediate, honest, thought-provoking answer. It’s a quirk.)

Me to Whit: If you could be married to you, would you be?

Whit: Well, I wouldn’t want to be you. I wouldn’t want to blog and do all that volunteer shit you do.

Me: No, I mean would you be married to YOU if you were ME?

Whit: Um, no. I’m a pain in the ass.

Me: I’d be married to me. Because I am pretty nice to you, even when you’re a pain in the ass.

Silence. Whit thinks the conversation is over.

But no.

Me: Would you be your own kid?

Whit: Yeah, I’d be my own kid. I’m a good dad.

Me: Yeah, I’d be my own kid, too. We’re pretty good parents. The kids seem happy.


But no.

Me: Would you be your own friend?

Whit: I guess so.

Me: I wouldn’t be my own friend. I’m too passive aggressive. I think that would get annoying.

Whit: So let me get this straight…

…You would clone you three times, and then marry yourself and be your own kids? A family of yous? But no friends? Wouldn’t you want to clone you one more time so you’d always have at least one friend?

Me (frustrated): You don’t understand me at all.

Whit: No, I’m actually scared by how well I understand you.

Me: Well, then, maybe you understand that no, I don’t want a family of mes. That’s just dumb.

Whit: But everyone would do everything you said, all the time, and no one would talk back, and everyone would appreciate you.

Me: Maybe you do understand me. Maybe better than I understand myself.

Whit: You’re really strange.

Me: Yeah, but you love me.

Whit: And I'm not even you. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

...but it IS how you play the game

You know how, when you were little, grownups acted like grownups? They were above pettiness and brinkmanship and they were just sort of removed from childish competition?

Well, I missed the mom memo about that one.

I used to think I wasn’t competitive. Then I ran the ten miler and I ran it 28 seconds per mile slower than last year (which is like a m-i-l-l-e-n-i-u-m slower in the running world) and I wanted to pull my hair out and scream and I realized that okay, I’m kind of competitive with myself.

But not with anyone else. I’m sure of it.

Then I realized that Whit and I will be somewhere with both our cars and, just to torment me, he’ll say, "Race you home" because he knows that, once challenged, I will drive like a bat out of holy hell with Satan himself on my tail to pull into the driveway first.

But that’s it. I’m competitive with myself, and my husband. And kind of immature. Certainly that's it. Just that.

Oh, but then.

Then the kids will ask the neighbors to go to the park and have a family versus family wiffle ball tournament.

And, let’s just say, their kids play differently than ours do.

Like they move the bases. And hide them.

Or like they intercept the ball and throw it away, down the field, so their team can score.

Or like they get really mad if they’re out, and they stomp off and leave the game for an unspecified period of time.

Or like they just walk away from the base they’re on and start rolling down the hill.

So, that all can happen, and I can bite down on the competitive boil that’s simmering in me and I can laugh and say, "Oh, ha ha ha ha ha, kids." In my head, I’ll add, "YOUR kids, that is."

Then. Then one of their kids will slide into second base. A sliiiiiide. A good slide. A great slide. But, unfortunately, a hard slide. The kind of slide with which you know he’s wishing he could turn back time to that morning and put on pants, not shorts, because he’s got a dirt-burn up the side of his leg that probably hurts like hell.

Then we’ll rush over and make sure he’s okay and then his dad will say, "Hey, at least you slid in under the tag."

And I, the second basewoman, will clear my throat, and look at Whit, and set my mouth, and shake my head so slightly.

And then his dad will say, enthusiastically, "Great playing! Mrs. Kennon couldn’t tag you!"

And I, with the fresh memory of tagging the base with the ball a good solid hour before that kid came close to me, will start to get agitated. I will give Whit a capital-L Look and a slightly more emphasized shake of the head.

And Whit will give me a wary look that clearly means, "He’s a kid. And he’s hurt. So let’s just call it safe."

And I can’t do that. Because he was out. Hurt or not, I tagged the base. And fair is fair. And that’s three outs, so it’s our turn at bat. Or they need to forfeit, and we’re winning.

But no one is paying attention to me.

And so I start to sulk.

And then Whit is in the horrible position of lecturing me, a grownup, about my attitude (to which I reply that MY attitude is not really the problem) and half the team gets tired of the drama and starts rolling down the hill and the game goes up in flames and I’m trying to get just one person to admit that kid was out and we won.

And then Jack will look at me, and laugh at me, and say, "Mommy, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you have fun" and I want to look at him and say, "That is CRAP and you know it" but I can’t because I did actually get the mom memo on that.

And then Caroline will sidle up to me and say, "Mom, seriously? He was totally out."

And I will feel vindicated, and I will hold my head high, and I will walk off the field feeling like an adult again.

And then Whit will wink and say, "Race you home."

And I will realize that people can stop waiting for me to grow up, because I just don't think it's ever going to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

In defense of crazy mothers: I’ve been there

Say we’re both on a playground. And say you don’t know me. And say one of my kids gets whacked in the face with a stick/fist/swing/low-flying bird. And say said kid (and say it three times fast) is bleeding profusely.

I’d say, “Hmmm, sweetie, looks like you might need stitches. Hold this slightly used Kleenex and apply pressure, and we’ll zip on over to the doctor.”

And, after I calmly gathered my children and things and walked to the car, you might say to your friends, “That woman has her act together. What a totally calm mother. Very impressive.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s me today.

But that was not me nine years ago, when I had my first baby.

As I discovered. In a humiliating way.

See, I took the kids to the doctor yesterday. Jack needed his seven-year checkup and Caroline, who is nine, came along to get a flu shot. In between the doctor and the nurse and the peeing in a cup and the shots, I was in the room for a while with the kids, and their charts.

Jack’s has maybe seven pieces of paper in it. Caroline’s is about three feet thick.

I flipped through Jack’s (is that legal? I’d assume so) and it said, basically, “Big healthy boy. Big healthy boy. Strep. Big healthy boy. Ear hurts. Big healthy boy.” Pretty unremarkable, pretty accurate.

But then I flipped through Caroline’s. I started at the beginning (and noted that she was described at birth as a “black female” infant. Such observant doctors attending to my daughter’s birth! The child, to this day, barely tans. I have no idea where that came from).

Then I immediately noticed, with mounting horror, that they had taped every phone message I had ever left for the pediatrician in her file. And then the nurse had written her response.

Ooooh, it’s bad.

Really mortifying.

But I’m honest, so here we go:

Mother called. Daughter is crying. “Suggested mom feed her.”

Mother called. Daughter has diarrhea. “Suggested it’s because she’s breastfed.”

Mother called. Urine in diaper looks darker than normal. “Suggested increased liquids.”

Mother called. Daughter has a rash. “Suggested it’s dry skin.”

Mother called. Daughter is moving jerkily when music is turned on. “Suggested she’s dancing.”

Mother called. Daughter spit out avocado. “Suggested she try sweet potatoes.”

Mother called. Daughter sleeping a lot. “Suggested she’s tired.”

Mother called. Daughter has a fever. “Suggested Motrin.”

Mother called. Daughter is covered with purple spots. “Suggested mom hide the markers.”

Mother called. Daughter is sneezing a lot. “Suggested she has a cold. Mother suggested allergies. This was a very long conversation.”

I am NOT kidding about this – those are the notes in Caroline’s medical file. They’ll be there forever, unless I can sneak in at night and redact a few hundred pages. The kids and I were hooting with laughter. Caroline said, “Wow, Mommy, you were nuts back then!” Jack was still laughing at me at dinner last night.

When the doctor walked back in, I almost threw myself at his feet. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I was crazy. And you probably had sick kids in here and I took up all your time with stupid questions about my baby. And I’m not stupid, but having a baby made me really stupid. And then having another one made me smart again. But during that stupid period, I had you on speed dial. And I’m so, so sorry.”

Thankfully, he laughed. Thankfully, he said most new mothers are crazy, and part of the job in a pediatrician’s office is to calm mothers until their first baby turns two or they have a second child. Both seem to be milestones, I guess, that shake you loose from the craziness.

So to all you nutty new mothers out there, I say: Embrace your craziness! Go ahead, panic over purple spots. Because your child will grow out of diapers, too fast...and you'll grow out of your craziness, just in time. Until then, be a mom, whatever that looks like.

Just a little advice for you, though. First, Motrin cures almost everything. Try it before you call.

Second, don't leave messages for the nurse. They'll really come back to bite you. Trust me on that one.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How I wish I had a mouse in my house.

I’m one of five kids, all very close in age. When you have five kids, there’s some competition, and some jockeying to be the favorite. Even as adults, though it’s more subtle and no one really admits it, we all want to be seen as "the best" by my dad.

I usually never win. I’m handicapped by the panic and hysteria that are in direct contrast to his calm and rational personality, and I firmly believe he has spent at least half his life rolling his eyes at me.

Now my dad lives with us, in a basement apartment, and while he’s incredibly self-sufficient and rarely asks me for help, occasionally he needs something.

And, because I want him to acknowledge (just once) that yes, I am the best of the bunch, I react swiftly when he needs something. Sometimes too swiftly.

My phone rang. Caller ID showed it was my dad.

"Hey, Jul, do you have a mouse trap?"

"Um, no, not handy. Did you see a mouse?"

"Yes, I saw a mouse scurry by..."

I cut him off. I had my orders.

"Dad, say no more. I’m on it. Don’t worry."

In a girly panic, I called the exterminator. On his cell phone. And told him to come over, NOW, with mouse-hunting gear at the ready. I told him to spare no expense, spare no equipment...just "find that stinkin' mouse."

My dad was running an errand when the exterminator came. I practically gave this man license to knock down walls. He searched every cabinet, every closet, every corner of my dad’s apartment. He looked through the linen closet and behind the refrigerator. He set sticky traps everywhere. He sprayed mind-numbing anti-mouse spray. He possibly cast an anti-mouse spell, because I made it clear to him we are not a hospitable mouse house and he was to do whatever it took to eradicate all mice and ban them for good.

After a solid hour (plus), he came upstairs.

"Mrs. Kennon," he said, mopping his sweaty brow, "I turned that place upside down. I don’t see evidence of a single mouse. I don’t know that there was a mouse, but that place is totally mouse free now. And I’m pretty sure no mouse could survive down there for long, so it should stay mouse free."

I thanked him and wrote him a check. Not a small check. Because it was an emergency, and we were to make absolutely sure my dad didn’t have to worry about mice. Because I care. Because I am a fantastic daughter.

A few hours later, I told my dad what I had done. I was quite proud of the lengths to which I’d gone to solve the problem, so I described in detail every mouse-icidal measure we had taken.

Admittedly, there was a strong hint of "Look at what a good daughter I am, you had a problem and I fixed it quickly and well and you didn’t have to worry about a thing" in my delivery.

He listened.

He nodded.



"Yes, Dad?"

"You never let me finish."

"The mouse I saw was outside."

"But thanks."

OUTSIDE? You saw a mouse OUTSIDE? That’s where they BELONG, Dad. You don’t set mouse traps OUTSIDE. And you don’t say, "I saw a mouse" to your panic-y DAUGHTER and not expect her to go into DEFCON 1. You don’t let me cut you off without giving me that important detail, Dad. Because I just spent a fortune and eliminated every mouse in the damn county because I was being THE BEST CHILD, Dad.

Did I say that? No.

He was looking far too amused for me to spoil it.

Foiled again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

a droopy rainy post on a droopy rainy day

Okay, so I’m still a little stuck, but I’m thinking I have to purge myself of this before I can go back to normal. Whatever that was.

Cancer and early death have been all around me this week. Not in a way that begs your condolences, thank God, but in a way that’s made me very aware of my temporary existence on this planet. And it’s got me thinking about what I need to do to be remembered the way I want to be remembered.

I won’t be remembered, I’m sure, for climbing Mt. Everest or writing a bestselling novel (not that I won’t try for either, but I don’t need them to be my legacy. And okay, I won’t really attack Mt. Everest, because I’m afraid of heights.) My legacy won’t be that I made billions of dollars in tech inventions or that I gave everything I own to the poor. I probably won’t be remembered for curing cancer or bringing medical treatments to impoverished nations. In different ways, I’d love to do all those things, but they’re not the type of thing I need to be remembered for.

Rather, I’d like my children to be able to recall my laugh for years and years after I’m gone. I want to be remembered for killer chocolate chip cookies and raunchy jokes. I want to be remembered for steadfast loyalty. I want to be remembered as a good friend. A good mom. A good wife, sister, neighbor. I want to be remembered as the one who’d always help. I want to be remembered as someone who could keep a secret. I want to be remembered as the coach, the room parent, the teacher. I want to be remembered as a wine-swilling, chocolate-hoarding mom who ran races and read and gardened and cooked.

I want people to remember my hugs, and remember how much I meant them. I want people to remember my irreverence and the way I’d try so hard to get a laugh from just about anyone. I want to be remembered as someone who loved deeply, and strongly. I want to be remembered as someone fiercely devoted to her family; as a mom regularly brought to tears by the depth of her love for her children.

I think, if I were to die tomorrow, those things would mostly be remembered. I hope they’re all just a part of who I am.

But then it gets tricky.

Because I also want to be remembered as someone who wasn’t petty or jealous or manipulative. I want to be remembered as the one who didn’t repeat harmful gossip or have temper tantrums when things didn’t go well. I want to be remembered as the mom who never yelled, the wife who never pouted, the neighbor who never rolled her eyes. I want to be remembered as the steadfast fighter who never lost hope and the ray of light others sought when in despair. I want to be remembered as loving myself unconditionally, and not trying to change those I love.

That’s all going to be harder. I can be petty (I don’t answer the phone if I’m mad and you call), and jealous (I think most skinny people probably have unresolved issues), and manipulative (I’m not going to give you an example or you’ll know when I’m doing it). Sometimes I do repeat harmful gossip and sometimes I throw a holy fit when I get bad customer service or a friend treats me poorly. I yell and I pout and I roll my eyes. I despair, and sometimes I hate myself, and sometimes I think the world would be a better place if everyone would just LISTEN to me.

See? Not a list of things I’m proud of, to be sure, but an honest list. I guess it’s my marching orders, starting today, and ending on the day people start talking about me in the past tense.

Likely, I’ll be 98. That’s Whit’s prediction for how long I’ll live. But, as I’ve been reminded this week, in some ways I’m lucky to have made it to 41. It’s possible I won’t make it to 42. Or 50. Or 65.

It’s possible I won’t live through tomorrow, but I’m still going to pay the bills, just in case.

I guess maybe, though, wondering about how I’ll be remembered tomorrow will give me a little perspective for how I should act today. I'll probably screw it up. But at least I'll try.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oh. This is what writer's block feels like.

Hi. I’m still alive. I don’t suffer from any psychological disorders (that we know) and so my silence this week isn’t indicative of some sort of psychic break. I haven’t been hit by a bus or diagnosed with anything scary. I haven’t been so so so so so busy that I can’t find time to do my favorite thing, which is write.

In fact, I’ve started TEN blog posts in the past three days. Some of them have been sad (cancer is shooting deadly laser darts at so many people these days) and some of them have been funny (I got far too competitive when my children "boo-ed" people in the neighborhood). Some of them have been perplexing (what business does Amazon have selling sex toys?) and some of them have been whiny (I didn’t like my time in the Army Ten Miler this past weekend). But none of them have been interesting. And if I’m writing them and they’re not interesting, I am most positive you won’t think they’re interesting. I just haven’t clicked with myself. (I could make a funny Amazon sex toy joke right now, but come on. My mother-in-law reads this blog.)

I’ve been bummed about being in a rut. I went to an open house this week, in which I sat in on Jack’s reading class. His group was reading Houndsley and Catina and poor Catina wanted to be a writer and sat and wrote and wrote and wrote and finally Houndsley told her she was a terrible writer. I sat my big butt in that little chair and wanted to cry in solidarity with poor little misguided Catina. "I know how you feel, you crazy cat!" I wanted to sob. "I can't write, either!"

Anyway, Whit told me it’s rude to just stop posting things when I’ve posted about five times a week since March 10, when I started this blog. I countered that my writer’s block is uninteresting. He countered that it is akin to ignoring your friend just because you’re having a bad day. And I don't want to be rude. Or tacky, but that's another post entirely.

So, sorry. Really sorry. It really sucks that everything I am writing this week really sucks.

Maybe the fact that one of the preschoolers pulled down his pants today and peed on the playground equipment (in front of ten visiting parents) will seem like good blog fodder tomorrow. For now, I’ll just laugh on the inside.

And if you actually read this far, and if you're actually wondering why I haven't posted anything this week, then I might actually love you. Like love love.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breakfast. The most exhausting meal of the day.

This was our breakfast table conversation this morning:

Caroline: Ava got a new guinea pig for her birthday. It’s a boy.

Me: How exciting! He can come play with Lilly.

Caroline consults her guinea pig information sheet: No, he's too young. They can’t play together until he’s...he’s...what’s this word?

Me: Neutered.

Caroline looks at me expectantly. I sigh.

Neutered means they won’t have babies.

Jack: How can a boy have babies?

Me, warily: A boy can’t have babies. But it takes a male and a female to have babies.

Jack: Why?

Me: Isn’t it time for school?

Jack: No, really, why? I want to know.

Me, sighing again: Okay. A male has sperm, and a female has eggs. That’s true with guinea pigs or dogs or people. The sperm and the egg together make a baby.

Jack: How?

Me: Well, the sperm gets to the egg and they combine.

Jack: But how does the sperm get to the egg? With people?

Quick “A goes into B and you get C” explanation.

Jack: Hee hee hee. Caroline, Mommy said penis.

Jack: Penis. That’s a funny word.

Jack, confidentially: My penis is very interesting.

Caroline: Can you tell Jack to stop saying penis? It’s gross. I’m eating.

Jack: PEEEEnis. PeNISSS. Penis penis penis.

Caroline: Mom. Please.

Me: No more penis talk. Let’s go to school.

Jack: Why are we talking about this anyway?

Caroline: Yeah, Mommy, isn’t that a little inappropriate? He’s only in first grade.

Jack: I’m telling my friends you said penis.

Me: Jack, YOU said penis. And you brought it up.

Jack: There you go again. You said it again.

Caroline to Jack: I’m sorry she keeps saying that. It’s totally inappropriate. I was just talking about Ava’s guinea pig.

Me, mentally getting down on my hands and knees and slamming my head into the pavement over and over: Goodbye, kids. Love you. Have a good day.

Caroline, over her shoulder: And no more inappropriate talk when you pick us up, okay?

Sidekick Jack: Yeah.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should blame it on the stork and keep your mouth shut.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My secret weight-loss plan, unveiled

I went to the doctor for a checkup yesterday, and it was the kind of doctor’s office where they trust you to weigh yourself in the bathroom and then report your weight to the nurse. Well, I stepped on that scale, and I realized all my summer cocktails (sorry, people, but my pool serves wine) and summer baking had sort of caught up with me.

So when I saw the doctor, she looked at the chart and said, “Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight since last year.” I replied, “Oh please – I totally lied.” She just laughed and said, “I can’t even believe you actually weighed yourself. I am starting to not fit into the largest pants I own, and I refuse to buy the next size up, so I spend my days in scrubs or yoga pants.”

I left there with a little sense of solidarity (and a firm disregard of the fact that she just had a baby) and decided that I needed to get rid of the five to (gulp) eight/nine/ten pounds I’ve packed on in, honestly, a year. That’s not scary, insurmountable weight loss, but because I’m crazy it’s “lose weight before your metabolism stops dead in its tracks and even baby carrots give you a muffin top over your jeans” weight loss.

So, like any good dieter, I thought about the diet choices I have. Weight Watchers? Nah. I love that diet but can’t put that much effort into it. The Paleo diet craze that’s sweeping through all my social circles? And what, not eat bagels? No way. I thought back to high school and the grapefruit diet and the rice diet and the Special K diet and even the Scarsdale diet and none of them appealed to me.

So I looked at how I eat. Frankly, it’s pretty darn healthy, and I am not a huge eater. I run a lot and am very active throughout every day, so it’s not a lack of exercise.

After a lot of introspective and honest thought, the truth hit me. No matter how I tried to tiptoe around them, I could see the culprits staring me in the face: wine and chocolate.

Wine and chocolate are the exact same to me. If they’re in the house, I want them. “One glass of wine,” a friend famously announced, “is simply a tease.” “Yes,” I would reply, “and so is one Hershey’s Kiss. That’s like mouse food. You need at least two in your mouth at once so they melt together.”

Now, if neither is around, I don’t seek them out. I very rarely run to the wine store and I only buy chocolate “for the (ahem) kids.” But when they’re here, I’m nibbling on chocolate and enjoying a glass of wine (or two) with Whit at night.

So I resolutely decided there would be no more wine and no more chocolate until this weight was gone. That’s it. Kaput.


Except that it’s Halloween month. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know my problem with Easter candy. It’s the same with Halloween. Halloween candy just can’t have calories or else it would be irresponsible to sell so much of it so early that there’s no way people are just buying it to give out on Halloween. So maybe I’ll limit the Halloween candy (which yes, I say defensively, I have been buying to give out on Halloween. Mostly). One a week. No, that’s just crazy. One a day. Unless it’s the Kit Kats where it’s really just one in a fun size (bullshit name) and not just two little ones in one wrapper. I want the two little ones in one wrapper, so it could be two of the ones in one wrapper. Okay, good, that’ll help.

Now for the wine. Easy peasy, not drinking wine during the week is easy because I am busy and then I’m just tired. Okay, so maybe I can have a glass of wine on Fridays and Saturdays. No, not Fridays, because I run on Saturday mornings. So then Saturday night I can have wine, but I have to make up for not having wine Friday night, so maybe we’ll move that to Thursday.

So here’s my diet. No chocolate or wine. Except one piece of Halloween candy a day (unless, as we’ve discussed, it’s a bullshit fun size and it’s really little, then I get two). And except for one maybe two glasses of wine on Thursday and Saturday. Done.

Bite me, Jenny Craig. People are going to be ALL OVER this diet. You’ll see.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My dog makes my kids look so good.

Bo’s a really good dog. He’s toddler road-tested; he’s worn birthday hats and tutus, he’s been ridden like a horse and had his tail yanked or his fur pulled a thousand times. We've forgotten walks and forgotten food and made him wear blinking antlers at Christmas. He’s lived through my kids and all their friends and all my siblings’ kids and he’s never done more than roll his doggy eyes at the humiliation he’s endured.

He’s also a really bad dog. He opens the cabinet that houses the trash can and eats the trash. He jumps up on the counter or the kitchen table and eats anything he can reach. Twice he’s tried to eat I mean play with the unwilling guinea pig. He’s lumpy and stinky and doesn’t come when he’s called and pulls me so hard when I walk him that strangers stop and laugh at me.

But I love him, and I hate putting him in a crate in a kennel when we go away. So my neighbor told me about an awesome doggy camp place. I called, and they have room during the dates I want to bring him, but the owner wanted to interview him first. “This is, after all, my home,” the very sweet lady told me over the phone.

On the drive out to the country, I said sternly to the dog, “Now you listen. Behave. Do not run right through screen doors; you stop at them like normal doors. Do not jump up on her counters. Do not run between her knees and cripple her so she’ll scratch your butt. Just act like a normal dog and maybe she’ll let you stay there when we go away.”

Once we got there, he took one look at the four rolling acres and jumped out of the car. He was off. St. Francis, busy guarding a horde of concrete animals with a stony glare, was knocked over instantly. Impatiens and mums were trampled, other dogs’ water dishes were tipped over. He peed everywhere and tried to squeeze his fat body through the wood slats on her front porch until they groaned and threatened to splinter and/or decapitate him. He ate dirt and jumped in a pool and knocked over countless figurines. He moved through those four acres like a hurricane. And then he tried to get in the front door.

Wide eyed, I looked at the sweet lady, expecting her to say, “Get your damn Satan dog home.” Instead, she smiled a true dog-lovers smile and said, “Of course he can go in!”

Well, you can imagine what happened next. Pancakes on the counter were slurped up so fast you didn’t even see them go. A barricade blocking off her formal living room crashed to the floor. A closed door received a flurry of furious scratching. He was a flash of yellow zipping through one room and then the next.

Hastily, the woman said, “Let’s get him back outside.”

I walked out with her. I thanked her for her time, half-heartedly promised he does eventually calm down, reassured her that he’s 12 years old and no old Lab can maintain that kind of energy for long. She kind of nodded and smiled and ushered me to my car.

She didn’t say he couldn’t come stay with her this fall, but she didn’t say she was dying to see him again, either.

“That’s okay,” I thought as I trudged back to my car, “I’ll find someone to stay at our house with him.”

I called Bo to come get in the car.

He took one look at me and ran back to her front door. There he sat, waiting to go inside.

“Bo, come on, buddy, we have to go home.”

He didn’t even turn his head. I started walking toward him.

He saw that and took off for the vast back yard.

I walked back there. He was up on her porch, testing to see if the back door was open. It wasn’t, so he flew down the steps in the opposite direction from me.

“Bo...” I said, in that warning voice mothers use when they’re embarrassed and about to lose their shit. “COME. NOW.”

He galloped along the fence line, ears flying. Almost audibly saying, “I can’t heeeeaarrrr youuuuuu...” (He’s learned that from the kids.)

So there I was, chasing the stupid dog over four acres. The sweet lady just swiveled her head as he’d whoosh past her. I was practically screaming at him, “She doesn’t love you! She doesn’t even like you! I do! Come home with me!”

I know he was thinking, “Yeah, lady, I love you when you’re holding a slab of bacon. But this new chick? Four acres, baby, and a whole host of new smells. You can’t compete. Get in your car and go home, alone.”

But eventually he tired. He got in the car, promptly fell asleep and came home with me.

As I drove away, I realized that though my kids don’t appreciate me either, at least they don’t pee on St. Francis.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And that's what little boys are made of

Last night, Jack couldn’t sleep, for several reasons. One, he knew Whit was “almost home.” Those of you with spouses who get home too late to help with dinner, bath, stories, drinks of water, activating dreamcatchers, last-minute trips to the bathroom, back rubs, soul-baring conversations with a little girl, etc. but just early enough to get the kids out of their beds and totally riled up because “DADDY’S HOME!!!” will completely know what I’m talking about.

Two, there really was a wicked thunderstorm that hit right as he was going to sleep. He kept coming downstairs and saying there was a “huge gasp of wind right by my window,” and I knew exactly what he meant.

So I got in bed with him, and he laid his head on my chest and wrapped his little arms around me. And this is what he wanted:

“Say the poem.”

“What poem?”

“The poem you said when I was a baby so I would go to sleep.”

So I launched into a recitation of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, which is so ingrained in my children as a goodnight poem that Caroline nearly fell asleep like a narcoleptic reciting it in her fourth grade class as an example of personification.

Silence. Then,

“What if our house gets hit by lightning?”

Launched into an explanation of electricity, conductors of electricity, and why you never swim during a thunderstorm. (No, Whit, I had no clue what I was talking about, but I followed my mother’s advice and sounded authoritative so he bought it.)

“How can you tell if it’s going to get worse?”

Launched into the age-old technique of counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder.


Silence. Then,

“What, exactly, is NASCAR?”

Launched into whatever I could remember from watching Talladega Nights.

“Do you think I’ll score a goal in my soccer game this weekend?”

Launched into a convincing argument about why staying wide will help him score.

Silence. Then,

“Mommy, I love you.”

“Jack, I love you, too. With all my heart.”

“Then I can go to sleep now. I’m not scared anymore.”

And I kissed him, and tucked him in, and left his room.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes from a crabby whiner who should just shut up and go to bed

I am about to end a day that got ruined this morning.

If you’re not in the mood for whining, stop reading. I plan to whine.

And I want to whine about my running. Which is largely uninteresting. So, really, feel free to stop reading.

Okay. Then you asked for it.

I’m not a capital-R runner, I’m a little r-runner. Somewhere between queen of the 5K and master of the marathon is where you’ll find me. More importantly, every October for the past zillion years, you’ll find me running a ten-mile race.

The same race, with the same people. Same course, so I can tell, apples to apples, if I’m getting faster. Every year I’ve gotten faster. It MATTERS to me that I get faster. It means I’m not getting old and fat and arthritic and all high blood pressure-y and water retention-y.

I’ve done the race under adverse conditions, like last year, when I was diagnosed with a completely ruptured disc in my back right before the race. That’s the same race that found me inexplicably barfing as I reached the finish line (yup, right where the photographers were). Didn’t matter, I still ran it, and I liked that I ran it faster than the year before.

But this year it’s not the same. One, all my running friends (save one thank you God) is hurt or otherwise disengaged and not planning to run the race. They all have very legitimate excuses, but it’s a bummer that our field of five is down to two.

Two, I sprained or twisted or just hurt my ankle last week. It was a very glamorous and graceful injury; I stepped on the nozzle of the hose I had lazily left lying in my driveway. Ankle wrenched with a crack, I went down. Laid in my driveway for a full ten minutes, alternatively wondering if I broke my ankle and if the dog was going to run away since I dropped the leash when I fell. And trying not to say, “Holy shit my ankle hurts” so loudly the mail lady would see me and call the police.

So I limped for a few days and Whit wrapped it every night and it got better, but my left ankle still hurts. Then, running today, my right calf muscle rearranged itself in a very painful fashion (like five rubber bands twisting together really tightly) and the only way I could run home was by using only the tippy toes of my right foot.

So there I was, on a busy road. You’d think if I was limping from the left ankle injury and tiptoeing because of the right calf injury maybe they’d cancel each other out and I could run straight, but no. I looked like a drunk, stoned, gazelle amputee.

Then I called Whit to tell him and he shifted into the, “Please stop complaining about all your injuries” voice, which isn’t fair, because I never, ever, ever, ever complain and it’s just that these things are making me think I can’t run the race very fast. And if I can’t run it fast I don’t want to run it at all. Then I’m a quitter, and I hate quitters more than I hate slow running.

Then I was dumb enough to tell one of my shrink running friends why I was in a funk and she was ridiculously rational (“Perhaps you should reframe your idea of success”) and I wanted to push this dear, sweet friend right in front of a yellow school bus.

Caroline heard all this and said, “So, Mommy, you’re mad because your friends aren’t running with you and because you think you can’t run the race really fast, right?”


“Well, Mommy,” she confided, “Sometimes – and I’m only saying sometimes – I throw a temper tantrum when things don’t go the way I want. So I understand how you feel.”

Thank you, little Miss Mommy.

“Caroline, what do you do when you need to snap yourself out of that kind of mood?”

She thought. And thought.

“Well, kind of, I guess I complain, and whine about it to you.”

Touché, my dear.

Between you and me, blogosphere, if I go to bed and feel better, that kid has a green light to whine for at least a month.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You need some Boil Discs. Really.

Want to know what I’ve spent my entire morning doing?

Hustling my relatives. Practically threatening mob-style vengeance. Shouting into the phone to secure unbreakable commitments.

Yeah, you guessed it; it’s the scourge of elementary school mothers. It’s time for the fall fundraising drive for the PTA. And it’s the LAST. DAY. I cannot put this off any longer.

Now, this is not only happening at my children’s elementary school, which I love. It was also at their preschool. And at my nephew’s school. And I totally understand fundraising, and everything the PTA does, and why they need money. And I will always support them. It’s just that this particular process tends to stress me out. It would be so much easier to write a check, but my kids drool over the prize catalog and the Easy-Way-Out train screeches to a noisy halt at my kitchen table.

The damn prizes. They suck the kids in, you know, with the promise of cheap plastic toys. My children would scoff at a foam ringer rocket (which, I’m disturbed to note, kind of sounds like a sex toy) in the dollar store, but they’ll sell each other to the neighbors to win one as a prize.

Caroline, who I can optimistically call “goal-driven,” has been driving me crazy about ordering. Ordering anything, as long as she gets the Positive Ion Silicone Band Watch (10 items sold) at the end of the day. She spent the first week telling me I had to sell or buy 200 items so she could get an iPad. (Um, or I could just buy an iPad, and not have a closet full of hand towels with cookie recipes on them, right?) It did take a full week to get her to downsize that goal. And you might suggest that she do the selling herself, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with making kids sell things. (To her credit, she did walk downstairs and yell, “Grumpy, you wanna buy some chocolates?” My dad responded, “My light bulb is burned out.” And that was it for her selling.)

It was bearable when we were in the glory days of this fundraiser and only gift wrap was offered, because we can all rationalize gift wrap and there are only so many types of gift wrap. But then they added chocolates, irresistible to the kids but overpriced and terrible, and that just gave us too many choices.

And now this year? I swear to God, it’s like a Walmart catalog in front of me. The options are dizzying. The website offers nearly 30 categories and hundreds of items. You can get confused right there; I mean, what’s the real difference between Cook’s Nook and Kitchen and Confections? And, frankly, the word confections is misleading, because you can’t really order the confections online, which I didn’t know. So I’ve been busy digging the messy order form out of the trash, smoothing the wrinkles and wiping away coffee grinds, readying it to turn in this afternoon so Caroline can get the Frosty Mint Penguins she’s desperate for me to order.

I guess it was all cute when the kids brought home the big fat envelopes and attacked the catalogs with sharpie markers, clearly and irrationally circling the things they wanted. (Really, Jack, you need a money clip? And Caroline, what’s so interesting about the Hamburger Magic Spanish Cookbook?) And it really is kind of funny to see my PTA friends dressed like giant Christmas and Hanukkah presents at the morning drop off.

But it’s not so cute when I am frantically adding up my items and begging my sister to PLEASE get the Peppermint Candle Trio even though she’s already spent $60 because I promised Caroline ten items and I’m spending a fortune on everything from the Flash of Light dolphin earrings to the Sports Illustrated Kids subscription Jack circled. It’s not so cute when I’m scrambling to find any item under $12.50 so I can just order ten of whatever it is and be done. It’s not so cute when my husband is looking at the order form and says to Caroline, “Yeah, we’re just not spending $300 on that junk” and it’s really not so cute when Caroline flies into a “you don’t understand and you don’t care about me or my school” rage and crumples up the paper and throws it away.

So, here we are. The eleventh hour. I’ve committed to about seven items. I’m thinking my sister, or my sister-in-law, will get us there. Bring on the Positive Ion Silicone Band Watch, suckers.

And to my mother-in-law, who won’t answer her phone...I’m on to you. Those fingers aren’t broken. If we’re going to get her the spy kit including spy glasses AND spy pen, I’m going to need a little bit of help here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The T word

I absolutely, positively believe that my daughter should be her own person.

She should have her own ideas, her own convictions, her own tastes. She should never do or like anything or not do or like anything just because someone tells her what her opinion should be.

Yes, Caroline, scoff at Silly Bands! Admit Go-Gos are weird! You go, girl! Make up your own mind!

Unless, of course, you want to choose something...well, tacky. Ugly? I can handle ugly. Well-made but not my taste? I can handle that, too. But tacky? In that case, don’t make up your own mind at all. No no no – just ask your mother what she thinks, and listen to her. Don’t deviate.

Now, I’m conservative. I admit it. And maybe the “tacky” bar is a bit lower for me than some more tolerant mothers, so I try to compensate by allowing some things I would never have thought I’d allow.

Which is why my beautiful daughter has a FEATHER clamped into her hair. If you love this trend, then I apologize for what I’m about to say. Which is that the girls LOOK LIKE CHICKENS. Punk chickens. They look ridiculous with flourescent feathers woven into their scalps. It’s ugly. I would tell you what segment of the population it reminds me of, but that would be highly offensive to a whole group of people so I’ll refrain.

But whatever. I’m tolerant, remember? (And secretly relieved she chose a little tiny feather that you can’t really see.)

“Mommy?” Caroline asked as I was putting on my makeup this morning.


“You know how you don’t love the whole feather thing but you let me do it because you respect my opinion?”

“Mmm hmmm.”

“Well, I have another opinion, and I’d like it if you would respect it.”

“And pay for it.”

Oh, crap. WHAT.

“See, there are these hair extensions. And they dye them and they stick them into your hair and then your hair is different colors and I really want one and I don’t think they’re expensive and they do them at the mall and Izzy has one and can I please get one?”

Who are you, Cyndi Lauper? No way.

“But why?”

I started with the reasonable, mom reason:

Your hair is beautiful without all these feathers and such. You are beautiful without any artificial adornment.

Her lower lip came out (yup, they still pout at nine). I moved to a higher state of alarm.

You could damage your hair if you keep adding things to it.

She lowered her head. Ratcheted up the alarm even further.

You could damage your brain. Really, Caroline, your math class is tough as it is. You want to make it harder? Keep sticking weird things in your brain. That’ll make algebra a heck of a lot more confusing.

Alas, she’s smarter than that.

“Mom. Please. It’s not going to damage my brain. That’s just ridiculous.”

FINE, Caroline. The truth is that it’s tacky. You’ll look like Beyonce.

“Beyonce’s not tacky. And she’s a good singer.”

You’ll look like Lady Gaga.

“I don’t know who that is because you turn her songs off when they come on, but she’s a good singer, too.”

For the love of God, we’re not debating the singing merits of various artists. You’re not getting a hair extension. What's next? A pierced tongue at ten?

“You are the meanest mother in the world.”

No reaction from me (I’m very mature).

“You never let me do anything I want to do.”

Nope, I didn’t blink an eye.

“You don’t care about me.”

Talk to the hand, Caroline.



“CAROLINE. Go to your room, NOW.”

That kid totally knows how to push my buttons.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News of the weird

Yes, my overbooked fall is in full swing and, as expected, I am insanely busy. So busy, in fact, that I am not getting to do my favorite thing very often, which is post to this blog.

But I do have to tell you the strangest thing that happened today.

I walk Bo every single day. I’ve done that for 12+ years. We’ve met a lot of crazy people in those years, but who we ran into today really surpassed anything we’ve experienced.

A woman, rushing to her car, stopped to pet Bo (who is a complete glutton for affection). (And turkey.) (And anything edible, and some things that aren’t.) (Like plastic bags and hair bands, which aren’t pretty coming out the other end.)

I apologized for his enthusiasm and she said, “Oh, no, don’t apologize. I love dogs. We actually just put ours to sleep.”

If you’re a dog person, you, too, would have responded with a heartfelt, “Oh, no, I’m so sorry. How old was he?” I ask, because Bo is old as far as Labs go, and he doesn’t seem to know it. So I love hearing that a fellow dog made it to 18 or 20 or something.


Four?? Holy cow.

“Wow, that’s terrible!” Hand to my heart for effect. “What happened?”

“He had anxiety issues.”


“Big anxiety issues. It was really rough.”


“He was a wreck,” she confided.

What I wanted to say: “Yeah, lady, he was an anxious wreck because he spent his life knowing you wanted to kill him.”

What I did say: “No offense, but I’m really glad I’m not your dog.”

She didn’t laugh.

I don’t think I’ll be invited to that block party this year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

M.A.G.S.P. (Mothers Against Girl Scout Patches)

Son of a BITCH.

Surely, surely in this age of iPads, in this age of space travel and unmanned drones, in this age of everything once considered impossible, surely someone could fix the one problem that has plagued parents for decades.

Surely someone can make iron-on Girl Scout patches that...gasp! Actually stick when ironed on!

(I know, I know, it’s crazy, but we’ve all got to dream.)

Because OH. MY. GOD. They don’t stick. They don’t stick even with a superhot iron. They don’t stick if you iron with a dishcloth between the iron and the patches and they don’t stick if you flip the damn vest over and iron them from the back. They don’t f***ing stick.

So, if you’re kind of like me, you wait until the day of the first meeting. You pull out the naked vest and the baggie with all the patches. You print out the diagram of where things belong. You heat your iron. And you optimistically begin to iron. (If you’re like me, this is also the first time you’ve touched the iron since last fall.)

And you iron. And you iron. And the steam is coming up and your hand hurts from pushing down so hard and you know you’re been ironing just the troop number for a good five minutes. So you put the iron down and you pick up the vest. And all the numbers fall off.

And you want to find the person that labeled them “iron-on” and poke them in the eye with a stick.

So, if you’re like me, you limit that particular form of hell to an hour and a half. After that, you give up and dig through drawers until you find a needle and thread. (I can cook and I’m not so bad with cleaning but I really suck at ironing and sewing.)

And, because you don’t want your daughter to be the only one who shows up at the meeting with a naked vest, you start sewing. You sew your heart out for an hour. You poke the needle into your finger so many times you get the bottle of Oxy-Clean to spray the vest every time you leave a little bloodstain. You figure every other mother can get the patches on the vest, and you know you’re not a complete idiot and that you can do it, too.

And then you hold the vest up and see that everything is totally crooked and, really, just looks like shit.

So you bite back tears of frustration and grab all the patches and run to the cleaners up the street. You burst into the quiet little shop and throw down the vest with the needle still attached and then you throw all the stupid patches on top of it.

And the sweet, quiet Asian women take one look at what you’ve dumped in front of them and they start yammering away in their language. They’re gesturing at the vest and ripping out all your stitches and talking over each other and you just know they’re saying, “Stupid freaking girl thinks she can sew and she’s massacred this whole freaking vest and her daughter is going to think her mother’s an idiot and it looks like a rat chewed where she sewed.”

But that’s not what they say.

What they do say is:


You respond,

“Three hours.”

They shake their perfectly coiffed heads, raise their perfectly plucked eyebrows, mentally award you the stupid-mother award of the day and murmur to each other.

“Please?” You bite back tears again. “Please? I’ve wasted my whole morning and I know I waited until the last minute but I really think there’s a conspiracy against mothers trying to iron these patches on and I really want to surprise my daughter since she thinks there’s no way in hell her vest will be ready today.”

They sigh and smile and say,


You will want to hug them, trust me, but you won’t. You’ll say,

“How much?”

And, no lie, they’ll say,

“Very, very expensive. Very expensive.”

And you’ll say the f-word (in your head because there’s no way you’ll insult them now) and you’ll leave the vest with them and go home and pound out all your frustrations on your computer and secretly hope that no one reads your blog today because really, it’s completely pathetic that you’ve wasted this much time and energy and angst on something that is so stupid.

Until your daughter comes home, and you present her with the Cadillac of all vests, with patches that are never going to come off, and you hide the bill from your husband, and then all will be right in the world.