Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I think what I'm trying to say is "Happy New Year"

Hmmm. December 31, you say? Time to bid a fond farewell to 2008?

Can't do it.

I almost always get choked up on New Year's Eve, especially since I've become a mother. It's usually bittersweet to file a year of love and "firsts" and my boys' childhoods in the "Past" drawer. Auld lang syne and all that.

But not this year. This year there is no bitter with the sweet. I'm happy to see it go. It hasn't been an overwhelmingly bad year. It's just been too much, relentlessly so. Too much worry (sick kid, house-selling), too much change (new baby, new town, new house), too much insomnia... just too much. I'm ready to move on.

I'm ready to make this house our own, ready to tie up the loose ends, ready to feel like we belong here. I'm tired of not having any dining room furniture and of the echo in that empty room. I'm tired of not having a backyard the kids can play in (stupid new grass that didn't grow the first time). I'm tired of not having our pictures on the walls and tired of our china still being in boxes and tired of not knowing which of the bazillions of eye doctors in the phone book to call because I'm squinting all the time.

Things are better. My stomach doesn't hurt with worry about making two mortgage payments or about the kids' adjustment or my husband's new job. I don't even worry about his 30-mile commute; for a while I was preoccupied with the idea of him driving too fast and ending up in the ditch, or worse.

And we do have some pictures on the walls. The two boxes of china are the only boxes that remain packed-up. We only have one mortgage payment again. And the kids are happy and have friends and I have a new dentist and my husband swears he drives safely. Everybody's seemingly healthy.

I sleep like a rock now, unconscious. Six months ago I was lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. I've never had stress insomnia before. It sucked. And, you know. Baby. He kind of caused some sleep problems too, starting about two days after I got pregnant. Now he sleeps. I sleep. We are much more able to cope.

So, yeah, things have taken a turn for the better in the past couple of months. But still. I wouldn't choose to relive this year. If I got stuck in some sort of endless 2008 loop, I'd eventually run out of steam. It would not be pretty.

I sat down intending to write a smart-ass post about kicking 2008 to the curb. I have no idea how this got so serious. Perhaps I still harbor some pent-up resentment about this almost-but-not-quite-harrowing year?...


Anyway. Tonight it's over. Tonight I can shed all that has cumulatively weighed me down this year, take a deep breath, and maybe let my innate optimism start to flow again.

So, um, 2008? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Auld lang syne and all that.

And Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sarcasm doesn't translate in e-mail or seven-year-olds

I've been more than a little neglectful of my little blog recently.

You know. Christmas.

Santa went high-tech this year. (I'll spare the gory details of how insanely sore I am from WiiFit. You'd be jealous, I know. "Can't blog! Must hula-hoop!") This led to a very thoughtful discussion with Jensen about gifts I got as a child. He's pretty sure I'm lucky I didn't die of boredom before my ninth birthday.

Jensen: "Did you ever get a Wii when you were a kid?"
Me: "Well, no, Wii hadn't been invented yet."

Jensen: "Oh. Well, what about a PS3?"
Me: "Um, no."
Jensen: "PS2?"
Me: blank stare
Jensen: "What about a flat-screen tv?"
Me: "No, but we did get a tv with a remote when I was 11."
Jensen: "Did you at least have computer games?!"
Me: "..."

I lacked the energy to explain the Apple IIe and Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand all in amazing low-resolution graphics, which we didn't even get until I was 13.

This conversation got very old very quickly.

But they also got a Lite Brite, which almost kills me with nostalgia.

Jensen: "You did have a Lite Brite when you were a kid, right?"
Me: "Yes!!!" Success! My childhood didn't totally suck!
Jensen: "But did you have pegs for it?"
Me: "Well, they hadn't invented that part yet, so we had to whittle our own out of sticks from the backyard."

He believed me.

Now he looks at me with an air of admiration and absolute pity. I probably deserve both.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sorry, can't blog now...

...Wii are kind of preoccupied. Back soon, promise.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


This, I do not understand: how is it that only a few days ago the winter solstice brought us the shortest day of the year? And today, December 24 is unquestionably the longest day of the year?

Today I spend wrapping up some last minute tasks (although I am not a high-pressure Christmas kind of a person) and preparing Christmas Eve dinner and getting the house ready for tomorrow morning's chaos.

But mostly today I spend pacifying the children, who will not think they can possibly wait until tomorrow morning. Whose happy anticipation threatens to spill over at every minute. Who will spend the day carefully watching the gifts under the tree and making sure the fireplace is ready for Santa, and who will by tonight be checking the skies and listening for bells outside their bedroom window.
Christmas here will be a magical day. I hope it is for you too. I wish you much happiness.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekly Winners

The week before Christmas, and we ate some pomegranate.

And had a snow day.

Or two.

Somebody got sick.

We dreamed a little.

And explored a bit.

And watched, and waited.

See all of this week's Weekly Winners participants here, at

Friday, December 19, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: Great Big Happy Family

This was all my cousins' fault. My older cousins, I might add.

Because of them, I was sneaking down the stairs in the middle of the night, barefoot, on Christmas Eve. I crept past my parents' bedroom. Past the room where my aunt and uncle were sleeping. And slowly, slowly, I descended, hoping the stairs didn't creak. Hoping my parents wouldn't wake up. Hoping to find magic.

This was bad. I was a very good girl. But this? This was very, very naughty.

And it thrilled me. In a terrible and beautiful way.

I was six years old, and my cousins had come for Christmas. We all camped out on my bedroom floor in our sleeping bags, even the little kids. After our parents tucked us in, we were too excited to sleep. We talked. We planned. We were going to catch Santa Claus.

Steve must have been the ringleader. He was, after all, the oldest and wisest. So when he declared he saw the red glow of Rudolph's nose outside the window, I just knew he was right. When he and his sister, Laurie, announced that somebody was going to have to go downstairs to bust the jolly old guy, I was right there with them. And when they told me I was the one to go, well... I would have followed them to the ends of the earth. I didn't like it. But I did it.

Downstairs I crept. I made it as far as the living room. That was all I needed to see. The room was overflowing with presents, glowing blue in the moonlight. The floor was covered, and the evidence was overwhelming: he had arrived. He had come and gone in the blink of an eye, had disappeared before I had seen him, and had set the scene for a joyous Christmas morning.

I was relieved. My mission was complete, I hadn't been caught, and I had pleased my cousins. Best of all: I had found magic.

I don't remember what I got for Christmas that year. It doesn't matter. What I remember, 32 years later, is the unbridled delight of that night. My belief was enchanted, my anticipation electrifying. My cousins had helped create one of the happiest memories of my life.

Until recently, my kids didn't have any cousins. Then they had two. As of this week, they have three (welcome, Jaden!). And any minute now, there will be yet another (hurry, Baby, hurry!). This is a mere handful compared to the bushel of cousins I have, but no matter.

They will be family; they will be cousins. Our brothers and sister and their children will come to visit at Christmas or during the summer or on birthdays. And our children will run off together to play and and to pretend and to scheme and to forge years of memories of their own.

My kids don't know it yet. But these cousins are the best Christmas gifts they'll ever receive.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First snow

(My first Wordless Wednesday offering....)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: Stocking Stuffers

More Christmas Joy, Three Kids Style! Today Evan shares his thoughts on justice and stocking stuffers. Feel the love....

Oooo, Evan's really thinking hard about this whole Santa Claus bit. Today on the way home from the grocery store he asked, apparently apropos of nothing, "Mommy, what's that thing that Santa brings you if you're not nice?"

"You mean coal?" I offered, wondering (hoping! foolishly!) if he was finally deciding to rectify his pre-Christmas behavior.

"Mmm-hmmm," he agreed.

He gave this idea some serious preschool thought. I could almost hear the gears turning in his sweet little head.

And then with complete glee and certainty and all the attitude a four-year-old who is out of arm's reach of his older brother can muster, he turned to the back seat and announced: "Hey Jensen! Know what?! You are gettin' coal for Christmas this year 'cause you are soooo naughty to me!!!"

Well. Glad we got that clarified, then.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Kids Christmas Blowout: The Tree

Christmas: it's coming! Or perhaps you were already aware. Anyway, I'm going to do some posts to let you know how we're doing Christmas, Three Kids Style. Chaos! Fun! And Very Much Happiness....

This is the Year of the Homemade Ornament.

You know that gorgeous tree on the front of the Pottery Barn catalog? Gold and bronze and white and perfect?

Yeah, that's not our tree. Not even a distant cousin.

Our tree is garish and bright and mismatched. It looks like Buddy the Elf got drunk and decorated. It's a real tree that's a little droopy and has some great big holes. It is perfect.

So, the handmade ornaments. It has been Arts and Crafts Central around our house. Here are the older boys proudly showing off some of their handiwork:

First they painted about 7425 wooden beads and put them on strings for garland. (Thanks, Grandma Jeri, for the artistic supervision. Oh, and the 5527 beads you personally painted.) (And also, thanks to Mr Lady for the superb idea, which somehow inspired me to do all the rest of the homemade stuff.) It looks like this:

Then they made candy canes out of beads and pipe cleaners. I remember these from when I was little. I thought they were beautiful. Still do:

Then Jensen went over to Grandpa Bill's workshop and used a (gulp) jigsaw and made some wooden ornaments for us. As an added bonus, Jensen returned home with all of his fingers. And some of these:

Then we made these cinnamon and applesauce cutouts that made the house smell so strongly of cinnamon that our eyes watered and the baby sneezed uncontrollably. These are another Blast from the Past; I remember making them with Mom when I was little:

Then we put it all together, and it is perfect. I know, I know: the tree leans. Perfect. And we don't have anything at all on the lower branches, because the decorations are so beautiful that Caleb cannot resist eating them. Again, perfect. The kids? love it. I? love it. Jeff? um, doesn't really say much about it, but I'm just sure he loves it too. (He's just reserved....)
So, behold: The Most Beautiful Christmas Tree Ever. Oh, and Pottery Barn? Yeah, you wish your tree looked this good.

If you have any ideas for handmade decorations, please leave a comment. We're definitely making more next year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faith Restored

I was having a bit of a breakdown last night.

You knew this was coming. I nursed Caleb for the last time. {sigh} I thought I was going to be sane, planned to be objective and strong, but when it was all said and done I was a mess. Melancholy, morose me.

Then my husband made popcorn and gave me a beer and sat me down in front of the television.

And you know what was on?

"Talladega Nights."

It saved me.

Please do not ask me how I ended up with the sense of humor of a teenage boy. Let's just chalk it up to me being complex and intriguing.

All I know is that there must be a God, and last night God sent Will Farrell to pull me back from an abyss of self-pity.

The end.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Next stop: Nice List

The Christmas anticipation has been a little hard on Evan. I'm not sure he knows what exactly he's anticipating, but he knows he's supposed to be excited and is behaving accordingly. His emotional thermostat is set somewhere between Irrationally Exuberant and Total Friggin' Meltdown.

If we all live until the 25th it might be considered a Christmas Miracle.

This is probably why I was so receptive the other day when he was in a quiet, cuddly mood. And he said, in his best Eddie Haskell impersonation, "Mommy, how is your body getting so thin? Look at you-- you're so skinny! I love you!"

Mind you, I am at least emotionally intact enough (most days, anyway) that neither my body image nor my self-worth are vulnerable to a four-year-old's perception of me. Still, he made me smile.

He's not wrong. Those of you who know me in real life (you lucky dogs!) know that, at about five feet 10 inches and a size four, or even a two, I am relatively thin. And perhaps he's remembering last Christmas season, when I was terminally pregnant and approximately the size of our minivan. So, objectively, he's right.

And I do not want to make too big a deal out of his comment.

But still, this has not been sitting entirely well with me. Why did he choose to comment on this? Where did he learn that this is a compliment? Why does he think that my thinness makes me worthy of his love, or at least the statement of his love?

Again, those of you who know me IRL (oh, your good fortune never ends!) know about my physical difference, my anomaly. (Those of you who don't know me: I should probably get around to explaining this sometime soon.) I grew up looking different than most people, and far different than any social construct of beauty. I'm really not terribly sensitive about it anymore, but I've learned a lot. For instance: value statements about physical traits are absolutely insubstantial. Criticisms or compliments, such comments miss the point. Ultimately they are empty. And I want my kids, eventually, to understand this.

(I also learned that adolescence absolutely sucks. But that's another post. Or maybe a novel.)

Evan was just happy the other day, conversing and practicing a social skill. No big deal. But still. He's already learning. Despite what Jeff and I attempt to model, he's absorbing these socially-enforced ideals of beauty and goodness and desirability. And it bothers me. Just a little. Just enough to let me know, as a parent, what I'm up against as I try to define the values I want my children to inherit.

However. He also called my dishwater-blonde hair "golden" the other day. "Mommy, your hair is beautiful and golden," he said. And it made me happy. I'm not immune. I just hope he's not doing this to get on Santa's Nice List....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A momentary lapse

I shouldn't want this.

But I do. I want it. I want to freeze this moment, this beautiful moment that defies adjectives. I want my baby to be a baby forever. I want him to nuzzle his face into the crook of my neck. I want his angel curls to smell of sweet baby shampoo. I want to share his whispered baby conversations. I want him to suck his fingers and stroke my hair when he is tired. I want his buttery skin to stay this soft, I want his legs to stay chubby and his pot-belly cute, and I want him to remain the happiest person I've ever known.

I want him to need me. To love me without question. I want his world to remain safe and bright and warm.

I want. Forever.

Most days I resist this. Most days I am more than happy to let time pass. I am content to let our future itself be testament to our past. Knowing that there is no sense in wishing for the impossible. Knowing that there are unforeseen and better moments to come. Knowing that even as I forget the details, this magical and challenging year that we have lived together will shape the people both of us will grow into. Most days I have faith.

But today I cannot resist. Today I remember that I've forgotten so much already. Today I remember that there will be no more babies to remind me. I struggle to impress this moment on my mind and soul indelibly. I do not want to forget a single heartbreaking detail. How can I remember? How can I make sure this moment never fades? I hold him closer, I close my eyes, I grasp. And I fail.

Today I want to hold him here forever.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Day I Turned One. By Caleb.

First my grandmas and grandpas came over because they love me.

Then I opened my presents.

Then I ate the bows.

Then I was cute.

Then we ate cake. (I was the only one who was naked.)

Then I was cute again. And fell asleep.

And then I was one.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Purge

Oh, the writer's block. I do not know why. I swear, just a week ago I had about 8362694 good ideas for posts. This week? Zilch. So I'm making a list. A brain-purging list.

1. My son's first birthday is in less than 48 hours. Mind you, we still don't have a gift for him. Furthermore, we have no idea what to get him. Further furthermore, Christmas is in three weeks, and we have no idea what to get the poor kid for that obligatory gift-giving day either. This, Caleb, is the burden of being the third boy-child. Get used to it....

2. This morning on my way to the gym I heard a song by Journey. (I am a child of the 70's and 80's. I adore Journey. Don't judge me.) Anyway, hearing this song brought about the jolting and disturbing realization that I had some kind of a lurid dream involving Steve Perry last night. I'm ashamed. And intrigued.

3. I have been in bed by 9pm every night this week. (While visions of Steve Perry dance in my head, evidently....) So perhaps I'm not having writer's block. Maybe I'm just hibernating.

4. Caleb is almost weaned-- it's gone off without a hitch. Which would be great except for the fact that it's making me insurmountably sad. This seems like it deserves its own post, perhaps. Because I know you're all dying to hear about my maternal instability.

5. John McCain strikes again: this one needs a little explanation. Maybe you remember that when Evan gets "dressed up" he thinks he looks like the Senator from Arizona. Today he decided to get dressed up. But he only made it half-way there before he got a little distracted. So when I left this morning he was dressed in a blue oxford shirt, a red sweater vest, and not a stitch of clothing from the waist down. And he was doing some kind of kung fu-inspired dance and singing, "I look like John McCain!" The potential analyses of this are disturbing. And hilarious.

This seems like a good place to stop. Hopefully next week I'll be inspired again....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Taking stock

I have no idea why I even bothered to get up yesterday. It pretty much seemed like I failed at every single thing I touched. Here's a list. Read it: you'll feel better about yourself.

  1. I was being all efficient and got to Lowe's bright and early-- did you know all their Christmas stuff is 50% off?! You know what else? It really sucks when you lock your keys in your car. I had to call my in-laws and totally admit what an idiot I am and they drove to my house and got my spare keys and came to bail me out, while I strolled around Lowe's with a whining four-year-old and a screaming baby. The guys in Lumber looked at me like I had an arm growing out of my head. This episode should have served as warning that the rest of my day would be best spent drinking Bailey's on the rocks, rather than trying to be productive.
  2. Turns out that at least half of what I bought was wrong and has to be returned.
  3. I left one of my bags in the store.
  4. I tried to get gas but couldn't make the pump work.
  5. I couldn't write a blog post to save my life.
  6. Hell, I couldn't even write a coherent grocery list.
  7. As a direct result of Failure #5, we had no usable food in the house. Unless you count whole wheat flour, two eggs, apple cider, an overripe banana, moldy sour cream, and Velveeta. Oh, and Bailey's. And plenty of beer. For some reason I was having trouble whipping that up into a meal.
  8. I ate ice cream. Twice.
  9. When I finally managed to scavenge some food it took 45 minutes longer to cook than I had anticipated, making my son and husband late for The Meeting of the Venerable Cub Scouts.
  10. Somewhere in the haze, Evan had a monster temper tantrum. Enormous.

Perhaps for the sake of comparison I should make a list of everything that went well yesterday:

  1. No one got arrested.
  2. No one got food poisoning.
  3. I got to watch "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with Evan. (The Burger Meister Meister Burger rocks.)
  4. I went to bed at 8:30. Such mediocre ineptitude (or is it inept mediocrity? a question for the ages) is exhausting.

Told ya.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I can't wait to get old

Here was my Thanksgiving: I had to travel 220 miles by myself. And when I say "by myself" I mean with three children. And no husband. (Having an awesome schedule is not a benefit of working in the healthcare industry.)

We stopped at McDonald's for lunch in Nowheresville, Iowa. At the same exact time as a van full of folks from the local retirement home. Fortunately I made it into line in front of them. (I was not in the mood to listen to six elderly ladies try to decide whether they wanted a chicken sandwich or a hamburger to go with their decaf.)

But as I got my tray, I noticed an Old Guy (really. old.) looking pointedly at Evan, who was holding onto my pant leg. He looked for a minute and said to me, "His shoe's untied."

I had one armful of squiggly baby and my other hand was precariously balancing a tray loaded with Happy Meals and life-sustaining Diet Coke (for me, not the kids, because pumping them full of caffeine and sticking them back in the van for the remainder of the trip would be suicide). Oh, and I'm a nurse. I've worked in a lot (lot!) of nursing homes in my time. Just so you know.

I smiled and said, "Yes! It is!" Evan's shoes are untied approximately 107% of the time. I really don't care. But Old Guy was not okay with this situation.

"Well, aren't you gonna tie it?" he said accusingly.

This struck me as ridiculous.

We exchanged blank stares for a minute, Old Guy waiting for me to tie the shoe and me considering the possibility that he was experiencing some degree of synaptic failure.

"Right, then!" I chirped and turned away.

Turns out Old Guy was seated at the table next to us. He was the only gentleman present, surrounded by a bevy of glowing, bewigged female admirers. Over his coffee and fish sandwich, he was holding forth about all sorts of stuff. I was kind of caught up in making sure the baby wasn't trying to steal my fries and listening to the big kids argue about important plot devices in "Madagascar 2," so I certainly wasn't paying attention to Old Guy's diatribe.

But then. Then I overheard him say, "And that will definitely get you laid."

I swear that's what he said. His adoring audience smiled benignly. They didn't really react as I would have. But I swear to God he was telling them how to get laid in The Home.

I think Evan spilled his milk right about then so I had to tear my attention away from his geriatric wisdom. But this half-unglued-alpha-male-octagenarian totally made my day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warning: may contain graphic cuteness. And thankfulness.

Technical difficulties solved (thanks to my brother-in-law), here is my blog video debut. It's not a minivan giveaway, but it's still worth watching.

I'm pretty sure that sometimes I come off as being a sarcastic ingrate. I am sarcastic, but I am very, very grateful for all that I have. Chief among my blessings are my superhero husband and three beautiful boys and the best family in the entire world. This, everyone, is why I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

A post about why there's no post

Oh no! I'm having some, um, technical difficulties. I'm working on a post titled, roughly, "What I am thankful for," (without the dangling preposition, of course) but am having trouble. I'll tell you what I'm not thankful for: a piece of sh*t stupid computer that seems to be in its death throes. Anyway. I'll be back, with a stupendous post that involves video! and music! and a minivan giveaway! Okay, scratch the minivan. But check back soon, cause after I get some help from my awesome, computerly-talented brother-in-law, I'll have a Thanksgiving surprise.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A little help, please

I think I'm having writer's block. I've been trying to write a post on National Adoption Month for days now. I finally just threw in the towel; it ain't gonna happen. There's too much I want to say, it's too tied in knots, and nobody would want to read it. So, I'm stealing a post from my sister, Ali, instead. She and her husband are adopting a son from South Korea next month. She wrote this recently, and I thought it was lovely:

Jaden will have three moms in his life. I think a lot about all three of these moms on a daily basis: his first mother, his foster mother, and me. I think about these three moms so much. I will meet his foster mother soon. She has taken care of him every day since he was just a tiny, tiny baby. She knows his cries when he is hungry, she took care of him this fall when he was sick, and she is preparing to say good-bye to him in the next few weeks. I want to write her a letter to have translated into Korean. I want to tell her how much peace her love and care has brought to my husband and me during these torturous weeks waiting to meet our son. I want to tell her thank you.

I may or may not ever meet Jaden's first mother-- his birthmother. Her story is one I cannot imagine, but her life will be linked forever to mine. I do not want to trivialize or minimalize her decisions and sacrifices by speculating what may or may not have been. But I do want to recognize that I think of her daily. She knew Jaden from the beginning, and has given us a son to love for a lifetime. Our gratitude for this is indescribable.

Over the past two weeks, I feel like I have started identifying as a mother. There is no rulebook here-- becoming a mother through adoption. I am overcome with excitement, fear, love, amazement, and awe simultaneously. I'm going to be Jaden's mom. I don't want to let his other two down.

Ali writes about her adoption process on her blog, Days of Our Lives. (Kindly direct all complaints about that unfortunate title to her.) Congratulations, Ali and Dustin. Words cannot express how happy I am for you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The glass half-full: at least he still had his pants

Sometimes I like to think I remember what it's like to be a kid. And then something happens to remind me that I have absolutely no clue.

For instance, take Friday.

It's fair to say that Jensen had a bad Friday. Among other things:
  • He didn't have a coat to wear to school (and it was pretty chilly) because he left it in Jeff's car the night before. Instead he wore a woefully inadequate sweatshirt.
  • His teacher moved him to a different desk because he keeps getting in trouble for talking too much.
  • He lost his hat and gloves. It was the second time he'd worn them.
  • I had the nerve to make him call the bus barn to check the lost and found for said hat and gloves. This was mortifying for him. This may be one of those moments he relives in a therapy session in 17 years.

He doesn't like to screw up (usually) and by bedtime the weight of the day had crushed him. He was in tears, and my mommy heart kind of ached for him.

Oh, but wait. Turns out he had withheld the best part. Saturday morning he worked up the nerve to tell me that he also lost his shirt at school.

I'll let that sink in.

Yes, he misplaced what most would consider to be an essential article of clothing. Don't you hate it when that happens? He doesn't really remember where or why he took it off. "I think my top half got kind of hot," was the best explanation he could offer. Which makes sense, in a random sort of way. Still, questions abound.

So, like I said, things like this prove that I really have no insight into my kids' realities. But even if I could remember how overwhelming it sometimes is to be seven, I truly don't think that inexplicably ending up half-naked would be on my radar.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The complete and total idiot's guide to Christmas card photos

Here's a fun! and easy! way to start the holiday season: a do-it-yourself Christmas card photo shoot! After all, nothing says "festive" like crying children and swearing parents. Want awesome holiday pics like ours? Here's a foolproof step-by-step guide:

1) Do not plan ahead. This is crucial. Pictures better reflect your kids' personalities when they're spontaneous. So spring it on them (and your photographer/husband) with no advanced warning. (Added bonus: your husband will love you for this!)

2) Get the kids completely wound up. This always makes for successful pictures.

3) Coordinated outfits are not necessary. Maybe try for something without food stains or holes, but really... who cares? Although, in retrospect, I kind of wish we'd gone with Evan's "A Very Camo Christmas" theme. Combat-themed Christmas cards rock.

4) Make sure your husband has to spend at least 37 minutes making unnecessary (he says "nuanced," whatever) camera adjustments. This gives the kids adequate time to start pinching each other and assures that someone will start crying.

5) Bribe kids with leftover Halloween candy that no one wants. Example: "I'll give you Milk Duds if you stop crying." It kind of works.

6) Time to put the baby in the frame! Be sure to get him overexcited so he wants to kiss everyone.

7) "Smile!"

8) "No, kids, your real smiles."
9) "Um, guys, could you maybe not show us your tonsils?"

10) {sigh} Put away the camera. Tell your husband to stop dropping f-bombs in front of the kids. Open a beer. Consider studying up on Photoshop; after all, with the 54 pictures he just took, there's gotta be something salvageable. Right?
11) Make a note to call the Sears Portrait Studio first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Motherhood is really hard, the weaning edition

Bony babies aren't cute. They look like scrawny birds. They look fetal, while at the same time looking eerily geriatric. But they do not look cute or cuddly or nurtured.

Caleb didn't gain weight for the first two months of his life. As a matter of fact he lost weight, and an alarming amount of it. It was only after we started "supplementing" breastfeeding with formula that he at least went into a weight holding-pattern. We never really figured out what was wrong. He fell asleep every time I put him to the breast. He didn't latch on well. He just didn't care.

When we poured formula down his little baby throat, he would accept it. This at least prevented the doctor from calling him "failure to thrive," which, despite my academic and clinical knowledge as a nurse, I heard as a criticism of my abilities. But I stubbornly would not give up the hope of breastfeeding. I nursed him every two hours, by the timer, around the clock. For sixty-some-odd days.

I cried. A lot. Every time I held his bony little body I felt a sickening thud of failure. Every time someone said, "Oh, he's so tiny!" I heard an indictment of my mothering abilities.

Breastfeeding had always come very easily for me and my babies. My first two babies were fat, pink piggies who nursed like champions, and I was a milk machine. This time, I felt dried up. Rejected. I did not recognize mothering from behind a bottle, but nursing, which had been the very definition of mothering for me, an act of nurturing, nourishing, and symbiosis, was failing. Nothing seemed right anymore. I didn't want formula to be the answer. But bottles were quickly becoming preferable to an exercise in desperation.

Then, he figured it out, almost literally overnight. His older brother was in the hospital, having had emergency lung surgery. I was at my wit's end, sleepless, worrying about two children. And he just started doing it right, and got fat and greedy and cute. Somehow, all those hours and tears and worries paid off.

And now? After all that hard work, the gratification of success, the struggle to define myself, yet again, as a mother, I'm weaning him. I am taking it away from him. After all that effort, I'm walking away from it.
Because I can't do it anymore.

Yes, breastfeeding is amazing. Beautiful. You know all the arguments. They're all true. And you know what else? It is one of the hardest things I've ever done. It leaves me exhausted, physically and emotionally. I can't eat enough to maintain energy for both of us. I'm still up at least once a night. I hate the way it makes my body look-- soft and matronly and indulgent. There are days when I just do not want to be touched, or needed in such a, well, needy way. I'm ready for Jeff to be the one who can make it all better sometimes. I want to recognize myself inside this body again. I am, quite literally, sucked dry.

So the weaning begins, hopefully to be done somewhere right around his first birthday next month.

And, as breastfeeding is a perfect metaphor for my mothering style, weaning is the logical extension of that metaphor. Where do I draw the line? How do I embrace the conflicting emotions that arise in this one parenting act? The wanting to be "free," the guilt associated with that desire?

I've done it twice before. This is the last time. One of these days, one of these nursings will be the last one-- the very thought leaves me feeling distinctly adrift. It's almost unthinkable that I will never do this again, that my little Caleb is growing apart from me, and that there will never be another little baby who needs me to give him sustenance. And yet. I am looking very forward to the liberation.

It's part of the complex balance that I must negotiate, measuring my impulses as mother, wife, woman, daughter, sister, me.... It's all in there, tugging at me, and none of it is black and white. I just have to find the best shade of gray that I can.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Can I just suspend his development now?

Jensen drew this picture of me this weekend. (And, yes, I did ask his permission to use it on my blog. I did not tell him what I was going to write about it. Whatever.)

I know, I know. There are a couple of problems with his rendering of moi. First: I have no hair. Second: what's going on with my nose? But those things pale in comparison with the real problem. Let's zoom in a bit:

Me: "Um, what's on my tummy?
Jensen: (all sly, wink, wink) "You know...."
Me: "Uh..." (I'm in a total panic, wondering if I'm pregnant again and my seven-year-old knows before I do. Once I decide that this is definitely not the case, I continue my query.)
Me: "No, I guess I really don't know what that is."
Jensen: (still sly, kind of pointing to his chest) "What do girls have that boys don't?"
Me: "..."
So tell me: what's more troubling? The fact that my kid drew my boobs, or the fact that they're on my abdomen? God, the truth hurts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do NOT put this inside a dead bird

I heard a rumor that Thanksgiving is approaching. Which seems pretty ridiculous, you know, because I could have sworn that it's still September. Early October at the latest. But, I looked at the calendar and it's true: Thanksgiving is next week. Insanity, I tell you.

Guess I'd better get thinking about food.

Interestingly, for someone who loves to cook and for a holiday completely centered around an enormous meal, I really don't like Thanksgiving dinner. It's all so geriatric cafeteria. Turkey? Bleh. Don't even get me started on gravy: it's slop. Cranberry sauce? Sweet potatoes with marshmallows? Are you joking?! But: I really like green bean casserole, the kind with cream of mushroom soup and those divine french-fried onions. And stuffing. I. love. stuffing.

In truth, I'm a food snob, kinda. I'm fully committed to things like fresh herbs and unsalted butter and homemade marinara and mincing my own garlic. Stuff like that. But my favorite stuffing is a far cry from any of that. It is comfort food. And it is heavenly.

The stuffing we make is a recipe from my Grandma Klages, a Depression-era German farmwife extraordinaire. Actually, the recipe came from one of her friends, I think. We make, like, quadruple recipes because it's so scrumptious. (Frequently I only eat this and the Green Bean Delight.) And you will notice that it does not call for real butter. Nope. It calls for "oleo," which is how my grandmother referred to margarine. Actually, the full name was "oleomargarine." Old School, man. Anyway, despite my uppity food ways, I have never used butter in this recipe.

Please also note that this stuffing does not get stuffed into a bird. That is a repulsive practice, as far as I'm concerned. (Seriously: shoving mushy bread up a dead bird's butt?! Who thought of this?) I actually physically gagged the first time I had stuffing that had actually been cooked inside a carcass: so goopy, so funky, so... ugh. Technically, I guess, this is "dressing" rather than "stuffing." Stuff, if you must. But you do so at your own risk. I will not stuff, and will stubbornly continue to call this "stuffing."

And a final note: it's a pretty loose recipe. I think most of the measurements are just estimates that have been written down over the years. It has not been refined in a test kitchen or written according to formula. You just kind of make it however seems right.

So here it is:
The Best Stuffing That Was Never Stuffed
1 package breadcrumbs (8 oz)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stick oleo
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups chicken broth (in my experience, it needs more so it doesn't get dry)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Poultry seasoning, or sage (it doesn't say how much. Maybe a teaspoon? More?)

Cook oleo, celery, and onion. Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Mix with breadcrumbs. Mix broth, milk, and eggs together. Stir into bread mixture. Bake in a 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Now I must go find a turkey, I suppose. I still can't believe Thanksgiving is next week. Seriously, I'm so lucky I don't live in Canada, because if I'd had to be ready for Thanksgiving a month ago, I'd have been completely hosed.

[Oh, and I'm contributing this to Mr. Lady's call for Thanksgiving recipes at
Whiskey in My Sippy Cup, which was one of the very first blogs I ever started reading and it is awesome. Seriously, I'm a complete blogging amateur and am totally unworthy of putting anything up there, but I'm just gonna suck it up and do it. (And she does live in Canada, by the way.)]

Friday, November 14, 2008


Ooo, a weekend! I'm so excited. I'm a little hesitant to tell you what we're doing, because I don't want to make anybody jealous. But I can tell you're dying to find out, so read on:

No school. God, I hate no-school days. This morning will be tolerable. It's the afternoon that's a bitch. However! Because I'll still harbor some fantasy that I'm borderline-competent, maybe when Caleb is napping we'll do something fun! and together! that good moms do with their kids, like make cookies!!! Which will be really fun for, like, two minutes and 29 seconds until Evan starts whining about how he wants a cookie before the oven is even heated and Jensen starts telling him to shut up and then they argue about who gets to help and somebody drops an egg on the floor and then I discover we're out of flour and Evan is still whining and Jensen thumps him on the back of the head and I start yelling which wakes up the baby who then screams for the next 45 minutes and I can get nothing else done and when Jeff (finally!) gets home the kitchen is a disaster, I'm a stark-raving bitch and two-thirds of the kids are crying and Jensen is big-kid surly and there are no cookies and I'm cracking open a beer.

Okay. So much for Friday. Let's move on.

I already hate Saturday. This morning Jeff leaves at 5:45am and won't return until Sunday. This day? Is the reason that God invented television and McDonald's. I will wake up Saturday morning already having abandoned any thoughts of competency. I suck. This is the day that I probably won't even take a shower. Doesn't matter, though, because I won't see another human being besides the children, who don't notice whether I get to eat, much less groom. My only adult interaction will occur on Facebook, which I will check compulsively but will have me in a total funk by about 12:30 pm because nobody is sending me messages because everyone else has a life.

And because I'm the sole parent here I won't even be able to drink. I'll have to self-medicate with large amounts of Doritos and left-over Halloween candy.

The only things that could make Saturday any worse would be a trip to Super WalMart, an outbreak of explosive diarrhea, or maybe a traumatic amputation.


Soon after breakfast, Jeff comes home. Yea! Today has to be better, right?

Hell, no. Because you know what I get to do this afternoon? Accompany Evan to a preschool birthday party. Betcha can't guess where? Oh, all, right: Chuck E. Cheese's. Which was invented by a germ-loving, parent-hating, bioterrorist crackhead who makes the worst pizza in the world. I don't even think the place has a liquor license, which means I'll have to take a flask. I think if I fill it with peppermint schnapps the other moms probably will just think I'm chewing gum to make my breath so minty-fresh and won't suspect it's because I'm hiding out behind the whack-a-mole game doing shots. I'll try to make it behind the ski-jump-thing to curl up and pass out.

So, yeah, that's the plan. I feel a little better, having gotten this off my chest. But still: it's gonna be a long-ass weekend. Feel free to send prayers. Condolences. Benzodiazepines. Whatever.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Maybe I'll enter another contest someday

I just won something!!!

The Blurb/Parent Bloggers Network Halloween photo contest, to be exact. Grand Prize, even.

I've been kind of waiting for the results, and was excited to the announcement in my reader this morning. I figured my best shot was at Best Handmade Costume. But my heart sank as I scrolled down, because when I saw the jellyfish that won that category, I knew I had been outdone.

"Better luck next time, me," I thought, and continued to scroll down to admire the remaining winners.

And I about passed out when I saw my little Jensen, all dressed up as a mummy, under "Grand Prize Winner." Shut. Up.

Seriously. I never enter contests, because I am shy and it feels like self-promotion to me, and I am the worst self-promoter in the entire world. If my life depended on me being a salesperson, I would die. No question.

But for some reason I entered the contest and now I have $75 toward publishing a Blurb book of my blog-- what better way to document my beginning ventures into this crazy blogging world?

Thanks a million to PBN and Blurb and their judges: Tracey of Mother May I and Shutter Sisters, Casey of Moosh in Indy, and Aimee of Greeblemonkey. Congratulations to the other winners with their amazing (seriously, the pink baby octupus? that is so cute it shouldn't be legal) costumes, and to all the entrants, who all had great costumes and great posts. And be sure to click through to see the winners here-- they're adorable!
Update: At breakfast, I told Jensen his picture won. "Isn't that exciting?!" I asked. He agreed that it was. Then, with all the seriousness a seven-year-old can muster, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "But, Mom, remember not to brag." Buzzkill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The National Association of Rubber Chickens for the Improvement of Public Education

I do not understand the power of the rubber chicken.

Jensen earned a prize at school the other day for meeting behavioral expectations. Woo-hoo! I guess he didn't bite anybody or pee on his desk or take a semi-automatic weapon to school. He damn well better not do those things, but according to his school, such remarkable behavior earned him a prize.

You know what he got? A friggin' rubber chicken. Public tax dollars at work.

But I should not belittle it. It's the best toy in the world.

The minute he touches it, he gets this smarmy look on his face and thinks he has been instantly transformed into The Funniest Person In The World.

The weird thing is, it has the same eerie power over the rest of us. The mere sight of it sends Evan into fits of giggles. Just talking about it cracks us up. "Jensen, take your chicken off the counter." "Your chicken smells bad." "No, you may not take your chicken to Cub Scouts." It's all too stupid. Jeff hid it in the bushes last night. A massive chicken hunt ensued. The kids collapsed with the sheer hilarity of it all. (I don't get it, either.)

So he got a prize for doing what we expect him to do. I'm not at all sure that sticker charts are going to counter the personal and societal demons that many kids wrestle-- the kids who do bite and bring weapons to school and other sad and scary things. Quite probably, rewards from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes are not going to provide enough incentive to motivate long-term success. But if they make day-to-day classroom management a bit easier, then so be it.

Now. I'm going to carefully back down off my soap box, go locate this chicken, and rig it up in a stock pot on the stovetop. That'll kill him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Political advertising dollars well-spent

Bear with me; or, more precisely, bear with Evan. I'm sure you're sick to death of politics and politicians. But Evan is only four, and is not known for adjusting to change well. The abrupt end to the feeding frenzy has left him feeling a bit lost.

You probably all know my political leanings. Evan, on the other hand, simply adores John McCain. Perhaps it's his grandfatherly appearance. Perhaps it's that he referred to everyone as his "friend." Perhaps it's the military connection; as a boy's boy, Evan has a developmentally-appropriate interest in all things explosive. I don't know, but Evan talks about him fondly. Every time he wears self-proclaimed "fancy clothes" (ie, shirts with buttons and without stains or tears), he struts around proudly and says, "I look like John McCain!"

Yesterday he drew this picture:

Evan: "Mommy, this one is John McCain and this one is George Bush. [thoughtful pause] Are John McCain and George Bush brothers?"

Me: "No, they aren't."

Evan: "But look at this picture. Don't you think they look a lot alike?"

Who can argue with such logic?

Anyway. I don't know whether the Obama campaign should be ashamed that a four-year-old took their advertisements so literally, or embarrassed that they didn't come up with this idea....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And this is how road rage starts

Jensen got kind of bored during that week he was quarantined and missed 157 days of school. In order to keep him from passing time by tattooing "love" and "hate" on his knuckles, we allowed him to play some video games.

So, there he sat, playing some kind of driving game. (Harrowing, by the way. Based on this demonstration, he may be allowed to drive when he's, like, 31.) He was wearing plastic Halloween vampire teeth, because what self-respecting seven-year-old boy doesn't wear vampire dentures while playing video games? I don't remember what I was doing, but for the sake of argument, let's say I was cleaning. Or pretending to clean. Whatever.

Oh, and before I go any further, let me just offer some self-defense: I have never (I don't think) dropped an F-bomb on another driver. Maybe some other charming stuff, but not that. At least not with kids in the car.

So, Jensen, driving like a maniac, suddenly cut loose with an explosive "Buck you!" Remember, vampire teeth: the "B" was pretty fuzzy. Not unlike an "F."

This, understandably, caught my attention. "Excuse me?" I politely inquired.

Jensen repeated, "Buck you!" Again with the fuzzy "B."

I icily asked to whom he was speaking.

"That other car! Buck you!"

Because I thought good parenting skills would dictate that I clarify before yelling, I asked, "Would you kindly remove the teeth and spell that?"

He removed the prosthetic teeth. And with enormous eye-rolling and sighing and condescension implying that I was quite possibly the stupidest creature to ever take in air, he enunciated:

"B. U. C. K. Y. O. U."

"Oh," I said, my mind temporarily dulled by his dramatically anticlimactic answer.

"What did you think I said, Mom? Gee-eez."

When he uses questionable vocabularial (?!) acquisitions, I'm usually pretty quick to go into full Boring Mom Mode: do you know what that means, is that really what you want to say, respect, blah, blah, blahhh-ahh-ahhh....

But I totally copped out on this one. Because: 1) I didn't really know what this meant; and 2) after the whole Wheat Thins Incident, I wasn't really sure I wanted to get into it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My husband, the technology buff

Despite all the contagion around here, Jeff managed to have a birthday. We got him a {gasp} digital camera. (A Nikon D-90, if you're a camera nerd like he is.) He was a little reluctant to give up the ol' film, but I forced him.

And now he's cuddling the owner's manual at night and won't quit talking about his new camera. He's all like, "Do you know how awesome this is?!" and I'm all like, "Um, yeah, honey, there's a reason you're the last person in the lower 48 to get one of these things."

He's all about the nature photography. He's taken exactly 29172650 photographs of leaves, trees, twigs, sunrises, acorns, bird poop, ponds, sunsets, insects, branches, clouds, and dead grass. (Okay, I'm joking about the bird poop. But not about the other stuff.)

And, I'll admit, they're pretty:

But I can only look at maybe 764 of those before I get a little bored. To redeem himself, though, he's been taking the kids on his photography hikes. So I have a whole bunch (like 200, without even exaggerating) of pictures like this:

And this:

And this:

I think next I'll introduce him to the internet. That'll really blow his mind.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When creme brulee goes bad

Having survived Halloween and CNN's totally stupid holographic coverage of the election, I can get back to writing about significant, news-worthy issues. Like vomit.

I cannot stand throw-up. It makes me limp and quivery. With division of labor, I'm the poop-parent, and Jeff's the puke-parent. He takes care of any mess that comes out the top end, and I take care of the bottom-end disasters.

Most of the time.

Sunday night, we were safely tucked into bed and I was peacefully not having nightmares about Sarah Palin being our president, but was awakened by the creepy feeling that someone was watching me.

Jensen was hovering over me. "Mom, my stomach hurts." Great. Evan had been throwing up (so. many. times.) for 24 hours, so this only made sense. And with a silent, decisive nod, he clapped his hand over his mouth, turned and bolted into our bathroom. Then, just as abruptly, he stopped running. And I heard a loud splat.

Jeff (who had also awakened by now) yelled, "Run!!!" So Jensen recommenced running to our toilet to finish the job.

Jeff took him upstairs to clean up, and I just lay in bed and waited for Jeff to return and clean up the carnage. But he didn't come back. For ages.

Finally, because I couldn't stand the stench anymore, I ventured into the bathroom to survey the damage. Jensen had puked creme brulee from Jeff's birthday dinner all over the place. Floor, toilet, walls, bathtub, door: everywhere.

Holy hell.

Creme brulee: heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar. (Definitely not for those with weak coronary-artery constitutions. But sooo good.) It was like cleaning up an oil slick (thankfully, there were no waterfowl in our bathroom, because it would have been an enormous pain to get them cleaned up). I used an entire roll of paper towels, and a lot of chemicals (I had to use something to cut the fat), but I got it done. I weakly made my way into the laundry room, where, to my happy surprise, a mountain of stinking bed linens awaited me. Gawd.

When Jeff had gone upstairs to help Jensen clean up, he found Evan in a dead sleep, entirely encrusted in dried vomit. He had thrown up in his sleep. And then Jensen threw up again. So I was forced to wash out two beds' worth of disgusting sheets. I cannot describe the depth of my disappointment. Between the bathroom and the chunky sheets, it took an hour and a half to clean up.

We threw open the windows, scrubbed grout, and cleaned floors multiple times. After about 36 hours, the nose-hair-singeing, lingering reek of vomit no longer permeated the air and our bathroom floor was no longer slippery and greasy. And while I'm tempted to say we've emerged from the puke-ocalypse, I really don't want to jinx anything.

And I think it's safe to say it'll be a while before I eat creme brulee again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I did not vote for Barack Obama because of the color of his skin. I voted for Barack Obama because I am a Democrat, and his ideology most closely matched mine in this election. Because he has a singular blend of superior intellect, insight, and charisma that give him leadership skills this nation sorely needs. Because I believe that "change" means something much deeper than simply putting a different body in the Oval Office. And probably some other reasons, too.

But last night: last night my tears of joy were because of the color of his skin.

Last night my tears of joy were for the millions of people in this nation who have never felt part of the national dialogue, who have been marginalized and disenfranchised and ignored by a country which only occasionally has a painfully honest discussion about race. The people who finally felt like they are valued threads in the fabric of our history, our democracy. People who have been hurt, and whose hurt has left them, and me, feeling powerless. But last night our country banded together to fight the pain.

I am not naive. I do not for a moment believe that this rights all wrongs, real or perceived, or that there will be no more wrongs. Nor do I believe that Obama is any sort of saviour or revolutionary. And of course there is still a nation to be governed, with wars and crises and many dysfuctional groups of various skin colors, various socioeconomic classes, various religious beliefs. The sheen will wear off this humbling election and the very real work will remain.

But last night, the world shifted just a bit.

Late last night I awoke Jensen to tell him that Obama had won. Through a sleepy, satisfied smile he murmured, "America elected its first brown president."

Yes, baby. Yes we did.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Put away the hate

You know what we do today: we choose.

Spirits are running high (myself included). That's great: that's how it should be. Get out there, cheer for your candidate, (more importantly) vote for your candidate, tell the world how you feel. It's become a bit tedious of late, and the campaign has seemed to last far too long, but for the first time I can remember in a presidential election, the air is sizzling. Awesome.

You know what we need to do tomorrow? Put away the hate.

Tomorrow (or tonight, depending on how sleep-deprived you are and how late you can stay up, so you where I fall) we'll know. Tomorrow it will be time to put away the spiteful accusations and underhanded dealings and the ludicrous hyperbole. It won't be easy; lots of things have been said, fires of fear and uncertainty have been stoked relentlessly. It won't necessarily be easy to extinguish those flames, but we really must.

You don't need to abandon your principles. By all means, hold your convictions. I just happen to feel very strongly that we should all hold fairness and respect as part of those convictions. Dissent plays an important role in politics. Unfortunately it's sometimes difficult to negotiate the line between dissent and disrespect. As happens every campaign, negotiation of that line has failed miserably. It's fair to say that "civility" has melted a bit in the heat of campaign rhetoric. Please help me reclaim it.

Today it is our responsibility to vote.

Tomorrow it is our responsibility to give congratulations and respect to the winner, to pour a big bucket of decency on the hateful embers of this long campaign.

Monday, November 3, 2008

He may just be presidential material

Here are a few special Evan moments from the past week:
  • On human rights: He drew a picture of a guy on a surfboard. (Surprisingly good detail.) He told me it was a "waterboarder" and that he was wearing a special suit so he didn't get hurt.
  • On politics: He has a t-shirt that says "Future President" on the front, a gift from a proud grandparent convinced of great things ahead. He wore it last week. Backwards.
  • On self-regulation: I found him plundering his Halloween candy Saturday morning. Told him he really needed to ask before gorging on sugar. He replied, "Well, I was by myself. So I asked myself. And myself said okay."
  • On fashion: We ran errands on Saturday. It took several hours. He insisted on wearing white socks on his hands the entire time. We got a few strange looks.
  • On bodily integrity: After vomiting for the fourth time the other night, he started crying. Because he was worried that his skeleton might get hurt.

He's a lot of fun to live with. When he's not puking or making us crazy, anyway.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or (cough, sniffle) treat (barf)

We are in the midst of a Week of Pestilence at our house. However, the infectious disease gods smiled on us on Friday, and granted us a 24-hour reprieve from all things febrile, snotty, and vomitous. (I don't care if it's not a word. You know what I mean.) We were able to trick-or-treat with a minimum of tuberculosis-like hacking, so the other parents out with their little non-crusty-nosed-cuties didn't look at us like we were criminals. This is good, since the kids were up at 6:15 Friday morning, jumping on my bed, yelling, "It's Halloween! It's Halloween!!!" We'd have had outright mutiny if they hadn't been able to go.

This is as good a group photo as we could get, and even this involved Grandpa Bill wrestling with Caleb. Calm, smiley, all-together-now-kids photo? Not gonna happen.

And: here it is! The Wall-E costume. It was pretty awesome, and a couple of people told me it was the best costume they saw all night. Which made the roughly 239 hours I spent on it almost worthwhile. In honor of all those hours (and Evan's insistence that he was going to be Wall-E), I'm totally entering this photo in Blurb's Halloween photo contest in the Best Handmade Costume Category:

And here's Jensen, looking creepier than I imagined he could. ("Cute" is soooo passe.... Even though he's still adorable.) (And, I know, the eye make-up's not so great, but he was done holding still. We had to make it quick.) As long as I'm at it, I'm entering this one in the same contest for the Best Photo:

Don't worry, things have returned to their sickly baseline here. After the Halloween break from all things infectious, the kids are back at it. Evan's been throwing up since last night. (And no, it's not from too much candy. I don't think.) Jensen suggested that we just dress them all in fluorescent green and they could go as germs. Which isn't a half-bad idea....
Thanks to Blurb/Parent Bloggers Network for sponsoring the photo contest.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This will have to do

Because I know myself too well, I realize I might have this year's Halloween pics posted by, oh, Easter. So, to hold you over, this is last year. Note: only two children.

At least maybe the pumpkins had fun

As I mentioned earlier, we carved pumpkins on Tuesday night. It was not a particularly fun experience.

When we were getting ready for bed that night, we were not discussing pumpkins. Nothing even remotely related to pumpkins. However, my butt muscles were sore, like I had gone for a long run or something. But I hadn't. So I mentioned this.

Me: "My butt muscles are sore, like I went for a long run or something. But I didn't."
Jeff: (in a truly caring and concerned voice) "Do you think you hurt it while you were carving pumpkins?" [emphasis added]
Me: "..."
Me: "?"
Me: "You are so weird."

So, seriously: what did he think I was doing to those pumpkins to make my ass hurt?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My contribution to the election dialogue

Being a "good" Democrat, two days ago I received an "invitation" to Obama's rally, RSVP requested. Here is my response. Read, and prepare to watch my poor tired brain actually melt:

Dear Senator Obama,

I regret to inform you that I will be unable to attend your rally tonight.

It's not that I don't want to be there. Outside, in the cold, with about 50,000 (give or take 43,000) of my closest friends who are waving signs and yelling and and looking toward you for political or financial or social salvation and trying to crush my child (who desperately wants to attend) and wanting to be a part of history or whatever. Ooo, maybe it will rain. It sounds awesome and I wish I could come. I do.

But, dude: 9:30? pm?! Is this a joke??!! The night before Halloween, when I must stay up late putting the finishing (aka "procrastinated") touches on the kids' Halloween costumes? (And by "late" I mean 9pm. At the outside.) After my kids have been sick and I've been sick and I really need a vacation from, well, not working and I've been a total insomniac and the thought of sacrificing a potential hour or two of sleep is enough to make me cry, even if it means I get to see you...?

No way. No. Way.

I want you to get elected next week. If my brain weren't numb from fatigue, I might try to verbalize my substantial feelings about the election and how interested I am in what the results will tell us about our country, but since I can't put together a coherent thought and since I'm pretty sure there's not a single angle of this protracted race that hasn't been analyzed to death, I'll just say "ditto" to all the liberal blogs (my guilty pleasure of late) and leave it at that. I really, really want you to win. But sorry, B. Can't come. Sleep wins. If I weren't so committed to you, I might cast a write-in vote for Sleep.

Have a good visit. I'll see you in the Huffington Post. And thanks for the invitation.

Sincerely, me

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's the Really Ugly Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

We took the "tough love" approach to pumpkin-carving last night.

Jensen has, in his seven and a half years, never placed his hand inside a pumpkin. He's always convinced us to do his dirty work. But not this year. "No scooping, no carving," we said. It worked. After several minutes of pouting, cajoling, and fake barfing, he sucked it up and scooped. And did a fair job. Fair.

Then it was time to carve. You know those carving kits they sell now? With all the (very useful, by the way) little saws and hundreds of completely impractical patterns so you can have your own "original" pumpkin? He wanted to one of those designs. If you're a parent, you know exactly where this is going. {groan}

(This, by the way, prompted all kinds of "when I was a kid" comments from his parents: "...we never needed any pattern to carve our pumpkins," and "...I don't see what's wrong with just doing a face with triangle eyes," and that sort of thing. We were only partly joking.)

He chose a spider. And worked hard on it for about seven minutes. During which time I helped Evan. Evan, you will recall, is four. And very prone to self-injury. He's not allowed within six feet of a carving utensil. So he dictated to me what he wanted on his tiny pumpkin: a t-rex (?!), frontal view, with nose holes. And boogers.

As soon as I finished that work of art, and it truly is something to behold, I got manipulated into finishing Jensen's spider. Yeah, so much for tough love.

When I finished, about 45 minutes later, Jensen was in bed, Evan and Caleb were crying, and Jeff was begging for beer. I was in a lovely mood.

We have the lamest pumpkins in the world this year. Maybe tonight I'll manage to find some candles so we can bask in the glow of their mediocrity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stop me now. Please.

I'm going to confide in you now, and what I say will probably shock you: I am a craft whore. I know, I know, I'm totally playing against type. A stay-at-home-mom who drives a mini-van and is also into crafts? Stunning.

Sadly true. I knit. I scrapbook. I cross-stitch, and I don't even like the finished product here. I quilt. I decorate cakes on occasion. If macrame were still popular, I'd be making plant hangers as if there were no tomorrow. (I made the coolest beaded macrame belt when I was, like, seven. I wish I still had it.) Hell, you could probably convince me to crochet those terrifying ladies in dresses with the garish plastic doll heads that my grandma used to put over the spare roll of toilet paper.... Yeah, I'd do it.

It's genetic. I got it from my mom, who puts me to shame. She never buys anything. She sees something in a store, says dismissively, "Oh, I could make that," and then goes home and does it, about a thousand times better than anything you could buy. It's true. Ask my sister.

This crafty-gene is relevant right now because it's Halloween. I've spent uncounted hours this week making costumes. A mummy? No problem. Wall-E? Has spiraled out of all control. My arsenal this week has consisted of: spray paint (lots of spray paint), a hot glue gun, acrylic paints, an exacto knife, a sponge, a Sharpie pen, felt, styrofoam, wooden dowels, construction paper, masking tape, safety goggles, craft foam, a staple gun, trash bags, a big ol' cardboard box, black tea, a sewing machine, and-- this one kills me-- decoupage medium. I kid you not. And I'm not done yet. In fact, I suspect I need to make another trip to the local craft superstore.

So I must sign off now and continue my costume construction. If the kids aren't good, maybe I'll just hot-glue them to the walls. (Kidding.) (Kind of.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Revenge of the boobs, or, How I learned to quit complaining

Last week, against my own better judgment, I wrote a post about how much I hate my boobs. The upshot was that they've become unelastic, unattractive, utilitarian (who knew how many "u" adjectives apply to human breasts?) appendages that I don't even recognize anymore. I was (and still am) tired of them and I said I wanted to have them removed.

Then Sunshine wrote a couple of nice
posts (thoughtful without being sentimental) in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and then I felt like a total dork for a) complaining, and b) threatening to cut my breasts off.

Evidently my boobs also took offense at my complaints, and decided to make me pay for my insensitivity. Friday afternoon (at about 4pm; too late to get into my regular doctor or to the urgent care clinic, of course) I came down with a blazing case of mastitis. In case you've never had the pleasure, I'll summarize: it's a breast infection (most common in breast-feeding women) that gives you a high fever and the infected boob gets a big lump in it and hurts like it's been put through a meat grinder, but the rest of you also feels so incredibly sh**ty that you don't really even notice the boob pain. It. Sucks. As a result of this lovely disease, I spent the weekend in bed with a fever that gave me convulsive chills and I hurt all over and hated everyone and everything.

(I'm feeling better now, thanks for asking.)

As awful as this weekend was, it was a mere annoyance compared to the unthinkable and all-too-common experience of breast cancer. My boobs (contrary to what I thought 48 hours ago) were not trying to kill me; they just wanted to make me suffer a bit. (It worked, by the way.)

Even in the midst of feeling like hell, though, a couple of thoughts occurred to me:
  1. While my boobs have become very irritating, I am lucky to have the luxury of even joking about removing them: there are maybe hundreds of thousands of women this year alone who will not have a choice in this matter; and
  2. My boobs are evidently even more powerful than I had heretofore imagined, and have the supernatural ability to exact vengeance on me when I am mean to them.

I had it easy. I went to the doctor and got a prescription and am well on the road to recovery. I will heal without going through months of soul-wrenching treatment, emptying my bank account, wrestling with my self-image, or being forced to face my own mortality. Next time I find a lump in my breast I may not be so lucky. I know that.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month.