Monday, April 6, 2009

Change of address

{crickets chirping}

No one is here.

Nope: I'm over at my brand-new blog, with my very own domain!

Go here. Now. It's very cool. Same me (funny, sexy, insightful, enlightening, empathetic, glamorous... fill in whatever flattering adjectives you'd like), new address.

That's where I'll be posting from now on. Update your subscriptions, your bookmarks, however you find me. Tell your friends. Tell your mom. I've moved, starting now.

So go.

What are you still doing here? Go. Now. You'll like it. See ya over there.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Through a child's eyes and other cliches

Evan drew this picture at preschool yesterday. "It's our family in our van, driving home the other night." "The other night" was the night it was 10:30 pm and we were barreling down the interstate approximately faster than the speed of light and Caleb was crying really hard and then threw up and everyone was unhappy. Anyway. Apparently Evan remembers it a little differently. Here's the art:

And here's my deconstruction, courtesy Child Psychiatry 101:

1. This is me. I'm smiling. And I have Crazy Eyes, which is alarming. And, also, accurate.
2. This is Evan. Silly me. I thought this was Jeff in the passenger seat. Emphatic no. It's Evan and he's the same size as I am and he's enormously happy to be next to me.
3. This is Jeff. He's tiny. And sticking his tongue out. And below me.
4. This is Jensen. Inexplicably, he has no hair and bears a striking resemblance to Ike from South Park*. He also lacks much by way of facial features. Hm.
5. This is Caleb, sitting in the way back and crying what appear to be tears of blood. Which is also rather accurate at this particular point in our trip.
6. Our mysterious sixth passenger. I quote the artist here: "I really don't know who that is, Mom." It's unclear whether he really thought there was an invisible person in the van with us that night, or whether this person just showed up in the drawing. Interesting.

Evan's world is a very interesting place. Also straight out of a textbook.
* In the interest of responsible parenting I feel like I should clarify: Evan has never seen South Park. (Even though it is, perhaps, my favorite tv show.) Therefore, any similarities to Ike must be purely coincidental, which makes it a bit more eerie.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kitchen Utensils and Marital Stability

The following is an example of why I know, in my heart, that Jeff and I will never get divorced. This discussion took place during dinner preparation the other night.
Me: Man, I really hate this potato masher.
Jeff: Me too. It sucks.
Me: I think we should commit to addressing this problem.
Jeff: Yeah.
Jeff: I'm really glad we had this talk.
Me: throws potato masher in trash can

Seriously, with communication like that, what could ever go wrong?

Never mind the fact that we will probably forget to buy a new potato masher. Never mind the fact that sometime next month one of us will be looking for the potato masher and will snark at the other, "What the hell did you do with the potato masher?!" and the other will respond, "Me? Why is it always me? I didn't do anything with it. What did you do with it?" And the other will mutter under his/her breath, "Whatever. Screw you." Never mind the fact that this scenario is a very real possibility.

Okay. But here's how I really know we'll never get divorced: that argument won't matter a bit. We'll forget to buy a new potato masher for the next 14 months, and we'll bicker about it. And it won't matter at all.

People like us, we could put Dr. Phil out of work. Maybe.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Where is Teresa? Why isn't she keeping us up-to-date on the thrilling! and fascinating! details of her week? Has she abandoned us?!

It certainly has been a thrilling and fascinating week here. And I would love nothing more than to tell you about our enthralling trip to Iowa to visit grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins; or the exciting story of doing laundry when we got home; or how great it is to have Jeff home on vacation and the boys home on spring break, and how I only want to strangle them a little bit and kind of can't wait for them to get the hell out of the house; or what a great day-trip we had on Wednesday visiting more aunts and uncles and cousins and how awesome it was when Caleb cried so hard he threw up in the van on the way home at 10:30 that night; or how (after making it known how much I dislike her) I decided to devote myself to cooking only Rachael Ray's recipes this week and how much my entire family has loved every single meal so I guess I'm retracting my complaints about her; or how Caleb has decided having his diaper changed is entirely undignified so he rolls around and tries to flop off the changing table and how he manages to get poop everywhere now; or how I finally decided to quit whining and get physical therapy for my knees and the therapist broke my heart but gave me exercises that have made my butt so sore I can hardly walk, much less sit down to pee....

I'd love to tell you about all these things. But I can't.

See, I'm busy acquiring my credentials to be a Certified Computer Geek.

I am venturing into the deep, dark world of self-hosting this little blog. Which is great. (!) But it requires a bit of education on my part. My computer time right now is being spent delving the underworld of the interwebs.

Sadly, then, I don't have time to tell you all the things I just told you about.

Back to learning about FTP. Or whatever it's called. Next thing you know I'll being playing World of Warcraft. Or hacking Gymboree. Or Pottery Barn. It's a slippery slope, this computer business.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In our own backyard

I'm so proud of Jensen. He's growing up, and he's reached a new developmental milestone: he's completely embarrassed by me. I'm an outcast. Awesome.

When I visit his classroom, I can see the excitement in his eyes. But he plays it cool, keeping his distance. He definitely doesn't want anyone else to know he's happy to see his mother. And public displays of affection have been completely outlawed. Yeah, it hurts, but it's okay; it's normal. And it gives me some power over him. When he gets a little uppity, I can put him in his place by whispering, "I love you." He immediately panics and dies a little inside and looks around to make sure none of his friends heard me.

In the confines of our home, though, he still lets himself be a little boy sometimes. Still needs hugs. Still wants to hold my hand. But only sometimes. We caught some of these increasingly-rare moments on film last week, but I had to promise not to show these photos to any of his friends. He's safe, as long as no eight-year-old boys read my blog (which would be very weird).

This kid-formerly-known-as-cuddly, he makes my heart sing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

In which I alienate half of my family

So there we were last weekend, watching basketball. Lots of basketball. Too much basketball. Perhaps everyone got a little tired of basketball.

Maybe because we were bored, we had a drink. Or two. Or three. The conversation started to get a little strange. Before I knew it, in an odd convergence of pop-cultural references, we were discussing basketball, Twitter, Howie Long, "On Golden Pond," and Rosie O'Donnell.

But that wasn't the strange part. The strange part was when my brother-in-law Dustin felt compelled to share (out of the clear blue sky): "You know, I think Stephen Colbert is my man-crush."

It immediately got stranger when my husband added, "I'd have to say that, from an avuncular* standpoint, Warren Buffet is my mine."

All I can say is that I love it when people hand me blog posts on a silver platter.
*Avuncular meaning "like an uncle." Truly, I don't want to know why my husband associates "uncle-like" with bromance. Do not think for a minute that this doesn't disturb me.
Oh, and my sincerest apologies to Stephen Colbert, Warren Buffet, and Photoshop.
Oh, and: Truce?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Death by Five Iron

Last night I had the opportunity to play Wii Golf. Most people wouldn't guess that I was on the golf team in high school. Nor would they guess that I was a bit of a cheerleader. But I was both. And I'll tell you what: that Wii Golf is a (frighteningly) realistic game.

In tenth grade, for reasons even I don't understand, I joined the golf team. I lived in a tiny, nine-hole-course-in-the-middle-of-a-cornfield kind of town. You didn't have to try out for the team, although I'm guessing they re-thought that policy after I left.

I had never even teed off, much less played nine holes, much less eighteen. My parents weren't small-town country club people, so I hadn't even golfed casually. But I'm a quick study and I was determined, so I got myself a cheap set of clubs and hit the links.

It. Sucked.

It was boring. God, was it boring. (The only thing more mind-numbing than watching golf on television is actually playing golf.) It took hours of my time after school every night. Because it was Iowa in the spring, it was freezing. We had fluorescent golf balls because sometimes it snowed. The coach was 27 different kinds of mean. And most of all, I was the worst golfer who ever golfed.

I'm not just saying that for effect or to be modest. If memory serves me correctly, my career best score on a podunk nine-hole course was 97. (Which may also be my career best bowling score. Coincidence? I think not.)

But I wasn't a quitter. I stuck with it.

For a while.

Until The Meet Which Shall Remain Nameless, in a town about an hour away. I was assigned to golf with three girls from the other school, which for a 16-year-old girl is a fate worse than death. I hit divot after divot, lost ball after ball. I got so mad that I threw my club, which the coach conveniently witnessed. (He yelled at me.) It was 45 degrees and I was miserable.

I was down to my very last ball. And I hit it. Into the creek.

There was no choice but to retrieve it. So I climbed down the muddy banks of the creek, reached over to get my ball... and fell into the water.

Immediately I decided I didn't really need that ball. Because right then and there, I realized my brief but storied golf career was over. I climbed out of the water, grabbed my clubs, and turned my back on a life of pseudo-elite ugly shoes and stupid little skirts and sun visors. I walked quietly back to the bus and that's where I sat until it was time for the long ride home.

So back to Wii Golf, last night. We played for a while, and I finished 14 over par. After two holes.

Like I said: realistic.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What's The Deal With That?

There we were, innocently looking for oatmeal in the cereal aisle. And this geriatric-ish lady who was apparently looking for All-Bran (or whatever, but I'm pretty sure she looked like the All-Bran type), smiled at my kids. And said to me, "Don't you think the baby is a little fat?"

WTF?! I didn't say that out loud. And I'm pretty sure I didn't kick her in the nuts. But I could have.

The thing is, she's not the first person to make that observation. Several people have said it, even family members. Can someone please explain to me why people think it's okay to say something like that?

Even if he were fat, is there some kind of alternate universe where it's okay to point that out? Did I miss some sort of loophole in Decency 101? Even my four-year-old knows better than to say things like this. I think. I hope.

But: he's not fat. He's perfect. Of course, as his mother, I am genetically required to think that. You judge. Is his baby chub so alarming that you would ever feel compelled to call it to my attention?

Nope, didn't think so.

People: he's a toddler. Last I knew, they are not supposed to be anorexic.

He used to be anorexic. This is the same baby who weighed six and a half scrawny pounds until he was two months old. It took him that long to gain any weight. He was bony. And bony babies are frightening. So chubby? Seems especially gratifying on him.

I pay very little attention to growth curves. But I have to have some defense against people who apparently have no control over what they say. His numbers? As of yesterday, he is in the 75th percentile for height and 60th percentile for weight. See? He's actually underweight! He's practically wasting away, for God's sake. Take that, All-Bran Lady.

So: what's the deal with people thinking it's okay to say things like that?

And, um, what's the deal with me being so sensitive about it?

Supermommy (who has amazing Photoshop skills, by the way) is hosting a new feature: "What's the Deal with That?" Wednesday. Check out more entries (or rants, as the case may be) here.

What’s the Deal With That?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


These are some of my school portraits. My impulse is to try to narrate these photos. I want to write about them and capture what happened to me. I want to put words to it all.

But I don't think I need to.

1974, age four

1975, age five

1976, age six

1977, age seven

1978, age eight

1979, age nine

1980, age ten

And that was me. That is me.

Do I need to tell you that my mother sewed most of those clothes, and that I adored them? Do I need to tell you that, starting when I was eight, the photographers always positioned me very carefully in order to hide the massive defect lurking on the left side of my neck? Do I need to tell you how much I hated Picture Day?

Do I need to tell you that these pictures still hurt?


But I should tell you this. My eight-year-old looked at these photos. And he became quiet and was obviously confused. "What happened, Mom? Why were you so sad? Why did you stop smiling?" he asked.

My response surprised me a little. Because even though I had tears in my eyes, I smiled at him. Not an awkward smile. Not a pacifying smile. Not a fake smile.

I smiled genuinely, with almost overwhelming happiness. Because even though the pain of that little girl is still a part of me, I made it. The tumor didn't kill me. The sadness didn't kill me. I made it.

And now? Now I smile.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A nooth gwush on my tooth bwush

Evan has conquered the "l!" No longer do we hear "wego" instead of "lego" or "wike" instead of "like" or "heh-wo" instead of "hello." Nope. He is the master of the "l."

The "r?" Not quite.

Red is "wed." "Tired" is "ti-uwd." "Crazy" is "cwazy." And so on.

So the other day I had a bit of a jolt when he said to me, with no prior warning, "There's a wocket in my pocket."

Ahem. My first thought was, honestly, "That, dear Evan, is too much information."

Turns out he was innocently mentioning the Dr. Seuss book. Really, I wish he'd give me a little context before he brings up things like that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

These days

Hey, you know what a stay-at-home-mother of a free-range toddler accomplishes during the day? Not a damn thing. Know what a stay-at-home-mother of a free-range toddler who has cut back to one nap a day accomplishes? Exactly half of not a damn thing.

It's been a long week, and I've concluded I'm a slow learner. Because this toddler-induced-havoc is no easier for me now than it was seven years ago.

Call it Chaos Equilibrium. My house is a mess. But it's probably less messy than it would be if I tried to actually clean it up. So in the interest of losing as little ground as possible, not to mention my toddler's safety, I've just thrown in the towel. I know this will pass. But until it does, I'm going to feel like a massive failure.

Here's a (very) abbreviated list of all the things I don't do anymore. It's awesome.

  • Unload the dishwasher. I can't open the dishwasher, because Caleb loves nothing more than to crawl inside and pull out, say, knives. Or (if the dishes therein are dirty) he makes a snack from day-old sour cream and dessicated chicken. The corollary here, of course, is that I can't load the dishwasher either. Which means that dirty dishes pile up on the counter all day long, mocking my worthlessness every time I enter the kitchen. I swear I can actually hear the dishes laughing at me. (Or perhaps that's because I'm delusional. Whatever.)

  • Nourish myself. I'll go to the ends of the earth to make sure my kids get whole grains and fresh fruits and/or vegetables at every meal. Meanwhile, my lunch yesterday consisted of a handful of potato chips eaten while I stood at the kitchen counter. I've also grown fond of (ahem) Shamrock Shakes from the drive-thru. But it's all I can do to feed the kids before Caleb is in the refrigerator eating rotting cilantro or raw pork. If I took time to make something for myself he'd probably have power tools out and be embarking on some home renovation.

  • Give a rat's ass about my appearance. This fact was helpfully driven home yesterday as I tried to avoid eye contact with the other moms at preschool pick-up. Now, I did shower yesterday. And I think I brushed my teeth, but don't quote me on that. I do know for an actual fact that I forgot deoderant. I laugh in the face of make-up. And if my clothing doesn't sport at least one stain and 7% spandex, I'm overdressed.

  • Go to the bathroom without a little boy looking up my crotch. Or unrolling the toilet paper all over the floor. Neither one fazes me anymore.

  • Fold laundry. Vacuum. Clean windows. Ad nauseum. I can't even be bothered to explain the apocalyptic things that transpire when I dare pay attention to anything that isn't a 23-pound squawking, walking, pooping ball of joy. (One word: Staplegate.)

  • Write a decent blog post. Apparently. Self-explanatory.

  • Do "arts and crafts" or "educational activities" or other things that good parents do with their children. *snorts with laughter* (I think I should get bonus points for stacking blocks with Caleb for, like, 45 minutes yesterday, though.) (He didn't even notice that my eyes were glazed over and I was drooling.)

So, yes. Chaos Equilibrium. Feeling like an epic failure. The thing is, nobody around here really cares besides me. This should probably be a comfort. But, you know? It's really not. I guess it's time to pull up my yoga pants, straighten my ratty t-shirt, and get on with the important business of accomplishing nothing. Because that's my job, and it's time to come to grips with it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In which I avoid all maternal sentimentality

Eight years ago yesterday, I got this:

Okay, I didn't just "get" him. My midwife had to drag him from my limp, spent body after 33 hours of labor and three and a half hours of pushing and swearing and punching my husband. Still, I couldn't have been happier if someone had just handed him to me with a pretty bow on his precious, slimy head.

Anyway. Yesterday, this was what he looked like:

Yeah, he's turning into a big kid. I can't say anything about this that hasn't been said before, so I'll spare you the over-the-top sentimentality (for today, anyway). Instead I'll share with you his oh-so-elaborate big-kid birthday wish list:

  • An iPod Touch. As if.
  • For me to be his "maid." Because, you know, I don't serve this function every other day of the year. But specifically, he wanted me to make his bed, clear his dishes from the table, and put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper.
  • Sugared cereal for breakfast.
  • And an exotic birthday dinner consisting of grilled cheese, on white, with American cheese. (He's lived here long enough to know that if he doesn't specify he'll get cheddar on wheat and that is most definitely not birthday fare.) A side of fries. "The kind you buy in the freezer at the store and then put in the oven," he specified. "Oh, and we should probably have some vegetables with that," he continued. "How about broccoli?" Yeah, my kid asked for broccoli on his birthday. And he's apparently a pretty cheap date.

It pretty much goes without saying that there was no iPod. But he didn't mind. The Cocoa Krispies and mushy white bread more than made up for that. Maybe next year he'll go really crazy and ask for, like, a can of soup. Dream big, big boy.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Birds and bees and frogs

Ah, spring. Warmer air, longer days, green grass. And the incessant chirping of millions of horny frogs in our backyard.

Our yard backs a creek bed. Turns out the creek is a hotbed of amphibian lust. At the beginning of the week, we noticed a soft hum. It has now grown to a dull, annoying roar. While the frogs have impressive stamina, it's irritating.

Last night it was embarrassingly loud, leading to this brief discussion.

Jensen: "Hm. Frogs must be mating."
Me: "uh..." (Really, not a big deal. But it was the first time he had discussed "mating" with me and I was oh-so-briefly stunned.)
Me again: "I wonder what 'mating' means...." (Awesome recovery, huh? He thought, rightfully, that I was a total dork.)
Jensen: "It means they're trying to make babies, Mom." (Just a hint of an eye roll, combined with a ripple of shut-up-I-am-so-not-discussing-this-with-you-Mom.)

Okay, so he now knows what "mating" means, at least in a general sense. This is progress. It means his understanding of things reproductive and/or amorous has advanced beyond the Wheat Thins phase. Which is highly reassuring.

Perhaps I should thank the frogs for such a meaningful educational opportunity. Mostly, though, I just hope that they're all satisfied soon. Because the mental image of what's going on back there is just gross.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

In honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, Evan's preschool is celebrating Wacky Wednesday today. Nothing could be more appropriate for Evan, because, well, Evan.

Behold, my stylish and introverted son:

Oh, look: he's acting sweet:

Dancing, not scratching his butt. Really:

To be honest, this is pretty much how he dresses everyday. At least today he has an excuse. You can't really see the red and blue hair gel, but it's highly cool. Oh, and I convinced him not to wear the socks on his hands. But they really did complete the look.
He gets his fashion sense from his dad. 100%.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Losing my cool

Here's some good news: Caleb's abdominal x-ray yesterday was clear, meaning that there are no more staples in his intestines. Which implies that there were at one point staples in his intestines. Which is true, because last Sunday he ate a bunch of them in an episode my sister now refers to as "Staplegate."

You know what's scary? Having your toddler smile at you and show you a mouth full of shiny and silver and very sharp staples.

You know what's scarier? Completely freaking out about it.

Which I promptly did. I could only imagine horrible consequences to what happened, but didn't want to imagine that any of those things could happen to my baby. Somewhere between those conflicting impulses, my brain short-circuited. (Ask the older boys. They will probably confirm lots of yelling and perhaps some crying on my part.) My husband, from out of town of course, had to ask the right questions and gather the right information and tell me to take our son to the emergency room.

Which I should have known. I used to be an ICU nurse. I used to thrive on emergencies.

I worked in an ICU with inconceivably ill patients, patients on ventilators and continuous dialysis and with EEG machines and invasive heart monitors and sometimes invasive brain monitors. I managed emergencies daily. Several times a day, even. The mantra of any good ICU nurse is, "What is the worst thing that could happen to my patient today, and how will I respond?" That's how I thought. That's how I handled crises that verged on tragedy.

And tragedy was commonplace. Cardiac arrest. Patients who just stopped breathing. Or pulled out their life-saving breathing tubes. Or bled out. Or had near-fatal seizures. Those things were, sadly, routine. Once I had to take down a psychotic patient who was attempting to stab me with a syringe full of his HIV-positive blood. Another time I had to confront a patient's mother who shot up meth at her son's bedside, right in front of me. And so on and so forth.

Through it all I learned to be cool. Quiet. Deliberate. I was an adrenaline junkie, but I was very controlled. And I was good at it. Because I let my imagination run wild and was prepared for the worst possible scenario at any given moment.

But now I have lost my cool. I cannot be a mother the same way I was an ICU nurse. "What's the worst thing that could happen?" This is a question I cannot allow myself, as a mother. The worst is unthinkable. But it is a question that is always roiling beneath the surface. I wake up in the night and wonder if the baby is breathing. When the kids go outside to play I hope nobody gets abducted. When they ride in someone else's car, I fear a fatal car accident. (It's a bit humbling to admit these terrifying instincts. Please tell me I'm not alone.)

But I cannot allow these doubts to become conscious thoughts. Not the least because I do not want to overparent and raise my children in a paranoid bubble. But also because I've become superstitious: if I give words to those thoughts, they might come true. I might actually make them happen by thinking them. I know that's irrational. But I still think it.

So when Caleb ate staples (and the x-ray at the ER proved that he did), the ICU nurse in me knew what to worry about: GI bleed. Bowel perforation. Sepsis. But the mother in me could not think those things. I was stuck between knowing and absolutely not wanting to know, and I panicked.

All is well now. Caleb's good. I figured out where he got the staples and have addressed that (let's just say an older brother thinks the stapler is really interesting). And after a glorious week of examining dirty diapers and worrying about his every hiccup or whine, I'm fine. I'm thinking I need to work on my emergency protocol, but still: we're all okay.

So, if anyone wants to nominate me for Mother of the Year now, that'd be great. Just don't all speak up at once. That would just be embarrassing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are you there, God? It's me...

Just a follow-up to let you know that Evan remains at the top of his game.

Over the weekend, he was curious about punctuation marks. Being the English-degree-type that I am, I was more than happy to embark on this thrilling discussion. I figured the question marks and exclamation points would be his favorites. They're dramatic! Fun!! Expressive!!!

But, no, he liked the periods.

He liked them so much that he began decorating his drawings with periods.

"Hey, Evan, tell me about your picture," I said. Innocently.

More than a little condescendingly, he answered, "Well, Mom, it's a girl. With a period."

I swear, I cannot make this stuff up.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good morning, sunshine

I'll admit it: I'm not a morning person.

But every once in a while, a morning comes along that reminds me how much I hate mornings. Take today, for instance.

1) At 5:45 this morning, Jeff comes to the sofa and wakes me up and I have a stiff neck from hell. (Here's something fun: Jeff snores like a friggin' bear. And is self-righteous about it. So last night, for the very first time ever, I got pissed off and slept on the sofa and fell asleep to a decidedly un-funny Conan O'Brian rerun and got about five hours of sleep and woke up even more pissed off. I swear to God that if Jeff does not address this snoring issue, things will get nuclear around here. Dude had better bring me flowers tonight. He won't. Maybe you should call him and tell him it would be a damn good idea. But I digress.)

2) Before I am out of the shower (where I plan my husband's untimely demise, because I do my best thinking in the shower), before I have a cup of coffee in my irrational self, Caleb wakes up screaming. Perfect. He screams for two hours. Perfecter. Evan then wakes up and whines at me for an hour. Perfectest.

3) Cue thunderstorm. Jensen is petrified of thunderstorms and plasters himself to my side.

(Backstory: our family has some collective post-traumatic stress disorder regarding thunderstorms. A few years ago we had something pretty awful happen during a storm and, turns out, we're all a little freaky about it. We need therapy.)

So here's where we are so far: I am homicidal, Caleb is screaming, Evan is whining, and Jensen has reverted to age three. Okay, on with the story.

4) Because the children have secretly decided they hate me and want me to move out, my breakfast consists of lukewarm coffee and stale rocky road brownies that I shove in my face as I stand over the sink while three children attempt to climb my legs.

5) I decide to take Jensen to school. Seems wise. As much as I am tempted, I choose not to make him wait at the bus stop in the hail and lightning. 'Cause I'm nice like that.

6) I indulge Evan and tell him he doesn't have to wear shoes in the car. And to play along I wear my slippers. After all, we're just dropping Jensen off and don't have to get out of the car.

7) About a mile down the winding road in the pouring rain in morning traffic, Evan yells, "I'm sick! I'm going to throw up!!!" I yell, "NO!!! Hold it! Don't let it out!!!" And I do not know what to do because we are not wearing shoes. I pull over on a country road and frantically look for something-- anything!-- to use as a barf bucket. Fortunately, yesterday I bought an enormous pink Rubbermaid container (for Valentine's decorations, because I like my storeroom to be color-coded, no joke) and left it in the van. (Some might call that being lazy. I call it planning ahead.) And that's all I have for him. So there he sits, crying and compliantly puking into this pink box that is bigger than he is. And from the back of the van Jensen is yelling, "This is just great! I'm going to be late to school!"

8) We drive to school in a van that reeks of throw-up. But: Jensen wasn't late! (And I have to cling to that fact because it's the only damn thing that went right all morning.)

9) We get home and I think the hell must be over. I decide I'm going to pick up the pieces and get on with my day. I take the Rubbermaid box to the sink to wash it out. And as I am rinsing it out with the sprayer, the sprayer explodes and shoots water and vomit everywhere. All over me. All over the ceiling. (Did I mention that Evan ate blackberries for breakfast?)

And that's where we are so far. Caleb's napping. Evan's curled up on the sofa (you know, the place I slept last night...) with an old trash can and a baby blanket, watching Sesame Street. And I'm wondering what kind of cocktail is acceptable at 9:50 am. Scotch seems a little heavy for this time of day. Tequila shots? Gin? Beer? I'll let you know what I decide.

Update: As I prepared to hit "Publish" about five minutes ago, our brand-new bazillion-dollar television just quit working and won't turn on. And Evan is still sick on the sofa and can't go to school today. And Caleb woke up screaming from his nap. And I've decided on tequila. Just so you know.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Does this mean I get a black bodysuit and a whip?

I think I stopped paying attention to Evan for a while. (With three kids, somebody's always getting the short end of the attention stick. So far they've all survived.) Because I kind of forgot how funny he is. But this week he's been in rare form. Witness:

Upon asking what sugar is made of, during orgiastic consumption of Valentine's candy: "What? Sugar is made out of sugar?! That's amazing! I LOVE sugar!!!" Yes. Yes, he does. Like this.

Unprompted comment, upon sitting down at the table for lunch: "Whew. Good thing I am not bleeding." Which is true. It's always a good thing when no one is bleeding. Except it's more true for Evan than for most. (See here. Or here. Or here.)

"Mom, we're like the Penguin and Catwoman." How so, Evan? "Well, the Penguin is in love with Catwoman and they're going to get married. And I'm in love with you and we're going to get married, too." But, Evan, I'm already married to Dad. "What?! When did you do that???"

From behind the closed bathroom door. Which had been closed for an alarming amount of time: "Um, Mom, do you twust me? Just twust me, Mom. Twust me."

He's very fun, this kid. I might consider renting him out.... Contact me if you're interested.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The order of things

This time, the third time, I was prepared.

But still: that did not prevent my breath from catching, for just a moment, when I realized that you were walking away from me.

Because that's what you were born to do.

Safe journeys, little one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tough stuff

"You know, I'm thinking about getting some piercings," Jensen announced at the dinner table on Saturday.

Specifically, he was thinking about his eyebrow, his nose, and his lip. And maybe his tongue.

He's seven. And, ever the optimist, he looked hopefully from Jeff to me.

This was easy, obvious. No. You can't [pierce, tattoo, smoke, swear, fill in the blank] until you're old enough to understand the consequences. Easy. And he accepted our answer without protest.

"That's okay. Maybe when I'm a teenager," he said, giving us a few years' reprieve.

He won't accept "no" so easily when he's seventeen.

Already, the questions are getting tougher. Some are philosophical, some are (um) mechanical, some are moral. Some are yes/no questions. Some require reference materials. But regardless of their nature, the things he thinks about are becoming more challenging, and he's thinking more critically about our answers. Gone are the days of, "How come my hair is curly?" or "Why is the grass green?"

Now it's this:

"Is God a person?"

"What is sexual maturity?"

And, sickeningly, after a recent local gang bust, when all the suspects' photos were published on the front page of the newspaper, "Why do so many people in gangs have brown skin?"

Our approach to the Big Questions has always been to give as much honest information as he seems to be ready for, to be open to further questions, to try to communicate our moral convictions. And to be honest when we don't know the answers.

It's worked. So far. But I'm not naive. His growing mind and his growing conscience are going to start pushing us more.

Truthfully, I think most of what we teach him will be passive, will occur in day-to-day life rather than in some grand pronouncements. But I like the Big Questions. I like the gray areas. I like having to resist the temptation to answer questions with overly simplistic black and white answers. There are times when black and white applies, of course. No hurting other people. No stealing. No piercings on a seven-year-old. Some things are wrong, and some things are right. But a lot of things are somewhere in between, and he's starting to venture into the gray.

And the questions are going to keep getting tougher. The innocence is ending. There are times when I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge, or if I will be in the years to come.

So, I'm looking for some input. What is the hardest question your growing kids have asked? How did you respond?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Keeping house

It's Sunday. Slow blog day. Time to catch up on a couple of things.

I do not like housekeeping. I do not like blog housekeeping, either. I like the writing and the posting and the commenting. I hate the housekeeping. I've been neglecting it. But! Here I am, trying to straighten things up just a bit.

Two little things I need to share, both in the Shameless Self-Promotion Department. (If there's anything I'm worse at than housekeeping, it's self-promotion. Really. So I'm really going out on a limb with this. Please make it worth my while.)

The first is embarrassing. I was messing around with Feedburner this week and, um, totally screwed up the link. So if you subscribe, your subscription was probably lost. (Yet one more reason I am not a computer engineer....) I set it all back up again and promise never, ever to touch it again. So just please subscribe. Again.

Second: Twitter. Yep, it's true. I love it! And now I've dusted off my old account and am actually using it. I opened it a few months ago and then didn't do a thing with it. But now I need some help. Please note, to your right, the "Follow me on Twitter" button. Click it. Follow me. I have embarrassingly few followers, but I'm new. Help my fragile ego.... Follow me! (And, need I remind you? Three boys. Ridiculous things happen around here all the time. Probably you want the details.)

Okay, that's it. That's all the housekeeping and groveling I can take for one day. See you on Twitter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Out sick

This isn't a post. It's an anti-post. It's a post about why it's not a post.

Okay, fine then: it's an excuse.

But you see? This is still kicking my butt. And I could live with drowning in my own snot and sounding like I've been smoking four packs a day since I was three and with the frequent attempts to actually cough up lung tissue. But another symptom seems to be that I have been robbed of all motivation to remain upright or awake. I am pathologically tired.

And I have to dig deep, because I have to be "on" all weekend. Because my husband is working two 24-hour on-call shifts at the hospital so I get to be single mom extraordinaire. And it's Pinewood Derby weekend, people! (And let's not be mistaken: I will use those as further excuses as to why I will not be posting for a few days.)

Shoot. me. now.

So. Instead of posting (because remember: this is not a post) I'm going to take a nap now.

Back soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For Real: The First Cut

The first time wasn’t the worst. But it was bad enough.

The ceiling must have been a hundred feet high, and I was tiny, floating in an endless outer space of a cold green room. Everywhere I looked was institutional, antiseptic green: a color reserved for prisons and junior high schools and hospitals. And blinding sunlight poured in the windows. Except it couldn’t have been sunlight. Could it? It must have been the lights, as far away and as bright as the sun, because operating rooms don’t have windows. There were voices, but no faces. Voices that yelled from far away, but I knew they were talking to me because sometimes I heard my name. I couldn’t see clearly, could barely hear in the thin, electric air.

A cliché: I was too scared to cry. My naked little body shivered on the table, only a sheet covering me. But I couldn’t cry, or speak. I wanted to ask someone to hold my hand. But my tears and my voice were squashed back into me by the weight of the fear and the enormous space.

Earlier, in my room, they had made me take off all my clothes. “Can I keep my underwear?” I wanted to know. I would have felt safer with my underwear. “No,” the orderly said. So I lay on a bed, utterly naked, and he covered me with the sheet and some people came and pushed me to a freight elevator which took us up six flights to the operating room. I shivered the whole way.

Years later, when I was a nurse at the same hospital, we used that same freight elevator to transport dead bodies to the basement morgue. They were naked, too, covered only with a sheet. I used to wonder if they could feel the cold.

In the strange green operating room, a voice told me it was time to go to sleep. A mask was pushed down onto my nose and mouth, and I couldn’t breathe. I shook free, shook my head "no." It was shocking, how bad the mask smelled, how bad its air tasted: like rubber, like alcohol, like poison. Again the mask, and I did not want to breathe. I fought. “Count backwards from 100,” someone yelled, “and you’ll fall asleep before you get to one.” I didn’t want to, and shook my head again. But then I breathed the poison and counted because I was supposed to and because I was a good girl.

“100, 99….”

I made it to 93.

But they lied: it wasn’t like falling asleep. It felt violent, like my wakefulness was forced out of me, like my head was being held underwater. Ultimately I couldn’t have fought anymore, even if I had tried. I thought I was going to die, but I counted backwards like I was told.

While I lay unconscious in that operating room, my parents sat in the waiting room. They sat for too long, and they knew it. Something was wrong. They knew. When my surgeon finally did emerge, he looked their way, then shook his head and turned and walked away.

Something was wrong.

My father recently told me that he has always felt fortunate for the life he’s led. Except for that moment. When my doctor couldn’t face them, Dad said, it was the worst moment of his life. That, he said, made him question.

But the surgeon returned and explained. He didn’t understand what he had found inside of me. He didn’t know what to do. The tumor was trying to kill me. But he was afraid that by doing something, anything, he might kill me. So they took biopsies and closed me back up.

He couldn’t fix me.

Later, after I was sewn together, I fought to wake up. I was still shivering, I was vomiting, I was crying. I wanted my mom, and then she appeared through the anesthetic fog. I wanted my underwear, and the nurse laughed at my request, and then put them on me and I felt warmer. I slept again and the horrible poisonous medicine slowly evaporated from my body.

When I was a nurse there, twenty years later, I used to sneak away from my shifts in the ICU. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would visit the old operating room, long since abandoned and converted to a storage area. And I would sit in the corner on the cold tile floor and breathe deeply and try to turn time backwards. I tried to remember. I tried to listen. I looked for my terrified eight-year-old self in that eerie, deadly quiet space.

I never found her.

And because I never found her there, I started to wonder. Had I imagined the fear, the cold, the bewilderment? Could it really have been that bad?

A few years ago, I stumbled across a plain and frightened piece of my little girl self. I was sorting through papers from my childhood, and among my third-grade math worksheets and my eight-year-old's drawings, I found it.

It was a neatly folded note, written to my mother on the eve of my second hospitalization. Large, deliberate child's script, in bright blue marker, mistakes crossed out, with tear stains blotting some of the careful words.

“Dear Mommy,
I’m scared and don’t want to go to the hospital. Last time I was
really scared. I am scared this time, too.
Your Daughter,

When I read that, I knew. It had all been real. I had been as scared as I remembered. The note was a simple testament to how bad that first time had been.

And I didn't even know how much worse things would get.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rising to the Brussels sprouts challenge

This is what happens when my kids say to me (in the produce aisle): "Mom, what are those little cabbage-looking things?"

Really, they should know better. They've lived with me their entire lives. They should know that, before they know what hit them, those little cabbage-looking things will end up in our shopping cart. And they should also know that, before they can say "Ewwww," those little cabbage-looking things will be on their dinner plates. Because I will not back down from a challenge. They should know.

True to form, I met this challenge. Without further ado, my kids eating Brussels sprouts:

They loved them.

Evan had four helpings. Four. I had to tell him to leave some for the rest of us. Even Jensen (who was initially pretty sure I was trying to poison him) had, like, two and a half servings. I'm guessing it didn't hurt that I braised them in bacon fat and apple cider and garlic and thyme, but I figured I only had one chance to make a first impression. You do what you gotta do. The fact remains: my kids love Brussels sprouts.

Ladies and gentlemen, my work here is done. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a little economic crisis that needs to be addressed, and then some heads need to be screwed on straight in Congress. And if I have some extra time, I may zip on over to the Middle East.
I'll be home in time for dinner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Now I'm a research scientist

I heard the NIH is getting a bunch of cash in the pending stimulus package. I'm sure they think they have plenty of good uses for the money, but I have a proposal: a Department of Domestic Biochemistry. This is my first scholarly submission. Though not exactly ground-breaking, I don't think anyone can possibly deny its scientific merit.

The Efficacy of Mothers as a Growth Medium for Pediatric Pathogens

It is generally believed that children are carriers of, if not infected with, a wide variety of virulent pathogens continually between the months of October and April annually. It is also commonly believed that children, because they are filthy little beasts, are highly effective transmitters of these pathogens. This article examines the efficacy of child-maternal disease transmission.

Test group: One (1) female mother, age 39, was individually innoculated with the organism Nares Verdi Snotulinum in the following manner: a single pediatric vector, age one year, deposited a nose full of bright green nasal mucous ("snot") into his mother's mouth by placing his nose directly into her mouth and blowing. Snot transfer rate was 100%.

Control group: One (1) male father, age 34, was not innoculated.

Innoculation occured on Day One (Monday) at 1700 hours. No maternal changes were noted on Days Two and Three. On Day Four (Thursday) at 1500 hours, the mother reported subjective changes such as fatigue and mild headache. Within two hours she was sitting motionless in a living room chair with measurable nasal congestion, while her children ran wild and ate alarming amounts of candy and played "toss the baby." By 1945 hours (ahem, 7:45 pm, people) she was unconscious in bed in her pajamas with a box of tissues, displaying all signs of fulminant Nares Verdi Snotulinum infection. The control group remained (of course) asymptomatic.

Extensive statistical analysis showed a 100% correlation between the following variables: motherhood, placement of pediatric snot in mouth, and upper respiratory infection.

In the experimental household, if a child is displaying symptoms of the "common cold," he will with 100% reliability deposit infected mucous on the mother, and she will also become infected within 72-96 hours. In the majority of cases the father will remain disease-free. No further research on this topic is warranted.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

For real: Claiming what is mine

I wanted to be able to look in the mirror. That was all. It seems simple enough. But it took me the better part of a decade to be able to do that one little thing.

My ultimate goal, I suppose, was larger than just the mirror: I wanted to not hate myself. Even more: I wanted to accept myself. But before I could accept myself, I had to accept my face. Before I could accept my face, I had to be able to look at it in the mirror.

And twenty years ago, I could not do that.

I hated the way I looked, hated myself, so badly that I couldn't even look at myself. I simply did not do it. I never looked at a picture of myself. (If you think you hate pictures of yourself, try being me for a moment or two.) And mirrors posed a problem. Of course, I couldn't avoid mirrors. But I developed an uncanny ability to look at only half of my face. Or to look at my reflection without really internalizing what was there. I could brush my hair or wash my face while literally looking at only the right side of my face. I learned to put on make-up without really seeing beyond the mechanics of the application. It became second nature. (The vision in my left eye is drastically worse than my right eye. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I just stopped using it.)

I knew what was there, of course, in the mirror and on my face: an ugly scar, a large hole, a drooping eye, an unmoving mouth. I knew these things. But I did my best not to associate these things with myself. I never really looked. I was scared of the details, terrified of the whole. In the mirror, and perhaps everywhere else, I was half a face.

This was not how I wanted to be. I wanted to look at myself. I wanted to see what others saw. I wanted to face the truth. I wanted to be complete.

So I fought.

It took years. I increased the scope of my vision in the mirror by literally a fraction of an inch at a time. I would take a quick peek at my sunken ear, or at my sagging lower eyelid, and I would be paralyzed. I would be ill. I would cry. I would be unable to look again for weeks. I was sickened by what I saw. I did not want this person to be me.

But as devastating as it seemed at times, as much self-hate as I was forced to own, as deeply as it challenged my sense of who I was... I did not give up. I fought, for years. And I won.

And I thought I was done.

My soul settled. I had a successful career. I married, had children. I flourished in loving and in being loved. I busied myself with the day-to-day issues that distract all parents. After a lifetime of grief and rage and hiding, the issues surrounding my face slid into the background.

And I was more than happy to let it go. I was happy to be at peace, happy to be normal, happy to be just another boring mom. I was happy to be able to ignore that part of myself. I was happy.

But it wasn't over.

As I said, my ultimate goal had always been self-acceptance. And I had come a long way. I could leave the house. I could tolerate the public stares. I knew what I looked like. These were no small feats.

But even though I had come a long way toward my goal, I had never told my entire story to anyone, not even to myself. I was finally able to look in the mirror, but I wasn't able to tell the story of the person who looked back at me.

So here I find myself. I have begun to tell the story. It is not easy. Sometimes as I write I shake. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get sick. But I've done it all before. Just as I had to struggle to face the mirror, I will struggle to tell my story.

My silence about my face has been profound. I am putting forth memories that I have never shared. I tucked them away years ago, never planning to revisit them. I would much rather forget them.

But they haven't gone away. My story hasn't gone away. For three decades I have kept this story to myself. I can't be complete until the people in my life know me. For real.

I have been overwhelmed by your kindness and encouragement. I never thought anyone would care about this. So to those of you who have commented, here or on Facebook, to those of you who have e-mailed, to those of you who have called, to those of you who have just read in silence: thank you. That's all I can say. I'll keep telling the story as I am able, but in the meantime: thank you. You will never know what you have done for me....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not wordless. But it is Wednesday.

This, I suppose, is filler.
I was going through old photos yesterday, looking for something else, but I kept coming across photos of Jensen. Insanely adorable photos of my first-born. Photos that I remember like they were yesterday. Photos that are almost eight years old.
How could I not share?
Plus I had to get yesterday's humiliating post about my undies off the front page.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When yoga pants go bad

Dear Dad: I love you. Do not read this post. 'kay, thanks.

Oooh, I got new workout clothes! For the first time since before I was pregnant with Caleb. This is exciting in my sad little world.

So exciting that last night I carefully laid out my new workout clothes before bed. So exciting that this morning I popped right out of bed in anticipation of putting on the new workout clothes.

So exciting that I checked myself out in the mirror before I left. And from the front, I looked pretty good. From the side, I noticed my trunk looked a bit, um, lumpy. From the back, it was tragic.

I had four butt cheeks. Like this:

Turns out yoga pants are entirely incompatible with my undies of choice:

Plain ol' hiphugger bikinis. Totally comfy, no creeping, minimal panty lines. Perfect under my jeans (which are not mom jeans, I swear). But it turns out yoga pants do not camouflage how the elastic in the undies dissects my aging, post-three-babies derriere in half perfectly. Horizontally. Like my ass has an equator or something.

Four butt cheeks on one person is not good.

This led to an emergency phone call to my sister. What should I do?!

Try a thong! she said.

Oh, okay. Seriously, I'm not even going to give you much of a visual on this one. Remember: three babies. If you've birthed babies, you know why I don't wear a thong. If you haven't had them, you don't want to know. Trust me.
I'm not at all opposed to some sexy lingerie. But, um, these would kill me. I would die from wearing ill-advised undies to the gym. Not the way I want to go out.
So after I vetoed that, she suggested a boy short. Like this:

This makes me laugh out loud. I don't know if I've ever, in my life, worn anything less flattering than boy short undies. These are not only incompatible with yoga pants, they are incompatible with the human body. Nobody looks like this photo. I could put them on in a pitch-black closet with no mirror in sight and still know that I look like a complete jack-ass. Nope.
She was out of suggestions. So I explained my quandry to my ever-stylish husband, and asked: what kind of undies should I wear under my pretty new yoga pants?
He evidently agreed that the panty lines were problematic, and helpfully suggested Spanx. (I do not want to know why my husband knows what Spanx are.) Yes, he really said that. So I was supposed to wear these under my low-rise yoga pants:

They come up to your navel, people. And then all the jiggly parts just squeeze out over and under the Spanx.
So, in the end, I just recognized that I have no pride. I arranged the hiphuggers and the rear end as carefully as possible and went to the gym.
And worked out really, really hard.
Having four butt cheeks is kind of motivating like that.
Update (because this post definitely deserves an update): my brilliant and bored sister has decided that yoga pants need built-in undies, like running shorts have. No creep, no show. So, Makers of Yoga Pants: get on it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekly Winners: Very cool

A quick note on my stunning slackeratiousness: these photos are two weeks old. It has taken me that long to remember to post them. But they are too cool not to share. Sorry for the delay.

Jeff brought home a huge cooler full of dry ice from work one evening.
You know what's fun? To put a piece of dry ice into a glass of water:

You know what's even more fun? To dump the entire cooler full of dry ice into the bathtub:

For more amazing photos from some really great blogs, head over here to check out Lotus's Weekly Winners.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Big Blue Box: A Rant

Dear WalMart,

I quit you.

You suck my soul dry.

On an average trip: I have to park in the very back of the parking lot because everybody always wants to go to your stupid store. I have to dodge two or three cars in your parking lot driven by people who don't feel they need to actually obey the stop sign and wait for a woman and her three children. The greeter accosts my children and slaps stickers all over them-- even the baby, even when I say, "No, thank you" because he just eats them, and even my almost eight-year-old, even when he shies away and shakes his head suspiciously. You are always sold out of at least one basic staple on my list and I can never find anyone to help me when I have a question. I can never find green onions. I have to wait multiple times for people who think it is their God-given right to block an entire aisle while they take 15 minutes to select hair dye in the perfect shade of "cheap" or adult diapers or processed cheese food or just the right monster-truck-emblazoned t-shirt. I then wait another 15 minutes in line to check out. (You have 32 check-out aisles. At any given time, four are open. At the most.) I wait for this long in an aisle lined with candy and soda and disposable lighters and disgusting fruit-flavored chewing gum and celebrity gossip magazines and beef jerky and car "fresheners" which my children know they can't have but after waiting that long they get just a bit restless. And when I am finally able to check out, the checker is invariably sullen and wears enormous amounts of black eyeliner and says nothing to me except the dollar amount that I owe (which is always too high, because somewhere along the line I lose all focus and just start throwing random things in the cart that aren't on my list and which I later regret purchasing but it seems like a major hassle to return them). By the time we actually get to leave your God-forsaken store my children are starving and beg for Subway which is conveniently placed by the front door, just before the 10,000 slot machines with candy and toys in them. When we actually make it through that pediatric and economic minefield, it's back out to brave the terrifying parking lot again.

Also: your shopping carts are repulsive (although Caleb really likes to suck on the cart handles). You try to sell cheap worthless plastic crap to my children who are futile against your least-common-denominator marketing. ("Live better! Buy more sh*t you don't need!") You sell ammunition and cold, cheap beer and 17 flavors of PopTarts but no decent fresh produce. The fluorescent lights make my kids look like they're in liver failure.

By the time I'm done, it is difficult to think about anything but escape.

And then, yesterday. As usual, I was stressed out and zoned out and crabby as I left. The kids were tired and bored and whiney. We all just wanted to go home. In the parking lot I realized I forgot to buy diapers. Somebody was waiting for my parking place.

And then. Then I slammed Evan's hand in the van door. His entire hand. The door latched. His hand bruised and swelled immediately and he had a big ugly red line across it.

It was sickening.

This is not your fault, WalMart. I know that you did not make me do this. But it made me realize how miserable you make me. When I leave you I am defensive and irritable and distracted and hating. Every time.

We've all heard the arguments about whether WalMart is a good corporate citizen, about what WalMart does to local economies, about what WalMart has done to the face of America (and now the world). I don't know about these things. I don't know whether the anti-WalMart rhetoric is holding true, or whether it's just theory. What I do know is that it's tempting, the thought that I can buy toilet paper and bananas and diapers and socks and pregnancy tests and Christmas decor under one roof. Especially when you are the closest store to me. Especially when it's all less expensive at your store. What else I know is how ugly I feel every single time I visit you.

It isn't worth it, on a personal scale or from a more global perspective.

So I am declaring here and now that I will be taking my business elsewhere. Somewhere slightly less ugly, somewhere that makes the world slightly less ugly, somewhere that makes me feel slightly less ugly. This isn't a naive call to action (I don't have that in me). Me versus the WalMart Industrial Complex? Hardly. I'm just telling you what I'm doing.

You can take your dietary supplements and Rubbermaid bins and ugly baby clothes and store-brand white bread and 823 brands of frozen pizza and "Proud to Be An American" cd's and particle board furniture and everything that contains high-fructose corn syrup and all the other stuff I might actually buy there, and you can shove it, WalMart.


(PS-- Evan's hand is fine. It only took a two-hour field trip to the doctor's office to determine this, but he is fine.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Sound of Silence

Last night the boys listened to the radio. A Rock And Roll Song came on, with a great big Guitar Solo. Evan stopped dead in his tracks and said, "Hey! He's playing the air guitar!!!"

Jeff cocked his head, raised his eyebrow. "Um, Evan, you know the air guitar doesn't make any sound, right?"

Evan shot Jeff a withering look. "Yes it does! Listen to this," he said.

He then grabbed his air guitar and ripped off an impressive solo that would have made Eddie Van Halen proud.

"Didja hear that? That," he pronounced smugly, "is what the air guitar sounds like."

Having obviously schooled his father, he carefully put down his instrument, turned his back, and walked away.

I'm wondering if we can teach him to have an air tantrum. Or slam an air door. The possibilities with a four-year-old are almost endless, no?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

First steps

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ten Ways I Know I Am Not A Toddler

I need some help.

I realized today that I live like a toddler. Seriously, my daily routine is almost indistinguishable from that of my kids. I eat on their schedules, I listen to their damn music (I still love you, Dan Zanes, but I think we need some time apart), I spend a good portion of every day picking up (or tripping over or swearing at) brightly colored plastic toys. If it weren't for the Diet Coke and random, lame attempts at housekeeping, I'd swear I was, like, two years old.

It’s time to step back and inventory my life, to reassure myself that I am indeed an adult. Time for a list.

How I Know That I Am Not A Toddler, by Me

  1. I drink my beer from the bottle, not from a sippy cup. And I don't cut it with whole milk.
  2. Graham crackers and/or vanilla wafers are not the high point of my day (unless it's been a really crappy day).
  3. I understand that Elmo is make-believe.
  4. When I drool it's because I'm tired as hell, not because I'm teething.
  5. I try to remember to refer to my husband as "Jeff" and not as "Daddy," but sometimes I slip and this troubles me.
  6. When life throws me a curveball and naptime is delayed by 20 minutes, I can adapt without having a complete meltdown. Unless it's been a really crappy day.
  7. Nobody has ever once told me that my fat dimpled thighs are “cute.”
  8. Diapers. Enough said.
  9. I am smarter than a dog. (But toddlers are cuter.)
  10. Generally speaking, gravity does not kick my ass several times a day.


I'm good.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Not about the shoes

I told a lie last week. But some are forgivable, right? Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, claiming to not know what happened to the rest of the Junior Mints…. Sometimes being a grown-up means you have to not tell the truth. It’s a complicated world. (I will hunt you down and do terrible things to you if you tell my children I said that, by the way.)

Anyway, my birthday was Saturday, and I desperately wanted two things: Madden ’09 (shut up) and a pair of faux-fur leopard-print clogs. I don’t know what it says about me that those were the two things I wanted most in the world; you can judge that for yourselves.

Jeff took the boys shopping while I was freezing my ass off (aka "vacationing") in Minnesota last week. We talked on Skype (is there a verb form of Skype? “We Skyped”?) on Tuesday morning. Evan’s getting better, but he’s not a real pro at the whole secret-keeping bit yet. So he promptly blurted out, “We went shopping yesterday and got you Madden ’09!” Which promptly inspired Jensen to attempt to clobber Evan. Which promptly inspired Evan to cry hysterically.

Which promptly inspired me to lie. I knew exactly what Evan had said. But without missing a beat I lied. “I didn’t understand you Evan. The sound wasn’t very good. Jensen, why are you so mad? I didn’t hear what Evan said.” It worked: Jensen was placated and Evan’s tears dried and Jeff tried not to laugh.

So Evan spilled the Madden beans. Jeff spilled the clog beans. These shoes were driving me nuts, and I was on the verge of just buying them. “Operation Leopard Print is complete,” he told me, afraid that I would get them myself. (Very tricky little code he used, eh? He’s clever like that.)

On Saturday morning, my gifts were on the table. Jensen had wrapped them himself (in carefully-chosen Christmas paper) with his brand-new Swiss army knife. Visions of arterial lacerations aside, I was very proud of him. He was proud of him.

Both boys jumped and danced and could not wait for me to open my gifts. Their excitement was bubbling over, and I couldn’t resist whipping them into a frenzy. “I wonder what’s in those boxes?” I asked. “What did you guys get me?” And every time I asked they collapsed in giggles.

I tortured them for as long as I thought advisable. (I didn't want anyone to either wet his pants or start crying or both.) Then I opened my gifts.

Guess what I got? Madden ’09 and a very cool pair of Danish leopard-print clogs. Great gifts. No surprises.

Saturday may have been the official Best Birthday Ever, and not because I got what I asked for. The boys’ happiness was better than any surprise they could have purchased. And I’m not lying at all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For Real: Best Friends

I had a friend, and her name was Sarah (but not really).

We stayed overnight at each other’s houses. We had long secret talks on the playground at recess. We drew pictures and designed clothes and ambitiously planned our adult lives. We brushed each other’s hair and played Barbies and traded clothes.

We were little girl best friends.

Except something didn’t feel right. Not “best.” And maybe not even “friends.”

In fourth grade (or maybe it was fifth), Sarah was staying overnight at my house. It was night and we were in my lavender bedroom sitting on my pink gingham-checked bedspread, looking for things to do as we stayed up late together. She proposed we write slam books.

I didn’t know what a slam book was. Turns out she didn’t really, either, but here is how she explained it to me: we were each to write down a secret about each other, and when we were done we would read our secrets aloud. I remember thinking this sounded boring and pointless, but she really wanted to do it, and I certainly didn’t have a better plan.

I don’t know what I wrote about her; I had trouble thinking of anything. But I remember clearly what she wrote about me: “You have a face only a mother could love.”

“It means you’re ugly,” she explained when I looked at her, confused and hurt and suddenly wanting to ask my parents to take her home. The rest of the sleepover wasn’t much fun.

Also in fourth grade (or maybe it was fifth), there was a bully. Her name was Angie (but not really). One day in the school bathroom I heard her talking about me to her group of five or six followers. “Teresa is ugly,” she said. “She’s stupid.” Her friends nodded.

I had already become used to people staring and making faces and even calling me names. I had learned to accept insults, and I had never rebutted.

But for some reason, on this day I was outraged. Maybe I had had enough.

I confronted her. “I heard you talking about me,” I said. She lied. She denied it. But I persisted and finally she confessed. “Fine, you’re right. What about it?” she spat. And, inexplicably, she challenged me to a fight. Equally inexplicably, I accepted her challenge. I committed myself to my first and last fight.

At lunch recess we met at the designated place on the playground between the jungle gym and the merry-go-round. Angie and I faced off. She had a large group of girls standing behind her. Behind me stood Sarah, my best friend. My only friend.

It was over almost instantly. Angie reached over and slapped my face. “You’re ugly,” she stated, plainly and spitefully.

It couldn’t have been a terribly hard slap, but it knocked me to the ground. Never before had I expressed any grief over all that had happened to me. I hadn’t complained or cried or stood up for myself or asked for any help in my struggles. On that day, though, that single insulting slap carried the full weight of all my unspoken grief.

And as I sat on the ground in devastated tears, Sarah walked away. My only friend turned away and went to stand with Angie, my tormentor.

“Why?” I implored between sobs.

“Because,” said Sarah, “I agree with her.”

Our friendship dissolved after that. Several times she tried to break up with me. “I just don’t think I can be friends with… someone like you,” she would say. "I don't think we have much in common." She would name the pretty girls in our class she wanted to be friends with instead, girls who were nice enough but who had also demonstrated that they had no interest in being my friends.

I cried and begged her not to leave. I was hurt that I wasn’t worthy of her friendship. And no small part of me was terrified. I didn’t think I could make any other friends. I would be alone.

But eventually she left. I was never angry at her. I certainly kept my distance, and I was hurt, but I wasn't angry. Mostly I was deeply, fundamentally embarrassed. I don't think I ever really thought her actions were my fault, but I definitely understood that by virtue of the way I looked, I deserved it all.

My humiliation prevented me from telling my parents why our friendship evaporated. I'm sure they wondered what happened. I didn't want to disappoint them; I was too ashamed to admit my social failures; I didn't want them to worry. I kept it a secret in order to protect myself and (I thought) to protect them. Those were the earliest of many years of feeling marginalized and lonely and ugly, and keeping those feelings tucked safely away, telling no one how badly I hurt.

But here is the thing I keep coming back to as I remember those years and as I hope my children never hurt so deeply and as I try to understand how cruel people can be: I am okay. I made it. And I am happy.

I had a friend, and her name was Sarah (but not really). And in fourth grade (or maybe it was fifth) she taught me a painful and valuable lesson about what a strong person I am.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sister Collective

Most days, I am not a pink puffy heart kind of a person. Not that I wouldn't like to be; it's just not me.
But my sister, Ali? With her unnatural affinity for refined sugar and all things Hello Kitty, she is the very definition of pink puffy hearts.

But there are other things we share. Like an obsession with George Michael (most favoritest: Wham! Rap). And avocadoes. And jeans from, I kid you not, The Buckle. And any food containing soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and green onions. "Cooks Illustrated" magazine. Fiestaware. Turtleneck sweaters. Anything from Aveda. Cribbage. Twizzlers. Southern Comfort Old-Fashioneds (God, they're good). Knitting. Football. Cheap flip-flops.
We dress identically without planning it. Our children confuse us for each other. We lie to our husbands about how much time we talk to each other on the phone. We dream about living next door to each other. (Only because we don't think our husbands would consent to actually sharing a house.)
I could go on, but I don't want to overwhelm anyone with our coolness.
For her, I abandoned my husband and children for four entire days (okay, that kind of needed to happen). For her, I flew to The Great White North. In January. For her, I am freezing my arse off this week.
I totally pink puffy heart my sister.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Back to reality

Tuesday rocked me.

The inauguration moved my spirit like nothing has in a long, long time. I gathered my children in my lap and sat in front of the television to watch President Obama deliver his inaugural address. With tears streaming down my face, I dreamt big dreams and tried my hardest to impress this memory on my heart forever.

When Evan, in an uncanny impersonation of a teenage girl, said, "Is this guy, like, ever going to be done? He's getting annoying."

So. Ruling out the chance that my four-year-old son is in fact a pubescent female, I can only surmise one of two other things.

The first possibility is that Evan, at the age of four, is a Republican. sigh

Either that, or in four years, the Inauguration Planning Committee (or whoever puts this shindig together) needs to seriously consider the timing of the inaugural ceremony, possibly going so far as to actually consult with me, so it does not conflict with my preschooler's lunch hour. Because I don't care if world sentiment is shifting and wrongs are being righted and the nation is joined in harmony for a few precious moments. When it's time for peanut butter and jelly, everything else must wait.

Everything, dammit.

Now that we've clarified our agenda, carry on, Mr. President.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Yogurt

Monday, January 19, 2009

For real: Alone

Oatmeal is the loneliest food.

It's difficult to believe that oatmeal became a symbol for much of the unhappiness I experienced as a child. But that's exactly what happened during those early and bewildering hospitalizations.

There was pain, and fear, and grief, of course. But loneliness was the most pervasive emotion I endured. It had a physical presence that I still recall clearly: a frigid weight that radiated from my stomach, a sort of sick anticipation that tingled in my arms and legs and left a watery metallic taste in my mouth. It echoed inside me. It made me shiver.

I was eight years old, in a huge hospital, many miles from home. My parents spent countless hours with me, but they had two other children and jobs and lives that had to be tended whether I was sick or healthy. They sacrificed much during that time, more than I will probably ever know. But I still spent many cold hours by myself, waiting for someone to come. Waiting for everything to be okay again.

And of all the lonely hours, breakfast was by far the worst part of every single day. After the doctors made rounds early in the morning, but before my parents arrived, a dietary aide would bring my breakfast and place it on my tray-table. And there I would sit, alone, with the head of my bed elevated. I was groggy from pain medication and weak from lack of activity and awkward from IV tubing and rubber drains. My head and face were heavily bandaged. My jaw didn't work properly and I couldn't get the food from the tray to my mouth without spilling all over myself.

I wanted help.

I needed help.

No help came.

So instead of eating I would stare at my gelatinous oatmeal swimming in a pool of tepid milk, feeling the lonely sickness. And I would cry for my mom. No one ever saw these tears.

Other meals were bad too. Once a nurse thought it would be "good for me" to join the other patients in the day room for lunch. It was a miserable room that smelled of antiseptic and dust, with brown-tiled floors, a black-and-white television, and ancient board games on the bookshelf. I did not want to be there, and to escape I decided to read a book while I ate. The nurse snatched the book away and scolded me harshly for reading at the table. She called me "rude," she made my stomach hurt. I stared at the table and blinked back tears and knew I was in this alone.

There were times, of course, when generous people who could perhaps sense my loneliness tried to help. They did help. But somehow their acts of kindness also served to highlight my isolation.

For instance, there was the Sunday afternoon I lay in bed staring at a football game on the television. Alone. Sad. A custodian came in to sweep. "I like football, too," he said comfortingly, pulling up a chair. And he sat with me and held my small hand, bruised from IV's, in his big brown hand. We quietly watched the game together.

But he wasn't my dad.

And I adored Nancy, one of my nurses. She was 28, she told me, and she was beautiful, with long, dark-brown, feathered hair. Bedtime was lonesome; I always felt lost. No one ever told me "good night" or tucked the blankets around me. I was left to fend for myself and usually just fell asleep to the blue glow of the tv. But one night I was particularly restless and sad, and climbed over my bedrail and navigated my IV pole down the hall, the tile cold on my bare feet. When I got to the nurses' desk, Nancy smiled sadly at me. I started crying and meekly asked if someone would please tuck me in. "Oh, sweetie," she said, and picked me up and carried me to bed and rocked me to sleep.

But she wasn't my mom.

Repeated hospitalizations never entirely numbed me to the loneliness of being hurt and scared and sick in a big, fluorescent institution, but I got used to it. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I wanted desperately to know that I wasn't isolated in my experience. I wanted someone to understand, but it quickly became clear that no one did. No one could. At a young age I came to a resigned understanding that I really was alone.

At some point, I stopped waiting for everything to be okay. Then, what had begun as enforced isolation in the hospital morphed into a more generalized voluntary solitude that eventually became a source of comfort. It was easier to remain alone than to open myself to the insensitivity or rejection or cruelty that I frequently encountered. Friendships became difficult to establish, exhausting to maintain. I spent a lot of years isolating myself to varying degrees in the interest of self-protection.

I don't isolate myself anymore. I socialize, and have friends. But to this day I remain a bit of an outsider; I am just as happy to be by myself as with others. Maybe I have some lingering trust or self-confidence issues; I guess such problems would be natural. But they are minor now, and generally transient when they do arise.

No, mostly I am just very accustomed to being alone. It is peaceful. I am okay with that.

I have grown, and by some miracle I am secure. But still, there is the oatmeal: thirty years later, it brings tears to my eyes when I try to eat it. I cannot stand oatmeal.