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.