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.