Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh good heavens, I'm at it again

Oh how I'm weary of those who are wary
Who mistakenly write the wrong word.
Weary means tired and wary means leery,
To swap them is really absurd.

Wear and ware are homophones, it's true,
Weary and wary are most certainly not.
Carefully choose the word that you use
Lest others think your brain's gone to rot.

While I'm expounding on words and their use
In this public and peevish confessional,
Let me also include pique and peak as an issue
In letters meant to be quite professional.

My interest is piqued in the product you seek
to place on my company's website.
Yet you attempted to peak it and stranded my interest
on a mount of incredible height.

Know the limits of your vocabulary, please.
Plain words can get your point across.
If you use the wrong word you can be assured
That your effort will be labeled as dross.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tastes Like Guilt

Friday, 5 pm

I stopped by the grocery for hamburger buns after picking up the kids. The kids were in good moods, so I decided to go ahead and shop for the week. Any fool knows that good moods at 5pm on Friday are capricious, so we were rolling through the store at light speed. Produce! Seafood! Deli! Dairy! Dairy! Dairy! We hit a snag.

A middled aged woman was doddering around the milk cooler. I smiled and excused myself as I reached around her for a gallon. I glanced to the left and saw her cart. My heart sank when I saw the suitcase in the cart. I prayed, "Oh please God, not now. I just want to get home. Pleasepleasepleaseplea-"

"Ah! 2%! A whole gallon! But you have two little ones so of course you need a whole gallon. It's just me so I just need a quart. I like skim. Do you like skim?" I froze the smile on my face and tried to be nice without getting involved. I was edging toward the bagels and freedom when Jake started asking for vanilla yogurt. I said no. Jake started arguing. The suitcase lady asked about my yogurt preferences. I weighed my options. I decided that capitulating was preferable to a full-out yogurt battle with interference from a stranger. I hissed to Jake that he had better eat the yogurt this time and tossed a large tub into the cart. When we had retreated to the relative safety of ethnic foods, I reminded Jake that he didn't eat the last tub of yogurt. This was his last chance. He solemnly nodded and we wrapped up our errand.

This morning, 6:43 am

Jacob requested a bagel for breakfast. I peeked in the fridge and saw one lonely little bagel. We started the negotiation process. "There's only one bagel. You can't eat it because then Claire will want one."

"I can eat one part and Claire can eat the other part."

"OK, but you'll have to have something else. Half a bagel isn't enough breakfast." Jake wakes up hungry and usually eats a large breakfast. It's not uncommon for him to eat an adult portion of oatmeal and then clamor for more. "How about some yogurt?"

"What kind is it? I think I'll just have a granola bar."

I could feel my veins constricting. "It's vanilla. The kind you asked for at the store and promised me you would eat. Granola bars aren't food*. They're treats. Eat half a bagel and some yogurt and then you can eat a granola bar." I heard Jacob mumble his assent. Three minutes later, I put the toasted bagel and two bowls of yogurt on the table and called the kids to breakfast.

"I'm not eating this! I don't like this kind of yogurt! I like the little yogurts!"

"It's the same thing, Jacob! Vanilla yogurt is vanilla yogurt! It doesn't matter what container it is in!" I put both hands on my head and squeezed to prevent my head from exploding. "Eat! Your! Breakfast!! I am not making anything else for you." He refused and sent the bowl of yogurt spinning across the table. I opened the cupboard, took out the last granola bar, and shoved it in my lunch bag. I gathered Claire and left the house, hugging a sobbing Jake on my way out the door. "Goodbye. Have a good day. Dad will be awake soon."


I'm hungry and I'm looking at a granola bar. I should be able to enjoy it. Jake won't die for lack of a granola bar. So tell me why it tastes like peanut buttery guilt.

* Of course granola bars are food. But my children will eat five granola bars per day if I let them. Granola bars should not make up 50% of a child's diet. Therefore, we put them solidly in the treat/snack category of food. No granola bars for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's a Hard Knock Life, Kid

I have never been a big fan of bottled water.  I am too cheap and too concerned about waste to feel good about buying something that comes free and clear into my home with the twist of a knob.  There are occasions when I swallow my reservations and buy a few bottles (which are later recycled, never fear) but I refuse on principle to allow bottled water to become part of my daily life. 
Instead, we own several sport bottles.  A red wide-mouthed bottle that I received as a gift from a vendor sits on my desk at work.  I have a frosted plastic Rubbermaid bottle with a flip top for games, hikes, trips to the park, etc.  The kids each have blue bottles with pull-up squirt tops.  I can't use those because I've never mastered the art of squirting liquid into my mouth.  I cough and gag and well, it's embarrassing.  There are also two reserve bottles that sit in the cupboard until one of the other bottles go missing for a day or two, which is to say that they never sit in the cupboard.  All in all, it's not difficult for the children to take a drink of water with them wherever they go.  Nonetheless, Jacob is constantly on my case to buy him disposable bottles of water.  An icy cold bottle of Aquafina is to him what a plastic cup of beer is to a frat boy. 
I took Jake to the baseball game the other night.  I was worried that unsealed bottles would have to be emptied*  and finding an hygienic water fountain at the ballpark can be an adventure, so I broke down and bought a couple of bottles on the way into the stadium.  Jacob downed his entire 24oz bottle by the bottom of the second.  I suppose I should be glad that he didn't pull out a bong to drink it.  He immediately started edging toward my water.  I gave him The Look.  He snatched his hand back and whined, "I'm soooo thirsty.  I don't need a soda or even a lemonade.  Can't I please just have some water?"  The trio of young women in front of us wheeled around and glared at me.  I glared back.  I know that they were thinking that even prisoners are entitled to water, but they weren't privy to the whole story.  Somehow, Jake managed to muddle through without anything further to drink.  Somehow, I managed to muddle through the multiple bathroom visits since Jake's bladder only seems to hold about 3 ounces.
I still had half my bottle left when we got home.  I filled it again from the tap and stuck it in the freezer.  Then I told Jake that he could take it on his field trip Friday.  The poor kid couldn't decide whether he hit the jackpot with two!! bottles of water in one week or whether I was the cruelest mother on earth for making him wait a day and a half to drink it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

13 Happies

Blame Katie for this Pollyannaness. I certainly do.

  1. It's less than 90 degrees outside and it's July. I am so grateful for this mild summer that I cannot possibly express it.
  2. Cold brewed coffee over ice has replaced my sweetened iced coffee habit - and it tastes better.
  3. Sleep. Both of my children are sleeping at night finally and I can sleep 6-7 hours in a row almost every night of the week. It feels so good to be rested.
  4. Yesterday when I was changing my clothes, I caught Nick ogling my stretch-marked, flabby, saggy, cottage-cheesy body. And he didn't hear a word I said until I was dressed again. So, however I feel about my body, it's still good enough for him.
  5. I picked up How Mama Brought the Spring at the library and we've been reading it. Claire snuggles up. Jake drifts in and circles ever closer until he's leaning on my arm. We're making blintzes this weekend. I've never tasted one before and I'm excited.
  6. Nick only has 3 more classes before summer semester is over. Then we have a whole month before the fall semester starts. I'm glad he's going to school and I'm so proud of him (he's on the dean's list!) but I live for the breaks.
  7. I'm having minor success in my attempt to stop biting my nails. I won't say that I've exactly quit yet, but they aren't nibbled down to the quick either. It's very hard and I'm quite proud of myself for getting this far.
  8. The air conditioning in the office is being fixed right this very minute.
  9. Project Runway is on again. I don't care much about fashion, but I do love watching skilled people create sometimes beautiful things out of cabbage, plastic cups, and ultrasuede. Besides, watching tense people squabble always tends to give me a little perspective.
  10. Moments before I threw my lunch away in disgust, I remembered that I had actually put hummus on the flatbread instead of the cream cheese I had originally thought to use. So the brown stuff oozing out was not rotten but delicious. Thank goodness.
  11. The pink binkie (pacifier) has show up again. There was much rejoicing in all the land.
  12. In just under two months, I'm going to be zipping across a canyon with a group of strong, funny, vibrant women. I am counting the days. My scream will likely be heard around the world.
  13. I love and am loved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All the titles I've tried are melodramatic or uncomfortable

Yesterday, I was chatting with a friend about my weight loss. Or actually about my lack of weight loss. I've been watching my diet and attempting to exercise for the past several weeks. My weight has more or less stood still. I know that I need to cut or spend 500 calories per day to lose a pound a week. If I walk (200 calories), cut out the sweetened iced coffee (200 calories), and cut out a snack or two or eight, then I should ever so slowly be dropping weight until I hit my goal sometime early next summer. People who can do basic math will figure that I've got about 50 pounds to lose.

I was very frustrated on Monday when the scale still said 190 pounds. Then I was heartened on Tuesday when I weighed in at 188 pounds. That's when my friend wisely told me to back away from the scale lest I damage my sanity. For once, I was completely honest about myself. On this particular topic, my sanity is already damaged. If I am trying to lose weight, then I am Trying To Lose Weight. I don't starve myself or do ten hours of aerobics or swallow uppers. What I do is weigh myself obsessively, keep a constant running tally of caloric intake/expenditure, and feel like an all-around shitty failure of a person because I'm fat.

When I am not trying to lose weight, I do not think about my weight at all. I feel good about myself because I only consider the me of me, my consciousness, my personality, my soul, my whatever-you-want-to-call-it. The status of my body is completely boxed up, buried, and covered with daisies. I am happy and I feel good and the world is a shiny, shiny place. Until, of course, someone goes and digs up the daisies.

I always start out sane. "Oh, right. That whole weight thing. Well, let's nip it in the bud, shall we? I'll just start walking and food journaling and then I'll be skinny and beautiful and we can just replant those daisies. Tra la la la la." I lose a pound or two, then stall out for unknown reasons. Then I start obsessing and weighing myself every day, twice a day, three times a day, every time I walk past the scale. After a while, I realize that I'm hurting myself so I just stop. I stop thinking about losing weight, stop trying to lose weight, stop worrying about that whole body thing at all. I go back to just being the me of me and I wear my body like a particularly unattractive outfit that I just haven't bothered to replace yet. I'm sexy, I'm healthy, I'm attractive and well, it's just that I'm temporarily inhabiting flabby, jiggly, messy body.

So right. The need to weigh is a symptom, not a cause. I am realizing that I can't afford the luxury of pretending that everything is aok so that I can be blissfully happy with myself. My blood pressure, while still safe, is edging up. I am also seeing the unpleasant results that years of morbid obesity can wreak. My father is struggling to avoid diabetes. My mother is retiring early because her body has been worn down and broken by the weight that she carries. This time, I am going to find a way to deal with my weight in a sane and practical way. I'm not going to give up on being healthy nor am I going to give in to being completely fucked in the head about it. I suspect at some point I might need to talk to someone about this, some professional sort of someone. Perhaps I'll buy an ad. Mostly sane, grounded woman seeks therapist to deal with minor mental health issues regarding weight. Must not blame morbidly obese mother, no matter how clear the connection might seem. Waiting room should be stocked with chocolate.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We Are Surrounded

They're back. And this time, the children are on their side. It's my fault, really. I have been fostering bug love. We've been digging up worms, examining roly polies, and keeping snails in a jar. I've been admonishing Jake that all life is created by God and is therefore precious. While we were stepping around beetles and ushering moths outside, the ants were watching.

Last night, they mounted a massive assault. I was upstairs when arhythmic stomping and slapping sounds drifted up from the kitchen. I tried to ignore the ruckus. It went on for five minutes, then eight. I reluctantly plodded downstairs and poked my head around the corner. Nick was muttering under his breath as he furiously stomped on the tile. He was beating the broom under the cabinets' overhang, then sweeping something toward his pounding feet. When he felt my eyes, he turned and said, with no small amount of drama, "They're back. The little $%&#ers. I thought I had them beaten. I put out traps. What do they do? They walk around the traps. They're smart. Too smart." Then he turned back to his stomping. I put the kettle on and ran to hide."

By the time the kettle whistled, Nick had squashed all of the advance force. He was tracing the route with a flashlight, waiting for unsuspecting ants to show him the way. He moved from the kitchen to the play room where he found an abandoned granola bar. A few moments later, he found Jacob's lunch bag behind the toy box. "They're in cahoots! Cahoots!!!" he yelled.

Whether or not the children were planning to aid and abet the ants, it's clear that the ants move quickly. The invasion happened in less than four hours. I'm considering a new strategy, but I'm a little concerned about pesticide content.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

C is for Hat

Claire is growing at the speed of light. Everywhere we go, friends comment that she's losing her babyness. "She's a girl now! A big girl!" is the refrain. Her legs are straight and strong. Her belly is losing it's roundness. Her nose is climbing out of the common baby pug with a strong bridge and ever-so-slightly turned up tip. Her speech, while still rife with articulation errors, is nuanced and complex. She expresses opinions with supporting evidence. She explains why and how. Like all little girls of a certain age, she can draw her own conclusions and is completely convinced of her own infallability.

Over the past few months, Claire has been concentrating on the alphabet. She finds letters on any printed material available. "That's a C! C is for me! That's a J! J is for Jacob!" Jake often involves himself in the game as Claire's instructor. He asks her what other objects start with a J, giving broad hints occasionally involving unbelievably bad pantomime.

We were looking at an alphabet book a few days ago when Claire started yelling out C words. "C is for me! C is for corn! C is for clown! C is for hat!"

"Yes, Claire, C is for Claire, corn, clown, and cat."

"No, not cat. C is for hat."

I patiently corrected her. "I think you mean that c is for cat, honey. Kuh kuh kuh Cat."

She patiently corrected me. "No, c is for hat. Haaaaaaaaaat. Hat." She even patted her head to illustrate.

I tried once more. "C sounds like kuh. H sounds like huh. C is for cat. H is for hat." She stared at me for a long moment. She decided that I was too dim to understand and moved on to D.

This morning, Claire was playing with an electronic letter game in the car. I heard the annoying music underneath Claire's voice. "A is for apple. B is for boy. C is for hat. See Mom? C is for hat!" I drove to a stop sign, turned, and got a face full of plastic. "C is for HAT." C is for cap, as it turns out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I roll over and force myself out of bed, into clothes, into shoes, out the door. The heat of the day is already settling in. The light is still gray. As I walk, the day gets lighter and the air gets thicker. I'm in shorts and my hair is wet with sweat by the time I am two blocks from home.

I turn the corner and see a rabbit. They're everywhere this year - the bunnies had a baby boom. When we first moved to this neighborhood, we'd see a rabbit every few weeks in the summer. This year, we see many rabbits every day. It's rabbit nirvana here. The yards are fenced and rich with hostas. I think that perhaps next year or maybe the year after that, we will be faced with a sea of rabbits in the street. We won't be able to drive lest we run over dear little bunnies. Or perhaps we'll set some traps and start feasting on rabbit stew. One little beasty seems to walk along with me for half a block. I get too close, he hops ahead. I get too close, he hops ahead. Finally, he bores of the game and hops off between some houses.

I hear a steady huff huff huff behind me. I move over to the very edge of the sidewalk, then realize the runner is in the street. He slowly huffs past. He's large, muscular, and hairy with the daintiest gait I've ever seen. He is taking tiny, mincing, bouncing step. Each step brings him further up than forward. I think he'd be more comfortable skipping rope. Then I think that I'm being petty and mean. After all, he's running and I'm walking and maybe I'd be better off moving a little more vigorously and thinking a little less.

I pace myself so that I can cross the street without stopping. Unfortunately, the driver is afraid that the rope skipper or I will throw ourselves in front of his car. He slows, we slow, he slows, we slow. It's the most excruciating game of chicken I've ever played. Finally, the driver speeds on and we cross the street and go our separate ways.

Just as I'm picking up steam, another runner comes up a cross street. He's a streak of orange. He's running so fast, faster than fast. I peek down the street to see who or what is chasing him. I see nothing but a rabbit. I pace myself so that the runner crosses the corner before I arrive. I'm not sure that he even sees me. I turn the corner, keeping my eye on the bunny just in case. Mr. Orange is already gone around another corner.

I realize that I should be home already, so I pick up the pace. Five minutes later, I take off my shoes and sneak into my own house. I tiptoe into the living room, drop my keys in my purse, and turn to see the grinning face of an imp. "It's morning! Hello!"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thirteen Phrases I Say Everyday

That's right. I'm bringing back the Thursday 13 in order to encourage myself to get back in the habit of posting. Besides, it's fun.
  1. It's your sister's/brother's turn to look at the cereal box.
  2. We are not discussing dessert while we are eating breakfast.
  3. One ponytail, two ponytails, or braids?
  4. Please put your dirty clothes DOWN the laundry instead of NEXT to the laundry.
  5. Do that in private please.
  6. Do not leave the bathroom until you flush the toilet, pull up your pants, and wash your hands. Flush, dress, wash. Flush, dress, wash.
  7. Yes, I will play tickle monster. Rooooooaaaarrrrrr.
  8. Did you put on clean underwear?
  9. Don't answer the phone don'tanswerthephonedon'tanswerthephone. Give it to me. Don't hang up. Giveittomedon'thangupdon'thangup. Argh. You hung up on someone. Stop answering the phone!
  10. Get a book and meet me at the big chair.
  11. Do you need a hug? I need a hug.
  12. Show me a smilie shark.
  13. I love you.

Monday, July 7, 2008


"I call the submarine."
"I call the viking ship."
"I call the pirate ship."
"I call the pirate raft."

Thirty minutes later...
"I call Han Solo."
"I call Chewbacca."
"I call Darth Vader."
"I call all the stormtroopers."

Yet another thirty minutes later...
"I call America."
Dumbfounded silence.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


A few days ago, Claire started demanding that I paint her nails.  I asked her why.  "Hope and Julie have painted nails.  They look pretty."  I sucked in my breath.  Then I said that I would think about it.  Claire wailed.  Thinking about it generally means that I want to say no but feel that perhaps I'm not being fair.  I attempt to sort through my own issues and ask for opinions from my husband, mother, sister, friends, and random strangers before trusting my first instinct.  "NO!  Don't think about it!  DO IT!"  So, of course, I immediately started thinking about it.
Hope and Julie have very similar mothers.  They are both tiny, very pretty women who are always impeccably dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I saw Julie's mother one morning about three weeks after giving birth to her second child.  She was still perfectly dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I suspect that if aliens were attacking the earth, these women would still manage to correctly apply mascara.  I am not surprised that Hope and Julie have painted nails.
I am not a reactionary feminist who believes that a woman should never be concerned about her appearance.  Makeup and fluffy hair have their place in the world.  I use a little blusher when I'm feeling peaked and a little lipstick when I'm feeling sexy.  However, I do not want any woman, especially my daughter, to believe that she needs makeup to be fit for public consumption.  I do not want Claire to feel the need to put on her face before facing the world. 
I know that it's just nail polish.  And I know that I overthink sometimes (or all the time).  But still, there's that shrill, nagging voice in my head that says little girls don't need any form of makeup.  I worry that if I paint her nails, I'm sending a clear message that beauty requires accoutrements - that Claire herself requires accoutrements. 
I ripped my toenail the other day.  In order to protect it from further damage, I painted it with several layers of polish.  Claire saw me and I painted her toenails too.  She was so delighted.  "Now, I''m pretty!" she said.  My heart sank all the way down to my pretty little piggies.  "No, Claire, you're ALWAYS pretty," I protested.  But I feel like I sold her out.