Wednesday, December 29, 2004

HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION: If it is true that a) My boss is out of town, and b) All of today's tasks have been completed with grace and flair, is it therefore logical to conclude that I should spend the rest of the afternoon with my door shut knitting a superpunk sweater and listening to Spoozys at a decidedly unprofessional volume?
On my to-do list before the year ends:

Find a way to use up about 2 pounds of frozen pork in my freezer, hopefully in some sort of tasty, low-effort casserole.

Select "EspaƱol" when I check out my groceries through the self-service lane at Schnucks.

Finish a project at work that's tied to a bonus. I could be finishing that up right now if I weren't making lists… whatever.

Make peace with the pre-tax reimbursement accounts so all columns end with zero.

Reacquaint myself with the concept of healthful snacking and reasonable portion sizes. Right now my pants are so tight I can't put my hands in my pockets, and that's seriously crimping my ain't-no-big-deal style.

Clean the house so that when people come over they're not tripping over human-sized balls of lint.

Pretend I actually have people coming over so I'll have an excuse to prepare six or seven packages of Little Smokies swimming in barbecue sauce.

Buy toothpicks, because Little Smokies taste ten times better coming off a toothpick. Even if you're standing over the crockpot in your own kitchen, wearing sweatpants and stabbing at them like fish in a barrel.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Santa got a lot of things right this year. A Pixter for Gert and a Gameboy for Matilda, a karaoke machine, a bottle-sucking baby Annabelle, and several of the very loudest board games known to man.

The karaoke machine was cool on Christmas morning, but it didn't really come into its own until later that day when the girls were given a huge set of "play" (a word which here means never-ever-to-be-worn-outside-the-house, or not-even-when-you're-forty) makeup by Grandpa. And Matilda's biodad "gave" (a word meaning to foot the bill for an idea he never would have come up with on his own) her a spot in a musical theater class.

Well, by the time Monday rolled around and Daddy had to go back to that business of being in business, it became clear to me and the girls that it was time to become Pop Stars.

First stop was Wardrobe – rooting through closets for mismatched clothing skirts with some spin, to them.

Then it was time to hit the ProStyle Salon for Hair and Makeup, in which it was announced that I was "the best!" for letting them smear makeup on themselves. Have you ever applied mascara to a 3-year-old? Go ahead and tell me how wrong it is. Both girls got the whole thing – eyeshadow, lips, blush, nails. And then they did the same to me.

As my face began busily breaking out beneath thick layers of Walmart cosmetics, the little brittneys sang and shrieked into the microphone, taking turns calling the other up on stage to perform.

Just as I had them believing I might possibly be the coolest mom ever, I announced my next big idea.

"Okay! Now let's all go wash our faces with Noxema before Mommy realizes what's actually taking place here."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Another successful office party last night, rounded off with competitive alphabet belching. Props to Whitney for her victory, who apparently after we left started cranking her fist in the air and yelling, "I'm a belching machine! BraKK! BraKK!"

Whitney doesn't even work here.

She claimed to be with one of the designers, but I'm not so sure he was willing to admit to that by the end of the night.

Ah, to be young and drunk again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

There's a strange hostile vibe in the toy section of stores these days. You'll notice it kicking in if you find yourself standing in front of a display thinking over a purchase, weighing the price, features, etc, all of the perfectly rationale shopping strategies that you employ the other 11 months of the year. Then another parent walks up beside you and starts eyeing toys on the same display.

Suddenly, it becomes critical that you end your leisurely browsing and make a dive for any particular toy that interests you, because you might be picking up the last one in stock. And the other parent might pick it up first, leaving you frantically grasping for Plan B before that too is snatched up.

Hooray for the holidays.

I'm normally very "whee, it's Christmastime!" but not this year. It came around too fast, and I wasn't prepared. I don't feel organized, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something important that will occur to me on Christmas Eve when it's too late. I haven't baked cookies, I haven't sent cards. Sorry, I don't think they're going out to anyone this year – please don't take me off your list. I'll send you two next time.

I want to be excited about Christmas but I'm afraid I'm failing at the whole thing and therefore should enjoy none of it. I guess I just need to lighten up because no one gets it 100% right, and those who do end up with display-case Christmas scenes where everyone is sitting perfectly still, afraid of upsetting the perfection and sending you into convulsions.

That's not cool. What's cool is sitting in your darkened living room watching the lights blink on the tree, just like you did in when you were a kid and it was magic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I'm really ashamed of myself (well, not really), but I just told a spammer where to go.

Not one of those who steals your email off your website or a message board and bombards you with offers of cheap Viagra… I'm talking about people who you have one simple exchange with over email, and then you find yourself suddenly added to a list of about 90 "close friends" in her address book. The kind of friends to whom she routinely forwards every joke, urban legend, puppy photo, inspiring Bible passage or Christian preaching that happens to land in her inbox.

I'm normally very nonconfrontational. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. So for five or six months, I simply deleted the 500 or so "FW: FW: this is so cute!!!" subject lines from this individual and assumed she was well-meaning and harmless.

Then I randomly opened one of her emails and was kind of horrified that it was being mindlessly forwarded by people who evidently see the word "God" and think it's a nice sentiment to pass along.

I'm paraphrasing, but it said (in loud, magenta, 36-point, sans-serif type):

You suck if you:

  • Are an immigrant, the child of an immigrant, or have ever spoken a language other than English!
  • Say "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas!" Everyone knows Christmas is the "real" holiday this time of year, and if you don't believe in Jesus you're retarded!
  • Don't want organized prayer in public schools! If you don't like God, you should go find another country to go live in! (Sadly, that last line wasn't paraphrased.)
  • Are offended by this email! Because that means you're one of THEM!

It went on and on, spewing intolerance and ignorance to the point where it felt like even the other spam in my inbox was kind of staring at its feet and exchanging embarrassed glances.

Feeling that perhaps this had crossed the line from "well-meaning and harmless" to "offensive and unacceptable," I replied to the spammer, expressed my disappointment in her decision to forward such a hate-filled email, and requested that she remove me from her address book.

Five minutes later, I received two more "FW: FW: this is so cute!!!" subject lines.

I drafted a new reply. "Seriously," I said. "Please do not send me any more crap. Please. I really mean it."

"FINE!!!" came her reply. "You're not getting anything else from me!!! Don't reply to this email!!!"

"Reply," I replied. I like that I amuse myself.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I have a very practical approach to shoes. I buy a few pairs and wear them to death, repeat.

I also cannot stand to pay more than ten dollars for a pair of shoes I plan to wear to death. Don't ask me why. I also have an eight-dollar sweater rule. It makes it very painful to shop outside of the off-season, but nevermind.

Yesterday I kicked off my shoes at the end of the day, and later heard them whimpering and licking their wounds in the corner of the closet. When I went to see what was wrong, they flinched and tried to scoot away from me. So since I had just been given a $25 gift certificate to a certain major department store, I went to check out their shoe selection. I was excited to see a rack of shoes 50% off! Less excited to find that the discounted price of every pair exceeded my gift card allowance.

The best option was a very uninspiring pair of black flats for $24. Sure, I could pay $24 for a pair of shoes I don't love, but I'd rather pay $8 for a pair I do.

So on the advice of a fellow cheapskate, I went to check out the store's outlet. I was immediately encouraged by racks of $6.99 sweaters. And they had shoes. Cute, sassy, fun, inspiring shoes! I cautiously approached a pair of black flats and struck up a conversation.

"Hi there," I said. The shoes smiled and looked interested, so I continued.

"I couldn't help but notice you're sitting under a red clearance sign. I'm sure this is a terribly personal question, but I was just wondering how much you are."

"$9.99," said the pair.

"You're kidding! Hey, I hope this isn't some scene where all the cute, affordable shoes are tiny. Do you mind if I ask what size you are?"


"Hmm! Would you be willing to pretend you're a 9?"

The shoes agreed, and three more pairs joined the party. And we all lived happily ever after. And I have a new favorite store. But I'm not giving you any more details because those are MY $6.99 sweaters.

Monday, December 06, 2004

I've always secretly believed that I'm a really, really uninteresting person. If you happen to find anything interesting about me, that's only because some of your own interestingness is reflecting off this big tabula rasa where my personality ought to be.

But never mind. If you're not seeing it, then I'm doing a good job of disguising it. And that's good enough for me. Consider it the gift of optical illusion. Merry Yule.

Of course, the best delusion is self-delusion! If anyone were ever to come along and poke a hole in my thin, reflective veneer… boy, that would be depressing.

Have I shown you my collection of irrational fears lately? It's around here somewhere, probably right behind my stack of unresolved issues and bottles of emotion.

Speaking of depressing, I'm starting it wonder if it was a mistake to get involved in Freecycle. I now find it impossible to drive down any residential street on trash day without thinking, "What??! Why would anyone throw out what appears to be a perfectly serviceable seat cushion from a chair circa 1978?"

Friday, November 19, 2004

Happy birthday to me! Twenty-one years ago I started writing in my first blank book. I still have it, carefully stowed in a safe place along with every other journal that followed it.

Five years ago I moved into my new office as a junior copywriter with the same group I work for now. My own office. I felt like I had arrived.

Three years ago I was frantically breastfeeding my new little Gert and wishing I had decided to buy birth announcements instead of lovingly hand-craft each and every bleeding one.

Twelve years ago I skipped dinner because my friends were taking me out, pulled on size 5 jeans, and went to a party where I apologetically claimed to have already eaten.

Seventeen years ago I got my period for the very first time. It had actually happened earlier in the month but I wrote about it on my birthday with great excitement.

Nine years ago marked my grateful exit from the realm of teenage motherhood.

Twenty-three years ago, my mom brought chocolate cupcakes to my kindergarten class and I sat in the circle next to Melissa. Melissa had the nicest, softest hair of any girl I have ever known, to this day.

Nineteen years ago my mother drove me to the home of a sweet old couple with a litter of kittens and let me pick out my first cat. I named him Princess and then discovered him several days later licking some very non-Princess-like anatomy. I promptly renamed him Fredrick.

This morning, Matilda presented me with this heartfelt poem, sung to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it":

Its your birthday, it's your birthday and you have smelly feet, smelly feet. It's your birthday, it's your birthday and you have smelly feet, smelly feet. But I don't give a care. I love you anyway. It's your birthday and you have smelly feet. Smelly feet!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

My little baby Gert entered the 3-5 year demographic over the weekend, and thus let it be known that she no longer has any use for plastic, baby-friendly bowls, nighttime training pants, or toothbrushing assistance.

She cried when her new roller skates wouldn't let her go as fast as her 9-year-old sister, and again when the loops on her tennis shoes wouldn't fold into neat, bunny-eared bows.

After the excitement of her party, after all her favorite cousins and aunts and uncles had gone home and the sugar was wearing off, I caught a glimpse of Gert sitting on her Sit-n-Spin in the living room in front of the TV, gazing up at her new Care Bears DVD and twisting slightly, absentmindedly from side to side. Then suddenly, she looked down on the floor next to her and patted a small pile of blankets. "Aw, it's o-tay honey," she told it, and I realized one of her new dolls was apprehensively watching the video with her.

The only babies in our house anymore are the ones Gert takes care of, and that makes me more than a little sad. I don't necessarily miss the messy, exhausted, nervous parts of parenting a baby. I don't necessarily want another one, or wish that I could relive the entire thing with either of the girls. It's just that I see Gert being such a kid, and she's so beautiful and perfect in each and every moment that it hurts, like looking into a bright light and never wanting to look away.

When people told me that being a parent is hard, I thought they were talking about messy, exhausting, nerve-wracking things. I didn't know it would be so hard to let go of each perfect moment while you're reaching to grasp at the next one. Children shed them like scales and laugh at us for trying to hold each one so close.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Who says two-year-olds don't get politics? Gertrude & I were having our morning chat on the way to Meemee's and I mentioned that tomorrow was election day. Then I found myself struggling to find a way of explaining democracy to a child who refuses to let anything drop until she thinks she understands it.

She wasn't satisfied with the mechanics of voting, "poking holes in a piece of paper." It sounded like a great deal of fun, but she was interested in the larger purpose.

So I went into a bit of detail about "choosing someone to be the leader."

"The leader?" said Gert. She was quiet for a moment. "I will choose my daddy to be the leader."

I stifled a giggle. "Why do you think Daddy should be the leader?" I asked, just out of curiosity.

"Be-tuz I like my daddy. And my daddy takes care of me."

"And because Daddy wouldn't take us to war to satisfy his own interests, or run us into debt to finance tax cuts for the wealthy?"

"Yes," said Gert. "I like my daddy."

I'm definitely looking forward to poking some holes tomorrow, I don't know about you.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I'll be the first to admit I'm the fairest of fairweather fans, but... go Cards! Our bottom-of-the-twelfth, two-out homerun had me shrieking like an inebriated redneck. This morning I went tearing through loads of unfolded laundry to pull out anything red for the girls to wear.

Matilda, being nine, is starting to find her sense of style, and right now she's using me as a guide. That is, whatever I pick out for her to wear is not what she should be wearing. I tossed a red t-shirt at her as she came out of the shower. "Here, support your team!" I said.

She then gave me her requisite list of reasons why she should not wear that particular shirt: too long, too loose, too cold, too red.

"You have to wear that shirt," I told her. "It's your lucky shirt. The Cardinals have never lost a game when you've worn it."

Matilda looked at the shirt in her hand. "I've never worn this when they've played."

"Details," I said. "Look at me, I'm wearing my lucky red sweater.

"Mom, I don't think that sweater was very lucky for the person who started knitting it."


Anyway, not to end on an unrelated downer but this sort of thing ought to make intelligent people ill.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Were you ever a kid plagued by an itchy tag in the back of your shirt? I think we've all been there. Both girls find tags to be a real buzz-kill, but lately little Gert has become intent on hunting down and killing the tags, wherever they are.

Sorry, our debate viewing came this close to turning into a drinking game. Activist judges! Top one percent! Anyway.

If the tag thing is annoying during the day, it's intolerable at night. Every night we put on a fresh pair of pajamas, get Gert nicely tucked into bed, flip off the light, and just when we think she's dosing off, we hear this ear-piercing, horrified scream:


Usually this means I'm supposed to leap into action and grab the scissors, haul her shirt up by the scruff of her neck, expose the tag, and snip.

But lately the tags have become as predictable a bedtime stall as the third drink of water, the last-minute trip to the bathroom, the shadows that look like monsters or spiders, and the need for that one last kiss goodnight. I'd had enough with the tags.

On schedule last night, we got the call. I remained planted on the sofa. "I'll fix it in the morning," I assured her. "Just try to go to sleep."

Silence. Then I heard the quiet, resigned weeping. Feeling like crap, I got up to get the scissors. I stopped outside her door for a moment and heard that she was talking to herself.

Sob. "It will just be itchy forever and ever." Sob. "Mom never will fix it." Sob. "It will just be too itchy forever."

I think they write about people like me in fairy tales when they need a really terrible villain.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Today I have a serious day of copywriting ahead of me, which leaves no time for my usual routine of skipping around my favorite blogs, checking my email six times, rooting through Freecycle for today's finds, and feeling morose about the fact that I have nothing to blog about, which usually leads to me hugging myself and chanting affirmations about how creativity is a fragile spark and should not be thrown too soon to the harsh winds of scrutiny.

Today I will embrace the I-have-nothing-to-blog-about moroseness for what it truly is: an excuse to get some work done.

And in case you're not quite sold on how boring I am right now, I'll tell you the single most exciting thing happening in my life today. I'm eating dinner at McDonalds. There. Now everyone, please check your pity at the door and thanks for not laughing behind my back.

Monday, October 04, 2004

October marks this blog's 25th month of blog entries, and to celebrate the occasion I've decided to give everyone names.

Husband's name is Gary, as most of you already know.

Taking a cue from his very successful and popular blog, I think I'll stick with his names for the girls. They seem to fit.

Youngest shall hereafter be known as Gertrude.

Oldest is Matilda.

And my name, of course, is Penny Barcelona. Nice to meet you.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, we can proceed. The highlight of our weekend had to be running into Jeff and young MC at the grocery store Sunday afternoon. With our carts pulled up side-by-side, Gert and MC had a nice moment of toddler interaction.

I should add that Gert already has a rich fantasy life surrounding MC – in her mind they have gone to the zoo together, shared a fear of lions, exchanged laughs, and continually hung out. So Gertrude was all, hey man! Good to see ya! Check out my baby doll. Nice bib. I like your shoes. Your pants are sparkley. What are you doing for lunch later? I hope this place has free samples. Stores are cool, yeah? Okay, call me!

The second biggest event of the weekend was that the sound on our TV went out, necessitating an emergency TV purchase. It went down like this.

Me: I've just finished paying the bills. For some reason, we are not behind on the budget. In fact, we seem to be in fairly decent shape for once!

Gary: Shut up! They'll hear you!

Me: Who will hear me? What?

TV: What did you say? Oh! Crapping out now. Pppthbbbpthp.

Gary: Damn it! You can't crap out. You're only 1.5 years old. Your peer in the next room is pushing 20!

TV: Can't talk. Crapping.

TV from next room: Feeling a little iffy also…

So before the threats could continue, we quickly purchased a replacement set and restored the natural order of things. Yes, I realize we are being held hostage by the whims of our electronic media devices. There are worse things.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

In case the suspense was killing you, yesterday the organizers of Creativity Week reserved a conference room and led everyone in a rousing session of yoga. I don't know if I feel any more creative, but I have several muscles experiencing a very unique and unusual brand of ache.

There are paint fumes in the hall, and the impending threat of volleyball hanging over my head. I don't know why, but every year the company picnic rolls around and I feel the need to organize a volleyball team. Why can't I just be happy and accept myself as a non-joiner?

This is going to go down exactly as it always did in gym class so many years go. I will stand on the court with my hands clasped out in front of me, running after the ball so as to fool spectators into assuming that I have some intention of volleying it. And then I will yell "GOT IT!" several times as the ball passes serenely over my head. If I ever do inadvertently make contact with the ball, you will see me grab my wrist and wince as an unspoken apology to the team for that tragic mis-bump.

Just so long as I make it through the game without wetting my pants, I'll call it a success.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Sometimes when you have a lot of things nagging at you, the best thing to do is ignore them all.

Here's what I'm ignoring today:

  • Copy for the back cover of an ultrasound physics book.
  • Headlines for five brochure concepts yet to be concepted.
  • Unpaid bills.
  • Unbalanced checkbooks.
  • Unvacuumed rugs.
  • Unlaundered laundry.

    Because after all, it's Creativity Week in Creative Services! Yesterday we looked at close-up photographs of various surfaces and tried to imagine what they might be. Monday we ate Jello molded into the shape of a brain. Today we had a homework assignment – bring in 5 to 10 photos of yourself growing up, and refrain from wearing a skirt. I'm a little nervous about what the connection may be.
  • Tuesday, September 28, 2004

    All right, I know the reality is that most people coming onto this site couldn't give a rat's arse about knitting, and you probably think it's for old ladies. That's what is so very punk rock about knitting. You're making assumptions about me, which makes another nice layer of societal camouflage designed to keep the unworthy out of my elite inner circle.

    So husband's promotion to Vice President/Treasurer of his company earned him an office move to the executive wing of the basement. It's much larger and brighter, and it has fringe benefits for me. His old office (a repurposed bedroom) makes a much cozier art studio than the garage. What it lacks in Potato Barn earnestness, it makes up for with padded carpeting and fewer spiders. My yarn moved right in and made itself at home. It's kind of like having my own dorm room without the nuisance of trying to squeeze in a bed and a room mate. Unless you factor in the cat. At least I can trust her not to flake out and try to set the place on fire. Ah, college…

    Monday, September 27, 2004

    Today is one of those days where you wake up with the motivation to eat right and get in shape, and by 10:15 AM you have eaten all the remaining chocolate out of your desk drawer.

    However, for five whole minutes I felt wrapped in the arms of a warm, chocolate embrace. So it was worth it.

    Note to self: when selecting sweaters to unravel for cheap, re-knittable yarn, avoid chenille. Avoid it! It is nothing but pain, heartache, and clumps of fuzz. Down with synthetics.

    On the other hand, I have high hopes for the much-anticipated unravel of a gloriously soft mohair blend I scored from the local Goodwill for $3. I'm not sure yet, but I think I heard it saying something about wanting to become a hoodie.

    Friday, September 24, 2004

    You will never believe what I have come to possess.

    Someone on freecycle offered a partially knitted red wool sweater that she’d picked up at an estate sale and never gotten around to finishing.

    My first thought: Hmm. I could use that yarn!

    My second thought: Estate sale. This is the knitting of a dead woman.

    My third thought: I Have Got To Have That Sweater.

    So I’ve created an idea of her, this knitting dead grandmotherly type. In the middle of a stitch, her red woolen knitting fell to her lap and that was that. The picture she held in her mind of what the finished sweater would look like, her thoughts of the intended sweater recipient woven into each neat stitch, none of that was seen by the relative or caregiver who discovered her. It was simply red knitting, set aside and never picked up again. Maybe grandchildren would see it and glimpse a memory of grandma’s fingers on that yarn for a moment.

    I didn’t have a knitting grandma. My grandmas taught me to make banana pudding, showed me how to use pastels, raised tomato plants and demonstrated cross-stitch as we watched Shirley Temple movies.

    But knitting is my own. It’s something I’ll try to teach to every grandchild or anyone else who wants to learn – because it's knowledge that is meant to be passed on. It's part of a tradition of people who have each calmly and purposefully turned string into clothing one single stitch at a time, like a loud hum of a thousand things working quietly in unison. You infuse potential, ideals, outcomes, and random thoughts into each inch of fabric, weaving in pieces of yourself as you go. It's magic, in the very oldest sense of the word.

    And this is all probably why people seek out communities or religion or something, but I'm happy just knitting and knowing it's there.

    As I looked through the box of red sweater pieces, I was seized with an overwhelming Amelie-like urge to complete the sweater, locate the person for whom it was originally started, and anonymously send it compliments of the deceased.

    Friday, September 17, 2004

    It's just been nothing but good news here lately. Congratulations to my brilliantly entrepreneurial husband and his partner, who have just incorporated their business.

    I believe this officially makes me a trophy wife.


    And if that weren't exciting enough, I've discovered the slickest little ballerina-style slipper pattern that knits up in just a few hours and uses a single skein of yarn plus some ribbon. I'd post the link, except that some of you just might be getting them for Christmas, wink wink.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2004

    I do believe congratulations are in order!

    Dear Tiny Baby Pudding, this silly sentimental blog entry is dedicated to you. Ahem:

    Into Being

    Be unafraid of jumping.
    You are the work of generations
    of selective engineering.
    You are DNA empowered, engendered, enlivened,
    Foreseen from subatomic destiny
    to stand on a thousand cliffs without collapsing,
    Your atoms fixed securely into a state of undispersing.
    Rocks that crumble from the edge were never meant to hold you.

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    Stitch Klatch meets tonight at 7! (The Coffee House, 177 Hilltown Village Ctr, off Olive -- 63017 if you're into Mapquesting)

    Tonight is special. With my sketchy and limited ability to instruct, I'm going to give a go at teaching someone how to knit. I have packed extra needles, yarn, and photocopies of illustrated, step-by-step instructions from a book that is so much better at explaining things than me. So if you want to learn too, come have coffee with us. I can't promise anything except that there will be coffee, and that at some point I will confuse myself and forget what I'm doing.
    I feel especially cute today because I'm sporting one of these. His name is Morton and he'll be perching on my hip for the next 24 hours, because apparently when you mention to your doctor that you've been feeling fluttery and short of breath it makes him think of setting the two of you up.

    Morton is neither funny nor charming, we have nothing in common, and has already felt me up and elbowed me in the spleen. I want to find an unsuspecting girlfriend to dump him off on and then crawl out a bathroom window, but I'm too polite to do anything but keep glancing at my watch.

    I know they're not going to be very impressed with the "symptom diary" I've been asked to keep, either. Instead of writing down things like shortness of breath, my log is looking like this:

    9:42 AM. Morton poked me in the side. Intense jabbing sensation.
    9:43 AM. Cannot get comfortable.
    9:44 AM. Ow! Motherfucker!
    9:47 AM. Wires are uncomfortable.
    9:48 AM. Shifting position does not alleviate jabbing.
    9:49 AM. Morton is being inappropriately familiar.
    9:49 AM. Jabbing!
    9:50 AM. Ow, quit it.
    9:50 AM. Ow, quit it.
    9:50 AM. Ow, quit it.

    Please do not ask me to show you my electrodes, because I won't.

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Look what my dad got me for my birthday! Except he doesn't know it, and wouldn't know what they were even if I told him. And my birthday was actually about 10 months ago. You see, I found the birthday card he'd given me in a drawer just the other day, and there was cash inside! Way to re-present.

    But speaking of birthdays, my sibling J$ is another year older. I did not call my brother yesterday on his actual birthday, and for this I now hang my head in shame...

    --> Shame <--

    ...and in celebration of the great event, I'm knitting him this with the aforementioned needle set. (The brightest among us will immediately observe that the link is not yet active, as the item has not yet been gifted. And given the massive amounts of traffic this site sees, who knows how the word might leak out…I think I see someone from CNN reading right now! Ahem. Thank you, that is quite a bold little skirt I'm wearing today, isn't it. Don't pretend like you didn't notice. Why yes, I'd love an on-camera interview.)

    Tuesday, August 31, 2004

    Is Ipecac the only over-the-counter medication that sounds like its intended result? Perhaps not, but it is the most fun to say out loud.

    I guess I should be glad this isn't necessarily a trend in the industry, where products like Senokot might be named... well, okay. I'm sure we're all creative enough to fill in our own blanks.

    Monday, August 23, 2004

    In my lunch today:

    3 slices of prepackaged deli ham
    1 slice processed American cheese
    1 tomato, sliced
    1 hamburger bun…

    354 calories.

    1 Cortland apple…

    80 calories.

    1 package Nabisco Dora the Explorer fruit snacks…


    Wednesday, August 18, 2004

    Shazzaam, baby! I just put the final stitches on my very first sweater for Youngest. And it feels good. So good, in fact, that I'm not even going to let the buzz fade before starting on Sweater #2 for Oldest.

    You see that little girl in the pink and grey sweater? That's what Oldest still looks like to me when I think about her. She's this chubby-wristed, wispy-blonde toddler with huge blue eyes and eyelashes that any mascara diva would envy. She pronounces "r" like "ahwa" and thinks toe fuzz is serious business.

    That kid started fourth grade today. And man, is she cool about it. Except one little moment this morning when the cool broke at 6:15 am, a good chunk of time before she was supposed to wake up. I opened my eyes to her standing beside my bed grinning down at me, about to pop with excitement.

    Unlike all the other kids at the bus stop, Oldest did not have a new backpack this morning. She decided to blow her school supply budget on nifty accessories, while "re-upping" her old backpack with glittery fabric paint and artistic flair.

    It gave me a moment of guilt to see her beside all the kids with new bags. I would have bought her a new bag. Never mind that the old one was still in perfect shape, if she'd really wanted a new backpack I would have bought her one. I just hoped she really was pleased with the creative option, and wasn't secretly standing there wishing hers was new.

    "That's your old backpack," said one of the little boys. "I have a new backpack, and you have your old one."

    "Yeah," said Oldest, in her you-are-a-moron tone. "Only, it's not old. I painted it."

    And then all the kids gathered around her work of art as Oldest proudly showed it off.

    She is not me. I have to remember that.

    Monday, August 16, 2004

    Because I'm feeling bitter and angry today, and because some bee-otch newsletter editor in the UK is trying to UK-ize ("-ise") the article I wrote, I just feel like complaining.

    I'm not going to say who, but someone is this room had a baby right out of high school. She went to college, worked two jobs, and so on. The male component went right on collecting Magic: The Gathering cards and working as a lifeguard for a hotel pool.

    Now, I should be glad about one thing. Oldest's biological father has always faithfully paid child support. With the exception of, well, a period of 18 months where he was just sort of, you know, unemployed. But hey, as soon as he got back on his feet living in his mother's basement, he started writing checks again! And they have always been for the same amount. You know, the amount he could afford to pay. When he was a hotel pool lifeguard.

    And he still plans to pay back the period of support he missed.

    When he can afford it.

    You know, after he gets married, goes on a honeymoon, takes a few supplemental trips to various parts of the country, buys a house and some new shoes.

    Last time I asked him about the missing support checks, he told me, "I'm working on it. I've been putting it into a savings account for her."

    That's great! I said. But I'd prefer you just to pay us back as you get the money.

    He said, "Okay." And since then, nothing.

    I try not to be angry about it. We all do the best we can with what we have. We're not all born with common sense.

    Have I mentioned he filed for bankruptcy after opening a credit account in my name, and then stuck me with a $10,000 charge-off on my credit report? Hhh.

    I asked him to buy Oldest's Girl Scout sash and troop number patches. She also needs khaki pants and a white shirt as part of her uniform, I mentioned. We probably have a white shirt. Perhaps he could pick up a pair of pants since she's outgrown her old khakis. He hesitated, but agreed.

    Instead of buying a normal pair of khaki pants from K-Mart like a normal, cost-conscious adult, he bought the official Girl Scout khaki pants – you know, where they sew a logo on the pocket and charge twice as much. AND he got her a white GS logo shirt – which cost more than I would ever spend on a single article of clothing.

    That was awfully nice of him. Or, it would have been if I didn't feel like it was such an unnecessary waste of money when he's acting like he can't afford to pay the support he owes. Every time he buys her shoes she doesn't need or a shirt she'll never wear, I can hear my own voice screaming in the back of my head: That's nice…Pay Your F-ing Child Support!

    Plus, when I told him she wears a size 10 pants, I assume he heard a loud buzzing and some noise where my voice should have been.

    "You'll have to hem them," he said. "But they should fit for a couple of years. Right?" he said, nudging Oldest.

    She smiled and nodded in a way that spoke to how much she really didn't care to be part of the conversation.

    At this point, neither do I.

    Tuesday, August 10, 2004

    I'm happy. Work, for once, is being good to me. Plus, there's chocolate in the studio.

    And tonight, we knit!

    I'm disappointed that by not keeping up with the blogging community I missed an opportunity to meet other area knitters. This is because I secretly think that many of the area bloggers are cool, and I want them to like me.

    Knitting is cool. People who think knitting is cool… are also cool. The other day, I had my knitting with me at the doctor's office, and the receptionist said, "Hey, I knit too! I love knitting." See, and that made me think, "She's cool! I like her."

    A funny thing happens to me when I knit. It's a strange, happy, peaceful thing. I stop freaking out about stuff. I quit thinking I need to lose twenty pounds. I'm not worrying that no one likes me or that I'm a terrible wife and mother. When I'm knitting, all the things I want to do or be are either reachable or irrelevant. Why else would we waste time wrapping yarn around needles in a time-consuming, often frustrating process of creating textiles? Why do runners run? Why do painters paint? There's got to be some chemical change going on in the brain of a knitter.

    Whatever it is, knitting makes me want to befriend people.

    That's a big deal. No, trust me. I think I've had like four friends in my entire life.

    And now this has just turned pathetic so I'm going to stop. And knit! Mmmmm, serotonin...
    "Hey ma, come here," Husband called from Youngest's bedroom. I looked in on the two of them sitting on Youngest's toddler bed, grinning.

    "Tell her," said Husband to Youngest.

    Tripping on a giggle, Youngest told me, "The sun is in your eyes on a string."

    "Oh!" I said, and looked at Husband for a translation.

    "Hold on a second," he said, and cupped his hands around her ear.

    Youngest listened to his whispering, with the gleeful look of a co-conspirator. She said, "My mistresses eyes…"

    More whispering. "…are nothing," she said, "…like the sun."

    Later, he lined up both girls at attention, popped quackers into their mouths and quacked orders at the newly formed Duck Brigade to march – march! – into the living room and pick up any toys they found on the floor.

    Not only did they pick up their toys, they brushed their teeth when they were done.

    While his methods may be unorthodox, his genius is incontrovertible. And you can quote Shakespeare to me anytime, Cpl. Mallard.

    Monday, August 02, 2004

    Just so you know, inanimate objects make great pets at my house. The kids have turned just about everything into a piece of their imaginative world, and most of it is alive.

    My skeins of yarn are all cats. Specifically, they are "yarn-spinning cats" and they are all named Sophia.

    I find the girls in my closet pawing through my stray yarn skeins, each looking for just the right Sophia. They wrap their Sophias in baby blankets. They rock them to sleep. They push them in strollers. They make leashes and take them for walks. They feed them "treats" made of rocks from our back yard.

    The skeins without labels are the orphans, which is all very sad, and those poor Sophias are rounded up to live in the orphanage on our living room couch.

    The other night, I was sitting on the couch with my knitting, and Youngest crawled up beside me.

    "Can I hold your Sophia?" she asked.

    "I'm using it to knit," I told her.

    "I will be really careful?"

    "Well, all right." I lifted up my needles for access to the bundle of yarn on my lap. She held it out in front of her in both hands, gazing at it lovingly.

    "Aww!" she said, after a moment. "My Sophia is falling asleep in my arms!"

    My kids are sweet, but they're all completely whack.

    Monday, July 26, 2004

    This weekend we finished unpacking.

    Yes, I know we moved into the house more than a year ago. Shut up.

    We also cleaned out the garage.

    I've decided to paint the living room red, and it shall be fabulous.

    Four of my tomato plants have blossoms.

    Yes, I know I was supposed to plant them in April, not July. I get it.

    The dog ate:

  • A ballet shoe
  • A stuffed animal
  • Some base board
  • A mauve colored pencil
  • Several paper napkins
  • Part of a rug

    I finished knitting my first-ever knit hat.

    I wore it in public.

    I wore a knit hat out to walk the dog around the block in July.

    Boy, was I sassy.
  • Wednesday, July 21, 2004

    How is this for fun?

    You throw your knitting into a bag, grab your eager, nine-year-old daughter, and head over to the new coffee place that's agreed to host a weekly knitting meet-up.

    Oldest settled into her seat, content with a cookie, while her mother and friends envied each other's yarn and proficiency. I know every parent hopes their children will learn more than they have, reach higher, achieve more, etc. But Oldest impresses me. "Do you want to learn to crochet?" asked one of the needlecrafters. Oldest nodded and watched her weave a crochet hook in and out of a knot.

    "Okay, I get it," said Oldest, taking the yarn and instantly mastering the technique.

    When we stood up to leave an hour later, her chain of green yarn spilled down into a coil at her feet. "You are amazing," I told her. She grinned.

    Thursday, July 15, 2004

    I'm really trying very hard to concentrate on work things during work hours, and to avoid spending all day looking at knitting blogs. Particularly, these:

    Crafty Snargle
    Knit & Run
    Cat's Corner
    Xtreme Knitting
    Green Girl

    and others!

    And Knitty!

    Someday I will feel worthy of calling myself a knitter. Maybe I'll even have a knitting blog. Maybe I'll post pictures of my cool projects and say clever things that only knitters understand, like "Gauge is 16sts/20 rows over 4" on #8s."

    As of today, I've finished my Long Thing. Of course, I'm not going to post pictures of it, because I keep holding it up at different angles and asking family members if it looks like I meant it to turn out this way. When you have to ask, the answer is no.

    But it's soft and long, and I love it.

    Next I'm going to make this for our babysitter's new baby girl. I'll have to buy circular needles and learn how to decrease. Luckily, I've purchased this book for Oldest, which is fabulously colorful and inspiring, and simple enough for even me to understand.

    It taught us a little knitting rhyme that we love:

    Through the gate
    Catch the sheep
    Back we go
    Off we leap!

    In fact, it moved me to invent one of my own that more accurately describes my knitting efforts:

    What's that loop?
    Must be a glitch.
    F@&*$ing hell
    I dropped a stitch!

    Thursday, July 08, 2004

    On behalf of my entire female household, I would like to thank FP for showing us the proper procedure for “casting on.”

    By this I mean knitting.

    Our house has been completely taken over by knitting. I’m knitting. Oldest is knitting. Youngest is pretending she’s knitting with her own pair of “knitting noodles.” The three of us sit on the couch after dinner like a church group, wiggling our needles and unwinding yarn while Husband shakes his head at us.

    We knit in front of the TV. We knit in the car. I knit on my lunch hour.

    When I’m not knitting, I’m thinking about knitting.

    When I’m working, I think about how much I’d rather be knitting.

    We’ve got it bad over here.

    So I've been knitting the same three-inch wide piece of fabric for a while now. It's getting long. I can't tell you how satisfying that is. Husband finally broke down and asked me what exactly I was trying to make.

    "A long thing," I said.

    Oldest has decided to knit a long thing also.

    We have dubbed them our snuffleupaguses.

    Tuesday, June 29, 2004

    To be honest, I have never considered myself a dog person. After all, dogs are stinky and noisy and demanding. But the picture of the dog I've always had in mind that I didn't want wasn't this dog.

    Finnegan is smart and clean and gentle, and he thinks I'm a cool chica to hang out with. He sat by my feet last night while I balanced the checkbook, and he confided that he's actually quite good with spreadsheets and wouldn't mind reconfiguring our budget for me. I was tempted to take him up on it, but by then we decided it was time to run outside for some leaping Frisbee catches.

    I am terrible at Frisbee. But Finnegan thinks that adds to my charm.

    As husband and I were congratulating ourselves on bringing the World's Coolest Dog into our home and elevating ourselves to World's Coolest Parents status, we realized that with adoption fees, registration, vet visit, crate, food, leash, toys, etc… the set-up cost of Finnegan was well over $700.

    Incidentally, $700 is the amount I recently decided to postpone spending on furniture for our living room because we couldn't afford it. And so, here are the top five reasons why Finnegan is better than a living room couch.

    Top Five Reasons Why Finnegan is Better Than a Living Room Couch

    1. While both have mastered "sit" and "stay," we're convinced that the couch would never "roll over" without assistance.

    2. Both may swallow coins, but only Finnegan will return them in the end.

    3. A couch does not wake me up at 6 a.m. and remind me to exercise. In fact, a couch encourages me to remain sedentary.

    4. If spaghetti falls on the kitchen floor, a couch wants no part of cleaning it up.

    5. No couch has ever gazed at me with big puppy eyes to tell me it thinks I'm a cool chica.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2004

    My 10-year high school reunion was this past weekend. Did I attend? For five minutes after receiving my invitation, I did entertain the idea. I mentally went through the checklist of things that keep people from going to reunions.

    Have I gained a grotesque amount of weight or had a piece of my face surgically removed? No.

    Am I unemployed, or employed by a gas station or government agency? No.

    Have I been married more than four times? No.

    Do I live with a family member? No.

    And maybe I misjudged some of the people who served as a continual source of irritation. Maybe the people who made me miserable were just as immature as I was in high school, and now that we're grown ups we'll meet again as totally new people and have something to talk about.

    So I basked in that idealized notion for a few moments, and then I read further on the invitation. The event would be held at a casino. A block of rooms would be reserved "for anyone who wants to hang."

    Jesus, I thought. It's prom night.

    And then the reality of it all came back, and I had a very strong urge to extend my middle finger to the entire high school experience, dye my hair black, skip dinner, and read complicated literature.

    So no, I ditched the reunion. I stayed home with the people I actually care about and felt smugly superior to those who would look down on anyone who did not care to "hang." Hmm. Just like prom.

    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    One of the defining moments of my childhood occurred on the evening of December 25, 1981. Like many girl children throughout history, I had both an irrational fear of the dark and a love of all things ballerina. My parents bestowed upon me a beautiful ballerina nightlight with a pink, illuminated skirt and a large DO NOT REMOVE tag affixed angrily to her panties.

    "Caution," said the tag warned. "Flammable."

    "What does this say," I asked my parents.

    They told me.

    I blinked in disbelief. "You gave me a nightlight that could catch fire?"

    They assured me of the unlikelihood of such an event, provided the nightlight was used safely and appropriately. But it was too late. The seed had been sown. My world was no longer a safe place.

    That night my dreams were filled with the melting faces of my dolls as they screamed and begged to be saved from the flames that engulfed my bedroom. My walls turned to black ash, my parents disappeared into a wall of smoke, and through it all I could discern the blazing nightlight ballerina, lazily turning on her toe to a tinkling tune of perverse horror.

    I managed to put all of that out of my mind for twenty years. But this past weekend, we transitioned Youngest from crib to Big Girl Bed. We gave her a nightlight and a CD player that whispered gentle Good Night Music. All was well. Youngest fell asleep.

    Then we noticed the distinct odor of burnt wiring.

    "Unplug it all," I told Husband.

    "But it's so dark! She'll get scared. It's just the funny-smelling plastic on the new CD player."

    Sidenote: Husband is the one who gets up five times a night to double check the lock on the front door, turns the car around mid-trip to make sure the oven is off, and insists that all bedding be moved well off the floor vents. Paranoia is his domain.

    "We can leave the bathroom light on. That's enough light. We can't leave the nightlight plugged in."

    Youngest woke up crying at 3:30 AM, and I reluctantly replugged the electronics for her. And spent the rest of the night mentally working out escape routes and contingency plans.

    Tonight I'll buy us each our very own fire extinguishers to keep under our pillows.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Three things I learned from watching an episode of The Swan last night.

    1. It's true! Any average-looking woman can realize her dream of looking like a drag queen.

    2. When you try to be something you're not, you end up as just that: something you're not. Only now it's painfully obvious to the rest of America.

    3. Trying to be pretty is like trying to write poetry. It's pitiful and sad when you're not successful, and makes us think you have too much time on your hands. Here, Swan, do my laundry.

    I know I was supposed to feel uplifted and inspired by these women overcoming "life challenges" and emerging from averagedom all spiffied up. Life challenges?

    In fact, I found the whole thing sort of depressing, yet reassuring. I mean, this is the best we can hope for? You're going to spend thousands of dollars to reshape your face and come out looking like a different brand of average? Well okay. I'll pretend I used to look like a monkey and now I look fantasgreat! No one cares what you secretly wish you looked like.

    If I lost ten pounds, not a single person would notice. Unless my left ass cheek literally fell off.

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    More people should have pudding for breakfast. When you can drag yourself out of bed with the knowledge that there's a container of pudding in the fridge with your name on it, that's a good day in the making.

    Last night I mixed up a batch of good old vanilla cook-and-serve and rummaged through the Tupperware pantry in search of vessels. (PS, I don't actually have any Tupperware, but I have a heck of a lot of mismatched Gladware and repurposed Parkay containers.) It so happens that these little yellow tubs that once held spreadable margarine are the ideal size for individual, half-cup servings of pudding. And some of them actually have lids!

    This morning I packed my lunch and dropped a homemade pudding cup into the bag. But by the time I got to work, I had convinced myself that pudding was the ideal breakfast food – creamy, sweet, and packed with vitamins A &D (or so says the dairy council).

    Now I'm sitting at my computer looking a whole lot like a girl eating a tub of butter with a spoon.

    Anyone got a problem with that?

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Let it be known that if you are putting Youngest to bed, you must not, under any circumstances, disturb the Blanket Order.

    To anyone other than Youngest, the Blanket Order is a complex and seemingly arbitrary set of rules that specify when and how each of her sixteen-thousand blankets should be utilized. It is as follows:

    Big Pooh is folded in thirds and goes over the back and seat of the rocking chair. Little Pooh is folded in half and goes over Big Pooh on the back of the rocker ONLY. Shawl is used to wrap Youngest during nighttime rocking. At the conclusion of rocking, Shawl is placed over Little Pooh. Shawl is a Rocking Blanket should NEVER be used for sleeping purposes. Once Youngest is transferred to her crib for tucking, Blanket Bears must drape over the side of the crib facing her nightlight, blocking out all light and negating any effects of having the nightlight on at all (but the nightlight MUST be on). Fuzzy is then placed over her and tucked in between the edges of the mattress and crib rails. NO OTHER BLANKETS, TOYS, ETC. ARE PERMITTED WITHIN THE CRIB.

    Really, as long as you don't touch the blankets at all during the day, it's fairly simple to follow. And we all recognize the obsessive compulsiveness as a developmental stage necessary to Youngest gaining a sense of mastery and control over her environment.

    Something happened recently that interfered with the Blanket Order and almost caused a bedtime catastrophe and the collapse of our household as we knew it.

    Youngest peed on Fuzzy.

    It wasn't her fault. I put her down for a nap without realizing she was wearing underpants instead of a diaper.

    I took Fuzzy and her sheets down to the laundry room, intending to run the load later that afternoon. Then I promptly forgot all about it until bedtime.

    I knew Fuzzy was going to be a problem, so we took it slow. We talked it out, weighing the pros and cons of sleeping with a wet, smelly pee blanket. She decided that Shawl would do as a temporary Sleeping Blanket until the return of Fuzzy.

    But little did I know that sheets also factored into the Blanket Order.

    I pulled out the crib sheet that matched Blanket Bears, riddled with pastel little teddy bears, and stretched it over her mattress as Youngest watched suspiciously.

    "What that?" she asked.

    "It's your new, fresh sheet!" I declared. I thought this would put me on her good side, since she's just emerged from a fixation on fresh sheets that had her demanding "new fwesh sheets" every single night.

    "But I want my Pooh sheets!"

    "Well this is your Blanket Bear sheet. It matches, see? Pooh sheets have pee on them like Fuzzy."

    "But…I don't want Bear sheets!"

    She protested a few more times, but I sidestepped and suggested a story to see if avoiding the issue would resolve it.

    So we entered the ritual. We wrapped in Shawl. We sat on the Pooh blankets and rocked. We read. We talked about our day. Then I carried her over to her bed and started to lower her onto the Bear sheets.

    When she looked down, she screamed and planted her feet on the rail, clawing her way up onto my shoulders like a cat about to be dropped into a swimming pool. "NO! I don't WANT the Bear sheets! Get them off!"

    I saw then that there was no way to pretend I was in control here. I rummaged through her closet and located another Pooh sheet while Youngest sat on the floor with tears in her eyes telling me that she hated the Bear sheets and didn't want them in her bed.

    When she finally settled down with Shawl tucked around her, I staggered out of her room and sank down on the couch beside Husband who had just kissed Oldest goodnight.

    "Rain Man's having a rough night," I explained.

    "At least she didn't make you drive to K-Mart for new underwear, too."

    "Yeah. 400 Oak Street."

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004

    Add comments to your blog, they said. Well, all right. There. I don't know how to use it or what to do with it, but now if you feel moved to comment, an appropriate venue has been provided for you.

    First, three promises to myself about the comments feature:

    1. I will not check back to my site every five minutes to see if someone has left a comment.

    2. I will not stop to consider whether a post is comment-worthy before posting it.

    3. I will not have my feelings hurt when no one comments on my posts.

    This I do swear and doubly make note of, so help me, etc.

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    Summer wardrobe essentials for the approaching-thirty mom.

    Well-padded bras.
    Because nipples that have breastfed two children have no shame, and most buildings nowadays are enthusiastically air-conditioned.

    Hip-hugging shorts.
    Not because I'd like to flaunt my hips at you, but because my stomach doesn't like to be reminded that it's supposed to fit inside a waistband.

    Capri pants.
    Because the less leg I have to shave on a hot day, the better. Actually, forget it. No one's looking at my legs anyway.

    Sleeveless tanks.
    Because arm flab likes its time in the summer sun, too, you know.

    Now it's time to go flip through the Urban Outfitters catalog and pretend I'm a bulimic suburban teenager with daddy's credit card in hand.

    Monday, May 03, 2004


    I know, I know.

    I haven't been posting.

    If I had time today to post, it would go a little something like this...

    Youngest is distraught about a certain coloring book page that she colored for me and then attempted to tear out of the book. It ripped in half.

    "I so sorry, Mom," she told me, handing me one half of an Easter bunny's head, scribbled with deliberate strokes of yellow and green crayon.

    "It's okay, really," I assured her. "I love it! I love how you colored just above the bunny's ear with this little swirl here. Looks like a butterfly."

    "I was making you a present," she explained. "I ripped it."

    "I don't mind that it's a little ripped. It's beautiful. Thank you!"

    More to herself than me, she went on, refusing to let it go. "I colored it for you, and then I ripped it. I so sorry."

    "It really IS okay, honey!"

    Jeez. We really are our own worst critic.

    Monday, April 26, 2004

    Easter. A belated post.

    The children acknowledged their Easter baskets, sorted their chocolate, and located all plastic, Whopper-filled eggs within the first ten minutes of waking.

    And then what.

    We’d done the official Easter gathering with my parents Saturday. With the exception of Oldest’s biofather picking her up after lunch for their events, the day was clear. And I felt the Easter letdown settling in.

    The Christian holidays are a result of my upbringing, a faith that 12 years of Catholic education managed to beat out of me with a vengeance. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door with Watchtowers and Bibles, I shake my head kindly and say with the conviction of someone who’s finally come to her senses, “Thanks anyway. We’re not religious.”

    But I do envy them the enthusiasm. I said to Husband, “It’s Easter. I want to celebrate something.”

    He patted my shoulder kindly. “Well, I’m sure you could walk into any church down the street and celebrate the nailing of a man to a stick.”

    “That’s not what I want to celebrate.”

    His solution? A nature walk with the girls.

    We saw a black snake sunning on a log at the edge of a lake. Youngest expressed a desire to swing from vines. Oldest complained that her feet hurt. And there were dragonflies.

    We stopped at a bridge crossing a creek and peered over the splintery wooden rail at the trickle of water passing over smooth stone below.

    “Are there fishes?” asked Youngest, clinging to my shirt like a baby gibbon as I held her up to look.

    “There might be,” I told her. “Anything’s possible.”

    Wednesday, April 21, 2004

    So there's this guy I know. He'd go out of his way for someone he's just met. He stretches himself so thin helping people out that all his own projects always get put aside.

    If he sees a little old lady having car trouble, he worries about her for days. "There was someone helping her," I point out. It doesn't make any difference. She looked confused and upset, and that upsets him.

    When we lived at the apartment, he was the substitute dad for neighborhood kids at the bus stop in the mornings. One day, one of the supposed tough boys knocked on our door. "I got pushed into the lake," he said, looking on the verge of tears, looking as if for whatever reason he couldn't knock on his own door just then. His socks were soaked. The kid was sent back to the bus stop with dry socks on his feet.

    This guy rearranged his entire career to stay home and freelance so he could meet his daughter at the bus stop after school. He makes dinner, does the dishes, shuttles the kids, folds laundry.

    And he'd rather spend time talking with his wife after the kids are in bed instead of going out to a movie or to a bar with his friends.

    I mean, come on. Of course I married him. This guy is amazing.

    So since today is his birthday, I just wanted to let him know that he's the best thing that's ever happened to me. He's my best friend and my true partner.

    He also makes really kick-ass coffee, which I think is important to any lasting relationship.

    Monday, April 19, 2004

    Prayer of the Agnostic 3rd-Grade-Talent-Show-Costume-Sewing Mom

    Dear God(s)/(esses):
    Please grant me the serenity to imagine for just five minutes that if I were to promise you Never Again, you would enact such divine authority as to prevent my thread from breaking, hems from bunching, etc. long enough for me to sew four stinking, glitter-ridden costumes for a group of children who have long ago lost interest in the whole endeavor.

    PS, also please tap me on the shoulder periodically and remind me That’s Good Enough.

    Thank you, Amen, etc.

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    A friend of a friend had twins four months ago, a boy and a girl.

    When they went to pick them up from daycare, they were both napping. Dad woke up the little girl first and tucked her into her carseat. Then he went to wake the little boy. He wasn't breathing.

    They did CPR. But he died.

    I don't know what I would do if that happened to our family. I really don't. I still put a hand on Youngest's back every night to feel her breathing before I turn off her nightlight. I'm always relieved when I wake her up in the morning, and in the moment before I smooth the hair off her warm forehead, there's always a tiny nagging dread that whispers, What if she isn't sleeping?

    I don't think that ever goes away. I feel the same relief every morning when I pat Oldest's shoulder and rub the goosebumps on the arm she's thrown out of the blanket, glad that she pulls away and burrows into her pillow for another five minutes of sleep.

    I think if anything ever happened to my kids I might stop breathing too.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    I've just returned from the fabric store, which is a strange and surreal place in the middle of a workday. One finds it populated with an odd mix of old ladies making throw-pillows, stay-at-home moms making summer jumpers, one-armed women seeking toggle fasteners, and of course, the huge, construction-site type man in greasy denim overalls who was… actually I don't have any idea what he was doing in a fabric store.

    The register girl was the most unlikely of them all. Mid-twenties in a baseball jersey, with long, stringy blonde hair, overweight. And a frantic pattern of cuts on the back of her left hand that simply do not occur without intent. Register girl was either a cutter or was in the habit of backhanding boys with braces.

    I sidled up to the register, clutching my fabric, and mumbled, "Excuse me, where do you keep the razor blades?"

    "The what?" she asked.

    "For my Exacto knife! God! What did you think I was going to do with them? Is it a crime to need razor blades for your Exacto knife? You do sell them, right?"

    "Uh, over along the wall," she said, pointing. She did not know where to take this conversation.

    "Forget it," I said, plopping my fabric down on the counter. "I'm not in the mood anymore. Can you just check me out?"

    When I got back to my car, I gleefully looked over my purchases.

    Sequined fabric and a shimmer rayon blend glinted at me from the plastic bag. I am Costume Mom. If you tell me that you and your friends want to try out for the talent show, I will make four of the bad-assedest costumes your school has ever seen. In two weeks!

    Soundtrack Dad will not only burn copies of the selected talent show song for you and all your friends, he will edit the track so that it slides just under the three-minute time limit. And then he will print copies of the lyrics.

    Heck, it's stuff like this that keeps parents off the streets.

    Monday, April 05, 2004

    Today's episode: Girl Meets Worm

    Just how fast can an eight-year-old go from squeamish, shrieking, worm-hating sissy to devoted worm caretaker and condo-builder?

    In about the time it takes her to see that her two-year-old sister is gleefully hogging all the worms.

    I was extricating some weeds from a patch of land in which I'm determined to grow something purposeful this season. The girls were enjoying the spring sunshine and jockeying for position on our tree swing.

    "Hey, come look at this!" I called to them, shaking a small earthworm free from the roots of a weed onto my gloved palm.

    Youngest was the first on the scene. "What?" she called in mid-run.

    "It's a worm!" I said, holding it out to her. "Look!"

    She did look, peering with suspicion into the hand I held out to her as Oldest trotted up and looked over her shoulder.

    Oldest made a face and backed away. "Ew!" But Youngest was intrigued. She giggled as she watched it curl and unwind.

    "Do you want to hold it?" I asked.

    Following her sister's lead, Youngest backed away and started to whimper.

    "Oh no, don't worry." I said to her. I have fond memories of digging up worms as a kid, and I was not about to let a little apprehension get in the way of a cool, wriggling earthworm. Childhood is not complete without it. "Worms are friendly. You can hold them on your hand. Like this, see?"

    I took her hand and gently turned the worm onto it. She squealed and laughed.

    "Now don't squish him," I said, as she ran back to the tree to rejoin sister and show off her fearlessness.

    In about five seconds, Oldest was back kneeling beside me. "I want a worm too! Can you find another one? Are there more? Can I hold them?"

    The two girls took the care of their worms very seriously, constructing a complex dwelling out of leaves, twigs, and grass.

    I was proud.

    Friday, April 02, 2004

    I'm feeling behind on everything, and it's depressing. Birthday cards, baby gifts, doctor appointments, taxes, laundry, emails. All the little stuff that really shouldn't be any big deal is ALL seeming like a big deal right now.

    I would rather take a nap.

    Rather than take five minutes to cross anything off my list, I'd rather sit for five minutes and think about how much I'd rather take a nap than spend five minutes devoted to anything productive.

    To make matters worse, I'm on my very last Luden's Wild Cherry throat drop.

    Wednesday, March 31, 2004

    I have meetings today at 10:00 and 2:00.

    This is also the proper positioning of one's hands on a steering wheel as one maniacally drives one's vehicle off a cliff to escape unnecessary meetings.

    Luden's Wild Cherry Throat Drops are fabulously soothing when one's throat is irritated by silent screams.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2004

    I am totally burned out on writing. It's hard. It requires effort, thought, energy, and no shortage of sugar.

    Here's a list of all the things I currently hate:

  • Transitions
  • Special offers (that aren't all that special)
  • Bullets
  • Edits
  • Making shit up

    That last one deserves emphasis through repetition:

  • Making shit up

    I feel like that's all I ever do. Marketing hands me a work order for a direct mail letter. Okay, a four-page letter. You do realize that's four full pages of nothing but words. What am I supposed to say in this letter? Don't know! Make something up! But make it compelling enough that the reader will stop what they're doing, jump online, and pay $54.95 for a professional reference book! But why would said professional want said reference book? Don't know! Make it up!

    Here is list of features I hate:

  • Vibrant illustrations!
  • Up to date information!
  • Expert author!
  • Comprehensive coverage!

    These pretty much describe every book I'm ever asked to write about. Seriously. Enough with the comprehensivefullcoloruptodateauthoritative shit. Give me something real to say. But since no one (including the author) actually knows what purpose the book serves… make it up!

    All creative writing electives in college shall hereby be renamed Copywriting 101.
  • Sunday, March 28, 2004

    I expected to post today with some sort of horror story.

    Saturday night, I had a group of friends over to my house for a book club meeting.

    Two things: 1) I’ve never been involved in a book club of any sort. 2) I make friends reluctantly and sparingly, and participate in so few social activities as to consider myself gathering-challenged.

    I have no horrors to report. It went well.

    But here, I’m about to get all profound.

    I was cleaning my house, and as I swept dust bunnies the size of grown cats from under my couch, I thought back to my mother’s style of house cleaning: ignore what you can’t see. We fervently ignored unseen corners of closets, boxes of clutter, papers and dust shoved under our beds. We ignored it all, the corners growing more and more horrifying, until they reached critical mass and began to spill out into the clean, clear center spaces.

    Such a wonderful metaphor.

    My mother has recently come to the same conclusion I have, that maybe a proactive approach is the way to go. As we speak, she’s pecking away at a lifetime of unaddressed issues in the basement. I like to think I cleared out most of my own baggage when I moved out, but it’s likely she’s still keeping a few pieces, ready to drag them out for re-examination whenever I visit.

    I’m hoping to teach my own kids not to avoid the dark places. If they’re filled with dust, it’s your dust. And if you wind up covered with it, well, you can always shower later. Own the corners, or they’ll own you. Dust bunnies don't have teeth. Even if they did, Mr. Clean is one mean mutha-effah.

    Thursday, March 25, 2004

    Could I just take a moment to address a few points of bathroom etiquette?

    I am regularly offended by people's behavior in the restrooms here at work, and it occurs to me that perhaps (and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) they are entirely ignorant of the psychological havoc they wreak. Allow me to elucidate.

    The courtesy flush
    I know that in civilized society, we like to avoid unnecessary contact with our own crap. But I assure you, you will have far fewer dealings with it if you flush thoroughly. And if one flush doesn't get the job done, it's not an admission of weakness to give it a second go-round. I know a few men who might consider it a source of pride.

    Eye contact
    It is okay to recognize and greet someone washing her hands at the sink as you enter the restroom. It is not okay to peer through the cracks of the stall door to see if someone you know is sitting with her pants around her knees. Honestly, I thought that was common knowledge.

    Identifying vocalizations
    Some people may think that all grunting, heavy breathing, sneezing, and humming sound the same as anyone else's. Not true. And that's a picture of you in my head that I don't want to carry around all day.

    Congratulatory affirmations
    I don't know about you, but I've been using the big-girl potty all by myself for a good twenty-six years. I've become quite skilled at having successful bowel movements. Applause is not necessary. (Again, honestly!)

    And finally, please consider the following topics off-limits for stall-to-stall conversation:
  • What you had for dinner
  • Undergarment brands and stylings
  • Menstruation (in general)
  • Tampons (in particular)
  • Yeast infections
  • Bikini waxing
  • Marital intimacy

    I understand that men have their own rules about restroom behavior, and gentlemen, I applaud you. But certainly not when you're least expecting it.
  • Friday, March 19, 2004

    Sometimes I just get the urge to dress nice. But try explaining that to my co-worker sistahs.

    As I was pulling my ratty Friday jeans off the rack in my closet this morning, I happened to notice the high-heeled, lace-up granny boots that I bought in November as a birthday present to myself. I love them so much that I've named them. Evelyn and Leighanne. But although they look fabulous, like so many other females they are deeply malicious and catty. They pretend to be nice to you and then when you're least expecting it, they pinch and squeeze for their own amusement.

    No matter. It had been months since I'd worn Ev & Leigh, and the memory of the pain they'd caused me last time had sufficiently dulled. I slipped them on and immediately felt fabulous enough to wear a suede skirt to work instead of jeans.

    I whipped in the door and passed a co-worker on my way to my office. She eyed me suspiciously. "You look nice today," she hedged.

    "Thanks!" I said. "I have a job interview later."

    She looked at me quizzically. I thought I heard a faint rustling sound as I walked away. It was the sound of rumors preening their wings and readying for flight.

    People kept passing my office and pausing as if to confirm that yes, I was wearing a skirt.

    "Taco Bell for lunch?" asked another co-worker via email.

    "No thanks," I typed back. "I'm having lunch with Oldest daughter."

    A few minutes later, a different co-worker stepped into my office, leaned in close and said, "I think you should talk to Boss."


    "She heard that you're interviewing somewhere over lunch and she's mad that you're being so obvious and cold about it."

    I noticed that Evelyn was beginning to dig into my little toe.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    I didn't realize it, but before I got glasses I was actually missing out on something. Well, besides, you know, vision. I'm talking about the little smudgy fingerprints that children leave on lenses.

    If the smudge is directly in your field of vision, you probably clean it off right away, while snapping something like, "Can you just keep your hands off my glasses? Please!"

    But sometimes a small fingerprint can be left just on the edge of a lens, as you're kissing them goodbye and they reach up to pat your cheek or they reach around your neck for a hug so sincere that one wrapped-around hand bumps the edge of your frame. And that smudge stays there. Watching as cars pass you on the rain-drenched highway, throwing sheets of water into the path of your busy wipers. Watching as you fumble your way into the office with coffee mug, water bottle, briefcase, purse, and ID card tucked and wedged under the arms of your bulky coat. Waiting while your computer starts and as you sort through the papers that were left on your chair after you went home last night.

    And then, as the transition into the office day settles into your routine, you sit in front of the lit computer screen, and you take your first calm breath of the morning, that's when the left-behind smudge of your little girl calls attention to itself. A silent assertion that you are important. You are more than the recipient of those papers on your chair. You are her mother.

    Monday, March 15, 2004

    It's bill nite, but let's be honest. Paying bills is no less arduous when done on a nite than on a night. Aiight?

    That settled, we can move on.

    I have an odd fondness for bill nite. At what other time in an ordinary week can you say to yourself, "Of course I should have that fourth brownie... I deserve it. I've earned it. I need the comfort of a simple carbohydrate to coax me through such a drab exercise in unpleasantness."

    And I like to push back my chair as the last check is slipped into the last envelope, spread my arms graciously, and announce to those around me, "It's all right, Family. You can relax. I've paid the mortgage. The house is ours for another month!"

    Wednesday, March 10, 2004

    "Is bread fattening?" asked Oldest daughter in the bathtub, wincing as Youngest splashed and aimed a squirt from a rubber fish in her direction.

    Please don't overreact, my inner Teenager pleaded with my inner Mom who is prone to overreacting.

    I adopted a calculatedly level tone. "I guess anything is, if you eat too much of it."

    As if I didn't know the exact calorie, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein count of three distinct brands of white bread.

    But I knew this wasn't coming from me. Fattening is not a word I use. Fattening is a word used by middle-aged soccer moms who believe that certain foods add inches to their thighs while low-fat s'mores can be eaten by the fistful. "Did someone tell you that?" I asked.

    "Courtney said it was," said Oldest, and she busied herself with arranging a bubble citadel for our resident mermaid.

    I quickly thought back to third grade. Yes, as scrawny eight-year-olds we'd called ourselves fat. We'd talked about how we needed to go on diets. But not really. We were imitating our mothers and older sisters, the same way we talked about lipstick and boyfriends. I didn't really think I was fat any more than I really wanted a boy to come within twelve feet of me.

    The only third-grader I knew who could really claim to be on a diet was my chubby friend Susie whose mom regularly packed her celery sticks for lunch and then fed her brownies and Twinkies as after-school snacks. I'm quite certain Susie is in therapy now.

    Of course, I felt a mom-ish responsibility to beat the issue to death with a heavy club. "You know, there's no such thing as good foods or bad foods! If you eat a balanced diet every day and exercise, you'll always stay fit! And being thin is not the same thing as being healthy! And people like you for what you do, not how you look!"

    Oldest pointed to the bottles above her head and said, "Can you reach me some more shampoo for my mermaid's hair?"

    "Anorexia kills brain cells!"


    "For more information, go to!"

    Somewhere in the distance, my inner Teenager could be heard slamming the door to her room.

    Saturday, March 06, 2004

    So let me tell you.

    If you think there couldn't possibly be anything better than spending the late hours of your Saturday night copywriting your way through the guts of an online brochure that's five days overdue to the designer...


    I can think of at least one thing.

    And those tweezers are calling my name.

    Tuesday, March 02, 2004

    I seem to have come down with something that appears to be flu-like in nature. I have barely gotten out of bed since yesterday. So when Youngest came home from Grandma's, Daddy told her to leave Mommy alone. Mommy was sleeping. Youngest promply crawled under the covers with me.

    "So what da matter, Mom?"

    I told her that I was sick. Her eyes lit up. "I'm gonn' take CARE of you!" she exclaimed, and ran to get her Doctor's Kit.

    "Oh god no," I mumbled.

    Minutes later, Youngest was lovingly shoving hard plastic things in my ears, prying open my eyes and pretending to shine lights in them, poking me with toy syringes, and instructing me to swallow imaginary medicine the she held out to me cupped in her little hand.

    I feel much better. I swear. I've had all the medical intervention I can handle.

    Friday, February 27, 2004

    The new word in Youngest's vocabulary is "actually."

    This is almost as cute as her mastery of the word "probably" a few months ago, pronounced something like pwaa-bwaa-bwee, but used correctly in a sentence nonetheless. (Would she like to go with Mom to the store? "No, I probably would just like to stay here with Daddy.")

    Her use of "actually" seems to betray just how much more is going on in her head than we have access to. For example, she'll pull her charm on Daddy and ask for a dessert during dinner.

    "You need to eat your dinner first," says Dad.

    Youngest says, "Actually, I ate my dinner already."

    Dad points to 90% of her dinner left on the plate. "You have lots of dinner left here."

    Youngest pouts, then scoots down from the table and runs off to watch TV while we decide whether it's worth it to chase her down.

    Ten minutes later, as Oldest is clearing dishes, Youngest returns to find her plate missing from the table. "MY DINNER! IT GONE!" she cries in anguished outrage.

    Oldest looks at me and rolls her eyes. I say to Youngest, "You said you were finished."

    Youngest sticks out her lower lip. "ACTUALLY," she informs me, "I still eating it!"

    "You're done."

    Her pout instantly turns into a wide, beseeching smile, complete with batted eyelashes. "Can I have some candy?"

    I offer her fruit instead, which she grudgingly accepts and then leaves with it. I can hear her talking to Dad in the den.

    "Oh, you've got an apple!" Dad observes.

    "Actually Dad, I would like some candy..."

    Thursday, February 26, 2004

    During the drives in to work lately, I've all but convinced myself that I'm a finalist on American Idol.

    In the middle of traffic, I throw back my hair, grip the steering wheel meaningfully, and loudly belt my way through lyrics to songs I barely know…hoping the judges will see that what I lack in talent I make up for in stage presence and glamour.

    "You are a star!" applauds my inner Paula as I wind down on a Cher-like finish.

    Interestingly, that's one of the areas in which I was dinged on the aforementioned performance evaluation: Appraises others' work openly and honestly.

    Writing is like singing, I guess. Those who can't do it very well are often the ones who persist in doing it, well, loudly. And since I've never been very keen on offering my own open and honest opinions, I find it helpful to fall back on a panel of judges.

    The screechiest writing is most likely to bring out my Paula. At least to the person's face. "Well done! This is really… nice. I like it. That's all I can really say, it's just very good, very well done."

    Sometimes I'll offer up a Randy. "I don't know, dawg. I just wasn't feeling it this time. It just wasn't for me, you know?"

    Afterwards, Simon shakes his head. "Abysmal," he says. "Utterly terrible. I would honestly advise you never to approach a writing instrument again for the rest of your natural life. You simply cannot write."

    But then there are those moments when I'm asked to read something that really is good, and that's when the judges leap to their feet and shout, "Outstanding!"

    If only those moments were distinguishable from the Paulas. Perhaps I need name tags.

    Friday, February 20, 2004

    I love my workplace, I really do. My co-workers are like the sisters I never had, each one kind and supportive 90-percent of the time, and yet willing to turn on you like a snake and cut your throat if it means getting a bigger piece of pie for dessert.

    We all know what a girl will do for pie.

    Especially key lime.

    But I digress.

    I'm beginning to feel like the family vibe has gone a bit too far. As we rolled into 2004 and came upon evaluation time, Mom – er, my boss – called us all together into the big living room-like meeting area to talk about our feelings.

    "You are all such wonderful people," said Mrs. S, "and you all do fabulous work. Which is why I didn't feel like it was fair to give any one person a bigger raise this year than anyone else."

    Not quite sure whether to join hands and smile or start stabbing backs, the sisters exchanged confused looks.

    "You see," Mom continued, "we have a pool of money set aside for raises. If I were to give one person more, it would take money away from someone else. And that's just not fair, is it."

    Evil thoughts entered my mind. I thought of the people who regularly do less work than me. I thought of the people who take two-hour lunches. And all the times I've saved their butts by taking work from them. I could feel my blood pressure starting to rise.

    "So, please, if anyone doesn't feel good about this, let's talk about it."

    And of course, in true sisterly fashion, we did. Behind backs.

    Thursday, February 19, 2004

    [IMPORTANT NOTE: I promise, I'm not a political blogger. I am not going to start blathering on about political things.]

    [FURTHER CLARIFICATION: I support the right of any one adult, gay or otherwise, to legally marry any one other adult, gay or otherwise. I do not support the legal discrimination against or subjugation of any specified group of people.]

    Our president is "troubled" by same-sex marriages. Troubled.

    He is not troubled by national debt, corporate corruption, children living in poverty, destruction of wildlife, shattered foreign relations, or even the launching of a war based on pretense. None of these things trouble our president.

    But two people falling in love and making a binding, legal commitment to support one another. Now, that's troubling.

    No, I mean it. I can see why this is a national crisis worthy of constitutional intervention. These two committed people, once granted the right to publicly care for one another, might think it is also within their right to care for children (or pets, for that matter). Two caring parents dedicated to providing a stable family life? Think of those poor kids!

    I am troubled that when the leader of our country states that "people need to be involved in this decision," and that "marriage ought to be defined by the people not by the courts," he doesn't mean those people.

    I'm troubled that he thinks it's right to deny a person full participation in our society if that person falls outside his rich, white, heterosexual definition of the norm.

    Anyway, of course gays can get married. They can get married right now if they want to. A gay person can march into any courthouse in the United States right this very minute and marry someone, as long as their genitals don't match.

    In fact, any man can marry any woman. Even if they're perfect strangers. On a dare. For five minutes. After several too many beers.

    Now that's a sacred definition of marriage worth defending.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2004

    Sunday was Nuffin Day at our house.

    Some might pronounce the word for the little mounds of baked batter "muffins," but not Youngest. As far as she's concerned, we made nuffins.

    It started with two blackened bananas hanging from a wire banana tree on my kitchen counter. They'd been hanging there all week. It was a standoff between us and the bananas. We weren't going to eat them but damn it, we'd paid good money for them and darned if we were going to throw them out.

    "I'm not throwing those bananas out," I said firmly to Husband, keeping one eye on the offending fruit as I unloaded the dishwasher.

    Husband did not look up from the Sunday paper. "Okay. I'm not going to eat them."

    "I eat dem?" asked Youngest, who still licks the bottom of her shoes when we're not looking.

    "No honey," I told her. "They're all black and icky."

    Youngest thought for a moment. "Daddy eat dem?"

    What would my mother do in this situation? Why, she would trick us into eating the black bananas by disguising them as edible food.

    "We're going to make muffins!" I announced.

    For the next few minutes while I gathered the ingredients, Youngest danced around the kitchen shouting, "Nuffins! Nuffins! I makin nuffins! I make dem! I eat dem!"

    At a pause in her cavorting, Daddy sidled over and asked her, "Hey, what are we making?"

    "Nuffin," she answered with conviction.

    "What will they taste like?"


    "What are they good for?"


    "What do you love more than Daddy?"


    "How much will your education cost us?"


    "What are you going to amount to?"


    Husband and I were amused. "What's more fun than teasing a baby?" he asked me.

    "Nuffin," I said. "Except swatting you with a kitchen towel," which I reached for and caused him to flee.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2004

    They're painting the office across the hall from me.

    With paint fumes wafting lazily about my head, I decided that it was time to eat the Really Fricking Huge Chocolate Brownie that I'd brought back from lunch at the local bagel place.

    When the register girl asked me if I would like to add a brownie to my order for just one dollar, I thought, "I don't believe I'm in the mood for a brownie." And what came out of my mouth, instead, was: "Why, yes I would!"

    Register girl reached behind the counter and withdrew the single largest brownie I've ever seen outside a 9x9 baking pan, wrapped in cellophane. With some difficulty, I stowed it in my purse for later consumption. My group ate lunch and decided to make a side trip to the craft store, and so I, feeling a bit conspicuous, went along with Giganto-Brownie in tow.

    "Do you think I'm allowed to come in here?" I asked a friend, pointing to the "No Food or Drink Allowed" sign on the door. She told me not to be stupid, that it was just a brownie. Excuse me, but Giganto-Brownie was not just a brownie. It practically owned real estate. It probably had a family and several pets at home. I was not carrying it in my purse so much as it was allowing itself to be carried.

    I started to feel as though people in the craft store were talking about me.

    I felt compelled to walk up to random people and explain the situation. "It's not like I really even wanted the brownie in the first place," I said to a blue-haired woman as she was examining spools of thread.

    In one of the aisles, a mother with small children was looking at yarn. "Hey, I smell chocolate!" said one of the children. "Well I'm not going to eat the whole thing at once!" I snapped at him.

    By the time I got the brownie back to the office, I was a nervous wreck. "You're too skinny," the brownie whispered to me. "You should eat more."

    "That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," I replied, before realizing that I was talking into my purse and people were staring.

    And then they began to paint the office across the hall from me.

    Thursday, February 05, 2004

    So here I am.

    That is, at home. As in: I’m not at work today.

    It’s a snow day, sort of. They predicted that gobs of all sorts of scary, icy snowishness would be dumped on us as we slept last night, and that upon waking we would peer out of our frost-laced windows and recoil in horror at the sight of so much frozen precipitation and vehicular carnage on the roadways.

    It turned out not to be the case, but it was threat enough to cause Oldest’s school to close.

    So here we are midway through the day, with Oldest contentedly curled up in front of a DVD that Husband had rented for her, and Youngest zooming about the house with a clay fish raised above her head that is apparently able to defy the earth’s gravity and occasionally break into fancy dance moves to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

    Okay, technically I have work with me that I brought home specifically so that I could stay home on the impending snow day without feeling guilty. Am I going to do it?


    I’m going to drag out watercolors and paper, and paint rainbows with my kids. I’m going to bake cookies. I’m going to sit with my feet up on the coffee table, a book in one hand and the other arm around Oldest on the couch, while Youngest pounds Play-Doh into the rug.

    I’m a grown woman and I still feel like snow days are freebies. Neener.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    We're taking Oldest to see Return of the King on Saturday, the grand culmination of several weekends spent on the couch together working our way through the extended edition DVDs of the first two movies. Oldest, you see, is a Type-II viewer.

    I should explain.

    There are three types of Lord of the Rings viewers.

    Type-I: Grew up loving the world of Middle Earth or fell in love with it some time before the movies came out. Spent a great deal of time leading up to their debut fretting and checking up on Peter Jackson's credentials as a director and saying things like, "These films had better not suck." Felt great relief when Fellowship did, in fact, not suck. Rushed home after each film to re-read the books with renewed enthusiasm.

    Type-II: Had not read the books prior to seeing the first film. Was immediately drawn in by Peter Jackson's visual re-telling of the story and captivated by the characters and epic, mythological landscape. Either rushed right out to read the books, or eagerly anticipated the next film.

    Type-III: Think that Orlando Bloom is so hot. So very, very, very sexy hot hot HOT! Oh my god, look at his sexy, twisted Elf ears. Bet Elves are magnificent lovers. P.S. Arwen is too fat to be an Elf, and think Frodo and Sam are gay. But nevertheless!

    Husband and I, of course, grew up with the books. On opening day of each film, we stood in line outside the theater in the miserable December cold, holding hands and nearly jumping with excitement like the dorks we know we are.

    In line for the final film, at the earliest showing in the city on opening day (excluding the midnight shows – I mean, we have kids and all), I looked around and wondered how many of us were that kid in school. The kid who wrote secret messages in runes and named pet fish Legolas and Gimli. And here we all were, taking our bent, worn copies of The Hobbit out of hiding and looking around at other kids who, just like us, would have loved to take it apart and point to precursors, themes, symbolism, and the sheer, wandering majesty of the world of Middle Earth.

    In a way, it's kind of sad that now it's a phenomenon, and that there may come a generation of kids who think that the books are based on the movies. But we'll set them straight. Oldest is reading my beat-up copy of The Hobbit. Each night she shows me what chapter she's on with an excitement in her eyes that I recognize, and I peer over her shoulder and get swept up in the adventure all over again.