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.