Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hi there, today because Matilda is still sick I've decided to clean out her closet. And can I just say. Sweet. Holy. Christ. The child keeps every scrap of paper she has ever scribbled on. Every McDonald's toy. Every sticker, gum wrapper, and plastic pencil topper that has ever crossed her path.

It's my fault, I think. No, actually it's my mother's fault. My mom can't throw things away. She assigns sentimentality to everything her kids have ever touched or even thought about touching. My room was always full of crap because I thought it was all valuable and worth keeping because it had memories attached to it. Come to think of it, it's her mother's fault. This is a totally learned behavior.

I'm breaking this cycle. Stuff is not going to run my life.

If Matilda could get off the couch without vomiting right now, she'd be horrified at what she saw in the trash. Yes, I'm kicking her when she's down. I'm horrible. But she'll thank me for it when she's not cleaning out a basement full of her kids' first-grade papers someday. She'll just have to find something else to blame me for. Like the fact that I threw out a plastic cricket in a soda bottle that she's been hoarding in her closet for six years.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Does this happen to anyone else? One of the kids stays home sick, and instead of being attentive and doting on the sick kid you decide to start fifteen different projects.

I seem to forget that a sick day is still only about five or six hours. One cannot remodel a living room in six hours.

But that doesn't stop me, and by the end of the day I have half-peeled wallpaper hanging off the walls, half-sorted boxes of junk spread out all over, and piles of dust sitting in the middle of the floor that I hadn't quite gotten around to sweeping up.

On the last sick day I baked cookies, scrubbed out the fish tanks, and folded all the laundry while Matilda napped off a fever on the couch.

"You can never just stay home," Gary observed.

Today I took Matilda to the doctor for some antibiotics and then parked her on the couch so I could clean out her dresser drawers.

Part of me feels guilty. On the other hand, it's the only time I'm ever actually motivated to accomplish things.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

They're threatening to take away my iMac at work, which has me a little rattled.

Granted they've been talking about putting all the writers on PCs for years now, but this time they're bringing in a PC to put in our common area for us all to "try." This sounds like IT's way of saying, "Here, you stupid, whiny Creative crybabies. Acclimate yourselves to the inevitable so we don't have to listen to your Mac bullshit anymore."

I love my iMac . Not just because it makes me different and special in a wide sea of uniform PC users. But because the iMac is beautiful and elegant, sophisticated and loyal. It's kind to small animals and homeless people. It often donates to the March of Dimes. How could they take such a loving, affectionate machine and replace it with a cold, soul-less PC?

Besides, if they get rid of my Mac before I get an iPod, the Mac would be heartbroken.

Oh, you were wondering about the iPod link over on the left? Funny story, that.

It all started several years ago when the iPod was born and I began to lust after it.

The iMac and I have grown to develop a deep, shared appreciation for all that is sleek, elegant, and efficient. We love birch trees. We love spheres. We love the Dodge Viper. We love evocative, austere color palates. We love Scott Patterson.

One day, a coworker of mine came into the office and set something small and white on her desk. My iMac gasped.

“I love her!” he whispered.

“You love Mandy?” I asked, thinking it might take a lot of convincing to get me to see that point of view.

“No! Her.”

I looked closer.

There, upon her desk, was a small, white, elegant iPod with its striking circular control and long, spindly earpieces. And I loved it. I loved it so much that when Mandy told me she'd paid $500 for 5 gigs it actually didn't sound that bad. Not that I had $500 lying around. And then three months later, Mandy was cursing because the 10GB iPod came out for the same price. Then the 20. Still… not like I was any closer to having $500.

All the time I watched Mandy playing with her iPod, the "free iPod" spam taunted me. The banner ads mocked me. They almost wore me down, but I held out.

I work in advertising. I know the lingo. Promises are relative. Nothing is free. I tried to put the iPod out of my mind.

Then, a few weeks ago, I got to talking with my brother J. Somehow, the subject of iPods came up. I joked, "Hey, we should just get 'free iPods' by clicking on those ads!"

"Yeah, my roommate actually did that," said J. "It does work. He got one."

Huh???? It's not a scam? Why, then, do I not have my iPod?

I felt a little dirty, but when I got home I went ahead and clicked through one of the banner ads. It turns out there is a hoop to jump through, but there's an iPod at the end of it. Sign up for an offer and refer five people who also sign up for an offer. Okay, that sounded painless.

So I signed up. And it was remarkably painless. But because I do have shame, I'm not going to go around asking people to sign up for stuff on my behalf.

My blog has no shame, however. Especially that sidebar. I've seen it take off its shirt for a longneck and dance on the table. It also sings karaoke. So it has graciously volunteered to hold the link for me.

And if you're like me and you'd do just about anything for an iPod, go ahead and click over there because it beats dancing on a table.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Two things. Three, actually. Number one, I'm incredibly high on Tylenol Cold Daytime right now, and it seems to be causing short-term memory loss. Number two is. Um.

Moving on, then.

We had Easter at my grandma's house, in a manner of speaking. We don't actually go inside my grandma's house. My dad pulls an RV up along the side of the house, relatives mill around in the yard waiting for Grandma to make an appearance, and at some point Grandma will emerge from her house for several minutes, offer observations and a bit of unsolicited wisdom, and then go back in to feed the cats.

It's all very oracle-like.

And then when we got home, Gertrude became so wrapped up in watching a bizarre stop-motion animation Little People video over and over that she apparently lost track of her bladder function and urinated on the couch.

Meanwhile, the dog learned that if a jelly bean falls on the floor, all he has to do it lick it once and the kids will throw it in the trash. From there, it can be dug out and consumed at his leisure when no one is looking.

This may explain why I later found the dog lying in the middle of the floor moaning, while his sugar-spiked eyeballs jittered around in their sockets.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Matilda's idea of a good time on spring break is coming to work with me and filing stacks of papers. The only thing more fun is three-hole-punching them and placing them in binders.

This immediately makes her everyone's favorite. She takes big, ugly stacks of paper and makes them go away, and she always manages to do it right. I don't know why she finds this fun. Maybe she's keen on having finally discovered a practical use for the alphabet. Or maybe, judging from the state of her bedroom, she's suffering an organizational deficit that only filing can fill. Perhaps she's a case of OCD just waiting for the chance to bloom.

Yesterday I think she was a little bummed because she barely had any chance to dig in on the filing before Mommy dragged her along to a photoshoot. She got to do some amateur modeling. She got to hand out freebies and collect photo release forms. She had several middle-aged women fall in love with her and ask if they could take her home. I would have considered that a good day. But it wasn't until we returned to the office to find a looming stack of filing waiting for us that she really got excited.

I can only hope she still holds this task in such high regard when her college friends invite her to Florida. I want to believe my daughter will say to them, "Are you freaking kidding me? What are you going to do down there, lay by a pool and flirt with boys? Drink, vomit, and flash your titties? Whatever. I'm going to file some shit, baby. Yeah!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Guess what I'm doing right now.

Did you just say, "Sitting on the couch between a laptop and a pinkeye-infected nine-year-old, trying to ignore the cartoons on TV long enough to write back cover copy for fundamentals book on maternal-newborn nursing"?

Wow. You'd be right.

Yesterday I tricked my fever-stricken daughter into eating a banana. I came into the living room with a banana in hand. "Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring. Bananaphone," I said, and handed her the banana. She actually answered it.

And now she's irritated with me because it's been stuck in her head ever since. I'm just irritated because typing on the laptop makes me cranky. The dog is irritated because I'm sitting here not playing ball with him.

The only one seemingly not irritated is the cat, who really doesn't give a shit.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Peanut butter. And banana. On white bread. I am five years old again, only this time I’m not picking off the banana slices.

The only member of this family more addicted to peanut butter than me is the dog. If he so much as hears me touch the plastic lid on the Jiffy jar, he attaches himself to my leg and rolls his eyes up at me in his most pathetic, mommy-don’t-you-love-me plea.

Today I scraped the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar for my own sandwich and looked down at his pitiful little face. “Sorry, bud.” I said, and his peanut-lovin’ heart broke right in two.

Caught (as I often am) in the middle of a struggle between Right Mom and Righteous Mom, I contemplated the empty container. Behold, here in the palm of my hand the two things Finnegan adores: peanut butter and plastic.

Now he’s curled up in his crate with his front paws wrapped lovingly around the jar, his tongue snaking around after the last smears of creamy goodness. The expression in his eyes reminds me of an Atkins dieter on a carbohydrate binge.

Most of the time I'm just one bad day away from lying in the middle of the floor with my own nose embedded in the recesses of a peanut butter jar. Don't act like we all haven't been there.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Belated birthday greetings to my little brother D who turned 27 on Wednesday. D has just taken a job as assistant manager at a very large chain drugstore location, and so I'm very proud of him and I hope he doesn't have to take too much crap from bitter old ladies who would rather argue for three hours before paying eight cents more than the sale price of Metamucil as stated in the weekly ad.

I used to be a register girl at said chain drugstore, and very nearly had to bite my own hand a few times to keep from gouging out their bitter, old eyeballs. Good times.

The thing I've recently learned about D is he's allergic to aluminum, which means he avoids all products containing any amount of it. As I understand it, this means he can eat mainly garlic and broccoli, bathe in distilled water, and wear clothing hand-woven from natural fibers he's cultivated himself in a small, sterile brick pot of toxin-free soil. Deodorant? Um, no.

Talking to my mom, he's not minding the lifestyle change a bit because it's such a relief to be free of all the allergy symptoms. I guess if I were losing my hair and scratching my skin off too, I might gladly say farewell to processed cheese. Well, not gladly.

But the problem I'm having is we're celebrating his birthday at my folks' tomorrow, and I always bring desserts to birthdays. Fabulous, creative desserts. This whole allergy thing sounded to me like a challenge.

"What kind of flour can I use?" I asked my mom. "What about whole wheat flour?"

"He doesn't really eat anything that's processed at all," she said.

"Dairy?" No.

"Soy?" No.

"Raw sugar?" Probably not.

"Christ. Is he outside right now gnawing the bark off a tree for sustenance?" Well, he has lost about 30 pounds...


Yes! D can eat fruit. It's not terribly creative, but a simple fruit salad is topping my list right now. I wonder if walnuts contain aluminum.

I wonder how well tree bark would work as a binding agent.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The subject of leprechauns came up at my house this morning. "If you catch one," I informed wide-eyed Gert, "you'll get three wishes. You can wish for any three things you want!"

Gert didn't miss a beat. She clearly not only grasped the concept of wishing for things, but the idea of a leprechaun granting them was no further fetched than any other genetic aberration we foist on kids during the holidays. She was game.

Gert told me, "I would wish for," and she held up her fingers to count them off, "a baby. And money. And a lamb chop."

A baby, okay. Gert's been on a crusade for a younger sibling for many months, so this one comes up a lot. She frequently asks me if I have a baby in my tummy, which is most awkward when we're in the presence of other people who are expecting us to have another one, and they always seem a bit let down when I tell Gert no.

Money. That seemed a bit sophisticated. I wondered if her sister had been coaching her.

But what the hell. A lamb chop! I asked her why she would wish for a lamb chop, and her reply was just as cryptic. "Because my old lamb chop I would give back to the baby and I would wish for a new one for me."

I told her those were very nice wishes and I hoped she got to see a leprechaun today.

Several minutes later, it occurred to me what she was talking about. Not lamb chop. Not Lambchop. Lamb Chop! Like the stuffed version her grandma had recently given her, which presumably would be handed down to the new baby when the leprechaun came through. So she'd need a spare. Duh.

Holidays make so much more sense when you think like a three-year-old.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

About the hair transformation? A short Q & A session is in order.

Q: Has short hair made you more carefree and spontaneous?
A: Why, this morning after tweaking and shaping it, I spontaneously rooted through Matilda's drawer of hair junk and dug out the cutest little carefree butterfly barrette to stick in my hair.

Q: Has short hair made you a better parent?
A: Aside from barrette theft, yes. Matilda commented that I now look like "the nice kind of mom she'd like to be around." Apparently long hair made me a crabby, haggy, vindictive mom. Vast improvement.

Q: Has short hair made your nose smaller and cuter?
A: Shut up. That's what glasses are for.

Q: Has short hair made you more creative?
A: It did inspire me to change the default font on my outgoing email. That should at least rattle a few people.

Here's one definite plus… no one who was at the presentation yesterday knows I'm the same person who tripped over two rows of chairs and got her heel stuck in someone else's shoelace on her way to the front of the room.

Monday, March 14, 2005

T minus twelve hours to PowerPoint time. Ladies and gentlemen, the freak out has begun.
Hours before I am scheduled to give a presentation: Seventeen.

People who will be attending presentation: Two hundred.

Preparation I have done: Zero.

Although... I was given two PowerPoint slides by last year's presenter. That should help. But it doesn't. They contain very helpful bullet points like "Best of the Best!" Hmm. Yes. I'll elaborate with, "It doesn't get any better than that! What am I referring to? I haven't the faintest idea. Next question!"

On the bright side, I can't be bothered with freaking out yet because I'm too busy thinking about what my hair will look like after I get it cut tomorrow.

Hours until fabulous, life-altering haircut: Twenty five.

Hair has been on its best behavior, as if it knows.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Did you know I've had essentially the same long/straight hairstyle thoughout most of my teenage/adult life? My hair and I had an agreement. You don't bother me, I won't bother you. So for many years it's kept me away from hair joints that don't begin with Great or end with Sam's.

Lately, the hair has failed to uphold its end of the bargain. It's been in my face when I bend over to pick something up, when I try to buckle Gert into her carseat, even when I'm eating. I'm pushing it out of the way more often than the dog, which is saying a lot.

I announced last night that the long hair is not working for me anymore. So my supportive husband went online and bookmarked countless sites full of inspiringly short hair styles.

Now I have a hair style but no stylist. Being prone as I am to impulsive decision-making, I tell Gary that we're going to get my hair cut TODAY even though that probably means putting my hair into the dubiously trained hands of a Custom Cuts girl. I printed a photo and decided anything would be better than living another day with long, heavy, annoying hair.

I wasn't expecting the receptionist to be mean and snippy with me when I told her I wanted a haircut. But that's okay. I sat down to wait, and then watched one of the stylists argue with a customer over what he wanted.

Okay, that doesn't bode well, but we're already here, so fine. Then the stylist argued with her next customer over their pricing structure. Loudly. And the customer walked out.

So the bitchy receptionist and the loud stylist spent several minutes talking with each other about how valuable their time was, and that was just Too Darn Bad for everyone else.

Gary had been giving me the eye this entire time. "You want to bail?" he asked me. I said no. The bitching and shrill self-righteousness continued. Customers exchanged looks. "You sure?" Gary said.

We bailed.

I am still stuck with my long hair, but at least Shrilly McShrew wasn't going to be the one to cut it.

Friday, March 11, 2005

I got up this morning, and honest to god I ironed a shirt. I don't know what came over me. This is not a pattern of behavior to which I am accustomed, in fact I think I've almost convinced everyone at work that the "maybe-I-slept-in-this" look is an intentionally cultivated aspect of my creative eccentricity.

I don't know, today I just looked at this particularly wrinkled shirt hanging in my closet (the way they tend to get when you leave them in the dryer for three days) and thought maybe it would look cuter if it weren't wrinkled.

None of the kids were awake yet … I might be able to slip downstairs and iron under the cover of early morning darkness so as not to upset the delicately established precedent that Mommy Doesn't Iron.

Despite my unfamiliarity with the process, it went rather smoothly. And the shirt did look much cuter. So I proceeded with the morning routine and hopped off to work feeling extraordinarily crisp.

Then I got to my office and happened to look down at my supposedly crisp shirt.

The wrinkles are back.

This reminds me of those joke birthday candles that keep relighting after you blow them out.

I think the lesson here is that three days of sitting in a dryer cannot be undone by five minutes of furtive ironing.

Maybe when I'm domesticated I'll cross-stitch that into a sampler and hang it on my wall.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Since I'm sick and the baby is sick (someday I'll stop calling her that – maybe when she's 40), I'm most amused right now by cuteness.

Whenever Gert means to say Lincoln Logs, she calls them "Lincoln dogs," and I am never going to correct her on that. Because what's cuter than a little, brown, log-shaped puppy in the palm of an earnest three-year-old's hand?

It's just about as cute as her insistence that our neighborhood swimming pool is called "the fwimmin cool." It makes sense, right?

I've also learned that it's great fun in the winter to overfill the bathtub, put a swim suit and flotation device on her, and let her relive her summer's glory while I sit on the can and knit.

I don't really knit on the can. That would be gross.

But I could.

If I wanted to.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Here's one more example of why I must have sucker written all over me.

I took the girls to McDonald's for dinner so they could play on one of those slightly terrifying indoor hamster-tube playgrounds. We ate greasy food and then they disappeared. I get very paranoid in playground settings, even those enclosed by big panes of plexiglass. I sit next to the exit, keep a wary eye on any potential abductors, and freak out every time one of them leaves my line of sight for more than 5 seconds.

I picked up the sweater I was knitting and tried to reassure myself that just because I hadn't seen the children inside the giant hamster tubes for 5 whole seconds, that didn't mean they had been abducted.

Then a kid crawled under my table.

I think it was a girl, but her short hair and gender-ambiguous clothes made it hard to tell. She was probably about 6 or 7 – old enough that one really wouldn’t have expected her to be crawling under other people's tables.

I spent a few minutes being indignant at the girl(?)'s parents for not teaching her social boundaries, or (supposing she was retarded or something) for not keeping a better eye on her and making sure she didn't make an ass of herself and piss off other people.

The kid stared right up at me from under the table and watched me knit while I watched my children not be abducted.

Then I realized that kids who don't get attention from their parents seek it from total strangers. Perhaps this kid's parents were fuckwits and I was her only chance for some positive adult interaction.

I stared back at her. "You're under my table," I observed bluntly.

"Do you have any money left? Or is it all gone?"

"Nope," I said, leaning a little further toward the fuckwit parents excuse. "It's all gone."

"My grandpa doesn't have any money left. He tried his card but it didn't work, so we had to go home, but then I was hungry."

I scanned the tables around the play area for anyone who might have been called Grandpa, but didn't see anyone. Unless Grandpa happened to be uncommonly young and worldly. Or an overweight, middle-aged woman with a mullet.

"Hmm, that's too bad," I said. What the hell? Had someone just dropped this kid off at McDonald's hoping someone would feed her? Fuckwits!

Just then, Matilda came over and stuffed a few more fries in her mouth. "Hi, Mom," she said.

"Oh, hi," I said. "There's a kid under our table."

Matilda looked at me, then looked under the table at the kid. Then she almost wet her pants laughing.

"So why are you under my table?" I asked the kid.

"I was just seeing if you have any more money..."

Just five seconds longer and I would have bought the kid dinner, taken her home with me, and called Protective Services. But then, Grandpa returned from the restroom.

The little rodent scampered out from under the table and sat with great decorum at Grandpa's table, where she in fact had a half-eaten Happy Meal spread out before her. She grinned at me. I collected my children by loudly announcing that I would buy them apple pies for the drive home.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A year or so ago, with the chaos of summer break, summer school, and freelancing looming, my husband the Almighty Father/Professional suggested that it might be time to bring a laptop into our family to ease some of the chaos.

Coincidentally, I had always wanted a laptop. Even before laptops existed, when I was thirteen years old and plugging away at chapters of whatever novel I was writing at the time.

1988 A.D.: As I scrolled through the 3x5-inch screen of my Brother word processor – and believe me, that was plenty cool after spending several summers on my grandma's old typewriter – I dreamed of a sleek, futuristic, notebook-like device that I could take anywhere and write on whenever I felt like it.

I pictured myself typing contentedly in a field of daisies, as words poured onto electronic pages, and futuristic, rocket-propelled cows munched genetically engineered cud overhead.

Just as I felt that email was the universe's answer to my personal desire to never have to talk on the phone again, the advent of the laptop spoke to me as my own dream come true.

Of course we were going to get a laptop. Call it whatever timesaving, chaos-dispelling thing you want. Give me my laptop.

Then the magical laptop of my dreams became just another piece of computer equipment, a tool to get a job done.

For some reason, it all came back to me the other day. Gary was giving Gert a bath and he called, "Hey, can you bring me the laptop?"

The laptop. Cool, sliver, smooth, thin, and light as an undergrad textbook. I pulled it out of its padded case and suddenly it was like seeing it for the first time. Like a clean, white piece of paper, it gazed up at me begging to be written on.

I hugged it. (No, I'm not making this up.) And then I carried the laptop to the bathroom and announced that I needed to write a book.

"Okay," said Gary. "Um. Can I use it first?"

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My three-year-old has better social skills than me, and it's a little creepy.

She was telling me about a dream she'd had about Miss Diana the Daycare Lady coming over for a visit.

According to Gert: "…And I would say, 'Diana, I would like you to meet my sister. Her name is Matilda.'"

Now when I'm in the position of introducing people, it would never occur to me to lead with the very polite "I would like you to meet…" Usually I jump in at awkward moments and blurt, "Um! This is…" and forget everyone's name. Where did little Gert (who has only been alive for 3 years but can navigate the Wiggles website using sophisticated computer skills like double clicking) pick up on such effortless, elegant phrasing?

Clearly she's not getting it from me.

And who taught her to say, "Daddy, I hope you have a very good day today!" on her way out the door?

Who taught her to stand at the top of a slide, turn to the pushy kid behind her, and offer, "You can go first."?

It wasn't me. In fact, I'm more likely to duck my head in the grocery store and pretend I don't see people I recognize so I won't have to talk to them.

Sometimes I pretend not to recognize people in the middle of a conversation.

This morning I walked into the kitchen and Gert was sitting on Daddy's lap, listening as he explained in all seriousness how to avoid one of the true pitfalls in life, the pyramid scheme.

"Now if anyone ever offers you the chance to be in their downline, what do you say?" prompted Daddy.

"No thank you..." said Gert. "I'm not in-un-an-est-ed."

Polite, yet assertive. I'm so proud.