Monday, January 31, 2005

I looked out my window last night, just as I was turning out the lights in the kitchen to go to bed. It was late. I was tired.

Holy crap! There's someone standing in the middle of my front yard!

He's short, motionless, and he's wearing the blue and green hat that I knitted.

No wait, that's our snowman.

Fifteen minutes later, Gary had the same reaction, so I felt slightly better about all the Sudafed I'd been taking.

I've been told being sick makes me stupid. Though in my defense, less air through my plugged-up nose means less oxygen to my brain. Physiology! Suck on that, eh.

And then I spun around in my desk chair until my eyes crossed.

But none of that stopped me and the girls from building a snowman on Saturday. It was perfect, packable snow, all wet and dense. We started rolling the body in the back yard and then decided he would be best displayed out front. So we rolled around the side of the house, through the gate, over the driveway, through the front yard.

At that point, I asked Matilda to go locate the dog because it was quite possible we had rolled over him and encased him inside the Snowball from Hell. It was the size of a ten-year-old child and we were only halfway done.

Throughout the entire process, Gert chattered about using a carrot for the nose. We had to use a carrot for the nose. Did we have a carrot for the nose? Because we needed a carrot for the nose! I fricking hoped and prayed that we had a carrot somewhere under all our lettuce and uneaten celery. Matilda ran inside and got her Snowman Kit, which is a really nifty collection of wooden eyes, a scarf, the whole deal. It included a wooden carrot for the nose, but Gert was offended by the very idea.

So Matilda decked him out and I went and got a carrot out of the fridge for Gert. She was so excited. It was like she was finally taking her rightful place in the great snowman-building legacy. Filled with purpose, she grasped the carrot in her mittened hand, walked right up to him and, well, aimed low.

Let's just say that if Stumpy wanted to blow his nose he'd have to loosen his belt first.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

How to terrify a room full of preschoolers in three easy steps.

First, find yourself a big, black, ugly crow-type bird.

Next, convince it to fly into the chimney of your unsuspecting home daycare provider while the children are innocently having their afternoon snack.

Finally, run around the room trying catch the bird in a shoebox while bird shrieks and thuds into walls, careening and flapping over the heads of the children who have all just wet themselves with panic.

Miss Diana called her husband at work and asked him to COME DO SOMETHING about the bird while she herded the children into another room.

This was the scene when I arrived to pick up Gertrude from daycare. Little Gert was shaking and sobbing, and she had a look on her face that told me she would never again throw breadcrumbs to the birds at Grandma's house with the same enjoyment.

I tried to be comforting. I scooped Gert up in my arms and she just clung to me. "Is that poor little bird trying to find his way outside?" I said soothingly.

THUD. Crash. Flutter. Thud.

Diana said, "It's not exactly a little bird." She obviously had no intention of throwing any breadcrumbs in the near future, either.

"Okay, well, let's get your coat on and go home. I'm sure birdie will be gone by tomorrow."


"No!" said Gert. "I don't want to go out there!" We would have to pass by Death on Wings in the next room in order to leave by the front door, and abject terror was preventing Gert from thinking sequentially.

Fortunately, it was only a few minutes before the bird was caught and released outside. The little boys went out to watch it fly away. Gert, however, insisted that I carry her all the way to the car in case the bird decided to come back for more, and she buried her entire head in the hood of her coat.

All the way home, we talked about how scared she'd been, and soon she had herself convinced it was a truly fantastic adventure that she couldn't wait to tell to Dad and Sis.

"Was the birdie really that scary?" I asked.

"I was scared," said Gert, "because I thought it was a crab!"

Well sure. Because a giant, winged crab flying around your house is scary as shit. Who can argue with that?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The idea of having Tigger and Piglet stuck inside your ears is good for a quick laugh at the doctor's office, but as an extended gag it really blows.

I asked Gert to pick up her toys, but she ignored me. "Gert, did you hear me?" I asked, doing my best Mom impersonation.

"My ears are not working," she said.

"That must be because you have Tigger and Piglet stuck in there," I said.

"That's what the doctor said," said Gert, amused but somewhat concerned.

"So now that we're engaged in an audible verbal exchange, how about picking up your toys?"


Later, I was making dinner (spaghetti and meatballs – and by the way, a friend recently gave me THE PERFECT meatball recipe. If you need it, let me know .) and Gert came and stood beside me, silently tugging on one ear.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Mom…? How am I going to get them out?"


"Tigger and Piglet are really stuck waaaay in there. I can't reach them." She then tried to fit her hand into her ear canal, one finger at a time.

My grandma has a morbid mistrust of the medical profession, and I wonder if we're seeing the groundwork laid for that kind of thing right before our eyes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bathroom update: Vanilla scent seems to be migrating toward more of a cherry vanilla. A subtle yet upbeat fragrance featuring pleasantly understated notes of hickory and ass.

Two things almost made me cry before 10 a.m. today. First, we took Gertrude to the doctor for her 3-year checkup. She was very nervous about it. She packed up her own doctor kit and brought her doll Shashanti so she could show Shashanti what was about to go down.

(Yes, Gertrude named her doll Shashanti. I had nothing to do with that. Matilda's favorite doll for a while was called Tina Babonza and I had nothing to do with that either. But I did get a kick out of hearing them say it in public.)

But anyway,

Gert waited on the padded table in her socks and underpants, kicking her chubby legs and chatting with Daddy and Shashanti. She giggled when the doctor located Tigger and Piglet inside her ears. She smiled proudly when the nurse told her how well she was doing.

All I kept thinking about was how she used to be such a tiny, fussy, squirmy thing, and now look at her. When she was a baby I used to try to imagine what she'd look like as a kid, and I couldn't picture it. Now it seems so obvious.

The doctor remarked that he rarely saw any perfect kids, but this one seemed perfect. Bright, friendly, happy, and with a killer immune system to boot. We agreed that she was perfect. Matilda has always been perfect too. I have perfect kids. Sniff.

So Daddy headed back to work and I drove Perfect Gert to drop her off with my mom and grandma.

I hadn't seen Grandma since before Christmas, and I'd given her gift to my mom to give to her. No big deal, I just knitted her a scarf. It was the only scarf I've made for anyone, and only because I didn't think Grandma already had one.

When I saw her this morning, she told me she couldn't thank me enough for the scarf, from the bottom of her heart. I was a little caught off guard. She said, "You always do just the perfect thing," she explained. "You see, when Grandpa died, I had to leave him at the hospital and I was real sad. And I said to him, 'Austin, I like this here scarf real, real much but I'm going to leave it here with you.' So I think he must have wanted me to have a scarf back."

I didn't even know I was trying, but I'm glad I got the message right.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Email is down. Long live word of mouth.

I've just taken part in my first grown-up game of telephone.

Without email, how do you let everyone in your department know that the Monday Meeting is cancelled? If you're my boss, you tell your assistant to go spread the word. Then she tells all the supervisors, and they tell whomever they happen to pass in the hall. Those people filter it back to their office neighbors, and they call out to random passers-by.

I am a passer-by. I am the last link on the telephone chain, the one who repeats the garbled message out loud so everyone can have a good laugh. I can only guess at what the original message might have been. All I know is, I'm glad no one brought a monkey to work because there's really nowhere for it to sit.

Bathroom update: Now it smells like pipe tobacco. Curious.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Attention coworkers: Please eat the candy in my office.

This will ensure that the Smooth Chocolate Truffles and Royal Cherry Chocolates are sent to a good home.

Instead, I'll just eat this fabulous Clementine, containing a mere 35 calories and countless vitamins and nutrients not found in any variety of chocolate.

Also, when lunchtime rolls around, please go to Tomatillo's and order yourself a grilled chicken burrito with spicy cheese sauce, sour cream, and their signature salsa. And chips, lots of chips. I'll stay here and be content with my ham sandwich (lettuce, no cheese!), Gala apple, and baby carrots.

Really. I mean it. Go.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Vanilla scented air freshener does not belong in a public restroom. For one thing, it reminds me of the time a few bulimics in our building took care of a case of Nilla Wafers. Also, aside from that unhappy visual, vanilla smells really good. When something smells good, you can't help but be aware of the smell. And smell is the last thing I want to be aware of in a bathroom, because it inadvertently draws attention to bathroom odor, even if it's being covered up by cookie-like scent.

Okay, we're now changing the subject.

In terms of free stuff, KnitPro is the greatest thing ever. Put in a picture and it spits out a chart to knit. Oh, this is so much fun. Try it! Such possibilities.

If you are as captivated by that as I am, you need to go spend some time on Craftster. I get these people. They make things like Converse-style baby booties.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Guilt and inadequacy can sometimes be found in the most surprising places.

At work, birthdays are a big deal. Because morale is a big deal. And certain people here believe that receiving trinkety shit on your special day generates enough sunshine and happiness to last all year.

And I like the people I work with, I really do. They all deserve their sunshine. The problem is, everybody has a birthday, and that's a whole lot of birthday cake, handmade cards, and thoughtfully wrapped trinkety shit to come up with throughout the year.

PS, I'm really bad at remembering birthdays anyway. I've probably lost friends over it. I'm not the type of person who always has The Perfect Card on hand for any occasion, it's just not what I'm good at.

When my department grew from 7 people to 13, I felt my stress level getting out of control over birthdays. I was running to QuickTrips on my lunch break for cards and lying about having "left your gift on the kitchen counter at home – can you believe it!?" I made a decision. I would no longer participate in the Birthday Recognition Program. NOBODY was getting anything more from me than verbal wishes on their birthday.

That went really well until my birthday, when I came in to the office to find gifts from all the people I had nongifted all year.

So I made another decision. I would ride out 2004. Then in January 2005 I would buy gifts and make cards for EVERYONE at once. I would wrap and file gifts by month. If this whole thing was so important to everyone else, then I would treat birthdays just like any other job responsibility.

Well, today is Connie's birthday. I found myself rushing to Target this morning before work, grabbing a card and a gift to shove into a gift bag, and apologizing for being late because I "left your gift on the kitchen counter at home – can you believe it!?"

But it didn't matter, right? I was on board! I was doing the birthday thing! No more guilt or unreciprocated gifts for me!

I set Connie's gift down on her desk and exclaimed "Happy Birthday!" Then I noticed the two December Birthdays who had gotten nothing from me a month ago, standing right there by Connie's desk, looking at me with that pointed oh, so SHE gets a gift from you…? glare.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

When the dog isn't busy sticking his nose into someone's crotch (because that's his job and all), he can usually be found gnawing on his favorite yellow, rubber ball and trying to catch your eye so you might be tempted to throw it to him. Unfortunately, his ball is just the perfect size to roll off and get stuck under the entertainment center.

There he is, lounging in the den, getting his gnaw on, when all of a sudden the thing gets away from him. With his head flat on the floor, he can see the ball. He scratches and paws as far as he can under the four-inch clearance, but can't reach it. He needs help. So he finds the nearest human. And stares. He stares until he captures the human's attention. Then he throws an urgent gaze over to the entertainment center. Back to the eye contact. Back to the ball. The eye. The ball. Throw in a whine and a little fidget for emphasis.

That's where Gertrude and I came in yesterday afternoon, in between episodes of Dragon Tales.

"What is it, Finn?" I asked. "You have to go potty?"


"You need some love?"

Haroo. Fidget.

"Timmy's stuck down the well?"

Earnest glance at the entertainment center.

Gert said, "I think lost his ball." She hopped off the couch and crouched down to look. Finnegan joined her, squeezing his nose as far as he could into the little space. Gert's entire arm disappeared. "I can't reach it!" she grunted.

With a sigh, I got off the couch (which I like to do as infrequently as possible) and crouched down behind Gert. "All right, let me see if I can get it."

"Okay!" WHAM.

That was the sound of Gert's head connecting squarely with my nose at point-blank range.

Gert started to wail. I waved off those little cartoon birds circling my head and felt my nose, which I half expected to come off in my hand. Finnegan whined and sniffed and stuck his nose in my face and then Gert's.

After Gert had calmed down and the dog's ball had been retrieved, I felt slightly cheated. No blood, no bruising. I should have at least gotten a black eye out of it. All we could do was eat Tootsie Rolls until we felt better.

Friday, January 14, 2005

I have two things to say about cleaning out the fridge.

First, it's awfully thoughtful of mold to be the most unpleasing colors of grey, blue, and black. This way it's easily spotted and sufficiently repulsive to ensure that no living person would ever purposefully ingest it.

And second, if you thought a container of turkey gravy left over from Thanksgiving couldn't survive three months in the back of your fridge, well... you don't even know how correct you are.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

It's pretty clear that Gert is a daddy's girl. Sure, she loves me, and her sister, the dog, the cat, the fish, her "silky" blanket, cookies with sprinkles, and many other things with Gert-like intensity. But that daddy is something else.

I think maybe it's because they do things like this:

Most Tuesday nights are "Daddy Nights." Matilda and I take our yarn out for coffee (and brownies), and Gert hangs out with Dad.

Sometimes they make popcorn and watch a movie. Sometimes they head to the mall for orange soda and a run on the indoor playground. Yesterday as Matilda and I were leaving, Gary asked me for construction paper. And yarn. They had decided to make clouds for Gert's room.

I didn't know what to expect, but when we got home Gert proudly showed off her clouds.

They were fluffy, stuffed, cloud-shaped, construction paper pillow clouds! Hanging from brightly colored yarn taped to the ceiling, they could also have been upside-down posies or suspended lollipops. Gert stood under them on her tip-toes, straining to bat them like cat toys. I lifted her up to touch them and they swung around wildly.

"This is the coolest thing!" I said.

Always the optimist, Gary said, "I just hope they don't fall in the middle of the night and freak her out."

If they do, I have a good guess who she'll want to come and save her.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Marking the sad passing of a very angry and apathetic cat…

He was a mean, yellow stray who terrorized Grandma's three other cats, Bear, Annie, and Two-Bits and managed to win her over simply by eating the food she set out for him every night.

She named him Anthony after the patron saint of lost things.

I loved the other cats and I spent most of the summer before I started high school trying to win his affection, or at least come to some kind of understanding with him. I'm lucky I still have any skin left on my forearms.

Anthony hated everything and everyone. He routinely kicked Bear's ass and made inappropriate moves on Annie. He'd rub up against your leg as if to make nice, and then savagely sink his teeth into your ankle, cling to your sock with his front claws and scratch mercilessly and repeatedly with his hind legs.

He outlived the rest of the cats (even Two-Bits who could hold her own in any throw-down), thereby further endearing himself to Grandma as the cat who was decent enough to still be alive when she needed company.

Toward the end of his life he'd mainly glare at everything with vague threats. He lived on the screened porch, and if I ever visited with Gertrude I'd warn her to keep her fingers away from the holes.

Well apparently, despite my warnings and despite never actually being allowed to have physical contact with the cat, Gert grew to share Grandma's brand of appreciation for Anthony.

"Mom, guess what!" she told me yesterday. "Great-grandma's cat is gone!"

"Yes, I know," I said sadly. "He was old and he died. We miss him, don't we?"

Gert then spoke to me as if she were addressing a small child. "Mom. Anthony did not die. He had to go to up heaven."

"Oh!" I said. "That's right." But I still felt the need to soften the religious programming since we are not a Sunday School family. "When kitties get old and die, then they get to go to heaven."

Gary leaned over to me and muttered something about Baby Jesus needing a cat and choosing Anthony to come and live with him.

"Anthony would eat Baby Jesus," I said.

"WHAT?" said Gert.

"Wings!" I blurted. "Now he can fly around up in heaven! With the angels! And God! Because Jesus loves all the little children and cats."

Later I heard Gert relay the news to her sister: "Guess what? Anthony's dead."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Stop, you're encouraging me.

I have to report that Phase One of the Fruit Hair Experiment yielded mixed results.

The bottle said "Plum." And the model on the box was sporting fabulous, dark red hair with glossy purple highlights.

I showed the box to Gary (who, by the way, had earned himself 500 Husband Points for secretly cutting out hair color coupons and slipping them into the weekly coupon stack) and he deemed it sassy. It seemed an excellent "baby step" to the bright Jolly Rancher-ish colors I really want.

Shortly before dinner, I informed everyone I was going to be in the bathroom a while. Gert asked why. I told her I was going to take a bath and make my hair change color.

"Oh!" Gert said. "I like to do that sometimes too!"

We were confused, until it occurred to us that dunking your hair in the water does make it appear darker. We praised Gert for the keen observation and she ran off to play, chatting to herself about how sometimes she makes her hair blue, and sometimes she makes her hair orange… She's been hanging out with me too long.

Something I learned: If Mom is going to try to lock herself in the bathroom at 4:45 on a Sunday, EVERY CHILD IN THE HOUSE WILL NEED HER from 4:46 until 5:32 when she finally throws open the door and says, "What???" Then they will all look confused and shrug, and proceed to play contentedly by themselves for the rest of the night.

What I ended up with is not exactly what I would call "Plum." It's more of a warm chestnut brown with hints of red, and in the right light it might lean more toward burgundy. Oh well. It's nice, in a this-just-might-be-someone's-natural-color kind of way, but not very unusual. I should have expected as much from supermarket color.

But that's okay, it's a start.

It makes me want a piercing.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I have really, seriously got to get over my obsession with punch-colored hair.

I see a girl with hair the color of Grape and I desperately want to be the kind of person who could rock that.

I'm too freaking old to turn my hair into shiny, glossy, awesome strands of purple. Or orange, I could do orange. But no! That's the problem, I can't do orange! I'm the mother of two daughters who would never stop laughing at me. I couldn't go to a parent-teacher conference and talk solemnly about math and social studies with Grape hair.

On the other hand, I'm 99% sure it would keep other parents from trying to make small talk with me in the hall while I waited for my parent-teacher conference.

That's appealing.

I don't like other mothers of fourth-graders. With very, very few exceptions, they are a bunch of old married women who think their husbands are retarded and that swapping canned tuna recipes is a good time. They all smile a little too wide and chat in a voice that's too high-pitched to be authentic.

The worst part is, I turn into them when they talk to me. Because I don't have any other defense. I can't really say, "Are you serious? You actually give a shit about PTA politics?"

I'm taking Matilda to a school-sponsored skating party tonight where I'm going to rock my mental purple hair and knit a lot, which hopefully will make me seem odd and unapproachable.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


I am so doing this.

And not just because I'm cheap. Only somewhat.

And then I'm making this because garter stitching should be as dirty as it sounds.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I love rainy weather so much it makes my fingertips tingle, and no, I'm not being sarcastic. I love everything about it, from the charge it gives the air, to the sound of it, to the feeling of being warm and dry in your own little spot while everything around you is drenched in a downpour.

When we heard that it was supposed to rain nonstop from yesterday afternoon well into tomorrow, Gary worried about water in the basement. I solemnly voiced concern as well, and then I got a little giddy and rummaged around in my closet looking for my coziest rainy-day sweater that I might hole up with somewhere while rain pounds the roof and threatens its structural integrity.

So many things to be concerned about in a rainstorm. Tree limbs could fall. Yards could flood. Basements could leak. And at this time of year it could all quite possibly freeze, causing all kinds of turmoil.

I'm concerned, I am. But… rain! How can you not want to just curl up and listen to it, or daydream about running out in it and splashing through it barefoot, grinning like an idiot?

Gert sat in her bed last night as I was tucking her in, and I pointed out how lovely the sound of the rain was. She started to whimper. "What if there's thunder?" she asked.

"Then you can just come snuggle in bed with me!"

I knew she'd be sound asleep in five minutes and would never hear any thunder unless it was loud enough to wake me up too. Except now I'm thinking the only thing better than laying in bed listening to the rain would be to have a warm, chubby little girl in your arms who feels safer in the rain because you're there.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In the spirit of the new year, there are a few things I'd like to address. It's important to note that these are not resolutions. These are pinky swears.

I do hereby and in the witness of my peers solemnly resolve to:

1. Eat more fruit.

2. Post more often.

3. Occasionally put down the knitting.

4. Be myself.

5. Pay attention.

6. Let go of things that don't matter.

Not mentioned in the list above is my weight loss goal for this year, because to fret about weight would violate Solemn Resolve #6. But I'll just say we bought a new digital scale and I lost 3.5 pounds during the fifteen minutes it took to calibrate it properly. Shut up, that counts.

My total goal is divided into little goals, and each one is tied to a reward. And when I say reward, I mean:

Reward 1. A new knitting magazine

Reward 2. A new knitting book

Reward 3. Yarn for a new project from

Reward 4. My own knitting blog

I realized I need to have a blog devoted to knitting as I was making a list of things I want and discovered this surprising trend.

What did I do with myself before knitting? Oh yeah, I took on crazy projects like this.

And speaking of, if you say the words "musical theater" around our house nowadays, a certain oldest daughter breaks into songs from The Pirates of Penzance. Meanwhile, if you say the words "costume check is next Monday" to me, I'll pull out sketches and schematics of dresses and nightgowns I'm planning to complete before costume check.

I am the very model of a modern major gen-er-al…