Sunday, December 23, 2007

Over The River and Through The Skies

As my family prepares for yet another holiday excursion, this time a flight from Providence to Phoenix, I’m reminded of the last trip I took alone with the kids. Traveling with my family is a bit like childbirth; I always forget the pain and tribulations involved until I'm experiencing it again and the guy from the V-8 commercials pops me in the head and I realize, “Oh yeah, this is why I swore never to do this again.”

Anyone who has ever traveled with children—especially on an airplane—knows what a harrowing and exhausting experience it can be. Even when your children are fairly well behaved. In fact, I think I’d rather get paper cuts underneath all my fingernails than to take my five and seven-year-old on a cross country trip again. They have been traveling on planes since they were very small, so I figured I was getting seasoned enough to know how to do it right. I always try to come armed with paraphernalia to keep an entire troop of children happily entertained for hours, but somehow 10 minutes into the flight the floor beneath our seats is littered with food wrappers, crayon shavings, shoes, a few socks, empty Capri sun packages and the children are, well, bored.

I have flown enough to know that the key to surviving an airplane trip with your children—at any time really, but especially when you are sans husband—is to keep the carry-on mess to a minimum. Each child has their own backpack, which contains: their music players, gameboys, crayons, coloring book, plain notebook, a pen and pencil, perhaps two small travel games or a deck of cards, a bag of their own personal snacks, a small pillow, and their “pet” stuffed animal. Theoretically, individual bags will alleviate the fighting, bickering and general upheaval that is typical of siblings, especially when those siblings are crammed together in airplane seats sized for your basic Oz Munchkin. I say theoretically because my children can always find something to fight about. “Your arm is on MY part of the arm rest… SO?…SO get it off it’s been there the whole time and I’m uncomfortable and it’s my turn to use the armrest…FINE have the armrest I didn’t want it anyway…THUNK…OWWW! MOM he pulled my pillow out from under my head…I’m going to rest now and I NEED a pillow…I was USING that pillow…SO?…SO it’s not fair…Well you CAN’T use the pillow AND the armrest at the SAME TIME…

It’s at this point I stand up and ask if anyone would like to switch seats with me, an LDS mom perhaps, who is used to dealing with 8 or 9 kids at the same time, which would make my two seem like a vacation, but alas, there are no takers. Quite a lot of people are whispering to each other however, which I don’t think is a good sign.

I sit down and wedge myself in the seat between them hoping my presence will make a difference. However, by the time our flight arrived in Boston—12 hours after leaving Phoenix—I was spent. My husband met us with a shiny smile and open arms, while all I could do was hold back the sob that wanted to escape. You’d think that the drive home at 10:45 at night would put the kids into some type of sleep, or at least quiet respite, but of course the adrenaline was still coursing through the veins, and the yelling and fighting, wrestling, singing, guffawing laughter and all around vocal upheaval was still alive and well. My husband said, “You’re quiet tonite. Are you tired?”

I’m sorry. Did he just ask me if I was tired?
Seriously. Is that what he just said?
I stared ahead and bit my tongue. Any sound that would have come from my mouth would have been a total verbal freak out and I was trying to stay pleasant. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks after all.
But tired? TIRED?? Tired doesn’t even begin to touch the depth to where my fatigue had fallen. Lower than smashed gum on the sidewalk, I tell you. But tired as I was, truth be told, I just wanted them to shut up. I had been the only adult to shield the barrage of questions and comments that shot from their gun-fire mouths since 10:00 a.m. And every one of those questions and comments was preceded with, “Can I ask you a question” or “Mom, I have something to tell you.” By the time those wheels touched down on my Bean Town black top, I was neck deep in words, question marks, complaints, exclamations; just sitting there drowning in black, bold letters and onomatopoeias. They were sucking the very life out of me to the point where all my answers were, “I don’t know.”
“When are we landing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will Dad be there to pick us up?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why is the green light on above the bathroom signal?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do we do if only two masks come down from the top?”
“I don’t know.”
“Mom, do you love me?”
“I don’t know.”

I just wanted them to shut up. Shut up shut up shut up. I needed the ride home to be peaceful and quiet for five minutes. Tired? Yeah, I was tired. Tired of noise emanating from their messy squishy faces. By the time we were finally home and the children were in bed my ears were aching, the cartilage throbbing to the memory of their constant cacophonous clatter.

Now after writing this, tell me again why it’s a good idea to take this trip once more, adding a 7 month old baby to the mix? At least my husband will be along for the ride, which gives us a 4:3 parent-hand to loud-child-mouth ratio. It’s do-able. I’ve packed enough crap to keep them entertained for hours you know, and it is wonderful fodder for a blog. Blog fodder. Ha.
Here is wishing all my loyal and faithful readers (yes, you mom) a very merry Christmas. May you all have safe travels and the batteries on your movie players and gameboys not die half way to your destination.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I decided that I’ve waited long enough. The five of you that read this blog have been just begging me to tell you about this Thanksgiving. Details of the festivities. The humor in everyday events. It puts your own life in perspective you say. Well, glad I could be of help.

This year I figured that with new baby in tow, we should go visit my in-laws for Turkey Day, since my husband's grandparents aren’t able to travel very well. Now, being an inhabitant of Eastern Massachusetts and considering that the in-laws live in West Virginia, this means a 10+ hour drive to visit. I really wanted to fly, but my husband informed me that if we wanted to provide something besides oranges and sticks of gum in our children’s stockings this year, we would need to drive. Deep sigh.

Preparing for a trip of this proportion is no small feat. The thought of driving with my two fighting-aged children as well as a baby that is prone to scream if in her seat longer than 15 minutes was enough to give me a migraine, let alone trying to cram 2 tons of family paraphernalia into a 1 pound space. If there is anything that sets off my internal anxiety switch, it’s being ass-to-elbow with crap and not being able to move. I’d like to interject at this point, that I did request that my husband borrow one of those roof-rack-luggage-holding-shell things. Knowing how I am, I warned him I was feeling anxious about the amount of stuff we would need to bring (pack-and-play, stroller, luggage, toy bags, etc). And you’d think that after living with me for 9 years, he’d be jumping at the chance to avoid having to deal with me in high anxiety flip-out. I put my request in early, like all good customers, allowing him plenty of time to secure said traveling device. I also followed that request up with daily inquiries about whether or not he had located the object. Two days from lift-off, we still had no roof rack, so he decides we might as well buy one, they are only a couple hundred dollars after all. Sears has them on sale, wouldn’t you know, and I’ll go down there today and pick one up.

I knew we were in trouble when he hit me up with, “So how much stuff are you talking about? Are you sure it won’t fit in the van?” Sears was out of stock. Shocking.

My husband vows that it’s all going to be alright, he’ll load the van, and assures me plenty of move-about space, don’t worry, pat-pat. Now, for my part I manage to pack everyone in their own small duffel bag and decide that to minimize my stress, I will be in charge of the children’s to-do bags and all snacks. I will hand them one thing at a time, and will not let them play with anything until I get the first item back. I have all the headphones, gameboys, music players and all cords neatly tucked into a small metal lunch box. A small whiteboard with dry erase markers in ziplock bag (labeled with number of markers.) Coloring books, with crayons in plastic school-desk organizer. A container of Wet Ones, a pump bottle of hand sanitizer, and a small arsenal of movies to watch on their (newly-purchased-just-for-this-trip) video players. Each child has their own individual small pillow and blanket, and with every thing loaded into the car, there is still floor space. We just might make it after all.

I’ll fast forward the trip. We left after dinner at around 7:30. Being so dark, all the kids slept the entire 10 hour ride to West Virginia. Anyone who questions the existence of God, need only look at this small miracle to become a believer. We pulled into my in-laws house at 5 a.m. and the Thanksgiving holiday was underway.

We had a great visit, everyone oohed and ahhed at the baby, and the kids were able to spend quality time with all the Nana’s and the Papa’s. (Historical note: When my husband was little he called his grandparents Nana and Papa, so when our kids were born that’s what they call my in-laws. The problem is that since my husband’s Nana and Papa are still alive and living four blocks away, we have two set’s of Nana’s and Papa’s. This is a tad confusing for the kids who are always asking, “Which Nana and Papa” so we have been saying things like, “Regular Nana and Papa, coupled with Great Nana and Papa.” Old Nana and Papa and Younger Nana and Papa didn’t sound quite right, neither did First Nana and Papa, and Second Nana and Papa. So Regular and Great (respectively) were what stuck. If you are confused, don’t feel bad. So are the kids.)

Thanksgiving Day arrived and the meal was delicious. On the menu for the day; stuffed rigatoni, sausage and spaghetti sauce, meatbulbs, homemade bread, green salad, mashed potatoes, gravy and a boil-in-the-bag pre-cooked turkey breast. (If you’re wondering about the menu, see blog titled “A Regular Thanksgiving.”) We ate, had dessert, and stayed a few more days.


I really love traveling. Honestly. My least favorite things about it however, are packing to get there and packing to go home. It’s inevitable that you are going to come home with more stuff than when you started. Because that way, no one has to ship anything and therefore people feel very generous in the gift and thing-giving arena. Keeping in mind that we were already stuffed like sausage in van-casing, here is the list of what new items found a ride back to MA:

  1. A singing rock and roll bass that mounts to the wall, for my son who will get a kick out of it, complements of Great Papa.
  2. A very large digital clock, for my husband who will really enjoy it, complements of Great Papa.
  3. A hand carved authentic replica Native American bow (which is very cool) complements of a friend of Regular Papa.
  4. A green stuffed bunny for the baby, complements of Great Nana.
  5. A wooden snowman decoration for me, (which I love) complements of Regular Nana.
  6. A plastic bag of cut fresh pineapple and sliced chocolate chip pumpkin bread in case we get hungry.
  7. Two new pairs of shoes for my husband, from underneath Regular Papa’s bed.
  8. And, last but certainly not least, a four quart jar of fresh homemade sauerkraut (which must stay upright) a container of salt and an opened bottle of hot sauce my husband loves.

We were also supposed to take a game chair for my son, but alas, it wouldn’t fit. Now I’m shooting my husband the “Gee-wouldn’t-it-be-great-if-we-had-a-roof-rack-Don’t-tell-me-we-are-seriously-taking-that-sauerkraut-look” and he’s a tad quiet because he knows I’m right, and we manage to smash the kids in between the extra items leaving them approximately 10 hours of breathing space, get in the van and start off down the road.

Now, there is a reason that our trip there was so successful. It’s because if our trip there had been one-tenth as hellish as the trip home, I would have turned the van around and never left MA.

It’s raining on the trip home. A downpour so heavy that the fastest cycle on the wipers is not doing much for visibility. It’s also foggy. So foggy that it’s difficult to see the cars in front of you. There are about a million truckers on the road barreling down the highways, spraying the van with water from tire spin off. I’m not sure if it’s more dangerous to travel behind them and not see, or to speed to about 100 and try and pass them. My husband is driving. I’m holding the baby in the backseat—yes holding her—because she is screaming at the top of her lungs and has been for about forty-five minutes, Frick and Frack are in the backseat complaining that they are hungry, and he’s kicking me, no I’m not, yes you are, well you’re taking up the whole back seat, no I’m not, yes you are, well there’s a big box back here in my way (the singing bass), you’re sitting on my blanket, then give me my pillow….and I’m jiggle jiggle jiggling the baby who is still screaming, there is a jar of sauerkraut at my feet and a computer bag in my way, it’s raining, there’s fog, and now the fact that I didn’t get much sleep the entire vacation is really catching up with me. I feel the mercury in my body rising…and this whole experience is starting to feel like a horror movie, and now the anxious neurotic part of me is sure we are going to slip on the road, roll the van and all die in a fiery inferno. I can see the clips on the news, see the headlines “Family of Five Perishes on Interstate 78; Singing Bass Escapes.

Then it happens. Something gets thrown from the backseat. I hear markers hitting the floor, stuff being kicked onto already crammed foot space. The natives are about to lose it, but not before mom’s thermometer explodes.
(Those with a weak stomach or a tendency towards child advocacy may want to skip the next part.)


At this point I officially lose it. I slam on the overhead light, screaming, “WHO IS THROWING THINGS? WHO IS THROWING THINGS!! WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THROWING THINGS…” And I’m in the process of yelling, and the kids are bug-eyed and cowering in the backseat, the baby is still at full blare, my husband is trying to navigate us through a watery hell and now he’s yelling at me to CALM DOWN and QUIT THROWING THINGS and DO I WANT TO DRIVE? NO! I scream. I DO NOT WANT TO DRIVE because if I were driving right now I’d pull over and wait for the damned storm to pass, I’d rather just wait for us to die, not actually be in charge of us dying, and now every one is strangely quiet. I think about five minutes ago there was a line I crossed. I’m pretty sure there is no going back…chalk up one more issue for childhood counseling. I’m sobbing and the kids in the backseat are now sleeping just where they lay for fear of rustling up more Scary Mom. The baby has fallen asleep too, because even a 6 month old can only cry so long before passing out.

I’m really not proud to admit all this. Of course we made it home safely, didn’t roll the van, didn’t spin off the road and all die in a fiery inferno. We were fine, just like my husband said, pat-pat. Even if whoever counsels my children in the future is going to make a mint. In fact, the trip was so successful, we are starting to make our Easter plans to travel to Washington DC. In the van. Only a 7 hour drive this time. Cake.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Real Life Thanksgiving

I’d like to know who creates the commercials for Thanksgivings….the ones you see where everyone is dressed up and a multitude of shiny perfectly cooked side dishes lounge peaceably on a cranberry damask tablecloth. Each person in the family is smiling—or laughing at an uproariously clean and good-tasting-joke—while the Head Female in the house leisurely sets the golden-oven-roasted bird on the table. That commercial where no children are screaming, the house is clean, the oven works and it is pretty obvious that someone here has been prepping for this one-day meal for at least three weeks. I’d like to meet the people who create these commercials and then I’d like to share Thanksgiving dinner with them and see exactly where they get these beautiful ritualistic ideals.

My problem, you see, is there is a part of me that actually expects (or at least strives for) some sort of ceremony and perfection from a day like Thanksgiving. I’d really like to be that Head Female, nary a drop of stress and holding 25 pounds of succulent fowl. But the reality is Thanksgiving isn’t that way for me most years. Well, okay, every year.

Last year my husband and I decided to invite his parents and grandparents to our house for the November holiday. We had just found out we were expecting baby #3 and thought it would be incredibly fun to have everyone here for an East Coast celebration.

I’m not sure if I’ve previously mentioned that my husband is Italian. Over half Italian as it turns out, not simply a smattering of Italian, not he-was-run-through-an-Italian-kitchen as-a-newborn Italian, but actually over-half-real-life-genetic-Italian. Which means that his dad is full Italian and Nana and Papa are well, full-Italian with parents who came over from Italy. And what this means to Thanksgiving is that Tom Turkey is an afterthought.

Any holiday celebration with my husband’s family is a big Meat Fest and must include: Nana’s stuffed rigatoni, sausage cooked in spaghetti sauce and what my daughter affectionately refers to as “Nana’s meatbulbs.” Now, Nana’s meatbulbs are known far and wide as the best meatbulbs ever and my kids can inhale 2lbs of cow each when Nana gets those things cooking. I will admit—Italians brace yourself—that I’m not a big meat eater. I’m no vegetarian, but I don’t typically seek out meat as a comfort food. Unless you count bacon, but as everyone knows, bacon isn’t really meat. I don’t particularly care for sausage on any level and only have recently begun eating it on pizza. I’m also not one big on meatbulbs, however I can put away a few of Nana’s. They really are that good.

So, day before Thanksgiving 2006, sausage and sauce are simmering on the stove top for about 12 hours (which is a great smell when you are pregnant), meatbulbs are cooked and I had prepared a fresh raspberry pie for the next day. (With the last of the freshly picked raspberries from local New England farm.) Pie is in the oven. As I’m checking on pie, I notice a small flame coming from the heating element at bottom of oven.

“Um, there’s a fire in here,” I say outloud.
“Put some baking soda on it,” my mother-in-law suggests. I grab the baking soda. Sprinkle, sprinkle. Nope. There’s still a fire. I’m thinking that those are pretty stubborn berries aflame in there. The pie probably leaked and that’s what’s burning.
“Put some more baking soda on it,” she suggests again. I dump more on.
And I’m dumping on baking soda, and the fire is still burning, and now moving up the heating element, and currently there’s four adults staring into the hot open oven wondering what the hell is going on, and the box of baking soda is empty, but it looks like a blizzard has materialized in my oven, and with looks and nods, we all decide: the heating element has had it. Current time: approximately 6 p.m.

Now, in my next life the first thing I’m going to do is open a 24 hour appliance-parts-store that is open year round, for sorry saps like me whose heating element kicks-it the night before Thanksgiving. I really believe this is an untapped market. So off goes my husband and father-in-law, rusty muskets thrown over shoulder out to harvest one new stove element for Magic Chef stove. (Yes, Magic Chef is an appliance brand name—it’s top of the line, haven’t you heard?)

I’m inventory-ing the Thanksgiving meal: Rigatoni? Check. Meatbulbs? Check. Sausage and spaghetti sauce? Check. Turkey breast? Nope, was going to cook it tomorrow. Raspberry pie? Nope, it’s half-baked. Bread? Nope, tomorrow. Stuffing? Nope, tomorrow. Pumpkin pie? Nope, tomorrow. Now the stress is starting to build a tiny bit. This isn’t looking like those Thanksgiving meals on TV. Not even a little bit. It’s more “A day in Italy,” than anything else. But I’m trying to put on a happy face. We are together after all. And I have a roof over my head that doesn’t leak. And I have one half-baked raspberry pie. Which my mother-in-law still thinks we can salvage, and if we can’t, well, she’ll be happy to eat it anyway. (She has a thing for uncooked pie crust.)

So, arrive home the Pilgrim men sans heating element. Oh, the local hardware store had one, but not that fit a Magic Chef stove (again, top-of-the-line I tell you). I’m about in tears but the Pilgrims are happy to go to the store and get the rest of what we need.

Well, suffice it to say that later that night, after only crying for a few hours (in my defense, pregnancy hormones were to blame for some of this), I had come to terms with the fact that this Thanksgiving, like so many others, still was not going to be commercial-perfect. The good thing about my in-laws is that they have no expectations of perfection. As long as there is rigatoni, meatballs and a fresh pot of coffee, all is good. My husband and I decided to 86 the raspberry pie on the sly, because we knew mom would eat it, and well (having diabetes) mom needs a half-baked raspberry pie about as much as I needed a big sausage sandwich.

Thanksgiving morning, having no oven, we eat: microwaved stuffed rigatoni, sausage and spaghetti sauce, meatbulbs, one Ronco-Rotisserie cooked turkey boob (both breasts wouldn’t fit), store bought French bread, store bought pumpkin pie, and Stove Top stuffing, cooked ala stove top. We wore sock feet and jeans to dinner, and most of us had on clean shirts and sweaters. And after my mother-in-law forgave me for throwing away her soggy raspberry crust breakfast, a good time was had by all.

But there were no shiny side dishes. No beautifully glazed turkey. No ceremoniously made pumpkin pie or secret family recipe stuffing. Those dammed commercials set me up. Like I said, I want to meet the people who film those advertisements. I’d like to invite them to Thanksgiving with me sometime. Maybe they’ll create a scene a bit more realistic, with real life stress and missing pies, and ovens that don’t work. What was Thanksgiving like this year? Well, that’s another blog entirely.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Birds and Bees Part II- Truth and Evasion

I suppose I should be celebrating that my son is so inquisitive and precocious. The fact he really likes to know how things work and how things are all interrelated–and that usually he really does understand how things tie together in this world—could be a great sign that he will be a scientist, or philosopher, or even one of the greatest thinkers of his generation. Or it could be a sign that he will inevitably know all our family secrets way before I am ready to divulge them.
Let’s hope for the former.

I managed to evade (to some degree) his questions about how those pesky little mechanical sperm get inside the mom, why some die off, and how moms don’t have a baby every year if they always get new sperm—only to be hit with the following question at 8:30 a.m. Why do these questions always surface at meal times?

“Mom, how long were you and dad married before I was born?” I choke on my bagel. This sounds innocuous, you say. What’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that David and I were married for four short (or long, depending on how you look at it) months before our little boy blessed us with his presence. The fact that I was five months pregnant when we tied the knot is no family secret. It was fairly obvious to all at the wedding as well—even if I wasn’t really showing—because I couldn’t stop rubbing my belly all night long. I haven’t seen most brides do this, so unless my guests thought that the stuffed chicken was giving me indigestion, I’m sure they figured out the news as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I had (and have) no intentions of keeping this some deep, dark family secret only to be revealed at my death. But I also had no intentions of telling my (then) second grader exactly how long it was before he was born. Not at age seven.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked.
“I just want to know how long you and Dad were married before I was born.”
“Well, Dad and I were married in December and you were born in April.”

I was thinking that maybe he wouldn’t count the months. I was thinking that he probably doesn’t even know how long a pregnancy is.

“December, November, October, January,..” he kept going, looking at me for some direction. “Is that the right way to count them?” I knew he had the concept down, thank God he kept getting the months wrong. Finally I had an answer.

“Eli, Dad and I were married in 1998 and you were born in 1999.”
“Wow! That’s a long time!” he answered and skipped away.

I realize I have only bought myself a few weeks. At most. The main problem now, is that when we finally have the conversation about mechanical life forms getting inside mom, all these questions are going to surface again.

Stumped on the last questions and how to go about explaining them, I took the kids to the public library. While they were glued to the computer games I silently whispered to the children’s librarian, my face behind an open picture book, “Do you have any books on the facts of life; something I could use to help explain it to my second grader?” No matter that I am a 34 year-old mother of two and clearly expecting my third. I felt like an embarrassed teen-ager who just told her mom she got her period. The librarian had that sympathetic look and sigh, as if she had heard this question a million times, and led me to the section where all the SECRET BOOKS are kept. Actually, it was right there, third shelf down, within a toddler’s reach. Across the isle from astronomy and right above cooking. Shouldn’t these books be kept behind glass? With the Playboy and Hustler magazines?

Each book was a tad different in its approach, from glazing over the whole making-love/sex part, to actually describing in full detail, exactly how the man part gets in the woman part. I chose three books; one with specific facts and fabulous 70’s color pictures, one that glossed over the sex and focused on the development of the baby, and one by Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that she wrote a book for children on the subject of sex. I was a little skeptical of a book from Dr. Ruth, because she is such an advocate of being open about sexuality and about sex being a healthy part of life. I’m one of those moms who wants to tie sex to marriage, as well as all the baggage that accompanies unmarried sex. Sex isn’t sex without the guilt. This is one of those times in my life when “Do as I say, not as I do,” comes in really handy. But Dr. Ruth’s book handled the subject well:

“When boys and girls grow up, they become adults. And when adults love each other very much, they get married. At some point, the grown-ups might decide to try to get pregnant and have a baby. So, the man puts his penis inside the woman’s vagina. This is called having sex.”

Direct. Straight-forward. Pulling no punches. Now I like the fact that sex and the baby are mentioned after the love-each-other-very-much part and the marriage part. But let’s face it, as an adult—even a good Catholic one—not all stories start (or end) like that. So, my problem? Later Dr. Ruth says, “After growing inside the mommy for nine months, the baby is ready to be born.”
Ah, there’s the rub.

I can pretty much bet on the fact that after reading this story with my son, I will get the question again. Oh, it might not be for a day or two, maybe even a week if I am lucky, but it will definitely be before he turns 18. I was hoping to hold out until at least 18. The conversation will probably go something like this:
“Mom, a baby takes nine months to grow, right?”
“Yep.”
“Well, you and daddy got married in December and I was born in April. That means… (silence while he counts) I was only in your tummy for 4 months?” You were a miracle child, I want to say.
“No, you were in my tummy for nine months.” I hate telling the truth.
“Well, the book said that sex happens AFTER mommies and daddies get married, right? Then how did you have me only four months after that?”
Well….

My mother is probably sobbing with hysterical laughter right now. On the floor. Holding her sides. There’s a reason I told you to wait, her eyes giggle. There’s a reason the church says to wait, too. I told you so, I told you so, I told you so.

Apparently, it’s so you don’t have to try and explain the intricacies of sex and life to a second grader who wants to know how everything works.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wanted: Kids Who Don't Need Food

I have to admit, out of all the responsibilities of parenthood, the one I loathe most is feeding my children. In fact, parenting could be a much more enjoyable experience if kids were more like pets and you could place a bowl of food and water on the floor (okay, fine, the table) and let them do their thing. In fact, that’s one of the best features of my $707 cat.

I do not understand how we can live in a society that has a working space station, has mapped the human genome, has figured out how to power vehicles using corn, not to mention has created an electronic device roughly the size of a credit card that can be a phone, computer, ipod, photo album, and wireless internet, but no one—no one—has invented a way to only feed the children once a day (weekly would be even better). They make these things for plants for heaven’s sake, why not people? Perhaps a slowly dissolving stick you can jam in a kid’s ear that is activated every time they shower. It could deliver all the essential nutrients a growing kid needs, and possibly even come in a variety of smells. Willy Wonka had a prototype, why isn’t R&D on this?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the little darlings to starve. But there has to be an easier way to get the job done than actually cutting, assembling, preparing, cooking, and locating food for them seventeen times a day. And be honest, that’s about how often they eat. Breakfast cereal has to be the closest thing to a perfect food. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. That cup of milk takes care of bones and teeth. And most times, the cereal comes with a toy. A 17.5 oz slice of heaven. As long as I have a bit of milk and a box of cereal, we are okay.

Not that the kids always feel this way. One particularly harrowing evening two years ago, the kids were hungry. Loudly whining, moaning, complaining. It had been a long day teaching 8th graders and my husband was working in Russia. The house was trashed, I was exhausted and it was already 6:30 with no meal in sight. I decided we were going to have cereal for dinner. I set the table. Three bowls, three spoons, one box of Chex, and…
No milk.
No milk, no milk, no milk.
No bread, no peanut butter. No juice, no eggs, no cheese.
One soft, wrinkled apple. One slice of shiny, rainbow lunch meat. A can of beer. Food poisoning and under-age alcohol consumption do not a dinner make.

The thought of loading up my (then) four and six year old, going to the very large supermarket to buy one pathetic gallon of milk at 6:30 at night made me want to vomit. What’s a desperate mom to do?
I called my grandma.

Yes, my motherhood had reached new lows, since what able-bodied, educated, mid-30’s mother calls her 70+ years-old grandma to rescue her from grocery nightmare? Especially when that grocery store was in fact, closer than grandmother’s house?
I know. Bear with me.

So I call grandma, who happens to not only have regular milk, but also soy milk (grandmas are always prepared) since my daughter has dairy allergies (another reason I hate feeding children). Grandma drives the four blocks to my house with two recycled jam jars of assorted milks. I thank her from behind tears. She leaves.
Kids are still loudly whining, moaning and complaining. My head is about ready to spin in circles.
I yell at the kids that food has arrived. WE ARE GOING TO EAT NOW! I announce.
They make their way to the table as I not-so-gently set the jars of milk down. (Kids are soooo needy these days).
As I’m pouring the cereal into the bowls and angrily sliding the spoons across the table at my son and daughter, their eyes are wide and glistening with sadness. (Guilt is just what I need at the moment.)
“WHAT?” I say a bit loudly. “WHAT IS WRONG NOW?”
I don’t like tonight,” my son whimpers as he tries to eat his Chex. “It feels like we are homeless or something.”
I cackle. Laugh-out-loud-witch-cackle. Homeless? He feels like he’s homeless? I’ll show him homeless
“EAT YOUR CEREAL!” I announce.

It’s been two years since this event, but I’m pretty sure it’s alive and well in my kid’s psyche. If they had an easy-melt dinner tongue-strip, (like I’ve suggested) this whole scene could have been avoided.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hoochi-Mommas and Reapers and Blood, Oh My!

Warning: This blog rated PG-13 for sarcastic humor.

My son always wants to be something gross or scary for Halloween. Having not grown up with brothers I figure it’s a boy thing. He is pretty well versed on my stance on violent weapons, blood, and costumes that look evil, since I must replay the diatribe every time he asks me to be one of these things. This year he wanted to be the Grim Reaper.
“But I won’t carry the big curved sword so it’s really just a big, black cape and hood.”
Not having the energy to go into the plethora of reasons he was not going to dress as the Angel of Death, I just said “No.” (okay, you got me, it was a few hundred No’s) We finally settled on a Mimja costume (He insists it starts with an “m”) for Halloween this year. Fine, I said, but no violent weapons.
“But it isn’t fun being a Mimja without violent weapons,” he whined.
“Well then you can wear the clown costume we already have at home in the dress up box,” I retort. He stayed with the mimja, sans weapons.
My daughter wanted to be anything as long as she could wear a wig.
“How ‘bout a Gypsy?” I asked.
“What’s a Gypsy?” She asked back. (Don’t they teach those kids anything in school?)
She wants to be Hannah Montana. I’m not letting her wear hoochie-momma-teen clothes.
She wants to be a Cheetah Girl. Again, I’m not letting her wear hoochie-momma-teen clothes. I’d really like her to be a gypsy. So what if she doesn’t know what one is? For one thing, we have most of the costume at home. For another thing, we have most of the costume at home. I’ll download some gypsy pics off the internet, we’ll have a brief lesson and she’ll be good to go.

But as I’m wandering the isles of Target trying to find gypsy accessories, I realize that 1) this is taking way too much time, 2) this is going to cost more money than buying a new costume and 3) I’m the one who wants this; she doesn’t even know what a gypsy is. So I head to the pre-fab Halloween costume section, pick up one mimja outfit, and also score a cheetah print dress with cat ears and tail, (the literal translation of “cheetah girl”) all on sale. Done. (And she didn’t get to wear a wig, by the way.)

And there I am, watching the kid’s Halloween parade at school. There are a few princesses, a Harry Potter, a sprinkling of police and fire-people, and a couple classics, like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. But by and large the greatest costume populations were singers in hoochie-momma-teen outfits and grim reapers. Of course.

Now call me what you will, but there is something unnatural about seeing a line of black hooded seven and eight year-old grim reapers. Some with sickle. Some with fake blood that you can pump-action down the ol’ reaper face. There is also something disturbing about seeing all the little seven an eight year-old girls half dressed with microphone head pieces. I even saw one girl, dressed all hoochie-momma with a sign around her neck saying, “Paris Hilton-Prison.”

Now parents, if your 1-3rd grader knows the detailings of Paris Hilton news and asked to be this for Halloween—and you let her—shame on you. If your 1-3rd grader has no idea about the Hilton escapades and you thought it would be a funny parody at her ignorance, shame on you twice. And the pumping blood? PUMPING BLOOD I ask you. Who needs to see the grim reaper, let alone his face awash in blood? Perhaps each year’s popular Halloween costumes are a testament to where we are as a society. I remember growing up with the vinyl Sesame Street characters and Princess Lea, and you know what a bunch of pansy-asses my generation turned out to be. Kids these days are so much more knowledgeable and worldly—let’s just call it street smart. I suppose you need that growing up in our world today. So I made a list.

Yes, a list. For parents who may need some more societal inspiration for their children’s Halloween costumes for next year. If your children don’t know what the costume is, you can call it a teachable moment and let your child in on how the world really works. Not only that, but your child just might win the “Most Creative Costume” award next year.

Rachel’s Top Five Most Inappropriate Child Costumes for 2008

1. Hooker- It’s a classic really. They have been around…well…probably since Socrates. Nothing is cuter than a small child in fishnets and tight leather. If you really want to be PC and open-minded, have your boys use this costume too. Nothing says “tolerance” like a small cross-dressing boy hooker.
2. Forensic Pathologist- Have your little muffin dress in a white lab coat, latex gloves (or latex free if they have an allergy), and drag behind them a mutilated body. If you have time and money, you could construct a small gurney on wheels that your child could push, but dragging the body along the pavement will work just as well. It’s already dead after all. This costume would be good for CSI-addicted parents.
3. Meth Lab- Attach a bunch of empty bleach bottles and Sudafed packets to your child’s clothes, and have them carry a couple empty beakers and flasks. You’ll need to get a jump start soon with this one, since the pharmacies now ration Sudafed like bread in Russia. Sick people (like me currently) can’t get a decongestant to drain our pounding heads, but meth labs are having a field day. So, if you and your spouse both start purchasing them now, by next Halloween you could have a good collection of packages to attach.
4. Hazmat worker-The next generation of “Dirty Jobs!” Have your child dress in a white sweatsuit with helmet and breathing apparatus. This could be for cleaning up those messy meth labs, or for cleaning up toxic waste and/or chemical spillage.
5. Polygamist-Wife- This is the easiest costume ever! Have your daughter don a simple peasant style dress, wear a long braided wig (recycle that Hannah Montana wig from this year), and have her carry 10-12 of her favorite baby dolls around. This could also double as a good geography lesson about where Colorado City is located.

These costumes would not only get a good laugh from all those parents and adults who watch the kiddies in the parade, but would provide hours of quality family time while you explain the intricacies and history behind each outfit. What? You say? Your children aren’t ready for that kind of information? Mine either. But apparently there is a large parent contingent that doesn’t have the same kind of filter I do. In fact, I’d love to keep my kids in Elmo, Spider Man and Dorothy costumes forever.

So, weigh in. What inappropriate costumes did you see this year? Any you want to add to the list?

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's your cat worth?

So I come home from the bus last Friday to find my cat lying listless on the hallway carpet. Upon further inspection I notice that it sounds as if she is breathing under water. Figuring she is not trying to re-create the liquid-inhaling scene in The Abyss, I call the vet and lucky for me, I can bring her down in 15 minutes.

[Backstory]
The previous night my 5 month-old daughter finally slept through the night. In fact, she slept until about 8:00 and I had to wake her to take our other kids to the bus. So you can imagine how excited and hopeful I was that this would be the start of a new sleep-all-night plan. You can also imagine that after not having nursed her for 12 hours, my breasts were right up there with Sandra Lee. (see Cooking 101 blog) I figure that I’ll feed her when I return from the bus; sit down with my coffee, watch a little Ellen and drain the girls.

[Real time]
I find the cat carrier downstairs, quickly wipe all the dry wall dust from the outside, shove my cat into it, put my daughter in her car seat, quickly make a 4 oz bottle of formula to tide her over (at some point she’s going to start screaming), and head out the door for the vet. Luckily the office is only about 7 minutes from my house and we are there in no time. I park, grab the 25 pound car seat, my purse, grab the 20 pound cat carrier and hunch-back-lumber myself to the door, up four steps and into the office.

Let me fast forward (for the sake of time). We are called back, vet checks my cat, listens to me describe her issues—which also includes two random and unexplained episodes of collapsing and spontaneously urinating on the floors this summer—and yep, he says, I hear fluid in her chest and it sounds like a heart condition and you better….5-month-old daughter is now screaming and flailing her arms, so like all good WT moms I prop up her bottle with a blanket and jiggle jiggle jiggle the car seat with my foot so she’ll stop crying all the while trying to grasp what the vet is saying…take her right to the Animal Hospital it’s only four miles down this very street where they’ll run a few tests to determine what’s wrong with her and listen to her heart…and the bottle is empty and now my daughter is wailing again, and my chest is like two over-filled water balloons and I’ve sprung a leak, but I manage to croak out what tests and how much…and they’ll probably do a chest x-ray, an ultra sound and maybe EKG on her heart, and they may need to drain some fluid right away, those tests are around $500…and it seems like an inappropriate thing to ask how much it costs to just put her down, because what if it is just a cold or a stuffy nose and then I killed my cat for something silly that could be fixed, and then you start to philosophize the word value, and worth, and is my cat worth $500, and if she is, then is she worth whatever it costs to fix her? And if not, then I should have just had her euthanized in the office back there…
[deep breath]
…but now I find myself driving like a bat-out-of-hell to the Animal Hospital, my daughter still screaming, my cat barely breathing, sharp stinging pains shooting from my breasts, and the thing I am really pissed about is the fact that I only got one cup of coffee before I left the house and I missed Ellen. But I get to the Animal Hospital (after driving right by it the first time) and I’m expecting to see a huge white building of sorts with maybe a big red cross and some animals on a sign, but find only a tiny, dark grey ranch style house, with only four parking spaces to it’s name—which by the way you have to back out into the street to get out of—and this should have been a sign about how many people can afford to use the Animal Hospital. But I grab all assorted animals and children again and hunch-back-lumber myself through the parked cars and to the door, and now the cat is being whisked away and I’m signing papers, and they will call me they said, when they run some tests and know more. I’m driving home. I’m teary eyed—yes for the thought of my almost dead cat, but also the fact that this has all happened in the span of one hour and I’m not quite sure if I’m awake or dreaming.
I get home.
I decide that since my daughter only got four ounces of formula she must still be hungry, so I decide to use her as a leech of sorts and relive some of the chest pain I’ve been experiencing. While nursing her I have a few (small) moments to breathe and now can contemplate how I’m going to tell my husband about the cat and the $500 bill, which leaves me feeling rather nauseous because he doesn’t really like to spend money let alone on a cat he only tolerates. So I’m thinking that my day has calmed down a bit. One fed baby. One hospitalized cat. The calm and quiet are soothing me a bit. I set my daughter in her exer-saucer-thing and head for the sink to start some dishes…the phone rings, it’s the animal hospital, my cat is resting quietly on oxygen, (oxygen???) did well during the x-ray and the ultrasound she has a…while I’m listening to the vet I hear weird noises from aforementioned baby who apparently got too much to drink and now she is like an over-filled water balloon that has sprung a a leak, and she’s puking, once twice three times for good measure the entire contents of her stomach all over her exer-saucer-thing…enlarged heart and some fluid in her chest the disease is called lkjofiwjaoeijcardiomyopethy…which is what I think he said, because it was a really long name and now my daughter is covered in puke and screaming…daily medication should help it but we need to monitor her and you can come pick her up later today, oh and by the way there are two other blood tests we should run to make sure it’s not her thyroid but we can discuss that later when you pick her up…again I manage to croak something about costs while extracting my dripping daughter from said play-thing…about $957 with the blood work…and once again I don’t know how to politely say how much does it cost to just put her down and instead wonder what a divorce costs these days because after my husband hears this new balance that’s where I’m headed…but I say I’ll pick her up after the kids get off the bus about four or four-thirty and can you tell me the bill so far…fine, he says we’ll see you then, by the way, it’s $707.

[deep breath]
I’ll skip the part where I call my husband and tell him what is going on.

Three-thirty. One angry husband home. Out chopping wood in the backyard. One sleeping baby sans puke. Two children off the bus. One tired, nauseous, barely-holding-on mom en-route to Animal Hospital.

Pick up said cat look at bill its $957, what’s this I ask I thought it was only $707…well that’s with the other blood tests (implied: because a good pet owner would want to run all the tests possible to find out what is wrong with their beloved family pet you horrible-pet-owner-you)…and once again I croak out I’m sorry I can’t pay for those tests, we’ll have to wait and see how she does, and now I manage to ask the morbid details of euthanizing her—which by the way is only $50—and if she dies at home then what…let’s schedule an appointment for next week to see how she is doing, oh and by the way, this condition does carry with it the possibility of sudden death.
What?
Yes, your cat’s heart is large and damaged and she could at any time have a heart attack and suddenly die, just so you are aware, but here is her medication twice a day and we’ll see you in a week and then a week after that to monitor her…and I’m thinking so I just paid $707 for them to tell me what is medically wrong with my cat and give me medication and she could fall over dead any moment anyway, and $707 would have probably bought seven new cats from the humane society, would have paid for two round trip plane tickets to Arizona, would have covered the cost of a stainless steel dishwasher and microwave for our kitchen remodel, would have not only bought new shelving for our playroom but also wall-to-wall carpet to boot…
But I have my cat. One, barely breathing cat who laid on the bed for two days and didn’t eat or drink anything for 48 solid hours.
I’m still married.
Cat rallied.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cooking 101

Warning- This Blog rated PG-13 (brief verbal nudity and a tiny bit of crass humor.)

I really enjoy cooking and baking. On my own terms of course—that is, if no one is hungry or expects it or needs food right now—and watching Food Network is one place where I find some inspiration. However, I’ve noticed lately (as in the past few months) an increasing preponderance of boob-age on the shows. You’re feeling a tad uncomfortable. Yeah, me too. I thought at first it was only Semi-homemade, with Sandra Lee. My husband and I always referred to that show, as “Semi-homemade with Double-D” because every episode commands attention to not only semi-homemade food items, but also the fact that her boob-age is smashed beneath a tight fitting top, or blatantly swinging around in a tank (summer shows of course). In fact, now that I think about it, it’s probably good that so much of the show uses ready-made ingredients because it gives you extra time to stare at her rack instead of focusing on those pesky, time consuming recipes.

But it’s not simply Sandra D—excuse me, Lee. The boob-age continues with the new show Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman (I thought Ingrid was a German name, but apparently it can also be very Latin). My husband and I actually had to keep watching the trailer for the show because the space between her girls was so deep and dark, we thought we actually spotted a pitcher of margaritas, four glasses and a salt shaker in there. Delicioso indeed. (And an incredibly brilliant use of space.)

So, whatever. I passed off those examples as poor clothing choice made by two women who probably have a very difficult time finding shirts that don’t pull on their very large bosoms. It is difficult being buxom I’ve been told. So imagine my shock, when I tuned into 30 minute Meals and saw my sweet, innocent, very-very-smiley-girl-next-door Rachel Ray, and there she was. Black shirt cut down to there, her microphone clipped to the V (somewhere around her navel) and I was staring at breast tissue. No, not chicken breast tissue, which I expect, but Rachel Ray breast tissue which feels very, very wrong. Since Rachel is a bit less-well-endowed, every time she bends over to get a fresh bunch of celery from the fridge or stir her 5 minute roux, I get a big flash of breast, microphone and bra. Yes, even bra, which I’m a little shocked about because so much of her breast tissue is showing I’m not sure what is left to hold up.

So I flip from show to show. And yep, there’s Giada creating Everyday Italian boob recipes, and Nigella…her shows aren’t on very much but her chest is just as large. At this point it is clear to me that Network Exec’s are in charge of wardrobe and that these Execs are in fact men. (I could be wrong, perhaps they are women who are of the “women’s bodies are really art” opinion, in which case Food Network is cutting-edge artistic.) I suppose that I’m way off on the demographics, assuming that only women watch these shows. Because not too many women I know want to tune in for a great new way to make tuna casserole and also ogle at the chest we would like to have. Or used to have. Or can’t afford to have. (Let’s face it; good boobs are just not in the budget for most of us.) Perhaps the stay-at-home dad population is much larger than I imagined, or maybe on Saturday when the men of this nation are watching “sports,” it’s the sporting event of hoping that one of these women’s girls will suddenly fall out of the blouse and actually start stirring the stew.

But let’s be fair. If the Boob Network—excuse me, Food Network—is going to pimp-out their chefs for ratings and sexualize the cooking genre, then they really need to do it right. Poor Ina and Mama Dean got left out of the sexy shirt club, (presumably) because they are larger women. But I’d like to see Mama Dean in a spaghetti strap tank, or Ina in a tight-fitting deep-cut V neck, because dammit, those women have earned it. And don’t think that I have overlooked the fact that all of the male chefs on the show are fully-clothed. The network needs to even the playing field here. I’ve come up with some show ideas in case Food Network is experiencing “blank page syndrome.” How about, I’m Easy with Michael Chiarello, in which he prepares his meals sans shirt. Or having Alton Brown explain the chemical reactions in bread dough while prancing around the set in a Speedo. I'm sure Bobby Flay would be even better at the grill if he did it wearing nothing but a fireman’s jacket. I’m not trying to be opportunistic, just suggesting a little equality here. I mean, only using female bodies to inflate the bottom line sets us way back—we should be exploiting both sexes equally; roast leg of lamb isn't the same without it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Birds and Bees- Part 1

I was wondering when he would start putting the pieces together. I knew we were just biding time. Here I was five months pregnant, and except for a brief conversation about how a sperm and an egg meet to form a baby-there were no questions. In fact, we made it through both of my sister’s pregnancies and births a year ago with no deep questions from my son. This coming from the boy who needs to know how the toaster works, what causes hurricanes, how you wire a light fixture, why God makes things die, and begs “please just explain it to me mom,” when I say that something is too complicated for a second grader to understand. Up until now I have managed to give him the facts of “the facts of life,” without really going into the details of those facts. My mother always said, “Answer their questions and nothing more. Most kids are looking for a specific answer and not the whole process of things.” She loves to remind me that in the middle of her explaining the birds and the bees to me, I looked up at her and asked for a peanut butter sandwich.

So, I have tried to answer the specific questions that my son has asked. It only takes one egg and one sperm to make a baby. There are thousands of other sperm that die off, but one lucky one gets in and fertilizes the egg and that starts the baby. He seemed content with this, especially since we also had 11x14 glossy colored pictures to look at of a sperm breaking through a little egg. It's almost like Star Wars, he said. Yep, I answered, pretty close.

I even mused with my husband the other night, “Aren’t you at all surprised that our son hasn’t asked us how this baby got inside me?” I’m not sure the thought really occurred to him...but after a moment he conceded that it was a bit shocking. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, when after dinner one evening, my son hit me with the question while still chewing on the last of his last pierogies.

“So mom, after you have your first baby, what happens to all those little mechanical pieces if they die?”
“What mechanical pieces?” I ask, wondering if this has anything to do with Star Wars.
“You said that it only takes one of those little things…”
“Sperm?”
“Yeah, those, you said it only takes one to go into that ball..”
“Egg.”
“Yeah, well, if it only takes one what happens to all the other little sperm?”
“Well, they die off inside the mother’s body.”
“Well, then if they die off, how do women have other babies after they have the first one?”

Aha. Here it was. The pieces were starting to come together. Where was my husband? Why am I always alone when I’m hit with the sex questions?

“Well,” I answer, trying to traverse this ground carefully, not wanting to reveal too much too soon and yet still answer his question, “When those die off, then… mommies get more a little later, and then those die off and then we get more, kind of like that.” I turned around in the kitchen and continued to put away the dinner dishes, (cringing) hoping this explanation would stick without any further examination on his part. No luck.

“So, are you going to have a baby every year?”
“No,” I almost shout. Are you kidding?
“So, how do mommies get more in them? And why don’t they have babies every year? You’re confusing me,” he said tritely.

I was pretty sure that I was confusing him. In fact, I was trying to confuse him a little, because I’m not really sure that he’s ready to know all the finer details of how babies are made. In reality, I’m not ready for him to know the finer details. And now not only do I need to explain the birds and the bees, but also the finer points of how one controls how many pregnancies they have. It’s a lot to order, especially since there are some things I’m still figuring out at 34.

“Don’t you want a peanut butter sandwich or something?” I ask him. He looked at me like I had lost my mind; clearly we had just finished dinner. “Drink your milk and go find your father,” I told him.

Thankfully, he busied himself with homework, legos and reading about sharks for the rest of the evening—things a second grader is supposed to be concerned with—so the questions were put aside. I know they aren’t forgotten. Those questions will surface again, probably when my husband isn’t around and I’ll be faced with a new one this time; “Why didn’t you ever tell me the answer the last time I asked about how those mechanical things get inside the mommies?” Sigh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stitching

In her rocker she sits
a welcomed break from her daily stitching
grasping her mug again and again she talks
a reservoir of tears
dammed by lower lashes

Against the heating pad she rests
steeping her pains as she steeps her tea
perhaps thinking of a younger time
days of cooking, farming, doll clothes making
before the accident, the war and all the heartbreak

In sandpaper tones she speaks
the ache in her back, the nation, the sadness of the future,
illegal immigration, our worlds obsession with oil
milk in her tea swirling white as Europe
Lecturing should have's, ought to's and next times

Her affections run parallel to the criticism in her plaid
blue always comes after red
and the sting that accompanies failure paralyzes
like the stitches of her fine sewing

With seam ripper I sit, breaking threads
unwilling to be coerced into a form that longs
to be something else
not a sleeve or an inseam or reinforced pocket corner

Tea and time consumed, she returns to her sewing
the familiar vibration of the presser foot
manipulating fabric and form
delighting her perfectionistic ache

RV

Friday, October 26, 2007

Prized Possessions

For the past few nights now I have dreamt that I witness the formation of a huge tornado and have only seconds to find the kids and alert the people around me. I'm suddenly crawling down into a septic-system-esque tunnel, white subway tile walls and floors, waiting for my husband to pass me the baby, only to get to the bottom and realize there is nowhere to go and it is filling up with water. Not a surprising dream given the devastation happening in California and the 24-hour coverage on the news. As a general rule I try to avoid the news as much as possible because detailed information about the latest murders, rapings, school shootings, embezzlement's and wars does not lend itself to making me feel good about my world. However, having been to San Diego a fair bit and living in Arizona during similar circumstances, I have been watching the news stories about the California wildfires with much interest. And of course, cameras rolling, the whole world can watch a family return to the previous site of their old home, watch them break down as the parents and children sift through the holocaust of their former life.

I'm not one of those who has had long term memories of living in a house; bringing home all the children fresh from the hospital, the place where we got our first pet, or the memories of a multitude of anniversaries spent with my husband. We've lived in four houses in 9 years of marriage and each of my children has spent their first year and a half crawling and drooling on a different living room floor. Each house has held different types of memories, but certainly not all of them. That said, losing the place we live would still be devastating nonetheless. For me it would be more about losing the small corner of the world where I go; (the noun, not the verb)my place on the library shelf. The place my van heads after a shopping trip or dropping the kids off at school. The place where I return after visiting family where I can exhale, throw my clothes on the floor and not make the bed. The only place (really) where I make the rules outside the conventions of life.

Watching the news last night, people who were being evacuated from the area were being interviewed. They were given 10 minutes to take whatever was important to them and be ready to leave the house. Most people were done in less than five minutes. So I wondered, What would I take if in the same situation? What would you take? Lets assume for the sake of argument that your spouse, children, and the family pet(s) were already safe in the car with the engine running. Yes, we all know that those are the most important things in life and everything else is purely material. But if you could choose five things to save from destruction, what would they be and why? For myself:
1) My children's photo albums. For posterity if nothing else, and many memories are wrapped up in those anyway.
2) My Bible and My Book House books collection-because as far as I'm concerned you always need to have some spiritual direction in times like these, and the Book House Books have deep personal sentiment for me.
3) The engraved pocket watch I gave my husband for our wedding, and the opal ring he gave me after a particularly difficult patch-to give the children when they get older.
) My lap top, not because I'm attached to the technology or playing solitaire, but because it has photos and my writings on it, both of which are precious to me.
5) The framed collage of photos of my husband and me, as well as the journals we kept for each other when he lived in Russia. Again, these are for the kids later in life.

Could live without these? Certainly. Could they be replaced? Most of them, yes. But if I had 10 minutes these are the items I'd grab. With the spouse, the kids and our cat waiting in the car for me of course.

What would you take?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Germs

One of the first things I need to explain a bit, in order that you may understand later posts, is my issue with Germs. Not any Germs mind you; not mine, or my kids, not Germs that come from people I know (as in, I'm happy to share a straw with my sisters, or pick up that last bite of brownie from the floor using the ol' "five-second-rule,") but specifically Potty Germs, Stranger Germs, and Public Germs.

One of my successes as a parent stems from the fact that I have taught both my children how to use a public restroom without physically touching any surface at all. Much to the dismay of my husband, who, upon returning from a very long bathroom stop with my son, announced to me that the reason it took so long was because our son "was trying to flush the toilet with his foot, and wouldn't touch the handle."
"So?" I replied.
"So?" My husband said. "Then he grabbed the door with the sleeve of his sweatshirt."
At this point I'm sure my husband was looking for me to be aghast with horror, that our son has some kind of OCD issue at the age of 8, was looking for some type of affirmation that he was correct in being dismayed by this.
"I taught him that," I replied. (Smiling on the inside of course) At which point my husband shot me that I-can't-believe-you've-dragged-our-kids-into-your-phobic-world-and-this-is-really-not-healthy look, and I shot the Everyone-needs-counseling-anyway look right back at him and the conversation was over.

Maybe this stems from the time I walked in on my 17 month-old daughter sucking on the toilet seat and I actually thought, Would CPS frown on me swishing her mouth out with some 100 proof? If that's not vision enough to put a germ-phobic mom right into needing medication, I don't know what is.

Port-a-potty's are another source of incredible discomfort for me. First, there is no running water and/or soap. Second, if it is one lucky enough to be equipped with hand sanitizer, it is usually empty. Third, it smells, there are flies everywhere (the very same flies I might add that land on your picnic-potato-salad) and most people don't respect them and well, waste is everywhere.

How many of you grew up being told to "line the seat with toilet paper?" That was one of my mother's mantras, right after, "Buckle up," and "Are their parents home?" I have happily lined toilet seats for over thirty years and have passed this beautiful tradition on to my children. I don't care how many experts tell me that no communicable diseases can be caught from bum-germs on a toilet seat, I am not going to believe them.

Did you know that over 1/3 of people who use public restrooms DON'T WASH THEIR HANDS? Think about that the next time you grab for that door handle. Or use the port-a-potty.

Which brings me to Stranger Germs/Public Germs. Door handles (again), elevator buttons, escalator hand railings (do you know what they have found on those things?), public indoor play spaces (at the mall, fast food restaurants-Anything containing a ball pit-never, never, never let them in a ball pit) cigarette ashtrays and trash cans. There is nothing quite like seeing your child go to throw something away and holding the snap-back-at-you trash can lid open with the palm of their hand. All that black sticky goo, smudges of what can only be described as sickly brown and yellow, not to mention people that haven't washed their hands who have thrown something away...I have tried to show my children how to hold open the lid with a napkin and quickly throw away their trash before the lid snaps back at them sending filth and Germs flying, but let's face it. I'm lucky if the trash lands in the trash while they hold it open for longs periods of time with their pudgy palm. Sigh.

Now, having boldly announced to the world (some of ) my phobias, let me tell you that the things my children love most in this world are:
1. Public Restrooms
2. Port-A-Potty's
3. Public Play Spaces
4. Escalators and Trash Cans

In fact, on a recent raspberry-picking trip (happy New England memories here) my children and their friends found the Port-a-potty to be significantly more fascinating than the berry picking. Suddenly the children who never have to go to the bathroom before we leave the house, have to "really, really, go" as soon as we get there and it's discovered there is a hairy, nasty, black-cloud-hanging-over-it, Germ-infested Port-a-potty by the berry bushes. It's suddenly laughter and chasing, and doors opening/shutting/opening/shutting, yelling ("Get out of here, it's my turn!") and general happy kid melee, and then they are running over to announce to me, "Mom, it's all wet in there, and now the bottom of my pants are wet..." and I'm trying not to overreact (because what kind of parent overreacts at this type of behavior) all-the-while I'm gagging silently to myself and now the kids are picking raspberries, with their grubby, dirty, filthy, bathroom, Port-a-potty germy hands, and I smile and say,
"Boy won't these berries make a good pie."

In fact, for their next birthday parties, I have decided instead of spending money on inflatable bouncy castles or cheap fast food burgers, I'm going to rent an arsenal of Port-a-potty's and filthy trash cans. Once they are finished playing with these, we'll go the mall and finish up with a romp in the public play space and a few rides on the escalator. I figure this way they will be happy as pigs-in-mud (not a far off analogy) and I'll save a lot of money.

I may need to be medicated first.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First blog

So. My first blog. I walk the streets everyday thinking about the million things I'd say if given forum. Now I have one and my mind is a dry, empty mop bucket. (I need to do my floors.)

It's windy today. The leaves falling like confetti from the sky. Confetti on the ground. Confetti that will inevitably take me hours and hours to rake. By the end of this season I will need a God-sized vacuum for my yard.

The baby is sleeping. Finally. You'd think that by #3 I'd have figured out how to get a baby to sleep. This one--we affectionately refer to her as "Iron Lung"--only sleeps on her tummy, but refuses to roll there herself. So, she cries, I wait, then go in and flip her over, pat-pat, and try to slither my way to the door without the floor boards creaking. There she goes again; and we dance to the cry-wait-flip-pat-pat cycle only about four or five times before she finally stays asleep. That's what I call success.

I hope you'll tune-in here often. Hopefully this blog will be a smattering of many things; family, parenting, literary, excerpts from my writings, and lots and lots of humor.

You see....
I'm rally, rally, funny.