Thursday, January 29, 2009

I was told...

...that I posted a bad picture of Joel. Here's some cute ones to make up for it:

Six Months

Joel is six months old today.

Six months ago, it was muggy, the kind of day where the air feels like damp curtains. Today, the sky is blue, and the snow crunches under your feet.

Six months ago, Paul and I kissed our only child goodbye, and left him with his grandparents. Today, Owen wakes up, runs downstairs and asks, "Where is my baby brother?"

Six months ago, Paul stopped at Starbucks on the way to the hospital. The man has his priorities straight. Today, Paul stopped at Starbucks on his way to work. The man still has his priorities straight.

Six months ago, I was the first of my pregnant friends to have her second baby. Today, Joel, Austin, and Evan lay on the floor next to each other, wiggling and squirming, while their older siblings play.

Six months ago, I wore elastic maternity shorts. Today, I wear a size six (if I don't mind marks on my tummy).

Six months ago, I fretted that I couldn't possibly love another like I love Owen. Today, those fears seem comical.

Six months ago, Michael Phelps hadn't won eight gold medals. Today, people ask him, "Now what are you going to do?"

Six months ago, there was an earthquake in Chino Hills, CA and a smaller, but much more meaningful earthquake in a delivery room in Prince Frederick, MD. Today, my world is still shaking.

Six months ago, I did not know Joel. My boy. My love. Today, my heart is full, my dream is here, and I thank God every day for changing my world...six months ago.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Son, the Caveman

Kids can be embarrassing. That's all there is to it. No matter what you do, or how you do things, at some point, you'll want to pretend that your kid belongs to somebody else. Today was one of those days with Owen.

I had a good friend over, who knows me very well, and is very forgiving. It's a good thing, too. Owen felt the need to lay on his brother, snatch toys from my friend's daughter, and just generally be rotten. My favorite action---pulling a stool out from under my friend's daughter's feet. I was ready to sell him on the street corner for a bottle of Merlot.

It goes back to pride. Owen's behavior, while annoying and not OK, is textbook toddler. They don't like to share, they do like to grab, and they basically act like little cavemen. Well, I choose not to live in a cave, eat leftover saber-tooth tiger or wear a loincloth. I have my pride, meaning that I want Owen to be kind, to be a person that other people enjoy. I want this because I love him, and because he embarrasses the hell out of me.

I'm afraid that if I don't help him shape up and be kind, people will not want to be his friend. Although this arrangement would work out wonderfully for Owen---his toys and his mother all to himself---it is a disservice to him. He needs to learn how to share, how to move beyond his basic caveman tendencies.

My hope for him is that he will be welcomed into other people's caves, be invited to sit, share in some delicious saber-tooth tiger ribs, and play together by the light of the fire. My fear, if he doesn't shape up, is that he will be out in the dark, alone, as the wind howls and the dinosaurs roar.

***PS---I know that early man and dinosaurs were not on the planet at the same time. I just like how it fit into my metaphor. So there.****

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snowy Images

It's snowing. I'm looking out the window and seeing actual fluffy snow, falling down from the sky and sticking to the deck. This is a big deal, because Maryland is cold, windy, and gray, but rarely provides residents with the pay off of pretty snow.

Here are some pictures of our day:

Owen's preparing to go outside. No, he's not channeling Heath Ledger. He licks his lips constantly, and despite our arsenal of lotions, chapsticks, and creams, he has two smiles.

Even though Owen will turn three in a month, this is the first time he has played in real snow. We attempted to play with a dusting of sleet last year, but it just wasn't the same. My mother has purchased snow suits and ski bibs for him since he was a baby. This is the first time he has ever worn one. He called it his "snow costume."

We don't have a sled, because we just don't. I called Paul asking what I could use as a makeshift sled (since I'm no longer at college, I couldn't use a tray from the dining hall). He suggested a storage box. Genius.

I think he liked it.

Finally, a shout out to Joel, who slept through the entire snow adventure. Yes, he is a second child, because Owen's in the picture, too.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I'm running on three hours of sleep. Joel decided that he needed to cry from 10 to 3 AM last night. I have no idea why. Everything is extra hard this morning---normal behaviors are annoying, normal annoyances become a crisis. I really, really need my sleep.

As I write this, Owen is banging around in the upstairs bathroom instead of napping in his bed. It is taking a supreme act of will to not go upstairs, shake him, and yell, "Go to sleep now, you little bastard!"

It does not make me proud to write this. I know that my thoughts, are just that, thoughts. But I don't even like thinking them. I don't condone child abuse in any shape or form, but in my sleep-deprived haze, I can understand how people get to that point of frustration. Crossing the line into action...that I cannot understand.

Like I said, everything is hard. There's a funeral today for a local girl Owen's age that died choking on a carrot. Owen eats carrots all the time. Like a rabbit. I cannot fathom such a loss, and it makes me feel especially guilty that parents are grieving, and I'm calling my child a little bastard (in my mind, anyway).

Choosing to live, hope, thrive in the wake of such a loss is the most heroic thing I can imagine. And here I am, missing a few hour's sleep, allowing myself to fall apart.

I just finished a book about the New York City Marathon. The woman who won in the race in 2007, Paula Radcliff, had her daughter ten months before the race. She is a gutsy, steely competitor, and at the end of her grueling race, she repeated a mantra, the one word that could get her through the tape and lead her to victory. That mantra---her daughter's name, "Isla."

Today, in the wake of true trauma, true loss, and real hardship, I need to slog through the marathon of this day---with grace, dignity, and forgiveness (for myself and others). My mantra needs to be, "Love Owen, Love Joel, Love Owen, Love Joel."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bad poetry

First a definition:

doggerel  (adjective)
(of verse)
comic or burlesque, and usually loose or irregular in measure.
rude; crude; poor.–noun

My brother got all the poetic genes in our family. But, the muse comes when she comes, so enjoy the following bits of doggerel below:

Ode to Coffee

Coffee, coffee, I love you so,
I treasure my daily cup.
You pick me up when I feel low,
With each sip, my pulse goes up.
Even though I only drink half-caff
So Joel doesn't lose his mind,
What once caused agony now makes me laugh,
I'm much more calm, more kind.
The pleasure of my daily drink,
Makes me feel a bit more sane.
When kids howl, and I'm on the brink,
This elixer removes all pain.
One may think that that I go too far,
But coffee, Oh, coffee, you're my shining star.

Wasn't that awful? Here's one more:

There once was a mother named Nancy,
Her life was anything but fancy.
She drank a glass of wine,
Then everything was fine,
Even though the boys remained antsy.

Still reading? God love ya! This is it, I swear.

Clutter-A Haiku

Owen's crap--begone!
It's all going in the trash.
Good boys pick up toys.

I used to teach, edit, and grade poetry. Really.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Technical Feminist?

When it comes to things technological, Paul and I decided a long time ago that it's his problem. Setting up the computer, the stereo system, cell phones---that is strictly Paul territory. He gets it in a way that I don't, so there you have it.

Paul is a very patient person, and can explain things well. A big part of his present job is teaching and mentoring other people, and he has an endless reserve of patience. He used to man the help lines for TurboTax (I imagine the calls now go to India instead of Tucson, AZ). Just imagine those calls. Frantic people ready to toss grenades at their PCs during tax season. I cannot imagine the vitriol angry people have flung his way. Nevertheless, he received positive feedback and was asked to work for Quicken full-time.

He declined, and now deals with angry government contractors, instead. The point of all this is that he can explain complicated technological things to most people respectfully, thoughtfully, and in a way that is easily understood.

Unless he is talking to me. Whenever I ask him a technological question, the response is always the same: "Move." He'll then quickly do some voodoo on the computer or DVD player, or whatever. Problem solved, he'll turn to me, and as if it was the first time I've ever heard it, he'll say, "Ohhhh, and you're welcome!"

This line is from a Saturday Night Live skit circa 2002.

For quite some time, this arrangement worked well for me. Then we had children. Understand that my parents live in Colorado and only see the boys three or so times a year. My mother, in particular has a need to see updated pictures of the boys---to then print, slap in "Grandma's Brag Book," and show to innocent, Croc-wearing bystanders. While it makes me happy to know that there's a person in the world who coos over each droplet of drool and every wide-eyed smile of my progeny, it does complicated the technological relationship Paul and I have fostered over the years.

Mom needs pictures like an addict needs her fix. Paul and I keep her withdrawls at bay by posting digital pictures to Snapfish. For the longest time, I had no idea how to do this. So, I would ask Paul to do it, and he would say, "Later." Clearly, he did not understand the urgency.

I, on the other hand, would get daily phone calls from my mother. She would attempt to talk about other things, but she would, at the end of every call, oh-so-casually ask, "Have you had a chance to post any new pictures yet?" With each "no," the sighs grew deeper and longer, and I felt guilty for depriving my mother of such a small pleasure.

So, I took the leap and learned how to post pictures to Snapfish. It's not hard at all. If it was, Snapfish wouldn't make any money.

However, just today, I was talking to Mom. After I got off the phone, I attempted to download some shots, only to discover that I needed to log out of my account and get onto Paul's in order to do it. That was just too much work, so I decided to write this instead, and let Paul do it.

Sorry, Mom. Despite my attempt to bring our technological relationship from a traditional patriarchy to a modern partnership, the struggle is still there. Someday, maybe, I'll make the final crack in that glass ceiling, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pictures I'll send you soon---from when Owen was a baby.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You've Been Served

I shouldn't watch South Park, but I do. One of my favorite episodes was a take-off of the dance movie, You've Been Served. Basically, roving dance gangs have dance-offs. The less-awesome dancers, when defeated, have thus been "served." And nobody, nobody wants to be served.

Nevertheless, I've been served several times today.

After writing an entry about how my mother never buys me any clothes, because she only buys clothes for the boys, I get a package with three cute blouses in it from (you guessed it) my mom. There's no way that she did a rush shopping job in response to the blog---it was in the mail when I wrote it. Yes, I've been served. By my mom.

Since it's been awhile since I've discussed Owen's excrement, here's his newest. After doing his business, he looked down at the finished product and declared, "That's the chicken I ate." Chicken, consider yourself served.

I was trying to teach Owen to recognize the letters of his name (which he does). We then worked on Joel, Mommy and Daddy, to less success. For fun, I asked Owen to tell me his middle name (he had just told me that my "real name" is Nancy and Daddy's "real name" is Paul.) He started laughing, and said, "Mommy, middle names are not for sharing."

We gave him the middle name of Kenneth, which is perfectly respectful--he's named after his great-grandfather. I do, however, understand that some middle names are perhaps not for sharing. I'm recall our confirmation in 8th grade. We're all standing in front of the church, getting a blessing, and the pastor says, "Ryan Leroy H--" (protecting the innocent). Never, ever would we have suspected that we had a Leroy in our midst. The solemn moment of blessing was sullied by the titters and outright guffaws of snotty adolescents. Poor Ryan Leroy.

Middle names--you've been served by a two year old. Middle names are not for sharing.

I was reading that the film Slumdog Millionare has been nominated for Best Picture. I haven't seen it yet, but I understand that it talks about the harsh poverty and circumstances in the slums of India. Despite the dreary location, it's supposed to be a good, entertaining film. I'm looking forward to seeing it. So Bollywood films and Bangalore call centers---I hope that this movie is a success, and India is served. Perhaps, something will be done to improve the miserable existences of the lower/working classes in India. Of course, if I am talking out of ignorance, I hope that I am served by another's thoughtful perspective.

I stumble up the stairs at six am to get Joel. When he sees me, his face erupts into a beatific smile and his whole body thrashes with joy--arms flapping, legs kicking. Mommy has arrived. Exhaustion, you've been served. It's worth getting out of bed for this.

We're eating breakfast, and I find myself asking Owen, "Do you think Mommy's pretty?" Needy much?

Later on, we're driving home from the playground, and Owen says, "Mommy, talk about how I'm a good other brother." Needy? Perhaps. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not. We all have the need to hear good things, to feel validated and loved. I'm grateful that I can lean on Owen when I'm feeling ugly, and he has a mother that will tell him he's a good older brother--again.

Game face? You've been served. When you love somebody, you let them need you.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scenes from Panera

This morning, we spent way too much time at home. We were waiting for Joel to wake up, then we were waiting some more because the Comcast people were able to come to our house for a last-minute service call.

As we waited, Owen decided that it was time to do every annoying thing in his arsenal, including:

1) Taking a bite out of an apple, then putting it back in the fruit bowl. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

2) Going upstairs and monkeying around with Joel's humidifier so that it spews more mist than any child needs.

3) Pulling diaper wipes out of the container and then smashing them back in.

4) Grabbing the Clorox Wipes in an attempt to do pull them all out of the container and then smash them back in.

5) Insist that I sit with my legs spread wide. Calling the space between my legs "his bathtub." Then insisting on "jumping" into the bathtub---basically hurling his thirty-two pound frame in my general direction---over and over again.

6) Pulling grapes out of the fridge, eating them, and leaving the stems scattered around the house. When his mother demands, in increasingly shrill tones, to put the stems in the trash can, he simply responds, "No Mommy, I'm not going to do that."

I was ready to pull out my hair and slap my kid's hand if he touched another damn thing. It was time to get out of the house.

I loaded up the car with the trash and the boys for a dump run, and figured that we would then go wherever God takes us. As long as it's not our house, it works for me. We thus end up at Panera Bread.

Here are some scenes from Panera:

There's a college-aged guy eating lunch with a girl. I can tell that he thinks that they are friends, but she's really into him. She smiles a little too wide and nods eagerly at everything he says. It's too loud for me to eavesdrop, but I do hear him say, "When choosing between man and robots, one must choose man every time." I disagree. I would feel a lot more comfortable having a robot instead of a fellow human being clean my house.

There are two sheriffs eating lunch. One is in a shirt and tie, wearing his badge on one of those chain/lanyard things. He has his gun in a holster. It shocks me a bit. I think to myself, "He could kill somebody right now."

A woman next to me drops her pen. She says, "I can't do my crossword without a pen." I tell her that I'm impressed that she uses a pen instead of a pencil. She makes a face and says that she never uses a pencil to do her crossword. I'm not sure if she's being a show-off or if she simply has a pencil aversion.

A woman is eating her salad one-handed, holding her baby with the other. I ask her the age of her baby. It turns out her daughter is almost Joel's age. I comment that Joel looks like a monster compared to her daughter--"She's such a peanut," I say.

She agrees, and shares that her daughter came early and spent twelve days in the NICU. I tell her that Joel was in the NICU, too. "Sucks, huh," she says.

"Yup," I answer. NICU veterans are everywhere.

It makes me happy that one of the girls that works the counter at Panera has an Australian accent. In my mind, I call her "Claire," like the character on Lost. It also makes me happy that Panera has caffeine free Diet Pepsi as a fountain drink. It makes me wonder if Panera is owned by Mormons.

Sated by our lunch, the three of us drive back home for afternoon naps. Owen is saved from himself for another day, thanks to the healing power of carbohydrates.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

15 Confessions and a Goal

A friend of mine sent us sixteen true confessions/goals for life. It was one of those silly Facebook exercises (ie: chocolate or vanilla? Batman or Superman?) designed to "find out what your friends really think." My friend, however, choose to be brave and revealed some personal information that was both introspective and painfully honest. In honor of my friend, here are sixteen true confessions/goals for life.

1. Confession: Sometimes, when I'm by myself, I will run through the drive-through of McDonalds, order something greasy and awful, eat it on the way home, and chuck it in a community dumpster, like an alcoholic disposing of her empties.

2. Confession: When I was eight, I ran over a dead pigeon with my bike on purpose, because I wanted to hear what it sounded like. I can still hear the sickening crunch of the bone. I remember thinking that I did a really wrong thing.

3. Confession: Continuing the serial-killer theme, I almost always slow down to see what the vultures are feasting on. I once called Paul at work, just to tell him that I saw a vulture rip the eye out of a deer carcass, right in front of me.

4. Confession: I love, love, love popping a ripe zit. I'm so ashamed...

5. Confession: I really, really geek out when it comes to the two TV shows I like: Lost and The Office. I actually go to online sites and read other people's theories about the characters/symbolism. I haven't gone so far as to post myself, because that would be like trying heroin.

6. Confession: I feel like I'm faking it a lot of the time. I pretend to understand things, pretend to be happy when I'm really feeling grouchy, and pretend to be interested when Owen tells me where the water in the toilet goes--again.

7. Confession: It bothers me that I have less Facebook friends than most people, but I refuse to ask people that I barely talked to in high school to be my friend. It feels so needy.

8. Confession: I love, love, love to read trash like Star Magazine. Especially when they do articles like: "Stars Without Makeup," or "Worst Beach Bodies."

9. Confession: I also will watch almost any swill the VH1 can dream up---"Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love," "Celebrity Rehab," "Tool Academy,"---the list goes on and on....

10. Confession: I have contingency plans worked out in my head in the event that I become a widow. I get teary-eyed just thinking of them.

11. Confession: I am always anxious before I start teaching a new class or when a new school year begins. I feel like I'm still faking it as a teacher, too.

12. Goal: I want to be a professional writer someday.

13. Confession: I sometimes get jealous that most of my friends have nicer, newer houses.

14. Confession: I didn't think it would be this hard to find sixteen things to confess.

15. Confession: I named Joel after Joel McHale of The Soup.

16. Confession: Most of the time, I think that I'm pretty damn awesome.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crisis at the Mall

I wasn't sure that I liked Michelle Obama's yellow gown when I first saw it on CNN this morning. I guess I figured she would wear a jewel tone---an emerald or fuschia. The yellow/gold color surprised me. The more I looked at it, the more I liked it--and apparently, all the fashionistas have declared it to be a success.

Really, I don't know why I even try to talk about clothing and fashion. I am not a clothes horse. I have begged---begged---friends, acquaintances, strangers to submit my name to TLC's What Not To Wear. I would take all sorts of abuse to have Clinton and Stacy dump my pathetic wardrobe in the trash can, then set me loose on the streets of NYC with a 5,000 gift card. I really, really need it, because I have no idea how to dress myself.

I, like most women in America, have body issues. I also get overwhelmed way too easily. So, set me loose in a store and I freak out. There are too many colors, too many styles. Good Grief, jeans alone have a vocabulary that drives me to drink. Skinny? Boot Cut? Boyfriend Cut? What the hell? Apparently, there are jeans designed to be worn with heels. Who knew? I. Just. Hate. It.

If I manage to wade through the clusterfuck (which is a new favorite word of mine--sorry Mom) of labels, brands, and designs, I still need to find something that fits. Which brings back the body issues. If something doesn't fit, or if I see the tell-tale muffin top spill over the hem of the jeans, I generally say, "Fuck it," and go home empty handed, instead of trying a different size or style. See no evil, hear no evil. Denial is a wonderful place to live.

Except---I have no clothes. I only get clothes when my mother buys them for me. Now that I've reproduced, Mom has channeled her shopping energy into the boys, leaving me to fend for myself. And, since I've said the f-word TWICE in a single post, I won't be getting ANYTHING, unless they start making clothes my size at Gymboree.

Thus, I wear a University of Arizona sweatshirt and torn jeans five days a week. It's just easier to avoid the whole nightmare.

Friends think I'm joking when I say that I need them to take me shopping and tell me what to wear. It's no joke. I am an adult that cannot function in a dressing room.

Instead, I'll sit in the living room, wearing the blue and red U of A hoodie with pajama bottoms, judging Michelle Obama's style.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I know, I know!

1. There's a certain cable company (that rhymes with Bombast) that is on my On Notice list, because my computer became glacially slow over the weekend. Meaning, I wasn't able to post my blogs, check Facebook or email. I came to realize that I don't just "like" my computer these days. I was getting jittery, needing my digital fix. It could have been ugly if it didn't magically correct itself. So yes, all three of my readers, everything is okay. My computer just became prehistoric.

2. I know that the bedtime prayer is "Now, I lay me," not "Down, I lay me" thanks to your watchful eyes. What can I say? I'm specific about how I sleep. I don't stand up, hang upside down, or hover when I sleep. I recline, dammit. And I want to make sure God knows it.

3. I went to a baptism of two boys (sons of good friends), and, once again, I'm struck by the fact that it's such a holy event. I get teary eyed whenever I see a group of loving people commit to teach the next generation about love, hope, justice, forgiveness, and peace--God's commission for us all. If I was a pastor, baptisms would be my favorite part of my job. That, and budget meetings.

4. The AZ Cardinals, a state joke for as long as I lived in AZ, are going to the Super Bowl. So, I'm struck. Should I pretend to be a Cardinals fan, even though I can't name a single member of the roster, since they "come" from my home state? Or, should I be a Steelers fan because I have tons of friends from the Pittsburgh area that bleed yellow and black? I know the name of the Steelers's quarterback (Ben Rothesberger--although I don't know if I know how to spell his name). I even know that Steelers fans have something called a Terrible Towel. The Cardinals have no towels, terrible or otherwise.

So, here's how I'll make my decision: A Contest! The first person that can tell me the names of 1) The three rivers in the Pittsburgh area OR 2) The name of the AZ governor impeached from office in the mid-eighties wins my support and devotion. I'll be loud and obnoxious about it. If you can name both, then you'll force me to make up my own mind.

You can either comment here on the blog or send responses to my Facebook page or email (

Until then, Go Steelials.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama's Neighbor

In November, I say to my good friend, Joanne (while she's still in the hospital, having just given birth), "Hey, let's go to the inauguration!"

She responds, God love her, "Oh, I'm so there!" We email our congressmen, hope for tickets. Time passes. The brain cells we (okay, I'll speak for myself, I) lost during pregnancy and childbirth grow back. We realize that perhaps, perhaps, it wouldn't be fun to stand on the National Mall for five or so hours, infant sons strapped into Baby Bjorns, as the Arctic winds howl and our sons demand to be breastfed. All to point at a speck in the distance and say, "That's Obama!"

So, instead, we're going to watch the inauguration from her house, eating pizza (which we're pretending is Chicago-style) while the older boys play with monster trucks and the infants demand to be breastfed (some things never change).

The main drag of my home, Calvert County, is Route 4. If you follow Route 4 long enough, it eventually turns into Pennsylvania Avenue. Consequently, I tell out-of-towners that I live "just down the road from the president." If one visits Calvert County, he or she will discover that we have a Wal-Mart AND an Applebees. We're pretty metropolitan-- that is, if you're visiting from Ghana or the Navajo Reservation. However, most people would find Calvert County to be....lacking in fine dining or culture. To that, I reply, "Yes, but I live right down the road from the President..."

I get a kick out of the concept that I can drive to DC and do interesting, even historical things. I rarely do any of these things, but I could, I could! Pre-children, Paul and I would take the Metro in and go to museums, restaurants, and even performances. Together, we attended the International Spy Museum, ate with our fingers at an Ethiopian restaurant, and attended a reading by my literary hero, David Sedaris. It was so cool for a girl from suburban Arizona to be in a big city, doing big city stuff.

With the boys, our trips to DC have been far less frequent. Okay, Joel hasn't been there at all, yet. The focus has changed, too. Instead of Irish pubs or walking tours of Georgetown ("Here are the famous steps that the priest fell down at the end of The Exorcist"), we take Owen to the National Zoo to see the Pandas, or the National History Museum to look at the dinosaur bones.
Owen has also seen his father and uncle run the Marine Corps Marathon. Although these are not necessarily the things I want to see the most (except for the marathon, of course), I love experiencing them with Owen and Joel's fresh eyes.

So, while I won't see Obama become president in person, I still have the gumption and the need to do something big, something historic in The District with the boys and Paul. Someday, I will dress them up in their finest, and make them roll Easter Eggs on the White House Lawn. I will drag them downtown during the height of the Mid-Atlantic Summer to see the fireworks on Independence Day. They will march up and down every inch of that Mall, and see every monument...even the Jefferson Memorial, even though it is far away and inconvenient.

Who knows, maybe we'll even see a speck, and one of us will say, "Hey, That's Obama!" He is our neighbor, after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The book of Owen

In an attempt to teach Owen about gratitude and foster a relationship with God, we do bedtime prayers. Now, when I was a wee miss, my parents had me recite this little ditty:

Down I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

How sweet. A four year old girl, praying that her loving Heavenly Father would prevent her from hellfire and brimstone in the event that she dies in her sleep. Maybe my parents rounded off the evening by reciting choice passages from Jonathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." You've gotta start your kids off with a firm foundation. Or, at least, scare the shit out of them.

Actually, I was not scared at all, because my parents were liberal with the "God is love" stories, and I had no idea what I was reciting when I said that bedtime prayer. It was just words, fun to say in a sing-songy voice.

Even so, I'm choosing not to have Owen do this prayer. Instead, I thought, it would be fun for Owen to make up his own prayers each evening, to make them personal conversations with God. Here's how it works:

Paul and I hold his hands, or make him fold his hands. I say, "Dear Jesus, Thank you for---"

Owen then fills in the rest. Here's a typical one:

"Thank you for...trick or treating, curtains, green pillow, big teddy, sippy cups, Mommy, Daddy, running shirts, Arizona shirts, trains, windows, lights, Backyardigans book, pirate sheets, and changing table, too!"

You see, our pious, reflective son merely looks around the room and thanks God for whatever catches his eye. Except for trick or treating. Despite the fact that it is now January, trick or treating left such an impression that Owen must thank God for it every night.

Paul and I usually prompt him, "Are there any people you want to pray for?"

He has learned to respond, " Thank you for Grandma Grandpas and ALL the people who love me."

I'm not sure if Owen's version of prayer is any better than my "Down I lay me" version, but at least it makes me laugh. And think. I am grateful that Owen has sippy cups, a room of his own, fun things like pirate sheets, and most importantly, ALL the people who love him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wisten to Me

This morning, Owen put one small hand on each of my cheeks, and said, "Mommy, you need to wisten to me."

"Okay, Buddy," I replied. "What's up?"

"No, Mommy, no. Wisten to me." His eyes are intent. This is serious business. "You need to stop saying, 'No, Owen.' or 'Get down, Owen.' That's rude."

I. Am. Dying. I start to laugh. Owen takes my face in my hands, "No, Mommy no. Wisten to me. Don't be rude. Don't say, 'No, Owen.'"

I compose myself, and put his face in my hands. "Well, Buddy, Mommys and Daddys sometimes get to say, 'No' and 'Stop.' That's a Mommy and Daddy job."

Owen thinks hard. Swallows. Finally, he says, "That's an Owen job."

"Sorry, Buddy. That's the way it works."

"That's rude."

Well, Owen, life is rude. It doesn't always give you what you want. But it could be a lot ruder if we let you have what you want. You would expect it all, and lash out at life when things get hard. Preventing that---it's a Mommy and Daddy job.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Owen and Joel woke up around seven. Commence mad dash of getting children dressed, pottyed/changed, and fed, all the while staying in my PJs. Now that Joel's on solids three meals a day, I've been eating like a bird, attempting swallows here and there in between coaxing Joel to eat pureed peas and keeping Owen in his seat for more than five minutes. You would think I would lose weight this way, but I make up for it by scarfing down bowls of Goldfish or animal crackers when the boys are asleep.

After everybody eats, we settle in for the morning routine of bossing Joel around. I plop him on the carpet, and give him a toy. Owen then proceeds to either take the toy away from him, or micromanage his play. Sample gab: "No Baby Joel, don't eat it. That's not right, Baby Joel. You need to hold it this way. Moommmmy, make Baby Joel stop eating his toy. Mommmy, Baby Joel doesn't like to play with [whatever he is playing with]; he wants to give it to Owen."

I know that this is textbook toddler--the "it's mine," the self-centeredness, the selective hearing---but it still troubles me. Paul's and my philosophy of parenting breaks down to this: Don't be an asshole. We would like our kids to be smart, or athletic, or talented. More importantly, though, we want our kids to be good friends, good husbands, and good fathers. The world has plenty of assholes. We don't need to produce two more.

So, I thus attempt to teach Owen how to share with his brother. It works to the extent that he'll let Joel play with his own toys for maybe five minutes at a time, before he involuntarily "shares them." Luckily, Joel is still easily distracted by the carpet, an empty sippy cup, or the dust bunnies that are invariably inches from his nose, since more educational toys, designed for infants, are being used by his almost-three-year-old brother.

I guess I just didn't expect to be doing sibling stuff already. Of course, I'll happily take the flip side of brotherhood. Seeing Owen, in his footie jammies, run into Joel's room when he wakes up, patting his tummy through the bars of his crib, saying, "Good morning Joely!" Being able to tell Owen, "Go make Joel laugh," when I'm cooking dinner, then hearing Joel's squeals of delight. Having Owen give updates on Joel's progress from his car seat: "Joel's sleeping. Good sleeping Joel. Now he's looking around. Good job, Joely. Now he's sleeping again. Wake up, Joel. It's daytime!"

I have no idea if Owen and Joel will be good friends in addition to brothers. I know that some siblings are, and some aren't. Of course, I hope that they are friends, or, at least, people that share their toys.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Are you there God? It's me, Clueless.

How quickly I forget.

When I was pregnant with both boys, the following questions or comments would drive me into a silent (or sometimes, not-so-silent) rage. I've edited my imaginary responses, because my mom reads this blog, and she has never, ever heard me say the f-word (okay, that's a total lie, but still...):

1. How much bigger are you going to get? (Unspoken response: How much stupider are you going to get?)

2. Are you still pregnant? (Unspoken answer: Do you see me holding a baby? What the hell do you think?)

3. How much longer do you have? (Unspoken answer: It doesn't matter...too long.)

4. If you think you're tired now, just wait... (Unspoken answer: Shut up, ****face. I have never, ever felt so tired in my entire life. Why do you think that telling me how I'll be EVEN MORE TIRED is helpful?)

5. When do you plan on losing the baby weight? (Unspoken answer: As soon as you lose yours. Can't I just enjoy being fat for once?)

6. Are you nervous about labor? (Unspoken answer: No, not at all, ass. Why would I be nervous about pain, hospitals, and unpleasantness down there?)

7. Are you disappointed that you're having a boy? (Unspoken answer: What, you think you're better than me because you have a girl?)

8. Wow, you're just a baby factory, aren't you? (Unspoken answer: Yes, two children in three years. I'm just like Ma Duggar.)

I'm a little hostile when I'm pregnant.

So, today, in the store, I see an acquaintance. We've met at various Mommy & Me functions (park, library, etc). We're not super-close or anything. She's due any day now. Our conversation goes like this:

Me: Hey, you're still pregnant (Ding!)
Her: Yes.
Me: I bet you're soooo tired. (Ding!)
Her: I'm ready to be done.
Me: Are you nervous about labor? (Ding!)
Her: A little bit.
Me: I bet you're glad you're having a girl this time. (Ding!)
Her: We're excited.
Me: Wow, your kids are going to be so close in age. (Ding!)
Her: Yes, I'll see you later.

I'm an idiot. On behalf of the sisterhood of the angry ovaries, I apologize. I'll try to do a better job.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

S vs RS

Having spent a few days with my cousin (he's visiting before heading up to DC for a conference,) I'm reminded of the difference between smart (S) and really smart (RS).

I consider myself to be smart. I'm usually quick with a line, I read a lot (and retain most of what I've read), I know all sorts of useless trivia, and I can figure things out. As far as I know, people haven't needed to say, "But she's a really, really nice person," or "She tries really hard," to make up for my intellectual gaps.

I also like to think that I'm an okay writer.

However, part of being smart is being honest. I'm smart. But I'm not REALLY SMART. My cousin, Dave? He's a RS kinda guy. He's a civil engineer, even though he says that he's not "all that good" at math. Riiiight. I'm not "all that good" at math either, which is why I did not consider about 75% of my possible career options. I'm not even sure if that percentage is mathematically correct. Dave, however, decides to enter a career field which requires an insane amount of math. (He assures me that computers do most of the math for him, but still....)

He also is an avid naturalist, with an impressive depth of knowledge and curiosity about the natural world. For example, he asked his good-sport wife to pull over onto the side of the road so he could study and photograph a fascinating bit of road-kill: a porcupine. He cannot resist a good zoo, and has visited them all over the country, and internationally, too. How many people can say they've visited the zoo in Buenos Aires? Dave can.

He's an impressive writer--I've mentioned his blog before. However, not content to write about his adventures in English, he's also attempting to write an additional blog--en espanol.

The way that I can tell that Dave falls into the RS category is that he is humble. I've found that RS people don't feel the need to prove their intelligence. Unlike "smart" people such as myself, who will "accidentally" drop words like "zeitgeist" into everyday banter, or start conversations saying things like, "I was reading this fascinating book about Shakespeare's early life...", Dave isn't trying to impress. His natural intellect is searching out the new, so he asks questions and aspires to learn how other people perceive the world.

I've found this with other RS people, too. I remember attending a wedding and talking about Lost and music with this lady. She was nice. I found out later that she was a neurosurgeon. A freak in' neuro-surgeon. Not once did she feel inclined to toot her own horn. When I asked her what she did, she simply said, "I work at a hospital," and returned the conversation to the Sawyer vs. Jack debate. She had nothing to prove.

Now, having worked with gifted children, some of whom, I swear to you, were (and are) smarter than I could ever hope to be, I can assure you that this humble quality comes with time. Young RS people can be insufferable, until they learn that it's an isolating way to live.

I'm just grateful to have the RS people in the world. They use their superior knowledge for the betterment of us all, all the while nodding and listening while us "smart" people talk about the important things, like television programs and other cultural touchstones of this zeitgeist.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Working Girl

I think my life is about to get a bit more complicated. This is a good thing, because I got a job--- again.

Let's back up. Last fall, I started teaching English Composition at the local community college. I really, really liked it. Community college students are, generally, good folk. Yes, there were some knuckleheads, but that is the case anywhere, anytime. Most of my students fall into the "not knucklehead" category. They're single moms, immigrants, "mature students," and young people that learned (or are still learning) from their mistakes in high school.

It feels nice to work with students that truly don't have to be there. It changes the entire dynamic. If a student is being a knucklehead, or doesn't turn in work, or has a laundry list of excuses, it's not my problem. I get to say things like, "You're paying for this class. It's your choice."

It's a breath of fresh air.

I took the fall off, because I just had Joel. Then, I missed the deadline to sign up for spring courses (I blame mommy brain). Later on, I find out that classes are available because some other teacher flaked. Now, here I am, with a class to teach two days a week.

Of course, teaching does create some problems. I told Paul about the job opportunity and his response was, "You better start pumping." You may recall how much I love pumping. I hate it so much that I tried to introduce formula last week when I took Owen to church. Wouldn't you know, Joel would have nothing to do with it. I'll keep trying, but I better, like Paul said, get pumping. Ugggghhhhhhhhh.

By accepting this job, I'm accepting the fact that lesson planning and grading will always be there to suck up my extra time. I may spend more evenings (after the boys are down) getting organized instead of relaxing or (gulp) writing this blog. I'll still find ways to make it work---especially with Paul taking on the bulk of boycare two evenings a week.

I'll also have my own money. I don't care how liberated and equal our partnership is, it feels good to get a paycheck with my name on it. I feel less guilty when I get a pedicure or buy something goofy when I know that it's my money that I'm wasting.

So, this is mostly a good thing. I hope. I just feel like I've achieved a sense of equilibrium with the two boys. I'm starting to feel normal again. Do I really need this in my life?

I guess I'll find out. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 9, 2009

As the years race by...

Paul's birthday was on Wednesday. He turned 35, which means different things for different people, but Paul naturally sees it through the prism of running. The 35-40 age bracket is actually MORE competitive for long distance runs (think half marathon and marathon), but it is LESS competitive for shorter distance (5K and 10K).

So, now that Paul is getting older, he needs to step up his game. Isn't that amazing? In a world where the passage of time is too often seen with fear and derision, turning older is a new challenge for Paul. He has to work harder to compete with these kick-ass 37 and 40 year old men. I love it.

One of my favorite things to see at races are the 70 year old men. They are almost always skinny as all get out, and often fast. I've been passed by balding, ancient men more than once, and not because I felt sorry for them. I tried to leave them in the dust, but instead, I ate theirs.

That's the world of running---you get kicked in the ass by the elementary school kids, then again by the social security recipients. If you're me, anyway.

I wish there was a category for just-had-baby runners. It might be my only chance EVER to place. However, even that isn't a guarantee. I've told this story before, but it's too good not to repeat.

Paul was running a 10K last April. He hadn't been training too hard, so he was pleasantly surprised with his split times. He noticed a woman racing in front of him, and recognized her from racing publicity. She's a local competitor, having won a few big races in the DC area---actual cash purses. So, she's basically kick-ass. He decides that he's going to beat her.

They battle in the sun for the first three and a half miles. Then, she picks up speed, and gains enough ground that he's never able to pass her, but he always sees her a few yards ahead. She finishes, and Paul comes on her heels, earning a personal best for the 10K.

He's pretty proud of himself, keeping pace with a racing professional. He's running with the elite few. We're hanging around afterwards, as he eats his bagels and waits for the award ceremony.

The race director announces the winners, and then has this to say: "We're especially pleased to present this award to [name of woman that beat Paul]. She ran a good race, especially for having just had a baby ten weeks ago."

Do you hear the sound of Paul's bubble bursting? That's pride, brother. He knows that he would not have kept pace with her if she was 100%. Running keeps you humble.

I like to think, though, that that woman is motivation for Paul, as he creaks out of bed at 4:00 AM to get his runs in. Someday, someday, he will kick that mother's ass. Maybe when he's 70.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Second, but not second best

What a difference a day makes.

My friend's son is home, and appears to have turned a corner. I realize that I didn't specify that he was admitted to Calvert Memorial, not a NICU, thank goodness. So, yay for that. And double yay that he's home and on the mend.

Also, at this time yesterday, I was thinking of my sons, so grateful, so anxious that they stay safe in my cocoon of love and neurosis. Today, they're back to being fun, but a real cramp on my style.

For the longest time, I had Owen and Joel on identical napping schedules. It was heaven. I would have an uninterrupted period of at least two hours every day to recharge and indulge in my important work, such as Facebook, reading the Style section of the Post, and this blog. All good things must come to an end.

Joel now wakes up earlier in the morning (like 5:30 in the freaking AM), thus naps earlier. To rub salt in the wound, he often starts stirring from his nap just as I leave Owen's room after tucking him in for his. Bru-tal. So, having mentally prepared myself for downtime, I find myself beginning the second shift, looking at Joel's sweet, beautiful face, and thinking "Damnit kid, you should be asleep."

I know that I should see this as a positive, an opportunity to spend quality time alone with Joel. And, to an extent, I do. I'll tickle his belly, sing him songs, read stories, whisper hopes and dreams into his ear, listen to his belly laugh. That takes about fifteen minutes. Then, he and I stare at each other, thinking, "Now what?"

True Confession: I don't feel like I hit my stride as a mother until Owen started talking. All the baby books preached the importance of talking to your baby, but I would feel like a big, fat idiot, talking to six month old Owen: "These are Daddy's boxers. They are blue and white. This is Mommy's shirt. It is yellow. She got it at a 10K." All the while, Owen was attempting to suck on his big toe. It was like I was mentally ill, except that the voices in my head were a lot less interesting, and only talked about laundry.

Once Owen started talking, it became so much fun, because he constantly surprises me and makes me see things in a new way. For example, here's a few Owen comments I jotted down on sticky pads:

#1: We're in the car. Owen says to me, "Good, driving, Mommy!" I thank him. He then turns to his brother and says, "Good sleeping, Baby Joel!"

#2: Owen toddles downstairs after not taking his nap, and announces, "Well, it looks like I'm going to bed early tonight."

#3: When I was impatiently telling Owen that he needed to get his shoes on or I was leaving without him (an idle threat, repeated almost daily), he replied, "Mommy, I'll do what you want when you ask nicely." Gee, where did he hear that?

#4: He told me, during lunch, "Carrots taste good when you eat them like rabbits." Indeed.

See what I mean? So, I struggle. I love Joel, and I don't want to rush through his babyhood, especially since it's so fleeting and precious, and we don't plan on having any more children. But, I'm just not a natural with babies. Even my own.

I hesitate to even write this, because I don't ever want Joel to read this and think that he was second best. He's not. I dreamed of him before he was conceived, hoped for him, prayed for him, and I love him with an intensity that I know of only because I feel that same fierce love for Owen.

But, I'm really looking forward to the day when he and I can have coffee and apple juice together, discussing the world, building memories together. I can't wait to discover him, each year a new introduction, and new dimension, a new reason to be grateful.

Even though I would be okay with him napping at this moment in time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I'm feeling a little fragile today. The tears come easily, and I'm not able to be present in situations, like I want to be, like I should be.

My friend's two month old son has RSV (which stands for something, but basically means: Nasty Virus that Causes Lung Gunk that is Really Fucking Serious When You're Two Months Old). I guess NVTCLGTIRFSWYTMO isn't as good of an acronym.

He will be fine, but it's scary as hell to see (or hear about) a baby struggling to breathe. They are hoping to discharge him today or tomorrow with some good medicine and hopefully, prayerfully, peace of mind.

We're doing what you do. Offering to make meals. Calling. Trying to balance between being concerned and being One More Stressor. Praying. Sending Good Thoughts. Sitting in our kitchens, feeling helpless and fretting. And pulling our individual triggers.

What's that, you ask? Ah yes, our triggers. We carry a loaded pistols around. Once in awhile, something will happen that will pull our triggers, blasting out all the fears, worries, and the helplessness that we thought we took care of and put away A Long Time Ago.

In my case, I'm thinking of Joel again. Driving home from Hopkins, I remember thinking, "If Joel gets through this, I will never have another child, because this is just too hard, and I can't live with this kind of worry ever again."

Of course, the worry never goes away. Now I wipe down my cart with Clorox Wipes when we visit Target and make bargains with God after a strange kid coughs right into Joel's face. I literally see germs, crawling like maggots on surfaces, waiting to attack my kids, my family, my whole world.

This from the girl who used to pick up grapes off the floor with her bare feet and eat them.

So, no, the worry never goes away. This makes God, to quote Anne Lamott, "want to drink gin directly from the cat dish." The whole point of belief, of knowing God, is knowing that He will be our soft place to fall. Worry is the attempt to solve a problem ourselves, instead of leaning on Him. Easier said than done.

I know that this episode has pulled my other friends' triggers, too. It's not my place to write about their issues. It reminds me, though, of the importance of kindness, of thoughtfulness, with words, with actions. Because we're human, we're all guilty of carrying our concealed, loaded weapons, and we need each other to keep the safety on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Owenisms

Owen was in the bathroom, taking care of business, as they say, when he called me in with a charming, "Mooommmy, wipe me please!"

I came in, did my unseemly duty, then stood with Owen to admire his work. He said, pointing, "That one looks like a snowman."

Later on, we were doing the same thing, and this time, Owen said, "That one looks like a cow pretending to be a fish."

Why look at the clouds when there's such amazing things to be seen closer to Earth?

This is why I have a blog. It seems just wrong to record such moments in the pretty Hallmark baby book (not that I've blown the dust off of that any time in the last six months), but such things must be recorded for posterity.

With that, I'm off. Paul's not coming home until late tonight, and I need to: shower, cook a meal for a friend, inquire about a job, read the paper, and clean up the squalor before Joel gets up. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 5, 2009


This is Owen's uninterrupted narration while I am sitting here, attempting to write:

"Mommy's being a pirate. I put hat on you. I put pirate hat on you. Arrgh, mateys. Now, you're done being a pirate. Now you're going to be a pirate some more. I'm making a pirate ship. Mommy, hop in the pirate ship. We're driving the pirate ship home. I'm driving the pirate ship. Yo, ho ho! I got to the lighthouse at the bottom of the jungle. Yo, ho ho. I have a treasure chest! The lighthouse at the bottom of the jungle has treasure. Yup. Okay. I got to drive the boat some more. I'm driving the pirate ship home. There's the water that will go in the pirate ship. Mommy's a pirate. I'm not a pirate. I drive an ambulance to the pirates. I say, "Owen, look at all these pirates." A vacumn will drive to the pirates. Look at all these pirates! These are nice pirates. They're pirates. They do go on the pirate ship. This gotta go on the pirate ship. V is for violin. Van is for yo-yo. Vacumn is a ja-ja-jah sound. Yo-ho-ho. To the pirate ship on the lighthouse under the jungle! You're done with the pirate hat! You have the pirate hat on your head. I'm taking the pirate ship to Danielle's house."

Got all that? I'm cashing in my chips; no writing is happening today. Owen has treasure to take to Danielle's house, and I have to drive our ship to the lighthouse at the bottom of the jungle.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Occupational Hazards

When I taught English in Tucson, a girl was hired maybe two years after I arrived. She was, and for all I know, still is "quirky." She wore the hipster uniform of black, clunky glasses, clogs, striped tights, and cardigans (this was several years ago, granted). Whatever she taught, be it To Kill a Mockingbird, thesis statements, prepositional phrases, or propaganda, it always, always tied back to memorable episodes of Scooby Doo. When I met her, I instantly assumed that she would be a hit with the students. I was wrong.

I say this with no trace of smugness. Being hated, for long or short bursts of time, is an occupational hazard of teaching middle school. There was one student, (I still remember her name, but will not share it), that hated me with an intensity I've never encountered before or since. She sneered at me, whispered comments about me, dropped off her homework with a derisive huff, and told any teacher that would tolerate it that she "Was going to get [her] father to get Ms. Mohrman fired." (PS--That's me, pre-marriage).

So, whatever. At the time, it bothered me a little. Okay, way too much. "Why doesn't she liiiiiikkkkkkee me? " I would whine to then-boyfriend Paul. In my defense, it was my second year teaching. I was twenty-three years old. My skin was pretty thin. You could see the veins and internal organs through it. I mean, it was thin.

Life moved on, her father didn't get me fired, and we eventually drifted to our different stations in life. In January 2008, Paul and I returned to Tucson, after a four year hiatus. We stayed with friends, Paul ran a marathon, Owen saw cactus, we were warm. It was great.

One afternoon, we were at this sandwich place, Baggins. We were eating our sandwiches, and enjoying the complimentary chocolate chip cookies, when the former student walked in. She must have been in her first or second year of college, but her distinctive features (cough, nose, cough) gave her away. I know she saw me, too, because she looked me in the eye, gasped, and turned to her friend and loudly announced, "We need to go. There's something that smeelllllls in here!"

Really. I wish I was making this up.

So, again---being detested is simply part of the job when you choose to work with adolescents. Most of my students liked me, and I certainly enjoyed their company, too. I think I was a good teacher, with my own blind spots and areas to grow.

Which is why I'm not smug, thinking about the hipster teacher. She had a soft voice, an intense fear of germs, and a honest fear that the kids pounced upon, shredding her like a pride of lions on the African Savanna. But, she asked for help, took advantage of opportunities, showed up each day, and earned their attention, if not their respect. I wonder if she's still teaching, and if so, if she likes it. Is each day another adventure on the Mystery Machine or are her plans still thwarted by those meddling kids?

Odds and Ends Section
* I started this post planning to talk about my recent obsession with hand washing and hand sanitizer, which is what made me think of hipster teacher. This is what came out. Isn't the brain funny?
*Confession Time: I listen to music that has bad words in it when it's just Joel in the car. It's not like his mind is being shaped and formed at an astonishing rate or anything. Why shouldn't a five month old be exposed to the poetic stylings of Ol' Dirty Bastard?
*Owen has taken to saying things like, "Mommy, I have something important to tell you!" or "Mommy, stop doing that. It's time to listen to Owen!" With a set-up like that, it must be important right? No. Once I have his full attention, he usually says things like, "Fleagul."
*My girlfriends and I talk about the three doctors at our pediatric practice the way that the young folks talk about Lauren, Audrina, and Spencer on MTV's The Hills
*I've felt like the Grinch, removing the decorations during Owen's nap times to avoid potential meltdowns. He came downstairs after a nap, rubbing his sleepy eyes, and cried, "What happened to the ornaments?" I tell him that Santa came while he was sleeping, and took all the ornaments away to clean them. He pondered this, then said, "Santa better not take my easel!"

Making this the longest post ever: Gratuitous Pictures!

This is from the infamous Tucson trip.
The giraffe attempted to French-kiss Owen.
See me smiling. "Go on, honey. Touch the filthy
animal with the eight foot long tongue."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A couple of eggheads

And now, a scene: Mom and I preparing to serve brunch, October 2008.

My mother shakes her head. She bites her tongue. She swears, swears, that she won't do it this time.

She watches me. She opens her mouth, shuts it, opens it again. My father puts down the newspaper and slowly mouths, "Don't do it."

But she succumbs to her overwhelming need. What I am doing is just too wrong, too egregious. She, despite all her efforts to be the cool mom, cannot stop herself.

She blurts, "Nancy, WHY are you throwing a perfectly good egg away?"

I turn to her, rolling my eyes like the fourteen year old I am in her presence. "Well, Mother, because I wasn't able to get the peel off."

She swallows, and says, her voice growing increasingly shrill, "So what? It's still good! Who taught you to waste food?"

"Mom, I don't waste food. But when you're making deviled eggs, you can't have the eggs look like ass. I overcooked the eggs, so I can't peel them, so I'm throwing the bad ones away." Even as I say this, I know that she is right, and I am wasting food. However, what exactly am I supposed to do with a mangled hard-boiled egg?

Mom knows. "Nancy, really. You could make a salad, you could eat it for breakfast, your father could eat it, right Ed? He doesn't care what his food looks like, right? "

My father continues to read the paper, choosing to tune out of the entire conversation.

"Mom," I say, pulling out my secret weapon. "I'm thirty-three years old. This is my house. These are my eggs. Let me do what I want."

I've got her. She knows. "Fine," she says, then mumbles, "but it isn't right."

I leave the kitchen at that point to tend to one of the boys. Listening upstairs, I can hear her rummaging through the trash, taking out the hard boiled eggs, washing them, and painstakingly peeling each one. Just like I knew she would.

They're the hit of the brunch.

(End scene)

She's a dangerous combination, my mother---she's tenacious, sentimental, detail-orientated, thrifty, and creative. This all adds up to an individual who CANNOT throw anything away. She always imagines the "maybe" or the "someday" of any item. This is a woman who:

A) Kept a frozen whole trout in the freezer for two years. Not for eating. Not a trophy from a fishing trip. No, this fish was a preschool craft. The kids (her students) dipped the frozen fish in poster paint, then used it as a print. She kept the fish in case she ever wanted to do the craft again. (Note to self: investigate Owen's preschool options carefully).

B) Still wears her sorority sweatshirts on occasion. She graduated college in 1970.

So, my act of rebellion is to throw things out with abandon. I've been cleaning the house of all things festive, and getting rid of other junk while in the process. The "I was born at Calvert Memorial Hospital" onesie? Trash. Letters from old students? See ya! Commemorative mug from my trip to Hong Kong in 1997? Off to the thrift shop!

I can hear my mother gasping as she reads this. It's just as appalling to her that I get rid of these treasures as it is for me to live with them. Things overwhelm me. Things feed her.

Her life has had so many stories, and so much joy, that she needs her objects to help her remember. All I need, most of the time, is a laptop and a quiet room of my own. (Okay, I've referenced Virginia Woolf, officially becoming pretentious. Sorry. It won't happen again.)

My mom and I butt heads, because deep down, we're the same person. We're smart and stubborn We require audiences and attention. Simply put, we can be tough eggs to crack (or peel).

But know, Mom, that I hear your voice every time I purge my house of unnecessaries---"Are you sure you don't want that?" And sometimes, Mom, out of love for you, I put the object back on the shelf, trusting in your wisdom.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Eat This! Not That!

Paul and I are emerging from the world of :

Paul, as loyal readers may recall from my previous post, had a stomach bug. He recovered, just in time for me to get it on day two. So, the boys played in squalor as we creaked and moaned from the bathroom to the bedroom to the couch. Horrible.

While it was probably a twenty-four hour bug, we're choosing to blame the homemade chicken nuggets. The recipe for these nuggets came from one of those cookbooks designed for children. The recipe involved slicing, dicing, food processing, crumbling, frying, and shaping the nuggets into Christmas trees and snowmen. This fine recipe took twice as long, required every pot in the house and possibly gave us food poisoning. Additionally, after all this work, Owen proclaimed, "I don't like that. I want peanut butter toast."

That's what you get for channeling Martha.

I try not to get too uptight about Owen's eating habits. He eats more cold hot dogs than any person should, but we always make him eat vegetables first. Of course, he prefers them to be cold. And that peanut butter toast? He prefers it cold, too. As in peanut butter on bread. Not toasted. But, it must be called toast or else it is no damn good. As Owen approaches three, he is becoming a delightful mix of Jack Nicholson's OCD character from As Good as it Gets and Mussolini.

For Christmas, my mom gave us a book alarmingly titled, Eat This! Not That! For Kids! Talk about a disturbing read. So many of the seemingly innocent items we put in our cart---yogurt, couscous, Kraft macaroni and cheese, juice, are actually loaded with sugar and calories which will ENDANGER YOUR CHILD'S HEALTH!

Case in point: we used to get Owen this juice called "Harvest Surprise," because it had vegetable juice mixed in with the fruit juice. Can't go wrong with that? Apparently, I should have just served him a glass of tequila. According to the book, it has 27 grams of sugar per serving. Paul's favorite cereals--Smart Start and GoLean Crunch also fall into the "Not That!" category. Even the chicken soft tacos from Chipotle are evil--25 grams of fat. I had thought that chicken=better than steak, but apparently not...

The one vindication I had from reading this depressing, if enlightening text, is that my eternal favorite, the black and white cookie from Starbucks is a far better choice, (an Eat This!) than most of the things on its menu. Since I lived on these through both pregnancies, I can feel a little better.

I guess it's all an illusion. We can attempt to protect our children and ourselves from hidden calories and secret sugars. We can make our own chicken nuggets and ban macaroni and cheese from our pantries. However, despite our best efforts, we still mess up, and stomach bugs still sneak into our house and kick everybody's ass. You've just gotta roll with it.

And, in case you were curious, Chili's Pepper-Pals' Country-Fried Chicken Crispers with Ranch Dressing and Homestyle Fries, coming in at 1,110 calories, 82 grams of fat, 1,980 mgs of sodium wins as The Worst Kids' Meal in America.

Lord help us.