Friday, July 31, 2009

The Audacity of Hops

I try to avoid writing about politics, because I respect many people that have different political opinions than my own. Yet, I must say it. I simply must: the "Beer Summit" looked like the WORST HAPPY HOUR OF ALL TIME.

Call it "The Audacity of Hops," "Yes, Three Cans," a "Brew Ha Ha," or "Beeristroika," the fact of the matter is that any happy hour that involves sitting outside in full suit coats in the middle of a Mid-Atlantic summer qualifies as no damn good.

Additionally, I take great exception to the beer presentation itself. I would love this president, no matter what, if he had gone onto the White House lawn with a cooler of suds and a bottle opener. I know that the commentators would have a field day talking about the president's disdain for the dignity of the office, but I argue that there is dignity in simplicity.

On the other hand, there is nothing simple about four different beers, served in chilled glasses, off a silver tray, held by a BUTLER.

No. The pomp and circumstance revealed this meeting to be exactly what it was: a show, public relations, an attempt to make a troubling issue go away.

I'm not going to opine about the issue itself, because, like I said, it is too complicated to fix over a beverage, or by my late-night ramblings.

Let me, instead, offer unsolicited advice to our Bartender-In-Chief:

1) Next time, provide all attendees with free T-shirts advertising a sponsored liquor. A tank top advertising Jose Cuervo, for example, would be far more comfortable. And sex-y.

2) Either make the party BYOB, or choose one beer for everybody. This is supposed to be a backyard get together, not a night at TGI Fridays.

3) Don't give in to peer pressure. Apparently, Gates was going to drink a Red Stripe, but caved to the pressure of the American/Massachusetts brewers by drinking a Sam Adams Light. This is beer, not diplomacy. Don't let anybody hate on your beer selections, or the selections of your guest.

4) Yet, to completely contradict my previous statement, I'm gonna put on my hating hat: Bud Light, Mr. President? Really? The idea that the ruler of the free world likes such swill makes me feel a little empty inside.

5) Lose the butler. Instead, train your dog to bring the beers out balanced on his head (because I, personally, would love to see that). Your only other option is to get your own drinks out of your own cooler.

The First Lady is not an option. Don't even think of asking Michelle to get beers for you. She'll cut you.

6) Finally, Mr. President, a simple bit of advice: Don't invite Biden. Who needs his non-alcoholic-brew-drinking,long-pointless-story-telling, face around anyway?

I know that most of these thoughts have been stated already, more clearly, thoughtfully, and eloquently. Yet, as a citizen, and when beer is involved, I must invoke my freedom of speech.

The future of all pointless, contrived photo ops is resting on this.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living the Dream

In my version of heaven, there will be mimosas. Lots and lots of mimosas. There will also be bacon, gooey egg casseroles, and perfectly ripe blackberries. In other words, heaven will serve brunch.

Whenever we travel to more exotic locales---Annapolis, Charlottesville, Asheville, Boulder---(okay, perhaps I've set the "exotic" bar a bit low)---I picture myself living there, and dining on egg-white omelets or sweet-cream infused French Toast. I would become one of those effortless urban mothers, who wear their babies in designer slings and smell of lavender essential oil. While I eat my delectable breakfast, drink my organic coffee, and read The New York Times (because that is what I would read in my fantasy, instead of the gossip section of The Post), Owen would scamper in fields of wildflowers while Joel nestled in my sling.

This will be as likely to happen as my cake decorating career. Behold!

As soon as I took the cake out of the pan, it did this:

Refusing to be thwarted, I did this atrocity:

Which made me very angry, like HULK! SMASH!:

After much repair work and forced intervention by my mother, we ended up with this:

My friends cooed and said it was great. I have wonderful, deceitful friends.

While it is entirely possible that I will never have my own cake-themed program on the Food Network (that is, unless Cake becomes a TV show), I will do my best to be a bruncher.

Hence, I declare to you today that all of my parties, whether it be a New Year's Eve bash, a Halloween get-together, a birthday party, or a Bachelorette soiree, will be a brunch.

It's called living the dream, folks. Living the dream.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Day in the Life

I can only imagine life as my youngest son. You wake up, and are forced to wear embarrassing outfits like this:

You finally accept this strange woman who constantly vies for your affection:

Sometimes, especially when placed on the ground for the sin of biting, life is pretty dreadful:

But, after a reasoned discussion with Mom, all is forgiven:

People feed you strange, but delicious delicacies:

You give your mother the occasional heart attack:

And you eat another strange substance while people sing and blow out candles in a vaguely cult-like fashion.

It's a weird life. But it's pretty wonderful, too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sip Until Reality Returns

Hosting a party is a lot like childbirth. The end result is pretty great, but getting there involves lots of deep breathing, freak-outs, and the occasional distilled painkiller.

Tomorrow is Joel's first birthday. I thought I would make things easy-squeezy and invite some people over for pancakes. I called it a "pajama party," in the Evite, and encouraged everybody to roll out of bed and come on over. Nothing to it.

That is "nothing to it," if I wasn't a freaking LOON. Whenever I have a birthday party for one of my boys, I become one of those Stepford-Wife/Martha Stewart Pod People, except that I have no crafty talents whatsoever.

For Owen's second party, Paul came home to find me on the kitchen table, muttering unspeakable things to the poor, innocent streamers. I hated those streamers, putting on airs, acting like they were too good to drape gracefully and twirl festively. Filled with rage, I crumpled the streamers into a ball, and told them to do something impossible, since they do not have sexual organs. I imagine you get the gist.

Did I mention I was in my first trimester during this episode?

At this same party, I got it into my head that I was going to make cupcakes that looked like monkey faces. Each cupcake would have a Nilla wafer face, with M&M eyes and a cute, little Red Vined mouth. They were adorable little crackhead monkey birthday cupcakes. So cute that they made Owen's guests cry.

I think I did a better job with Owen's third birthday, except for the part when Owen took all the party favors, hid in a corner and cried out "Mine! Mine! Mine!" We had issues with boundaries back then.

So now, with Joel's "easy" first birthday, I've done the following ridiculous actions:

1) Decide that I need to make a cake that looks like a duck pond.
2) Decide that my mother needs to have a "messy fun" station outside for the older kids, while (in theory) Joel mingles with his baby peeps. They'll probably be talking about the price of formula, and maybe Obama's health care initiatives. Those babies LOVE politics.
3) Decide that the menu of pancakes and fruit is NOT ENOUGH, and insist on making egg souffles.
4) Decide that I need to scour the house before the babies and toddlers descend upon it, eating syrupy pancakes and having "messy fun."

Probably these are the only actions I should be taking:
1) Sit down.
2) Open bottle of red.
3) Take sips until reality returns.

I get a bit crazy about these things because I have happy memories of parties from my childhood---homemade cakes, treasure hunts, costumes, streamers---and I want the boys to have the same memories.

Also, my baby will be ONE. That alone is reason to celebrate.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I had an idea. A really wonderful, excellent idea. And, because it was my idea, I didn't trouble myself with pesky details like "cost" or "time" or "difficulty." Instead, while my idea was still a tiny embryo, I called my father and asked, "Would you be interested in building a playhouse for the boys?"

And just like that, the embryo took growth hormones and became my father's BIG ASS BABY.

We've had two trips to Lowe's so far. Our backyard is scattered with sawhorses, lumber, and nails. Dad wakes up with the sun, puts on his trusty tool belt, and works in the July heat, hammering, sawing, pounding, and marking. He does this until he grows weary. This becomes apparent when he starts hammering nails the wrong way, or memorably, sawing the cord off of his just-purchased circular saw.

After a break, a beer, and a snooze on the couch while "watching" Rawhide, he's back outside, ready for more construction fun. The man is a machine. As he sweats in the sun, my mom, the boys and I stand on the deck, drinking water and occasionally asking if he needs anything.

"See, son," I say to Owen, "this is what it would be like to work for the government."

Part of my dad's urgency is that he has a deadline. He lives in Colorado, and needs to complete the job while he's here. The other reason he is working so hard is because it is an act of love.

My father is a quiet man, a man that lights up the most when talking about politics (a topic I avoid most strenuously when I'm around him), The Simpsons, and Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has become his retirement job and joy. In addition to working at the building sites as often as possible, Dad assists with fund-raising and computer work for the organization. He's traveled to the Gulf Coast to build new houses for the victims of the various hurricanes.

In theory, Habitat helps the people who need cost-effective housing. However, I think that it helps my father just as much. My mother showed me a picture of Dad. He's next to a section of an unfinished house. The workers wrote on the framing and insulation, which would later be covered with drywall. These are the wishes and prayers, built into the house with as much care as the screws and nails.

Dad chose to quote Les Miserables: "To love another person is to see the face of God."

And really, that's it. To love another person--by using the talents you've been given---is allowing that divinity, that spirit, to become as obvious and concrete as cleanly-cut planks of wood.

My father doesn't always know how to play with the boys. But, there's no doubt that he loves them. Every time that they play in that playhouse, they will know that their Grandpa Ed built it for them. As for me? I will look at that playhouse and see the face of God.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Great Questions, Yet Unanswered.

1. Why do I need to buy party favors for a baby's birthday party? The whole concept of party favors---buy cheap junk, preferably choking hazards and then assemble it into cutesy bags---fills me with rage.

If Joel was in charge of party favors, he would have me buy filthy, germ-laden shoes for his guests. Shoes are, after all, his favorite toys. With this thoughtful gesture, the babies could have something to chomp on, with the added bonus of Hepatitis or Hoof and Mouth Disease.

Now THAT'S a favor.

2. Am I morphing into a Redneck? I bought a plastic baby pool from K-Mart. I brought it home, put it on the deck, filled it up, placed two boys in it, cracked open a beer, and dipped my toes in the water while they played.

Paul came home and told me it was the most redneck thing he had ever seen. I said, "Shut yer mouth and get me some Fritos."

Tell, me, loyal readers. Am I...changing? How's my neck looking?

(P.S. Owen says "water" like the Southern Maryland native he is: "wa-dur." I correct him most voraciously. "Wa-ter, ya'll, Wa-ter!"

3. Good God! What else can I do with all this zucchini? It's been a gratin. We've grilled it. We've put it on pizza. In omelets. We've made zucchini bread. I'm considering a zucchini birthday cake.

I fear the zucchini will rise up and smother us all in our sleep.

4. How much will I regret letting both boys nap until 5:45 PM? I'm guessing quite a bit.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weekend Clean-Up

Paul's back from California! He gave a presentation to a bunch of Marines, and informed me that Marine call names either come from 1) something stupid that the Marine did or 2) something related to the Marines's last name.

Some samples:
1) Last name: Wurtz. Call Name: Liver
2) Last name: Campbell Call Name: Soup
3) Stupid thing: Having big ears Call Name: Ears
4) Stupid thing: Talking quietly Call Name: Mumbles
5) Stupid thing: Having a belly Call Name: Pooh

I love that a man or woman can serve our country and do acts of daring-do, all the while being called "Pooh" by his friends and commanding officers.

By the way, the only fighter pilot I ever met had a fairly non-offensive nickname: Piper. Why? Because he played the bagpipes. I will speak boldly and argue that there is nothing stupid about playing the bagpipes. His wife, perhaps, would disagree...

Blog contest!
What would be your military name, and why?

Me first: I think I would be Pansy because I would be weak and useless in any military capacity.


My mother has taught preschool for almost twenty years. My friends call her the "child whisperer," because children flock to her as if she was coated with Cheerios and Apple Juice. When two or more children are gathered, my mother is on the floor, making puppets out of lint and air, and they are enraptured.

You can imagine it was a bit of a surprise to both of us when my mother walked into the kitchen to see Joel for the first time in six months. He looked at her, with her gray curly hair and pale blue pajamas. He opened his mouth in abject terror. He screamed, silently, for almost a minute, until he was finally able to produce a horrified wail. Clearly, he thought my mother was a monster.

Two days later, he's almost ready to let her hold him.

Now my father, meanwhile, a quiet man who tends to enjoy a good sit with the paper of a lively viewing of Deadliest Catch?
A man, who while he loves his grandchildren dearly, does not feel inclined to play with them all day long? Joel has deemed him the MOST AWESOME PERSON EVER.

And oh, does it piss off Mom. It's really pretty hilarious.


And it's marathon training season again! Paul came home around 9:00 PM last night, and immediately changed into his running clothes to run five miles in the dark. Then, he woke up at 6:00 AM this morning to run another fourteen. I told my mother, "If you two weren't here, I would officially want to kill him."


Paul worked all last week with a young, blond twenty-year old. They traveled together, ate together, shared deep, dark secrets, and painted each others' toenails. She's very pretty, and I don't hate her at all. Not. one. bit.

It turns out, as Paul drove her home, that she lives directly across the street from my good friends. He saw them walking down the street, and felt the need to explain why he was traveling with this young chickie.

I'm kinda disappointed, because I would have loved a phone call from my friend, concerned about the extracurricular activities of my jet-setting husband. That would have been a lot of fun.


That's all! Don't forget to submit your military name!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


For those who cannot afford therapy, I highly suggest starting a blog. Writing unlocks the secret fears and deepest wants, and nibbles away at bravado like nobody's business.

I'm working on a piece for this writing contest. I won't give away too many details, because I don't want to risk breaking the rules of the contest. Let's just say that I decided to write about my dog. I sat and wrote about her wrinkled face and her manic running in circles and it was such "Marley and Me" pablum that I wanted to sit in the shower in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, scrubbing the bad writing out of my system.

"I suck," I said to myself. "I am a joke. A fraud. A talentless hack." Then, I decided to be mad at Owen instead because he was banging something repeatedly and relentlessly.

I figured it would be better to verbally abuse my mother instead of an innocent child, so I called her. Like Annie Bates, she's my "number one fan." She told me to let it rest for awhile.

I went through the rest of the day, the bad writing piece coloring every interaction. "Joel, do you want some more peas? Since that's the only thing I'm able to do well these days..." You get the idea.

I prayed about it that night, and called some good friends. They all (God included) suggested that I Step. The. Hell. Back. and get a bit of perspective.

This morning, while driving over the big bridge, I was hit by an obvious insight: "If you don't want to write about the dog--don't."

"I know what I want to write about," my inner voice said. "But haven't I done that already? Shouldn't I be over it? It's been almost a year."

And it hit me. It's been almost a year. A year ago, I thought I would have days like this:

And, instead had this:

And this:

Although I will celebrate one year of this next Wednesday... writer's voice is telling me that I still have demons to confront and things to process.

So, I'm starting a new piece. When my craft (and my faith) speaks, I listen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dear Santa: I need a GPS.

Since Paul is in San Diego, vacationing on the taxpayer's dollar, I mean, doing important work, I was looking for a distraction from the long evening slog to bedtime. It came from the optician's office: "Joel's new lenses are ready."

Joel needed new lenses because in his attempts to EAT his existing lenses, he scratched them mercilessly. Looking through them, I was reminded of a rib joint we went to just south of The District (that would be Prince George's County, for those in the know). The food was good, but the true marvel was the several inch-thick bulletproof glass that surrounded the counter. You ordered through an intercom and slipped your money/received your food through a slot, prison-style. The food was tasty, but I would not recommend patronizing JJ's Ribs after two in the afternoon, unless you are Superman. (Because, he's...bulletproof.)

My point? Joel's glasses were as dirty and scratched up as the bulletproof glass counter.

Naturally, the only place that sells Joel's baby frames is in the fine city of Waldorf. Waldorf is known for...its strip malls. And....its strip malls. Oh! And nearby is the Samuel Mudd House, home of the doctor that set John Wilkes Booth's leg after he assassinated Lincoln, and was on the lam from the law. (Random tidbit, perhaps, but it's an interesting place.)

So, we were off to Waldorf. It's a straight shot, almost impossible to miss. Unless you're me. We're driving and driving, and I suddenly noticed a preponderance of Checks Cashed storefronts and many surly individuals drinking things out of paper bags. I had, miraculously, managed to zone out the ENTIRE city of Waldorf, only to drive into...wait for it...Prince George's County! Where, of course, I was running out of gas.

Both boys were hungry, so while I fueled up, I threw mountains of crunchy foodstuffs in their laps, and attempted a plan of action. I could have checked my GPS, except that we DIDN'T HAVE ONE. I could have called the store, except that, like a moron, I had let my cell phone go dry AGAIN. I figured I would drive back home, and hope that I would manage to SEE Waldorf instead of getting distracted by shiny lights, or signs, or whatever was keeping me from finding the LARGE CITY. The city that, incidentally, I already DROVE THROUGH on my way to getting LOST.

Right. I drove in the direction of home, and sure enough, there was Waldorf. The familiar landscapes---Bed, Bath and Beyond, Chuck E. Cheese---, were there all along. I found the optician, and dragged the boys in. Both children had Gerber puffs attached to various parts of their bodies. I explained to the kind-hearted lady, "I don't know how I managed to get lost. I mean, what happened?"

She looked me up and down and said, not unkindly, "I think motherhood happened."

We left with our new glasses (News Flash! My kid has blue eyes! I wasn't sure before...) and, of course, I had to take the kids to dinner.

Ribs, anyone?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Evil Knievel and Hillbilly O

My children are plenty independent, but only when it is inconvenient. Owen insists on pouring his own milk, getting his own cup and bowl, and even cooking his own waffle. This sounds plenty convenient, except that when it comes to wiping up the spilled milk, picking up the shards of broken dishware, or turning off the smoke alarm, Owen is once again helpless.

"Owen, let's clean up the milk," I'll say, doing my best to stay calm. No yelling over spilled milk, and all that.

"But Momma," he'll whine, "I can't! I need HEA-LUP! HEA-LUP!" He speaks with the twang of an banjo-plucking Appalachian boy whenever he asks for help. Why? Search me. I personally would prefer an Aussie accent or perhaps a Jersey Wise Guy impersonation. Just to shake things up. But alas, I am stuck with Lil' Abner whenever it's time to get out the towels and mops.

I'll reassure him, saying, "Don't worry, Buddy, I'll help you clean it up." I will then hand him a towel, and give myself a towel. Owen will happily spread the milk all over the floor, while I actually clean up the mess.


Independence is a grand thing. I wish that Owen would show more of it when it comes to getting dressed. He can do it. I've seen it; Paul's seen it. It's not a mystery. Yet, Owen will play helpless when we tell him to get dressed for the day.

Once again, he'll do his Hillbilly cries from help: "HEA-LUP! My underwear is stuck. STUCK! STU--UCK!!!" Since I am, apparently, Owen's Bitch, I am supposed to gun it upstairs and un-stick his underwear. The other day, I went up to investigate, only to see the supposedly stuck underwear on his head. I can see how he would confuse his head with his ass.

We tell him, "Owen, you've got to pull up your own pants when you go to preschool this fall."

He says, "I know. I'll just do it there, and let you and Daddy do it here!"



Joel is equally independent, and it grows more terrifying each day. While mission-style furniture, with its sleek lines and sharp corners, is quite lovely, we might as well leave out shards of glass or barbed wire for Joel. He has become confident enough in his walking that he is fearless. Every day is the X-games here.

He scurries up the stairs whenever he gets a chance, laughing hysterically as we chase him down. He climbs on top of the coffee table, onto the open dishwasher, and, memorably, face-first into the laundry hamper.

He hasn't had his first birthday yet. Mark my words, he will be climbing out of his crib by Christmas.

This thought makes me want to cry. These are not tears of "oh-my-baby-is-growing-up-so-quickly." No. I'm terrified. You must remember that most of the time, they outnumber me.

Joel is not independent when it comes to me leaving his side. A dear friend watched him all last week, and lied to me, telling me that he didn't cry for long. I took Joel to the gym today, and he cried for at least half of my thirty minute run. You'll notice that I finished my run. That is because I am a heartless bitch.

Really, children are inconvenient most of the time. Thankfully, their hillbilly charm and feats of daring-do more than make up for it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Primary Source

Paul came home from his parent's house, bearing treasures. And by treasures, I mean, "all sorts of random crap from his childhood."

The bounty included a shoebox full of trading cards---featuring Battlestar Galactica, Moonraker (which is, as far as I know, the only James Bond flick that involved space travel), and The Empire Strikes Back. I imagine that somebody collects these things, but it may involve fisticuffs and trickery to get them from Paul.

Additionally, we now possess an old Boy Scout handbook, marbles, and a collection of shells. With the exception of the handbook, these treasures made Owen very happy.

The prize that made me giddy, however, was a small, blue notebook: Paul's diary. Paul wrote in this thing for about a month, during the summer of 1982. He was eight years old, and living in Washington State. Over the month, the entries became shorter, and the handwriting became cramped and increasingly less legible. Eventually, he abandoned the writing life, leaving so many unanswered questions, so many gaps in history.

Here's a typical entry: "On Wednesday, Mom went to the eye doctor. I saw a died [sic] cat on the road. I went to my ball game. We won 25-17 then we went to Daily Deli."

All and all, not a bad life. Errands with mom, dead cats, ball games, and luncheon meats. Certainly not Angela's Ashes.

At times, things were difficult for young Paul. In addition to getting in trouble for running into the street, there were the natural elements to brave. On July 25th, he wrote, "I got wet in the hose. There was a fire."

I must wonder if these two events were related. Was Paul wet due to putting out a fire? Perhaps he was in the all-child-volunteer-fire-department! Or, did he play with the hose, and then set a fire? How handy that would be! I imagine him thinking, "Oh, crap! I started a fire! But, Oh! Perhaps this green tube could be of service...")

The possibilities are endless.

The diary did give me a taste of his actual life. Since Paul was a Navy kid, there's lots of talk of going to the ship to see movies (including such greats as Quest for Fire, and The Great Muppet Caper.) He noted several times that his dad had to report to work at midnight. There were many recorded trips to the commissary.

In an entry that was just another day, to Paul, he writes, "On Monday, we went to Mt. Saint Helens and picked up ash. Then, we climbed up a big hill. Then, we had a picnic by Mt. Saint Helens." Paul was playing and picnicking by the volcano that had famously erupted just two years prior.

The diary ended with a sputter. On August 9th, he wrote, "On Monday, we didn't do anything." Then, on August 10th, his last entry read, "Same as Monday."

And thus, the written history of Paul's childhood ends forever. Although it is fairly normal, and dare I say, mundane, it is a treasure.

As I read it, I could see the little boy, who was so much like his sons, taking the time to record his memories for posterity. I want to mother this young boy, to whisper in his ear that a beautiful life awaits him.

While his days are occasionally boring now, adventures will come: learning Korean, running marathons, travel, love, family. I want to tell that young boy, pencil poised above his page, "You will mean everything to your family some day. You, Paul Campbell, will be a hero."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dear Friends

The BBC came out with a list of 100 book titles and presumptively suggested that most of the great unwashed have only read SIX of these 100 titles. Becuz were so stupidz.

Well, BBC, I read 42 titles. Take that. Yes, I just zig-zag snapped in your face. Umm-hmmm.

I'm now inspired to share with you a few of the titles that made me smile. Captivating books that I absorbed, loved, and almost regretted finishing, because it was so hard to say goodbye to these dear friends.

Catch 22 - Joseph Heller - Never before did I have to work so hard to understand a book. I think this book, along with the writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare, built my sense of self-efficacy. I realized that I could read challenging things.

The Kite Runner
- Khaled Hosseini - Yes, it has moments that are melodramatic. Yes, it was book-clubbed nearly to death. Yet, it is worthy. When writers write, they do more than express themselves. Hopefully, they turn stereotypes into breathing, living people. People that you care about. The world needs all sorts of shades---especially more shades of gray. So, thank you, Khaled Hosseini.

Memoirs of a Geisha
- Arthur Golden -I remember reading this book on my honeymoon. (Yes, I know. I shouldn't have brought books to my honeymoon, but we drove from AZ to Northern California. It was necessary.)

We were zipping down the Pacific Coast Highway, and while the book was good, the view was better. I put the book down and saw a black, shiny...something. We pulled over to see an elephant seal emerge from the salty spray and flop itself onto shore. It was gorgeous in its lumpy awkwardness. We walked closer, and along the way met a marine biologist, who took the time to lead us to another cove. There, we saw a gathering of elephant seals, probably fifty or more of them. They trumpeted, waddled, and sparred just inches from our delighted faces.

Memoirs of a Geisha was a good book---I finished it later. But what makes it a dear friend is that I was reading it at the start of a new marriage, in a beautiful place, where serendipity lurked everywhere.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime - Mark Haddon -I remember this book being very British, with references to Wellies and The Tube and, even, I think Robbie Williams. (I may be confusing the British stuff with another excellent author, Nick Hornsby. If I am--apologies.) The narrator was a young boy with some kind of Autism-Related Spectrum issue (It's never named or officially diagnosed). I imagine it was a challenge to write respectfully and authentically from this perspective (the author does not have autism), and I marvel at Haddon's sensitivity and craft.

And finally, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.--I loaned this book to a Spanish teacher friend of mine several years back. In retrospect, I'm not sure what a highly conservative Mormon woman made of Ignatius Reilly, the book's perverse, pompous and slothful anti-hero. Set in New Orleans, this book is brilliant. Go buy a copy. And then loan it to me. You see, the Spanish teacher never returned the book, but instead gave me a Book of Mormon.

Not a fair trade.

If you're interested in seeing the BBC's entire list, drop me a line. We'll do a book-off. It's like a walk-off or a dance-off, except much, much less exciting.

Friday, July 17, 2009


With an epic argument with his friend regarding the merits of "froggy soap" vs. "fishy soap," Owen bid adieu to another year of Vacation Bible School. Another year of songs, crafts, running outside, and stimulation, stimulation, stimulation.

I think it ended at the right time. During today's "music time," the kids stared blankly at the stage, nearly catatonic. When I went up to do the super-cool dance moves (as modeled by the insanely happy, multi-ethnic cast on the TV screen), Owen burst into hysterical tears and clutched my leg. "No, Mommy! Stop! Noooooooo!" Although the song said, "Living on the edge is what we do," Owen's new lyric was, "Being a tired whiner is what I do."

He perked up a bit---there was a Moon Bounce! S'mores! Puppetry! But the fork had hit its mark, and we were indeed, done.

Which leads us abruptly to next week, in which we plan to do...nothing. No swim lessons. No day camp. Nuh-thing.

I hope that Owen is able to make the adjustment, and return to the normal routine I like to call: Life is Boringful.

We'll wake up and eat breakfast in our pajamas. I'll brew a big pot of coffee and nurse it throughout the morning. We'll probably build a fort by the couch. Owen will help me do laundry, and he'll tickle Joel until his laughter echoes throughout the house.

Joel will grow more confident in his walking each day, as he now is able to stagger across entire rooms, searching for the bright light or shiny object he so fervently desires. He'll surely waddle over to the piano at some point to press on the keys, delighting in his cacophony, his own booming composition.

At some point, we'll wander outside to play with the PVC pipes, water the plants, or make a "nest" out of assorted debris. Once Joel goes down for his nap, we'll dig for worms in the front yard, or paint a picture on the easel.

Or, perhaps we'll call Grandma in Colorado to tell her about the washing machine--again--. We may instead read about Dodsworth and that crazy duck as they travel around New York and Paris.

We'll eat cherry tomatoes and hot dogs once Joel gets up, and then we'll take a short field trip. If we're lucky, to the gym. Or perhaps the library. Or Panera. Or, if we're really on top of things, to a friend's house. But whatever we do, it will be easy.

Because this week coming up is not about bells and whistles. It's about the simple pleasures of two boys, one house, and these perfect summer days.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

That Thing You Do

One of my sons is in love. Deeply, dare I say, obsessively in love. The object of his affection? Himself.

More specifically, his penis.

I'm not going to name this son by name. You'll have to use your sleuthing abilities to figure out which one.

It all started when we graduated from diapers to big-boy pants. Suddenly, everything was much more available, and oh-so-exciting. At first, it was an occasional tug. No big deal---nothing he hadn't seen already.

But, alas, my little scientist learned a quick lesson in cause and effect, and his activity has increased. Think Al Bundy.

Well-meaning people ask him, "Oh, honey, do you need to use the potty?" It's a logical thing to conclude.

Before I can whisk him away (anywhere, anyplace), he'll be quick to reply, "No, I'm just touching my pee-pee."

Thanks for sharing, my son. Thanks for sharing.

We're in a delicate place here. We don't want to make it a big deal, because he'll do it all the more--having power over Mommy and Daddy is so fun! Also, we don't want to give the poor kid a hang-up. Having a penis is pretty swell (or so I've been told).

On the other hand, it's rude and it's awkward to play with yourself in public. The "ick" factor alone is enough for me.

So, we've told this son of ours that he is not to touch his penis unless he is getting dressed, taking a bath, or going pee-pee. When he inevitably asks, "Why?" we explain that it is rude.

So, on a scale of 1-10, how greatly are we scarring our child for life?

I felt a little better today, when a little girl at Bible School stripped off every stitch of clothing, including her diaper, and frolicked in the baby pool, right on the front lawn of the church. The adults were laughing, her mother was chasing her with a diaper, and her fellow toddlers were not blinking an eye. They couldn't have cared less.

Perhaps the only thing being scarred for life is my own sense of pride. But, I would still appreciate the insights of those who are now proud veterans of the Penis Wars.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Embracing the madness

Behold! One of the least flattering pictures I've ever taken:

This particular shot was taken on July 19th, 2008. (And yes, I am cheap and do not have a scanner, so I took a picture of a picture. Could you tell?)

Joel was born ten days later, on July 29th, 2008.

Let's grossly understate and say that I was a little uncomfortable. And by "little" I mean, I waddled, used the bathroom every three minutes, and ceased to care about social mores, such as "Try not to fart in public" or "Avoid talking about your water breaking with strangers."

This picture was taken at Vacation Bible School. I dragged my 170 pound body to the church each evening for games, snacks, stories, crafts, and music with Owen. With the exception of Joel's birth days later, it was the highlight of my summer.

Most churches do not have VBS for toddlers. I can understand why. It's a bit mad. But, I am grateful that my church embraces the madness, and lets the toddler hordes in. If nothing else, it's biblical: "Let the little children come to me," and all that.

It's also an act of grace. The adults are saying: "Yes, we know that you cry and have the attention span of lint. You may be unable to pull up your pants, and the adults often do your crafts for you. But you're welcome. Pull up a seat. We're waiting." I love that.

Thus, we're back again this summer. It's during the day this year, so Joel is staying with a friend of mine, and I am taking her son to VBS with Owen. I love the reciprocal thing, and I think she's liking the deal too. Plus, I get to imagine what life would be like with twin boys.

It's going well, although Owen has an irrational hatred for the music section, where the kids dance and play with instruments. He'll sit on a chair, scowling. "I don't dance, Mommy," he'll grump.

Boy, is that boy ever German.

Although he chooses not to dance, he'll happily roll down the big hill, carry a box Ark of the Covenant across the "River Jordan," eat English muffin pizza, and drink lots and lots of water.

He proudly told a teenage helper that he has "strong thumbs," as evidenced by his repeated use of the cooler spout. A mother can only dream that he will use these skills to tap kegs or maybe work in other areas of the beverage industry.

What is my goal in putting Owen in VBS? Do I expect Owen to spout theology or have answers to life's deep questions? Of course not. What I hope for, and pray for, is that Owen sees church as a fun place, where many, many people care about him.

I think I've met my goal:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tips for Living

How to change the appearance of your house in five easy steps:

1. Mention to husband how much you hate the color of the walls.

2. Get numerous paper paint samples. Tape said paint samples on the wall and ponder.

3. Eventually re-tape paint samples to wall since months will pass since the previous pondering.

4. Go to hardware store without any of the paint samples and buy a color at random.

5. Paint an ugly, splotchy sample on the wall. Wait for husband to lose his mind because he cannot live with the heinousness. Enjoy your newly painted house.

How to get your friends to hate you:

1. Mention how much your three-year-old loves napping.

2. Drop boxes of baby clothing on their front porches because you're ready to "purge." (And apparently, they are in the mood to horde).

3. Say, "Marriage is pretty easy."

How to rile up my son:

1. Say the words, "Chicken Coop," in a country accent. Instant screams.

2. Sing, dance, or enjoy music of any kind.

3. Wear a hoodie and say "Are you threatening me?" a la Beavis from "Beavis and Butt-head."

4. Tell him that his ears are delicious, and that you plan to eat them for lunch.

How to cop-out of a blog entry because inspiration is failing:
1. Write a list
2. Write several lists
3. Post a cute picture just because you can.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Just More

"Nancy, you're a lot of things. Good things. But, you're not creative." A friend of mine said this at the tail end of one of those spontaneous dorm room gatherings that makes college college.

At the time, I had nodded my head. In my mind, she was right. Back then, I had a pretty narrow definition of "creative." Creative people sculpted, painted, wrote poetry, or made films. They went to performance art installations or poetry slams.

They certainly did not attend state universities, major in English Education, and work at parking services. They were not active in Lutheran Campus Ministry, nor did they watch Melrose Place.

Simply put, creative people didn't do any of the things I did.

Or so I thought.

I realize now, though, that I'm a balloon, and I stay aloft by my creative outlets. If I do not have a chance to express myself, I wilt and wrinkle.

For many years, I flexed my creative muscles in the classroom. When a project or lesson took flight in "real life" the way it did in my mind, I floated for the rest of the day. It was a genuine rush. With the advent of testing and standards (which, by the way, are not necessarily bad things), teaching became less fun. I felt like a parody of my younger, more enthusiastic self.

Now, my outlet is this writing deal. If I don't post, I feel off, a bit achy. But when I write something that resonates with others, I feel a keen satisfaction, an awareness that my words, my life, my experiences...matter.

I know that my life is significant without writing, but with this daily discipline at the keyboard, I am able to observe the world with just more. More joy. More absurdity. More grace. More humility. More gratitude. Just more.

And because of that, I am so grateful that I am creative enough to see past my friend's sincere, but misguided words. God made me creative. And because of that, I see more of His world.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grocery Nirvana

I am officially a bad mother. Here's today's reason:

We were at my in-laws' house to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday. Everybody was going to drive to Fredericksburg to visit the new grocery store. This wasn't just any grocery store. This was a Wegman's,where the floors gleam, the produce cures cancer, and the checkers poop solid gold reusable bags. Take the most rabid Trader Joe's fan, multiply the insanity by infinity, and you have a taste of the excitement this Wegman's has wrought onto my mother-in-law.

At least this is what I heard. I didn't go with the rest of the family to Grocery Nirvana because...(wait for it)...DING DING DING! I was home with the napping BABY! Again!

Disclaimer: In Paul's defense, he asked me repeatedly if I wanted to go, because he was willing to stay behind with Joel. I told him to go because he needed to buy some work clothes (as in DESPERATELY) while he was in town. I was fine, I said. Really. Fine. Goooooooo already.

"Don't bitch about this in your blog later," he said.

"I would never do that." I replied. "Give me some credit."

Ahem. Back to me being a bad mother. It was Joel and I, and we had about an hour to kill before his nap time. I watched him bang a Tupperware bowl on the floor. I watched him open and close a cabinet. Open. Close. Open. Close. I watched him chew on Goodnight Moon.

I was so bored I wanted to drill a hole in my head.

At home, Joel is "independent," and thank goodness for that. If he was needier, the house would look and smell like the abode of a crazy, cat-loving hoarder. Since he is able to entertain himself with toilet paper tubes and rugs, I am able to maintain a vermin-free home.

However, when we are away from home and I have no spills to clean or dishes to load, facts are facts: Joel can be kinda boring to watch.

I tried. I sat next to him and sang "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." He looked up from his cabinet-closing as if to say, "Look, Mom, I'm kinda busy here. Can we chat later?"

Nonplussed, I attempted to talk to him, creating that "language rich" environment the books espouse. "So, um, are you having fun banging that tube on the ground? That's good times. Yeah."

I talked to him like this for about three hours, except that all of the clocks in the house were broken, and they said it was only five minutes.

I put Joel down for his nap when it was appropriate to do so, although I considered doing it earlier once or twice. OKAY, A LOT.

Then, I sat in a chair and missed him.

I thought of his gleaming skin, his mind that will cure cancer, and his diapers, which produce solid gold nuggets. And I missed him.

I guess that's just how it works.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I will never be a homeschooling mom. Here's why:

I received a thank-you note from my sister-in-law, and it was thoughtful and gracious. My nephew had taken the time to write a N, P, O, and J on it. My sister-in-law assured me that he did this without help. She wasn't being braggy, but rather was bursting with Mommy Pride.

I understand this impulse. You may notice that I write about my children from time to time.

However, since William is several months younger than Owen, it occurred to me that it was high time Owen started writing letters, too. Because I'm not competitive. Not. One. Bit.

We got out the paper and I asked Owen if he wanted to write his name. "Sure," he responded. So far, so good.

I wrote out the letters of his name, writing it in little lines so that he could trace it. "What does that say?" I asked, pointing to the letters.

"O-W-E-N, Owen!" he said. "That's me!"

"Do you want to trace the lines?" He nodded his head and picked up the pen.

And then, he proceeded to scribble until his name was a dark, black streak.

"That's a nice drawing," I said, being a patient, child-friendly educator. "What are you making?"

"Oh, Mommy," he said, laughing, "I wasn't making anything. I was scribbling over my name."

"Why did you do that?"

"For fun."

I took a deep breath and asked, "Would it be fun to write your name?"

"Yes, yes it would! Yes it would!"

Once again, I wrote his name, spelling out the letters. "Do you want to write your name or do you want to trace it?"

"Oh, I just want to write my name by myself."

Do you see how I gave the lad choices, thus empowering him?

My son was empowered to, once again, scribble his name into oblivion.

"Owen," I said, "Do you want to do this or not?" I felt a slight tingle of irritation.

Owen looked at me, burst into laughter and said, "You're wazzaliy," which is Owen's go-to silly word.

And.....that was the end of that lesson.

We went on to make a collage of Owen's favorite things (if you're curious, it includes: Nemo fish, baseball, cake, ice cream, mixers, vegetables, dogs, trees, and kitchens. And yes, the ONLY magazine we have in the house is Bon Appetit. I know. We suck.)

Everything was fine. I'm sure that despite this incident, Owen will, at a minimum, make it to the state college of his choice.

Nevertheless, I will leave the majority of his schooling to trained professionals who, while caring individuals, have a bit of necessary detachment.

I think everybody will be a lot more wazzaily as a result.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Clothing Allowance

I took the boys to Old Navy today--60% off all summer essentials! Since,in my mind, it's still going to be summer for a bit, I was curious to learn what "essentials" I was missing.

I loaded my cart with several skirts (including a large one from the children's department, that in a moment of lunacy, I thought would fit), a sundress, tank tops, and blouses. After much foolishness in the dressing room, I settled on a pair of loose capri pants.

I didn't choose the pants because they were cute. I didn't choose them because they were cheap. I selected them because they were as comfortable as the cut-off sweatpants I wore to the store, paired with a tank top purchased sometime during the Clinton administration.

It's an ugly thing when you compare new clothing to the clothing you actually own. I put on the Old Navy stuff and suddenly had an actual figure. Then, like a bizarro makeover show, I returned to my actual clothing and got hit by the fugly stick.

Here's the worst part. As I walked up to the counter, holding the comfortable capri pants and two MATCHING Superman T-shirts for the boys (Squeeeee!), I debated the expense, worried that we would be living on Top Ramen and hose water until the next paycheck. I feared that Paul would scratch his head and sigh deeply, as he is wont to do when fretting about money.

I asked the lady to scan the shirts. $10.50 each. I decided that the shirts weren't 22 dollars worth of cute. I asked her to scan the pants. And, while comfortable, they weren't $17.00 worth of comfortable.

I left empty handed, wearing my dumpy outfit, feeling a bit foolish for spending a hour trying on clothes for nothing.I felt stupid that I lack a real job--instead of making my mark on the world, I window shop. I felt silly and unsubstantial, because I was letting something as petty as a pair of pants get me down. I was upset that I didn't buy the pants, and I was upset that I cared about the dumb pants in the first place.

I told Paul about the experience, and he looked me up and down and said, "I'm burning those pants. You should have spent the money."

I started in on my I-don't-see-adults-so-who-cares-what-I-look-like whinefest. He stopped me mid-sentence and said, very gently, "You are allowed to take care of yourself."

Tomorrow, I'm going to put on lipstick, comb my hair, and wear clean clothing that makes me feel good. After all, I'm allowed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Oh, my dear, sweet Joel. You're becoming such a character. Smiling your four-toothed grin. Playing bashful with the grocery store clerks. Growling in your crib as you work your way to dreamland.

It's almost impossible to write about you without taking a trip through the sugary forest, followed by a boat ride over Saccharine Falls. You're my baby. You're squishy and soft and cuddly and I could truly sit in a warm patch of sunlight and smell your sweet little head all day long.

Not that you would let me. You have plans and missions. There are stairs to climb and dishwashers to empty. Not to mention toilet rolls that need unfurling and potted plants with entirely too much soil.

You took your first drunken-sailor steps in North Carolina, which were exciting, but a bit terrifying. Everybody said, "Oh, it's on now!" when they learned of this new milestone. They're right. With your insatiable curiosity, it's only a matter of time before I'll find you resting comfortably on top of the refrigerator or hanging onto the ceiling fan with your four teeth.

Presently, most of your walking involves your pushing toy, when we can keep your brother's mitts off it. If it's not the toy, it's your mommy, hunched over, holding your hand as you lurch your way to independence.

Everybody calls you a happy baby, which you are. Everybody says that you are a cute little tater tot, which you are. The world is a better, kinder place when you're in it.

Your mother's a Lutheran at heart, so I take comfort in ritual and tradition. As a child, the Benediction was significant to me because it signed that church was finally over.

But now, with the lights dimmed and your soft blond head snuggling into my shoulder, I whisper:
"May the Lord bless and keep you.
May the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look upon you with favor,
And give you peace."

My dear, sweet, Joel, may you walk in light and love forever.

Monday, July 6, 2009

It's Monday, so Pictures with Clever* Commentary Will Suffice

*If by "clever" you mean, "thoughts that go directly from my mind to the keyboard without time for reflection, polishing, or so-called-wit."

Owen liked this swing. Although he looks mildly constipated in this picture, let me assure you that most of the time, when he was on this swing, he was blissful. Just swaying back and forth, a feather in the breeze, not a care in the world.


I love my country. I'm a liberal and I love my country. Sean Hannity, I'm talking to you. It's possible. Deal with it. And yes, I know about your hybrid Cadillac Escalade.

I also love angry bald eagles. If I had a biker tattoo, it would look exactly like this box. Warning label and all. And it would be a tramp stamp.


Paul and his (not twin) brother took this picture, surrounded by all that is good and holy in the world---beer, the Red, White & Blue, and an impressive arsenal of fireworks.

Look at them. Happy as pigs in mud. I pray that Owen and Joel are at least as close as Doug and Paul.

Alas there is a darker side to this photo. About five fireworks in, Paul shot a rocket. The trajectory was a bit off, so it spun in the air, and landed in a ravine in Doug's backyard. It then, promptly, hit a bit some dry brush and sparks were a flyin'.

Yes, we had fire. Within seconds, Doug was yelling for a bucket, his wife, Erin, (all 29 weeks pregnant of her) was sprinting towards the hose, and the neighbors were crowding anxiously.

Rest assured that nobody lost their home, but when all was said and done, there was a menacing, ten-foot scar in the ravine.

Paul and Doug wisely elected to forgo the remaining rockets. Luckily, there were mortars that went boom without causing impending doom.


Erin is 29 weeks pregnant in this picture. In 2006, Erin went into premature labor with my nephew, William, at 29 weeks.

Their NICU story is not mine to share. Suffice to say, it had a very, very happy ending. William is a delight, and is on-schedule with all major milestones and developmental expectations.

Every night, Owen prays, "Please be with Erin's baby. Keep her safe, healthy, and full-term." He then prays that Joel be full-term as well. (I think he made it, buddy).

Doug and Erin don't live in fear. It's possible that this baby could be premature, and it's possible that she will arrive, as expected, in September. Truly, they are doing what they can to control the situation, and releasing the rest.

But it's there, like an invisible papercut. A visit to the doctor, a well-meaning comment or simply looking at William, stings with surprising intensity.

Or perhaps I'm projecting. All I know is that I love them and I worry for them.

At one point, Erin unexpectedly left the deck, where we were all sitting. She was gone a long time. I went inside, and looked for her. Is this it? I thought to myself. Oh God, please no. Please don't force them to do this again.

I found her upstairs, watching TV. "Are you okay?" I asked.

She smiled, knowing my worry but thoughtfully not acknowledging it. "Oh, the mosquitoes were getting bad out there," she said. My shoulders relaxed.

They live each day, and they live pretty joyfully, too. They know the past, but they look toward the future, a future with a beautiful daughter in their family.

But, hey, do me a favor? Join Owen and pray that Erin's baby, Kiri Jane Campbell, will be safe, that she will be healthy, and that she will indeed be full-term.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


"We're in North Carolina, celebrating Independence Day, Carolina Style. Whatever that means."

When I posted this as my Facebook status update, a friend of mine that is proudly from the South responded, "Possum. Lots and lots of Possum." She also mentioned moonshine.

Although I have yet to encounter possum or moonshine (we must not go to the right parties), we have learned one thing about A Carolina Style Fourth: The fireworks are plentiful, and hilarious.

One of my deepest regrets of this trip is that I did not accompany Paul and his brother when they crossed the border into South Carolina to visit the Phantom Fireworks Superstore. As you may or may not know, any firework is legal in the great state of South Carolina. Anything. Would you like Comentary Chaos, a 15-shot packet of madness? It can be yours for a mere $99.99. And, naturally, the second pack is FREE! There's also the Screamin' Meemie 130-shot pack. The package, decorated with the visage of an evil clown, is only $139.99. And again, the second package is FREE!

I asked Paul if this store, or "showroom," as it is called in the brochure, is a seasonal place, like the costume stores that come and go each Halloween. "Oh, no," he replied, "There's ALWAYS a market for fireworks." And indeed, it appears there is. Paul explained that the store had no baskets, only large, Costco-sized carts. Paul noted that all of his fellow customers were filling the carts to the brim, overloading them with their bounty of Yellow Jackets, Fortress of Fire packets, and Battle Of Yorktown Assortments.

Perhaps one of my favorite details of this trip is that the Phantom Fireworks Superstore is located next to Southern Spirits. Naturally. Paul explained that there was a large sign in front of the store advertising "Free Vodka." Now who doesn't enjoy a free vodka? However, reading the fine print, the vodka is only free if one buys a bottle and then sends in a mail-in-rebate. Who WOULDN'T enjoy explaining that tidbit to all the firework-toting-free-vodka-desiring customers? Talk about an explosive situation. (I know. My bad.)

The actual lighting of the fireworks was fun, in a terrifying sort of way. It doesn't matter how successful a man is, inside all men lurk pyromanical seventh graders. Paul and his brother would shoot off their bottle rockets, and with each scream, hiss, and pop, they would laugh and proclaim the awesomeness. After they were done, they immediately regretted not buying larger, more expensive, and most of all, just more fireworks.

When neighbors shot off their fireworks, it was not a celebration of our nation's independence, it was the merely the neighbors' way of saying, "You suck." A pyrotechnic pissing match, if you will. Paul and his brother seemed agitated that others had more or better fireworks, and were greatly concerned that they were not prepared enough.

Much like professional wrestling, Highland Games, and NASCAR, I cannot understand the allure of fireworks to my husband and his brother. It's loud, it's stupid, it's borderline dangerous, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

I guess I like to think that I understand the male mind, and I can "hang" with the boys. But, on occasions like this, it once again becomes clear: Women are from Venus, Men are from the Phantom Fireworks Superstore.

(P.S.---As further evidence that my days are numbered, Joel took his first steps this morning.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


After we got over our fight, I asked my mom, "Did you ever hide in your room with the covers over her head when Tom [my brother] and I were little?"

"Yes, honey," she answered. "Of course I did. Everybody does. And you and your brother turned out all right."

This is exactly what I needed to hear. Truly, I remember a lot about my childhood. I remember all sorts of good stuff. I remember Mom occasionally losing her temper. But, I do not remember, ever, a sense of weepy, out-of-control crazy. I was never, ever, scared of my mother.

And, I needed to hear that today. Because today was hard.

I have to get a stupid MRI to rule out any stupid neuro-degenerative diseases, which I'm almost 100% sure I don't have. I think I carry the baby too much, which results in some tingling. Just in case, we're scheduling the MRI. Which means I need to tangle with the insurance people, because, as the nurse told me, "Your insurance does not guarantee coverage."

Additionally, I am no longer able to take my son to swim lessons without giving the people at the Naval pass office three drops of Paul's blood, five major forms of ID, and a kidney. They are making it more challenging to get to a military response to 9-11? I don't know. All I know is that it's more mindless hurdles that I'm not in the mood to jump.

Finally, we're going to North Carolina tomorrow to see Paul's brother and his wife. They are nice people, but packing drives me into such a rage of panic and overwhelms me so completely that innocent bystanders who call to check on their grandchildren sometimes get the brunt of my frustration.

So, yeah. Sorry, Mom.

After apologizing and hanging up the phone with Mom, I sat on the deck while Joel napped and Owen played with his pipes. I was looking at a spider web, which stretched from the top of the house all the way to our grill, a good four feet at least. It sparkled, gossamer strings swaying gently in the breeze. If a spider had the determination to create these beautiful snares, I figured that I could at least summon the moxie to salvage the morning.

I decided to take both boys, for the first time, to the public pool. I don't really feel like explaining everything that happened, because it was, nice, but uneventful. Both boys played. Both boys smiled. The water was cool, and nobody cried. I felt a bit more capable.

I suppose that this, in it's own small way, is my Independence Day. I'm trying to escape the tyranny of my dark mood and petty frustrations, and if it takes some chlorine and sunscreen to do the job, than so be it.

In its own way, choosing to shake off a bad mood, is, in fact, revolutionary.