Tag Archives: Me Myself and I

Boughs of Folly

tree - old

Isn’t that picture magical? It’s an old one – and one of my favorites.

We just got this year’s Christmas tree which looked like this for three days:

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It’s big. And it terrified me. Finally, last night I sucked it up and got some lights on it.

And it’s looking like I’m going to have to suck it up again and let the kids help me decorate it tonight. After nine and a half years of motherhood and never letting anyone (even my husband) help me decorate the tree, I think my time is officially up. Unless of course I want to ruin my daughter’s life and hear about it years from now in family therapy.

SO. A new chapter of my tree mania begins. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I actually combined several years’ worth of tree stories (all blog posts on TBPOC) in one essay that should at some point run in a holiday anthology (currently on hold). In the meantime, I thought I’d post it here to catch everyone up.

A little snippet of last night’s conversation to give you a taste of where this is going…

Chris: You are a psycho about the lights.

Me [lights wrapped around my neck like a Christmas version of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s…without the up do and cigarette]: No…I’m a psycho about the ornaments.

Happy holidays!

*****

Just so you know? I can decorate the hell out of a Christmas tree.

It’s one of my great talents in life, and every year my home is graced by yet another Christmas tree triumph. You are probably thinking that my family is very lucky to have this kind of genius on their side. But it’s unlikely that they would agree.

I take my tree very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously. Okay – maybe a lot too seriously. But you know how it is when someone has a problem…they need to want to get better before you can help them. And I have no interest in getting better. All I want is a perfect tree.

I have definite ideas about where the ornaments should be placed and how the various colors and styles should be distributed. I like things to be symmetrical. The only way to achieve the level of perfection I demand is to be very rigid and controlling, and even strategic about the tree decorating process. And believe me – I’ve got this covered.

Our family tree decorating tradition does not include the sound of laughter, storytelling and favorite Christmas carols. There are no childish squeals of delight when someone finds the perfect spot for that favorite ornament (okay – maybe a few, but only if I’m really excited). And there is no closing ceremony of a tiny hand placing our angel at the top.

Instead, there are two to three hours of lights detail with meticulous care taken to make the tree appear to glow from within. Unlimited time is devoted to the actual ornaments, though I do prefer to limit this to a 24 hour window. By then, I am ready for a final editing process, which if all goes well, takes less than an afternoon.

This is a strictly solo mission. Even my husband, Chris isn’t allowed to help. The first year we had a tree together, I had to linger behind him rearranging his bizarre ornament “clumps.” He may as well be one of the kids.

In our first few years as a family, it was easy enough to put babies in pack n’ plays and toss goldfish crackers at them as I pondered the finer points of mingling new ornaments with the antiques. But soon enough, I had talkers who watched holiday movies, and I was getting requests for tinsel and popcorn to string – neither of which would work with my own holiday aesthetic.

Finally, I just bought a fake tree from Target to suffer their enthusiastic pawing.

One complication to my new two-tree system was that my husband, Chris has a tradition of taking one child with him to the Christmas tree lot. And once they were old enough to want in on the decorating action, this practice began to cloud the whole “ownership issue.” Even after I thought I had appeased them with their very own “kids’ tree,” they’d saw mine come through the door and assumed they were on round two. Luckily, they have very short attention spans and after 10 minutes of watching me drape lights, everyone tends to get bored and wander off.

We live in a small townhouse, and typically get a six foot tree. But one year, our oldest son, Oliver imprinted on an ENORMOUS tree. The six-year old had found his tree soul mate and was adamant that no other tree would do. So I ended up with two extra feet of branches to decorate.

This may not sound like a lot, but that was one beast of a tree trimming project. I swear it kept getting bigger as I circled around it arranging lights. Then several strands blew out and I had to search for connections to remove them. And full of joyous holiday spirit, I alternated between internally swearing like a sailor and glaring at an infuriatingly jocular Chris, who was puttering around the kitchen, singing Santa Baby.

The minute I decided that the lights done, the children sensed my hand moving toward the ornament box and came at me like a pack of Christmas-obsessed velociraptors. I was able to fend them off with some candy canes, but it was a close call. Clearly, I had to wait until they were in bed before I continued.

So I finished the tree later, listening to holiday music and sipping wine with Chris. For a second he forgot that he had met me before and tried to help. But I put an end to that. I mean – that random ceramic chili pepper on the front of the tree? Do you see what I’m dealing with here?

The following year, it was my daughter, Eleanor’s turn to accompany Chris. As soon as her tree of choice was set up, we could see that it was undeniably crooked. This of course, is an ever-present risk since I have no control over what is selected (just a long list of requirements and deal breakers). But I had such high hopes for Eleanor! My color-within-the-lines girl was the perfect candidate to find a “perfect” tree. At first glance, it seemed she did. But no matter how many times we tried to fix the obvious leaning, there was always something off.

Once the lights were on and the kids were in bed, I decided there must be a way to make it appear straighter. I assumed Chris would be 100% on board with this additional adjusting, but he announced that it was “good enough” and turned in for the night.

Whatever. He was holding me back anyway. I stayed up to fight the good fight.

That tree almost fell on top of me at least three times, and it’s a miracle that my children didn’t find me trapped underneath it the next morning. But a few hours (and several emptied prescription bottles wedged in the tree stand) later, it looked marginally better. I decided that I had reached my own “good enough.” Before tidying up, I went into the kitchen to wash my hands of sap (and the entire fiasco), and when I returned, I found that half the lights had blown out.

Then I dragged the damn thing outside and beat it to death with a snow shovel.

Of course I didn’t do that! For one thing, we didn’t own a snow shovel. But more importantly, I had put way too much time into that tree to give up. Instead, I took a deep breath and set about checking each strand. Luckily, there were only two that had to be replaced; and 30 minutes later, we had a very lovely, slightly crooked tree.

This new system of decorating trees in dark of night was exhausting. You would think I’d just give up and let my perfect Christmas trees devolve into chaos like the rest of my house. Not so much.

Last year, it was Eleanor’s twin brother, George who picked out the tree. He surprised us all by selecting a rather small one. Well – not exactly small…but much smaller than the six to eight foot trees his siblings had brought home. Apparently, he told the guy at the tree lot that “size doesn’t matter as long as it’s fat.” Oh George…

So small and fat arrived, and most decidedly did not fit into our tree stand. The trunk was too short, so I sent Chris out to buy a smaller stand. And starting right there, the smallest tree we’ve ever had became the biggest pain in the ass.

It was next to impossible to get it to stand straight and it was never really secure, regardless of how much we tightened the screws. This should have been the first sign of impending calamity. But Chris declared it “good enough,” and I decided I could at least tilt it in such a way that it looked straight…

It was midnight by the time I was done stringing lights, and I had to give up any hope of finishing. Unsurprisingly, the following morning was flooded with high pitched offers of help and ornament retrieval assembly lines. I have never been so happy to see the school bus.

After a busy day of running errands, I didn’t have much time before the children were due home. Luckily, with minutes to spare, I was able to tie the last ribbon and bask in the glory of the sweetest little Christmas tree I had ever seen. George chose well – it was possibly my favorite tree yet. Absolutely perfect. Perfect and…moving? Just like that, everything switched to slow motion as I watched the stand sliiiiide forward and the angel drop back out of sight. CRASH! The entire thing hit the floor in a crunch of breakable ornaments (my favorite kind!)

If I were a more emotive person, I would have screamed. Instead, I stood frozen in horror. Was this some kind of punishment for extreme Christmas tree hubris? No time for self-flagellation – I had children to collect from the bus and a play date to host. So I propped my now disheveled little tree up against the wall and resigned myself to figuring it out later.

“Later” ended up being close to 9:00 p.m. when the kids were sleeping soundly. I came downstairs with the intention of getting Chris to help me fix my injured baby. But before I had a chance to ask, he informed me that, “the tree fell again.” I must have blacked out, as I have no memory of the next 20 minutes.

Eventually, I rallied since failure is not an option. And just as I started collecting prescription pill bottles to wedge around the trunk, Chris decided that the top heavy tree really did need a sturdier stand. The solution was to saw off the lower branches and make it fit into our original, bigger stand.

After an hour of sawing, lifting, near misses with pine needle-blindings and just a little bit of swearing, we stepped back to see a very straight, very secure, slightly smaller Christmas tree. We could also see that the branch removal effectively made what I decorated as “the front” of the tree a better candidate for “the back.”

I employed some deep breathing exercises and big picture priority checks to get myself to as serene a state of mind as I could possibly manage…then I removed all of the ornaments and redid the WHOLE EFFING TREE! Done! Finished! No more lesson-learned moments thank-you-very-much! That was it. I had officially exceeded my limit for Christmas tree decorating mania.

Of course Christmas is only once a year… And I have every expectation that we will embark on systematically re-enacting the entire process as soon as our Thanksgiving table is cleared.

But next year, we’re going as a family to pick out our tree. It’s time for a new tradition. The kids are now old enough to work as a team and compromise on something they all like. And to know that from now on, we’re getting the tree that I want.

*****

Epilogue: Chris and Eleanor picked out the tree. George didn’t want to leave a friend’s house, I was baking 2,000 cookies and Oliver wouldn’t go without me. So I couldn’t complain too much (out loud) about size. As soon as it’s decorated, I’ll post visuals. Of course.

They Coulda’ Been Great: November 2014

After promising myself that I’d post more, I proceeded to write two essays that I can’t publish here and then picked up a day job for several weeks (and NO – I can’t just write at night – that’s when Chris is around and he doesn’t like being ignored)…SO instead, here’s a short Facebook roundup for November. (What is this? All answers are HERE.)

 

November 1

11:15 a.m.

Halloween candy. It’s what’s for breakfast.

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8:37 p.m.

Me: Hi Oliver! Do you want a little ice cream?

Oliver: No. I want a lot of ice cream.

He is so my son…

 

November 2

11:10 a.m.

Eleanor: You know what I want to do all day?

Me: What?

Eleanor: Kit Kats.

#‎HalloweenAftermath‬

 

November 6

1:16 p.m.

Walking around Target today, I got my first blast of holiday aisle fever. Though the season won’t be in full swing for me until I purchase yet another holiday CD I don’t need.

#‎StillInThe90sWhatsAPlayList‬? ‪#‎ILoveTheSmellOfCinnamonStickInTheMorning‬

 

November 10

3:19 p.m.

The hubris of pre-ordering school portraits… He’s a Monchhichi! Note to self: no more summer buzz cuts after July 1…

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November 11

12:54 p.m.

Question: Where was Alice BEFORE she heard me coming up the stairs?

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November 15

10:21 a.m.

Three months after our Outer Banks vacation, I’ve come to the alarming realization that the hermit crabs may never die…

 

November 17

8:12 p.m.

Worked on a spelling list with George tonight. He had to use each word in a sentence – so first, we discussed what each word meant. “Blemish” was confusing for him. I finally explained that one definition for blemish is “pimple.” Here is the sentence he wrote:

“Mom has a blemish on her face.”

Can’t wait for his memoir…

 

November 20

9:31 a.m.

Dear Gray Hair,

Not yet.

Sincerely,
The Woman with Really Good Tweezers

 

November 22

7:04 p.m.

“Pretend fire right? Not real fire…”

A legitimate clarification in my house.

 

November 26

2:44 p.m.

So I just got in my car (which I must have left unlocked – shame on me!) after a quick grocery store run and found a King “NJOY” premium electronic cigarette on my seat. Looks like someone has a secret admirer…

who left this in my car8:10 p.m.

Oliver’s OT sent me the best e-mail last week about his practice writing. She said, “we were talking about Thanksgiving and I asked him if he would like to make a turkey or write about his Thanksgiving, he chose write and what you see is my writing at the top which is 100% his words with me scribing.” Writing may not come easily to him but I value his kind heart more than good penmanship. I love my little cheese eater! Happy Thanksgiving!

Oliver writing sample

 

November 29

6:21 p.m.

And just when I thought my dork factor couldn’t get any higher… At the advanced age of 42, I discovered that I like puzzles.

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And now onto my most favorite of commercial seasons…bring on the Christmas!

They Coulda’ Been Great: February-March 2014

You may have noticed that I updated my site. It looks different AND I finally figured out (after a mere nine months – cringe) WHY I couldn’t get any of my images to show up in posts. For a long time, I tried to enlist the help of designers, but they either wanted to charge me hundreds of dollars to fix a blog which already went through an expensive redesign two years ago OR they just never returned my e-mails.

Finally, I got over my fear of breaking this blog “even more” and channeled some of my 2008 new blogger pioneer spirit. I KNOW how to set up a basic (free) blog design in Blogger – so why not just start from scratch in WordPress. And here it is! A generic theme with very few bells and whistles. And? I actually prefer it like this.

AND…now that my blog is fixed and images show up, I can start posting my “They Coulda’ Been Great” features again! I’ve had these sitting in drafts, and will be posting them every few days in about five installments. Then we should be caught up through October, and I’ll go back to the monthly installments. As it should be.

Here is #1: my February and March on Facebook… (Wondering what exactly this is? All answers are HERE.)

February 1

10:07 a.m.

This means two things in my life: #1 Spring is coming! and #2 binging on my favorite candy at Listen to Your Mother auditions!

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February 2

1:32 p.m.

House is freezing. Wearing layered t-shirts, a cardigan and a scarf. Will now commence jumping jacks. #SOCOLD

 

February 5

8:44 a.m.

Of course it’s only AFTER I rip the tags off that I realize I accidentally purchased a nursing bra…

5:09 p.m.

Doing homework with Oliver…

Me: (very proud of something he figured out) You are SO smart!

Oliver: (very serious) No. I am so cute.

Yeah – that too.

 

February 8

9:30 p.m.

Earlier this evening, Eleanor was looking through Netflix options…

“Mom? What is this Breaking Bad show about?”

Now, I’m no expert on developmental readiness for mature themes such as drug use, violence and crime rings…but seven is probably too young, right?

 

February 9

11:22 a.m.

In a movie theater waiting to see The Lego Movie. Since I worried about finding four seats together opening weekend, we arrived 30 minutes early. Everyone is already eating candy and George just asked, “can I explore this place?” This should end well…

5:52 p.m.

Watching ice skating in the Olympics…

Me: Wow that’s pretty amazing, huh? You guys have been ice skating – can you IMAGINE being able to do THAT?!

George: Yeah.

Of course he can.

7:55 p.m.

Why can’t wine, Diet Coke and ice cream be good for me? It would make my life so much happier…

 

February 10

2:56 p.m.

I love how whenever Oliver wants me out of his way, he says, “why don’t you go work on your computer?” We are SO on the same page!

 

February 11

11:27 a.m.

If I ever talk about books I’m reading, you can assume I’m referring to recorded books. Seems like the only time I feel like I’m allowed to just sit and read is when I get onto bed. I get 10 minutes in and zzzzzz.

On a not entirely related note, I have to say that that while Anita Shreve is an wonderful writer, her books are torture to read. THE TRAGEDY! I’m listening to Testimony and I’m surprised I didn’t drive off the side of the road earlier from a sudden lack of the will to go on. She brings a whole new meaning to the saying “life isn’t fair.”

 

February 12

3:16 p.m.

It’s not like I’m going to eat a WHOLE BAG of Cadbury Mini Eggs!” Famous last words…

6:31 p.m.

Want to know what it’s like to be a mom? I’m supposed to be having surgery in the morning, and now that the weather may make this impossible, the #1 thing that’s pissing me off is that I was really looking forward to being allowed to sleep all day.

7:55 p.m.

Continuation of my last post… Looks like surgery is off. SO I will now drink several glasses of wine, drench myself in perfume, eat a huge midnight snack and wear every piece of jewelry I own for the duration of the morning. What else is a surgery no no? I’m doing it!!

 

February 13

3:37 p.m.

It takes a village to entertain children on a snow day.

 

February 14

7:38 p.m.

Are we the only lamos who have no Valentine’s Day dinner plans? Not even a sweet family dinner. Eleanor is having tacos next door, George ate two English Muffins and Oliver is still working on a bowl of popcorn he made a few hours ago. I could say that we’re boycotting the Hallmark holiday…but it would be more accurate to say that we’re lazy. xoxoxoxoxo from the Hoods!

 

February 16

6:02 p.m.

While it seems like a good parenting move to have your child vacuum their OWN popcorn mess, you do need the patience to coach them through it: “No – just the popcorn…not your face…not the dog…not your brother…not your butt…”

 

February 17

7:45 a.m.

George just made me a new Rainbow Loom bracelet. As he handed it to me, he said, “you can treasure that it you want to.” Think I will.

12:57 p.m.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say stuff like, “I HAVE to run,” or “I HAVE to write,” as if they are utterly driven to to do these things. Like it’s beyond their control at this point – they just can’t exist without “running” and “writing.” I have done both off and on for years and feel like I should relate more to this NEED and DRIVE. And I kind of do…off and on. But someday, SOMEONE is going to say, “I HAVE to eat the cupcakes,” and only THEN will I have found my true soul mate.

 

February 18

8:20 a.m.

This morning’s two hour delay is brought to you by Sponge Bob and yesterday’s Valentine’s Day party candy. We put the fun in Fun Dip.

 

February 19

11:22 p.m.

Watching Olympic skating. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not into these flesh-toned stocking/skate covers. I like a white skate on a woman.

skates

 

February 20

11:55 a.m.

Making the wait for car repairs (and the dreaded bill) a bit more bearable…

IMG_785110:49 p.m.

It just occurred to me that setting up an Evite after several glasses of wine may not be a super idea… At least not when you are literally cracking yourself up. Taking things down a notch…

 

February 22

2:50 p.m.

Today’s gift from the radio-option-only car: Madness!! They really capture how I feel about my own house much of the time… “there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud.

 

February 23

7:50 p.m.

I picked up Eleanor’s Girl Scout cookies today and Chris is taking her around to make deliveries. George desperately wants to help…

George: I want to come too.

Eleanor: No.

George: I can help carry the boxes.

Eleanor: [overly dramatic sigh of exasperation] No-wah!

Me: Eleanor, he just wants to help. Let him carry some boxes.

Eleanor: [to George] Okay fine. But you CAN’T SAY ANYTHING.

What a little B. Though in all fairness…she does know her brother…

 

February 24

3:45 p.m.

Home from surgery! And I have tampons in my nose!

7:39 p.m.

Oh my god you guys – I’ve been looking in the mirror and I think I look JUST like Jennifer Aniston….if she had plastic surgery to look just like me! Also – I just took a Vicodin.

10:55 p.m.

Don’t cross the streams. It would be bad.”

RIP Harold Ramis. I think of you every time my boys decide to “make an X.”

 

 

February 28

8:52 p.m.

Here is the great thing about Vicodin: it makes the ouchies less ouchy. Here is the bad thing about Vicodin: it makes you THE MOST BORING PERSON on the planet. I can barely muster up the energy to finish a sentence, let alone conduct a conversation. But I guess I wasn’t much of a firecracker to begin with – so I’ve gone from mellow to meh. Thinking it’s time to wean myself off the sleepy pills…

 

March 1

5:19 p.m.

How to get rid of Oliver: “Do you want to work on some homework?”

How to get rid of George: “Want to grab a book and come sit with me?

How to get rid of Eleanor: There is NO getting rid of Eleanor. And as inconvenient as that may be sometimes, I consider myself to be a VERY lucky mother and will take it as long as it’s on offer!

 

March 2

6:49 p.m.

While I no longer need those post surgery straws I bought, my children are now straw obsessed. Each of the 587 glasses of water they request per day must have a straw. The new soundtrack of my day is kids blowing bubbles in their drinks. I feel like I live in a fish tank.

9:00 p.m.

Is it weird that I think winning academy awards for costume design sounds 100 times cooler than anything else on the Oscars?

9:08 p.m.

Chris: Harrison Ford has never won an Oscar??

Me: They said “nominated.”

Chris: But he’s HAN SOLO!

If regular guys were in charge…

 

March 3

8:31 p.m.

Snow days are exhausting. Now get out of my bed.

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March 4

7:45 p.m.

No more running around with dog bones!

Directives that make sense to the people in my house.

7:58 p.m.

I have now seen several pictures of people discovering “the baby” in their piece of King Cake today. And each one looks like birth moment to me: “Breech!” “I see the head…!” Hope all those office kitchens were equipped with forceps…

10:08 p.m.

Watching that guy on Bizarre Foods eat blow fish eggs that are so incredibly poisonous that they have to be brined for two years, and thinking about how I can’t even handle blue cheese.

 

March 5

9:32 a.m.

So when you happen upon a school library book that you thought you returned months ago, and have said as much in response to every overdue notice that has been sent home…the best course of action is to just plant it somewhere in the school next time you’re there. Right?

3:17 p.m.

I really have to get to the store. But – you know – it’s like winter and stuff outside. I am currently on frowny face terms with Mother Nature.

5:36 p.m.

Friends don’t let friends wear tight yoga pants out in public. Unfortunately, none of my friends saw me today.

6:44 p.m.

Chris just walked in with ashes on his forehead (Ash Wednesday) and Oliver asked him if he was in an explosion. Chris tried to explain, but now Oliver thinks he tried to burn down a palm tree.

I love my little heathens.

7:35 p.m.

As soon as we opened this on Christmas, I knew its true destiny…

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March 6

8:40 a.m.

Favorite book character day at school! We’re reading The Wizard of Oz so Eleanor wanted to be Dorothy. Because WHO DOESN’T have a blue gingham dress lying around their house? Luckily my neighbor did. Of course, her daughter is two years younger than Eleanor, so length required leggings. Wondering why no ruby slippers? In the book, Dorothy wears silver shoes (fun fact for the morning!)

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March 8

3:54 p.m.

Hooray for spring daylight savings! That time of year when the clock in my car is no longer one hour ahead.

 

March 10

6:19 p.m.

I’m cutting vegetables and Oliver is standing next to me, doing a voice over of screaming noises. Sometimes he takes the personification too far.

 

March 12

2:34 p.m.

“Where is my [insert object that someone in my family cannot find here]?”

There are two constants to every incarnation of this scenario:
1. They haven’t actually looked for it.
2. I know where it is.

Hard to complain when I do myself no favors…

7:25 p.m.

George’s 1st grade homework required that he find similarities and differences between two books. So obviously…

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March 13

10:30 p.m.

Chris and I have finally started watching House of Cards. And yes – it is amazing. But I just have to get this out of my system. HOLLYWOOD! Fortheloveofgod PLEASE stop putting brownstones in DC. We have brick townhouses painted in a rainbow of different colors. Bay windows abound. Lots of uneven brick sidewalks. Build a set or something. This shouldn’t be so hard.

 

March 15

3:34 p.m.

About to revisit my youth. Taking Eleanor to a roller skating party.

 

March 16

3:28 p.m.

Dear every hair stylist and barber to have ever touched George’s head… PLEASE explain WHY all the hair gel? He is my only child to ALWAYS leave haircuts with fistfuls of styling gel in his bangs. The main problem with this is that product is inevitably applied when my attention is diverted, and it’s only later at home that I discover he now has Buster Brown bangs. Never thought I’d have to add “no styling gel” to instructions for a seven year old boy’s haircut…

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March 19

11:48 a.m.

A couple of weeks ago, I told Winter that I thought it would be best if we took a break – had some time apart from each other. Maybe a year. To get some perspective on the relationship. This week, Winter came back and asked if I would consider trying one more time to make this work. Just one more try. Oh Winter…just – no. No, I really can’t. I can’t…

yuck3:56 p.m.

In the car…

George: Mom do the front wheels steer?

Me: Of the car? Why?

George: Because if you want to shoot at the car you should shoot the wheels in the front because it will make the car go out of control.

Me: Why are we shooting at cars?

George: Because of the bad guys. And you know – some people are scared of robbers. But I’m not.

Me: You’re not?

George: Nah. They just take money and stuff from stores. Taking things isn’t scary.

Me: You have a point. We can discuss that further when you’re older.

George: You mean when I’m a teenager?

Me: That sounds about right. Why all the talk about shooting and bad guys and robbers?

George: Because there are a lot of bad guys. There are a lot of bad guys in PHILLY!

Me: Who told you that? Ben?

George: Ben’s dad.

Me: Well he’s from Philly – so he would know.

George: Yeah – there’s a lot of guys with guns there.

Me: There’s a lot of guys with guns in lots of places… But OUR neighborhood is very safe [of course I did].

George: Except for when we had the villain.

Me: The VILLAIN?

George: Yeah – that time all the helicopters were flying around looking for the villain. Hey – you know what’s really good about boys?

Me: What?

George: If we have to pee and there’s snow, we can just pee in the snow and even WRITE OUR NAME. We have very good aim.

Me: Well, that IS convenient…

George: Yeah – we’re the best pee-ers.

And I ASSURE YOU, the conversation DID NOT stop there.

#boys

7:51 p.m.

Eleanor: Is it, “I came in like a rainbow,” or “I came in like a rag ball?

First – I LIKE “I came in like a rainbow.” Also – NEVER come in like a rag ball. Rag balls always finish last.

 

March 20

5:43 p.m.

Sometimes I wonder if the people who design these homework assignments are just messing with us…

ants7:35 p.m.

George: Hey Mom! We got a new bus driver today. So I won’t get in trouble all the time now.

This says so many things about my son….

 

March 22

9:04 a.m.

If Sponge Bob laughs on the TV and no one is around to hear him, does he make an annoying sound?

 

March 25

6:30 p.m.

Eleanor’s birthday card for Chris. Are those HIP HIP HOORAY arms or WHAT?

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March 26

1:59 p.m.

At the dentist with Oliver, and he’s cracking me up. Last time we were here, there was an unfortunate incident involving the removal of a spacer that got embedded in one of his gums. Very traumatic. So from the minute we arrived, he’s been adamantly informing everyone (front desk, dental hygienist, dentist, other parents, babies…) that there will be “no silver teeth today!” I think this bodes well for self advocating in his future!

2:49 p.m.

Abomination.

abomination7:30 p.m.

Eleanor: Mom…do you ever feel like crying but you don’t know why?

Um – once a month…for a week straight. Jesus! She’s only seven. Far too young to be so melancholy…or hormonal.

 

March 28

7:37 a.m.

Impromptu morning Rainbow Loom lesson requested by Oliver. George shared, Eleanor taught and Oliver actually made a bracelet! Stuff of miracles…

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March 31

9:23 p.m.

This one turned nine yesterday. Though he’s pretty adamant that birthday aside, he’s still eight. As 42 looms, I can’t say I don’t understand…

DSC_0444BCheck back in a few days for April/May!

Top Ten List of Reasons Why Women Should Embrace Being in Their 40’s

I’ve been thinking about this list for a while now (approximately two years, five months and twenty seven days…) But in honor of my good friend, Diane’s birthday last weekend, I thought I’d post it here.

#10 You can set aside all of those unrealistic expectations about looking perfect. Because if it hasn’t happened by now…

#9 If you want to buy an embarrassing YA novel or boy band CD out in public, people will assume it’s for your daughter.

#8 You can lord your “older and wiser” status over all of your friends who are still in their 30s.

#7 After more than two decades,  you (hopefully) have the maturity and experience to understand all of that advice older people gave you in high school AND apply it to your current life (because no matter how old you are, everything ends up being just like high school).

#6  You can try to get out of speeding tickets by flirting OR playing the “sweet older lady” card. Options! (Full disclosure: neither has ever actually worked for me…)

#5 People are 100% more impressed by the challenges you take on now than they were when you were in your 20s – like training for marathons or making it to midnight on New Years Eve.

#4 You can blame everything on perimenopause.

#3 It’s likely that you’ve finally perfected a southern accent (and if you are from the south, it’s likely that you’ve finally perfected your southern accent). What? Doesn’t everyone like speaking in a southern accent? Okay – maybe that one is just me…

(take two) #3 It’s likely that you’ve finally stopped obsessing over the number you see on the scale every morning (of course, this is because you’re too busy counting new wrinkles…)

#2 You no longer have to be offended when people call you ma’am because COME ON.

#1 When you are in your 50s, you’ll think this was young.

Feel free to add any other perks in comments!

Me, but Better

*This post is brought to you by Kiran who pointed out that my husband is on a 10 day business trip and I should be blogging every night, right?

So it looks like I may not be having my nose job next week. Oh – I didn’t mention that I’m getting a nose job? I’m pretty sure I did on Facebook… Well, don’t feel bad for not knowing, because it’s not actually THAT big of a deal. This isn’t the kind of thing that will make people do a double take, thinking, “why does Kate look SO GORGEOUS today? Did she do something different with her hair? Did she drop some weight? WHAT is her secret!?

Nope. None of that will happen. I’m just having my deviated septum repaired, and once the swelling and bruising subside, I should look exactly the same. More symmetrical perhaps…but nothing anyone will notice. Unless of course, my nose ends up looking EVEN BIGGER once it’s not smushed to the side anymore… And wouldn’t THAT be my luck?

I was just getting used to the idea of spending weeks looking like someone bashed my face into a brick wall (even fearing that it would be more like months…), and NOW I’ve come to find out that it may not even happen due to a miscommunication.

This last minute glitch came up because not only do I have a deviated septum (don’t you love how I keep saying that, like I actually understand what it means?), the bridge of my nose is somewhat shifted to the left, dragging the whole shebang with it. So the only way to truly “fix” my nose is to break it. And THAT is automatically coded as “cosmetic.”

I can promise you that at age 41, with my three children, middle aged body and husband who actually likes the way I look, having a delicate Grace Kelly nose has long since fallen off my personal wish list. I don’t even want to look different anymore. It would change literally NOTHING in my life. So why bother?

The only reason that I’ve finally succumbed to the lure of facial symmetry is that I’m tired of sinus infections…and having to sleep propped up on four pillows…and the Breathe Right strips that don’t even work that well… And okay, fine – I do kind of wonder what else a straighter nose might mean for me. Maybe that slight nasal quality of my voice will disappear. Maybe I’ll be a better singer! Maybe I’ll finally be able to part my hair in the middle without looking like bad cubist painting. Maybe I really will look better.

So I guess a little curious vanity (or vain curiosity) figures into this surgery. The surgery that might not happen.

What is particularly infuriating is that it has taken me over 10 years to muster up enough courage to just do it already. When I was 30 and having the worst sinus infection of my life, an ENT told me that surgery could help. But I was TERRIFIED. I never had surgery before. Once I got the meds I needed, I never called back to follow up on his suggestion.

It didn’t help that as he walked into the examination room where I was waiting, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “so when did you break your nose?” The answer was “never” and I was ready to explode from indignation. I was convinced that he was just another A-hole who thought all women wanted to look like Barbie. It was easier to dismiss him with that assumption than my ridiculous fear of going under the knife.

Since then, I gave birth to a 9 lb. baby, had a c-section for my twins, and cruised through a hernia repair surgery. I have suffered pain, fear and numerous indignities that made this deviated septum thing look like a joke. The c-section alone put everything into perspective. I mean, I had major abdominal surgery while awake forgodssake. I decided that I could probably handle a nose job.

So I found a surgeon in my insurance network and set up an appointment. The waiting room of the practice was my first indication that this was not going to be treated as a strictly medical procedure. The sleek furniture, flat screen TV display of very attractive people becoming even MORE attractive, and subtly placed photo books of before and after noses, lips and cheekbones made it quite clear that I would be getting the full plastic surgery appointment experience.

I was in my usual get up of a semi-clean tank top and jeans and only hoped that my frizzy summer hair and sweaty, make-up free face didn’t ruin the effect of the lovely reception area. I left that to the six year old twins I had in tow. I undoubtedly looked like a worn down suburban housewife in need of a chrysalis. So I guess I fit right in.

I explained to the doctor that my goal was better breathing, and he winked and said, “suuuurrre it is.” KIDDING! But he did say that he would take pictures to give me ideas for some small changes I could make. Just something to consider.

The plan was to send me computer generated before and after images, and then have another appointment to discuss the plan for moving forward.

KathrynH0

KathrynH1

Is it me – or do these look almost exactly the same!? Well – on my phone they did… It’s a little easier to see changes on a bigger screen. But STILL – not a huge change, right?

My doctor’s e-mail stated, “Here are the computer images I created to show you my cosmetic goals for your nose.” So it was pretty clear that we were having that conversation no matter what my better breathing goals were.

And really – I didn’t mind. I had long since gotten over taking offense when people who fix noses for a living think that I could use a little help with mine. It’s kind of their job right?

In our follow up appointment he gave me the “you but better” pitch. This was only marginally demoralizing since he felt I just needed a little bit of work to slim the tip of my nose (the word “bulbous” came up several times) and trim off the slight bump that is visible in my profile. It wasn’t all that different from the times my hair stylist has tried to talk me into layers.

I listened – and even found the presentation rather compelling – but in the end, I confessed that unless insurance wanted to pay for “me but better,” I was most likely going to have to settle for “me.”

I explained that I really just needed to get this breathing issue fixed. He seemed pretty understanding, but encouraged me to discuss their payment plan options with his coordinator who would be submitting everything to insurance.

Honestly? I was just being polite. There is NO WAY were can spend $6,000 to make my nose look slightly better – payment plan or not. When I relayed the story to Chris he agreed – said it was a complete waste money and if we were spending $6,000 on any part of my body it was going to be bigger boobs. Yay men!

I called the coordinator the next day to confirm that “me but better” wasn’t happening – just the medical repairs, please. Then I said I’d call in November to set up an early 2014 surgery date, as I’m just vain enough to not want a swollen face for the holidays.

All was going according to plan until my pre-op appointment last week. Apparently, my doctor was under the impression that we were doing the full me-but-better surgery since that was “what we last discussed” and the coordinator didn’t inform him of the update. This shouldn’t have been a big deal (just a frowny face on his part since he couldn’t make me prettier) – but it actually means that my insurance company didn’t get all of the information that THEY need.

The coordinator didn’t realize that my nose is so completely fucked up that the little septum repair codes she submitted to wouldn’t cover the procedure required to move my bridge back into alignment. So she now had only two weeks to submit ANOTHER code that is generally used for cosmetic work and almost always gets a big NOPE, and requires that they make a case for the medical side of things, blah blah blah.

Are you still with me? If not, I don’t blame you… Even I find the whole thing incredibly tedious. If I had $6,000 on hand I would probably say, “here – do what you have to do, I just really need to get to that vacuuming today…”

Please don’t think I’m upset about this or anything… I know everyone meant well. The doctor just wants me to be the best me possible. And the coordinator just isn’t a doctor. And I just really want some ice cream – but that is largely unrelated to this story. The real problem is that the doctor and I had different “goals” and assumed that “ours” would be the final decision.

I listened to him talk thinking, “okay – I’ll nod and look interested to be polite, but I think I made it clear that I’m not paying out of pocket for anything.” And he listened to himself talk thinking, “I know you don’t want to spend the money, but after looking at these fancy pictures you’ll HAVE to change your mind ‘cause obvs – you’re hideous.”

Whatever – we’re all on the same page now. We agreed to see what happens with insurance. Then we each went our separate ways to have a good ol’ eye roll at the others’ expense.

Do I want this surgery to work out? To be honest, it’s kind of a HUGE pain in the ass and I wouldn’t mind not having to deal with it… I HAVE been living with this nose for over 10 years… On the other hand, I was starting to like the idea of a better me. Breathing better would be nice and having a straighter nose would most likely mean looking better too… I guess I’m not such a grownup now that I don’t fall into that shallow trap of thinking a change in my appearance might make me happier.

I don’t have an end for this story. It’s very much “to be continued.” But at some point this year, I will have a straighter nose (bulbous tip notwithstanding). I will be able to breathe better. And I will definitely be mindful of the fact that any trips to the plastic surgeon should include the disclaimer that our family will not be paying out of pocket for cosmetic procedures…though, bigger boobs aren’t completely off the table.

2/17/14 UPDATE:

I did not end up having surgery last week. Funny enough, it had nothing to do with insurance which we were able to sort out. It was just that it started snowing. And didn’t stop.

Surgery got cancelled and is now rescheduled for the 24th. As for what the surgery will be… Insurance won’t cover the nose breaking. Even if it’s for medical purposes. Apparently, it is specifically written into our policy that there will be no breaking of noses on their dime – better breathing goals or not! They probably used more professional terminology, but this came to me second hand from the coordinator.

Yes – it’s somewhat disappointing since my breathing won’t be 100% better (and when I have surgery, I’m generally in it to win it) – BUT my surgeon feels confident that I will notice a significant improvement with just the septoplasty (there! a medical term!) And the recovery time will be better. So that’s a perk.

The only risk to not doing the full face bashing is that a septoplasty-only procedure MAY create a small bump on the top of my nose (or a bigger one than I already have).

In summary: surgery will happen but my nose will not be broken, and this may or may not make me look a little different – possibly with a slightly larger bump on my nose. So while I definitely won’t look like Me but Better, there is a fair chance I will look like Me but Bumpier. Wish me luck!

The Twelve Days of Binging

On the First Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Second Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Third Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Fourth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Fifth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Sixth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Seventh Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Eighth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Eight Champagne Truffles
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Ninth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Nine Short Bread Cookies
Eight Champagne Truffles
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Tenth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Ten Random Candies
Nine Short Bread Cookies
Eight Champagne Truffles
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Eleventh Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Eleven Bowls of Ice Cream
Ten Random Candies
Nine Short Bread Cookies
Eight Champagne Truffles
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

On the Twelfth Day of Binging
this Christmas gave to me:
Twelve Chocolate Santas
Eleven Bowls of Ice Cream
Ten Random Candies
Nine Short Bread Cookies
Eight Champagne Truffles
Seven Festive Cocktails
Six Egg Nog Lattes
FIVE TINS OF PEPPERMINT BARK
Four Second Helpings
Three French Pastries
Two Candy Canes
and Cabernet with Almonds and Brie

HAPPY HOLIDAY BINGING from The Big Piece of Cake!

Saying Grace

I’m not a particularly religious person. We stopped going to church when I was very little, and while I was baptized, I can’t even tell you the exact denomination. Protestant? Episcopalian? Something like that.

Then when we moved to DC, my parents made the incongruous decision to enroll my brother and me in private Catholic school. Though as a parent myself now, I think it’s safe to assume this was less random whimsy than the result of research involving tuition, academic ranking and proximity to our new home.

Nevertheless, at age eight I had to learn the Lord’s Prayer, which was recited each morning right after the Pledge of Allegiance. My mother, a lapsed Catholic, anticipated that we might have trouble understanding the exact words of the prayer with its lack of colloquial phrasing. So she made sure to explain that we were to say, “our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name,” not “Harold be thy name.” Apparently, this caused much confusion in her own childhood.

Outside of school, I spent quite a bit of time in the homes of friends where religious attitudes ranged from well-meaning to strictly devout. Almost all, unlike my own family, bowed their heads to say grace at the dinner table. This is where I learned how to recite another prayer that began, “bless us, oh Lord, for these thy gifts,” and even pop off a nonchalant sign of the cross finale move.

All were rote words and actions for me. I knew that saying grace was a form of giving thanks and asking for continued guidance in the whole “being a good Christian” thing… But I never gave the ritual any serious thought. I chalked it up to one of the many inexplicable have to’s that plagued any given family.

Grace was a nebulous concept for me. In school it was used in religious terminology. In the novels I read, it alluded to fluidity of movement or an innate sense of peacefully navigating the world. Perhaps it was this lack of definition commitment that put grace in the category of words that didn’t hold much power in my life. Too formal or lofty in its religious use and too precious and feminine in everyday conversation – it just didn’t resonate with me.

And quite honestly, it’s not a word that seemed to resonate with the people around me either. Sixteen year old Catholic school girls don’t talk about grace; they talk about boys and clothes and favorite books. I never once heard one of my college friends refer to grace while we were studying for exams or ordering pitchers of beer at the local dive bar. And in our twenties, my Catholic friends were still lying to their parents about going to church every Sunday.

It was almost inappropriate to refer to religion out of context. As if using words like faith or grace would push you into the territory of proselytizing bible thumpers. It just wasn’t done.

Grace, faith, church…just a bunch of have to’s that no one chose to discuss let alone prioritize.

Now at age 41, I can talk about pretty much anything with anyone. And I have a far more diverse assortment of friends and acquaintances. Some of my friends like me, don’t attend church. Others have grown more devout over the years. And no, they’re not all Catholic.

I have friends who feel comfortable referring to God in casual conversation. And that’s fine with me. Because I understand that they consider their faith to be one of the best and most beautiful things in their lives. So if they want to tell me that Jesus was there for them in a time of need, I don’t feel mildly embarrassed and unsure of how to respond. I just accept the words in the spirit they are given – with the best of intentions. By sharing these thoughts with me, they are showing me the best of themselves. They are giving me the best of themselves. How could that be inappropriate?

So it was completely natural for me to sit with a grieving friend and listen to her thoughts about God’s plan in her life. And in the midst of this heartbreaking conversation, she said something that changed everything for me.

She was talking about her feelings of responsibility. How she believed things would have happened differently if her husband had been there to change the course of events. And how grateful she was for the grace he showed her by not looking for someone to blame. She speculated that she may not have been strong enough to do the same.

After a moment of incredulity that she would think blame had any place in such a tragic accident, this one simple word – grace – filled the room. If you think about it, everyone makes this choice on any number of levels, every day. And for a while now, I’ve been giving considerable thought to what I choose. I just never had a name for it. Suddenly, I did, and I could say without hesitation that if put in the same position as her husband, I would choose to show grace.

Not because I’m such a fantastic person of course, but because I’m hopelessly flawed and so often in need of the forgiveness and understanding of others. Aren’t we all… How can she be so selfish? How can he be so cruel? WHY would anyone say something so insensitive? Every day there is a reason to be hurt or insulted or outraged by the words and actions of others. But the concept of other people is subjective. And I remind myself that I have often been the one unintentionally hurting, insulting and causing outrage. Who am I to assume intentions? Why not offer others the benefit of the doubt instead?

Now I don’t have to run through the complicated reasoning behind choosing to forgive or understand or assume good intentions. I just say “grace.” Maybe not with my outside voice…but that one word is a definitive reminder. A declaration. An incantation.

We put up with a lot of have to’s in life and I know that this concept is very much in that category for some. Turn the other cheek…take the high road…give it up to God. There are unlimited personal versions of what is largely considered a trite platitude. But giving it a name and seeing it as a choice has put it in a new context for me. What was once a sigh inducing “have to” is what I now consider to be the best part of me. The best I can give anyone. I can show them grace.

Sure, I get mad or feel offended sometimes. I lash out in anger. I even place blame. But it’s momentary, because at the end of the day, I don’t like feeling that way. I hate the idea of someone carrying the weight of guilt on their shoulders. Life is hard enough – why not cut each other a little slack?

Initial perceptions don’t always match true intentions. And people usually have good intentions. That should count for something, right? Destination notwithstanding, they do make excellent paving stones…. And maybe my choice to see things this way – my grace – can help to reroute that descending road. I’d rather believe the angel on one shoulder than the devil on the other. What the hell – it helps me sleep at night.

One of my favorite movie quotes is in The Big Lebowski. The Dude says, “You’re not wrong Walter. You’re just an asshole.” Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in ideas and principle, that we forget about people. We forget that it’s so easy to stumble over that line we’re so quick to draw in the sand. So easy to say the wrong thing – to do something so incredibly stupid. And to not even be aware of it. Why is it so hard to forgive or understand or just assume that no harm was meant?

Why not be more mindful of this choice? Why not choose to not be an asshole? Give the benefit of the doubt and assume good intentions. Choose kindness over principle and forgiveness over justice. Let people give you the best of themselves, regardless of your personal beliefs or habits. Consider the perspective of others. Consider the fact that to everyone else, you are “other people.”

I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer, but I don’t think it’s too late to choose happiness. For me, being happy doesn’t come easily. I fight for it. I choose to look for the best in others. I stumble and fall short sometimes, but I choose to get up and try again. I choose to let go of the past. To give second chances. To keep moving forward. To see possibility in the future. To say that today was a good day.

I choose to accept that sometimes I will be an asshole. And to not judge others who make the same mistakes. I choose to say I’m sorry or I forgive you. To say that it’s okayI’ve been there. I understand.

To say that just meaning well still counts. That just being here is a miracle.

To say that I couldn’t do any of this without other people. To say thank you.

To say grace.

They Coulda’ Been Great… February 2013 Facebook Upates

I have a few half written posts that I swear I will finish one of these days (except for the Christmas one – that shelf life has long since expired…) But I don’t seem to have time for more than the odd Facebook update here and there. So I guess I’ll just continue with my “this could have been a blog post” series on Facebook updates that…well, could have been blog posts. For an explanation of this foolishness, click HERE. Otherwise, heeeeeeere’s FEBRUARY!


February 3

9:30 a.m.

Our poor black dog, Alice looks like she has dandruff on her head. Oliver decided to give her a toothpaste shampoo. Obviously.


February 4

6:30 p.m.

Arrived in a box amidst a jumble of memorabilia from Chris’ parents’ house (they are moving: i.e. unloading boxes of crap on their kids). I’m calling it The Ring of Power.


February 4

9:30 p.m.

Some people may call eating dinner at 9:30 not being able to get your act together…I like to call it “being European.”


February 5

4:35 p.m.

I don’t think I will ever in my life spell ocassion correctly the FIRST time. I mean occassion. Occasion?

7:20 p.m.

If George takes 2 hours to eat four chicken nuggets AGAIN, I may lose my mind… I mean, seriously. How many issues with breading can one person have?!


February 6

9:00 p.m.

If I end up dying young, it will undoubtedly be the result of our dog, Alice tripping me on the stairs. She LIVES directly under my feet!


February 7

5:35 p.m.

“No! Toothpaste is not soap. It is for teeth. Not washing hands…or dogs.”

I actually say these things.


February 10

7:50 p.m.

Major quandary about Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead being on at the same time… What does this say about me?

Though in my defense, my husband does figure in. I would prefer watch Downton and catch TWD later… Marriage is all about compromise!


February 11

8:10 p.m.

“NOT UNTIL YOU STAY IN YOUR OWN SQUARE AND STOP TOUCHING OTHER PEOPLE!”

Only people with kids will think this statement sounds remotely normal.

9:30 p.m.

I always know that my dog Alice’s water bowl is empty when I hear her drinking out of the toilet. One would think that this would make me more vigilant about checking her supply. One would be wrong.

Related: my children are inconsistent flushers.

We’re all about the class.


February 12

7:5o p.m.

“We never throw our underwear at someone’s face!”

So many teachable moments…


February 13

6:30 p.m.

One of my children to another one of my children: “Stop playing with my nails!”

Me: “The fact that he had to ask that is weird enough. Please stop doing it.”


February 14

2:30 p.m.

Sometimes I open my e-mail and think, “why did I subscribe to Goop.com?” I mean – when do I ever actually open those e-mails? So instead of unsubscribing, I just delete the message and reenact this scene again the following day…


February 17

9:30 a.m.

Me (to our dog): Alice – why do you always want to play with ME? You know I’m not fun!

Eleanor: Well…sometimes you are.

Gee thanks.


February 19

8:05 a.m.

He returned from his business trip over 3 weeks ago…But on the upside, someone is finally using that hideous dog bed.

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February 19

7:00 p.m.

No idea what this is all about – but I’m IN.

IMG_6154


February 21

5:00 p.m.

Trying to get something rather time sensitive done on the computer and the kids won’t leave me alone. Hello! I’ve given you all snacks, drinks, suggestions for entertainment, TELEVISION… Giving serious thought to tossing a bag of unopened candy downstairs and telling them that they’re not allowed to eat it. That should keep them busy (and quiet) for a good hour…

8:20 p.m.

Me: Hey – now that Eleanor’s cast is off, you can all start taking the bus again.

George: Yay! I love the bus. You can find candy under the seats.

Me: Why are you telling me this?

George: It’s like a scavenger hunt!


February 26

2:10 p.m.

Holding this in mine today…

IMG_6178

5:20 p.m.

They put one on EVERY DOOR in the house. And on a couple of chairs. And a lamp.

IMG_6180


February 28

6:00 p.m.

Eleanor: Isn’t it weird how babies are always born on their birthday?

Uh….

*****

That’s it! Check back in a few weeks for March updates (spoiler: I throw a party because The Mindy Project is renewed by Fox for another season).

What’s Your Status? (Alternatively Titled: They Coulda’ Been Great) – January 2013 Facebook Upates

Remember when we used to write regularly in our blogs and people would even READ what we wrote and possibly COMMENT? And we would read other blogs and comment and stuff too. And there would be this whole communication thing going on…what did we call it back then? OH YEAH – blogging.

Now we do this on Facebook and Twitter.

Recently, it occurred to me that half (if not most) of what I post on Facebook constitutes the beginnings of a blog post. Back in the good ol’ days I mean. Each of these little one liners or bits of dialogue could have been worked into an entire story on my blog. They could have been whole posts. They coulda’ been great! Not to mention the fact that only 10% of my family is actually on Facebook. That’s right, Chris, Mom, etc. are missing ALL of this stuff.

So I’m starting a new monthly feature: “What’s Your Status?” I will do somewhat of a round up of all of my original Facebook posts (original meaning no link shares or the ever prolific someecards).

So here they are – all of the late-to-the-gamers. They could have been something. They coulda’ been a contender!

I think that covers it. Feel free to join in on this. Here is my January “could have been’s”:


January 1

6:00 p.m.

George: MOM! There are three steps to reading. FIRST! You open the book. SECOND! You look at the letters….oh yeah, there are TWO steps to reading.

11:15 p.m.

Just looked in the mirror, and I have to say – there is NOTHING sexier than a woman wearing a men’s t-shirt, voluminous fleece pajama bottoms and a Breathe Right strip. And MY husband gets to climb into bed with that EV-RY NIGHT. That lucky devil.


January 5

4:20 p.m.

Just got back from the ER. My ankle swelled up for no apparent reason and I decided that it must be a blood clot. Such an alarmist…of course I was wrong, but the doctors are just as clueless as I am. Nothing showed up in x-rays – so they are going to treat for infection. My diagnosis is “cellulitis.” Sadly, unlike the well known appendicitis scenario, treatment for cellulitis will not involve the removal of my cellulite. BUT I did get a prescription for Vicodin and orders to stay off my feet for a couple of days so I’LL TAKE IT.


January 6

5:30 p.m.

It’s Alice’s birthday! She’s really excited about this…

6:45 p.m.

“Okay – I don’t know who started it, but I want you both to STOP.” (If you ever doubted that you would turn into your parents…)

9:45 p.m.

If I have to get old, I want to be just like the Downton matriarchs. Can’t decide which one…


January 8

10:40 p.m.

Should I be embarrassed that when I looked an actor up online to see why he looked SO familiar to me, it was because he was in Hot Tub Time Machine? Related: Hot Tub Time Machine was HILARIOUS.


January 9

3:15 p.m.

Volunteered in my daughter’s K-1 art class today and found out that there actually IS a teenage boy lurking inside me. It happened when the teacher said (without ANY hint of irony), “now remember to be careful with those black markers…because once you use black, it’s hard to go back.”

I’m not kidding.


January 12

3:15 p.m.

Just drove somewhere with Oliver – and when I looked in the rear view mirror, I saw him sitting there with a lollipop.

Me: Oliver – where do you get that lollipop?

Oliver: from the car.

Me: [not really wanting to hear the answer] Was it wrapped?

Oliver: No.

Of course not…


January 15

10:30 a.m.

For some reason I am freezing today. Actually changed back into my fleece pajama bottoms! But then again, isn’t wearing fleece pajama bottoms one of the primary incentives for working from home?


January 16

5:15 p.m.

Never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can clear a room by asking, “hey – who wants to do homework?” Useful.


January 17

8:05 a.m.

Everyone knows that Martin Luther King received a Nobel Peace Prize. BUT did you also know that he once modeled Maybelline’s new Spring line of lipsticks?


January 18

9:30 a.m.

I just identified a new milestone in the gradual submission to suburban life. When you realize you have both indoor AND outdoor slippers. Deadly when combined with “still wearing your fleece pajama bottoms when you walk the dog at 7 a.m.”


January 20

2:30 p.m.

This morning Oliver and I were chatting, and he (obviously quoting something he heard on TV) said in a cartoon voice, “listen jerk!” I gasped and asked, “WHO said that?”

His response? “I did.”

Of course, so silly of me…


January 21

8:30 p.m.

Should I be embarrassed that I’m watching The Carrie Diaries? Probably…right?


January 22

12:15 p.m.

You know when it’s SO COLD outside that your house feels like an icebox and there aren’t enough sweaters in THE WORLD…so you decide to take a hot shower, but then you have to get out (because – you know, you ran out of hot water) and then it’s a bajillion times worse because now you are cold AND wet? All I have to say is thank the blessed mother of Thomas Edison for hair dryers. And heating pads! Off to look for our heating pad…

6:45 p.m.

You know the evening has degenerated when you have to yell “no touching butts!” more than once.


January 23

11:10 a.m.

Time to call animal control…full story on The Big Piece of Cake today.

2:30 p.m.

Bat update: Animal control feels no connection to my bat – said I should call an exterminator. Exterminators are not concerned about the bat devouring us in our sleep – will come tomorrow to “see if they can do anything for us.” Will report back on whether the bat makes its move and we join the Cullen Family. Please pray for us, as I am emphatically Team Jacob.


January 26

1:45 p.m.

In case you were wondering – I’m getting used to the bat in my window. Not that I’ll cry if the promised 60 degree weather inspires him to leave us…

6:05 p.m.

Eleanor just said, “Mom guess what animal I love even MORE than horses now? Dolphins!”

She is such a girl…bracing myself for puffy letter writing and unicorn pictures.


January 27

10:45 a.m.

One of these days, those “be a secret shopper” people are going to wear me down with their incessant e-mails…

1:05 p.m.

So this morning on Sid the Science Kid, the preschool has a day off and Sid is bummed that he won’t see his friends. But SURPRISE – his mom invited all of his friends over for the day (as if!). Then all of the kids lament how much they miss their teacher. But SURPRISE – Sid’s Mom ALSO invited their teacher! Because that’s exactly what teachers want to do on their day off – hang out with their students.

7:45 p.m.

George: Ahhh! Ahhh!
Me: What?! What’s wrong?!
George: My eye! My eye!
Me: What’s wrong with your eye?!
George: Towel! I need a [wet] towel!
Me: [running from kitchen with wet paper towel] Here! What happened?!
George: Wait…it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Me: Oh.
George: Wait…Ahhh! Ahhh! My eye!
Me: [handing him the wet paper towel] HERE!
George: Okay – that’s better….[then looks at the towel and sees a pink splotch – part of the print on the cheap Viva I buy) Ahhh! Ahhh! Blood!
Me: That’s not blood! It’s just the pattern on the paper towel.
George: Oh. Heh.

Someone seems to have inherited his father’s flair for the drama…and his ability to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Though it really does take something as indisputable as “the pattern on the paper towel”…


January 28

8:25 a.m.

E: Bats are like people. They have 5 fingers. Me: How do you know that? E: Because I counted. #science Also? That’s his tail. #eeewww!


January 31

10:55 a.m.

So – we lost our bat yesterday. If you’ve been following along, you can read the final installment here (scroll to the bottom).
********

Okay – I cheated.  I did write about the bat here… It just felt like such a BIG part of my January Facebook chit chat… But everything else is 100% wasted time on social media!

I’ll put February up in a couple of weeks. But in the meantime – what’s YOUR status?

The Good in Goodbye

I went to a funeral last Friday.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the past week. About all funerals, really.

What is it that they say about funerals? That they’re for the living? It makes sense. Only the living would really need a funeral. Because it offers a means of saying goodbye.

This public acknowledgement of – this bearing witness to – an ending is sometimes the only thing that allows us to move on. Forward. Possibly, to even see that as an option. A funeral honors this ending/beginning, and gives us permission to grieve, hope and continue to live.

At age 40, I’ve been to many funerals. And as far as religious rituals and rites go, I wouldn’t say that I personally need them. I don’t need a ceremony to say goodbye. I don’t need to commune with black garbed strangers I’ll probably never see again. I don’t need a gathering.

But I could never say that I don’t need people.

Which is an ironic statement coming from me since I love having time to myself. I actually like being alone. I could spend an entire week without seeing another person and never feel lonely. But this is exactly why I need people. Because for me, being alone is easy. And there is nothing to be learned from an easy life.

I need to feel the press of humanity around me. To bump into their sharp edges and feel a little uncomfortable. I need to be jostled and forced to participate. To stay awake. And alive.

Funerals are taxing for an introvert. All of those people…

And ultimately – I think that’s all a funeral is. Just people bumping into each other. Taking what they need and giving what they can. From family and friends supporting each other to strangers sharing a moment of companionship. It’s just a bunch of people standing around, feeling.

We are surrounded by people every day. On the bus…standing in line at the grocery store…sitting in a movie theater. So many experiences we remember are actually moments in time shared with strangers. But how often do we acknowledge that? That indirect togetherness?

Ceremony aside, a funeral is an ideal occasion to recognize how connected we all are. Saying goodbye is a terrible thing to have in common – but it makes us actually look at each other.

The blond woman who puts her head on the shoulder of the man next to her. So tender. They must be close. I wonder if they are part of the family…maybe work friends.

The two women walking down the aisle. Mother and daughter? The older one looks very sad. The younger one holds her elbow. The small smiles they give me as they pass don’t reach their eyes.

A toddler in the front row wails and is quickly whisked to the back of the church. Her boots are spangled with sequins. A granddaughter?

As far as people watching goes, it’s not all that different from an afternoon at Whole Foods. Everyone has a story. Most of us are here alone. Alone in a crowd that’s only different in its singular purpose of saying goodbye.

But the goodbyes that truly bring us all together come from the people in the front row. Especially those who stand up to tell stories about the loved one who died. They are not just sharing anecdotes that we may or may not already know – they’re handing us pieces of themselves.

What a rare and extraordinary experience. To be alone yet together in a crowd of friends and strangers, seeing a unique individual through the eyes the people who love them.

The first time I ever witnessed something like this was in high school. A new classmate (who would later in life become a dear friend) stood in front of hundreds of people to tell us about her twelve year old brother. She did this by reading a letter his friends wrote about him.

In college, I listened to my mother’s sister and cousin tell stories about their “Nana” who never married or had children, but instead poured all of her love into four little nieces. She let them try on her jewelry and made an event of watching the Miss America pageant.

When a good friend’s father died, I listened to her sister tell a hilarious story about his dedication to snapping great photos at the many weddings he attended. His scrappy hustle and willingness to elbow any professional photographer out of the way inspired his six children to call him, “Matty Kane, cub reporter.”

A few years later, I listened to that same sister’s husband talk about her valiant battle with breast cancer. When she received this diagnosis, her immediate response was, “thank god it’s not one of my babies.”

And in the fall of 2011, I sat in complete awe as one of my closest friends described the too short but incredibly full life of her twelve year old son. He had a sweet nature and a talent for making people feel special.

I think that two funerals for twelve year old boys has been entirely enough for me. I can only hope that there will never be a third.

But the funeral last week was not for a boy. It was for a man with thirteen grandchildren. A man who lived both a long and full life. One full of stories.

Some of these stories were told by his children who each took a turn to talk about the father they knew. It was especially moving for me to witness this since I practically lived in their house when I was a little girl.

Madeline was like the sister I never had, which made her siblings my extended network of big sisters and younger brothers. So the stories they told about what a character their father was…his irreverence…his tendency to bring home random “new friends” as if they were long lost family members…his constant supply of Lucky Strikes…they all brought back so many memories of that big family with their larger than life patriarch. But I was especially touched by their more serious, poignant insights.

Marjorie spoke first, explaining that she and her sister Gigi were tiny girls when their father came into their life. He fell in love with their mother and without hesitation, claimed them as his own. It takes quite a man to do something like that.

Oldest sister was followed by youngest brother, Reilly. Who is inexplicably no longer a ten year old boy. When did he become this man with SIX children of his own? But man he is, and so much like his father. He talked about the man who taught him how to be a man, starting with the value of a strong handshake. A lesson he’s passed down to his own sons.

My Madeline (I always think of her as “My Madeline”) went next. She was a Daddy’s Girl and never one to wear her heart anywhere BUT on her sleeve for the world to see (dry eyes beware). She shared her earliest memory of being at the beach, where her father would carry her out into the waves. She thought it was scary…and also exciting. But she always felt safe.

Gigi was the last to speak, and she said that she found herself at a loss for words. She has endured what could only be described as a mother’s nightmare over the past year. And the presence of supportive parents has contributed largely to her survival. She didn’t share memories, as no story or quote was required to express the depth of her love and grief. Instead she told us how much this support meant to her – just the simple act of “spending time with him.” Knowing that he was there.

One brother was not able to talk about the father he knew, but his presence filled the room. John died young, just barely a man himself. His Down Syndrome was never perceived as a disability in their house, but the health complications that so often accompany the condition were a constant worry. The loss of this much loved son and brother was a terrible blow to the family. And while this wasn’t John’s funeral, it did feel like a continuation of grief and gratitude for the time they all had together.

While I do not have a son with Down Syndrome, I do have one with special needs. And I think that I owe much to my friend and her family for my perception of him as being just perfect the way he is. This isn’t an easy thing to do. No one finds out they’re pregnant and wishes for a child with special needs. No one wants their son to struggle with the things that come so easily to others. But I grew up watching a family find the exceptional in a boy with special needs because of his differences. And I am so incredibly grateful for that.

I didn’t go to John’s funeral. I was in college, in another state and young enough to believe that my presence wouldn’t have been important. But 20 years later, I know this is far from true. There are no extraneous people when it comes to saying goodbye.

Whether we are there alone or in the front row, we are all part of something bigger than a rite or ritual. A funeral isn’t just a miscellaneous assortment of people in pews. It’s a shared moment of grief in loss, gratitude for life and the acknowledgement that that everyone – even an introvert like me – needs people.

Alone in a crowd or together around a family table, we are just people bumping into each other’s sharp edges, reminding each other to participate in life – to actually look at each other. We take what we need and give what we can. And we tell stories to help us remember.

And as long as there are stories, then we never really have to say goodbye.