Friday, November 18, 2011

A Brief History of Tooth #9

One Fall evening when I was twenty years old, I was enjoying a late evening dinner at Hamburger Hamlet with some of my college friends. Sucking on a straw, I slurped Coke from a barrel-sized glass. Delicious. At some point, I released the straw from my clenched jaw. I tongued the back of one of my front teeth to knock (what I thought) was a little bit of food loose.

Ouch. Sharp!

It was not food. It was a splinter from the back of my front tooth.

How does that even happen? Sure, I can understand cavities in molars. I mean, there are pits and valleys back yonder, excellent nesting places for sugar and gunk that can weaken bone. But the centrals? They have no location where the necessary cocktail of bacteria and acid can find purchase.

Except in my teeth. Thanks again, Mom & Dad, for passing on teeth made of peanut brittle instead of bone.

Off to the dentist I went, where it was patched up and I received a friendly lecture about decreasing my cola/tea/coffee consumption. Right. Because college students generally don't mainline caffeine.

Cut to four years later. A distinct vertical line appeared, and grew darker. It was then that I learned that the presentability of your front teeth is directly proportional to your desire to show your face in public. Armed with my own dental insurance, courtesy of choosing gainful employment at a place that offered such a boon, I selected a new dentist who cleaned up the work of the previous dentist and replaced the filling. Actually, he pretty much spread the filling goo like butter over the back of my whole front tooth. Success!

Cut to twelve years after that. Again, I'm sitting at dinner, this time among my husband and three children, and I feel a hard crumb on my tongue. Except we were eating spaghetti, which does not at all have hard bits in it. Well, at least the way I prepare it. I don't know what you do in your kitchen.

I had a flashback to Hamburger Hamlet and knew that this would not be a good thing. Sure enough, close inspection revealed I had chipped my tooth. On spaghetti. Two days later I was in the dentist's chair, where the venerable Dr. Hickey was telling me that I would need crown for that tooth.

For those of you keeping track, this is now my third crown. And I have a gap where I will get an implant some day. At this rate I'll be in dentures by fifty.

Last week, I got the temporary crown. I requested to be jacked up with all the novocaine a body can bear, but it was still MIGHTY unpleasant to have someone up to his elbows in my face for an hour with a drill. I'm pretty sure ther's a scene from 'American Psycho' that unfolds that way.

From this experience I learned I may have an intolerance to latex being pressed up against my skin for extended periods of time. My face broke out with a constellation of pimples not seen since my adolescence. And the temporary crown? Well, it's temporary. Industry standard is to pick something that works for now, and not really to bother to have an absolute perfect match in color or sticky-outy-ness. The thing lines up so my bite isn't off, but is a micron or twenty thicker and pushes against the inside of my lip, making me feel like I constantly have peanut butter stuck to the front of my tooth. It's thicker in the back, too, so my speech is ganked up. The tip of my tongue is all, "Get out of the WAY!" when I am trying to use sibilant words, but it is fighting a losing battle with this squatter.

So, to re-cap, I am currently a lisping, pimpled, uno-horse-toothed woman. Fellas, fellas, don't bother lining up. I am married, after all.

All of this is to say I've been avoiding mirrors and pictures. I mean, I've never really been all moony over my reflection. But I'm thinking that this year's family portrait won't happen 'til after the holidays.

Yesterday, I went back to get the "you'll feel like you're suffocating but you really won't, I promise" impressions of my teeth done so that I can get a permanent crown. One that is custom-made for my face. Off-the-rack teeth don't work for me. Pants don't either, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this.

Anyway, to take the impression, the dentist had to remove the temporary crown. Between sessions of having softball sized clumps of wax jammed in my face, my tongue went on an exploratory mission to see what was left of my original tooth, my pal since I was six years old. Aw, it was just a little niblet of a thing. I was happy just having touched it, imagining a cheery little thing huddled under the crown. King Baby Tooth.

You can understand, then, my chagrin when Dr. Hickey returned with a disturbing rack of fake teeth, each one individually skewered and standing at attention. He grabbed one and positioned in my face, judging the color comparison. I was reminded of my mother-in-law in Sherwin-Williams, holding up swatches and going back for another one, convinced that they aren't quite right.

Dr. Hickey asked me if I wanted to pick up the hand mirror from among his implements and look at the tooth/color he selected. I wanted to say, "No." But, the aesthete in me decided I should probably take a gander.

Oh. my. God. I looked like a hillbilly vampire. My front tooth was GONE, and was replaced with this dumb little cone of a tooth which will serve as the tang for the crown.

I looked for about six seconds before I told my dentist that the choice was a good one. The temporary crown doesn't come in until mid-December, and I'm sure it will become fodder for a new post.


Because for the past couple of years I've been kicking around the idea of whitening my teeth. Here's the formula for making that decision:

Natural shade of butter + (coffee + red wine) * a lot = blecko color teeth.

When one of your front teeth is getting replaced, though, the time for making that decision is NOW. You can't really whiten a crown. So, the plan is to order the crown a couple of shades lighter, then whiten the real teeth until they match.

This plan can't go wrong, can it? Oh, wait, of COURSE it can. I'm pretty sure my teeth are going to end up looking like this:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Things that Should Be Insurance Against a Sleepover/Hookup

This morning I dropped my daughter off at Pre-K and witnessed someone learning a life lesson.

Background: the Girl's Pre-K is on a college campus. She's not a wunderkind or anything like that, though I, of course, think she's super. The program is open to anyone, but primarily serves the children of faculty, staff, and students.

Anyway, whle my daughter was happily skipping to school, lunch swinging at her side, I saw Sailor Moon trudging uphill toward a dorm. Now, I am definitely making an assumption here, but I have to imagine that this college student did not think, "You know what would brighten up my classes today? Wearing a Sailor Moon outfit!"


My guess is that somebody got some last night. So, here's my public service announcement: ladies, get ur freak on. But, if you are dressed as a Manga character, go HOME after the hookup, under the cover of darkness.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Don't Know How I Did This

To my thumb. It is a pulsating, injured digit. As a result of wine. Not in a deeply dramatic way. I didn't pitch a snifter at someone and stab myself with a passionate shard. Nope. I somehow managed to place my ape thumb in exactly the worst spot possible on my ballerina-style corkscrew. When I pushed the arms down to extirpate the cork, my thumbskin got all squished in the gears.


I've told you I make my living pounding a keyboard, right? So, work should be AWESOME tomorrow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seen in Church Today

I'm not quibbling about the style choice, 'cause hey, at least the wearer of these heels was in church. But I do quibble with the sagacity of wearing such foot torture devices to a Catholic mass. I mean, it's an aerobic workout. You're up, you're down, you're kneeling, you're walking over to your neighbor to deliver the sign of peace, you're waiting in line for Communion. It can wear on the toes even if you're sporting sneakers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This Is Probably Not the Angle the Cornucopia Institute Was Going For

We've pretty fully converted over to organic meat and dairy. Fruits and veggies are still dependent on price point, mostly because I'm not that concerned if I'm eating genetically modified corn.

So, why the switcheroo? It's not like organic is any more nutritious, and god DAMN is it expensive. Especially if your toddler would drink a gallon of milk a day by himself if you let him. The changeover boils down to one, very simple motivator for me:

I want to stave off my children's puberty 'til they can actually handle it.

Is that too mad scientist of me? I don't know. But I'm looking around at these ten-year-old girls with breasts, and eleven-year-old boys who need to shave, and I'm thinking, God help me. Me, I was a late bloomer. Fourteen or so. But oh my LORD, the blossoming wasn't finished until nineteen or so, which is when my bra size ended up closer to the middle of the alphabet than the beginning.

Just contemplate that for a hot minute.

Can you imagine if that started when I was ten instead of fourteen? When things had, ahem, progressed to the point where I earned occasional ogling from high school boys, I could kind of handle it. But if it had been middle school? Ugh. I could barely handle algebra. Boys staring at my breasts would've pushed me over the edge.

Yeah, so, that's my story with wanting meat and dairy that hasn't been all jacked up with growth hormones. Noble of me, eh?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mrs. Underwhelm

I don't know what it is about me, but I can't hyperbolize. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm still a recovering teenager, and my Doc Martens-era thing of downplaying, well, everything, is still very, very deeply rooted. My coming of age happened at the tail end of the '80's, and it was revolution against bright sparkly spandex and glitter. Okay, revolution is taking it too far. It was more of a passive resistance kind of thing. Punk rock was a revolution. Grunge was kind of laying around in flannel grumbling about things.

Do you see? Do you see how I can't even use the word 'revolution'?

Anyway, this verbal incapacity has manifested itself in a completely benign way. Examples? When I dropped my daughter off at preschool today, my farewell to the teacher was, "Have a good morning!" She told me to have a great day. So, she won, because my good wishes were compartmentalized to the morning. She shot for the whole day.

Last week, I bought milk at the local convenience store on my way home from work. As I was leaving, clutching my change and a sweaty gallon of dairy, I bid the cashier a good day. She, in turn, said, "Have a great evening!"


On Friday night, I went to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of shiraz and tell the clerk, "Have a great night!" And he answered, "Have a fantastic weekend!"

I could just be silly and say things like, "Have the best week of your LIFE!" But that goes against my grain. My time horizon is about four hours, so that's the scope of my good wishes to others. If I see you at eight in the morning, I'm just going to wish you a good morning, because that's as far ahead as I can think.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Random Facebook Status

Have I ever told you about the guy that I accidentally friended on Facebook? No? Well, that's a story for another day. But, anyway, this was his status update today:

"Stop telling God how big your storm is. Instead, tell the storm how big your God is."

My thought? I don't think it's all that productive to talk to storms.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Weekend

Isn't all about 9-11 for me. A year ago, on this particular weekend, I was in Ocean City, MD, with most of my family. My mother wanted to go one last time, and she wanted everyone to come with her. She paid. I coordinated.

It was her last trip there.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Yes! We're Doing Something Right!

The Girl started preschool this week. Why preschool instead of kindergarten since she's already as self-possessed as a 24-year-old? Because BaCo schools allow you to enroll if you turn five by September 1. If you're born before October 1, then you can be tested and possibly matriculated*. If you are born after October 1, forget about it. The Girl? She was born on November 6, so, off to preschool my daughter goes.

This morning, as I was dropping her off (only moments before, we were making up after a tiff over my too-rapid brushing of her hair), her preschool teacher pulled me aside to say, "She is a beautiful child. You're really doing a good job with her."

Yay! Validation from an (almost) perfect stranger!

*Oh yes, I used "matriculated" in reference to kindergarten.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

Just got back from a lovely vacation with my family in Ocean City, Maryland. I KNOW what you New Jersey-ites are thinking: "Blech! Why go to Ocean City, Maryland, when you can enjoy the fruits of Ocean City, New Jersey?"

Because I like the 9-mile long carnival that is Ocean City, Maryland. Also, I know where everything is there. I don't have to worry that we're going to an iffy restaurant, or that a mini-golf joint isn't kid-friendly. I wanted a totally non-thinky vacation, and that is what I got.

Plus, it was nice just to spend time with my kids. I don't think I realize how little time I actually get with them during the week, and to have that much interrupted time to do whatever struck their fancy was pretty wonderful. I had a lot of those moments when I realized that whatever we are doing to raise them seems to be panning out. The Boy and the Girl are both funny, sweet, and can occupy themselves with crayons and trucks when needed. The Little Guy isn't quite verbal, but he makes his thoughts known. His thoughts are usually, "I want to PLAY. You there, you come play with me!" He 'tells' you this by thumping toward you, grabbing a fistful of your shorts, pulling, and shouting "Mweh!"

Some of my favorite quotes from the kids who can talk were:

The Boy: I'm just a little bit evil. (Said at the top of the Ocean City pier's ferris wheel while admiring a demon painted on the side of the Haunted House.)

The Girl: Her name is Dolphiny! (What she christened the pink dolphin she won at the dart game at the pier. The Dolphin is pink and named for the Scooby Doo character, Daphne.)

Okay, so there were probably more than that. And there was more than that to the whole vacation. But then we got back home and life got in the way of me finishing and posting this little record of our time at the beach. So, it's incomplete and doesn't even acknowledge that my parents-in-law came with us, and nobody wounded each other in the whole time that we shared a three bedroom condo. Victories all around!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Adventures in Plumbing

Super Ninja: You know, this is like every stereotypical '50's sitcom, where the husband insists on fixing the sink, and they end up having to call a plumber when the pipes explode.

Me (from under the sink): How is this like that?

Super Ninja: You, the husband, are fixing the sink, while I, the wife, am watching the children.

Me (still under the sink): Oh, NOW I see what the problem is.

Super Ninja: What?

Me: I'm using a toy truck flashlight instead of a real one.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So, What'd We Learn Here? (Daily Gratitude Post-Mortem)

The final post for my series on gratitude was supposed to conclude on my birthday (July 16, for those of you who want to take a minute to go jot that down on a calendar so you can shower me with gifts and well-wishes next year). But I didn't do it, because I wanted to leave you hanging. Nah. Truth is, I didn't want to rush a missive on gratitude on a day that was packed with other activities, thoughts, and wallowings.

Now that I've allowed myself these handful of days to ruminate... Honestly, there's no gut-wrenching analysis on the fruits of exercise.

On a practical level, I wanted to force myself to write--or at least think about writing--every day in a concrete, focused way. It sharpens ye olde observation skills if you're thinking about things as potential blog or fiction fodder. To go through the somewhat academic exercise of evaluating the entertainment level of a story or a thought forces you to recognize that every stray thought that tumbles through your cranium is not gold. It's helping me build up what Hemingway so classically called "a shit detector."

Oh my God. Did I just reference Hemingway? Feel free to punch me in the face if I ever, ever, ever refer to Ernest Hemingway as "Papa."

There were varying degrees of success. My natural voice is one of dissent, snark, and critique, so forcing myself into this construct of gratitude was, at times, challenging. And when you divert your natural flow, I think it surfaces as awkward phrasing. And bad, bad editing. A younger me would have gone back and corrected every error. But the current me shrugs if I happen to miss it in the Preview. Lazy, lazy, current me.

On an emotional level, this past month has been really hard for me, as I knew it would be. So, I wanted to cleave to something more positive rather than spelunk spectacularly into flashbacks to my mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, unending days in the hospital, and the constant low-level of panic. The days when I was grateful for coffee and other completely inconsequential things? These were days when I missed my mother terribly.

And on a reflective level, I realize the common themes of gratitude splayed out in html are my husband, my children, my family, and my friends. As it should be, no?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gratitude #62: The Boy, Hooky, and Harry Potter

Today's gratitude is a triple threat, a hat trick, a trifecta!

First, and most importantly, the Boy's birthday is today. He's seven, and he's wonderful. We're well past the point of just trying to keep him well and clean. We're raising him, teaching him right from wrong, imbuing a sense of humor, providing a blue print for life. And the fruits of our labors are paying off. He's a delightful little person, kind, funny, considerate, and loving. Okay, he can also be stubborn and a litttle emotional. But, he's also, you know, SEVEN. So, we've got a little time to help him with that.

Second, Super Ninja and I played hooky together today. Partly to prep for the Boy's birthday, but mostly to just kind of relax together. And you know what we did?

WENT TO SEE HARRY POTTER 7.2! I found it awesome that our theater was peopled not with children, or even teenagers. Nope. All adults, like us, who were clearly cutting work as well.

Gratitude #61: Bastille Day

Fooled you! I'm not actually grateful for Bastille Day. I don't deny the French their right to celebrate the end of tyranny and all that jazz. It just happens also to be the day that my sister and her family move back from England! Woot! There's gotta be some kind of Anglo-Franco joke in there somewhere, but I'm way sleepy, so if you have one, send it my way.

(from Thursday, July 14)

Gratitude #60: Venting

This has been a stressful week at work. Lots to do, all equally important. Plate-spinning type stuff. So, I am glad that I have a ocupole of co-workers with whom I can vent without (a) sounding like I'm a whiny whine-bag, or (b) making them think like htey need to do anything about it.

(from Wednesday, July 13)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gratitude #59: Going through the Pantry

I fully recognize that I am scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Literally! Since we were away from home last week visiting Super Ninja's family in Ohio, we didn't have a chance to do the full-on grocery store shop that we normally do. Since I'm still crazy busy at work, all I had time to do was snag some staples--milk, bread, cranberry apple juice cocktail.

What? Your basic foodstuffs are different?

Here's the nutty thing, though: we had enough grub stockpiled that we got through the week without needing anything else. That was both awesome and scary at the same time. I'm not one of those, "Better have a store of food for when the revolution comes" kinds of people. I think I just buy stuff, forget I bought it, and then add more. Pretty soon, it's like farfalle is being fruitful and multiplying, and I have a half a dozen boxes of it.

(I am also not a hoarder, by the way.)

So, now I am resolved that I will only buy perishables until I whittle down my collection of frozen and dry goods, excellent sales be damned!

(from Tuesday, July 12)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pajama Story Time

Last night, I took my oldest two kids to the Pajama Story Time event at our local library. It started at 7:00 p.m., which was the big selling point for me. See, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. is the witching hour chez Vaughan. The kids are punchy, the Little Guy is usually sailing off to bedtime, and the whole span of time is usually filled with bickering and random blows. I thought the change of venue might help a little.

When we got there, I saw that the story time is intended for kids ages 2 through 5. Perfect for the Girl, not so much for the Boy. I just told him to pretend he was five, and was reminded of my father shaving a few years off of my age whenever we went to a buffet restaurant. Kids under thirteen always ate cheaper. No one ever looked askance at me. 'Tis a boon to be short sometimes.

The Girl was enthralled by story time, and I can see she is going to be SUCH a teacher's pet. Shouting out answers, doing exactly what the 'teacher' says, grinning from ear to ear when told she was correct. Oh lawd, she will love school. The Boy drifted away to the coloring sheets and crayons, which was fine by me. He could've read the selection of stories to the kids gathered together, so I could see that hearing them wasn't really interesting to him.

The whole story time took about 30 minutes. Since I'd expected to be out for about an hour, we decided to go into the library's play room, as did a bunch of the other story time kids. It comprises kiddie kitchen and food market furniture and paraphernalia. The Boy was 'running' the food market for a bit, and the toddlers would steal money from the cash register. He jokingly yelled, "I'm going to call the cops on you!" as they gleefully ran away. The Girl wanted to run the shop with the Boy, but he staunchly refused. Eventually, though, he got kind of bored with it and wandered off to play with something else, and the Girl took control of the shop.

The little ones sharing the room with us were, child by child, snapped up by caretakers to go home for beddy-bye. After most of them had gone, another child and mama entered the room to play. They were African-American. The little girl, about three years old, wandered over to the shop. The cash register drawer popped open, and she helped herself to some of the money.

I think you can see where this is going.

The Girl very happily, and very loudly, shouted, "Call the cops! Call the cops! Call the cops!" AND SHE WOULDN'T STOP. Not for my grumpy face/head shake, not for my death whisper, not for my (hopefully) subtle gesturing. But I couldn't make a HUGE deal out of it, because I knew she was thinking, "Hey! African-Americans steal!" I KNOW she was just playacting what the group had done before, but the newcomers certainly didn't know that. And if I tried to explain it to the newcomers, that would also make it a bigger deal.


Gratitude #58: Air Conditioning

Did I do this one already? No? Great! Baltimore is as swampy as... a swamp right now. DO YOU SEE HOW THE HEAT HAS MELTED MY BRAIN? I can't even come up with a good metaphor, a linguistic feat in which I typically traffic all the live-long day.

Anyway, the HVAC gave up the ghost at my office on Monday. Welcome back from your long weekend in Westlake, eh? I have a corner office, because I am feared and respected among my colleagues. Know what that becomes when you have no air conditioning? A terrarium.

(from Monday, July 11)

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Love the Dark, but I HATE Nature

I'm an indoors kind of gal. Always have been. Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed many an outdoorsy weekend with Second Best Friend and her husband, Hunter. Give me a campfire, some s'mores, and a dark sky speckled with an unfathomable number of stars, and I'm a happy girl.

But, I don't really seek outdoorsy activities. Sure, I'll take the kids on a nature walk. But given the choice between a board game and a hike, I'll take the board game.

And you know what? I don't think the outdoors like ME very much. This summer has provided stacks of evidence.

The first weekend in June, I went to my goddaughter's 10th birthday party. It was a pool party. I LOVE swimming. But there was not as much swimming as there was keeping my small children afloat. One particularly daring 18-month old required that I make a diving catch to keep him from cannonballing into the pool. Said diving catch resulted in me scraping the bejeesus out of my shin. And, once I climbed out of the pool, I apparently walked past a bowl of Ebola, because this tiny, centimeter-square scrape turned into a red, puffy, hot mass of annoyance within a day. It took TWO WEEKS to heal, and I STILL boast a stupid purple scar.

Two weeks later, same house, different daughter, another pool party. Another great time. And another random patch of allergic reaction to something. I'm thinking bug bite. But, seriously, I've never reacted like this to a bug bite before. I had a coffee-mug sized angry patch on my chest. So, maybe people weren't staring at my astounding cleavage for once. Perhaps they were just horrified by the monkey bite decorating my sternum.

Two weeks after that, I'm chilling in a park with my family, awaiting the fireworks spectacular that a suburb of Cleveland will deliver to me and mine. A couple of days later, something unpleasant and...bumpy...decorates my hip. Okay, if we're being COMPLETELY honest here, it decorates the crease where my belly, if it gets ANY BIGGER, will start to fold over. I am not in total FUPA territory yet. But I'm getting close to Scary Weight. So, at first I'm thinking that it's one more depressing sign of my absolute need to commit to the gym more regularly (like, maybe TWICE per week), and is just some kind of friction blister.

To confirm my suspicion, I do the absolute worst thing possible. You might think the worst thing is to ignore it, but no, good soldier! The worst thing is to Google your symptoms. Know what Dr. G. told me? That I had ovarian cancer. Or, second best, I had an STD. My third string diagnosis was that I have shingles.

Stupid Google.

But, all of this Doomsday diagnosis prompted a visit to the urgent care facility, and I am one hundred percent sure that the physician's assistant and doctor who tended me thought that I was some ridiculous housewife crafting terminal illness out of a bug bite.

Which, by the way, is what I was diagnosed with. The doctor assured me that they see this around this time of year, and that the bug bites so deeply that he* pushes bacteria from the surface of my skin into my bloodstream, causing an infection.

NONE of this made me feel any better, by the way. Oh, omnipresent bacteria all over my skin, you say? Delightful!

We are going to totally IGNORE that I felt no bug bite, and that this can't possibly be some eruption of a heretofore undiscovered unpleasantry.

I am now the proud owner of a three-day cycle of Augmentin. So, for those of you with kids, my infected bug bite is about one-third as bad as an average kid's ear infection. I am tough, eh?

*No female would do this to another one of it's kind. Had to be a jerk male.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gratitude #57: In-Car DVD Players

Cue the controversy! While we don't have one of those fancy-pants cars with the built-in DVD players, we DO own a set that we can strap onto the back of the center row seats for the Boy and the Girl to enjoy on long car rides. I think the novelty of being able to control which movies they watch from the PG collection provided to them is what matters most. The conversations they have while making a selection go something like this:

The Girl: Boy, let's pick something that we BOTH agree on.

The Boy: 'Wall-E'?

The Girl: No. How about 'Storyteller'?

The Boy: No.

The Girl: Ooh! How about 'The Electric Company'?

The Boy: (Thinks for a second.) Okay.

The Girl: (Claps.) Alright! Let's do it!

So, perhaps I am also grateful that our eldest two children appear to get along rather well. Also, I give you free and full permission to get all judgy about the fact that my children watch mostly my generation's kid entertainment. Also: please note that Pixar films are allowed in my home, despite my lukewarm feelings toward them.

(from Sunday July 10)

Gratitude #56: Two Uninterrupted Hours

I don't get that very often. I mean, come ON, I have three children under the age of seven. And a husband who can't remember where a pot is kept if it is out of sight (I'm not picking on him -- he will tell you this himself). So, two uninterrupted hours are few and far between. But I got 'em on Saturday night. Super Ninja and I were shooed away from the in-laws' homestead post-kiddo-bedtime to enjoy a little quality time with each other. I don't know what it says about us that 'quality time' means going to a bookstore and reading in companionable silence for two hours. Guess we're just too wild and crazy for comprehension!

(from Saturday, July 10)

Gratitude #55: Double Feature

Guess who got to see both Horrible Bosses (meh) and Midnight in Paris (woot!) in one night? This guy (waggles thumbs at self)!

Seriously, if I have to explain why this is awesome, I don't know how to talk to you.

Okay, that said, I do have one tip I would like to offer the cinema-going world: if you strut into a movie theater and there are people sitting in the neck-breaking rows situated at the front of the theater, chances are really, really excellent that there are no seats available in the stadium rows. Please don't brush past me hoping that the holy grail of late-comers (i.e., two seats in a row, dead center) is going to manifest.

(from Friday, July 9)

Gratitude #54: Free Rides to the Airport AND Southwest Airlines

Part the First: So, Best Friend very kindly took me out to dinner and drove me to the airport so that I could catch my flight back to Cleveland. Very nice not to have to stress about getting there, nor to have to pay $20 for an eight-minute ride from my house.

Part the Second: Like a complete ninny, I booked the wrong date for my flight. I know, I know, how does such a thing happen? Uh, DID YOU NOT SEE MY PREVIOUS POST? Too much going on lately, so, stupidity rears its knobby little head here and there. But! Southwest was dream; they rebooked my trip on the flight for Thursday as opposed to the Friday one I'd originally reserved. And they didn't charge me the $50 I was expecting to pay. Shweet.

(from Thursday, July 8)

Gratitude #53: A Co-Worker Who Is a Former Starbucks Barista

I don't know that I need to really explain this one. Suffice it to say my co-worker elected to share with me his iced coffee blend, and I would have fallen out of my chair with happiness if I wasn't certain he would have taken it completely the wrong way.

(from Wednesday, July 6)

Gratitude #52: Ignorance

The week before and after the 4th of July is the absolute busiest time of year for me at ye olde office. Our big annual software deployment deadline is July 1. Know what coincides with that? Our daycare provider chooses the 4th of July week to SHUT IT DOWN. Her prerogative, our contractual obligation to allow. So, how do these things happen together without me losing my mind? IN-LAWS!

So, yay for them! But I think I already blogged my gratitude to their participation in a week of childcare, supporting Super Ninja as he (mostly) single parents it. For I, my interweb friends, flew home for Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday of last week to triage any work difficulties. And do you know why I cite my gratitude for ignorance? 'Cause I had to shuffle through one of those circular x-ray booths at the security checkpoint. Didn't realize I had to hold my hands up like a police officer had gotten all shouty with me. All in all, no big, but I have intentionally not researched what can be seen on those machines.

Now, do I like the extra pat-down I receive because of the very necessary pound of steel that is used to reinforce my ridiculous bra? Nope. Frottage has never been my thing. But, at least it's less, uh, extensive since they've already seen I'm not packing anything else in my G-cup.

(from Tuesday, July 5)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Year

A year brings a truckload of differences. Oh, for Chrissakes.* How trite is that? Who doesn't know that? My six-year-old knows that. In one short year, he goes from 1st to 2nd grade. Big changes!

This past year brought big changes. Mostly suck-o ones. It was a year ago today that I spent the day in the hospital with my mother, learning that she had terminal cancer. Jump back in the archives, should you need to. I'm too tired to link.

I miss her every day. I cry many of those days. Not for my loss, though I feel that keenly. But for the suffering she had to go through, the indignity of it, the sadness that permeated her bones at having to leave all of us so soon.

I thought by pushing myself this week, by working 14-hour days, I could avoid feeling anything. Stupid, is what I am.

*I have a limited array of swear words. I LOVE listening to a accomplished swearer, don't get me wrong. But somehow, I can't let it fly myself. So I satisfy myself with these pseudo-swears, which are mostly of the blasphemous variety.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Gratitude #51: FREEDOM! (please read that in Mel Gibson's William Wallace voice)

I know that one of my gratitude rules was to focus on the small things. Mostly, that's because I don't know that I could articulate the really big things for which I am grateful. I said to a friend recently that trying to frame my love for my husband and what he means to me with something as flimsy as words was akin to squishing a whole pillow into a Dixie cup. It's just not gonna happen. Plus, come on, doesn't some tiny part of you get all snarked out when someone says things like, "I am grateful for the air I breathe."

No? Just me?

Any way, I'm grateful for my freedoms, every single last one of 'em. Freedom of speech, for example. I can post any inane thought to the interwebs, and it's OK! Only my embarassment will stop me. I may quibble with people's misunderstanding of freedom of speech*, but I am still grateful to have it. So, yeah, FREEDOM! Loves ya, America!

*Okay, here's my gripe. There are people out there who misconstrue "freedom to say whatever the hell I want without consequences" as "freedom of speech." Oh no no no, youngling. If you Twitter that I am a jerk, and I come back and say nuh-UH! You are a jerk! Well, I'm not actually taking away your freedom of speech. I'm reacting to it with my own. You had the freedom to say whatever, but so do I. Just 'cause you don't like it doesn't mean that your freedom's at stake.

(from Monday, July 4, 2011)

Gratitude #50: In-Laws Who Aren't Afraid of Babies

Some of us have in-laws (or parents, actually) who ARE afraid of little people. These are the ones who like to coo at babies, but who head for zee hills when a diaper needs to be changed.

Not my in-laws! They woke up with the Little Guy (and the more self-sufficient Boy and Girl) the day after we arrived despite having stayed up just as late as us. For those of you keeping track, that would've been about 1:00 a.m. We'd planned on getting up with our darlings, but the Little Guy is sleeping in a pack-and-play in their spacious master bathroom (not IN the tub or anything -- who do you think we are?), so they heard him first. Result? Super Ninja and I actually got a full eight hours sleep.

(from Sunday, July 3)

Gratitude #49: A Plan ACTUALLY Coming Together

My apologies to Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith. Super Ninja and I drove the kiddoes to Cleveland on Saturday night for a visit with the grandparents (I am back in town, which is a whole 'nother post). Our original plan was to wend our way north and west on Saturday morning, so that we could enjoy most of the day on the west side. Then the Boy got an invitiation to his second best friend's 7th birthday party, and, well, far be it from us to deny the Boy his social occasions. We stuck around 'til after the party (it was helpful that the Girl was also invited), then hit the road at about 6:00 p.m.

WHY haven't we done this before? Traffic was great, and outside of the minor monsoon that hit us about an hour outside of town, it was possibly the best road trip I've ever been on. "Best" meaning smoothest. There was also that 22-hour trek to New Orleans when I was in college...

(from Saturday, July 2)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Gratitude #48: Peer Love

My big deadline was yesterday, and my company's new site launched. We'll see how many bugs/glitches/insert-euphemism-for-a-problem-here roll in from end users in the next couple of days. BUT, this post is all about how my boss and my co-workers congratulated me and said that they thought the project was managed well and the process was smooth. I am compelled to enumerate reasons that their praise is not genuine, but I'm fighting that, and I'll just bask in it. Until the servers blow up.

(from Friday, July 1)

Gratitude #47: Extra Large Dunkin' Donuts Coffee

Deadline today = elevated need for caffeine. Yay for the Dunkin' Donuts within walking distance of my office. I was so happy that I bought bagels and donuts for the rest of the crew. Okay, perhaps I bought a dozen to disguise the fact that I really wanted four for myself. But if you buy only four, it is clear that you are the solo eater of said donuts. The other eight were just camouflage.

(from Thursday, June 30)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Gratitude #46: The Occasional, Self-Prescribed Late Night at Work

I know, I know, you think I've done lost my mind up in here. Who would be grateful for a late night at work? Some of us are just wired that way. Don't judge! Sometimes, a project, or a report, or a technical manual needs my uninterrupted focus. And my job is basically to GET interrupted with questions, clarifications, reviews, and (a little) hand-holding all day, every day. One cannot construct a grammatically correct sentence with all of that going on, let alone craft a simple way to guide people through importing data into an online interface.

The only reason I get to work these odd hours on occasion is because of Super Ninja. So, once again, the gratitude expressed here is actually a tip of the hat to him as well.

I'm sensing a pattern in a lot of these gratitudes, aren't you?

(from Wednesday, June 29)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gratitude #46: Constructive Criticism

Some people will cut you if you voice any criticism of them, their lives, their work, whatever. I am not one of those people. Maybe it's to do with confidence? Thing is, if you criticize something ridiculous, like saying I should tether my seven-year-old and four-year-old play to the wall when they are playing on the deck unsupervised, I will just smile and nod and pull a face when your back is turned. But if you have something of substance to offer, especially about my writing, I will eagerly listen and take it all in. I may not apply some of it, but I'm deeply appreciative either way.

So, yay for constructive criticism! And thank you to Playwright and to a friend of Super Ninja's for their recent efforts in this regard. They reviewed the thingamajig referenced here. After some rewrites, I'm submitting it for some fictiion contests. I'll let you know when the awards and the accolades start rolling in.

(From Tuesday, June 28)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gratitude #45: Finished Basement

Best friend came over for dinner tonight. We hid in the basement, away from my children, playing video games. Okay, fine, I puttered around tidying up the explosion of toys while she played video games. (Did I mention my children have some diifficulty with putting toys away? No? It's like they just drip PlaySkool figures wherever they go.) Still, though, it was nice to retreat from the fray.

(from Monday, June 27)

Gratitude #44: Hydrocortisone

I don't know what attacked me at my brother's house yesterday, but I have a welt the size of a silver dollar pancake on my left collarbone. I normally don't react badly reactions to bug bites, so I'm more fascinated than irritated. Whatever irritation I have is mitigated by hydrocortisone.

Know what you shouldn't do when you have an unidentified bug bite? Google, "reactions to bug bites." Yeesh. The first thing that came up was a picture of a tick buried up to its shoulders in some delicious flesh. I quickly clicked off of it.

Double yeesh. I didn't wince that much as I was giving birth sans epidural.

(from Sunday, June 26)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've been feeling off the past couple of days. Not like me. Glum. Ever feel like that? Like you know that you are not the version of you that you are accustomed to being, and not really being able to find your way out of that?

I'm pretty sure that this will dissipate in the next couple of weeks. See, we're slouching toward the anniversary of the start of the hardest year of my life, and the post-traumatic stress, it is rearing itself. Ugh. I shouldn't use terminology coined during Viet Nam to explain my flashbacks to this time last year, because it's not like I saw anyone's face get blown off in a rice paddy.

It was just about a year ago that Big Sister called to say that our mother was not well. The whole story is here. I don't know if I'll be feeling this... messy for the next six months, 'til we hit the anniversary of her death. I think it more likely that it will pass soon, and that maybe it's just that this particular couple of weeks is triggering it. The wild contrast of the benign sameness of this time of year -- big deadlines at work, visit to Cleveland for the 4th, birthday party planning of the Boy -- with the awful gaping absence of my mother is hurting my head.

It could also be that I'm feeling guilty that I don't have much of myself to give to anyone besides my husband and little ones. I bring this up because my other sister -- Special Sister -- needs some nurturing right now. I call her Special Sister because she is mentally challenged. Basically, she is an eight-year-old in an adult body. She's very sweet, incredibly thoughtful, somewhat devious, doesn't like chores, and needs attention. So, yeah, an eight-year-old.

I see Special Sister at least once a week, chat with her, try to give her a chance to open up a little. So, I do keep tabs on her, but it's not like I'm taking her to a social worker to determine what kinds of programs she has access to, I'm not signing her up for personal trainer appointments, I'm not getting her involved in classes. That'd be almost a full time job in and of itself.

Anyway, my parents have a wonderfully lovely next-door-neighbor who spends loads of time with Special Sister, taking her to church events, shopping, and things like that. This neighbor will send me and Big Sister e-mails every once in awhile when she is concerned for Special Sister. And I just... I can't right now. I'm not feeling up to it, which then makes me feel like I'm failing her. Clearly, I am a masochist.

You might wonder where my Dad is in this? Well, first, he's eighty. So, I kind of give him a pass, because, Christ, he's EIGHTY. Second, frankly, he's not really built for this kind of thing. He's not gruff, and is certainly affectionate. But oh my God, is he laissez-faire. And Special Sister needs structure, and lots of it. I already feel responsible for her, so to get an e-mail from the neighbor makes me think that other people feel like I am responsible for her too, which adds a layer of guilt to all of this.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gratitude #43: My Kids are Still Little

That title seems like such an obvious thing. I mean, they are seven, four, and one. Of COURSE my kids are little. Although I'm wondering how little they think they are. The seven-year-old and the four-year-old like to pretend that they are teenagers.

No, really, they play a game called, "Teenagers," and they dress in what they think are their most teenagerish clothing. For the Boy, this is usually his Tony Hawk jeans & plaid shirt, and his 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' cap. So close. For the Girl, it is often a jean skirt and a tank top. Hmmm... I have got to review the shows she watches if skimpy = teenager. Oh, wait. That's ALL OF THEM. All of the shows. Well, all of the shows featuring teenage girls. Where's 'Blossom' when you need it?

Anyway, even though they playact at being teenagers, they are still so innocent and gentle. And they mispronounce things, which I am hesitant to correct them, because calling a two-piece bathing suit a "bookini" makes me smile.

(from Saturday, June 25)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gratitude #42: Pixar

Right now I am enjoying a quiet evening at home, surrounded by laundry (whites) and Shiraz (red). This may not be a good combo, but we'll see how it goes.

Why the quiet evening? Because Super Ninja took the Boy and the Girl to see Cars 2. His circle of Dad friends coordinated a group movie date, but Little Guy is too young for the cinema*, so yours truly elected to sit this one out. Yay Pixar, for delivering consistently good, aesthetically pleasing films.

Now, here is where you all start to hate me.

The other reason I elected to sit this one out is because I don't love Pixar feature films. I think of them as solid B+ stuff. (And I know when I say solid B+, some people interpret that to mean that I think they suck, but I really don't.) Who am I, right? Answer: nobody. I'm not a movie critic, or a cinephile, or Harry Knowles. I've just seen the movies.

But I'm sticking to my guns on the grade. Oops. I'm referencing guns and kids' movies in the same sentence. Steven Spielberg would have something to say about that, I think.


Here's my rationale for the summa cum laude rating: I find them kind of dark. Toy Story 3: abandonment, group acceptance of death. UP: Miscarriage, infertility, and death of a spouse. Wall-E: loneliness, wasteland, and outrageously chubby people. Ratatouille: infidelity, illegitimate children. The Incredibles: crushed aspirations. Finding Nemo: murdered mother, broken, overprotective father.

You might argue that kids can handle it, that we don't have to dumb down a story. That good stories have to have some sad stuff, some dangerous stuff. I agree. But do we have to get to know Nemo's mother before she eats it (or rather, is eaten)? At least earlier Disney flicks had the decency to kill off princesses' parents before we're introduced.

Some of my friends complain that Dreamworks films work too hard to offer something for parents as well as kids. Where Dreamworks is wink wink, nudge nudge, though, Pixar goes in the opposite direction and offers doom and gloom for the adults in the audience. When I dish that out, those same friends argue that Pixar movies aren't just kids movies. They happen to be films that just happen to be animated. That is a load of bull. Toys 'R Us and their shelves stocked with Pixar merch tell me so.

*I guess technically he's not too young, but I am not a jerk, and choose not to subject other people to my toddler's restlessness.

Gratitude #41: Booze

Hello, my name is Mary, and I am not an alcoholic. But I really do enjoy a glass or two of red wine. According to Officer Friendly from D.A.R.E., I guess I'm an alkie because I drink more than 4 units of alcohol per week. Oh yes, that was the 1988 definition of an alcoholic.

Anyway, Shiraz is my drink of choice. How much of a yuppie D.I.K.* am I? I can't just say I like wine, or red wine. NO. I have to specify Shiraz. I will throw you some serious shade if you try to serve me some Cabernet. Jerk.

Not sure where I'm going with that, so I'll call this one done.

*Double Income, with Kids.

(from Thursday, June 23)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gratitude Explanation

Hello there, tens of readers! If you're new to the blog OR if you missed critical post back in May, I wanted to explain all of this gratitude I'm throwing out into the blogosphere. Basically, I'm making an effort to pinpoint things large and small for which I am grateful (not greatful, as an astounding number of people mistakenly write).

There are a couple of reasons I'm doing this. In no particular order:

1.) Many of my pals only post about things that anger or annoy them. I don't wanna be that guy, because those kinds of posts are depressing when they are sustained. Wow, that's insensitive, huh? "Quit yer complaining! You're bringing me down!"

That's not my intent, though. I'm pretty certain the sad posts are just digital venting, but it's really challenging to figure out how to engage when a friend posts at 1:00 a.m., "Birthday was nice. Time to go back to feeling like a piece of shit.," What am I supposed to do there? Comment "{{HUGS}}"? Powerlessness supreme.

Most of the time when I reach out to see how a friend's doing, they say, "Oh, yeah, I was just having a bad minute."

2.) The bad in life is perceived as more entertaining than the good. I want to see if I can make good seem interesting. Story is in conflict, but conflict doesn't have to mean that someone murdered a kitten in my yard, you know?

3) I am viscerally anti-sincerity. I want to work on that. I want to be able to give my husband one of those lovey-dovey cards on our anniversary WITHOUT joking that it was the only one the had left.

4) Life has dealt me some disgustingly harsh blows in the past year, and sometimes I struggle with them. I will punch people in the face if they try to point out the silver linings of those traumas. THERE ARE NONE. But that doesn't mean that I have to search through each current moment in time to find the speck of heartache in it. The unexamined life is not worth living, but jeez, your don't need to perform a rectal exam on it either.

5) I write for pleasure. And, apparently, tens of dollars in self-published royalties. So, yeah, mostly for pleasure. I haven't been writing, though. Newborn babies, moving, and my mother's terminal illness and subsequent death all in the span of about a year? Well, it siphoned out my desire to create anything. Seemed a little trite to write about other worlds when I was busy taking notes at my mother's oncologist appointments. I thought committing myself to write about something for which I'm grateful each day might get the writerly juices flowing enough that it would spill over into some of my other ideas.

So, there you are. I am not someone trying to create some kind of Hummelverse out of the world in which we live. If I were, I would use more! exclamation! points!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gratitude #40: Summer Camp

The Boy started summer camp today. Oh, how I love summer camp. It's a (mostly) outdoor camp, meaning that he's not sitting there watching movies and playing board games the whole time. Result? A tired boy who goes to bed happily and is asleep pretty much as soon as his head hits the pillow.

The thing that I really love about it, though, is that I know he is safe, happy, and engaged there because it's all about the active.

His end-of-year report card showed that he was consistently demonstrating all of the skills he should have learned through 1st grade, so he is a smarty pants. But the thing that caught my eye was the evaluation of effort: 1 for excellent, 2 for satisfactory, and 3 for needs work. My boy? Straight 2's for all of his academics. Which tells me that he thinks, "I GOT this," and doesn't need to work at it.

There were a couple of 1s on there, though, which is why I started down this completely tangential path. Guess where? GYM and Health Sciences. These are the two areas that actually involve runnng around for most of the class time.

Yeah, so, he's all signed up for soccer in the Fall.

(from Monday, June 20)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gratitude #39: Picking the Right Partner

Happy Father's Day!

This day is both about celebrating my own Daddio, and helping my children realize just how incredibly lucky they are to have my husband for their father. Occasional, ahem, spirited moments aside, they are clearly smitten with him.

Thus, it wasn't tough to get them to accompany me to pick out presents for their Dad. That's the first time we've done that -- shopped for him together -- because I really wanted them to pick out the gifts to him. Prior to this age, our excursion likely would have meant me picking out a golf shirt and convincing them that NO, they couldn't get four hundred action figures and a new pair of ballet shoes while we were specifically out shopping for DAD.

Some of my friends are avoiding this whole gift struggle thing by having the kids perform a parent-like chore on the day of honor so that their kids get a small taste of what the job of Mother and Father is all about. Totally valid. Totally powerful. But me? I like presents. So, off to the Dollar Store we went! Not that I'm saying that Super Ninja rates only Dollar Store gifts, but I envisioned a scenario in which one of the children would see a $4,000 flat-panel 3D HDTV and decide that was what Daddy really wanted. They would be spot-on correct, BUT, I do not have $4,000 to spend on a TV.

The Boy, ever practical, selected socks. As he put it, "That way, these don't have holes in them." The Girl chose a neon pink twirling baton that lights up, and glowstick batttle axe. As she explained, "That way if any robbers come in the night, Dad can fight them."

Stellar picks, kids.

Anyway, I couldn't have picked a better man to be the father of my kids. That's the hardest part when you decide you want couplehood and kids, and if you do that right, the rest is cake.

Gratitude #38: Friends, New and Old

One's silver and the other's gold, right? Saturday was chock full of milestone events for folks near and dear to me, and I couldn't make them all. I showed up for two of them, and that was only made possible by some very good, very dear friends.

The first event was a baby shower for a college roommate, and I carpooled with one of our other former roommates, gabbing* for many hours to and from. The second event was a wedding , and my travelling partner tag-teamed with Best Friend to watch my three babes while I slathered on some makeup and hopped into some heels. Super Ninja was in the wedding, so he hightailed it out of there before anyone could spill milk on his tux, leaving me to run down the bedtime to-do list with my pal. Why friends and not a babysitter, since we got the invitation two months ago and probably could have pinned that down earlier? We DID. I am the WORST procrastinator, but we actually called our usual sitter many moons ago, and she said she was free. And then SHE forgot.

So, I am not a ninny. What I am, though, is blessed with friends who say, "Hey, sure, I can watch the kids. I'll just leave a picnic thing early. No big deal." I am grateful for that, and I am grateful that I leave near all of these willing-to-be-Plan B kinda people.

*I'm sorry. I made a promise to myself never to use words popular with 1950's housewives, yet there it is. The exceptions to this rule were supposed to be awesome cocktail names. But I went and ruined all of that.

(from Saturday, June 18)

Gratitude #37: Last Day of School

Little known fact: the last day of school is almost as awesome for parents as it is for kids. Why? Well, time management is a bit of a hurdle for me. My biggest challenge throughout the school year is, by 8:15 a.m., getting the lunches packed, the homework reviewed, the hair and teeth brushed, both shoes FOUND and triple-knotted onto wiggling feet, and tidily debating the merits of a coat in twenty-eight degree weather.

Some of that can be done the night before. But I can't make my kids sleep in their shoes, now can I? Wait. I can?

Anyway, we toss all of that out the window during the summer, because (a) summer camp doesn't assign homework, and (b) they don't care if you are tardy for the awesomeness of camp.

(from Friday, June 17)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gratitude #36: Little Guy and I Have Our Own Thing

Little Guy is 17 months old(ish). He is full of dimples, sparkly eyes, teeth, and mischief. So, basically, he has met my criteria for Wonderful Child.

Also classifying him as a Wonderful Child? He also has wicked tantrums when he doesn't get his way (stay with me, here). Nine times out of ten, 'not getting his way' means that we have just taken his empty sippy cup away so we can fill it with more milk. He does NOT trust us that we will give it back. What's that about?

Here's why, even in a tantrum state, he is wonderful. He doesn't do that scary headbanging, flailing stuff. His is what I would call a "civil disobedience" style tantrum. He very gently, carefully, lies down, and cries. That's it.

Anyway! This post is about how he and I have a thing. Before they were verbal, I am convinced that our children thought (or, in Little Guy's case, think) of us as Milk Lady and Diaper Man. He has a few words in his vocabulary (ball, wow, uh-oh, Wiggle, this, Bob), but NONE of them is 'Mama' or 'Dada.' I know that he knows who we are. He runs to us when he's hurt, or when he needs something, and he squeals in delight when we walk through the door. Since he doesn't call us by different names, though, I'm not convinced that he really distinguishes between the two of us. We are there to serve him, people! He doesn't have time to be concerned with individualism.

Here's the thing, though: whenever I change his diaper, I play with his feet. There's a song my mother taught me that I sing to him that seems to catch his attention so that he doesn't try to wriggle away from me and smear poo all over his room. I usually finish by smooching his baby feet, and maybe (most likely) tickling him. Now, whenever I change his diaper or his clothes, he always shoots one foot up at me, prompting a smooch or a tickle. I just found that he doesn't do this to Super Ninja. So, look at that! We have a thing.

Gratitude #35: Getting to Spend Time with My Oldest, One-on-One

The Boy's elementary school holds a grade-level picnic every year. Last year, Super Ninja went, so we traded off this year. I want both of us to be on equally comfortable footing with his teachers, school leadership, and the parents of the other kids in the classroom. If only one of us consistently shows up to school events, that parent is seen as the captain, and the less-present parent is considered the first officer. I want them to see us as co-pilots*, but not in that creepy, we-attend-everything-together kind of way. In the, you-don't-have-to-talk-down-to-me-because-I-know-what's-going-on-in-the-classroom kind of way.

Also? The Boy loves both of us, and takes pride in our being there for him. I didn't have a lot of that as a kid. The being there of parents, I mean. Both of mine worked jobs where if they didn't show, they didn't earn, and if they didn't earn, I didn't get cereal. But I have the incredible luxury of blowing off work for two hours, sitting atop an Incredible Hulk blanket shaded by an elm , and watching my kid play a game of pick-up soccer with eight other little boys. I don't fault other parents who weren't able to be there, but I am very grateful that I can be.

At his age, a quarter of parenting is keeping them from doing Stupid Shit, like leaping from the deck to the yard below. Another quarter is giving them the instruction manual to life, such as, "You should say 'hello' back to someone who says 'hello' to you, because they think you didn't hear them otherwise." The other half? BEING THERE. Don't delude yourself that if you ask the other parent about how the day went, you are totally plugged into who your kid is. Doesn't work that way.

See, just like with your spouse, if you want to keep the relationship strong with your kids, you have to work at it. It doesn't just happen. And the best way to stitch yourselves to each other's lives is having shared experiences. If you're never there, you're not embedding yourselves in their lives.

Dude, I'm cutting this short(er). It got unexpectedly heavy. I really intended on this just being a "Hey! I had a PB & J sandwich outside with my kid and it was great!" post. Instead it because a manifesto on parenting.

*I don't know why I'm using airplane terminology. Everything I know about airplanes I learned from the Zucker brothers.

(from Wednesday, June 15)

Gratitude #34: Big Brothers

I'm not talking about an Orwellian dystopia. Nope, I mean actual big brothers. I've got three of 'em. They aren't your Hollywood-style big brothers who show up at the snap of a little sister's fingers to deliver a beat down to a grabby boy. Nah, mine are the kind that will talk at length about conspiracy theories, oil changes, and whether or not the Raven's head coach made a good decision with that last play. And they won't talk down to you 'cause you're a girl.

Despite the age differences (5, 10, and 11 years) between me and these men, they were all uber cool to me as a kid. They treat me well as an adult too, but the strength of our relationships now is based on the foundation laid back then. We never had one of those, "Man, maybe you're NOT an ass!" epiphanies as adults because we actually liked each other growing up.

What wasn't for me to like? They picked me up from school, played music for me, let me play with their precious and sophisticated Commodore 64, took me to carnivals, parties, all ages shows, movies and parties with them. They never made me feel disincluded, and they would hold me accountable if I did something annoying like use their hair conditioner or TOTALLY shred the top flap of a box of cereal instead of asking for help opening it. I look back now and marvel at the generosity and interest they showed in me. Think about it: when I was learning to tie my shoes, Glasses was playing basketball (and maybe a little Dungeons and Dragons), Mechanic was stripping down minibikes and putting them back together, and Handy Man was officially driving and thisclose to the legal drinking age.

June 14 is Mechanic's birthday, which is why I thought of this, but it didn't seem fair to leave the others out. Especially since I've always rather liked being one of the youngest in the family.

(from Tuesday, June 14)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gratitude #33: Thinning Traffic Patterns

As the school year winds down 'round these parts, so does the traffic. It is glorious. Now that the minivan brigade no longer wends its way around the beltway, dropping off their precious cargo at outrageously expensive private schools, I can get to work 10 minutes faster, which means leaving 10 minutes sooner.

It doesn't sound like much, but those 10 minutes, man, they are the difference between children who are happily munching on dinner and children who morph into angry puddles of ravenous tantrum.

Lest you get the wrong idea, we are not intentionally starving them. It just takes longer to put their dinner together if you are trying to do that AND keep them from braining themselves. Little Guy has taken to clambering upon furniture, Spidey-style. Seriously, we found him in the middle of the kitchen table last week. And he's mimicking jumping now, and while he's currently not actually getting any air, I'm sweating when he's finally puts two-and-two together and thinks, "Hey, wait! I can climb up THERE, and jump back down HERE!"

So, anyway, I am grateful for the decrease in time spent commuting.

(from Monday, June 13)

Gratitude #32: Husband Who Believes in Time with Kids Parity

Super Ninja had a bachelor party to attend this weekend. Thank God, we have moved past the age when a bachelor party was actually a bachelor weekend (or week) in a remote city, and involved a lot of booze and vanilla-scented, glittery boobs. I KNOW WHAT GOES ON.

Anyway, while this bachelor party was NOT a three-day drunk fest in Vegas, it was still a good eight-hour event. During that time, I solo-parented. No big deal, right? Just eight hours? To that I say: HA! Once you have kids, the math goes like this:

# Kids X # of Hours Alone = # of Hours It Feels Like You Are Alone

So, I was BASICALLY alone with the kids for a whole day. That gets exhausting, yo. So Super Ninja invited me to leave the house and go be by myself somewhere for five hours. AND I TOOK IT. I know, I know, my last post was about how I can feel guilty escaping to the gym for an hour. But I'd paid it forward, so there was no guilt attached to this.

I will say this: it always takes me the first hour to get over the fact that I won't be interrupted often. I swear, when I'm with the kids, I only have a time horizon of five minutes. If I can't plan to get something done within that five minutes, it's a task best left 'til later, because otherwise it will either get completely derailed and end up costing me MORE time to correct, or whatever I'm trying to do will get completely wrecked with sticky hand prints. So, better just to be engaged with the kids while they are up and active and wriggling all over me like delicious little puppies.

(from Sunday, June 12)

Gratitude #31: Drop-In Childcare at the Gym

When I drag my twenty-five-pounds-overweight self to the gym (okay, maybe it's just twenty, 'cause hair and boob weight surely doesn't count, right?), I feel a little guilty because I'm leaving Super Ninja with three kids to tend.

How messed up is that? Going to the gym makes me feel guilty because it costs someone else some time, some personal space, whatever. I know that I should be looking at it as something I'm doing for them as much as me. If I'm healthier, my kids are less likely to have to worry about me when I'm older. I could outline additional examples, but I'm already boring myself, so I won't.

Also, you don't have to call the Oprah police on me to convince me that doing good things for myself is not something about which I should truly feel guilty.

BUT! All of this sturm und drang is made moot by the fact that our gym has drop-in childcare for toilet-trained kids (I don't blame them for making the distinction -- people would fling their babies in astounding numbers at the teen aged girls who run the drop-in center). And the hours are good for my schedule. So many things for kids -- story hours, drop-in childcare, pre-schools, Mommy & Me classes, etc., are geared toward schedules that are convenient only to stay-at-home-mothers, which, obviously, is not me.

After discovering this whole drop-in situation, I can at least take the Boy and the Girl, and Super Ninja just needs to chill with the Little Guy. WIN!

(from Saturday, June 11)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gratitude #30: Friday, Friday

Oh yes, I linked to Rebecca Black's 'Friday, Friday.' I am only, what, two months late to that party? A tastemaker, I am not. Mostly, I prefer to stand in the corner and pretend to be above it all, which makes a most excellent cover for not really knowing what the hell is trendy these days.

Anyway, I loves me a Friday. I think it's something to do with the whole weekend unfolding before me, rife with potential for relaxation and productivity. It's also the eve of my sleep-in morning, which I've mentioned before in this series. So, Friday represents a day when I can just RELAX, already.

(from Friday, June 10)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gratitude #29: My Nook Color!

Holy frijoles! I cannot BELIEVE it took me this long to express my gratitude for my Nook Color*! Is it cheesy to be grateful for a gadget? Like, doesn't a tiny part of you want to vomit when you hear someone waxing poetic about AppleTV? No? Just me?

Anyway, I really, really like my Nook Color. Between the Kindle and the Nook Color, I can say that the Nook Color wins. I actually have a basis for comparison since I was able to test drive an old skool Kindle last summer and fall. How did I score that sweetness, you ask?

I work for an educational nonprofit, and my department shelled out for one to get a sense of how well they'd jibe with our educational materials. In my estimation, not very well. Kids are primarily tactile learners, and things like highlighting, crossing out, and underlining, are vital to a kid's ability to consume a text. E-readers provide that digitally, but the sense experience isn't there, which is critical for the text to make an impression.

Or, I am just a fogey about all this.

Anyway, for fiction? E-readers = MCV reading sooooooooo much more than I did before. Maybe I'm lazy, but getting myself to the library or the bookstore just doesn't happen as much as I might want. And then you're limited to whatever's on the shelves. WHAT? No opportunity for instant gratification? Nuts to that!

So even though I have thanked them in person, let me reiterate to my brother-in-law (Writer) and my sister-in-law (Playwright) that I'm grateful daily for this Christmas gift.

Gratitude #28: New Recipes that Turn Out Well

Cooking food is really soothing for me. I know, some of you pop that vein in your forehead just THINKING about two burners going at the same time. I am married to one of you. Super Ninja once set an oven aflame with a tater tot. I don't know how tater tots could possibly be so stressful that you rush the process and drop one on the glowing orange element of an electric oven. And so, much of the family cooking defaults to me. I'm happy with that assignment.

(Did I ever tell you that I have a theory that most married couples divide chores by who hates it least? There are a few that each of us really enjoys -- me, cooking, Super Ninja, clearing the DVR list -- but things like cleaning the bathroom are accomplished through dares, bribes, or whomever is there when it hits critical grossness.)

Anyway, I'm a confident cook. Sometimes, when the fridge contents do not call typical pairings to mind, I get all creative up in here. The meal that inspired this post? Sweet Italian sausage, fried in olive oil with a thinly sliced onion, cherry tomatoes and spinach added in 'til wilty, then mixed up with al dente penne, and sprinkled with feta.

The end result of the experiment was three very full adults (Best Friend came over for dinner), and three children with noses wrinkled, nay, TURNED UP at the concoction. Stick with your chicken nuggets, kids. We didn't want to share anyway.

(from Wednesday, June 8)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gratitude #27: Team Work

Admittedly, a part of me wants you to shoot me now for admitting that I am grateful for team work.

In high school, I was allergic to group work. It made me irritable and sweaty. Why? Well, in my schools, group work boiled down to misapplied cooperative learning techniques, the end result of which was that MARY DID EVERYTHING. (Yes, the M in MCV stands for Mary. Good for you for picking up on that.)

Also? I was so panicky about getting a good grade that I would volunteer to do the heavy lifting. I didn't trust the others in my group enough to believe they'd be able to knock it out equally well. Lest you think I'm a total egomaniac, my faith in my own academic abilities was not unfounded. I was valedictorian.

But now, I find myself needing to rely on the expertise of others. And it ain't easy. Yet there it is. We all get hired for the different skill sets we bring to the table. No one person has it all. Awesome as I may be, I don't know how to program in SQL. It's like those role-playing games -- the whole point is that you need a group to get through the challenges. Can't do it solo. And that would be creepy, yeah? One player traipsing through adventures of a dungeon master's making, likely dying off because the first enemy dishes out some pain that another type of character could have deflect.

Sweet baby jeebus, I think I'm going to have to punch Super Ninja in the shoulder for infecting my go-to list of analogous experiences with Dungeons and Dragons. Yeesh.

(from Tuesday, June 7)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gratitude #26: Modern Printers

This is probably the silliest of all of my gratitudes thus far, but I just printed 1,600 pages of materials to distribute at a conference tomorrow, and it only took me 45 minutes, with nary a paper jam or indecipherable error code.

Love it.

I go waaaaaaaay back with printers. All the way to the daisy wheels. Things started getting a little more sophisticated when I hit college, and my roommates had bubble jet printers, and my work-study job had a laser jet. Only problem with the laser jet was the 'PC Load Letter' error. I mean, seriously. Does anyone even know what that means?

And now, the glorious networkable laser workhorse printer, that allows me to procrastinate 'til the day before a conference before printing out my training materials. Huzzah!

Gratitude #25: A Husband Who Takes an Interest in My Work

By 'work', I don't mean my profession. I mean my avocation. Which is writing. Or nattering, I guess, depending on how you feel about my wordsmithing. But Super Ninja always happily reads whatever pages I dump on him, and offers critique. Not namby pamby art school critique where you are REQUIRED to say one good thing and one bad thing. He offers honest, legit points that are not just personal preference. Sometimes they are, and he acknowledges that, but that's what's so clutch: he knows when he would have gone a different way, but that doesn't make it a BETTER way.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Gratitude #24: My Children Weren't the Worst-Behaved Kids in Church

I'm not saying they were angels. I'm not even saying they were nephilim. They just weren't the worst. Sometimes, as a parent, that's the bar you shoot for: not the worst.

So, I am grateful for that one little kid in the cry room who, while not crying, just kept yelling, "MAH! MAH! MAH!" during the homily.

Gratitude #23: Cool Down

Earlier, I mentioned what a swamptastic time we've been having here in Baltimore. On Saturday, it FINALLY broke. No more 95 degree temperatures with 95% humidty. I mean, what the hell is 95% humidity? Isn't that just rain that can't commit?

ANYWAY, it finally cooled off so I didn't break into a sweat when doing non-taxing things. Like walking outside. Glorious!

Gratitude #22: Friends with Skillz

Our air conditioning was scary leaking. I have a policy against messing around problems involving water AND electricity, so I didn't go poking around with a screwdriver in our moist, poorly lit HVAC closet.

Enter Bryan!

He is my friend's husband, and he knows these joints inside and out. They came over last week with their kids. While the little ones ran 'round the house, he grabbed his bundle of equipment (which, sidebar, totally made him look like a Ghostbuster), and headed down to the Den of Damp to check it out. The problem was minor, and he showed me how to prevent it from happening again. Bonus!

All it cost me was a dinner. Who wouldn't be grateful for that?

Gratitude #21: Finishing Something

My writing has gone to pot over the past two years. I've always had something in the hopper that I've been messing around with. You'll recall my most recent endeavour. That was something I worked on, off and on, for something like seven years. Yeesh. I had to go back and count that up, but it's true.

I started it somewhere in 2002, and then fiddled like a loon for YEARS. To be fair to myself, I did buy two houses, have three children, and change jobs thrice in that time. So, yes, delay. And I queried publishers, got some bites, but ultimately nothing came from it. Result? Self-publishing. I have actually been selling some copies. Nothing that will make the New York Times or anything, but I MAY be able to buy a fancy dinner for my family.

There have been other things I've played with, but nothing I'd call finished. 'Til now. I was kicking an idea around, something I knew that would not be meaty enough for a novel or anything. But that was okay. I was just shooting for a short story. At the end of March, I had a day off, so I got started. And I ended up with sixty pages. Some short story. But I'm whittling away, shaving it down to a reasonable short story size.

Just feels good to (mostly) finish something.

Gratitude #20: Chick-fil-A Kids & Family Night

I SWEAR, this is not a paid advertisement. I mean, SURE, I get tens of readers, most of whom are on my Christmas card list, so it would make sense that a corporation like Chick-fil-A would try and pay for space on my blog. But that's not what this is.

Our local Chick-fil-A hosts a kids and family night on Wednesdays, and I love it. LOVE IT. If an adult buys a meal, you get a kids meal for free. Shweet. All five of us can eat there for less than $20. But that's not the best part. The thing the kids love is the indoor playground. There's apparatus that's appropriate for all three of my kids (okay, fine, the Little Guy likes to try to climb UP the sliding tube and doesn't understand why he keeps failing). When we leave, they are full, and tuckered out, though slightly sweaty.

For those of you who want to beat me down for taking my children to a fast food joint, I foist healthier choices on them. They get the chicken nuggets, milk, and fresh fruit combo. Here's the nutrition info. BLAM. Not awful. Not organic muesli with a side of flax, but not awful.

Gratitude #19: Meeting-Free Work Days

As a project manager, my days are rife with meetings. I like people, but man, I usually leave meetings with more things to do than I came in with. So, meetings don't resolve any issues for me. They just bubble them up like evil and yon Weird Sisters from that Scottish play. So days sans meetings? Glorious.

Gratitude #18: Holidays

When I was in college, holidays were a big HA HA. That was when the papers got written, the research got done, or the body decided to fall apart because it knew you had a spare day or two (hello, sophomore year Thanksgiving!). As a young adult, I usually used the time to catch up on work projects. I've mentioned before that I am a nerd, yes?

But now? Now I have FINALLY realized that the Work Will Never All Be Done. There will always be laundry. There will always be e-mails to which I have not responded. There will always, always, always be a floor that needs sweeping. And since that work will always be there, then it doesn't really have to get done on a national holiday. That time is to be spent lolling about on the deck, playing with Lego, and braiding hair.

Gratitude #17: Relatives with Pools

Memorial Day weekend was HOT in Baltimore. Like, rude hot. Punch you in the face hot. Iron your clothes WHILE YOU ARE STILL WEARING THEM hot. And it is on days like this that I am grateful for relatives with pools.

See, we could pay a bajillion dollars for a pool membership. But, as we are hard up for a bajillion dollars, we need to depend on the kindness of relatives so blessed. Plus, seriously. With a one-year-old, four-year-old, and six-year-old, it is an absolute crap shoot as to whether all three of them will be down with the idea of swimming. Usually, we get two out of three. If we are going to pay for the pleasure of swimming, we actually want to get our money's worth. And I'm pretty sure it would be seen as unreasonable to chuck your kids in a pool simply to recoup the entrance fee.

As of this post, I have three local relatives who have pools, and they are all wildly generous and willing to share. How great is that?

If you're keeping track, this post shoulda been posted on Sunday, May 29th.

Gratitude #16: Living Near the Uncrowded Movie Theater

Editor's Note: I am WAY behind in my gratitude. Not that I'm not feelin' it. Just to busy livin', I guess. OR, I have been immersed in other projects. Like relaxing in the tub. Jealous?


Last Saturday I took my kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2. It was all right. Solid B. But you know what was AWESOME? It took us eight minutes to get to the theater from our house, we parked within a minute, and managed to buy tickets, snacks, and find seats within another five. For those of you who stink at math, that's fourteen minutes from the time we left our driveway to sitting in the theater, munching on popcorn.

How does this miracle come to pass?

It's because I avoid the popular movie theater. You know the one I mean. The one that's situated near a mall and a bevy of chain eateries like P.F. Chang's and the Cheesecake Factory. The one where teenagers loiter and spill over into kiddie movies because their Furious Face Smash with Inexplicably Oiled Bodies sold out.

I am a PROUD codger.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gratitude #15: Having a Social Network

Glugh. That sounds so... Facebooky. But that's not what I mean by social network. I mean an actual, honest-to-God real-life group of friends and relatives. Sometimes the day-to-day of family life can feel a little... Isolating. There are lots of things that we can't spontaneously do because we have to worry about weather or not naps have been had, if baths will need to be given, if there is space (and time) to just run around when some chubby little legs get restless. It is, I imagine, what owning an electric car would be like. You can do things, but there will be some planning, insistence that the event is within a reasonable radius of your home, and confirmation that you can get what you need at your destination, should you run out of packed supplies.

Did I just compare managing children to owning a Leaf? Guess so.

ANYWAY, the whole point of this, is that we received four different invitations in the past couple of weeks. ALL FOR THE SAME DAY. Baby shower, wedding, and two graduation parties. The graduates will get short-changed because we are already obligated to go to the baby shower (my college roommate) and the wedding (Super Ninja's in the wedding party). But it's nice to feel wanted. (OK, fine, I'm willing to admit that my 18-year-old second cousins are just in it for the graduation gift, but still....)

(from Saturday)