Wednesday, October 31, 2012


That's how I would describe my little family's experience with Hurricane Sandy.  There was much rain, howling wind, and the odd power flicker.  No leaks, no floods, no fried sump pump, no tree limbs crashing through our roof.

I'm not really broadcasting this, though, because others lost so much.  We were very lucky.  Yeah, we planned.  We had a gassed up generator, frozen blocks of Tupperware stuffed into the freezer should we lose power, meals we could slap together without delving into the fridge, and an extra gallon of milk.  I even rented a couple of movies on my iPad to keep the kids entertained.  This is the modern equivalent of being prepared for a disaster, right?  Mobile, battery-powered entertainment?

If we had done nothing to prepare, we still would've come out fine.  So, yeah.  Luck.

Mostly, Hurricane Sandy weekend was spent building forts in the living room, using the flameless candles as a 'campfire,' and otherwise hanging out and playing games.  I caught up on some picture uploading and paperwork.  Oh, and I baked three loaves of pumpkin bread because my husband carved gigantic pumpkins and I refuse to let edible goods go to waste.  Our greatest hardship during the past four days was a pouty lip from our eldest child when he realized that he would never see the six seconds of 'WWE RAW' that the DVR missed because of a brief cable outage.

These are not the events of which great tales are told, so I'll zip it up here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Big Brotherly Advice

My daughter, who is a pint-size hurricane of a kindergartner, had not purchased lunch at school prior to last week.  It has been a steady rotation of Uncrustables (whole wheat, reduced sugar versions, natch), yogurts, thermos experiments, and Very Interesting Pantry Goodies.

Finally, FINALLY, she consented to try buying lunch.  Since I had recently flooded their accounts (schools have figured out a way to avoid kids handling cash), I was primed and ready for a packing-lunch break.  The menu indicated some appealing options on D-Day:  chicken nuggets and pizza.  Also known as manna to the under-12 crowd.

The morning of the big buying-lunch day, I deposited my computer bag and lunch in my car, and came back to overhear this nugget of wisdom from my oldest:

"[Girl]," said the Boy, "when you are in line, be sure to tell the lunch lady what you want. Don't just look at her. She can't read your mind."

I almost collapsed, taffy-like, convulsing in laughter. How many times do you think my 8-year-old has waited in line, just STARING at the stalwart cafeteria workers until they prodded him to tell them what he wanted? And the fact that he offers this advice to my daughter, who is mostly a mouth with some blond hair attached, makes it all the richer.

She chose pizza and yogurt that day. She reportedly had no problem requesting these choices from the cafeteria workers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shouty Shout Shout

I was trading e-mails with a friend and referenced yelling at my kids, and he was relieved to hear that my husband and I do, in fact, yell at our kids.  Of course we do.  You can be the most grounded, laid back, hakuna matata person on the planet and absolutely LOSE it when:

You run down a hallway, clad only in a towel, dripping from hastily concluded shower, to find out why your five-year-old is screaming in her bedroom as though a troll has crawled through the window and is about to attack her.  And the answer is, "Because my legs are tired and I need you to carry me downstairs."

Huh? You...  Wha?

Actually, what I shouted was, "That is the MOST ridiculous thing I have ever heard!  You ONLY scream like that if you are hurt or you are in danger!"  And then I clenched my jaw so tight that all of my molars shattered.

So, yeah, I yell.  More often than I'd like, less often than my parents did.

The point is, my kids are young and haven't totally grasped the ins-and-outs of socially acceptable behavior.  I'm still learning that, though my learning curve is admittedly less Everest-y than theirs.  They're getting there, I see progress, but I also understand that they do not possess a thousand other experiences that allow them to deduct, "I am probably going to get into some trouble if I give my mother a heart attack by breaking the sound barrier with my banshee-like screaming over some fatigued limbs."

Instead, they just go for it, and learn the hard way.

At 8 and 5*, my kids can exhibit jagged, socially immature edges.  Especially when they are tired, or under the weather.  I know this, and grant them some quarter, trying my best to supply them with some calm instruction on a better way to get what they're after, or explain to them why they can't have what they want.

BUT, I can stand being poked by those jagged edges only so many times before I lose my mind and forcibly stuff my child into long pants in forty-degree weather.

*I'm not including my two-year-old in these observations.  I don't expect him to say to himself, "Bah, this tantrum is useless, USELESS!  Diplomacy is the tool of the day to get the rest of the goldfish crackers!"

Monday, October 15, 2012


When I was in college, about half of my friends smoked. I envied them this habit.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't want to smoke. Yuck. I never even flirted with puffing. And I flirted with the guys who came to theater parties despite having been graduated. Or oddly mustachioed.  So, hello bar?  You are low.

Thing is, my mother's hacking cough was anything but a siren song. Also? I spent my childhood swimming around in the blue haze of Mom's secondhand smoke. Last night's ash settling in your Lucky Charms when you flump into an easy chair for Saturday morning cartoons is a big, big turnoff

But! In college? The culture that surrounded smoking was utterly intoxicating to a suburban rube like me. Rewind your minds a little, here.  I'm not talking about the modern-day lone forty-something huddling twenty yards from an entrance, like the building has taken out a restraining order against her.

No, I'm talking about nascent, attractive pseudo-adults, leaning together in a darkened corner.  The gentlemanly provision of a light, an invitation to break from a tense situation.  It seemed especially romantic when the smoker whipped out a pack of Gauloises, or cloves.

God, the scent of a clove cigarette can actually transport me to 1993. So, eff you Marty McFly. I don't need a flux capacitor or 1.21 gigawatts.  Nope.  All I need is Djarum to jump back twenty years.

Anyway, I didn't have a parallel addiction that allowed me to pause from the hustle and bustle, or the opportunity to exhibit some Old School Manners. All I really had was my Dr. Pepper addiction.  And how was I going to cool-ify that?  Carry it around in a flask?  That's just gross. And purposeless.  It would totally go flat.  And that just seemed like a metaphor I didn't want to invite.  "Hey, handsome. Care to share my Dr. Pepper? It may have gotten a little stale in this here demijohn."

So, from the other side of the door, I envied the casual conversation, the flame-lit porch, the opportunity to break from busy-ness for two minutes.

But, in retrospect? I don't so much envy the black lung. Though I hope like hell it didn't cause any of my compatriots any sneaky, surreptitious, lasting effects.

Everyone should know that it PAINED me to link to a Wikipedia article on Marty McFly and, tangentially, "Back to the Future." But, investigation around the office revealed it was necessary.  Seriously, it's like being born after 1980 means that you are scrubbed of appreciation of Robert Zemeckis' ouevre.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Stretch Marks

The title is not some coy allusion to changing so quickly that stretchy parts of you can't keep up. Though, I am going to make a mental note that might be a cool metaphor to explore.  Anyway, this here post?  It's about actual stretch marks.

Days after I announced I was pregnant with my first child, my mother pressed a bottle of cocoa butter lotion into my hands.  Generic, natch.  (I don't have to look far to discover from whom I inherited my legendary frugality.)

"Use this," she said. "It saved me from stretch marks."

My mother bore seven children. Seven.  Escaping a total of five and half years of pregnancy sans stretch marks is pretty compelling testimony.  Also, I was raised to do what my mother told me.

Here's the thing:  with all of my pregnancies, I didn't really pop until about month six. Actually, pop isn't quite the right word.  Exploded?  Yes, I exploded.  Maybe-she-ate-a-big-meal belly turned into she-could-be-a-sumo-wrestler-in-training belly.

Yowza. My skin winces just thinking about it.

Throughout it all, I'd dutifully slather my skin in cocoa butter, look in the mirror and think, "Wow, Mom was right! I don't see any stretch marks!"

Then, my son was born, and my belly deflated. Turns out, I'd earned my stripes after all. Dozens of them, in fact. Angry, purple lightning bolts sizzled up from my pelvis and toward my naval. Here I was, convinced I'd skate through pregnancy with a perfectly unscathed mid-section.  Nope.  I was just blind to them since they were on the lower half of my belly. Sneaky, sneaky stretch marks.

Post-pregnancies (and let's be perfectly frank:  pre-pregnancies as well), I carried enough extra weight that my belly still puffed out, hiding most of the rumply welts from my view. Now though?  I'm rounding the corner on having lost forty pounds. The extra weight that padded my midsection is gone.  Left behind is puckered, loose skin, riddled with whispery white lines.

If I were a contemplative sort, I might try to make a philosophical connection between stretch marks and motherhood.  I might admire the changing landscape of my maturing shape. Instead?  Instead I'm mostly glad that I did not seek a career as a stripper or a belly dancer, 'cause boy, this would be a handicap.