Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day One--Good Travelers

I hate having to eat my words.

We have absolutely had the BEST day. Seriously.

In 2001, I wrote a column about taking the family on the road to the very same destination to which we are traveling now. In it, I detailed our packing list.

Wow, a lot of things have changed since 2001. The kids packed for themselves. They were able to articulate when they had to go to the bathroom or got hungry. We had interesting conversations with them and spent a lot of time laughing. The weather was good and we made excellent time. Some really funny things happened, about which I will write more tomorrow. AND, I discovered I can knit in the car and not get carsick. It was just a really good day.

I do know that this probably dooms us to a travel day tomorrow that will defy description in its horribleness, but right now, I'm really proud of my good little travelers. In my family, that's the highest compliment you can pay someone.

Friday, June 29, 2007

In which I prove that yes, I HAVE lost my mind

Have you all seen this? It's a chance for you to make $50 AND add to your pile o'evidence that I should, yes, indeedy, be committed to a mental institution and stripped of the $1.25 I have in assets. Click here.

Actually, I'm not as embarrassed as I could be because that picture is more than ten years old. I look like an entirely different sort of cow now --more of a Hereford. Especially THIS one --right now I have exactly that expression on my face at any given time. I'm not wearing earrings, though. (See Number 26.) And also, I would not be a Hereford bull.

Further evidence of my insanity: we are taking our girls on an across-state road trip WITHOUT A DVD PLAYER. We're going to Alabama to visit my father-in-law and we decided, completely sober at the time, that it was a rite of passage to go on a family road trip. Oh, yes, it's a GREAT idea to load our two girls into the car and schlep them and their six million Polly Pocket pieces on a fifteen-hour car trip. Fun, fun! Family Bonding, you betcha. We leave in the morning.

The no-DVD player was my idea because we are always trying to limit the kids' exposure to passive entertainment so that about the time when my brain is leaking out of my head but before I swallow my tongue, I have a go-to plan for distraction. That sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Luckily, if I start to foam at the mouth, we can just buy a DVD player at some Wal-Mart we're passing. (I know this is akin to me saying, "I'll just have the epidural if the pain gets too bad" but I have to try.)

Ana, 9, is exhibiting some anxiety about the trip. Last night, when I made my way up to bed, there was a note on my pillow. It said:

Mom --I'm scared to go to Alabama. Love, Ana

So, I wrote back:
Why? What is scary about it to you? love, Mom

And she wrote back:
It's long and new laws and I've never been there.

It gave me pause. I mean, was she planning on running moonshine or something? But then I remembered that this was my Ana, who likes to know the rules. Who found that the scariest parts of the Harry Potter books were not the three-headed-dogs or Voldemort, but were the parts where Harry is out of bed at night and in danger of getting caught. He was breaking the rules! Quick, turn the page!

Now, if it had been little Hurricane Jane (6), we would have had to search her luggage to find out what controlled substance she was trying to take across state lines. Actually, now that I think about it, I better search her luggage anyway.

I'll write from the road. Unless, of course, I throw myself under the wheels of an 18-wheeler can't find an Internet connection.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Internet is a Pit of Depravity

I have to talk about a lee-tle something that's been going on in the Blogosphere. Not that I know that much about the Blogosphere but even I, who spend most of the day trying to figure out why I walked into the room I walked into, have not been able to escape the hubbub over a tiny toy duck.

But wait, since I'm going to talk about something a tiny bit disagreeable, let me borrow a page out of the Yarn Harlot's book and show you something pretty first.

Look at the detail!

Aren't they beautiful? I finished them today while I was sitting for TWO AND A HALF FREAKING HOURS waiting for the brain trust at Wal-Mart to put tires on my van. Finished those and cast on two more pair. But this is not about THAT.

This is about this woman, Kristin, who inadvertently stole a toy duck from the Gap while shopping with her newborn and her toddler. The duck ended up in her stroller and she discovered it when she put the kids in the car. She took it home with her.

Now, you know me. I believe that there is altogether too much judging going on between mothers and that we would all do better to cut each other some slack and band together for the things all mothers want: quality education and health care for our kids, for example. But I just have to say something.

First, look at this: it's the label from that gorgeous hand-painted yarn I used on those socks.

It was the prettiest yarn I've ever used and it made it totally possible to sit in the waiting room at Wal-Mart for TWO AND A HALF HOURS, accompanied by a television with horrible reception that was tuned to some soap opera. Feast your eyes on that and then, well, look at this: isn't that lovely?

Go pour one for yourself. It's okay, I'll wait.

So, anyway, she took the toy duck home and then she wrote about it and suddenly, one of those strange Internet things happened and readers started doing the equivalent of the mob standing below the suicidal jumper and yelling, "Keep it! Who cares? Keep it!"

But a few people said, "Well, um, if you keep it, doesn't that mean you're, well, you know, STEALING? I mean, I'm just saying..." and then some other people said, "Listen, you are going straight to hell and I am not because I would never do anything like this. I don't even ever exceed the speed limit (editor's note: yeah, right --oh, sorry. Trying not to judge here.) and PLUS, I'm a better Christian than you are."

Here. Look at the cute kitty and calm down.

But THEN, see, everyone starting calling those people "holier than thou" and deriding them for being, well, honest. Actually, I think most people who are normally honest took this opportunity to lash back at those prissy people who have been making them feel bad for years now because they don't homeschool or make their own bread or breastfeed until their children get driver's licenses. And that made me really sad because even though I don't choose to do some of those things, I have loads of friends who do (well, not the breastfeeding thing --that was an exaggeration) and I think we have mutual respect. I think. I hope.
[I need to add a note here because I heard from a reader who interpreted the above paragraph to mean that I was slamming people who did those things--the bread-baking, breastfeeding, homeschooling group. Those of you who have read my stuff for years know that nothing could be further from the truth but since I have a lot of new readers, let me 'splain. *I* do some of those things, too. I'm not saying that ALL people who do those things are prissy and self-righteous. But we've all met people who are. And those people tend to be loudly critical of those who make other choices. I think some of the "Keep the Duck" people used this incident to strike back --it wasn't that they suddenly took leave of their morals. They just used the situation to send a "lighten up" message. That's all I was saying. Here look at Scout plotting where next to pee in excitement]

Anyway, I want to say something about all this because I think there's another angle that's not being discussed and that it this:

No, wait, let me tell you a funny thing first so you're not cranky. Last night, my husband told me that he's been talking to our older daughter (Ana, 9) lately about opening a bank account. She called him yesterday on his cell phone and left him a message asking how she should go about getting FDIC insurance. I totally cracked up.

And then I thought, um, just how much money has she saved anyway?

Okay, here's my point:

My thing is that I don't want to ever judge another mother. But here's a clear instance of a teachable moment, you know? She could make a field trip with her toddler to show how mistakes happen but you have to try to make them right. Because ultimately, what moral ground do you have to stand on when your child steals something for the first time if you, yourself are guilty of petty thievery?

And the other issue is this: It seems as though the people discussing this issue think it's okay for her to take this duck home because she didn't really take it on purpose and she could have paid for it if she had wanted to. But the issue of right and wrong isn't based on NEED, you know? And I really hesitate to think what would have happened and what people would have said if this had been a low-income minority woman. I doubt that everyone would be urging THAT woman to keep the duck under the pretext that it's FUNNY and the store can afford to lose $7.

I'm just saying that maybe we've lost sight of the central issue here amidst all of these slings and arrows. Taking something that doesn't belong to you is wrong, even if it happens on accident and even if you get away with it. I once accidentally shoplifted $50 worth of fish from our supermarket. I had Jane in her carrier seat and the fish got wedged underneath it and I didn't see it until I got out to the car. I didn't go back in right then but I DID take all the label of the fish with me the next time I went to that store and had them ring it up so I could pay for it. (The clerk looked at me like I was some sort of idiot but dude, my brain is too full to add more unnecessary guilt.)

I'm not preaching and I'm not judging but I am saying, "Do the right thing and take the duck back. Or pay for it." It's not that big a deal, unless you factor in the cost of your character.

Look, here's a picture of me from 1996 in a cow costume.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Okay, okay, 100 things

I know I'm late to this blogging deal and I know that everyone on the planet has already done their 100 Things About Me and so, technically, I could skip this and no one would care. Or know. But it's such a good exercise. I've been thinking about it for weeks. It's really hard to come up with 100 things about yourself that are remotely interesting. And maybe these aren't even interesting.

It's also really hard not to lie and I'm not even someone who lies often or well.

1. My hair is longer than it's ever been in my life. My husband likes long hair and I don't much care. I will say that I am noticing this year how HOT my hair makes me.

2. I have never dyed my hair. Well, unless you count lemon juice as a teenager.

3. I love to get pedicures with that red OPI nail polish called, "I'm Not Really A Waitress Red." I know this is a very unusual girlish thing for me to love but I just do.

4. I was born in Germany on an American Air Force Base in 1965. This was greatly confusing to me as a child because my dad was in the Army. I mean, why wasn't it an Army base?

5. I was born with my left foot pressed up against my shin, which, it turns out, led to my recent drastic foot reconstruction (at the age of 42).

6. I have an extremely high pain tolerance but my feelings are easily hurt.

7. I have type AB negative blood.

8. My mother is native German and met my American father on a blind date.

9. I am actually very shy but few people know it because I am an Army brat and developed camouflage because of this.

10. I don't really have a favorite color but I LOVE color. I alternate between greens and blues and the occasional purple as my favorite.

11. Until I was in my forties, I never thought of myself as creative. I always thought that any creativity was a fluke and I could never repeat that effort. Six million rabbits out of a hat and I still didn't believe.

12. I have had four dogs in my lifetime and I still have two of them.

13. I could live without television and not think twice. If I was a single parent, I wouldn't have a TV in the house. It's too easy for me to use it as distraction for the kids when I'm at my wit's end, instead of teaching them other ways to entertain themselves. I would never watch TV at all if it wasn't for HGTV.

14. I hate the phrase "My bad."

15. I dislike those weird "emoticons" that people use in e-mail, although I have used them on occasion.

16. If it weren't for mosquitoes, I would spend almost all of daylight hours and a good portion of the night hours outside.

17. I have never grown a really good tomato. I aspire.

18. Being too hot makes me stupid.

19. I cannot do math unless it has a dollar sign in front of the numbers.

20. I am a terrible sleeper and I rarely sleep through the entire night.

21. I always thought I was a really fast reader until I met my husband. And my daughter Ana, 9, is faster than both of US.

22. I've always wanted to be able to play the guitar.

23. I hate to dust but I like to vacuum.

24. I was a vegetarian for ten years.

25. I hate to talk on the phone. In fact, I am a bit phone phobic. I have no idea where this comes from.

26. My ears are both double-pierced but I rarely wear earrings.

27. Most of my jewelry was made for me by my friend Lisa.

28. I can sing.

29. I have small bones. (I know, it's a shock.)

30. I love how some old ladies wear gloves when they drive to protect their hands.

31. I've often felt that I was born out of time --that I should live in a slower-paced time. I would have made a good 1950's woman. I'm built that way, physically, too.

32. I worry that I drink too much.

33. I think I have a gift of making people feel good about themselves and their choices.

34. I rarely feel that good about my own.

35. I am a good kisser --or so I've been told.

36. I have never run out of gas in my car.

37. I own my own wet saw for cutting tile.

38. I love gummy bears but only the Haribo brand. I think other gummy bears are gross.

39. If I could, I would have fresh sheets every day.

40. My father was electrocuted in Viet Nam when I was five.

41. I still miss him.

42. I love my step dad as one of the most gentle and smartest people I have ever known. I think he's a wonderful father.

43. After more than eleven years, I am still wildly attracted to my husband.

44. Before my relationship with him, I worried that I had a problem with commitment.

45. I am very clean but not very organized.

46. I love to get mail addressed to me --real mail, not junk mail or computer generated mail.

47. I am terrible at sending other people thoughtful little cards or letters or even Christmas cards. Sometimes I buy them and write them and still don't send them. I have no idea where this comes from--I was raised with more manners than that.

48. I am allergic to sulfa drugs.

49. I love red bell peppers. You know... I mean, as a food.

50. I cannot type. At all. Every time I figure out one typing tic, I develop another. This has a bigger impact than I would have thought on my creativity.

51. It's not environmentally correct but I love having a real fire in my fireplace. I do it if the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

52. I have too much grief for this world sometimes. It is incapacitating.

53. I have a very distinct sense of style. I'm just not sure it's a good one.

54. I do not want a tattoo. I think they are ugly.

55. I had the chicken pox and I had shingles once, but I do not get cold sores.

56. I look good in hats and sunglasses. Separately or together.

57. My very favorite time of the day (and night) is 11:11. Every time I catch it, I laugh.

58. I have Parking Karma. I know that sounds really stupid but it is almost a verifiable fact. Throughout this entire time of my foot surgery and being on crutches and in the walking cast, I never needed a handicapped sticker. I know it seems weird. My husband didn't believe either when we first started dating, until he noticed that every time we went somewhere together, we got the best parking spot in the place. And if we met somewhere, *I* got the best parking spot in the place. Now he just says, "That is so FRIED. But thanks for coming along, Barb." (Of course, now that I've said it out loud, I'll never have it again.)

59. I never understand people who are decidedly cat or dog people. I love them all. Cats, dogs, rabbits, kids... whatever--I have enough love for them all. (Not snakes, though.)

60. I think Patrick Stewart is one of the sexiest men I've ever seen heard. It's the voice and the obvious intelligence. Gets me every time.

61. I kind of have a school/office supply fetish. New pens and new notebooks make me very happy.

62. I am not good at waiting. Knitting is a great help.

63. I am a writer. Sometimes I am a funny writer.

64. I am not religious but I consider myself spiritual.

65. I have a weakness for musicians. Thank God my husband is a musician and thank God he's not a PROFESSIONAL musician.

66. I love my children so fiercely that I wouldn't think twice about killing someone to protect them. Other than that, I am a pretty committed pacifist.

67. I love coffee and caffeine never used to bother me. I could have an espresso right before bed and sleep like a baby. Now I can't sleep like a baby no matter what and a shot of espresso will keep me up until, oh, November.

68. I had cancer and didn't think I would ever be able to have children.

69. I never considered myself very maternal before I had kids.

70. I am a Christian.

71. I have a quick temper but I get over being mad quickly. (Usually before the person I am mad at.)

72. I have been married before. Um, unsuccessfully.

73. My migraines are tied to abrupt changes in the barometric pressure. I have yet to figure out if getting a migraine means the fish are biting.

74. Although my skin looks like it would be very fair, I actually get a good tan. Or I used to before I started actively avoiding getting any color at all.

75. I have had two c-sections because I do not dilate. In the olden days I would have died in childbirth.

76. This makes me sort of feel schizophrenic because I believe we do too much medical intervention in the area of fertility.

77. I wish I could do carpentry like a professional. In fact, I wish I had the skills of the average handy-man. (Handy-person?)

78. I would like to drive a tractor and plow up a field.

79. I feel guilty about a lot of things, even things I did with good intentions.

80. I have a thyroid deficiency.

81. I always think people with British accents are smarter than everyone else.

82. My middle name is Jean. I never liked it so at some point (tenth grade?) I added an "ne" to make it Jeanne. It's now part of my permanent record.

83. Because I am shy, my friends usually have to initiate contact. It is rare for me to do so.

84. I could live on cheese and crackers (and the occasional bell pepper.)

85. I do not write under my own name.

86. Not being able to find something makes me more crazy than anything else. Especially if it's something I JUST HAD IN MY HAND.

87. I have a large freckle on the side of my nose that is frequently mistaken for dirt or food or something. People are always trying to rub it off. (My friend JJ says that I should be glad they don't lick their fingers first.) Recently, a friend sat staring at my freckle and then asked if I was sure it wasn't cancerous.

88. I have an older sister and two older brothers. This always surprises people. I don't know why.

89. I am almost always early or right on time. I am almost never late and the idea of that I might be late gives me a great deal of stress. A friend once said to me that I waste as much time being early as other people do being late.

90. On those rare instance when I talk on the phone, I either pace maniacally OR I scrub down my kitchen cabinets and sink.

91. I clean when I am stressed or worried about something.

92. I have an odd sense of humor. I dislike vulgar humor or potty jokes but I will laugh myself sick over slapstick humor. I know it's not very sophisticated but it cracks me up to no end. This is why our pets are hilarious.

93. I cannot bring myself to say the word "fart."

94. Some words make me laugh just by how they sound. I always giggle a little at "pumpernickel."

95. My van is the first new car I've ever had. I really prefer to buy cars a year or so old because it's less pressure.

96. I once appeared on a billboard in town wearing a cow costume.

97. This blog is the closet thing I've ever done to keeping a journal.

98. My nails grow fast and are so strong that I have to clip them routinely.

99. I love the ocean in winter. Summer, too, but especially in winter.

100. I worry a lot about injustice and the strong preying on the weak. I can't think too much about child or animal abuse because I would never get out of bed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Queen for the Day

I'm not sure why but I was in a terrible mood all day yesterday. Maybe it was that my housekeeper was supposed to come and I got the call that she's coming today. I can deal with a certain amount of clutter and chaos but when it goes over the line, something in me snaps and I am miserable. Plus we have a house guest, an old friend of Coop's and mine and the nicest, nicest guy, and he was going to stay in the spare room where we had our recent plumbing adventure. It took me almost three hours to clean that room because there was this layer of sheet rock dust on everything. (Well, okay, part of that three hours was taping and floating the huge hole in the wall and creating MORE dust by trying to match the texture, which meant sanding and...well, it got ugly.)

Anyway, I am not complaining about this (much) but the fact is that no one in my house has eyes to see the mess. My husband is the best man on earth but he just cannot see it. And my kids--there's still hope for them, but let's face it, putting up sixty million Polly Pocket pieces is not on their daily agenda. Anyway, it might have been that.

Or it might have been a little honest soul searching and realizing how hard it's going to be and how long it's going to be before I get back into shape. I haven't exercised since January when my foot said, "NO MORE!" in the middle of a speed walk with my friend Laura. It bums me out because I've never been so out of shape and heavy before in my life--not even when I was pregnant with Jane and had to do 20 weeks of bed rest. I was a lot younger then so I still had some native muscle tone. Now? Not so much. Um, not all.

And then my children. Ai yi yi. The fighting. The food struggles. The bickering. The competition. The selfishness. The unhelpfulness. The hypochondria. I was pretty much at the end. Of. My. Rope. When I put the girls to bed last night, I was not my normal fun self. I was crabby and short with them and I just wanted someone to DO AS I FREAKING SAY.

But see, the girls conspired together (without fighting!) and today, I was made Queen for the Day. Seriously. I received the crown,
delivered by a lovely little princess at, ahem, 7:15 in the morning. But this was my reward for waking up and immediately trying to fit that tiara on my head.

And I wore the crown with pride, despite my unshowered and uncaffeinated self. See? I don't know. Being the Queen for the Day basically means only that I get to wear the crown(so far, things have been pretty much the same as always.) But, you know, the crown is pretty fun --I'm sitting here typing with it on. And my housekeeper is here. And maybe I'll sign some royal proclamation and get to take a nap later.

Right now, I'm just practicing my wave...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Two Tiny Hats and a Package

I finished the second hat. Look how tiny. Even the second one, which I knit with bigger yarn (but not the right size needles, I guess, since my hand has been cramping ever since) is so small.

And look, he can wear them TWO ways. This way if he wants to look like Preemie in the 'Hood, he can.

Then I packaged the whole thing up and stuck one of my books inside and sent it off Priority --since clearly this little fellow is in a big hurry, right? I didn't really know what to write inside my book, you know, because things are still scary for his parents. I send love and prayers for speedy growth and healing. I guess that was enough.

I seem to be a bit under the weather today --I'm not sure why. Just sort of lost my Elvis. Coop says I need less computer and more swimming so I'm going to try that.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nobody Works With Us. Nobody.

So, the cats were sitting on the new entertainment center. And not only the cats-- one day I came down and our 14-year-old Australian Shepherd (mostly) SYDNEY was on top of it. So now, of course, it has a huge scratch on it.

I decided to take the advice of the trainer who led Scout's obedience training. (Those three words together --it's just not right.) So, I put one of those chair pads (you know, the carpet protector things) on it, but with the bottom side UP so that the little bumps would dissuade the pets from getting up there. This is the result:

I'm sure I'll come downstairs to find Sydney leading a poker game on top of it next.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tiny Hats and Boys

So, you know how I've been all fired up (Texas phrase) about small things and how we spend our whole lives trying to do big and meaningful things but then it always turns out to be the small things that matter the most?

Well, I was thinking about how sometimes small is good and sometimes people behave in small ways and that's bad. (There was this whole thing in the knitting underworld where some small person trashed someone else on a blog and the uproar was big and awful.) So, the concept of small is not a universally good thing, right?

But sometimes, small is both good AND bad.


Take, for instance, tiny Baker Terry Tynefield, who has possibly the biggest name ever for a baby who weighed in at one pound, five ounces 18 days ago. Born at just 23 weeks of gestation, Baker is impossibly tiny to have such a big will to survive. But he does have it. And gosh, he's big-time cute.

His dad's cousin is a long-time reader of my column, So, the thing is, and she e-mailed me this week to tell me about Baker and to say that while there is a huge amount of support and a large number of people who are directing positive energy toward Baker, everyone feels a little helpless.

"Most of our family is not sure what to send, if anything, and heck, they just don't make that many cute little things for 1 1/2lb babies, not to mention that they can't wear much with all those tubes and wires in them. But I thought maybe he could wear a hat, and maybe I could knit him one. I found a pattern but it needs techniques which are beyond me."

And then, she must have been a little desperate because, are you ready, she asked ME to knit it. I felt like this was just a huge honor, even if it did overestimate my knitting prowess in no small fashion. But I did it. Here it is:

I tried to find something that would show you how tiny this hat is, and well, since it's me and all, I used a cork from a bottle of wine. It's TINY. In fact, it's so tiny that I had a big worry that maybe it's TOO tiny so I'm knitting another one with bigger yarn and needles and sending it along as well.

(Before y'all get any ideas, I have a big love for my readers but I will be a little busy over the next decade or so knitting for my own family, much to their dismay. Plus, all of those swear words can't be good Karma.)

Anyway, I knitted a little hat but with big love (and NO swearing, thank you) in every tiny stitch. And if maybe you felt like adding your big and heartfelt well wishes to Baker's blog (just click here), maybe we could generate enough of a big positive wave of energy that the little guy would get bigger faster.

And that would be a big and meaningful thing.

PS: I hope all of those bold "bigs" and "littles" aren't really distracting because they were a big pain in the rear to do.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We Have to Move

I just got back from our local grocery store.

I'm afraid we're just going to have to move.

I say this every time I go to the local grocery store because it seems to be the gathering place of all the people who fit the stereotype of this part of town. You know: the beautiful people. The surgically augmented, perfectly manicured, immaculately attired, beautiful people who will NOT get off of their cell phones no matter WHO is on fire right in front of them.

Perhaps I should explain that I am NOT one of the beautiful people. Surgically augmented? Ah, no. (Well, unless you count the rather obvious "augmentation" to my body since my two c-sections.) Perfectly manicured? Nope. Immaculately attired? Twice that I know of, I've gone into the store with my shirt on inside-out. I'm normally the one in Birkenstocks with butter in her hair.

My quintessential trip to this grocery store sums up the whole place: I was leaving the store with a cart full of groceries when I saw this woman about to back her gold Suburban over her own shopping cart. I shouted and leaving my own groceries, I sprinted (I know--it's a stretch as a visual) to move the cart before she damaged her vehicle. She didn't even roll down her window to say thank you. Just gave me a look of complete revulsion and drove away, still chatting on her cell phone. And then someone else yelled at me for leaving my own cart in the middle of the lane.

Sums it up. I came home and told my husband, "We have to move."

And the thing is, the grocery store itself is bad. It's got the big sign out front that proudly proclaims it the "Flagship" store but it's overpriced and the quality of the produce isn't that great. Since my foot surgery, though, I can't just drive around and shop at the grocery store with the cheapest prices or best produce. I need to get in and get out. Plus, all of our prescriptions are at the pharmacy there.

Anyway, I always come home in a bad mood, no matter how Zen I make up my mind to be or how much wine I buy. I start strong enough: I smile at people. I am excessively polite, saying excuse me and "oh, no, please go ahead" even when it's some viciously thin woman wearing a tennis skirt, talking on the phone and cutting in line ahead of me. I make up my mind to pity these poor people for their need to exert whatever small power they have by berating the staff there. (Honestly, after a while you can recognize the long-term employees by the fact that they each have developed a twitch.) I pity those rude people for their self-important airs and their blatantly superior attitudes just because they managed to get their starched shirts on right side out. (An overrated skill in my not-so-humble opinion.)

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm still in eighth grade but after a while, it begins to bug me. It's one thing to have people look down their noses at you simply for existing. It's another thing entirely to become completely invisible to them. Pretty soon, I start wanting to kick random strangers in the shins. "I said EXCUSE ME, you arrogant vomitous mass of unmannerly snot. Take THAT!" And as I leave them writhing in the aisle, maybe I'll toss this over my shoulder. "And by the way, your shirt is STUPID."

See what I mean? I think we have to move.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Center of the Universe

So, get this: once again, it has been made very plain to me that I am NOT the Center of the Universe.

Can you believe it??

It's true. And are you ready for THIS? I am not personally responsible for every horrible thing that's ever been done in the whole history of the world, either. (Despite what my kids say.)

Today, the Yarn Harlot posted an entry on her blog all about blog etiquette and how we shouldn't trash one another on our blogs or in the comments we leave on other people's blogs because blogs are PUBLIC and therefore the odds that the Trash-ee will see what we have written and take great offense are pretty good.

My first reaction to reading that was to panic. I thought, "Ohmygosh, what did I say?" I went back and reread my blog and then I tried to remember where I've left comments. I don't read very many blogs and I'm so new to the whole blogosphere that I could remember most of the places I'd been. It was only after I'd done all that and tried to figure out if I'd written something that would have offended someone else that it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the Harlot was talking about something that has, get this, nothing to do with me.

Did you ever see the movie After Hours with Griffin Dunne? It's a dark comedy about a guy who finds himself in this strange subculture of New York City on this one night and everything in the world goes wrong for him. At some point, after there's a vigilante group hunting him, he happens to look out a window and into someone else's apartment and sees a woman shoot her abusive husband. He looks right at the camera and deadpans, "I'll probably get blamed for that."

That's exactly how I feel! I don't how I got this way but it does give me a good insight into my older daughter Ana and why she thinks the Principal of her school is singling her out if the Principal talks to the student body about something perpetrated by a student, or about her expectations of the student body while visitors are in the school or whatever. She also assumes that I am directing everything I say within her earshot to her. And now that I think about it, so does my younger daughter Jane. Is this some sort of trait people are supposed to grow out of?

And the thing is...I never do the opposite of this where I assume that people are giving me credit for something someone else did. Hell, I usually assume that people won't even remember me after meeting me. But for some reason, it made perfect sense to me that the Yarn Harlot, who has thousands of readers and friends, most of whom have been reading her a lot longer than *I* have and most of whom could actually talk KNITTING with her, must have been talking about something I wrote that trashed someone else. Because I've written so many posts that talk trash about other people.

I think maybe I have either an overactive sense of responsibility OR an inflated sense of my importance in this world.

I can probably find a way to feel guilty for that.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Plumbing Joy and Father's Day

We've had this leak in our spare bedroom bathroom for about, oh, a couple of years. But recently, I dropped the hand-held shower and it cracked when it hit the tile, which necessitated the installation of a new shower head by my father-in-law when he was here over Memorial Day.

Unfortunately, we still had a leak.

In fact, the leak was worse so I put a bucket under it while my husband was traveling and used the water to water the plants. Oh, look at me, I'm so thrifty! HAH!

Anyway, we decided to fix it today. So far, we're on our fifth trip to the store--various stores, including this wonderful old plumbing supply store where the people knew more than you and I ever will or want to about plumbing parts. Our water has been off all day, except after the first time when we put the stuff together again in hopes that we could just get it back to the LEAKING stage so that it could leak for the rest of the weekend and then we'd call a plumber. Only that didn't work and we had a gusher so now we HAVE to fix it or cap it or SOMETHING.

We've cut a hole in the wall on the other side of the bathroom wall, in hopes of fixing the plumbing problem without having to re-do the whole tile thing. Not that I don't love to tile but I hadn't planned on it right now and if I have to tile that bathroom, I'm not using that cheap cream colored tile again. I'm going with glass tile which has to be special ordered.

Anyway, now we've got our handy friend Ian helping us over the phone and our incredible neighbor (and Coop's best friend) from down the road helping us in person and in the midst of all this, his wife is taking care of our two girls plus her three. She's going to bring them swimming in a bit and asked for margaritas so I made them and suddenly, as I was mixing them up, I started to cry.

See, it's Father's Day tomorrow. And I don't know, I was just really missing being able to call my dad and ask him about this plumbing problem. He could fix anything, my dad.

I'm 42 years old. My father died in 1989. He's been gone a long time. I still just really miss him sometimes. It makes me realize how big an impact parental relationships have on kids, and how much little girls love their fathers.

Yesterday, at the girl's summer dance camp recital, I just happened to have a camera on Jane when she spotted Coop--who had left work to come watch this fifteen minute show because that's the kind of dad he is. Look at this face:

Dads are important--at least, the good ones are.

Happy Father's Day.

So, the thing is...

Back in January of 2001, when my younger daughter was just three months old, I started sending out regular columns about family life to my friends and family. I had always written these little vignettes about Ana, and once Jane came along, I decided to formalize it. I was a little worried about losing my writing chops, not to mention all these memories of my kids since I was never the "Keep the Baby Book" type of mom. (Neither of my kids has a baby book. I still feel large shame about this. I should be getting over it about the time they turn 30 and can make me feel guilty themselves.)

Anyway, the column took off, thanks to my friend Kristin, who sent it to all of her friends, who then sent it to THEIR friends and suddenly I had a real audience of readers. Who, you know, expected something from me.

I was very excited. And very sleep deprived. I wrote ALL OF THE TIME. Seriously. I wrote about adding a second child. I wrote about missing my Dad. I wrote about milestones in my kids' lives--like Ana applying to preschool, and Jane turning one, and the time the bulldog dropped by. I took some creative chances --THAT column is one of my best, I think. When 9-11 happened, I could only write and cry.

I set up a website at some point. It wasn't very good, so one of my readers, Kelly, redesigned it for me just because she really liked the column and she couldn't stand the web site. I kept managing the subscription list, but not very well (I meant to automate the subscription process --I really did -- but, um, I didn't, so I kept forgetting to add people and then I'd forget to change addresses and to delete people. It was a mess. It still is a mess. I really need to automate...) The readers kept subscribing and I kept writing, even though sending out a column is sort of a nightmare. (For one thing, I can't just click one button. I have to cut the list into about ten different lists and send those individually--thanks to Microsoft Outlook, which is just sure if I am sending a big number of e-mails I must be a spammer. I've never sent out a column, even once, with the word "viagra" into the subject line. Maybe I would have had better luck if I had.)

Anyway, the columns weren't as frequent after a while. But my readers are so amazing--a majority have been on my list since the very beginning. They hang in there. Sometimes they write and ask me if I'm still writing. They actually WRITE TO ME. I love that. The column morphed into more of a humor column--no one was more shocked by that than I was. I'm not that funny in real life. In fact, my husband says that when I make a joke, the listener has to make a choice whether to laugh or to cry.

And then I discovered blogging. Had blogging be around when I started my column, I would no doubt have just started writing a blog. But I see the two very differently now but I love both. I was kind of hoping that they would be sort of complementary --that people might want to read BOTH.

Yesterday, though, I got The Letter.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just to clarify...


I read this wonderful letter written by this wonderful writer named Mir to her new husband which she posted on her incredible blog Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda.

Naturally, I had to comment, given that my own husband was traveling and I was missing him and thinking about how lucky I am to be married to him and yada, yada, yada. Plus, I was having wine and it was almost midnight and I was...


Enough justification already.

This is what I said:

Oh, Mir.

You go ahead and post a letter like this monthly. It’s perfectly legal for the first year of marriage –I’m sure I read that somewhere. It’s like you can refer to children’s ages in months until they are two years old and then you have to stop or people will have you committed.

I’ll let you in on a secret if you want. (Heck, even if you DON’T want.) My husband and I will soon have been married for ten years. (That’s not the secret.) I kissed/married some frogs before I met him. (Still not the secret.) But here’s the thing: tonight he’s away on business and I could have written “enough with the apart already” myself. Still not the secret but here it comes: (Are you ready?) No matter how long it takes you to find your Person, once you find him, it STAYS THIS GOOD. Every month. Forever.

Happily ever after is kind of fun, huh?

Happy forever to both of you,

So, then, I got a comment from someone who had read what I wrote and wrote me THIS:

"I read a comment you left on a single moms blog about how when you find your person, it stays that way, every month...forever. I myself keep wondering if it can really be this good for always and that was so reassuring. Thank you!"

I feel the need to clarify.

I meant what I said. I still wake up every day and can't believe that I found Coop in this big ole world and that he actually liked me at the same time I liked him and then we made these beautiful children and created this hilarious, pet-infested life.

But that is not to say that there aren't moments when I want to drive a meat cleaver into the wall above his head and tell him that if he doesn't put his freaking juice glass actually IN THE DISHWASHER, then the next time I won't miss.

It's just that the good moments consistently outnumber the bad, even when we go through the doldrums. It's that I know he's my Person and that knowledge carries me through the times when we aren't getting along so well. And it just that, for the first time in my life, I honestly understand what a marriage between two people who belong together is supposed to be like. We've been together since 1996 and I still don't even have eyes for anyone else. He still makes me laugh more than anyone ever has in my life. I trust him with all that is precious to me and I honestly feel that all of the good things that are in my life came into my life because of him. He makes me want to be a better person.

And he, of course, says he knows he loves me because I make him madder than anyone ever has in his entire life. (Seems like a fair trade.)

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that "Happily Ever After" doesn't mean that you miraculously no longer have to put the juice glass in the dishwasher, or that suddenly you have no money troubles or incontinent dogs or whatever. It means you have a partner to lean on, or who can lean on you, as you go through the day-to-day stuff --someone who will keep you laughing even while he's inspiring you to dig deeper. Happily Ever After is made up of millions of small moments when your eyes meet and you are in perfect accord and no one even has to say anything.

At least, that's how it is for me, on this, the 134th month we've been together. (See, Mir? The whole celebrating each month thing has a very short time frame in which it's appropriate. After that, people just want to smack you.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Red Letter Day

See that? That's the insert to my walking boot, drying in the sun. I took it into the shower with me and shampooed it, very gently and I tried not to be totally disgusted by the gross water that flowed from it. Even after I had finished washing and rinsing it, it still smelled like Wet Dog. (And apparently, it still smells so bad that it killed that nice little plant next to it.)

I didn't make it to my next doctor's appointment before I had to wash it--I was close but I Just. Could. Not. Wear. It. One. More. Minute. I cannot overstate enough how bad that smell was.

Was, I say, as in PAST TENSE because, are you ready??

I've graduated! Look at this:

Okay, okay, you caught me. I'm being a bit premature. The real story is that I start physical therapy on Tuesday so that I can learn to walk again. Because right now, if you watch closely, I walk just like a Hobbit. I have medical documentation of this. My doctor pointed it out, actually.

I still get to see my fabulous doctor in another month but he proclaimed me healed. Well, there I go again, making these grandiose statements. What he said was: the bones in my foot have healed. He would not be so foolhardy as to think he had healed everything about me that needs healing.

But let me just tell you, it's going to be good to be in shoes again and out of the stinky boot. To be able to walk and swim and get up and go to the bathroom, all without having to think, "How am I going to get there? What are the Boot Logistics?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Okay, I'm over it

Okay, so I'm over the whole pity party of yesterday. You know, the one where I got to meet all of my parenting foibles head-on in one day? The one where I got totally distraught because my children were acting like... children? Today is much better. I slept for more than three minutes at a time (but just barely) and I forgive the little rats of causing me endless angst.

Of course, they're not awake yet so who knows what loveliness awaits me today. But I can cope. After all, *I* survived a similar upbringing--similar in that, well, I'm female and my mother is female. And look at how I turned out.

Well, that does give one pause. Not going to go there. Not without a lot more coffee.

Onward to really important things: Today is Tuesday (you know what that means! We're gonna have a special guest!) (Please don't tell me if you get that reference. I am just clawing myself up from the wreckage of my self esteem and I'm fragile, dammit.) Yes, campers, you are right. It's Trash Day! Another installment in the Coopers' ongoing quest to Fight the Evil of a system designed to bury them in trash and tangible examples of their conspicuous consumption.

(Listen, it's in the high 90's here already and if we missed the weekly trash pickup --and it seems like we are always thisclose to doing so--my neighbors (they of the continually shrinking trash receptacle) would probably form a picket line to protest the stench.)

And guess what? Despite the best efforts of the recycling guys to catch me once again off guard by coming at freaking SIX-THIRTY in the morning (isn't that illegal? Isn't there a...noise ordinance or just some basic, common decency that would make them NOT COME WHILE MY CHILDREN ARE ASLEEP???) I managed to get all of our trash and recycling out last night, boot and all. I feel powerful and am alive with my own sense of efficiency and self worth. (This is a prime example of the positive affirmations we should all be doing when our children gang up on us.)

Oh. My. Gosh.

On one-half of a cup of coffee(not that I'm bragging), I finally figured out how to make links open in a new browser instead of diverting you, the reader, away from my scintillating prose.

I might as well go back to bed now. I mean, like today is going to get any better than THAT!

[Note: I was so impressed with my newfound skill that I went and updated ALL of the outgoing links--or at least as many as I could before Jane got up -- so that they would open in a new window. I didn't realize that this meant that all of my subscribers would get old posts re-sent to you. Guess I'm not as tech-savvy as I thought. I'm sorry!]

Monday, June 11, 2007

Career Crisis

Okay, so the post from earlier today detailed my complete breakdown of parenting. Of course, the girls DID have a good time at dance camp. And I had a miserable day, beating myself up for not having more patience, or kindness or just basic parenting skills. So, I wrote Ana a note:

Dear Ana,

I am sorry for saying I thought you were lazy. I know you aren't. I was just frustrated because it seemed like you didn't appreciate what a fun opportunity going to camp is. I know you were just afraid of something new.

I always see so much potential in you. You are the brightest and most beautiful nine-year-old I've ever known. I want so much for you to take on new challenges fearlessly because I WILL BE THERE if you fall. But you won't fall.


and then I baked some brownies (ostensibly to celebrate this little fellow's birthday.


Then, I went shopping, at TWO (count 'em: TWO) stores to find a Polly Pocket car for Ana (because Jane has about three of them from her last birthday party and she refuses to share with Ana, given that Ana never wants to share anything with her.) I also got Jane some more iron bead forms and iron beads and I got Ana a kit to help her decorate her dollhouse and a tiny $2 Polly for Jane.

All the while, I'm thinking, you know, that this is all about something I must be doing wrong. That surely other mothers don't have such a hard time just getting their kids to go to a camp that's supposed to be -- hello-- FUN!

I pick the girls up and it turns out they've had a lovely day, gosh, thanks mom! I mean, if they think about it hard enough, they could come up with something to complain about but all-in-all, a good time was had.

They get home and are VERY excited about their brownies and over the top about the presents. Jane asks if she can use Ana's Polly car some time. Ana says she will "think" about it. Jane gets so excited about her new iron beads that she heads off for a little friend down the road and takes a bunch of them with her to share. She finally comes back as it is time to leave for piano lessons. "But I don't want to go to piano!" she wails.

I say, having learned so much from my morning, "Well, tough, because you are going." Ana, who has paid lip service to practicing her piano all week, tells me she doesn't NEED to learn to read music--she doesn't want to be a pianist, she wants to be a ROCK STAR.

I start to think, this is exactly the problem with Ana and maybe a whole generation of ROCK STARS. She doesn't want anything that might take some work or discipline to achieve. Jane just wants to have every single freaking thing on her own terms. Did I mention the girls have been BEGGING to take piano lessons???

I drop the girls off and come home and it suddenly hits me.

This is CRAZY. I am both killing and bankrupting myself to give these girls a fun, enriched summer and they could not be LESS happy about it. We're all freaking MISERABLE and I don't even know to whom I can tender my resignation.

I don't get it, what am I doing wrong? How do the rest of you do it? I don't remember being so hard to please as a kid --I mean, *I* went to MARIONETTE CAMP, for the love of God. And LIKED IT.

Clearly, I am having a career crisis --and this right after I quit my job so I would have more time to devote to my kids. But if that time is spent breaking up arguments and dragging my kids to things that they don't even want to go to, exactly how enriched are they? And how am *I* supposed to get through it? I can't stay drunk ALL the time (theoretically.)

There Goes That Mother of the Year Award, No. 3498

I'm just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mother.

Today, I MADE my older daughter go to Dance Camp! Such extreme torture, such callousness! Gosh, what kind of mother am I to place my daughter in such dire straits??

This is the description posted on the Synergy Dance Studio "Our weekly themed camps include Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip-hop, Musical Theatre, Gymnastics, African, Cheerleading, Dance Team and of course Arts & Crafts. Our camps are geared toward ages 4-12, 10 am – 3 pm with extended hours available. Let your dancer explore his/her artistic side as they (sic) participate in a variety of activities from dressing up to be a ballet prince/princess to acting in a commercial like a movie star!"

(Sorry, had to show that I didn't actually do that pronoun reference mistake myself. Once an Editor, always an Editor, I guess.)

Anyway, you can tell that this camp is akin to forcing my kid into some sweat shop in Honduras where she sits hunched over a sewing machine, sewing Kathy Lee Gifford's clothing. (Okay, so that was mean. Sue me.)

I really do feel bad because I got angry as Ana sat there crying about how she didn't want to go. "I quit dance because I don't LIKE it," she said. And I said, (ack, this is so awful, I want to throw up) "You quit because dance takes discipline and it's more fun to lie around claiming everything is boring than to actually DO SOMETHING. You're just LAZY."

Nothing like labeling my children with negative labels in hopes of getting better behavior out of them. I hear that a VERY useful thing to do. I respond so well when people do that to me, you know? Like when I finally stopped playing the violin at age 17, after eight horrible, tortuous years and my mother said, "You are a quitter and you have always been a quitter. You quit dance when you were five." I still remember her contemptuous tone of voice and everything and here I just did the same damn thing to my own kid at a much younger age, when she still actually listens to my opinion.

I feel awful.

So, by now she was crying real tears, which softened my heart (and which gives me a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it.) So I tried to get to the bottom of why she didn't want to go. I sat next to her and hugged her and asked gently, "What is it about dance that you don't like? Can you tell me WHY you don't want to go?" She couldn't tell me.

I have my suspicions, though. First of all, it's hard to be a slacker in dance class --you pretty much HAVE to try. (In gymnastics, she would just skip her turn whenever possible --she'd just stay at the back of the line and keep moving on back--unless it was time for the high five and hugging and cheer portion of the day.) She really does have sort of a lazy streak about physical activity or homework or cleaning her room --she'd just rather read. I understand that. I'd rather read all day, too. But I feel like it's my job to teach her some work ethic and to keep her moving and experiencing new adventure first-hand, rather than only reading about it.

Second, all of the "popular girls" were in her dance classes over the years and she has never felt comfortable around them, even when she was clearly as talented, if not more, as the others. She has an odd sort of inferiority complex when it comes to those girls, even though they clearly LIKE her. Maybe it's because her mother implies that she's lazy and unenthusiastic and undisciplined, do ya think?

I can't believe I said such cutting things to my sensitive kid. There isn't any excuse for using words as weapons --and no one knows better than I do how words can wound the sensitive soul. I was mad at her--she was taking all Jane's joy out the anticipation of the dance camp and it just makes me crazy when she does that--it's like telling Jane, right before she tries a bite of some new food, "OOOOH, GROSSSSS!" (Jane is DYING to do dance--and of course, she marched in and made friends immediately and didn't even notice when I left.)

As a coda to all of this, on the way to the camp, Jane finally succumbed to Ana's terrible, energy-sucking mood and began to work up some tears over the fact that she was bitten by ants at Kindergarten Splash Day and I just... came unglued. "What a bunch of WHINERS! I'm SICK of all of this whining! I'm going to sign you up for a different camp EVERY SINGLE WEEK all summer just to get away from all of this WHINING!"

My girls burst into tears. Oh no, not the dreaded "different summer camp per week all summer" torture! I thought that had been outlawed by the Geneva Convention! Call Child Protective Services!

Here's the thing that haunts me, though, and which will stay with me all day until I pick the girls up and it becomes apparent that they've had a wonderful time:

As we were going to the car to leave, Ana asked sadly if she should take her pink blanket. I said, as gently as I could, "Sure, sweetie, if you want to. We can put it in your dance bag."

"No," said Ana. "I want to take it but I don't want to take it."

"I know, baby. I guess that's kind of what being nine is like."

Since she left it home, I wonder if she'd mind if I curl up with it a bit and have a good cry?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Night Blues

Guess what I'm doing??

No, really, guess! Gosh, you won't ever play this game with me! Mean, you're so mean! Aw, come on, guess!

YES, you are right. I AM drinking a glass of wine. Just a glass, though, and my FIRST glass so I'm not all giddy because of that.

I'm giddy because I'm sitting here watching Home and Garden Television with the sound off (because I am listening for the Spawn of Satan my daughters, who are supposed to be sleeping right now but who have come downstairs another 652 times since the official Lights Out.) And I have created a new game. Are you ready?

Here's how it works: you watch the show with the sound off and you try to count the number of times the people onscreen say the word, "pop." (Because in home decorating shows, the color never just sits on the walls. It's active! It's perky! It POPS!

If you want to take the game to a higher level, you count how many times you see someone mouth the word, "space." Because no houses on HGTV have rooms. They have interesting spaces. And if you paint a space an interesting color, it will pop.

Oh, gosh, you're very smart. Yes, I'm the sole parent in charge this evening. Coop is traveling again. He left today for Seattle. Before he left, though, he worked like a dog rewiring most of our incredibly complicated electronic gear so that it would fit into this:

I am totally stoked because I really liked this TV stand when I saw it in the showroom at Four Hands but it was $895 and I didn't like it THAT much. I liked it a lot better at their Warehouse Sale for $250. SCORE!

(Note the mute sign in the bottom left corner of the television. you can see it because that TV is six hundred feet tall. And it's such a guy thing --every guy who comes into our house shields his eyes from looking at that TV, as if he's afraid he will be so overcome with envy that he will rip it from the wall and run screaming down the street. Good luck to him because that thing weighs, like, five thousand pounds. Which is why it's easier to redecorate our living room and buy all new smaller furniture than it is to think about maybe moving it to a different wall. But I digress.)

Doesn't the new TV stand just really POP in this SPACE? (Feel free to count those --I'm feeling generous.)

Want to see something else? Look here:

THAT, my friends, is is one darn clean living room space. For us, anyway. Our housekeeper came today and the house is actually still clean. I want to enjoy it but I know it's only clean because the Messy Boy isn't here and the fact that it's still clean really means that we weren't having near as much fun as if he was here with us. I don't know why it's always a trade off--this whole cleanliness vs fun thing. Is it just in our house or is everyone that way?

Well, not YOU, of course. You're always totally together AND having fun. But then again, you're a total figment of my imagination.

Which is pretty pathetic, now that I think about it.

I'm going to bed. Ack, Sunday nights. Pop! Pop!

(Miss you, Coopy.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Divine Design

We have a new sitter helping out during the summer. I was a little worried about her at first because she's the daughter of one of my husband's clients and I was worried she'd be some sort of privileged, spoiled, surgically-augmented rich girl with an attitude and I was going to say something unforgivable that would make my husband leave me, just when I've cut off my only source of income in the past ten years.

But she turned out to be this really creative, well-spoken, enthusiastic beautiful girl. She does drive a luxury SUV, but you know what? My girls will probably drive vehicles that far surpass my own first car--a 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit with electrical problems so severe that I once turned on the radio and smoke began billowing from the cassette deck. My parents loaned me the $1700 to buy the (vastly overpriced)thing and then forgave me the debt as my graduation present. Which was only prudent considering I'd spent so much money on the car that there was no way I could have paid them back unless I deferred my first year of college and no one, I mean NO ONE, wanted THAT to happen.

But I digress.

The truth is that Ana and Jane will drive nicer cars than I did, and they will drive nicer cars than I DO because I honestly don't CARE about cars. I don't care. I would sort of prefer it if my car didn't have Jane's name in six-inch high letters scratched into the paint on the back, but honestly? You'd be hard pressed to see it, given all that dirt anyway.

Back to my new sitter, though (bet you thought I'd forgotten), she turned out to be great. And she's a writer and she likes the girls and in general, I have great hope that we'll have a fabulous summer. For one thing, she's already pitched in and helped me put the feet on this (note the drill left artistically on the floor):

The girls call the new chair the "slippery chair" because it doesn't have arms and therefore, they tend to slip right off it. Of course, if they didn't BOUNCE their way on and off of it, they might stay put like normal people. But I digress again.

Anyway, the thing about our new sitter is, just like any time I have new people in the house, she made me see our house through different eyes. And what I saw wasn't so great, not just because the place was fairly untidy because of my long stint on crutches when I couldn't put stuff away, but also because my style, which I usually call Early Preschool, left something to be desired.

But then she paid me the ultimate compliment. She took my girls out to dinner one night (while my book club came over and did what all book clubs do: drank a lot of wine) and when she came back, she told me that she'd run into this other family who had also offered her a babysitting job for the summer. "But their house was one of those...manicured, gold kinds of houses where you are afraid to touch anything and I just didn't think I could work there."

Isn't that nice?

I mean, I know she's saying that MY house is not the kind of pristine, coordinated, designer kind of home of the other family. But see, that wasn't ever my goal. Seriously! No, I totally take that as a compliment. I never wanted a house where you could walk in and not know that children lived there. And I never wanted a house so sterile that people were afraid to come by and hang out. Sit on the furniture. Straighten a picture. Pet a cat. Wipe up Scout's urine.

Small things, you know. Like when Corduroy sees Lisa's room for the first time and he says, "This looks like a home. I KNOW I've always wanted to live in a home."

(Oh, dear, now that I write that I wonder if he didn't say it another way. Because, well, there are homes and then there are, um, Homes. As in Home for the Criminally Insane. But not a nice bear, right?)

(Although I don't know what that says about Don Freeman.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Pre-Teenage Wasteland

The teenage angst is both palpable and painful in the Cooper household this summer. All the more painful because we don't actually have a teenager, thank you very much. We DO have a bored, spoiled, ungrateful and sometimes very sweet PRE-teen, however, and I think that's quite enough.

Suddenly, she's talking on the phone to her friend who is in Arizona visiting her father for four weeks. I try not to listen because it only ends up making me mad and wanting to tell stories about how, "When *I* was young, I had to work in the fields picking cotton and my mother would never drive me ANYWHERE. This is very different from YOUR mother, who would gladly drive you somewhere if only you would MUSTER SOME FREAKING ENTHUSIASM about going somewhere--ANYWHERE!"

See, she makes me talk in all caps. That can't be good.

Anyway, I hear her say, "I'm already bored of summer," in her long-suffering, Forced to Live Among the Muggles voice and I have to pour myself a diet coke with some rum in it immediately. I manage to keep from snatching the phone away from her and beating her with it and sit down on the sofa to reason all this out. (Maybe my boot is too tight.)

This is the thirteenth day of summer vacation. We have, roughly, another 300,000 days to get through. We not only have a pool in our backyard, we also belong to a community pool. She is signed up for piano, horseback riding and dance camp and she was adamantly opposed to the latter. I had to vacate my previously strongly held position about over-scheduling children who don't want to be over-scheduled and yelled asserted (firmly and kindly) that she needed some sort of activity besides reading and eating goldfish and by GOD, she was good at dance and she was going to camp and she WOULD like it.

Don't get me wrong, I really do think it's a good thing for her to get bored in the summer--because if summer is so much fun --, like, a virtual party every minute (that I get to pay for), she will never want to go back to school in late August, which currently seems about six years from now.

I sit, seething, and then I hear, "Oh, but we ARE doing this thing that's super fun. My mom and I are redecorating my doll house and it is, like, SO COOL."



Underneath that teenage camouflage she's trying on this summer is still my nine-year-old.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Meme for Kathy

My friend Kathy posted a meme on her blog. Only the way she typed it was like this: MeMe. Is that how you type it? Is it because a meme is all about ME ME ME ME ME?? I never got that before! Anyway, I am a total sucker for these things. I know that's bad and narcissistic and all that, but I like finding out things about other people. I learned all these things about Kathy from her answers --like that she's in a pretty cranky mood today! (Just kidding, Kathy. I think you filled this out yesterday.) Those of you reading should copy it to your own blog and erase my answers and fill in your own --but send me a note so I can go read yours.


1. Are you taller than your mom?
Yes. She's 5'2" and I'm 5'5".

2. What color is your car?

3. What is the closest thing to you that is red?
My knitting.

4. What is your ringtone?
It's supposed to be some spy theme. I hate it but no one else has it because it's so terrible so I keep it.

5. Are you sick?
Um. No.

6. What color is your favorite pillow?
White, but the pillow case is light blue.

7.What is your favorite video game?
I have no idea. Solitaire?

8. Had a nap today?
No, but then it's only 10:40 AM

9. Gold or Silver?
I love silver but it doesn't look good on my skin.

10.Is there an animal that creeps you out?
Adult Possums --yuck. Those yellow teeth! But the babies are adorable.

11.Who was the last person you rode an elevator with?
I have no idea. Maybe my husband at his gum surgery?

12. Did you go ice skating as a kid?
Yes, I even took some lessons. I was terrible.

13. Ever have stitches?
Never any that were injury related but lots due to surgery.

14. Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Sparkling water with a twist of lime.

15. How long ago did you kiss someone?
This morning.

16. What's something you want to do before you die?
Have a book deal and go on tour.

17. Have you ever caught something on fire?
Oh yeah.

18. Have you ever seen a ghost?
Never SEEN one, but I think I've felt one. When Ana was first born and still sleeping in a bassinet by our bed, I heard something start making noise in what would become her bedroom in the closet. It was an old, battery-operated drum machine of Mark's that hadn't been used in over five years. Two days later, I was nursing her when the defective light next to me suddenly clicked on --it never worked again. I wasn't frightened at all either time--I honestly felt like it was a message from my dad that he knew about Ana and was happy for me. I guess that sounds very odd but it is one of the sorrows of my life that he never met my husband or my kids.

19.Have you ever seen the northern lights?

20. Do you know how to use chop sticks?

21. Name something good that happened today.
I got the nicest cuddle with my Jane when she got up this morning.

22. What room are you in?
My living room.

23. Are you worried about something you can't control?
Like, DUH. Show me a mother who isn't worried that her children will be snatched on the street or die in a car accident or will commit suicide or drown accidentally and I'll show you... a heavily medicated soul. Or a man.

24. Do you take daily medications?

25. Ever been in a fight?
Yes. Fifth grade. Sharon Compton. I punched her in the nose and then when she fell down, I didn't know what to do so I SAT ON HER.

26. Are you wearing nailpolish?

27. Favorite color?
Today, it's the blue of Jane's eyes.

28. Innie or Outie?
Innie. And I'm an Innie like the Grand Canyon is a crevice. I could probably hold an entire steel drum band in my belly-button.

29. Ever used a Ouija board?
Yes, all the time as a kid but it never moved by itself.

30. Sweet or Sour?

31. Sun or Moon?
Definitely moon.

32. What shoes did you wear today?
So far, my lovely walking boot on one foot and nothing on the other. I have a sneaker standing by, though.

33. Favorite eye color of the opposite sex?
Green. Coop has green eyes.

34. Most important quality in any relationship?

35. Favorite zombie movie?
Can't even NAME one.

36 Time of day you were born?
My mom thinks it was 2 PM. I'm the youngest of four so the details get a little sketchy after the first two.

37. Do you know your blood type?
B Neg.

38. What would you spend 5000 dollars on right now if you were handed it?
Home improvement. I'd really WANT to pay off debt but I have the biggest home improvement jones going right now. I want to remodel the whole house --which would be considerably more than $5000.

39. Name something annoying in public transit?
Well, it's pretty annoying that we don't have a decent public transit system here in Austin, for starters.

40. Did you grow up in the city or country?
City. Suburb actually.

41. Would you ever consider going on a reality TV show if offered a large sum of money?
No. I have enough reality in my life NOW, thank you.

42. Have you flown in your dreams?
I can never remember my dreams.

43. Hugs or kisses?

44. You have 10 dollars to spend in the dollar store..what do you get?
Some crafty thing.

45. Slurpee flavor?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Smell, long awaited sequel to The Itch

Dear Dr. Thomajan,

It's been eleven weeks now, since the massive reconstruction of my foot. My foot is really looking very good, considering the three screws and the missing bone and all. I am enjoying being in the walking boot instead of on crutches, which, although entertaining to bystanders, led to some pretty embarrassing incidents. I am all about avoiding embarrassment when possible because, let's face it, my children are already a little wary of going out in public with me.

Especially now, good Doctor, because an Issue has arisen. Honestly, I don't want to be a whiner. I know you didn't actually devise the bulk of this process with the idea of causing me public humiliation and perhaps a more sedate and dignified person would have handled things differently. There was the moment in Central Market when I spilled the bulk cumin scooper on my boot. Everyone knows that ground cumin smells like, well, body odor--at least until it's added to black beans when it becomes the nectar of the Gods and can make you crave black beans at three in the morning. But I digress.

I don't exactly know how to tell you this but, well, that boot stinks. I mean, there is no denying it. It's not the cumin --at least, not all by itself. It's in the 90's here and I'm in my sixth (I think) week of wearing this thing and when I take it off to put my foot up, the stench that wafts upward makes my eyes water. I keep warning people not to light matches around me--I'm afraid the boot will explode.

I am coming to see you in another week and I had great hope that I would be able to get out of this boot and into some sort of shoe but the truth is, I still can't really put much weight on that foot without the boot. (And, not to whine further, but can we please devise some sort of aerobic exercise that I can do with this boot on? I'm starting to resemble Roseanne Barr here.)

I know you told me not to wash the boot but honestly, it's either I wash that boot or risk spontaneous combustion. I'll hold out as long as I can --but you'd better be prepared in the event that I don't wash it before I see you next week. You might want to have the HazMat guys standing by...

Stinkily yours,

Monday, June 04, 2007


Okay, so this is really funny. Apparently when the Yarn Harlot was in New York City not making my fantasy come true by dropping all of her real responsibilities to immediately sit down with MY book at the BookExpo of America, she accidentally left her sock-in-progress behind. Some other knitters are holding it hostage. Read this.

So, I left a comment. (Unfortunately, it posted twice. What can I say? I got a little excited about the whole idea.)

You know how Stephanie always takes pictures of a sock while she's on tour--and how they are always pictures of knitters and landmarks, etc? What if y'all took all kinds of pictures of the sock in various places? I'm torn between it being like one of those kidnapped garden gnomes and all wholesome in fabulous venues OR if you should take the pictures of the sock in distinctly ANTI-Stephanie places. Like on a huge stack of Velveeta. On a slab of baby-back ribs. Or in the polyester sock bin at Wal-Mart. Being run over by a bicycle (not REALLY run over --we wouldn't want to actually HARM the sock.) Bungee jumping.

Sadistic? Hey, I got perky and evil going on in Texas, too. And I can't WAIT for the next installment!

So, then I started going off the deep end picturing all the places I'd take the sock and photograph it --all the decidedly anti-Stephanie venues. Like a Republican Pro-War rally or something. Like in the CROCHET HOOK AISLE at Michael's.

Ah, me, I kill myself... Subversive knitting humor, who knew?

PS: No socks were harmed in the writing of this post. Not even my own sock-in-progress. See? Doesn't it look happy?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Stoked but delusional...

Sometimes my imagination just goes crazy and leads me right up that garden path. Even though I KNOW it's insane to fantasize about whatever it is, I can't seem to stop myself and take the prudent "wait and see, lower your expectations" course of action. (Oh, like you've never had a conversation with Oprah in your head.)

(You HAVE, haven't you? If I'm the only one, I'm going to be really embarrassed.)

Like right now, for instance.

Kelly, the girl who lives next door, who is also our babysitter, is at BEA right now. BEA is the BookExpo of America and it's in New York City this year. Kelly and her mother go every year and bring back hundreds of books. They always shop for my girls--Kelly is a reader like Ana is a reader. (Picture the way fish relate to water and you'll understand how these girls relate to books.)

This year, I asked Kelly to take one of MY books (The Mermaid's Purse) to the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I sent a little note and thanked her for inspiring me with both her writing and her knitting.

Kelly just called from NYC to tell me that she'd dropped off my book and gotten a signed copy of "Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off," which I already own but this is a personalized copy to ME! I'm psyched.

See, I have this little fantasy working that Stephanie will actually READ my book and that she'll like it. (A lot of people really DO like it, I promise. No. Really. Honest.) So, she e-mails me and we strike up a friendship and I get to thank her for giving me back my writing voice. Seriously, I started really writing again after I started reading her site. I think we'd be good friends -- as, I'm sure, every other one of her readers thinks. (But this is MY fantasy so I can justify it. Those other readers will just have to get their own fantasies.) I've been reading her archives and we've actually had some of the same sort of spastic adventures... not that THAT is always necessary for a good friendship because, in all honesty, most of the world is not as goofy and earnest and tightly-wound as I am on a daily basis.

So, then, in my fantasy, she's just dying to tell me how to go about marketing my work and getting a book deal. Because I hear that happens all the time--people seek you out to offer you the use of their agents. Yeah. Right.

But I do think I'm ready for that --at long last. (Not for The Harlot to offer me help but to finally start to go after my own dream.) I've never done any marketing of my own work --it just seemed wrong and sort of inorganic and really against my innate personality. I can build other people up but I never could seem to do it for myself, if that makes sense. But after spending the better part of the last year in therapy talking about why it's so hard for me to recognize that I have this gift to share with people, that some people could really BENEFIT from reading my work, I think I'm ready. Scared out of my mind, but ready.

But back to my fantasy: so, Stephanie will love my book so much that she'll talk about it on her blog and link to my web site. (I mean, if she likes it. Which could happen. If she reads it. Which could also maybe happen.)


I don't have any more of my books to sell (except the Navajo Quilt Edition) but maybe if enough people want them, I could find a publisher to take me on. I want to NOT self publish again. I'm so terrible at the business side of things. Like, I applied for a tax ID number and collected sales tax but I didn't actually get that I had to file a report every quarter to declare my sale tax. The government really, really HATES it when you forget to give them money. So it starts making up amounts that you might owe and then you have to prove that they are wrong. Which is hard to do if you're not that strong at the accounting/business part of things.

Even in your own fantasy.

Tagged Again

I got tagged again by Kathy.

Yourself: Unshowered
Your Partner: Tired
Your Hair: Back
Your Mother: Europe
Your Father: Passed On
Your Favorite Item: Camera
Your Dream Last Night: Escaped
Your Favorite Drink: Wine
Your Dream Car: Self-fueled
Dream Home: Here (remodeled)
The Room You Are In: Den
Your Fear: Failure
Where You Want to be in Ten Years: On Oprah
Who You Hung Out With Last Night: Friends
You’re Not: Frugal
One of Your Wish List Items: Fitness
The Last Thing You Did: Phoned
You Are Wearing: Shorts
Your Favorite Weather: Fall
Your Favorite Book: Steinbeck
Last Thing You Ate: Sandwich
Your Life: Blessed
Your Mood: Hopeful
Your Best Friend: Canadian
What Are You Thinking About Right Now: Writing
Your Car: Dirty
What Are You Doing At The Moment: Drinking
Relationship Status: Happy
What Is On Your TV: Nothing
What Is The Weather Like: Hot
When Is The Last Time You Laughed: Now