Thursday, December 22, 2011

What am I afraid of?


Being laughed at.

Looking stupid.

Not being "good enough," whatever the hell that means.

So, what do you do when you're faced with any or all of the above possibilities?

I procrastinate.

I dawdle.

I make excuses.

I freeze up and do nothing.  Yeah, like that's going to help.

Where the hell did this come from?  Why are you talking about this crap?

Well, a very dear friend of mine gave me some really excellent and spot on feedback on my blog.  And I will be brutally honest:  it stung.  I did that blinking-really-fast thing and then my stomach got all twisty, like I ate too many burritos and then did a Pilates class followed up with a roller coaster ride.

And then I thought about what she wrote.  I realized that she was not only totally right, but also a totally awesome friend who wasn't trying to break my spirit but rather make me a better writer.

Okay.  I can deal with that.

And then I thought some more.  I realized that if I really want to write, I need to start (gulp) working harder.  I need to stop crapping out blog posts and start crafting entries.  And that kinda scared me.

Why?  Why does working hard at something that I actually enjoy strike fear in my heart?

Because I'm afraid:

That I will fail.

That people I know will laugh at me.

That they will think I will look stupid.

That they will think I am not a good writer.

So what are you going to do about it?

I am going to spend more than thirty minutes writing blog posts.

I am going to write out my mission statement for the blog, and make sure that each post reflects that.

I am still going to (sorry, can't quite think of a more... fitting... word) crap out my thoughts (just not online), but I also will spend time crafting them, making sure that I'm not just rehashing what I did that day, but what I think about it.  You know, make it a little more interesting and, dare I say it, compelling for the reader.  (I know, what a concept!)

So, once again I owe a BIG thanks to my friend for kicking me in the ass.

Sure, friends are supposed to be nice to you and tell you things that make you feel good about yourself.  But a real friend tells you the truth, knowing that it will sting at first, but that it will also make you a better person.

Guess which category I place my friend?

Working to become a better writer scares the crap out of me.  Having a friend who will be brutally honest to make me better at it makes it a little less scary.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to write a YA dystopian novel

I've been reading A LOT of Young Adult, dystopian fiction lately.  

Along with watching Twilight movies and looking at pictures of Robert Pattinson on the Internet, reading YA dystopian fiction is my number one guilty pleasure.  I love love love it.  However, the Novels of Dystopia have been both amusing and frustrating me lately:  I've read so many of them that they are starting to blend together.  

And I've noticed many, many recurring themes.  So much so that I would like to write a quick cheat sheet for those of you who might like to dip your pen into the dystopian ink well:

Things to remember when writing a YA dystopian novel:
  • Your story will take place at some unnamed time in the future
  • Some (possibly unnamed) catastrophic event - disease, world war, excessive materialism - has forced The Powers That Be to severely restrict personal freedoms
  • Society is a small, self-contained unit that does not communicate with others outside its borders
  • Technology is even more pervasive than it is now, and it is used to track every aspect of its citizens from personal preferences, nutritional needs, and physical location
  • All inhabitants of Society must follow the rules and regulations in their entirety.  Failure to do so will result in punishment which may include public humiliation and/or banishment from Society.
  • The protagonist, usually a female, has willingly lived within the constraints of her society for all of her life, until she meets HIM
  • For some reason, HE lives on the fringes of society - by choice or due to some circumstance - and is attracted to protagonist.  As they get to know each other, HE explains that society's restrictions are just that, restrictions, and that life wasn't Always Like This
  • Protagonist is dating a "nice" boy, preferably an upstanding, model citizen who personifies the ideals valued by Society
  • Protagonist finds herself attracted to HIM and, as she spends time with HIM, begins to question her blind loyalty to Society
  • Love triangle somehow raises the suspicion of The Powers That Be, who must take some sort of punitive action against protagonist and/or HIM
  • Protagonist must make a choice between Society and True Love, which will result in Permanent Banishment from Society
  • Resolve some of the major plot points, but leave the readers (somewhat) hanging at the end.  Remember, you've signed a deal for a trilogy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Wonderland?

Don't know if I've mentioned this here or not, but I've been wheat-free for almost two years.

It is simultaneously great and sucky.

Great because I don't have that brain fog and pervasive nausea that I would get when eating wheat.

Sucky because I really miss a nice loaf of crusty bread, the texture of real semolina pasta, and - more than anything else - cookies and other baked goodies.

I know, I know, there are a kajillion websites with recipes for gluten-free treats, and gluten-free cookies and other snacks can be found at any Target or grocery store.  But have you actually tried any of those store-bought gluten-free foods?  And not just foods that aren't normally wheat-free.  I mean things like cookies, pasta, or bread.  Seriously - have you tried any of them?

Yes, they are much better than they were even a year ago, but let's be brutally honest:  most store bought gluten-free foods are pale substitutes for the original.

Sure, I could make my own bread, cakes, and cookies (I happen to have an excellent recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that is pretty easy to make), but I am a full-time mom to three young and very active boys.  I don't have the time to sort through the bazillion recipes, make test batches, and figure out which ones taste the best and are easiest to make (not to mention which recipes will pass the non-GF taste test).

But, I may have found a solution.  I just found out that there is a magazine called Gluten-Free Living.  I haven't had the opportunity to get my grubby little paws on a copy (yet), but I would imagine that it includes things like recipes, tips on finding hidden sources of gluten in restaurant menus and food labels, and that sort of thing.  I would really like to have a subscription to GFL.  I can, and if I am lucky, it won't cost me a cent.  See, this blog called Gluten Free Frenzy is giving away 25 free subscriptions to Gluten-Free Living.  I want one!  Please, please pick me!!!

Any gluten-free success stories (meaning they passed the Hubster/boys taste test) will be posted.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gone Too Soon

Feeling emotionally exhausted today.

Mom called me this morning; my aunt called her last night.  Her boyfriend had an aneurysm, and brain scans showed no function.  He had called and asked her to come down (they live in the same apartment building) because he was having awful headaches, and shortly after she got there he collapsed in her arms.  Mom and Dad drove down to be with her today, and shortly after they arrived he was removed from life support.

Later this morning I learned that a classmate from one of the high schools I attended (my family moved a lot; I went to three high schools) also passed away today.  He was 41 and had a young daughter.

As much as I enjoy the festivities that this time of year brings, this part of it really sucks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nothing says "Christmas" like a port-a-potty on your lawn

That's right.  And it bears repeating:

Nothing says "Christmas" like a port-a-potty on your front lawn.

You're probably all like, "What the what?"  I know.  I was too, when I first saw it.  Let me explain...

As I am sure you remember (because I that you care about every detail of my life), we have been doing some home improvement.  Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and tile guys have been traipsing in and out of our home for the past twenty-one weeks what feels like forever.  And since paving a driveway is part of the project, these guys have been tromping through dirt to get into our house.  Yeah, my vacuum cleaner and I have been quite hot and heavy lately.  And the dust.  Oh, the dust!  It is going to take me years to get rid of all of the freaking dust in my house.

The bright side of this is that the workers are not using my bathrooms.  (Workers using my bathroom...  Mind bleach.  Somebody please pass the mind bleach)  Instead, these lucky guys have their own personal portable john.  Initially, it was located on our side lawn, where it was visible but not in your face.

Now that our driveway is ready to be paved, the port-a-pot had to be moved, since its original location will be paved.  Where did they move it?

Front and center.

Oh yes, pull up to my house and you can't miss it:  the port-a-potty on our lawn.  Fan-freaking-tastic.

I think I'm gonna put a wreath and some lights on it, make it look festive.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Really? That was it?

Karate mom is back with an update.

Turns out that she was all worked up over nothing (No!  All of that angst and worry turned out to be for nothing?  Say it isn't so!).

See, I thought that, during a belt test, the student was required to perform the form(s) individually, under the watch of a black belt, and said black belt would determine whether or not the student has demonstrated a certain (unbeknownst to me, Karate mom) level of mastery.

Boy, was I wrong.

I had no idea that a belt test was basically another class, including the black belts walking around the room except instead of offering instruction, they are observing and grading the students.

And I was all worked up, wondering if I needed to whip out the old "As Long As You Tried Your Best" speech or not.

It turns out that I was all worried for nothing.  On one hand, I was relieved that I didn't have a disappointed child who didn't achieve a much desired goal; but on the other hand, I was annoyed that I was all worked up over what was basically a given.  However, I can deal with my annoyance.  Especially after seeing J's face when he got his orange belt.  That was worth all of the worry, the angst, the wondering.

Yes, my son is a level 9 orange belt in Tang Soo Do.  I am so proud of that boy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Title Goes Here

Yeah, it was one of those days.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

The oldest went to school.  I took the two little ones to the Y.  We had lunch.  Somehow, the afternoon passed with nothing major accomplished.  J returned from school.  I made dinner.  We ate.  We all went to the Y (yes, again) for J's karate class.  Hubster showed up five minutes before class ended.  I took the little ones home.  Got them ready for bed.

And here I am.

Yay for predictability!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Counting Down

There are eighteen days left until Christmas.

I have this personal policy that I won't wish away my life, but lately I have been really looking forward to Christmas.

You might think that it's because I love the joy that Christmas brings.  That I look forward to eating, drinking, and being merry with friends.  Because even though I can't enjoy them myself, I still love baking batch after batch of Christmas cookies.  That I can't wait to bring home the things T makes on Ornament Day and hang them on the Christmas tree.  Because I get to spend time with my brother, who lives across the country and hasn't been back East since last Christmas.  Or that I look forward to showing off the new kitchen and family room while enjoying the company of my extended family.  That, more than anything else, I so look forward to seeing the excitement on the boys' faces when they see what Santa brought them.

Well, I do.  But that's not why I'm looking forward to Christmas this year.  Oh, no.  No, no no no no no.

I'm looking forward to Christmas because after all of the hype, the class parties, chocolates from their Advent calendars, the never ending Christmas lists, and the cookies and milk left out for Santa, IT WILL FINALLY BE CHRISTMAS.

Look, I love my kids.  And I love Christmas (but not as much as I love my kids).  But my kids awaiting Christmas will try the patience of the most sainted of adults.  That is why I look forward to the Big Day.  Because all of the antsy-ness of waiting will be OVER.  And then when they drive me crazy, I can blame it on something else, like the weather.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Fodder for Therapy

Yeah.  Poor T had a rough weekend.

Well, not exactly, but there was an incident that will probably leave a mark on his psyche.

Yesterday, I took all three boys to J's first basketball game.  I was sitting in the (three-row-high) bleachers with T and S and J was on the court practicing with his team when the fire alarm began to sound.  I thought T was going to have a nervous breakdown.  As soon as the alarm started going, T stood up and booked down the bleachers and towards the door, turning only to scream at me that we had to GET OUT NOW BECAUSE THERE IS A FIRE!  That nobody else felt any sense of urgency to evacuate only made T even more apoplectic.  The poor kid was nearly hyperventilating, tears streaming down his cheeks.  It broke my heart to see him so sincerely upset.  Some parents must have felt the same way, because a few went out of their way to explain to T that somebody must have bumped into the alarm, accidentally setting it off.

Once we got outside, T noticed that we were right next to the playground.  That perked him up, despite the continuing alarm.  And a new noise, sirens from the fire chief, arriving to evaluate the scene.  Still, T's moods were giving me whiplash, alternating between happily climbing up the playground structure and fretting and worrying that the school was on fire.

Fortunately, happy T won out, since once we were given the all clear to resume basketball, it took some wrangling to get T off of the playground structure and back into the gym.

Something tells me that T is going to be like I was when I was a kid -- panic-stricken every time there was a fire drill at school.

As I said, it'll be one more thing to discuss in therapy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

That Mom, at karate

Yeah, I was That Mom tonight.

J has been taking karate (Teng Soo, actually, not that I would know the difference between that and any other type of martial arts) since September and is loving it.  Next week is his first belt test.

Tonight, they were going over form one (don't ask me to explain beyond "it's a series of moves" because I that's all I've got).  J was doing really well for the most part, but there were a couple of times when he would turn in the opposite direction from the rest of the kids.  And the black belts were either watching other kids or not concerned about it.

So... oh look, here comes That Mom.  Going to talk to one of the Masters.  Yup, I went there.  I asked him how strict the judging was for the best tests and if, say, turning in the wrong direction was something that might prevent J from advancing.  Have I ever mentioned that I am somewhat of a perfectionist?  And an overachiever?  And slightly anal-retentive?  Not to mention a teensy tinesy bit protective of my kids?

Well, I got the distinct impression that as a seven-year-old just starting out, turning in the wrong direction will likely not be a problem, provided that the focus and effort is there.

If I'm feeling like I might need a drink next Friday, I can't begin to imagine how J will feel.  Mom's going to have to do some Oscar-caliber acting next week lest my nervousness rub off on him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Yeah, I'm overthinking.  Again.  It's something I'm really good at, because I get so much practice.

I've spent the last two hours agonizing over which faucet to order for my master bath.  I know, life changing stuff here.  I was going to go middle of the road, stylewise, but now I'm thinking going more modern.

I am driving myself crazy.

Did I mention that I need to get the rough-in valve by Tuesday morning?  So while I may not need to know the exact style, I should really know which manufacturer I'm going to go with.

I said Argh already, didn't I?

It must be said again:


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The final stretch

Today is the last day of November.  That means several things:

  • The Official Countdown to Christmas begins tomorrow (it's only Official if chocolate-filled Nativity calendars are involved)
  • Holy crap, I have less than twenty four days to figure out gifts for my kids' teachers
  • And sign up to bring something for each of their classroom holiday parties
  • And for these blasted contractors to finish carpeting the family room, install my kitchen backsplash, and finish the trim on the first floor (I'm not going to bitch about what is or isn't going on upstairs until 2012)
It also means something else:  I have accomplished my goal to publish a blog post a day during the month of November.

Alright, Professor Technicality, I know what you're thinking.  You're hung up on those days I missed.  All four of them (you can count if you must, but I *did* just go and check myself).  There are very good reasons why I missed those four days of blogging:

November 1 - I started a day late, after blowing an ill-conceived attempt at NaNoWriMo.
November 7 - I have no idea why I didn't blog this night.  I'll give you this one.
November 9 - Birthday dinner for a friend.  It was mandatory.
November 19 - Went to dinner then saw Breaking Dawn Part 1 with friends.  (This is quite possibly the most legitimate reason for missing a night of blogging.  Ever.  Well, short of attending the Breaking Dawn premiere and scoring a picture of myself with Robert Pattinson...)

So there you have it.  I have spent (almost) each evening in November writing.  Most of it was on the fly, not very planned, and not heavily structured or edited.  But I'm quite proud of my little accomplishment here (reaches around to pat herself on the back).

What next?  Well, fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I plan to keep blogging.  Maybe not every day, but most of them.  

And who knows, maybe one day somebody will pay me to write for them.  (Okay, maybe not money-is-no-longer-an-object, buy-myself-a-Lexus-because-I-can, Mommy-needs-a-brand-new-wardrobe big bucks, but a little bit of mad money would be a nice start.)

Bring on December!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I must chill.

I was all riled up yesterday.

Seriously riled up.  So much so that I it took me freaking. for. ever. to fall asleep.  And when I did finally fall asleep, I kept having dreams where I was walking around an unsavory neighborhood in some post-apocalyptic city with my family and, one by one, they kept disappearing before my eyes.  And then I was wide awake an hour earlier than usual, restless, and completely exhausted.

Why was I so riled up?  

T's preschool sent home a notice about Ornament Day.  It's next Friday, and it's a blast - our Christmas tree is covered with ornaments that J and T made on Ornament Days past at preschool.  This year, there's a little twist (oh, yes, there's always a twist):  all parents must be VIRTUS trained.

What is VIRTUS?  It's a three-hour seminar on child sexual abuse awareness for adults.  And the principal is now requiring that every adult who enters the parochial school where T is a student attend this seminar.  

I guess that I was fingerprinted and FBI-background checked by two public school districts prior to teaching the children of complete strangers isn't proof enough that I'm fit to supervise my own child at a preschool event.  The preschool teacher actually challenged the principal, and said that the children's needs for a parent to be present for a special day trumps the need for a parent to attend the seminar (yes, she is an amazing preschool teacher).


why must I chill?

You'll love this.  

Turns out I didn't read one of the forms too clearly (I tend to miss important words and phrases when I read while enraged).  It said that if a parent hasn't attended a VIRTUS training session but is registered to attend, then they are able to attend Ornament Day.  So I am officially registered to attend a session in January.  Note that it doesn't say anything about actually attending the course...

Of course I plan to go!  It's a Catholic school, and I was raised Catholic.  I attend church every week.  Do you really think I could register and not go?  Besides, S will be going to preschool there for two years.  At some point, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get it done.  Don't worry, I'll grumble about it the whole time...  ;)

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's time... place my credit cards in a big bowl of water and freeze them.

Sadly, though, that will only do so much.  See, I have my Amex card number memorized.  Comes in dangerously handy when shopping online.

On the up side, I am quite certain that my Christmas shopping is DONE.  Kids?  Done.  Hubster?  Done.  Annual photo albums for the grandparents?  Done.  Birthday presents for T and S?  Done and Done.  Birthday present for Baby Jesus?  Done.

I know, you're just dying to know what I got everybody.  Bad news, my friend.  I cannot divulge the contents of the boys' presents.  Just not gonna do it (yes, please do use your George H. W. Bush voice when reading that line; I did it too).  However, I will share that Baby Jesus will be getting the Thinkfun Flipover Game.  I'm not really sure what that is, but it sounds like it'll be a hit amongst the preschoolers in T's class.  (T attends Pre-K at the local Catholic elementary school.  Instead of buying gifts for the teachers, they request items for the classroom that each child brings in, unwraps, and presents to the class.  I think it's a nice way to introduce T to our Catholic faith while helping the teachers stock the classroom with toys that all of the preschoolers will enjoy for a long time.  But that's just me.)

All I have to do now is order Christmas cards.  Of course, this requires that I take the annual Christmas Card Photo.  Mind you, this takes some doing.  Trying to get three little boys to simultaneously look at the camera and smile is like herding cats.  You're laughing.  Something tells me that you've neither herded cats nor tried to photograph three boys under the age of eight.  And let me tell you, you just haven't lived until you've tried herding cats or taking a photograph of three boys under the age of eight.

If you're interested in the photography bit, let me know.  'Cause I've got some boys, some Christmas pajamas, and a Christmas card that's in need of a cute photo.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

As we like to do on a Sunday night (and when we don't care about the 8pm football matchup), Hubster and I watched 60 Minutes.

I am still processing a piece they did about homeless kids in Florida.  Some of the statistics they shared were staggering - 25% of all children in America live in poverty, and one third of them live in Florida.

Watching the piece, I was almost in tears.  Especially since two of the kids interviewed, brother and sister, were so amazingly positive despite the fact that they live in a truck.  I just can't quite fathom that so many people in our country live like this.  It's so sad.

I just do not believe that some of the parents interviewed are homeless by choice, or because they are lazy.  Some of them worked in construction, an industry decimated when the economy faltered.  If the industry of your expertise collapses, what do you do?  What can you do, especially when you then are forced to compete with everyone else who worked in said industry?

I know that some people believe that their situation is all President Obama's fault.  And there are others who believe that it is former President Bush's.  I suspect that I am like most people and think that it's not quite as cut and dried as that.

To me, it's a systemic problem; everything feeds on everything else.  Kids are encouraged to go to college to prepare for work in intellectual industries.  Vocational schools are closing, leaving few avenues for people to learn trades.  Businesses cut staff in an effort to "streamline" processes and maximize shareholder profit.  As consumers, we want to buy the cheapest product, so much of what we buy is produced elsewhere.

I understand the desire to have more, better stuff, but at this cost?  When is it enough - when 90% of children are living in poverty?

I'm so mad right now, and I need to stew on this one; figure out what I can do...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Traditions, part one

It is time for me to begin working on one of my most labor-intensive holiday traditions:

The Year in Pictures.

Every year, I make a photo album that is a quick recap of the boys' year, and I give a copy to each set of  grandparents and save a copy for each of the boys.  (I have no idea if the boys will even want their books when they're older.  Probably not, since they're boys, but I still have to make sure that they each have one copy of each year's book lest they cry favoritism at some future point in time.)

Why is this so labor intensive?  Well, for starters, just uploading the four hundred plus photos that I take during the year takes about an hour.  Then I have to pick the cover color and page design.  I know, wah wah, give me a break, right?  But after making seven of these year after year, it's kind of hard to not repeat your choices.  And then I have to pick the pictures.  This is the fun part - I love reliving the year, picking the cutest pictures and then arranging them on the pages.  But there's more to it than that.  I have to make sure that each of the boys are (pretty much) equally represented.

Last, there's the witty captions.  I think this year I'll have to have a glass of wine before I start writing captions.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my writing flows better when the wine flows.  Should make this year's book a fun read, right?

I'd better get started.  My first batch of pictures are almost uploaded, and I need to get at least three or four pages laid out before I go to bed (my editor has me on a tight deadline).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Read on...

I love to read.

I absolutely love it.

What do I love to read?  Almost anything and everything.  In fact, reading online garbage is probably the number one cause of me posting my blog entries so late.  I must read Hollywood Life, Perez Hilton, and Entertainment Weekly before I do anything else.

But what I really love to read, more than anything, is YA fiction.  Specifically, dystopian YA fiction.

Yes, you read correctly: dystopian young adult fiction.  You know, all those books that tend to come in series form - The Hunger Games, Divergent, Uglies, The Host.  All those kinds of books.  I love them.  In fact, I more than love them, I devour them.  Seriously.  When I've found a book that I really like, or even one that I just kind of like, but I find strangely compelling, I can finish it in about three or four days.  Some of them are one day affairs, but those are shorter.

Why books set in messed up societies, and why books written for teens?  I've thought about that a lot, and I'm still not entirely sure.

I have found that YA books are much more simply written - more straightforward prose and simpler sentence structure, so it's easier to breeze through them without needing to put much thought or effort into it.  They also tend to have wider margins and larger font size.  I suspect it's so that reluctant readers will feel a greater sense of accomplishment for completing a 450-page book that's actually about 325 pages long were it formatted more conservatively.  Whatever.  I'm not in it for the page count.

I've always liked stories set in strange, messed up societies.  I don't know if it's because I've always felt like a misfit, or because the strict regimentation of these post-modern societies fascinates me.  Or horrifies me.  Or is strangely comforting.  I just know that when I start one of these novels, I can't read fast enough, and they are never long enough.  And their sequels are never written quickly enough.  Come on, authors, write faster!!!  I need to know what happens next!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I am blessed.  I have many things for which to be thankful.  Among them:

My husband 
Sure, he gets on my nerves sometimes, but let's face it.  I'm not a ball of fun 100% of the time myself.  I love that guy more each day, and I am thankful to have him by my side on this journey.

My kids  
Sure, they get on my nerves sometimes, but let's face it.  They're kids.  They're supposed to do that from time to time.  But for the vast majority of the time, they are just awesome little people.  They are each developing their own personality and as much as I am enamored by them, I am equally amazed by them and grateful that I get to have them every day for the next few years.

My extended family
I am so fortunate that my parents live in the same town we do.  I am grateful that they are always able and willing to help us watch the kids so I can take someone to an activity, get my hair done, or go out to dinner with my husband.  Although I wish I could see them more frequently, I love that my brothers are among my closest friends.  And I am grateful for all of the other people I was lucky enough to be related to by blood or by marriage, and that I like to be with them (most of the time).

My health
Yeah, I have some annoying things going on, like allergies to wheat, and peanuts, and lettuce (yes, lettuce.  shut up, it sucks).  And the tendonitis in my shoulder is still bothering me.  But on the whole, I have no health concerns.  Through the Hubster's job, I have health care coverage, so I can go to the doctor if I'm sick.  But that doesn't really happen all that often.  And for that, I am grateful.

My friends
They commiserate when the kids are giving me a hard time or The Hubster is aggravating me.  They lend me a sympathetic ear when I need to get something off my chest.  We support each other as we navigate our jobs as full-time moms.  We drive each other's kids home when we need an extra hand.  And they are even more fun to be with when we can go out without our kids and let our hair down.

I hope you all have as many things about which to be thankful!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving eve

If you lived close to Manhattan fifteen or twenty years ago, the night before Thanksgiving used to be this really cool, almost underground event.

It's the night when balloons for the Macy's parade are blown up.

I used to go into New York City with my cousins and some friends the night before Thanksgiving.  We would grab some dinner not far from Penn Station (those of us who didn't work in the city would arrive there by train from New Jersey or Long Island), then head up to Central Park West alongside the Museum of Natural History.  

The balloons were unfurled, spread out along the street, and pedestrians could roam alongside a partially filled Big Bird, Snoopy, or any one of the ginormous balloons that would be on TV the next morning.  Some years it was pleasant and mild, others freaking cold, but it was never crowded.  The mood was always jovial, and people were friendly and generally happy to be there.


One day, somehow, someone let the secret out.  And then what seemed like freaking everybody from New Jersey and Long Island hopped a train into the city on Thanksgiving eve to have dinner (The last year I went my friends and I couldn't get a table at a diner.  A freaking diner!) and watch the balloons blow up.  

You can't walk in the street and get close to the balloons anymore.  No.  Now you have to stay on the sidewalk, fenced in like cattle.  And you get fed through these zig zags, which is just so pleasant when you're jammed up against thousands of complete strangers.  (In my experience, these strangers never look like extras on a movie set, attractive and happy to be there.  Instead, they are usually half in the bag, irritable, and just not very pleasant.  Really adds to the festive mood of the evening)

To this day, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is my favorite thing about the holiday.  I gladly endure the 9am interviews with minor characters on NBC dramas and the musical numbers from poorly attended Broadway shows.  I love watching the marching bands perform in Herald Square.  I get excited when my favorite balloons come onscreen. 

And then, the big finale:  Santa arrives!  (Santa!  I know him!!!)  And when he does, I know that the Christmas season has officially begun.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brain fuzzy, back later

Tonight, I thought I was going to write about why I don't like Thanksgiving.  Turns out that the wine had other plans for me.  These plans include fogging my brain, rendering me unable to construct a witty albeit brief narrative about my early turkey day experiences, making me want to instead lounge on the couch and get lost in DVR recordings of The Daily Show.

Brain is fuzzy.  It has been busy keeping track of the usual details - you know, things like school schedules, extracurricular activities, and Christmas list items for the kids.  It has also been busy keeping track of the details of our home improvement project and the dramas of late, including delivering the wrong color countertop for a bathroom, whether or not to replace water damaged hardwood floor boards, that the driveway will adequately drain during heavy rain, and other inconsequential details.

It also just realized two days ago that T's birthday is a month away, and I have done nothing more than think about where to hold it (anybody know of a fun place for a fifth birthday party that costs under $300?).  No wait, I did think about trying to convince him that a half birthday will be much, much cooler than one close to his actual birthday.

What?  What was that?  Excuse me, please, I think I hear a bottle of Chardonnay calling my name.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Boy, oh boy

I believe that there was a good reason why God gave me all boys.  Today a friend's Facebook post confirmed that.

My friend's eleven-year-old daughter wants to go see the new Twilight movie.  Mom does not want her to see it.  Daughter has already seen the first two movies at a sleepover despite Mom's refusals.  Daughter said that the movies didn't scare her at all, and is angry because (say it with me) everyone else is allowed to see it and mean old Mom won't let her go.

Whether or not Daughter was scared by the movies hadn't even crossed my mind.  What did cross my mind was what mother thinks that Twilight and New Moon are appropriate fare for a bunch of eleven-year-old girls.  I don't care how mature they might appear, they are still young girls and are very likely highly impressionable.

I don't remember what movies were popular when I was eleven, but I do remember seeing "Sixteen Candles" in the movies when it first came out.  I was thirteen at the time.  I also remember thinking that there must be something missing from my own high school experience since it bore little if any resemblance to what was often depicted on screen.  And you can be sure that my expectations about boys and relationships were gleaned from the teenage cinematic canon of the time - Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Footloose, and so on.

What ideas are these eleven-year-olds getting from Twilight?  I would love to know.

What I hope they're not taking from the series is myriad:

  • that when that really, really cute boy who is so aloof is magically drawn to you, drop everything and everyone else in your life and totally focus on him
  • when you find out that he's been sneaking into your bedroom and watching you while you sleep, it's because he's just really romantic
  • it's okay if said boy disables your vehicle so you can't go see your best friend (who happens to be a boy) because he loves you and doesn't want you to get hurt
  • it's okay to engage in risky, life-threatening behavior because when you do, you see your boyfriend who left you because he loves you too much to hurt you
  • if your boyfriend is involved in something, no matter how peripherally, that causes many people to be killed, it's okay because he isn't the one doing the killing
  • if your boyfriend did, in fact, kill some people, it's okay because those people would have killed many others, so in fact he actually saved lives by taking them
I could go on, but I think you get what I'm driving at.

I guess my point is that as much as I would have loved the opportunity to raise a daughter, I am glad that I won't have to navigate this particular minefield.  Oh, I know, there will be plenty of others that the boys will want to drive through.  But I'm glad that I won't have to revisit my own adolescent experiences through a daughter.  I don't think I could disengage enough to let her find her own way.  And I wouldn't want to do that to my child.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Supermarket Sweep

First, a little bit of business:  I took yesterday off because a couple of friends and I went to dinner and to see Breaking Dawn Part 1.  Mmmm, Robert Pattinson.  Oh, sorry, got lost in my thoughts for a minute.  And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog...

Now that the kitchen is finally back to normal, I was able to grocery shop with no restrictions.  Yay!

Yesterday's trip was pretty normal, but since I hadn't really been doing serious shopping (I was limited to buying foods that could be prepared with one steak knife and baked in a disposable roasting pan), either I hadn't been paying close attention to annoying behaviors, or I was lucky enough to have avoided them during this time.

Holy crap, are people obnoxious when wielding a grocery carriage!

Offender #1:  The Aisle Blocker
You know the aisle blocker.  You're cruising along, trying to figure out which breakfast cereal will not get soggy in milk, fill up the kids until snack time, and keep them interested in eating it every day this week.  Good thing you're paying attention, because you just nearly miss slamming into a half-filled cart with no driver.  Who?  What?  Oh, there she is - halfway down the aisle, reading the nutrition label on a box of steel cut oats, oblivious to the fact that nobody can get through because she left her cart unattended in the middle of the aisle.  You bite your tongue, force a smile, and gently move the cart to one side so you can get through.  And then the bitch throws you an evil glare because you dared to touch her stuff.

Offender #2:  The Scale Hog
I don't know if this is a widespread thing or not, but my grocery store of choice has produce scales that print out scannable stickers.  It's great for when you go through the self-serve checkouts or if, like me, you use handheld scanners as you shop.  It's not great when some technophobe (who always, always has absolutely no idea what any item in the produce section is called) fills up seven bags with varying items and then monopolizes the scale.  For twenty minutes.  Look, I know what I am buying.  If the red peppers I've bagged don't have stickers with the PLU numbers on them, I can drill down through the "Search" function, find my item, and print out that sticker like nobody's business.  I'm on a mission, people, and you're totally messing with my grocery mojo.

Offender #3:  The Blind Cornerer
This offender appears so frequently that I now unconsciously slow down when I reach the end of an aisle.  This is the guy (or woman) who barrels around the corners so quickly that if you're not paying attention, you'll be jackknifed over the handle of your grocery cart.  Said offender is frequently spotted with head turned, offering a parting shot to a friend coincidentally run into while shopping.

Offender #4:  The Very Important Shopper
This is the shopper cruising down the aisles at an obnoxiously slow pace, cell phone pressed to ear (or, worse, on a Bluetooth headset), chatting loudly about something that has nothing to do with food or grocery shopping.  I don't mind when someone is at the store and calls home to check on which brand or variety someone wants.  I do mind hearing about your personal nonsense.  Seriously.  Life is not a reality show.  Stop trying to look important by chatting with your BFF as you grocery shop.  Nobody wants to hear it.

Offender #5:  The Impatient One
This is the shopper whose breath you feel on your back as you sign your name on the electronic tablet when paying.  They know they're in your personal space but they do not care.  No.  They are Busy, and are In a Hurry, so therefore it is okay to practically touch you while you enter your PIN at the checkout.  I sometimes like to kick my foot up to calf height to regain some space (try to make it look like it's something you do when you're signing your name, otherwise you just end up looking like a bitch).

So, shopping is complete and you're about to load up your car.  You offer up a little prayer that you haven't been struck by

Offender #6:  The Runaway Cart Abandoner
I don't need to elaborate on this one, do I?  And why does the cart always end up in a position that requires you to move it in order to leave?

I'm sure there are more, but these were the most flagrant offenders I ran into this week.  Good thing I get to grocery shop every week...

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Halfway Point

If I hadn't visited BlogHer today, I would not have known.

I'm halfway to achieving the goal of NaBloPoMo - publishing a new blog post every day during the month of November.

There were two days that I missed, one because I started a day late and one because I went out to dinner with the girls (completely excusable, in my opinion).  But I have published fourteen posts so far this month.

Let's do a little reflecting, shall we?

Obviously, not all of my posts were mind-blowingly fantastic.  To quote Depeche Mode, it's a lot like life.  Not every moment of every day is brilliant and inspiring and funny and worth sharing.  I did have some highlights, and the Fruit Fly Saga is possibly my favorite "story arc."  

I've noticed that my writing is more interesting when I let my guard down.  If I've had a glass of wine, or I'm not feeling 100%, I tend to type whatever is on my mind and not self-edit so much.  The lesson?  Just get my thoughts out there without overthinking.  The raw, unfiltered words tend to work better than the ones that have been agonized over.  Kind of like a meatloaf, my writing works better if it hasn't been excessively manhandled.  (besides, that's what revisions and editors are for, right?)

Moving forward?  I need to keep on writing.  I need to be less self-conscious when I write.  I need to use my iPhone to jot down notes so I don't lose those small moments that can be crafted into a post.  I need to be more disciplined - right now I'm sitting on my couch, typing away as "The Soup" plays on the TV in the background.  Honestly, disciplined writing at a designated time in a designated writing space will probably not happen right away.  Maybe not for a few months, or years, even.  Finding time to do much of anything without interruptions from little people is near impossible.  So for now, it's sofa city, sweetheart.  (bonus points to anyone born after 1977 who can name the film)

And so, I will write.  Maybe one day I will share it with more than one person.  And maybe, just maybe, lots of people will read what I write.  And like it.  And think it's really funny and poignant and real.  Maybe one of those people will like my writing enough to pay me to write stuff for lots of people to read.  That might be the coolest. thing. ever.  Writing for money.

Hmm, where would I like to see my writing published?  I'll have to chew on that for a bit.  Definitely fodder for a future post.

But before I sign off for the night, extra special thanks to Sensei's Wife.  I cannot thank you enough for your editorial expertise, thought provoking questions, and unwavering support.  Oh, and your friendship.  More than anything else, your friendship.  xoxo

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Productivity at Home

Still fighting that damn cold.  I neti potted twice today.

Everyone in the house is fighting this cold.  Every. single. one. of us.  As you can imagine, we're quite the happy bunch.

I skipped my weekly Pilates class.  I absolutely hate missing Pilates (it's the first workout I've found that has almost gotten rid of my three-baby belly fat), but I had to suck it up today so that everybody (T and S in particular) would be healthy enough to go to school tomorrow.  Instead, I got a bunch of stuff done around the house.

Shall I elaborate?  Why yes, I shall.  Today I:

  • cleaned the bathtub in the boys' bathroom
  • did the grownups' laundry
  • vacuumed the shelves and drawers in the kitchen
  • found, washed, and put away the pots and pan
  • took a nap
I see some of you looking quizzically at me.  You think that my list isn't that impressive.  You think that I didn't get all that much done.  Okay, you're entitled to think that.  But try getting all of that done while your two youngest children (who are almost five and three) are at home.  And while your head feels like it's full of that gel stuff that's actually a soil substitute.  Uh huh, now you get it, right?  Not too shabby.  In fact, I kicked some domestic ass.

I was freaking unstoppable today.  Bask in my glory!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I feel like crap today.

I woke up with insane sinus pressure and a killer sore throat.  Yay!  I'm sick!

And when I'm sick, I am a true joy.  A brilliant ray of sunshine bringing light to all those around me.  A real altruist, putting my physical discomfort and inability to breathe through my nose aside to ensure that everybody else's needs are met.

Yeah, I didn't think you'd buy that.  I did lay it on pretty thick.

I am miserable.  

Thank heavens that J and T both had school today, so I had light duty for about half of the day.  I spent much of it drinking tea and water with lemon, sucking on vitamin C drops, trying not to turn a coughing fit into a puking fit.  

The second part of light duty (after I brought T home from school) was pretty much like the first part, except with me trying to nap on the chair while T asked me for a snack or something to drink like every. thirty. seconds.  I finally snapped, told him that Mommy feels like a turd sandwich and would he please let me get some rest for a little while.  (no, I didn't use the phrase "turd sandwich" while speaking to my four-year-old although it was an apt description of how I felt)

And then light duty was over.  The bus arrived, depositing J at the corner.  Of course it was a rainy day, so the boys were extra squirrely with no place to go.  So they did what boys do best - run around the house and beat the crap out of each other.  Well, not so much beat the crap out of one another, more like annoy the crap out of one another.  Because that is a much more desirable option, right?

After the boys went to bed, I subjected myself to my old standby torture remedy - the neti pot.  Dealing with three rambunctious boys is a true joy while suffering massive sinus congestion.  So is running lightly salted water into one nostril and out the other.  I know, that sounds absolutely disgusting.  It is, if you watch yourself in the mirror (I strongly suggest you do not).  But I swear to you that nothing - nothing - will rid you of your sinus pressure by this nasty, highly effective method.

So that was my rainbow after the storm - rinsing the gunk out of my head with a small plastic watering can once the boys were in bed.  Gross, yes, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Boys are gross

I did the boys' laundry today.

I employed my usual method of separation:  shirts, socks, underwear, and pajamas in the first load, pants in the second.  After sorting and folding forty-something pairs of underpants and socks, it's nice only to have to fold pants by the time the second load finishes drying.

As I fold, each clothing "type" gets separated into three piles, one for each kid.  I always save the underpants and socks for last, and this time while folding underpants, I noticed something odd.

I hadn't folded any underpants for J, my oldest.

I wondered why.

And then it dawned on me.

He had been wearing the same pair of underpants all week.  He wasn't changing his underpants when he got dressed in the morning.


When he got home from school today, I asked why I hadn't folded any underpants for him.  He gave a "you got me" smile and looked down.  Busted!

I told him that I was going to start charging him a dollar a day if he didn't change his underpants and socks every day.

I think that got through to him.

Good grief, I hope so.

I don't even want to think about what I'm going to discover once he hits his teens.


Monday, November 14, 2011


Hi, my name is L, and I am a Twi-hard.

Yes, I am a 40-year-old Twilight fan.

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that.

Isn't it always? 

What I like about the Twilight series:

  • That all of the movies prominently feature Robert Pattinson
  • That, when reading the books, I feel like a teenager again, but in a good way
  • Both the books and the movies are just. so. ripe. for snarking
What I take issue with about the Twilight series:
  • The stupid contact lenses that the actors playing the vampires wear
  • The quality of Stephenie Meyer's writing
  • The gaping plot holes that you could drive a semi through
  • That Bella is supposedly so mature and self-possessed, yet is willing to throw her entire life away for a boy.  I'll admit that I've always been a sucker for a pretty face; if Robert Pattinson took a sudden interest in me, it would probably be difficult to resist, but come on now
  • That Edward's irrational possessiveness of and attempts to control Bella, his breaking into her home, and watching her while she sleeps are passed off as romantic instead of what they really are:  stalking and abusive.
That said, I will still fork over eleventy-million dollars (or whatever the price of a movie ticket is these days) to go see Breaking Dawn Part 1.  

On Saturday I asked the Hubster if he was going to take me out on a date so we could see it on opening night.  

Hubster is not a Twilight fan.  Watching one of the movies is about as high on his priority list as going to the dentist.  Hubster has not been to the dentist in about five years.  

He laughed.  

I believe his exact response was "No fucking way."

I told him that I would just have to go see it with the girls.  He was not pleased.

Oh well.

I need me some RPattz.  Shirtless.  In a love sex scene.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is that a thing?

Last night I picked up pizza for dinner.

In case you haven't been playing along at home, we're redoing our kitchen.  The stakes were raised on Wednesday when the hardwood floors were sealed, leaving us with no stove.

On my way home, I drove behind a (rather nice, probably brand-spanking-new) Mercedes.  I must have been following too close for the driver's liking, since s/he did something that I had never seen before.  The car's left turn signal started blinking, and since I am averse to rear ending vehicles behind which I drive, I slowed down.  We passed three or four streets on our left, but the car never turned.  It never really slowed down, either.

I think that rat bastard put his signal on just to get me off his tail.

Is that a thing?  Or was he just a giant juice bag?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Only thirty-six more hours...

Until my kitchen gets reassembled!


I know, you're all like What? What are you talking about, reassemble your kitchen?  What's up with that?

Well, I shall tell you.

In the beginning of July, we began a little home improvement project.  It's no big deal, really.  We began an addition.  Included in this project was, among other things, a complete kitchen overhaul.  You know, your typical, run-of-the-mill project.  No biggie.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you the best, most smartest decision ever part:  we're staying in the house.  The. Whole. Time.

A few weeks ago (I have no idea exactly when it happened; it could have been two weeks or two months, I just know it feels like freaking forever ago) our kitchen was gutted and stripped to the studs.  Thankfully we still had the use of our fridge and stove during this time.  Woo hoo!  Chicken nuggets and tater tots for dinner EVERY NIGHT!  Um, no.  I needed to try to keep some semblance of order (and nutrition) amid the chaos.  Dinner has pretty much consisted of anything I could assemble and cook in a disposable roasting pan.

There was a pretty tight rotation.  It went something like this:

  • Monday - chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole
  • Tuesday - nachos (made with ground beef that was browned at mom's house on Sunday)
  • Wednesday - roast chicken with potatoes and vegetable
  • Thursday - chicken parmigiana (made with cutlets that were breaded and baked at mom's)
  • Friday - frozen pizza
  • Saturday - sausage and peppers
  • Sunday - takeout pizza (again)
If I was feeling a little ka-razey, I might switch up the entrees, but that was pretty much what we've been eating for the past six-ish weeks.

It has not been the most eco-friendly venture.  Many trees were killed, and more fossil fuels were depleted so that we could have plates and forks upon which to eat dinner.  Oh, and did I also mention that all non-disposable items like snack bowls and sippy cups with myriad places for bacteria to hide from sponges had to be washed in the bathroom sink?  

Once everything is in, I don't know what I'll do first.  No, scratch that.  I do know what I'll do first.  I will clean - wipe down cabinets, shelves, and wash the counters.  I know, way to jump in with both feet, right?

Okay, after all of that boring cleaning stuff, what should I make first?  Stir fry?  Lasagna?  Gluten free chocolate chip cookies?  

Please to excuse me while I mop the drool from my keyboard...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby Steps

It's Friday night, and I have a couple of ideas kicking around in my head, but nothing too fully formed yet.

I didn't blog on Wednesday night.

For shame! you say.

I know.  But I had good reason.

I (gasp!) went out to dinner with some friends.

I'll let you collect yourself for a moment.

Right.  Let's move on, shall we?

So... one of the moms I know turned 40 a couple of weeks ago, and a bunch of us went to dinner to celebrate.

There are two things that happened with regard to this dinner that were noteworthy:
  1. Tuesday, the Hubster asked me what my plans were for Wednesday, because he was asked to go out for beers with some coworkers but was pretty sure that I had already "booked" that night to go out.
  2. (This is especially noteworthy because there's usually a rather tense back-and-forth between us when I want to go out on a "school night" and I really appreciated not only that he remembered that I had plans, but also that he deferred to them without any negativity.  If he's smart, he'll *finally* learn that this type of response will be rewarded handsomely by yours truly... wink, wink)
  3. I immersed myself in conversations with the women seated nearest me, and had a fantastic time.  I would have liked to have the opportunity to talk to everyone, but when there are ten of us at a long table, that's just not possible.  And - now here's why this is noteworthy - I actually did not feel like I missed out on what was going on at the other end of the table.  
  4. (One of the moms that I obliquely mentioned in a previous post were among those at dinner.  They sat at the opposite end of the table, said a quick hi, and said little if anything to me except things that were of benefit to her.  This behavior didn't go unnoticed, especially because I wasn't the only one treated this way.)
In other news...

The fruit flies continue to demonstrate their utter stupidity.  

Today, I found two dead ones at the bottom of the styrofoam cup (it's still on the bathroom counter).  

It was empty.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Uh Oh...

A few nights ago, while I was playing Dr. Kevorkian to my burgeoning fruit fly colony, I had a disturbing thought:

What if I've got it wrong?

What if, instead of extinguishing the colony, I'm culling the herd?

What if the fruit flies who haven't been sucked in to that oh-so-tempting styrofoam cup of nectar are somehow genetically superior to their stupider and now dead counterparts?  Have I become responsible for the genesis of a generation of Super Flies, unswayed by the scent of something sweet, able to land on a bubble without being trapped?

I stewed on that for a few days.  Exclusively.  It was all I thought about.

No.  Hell, no.  Of course it wasn't all I thought about.  Yeah, it crossed my mind a few times, whenever I entered the bathroom and saw the damn things congregating on the mirror.

So I tried a little experiment.  Rinsed out the cup (Yes, I paused a moment to honor the fallen.  Not.).  Added a squirt of soap.  Filled it with a couple of inches of water.  Set it on the counter to see what would happen.

A few hours later, there were five flies, belly up, at the bottom of the cup.

Conclusion:  fruit flies are stupid.  All that worry about culling the herd for nothing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So close, I can almost touch it...

Victory, that is.

Over the freaking fruit flies.

I can hear you cheering.  Thank you, my adoring fans.  All one of you.

But seriously...

I thought I had the Fruit Fly Cocktail of Doom all figured out.

Shockingly, I was wrong.  While my original recipe contained the secret ingredient - sugar - I discovered that I needed more of it.  A lot more of it.  Like two tablespoons worth.  So...

Rinsed the bug carcasses out that styrofoam cup.  Squirted some hand soap into it.  (By the by, the soap has a different use than what you might think - I thought it was because fruit flies are stupid and are lured by the pretty bubbles.  In actuality, the soap changes the surface tension on the water so the buggers can't fly away once they touch the sweet nectar.  Muahahahahaha...)  Went downstairs and shoveled in two tablespoons of sugar, and a little more for good measure.  Added a splash of red wine vinegar (it smells awful, but you must add the vinegar, because fruit flies are gross and like sweet and fermenting things, like vinegar.  Or wine, but why waste good wine on stupid bugs?  I digress.  Anyway...).  Went back upstairs.  Filled the cup.

Within an hour, there were so many dead bugs floating in the bubbles on top (I know, I know, but water + soap = bubbles, what can I do?).

Victory shall be mine!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thanksgiving, feh!

I have never been a fan of Thanksgiving.


Of all the biggies (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, Father's Day, my birthday), I think Thanksgiving is probably my least favorite holiday.  And I think I have some pretty good reasons, too.

Please allow me to elaborate.  (ha, this is my blog - just try and stop me!)

The food
I like turkey, but let's be honest.  Pretty much every turkey cooked on Thanksgiving is going to be dry and overcooked.  And I hate brown gravy.  So for my entire life I've been stuck swallowing dry, pasty turkey.  In recent years, I've used Chardonnay to wash it down.  Helps on so many levels.

And I do not like stuffing.  I have some major texture issues with food, and wet bread is quite possibly the most flagrant offender in this category.  As a kid, my aunt (who makes some incredibly delicious food) would serve Stove Top stuffing, which is the equivalent of a loaf of bread with a can of chicken broth poured on top and left to its own devices for a couple of days.  Ew, I just threw up in my mouth thinking about that.  Luckily for me I was recently diagnosed with a wheat allergy, giving me a legitimate medical reason to refuse to eat stuffing.

The veggie side dishes are okay, as long as they're not overcooked.  I'm a big fan of crunchy, steamed veggies, but sadly, most Thanksgiving sides are limp and mushy.  I empathize - I know how tough it is to simultaneously prepare a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, and rolls for a small army - but I still don't like eating mushy vegetables.

Growing up, we had dinner with my father's family.  They're Italian, so in addition to the turkey, we also had a lasagna.  I don't like pot cheese (1. that's ricotta for you non-NY/NJ Italians; 2. yes, I know that I am high maintenance, thanks for pointing that out, though).  My method of eating lasagna is rather unconventional - I wrap one noodle around my fork and eat it, scrape off the pot cheese, repeat until pasta is finished.  Without fail, every year my aunt or grandmother would look at the mound on my plate in horror and exclaim, "You don't like pot cheese?!?"

As tradition dictates, we always had pumpkin pie for dessert at my aunt's house.  Here's a shocker - I do not like pumpkin pie.  After I had graduated college and was living on my own, I finally figured out that if I wanted a dessert that was not pumpkin pie, I had to bring it with me.  So I started my own tradition - I came with at least one batch of slice and bake chocolate chip cookies.

Other traditions
Before it became a Thing, my cousins and I used to go into New York City to watch the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Pareade get blown up.  Afterward, we'd head back to NJ and I would spend the night at my aunt's house.  The next day, since I was always awake before my (all male) cousins, my aunt would tell me that, as the girl, I had to set the table (I shit you not; this actually happened.  And I was actually stupid enough not only to set the table, but to stay there more than once, until my cousin-in-law decided that I should stay with her and my cousin and let someone else have the honor).

And today?
Now we spend Thanksgiving at my in-laws' home.  My mother-in-law makes a very nice dinner that I enjoy, but it's obvious that my kids aren't exactly enamored with the food.  I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, so I always bring a special dessert for them.

After the table has been cleared, the leftovers bundled up, and we head home, then the craziness begins:  the Countdown to Christmas!  Now there's a holiday that I love...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

OMG - Fruit Flies!

Much to my dismay, my home is under attack.

By fruit flies.

Now hold on, I can hear you thinking to yourself, it's November and we've already had morning frost; how on earth could you possibly have a fruit fly infestation?

First of all, I am so with you on that.  I have been wondering the same blasted thing, usually as I attempt to smash the little buggers with a tissue.

Second, I have no idea.

Well, okay.  Maybe I have some idea...

Think about it:  they're fruit flies.  They obviously eat fruit, right?  And I buy fruit every week from the grocery store, so it stands to reason that the most likely vehicle for bringing fruit flies into our home is the fruit that I buy from the grocery store, right?

So... we've established that the fruit flies currently making themselves at home in my bathroom most likely hitched a ride to our house on a bag of oranges imported from somewhere in Central America.

But that doesn't explain two things:

  1. How they got into the upstairs bathroom, and
  2. How they have survived and proliferated
Come to think of it, if these fruit flies were indeed transported by oranges that were picked in, I don't know, California, Florida, or maybe Central America, they're probably accustomed to a warm, humid environment.  Hmm, a warm, humid environment...  that sounds kinda like a typical description of a bathroom, don't you think?  So, that's one mystery solved.  

Last night I decided that I'd had enough of playing whack-a-bug on the bathroom mirror.  I was going hardcore:  some fruit flies were gonna die.  Got out some styrofoam cups and filled them with some red wine vinegar and a squirt of liquid soap.  Added some fast flowing tap water and made lots of bubbles (fruit flies are kinda stupid, and are powerless to the lure of bubbles).  Dropped in a small piece of cut apple, just to make my cocktail extra tasty for the little buggers.  Set them on the bathroom counter and went to bed.

Amazingly, and disgustingly, in the morning there were about three dozen dead fruit flies floating in the cups.  Success!

Yeah.  Except, not really.

For every fruit fly that got sucked into the bubbles, there was another one hanging out on the mirror.  WTF?  Was I not Goddess of the Flies?  Did I not just collapse the fruit fly empire?  Do these freaking things multiply faster than rabbits?  How the fuck hell am I supposed to get rid of these things?  

Seriously...  help!

Friday, November 4, 2011

On writing...

There's nothing pressing about which I'm inspired to write, so I am using NaBloPoMo's daily prompt:
When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer?
Short answer:
Pen vs. computer depends on what I'm writing.

Long, excessively wordy answer:
If I'm writing my weekly grocery list, I like to hand-write a list.  However, if I plan to grab a few things from Target or Trader Joe's, I will create a list on Cosi (an iPhone app that has a calendar, to do lists, and shopping lists, among others).  Over the weekend, I like to update my weekly calendar by hand.  As I go about my week, though, I do enter information on my calendar on Cosi.

If I am really upset and need to brain dump and I don't have the patience to wait for my laptop to boot up, I'll scribble my thoughts into a journal.  This doesn't happen to often, and it usually happens when I'm in such a state that merely looking at my husband makes me want to scream.

In recent years I have found that I can write reasonably well using a computer.  I first discovered this in graduate school.  I learned that I could quickly bang out my thoughts into an outline and convert it to prose with minimal effort.  From following this process many times during my studies and afterward, my writing process has been rewired (so to speak) so that it is actually easier for me to organize my thoughts using a computer rather than a pen.

If I write a blog post, I always use my computer.  I've lost many good ideas because I refuse to jot them down somewhere or type in a note on my iPhone, but it's just how I've always done it.  Plus, I like being able to preview my posts before I publish them.

There's a time and a place for a pen as there is a time and a place for a computer.

Author's Note:
While I appreciate prompts to help get the creative juices flowing, I do not like today's blog post.  Blech.  Boring.  Maybe I'm just in a crappy mood, but I would have preferred a little more personality. Yeah, that's all on me, but just how exciting can writing about your preferred implement get?  (note to self:  drink wine tomorrow night before blogging)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Desperately Seeking Balance

I've been at my current job, Mom, for about seven and a half years.  It's the most difficult position I've ever held.  

Don't get me wrong, I adore my boys and wouldn't trade them for anything, but as a full time, stay-at-home Mom (who is married to a man whose job requires frequent late nights), you don't get sick time, and personal time is precious and in desperately short supply.  

If I go out to grab dinner with some friends, or play Bunco, or -gasp!- see a movie, it's a busy month for me.  

It makes me feel like such a total loser when I check Facebook and read the status updates of other moms I know - moms who also have young kids - about how much fun last night was, or see their pictures of them out somewhere, together, having a great time.  First, um, thanks for not inviting me, guys.  Second, thanks for posting status updates like "those watermelon margaritas last night were SO yummy!" when you know that I will see it.

That evvvvvvvvverybody else is hanging out but me probably wouldn't bother me nearly as much as it does if I didn't spend nearly every waking moment with at least one of my kids.  

But how to fix that?  

Do I get a full time job, if I can find one, so I can spend my take-home pay on day care?  Do I become a first year teacher in an urban school and adjust to a new career in a highly challenging environment with students who may not be adequately prepared to learn that requires me to bring work home and spend my paycheck on supplies, on top of paying for day care?  

I would love to find a part time job, but outside of retail, what part time jobs exist?  

I enjoy writing, but I've never done it for pay.  How does one "break into" writing at the age of forty?  (hint, hint)  And if I do find a paid writing job, will it be enough to make it worth my while?  Will I be able to meet deadlines while also being there for my kids when they need me to help them with their homework, shuttle them to activities, and remain active in the PTA?

I need balance.  And I don't know how to find it.  

Does anybody have any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One More For the Loss Column

Two days ago, I had this great idea.  Well, actually, it was my former roommate's idea, and I thought it would be cool if I did it, too.  I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo.  That's National Novel Writing Month, where gobs of people write a novel during the month of November and share their works (and encouragement) online.  The goal is to write a work of 50,000 words, which works out to 1,667 words a day.

It's now November 2, and I haven't written a damn thing.  Not a single word.

Oh, and I've never been big on writing fiction.  In fact, aside from short stories that I had to write when I was a freshman in high school, I have never written a substantial work of fiction.  The most creative writing I've done is maybe five paragraphs, and it is dreadfully bad.  Did I mention that I'm not big on writing fiction?

Needless to say, my inner demons are having a field day.  Procrastination, fear, perfectionism, all duking it out, and all kicking some major ass, since this blog post is the most writing I've done in weeks.

On the upside, I discovered that there's another event called NaBloPoMo.  Shockingly, it has nothing to do with Blow Pops.  (Admit it - like me, you also thought that this had something to do with "creative" uses for Blow Pops.)  It's National Blog Posting Month.  The goal is to post to your blog every day during November.  Thirty blog posts?  Of a length of my choosing?  And there are prompts if I get stuck?  Instead of a 50,000 word novel?  I am so there.

NaNoWriMo can NaNoBlo me.

Kidding.  But seriously, NaBloPoMo is much, MUCH more up my alley.

Bless you, NaBloPoMo.  You have saved me from feeling like a complete and total slacker and failure.  I can do this.  I can do this.

Here I go...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What A Week, or Boy Am I Tired!

The two older boys finally started school this week.  I say finally because J was supposed to start on August 30th, but this bitch Hurricane Irene had other plans.  Apparently she felt that we moms didn't have enough time with our OD'd-on-summer brood and dumped a whole mess of rain and tree limbs on the town, causing The Powers That Be to delay the start of school for a week.  

Yes, things could have been a LOT worse - we didn't lose power at all and our biggest inconvenience was the loss of TV, phone, and internet service for four days (I know - no internet for four days - I mean, what the hell, right?).  But to find out the day before we were supposed to regain our freedom send our kids back to school that nope, it's not gonna happen for another week was, as a neighbor said, like losing a best friend.  Especially when the neighborhood swimming pools were closed (the lifeguards all went back to college), the library was closed (transformer powering the building and its servers blew), and the ground everywhere was waterlogged.  Honestly, there really is a limit to togetherness.  We know, we've been there.

But that's all ancient history now.

Tuesday was J's first day of school.  He loves his teacher.  He might even have a little crush on her, which is probably a good thing.  He came home and told me more about Mrs. R than he has about anything school related, ever.  I'm so excited for him.  

Did a bunch of other stuff during the week that I will not detail in this blog.  Trust me, it's not all that interesting.  Let's just say that I stayed up later than I should every night, sometimes to read (The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore, the followup to I Am Number Four), some nights for school-related stuff (Board of Ed meeting, Back to School night).

By Friday night I could barely keep my eyes open.  So what do I do?  Go to bed, and stay up until nearly midnight reading.  At least the boys let me sleep until about 9am on Saturday, something I haven't done since before J was born.

I was completely wiped out by a week of school- and home-related tasks.  And I never got the chance to vacuum.  Honestly, how do working moms balance everything?  Especially moms of large families.  I know a woman - a dynamo - who teaches full-time and has five children.  Can you imagine?  She must be the most organized person ever.  I'm even more tired just thinking about what her week was like.


Ten years later...  TC, I wish I got to meet you.  You are a hero, and you are still very much loved and missed  by many.

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Generators Humming"

Have you ever read a book, or maybe a news article, where the author is describing some place after a major weather event, and invariably the phrase "generators humming" or some variation thereof, is used?

Yeah, well that's a total crock.

Generators do not hum.  They are loud.  Really, freaking loud.

Today is Wednesday, four days after Hurricane Irene passed through my area, and my neighbor diagonally behind me is running a generator the size of a home air conditioning unit.  The thing has been running nonstop since Sunday, and of course I completely understand the reason why, but the thing sounds like a freaking semi idling in my backyard.  It's to the point that I won't open the door to the deck because the damn thing vibrates at the frequency of pure annoyance.  Hopefully the power company will get that guy back on the grid post haste.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

JCPenney Photo Studios Should Have Bars In Them

Today I embarked on my annual pilgrimage to the JCPenney photo studio.  Every summer, I torture myself and my mother and bring the three boys to have their picture taken.  Together.

You've probably heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting a different result.

My yearly visit to this photo studio is the above definition of insanity personified.  This year was no different.

Before I get into the horrific details, I must first sing the praises of Nela, photographer extraordinaire, who got so many *good* shots of the boys that I actually had a hard time choosing which ones *not* to buy.  A good problem to have, indeed.

Okay, so we get there a few minutes early.  The one photographer working was just finishing a session with another family, and a second photographer, Nela, arrived shortly after we did.  Unlike sessions past, we were taken almost immediately (on more than one occasion we had to wait at least thirty minutes).  Nela asks me some questions about the pictures I would like (all three? solo shots? which background?) and then ushers us into a studio.

Chaos ensues.

If you don't have kids, accompanying me will be the ultimate test to see if you really want them.  If you're a teen or a twentysomething who isn't ready for a family, it's the ultimate birth control.  If you don't have two or more sons, it's probably the funniest thing you've ever seen, and you'll thank your lucky stars that it's me and not you.

Here is a brief recap of how posing the boys for one shot went:

  • Position J and get him to stand relatively still
  • Position T near J, getting T to mirror J's stance, and get him to stand relatively still 
  • Remind S not to touch the lights
  • Through gritted teeth, tell T to get off the floor and stop yelling; nobody wants to hear him yelling and would he please get up and stand still or we will not go to Grandma's for lunch 
  • While J and T stand relatively still, position S between the two older boys 
  • Grit teeth again as S turns around, bites T's shirt, causing T to screech and flop onto the floor, encouraging J to do the same
  • Threaten the boys again that there will be no lunch at Grandma's; we'll just go home if nobody can stand still and listen to Nela
  • Somewhere among all this, Nela is ever-so-patiently positioning and re-positioning the boys, and actually manages to snap one photograph.  As a testament to her patience and talent, the boys are all smiling, looking at the camera, and the photo is one of my favorites.
Repeat approximately sixteen times.

In the end, I did get some amazingly cute pictures of the guys.  I can't wait to put them into frames and hang them.  And the best part?  I had a coupon from J's baseball pictures for - get this -
  1. NO sitting fees (worth $30!)
  2. TWO free photo sheets (a 10x13 and an 8x10 - worth $20!)
  3. $3.99 photo sheets (regularly $10)
I got $100 worth of services and pictures for $20 - score!

There was still wine in the fridge - winning!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Booby Prize

Two more cents on the Dirty Little Secrets of Motherhood.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I decided that I planned to breastfeed my children.  My initial goal was to breastfeed exclusively for six months, and if that was successful, I would continue until the baby was a year old.  I was fortunate that, with all three boys, I was able to breastfeed them for their first year of life.

To be honest, the decision was mostly selfish.  First of all, formula is expensive while breast milk is not.  Second, I had read that breastfeeding helps a new mom lose the baby weight quicker.  I cannot deny that I am a cheapskate and that I like being thin, so in addition to knowing that I was providing my child with an important foundation for good health and development, those two reasons had me sold.  It wasn't until I weaned my third that I found out the Dirty Little Secret about breastfeeding.

Yeah.  I figured that after breastfeeding three kids, my breasts were not going to look the same.  I knew that they would be a little... stretched out. deflated.  Perhaps a wee bit smaller.  But I didn't count on losing TWO FULL CUP SIZES.  Yes, you read that right - I lost two full cup sizes.  And I was not a busty girl before kids.  In fact, I could have been just barely too big for the IBTC (itty bitty...  you get where I'm going with this, don't you?).

It took some time, including one tearful experience with a bra fitter at Victoria's Secret and several months of Pilates classes, but I am at peace with my tiny boobies.  They don't cause me back pain.  They don't have far to sag since there's not much to them.  No, my complaint is that I now wear a bra size that, apparently, most grown women are not, since the only place I can find my size is in the preteen department.  Sure, there are some cute little bras, but come on.  I'm 40.  I don't want a Hello Kitty bra at this stage of my life.  I want to be able to walk into the lingerie section of a department store and buy a bra off the rack instead of special ordering one online at a specialty boutique.

So, if any of my numerous readers out there are department store lingerie buyers, I implore you to start buying some AA-cup bras for us tiny booby women out there.  Trust me, we exist.  And in addition to refusing to adorn our girls with Hello Kitty, we're also tired of wearing A-cups that we can no longer fill.  C'mon, help a mother out!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Howdy Ho!

Yeah, it's been a while.  What can I say?  I haven't been moved by the spirit, hence the lack of posts.  Lately, I've been feeling it nudging me...  (Big Man, is that you?)

Warning:  this is gonna be gross.  Just putting it out there.

Last week I went to see my ND (naturopathic doctor) for a follow up visit.  My original ND is on maternity leave, so I actually saw one of her covering doctors.  Let's call her M.  At one point during my visit M asked me if she could "fix" one thing about my health, what would it be?  I immediately told her my food allergies.  So M suggested that I have my gut studied - how efficiently is it digesting and assimilating the food I eat, etc.  I agreed; hey, if it gets me eating bread and pasta again, who am I to complain?

How do you have your gut studied, I hear you ask.  Well, here's the answer, and it's gross:  you send a lab some stool samples for analysis.  That's right, Poop in a Box.

I just threw up in my mouth thinking about it.  Therefore, I shall spare you the details, save to say that I have not felt so undignified... ever.  Cleaning my kids' poopy behinds is *nothing* compared to this.  Ugh, just.... gross.  Ick.  Repulsive.

I feel bad for the people who analyze the samples.  Talk about a shitty job...  ba DUM bum!  (sorry, couldn't resist)

Please, please, please let this course of treatment work...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Letter to My Goddaughter

The other night, your mom posted this on her Facebook page:
An open apology to my daughter: Children can be mean and tease you, so let me brace you for it by telling you now: Yes, you are a geek. Yes, you are a nerd. You enjoy science museums. You were happy you got assigned additional homework. You want to know how things work. You love to read. You use your own tools. You asked for chemistry sets from Santa. But, for all that, you're a pretty cool geek and I love you.
Upon reading it, I felt compelled to add my two cents.  Advance apologies for rambling.

Your mom and I have known each other since we were sixteen years old.  We got on immediately as friends, for many reasons and had many common interests, but know this:  we were both geeks.  We were nerds.  We were not in the Cool Crowd.  No, instead we took advanced English and math and science classes, belonged to the drama club, and were in marching band. 

During my senior year, I remember sitting four or five seats away from the cheerleading captain during an assembly.  She was singing some made up song that poked fun at the colorguard, and I was the captain at the time.  I'm quite positive that she knew I could hear her, and was singing that song for my benefit.  Yeah, it hurt my feelings, but it didn't make me wish I wasn't in marching band.  Ever.  Most of my happiest memories involved the marching band in some way, shape, or form.

Even before I had even met your mom, I was a nerd.  And a geek.  (I know, shocking, right?)  I can still remember how I was bullied in grammar school.  I still remember the girl's name, what she looked like, and how she made me feel.  I don't know why she picked on me, but I'm sure that one reason was because being a student came so easily to me, as I'm sure it does for you.  Would you believe that all those years ago, my grandmother was right?  They are just jealous.  Of you.  Of me.  Of your mom.  Why?  Because we're smart, and we don't apologize for it.

Your mom is right:  kids are mean, girls in particular.  The ones for whom schoolwork doesn't come easily will call you things like "Brainiac" and "Miss Know-It-All" and probably worse.  It'll hurt.  A lot.  There will be days you wish you weren't so smart, because maybe those girls would like you then.  But even if they did, they probably wouldn't be true friends anyway.  The other geeks and nerds might not wear the latest fashions or be Cool, but they are true friends and will be there for you when you really need them.

True friends are the ones who love and accept you because you're smart.  And you are.  I hope you never feel you have to hide that, because that's just one of the many, many things that makes you, you.  I think you're a pretty amazing kid, I love you, and I feel blessed to have you for my Goddaughter.

Your Fairy (Flaky) Godmother

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Quick background:  about a year ago, I found out that I am allergic to wheat.  Since then, I have cut out almost all sources of the offending grain.  While I feel so much better when I don't eat wheat, I desperately miss a good loaf of crusty bread, and a killer chocolate chip cookie.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Betty Crocker makes gluten-free baked goods mixes.  I have tried other gluten-free mixes from Trader Joe's and the local health food store, but I was curious to try one made by a major food corporation.

Two weeks ago I bought and made a box of Betty Crocker GF brownie mix.  Maybe I've gotten used to gluten-free baked goods, but I thought the brownies were easy to make and pretty tasty.  Not as tasty as a regular, wheat-flour-based brownie, but if it's this or nothing, I'll take it.  Riding on that success, I decided to try the cookie mix.

To make the cookies, you first mix softened (but not melted) butter with vanilla and an egg, then add the cookie mix.  I figured it would be better to use an electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients.  It turns out that it didn't really matter what I used.  Why?  Because while the box said that the batter would be crumbly, that was a mild understatement.  You know how, when you make a regular batch of chocolate chip cookies, you can just scoop some batter out of the bowl and it holds together on its own?  Well, this batter was ridiculously crumbly, and I had to smush it together in an effort to keep the cookies intact.  Didn't quite stop the cookie sheet from being covered with crumbs, but whatever.

The finished product wasn't particularly cooperative, either.  If I tried to remove the cookies before letting them cool enough, they'd break apart.  If I tried to pick one up off the cooling rack too soon, it'd fall apart.  Do you notice a trend?  Yeah, who wants to eat cookies with a spoon?

I have to say that they taste pretty good.  Again, maybe it's because I'm used to gluten-free flour now, but the cookies are definitely passable.  But it would have been nice to hold a cookie and take bites instead of shoving it into my mouth before all of the zillions of pieces crumbled all over the place.  And there is no reason why it took ninety minutes from mixing to baking to cooling.

Conclusion:  I will not be buying this mix again.  Instead, I will continue to purchase Lucy's cookies.  They're really tasty, come in four flavors, and they come out of the package ready to eat.

Grade:  B-

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anyone Other Than Me

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like, who I would be, if circumstances were different.

Who would I have become if my family didn't move out of state after my freshman year?  I attended a very  small school - maybe 125 kids per grade.  By the end of freshman year, I was going through a rough time.  The girls I had been eating lunch with had edged me out, forcing me to eat with others.  Would things have come full circle?  Who would have asked me to the prom?  To the graduation ball?

Who would I be now, if at age five I had met the boy I would later grow up to marry?  I am constantly taken by surprise by how many people grew up and returned to the town where I now live.  What would it be like to watch my hometown change and morph over time, before my eyes?  Would I be able to evolve as an individual, or would I have been bound by who I was as a teenager?

How would my life be different if I were more easygoing, and one who greased the machine rather than bucked it?  I have encountered several people in my current hometown who, for whatever reason, seem to just flat-out dislike me.  It seems as if my mere existence bothers them.  I wonder what it would be like if I always knew the "right" thing to say, and how to play the game.  Would I be able to stand up for myself, or would I be a complete doormat?

What would it be like to be known as "the pretty one" instead of "the smart one"?  I don't think I need to elaborate too much on this one...

Don't get me wrong; I have no desire to change my life.  I love my husband and I love my kids.  But sometimes I wonder how my life might be different in different scenarios.