December 29, 2008

The Frog

This morning on the way to daycare both boys were sitting in the back seat. I hear Tristan start screaming, "Gog! Gog! Gog!" I have no idea what "gog" is, so I glance back to see if he using his sign language too and, sure enough, he's making the sign for frog.

"Did you see a frog?" I asked, to be sure.

"Dewius! Gog!"

Julius starts laughing maniacally and yells, "Ha Ha HA! I HAVE HIS FRO-O-O-OG!"

I rolled my eyes. I love having two kids, but I am also annoyed by having two kids who fight all the time. I don't understand it and I don't like it. My siblings and I didn't really fight, probably because they were so much older than me. My husband claims, "Boys just fight." Still, I don't get it.

And so I begin with my Annoyed Mommy Voice, "Jules, give him back his frog."

"BOING! BOING! BOING! I'm making it hop!"

Tristan continues to scream, "Gog! Gog! Gog!" and starts doing that I'm-going-to-cry-if-you-don't-give-me-what-I-want shriek.

So I change to my Really Pissed Off Mommy Voice, "Julius! Do you want me to pull the car over?" Dear God, I sound like my mother! At which point I paused to say a quick prayer something like, "God please make me not ever sound like my mother again..." which I followed up by screaming, "JULIUS GIVE THAT FROG BACK TO YOUR BROTHER RIGHT THIS MINUTE!"

"Okay, Mom."

I could feel a little pulsating throb at the side of my head. I resolved that I should eat better and exercise more so I don't have a heart attack this early in my life.

For about 23 seconds there was calm in the back seat and even though God didn't answer my prayer and I still sounded like my mother I knew everything was going to be okay. Until...


"Julius, do you have his frog again??"

His answer was a hesitant, "Well, sort of, but not really..."

"What does that mean? You either have the frog or you don't have the frog."

"Well, yeah... I took it, but there's not really a frog."

I slammed the brakes on in the middle of the road and turned around. "What do you mean there's no frog?"

He shrugged. I looked at Tristan who had his little hands cupped together.

"Tristan, what's in your hands?"


"Can I see your frog?"

And very slowly he turned out his hands to show me. Sure enough, there was nothing there. Nothing! They were fighting over an imaginary frog. They were making me pray to God and make resolutions about my health and slamming my brakes on in the middle of a street when no frog even existed.

For a second I could feel my sanity slide sideways and I had this image from the movie "The Matrix" where Neo is talking to a little savant kid who is bending a spoon with his mind.

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

Perhaps that is really the trick of understanding sibling relationships. Siblings fight. It makes me crazy, but that's what they do... fight fight fight over the dumbest, most unimportant stuff.

And all these months I have been trying to figure out why they have to do it and how I can "fix" it. What can I do to make them stop so I can get some peace? Apparently nothing.

Siblings fight when there is something to fight about. And when there is nothing to fight about... they invent frogs.

December 27, 2008

An Odd Correlation

I used to do research for a living and was pretty good at my job. This was back before using the Internet for research was easy. It was something you used to actually have to work at.

These days mostly all you have to do is just type a question in and those clever programmers with their smart algorithms create a search environment that almost always delivers up what you're looking for and unless you're searching something REALLY obscure, they get the job done on the first page of results.

So it surprised me today when I was delivered a very strange search result in the middle of the search results I was expecting. And I'm wondering... is it a secret message? A sign? Is it my husband playing a prank on me in an effort to get me to clean the bathroom? Or is there some strange correlation between Thai cuisine and bath tile cleaner? Should I stop eating Thai food?

What do you think it going on here?

December 25, 2008

Tristan Talks to YouTube

I found this adorable video on a blog I follow.

I was playing it for Tristan who loves anything with animals. Watch the video below and then scroll down for the rest of the story.

The whole time the video was running and the guy was asking "Do you want to go for a walk" Tristan was sitting on my lap with a huge smile on his face saying "yeah!" Sometimes he'd nod yes, sometimes he'd say "yeah, gock!" (yeah, walk!) then he kept saying "ride ride ride ride" about 800 times. Every time the video ended he'd say "more". We watched it a dozen times til I began to feel sorry for him since he obviously didn't understand that he was NOT actually being invited to go on an excursion with these juicy little morsels.

December 24, 2008

Is This a Problem?

Tristan's new year's resolution (he's 2, so we made it up for him) is to be potty trained.

When I picked him up at the sitter we began talking about it and mentioned it to him in an off-handed manner. I say a lot of things to him in an off-handed manner because I think he doesn't either 1) listen to me or 2) he doesn't understand me, except now I'm wondering if I am wrong on both counts.

So, anyway, we're talking about the plan to potty train and he starts getting this really stressed out look on his face and wants me to pick him up and hold him, which I do.

In a cordial, casual manner I ask, "Hey, what do you think about no more diapers? Are you ready to wear big boy pants?"

He looked very alarmed and said emphatically, "No!"

In an effort to be helpful, the sitter says, "Hey, what about some really cool underwear with Scooby Doo on them!"


"Transformers? Cars?"




In an effort to be funny and lighten the place up I said, "Barbie?"


Oh, his dad is SO not gonna like this.

December 23, 2008

Mark Up Your Dictionary in Red

Today I ran across a blog post about Cliff Young who won an endurance race in Australia. The story of his approach, his attitude is amazing -- not only because he tried and succeeded, but in the sweetness of his can-do attitude.

It gave me the warm fuzzies for another reason. It made me think of my mom and how she raised my brothers and I. She was a very determined single woman. Her philosophy was "nothing is impossible", it was the way we lived. She never really explained this idea to me, rather it was just something understood in our household. It was always a given that if you work hard and have determination you can achieve your dreams, even if they seem outlandish.

I believe the reason she successfully instilled these ideals into us is because they were part of the fabric of our every day lives. My mother is NOT a motivational speaker. She's a noisy, energetic hurricane of a woman. You know when a storm is coming you can feel the atmosphere around you change? That's what it's like when my mom comes into the room. Internal barometers start spinning like crazy. When she leaves people often say, "What was that? What just happened?" So, her influence is not by what she says, but what she does and how she lives.

The only time I ever heard her refer to her philosophy of life it out loud was once I overhead her side of a conversation in which she said, "Don't tell ME what I CAN and CAN'T do. Don't try to limit my beliefs." (At that time I didn't listen further. I was just happy it wasn't me she was talking to.)

As kids whenever we said we wanted to do something she was always enthusiastic and would encourage us no matter how weird or crazy our ideas. Some things worked, some things didn't, but we always learned from the adventures and sometimes the failing is as valuable as the succeeding.

I feel so blessed that she raised me the way she did because all my life it never occurred to me to have doubts. It was never about "can I do this" but always about "HOW can I do this". It's a fabulous gift she has given me, one I hope I can pass on to my kids.

Once I had some clients in my office and they brought their young son in. He was probably around 7 or 8. He proclaimed to me that his intention was to become a rodeo star and champion bull rider. His parents immediately started explaining all the ways it wasn't going to work out and he'd respond to them with all the ways it COULD work out. Exasperated, they looked at me and his mother says, "Tell him what a bad idea this is."

Well, that's a pickle, isn't it? I sat there for a very awkward moment and tried to find the right balance between making my clients happy and doing what I considered the right thing. Finally I said, "It's great to have a dream. I say go for it, but just be sure you have really good insurance."

Okay, so I'm not a motivational speaker either. But for heaven's sake, why dash a kids dreams to the rocks when chances are he's going to change his mind 312 times between now and the time he's a grownup anyway? Why train him to accept failure before he tries? Why teach him pessimism? Some days I wish it were legal to slap people. Unless I'm the people. (Somedays I think I am the people.)

We live in a culture of negativity. It's an easy and seductive trap to fall into fueled by the media. Let's just sit this one out. Go get your dictionary right now and with a big red marker draw a circle and a slash through the word "impossible". Let's re-adopt the spirit of our forefathers who (just IMAGINE this!) came across the country on boats with little food and no place to live and made a whole country. Now THAT'S a crazy idea, but look how well it worked out.

So, now that your dictionary is all fixed up tell me what you'd like to accomplish that might seem impossible.

December 22, 2008

Something Nice

Someone did something nice for my pal Ginny. You can read about it over at her blog.

What a wonderful person. Whoever you are, I thank you also. Ginny deserves it.

Hey... everyone do a random act of kindness today on someone because that soy latte buying woman is out there somewhere. Get her! :)

December 20, 2008

A New Perspective

Yesterday I had a business meeting in a very tall building. Tall for me anyway.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I live in a tiny little town with one stoplight which acts not only as a landmark for giving directions but also as a landmark in the stream of time. "Well, I don't remember what year Calvin swallowed that toad on a dare, but I know it was before the stoplight was put in."

By the way, do you know how much stoplights cost your city? Lots of money. I know this because I was just at a city budget meeting that ran until midnight, a meeting with a dozen bleary-eyed people allocating millions of dollars fueled only on holiday sugar cookies and baklava. I think if the citizens of a city know their politicians are working on the budget late into the night they should take shifts hauling in soups and strips of bacon and very large grande mochas to make sure bizarre things don't happen such as designating money for an electric trolley that nobody ever rides.

Which brings me back to the 29th floor where nothing stands between me and a violent impact with the earth below except about half an inch of glass. I found it fascinating to gaze out over the city from here as this is rarely my perspective.

The city I was in was not particularly beautiful. A river runs through it and most of the buildings are low, sprawled across the land as if they are amassing for some sort of future event in which they rise up and become beautiful and sophisticated partygoers, shucking their sad demeanor for something better. It just hasn't happened yet.

I was struck by how shabby buildings often look from the top. From here you can see vents and pipes and heating units, spindly cell and microwave towers, tubes that burp toilet exhaust into the air, half-full (or half-empty) dumpsters. These are things I never notice from the ground.

From here I feel like a voyeur. I see a black sports car driving around the parking deck. Undoubtedly the man inside considers himself alone, but I know better. My eyes wander from car to car crisscrossing the grid of the streets below me and wonder where they are going. I wonder how many times I have thought I was walking or driving in a city, thinking I was alone when actually someone on a 29th floor was watching me.

I love looking out to the horizon. Later I will explain to my oldest son about the horizon and the curvature of the planet and chuckle happily when he asks me if I drove to the end of the earth.

Nope, I stayed right here on the 29th floor in this room with the fascinating view, my back turned on everyone until my meeting started, a meeting filled with confusion, untruth, a meeting that created bewilderment and chaos in almost everyone who attended. And then a long ride in an elevator down to Level 5 (red) and a drive around a parking deck during which I thought I was alone, but could have been watched. And then a nice meal at a nice restaurant where a nice man gave me free green beans to make up for him giving my seat away and making me wait 20 extra minutes.

When finally seated, I mused over all that happened that morning, my eyes resting on the free beans and thought... in a bad economy you just can't beat free food (except maybe a big winning lottery ticket).

December 18, 2008

Cool Link: Wonder How To...

I ran across this today while trying to find the apparently not-so-secret recipe for Rubio's Baja Grill fish tacos. I haven't had one since we left California. Waah!

Anyway, this site gets a big WOW from me. It has videos on how to do anything and everything. Go check it out!

December 17, 2008

Did He Really Just Say That?

I was watching the news tonight, actually just staring at the TV more than anything, and George Stephanopoulos was giving his review on how Obama is doing with his picks for the cabinet.

He indicated that overall the President-Elect seemed to be getting a good cabinet, diverse, capable and without giving away positions for the sake of "tokenism". However, despite all this there are still complaints.

Liberals say they are not well-represented and women's groups say Obama is not doing as well with women as former President Bill Clinton did.

I actually had to use the Tivo and go back to make sure he actually said what I thought he said.

December 16, 2008

Spa Day!

My youngest son has severe eczema to the point where he will scratch himself bloody. It's a really horrible affliction and I feel so bad for him because he's just bound to be miserable. It takes a great deal of care and diligence to keep his skin moderately stable and on a GOOD day, he's still patchy and welped and uncomfortable.

We have a good regime from the doctor which consists of many things we CAN'T do (no fragrances in soaps, detergents, shampoos and no bubble baths which is one of those awesome childhood traditions that is hard to deprive him of) and a decent prescription medicine. The absolute BEST part of the regime (for him, not us) is what we refer to as "spa day".

This consists of taking a wet toddler and slathering him with handfuls of Vaseline. We pull him out of the tub and while he is still wet let him dig his hands into the Vaseline and then we scoop in and liberally apply the goop. At first I thought he'd never lay still for it, but it turns out that it's a genetic pre-disposition for all males of the species to go supine and allow a woman to blob copious amounts of slippery stuff all over his body. He's so accustomed to this practice that he will occasionally run through the house shrieking, "ba day, ba day, ba day!"

Doing this after every bath is time-consuming and an adventure. As soon as Tristan senses we're finished he likes to jump up and run streaking through the house because he doesn't want to wear a diaper. We call this being "free and easy". Normally, if one is fast enough one can catch a baby before he runs off unfettered of his diaper. However, this particular baby has been coated with about 22 layers of petroleum jelly and anyone who has ever seen a country rodeo with a greased pig competition can imagine what happens next. I don't even have to tell you.

The next step consists of me yelling, "Free and easy!" as the war cry to let the rest of the household know that Tristan is on the loose, weapon locked and loaded. One or more of the other men of the household will attempt to subdue the greasy heathen and generally it will take two of us to strap him back into his diaper.

Getting him dressed is another whole matter as cotton clothing doesn't slide well on sticky skin.

However, the treatment works great for eczema and I'd highly recommend it with some slight modifications. Maybe adding sticky flypaper (fragrance-free!) to the spa day station. Or perhaps fencing and cross-fencing the interior of the house. Or maybe inventing a new type of petroleum jelly that instantly puts babies to sleep on contact.

This morning I walked into the kitchen to find Tristan had scooted a chair up to the counter and had gotten into the butter dish. He had squeezed the butter into his hands, rubbed it liberally on the counter, the cutting board and as I walked in he was coating his hands and arms with it. He looked up and me and smiled hugely, saying, "ba day!" Makes sense I guess. We've turned him into some kind of desperate lube junky.

I dropped him off at daycare and the daycare worker hugged in and cuddled him and exclaimed, "Tristan you smell so yummy, like fresh baked bread!" As I walked out the door all I could think was "Lady, please don't eat my baby."

December 15, 2008

Someone's Gonna Get Fired

I'm sure by now you've heard about the shoe-throwing incident with the President. While we could all make up shoe jokes all day, I'm fascinated by the fact that I have yet to hear anyone ask the question I want to ask which is, "Where the heck were the Secret Service guys while our President was being pelted with Iraqi shoes?"

In fact, for your convenience I have posted the CNN news story below. Watch the President's impressive ducking maneuver and the slower-than-molasses SS guy who finally makes it up there after the last shoe lands.

Someone's gonna get his bootie handed to him at the post-mortem.

By the way, I would like to say, Mr. President, after all our disagreements, I am very impressed by your quick reflexes and now I feel a little bit bad because I laughed at David Letterman's Great Moments in Presidential Speeches.

December 12, 2008

If I Were My Toddler...

The other day I was driving somewhere and my 2-year-old was in the back seat. He doesn't really talk much and much of what he says is indecipherable. (Often I have had very superior mothers claim to me that they understand everything their children say, so in an effort to make myself feel better I have recently decided that they're all big fat liars.)

That particular day Tristan was pointing out the window claiming to have seen a wolf. A wolf, I asked to be sure I heard correctly.

"Yeah. Vuff. Beebee."

"A baby wolf?", still making sure. Often he will repeat the word 647 times until I guess correctly what he is saying.

"Yeah. Beep."

I glanced out the window. Nothing but woods. "There's a sheep in there? With the baby wolf?"

"Beeps!" Aah, more than one sheep then.

He often will make outlandish claims about what is outside the window. I find myself hoping it is a fertile imagination and not some kind of chemical malfunction that makes him delusional. Or worse, that he actually DOES see something that I don't.

All of this got my mind to wondering what exactly the world would be like if we didn't outgrow the things we do as small children. What a strange, surreal, unpredictable (and possibly horrifying) world it would be if we did not rid ourselves of the madness that plagues us as children.

In celebration of my merging into adulthood (which I keep saying could happen Any Day Now) here is my list of Things I Would Do If I Were My Toddler:

  • Insist constantly that I be served candy for breakfast (oh wait, I do this!)
  • Refuse to speak when spoken to
  • Hide my face when strangers speak to me
  • Slap my brothers when they piss me off
  • Kick my mother in the shin if she refuses to give me what I want
  • Pee in my pants during business meetings
  • Throw food across the table or onto the floor because it's hilarious
  • Fall to the ground and growl like an animal when I'm frustrated
  • Insist there is a tiger in the potted plant at the doctor's office
  • When people are talking to me, run away down the street if they break eye contact for the slightest moment
  • Wear my shoes on the wrong feet even after I've been told they are on the wrong feet
  • Crossdress
  • At a special nice meal, let food fall out of my mouth and say, "Blehhhhhh...."
  • Jump up and down in the booth seats at restaurants
  • Draw on the important papers of my colleagues with large, black permanent markers
  • Claim there are farm animals in the woods when there actually are not
  • Scrub the toilet with other people's toothbrushes
  • Pull women's shirts down so I can look at their "bips" (breasts)
  • Run in circles yelling, "ayyayayayayayayayayay" when people are trying to tell me something important
  • Pile parking lot gravel on people's bumpers
  • Do belly flops in a full bathtub
  • Take off my shoes and socks when we're on a road trip (oh wait, I do that!)

Yes, these are all things he does at any random moment and it's perfectly fine because he's two and only he can get away with it.

What wild and crazy things do you wish you could do that you DON'T because it's not socially acceptable? Let's pretend, on paper, there are no rules -- what would you do?

December 10, 2008

Whaddya Know?

Not long ago a young friend of mine in his 20's had a flat tire. He ended his tale of the flat-tire adventure with a big sigh saying, "I am SO lucky Darren happened by!"

This morning a colleague of mine stuck his head into my office and said, "I have to run down the road for a minute. A belt on my son's truck came off and he doesn't know how to get it back on."

As I sit here sipping tea, I think about how it's a rarity these days that people know how to do basic stuff. Admittedly I don't know much at all about cars so I'd be at a loss with a rogue belt, but I *do* know how to change a tire, little ole me, although I'm not sure I'm strong enough to unscrew those pesky lug nuts.

Part of the mystique of characters like James Bond and McGyver is that they have knowledge and ingenuity. Where are the people like that? Why aren't MORE people like that? It's not like you actually have to pay for that knowledge. Talk to your parents or grandparents. They know lots of stuff. Read a book, look on the Internet. There are lots of great how-to sites.

My husband and I are raising two boys. I want them to be good at things, to be confident and capable, to be problem solvers. I like the idea of them having a few old-fashioned values and I want them to "know stuff".

What do you think is valuable for people to know? I started my own list. Can you help me add to it?

I think everyone over the age of 18 should know how to:

  • change a tire
  • shake hands
  • make gravy
  • write a proper thank you note
  • make paper airplanes
  • iron a shirt
  • sew on a button
  • make coffee
  • read a map
  • jumpstart a car
  • unclog a toilet
  • use a compass
  • grow vegetables
  • swim
  • tie useful knots
  • balance a checkbook
  • drive a car
  • ride a bike
  • make fire
  • perform CPR and basic first aid
  • the Heimlich maneuver

This is just a start. I was tempted to add "when to stop talking" and "how to kill someone with your thumb" but those are probably subjective and would not be on everyone's list. (One of those is on my list of things to learn... I'll let you wonder which one!)

I know there are so many more and we haven't even gotten to YOURS yet. Tell me what is on your list!

December 7, 2008

The End of an Era. Well, the Roll Anyway...

Over the eight years that my husband and I have been married we have developed an inside joke about the plastic wrap that is in our cabinet.

Not long after we married we bought a membership to Costco and on Saturday mornings we'd head over there for the free chow and a big grocery shopping spree. On one of those expeditions we purchased two rolls of plastic wrap. Why buy one, right? Because it just runs out and it's always good to have a backup. Because really... it always happens that when you really need it you pull the plastic and end up standing there like a big goof with three inches of wrap in your hand because the roll went dead.

For only a few months after that we stayed in California before deciding to relocate back to my home state of Arkansas. We packed up all our belongings, including the two rolls of plastic wrap, and have since been living happily ever after.

About two years after we moved here one of us realized that we hadn't purchased any plastic wrap since we bought the first two rolls. We figured any day now we were due to run out.

Another couple of years went by and we began speculating about the magical quality of the rolls. Despite frequent use of plastic wrap we seemed to never get near the end. We considered it to be some very special faerie-powered, mystical plastic wrap that replenishes itself at night on full moons. We were happy, we were in love. Life was good.

Somewhere around year six we went from special magical faerie plastic wrap to feeling superstitious about the rolls. We'd had these rolls of plastic wrap our entire married life. Did that relate in any philosophical or mystical way to the marriage itself? What would happen when the rolls ran out? Anything? Nothing? Should we stop using them? Was that cheating? Did it matter? We sort of joked about it and yet... every time I used a piece of plastic wrap I wondered if some metaphysical clock were ticking somewhere.


Earlier in the year I was at the back of the house and Rob was in the kitchen. I heard him yelling this horrified, "Aaa-aaagh!" I dropped what I was doing and ran to the kitchen figuring he'd sliced through his hand or was having some other miscellaneous kitchen mishap. I rounded the corner to see him standing in the middle of the kitchen with a plastic wrap box in one hand and a three-inch piece of plastic wrap in the other. He gasped, "It's the last piece. THE LAST PIECE!"

"Wait, wait... we have another roll don't we," I suggested, hopeful.

He threw the stuff to the floor and yanked open the cabinet. There sat the other roll in its yellow and blue box, metal teeth gleaming in the light like some crazy possessed box of plastic wrap you'd name Cujo or Christine. "Yes, here it is. We have one left."

We looked at each other and didn't say much. What could you say? It was bound to be coming to an end... the rolls anyway, hopefully not the marriage. Would we survive it?

Another few months went by. Fast forward to yesterday. Another horrific bellow comes from Rob in the kitchen. I race in to see him standing there, again, with three inches of plastic wrap and a terrified look on his face. "This is it," he said, grimacing.

Julius, our oldest comes racing in. "What is it, what is it?" He stares at his dad (who is still holding the plastic wrap and waving it around in the air) like he's a stranger visiting from a mental institution. I said, "Oh, uh, well, your Dad just needs more plastic wrap and we're all out." Julius rolls his eyes and leaves the room.

Well, really, what was I supposed to do, explain it to him? It boggles the mind to think we bought those mutant rolls three years before he was even born.

So, here is what I'm thinking. If those lasted eight years, all we need to do is go find that brand of wrap and buy enough rolls to last us until somewhere around the end of our lifespan, give or take a few years for being in the nursing home and maybe purchase one extra roll since we have two kids now and will probably be using more.

A quick googling of the average life expectancy of humans yielded me a nifty little calculator. (Sidenote: calculating your life expectancy is a sobering thing which gave me pause to wonder why I'm sitting here writing about plastic wrap instead of out climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or doing a castle tour of the UK or publishing my best-selling novel.) After a few clicks I determined six rolls should do it. We'll get seven to be on the safe side. Lucky Number Seven.

It's a small price to pay to save a marriage.

December 5, 2008

Killing Santa

When my husband and I had kids we had slightly different philosophies about how we were going to handle "the Santa Issue". He was raised to believe there was a Santa and I was raised in a non-Santa environment.

I was uncomfortable with what I considered a deception; he maintained it was harmless and nobody is permanently scarred from the discovery that Santa isn't real. (Oh, sorry if I spoiled that for anyone who still believes... oopsie!) Indeed he seems quite fine. He has very fond memories of childhood Christmases and no bad memories of the event at all. Since my family never celebrated Christmas I yielded to him as the Holiday Expert.

Five years later my son is now in Kindergarten and has asked me twice if Santa Claus is real. As expected, bigger kids are telling littler kids that Santa isn't real. So, I put the question off by saying he needs to talk to his dad about it as his dad is the Santa Expert. Julius says, "Why is Dad the Santa Expert? Why aren't you a Santa Expert?" Er, well... now that's another long story.

Fast forward a week and finally I can't stand it anymore and we decide we're going to fess up and explain about Santa Claus. We go into some long drawn out explanation about how Santa is a symbol of Giving, Generosity, Good Times. (I resisted the urge to add Greed, Excessive Consumerism, Poor Financial Choices and Hedonism.) We explained why "we" thought it would be fun for him to believe in Santa, fun for him, fun for us to give him Santa gifts and all that. We stressed the whole "symbolism" thing as a way of not completely admitting that we're big fat liars.

While symbolism and the spirit of giving and all that is a really nice story, the real truth is Mommy and Daddy killed Santa Claus.

At the end of this protracted and horrible explanation we just sat there looking at him and asked how he felt about it. He said he was sad, although he suspected the kids were right. And he looked horribly disappointed. I, of course, felt like crying and was filled pretty much to the top with self-loathing... 'cause, you know, I'm a Santa Killer.

I asked him what we should do about his little brother. To tell or not to tell? He says we should tell Tristan the truth and also tell him that Big Brother is sad about there not being a real Santa.

Right now the boys are piled on their Dad watching The Santa Clause. I'm all for Hollywood breaking the news next time.

Hopelessly Cluttered

I'm hopelessly cluttered. I have this fantasy that one day I will magically become organized and live and work in a pristine and uncluttered environment that people will admire. Right now I live in an environment where people fear for their lives that there might be an avalanche and they will die under a heap of falling magazines or other little doo-dads I'm certain I can't live without.

I do mean well. Once I bought a really cool book on how to organize myself and lost it within the first week. I think I got to about page two before I became suicidal.

All this is coming up again because my mother just handed me a book called How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself. (How fitting is that title?) I told her I lost my other book and she laughed so hard she had to sit down in the chair because of a subsequent coughing fit. She said she'd drill a hole in this one and tie it to the corner of my desk with a big red ribbon.

My family hates me because I lack domestic skills. The only reason they keep me around is because I'm slightly charming, sporadically amusing and I'm the only one who doesn't mind changing the diapers. I'm afraid of what will happen when our youngest is potty trained. My usefulness will suddenly decline and I'll be forced to do more outlandish things to prove my usefulness such as cure cancer, invent a car that runs on air or maybe just polish up a little bit and become a supermodel. (Yes, because I'm SO CLOSE to making that achievement!)

But enough about me... what about you? Take my survey so I can see either how abysmally hopeless I am or give me hope that I'm not alone. (Survey is limited to the first 50 people, because I'm a cheapskate who won't upgrade the service.)

And if you have any great hints about organizing, feel free to post them here. Every little bit helps, doesn't it?

P.S. I'll post the survey results later after they are tabulated.

December 3, 2008

Thank Goodness for Gravity

My two-year-old has tiny little legs. He's all torso with these powerful little stumpy legs and he's very strong. Last night he tried to lock me in the bathroom by throwing himself at the door and pushing it shut as I was pulling it open. It was not a pretty sight and I was certain someone was going to get something amputated.

He hops a lot and runs in circles. He jumps off chairs, off the couch, onto his brother, onto his parents. Once he jumped on me when I wasn't expecting it and it cost me two trips to the chiropractor. Lately he has been running across rooms and slamming into people so that he bounces off and falls to the floor. He likes to pretend he falls off things. He loves flying through the air, but much to my dismay he likes landing as well. I don't even understand how this is possible.

He was walking at nine months and climbing before that. He is fearless and I am fearful. He's a runner and in the mornings I have to hold his hand when we walk to the car (which he hates) because he likes to take off running and he almost runs faster than I do. This morning was one of those mornings... he wanted to go see the school buses that park near our house and he took off running. There we were, half the city's traffic going past our house with him running so fast flames were shooting off his backside and me behind him trying to close the gap before he can hit the street. We looked like Tom and Jerry complete with his silly, gleeful grin and my own mask of rage and frustration. It's a small town and I'm sure a daily event to drive by our house in the morning with people taking bets on what they'll see when they pass by. Fresh spectacles daily!

Often gravity is in my favor and probably the only thing that saves me. More often than not he tips forward and skips across the dirt like a smooth stone across water. That's when I make my move, snatching him up and hauling him across the yard under my arm like an angry bagpiper marching to war. "No-o-o! No-o-oh!" shrieks the bagpipe, his little legs flailing. It's good to be bigger. Okay, maybe slow, but when I catch him I'm good.

For now anyway.

December 2, 2008

My Icemaker

Apparently, my ice maker is having another psychotic episode. Those of you who have migrated from the old, dead blog will remember the long-winded tale of the ice maker from last year.

It has been very well-behaved for a while, but I have now (apparently) made it mad again by allowing two containers of homemade meatballs to sit in the ice bin for a couple of days. Heaven forbid the bin serves two purposes. Heaven forbid I treat the ice maker like the machine it is.

Those of you who are just tuning in... well, I'm sorry you're having to witness all this. :)

November 28, 2008

The Menace of Electric Cars

Up until today I've been really excited about the prospect of electric cars. For the obvious reasons, of course. I love that we can break our dependence on fossil fuels. I especially love how quiet they are.

My first experience with electric cars was when I was waiting for a client of mine and walked out to meet him when I saw him coming down the road. He pulls up next to me and I thought his car had stalled and he was coasting in. The only sound it was making was the crunching of the tires on the gravel. Oh, to drive a car that rides the wind like a whisper.

Yeah, until today. Today I nearly had a body part amputated by one of those stealth Bringers of Pain. I was in the parking lot of Lowe's loading paint into my car and this woman comes up and opens the door of the car next to mine. I didn't think much of it. She slid into the car and I wasn't being particularly careful because I figured I was safe until I heard the car start.

I proceed to back my hindquarters out of the car, whipping around to slam the door shut when I see the front end of her car swinging around to greet me like a long-lost lover angling in for a hot embrace. She, of course, is looking the other way. I freeze, bewildered for a moment because the car is moving, silently and swiftly, and about to amputate my ass. Or at least maybe my foot. I think she missed me by only three inches.

So, I realize that in all the hubbub of the electric cars being the panacea for the environment and the economy, nobody is talking about butt amputation AT ALL and I think someone should be. I envision old ladies and the blind being knocked flying through intersections, small children being flattened like pancakes by well-meaning
hippiesyuppies hopped up on grande mochas.

Where is Ralph Nader when you need him?

Those NPR Voices

Earlier while I was on the road, I had the radio tuned into NPR and started wondering, do people who broadcast on National Public Radio go to a special school to attain those mellifluous tones with which they all speak? Lately I'm hooked on NPR and I think it might just be those voices. They have a warm, soothing quality that energizes the mind yet keeps one from getting all excitable enough to do something reckless like change lanes without using your turn signals. I can't imagine anyone who is tuned into NPR would ever have an incident of road rage.

When I listen to NPR, I find myself wishing the broadcasters were my best friends. You know, the types of pals I'd invite over for dinner for some interesting new ethnic recipe, some wine (I don't even drink wine), maybe a groovy light jazz in the background. I can see myself laughing (mellifluously) as they review the latest book they are reading or leaning forward earnestly to hear their interpretation of a recent event.

I snapped out of this reverie when a smoke-belching white 1970-something Vega with big wheels and a lift kit whips in front of me and slams on its brakes. It made me so mad I had to turn off NPR just so I could honk at him. I'm not sure what was worse... his driving or WHAT he was driving.

[photo credit: leyslie]

November 27, 2008

A Tender (science) Moment

This afternoon Tristan, my youngest, woke terribly out of sorts, all floppy and snuggly, hair sticking up like a sadistic cow had been licking him. I rolled him up in his blanket and sat cross-legged with him on the floor. He curled into a ball and laid his head on my chest and heaved a big sigh. Aaah.

My oldest came over and was being tender with him too instead of the usual assault and battery they exchange. He'd caress his arm, his face, helped tuck him in and coo to him. He got the photo album and showed him both their baby pictures and told him about when he was born. Tristan smiled happily, sleepily.

At the end of the photo album he was out of stories to tell, so Julius decided to discuss an educational topic.

"Tristan, do you know what is under your skin??"

I blinked, not sure what was coming next.

"Meat! Under your skin is your meat!"

A little snuggling, a little Anatomy 101. Can't beat it.

[art credit: Jason Freeny, Moist Production. Awesome artist!!]

Thanksgiving Day Omelet Massacre

I'm an adequate cook. Not a GREAT cook, but mostly functional and so far I've not poisoned anyone (that I know of). My husband does most of the cooking because he's an exceptional cook.

On the weekends I make the kids a real breakfast instead of the quicky stuff they get during the week. Normally I do a simple bacon and eggs deal, but his morning we were out of bacon and I scrambled around (no pun intended) to figure out something else to do.

Out of the fridge came eggs, some cheese, lunchmeat (??). Well, it's meat and they are kids. Maybe they won't notice the difference. "Hey, how about an omelet?" I yell into the living room where the kids are playing. Julius yells back, "What's an omelet?" (This gives me brief pause to wonder what kind of culinary hell he must be living in if he's five years old and doesn't know what an omelet is.) Tristan yells back nothing because all he ever says is "horse".

My answer to the question was probably the first lie I've ever told my son. "Omelets? Well they are like a, uh, well... they are great!" I hate omelets.

I proceeded to make the omelet, dodging the two year old who wanted to put his hand in the egg bowl then he proceeded to fall off the upside down bucket on which he was standing. He jumped up yelling, "egg! egg!" I assumed the concussion he may have received from falling stimulated some of his communication neurons and they were now beginning to function. At least something was getting accomplished this morning.

Okay, egg... IN, cheese... IN, fake ham product... IN. I realized after going this far I didn't realize how I was supposed to fold the omelet over. I was thinking I read somewhere you aren't supposed to flip an omelet, that it just magically cooks itself somehow. I couldn't get the spatula under the side. It was unruly and slippery and devious. I now hated omelets on a whole new level. They began to represent my failings as a mother, as a wife, as a domestic goddess, as possibly a Westernized human. Probably everyone but me knows how to make an omelet.

I don't know how normal people accomplish the goal, but I used a butter knife AND a spatula and both hands to finally get the task done. I didn't want to risk killing anyone, so I did flip the omelet, afraid an uncooked center would earn us a visit from the food-borne bacteria fairies. Immediately I realized what a mistake was as it became misshapen and lumpy like a picture you'd see in an article entitled, "How NOT to make an omelet".

I served it up, saved myself a sliver. Then came the Thanksgiving Miracle -- the kids both cleaned their plates, asked for more and when I tasted the remaining sliver in the pan I decided that maybe omelets aren't so bad after all.

So... do you have any omelet advice?

[photo credit: sidereal]

November 26, 2008

One Sentence

I ran across this site today and thought I'd share it. What a cool idea!

One Sentence... True stories told in one sentence.

My Son the Attorney

One of the things I find fascinating about children is their distinct personalities and often strange perception of reality. (I say strange, but I mean strange to ME... reality being relative and all...)

My oldest son is 5 and has always had a knack with cutting through to the heart of a matter, slicing away the fat in a conversation to get down to the meat. Up until yesterday I thought he'd be a scientist of some sort because he has a real passion for science and nature. Now, I suspect maybe his talents will lie in the arena of law or perhaps criminal interrogations.

We were in the car driving and somehow got on the topic of riding in pickup trucks. I told him, "When I was a kid nobody really worried about car seats and you could even ride in the back of a truck without having seat belts on." Him being a child of the modern area of supreme safety, he was completely amazed and delighted by this idea. Before he got any bright ideas I added, "Of course, you can't do that now. It's not safe."

"How come?"

"Well," I said, having this conversation perfectly in hand, "because you might fall out, or a rock will fly up from the road and knock you in the head or if you crash maybe the truck would roll on top of you or something." I was concerned about the graphic nature of my explanation but I certainly didn't want to leave any doubt as to whether riding in the back of a truck was a good idea or not.

Julius is a stoic child and difficult to read sometimes. He thought about it for a little while and said, "Did that happen to you as a kid?"


More thinking and quiet. "Did that happen to someone you know as a kid?"


A bit more quiet. "Has that ever happened to anyone you ever heard about?"

"Um... no..."

At any minute I expected him to assert to the court that he rested his case and was done with the witness.

You go, Perry Mason!

[photo credit: lambdachialpha]

November 25, 2008

Happy Thumpsgiving

Yes, you read it right... Happy THUMPSgiving! I'm writing this post in honor of the woman who hit a carjacker with a frozen turkey. If I had some kind of good citizen award to give her I would. In fact, maybe I should make one up just so I can do that!

If you've not heard the story, you can read it here on Yahoo news!

November 24, 2008


I absolutely positively can't get enough of the PostSecret web site. (If you've not been there... run, don't walk to the site as soon as you are done here!)  

It's a fascinating study in... so many things. Secrets, voyeurism, connections, basic human needs, truth, deception, fear, courage. I'm amazed and fascinated that one can get so much out of one collection of postcards.

In honor of PostSecret I will tell you one secret about myself. It is not earth-shattering or dark and will not give you any particular revelations. I'm not even sure why I thought of it today of all days.

When I was in my teens I lived alone with my mother. We lived in a tiny two room house, nothing fancy. My closet was not trimmed out with moulding on the inside and there was a narrow crack along the opening of the framing of the closet.

One night I wrote a small note. I don't remember what it said, but something along the lines of who I was and some of my thoughts. I put the date on it and slid it into the crack of the closet wall thinking that maybe one day someone would find it if they ever moved into this house in the future. I flattered myself to think perhaps I would create some archaeological or historical mystery. (Okay, remember, I was 13 or 14 -- don't hold it against me.)

Fast forward to ... well, let me not say how many years later. I moved out of that house, went to college, married, had children, lived life, moved back to the town where I was raised and began working in real estate. Suddenly I had the opportunity to show the house I lived in to some clients of mine. The little house where I lived as a teenager was sitting there waiting for someone to buy it!

Here we were, me and two strangers walking through the house of another two strangers who were waiting out in the driveway for us to finish and about halfway through the showing I remembered this silly note I've stuffed into the closet. First I wonder if it could possibly still be there. Second I wonder could it be possible that I can go fumble around in their dark closet looking for it?

Indeed in a surreptitious moment, I did run my hand down the doorframe of the closet hoping I'd feel a little note that might have been jiggled out over time. No sign of it. It never occurred to me all those years ago that I'd actually be back living in the town I grew up in. It never occurred to me that someday a neighbor of mine might actually find this wayward note and come wandering up on my doorstep to deliver it back to me after all these years. It's sort of horrifying and hilarious all at the same time.

Sometimes I drive by there on my way to somewhere else. I glance quickly over and see my younger self in there, hiding away a secret little note to strangers in the future. It's like forshadowing for my blogging future!

Do you have any stories about secrets?

November 23, 2008

The Journey

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. -- Lao Tzu
Periodically we all go through this period where we wonder if we are on the right path. Particularly for me, I get in these jobs / places / relationships (and sometimes all three at once) in which I wonder if it's where I'm supposed to be, where I want to be, or if it's my "last job", the one I will want to stick with forever. 

I'm ready to be There (wherever There is). I want to get where I'm going, to skip the book and read the last page to see how it all ends. This is the norm. We are not born patient creatures; patience is a skill we must develop like good penmanship, bicycle riding, or using the remote control in pitch darkness.  
Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.
Mediocrity wears on us like a sandpaper suit. We slide into daily and it degrades us as time passes. We begin to experience dissatisfaction because we go to bed expecting great things for ourselves and wake up knowing we won't use all the skills and talents we possess. Some days it feels wrong, wasteful, disappointing. 
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. -- Sir Winston Churchill
Which comes first, the optimism or the success? For some our first reaction is to say that it's easy for Churchill to feel the joy and glory of the climb when he was a brilliant, creative, articulate man who probably achieved everything he set out to do. 
But why would he be any more capable of maximizing his journey than you or me? No reason except that it is easy to be distracted by the nagging sensation that we're wandering blindly through the woods with absolutely no clue as to where we're going. The truth is we all feel it. At times we are all just bumping around in the dark. Probably even Mr. Churchill now and again. 
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. -- Dante Alighieri
What is the trick of those who make the best of their lives, who really maximize the time they have on the planet and pack every second of the day with brilliance, intensity, and fullness? It is those who see that, as cliche as it can sound, it really IS about the journey and the grace we bring with us as travelers. They tackle the day with fierceness and courage. They are not satisfied to be carried along with the current, but will push through and make their own way.
No man with a man's heart in him, gets far on his way without some bitter, soul searching disappointment. Happy he who is brave enough to push on another stage of the journey...
Acknowledge uncertainty and doubt, then get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the things you want to accomplish in this life, your "bucket list".  Pick a point on the map and head out, take the single step. Remember, that a traveler never goes it alone. Cast your eyes to the side and you will see many of us near you -- some ahead, some behind.  We're all together in this journey.

What do you want to accomplish along the way? What is on your bucket list? What holds you back?

[photo credit: cindy]

November 22, 2008

Happiness is...

Obviously, I'm happy when my kids burst into laughter or one of them says something brilliant or I have big success at work and solve a huge problem.  We all have the obvious things in our lives that make us happy.

But what about the little quirky things?  The strange or the ordinary?

I was in the drive-thru getting "lazy food" tonight and the air was very cold and crisp.  I had the window open and the heater running nearly full blast.  I could feel the tendril fingers of cold swirl around, grasping, then driven back by the force of air from the heater. Fresh air in my face, hot air wrapping around me, a mix of hot and cold like the pleasures of eating salty/sweet.  I leaned my head back on the headrest while I waited and thought, "Now this is happiness."

The wait seemed eternal so I started making a list of other ordinary things that make me happy:
  1. the first cardinal of winter, the first dogwood of spring
  2. red toasters
  3. frogs singing
  4. a fresh, blank journal
  5. the smell of a bookstore
  6. hot tea with cream and sugar
  7. walking the neighborhood with my camera
  8. a new craft book
  9. a real letter in the mailbox
  10. knowing all the streets in town
  11. riding my bike around the town square after closing time
  12. "circus squirrels" (squirrels that walk on powerlines)
  13. buy one, get one free  :)
  14. fresh squeezed orange juice, lots of pulp
  15. the ocean
  16. trees that hang over a city street or country road
  17. sticky notes and gel pens
  18. a fresh coat of paint
  19. moving sidewalks
  20. peanut butter crackers and a good book
What are some of the things that make YOU happy?

[photo credit: bingbing]

November 21, 2008


My friends hear me go on and on about what a fabulous thing adoption is. I'm always looking for opportunity to promote it because there are so many kids who have a need, especially sibling "sets" which are harder to place than single kids.

I was recently watching the evening news and they had a story on a small church in the community of Possum Trot, Texas who took it upon themselves to care for as many children as they possibly can.

To date the members of this church have adopted 72 children. That's 72 cycles of abuse and neglect that have been broken, 72 children who have a great start at life, 72 committments to make a difference in the world.

What a great number 72 is. Wouldn't it be great if it were bigger??

November 13, 2008

Time for Change in Canada

I don't usually scour the news for weird stories even though it might seem like it these days. However, I did just run across one that blew my mind and I had to share.

It's a story about a carpool startup being sued by a bus company. And WINNING!

Apparently there are quite rigorous requirements in Ontario regarding carpooling. Read the article -- it's worth having your mind blown. How this can happen in the age of "go green" I have no idea.

November 12, 2008


My two year old, Tristan, will only speak one word at a time. I try and try to get him to put two words together in a row and he won't. It's an endless thing we do and my mom speculates he's just torturing me on purpose, that he really can speak but won't.

I felt like I a had a big victory getting him to say a two SYLLABLE word. That was a stretch. But with prompting he will now say "baseball"!

Most of the words he says are in the form of demands that make his life as prince of the house more comfortable and fun. Things like "gook!" (milk), "boo!" (pooh TV), "dorse!" (the movie Spirit), "dewius!" (his brother did something that made him mad), etc. Maybe the problem is we know what he's saying and we don't MAKE him do any better. I wish I were a child-rearing genius but I'm actually tremendously far to the other side of the scale, feeling inept most of the time.

I talk to him a lot, have always done so with both boys so they would hear the language and learn faster. We never used baby talk and Julius was a fast talker, a great conversationalist EARLY. I remember sitting by the crib having actually real conversations with him that made sense.

So, this morning I'm doing my usual blather on the way to daycare. We're driving through the fog and I say, "I sure love foggy days like these, Tristan. These are my favorite kind of days."

From the back seat I hear a very loud and clear, "Why?"

I nearly ran off the road. Um... er...

"Uh, well, I like it because it's quiet and gray and it feels like we're all wrapped in a blanket together, waiting for something to happen."


And that was that. Maybe my mom was right.

November 11, 2008

Green Gumdrops

Sitting on the front desk in my office is a container of gumdrops. Everyone has picked out all the colors except the green ones. They've been lying there for days, rolling around at the bottom of this huge plastic container.

It bugs me that they are still there, like the last kids picked for a team, and yet I leave them there just to see what happens. I have to see if someone will come to claim them.

Is there anyone on the planet who likes green gumdrops? Or green candy of any kind for that matter. I asked my husband if he likes them and he said, "Sort of." What does that mean? The phone rang and I couldn't get a clarification. It seemed neurotic to go back and ask him about it and yet... here I am making a post on my blog about it. Is that less weird? I doubt it.

So, here is what I want to know. Hit the little comment link and tell me... how do you feel about green gumdrops? Is one of you out there a fan of them? Does anyone eat them? If not, why do companies make them? Is it simply because their absence would be conspicuous?

And why do all fruit flavors taste close to the actual fruit EXCEPT for the green ones? Fake lime tastes nothing like real lime. Why is it so hard to hit that nail on the head?

Tell me. Just tell me.

A Day to Remember

Veteran's Day is almost over. Did you call a veteran today? I spoke to both of my nephews, both back from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We come from a long line of patriots and rabble-rousers. Family history indicates we've fought in every war since coming to America with the exception of our first excursions in the Gulf.

Whatever your opinion about war and foreign relations, let's take time to remember those who stood behind the lines drawn in the sand. Let's say a little prayer for those across the waters who probably would love to be home right now.

Let us not take our freedom for granted.

[photo credit: eqqman]

Where Do We Stand?

I am always desperate to avoid presidential politics. I really hate it. It is often endless, and evokes far too intense passions for my taste. Sometimes it is vile. I wrap myself in a blanket of apathy and despair and snuggle down, hoping for the best. I do my best fighting on the issues and hope occasionally that something will trickle up and make a difference.

This last election was interesting, although I was quite sick of it by the end. It was a fascinating examination of our times. I won't rehash what everyone is saying about women presidents, women vice presidents, black presidents and so forth because it's all been done thoroughly and better than I could anyway.

I don't know that I learned anything more about America that I didn't know before, but I did learn things about the people around me that I would never have guessed. I discovered a long-time friend who I thought was politically aligned with me was voting quite different than I was. I discovered a man who I thought was intelligent and well-informed wasn't voting at all, and for what I thought was a very silly reason. I discovered a racist I know who makes liberal use of the "n-word" was voting for America's first black president.

Frankly, I still don't understand any of those things.

None of that matters, of course. (And as my husband frequently says to me, "You don't have to understand everything...")

What I have found moving is the reaction afterward -- watching the speeches of a gracious McCain and a humble Obama and to watch the Americans who have not lost their optimisim, those who want to work together to rebuild a country that feels like it has been down for a long, long time.

I am buoyed by the project "From 52 to 48 with love". When I am sitting at my desk concerned for our future that is where I will go.

I start my first term in local government in January. I live in a small town where it's possible to get the feeling that you CAN make a difference. I hope my trickle up theory of government works. I'll let you know in a few months.

[photo credit: jbelluch]

November 9, 2008

Hidden Money

Is it just me or does this news story seem really messed up?

The story is that a contractor was doing some work on a house, found a whole bunch of money in the walls and a big legal fiasco ensues over who has the right to the money.

Everyone seems more amazed about the money in general and how much of a fight it turned out to be.

What nobody (but me) really seems to be amazed about is that there was a fight in the first place.

If you hire a contractor to come in and fix your bathroom and he finds a pair of Madonna's panties in the wall or the Holy Grail (to some people the same, maybe) or Ben Franklin's grocery list or $182,000 -- it seems like a no-brainer to me that he goes to the homeowner and says, "Wow, aren't you lucky... look at this cool thing I found in your wall."

Be careful who you let in your house! The cleaning lady, your babysitter, the Maytag repairman. God help you if they find something cool laying around your house. If it's worth something the courts just might say it's okay for them to have some of it!

[photo credit: Tracy Olson]


Welcome family and friends. Welcome new friends I don't know yet.

Pour up some tea, grab a snack, let's talk.