Sunday, January 28, 2007


This morning I saw an article on Yahoo News that listed the top 10 foods for a good night's sleep. G has horrible problems getting to sleep at night -- I turn her light out between 8:30 and 9, and I'm usually sitting there until at least 10:30, telling her to "Ssssh!" and "Lie down!" -- so I read the list with interest. Nine of the ten items were things that G either wouldn't eat (I wouldn't eat flax seeds either) or couldn't eat (no turkey in our house), but the tenth item was bananas. Yes! And we just happened to be going grocery shopping this afternoon, too!

G loves science, so I framed the banana idea as an experiment. "These people say that bananas make you sleepy, so tonight we're going to test it. I'll give you a banana before bedtime, and our hypothesis will be that you will go right to sleep. In the morning, we'll see if it was correct. Okay?"

"Okay!" said G, practically jumping up and down with excitement.

The evening wore on, and G reminded me several times that she couldn't go to bed until she had her banana. Finally, at eight o'clock, I came into the living room and announced "It's PJ and banana time!" Then we had to postpone the banana-eating for another ten minutes because I realized that "PJ and Banana Time" sounded like a kids' television show, and neither G nor I could stop laughing about it.

"Hi, kids!" I said, brandishing the half-peeled banana in my hand while G rolled on the couch holding her stomach. "It's PJ and Banana Time! I'm your host, PJ, and this (pointing to G) is my buddy Banana!"

"I don't want to be Banana!" interrupted G, giggling. "You'll be Banana, and you'll wear all yellow and say almost nothing." More hilarity. (As I type this, I'm realizing that you really had to be there. Oh well.)

At last G calmed down enough to put on her PJs and eat the banana, and shortly thereafter, I packed her off to bed. And ... I think it sort of worked! She still tossed and turned a bit and had to be shushed, but she fell asleep in 26 minutes instead of an hour and forty-five. If it works that well every night, I'll buy stock in Chiquita.

I should charge a finder's fee

For some reason, my child has formed the idea that I am able to find lost objects. I don't know what could have led her to believe this, since she lives with me and is witness to my daily getting-ready-for-work routine, in which I run around looking frazzled and yelling "What happened to that hairbrush I just had?" and "Where the hell are my keys?" Still, she never fails to assume that I'll be able to find the missing pink Polly Pocket shoe (if you thought Barbie shoes were small and easily lost, let me just tell you that Polly Pocket makes Barbie look like one of Cinderella's big-footed stepsisters), or the folded-up piece of paper from her backpack, or the six-month-old issue of National Geographic Kids that she suddenly must read. She's so certain of my powers in this area that she gets incensed when I suggest that it isn't my job in life to keep track of her stuff, and that maybe she ought to hie her butt up the stairs and try looking around in her room for whatever it is.

But at the same time, I keep messing myself up by accidentally performing some miraculous find, the way I did yesterday when she was looking for her Kid Pix computer game. I tried everything to get her to look for it herself -- asking where she'd last seen it, sending her upstairs to get the CD case where her games are supposed to be kept, etc. Finally I asked "Well, did you look for it next to the computer?" She said no, and I walked across the room, plucked the disk off the computer cart, and waved it at her.

"See, here it is. If it'd been a snake it would've bit you."

"Wow! Thanks, Mom!"

The legend continues. Now if I could just find my keys ...

In other news, my plan to bribe encourage G to attend to her "responsibilities" by restarting her allowance is working pretty well. She hasn't exactly rushed to do everything on her list every day, but when I remind her that she has to do it all if she wants to get her money, she does it, and with little to no complaining. Today she spent some of her savings for the first time (on a jumprope she's been asking for at the grocery store, but that I've always said no to) and seemed pleased with her newfound power.

SpaceMom asked a while ago how old G was when I started giving her an allowance, and the answer is either five or six -- I'm not sure which, but she was in kindergarten at the time. It wasn't very successful because although she knew what money was, she didn't really have much interest in it, so that first attempt only lasted a month or so. About a year later, I tried again without much more impact: I'd forget to give it to her for weeks at a time because she never asked for it, and then she'd suddenly remember and want me to pay up all at once, forcing me to ask myself just how deceitful I wanted to be -- was I going to say Okay, G, I'll give you that $60 just as soon as I get to the ATM? or was I going to fudge it and say Gosh, it has been a while ... two weeks, right? Here you go! Ten bucks! I have no problem with a little well-placed parental prevarication, but it seemed a bit too dishonest to take advantage of a seven-year-old that way.

So now we're on our third attempt at the Great Allowance Experiment. I think the reason it's going so much better this time is because I've got a lot tougher about not buying G things over the last few months. Previously, she didn't have any need for her own money because she could count on me or P to get her whatever little trinket she asked for at the store. Now that I say no more often than not, she sees the value of being able to buy what she wants for herself. At least, that's my theory.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Buy me a ticket on the porcelain bus

The bad news: I caught G's stomach flu
The good news: I lost six pounds in three days
The bad news: I feel like I've been hit by a truck
The good news: There is no more good news

My father likes to say that you know you're really sick when you go from being afraid you'll die to being afraid you won't. That accurately sums up my state of mind as I slumped on the bathroom tiles at 2:45 Sunday morning. It seems awfully unjust, since I spent the entire week between Christmas and New Year's being sick as well, but you can't argue with germs. Well, you can, but it's not very satisfying, and then they end up winning anyway, the little buggers.

G was a champion on Sunday, the day I was sickest. She was mostly over the virus by then, and she spent the entire morning playing on her own (not an easy task for her), watching movies, and drawing pictures. Around noon, I asked her grandmother to come pick her up for a while -- she was being as good as gold, but I felt guilty about lying there on the couch while she basically looked after herself. To my surprise, she had something to say about that.

"I want to stay with you, Mom!" she insisted.

"G, I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm a wreck. You'll be much better off spending the day with Grandma. She'll take you out to lunch."

"No, I want to stay here! I'll make my own sandwich and everything!"

"But I can't play with you."

"You can too -- you played Uno with me while you were lying down -- and you talked to me --"

She was starting to tear up and sniffle at this point, which made me feel even guiltier, but I settled for the lesser of the two guilts and sent her off with Grandma anyway. I didn't realize until later that evening, when she asked out of the blue what she would do without me (that is, if something happened to me), that the poor kid had probably been afraid to leave in case I died while she was gone. After all, if your father can die in the other room while you're watching TV one Sunday morning, who's to say the same thing can't happen to your mother, especially if she's already sick? It makes sense if you're eight. Hell, it makes sense if you're thirty-five.

Anyway, I told G that she had a huge family who would take care of her if I wasn't around, but that she didn't need to worry about it because I was planning to live to be 100. She said "How about 101?" and I said "Okay," and that seemed to be the end of it. It makes me wonder what other sorts of scary thoughts are in her head, though.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Intercession I didn't even ask for

St. Jude just called me.

No, really. The phone rang, and when I looked at the caller ID, it said "ST JUDE." I didn't answer it because I don't answer any calls from people I don't know personally, and that includes former apostles. But I'm amused by the idea of St. Jude ringing me up, whether to chat about the weather, to ask if I have any particularly thorny problems I need solved, or to tell me that my issues are beyond all help. Or, if my guess about the real purpose of the call is right, to hit me up for a donation.

By the numbers

Vomiting children in this house: One.
Times she has hurled: Seven last night, one this morning, one this evening.
Times she made it to the bathroom in time: All but one.
Spots I cleaned off the stair and hall carpets: Lost count at eight.
Does orange soda stain when thrown up? Horribly.

Earlier today, I had go to the grocery store for the holy trinity of stomach flu -- Sprite, saltines and popsicles -- and since there was no one to watch G at home, she had to come with me. Shopping with a child who has thrown up recently is like carrying around concealed plastic explosives; you keep wondering when your charge might go off and wishing you could warn people to keep their distance. In every aisle, I scanned my surroundings with a nervous eye, gauging how far we were from an exit and where we might be able to go in a sudden puke emergency. We made it out without incident, but not before G got (understandably) tired of me asking her "Are you okay? Are you sure? Does your stomach hurt? Not even a little bit?"

I honestly don't know what's wrong with the poor kid. We had Chinese takeout for dinner last night, and I suspected that, but a friend told me that she'd got sick too soon after eating for it to be food poisoning. On the other hand, she hasn't got a fever, so it doesn't really seem like a virus. Where is that maternal Spidey-sense when I need it?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pasta with loose morals

Tonight's dinner, Moosewood Spicy Pasta Puttanesca (Organic Vegetarian), has all the numminess of Amy's Organics Pesto Pizza without the fear-inspiring aroma. I will definitely be buying this one again. (Trivia of the day: pasta alla puttanesca means "pasta the way whores make it". Oh yeah ... bring that slutty pasta on, baby!)

You might be wondering why we seem to eat nothing but frozen food around this place (or possibly just why I feel compelled to clutter up the Internet with posts about it). Actually we don't, it's just that lately I have no energy for cooking, or anything else for that matter. A parade of acrobats and elephants could come through the living room right now, and I would just sit here on the sofa and go "ehhh" at it.


I did bestir myself on Sunday afternoon to make a chore chart for G, who took it pretty well considering that she hasn't had to do anything at all around the house for the last six months. There are eight items on her chart, since she's turning eight, but not all of them are chores as such; some are things that she has to do anyway, but that I would prefer to have done as a matter of course rather than with a fight. This is the list:

1. Take a shower every day.
2. Brush your teeth twice a day.
3. Put dishes in the sink after you eat.
4. Throw away your own trash.
5. Do your homework.
6. Help Mom clean your room.
7. Help pick up toys in the living room before bed.
8. Feed the cats when you get home.

In exchange for her doing all these things every day, I promised to reinstate her allowance, which she also hasn't had in six months -- not because of anything she did, just because a lot of routines fell by the wayside when P died -- and give her a $1 raise, to $8 a week. I think this is a very reasonable list of tasks and an easy way to earn eight bucks. So far, she seems to agree. We'll see how she feels about it as time goes on.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Our kitty of perpetual patience

Catherine has not got a saint's name for nothing. She's one of the calmest, most patient cats I've ever met, a trait best illustrated by the list of things she has allowed G to do to her:

• Attach clip-on earrings to her ears
• Dress her in a Superman cape, a witch's hat and a scarf (not all at the same time)
• Put action figures astride her back as if they're riding her
• Pick up her (small) scratching post when she's curled up on top of it, then twirl in circles while singing "She's dancing, she's dancing!"
• Hug her, kiss her, squeeze her, jounce her, and fool with her paws
• All sorts of other indignities I can't recall at the moment

This is the resigned expression Catherine wears when G is carrying her around, which happens approximately 28274748 times a day:

Mind you, G does all this in a spirit of love and fun, but it still drives me bonkers at times. One of the sentences most frequently spoken in our house, right after "Please move your shoes/toys/coat/snack wrapper off the stairs before I fall and break my neck," is "Will you leave the poor cat alone?" On the rare occasions when Catherine does give G a little nip or scratch, I'm always firmly on Catherine's side, because you can bet that G deserved whatever she got and then some.

So let's all take a moment to recognize Catherine Marie _____, the Best Kitty Ever*. I hope she survives the rest of G's childhood without having a nervous breakdown.

*I gave her a middle name to add gravitas to scoldings. "Catherine Marie, stop eating that piece of paper!" has a weight and flow to it that plain old "Catherine" just can't achieve. Malcolm also has a middle name; it's James. Oh, hush, they're my cats and I can call them whatever I want. :P

Early-morning drama

This morning, G and I were getting dressed in our respective bathrooms when I heard her bathroom door bang shut in an odd way. Half a second later, Catherine came streaking into my bedroom and dived under my bed. A moment after that, in came G with a guilty look on her face.

"DID YOU SLAM THE CAT IN THE BATHROOM DOOR?" I asked in my most terrible mom-voice.

"Yes," said G, hanging her head.

"Oh, dear God. Why did you do that?"

"It was an accident! I wanted her to stay in there with me!"

"Where did the door hit her?" I asked, hoping it was going to be the shoulders or the tail or something.

"On the sides of her," said G.

I got down and peered under the bed, where Catherine was crouching with her fur all fluffed up. She wouldn't come out, so I reached in and felt along her sides, looking for broken ribs or a ruptured spleen or whatever else might happen to a cat that had been shut in a door. She didn't yowl or flinch, her breathing was fine, and she wasn't coughing up blood or anything dire like that -- she just looked scared and pissed off. I tried dragging her favorite toys along the floor in a tantalizing fashion, and she stretched out a paw to bat at them, but still wouldn't come out.

At last I had to give up and leave her there so I could take G to school and go to work for my morning meetings, which I sat through while tormented with horrible fantasies of poor Catherine expiring alone under the bed. But when I rushed home at lunch to check on her, she had come out and was eating, washing and walking around normally, and by the time I left again, she was beating up on Malcolm as usual. I guess she must have shot the gap as the door closed, so it was a glancing blow instead of a full-on slam. I've told G at least a hundred times not to slam doors or shut the cats up in rooms they want to leave, and she always ignores me, but she was awfully upset when she thought she'd hurt Catherine. Maybe this will have a salutary effect on her.

As for Catherine, she seems to have forgotten all about the incident and is asleep at my feet right now, while Malcolm the Pest wanders around gnawing on things. Surely he's too old to be teething?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Children's Books I Love

1. Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by James and Deborah Howe -- Trouble arises when a cat and dog suspect their family's new pet bunny of being a vegetable-sucking vampire. I remember ordering this from the Scholastic book flyer in elementary school, and now it's G's favorite book ever.

2. Under Plum Lake by Lionel Davidson -- While exploring a sea cave, a boy is spirited away to a fantastic world under the water (but not in it). Mystical, dreamlike, and full of rich sensory descriptions.

3. The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones -- Young Christopher has always been able to leave his body and visit other worlds. It turns out that he's a nine-lived enchanter who must grow up to be Chrestomanci, the person who controls the use of magic throughout all those worlds. Unfortunately, Christopher doesn't want the job.

4. Drummer Hoff by Barbara and Ed Emberly -- A psychedelic picture book about an army trying to fire a cannon. It was published in 1968; I owned it circa 1974.

5. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry -- The tale of a group of wild ponies living on an island off the coast of Virginia, and a boy and girl who fall in love with one of them. I nearly read this to pieces when I was about G's age.

6. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit -- While spending their summer holidays in the country, a family of Edwardian children find a cranky, furry sand-fairy -- the Psammead -- that can grant them one wish a day. They soon find out that it's best to be careful what you wish for.

7. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg -- A brother and sister run away to Manhattan and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they get mixed up in a mystery involving a statue that may be one of Michelangelo's. Great for any kid who's ever dreamt of running away, which is probably all of them.

8. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl -- I don't think I've ever read a Dahl book I didn't like, but this is at the top of my list. The bit I liked best as a child was the evil Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker being smashed flat by the peach as it rolled away.

9. Half Magic by Edward Eager -- Four children living in the 1920s find a magic coin that grants wishes, but only by halves. Incidentally, Eager was a huge fan of E. Nesbit and mentioned her in nearly all his own books.

10. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum -- In the third Oz book, Dorothy is blown overboard during a storm at sea and ends up back in fairyland, this time with a talking chicken rather than her dog Toto. After meeting various odd characters, she ends up playing a guessing game to rescue a royal family from the evil Nome King.

11. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume -- Poor Peter Hatcher has a two-year-old terror of a brother named Fudge, who seems to be out to ruin his life. This also happened to be P's favorite book when he was in grade school; he read it to G two or three years ago, and she still says "Eat it or wear it!"

12. Choose Your Own Adventure by various authors -- Actually a series, not a single book, but I had to include it. These are the famous books that have various endings depending on choices you make throughout the story (e.g., "If you open the door, turn to page 38; if you try to fight the tiger, turn to page 43.") They've recently been re-released -- I saw them at Barnes and Noble.

13. The Great Cheese Conspiracy by Jean Van Leeuwen -- A gang of mice -- Fats the Fuse, Raymond the Rat and Merciless Marvin the Magnificent -- decide to knock over a cheese store by tunneling into it from the movie theater where they live. The dialogue is to die for.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Raggedy
2. my 2 cents
3. Nathalie

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's that smell?

See this? It's a pesto pizza from Amy's Kitchen. According to the box, it's "a light tender crust topped with Amy's homemade pesto, part skim mozzarella cheese, garden fresh organic tomato slices and broccoli florets." However, the copywriter left out an important feature that I discovered when I baked one last night: It stinks.

I don't mean it stinks in the sense that it's a bad product. I mean it literally stinks, in the sense that when I opened the oven, I was knocked back by a pungent wave of something that smelled like a cross between an unwashed public toilet and a pair of funky gym shoes. I’ve eaten plenty of pesto in my life, and this was not pesto. It was a stench from the sewers of medieval London, from the Nile in full flood, from the deepest pit in Hell.

"Dear God!" I said, and I meant it as a heartfelt prayer. Dear God, please tell me that smell isn't my dinner!

"What, Mom? What is it?" asked G, who was already at the table with her own meal. (It was Morningstar Farms Chik 'n Nuggets, and no, I’m not getting paid to mention the names of natural-foods companies, although they’re welcome to send me money if they like. I accept PayPal.)

“This pizza smells like a – uh, um, I mean it smells like poo,” I said, because “poo” is clearly a much more acceptable way to describe your meal than “ass.”

“Let me smell it!” said G, jumping up and running into the kitchen. (OMG, why?) She bent over the cookie sheet that held the offending food, sniffed, and pulled a face.

“I hope it doesn’t taste like poo,” she said.

"Me too," I said.

I stared down at the pizza. The pesto topping oozed greenly out from under the edges of the cheese, looking not unlike the contents of a newborn's diaper. I considered pitching the whole thing into the garbage and skipping dinner altogether, but then I thought of conversations G and I have had in the past about being picky and sampling new foods, and I realized that this was a golden opportunity to set a good example for her.

“Are you going to eat it?” she asked.

“I’m going to try it,” I said, and picked up a knife.

The first bite was terrifying, particularly because I had to bring the slice so close to my nose to take it, but I am happy to report that Pesto Pizza doesn’t taste anything like it smells. In fact, it tastes really, really good, so good that I ate three-quarters of the pie and would have finished it if I hadn’t been so full. I don’t know whether the lesson G learned was "Try new things even if you don't think you'll like them," or "Eat stuff that smells bad," or possibly "Eat poo,” but there was definitely a lesson in it. And a yummy meal.

That said, I do think it would help if Amy’s Kitchen added something to the box to reassure nervous first-time consumers of their product, so out of the goodness of my heart, I've crafted a few potential taglines for them:

Don’t Let the Stench Fool You

Smells Like Ass, But Made of Yum

Just Hold Your Nose and Taste It

Aren't you feeling hungry already? I knew you would!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I'm in the sort of mood where you want to do things like moving to another country on a whim or giving yourself a haircut with the sewing scissors. I hope it goes away soon, but if not, expect to see a photo of me on some unnamed street in Paris with a one-inch crew cut.

Today I needed the password to P's Mac account so I could authorize my work computer to play a song he'd bought from iTunes. I didn't know the password, so I tried the feature where you answer a secret question to recover it. I was able to get the answer to his extremely cryptic secret question on the first try, and after .287 seconds of pleased triumph, I got horribly upset about it. I'd understood enough about the way his mind worked to know this answer that no one else on the planet could have guessed, and it was like connecting with him for an instant, only he wasn't there -- as if the voice I thought I heard had turned out to be an echo instead.

I don't think I'll ever know anyone else that well again, and honestly, I don't know if I want to. It's too much to bear, always reaching out for that other mind and never finding it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My week

Neatly bullet-pointed for your convenience!

• I played a four-day game of hide-and-go-seek, oops-just-missed-ya! with the UPS delivery driver, who was holding my new laptop hostage. (I say this, but he probably wanted to get it off his truck as much as I wanted to receive it.) It all culminated in me driving 20 miles each way to pick my package up at the UPS shipping depot. Boo. But, new laptop. Yay!

• I finally got over my malarial bubonic typhoid plague-itis. So did G. However, she goes back to school on Monday, so it's only a matter of time before the next germ enters our home.

• I lost two pounds of the chub I gained between October and December. Only 10 more to go.

• I spent several happy hours transferring all my stuff from my old laptop, a three-year-old iBook, to my new (and hard-won) laptop, a black MacBook. It runs like the wind and has a wireless antenna strong enough to pick up the signal from the downstairs base station, eliminating the pesky sometimes-weak, sometimes-dead spot in my bedroom. Hopefully it'll inspire me to do more writing.

• I took back library books that were due two weeks ago and paid the $21.20 fine. If you add late fees to the tax dollars I already pay, plus the fact that I go to a library in another city and pay every year for the privilege, I'm doing way more than my share to keep the library system running. They should name a branch after me.

• I pondered making New Year's resolutions, but the one I really want to make -- "Stop sucking at life" -- seems too big and general, and anything smaller and more specific wouldn't even scratch the surface. On the other hand, I would like to get rid of this feeling of constant low-level suckage, which is dispiriting and not very productive. What to do?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

13 Things I Found While Cleaning Out My Purse

1. A pine cone.
2. A pack of Uno cards.
3. A pack of regular playing cards.
4. A fun-size Baby Ruth bar, still in the wrapper, but perfectly flat.
5. 3945739387 elastic hair bands.
6. Twice that many receipts.
7. A printout of Mapquest directions to my mother's house.
8. A Starbucks gift card, amount undetermined.
9. A red crayon and half a blue crayon.
10. A broken strap from the purse itself.
11. An empty Tylenol bottle.
12. Several old envelopes with tic-tac-toe and Hangman games on their backs.
13. My sunglasses. (I knew they were in there somewhere!)

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!