Monday, December 29, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Maybe you can add it to your resume?

G's comment on missing her school's Christmas concert due to illness:

"Oh man, I learned to play 'The Little Drummer Boy' on the recorder for NOTHING."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

News that makes my morning

Those of you who know me in real life will know about my (possibly irrational) hatred for Bratz dolls. Well, today is a happy day, because a federal judge has banned the company from manufacturing and selling them. The ruling came about because of copyright infringement and not because Bratz are streetwalking hos, but anything that makes them go away -- and stops that Bratz girls really rock! theme song from playing during every commercial break on Nickelodeon -- is A-OK with me. Plus, it will make life easier for G, currently the recipient of much sympathy from her friends because she has a crazy strict mother who doesn't let her have these wildly popular dolls.

So long, Bratz! Don't let the door hit your skanky asses on your way out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home again

We're back from NYC! I'm too tired and have too much laundry staring me in the face to do a full recap right now, so here are a few highlights from our trip:

Worst smell: The homeless guy who had clearly crapped in his pants just before sitting down two seats behind me at the Delta baggage claim area.

Longest walk: 31 blocks from our hotel to my BIL's apartment in Chelsea.

Best $40 spent: The carriage ride G and I took through Central Park. Red and yellow leaves drifting serenely from the trees, the horse's hooves clip-clopping along -- it was like being inside a film about autumn in New York.

Most expensive cab ride: $18 to get from West 21st and Seventh to 92nd and Lexington.

Most postcard-like sight: The view from the picture windows on the third floor of the American Museum of Natural History.

Most fun had with G: Either the carriage ride or shopping on Fifth Avenue.

Most fun had without G: Seeing Waves at the Duke on 42nd.

Number of friends met up with: Three

Sight G wanted to see that we didn't get to: The Empire State Building

Cheapest meal: $6 for two slices of pizza and two sodas at one of the 2,948(ish) places named "Ray's Pizza."

Most expensive meal: $27 for a grilled cheese sandwich and kids' pasta from the Hilton New York room-service menu.

Most unappetizing restaurant name spotted: "Hot and Crusty"

Cutest dog: My BIL's eight-month-old Corgi puppy, Max. We spent last night at his place, and Max tried to sleep between me and G with his ginormous head next to ours on the pillows. Aww!

Worst "we're screwed" moment: Coming out of the Met at 7:30 at night and discovering that it was pouring rain and there was not a cab to be had anywhere.

Biggest triumph: Figuring out how to get back to our hotel on the bus instead.

Greatest regret: Not staying an extra day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On our way

Yet another item to add to the ever-growing list titled Strange Things My Child Has Caused Me to Say:

"Stop tying your legs together and finish packing your suitcase!"

... Yeah, I'm not sure what she was doing either.

Anyway, as is no doubt apparent, G and I are getting ready to leave on a trip. She's old enough now to be helpful (when she's not busy lashing her limbs to each other) in that she can pack her own suitcase and carry-on bag. However, I still have to come in afterward and inspect her work to make sure she hasn't packed shorts for 40-degree weather or thrown in 10 shirts and no underwear.

She's also been known to try to pack things that are, shall we say, unnecessary. I feel for her -- when I was her age, we moved from Texas to California, and I whined and cried until my dad agreed to let me transport my papier-mâché Thanksgiving turkey craft all 1,560 miles in the hatchback of our car -- but I'm not letting her stuff her bag with random items until it's so heavy she can't carry it, either.

(I know. I am a mean, mean mother. So mean that I'm taking her on a thrilling trip to the world's greatest city, where she'll be ice-skating at Rockefeller Plaza, riding in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park, and getting her own American Girl doll. Oh, the humanity!)

On another note, I don't know about anyone else, but every single time we go anywhere, I reach a point in the preparation process where it all seems like too much work and I wish we were just staying home. It doesn't matter how far we're going, how long we're staying or how much fun we're likely to have. We can be driving 90 minutes to spend the night at my mother's house or flying across the country for a week, and sometime in the last 48 hours before departure, I will still look around at the chaos and think Wah, I don't want to! I thought that at about eight o'clock last night and we're taking a red-eye flight this evening, so things are pretty much running par for the course. At least I'm consistent.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Been caught scanning

Carrying on the theme of photos from a few months ago, here's one of me and my sister, circa about 1992:

If I look like I could be her mother, it's because I could -- I was in college when she was born. Now she's turning 18 next month, which is just shocking and shouldn't be allowed. I am not old enough to have a grown-up child!

Oh, wait. I am that old.

Dang it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not quite, kid

Me: Grandma is going to pick you up from school today.
G: Why?
Me: She'd like you to spend some time with her at her house.
G: Remember when you left me there?
Me: Left you there ...? You mean two weeks ago when I went to get my hair done after work?
G: Yes.
Me: And I told you in advance that I was going to do it?
G: Yes.
Me: And I picked you up at eight p.m.?
G (dramatically): Yes!
Me: I hardly think that leaving you with your grandmother for two and a half hours constitutes child abandonment.
G: It did to me.
Me: Oh good grief.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

From the sublime to the ridiculous

In the women's restroom where I work, there's a toilet stall that has a "Closed for Repairs" sign on it about one day out of every three. It's getting to the point where I will never go into that stall even when it appears to be functioning just fine, because the recurring nature of the problem makes me suspicious that it might recur again at any minute.

What if the toilet won't flush?

What if flushing causes a geyser of something awful to erupt all the way up to the ceiling?

What if there's a boa constrictor living in the pipes and it comes out twice a week to feed?

And today is one of those days?

It just doesn't seem to be worth the risk, and it isn't as if there aren't plenty of other stalls to choose from. But I do confess to being curious about what might be behind that closed stall door with its handwritten sign scribbled in black marker. I keep thinking maybe I'll peek in, but I've seen a lot of horror movies, and every time someone says Oh, I'll just take a quick look and starts reaching for a door handle, you know they're doomed. I don't want to be found sprawled out on the restroom floor with an expression of terror on my face and a mysterious puddle all around me.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Poems I Love

1. Elizabeth Bishop, One Art

2. Robert Frost, Design

3. Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market

4. W.H. Auden, Musee des Beaux Arts

5. Anne Sexton, Her Kind

6. Anne Sexton, The Truth the Dead Know

7. Garrett Hongo, The Legend

8. Theodore Roethke, The Waking (possibly my favorite poem ever)

9. William Shakespeare, Fear No More the Heat o' the Sun

10. Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est

11. Charles Baudelaire, Be Drunk

12. Pablo Neruda, Love for this Book

13. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott

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! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Yes, I know poetry isn't everyone's thing, but I love it, so much that I even took a couple of poetry-writing workshops in college. (Meet my professor, who was lovely and very encouraging and would probably be disappointed that I haven't written a single poem since I graduated.)

If you have a favorite poem that isn't listed here, please leave a link in the comments. I'd love to read it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Incomprehensible homework of the week

Part of G's homework this week was to find antonyms for her spelling words. This worked fine for words like "scoundrel" and "allow," but became a problem when she got to words like "brownie" and "towel."

What the hell is the opposite of a towel?

I made her show me the actual assignment, thinking that perhaps her teacher had just said to find antonyms for words that had them. Nope. One antonym for each word on the list. So we got out the dictionary and thesaurus, but unsurprisingly, even Webster and Roget didn't have an antonym for "towel." BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ONE.

I'm going to be very curious to see what sort of mark she gets for writing down "being wet" in that space.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In terms of cake

Let's say, just for the fun of it, that you're a huge fan of chocolate cake. You've loved chocolate cake your entire life and have never even wanted to try any other sort of dessert. In fact, you love chocolate cake so much that every Sunday, you go to your favorite bakery to buy a whole one, just for you. As long as you've got your chocolate cake, nothing else matters.

Then, one Sunday, there's a problem at the bakery.

"Sorry," says the bakery clerk, "but we haven't got any chocolate cake. What's more, there won't be any more chocolate cake ever again."

"But chocolate cake is all I want," you say.

"Why don't you have some strawberry cheesecake instead?" asks the clerk.

"No ... no, I don't think so. I'm really not interested in anything but chocolate cake."

"Look, lady, I told you, there's no more chocolate cake anywhere in the world," he says. "Try the strawberry cheesecake. Strawberry cheesecake is just as good as chocolate cake, only in a different way."

So you buy the strawberry cheesecake and take it home, and you have a slice. And there's nothing wrong with it as such, but it isn't what you really want. It isn't chocolate cake. You try another slice, to see if maybe it'll grow on you, but it still isn't chocolate cake. And pretty soon, you're feeling disappointed, not to mention a little bit sick, and wondering why you bothered.

Well, you think, I'll save the rest until the kids get home. They haven't had any sort of cake in a long time. It'll be good for them to have some. But when the kids get home and you offer them a piece of strawberry cheesecake -- "It's yummy!" -- they don't want it.

"We don't like strawberry cheesecake," they say. "Can't we have chocolate cake?"

"I wish you could," you tell them, "but chocolate cake is gone, so we all have to learn to like strawberry cheesecake instead."

So you keep strawberry cheesecake around for a while, hoping that it will eventually fit into your family, but it never does. And it isn't strawberry cheesecake's fault, not at all. It has a lot of good things to offer to strawberry-cheesecake fans -- a nice, crumbly graham-cracker crust, a rich creamy texture, juicy strawberries. But no matter what, strawberry cheesecake will never be chocolate cake, and you will never really be satisfied.

... Now, I just need to print this up on a little card and hand it to the next person who asks me "Why aren't you dating yet?"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fun with kids

An ad for the My Little Pony Live: World's Biggest Tea Party stage show comes on television ...

Me: A-HA! I am so taking you to that!
G (horrified): Aaagh! Nooooo!
Me: Yes! For your 10th birthday in January.
G: Nooooo! I want a sleepover for my birthday!
Me (evilly): Look, I'm Googling right now to see how much tickets are.
G: Aaaarghhh!
G: I am going to ignore you and watch iCarly.
Me: Heh heh heh.

Preteen torture ... it should be an Olympic sport. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Yeah? Um, yeah.

This evening, while I was getting my roots touched up, the stylist asked me the dreaded question:

"Are you married?"

Even after two-plus years, this one always throws me off my stride. My automatic impulse is to say yes, because I was married for most of my adult life to this point, and while I may not have an actual living breathing husband these days, I certainly don't think of myself as single. In fact, I doubt that it's possible ever to go back to being really, truly single in the way a never-married person is single, whether you're divorced or widowed or your spouse has packed a bag and left no forwarding address.

So when I'm asked this question, I have to bite down on the "yes" that wants to pop out of my mouth, and at the same time, I have to decide exactly how I'm going to explain my status. Sometimes I say "I'm widowed," and sometimes I say "My husband died." Sometimes, if I'm asked "What does your husband do?" rather than "Are you married?" I go subtle and say "When he was alive, he was a stay-at-home dad," and see if they work it out. Whatever I say, I have to say it quickly, or else there's an awkward pause, and that just makes it worse.

Tonight, what I chose to say was "My husband died a couple of years ago," and what I got back was possibly the strangest response I've ever received to that revelation. Without missing a beat, the stylist said "Yeah?" as if I had just told her that I liked cupcakes or that I had a golden retriever at home, and then she went on painting eye-watering chemical slop all over my hair. On the one hand, this was a relief because it meant we didn't have to have the I'm sorry/That's OK/I didn't know/You couldn't have/How old was he?/Thirty-six conversation that usually comes next. On the other hand, her total lack of surprise made me nervous because I wasn't sure she'd heard me right. Had I mumbled the "died" part? Had she heard "died" but mentally translated it into "divorced?" Was she going to ask a follow-up question that would make me have to repeat myself?

As it turns out, she must have heard, because she didn't utter another word on the topic. I was on edge for the rest of the hour I spent in her chair, though. Why do people insist on asking that question, anyway? I don't think I've ever asked anyone if they're married or not -- if they are, either they have a ring on, or they say something that makes it obvious, or both. But it seems to be a standard conversational gambit for the rest of the world, especially for hairstylists. They must teach them to ask about it at hairstylist school, somewhere between "Shampooing 101" and "Achieving Colors Not Found In Nature."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


You know what's wrong with weekdays? It isn't that we have to go to school and work. I don't mind that. (Much.) It's that when we get home, the entire evening is consumed with the task of preparing to do it all again the next day. After a while, home starts to feel less like a place to relax and enjoy life, and more like a refueling station where we plug ourselves in to power up during the off cycle. Don't bother me, I'm in sleep mode now. Come back at 0700 hours when the indicator light is green.

It wasn't always like this, you know. P and I used do all sorts of things on weekday evenings -- play with G, take her to the park if it wasn't dark yet, wander around the mall, sometimes even (gasp!) see a movie. We could do this because while I was at work, he took care of all the cleaning and laundry and homework and kid bathing, so when I got home, all that was left to do was make dinner and get G ready for bed. The hours in between were gloriously free to do whatever seemed like the most fun. Now those hours are when I try to accomplish everything that P did over the course of an entire day, plus prod G through whatever she's supposed to be doing, and it isn't even slightly fun for either of us.

I'd love to recapture just a bit of what our evenings were like when P was alive, but then there's a lot I'd love to recapture from when P was alive. I miss some of the tiniest, most ridiculous things, like walking around together to close all the blinds and lock the doors before bed, or telling him that no, you do not need to buy two kinds of soda, three kinds of juice, and four different flavors of Gatorade at the grocery store. (Gatorade tastes like sweat to me, but P loved it.) I guarantee that my weekdays, and all my other days too, would be better if he were here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


This morning I smashed my left pinky finger in the folding door of the laundry closet.

It was one of those injuries that hurts so much you're afraid to look at it in case something has been severed.

In fact, nothing was severed, but my fingertip is bruised and swollen and it hurts like hell.

Did you know you need your pinky finger to do all sorts of things that you would never think you use it for?

Like driving?

And helping a child into a fencing jacket?

It reminds me of when I had a C-section and discovered to my amazement that your abdominal muscles are somehow involved when you pee, which is a bit of a problem if they've just been cut in two.

And now I'm going to stop typing, because every time I hit an "a," which is often, it makes my whole hand throb like the coyote's paw just after the roadrunner drives a steamroller over it.

There may be real content here later.

Or perhaps not.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If Carrie Nation wrote children's books

G: Would you like to hear about the story I wrote at school today?
Me: Sure, I'd love to.
G: It's about a pig called Piggy Le Pig.
Me: Sounds good.
G: He got married to a beautiful pig called Penny.
Me: Uh huh.
G: But then she killed him.
Me: Oh dear.
G: She was drunk.
Me (starting to laugh against my will): That's terrible.
G: She thought she was at a juice bar and the juice tasted weird. But she drank a lot of it anyway and went crazy.
Me (holding in laughter): Mmmph!
G: The moral of the story is, don't drink beer or you might kill your husband.
Me: *nearly loses it*
G: Do you think it could win a Newbery Award?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

These kids and their slang

G: Look, Mom, my math book is self-opening.
Me: That's because the cover you put on it is tight.
G: When you say something is tight, that can also mean it's awesome. Did you know that, Mom?
Me: Yes, G, I did.

I wonder how long it's going to be before she comes home with one I don't know. Probably not as long as I think!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Clearing out the cobwebs

After surviving the vagaries of last week, which ranged from the mildly annoying (cooking burns, child coming down with a rotten cold) to the intensely stressful (soaked hall ceiling, unexpected exterminator visit that required emergency cat boarding), I found myself in a housecleaning mood. Not the sweeping-and-mopping sort of housecleaning, although I did do some of that too*, but the invisible sort where you just want to get rid of things that are cluttering up your brain.

So this weekend, I left an online forum that had been frustrating and disappointing me. I recategorized some old relationships I'd been hanging onto -- not by making big dramatic announcements, but by acknowledging to myself that the people in question hadn't been close friends for a while, and that it wasn't fair of me to keep expecting them to behave as if they were. And I finally, after two years and almost three months, returned P's last shipment of Netflix DVDs. I had gotten it in my head somehow that before I could send them back, I had to watch them because P had never had a chance to, but time kept passing and I kept not watching them, and feeling guilty about it. Then on Saturday, as I was gathering up my own DVDs to return, I looked at P's DVDs (still in their wrappers and covered with dust) and it suddenly became very clear to me that I was never going to sit down and watch the second season of a TV show that I had only incidentally seen because P liked it. And when I went to the post office, I dropped his DVDs in the slot along with mine.

I don't know how long this mood will last, but while it's here, it's pretty refreshing.

*It had been so long since I last mopped the kitchen floor that I couldn't remember what sort of mop I owned and bought the wrong pads for it by mistake. Whoops.

Kid Art, Part II: Crossover Edition

Mallory Grace from The Spiderwick Chronicles as one of the penguins from Club Penguin.

(Yes, she is huge into anthropomorphic animals.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Future fashion designer

G's drawing of her cocker spaniel Webkinz as a high-fashion super-spy:

I dunno, I'd wear it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week of the leak

The maintenance crew finally came to look at my waterlogged hall ceiling.

They came while I was at work and entered without permission.

They left me a note to tell me they'd been here, but I would have figured it out anyway, because they also left a gaping three-foot by four-foot hole overhead.

It looks like this:

The note said they'll be back to fix it tomorrow.

Or Friday.


Oh, and they also left my patio door unlocked (I guess they must have gone out there to look at the A/C compressor), a fact I only discovered because I remembered at 10:30 p.m. that I needed to water the plants on the patio.

Even in a "luxury" complex, apartment living sucks.

Monday, September 15, 2008


On Saturday morning, the air-conditioner drip pan overflowed and flooded the ceiling space in my upstairs hallway. I've been waiting for a repair person to come and assess the damage ever since then, and despite assurances this morning that someone would be over as soon as possible, there is still no one in sight. Meanwhile, I've missed most of a workday, the middle ceiling panel is sagging like an overfull water balloon from the weight of the collected water behind it, the whole place smells of damp, and if I turn the air on even for a minute, it starts leaking onto the hall carpet. Shouldn't the $1,800 a month I pay in rent buy me a little more service than this? I think so!

Also, while I was making lunch, I reached for a pan handle without looking and grabbed the blazing hot underside of the pan instead. I have the makings of a big, fat blister on one finger, but it's the red-but-unblistered finger next to it that hurts more. At least it's my left hand and not my right. I'll need my right hand when I have to climb up into the crawl space and repair the damn water damage myself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some weeks are like that

This is how I have felt all week:

Maybe next week will be better.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dreams, part 2034029

Last night I dreamed that I lived in a different house and had three children -- a girl with long, curly brown hair, and two dark-haired boys, all around six or seven years old.

In this dream, I got up in the morning and asked the kids what they wanted for breakfast, and the girl said "Nothing." One of the boys said "I want pizza" and I said "That's fine, because I'm already baking one," and pointed to the oven where it was baking away. The second boy said he wanted cheese, so I opened the fridge and started looking through a lot of half-empty cheese packets, but they were all expired. Finally I found a bag of shredded cheese, said "Here, see if you like this kind," and handed it to him to try.

While he was nibbling at cheese shreds, P appeared from another room, apparently just having woken up for the day. He said good morning and asked me what I was doing, and I said I was getting breakfast for the kids and did he want some too? As I said this, I opened the freezer and discovered that a big bag of frozen vegetables had burst open and spilled all over the inside. P said, "Wow, it's a mess in there, we'd better clean it out," so I started taking out boxes and packages and handing them to him, saying "Here, this can go, and this and this."

Then I reached back farther into the freezer, and instead of food, I started taking out crumpled-up bed sheets like a magician pulling out scarves. (They were all sheets I own in real life -- dark blue ones that go on my bed, and dusty lavender ones that go on G's bed.) I pulled out four or five arm-loads of frosty cold sheets, and then the alarm went off and I woke up.

There's got to be some sort of heavy-duty symbolism in there.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Childish things

Every Labor Day weekend, we (for "we," read "mostly I") give G's bedroom a massive cleaning so she can start the new school year in a tidy environment. Usually, the cleaning involves a lot of me saying "Let's get rid of this," and G protesting that she needs whatever it is, even though she hasn't touched it in six months.

Not this year, though. This year, barely glancing up from her American Girl magazine, she said I could take her My Little Ponies, her Polly Pockets, her Barbies and all their assorted paraphernalia down to storage because she doesn't play with them anymore. And even though I've been itching to clear all those things out for ages, this made me strangely sad, because I know it's the beginning of the end of an era. She did choose to keep her Littlest Pet Shop collection, her stuffed animals and a few of her superhero action figures, but some of those will go when we do this again next year, and some more the year after that, and eventually all the toys will be gone, and along with them will go the 4- and 5- and 6-year-old G who spent hours playing Barbies and Pollies with her dad. (Among his other talents, P was the undisputed champion at inventing adventures for little plastic dolls. Strange but true.)

Of course this is all totally natural, and I did the same thing when I was around her age, although I think I might have been almost 11 rather than almost 10. It's just one of those transitions that are harder on mothers than they are on children. Children are eager to shake the dust of an earlier phase off their feet; mothers want to catch that dust in a box and preserve it forever. If P were here, though, he'd shake his head, as he often did, and say "She's not a little kid anymore; you've got to let her grow up." He didn't believe in babying kids or holding them back when they were ready to move on, and he was probably right. I'll just have to do my best to follow his advice.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Over the hills and far away

What's that you say? Weren't G and I supposed to be on vacation last week? Well, we were, and here's the abbreviated report.

Saturday, Aug. 23

After an unplanned three-hour delay, courtesy of a dead car battery, my dad, G and I dropped the very unhappy cats off at their prison lovely holiday accommodations and hit the freeway. By three o'clock, we were at the iconic train-depot McDonalds in Barstow, which has expanded since I was last there in 1994 (!) to include an entire mini food court. There, we all ate, visited the restroom and bought gas, and within 45 minutes, we were back on the road and heading for Arizona.

This was somewhere between Kingman and Flagstaff. It was raining in the distance and the sunset turned everything purple and rose.

It took forever to get to Flagstaff, which was where we intended to stop for the night, and when we arrived it was long past dark. We got rooms at a Motel 6 and ate dinner, and then the altitude caught up with me -- Flagstaff is at 7,000 feet, and I felt like I was wearing concrete shoes. I'm embarrassed to admit what time I finally woke up and told G to turn off the laptop and go to sleep, so we'll just say it was late and leave it at that.

Sunday, Aug. 24

Quote of the day from my dad:

"Hurry up and get dressed! We have to get to Denny's before the Baptists do!"

I LOL'd.

We did beat the Baptists to Denny's, and after breakfast, we were back on the road. Here are some photos:

Now leaving Flagstaff, home of the only trees in Arizona.

The first sign you're entering New Mexico: an invitation to buy Indian souvenirs.

Red rock cliffs from far away.

And from close up.

We finally got to my grandmother's house in Albuquerque around 3 p.m., and then spent the rest of the day going out to dinner and watching the Olympic closing ceremonies on TV. Quiet, but nice.

Monday, Aug. 25

On this day, my dad, G and I went shopping in Old Town. I loved it there when I was G's age, and she enjoyed it too, picking out souvenirs for herself and presents for her cousin and three of her friends. After the shopping we went to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, where we watched the "Living Sea" IMAX movie and saw loads of fossils:

Tuesday, Aug. 26

Got up at 5 a.m. -- it was still dark outside, ouch -- and drove 200 miles to visit my great-uncle and aunt, who live in a little town called Portales. There's not a lot to see on the way to Portales, but here's a nice abandoned farmhouse for you:

There are similar houses everywhere you go in New Mexico, many of them almost completely ruined. Whenever I see one, I always wonder about the people who lived there, and what made them decide to leave. Were there too many bad growing seasons in a row? Did they hear of a better opportunity someplace else? Or could they just not bear the sound of the wind through the prairie grass any longer? How did they feel when they closed the door for the last time and drove away, never to return?

I know. I think too much.

Anyway, we arrived in one piece, spent a few hours having lunch and visiting, and then turned right around and drove another 200 miles back to Albuquerque. ("Well, I'm not going to do that again," announced my grandmother when we arrived. We all agreed with her.)

Wednesday, Aug. 27

Not much happened, as we were all still tired from the day before. We had lunch at a soup-and-salad place called Sweet Tomatoes, and my dad, G and I did a little more shopping and visited Borders, which, as you might expect, is exactly the same no matter where you are. Aside from that, I washed clothes, packed suitcases, and tried not to think about the next day.

Thursday, Aug. 28

We all got up at 5 a.m. (again ... sob) and my dad and grandmother dropped G and me off at the airport to catch our 7:35 flight home. To say that I was not sanguine about the prospect would be an understatement; "crawling out of my skin with nerves" might be a better description. But I'm a good actress when I want to be, and G had no idea that anything was going on. In fact, G thought that she was the nervous one and I was completely calm and cheerful. (You can just put my Oscar right over there on the mantelpiece, thanks.)

What ended up getting me through the flight, when I wasn't sneaking on my earphones to listen to a few minutes of my buddy "Edward"'s reassuring voice, was giving G a running commentary on everything I know about airplane travel: "And now the pilot's opening the flaps to slow us down ... and in a minute you'll feel a bump when the wheels touch the runway ... and now he's putting on the speed brakes so we can stop." I'm sure the lady next to us wanted to smother me with her airline-issue pillow, haha. All in all, G took the experience really well, and after we landed, remarked that it had been "like riding a big flying bus." ("Yep, nothing to it!" I said as my legs slowly stopped shaking.) However, she refused to let me take her picture while we were on the plane, so her first flight will forever be comemmorated by photos of the back of her head, or her hand held up in the classic "no paparazzi" pose. I don't know what was up with that, but I was too glad we were both alive to care very much.

And that was our Big Exciting Adventure in the American Southwest. Next on the travel schedule: New York in November. Woohoooo!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Get your craft on

My mother has always been the craftiest person I know. In the seventies, she crocheted sweaters and made beaded macramé holders for our potted plants. In the eighties, much to my embarrassment, she sewed some of my school clothes. (Remember that plaid material with metallic threads running through it? Yeah, me too.) Today, she stencils, sponge-paints, and whips up sofa cushions and curtains that would make Martha Stewart weep with envy.

Sadly, all this crafty talent almost completely passed me by. I dutifully labored over the cross-stitch and needlepoint kits my mother gave me for birthdays and Christmases, but I never had much luck with them, and as an adult, I tell anyone who asks that I'm "just not good at making things." The only problem is that G seems to have inherited the crafting gene from her grandmother, and guess who she turns to for help in realizing her artistic visions?

Right. Me.

On that note, a couple of weeks ago G decided that she wanted to be a skunk for Halloween, and she begged me to please please please please please make a skunk costume for her. I weakly suggested that perhaps she should ask Grammy to help, because Mom is a bit of a dolt when it comes to costume creation, but G, who is still convinced that I can do anything, insisted that she wanted me to do it.

So, I managed to find directions for a skunk costume in a Halloween magazine, and today we went to buy the faux fur to make the skunk tail. While I was getting the fabric measured, the lady offered to let me have the bolt end for half price, and I said yes, thinking that perhaps G would like to turn it into a dress-up stole or a teddy-bear blanket or something.

"Oh, cool!" G said as soon as she saw it. "Now we can make a stuffed animal!"

"Um, I don't know about that," I said. "Stuffed animals mean sewing, and I can't really sew."

"Yes, you can," said G, in a don't-be-silly voice. "You sewed up Delilah's belly when she got a hole in it." (Delilah is a Webkinz cocker spaniel, BTW, not some desperate neighbor who can't afford medical care.)

"Sewing up a rip in a seam is one thing," I said, "but a whole stuffed animal ..."

"Pleeeeeeeeease!" said G.

Well, with the pleading and the big brown eyes fixed trustingly on me, there wasn't much I could do but suck it up, try to remember my mother's long-ago hand-sewing lessons, and try to make a stuffed animal to G's design. And much to my amazement, I didn't totally fail. Here, with a face by G and a body sewn by me, is Miss Kitty:

My mother would be proud!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Memory lane

My dad turned up last night with a pile of old photos he'd unearthed from a box. I hadn't seen any of them in years, so I borrowed them to scan and will now bore you all to tears with them.

I don't remember this one being taken, but it was obviously Christmas, and by the gappy state of my teeth, I would guess I had just turned seven, which would make it 1978. If so, then we were living in New Jersey at the time.

This is definitely New Jersey. My school did "The Elves and the Shoemaker" for Christmas that year, and I played the shoemaker's wife. I had a zillion lines, but the only one I remember is "Oh, what lovely shoes!" because I forgot it onstage and had to be prompted.

This is on the stairs our townhouse in New Orleans, which to this day is probably still the nicest place I've ever lived. (Hey, gold carpet was all the rage at the time.) I loved the dress I was wearing so much that I kept trying to sneak out of the house in it long after it was too small for me, but I always got busted by my mother and sent back to change.

Also on those stairs. I had a grand dream of one day being able to leap from the landing halfway up and clear the eight or 10 steps to the bottom, and would "train" for this by jumping from progressively higher heights. I don't think I ever got past about the sixth step. It's probably just as well.

Here I am with my best friend S (in the hat) and another girl who lived down the street and played with us sometimes. My mother disapproved of this friendship because S's mother was divorced (or possibly never married) and had a live-in boyfriend, but she did let me spend the night at their house and even had S to stay with us for a week after we moved to Texas.

Riding bikes. Odds are good that we had been riding even before the rain stopped, because it rains so freaking much in Louisiana that if you wait for it to stop, you'll never go outside. Incidentally, this was the bike I got for my eighth birthday and promptly fell off, giving myself a concussion.

Attitude. I has it.

Me with Socks, one of the neighbor's cats. That's my dad's Toyota hatchback on the right. It was brown with a tan vinyl interior.

I had a whole collection of these Effanbee dolls. They all got lost during a move later on.

Me and my brother. This was after we moved to California, and he looks about 18 months old, which would make me 10. I love the expression on my face -- it's all, "Come on, kid, let's go!"

Another pic from the same day. I know the park we were at (I still take G there sometimes) but it's a huge place and I can't remember which area we were in.

Good times, good times ...

Hand me a cane and call me Granny

How to tell you are the parent of a preteen:

You're having dinner, and the music that is playing in the background is the soundtrack to iCarly.

How to tell you are the OLD parent of a preteen:

One of the songs is a cover of Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear it for the Boy," and you have to explain that this song was popular when you were in junior high ... 25 years ago.


Friday, August 15, 2008

High anxiety

G and I are going to visit my grandmother in Albuquerque next weekend. We're driving there with my dad -- 800 miles through the desert, woo! -- and then she and I are flying back early so I can get a filling and she can start school.

Now, I will confess here that I am an absolutely terrible air traveler. I am that person you don't want to be seated next to, the one who white-knuckles the armrests, jumps halfway out of her seat at every unexpected bump, and asks the cabin crew calm, rational questions like "WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?" However, this will be G's first time on a plane, and I want her to enjoy it, which means I can't act like a douche and sit there silently weeping during takeoff the way I usually do. So, I've bought a couple of self-help recordings on overcoming airplane anxiety, and I'm trying as hard as I can to get my head into a good place for this trip.

My favorite of these recordings is narrated by a posh, older-sounding Englishman whom I imagine looking somewhat like Edward Woodward from The Equalizer. I've listened to it so many times that I've come to think of "Edward" as a personal friend -- in fact, I would really like it if he could come on the plane with us and hold my hand for the entire flight while soothingly saying, "You must repeat to yourself, 'Turbulence is uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous.'" Sadly, I don't think that's a service I can order online.

Will all this preparation actually do any good? I have no idea. But I'll find out one way or another in 12 days, 11 hours and 50 minutes ... not that I'm counting or anything.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I hereby revoke your license to phone

I'm sorry, you've reached the wrong number. It also was the wrong number when you called two minutes ago. And two minutes before that. And 45 seconds before that. And six minutes before that.

In fact, I hate to tell you this, dear caller, but dialing the wrong number multiple times does not magically make it become the right number. Neither does staggering the length of time between calls, nor alternating between hanging up as soon as I answer and asking if you can speak to "Joe."

No, you can't speak to "Joe."

You can't speak to him now and you can't speak to him tomorrow, and you can't speak to him in two minutes, either. At no time can you dial this number and reach "Joe," because "Joe" is not here. I've had this phone number for eleven and a half years, and "Joe" has never once been here. You can speak to "Vanessa," and if you have a crystal ball and a little patience I might be able to put you in touch with "Pete," but you cannot, no way, no how, under any circumstances, speak to "Joe."

On second thought, I suppose if you really want me to, I can lower my voice an octave and pretend to be him, but I don't think you'll like what I have to say on his behalf.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We've already established that G will engage in a relentless campaign of persecution to wake me up on a weekend morning. So why is it that if I happen to doze off at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I will not wake up until the phone rings* an hour and a half later, only to find myself alone, except for a random cat napping on my bed, because G has gone downstairs to watch television?

What's wrong with watching television at dawn on Saturday? What, I ask you?

*It was a solicitor. It always is.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bad cakes

I laughed so hard at this blog that G got out of bed to see what all the noise was about.

The one that got me started

The one that pushed me over the edge

What the heck?

What the heck? (part II)

My stomach hurts, and I have tears running down my face. Make it stop! LOLOLOLOLOL

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So that's the key

I never thought my water-allergic child would beg to take a shower, but after an hour of fencing on the upper floor of a converted warehouse on a hot July evening while wearing a chest protector, a canvas jacket and a padded mesh mask? She was all over it. I think that's the most I've ever seen her sweat in her life until now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Moving forward, looking back

Sometimes I wonder why there's such an urgency about "moving on" after losing a partner to death. Really, it's a source of obsession for widowed and non-widowed alike. On one side, people are wondering Shouldn't I be moving on by now? Have I moved on enough? What can I do to move on more?, and on the other side, their friends and family are saying disapprovingly, Stop talking about your husband/wife so much; that's in the past. Why do you still have photos of him/her up? You need to get out there and start dating. Move on move on MOVE ON.

But the strange thing is, this fanaticism seems limited specifically to spouses. Just as an example, my grandfather died six years ago this autumn, and I can still remember the scent of his aftershave, the blue cardigan he wore when he took me out for walks, the crabapple tree in his back yard. I can remember touring Old Town in Albuquerque with him and my grandmother, marveling over the mellow gleam of the copper-and-turquoise jewelry spread out on Indian blankets, eating sopaipillas at the Mexican restaurants and licking honey off my fingers.

If I sat and reminisced out loud about all that, people would smile and say what wonderful memories of my grandfather I have, and how much I must have loved him. No one would look uncomfortable or tell me that I need to let him go and stop dwelling on the past, and they certainly wouldn't ask why I don't want to look for a new grandfather.

Yet as fond of him as I was, my grandfather still didn't play a tenth of the role in my life that P did. And so I have to wonder why I should try to erase one man from my history when it's all right to keep the other one in it. Why is it supposed to be unhealthy for me to remember clothes P wore, or how he smelled (fabulous) or things we did together? Why should I "get rid of" P's possessions when no one would bat an eye if I had keepsakes that belonged to my grandfather? Why is someone I saw for a week or so every few years irreplaceable, while someone who slept in my bed every night for more than a decade needs to be shuffled off ASAP to make room for someone else?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it isn't possible to get caught up in someone's death -- anyone's death -- so deeply that it interferes with living the life you still have left. If, two years after the fact, I were unable to get up in the morning and carry out my responsibilities, that would be a problem. If I had a creepy shrine to P in my house and made visitors light a candle and kneel in front of it -- well, that would just be weird. (I can imagine P tearing his hair out and groaning "What the hell's wrong with you?" over that.) But to talk about him? Remember him? Give him the respect he deserves for being the man he was?

I'll never understand it.

Oh Doctor, my Doctor

I finished watching the third series of the new Doctor Who recently, and I've decided that the Doctor would be the perfect friend-with-benefits for me. He could pop in, whisk me off through time and space for weeks on end, then return me five minutes after I left and fly away again, rather than hanging around to complicate my life. He doesn't want to get permanently involved with anyone, and neither do I; he's emotionally unavailable, and God knows I've got that down to a science. Also, he's very cute in a geeky-cool way that reminds me a lot of P, who was also on the skinny side, owned a pair of square black-framed specs and enjoyed a nice suit.

I like this idea so much that the last time G and I painted pictures together, I painted one of the TARDIS, which is the Doctor's spaceship/time machine:

G hates the show and refuses to be in the same room while I'm watching it, so she was not impressed by my choice of subject matter ("Why don't you paint a unicorn instead?" she suggested), but I had a marvelous time. I hope this isn't a sign that I've completely lost it. Although if I do completely lose it, I can probably convince myself that I'm traveling in time and space anyway, so I guess I win either way.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Sexism is alive and well and living in California

G had her second fencing class last night. She was feeling uncomfortable beforehand because it had been all boys the previous week, but I gave her a pep talk (and mentioned that one way or the other, she was going to finish the session because I've already paid for it) and she sucked it up and went.

At this week's class, the instructors split off the 14-and-under kids from the older teenagers and adults, so it was G and nine boys who mostly looked to be in the 11-13 range. Luckily, because of her height, only a couple of them had any real size advantage over her, and she was taller than a few, which I think helped her confidence. The instructor who was leading the group told them all to pair up right away, and of course no one wanted to catch girl cooties (oh, just wait a few years, kids), so she ended up with a leftover boy who hadn't gotten another partner.

I'll be honest here and say that I was about to wet my pants with anxiety at this point. They were supposed to take turns practicing their advances and retreats, with one of them being the attacker and the other one being the defender, and G was the attacker first. She gets intimidated pretty easily, and I was afraid that she was going to be so overwhelmed that she wouldn't be able to make the first move, but I underestimated her. With a look on her face that suggested she was competing for Olympic gold, she steeled herself and plunged into it ... and did a fantastic job. "Proud" doesn't even begin to describe how I felt.

So as I was sitting there all thrilled, the man next to me leaned over and asked, "Which one is yours?" Now, I had met this guy at the last session and disliked him on sight. He's a burly, thick-necked man with an aggressive mustache who waves his BlackBerry around as if it's an extension of his tool -- Look at me! I am important and must be available at all times! -- and signals instructions to his son from the sidelines in classic obnoxious-sports-dad style. Twenty bucks says that he was asking me this question so he could determine whether my kid was likely to outshine his kid, and then feel superior about his assessment.

"Mine is the girl," I said, and do you know what he did? He smirked. He smirked at me and turned back to watch without saying a word.

Let me tell you, if thoughts could kill, he would have been a smoking hole in the floor of the fencing school's balcony. I wanted to say "Hey, jackass, my girl has more balls than your son just for walking through the door. It's nothing to him to be here with all these boys, but it's a huge deal for her, and she's out there doing it anyway. Give her three weeks and she'll stick him to the wall like a butterfly!" Obviously I couldn't, so I just seethed quietly and hoped his BlackBerry would explode in his pocket.

The class moved on, and after a while they came to a break and all the boys went off to horse around in a corner, leaving G on her own. She took the opportunity to stand in front of the mirror with her foil extended and practice her lunges (and quite well too, I might add), at which point Mr. Smirky commented, "Well, it looks like she's getting into it."

"Yes," I said, "it does."

"Does she have brothers?" he asked.

"She's an only child," I said, frost forming on every word, and he made some feeble comment about how she could "keep them in line" if she did. That's right, Mr. Smirky. And you too, if you don't look out.

Anyway, this did not spoil my evening or my total pride in G, who actually had a great time and asked to stay behind so she could practice attacking the wall target a few more times. I know she still wishes she weren't the only girl (I pointed out to her that there are other girls in the fencing club, just not in this particular class) but I think she'll be all right. I hope the boys manage to get over themselves and include her a bit more, though, because it pains me to see her hanging back at a distance while they're all clumped together. Barring that, I hope she turns into such a good fencer that they're all scared of her. As Machiavelli once said, it's better to be feared than loved, if one must choose.

Can't I just hit fast-forward?

It's 7:22 on Friday morning and I already wish today were over.

This can't bode well for the rest of the day.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Books and bites

Like another member of her family who shall remain nameless (cough), G borders on obsessive when she finds a new book series she likes. Right now, it's Warriors, which is about mystical clans of feral cats. She mowed through the first book over the weekend and finished the second one tonight, and she's reminded me no less than 10 times that we need to go to the bookstore and procure the third installment ASAP. It's a 15-book series, and at this rate, she'll have gone through them all before school starts back up. Luckily, she also loves to reread, so she'll probably just begin again at that point. I'm starting to think I should read them myself, though, because she wants to discuss them with someone, and it's hard to knowledgeably debate the merits of "warriors" vs. "kittypets" when I have only a vague idea of what those terms mean.

In not-so-great news, we found out a couple of weeks ago that G has a small cavity in one of her back teeth, and this morning we attempted to get it filled, "attempted" being the key word. G tried, she really did, but she gagged every time the dentist put her fingers in her mouth, and she couldn't force herself to hold still for the Novocaine injection. At last, she was shaking and crying and it clearly wasn't going to happen, so we gave up for the day.

The dentist, who was very nice and patient, recommended going to a pediatric dentist because they use nitrous oxide to help phobic kids calm down -- which is great, except that our insurance doesn't cover treatment by a pediatric dentist for anyone over 7. If you're 9, you have to suck it up and go to the grownup dentist, or else pay out of pocket. Needless to say, I think this is supremely stupid (hello, last time I checked a 9-year-old was still a kid), but I can't just sit around and let G's tooth rot away, either. I've had dental insurance my entire adult life, so I have no idea how much anything really costs -- how much should I expect to pay? $200? $300? More?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

And on a triple word score

I have just spent twenty minutes working out my next move in one of my seven concurrent Scrabulous games. The friend I'm playing lives in England and is probably still asleep in her snug little bed while I plot and plan and move my Q and V around the board for maximum effect.

I love the Internet!

Twelfth anniversary

July 6, 1996

Monday, June 30, 2008

Back from the void

I've mentioned this before, but sometime in the six weeks between when P died and when we moved, the video iPod he'd given me for our last Christmas together disappeared. I was terribly upset and looked everywhere for it, but it was nowhere to be found, and finally I gave up and started using P's own iPod, which I'd bought him for his birthday because he liked mine so much. Every once in a while, though, the lost one would still nag at me, and I'd try looking for it again -- I even hoped, after I sold my car to a friend last spring, that he'd call to tell me that he'd found it under one of the seats. But it never happened.

Then, earlier this month, I got my boxes of photos out of storage for the first time since we moved here because I was looking for a specific picture of P to put on his plaque at the cemetery. In the top of one of the boxes were a duffel bag and beach bag, which I'd apparently stuffed in there to help fill space. I thought about throwing them away, since G and I have accumulated a lot of other tote bags in the intervening two years, but I ended up changing my mind and sticking them on a shelf in my closet instead.

So today we were going to the beach for G's cousin's birthday party, and I thought "Aha! I'll use that old beach bag for our towels." As I was going to drop my phone down into one of the side pockets, I saw something in a black leather case, and I said "AAAAAAAAGH!" because guess what it was? My iPod!

I had to reboot it, but after an hour plugged into my laptop, it was just as good as new. Actually, it is almost new, because I had only owned it for about six months when it was lost -- there's hardly a scratch on it, and only 462 songs. I've been trying to think how it possibly could have got into that bag, and I think it must have been right after P's ashes were interred. I took G to SeaWorld that weekend (seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was a miserable trip, for me anyway) and on the way home she wanted to stop at the beach in San Clemente. We couldn't find parking there, but later that afternoon I took her to a different beach, and I must have brought that bag with me. It's the only time we went to the beach on our own that summer, and the bag has been buried in a box ever since. But almost exactly two years later, here it is again. Magic!

Friday, June 27, 2008

This sleepover is off the hook, yo

Things G and her friends have done over the last eight hours:

* Played Webkinz on head-to-head laptops
* Been taken to see "Wall•E" at the movie theater
* Consumed popcorn, Sour Patch Kids and chocolate
* Danced down the stairs, through the living room, in one kitchen door and out the other, and back up the stairs ... four times
* Covered themselves in roll-on strawberry body glitter
* Put pink and blue streaks in their hair
* Bedecked themselves in a variety of scarves
* Tried to film themselves doing a Web show with our PC cam
* Eaten pizza
* Played 20Q
* Had a massive pillow fight
* Played "musical pillows" to the strains of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
* Played Truth or Dare (the innocent version -- the most daring dare was to go downstairs and kiss the cat)
* Played Apples to Apples

I sent them upstairs about half an hour ago (will turn off the lights at midnight), and they're in G's room right now, playing some sort of game they found in the American Girl book about sleepovers. There is giggling involved. Lots and lots of giggling.

Good times!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

En garde, part deux

So, a while back I wrote about G's slightly unorthodox choice of a sport, and my attempts to find a place that would teach it to her. Well, believe it or not, the search eventually yielded a fencing school that a.) isn't too far from where we live, and b.) takes students of all ages. And this evening, she attended her first class. 20 boys and men, and one bad-ass 9-year-old girl. Mine. :)

It's a very serious school -- they're closed next week because most of the team are going to compete at the nationals -- and the instructor is very serious too. However, I had a terrible time containing my laughter when he announced "Female students will wear chest protectors, and male students will wear cups! I wear a cup at all times!" You have no idea how much I wanted to raise my hand and ask "Really? How about at the grocery store? Or while you're making pancakes? Or mowing the lawn?" But, he was holding a weapon at the time, so I controlled myself.

Tonight's class started out from absolute zero, and by the end of the hour, they were all advancing and retreating and lunging with actual blades. It'll be interesting to see how they progress over the next eight weeks. At the next session, the instructor is going to split the group into over-14s and under-14s, so G won't be fighting any grown men, just boys close to her own age. And on that note, I'm thinking it might be useful to have a daughter who knows how to kill people with swords when the dating years come along -- "Going out for the night? Don't forget your saber!" Haha.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All Spiderwick, all the time

G has spent the last four months waiting for The Spiderwick Chronicles to come out on DVD. (She spent the four months before that waiting for it to be released in the theater.) Today was the magic day, so we stopped on the way home to buy a copy. When we got here, she ran up the stairs to her room, DVD case in hand, calling "I want to watch it alone!" over her shoulder as she went.

She's been in there with the door closed for an hour and a half now, raptly watching every minute of every single special feature. Even though she isn't allowed to eat in her room under normal circumstances, I bent the rules and carried her food up on a tray at dinnertime. You can't expect someone to interrupt a religious experience to come downstairs for pizza.

One thing you can say about G: When she decides to be a fan of something, she doesn't do it by halves. Along with this new DVD -- the two-disc special edition, of course -- she also owns the book series, the three or four companion volumes, the audio books, a copy of Nickelodeon magazine with a cover story dedicated to the movie, a rock with a hole through it that she found at the beach (her "seeing stone") and I'm pretty sure she has some other swag I'm forgetting about. It really is a comprehensive collection of all things Spiderwick-related. The author would be proud!

How only children tattle

G: Maaa! The cat is loitering outside my bedroom!

Yeah, he's a hoodlum all right. LOL

Friday, June 20, 2008


Going outside this week has been like stepping onto the surface of the sun. When G and I left her dentist appointment at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, the thermometer in my car said 115, and we're not even inland. Thank God for central air.

Hot as it is, it's still not the hottest I've ever been. Immediately after P's funeral, G and I went to spend a few days with my mother, who lives in Redlands, in hopes of getting a break from some of the stress of the previous 10 days. It's usually a blast furnace out there in the summer, and that year was no exception. The first or second night we were there, G, my mother, my sister and I went to see a free production of Beauty and the Beast at the Redlands Bowl, and it was just stifling -- still over 100 degrees at 9 p.m., with a hot wind blowing and a thousand bodies packed shoulder to sweaty shoulder into a relatively small space. G was still too short then to see over adult heads, so she had to sit on my lap through most of the three hours, and I spent the whole time thinking that surely I was going to faint the next minute. Somehow we all survived, but I've never been that hot in my life. And I've been to Phoenix in August, where it's so hot that the asphalt in parking lots sticks to your shoes.

Let's see, what else has been going on? G had her bridging ceremony from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts on Wednesday night, and today was her last day of school. I found out from her teacher earlier this week that they're putting her in the GATE cluster for next year, which I think will be a nice challenge for her. As for me, I've been thinking a lot about the ways I didn't do such a great job this school year and trying to work out how to do better next year. What I really need is just more time -- even getting home an hour earlier every day would help immeasurably. There's got to be a sweet spot where I can catch G before she's too tired and burnt out to deal with homework and other responsibilities. I don't know exactly when that is, but I guarantee you it's long before 6:00 in the evening.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This is the story of a girl and her dad

Happy Father's Day to the best dad a little girl could ever hope to have. You haven't been forgotten, and you will never be replaced.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Actually, I sprinkled her lunch with Miracle-Gro

As G walked past me just now, I did a double take and said, "Hold on. You look taller all of a sudden. Did you grow in the night or something?"

"I dunno. Let's check," she said.

So I stood her up against the wall in the kitchen where we track her height, and sure enough, she's grown half an inch since the last time I measured her on June 2. Half an inch in twelve days! Is she a kid, or a bamboo forest?

One thing's for sure, I definitely won't be buying any new school clothes until August at least. I doubt she's going to be growing at this rate all summer long -- that would equal almost three inches in 10 weeks, which sounds a bit extreme -- but even so, she could easily go through an entire size between now and then. No wonder I haven't been able to keep the pantry full lately.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The foot fetish post

OK, not really. But I do have to tell you all that the notorious PedEgg actually does work the way it does on television.

I hate socks and wear sandals or some sort of open shoes almost every day of the year, even when it's raining, and I honestly did not think that anything could rid me of the disgusting integument my feet have developed as a result of this habit. Cream, foot scrub, pumice stones -- nothing has ever come close to touching it. But a few minutes with this little cheese-grater-looking thing, and I'm almost callous- and dead skin-free. It'll take another session to get the last of it (I was afraid to do too much at once, plus I have a crack in one of my heels and couldn't go over that area), but this is seriously the best my feet have looked in five years.

I would post a picture of the pile of skin shavings I'm about to throw away, but some things are TMI even for this blog. Oh well.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Imaginary conversations

A few months before P died, he and I gave each other identical black video iPods -- he for what would turn out to be our last Christmas together, and I for his final birthday in February. In all the confusion after his death, my iPod disappeared, never to be found, and I ended up using his, which would have made him laugh and say, Maybe now you'll listen to some real rock and roll for a change.

Anyway, his iPod has been playing up a little lately -- having to be restarted, or threatening to make me restore it from iTunes -- so I thought I ought to back his music up on my laptop, since his computer doesn't work anymore and I can't access the original song files. I was transferring away when I hit a certain section of the iPod's library and said, out loud, "Oh no you don't. I will love you until the end of time, but I am not going to use up my hard-drive space on your Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica collections."

But it's Ozzy! How can you not like Ozzy?

"Sorry. No Ozzy."

You're no fun.

"When was I ever? You were the fun one, if you recall."


We're coming up on two years in less than a month, and I can still hear his voice in my head just as clearly as ever. Sometimes I wonder if when I'm ninety and going senile (if indeed I ever do -- my great-grandmother lived to be ninety-three without ever losing a single marble), I'll start to see him too. I can picture myself sitting there on the porch of the retirement home, cheerfully chatting away to an empty chair, with the nurses whispering to visitors, "Poor thing, she thinks she's talking to her husband ... he died young, you know." And no one but me will know that I can really see him there, with his sunglasses and his cargo shorts and his Skechers, and he'll be asking me, So, have you listened to that Metallica playlist yet? You've got to expand your musical horizons ....

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Words a mother loves to hear

G: Mommmm, you didn't put enough broccoli on my plate!

(But then she had a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. I guess it all balances out.)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

No time to breathe

On the docket for June:

* Buy G's Junior Girl Scout uniform for next year
* Mail the paperwork for G's summer day camp
* Sign G up for the city art class she wants to take
* Buy new sneakers for G
* Buy new iPod car adapter for self
* Make vet appointments for the cats
* Take G to see Kung Fu Panda
* Take G to dentist (for the first time since P died ... I know, bad mom)
* Make dentist appointment for self
* Attend G's bridging ceremony for Juniors
* (Possibly) attend school carnival
* Get oil changed
* Renew Auto Club membership
* Finally see about getting the photo added to P's plaque at the cemetery (would like to have this done by the second anniversary of his death in July)
* Host sleepover and trip to the movies for G and three friends
* Cook
* Clean
* Do laundry
* Exercise
* Work 40+ hours per week

This is why, on the rare occasions when someone asks me if I'm dating anyone these days, I always want to look at them and ask "Are you high?" I mean, really. Even if I wanted to (nope, still don't), where, in the schedule that the above list represents, could anyone possibly think there is time to go out on a date? For that matter, why would I want to add another person's needs and issues to that mix? My God! When I finally make it, gasping, to Friday night, the only male visitor I want to see at my door is the guy who brings the pizza. And then all I want to do is give him twenty dollars to go away again. Srsly.

I did have a rare chunk of free time last weekend while G was on another Girl Scout camping trip. I used it to get my hair colored -- a task I usually have to take a vacation day to accomplish -- and to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. I enjoyed the movie, but I couldn't help thinking of P, who was a huge Indy fan and would have been looking forward to it for months and months. He was on my mind so much that as I was sitting there waiting for the previews to start, I kept glancing over at the empty seat beside me where he should have been, thinking that surely he was going to be there, peanut butter cups in hand, saying "This better not suck." It's a shame he'll never see it -- I think he would have liked it. But it's just as well I didn't take G, even though she wanted to go; she never would have made it through the scenes of cobweb-hung ruins all thick with skeletons. Kung Fu Panda will be much more her speed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tiny thrills

Triumph of the day: Finally breaking 5,000 points while playing Bubble Words on Facebook.

Luckily, I'm way too old to care that this is probably pathetic.

Marching to her own drummer

Tonight was the annual open house at G's school. All the kids in her class had printed out the stories they'd written over the course of the year and stapled them together to make books, and almost without exception, all those books were titled something like My Book or My Stories.

The title of G's book? Stop in the Name of Love, and Other Amazing Tales.

Sometimes that girl just cracks me up!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

As long as we're talking about dreams

Last night I had a dream in which P had come back to life and we were living in a secret apartment at G's school. No one was allowed to know that P was there because you aren't supposed to come back from the dead, so he had to stay inside all the time.

So for some reason -- God knows why -- I had to go out and dispose of what was described in the dream as "elephant stomach bile." I had this stuff inside a metal Wonder Woman lunch box that was about the size of a briefcase, and I was going to take it and throw the whole thing into a dumpster. Before I got there, I accidentally spilled it on the blacktop, and it formed a lake of bright acid-green liquid that looked like toxic waste and was roiling around and smoking and throwing off big, snapping sparks. Everyone at the school came running out to deal with this, but no one knew I was the one who had caused it.

I was trying to slip away when the PTA president (not the actual PTA president, but she was in the dream) stopped me and said "I heard it's your husband's birthday! You should both come over for dinner." I made some excuse to get away from her and went back to my secret apartment, where I told P about the conversation. He said "Well, maybe we should just go," and I said, "We can't go! You're supposed to be dead! [G's kindergarten teachers' names] both know you're dead, and there's going to be trouble if they see you."

That's all I remember, except that when the elephant stomach bile had been neutralized, it left a big scorched black place on the school playground, and I felt very guilty about it, but was still glad that no one realized it was my fault. I thought of trying to look up what the meaning of all this would be, but I didn't even know where to start -- "elephant stomach bile?" "Dead people secretly coming back to life?" I'm pretty sure these things defy your standard dream dictionary.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I have achieved a maximum of five hours of broken sleep every night this week. On Sunday, I had a headache that still hurt while I was sleeping and kept waking me up. On Monday, I had to get up and go to the bathroom every hour. Last night, I woke up at 2:32 and 4:17 a.m. for no damn reason whatsoever.

If I don't do better tonight, I am going to turn into a raving loony.


I mean it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Because everyone likes to hear about other people's dreams, right?

I keep having dreams that have something to do with dirty cat litter. A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed that I went to clean out a cat box, and when I took off the lid, a lot of possessions of mine were in there amongst the clumps, and I had to pick them out. Last night, I dreamed that my grandmother was visiting me and she threw some things that belonged to me down on a floor that was covered with spilled cat litter (not something my grandmother would ever do, BTW), and I was very angry as I picked each item up, brushed it off, and either kept it or threw it away, depending on how dirty it was.

I'm sensing a sort of "salvage" theme in both these dreams, but what am I salvaging? And why cat litter? I mean, I do deal with it on a daily basis, but it doesn't dominate my life.

Just a regular Sunday

Mother's Day was more or less a non-event. G spent Saturday night at a sleepover for her friend's birthday, and when I picked her up on Sunday morning, she was cranky and sluggish with lack of sleep. She gave me a rose that the mother who was hosting the sleepover had given her to give to me, and a card that she'd drawn the night before, and then she flatly refused to do anything else or leave the house for most of the day.

Around one-thirty in the afternoon, I suggested that we try to take a nap so she'd be in a better mood, but that backfired when I fell asleep on my bed, and she stayed awake and played computer games on my laptop. After I woke up, I finally convinced her to go with me to pick up some takeout -- I hadn't eaten lunch and was starving -- by first snapping at her, then feeling remorseful and promising that we'd stop to see the puppies at the pet store on the way home. It wasn't a Mother's Day that will go down in the record books, that's for sure. Sigh. At least I managed to do my part by sending something to my mother and mother-in-law earlier in the week.

The only high point of the day came when I received an anonymous delivery of flowers, which I still haven't tracked to its source. I have an idea who it might be, since I only know a few people who live in the city where the florist who delivered the flowers is located, and only two or three of those people know my address, and only one of them is someone who is likely to do something like that. I saw her today, but she didn't say anything, and I didn't want to bring it up in case I'm wrong. Very mysterious! (But very much appreciated as well. Thanks, anonymous flower-giver, whoever you really are.)

That's my girl

G: I'd like to be a news reporter when I grow up.


G: Or the lead singer in a Goth rock band.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Maybe I can phone him in the afterlife

I got some good news yesterday, and as I was driving home, I thought, This is kind of a big deal. Maybe I ought to, I don't know, tell someone.

Then I drove on a little further and thought, Who would I tell?

I was stumped.

I could have told G, but it wouldn't have meant anything to her, plus her eyes tend to glaze over whenever I mention work. I could have called my mother, and she would have said, "That's great," but she wouldn't really have gotten it either. I briefly entertained the notion of going into Starbucks and paying one of the baristas to listen to my story, but decided it was a little too much. Better to save that sort of thing for later in life, after I become a crazy cat lady.

Of course, the person I wanted to tell, the person who would have understood and really been pleased, was P, but I couldn't. So in the end, I told no one.

I suppose this was a step up from what usually happens in situations like these, when I see or hear or do something and immediately think I've got to tell Peter -- oh. Yeah. Dammit. At least this time I managed to remember that he's dead, and therefore not available to chat about my day. It's amazing that I can still forget, but after someone's been in your life for as long as he was in mine, it must take more than a couple of years for it to really sink in that you'll never see or talk to that person again. Until you do, though, it feels like running into a brick wall all the time, when you least expect it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Walking down your street

Thanks to me, G has become quite the Bangles fan lately. (Hey, I didn't only listen to depressing music in the 80s.) I've put all their hits on my iPod for her, and this evening we were watching their old videos on YouTube ...

G: What's this song "Manic Monday" about?
Me: It's about having too much fun over the weekend and then not wanting to get up for work on Monday.
G: That's how I feel about school! I feel their pain!

G: Are any of them (the band) still alive?
Me: Um, they're not that much older than me, so yes, they're all still alive.
G: How old are you again?

G (ecstatically): It would be so cool if the Bangles could e-mail me. I'd totally tell all my friends about it.
Me: I'm pretty sure your friends have never heard of the Bangles.
G: Why not?
Me: Because all your friends are also 9, and these videos are from 20 years ago.
G: Oh.

Friday, May 02, 2008

You want a what?!

So, yesterday evening, as we were coming back from dinner with my father-in-law, G piped up from the back seat:

"Hey, Mom, could we get an adopted brother or sister for me?"

I nearly ran off the road, but I caught myself, kept driving, and said, "An adopted brother or sister, huh?"

"Yes," she said, "and it would be good if they were my age."

"We only have two bedrooms, though," I said. "If there were another kid in our family, you'd have to share your room with him or her."

"That's OK, I don't mind," she said. "Do you think we ought to get a boy or a girl?"

"I don't know," I said, playing along. "I think if it were a girl, you'd fight over clothes, but if it were a boy, you'd probably tease each other a lot."

"Maybe a girl then," she said.

She's always said she loves being an only child, so I'm not sure where that came from. When I asked her later to explain exactly why she wanted a sibling (after I told her that I wasn't going to adopt one), she said, "Well, I already have two pets, so all I need now is a brother or sister." I pointed out that a brother or sister was not the same as a cat or a dog, and she said "Yes, I know."

I'm guessing that this is a passing fantasy about having a built-in buddy for the weekends rather than a sign of some deep psychological need, so I should probably just try to start setting up more play dates for her. Although with school, her afterschool program, and Girl Scouts, you would think she'd be getting her fill of other kids. Hmmm.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And on another note ...

It's taken about five years longer than it should have, but sometime in the last month, G and I finally reached the point where I can tuck her in, give her a kiss, turn out the light and LEAVE THE ROOM. And she doesn't cry! And she doesn't come out every 15 minutes to see what I'm doing! And she doesn't call "Mama, I'm lonely! I need you to lie down with me!" She just says "'Night, I love you," and then I don't hear from her again until morning!

Because mothers are perverse creatures, I'm simultaneously delighted by this and a little sad that she doesn't need me quite as much as she used to. But on balance, "delighted" definitely wins.

Doing the math

I knew P for 13 years, one month and three days.
We were together for 12 years, five months and 17 days.
We were married for 10 years, minus four days.

Today he has been gone for one year, nine months and 27 days.
On Aug. 5, 2019, he will have been gone for longer than I knew him.
On Dec. 19. 2018, he will have been gone for longer than we were together.
On June 28, 2016, he will have been gone for longer than we were married.

When I met P, I was 21 years, six months and 19 days old.
He was 23 years, three months and two days old.

When he died, he was 36 years, four months and five days old.
I was 34 years, seven months and 22 days old.

On March 16, 2008, I became older than he will ever be.

When he's been gone for longer than we were married, I will be 44 years, seven months and 18 days old.
When he's been gone for longer than we were together, I will be 47 years, one month and nine days old.
When he's been gone for longer than I knew him, I will be 47 years, eight months and 26 days old.
When he's been gone for longer than G knew him, she will be 14 years, 10 months and 13 days old.

I don't know why any of this matters, but for some reason, it does. It matters a lot.

(Calculations courtesy of time and

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cranky old lady in training

G is watching her Rock 'N Learn Spanish DVD ...

DVD (in Spanish): The church is west of the river.
DVD: Turn left to reach my house.
DVD: My house is on the corner.
G (thoughtfully): How do you say "Get off my property?"

In 60 years, she's going to be that neighbor woman whose yard you don't want your ball to go into. I just know it.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Okay, now, this ad is just great:

The world may have a lot of awful things in it, but it has a lot of cool things in it too. It really does.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The road to hell is paved with Kraft EasyMac

I've really been falling down on the nutrition front this week. Last night G had mac and cheese for dinner -- not even the natural kind, but the Day-Glo orange stuff -- and I had canned soup and toast. Tonight we both had frozen pizza. I haven't served this sort of stuff regularly in a long time, but we've been so busy, and it's so easy, and blah blah blah excuses blah at least we're eating blah. I guess it's somewhat better than immediately after P died, when we literally ate nothing but takeout and pizza for six solid weeks. He died on July 2,and I don't think I cooked a single meal between then and when we moved on August 26. (Strangely, I just remembered that I didn't cook dinner the night before he died, either. He had a migraine and wasn't hungry, so G and I had food from Wahoo's. I thought I remembered every single thing we did that day, but I'd forgotten about that.)

For some reason, this dinnertime apathy is coming on the heels of a phase in which G was very interested in trying new foods, which of course was thrilling for me after years and years of dealing with typical little-kid fussiness. At the height of it, I think if she had turned to me and said, "You know, I'd like to taste cornmeal-crusted pickled asparagus with a lime drizzle," I'd have grabbed my keys and headed out to buy the ingredients without a moment's hesitation. She didn't come up with anything quite that adventurous, but she did add several foods to her repertoire that she'd previously refused to touch, including scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, yogurt, baked potato, and the infamous mac and cheese. I've really got to get myself together and start offering her more variety again before that willingness fades away. Just as soon as we finish this case of frosted chocolate Pop-Tarts and barrel of Tang.

Hypothetical situation

You are a 9-year-old girl with a math assignment. You ask your mother for help. What is the appropriate response when she tries to fulfill your request?

1. Listen to what she has to say, then either apply her suggestions or calmly explain that your teacher showed you a different method in class and you think you should use that instead.

2. Interrupt her with a shriek of "WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO IT LIKE THAT!" Pull the pencil and paper away from her when she wants to demonstrate. Refuse to let her finish a sentence or to show you any other way of arriving at the answer. When she tells you that it is mathematically impossible for 35 times 5 to equal 350, scream that it HAS to be 350 because that's what Mr. B SAID. Have a fit when she takes a piece of paper out of your binder to use as scratch paper, and when she says "I'm sorry you're upset," snarl, "Apology NOT accepted." Then, when she takes away your computer time for being rude and unkind, say, "I'm sorry for what I said," and then ask "Now can I use the computer?" Express shock when she says no.


I suppose this is payback for all the times my father sat with me at the kitchen table while I cried over my sixth-grade math homework. I can still remember him saying, "If you would just calm down and pay attention, it wouldn't be so hard!"

Sorry, Dad. Can I use the computer now?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sickly sweet

Today is "Administrative Professionals Day" and there are flower bouquets all over the building. They're sweet and lovely, and they're making me sick.

It's been almost two years now. How long is it going to take before the scent of flowers stops reminding me of P's funeral? If I closed my eyes I'd be back there right now, standing beside the casket, with the chill creeping from his body into mine and freezing the blood in my veins.

I want to throw up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Next, I start my own library

As I've said before, I have a serious book problem. I haven't counted, but I would estimate that I've got around 600 books in my home -- not counting G's books, which also number in the hundreds -- and another 300 or 400 in storage. (P was forever telling me to get rid of some, which sounds harsh until you consider that at one point, we actually moved because I didn't have room for any more bookshelves.)

I've cut back on my buying habit in the last couple of years, but I still buy 5 or 6 new books a month for myself, plus another 5-10 for G. Not only do they take up a lot of room, they're expensive, and while I read a lot of them more than once, others just sit and languish. So, this week I decided to bite the bullet and try

This is how the site works: You start out by posting 10 books that you want to offer, in exchange for which you receive two "free" credits toward books posted by other members. When someone requests one of your books, you print out a mailing wrapper (you can pay for preprinted postage or use stamps), wrap and tape the book according to the instructions, and send it out. As soon as you report that the book has been sent, you get another credit added to your account.

Here's what I've discovered so far:

1. The startup costs are more than I expected. I've invested $15 in postage (unlike eBay, where the recipient pays postage, here it's the sender's responsibility), and I had to buy a mailing envelope to contain one hardback book that was too large to wrap. Also, they recommend that you cover books in plastic wrap before wrapping them in paper, and I had to get a roll of that also, as we don't use plastic wrap at home.

2. Things move FAST on this site. I posted my first 10 books on Sunday evening, and I got two requests to ship within the first hour, another one later that night, and a fourth on Monday. (ETA: And a fifth just now. I can't keep up!) Again, if you're used to eBay, where you post an item and it can sit there for days before anyone buys/bids on it, this can come as a shock. Once you accept the request, you have two days to send the book out and another couple of days after that to report that you sent it, otherwise you don't get your credit.

3. Members can specify that they won't accept books from homes where people smoke or where there are pets. Of course, right away I accidentally sent one to someone who said "no pets." Oops. I hope since it's been jammed in between other books on a high shelf, it isn't covered with dander. If not, there isn't much I can do about it now.

That's all for now. I've put in a couple of my own requests, so we'll see how I like it after I start receiving books rather than just doing all the work of sending them out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Gorilla your dreams

This evening, my dad, G and I ate at Rainforest Café, a.k.a. Worst Restaurant Ever. I've always found Rainforest Café to be overpriced and generally crappy, and I would never go there under normal circumstances, but G had won a certificate for a free kids' meal at school and was determined to use it, so we went.

We got there fairly late, so we ended up being seated at the coveted table next to the animatronic gorillas, and I mean right next to the gorillas, close enough to reach out and touch artificial gorilla fur. This meant that about every 10 minutes, the conversation we were already shouting over the general din would be completely drowned out by Bamba, the lead gorilla, rearing up with a mechanical whirr and going "OOOOOOHAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH HUH HUH HUH!" On the other side of the restaurant, the elephants would trumpet an answer, and then thunder would boom out and rattle the glasses on our table.

Because I have a weird sense of humor, I started to think it would be very funny to sign up at an Internet dating site, get someone to ask me out, and then insist on being taken to Rainforest Café for dinner. I'd beg the "tour guide" to put us by the gorillas and practically run to the table, telling my erstwhile date, "This is my favorite restaurant!" He'd then have to try to yell those awkward getting-to-know-you questions at me while Bamba and his troop roared and grunted:

"So how do you like being an editor?"
"I said how do you like --"
"Sorry, what?"
"Uh, are you sure you want to eat here? Maybe we could go someplace quieter?"
"Are you kidding? This is great! Look at how lifelike they are!"

Of course, I would never actually do this, because there are a lot of lonely and earnest Internet daters out there who deserve better than to be dragged into my twisted social experiment, but the idea entertained me while I chewed away at my veggie burger. I think at my age, you have to take your amusement where you can find it.