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 date.com.)

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 paperbackswap.com.

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.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Universal plot device

G: I'm going to put a pony in my story.
Me: You really can't go wrong there. Everybody likes ponies.
G: Yeah, you never hear anyone say "Ew, a pony."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Going, but not quite swimmingly

I just told G that I'm signing her up for swimming lessons. Her response? She turned pale, backed away from me, and gasped "No!" as if I'd announced my plans to have her boiled in oil. Oh yeah. Good times ahead.

This isn't our first foray into swimming: the spring she was five, P and I enrolled her in a local swim school, thinking that we would do the right thing and get her started early. She was happy enough to splash around with the instructor at her first lesson (he was a golden, Adonis-like college boy, and you should have seen the little girls in her group squabble over who got to hang onto his neck), but at the second lesson, he asked her to put her face in the water, she got some up her nose, and it was all downhill from there. By her fourth lesson, she had been moved to the baby pool in hopes of making her feel safer, but all she did was scream hysterically as two-year-olds leapt off the side and swam around her like dolphins. At that point, we decided that she was on the verge of developing a full-blown phobia, and perhaps we should take a little break and try again later.

Well, here we are, later, and she's nearly nine and a half and still can't swim. I've thought about putting her back in lessons off and on, but it's the Girl Scout stuff that finally clinched it. I already won't let her go to the Scout camp in the local mountains because one of the things they do is paddle canoes, and I don't want her out on the water. I had to go along and help supervise at the beach last weekend, again because of the swimming issue, and I just found out that the campground they're staying at next weekend has a man-made lake with a boat dock, which makes me nervous even though I don't think they're doing any water activities.

These events will only get more frequent when she moves into Juniors next year (she and the other big girls in her troop are already doing some Junior activities, even though they haven't officially flown up yet) and unless I want to a.) forbid her to go to all of them, b.) attend all of them myself, or c.) get a stress-related ulcer, she needs to figure this water thing out. So, swimming lessons it is. As I said a few days ago, G has gotten infinitely braver and more confident over the last couple of years, but she can still be reticent at times, and she doesn't have an athletic bone in her body, so this is going to be interesting.

(Dammit, P, why aren't you here to help me out? Sigh ...)

In other sports-related news, G's school is offering afternoon tennis classes that start in a couple of weeks and continue through the end of the year, and with her approval, I've already signed her up for those. She suggested that since she can't take fencing, perhaps she can pretend that the tennis racquet is a rapier, to which I said, "I don't know how good that will be for your backhand, but whatever makes it fun for you." Who knows, maybe she'll just take off at both activities and become an Olympic swimmer who plays at Wimbledon in her spare time. I'll settle for her learning how to tread water and occasionally whack the ball with the racquet, though.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That's not exactly what I meant

G and I at Justice last week, shopping for bathing suits ...

G: How about this one? *holds up skimpy bikini*
Me: Not that one. You can get a two-piece, but the top has to be long enough to cover your middle.
G: MOTHERRR. I'm not SIX anymore.
Me: Um, you're not sixteen either. Put it back.

Tonight at a Girl Scout meeting, as the leaders discuss an upcoming event with a few of the older girls ...

Leader: ... so your costumes for the skit are going to be grass skirts and bathing-suit tops.
G: *primly* My mother doesn't let me show too much flesh.
Everyone: *dies laughing*

Now I feel like one of those polygamist sect women in their buttoned-up-to-the-neck calico dresses. I just don't want her running around the beach in something out of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue while pervy creeps look on -- it doesn't mean she's not allowed to wear a costume in a skit!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So not a party girl

Friday brought a milestone: G's first overnight trip with her Girl Scout troop. I'd had a very long day at work, and after I dropped her off at the scout house where she was staying, my first impulse was to go straight home and collapse. But I thought I ought to go somewhere just to say I had -- it isn't often that I have a weekend night to myself -- so I went to Borders and wandered around aimlessly for half an hour or so. I bought a book and two magazines, picked up takeout for dinner, and went home, where I ate while sitting on my bed and checking my e-mail.

At 9:30 p.m., I was sound asleep, still fully dressed, with the laptop open next to me and the empty takeout bag and bookstore purchases strewn around me on the bed. I woke up that way at 6:00 the next morning when one of the cats decided that he needed to be petted. Good grief. I didn't want to go out dancing or anything like that, but it would have been nice to at least get to read a chapter of my book. (I did read it the following evening, though -- good stuff.)

Anyway, on Saturday morning, the Scout troop was supposed to head to a nearby beach to take a guided tour of the tidepools and then go swimming. The troop leaders do a great job, but it's impossible for two people to simultaneously keep an eye on 15 six-to-ten-year-olds, and while G is a cautious kid and not likely to do anything crazy, it's a big ocean and she can't swim a stroke. So, for my own peace of mind, I had arranged to go along for that part of the event, which I did. Sure enough, the girls were fine while the ranger was leading them around the tidepools, but as soon as they got onto the beach proper, they scattered in every direction, and it was all the other moms and I could do to keep counting heads and making sure we hadn't lost any of them.

While we were there, one of the troop's co-leaders came up to me and said "Your daughter is amazing -- responsible, helpful, and kind to everyone. She's a great example to the younger girls." This was great to hear, because of all the things I would like G to be, "helpful and kind" are at the top of the list. She really is a very kind person, and also a generous one -- so much for the stereotype of the selfish, spoilt only child.

Later on, when the same co-leader and I were talking a bit about her six-year-old being clingy and timid, I said that G had been very much the same way at that age, and even more so a few years before that, and she couldn't believe it. She said that G seemed very mature and at peace with herself, and it's true that she does now, but it's been a combination of me (and P, when he was still with us) nudging her to do things on her own, and a growing-up process that happened by itself and had nothing to do with me. Six-year-old G would never have been able to handle an overnight stay without me (nor would I have let her, since I knew she wasn't ready yet), but nine-year-old G can go and be just fine. I wonder what 12-year-old G will be capable of doing?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Life with a preteen

Me: Why do I smell a bushel of overripe onions?
G: Dunno.
Me: Well, it's not me.
G: I think it's the cat.
Me: It is not the cat. Let me smell your armpit.
Me: *sniffs* Oh dear God in heaven! Get in the shower right this minute!
G: I don't want to take a shower!
Me: You have to take a shower. I'm not taking you to Sport Chalet to buy your camping stuff smelling like that. The stink alarm is going to go off when we walk in, and we'll be swarmed with store employees who want to throw us out.
G: There's no such thing as a stink alarm.
Me: That's what you think. Use lots of soap.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Lucky ducks

We live in one of those big, sprawling complexes that have "waterscaping" -- ponds and waterfalls and little streams with wooden bridges over them. As you might imagine, the local ducks think it's a paradise built just for them, and it's pretty common to see them swimming around and hanging out in pairs.

So earlier today, we were taking a walk, when all of a sudden I spotted four impossibly tiny, fuzzy ducklings hopping out of a stream and waddling across the nearest bridge toward us. Right behind them came their sleek brown mother, keeping a watchful eye, and right behind her, bringing up the rear, was a handsome mallard whom I assume was their dad. Like us, they were out for a Sunday-afternoon stroll as a family, and they were so adorable that G and I could not stop squealing. We backed up to give them some space, they crossed the bridge, and then they slipped into the water on the other side and swam off tranquilly. Oh, we were nearly dead of the cuteness. I wish I had had a camera.

As they were swimming away, though, G leaned over the bridge and called to the ducklings, "You guys are lucky!" I asked "Why are they lucky?" and she said, "Because they get to be with their whole family." Ouch. She never really says anything about P being gone, and to all appearances she's perfectly content with just the two of us, but I always wonder whether she thinks about it. I suppose now I know.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Got tagged for this meme by Natasha:

Five things I was doing 10 years ago:

1. In April 1998, P and I had been married for two years and had just moved into a bigger apartment in the complex where we then lived, which I still pass every day on my way home.

2. We were also talking about whether we eventually wanted to live in New York, which we'd really enjoyed when we visited the previous autumn.

3. I was an editorial assistant at the same company I work for now.

4. I had just applied to graduate school and had been accepted into the university, but not yet into the program I was planning to do.

5. I was less than a month away from getting pregnant with G, which would come as quite a surprise -- we had agreed that we wanted to have one child, but were planning to wait a few years. As it turned out, it was good that we had her when we did, because it meant she got to have her dad for seven years instead of just one or two, and he got to enjoy her while he was still fairly healthy. Sometimes fate works out for the best.

Five things on my to-do list today:

1. Help photographer scout locations for photo shoot.

2. Edit articles.

3. Pick G up from afterschool program.

4. Fold laundry.

5. Exercise.

Five snacks I enjoy:

1. Chips and salsa

2. Raisin Bran Crunch cereal (no milk)

3. Apple slices

4. Cheese and Triscuits

5. Chocolate-covered pretzels

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. Start my own magazine, but be a dilettante and only do the fun parts I enjoyed, while my large and well-paid staff did all the crap work.

2. Buy and renovate a historic house on the East Coast, and have an ultramodern one built to spec on the West Coast .

3. Set up trust funds for my family and P's family.

4. Spend a year living in different parts of Europe and the UK.

5. Set up a charity for kids living in motels.

Five of my bad habits:

1. I spend too much time online.

2. I almost never return phone calls.

3. The inside of my car is always messy.

4. I always owe library fines because I never return my books on time.

5. I buy songs off iTunes even though I already own the CDs, because I'm too lazy to dig through all the boxes to find them.

Five places I have lived:

1. Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

2. Augusta, Ga.

3. New Orleans, La.

4. Houston, Texas

5. Midland Park, N.J.

Five jobs I've had:

1. Cashier in a natural-foods grocery store

2. Retail buyer

3. Editorial assistant

4. Copywriter

5. Managing editor of a trade magazine.


Part of the meme is tagging five other people, but I don't think I'll officially tag anyone. If you decide to do it, though, please leave a comment -- I'd love to read your responses.

* G would love the title of this post. She's fascinated by names for different-numbered groups of things -- duo, trio, quartet, etc. Also, she always says "thrice" instead of "three times," which sounds very funny when she tells me things like "I had to sharpen my pencil thrice while I was at school today."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pop quiz

1. How have G and I both managed to fall spectacularly down the stairs, independent of each other, in the last 5 days?

A. Clumsiness is hereditary.
B. The cats are greasing the steps while we're away.
C. A ghost pushed us both from behind.
D. We have carpet gnomes.

2. Why do I now have a sore knee, an aching lower back, and a bruise the size of a tennis ball on my butt, while G is totally unscathed?

A. She's young.
B. I'm old.
C. I didn't try to break my fall because I was carrying my laptop and had to hold it up out of harm's way as I fell. (Priorities!)
D. All of the above

3. How long will it take for the bruise to go away?

A. Two days
B. Two weeks
C. Two months
D. I'm scarred for life.

4. How have I been treating my pain?

A. Lying in bed and watching Doctor Who.
B. Eating lots of cheese and chocolate.
C. Not exercising.
D. All of the above