Thursday, December 31, 2009

As long as it's not a flaming one

G: Mom, can I enter this Spongebob Squarepants contest?
Me: Is it on the official Nick site?
G: Uh huh.
Me: Yeah, you can.
G: Thanks. *types*
Me: What's the prize?
G: I have no idea.
Me: Why are you entering then? What if you win and they send you a bag of poo?
G: Why would Nick send me a bag of poo?
Me: I don't know, but if you don't read the details, anything's possible.

Things you don't see every day

While driving earlier, I happened to glance to the right and saw an older woman (70ish) with one of those wheeled wire baskets that people take when they walk to the supermarket. The unusual part: she was running with it, pushing the empty basket in front of her like a jogging stroller. She was going so fast that by the time I said "Hey, look!" to G, she was gone.

We happened to be on my way to visit my mother, who is in town for the night, so when we got to her hotel, she and I brainstormed some reasons for a senior citizen to be hauling ass down the street with a shopping basket on New Year's Eve. My favorite was her suggestion that the woman had knocked down another old lady and stolen the basket from her, and was trying to make a getaway. Wild old women! What sort of geriatric hijinks will they come up with next?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year in review

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Lived in this house. Ate a lychee. (Never again!) Um ... that's all I can think of. I need to be more adventurous in 2010.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I didn't make specific resolutions this year. I'm planning to make a big five-year list of goals within the next few days, so we'll see how well I do with those.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? We're not very close, but one of P's cousins had a little boy called Landon.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, thank God.

5. What countries did you visit? None.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? More money and free time would be good, but realistically, I'd like more cooperation from G in day-to-day life. I should not have to fight with an 11-year-old over basic tasks like showering and brushing teeth.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? ... You know, I can't think of any. I'm probably missing something huge.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Keeping all the plates spinning at work and home.

9. What was your biggest failure? I let both of us get severely over-scheduled this autumn.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I had to have an emergency root canal in April. It was excruciating.

11. What was the best thing you bought? G's laptop -- it's helped her with schoolwork, provided her with hours of entertainment, and freed up MY laptop for my own use.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Hm, not sure.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? The balloon boy's parents. What a pair of tools.

14. Where did most of your money go? Housing, food, various bills. On the entertainment side, books and going to the movies.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Nothing really.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer? About the same in all three categories.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Traveling

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Procrastinating

20. How did you spend Christmas? At home with G and then visiting relatives.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? Nope

22. What was your favorite TV program? I don't really watch TV, but I did like Primeval on BBC America.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I don't think I really hate anyone. Dislike, yes, but not hate.

24. What was the best book you read? Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. I'm also finally reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which P bought me for Christmas six years ago, and enjoying it.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I don't think I made any new discoveries, but I remembered how much I like Peter Gabriel, who somehow keeps writing good songs even after 30-plus years.

26. What did you want and get? A bigger place to live.

27. What did you want and not get? A new digital camera.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? An Education

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I went to work and then took G to a Girl Scout meeting. I was 38.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More free time.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? LOL! I don't think I've ever had a "personal fashion concept" in my life. I did wear a lot more dresses this year, especially in the summer.

32. What kept you sane? The sheer force of my iron will.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Either David Tennant or Liam Neeson.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care

35. Who did you miss? P, of course.

36. Who was the best new person you met? I don't think I've met anyone at all this year, outside of work.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. How to identify and eradicate lice on a child's head. :)

That's a wrap

It was a surprisingly good Christmas. G loved her gifts and the money she raked in from relatives. I actually got a few small presents of my own, which was unexpected but nice. We went to Mass at my brother-in-law's ritzy church in Santa Monica, where a rather well-known actress tried and failed to take our reserved second-row seats before we got there. (Sorry, [famous name]. Hope it wasn't too crowded for you out in the standing-room-only vestibule.) My other brother-in-law and I went to see Sherlock Holmes and loved it. And no one fought with anyone else, or if they did, they did it where I couldn't hear them.

Tomorrow G and I are taking the Amtrak train up to Santa Barbara for the day, which should be fun. I just checked the weather forecast and there's a 60-percent chance that it won't rain (how's that for optimism? LOL) but we'll bring umbrellas just in case. I'm actually looking forward to the ride itself more than anything; I love traveling on trains, and it will be nice to sit back and read a book and not worry about flat tires and crazy drivers. Then on Thursday, my mother will be in town for New Year's Eve and we're scheduled to have a late lunch and do a little shopping with her. It should be a nice, quiet end to the year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Yet more kid art

She certainly didn't get her artistic ability from me - I can't draw a damn thing!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pass the jam please

Every year since P died, one of the things that's bothered me most is not having any presents to open on Christmas morning. It's not as if I need anyone to buy me presents - if I see a book or a knickknack or a pair of earrings I like, I usually buy it for myself then and there. I have enough perfume and shower gel to scent half the city; my kitchen is overflowing with pans and gadgets I hardly use; and if I want to watch movies I can borrow them from Netflix. Still, I never fail to feel a little sorry for myself as I sit on the floor, bleary-eyed and empty-handed, watching G tear the shiny paper off her gifts. I love seeing her happy and excited, of course; that undercurrent of dejection is an instinctual thing, programmed sometime in my own childhood, when being overlooked by Santa would have been as bad as having your birthday forgotten.

Last year I did get a present a little later on Christmas Day, while we were visiting a relative's house. It was a variety pack of Knotts Berry Farm jam, wrapped, but with no ribbon or tag, and it was very clearly one of those gifts that people buy in bulk and keep on hand in case someone turns up unexpectedly and they haven't got anything to give them. The funny part was that I was actually pleased to receive it, because hey! A package to unwrap! If you've ever seen the Peanuts strip where Schroeder berates Violet for giving Charlie Brown a used Valentine, and then Charlie Brown interrupts him and says "I'll take it," well, that was me and my box of jam.

So, with Christmas a week away, I'm mentally preparing myself for yet another holiday in which the best I can hope for is nine different flavors of jam. (It was good jam, by the way. I just finished eating it all a couple of months ago.) I could buy myself a present and wrap it up, of course. I wouldn't even have to spend my own money, since my mother sent me a check earlier this week with instructions to buy something for myself and G. But it wouldn't be the same feeling as getting up in the morning and having surprise packages to open, with presents inside that were chosen just for me. Spoiled? Selfish? Maybe, but there it is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The scent of paranoia

Today I took a day off to go Christmas shopping while G was at school. This is the first year since 2005 that I've done any serious Christmas shopping, and I had forgotten that my fellow human beings start losing their veneer of civilization the day after Thanksgiving, only to become downright feral by mid-December. But they do. Holy crap.

So, off I went to spend money and watch altercations between my fellow shoppers, including a pair of very large ladies who nearly came to blows when one of them backed her electric scooter into the other's electric scooter, and a mother who was yelling "DAMN IT, ISABELLA, COME ON, I'M GETTING A HEADACHE" at her three-year-old, who didn't appear to be doing anything particularly awful. Although having had a three-year-old once, I imagine it was probably the breaking point in a long day of frustration.

Anyway, after two hours of that, I was starving and had to pee, so I left to get lunch at Rubio's and use their restroom. I collected my order and went back to my car, and as soon as I slid into the driver's seat and closed the door, I was hit by a powerful wave of men's cologne. It's been a couple of weeks since a guy has ridden in my car, and then it was a friend who doesn't wear that stuff, so this was disturbing.

In rapid succession, these thoughts flashed through my mind:

1. Oh my God, an insane rapist/murderer has broken into my car and is hiding in the cargo area, waiting for me to drive home so he can rape and murder me at his leisure.

2. He must be a complete idiot. What sort of criminal douses himself with Axe before he goes out to do his raping and murdering?

I turned around to look into the back seat (not sure what I was planning to do if there was actually someone there ... beat him over the head with my bag of cheese enchiladas, I guess) and as I did, I caught a whiff of my own hand and realized that the smell was coming from me. Apparently, the liquid hand soap in the bathroom at Rubio's smells exactly like men's cologne.


At least I didn't call 911 or anything. That would have been a tough one to explain.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The grim realist

G: Marcus (a kid in her class) has been in the hospital for four days.
Me: Why is Marcus in the hospital?
G: I don't know. He's really sick. Today we all prayed that he wouldn't be dead. He was fine four days ago.
Me: Maybe tomorrow you'll find out that he got to go home.
G: Or something worse.
Me: Probably not, though. Most people who are in the hospital get better and leave.
G: Yeah, but not all of them.

It seems like an awfully fatalistic attitude for a 10-year-old to take, but I guess given her personal experience, it's hard for her to be blithely confident about these things.

I hope Marcus is okay.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A milestone

This year marks the first Christmas ever that G hasn't wanted any toys. I saw it coming last year, when her list started to veer away from toys toward other things, but this year, none at all. Instead, she wants a video flip cam and Sims 2 expansion packs and lots of movies. She wants an iPod Touch. She wants some purple fingerless gloves and a matching scarf she saw at Claire's. She wouldn't be averse to clothes if they were the right kind. (Wanting the "right kind" of clothes, which to her means dark skinny jeans and hoodies and Converse-style sneakers and anything with peace signs on it, is also a new thing this year. At least she doesn't care about the actual labels yet.) The one toy-like item she asked for is the Clue board game, which I will get her even though she'll have to invite friends over to play it -- she and I have trouble with board games because most of them are designed for three or more players, and there are only two of us.

I haven't said so to her, but all this has caused me to reminisce soppily about her first Christmas, when she was not quite a year old and had just started toddling, and her presents were wooden puzzles and Sesame Street videos (no DVDs yet then) and board books galore. She had recently said her first word, which was "cat," and when a relative gave her a tiny faux-leopard fur coat on Christmas night, she looked into the box with a bewildered expression and asked "Cat?" which made everyone around her fall over laughing. And I can't help wondering where that curly-haired baby went, or wishing her father were here to wonder and remember too.

I used to think it must be hard to live a very long life, 100 years or more, because eventually you would be the only one who remembered your past: everyone else would either be dead or wouldn't have been born yet. Now I have an idea how that must feel. There are plenty of people who remember Christmas 1999, but no one in this world but me remembers sitting in the living room of our apartment on that sunny December morning, helping baby G play with her new toys. No one at all.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Out with the old year

I am so ready for this year to be over, I can't tell you. It isn't even as if it was a bad year; I'm just done with it. Bring on 2010.

This reminds me of the way I felt the last few weeks I was pregnant with G -- coincidentally, also around Christmas -- when I was fed up with being pregnant and wanted her to be born already. I had to keep going to work because I didn't have any vacation time (I worked until a week past my due date, terrifying the guy across the aisle, who was certain the baby would just fall out of me as I sat at my desk ... if only it had been that easy), so I would drag myself through the day, then come home and sit on the sofa with a bag of assorted Mother's Cookies until it was time to go to bed. I feel just like that now, only without the cookies. Where are my cookies, dammit?!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Time management and the messy bedroom

I just sent G to clean her room and told her not to come out, except to use the bathroom or get a drink of water, until she's finished. If history is any indicator, this means I won't see her again for three hours, the first two hours and forty-five minutes of which she will spend watching movies and doing time-consuming but nonessential tasks.

Last time we went through this exercise, I suggested that she concentrate on activities that make a visible difference in the tidiness of the room, e.g., making the bed, picking up dirty clothes and shelving books. Instead, when I came in to see how she was doing, I discovered that she had been arranging her DVD cases in alphabetical order. I think this is a ploy to avoid doing any real work by pleading that she's been "cleaning" ALL DAY - never mind that if she tried, she could do the whole thing in 20 minutes and be done with it. I don't expect perfection, just reasonable orderliness and a floor clear enough to vacuum. Sigh.

ETA: In the end, she finished in just over an hour and did a very good job. Color me impressed!

Great literature it ain't

Uncle Walter's Bad Romance Novel Covers


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving, slightly modified

As I've said before, Thanksgiving is not a holiday with much appeal for me. I don't eat turkey, I hate football (sorry, P, wherever you are), I don't like driving in heavy traffic, and forced socializing is about as much fun as a long, sharp straight pin through my retina. I'm totally down with the idea of doing something to mark the day and celebrate my many blessings; I just think it should be something that I enjoy. So here's my list of Thanksgiving traditions I would like to see catch on:

Side Dish Dinner
Cranberries, green beans, olives, cheese, crackers, potatoes, stuffing, Parker House rolls, three kinds of pie ... and no dead bird.

Jazz Hands
Instead of watching football after dinner, everyone piles into the car and goes to see a huge, splashy Broadway musical. If this isn't possible, I would consider watching televised football if the players were required to sing about it every time they made a touchdown.

Far Apart, Together
The whole family meets up on Facebook and IMs about what they're cooking and how big the kids are getting. All the interaction without the need to get dressed and drive for miles, plus if someone irritates you, you can just make yourself invisible.

Reading is Fundamental
Everyone brings the book of his or her choice to Thanksgiving dinner and reads it at the table while eating. Bonus points if you read something with a Puritan flair, like The Crucible or The Scarlet Letter.

The Witching Hour
Thanksgiving merges with my favorite holiday, Halloween. Dinner is served at midnight on a black-draped table lined with candelabras while live ravens watch from cobweb-hung perches on the walls. When it's your turn to say what you're thankful for, you have to hold a flashlight under your chin and speak in a sepulchral Vincent Price voice.

Sadly, I doubt we'll see any of these refreshing changes anytime soon. People are so set in their ways. But if I take over the world ... look out!

Monday, November 23, 2009

The shot heard 'round the world

Fifth grade in California means U.S. history, and U.S. history, as we all know, starts with the Revolutionary War. Because the school hates me and knows I'm a 10-thumbed eejit when it comes to sewing and crafts, they are staging Walk Through the American Revolution at the beginning of December, and I'm required to produce an eighteenth-century costume for G to wear. This is much more complicated than last year's Walk Through California, when she wore a long skirt, a white blouse and carried a fan, and looked just like a Spanish lady ... sort of.

The good news is that G isn't being too picky about her costume this year, although she did caution me, upon bringing the flier home, "I'm not gonna dress like a dude." (Which is too bad, because I have a velvet blazer that would have looked lovely with some leggings and long socks.) The bad news is that I have about two weeks to figure something out without spending a fortune. I wish I still had the dress my mother sewed for me to wear when my sixth-grade class reenacted the Civil War a million years ago in 1982. She made it out of a yellow bed sheet, and it looked amazing. Why can't I do things like that?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rationalization 101

Q: Are Bagel Bites and orange slices a nourishing dinner for a growing child?

A: Of course they are! Because there's fruit! Fresh, nutritious, vitamin-packed fruit! Heck, I could serve her a Crisco sandwich on white bread, and it would be okay as long as I put half a banana on the side. Fruit makes everything all right.

... Right?

Monday, November 16, 2009

I was that girl once

While shopping at Target by myself today, I was passing the shoe section when I saw a woman around my age, trailed by a blonde girl who looked a year or so older than G. The girl had a pissed-off expression on her face and was walking with her arms folded huffily across the front of her little blue Hollister T-shirt. Her mother looked harassed, but determined to be patient. I eavesdropped on them:

Mother: I really don't think she wore heels at 12.
Girl (in bitchy voice): Yes, she DID.
Mother: Well, I think it's too young. You'll fall off.
Girl (in even more bitchy voice): No, I WON'T.

I managed not to laugh out loud, but I did snort to myself as I rolled my cart toward the shampoo and toothpaste. Oh, tween girls. You're lucky we don't sell you all to the gypsies.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Letter G received at school today:

To the parents of [G's name]:

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that [G] will soon receive an invitation to attend a 2010 People to People World Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. She was nominated for this honor by [Mrs. R, her former teacher and the supervisor of the school newspaper she founded last year] of [her school], who believes [G] to be an outstanding student with high academic standing and promising leadership potential.

People to People International was founded in 1956 by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the premise that peace can be achieved through understanding. Making a difference in the world begins with developing your child's own leadership skills, and the World Leadership Forum offers a unique opportunity for [G] to join other highly motivated and accomplished students from around the globe.

You can find more detailed information in [G's] forthcoming official invitation or online at People to People. In the meantime, congratulations on [G's] many achievements. I hope that your family can take advantage of this educational program to further her as a young leader.

We just spent some time reading about this online, and it's really quite cool. It's a 5-7-day program and you have to be nominated by an educator to attend. It's also extremely expensive, so I don't know yet whether she'll be able to go (or whether I'll be able to go with her, which will be a deciding factor at this age) but if I can make it happen, I will -- it sounds like a great opportunity and an experience she'd never forget.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


G: I can't wear that shirt* to school. It's ugly.

Me: You do know you picked it out at the store yourself, don't you?

G: Well, I must have been younger then and liked different things. That looks like the "Mom, I want to play Barbies" phase. I'm not in that phase anymore.

Me: I see. And which phase would you say you're in now? Just so I know.

G: I think it's the "Mom, don't wake me up early in the morning" phase**.

Me: Sounds like an accurate assessment.

*A pretty blue flowered top from Justice that she loved last year.
** Phases I would welcome: the "helping Mom around the house" phase, the "doing homework without a fuss" phase, and the "not leaving my dirty socks on the kitchen table" phase.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


We had a Halloween party for a few of G's close friends last night. Here are some shots of our house all lit up and ready to go:

The woeful windows.

The horrendous hallway.

The terrible table.

The calamitous kitchen.

The lurid lounge.

Scary talking witch head thing.

Doughnuts hanging on ribbons, ready for a game.

The kids started off by painting mini pumpkins - I hadn't been sure that would be a hit with this age (9-11) but they were all surprisingly into it and spent nearly half an hour sitting around the table. Next they played a game called Spiderweb which involves standing in a circle and throwing a ball of yarn back and forth until you have a web-like structure; then the classic "doughnut eating" game where you try to eat a doughnut on a string without using your hands; then a game where they had to find gummy worms in plates of whipped cream using only their mouths. After that, it was movie time. Unfortunately, they couldn't all agree on a movie to watch, so two of them ended up watching "The Goonies" downstairs with me while the other three watched "Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins" upstairs in G's bedroom. They all got together again afterward and played board games happily until 9:30, when parents started arriving to collect them.

The highlight of the party for me was when G and her friend C attempted to retell a "true" ghost story their teacher had told them in class:

Me: All right, I want to hear this story, but I should warn you that I'm pretty hard to scare, so don't expect too much.
C: Okay. So Mrs A was, like on vacation somewhere with her friend.
G: They were in Mexico.
C: Right, Mexico. And they went out to eat and there was this WAITER there who kept staring at her in a really creepy way.
G: Like this. *stares*
C: So later they went back to their hotel room, and, um, they went to sleep, and then Mrs A' friend woke up - no, wait, Mrs A woke up and she saw the waiter RIGHT IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM.
G: She tried to scream but she couldn't!
C: And then he slowly backed through the wall and into the restroom.
Me: Hang on a minute. The ghostly waiter came to her hotel room to take a bath?
Everyone: *falls over laughing*
C: No, no. And then she went to sleep, but she woke up later, and the waiter was HOVERING OVER HER FACE. And it was like she was frozen and she couldn't even move!
G: Her friend woke up and saw him too!
(knock on the door downstairs)
C: What was that?
Me: It's the waiter!

I love kids. :)

G's best friend slept over afterward and I barely heard a peep out of them -- I went downstairs to check on them at 11:30 and they were getting ready for bed without being told, and then when I went back just after midnight, they were fast asleep with the lights off, so they must have been worn out from all their fun. (There'd been a lot of squealing and shrieking and running up and down the stairs during the party, as there always is when you get a lot of tween girls together.) They're always great sleepover buddies -- they've been friends since they were in diapers and never seem to run out of things to do or talk about.

Now I keep forgetting that today is really Halloween, because after last night, it feels as if we've already had it. But G is adamant that she still needs to go trick or treating, so I suppose we'll be heading out in a couple of hours. I don't know how many more times she'll want to go door to door -- the last year I went was sixth grade, and then I decided it was embarrassing -- so we may as well make the most of it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yes, he might

G just watched the episode of Barnyard that features The Bigfoot Song, and then commented, "I wouldn't want Bigfoot to live inside my heart. He might shut down my circulatory system."

For a creative kid, she can be stunningly literal-minded at times!


7 a.m. - Beep beep beep ... oh God, already?

7:20 a.m. - Drag self out of bed, then go downstairs and drag G out of bed.

8:12 a.m. - Arrive at school with seconds to spare before the gate is locked.

8:30 a.m. - Arrive at work

8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. - Work

12-12:30ish p.m. - Lunch at desk.

1:30-2:15 p.m. - Meeting

2:15-4 p.m. - More work

4 p.m. - Leave early (a sanctioned departure, not a sneaking out) because of Girl Scout Halloween party.

4-4:30 p.m. - Drive home, get G's Halloween costume. She's Hermione from Harry Potter.

4:30-5 p.m. - Drive to store and buy juice and water for party, as requested by leader.

5 p.m. - Deliver Halloween costume and drinks to school, sign G in to meeting/party.

5-5:45 p.m. - Drive to music store. See a guy about a flute.

6 p.m. - Arrive at home with flute. Check e-mail, do desultory cleaning, think about cooking dinner but have cheese and crackers instead.

7 p.m. - Drive back to school and collect G.

7:10 p.m. - Think about cooking dinner again.

7:11 p.m. - Make sharp left into drive-thru.

7:30 p.m. - Arrive at home again. G wants to eat downstairs so she can watch TV; I usually say no to this, but decide to let her.

7:30-8 p.m. - Eat.

8 p.m. - Go downstairs and start G on her homework.

8:30 p.m. - Come back to check and G has done three paltry math problems. Remind her that time is ticking away and she really needs to finish so she can wash her grungy hair before bed.

8:45 p.m. - Check again. No progress. Sit right next to G and redirect her every time she starts to lose focus.

9:10 p.m. - Still not much progress. She's getting tired, so I offer to do all the writing if she does the actual calculations.

9:30 p.m. - Math is done. I ask about spelling and she's left her spelling list at school, aargh. While looking through her binder for it, I also discover a letter from her teacher saying that she "chose not to do her narrative writing project which was assigned two weeks ago," and will have to stay in at recess for the rest of the week to do it, blah blah. I know this isn't true because I saw her typing the project up last night with the intent of e-mailing it to school and printing it out there. She says she couldn't print it out because she can't remember her school network password. Tears. She's really tired.

9:45 p.m. - I tell her not to worry about it right now and go get changed for bed. She technically didn't do her 30 minutes of reading, but considering that she's read two 250-page books in the last two days and is working on a third, I'm not too bothered about that.

10 p.m. - She's in bed (still with grungy hair). I pack her school bag, find an old shirt to cut up for a flute cleaning cloth, put school bag and flute case by the front door for tomorrow.

10:15 p.m. - She's not asleep yet and is "lonely." I tell her I'll sit on her bed for 15 minutes, but only if she lies still with her eyes closed.

10:30 p.m. - She's asleep. I get our balky printer out of the closet and start downloading drivers to see if I can make it work with her laptop (it won't work at all with mine).

10:45 p.m. - Success! I print out her narrative writing project and the PowerPoint slides that go with it and put them in her bag. She can thank me in the morning.

11:15 p.m. - I cook pasta for her lunch and leave it to cool while I go do chores.

Midnight - Chores are finished, lunch (high-protein pasta, apple, banana, cookies) is packed and in fridge. I ask myself whether I have time to squeeze in some exercise and answer myself with a resounding "Hell, no!"

Bed now? I think yes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


G (via text message): Mom, where r u?
Me (also via text): Getting your flute for band.

Ten minutes later ...

G: Srsly, where r u?
Me: Um, getting your flute, like I said.

Eight or nine years ago, as I was helping toddler G brush her teeth and watching "Elmo in Grouchland" with her for the umpteenth time, I could not have imagined us texting each other across town (she's at a Girl Scout Halloween party) to discuss her band instrument. And yet here we are. Time doesn't always feel like it's flying when you're in it, but when you look back later, you can see how far it's flown.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sorry, no more brain space. Try again later.

One of the computers I use at work likes to pop up this error message:

The operation could not be completed because memory is full.

I feel exactly like that sometimes. I've got so many details stuffed into my head - things I need to do at work, at home, for G's school, for G's activities - that I have moments when the sheer mass of it all is overwhelming.

I'm lucky enough to have a good memory, and I make lots of lists and set up e-mail reminders to help, and while I may not always be bang on time for everything (lateness is my bĂȘte noire), it's rare for me to drop the ball in a major way. Still, there are times when I'd love to be able just to do a mental reboot and free up space for more data, or at least clear out a vacant corner that's responsible for thinking about nothing in particular.

... Or, as long as we're fantasizing, to hire a personal assistant whose whole job would be to put Frontline on the cats and go to the music store for G's flute practice book and have the oil in my car changed. Maybe when I win that Super Lotto jackpot.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


G: Look at this picture I drew of zombies rising from the grave.

Me: That's an awesome picture. I especially like the perspective you used here in the foreground. Now stop drawing and finish your math, or the zombies will come and get you.

G: Zombies don't care about math. They're already dead. They're undead.

Me: Oh no. Zombies care deeply about math. Didn't you know? Math and brains are the only two things that get zombies really excited. If they find out you've left some math undone, they'll come bursting in the door and stumble toward you, groaning "Maaaaath ... maaath ... expoooooonennnnts ..."

G: Good. They can do it for me when they get here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

So. We meet again.

Me (holding out G's hairbrush): Here you go. Time to brush your hair.
G (to the brush): Hello, my bitter enemy; my arch-nemesis.
Me: *rofl*

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I've been going around and around for weeks about whether to get the H1N1 vaccine for G. I'm not a big proponent of flu shots in general and have never had one in my life. On the other hand, I'm also not terribly prone to viral infections: I usually get a cold at some point every winter, but I've only had honest-to-goodness influenza twice in the last 20 years, once in 1996 and once in 2003. Both those times were complete and utter shit, but you know, it's the flu, not a pony ride with ice-cream cones. It's miserable, and then you get better and your immune system is stronger for it.

Anyway, after a lot of reading and agonizing, I started to think about the fact that G and I live by ourselves, and I imagined all the things that could go wrong if we were both severely ill with H1N1 at the same time. What if she needed to go to the doctor, or worse, the hospital, and I was too sick to take her? What if I got so sick that I needed medical treatment, and G was the only one here with me? I'm a pretty tough person, and I was brought up to handle things on my own (P once said that if you could sum up my philosophy of life, it would be Look after yourself, because no one else will do it for you), but that idea really worried me. The only thing that frightens me more than something happening to her is something happening to me and her finding my dead body - having experienced that myself, I know it isn't something you get over easily, or at all. Obviously that's the worst-case scenario and things very likely wouldn't reach that point, but they could.

So in the end, I decided that I'm going to get G vaccinated as soon as our doctor's office has it, and I'll get the vaccine myself if it ever becomes available to people in my age group. Is it the same decision I would make if P were still alive? Maybe not (although P would probably have wanted her to have the vaccine, and I took that into account as well), but it's the best decision for the situation we're in now. You've got to adapt to your circumstances to survive, right?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

His amber eyes were like ... amber

G is in bed reading Twilight, which she requested, in her words, "so I can see what the big deal is." I am desperately trying to withhold my snark until she's finished and has formed her own opinion, but it's so hard. Nothing brings out the snarky beast in me like terrible writing, especially when served up with a side dish of sparkly vampire lurve. (Don't worry, I read the first book myself about a year ago, and it's 100-percent sex-free, not to mention remarkably bloodless for a book about vampires -- around page 200, I started thinking If someone doesn't bite someone else soon, I am going to go insane. They didn't, but the faint, fond hope that a plot would magically emerge kept me going through the next few hundred pages.)

I hope she doesn't fall in love with it and end up wanting to read the whole series. I'll be biting my tongue for the rest of my life!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Someone notify the marketing people

Ever since my college job in a natural-foods supermarket, I've been fascinated by the way the grocery-shopping demographic changes according to the day and time. Moms with toddlers shop on weekday mornings. People with day jobs shop right after work. And based on the trip I just returned from, this is who shops at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday:

• Couples without kids (2)
• Pairs or trios of roommates (3)
• Parents shopping with/for their young adult children (2, one mom, one dad, both with daughters who looked around 19 or 20)
• Old people on their own (5, both genders)
• People buying nothing but alcohol (2, but I'll bet this number goes up as the night wears on)
• Men shopping alone (all ages, too many to count, but at least 15 or so)

I suppose to this list you can also add "widows whose children are sleeping over at a friend's," since I was there too. I do wonder what moved everyone else to go shopping at that particular time, though. (Well, not the nothing-but-alcohol crowd. I know why they were there.) I went when I did because G loathes the supermarket, so I thought I'd spare her the torture of having to go with me by doing it while she was occupied elsewhere. But grocery shopping seems like an odd way for a group of young male roommates or a college-age girl and her dad to spend their Saturday night. Strange.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Every once in a while, just for a few minutes, they're friends.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not all gloom and doom

You know, I think a lot of people don't realize that G and I have a pretty good life. They envision us living under a pall of sadness, crying all the time, and we don't -- we do errands and see movies and go shopping and goof around and chill out at home just like everyone else. G is a normal, happy kid who is involved in activities and has playdates and sleepovers with her friends. Our house is a normal house with school fliers on the fridge and family photos scattered around. Sometimes there are moments when we're reminded that other people's families are different -- I'm thinking of a recent letter from the PTA that moved me to send an e-mail pointing out that not all kids have two parents at home -- but those moments don't come every day, or even every month.

Do we miss P? Of course we do. (Well, I do; I'm not sure how clearly G remembers him anymore, although she does make a point of marking his birthday on the calendar every year.) Do I wish he were still here? Absolutely, especially when something unexpected goes wrong, or I want to share something that only he would understand. But I've figured out how to make things run pretty smoothly most of the time, flat tires and cat vomit notwithstanding, and if you could watch us on a hidden camera, all you would see is us living an ordinary life, with an ordinary mix of fun and stress and boredom and excitement.

I don't think people get that - not so much the ones I interact with every day, but the friends and relatives I don't see very often. They imagine that our life is still as grim and joyless and desperate as it was just after P died, but it isn't, and it hasn't been for a while. And I wish I could help them understand that it isn't as bad as they think, and they don't need to worry, but I don't know how. Maybe there is no way.

On a concluding note, here are G's new Halloween toe socks. You can only be so miserable in a pair of socks like these:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conversations with G

Listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack:

Me: Who would you go with, Raoul or the Phantom?
G (deadpan): I'd pick the one who's not evil.
Me: Yes, it's always a good idea not to have an evil boyfriend.
G: Or a scary one.

Walking through an outdoor shopping center:

G: Are those hats fedoras?
Me: Yes.
G. Oh my God! I need one.
Me: Where would you wear it?
G: To school, of course.
Me: Don't you think people might find that a little peculiar?
G: So?

At the movies:

Me: You have to go to the bathroom before it starts.
G: I don't need to go.
Me: Go anyway. Do it for Mommy.
G: You are not my mommy. You're my annoying mom.
Me: Good! If I never annoyed you, I wouldn't be doing my job.
G: Aargh.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

P would say she gets it from me

Things G is currently obsessed with:

* Marilyn Monroe, and specifically Marilyn's famous rendition of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," which she has watched approximately 20225058 times on YouTube.

* Whether I can make an exact replica of Marilyn's pink strapless evening gown for her to wear at Halloween. (Short answer: No.)

* The title track from Phantom of the Opera.

* Getting a golden retriever puppy and naming it Penny Olivia Ophelia Pauline Stephanie Isabella Elizabeth, so its initials will spell POOPSIE.

Right now she's pissed off at me because I made her stop watching a 35-year-old documentary about the making of Young Frankenstein to do her homework. Life at our house is very strange.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Makes me happy

While cruising around on Facebook, I discovered that the least popular kid in my junior high now has a wife and an adorable little girl, and appears to work for one of the big Silicon Valley tech companies. Yay for him!

And thank God your position in the seventh-grade pecking order doesn't determine what the rest of your life is going to be like. Can you imagine?

Monday, August 10, 2009

What you see and what you are

This is me at Christmas 1985, when I was a 14-year-old high-school freshman. I was a bit of a late bloomer and was about the same size that G is now, at ten and a half -- a situation that caused me no end of angst, I can tell you.

The sad part is that in addition to being small for my age, I truly believed that I was hideously, irredeemably ugly. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw a misshapen troll looking back, but in fact, I was pretty cute, or at the very least, normal. I wish I had known that then. But even more, I wish there were a way to convince G -- who already dislikes her appearance and refuses to look at photos of herself -- how beautiful she really is.
Why are girls cursed with this distorted self-image?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Mom knows best

Yesterday I bought a copy of that immortal middle-school classic, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I told G she would love it, but she was underwhelmed by my endorsement, so I (re)read it myself and then left it on her bedside table in case she changed her mind.

Just now, I went in to see if she was asleep, and found her deep into the book, reading by flashlight.

"This is pretty good," she informed me.

Yes, yes it is!

Play that funky music

G has just informed me that I've ruined her entire weekend.

I know what you're all thinking -- "Did you ground her? Beat her? Cut the head off her favorite teddy bear? No. My heinous crime was informing her that she'll be participating in band this school year. I know more adults than I can count who regret not learning how to play an instrument, and G is not going to be one of them if I have anything to say about it. Which I do.

Needless to say, G took the news badly, moaning that playing an instrument is too hard and she doesn't want to. I told her that if she gets to the end of fifth grade and hates it, she doesn't have to do it again next year, but until then, she is going to play the clarinet even if it makes her lips fall off. (It doesn't have to be a clarinet. It could be a sousaphone or an oboe or a bouzouki. But given that this is elementary-school band, odds of it being the clarinet are pretty high.)

Truthfully, I kind of surprised myself with my own vehemence -- I'm pretty easy-going about most things, and in the past I've just let G try whatever interests her, racking up a checkered extracurricular history that includes tap, ballet, horseback riding, tennis and fencing. But music is important to me, and it was important to P (an accomplished guitarist), and I don't want her to miss out on learning the basics before she gets too old. She may not thank me for it later, but at least she won't be able to say she never had the opportunity.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Speaking with authority

We're at the movie theater and the preview for "2012" comes on ...

G (horrified whisper): The world is going to end in 2012?!
Me: No, that's all a bunch of baloney. No one knows when the world is going to end. Probably not for millions of years, though.
G: Oh. Okay! *cheerfully sits back to watch the rest of the previews*

Boy, do I wish I were still young enough to accept reassurance that completely. Not that I ever really did -- when I was about G's age or a bit older, I used to make my dad sit on the edge of my bed after lights-out and tell me all the reasons why the Soviets wouldn't bomb us. Imagine me lying there in my pajamas, saying "Okay, now explain the mutual assured destruction doctrine again," and you will know exactly what I was like as a child. No wonder I didn't fit in with the other kids in fifth grade!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Witches' brew

These last two weeks have not been good ones at our house. I'm stressed and exhausted from fighting the lice. G is tired of having her head inspected and her hair pulled with a metal comb. It's blazing hot and our air conditioning is broken, and the fleas, which I'd gotten under control before this whole lice thing started, have come back with a vengeance and covered me in itchy bites. (They don't seem interested in biting G, which is good for her, but for me, not so much.) Add in the overwrought mixture of preteen girl hormones and grown-up lady hormones that's constantly swirling in the atmosphere around here, and you have a recipe for disaster.

We really need a vacation -- a few days with a lot less laundry and cleaning and a lot more A/C -- but I haven't got either the time or the money for that right now, so we've just got to struggle along and try not to bite each other's heads off too often. Someone send popsicles and electric fans ASAP, pls.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Roll on winter

10 Things About Summer That Make Me Grumpy

by Vanessa, age 37 3/4

1. Sweat
2. Sweat in my bra
3. Crowds full of other people's sweaty bodies
4. Shirtless guys with back hair and scary-looking moles and pimples everywhere
5. Always having a headache from the heat
6. Too much damn shaving
7. Not being able to sleep
8. Feeling greasy all over
9. An excess of bugs
10. Being so hot I feel like throwing up

I am so retiring to Seattle or England or someplace else where it's always cool and rainy. Ugh.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lice and how to find them

One thing I've learned from the Lice Crisis is that lice are not as easy to spot as you might think. I brush G's hair for her every morning and help her rinse it in the shower, and I still didn't notice the little buggers until they were practically doing the samba on her scalp, mostly because I didn't know what to look for.

A few real-life friends have asked me this week how they would know if their child had lice, and since I've become an unwilling expert, I thought I would share a few tips for finding and removing them:

- Lice themselves are tiny, fast-moving brown bugs with a lot of legs. You probably won't see them in regular lamplight or indoor light. I finally found them on G by looking at her head under bright morning sunlight.

- Nits are tiny sesame-seed-shaped objects that are attached to one side of a single strand of hair. They're either yellowish brown or white/clear, depending on whether they've hatched or not. You'll find most of them around the hairline, especially behind the ears and at the back of the neck, but they're not limited to those locations, so be sure to look everywhere when you're picking.

- Nits are also glued onto the hair and either have to be combed out or pulled out individually with your fingernails. If you can brush it off or blow it away, it's not a nit.

- Plastic nit combs are crap. Buy a metal one. I got one from CVS that has two interchangeable combs, an attached magnifying glass, a pair of tweezers and a cleaning brush for about $10. I also bought the electronic RobiComb, but it only works on live lice and I'd already eradicated all of those by the time I started using it, so I can't vouch for how well it works.

- Combing will get a lot of the nits out, but nowhere near all. To get the stragglers, you have to pick. Make sure you actually verify that the nit has been removed (you can wipe it off on a wet paper towel) because sometimes they'll slide all the way down to the end of the hair strand and then stick there. Conditioner helps with this part.

- If your kid has thick hair like G does, you will need to section it off with clips while you pick. I've been clipping it up the way hairstylists do at salons and working on the underneath layers first, then the top ones.

Moving on, I only found four nits during this evening's session, and all but one of them were dead/empty, so I think we're winning the war, or at least this skirmish. I'm pretty sure I'll never use the terms "nitpicking" or "going through it with a fine-tooth comb" quite so blithely again, though. And given what I do for a living, I use them both a lot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You dirty rotten louse

I got so paranoid about having caught G's lice that yesterday I did the smothering treatment on myself as a preventative measure, only with olive oil because a reader had mentioned that it was less smelly and easier to wash out than mayonnaise. I tell you what, there is nothing better for your hair than saturating it in extra-virgin olive oil for two hours. I may or may not have lice, but my hair looks like a goddamn shampoo commercial. So soft! So shiny! So smooth!

In other news, I've discovered that nothing makes you feel more like a primate than sitting and picking vermin out of your little ape's hair. We've done almost 10 hours of picking over the last three days, and I'm still finding a few nits every time I inspect her head, although there are very few now and a lot of them are the dead, empty ones. She's been remarkably patient about this, especially considering how much she hates to have her hair brushed or even touched, and I've rewarded her patience lavishly with ice-cream cones and video games and new DVDs. She's watched Shaun the Sheep: Sheep on the Loose about 15 times since we bought it on Tuesday. Hey, whatever gets us through this, right?

As I wash and pick and comb and vacuum, I'm torn between wishing that P were here to help (and to check my hair for me, OMG) and being glad for his sake that he isn't. I'm pretty clean, but P was almost pathological about it, especially toward the end of his life when it was one of the few things left he could control, and I don't think he would have been able to bear the horror of lice on his child or in his home. He would either have made himself sick with mopping and scrubbing, or he would have done something crazy and desperate like dunking G's head in kerosene, or both. I'd still like to have him here for the emotional support, though. I'm really a very selfish person at heart. Sigh.

Anyway, I have about a million more loads of laundry left to do, I need to vacuum out the inside of the car, and I'll be doing head checks every day for the next two weeks, but I think we may be past the worst of it. I called my mother this evening and begged her to come over on Saturday and inspect me for nits, and she said she would; if that's all clear, hopefully we can resume some semblance of normal life soon. I'm so ready.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm in hell

G has been scratching her head a lot for the last week or so, but repeated checks of her scalp revealed nothing until today, when the bright morning sunlight clearly showed BUGS. Yes. Lice. We dodged the bullet back in May when she was exposed at a Girl Scout event, but her friend "Jenny" had them a few days before school ended, and I imagine that's where she got them. Aaargh.

Anyway, cue me calling in to work and then coating G's head in mayonnaise, scrubbing the mayo out in the shower, spending THREE HOURS going through her thick, thick hair with a nit comb, and then stripping every sheet, blanket, rug and pillow from her room to be washed. We're both exhausted, the cats are traumatized and the bathroom smells like a bowl of potato salad that's been left too long in the sun, but on the plus side, the itching that was tormenting her this morning is completely gone.

As for me, I keep feeling as if things with too many legs are crawling all over me, but I think it's psychosomatic because G and I don't share brushes or towels or any of the things that might be vectors for infestation, and also I just had my hair professionally colored on Saturday, which would have killed any creepy-crawlies dead. I wish I could get someone to inspect my head, just to make me feel 100-percent safe, but it's really not something I would ask a friend, even a close one, to do. The dreaded lice check is pretty much a job that only your mother can or should perform.

Monday, July 13, 2009

That time of year

This month brought both the third anniversary of P's death, on July 2, and our thirteenth wedding anniversary, on July 6. I cannot tell you how much I wish those events did not fall so close together, but they do. Nothing for it but to suck it up and deal.

I have more to say, but for now I'll leave you with a very early photo of me and P, taken about two years before we got married. This photo usually sits on my desk at work, and every time I look at it, I'm shocked at how young we are in it -- only twenty-two (me) and twenty-four (him). We grew up together, and that's an experience you can have only once in a lifetime.

I'm glad I had it with him.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may recall my campaign to make G into a fearless air traveler and not a white-knuckled one like me. I've taken her on three flights in the last 11 months (two of them cross-country), using every skill I learned in my college acting classes to appear confident and carefree instead of scared shitless, and now I know it was worth it.

How, you ask?

Because today she turned to me and said, "I think I might be a flight attendant when I grow up."

OMG! I thought. Aloud, I said, "Well, it would be cool to travel to a lot of places."

"Yeah," she said dreamily, "and I'd get to walk all around the plane while it was in the air." Then she paused and said "When can we go someplace on a plane again, Mom? I want to fly."

I win at life! All right, just for today, but still, I win!

On the bad-parent side of the coin, I introduced G to Monty Python's Lumberjack Song yesterday. She thought it was hysterical and has been going around singing "I chop down trees, I wear high heels, suspenders and a BRAAAA" all day. I suppose I should feel guilty about this, but it's my responsibility to introduce her to the classics, right? It's just like when I read her Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and taught her how to play "Ode to Joy" on the piano. Only not.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Secret ingredient

It's 7:30 in the morning and I'm making G's breakfast while she waits at the table ...

G: How do you make the cinnamon toast taste so good?
Me: Must be all the love I put in it.


G: Thank you for the love, Mom.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Spirits of earth and air

April 16, 2008:

So the other night (Thursday, I think) I woke up at about 1 a.m. because I had heard someone call my name, loud and close by, as if they were trying to wake me up. I looked around, but obviously there wasn't anyone there, so I went back to sleep.

A little while after that, I woke up again, and as I opened my eyes, I saw something over my bed in the dark, probably two feet above me and the same distance in front of me. I described it as an irregular circle to someone the next day, but it wasn't really round enough to be a circle -- almost a kite shape, but more circular than that. (Vague, I know, but I only saw it for a few seconds and it's been a while since then.) It wasn't very big, and I had a distinct impression that it was flat. It had a glow to it, and there were colors within the glow, green and blue, like the colors you see in an opal.

I was in the process of sitting up in bed as I woke up -- it felt like coming up through water toward the surface -- and as I sat up and got closer to whatever-it-was, it flew backward away from me, as if it were being pulled on a string. (If you've ever had a floater in your eye, it was a bit like that, the way they drift off to the side of your vision as you try to look at them.) By the time I was sitting all the way up, it was gone.

It wasn't a frightening experience -- I just lay down again and thought about it for a minute or two before turning over and going back to sleep -- but it was very odd. I don't really believe in ghosts (I don't not believe in them, but I don't have any real proof they exist, either) but it was almost enough to make me think I'd been visited by some sort of spirit.

Dec. 2, 2008:

... Maybe six months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a strange, kite-shaped glowing object hovering over me, glowing with half a dozen opalescent colors. I saw it for a split second and then it flew backward and disappeared. I had forgotten about it until last night, when I had a similar experience.

The last time this happened, I had gone to bed fairly late and hadn't been asleep very long, and I woke up because I heard someone say my name. This time, I had also gone to bed late, but I don't know what woke me, only that I opened my eyes and this thing was directly in front of my face. It wasn't solid like the last time, but made up of dozens or hundreds of tiny red and green lights. They were connected in a vaguely spherical shape by strands of something I couldn't quite see, and the overall effect was of a tangled bundle of Christmas-tree lights. I saw it and I said out loud, as if I were answering a question someone had asked me while I was sleeping, "It's because you aren't here. I wouldn't do it if you were here." Whatever-it-was then flew backward over my head and (I assume) disappeared through the headboard of the bed. I looked at the clock -- it was 1:41 a.m. -- and then I calmly went back to sleep and didn't think about it again until I was in the shower this morning.

Time to lay off the crack, eh?

April 20, 2009:

Twice in the past I've written about waking up shortly after falling asleep to see glowing/lighted objects hanging just over my bed. Well, last night my subconscious took it to a new level, because I saw an actual person in front of me. I had fallen asleep about half an hour before, and as I started to wake up I saw a young man (maybe in his early twenties) with short, dark blond or light brown hair, holding something in his hands. He wasn't transparent by any means, but he clearly wasn't solid either, if that makes any sense. I woke up and sat up at the same time, with that coming-up-through-water feeling I've had before, and I tried to grab at him, but he was moving away from me, and my hands went through him. By the time I was sitting all the way up, he was gone and I was fully awake. I looked over at the clock and saw that it was 1:22 a.m. ...

... I know it must have been a dream, but it wasn't like a dream at all because there wasn't any plot preceding it -- he wasn't a character in a dream I was having, he was just there as I woke up. If anything, it was like I woke up because I knew he was there and wanted to get a better look at him, or possibly at what he was holding.

I hadn't been bothered by the two glowing-light experiences, but this one did disturb me a bit -- I wasn't frightened, just a little freaked out because well, I thought I'd seen a stranger in my room. But I was really tired, so after a couple of minutes I just shrugged and went back to sleep. I told my dad about it when he called earlier this evening, and he said I should write it all down and turn it into a best-selling novel. He would say that. :)

April 25, 2009:

... Also, here's something that I have to admit freaked me out a bit. Last Saturday, I had that strange experience, and today, I found out that my mother's youngest brother had died unexpectedly a couple of days before it happened. The last time I saw him, 25 years ago, he was about the age of the young man I saw in my dream, and looked similar, with light hair. But the really spooky bit is that it turns out a few months ago, he had lost the fingers from his right hand in an accident and was deeply depressed about it. I had thought the man I saw/dreamt of/whatever was showing me something in his cupped hands, but maybe what he was showing me was his hands themselves -- that they had been restored and were whole. I generally consider myself to be a skeptic, but sometimes it's hard to be one when weird things like this happen.

Discuss ...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I've been all over the place today. I woke up in a strange, reckless state of mind and left home wondering if I was going to say or do something I would regret later. Next I got some kudos and a possible opportunity that put me in a great mood, and then along came an unexpectedly large expense that made me want to tear my hair out. It's getting close to midnight and I still don't know whether to categorize the day as good or bad. Plus, I still feel weird and jittery, as if something big is about to happen. It makes me nervous.

Also today, I got proof positive that I am completely oblivious to other people. When I went downstairs to get lunch, one of the chef guys asked me "Were you at [name of shopping plaza] last weekend?" I said "Yeah, on Saturday night," and he said "I thought so. I was there to see Star Trek, and I saw you sitting on a bench outside and thought 'Hey, I know her,' but I didn't want to bother you."

I said that I had been there to see a movie too and we chatted about what we'd both watched for a few seconds, and then I walked away with my burrito feeling like the most unobservant person on the planet. Not only did I not see this guy on Saturday (I was waiting for a friend and had my nose stuck in a magazine), but if I had, I never would have made the connection that person at the movie theater = person from the café at work, unless someone pointed it out. And yet he somehow managed to recognize me out of context, at a distance, and in the dark no less. Either he's some sort of super-secret super-spy, or I go around completely lost in my own world all the time. I'm thinking it's probably the latter.

And on a final, vermin-related note, I found out that both of our cats have fleas and that G was probably exposed to head lice during her Girl Scout troop's sleepover last weekend. My skin is crawling just thinking about it, especially the lice part -- I've made it through 10 years of parenting without ever having to deal with lice, and I don't want to start now. I already dosed the cats up with Capstar and Frontline, so they should be fine, but lice ... ewwwwwwwww. The girl with the lice is a lot younger and she and G didn't really hang out or sleep near each other, so hopefully we've escaped the scourge. Only time will tell.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Joe Cool

At the dinner table last night:

Me: Who did you play with at recess today?
G: Um, Mom, I don't exactly "play" at recess anymore.
Me: What do you do instead?
G: I hang out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Survey says

1. How old were you when you started walking or biking to some places (e.g. school or a friend's place) on your own? What were the circumstances?)

I was allowed to play outside on my own starting at about age 7. I started walking to school alone after we moved to Houston, when I was nine and in fourth grade. Around the same time, I also started walking to the park by myself, and I remember very clearly being allowed to walk to the Stop 'n Go down the street for the first time. (I bought a candy bar and a Richie Rich comic book. Good times.)

2. How old were you when you started taking public transit on your own? What were the circumstances?

I started taking the public bus to school at the beginning of ninth grade, so I would have been 13, almost 14. I went to school in another city, and it was quite a long trip -- 45 minutes on two buses.

3. How old were you when you first took a long-distance trip (unaccompanied on the bus, train, or plane, even if you were met at your destination) on your own? What were the circumstances?

I don't think I ever did this as a child. I do remember that when we lived in Houston, my best friend from Louisiana, who would have been about 11 at the time, flew by herself to spend a week visiting me.

4. This set of questions was inspired by a news story about a woman leaving her nine-year-old in downtown Manhattan to find his own way home on transit and the controversy it caused ( What's your reaction to this story?

I think a lot of the people who flipped out about this are from the suburbs. Nine is too young, IMHO, but most of the people I've met who grew up in NYC started using public transit independently at a pretty early age. Incidentally, this is also really common in large European cities -- I used to know someone from Paris, and she said that she and all her classmates were taking the metro to school alone by the time they were 11 or 12. (Now, whether I would let G do this is another story -- see the next question.)

5. At what age would or did you let your kids (hypothetical kids, if you don't have them) do those things where you live now?

G is 10 -- close to 10 1/2, actually -- and she isn't allowed to play outside or go anywhere by herself. If we lived in the neighborhood immediately surrounding her school, where there isn't a lot of traffic and most of the people know each other, I would most likely let her walk to school next year (fifth grade) if she walked with a friend. But, we live on a busy street and don't know our neighbors, so she's not going to be walking anywhere without me in the near future. Maybe when she starts junior high.

As for the other situations, I wouldn't allow her to take public transit alone until high school, and probably not even then. Our bus system is awful and it's easy to miss a connection and get stranded somewhere, plus I have not-so-fond memories of being harassed by men, both in cars and on foot, while waiting at the bus stop. On the other hand, I probably would let her fly alone to visit relatives at 13 or so, assuming someone I trusted was meeting her at the other end.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Could have been worse

I spent quite some time this morning begging G to please please PLEASE go and see a movie with me for Mother's Day. She refused to do that, but she did finally consent, after I told her it was the only way she'd be eating as I wasn't going to cook, to eat lunch at a restaurant in the mall. I don't know why she always chooses Mother's Day to have one of her "I don't wanna go out" days, but she did the same thing last year.

On the bright side, once we actually got to the restaurant, she was very pleasant company, and even agreed to go to the bookstore for 20 minutes when we finished eating. She ended up getting a Webk*nz while we were there, so it was a good deal for her.

Anyway, I suppose this problem will eventually solve itself because she'll be old enough to stay home and do what she wants to do while I go out and do what I want to do, but I'd rather have her spend the day with me. Only, you know, not under duress. Sigh.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Oh good grief

Me: Hey, Mother's Day is this Sunday.
G: We should get a present for Catherine! She's a mom.
Me: Okay, that's great for the cat, but what should we do for me?
G: I don't know.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Here it comes

Friday night is the big annual Fifties-themed sock hop at G's school. She's excited and has already planned her outfit. I'm looking forward to it with all the enthusiasm I would reserve for another root canal. This is because unlike other events, where it's pretty common for one parent to bring the kid(s), the sock hop is a family night, which means that the few people I know well enough to chit-chat with will be with their families, leaving me to languish in total boredom while G alternates between running around with her friends and appearing to announce, "Mom, I need money for popcorn/glow bracelets/root beer floats/raffle tickets/a live raccoon." (OK, I'm kidding about that last one, but if they had a live raccoon booth she would totally be all over it.) I don't mind sitting by myself per se, but three hours is a long time to watch people do the Cha Cha Slide and eavesdrop while they gossip about other people I don't know. I wonder if it would look too weird if I brought a book to read.

How have I managed to have a child in the same school for five years without connecting with any of the other parents, you ask? Beats me. There's certainly a network of parents who know each other, drive each others' kids around, socialize outside school, etc., but I'm not part of it. We went on a big group trick-or-treating expedition last Halloween because G got invited by a friend whose mother is part of that network, and no one except the friend's mother said two words to me all evening. I think it's partly because we don't live in the neighborhood immediately surrounding the school, where most of these relationships seem to flourish; partly because I work full-time and am not at the school during the day; and partly because I don't have much in common with them other than the fact that our kids go to school together.

I know if P were around the situation would be different -- he was the sort of person who could talk to anyone, and if I walked away from him for five minutes in the video store, I'd come back to find him embroiled in a deep discussion with a total stranger about the merits of Jackie Chan vs. Chow Yun-Fat. But, he's gone and I'm crap at small talk, so here we are. It doesn't help that I don't watch TV or follow sports -- he used to say that those were the two golden topics if you wanted to talk to people you didn't know, and from conversations I've overheard, he was right. He also said that most people thought I was standoffish and didn't like them because I didn't jump in and chat, and he was probably right about that too. It isn't true, though; I don't dislike very many people at all. Well, except for those beeyotches from last Halloween. I have a special frowny face for them. Here it is: >:-<

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beware the borborygmi

Today's Word of the Day:


noun: A rumbling noise caused by the movement of gas through the intestines.

Personally, I think "borborygmus" sounds like the name of a prehistoric monster.

"Run, Chet! It's a borborygmus, and it looks hungry!"

"Looks like you got borborygmi in your back yard, ma'am. I'm gonna have to lay down some traps."

"As the juvenile borborygmi left the nest for the first time, the adult borborygmus kept a watchful eye for larger predators ..."

Tee hee!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

A short review of root canals:

They suck. Don't get one.

Yes, yesterday morning I went to the dentist with a throbbing toothache, and five hours later I was at an endodontist's office having a root canal. I can't take regular novocaine because it has epinephrine in it, and the alternative anesthetic isn't as effective, so I ended up getting five injections (two before the procedure and three during it to "top up"), which was loads of fun, let me tell you. I'm not that bothered by needles, so I can't imagine what it would have been like for someone who is.

Anyway, the whole thing was quite unpleasant and I'm very sore and fragile-feeling and can't eat properly today, but even so, the aftermath hurts less than the toothache itself did. The downer is that he couldn't finish the whole procedure yesterday, so I have to go back next week to have my tooth reopened, the roots shaped and the packing stuff put in, and then one more time to get the actual crown.

Oh, and as I was leaving, all numb and puffy, he gave me a prescription for antibiotics, but said not to take them unless I notice swelling or redness. I hate when doctors do that. I don't want the responsibility of deciding whether I need medication or not -- you're the doctor, you tell me! What if I get an infection and don't realize it, and end up maimed or dead because I had the antibiotics and didn't take them? It could happen. (That said, I just checked out my mouth and I don't see anything even slightly abnormal. But I do have a headache which is clearly a rampaging brain disease. :P)

Of course I don't want to take them if I don't have to, since that's how antibiotic resistance happens, but I do question whether my degree in English literature qualifies me to make medical judgments. I'm thinking it probably doesn't. I can analyze the heck out of your short story, though. Ha.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

And now for something more cheerful

Totally fab video:

I wish life were really like that!

Tripping in the holes

Sometimes it amazes me that almost three years after P's death, I'm still uncovering new bits of loss. Little things; things I hadn't even realized I'd lost until I thought of them.

Take tonight, for example. I was reading my daily blogs, and I saw a comment from someone that began "My husband and I were lying in bed one night and talking about the kids ..." I thought I remember doing that, and then in the next instant, I will never do that again. And it's true. I can talk about G with friends and relatives and strangers on the Internet, but I will never, ever again lie in bed at night and discuss her -- her education, her activities, her friends, her future -- with her father, the only other person in the world who cares about her the way I do. It took my breath away to think about it.

This whole business of widowhood is like having your house robbed. When it first happens, you come home and see right away that there are empty spaces and useless, dangling wires where the television and stereo and computer used to be, and you flip out and call the police and there's a huge fuss. But then later, over weeks and months and years, you slowly realize that a lot more is missing than you saw at first glance. You go to put on that special necklace, the one you loved even though it only had sentimental value, and you search and search for it before realizing that they must have gotten that too. You need to hang up a picture and the toolbox is nowhere to be found. You go to make a smoothie one morning, and oh fuck, they even took the blender? Surely they wouldn't have taken something like that, would they?

Only they did. They took it all, big and small, important and insignificant.

Everything is gone.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Things you don't see every day

Today I saw a clown randomly walking down a busy street. No sign of a birthday party or circus anywhere nearby -- just a guy in full clown regalia, walking along as if he were heading for the bus stop or the supermarket.

"Hey, there's a clown!" I said to my friend, who was driving. Perhaps not the most astute remark, but what else can you say in that situation?

Anyway, now I want to go back at the same time tomorrow and see if he's there again. I'm imagining him making the same trek every day, sweating under his red nose and greasepaint, off to a destination only he knows. It's the March of the Lone Clown.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to get a Harry Potter fan to do math

G (face down on her desk): Uuuuugghhhhh.
Me: Just one more problem to go. You can do it. Everyone is counting on you!
G (starting to giggle): Like in Quidditch.
Me: Yes! Grab the Golden Divisor for Gryffindor!
G (laughing so hard she can barely hold her pencil): Okay.
Me: ... And she's done it! Gryffindor wins the Improper Fractions Cup.
G: Can I go start reading Goblet of Fire now?
Me: Be my guest.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Friday was P's thirty-ninth birthday. I can't upload my own photos right now, so I'll have to mark the occasion with an image of some blue hydrangeas like the ones I took to the cemetery for him.

Happy birthday, P. If you were here, I know you'd be telling everyone you were still twenty-five, the way you always did. And if I could have you back, just for one day, I'd let you get away with it.

Halfway point

We are finally, as of 4:15 yesterday afternoon, officially moved out of our old place. This is the result of eight hours of sweaty, backbreacking solo work that I put in throughout the week, and I would like to thank the Girl Scouts of America for giving G something else to do for four and a half of those hours, or else I'd still be over there hauling junk and mopping floors right now.

I feel like I've been beaten up, but at least I'm done.

Except that now I have to unpack everything here at the new place.

Oh God.

One thing I realize every time I move is how dirty houses and apartments get after a couple years of living in them. I do clean regularly (although not with the bacteria-annihilating zealousness that P did), but when I look at a place through the eyes of a prospective new tenant, I suddenly discover appalling filth lurking in places like the tops of appliances and the edges of cabinet doors and the floor behind the toilet. I can only assume that I never notice it because it's my own filth and I'm comfortable in it. It's like a snuggly warm coat of filth!

In other news, we still haven't got cable here at the shiny new Casa de V. I suffered through a few days with no Internet at all and then remembered that I still had AOL installed on my old laptop, so at least I have some connectivity now, if you can call being connected at 41,000 bps "connectivity." I haven't used dial-up in almost seven years, but I don't remember it being nearly this bad before. Not only does every page take 20 minutes to load, but a lot of sites won't display at all because they have Flash or are otherwise optimized for broadband users. But I have to admit it's fun to hear the beeping and hissing and sproinging of a modem dialing again; it reminds me of the exciting summer of 1996 when P and I got our first computer, and I would spend half the night going from Web page to Web page to Web page, marveling at the way it seemed never to end. Oh, techno-innocence, how sweet you were. Not as sweet as wireless broadband, though.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If I only could ...

... chaperone field trips and help with class parties the way G wants me to.

... not feel guilty about staying home with her when she's sick.

... meet her after school with a plate of cookies.

... never miss work because it's a school holiday.

... or because I have to wait for a repairman.

... or for half a dozen other reasons.

... always get home before dark.

... serve balanced meals that we eat at the table, not in front of the TV.

... skip doing errands and go to the park on Saturday.

... see a movie in the theater that is not rated PG.

... do a better job at everything.

... be in two places at once.

... travel in time and space.

... change reality.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby

In the almost 13 years we were together, P gave me lots of nice gifts: an iPod, a cell phone, a ring set with an heirloom diamond. But in honor of the holiday, let me show you the gift that stands out above all the others in my memory:

He and I had been talking about our favorite childhood foods one day, and I'd gone on at some length about how I had loved Hostess lemon pies, but hadn't been allowed to have them often because my mother had (correctly) thought they were egregiously terrible junk food.

The following evening, he went out to pick up a few things at the supermarket, and when he came back, he whipped a Hostess lemon pie out of a bag and said, "I saw this and had to get it for you."

Screw trying to impress people with flowers and candy. That's love!

Happy Valentine's Day. :)

Friday, February 06, 2009


Why I have not been around much lately:

A.) I was abducted by aliens and mistakenly returned to a cow pasture in Idaho. I had to hike back and am posting this from a wireless hot spot at the Burger King in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

B.) I won 46 million dollars at Powerball, and G and I have been busy buying out toy stores, going on cruises, and throwing fistfuls of cash in the air like Scrooge McDuck.

C.) We're moving in two weeks, and all the available brain space that isn't dedicated to work, school and laundry has been consumed by moving-related decisions, leaving me without the mental wherewithal to compose posts.

Feel free to choose the most entertaining option rather than the most plausible one. I know I would. :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hard to believe

Ten years ago today, P and I had a brand-new baby.

Now we* have a tall, beautiful ten-year-old daughter who is more than halfway to being grown up.

Happy birthday, G!

*He may not be here, but she's still ours and always will be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If you could ask me a question, what would it be?

Anything goes.

I'll probably answer.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Not long ago, G was watching a DVD that had a preview for an Arthur special called Arthur's Missing Pal. There's a moment in the preview (at 0:15, if you must know) where Arthur flings open the door of his house and dramatically shouts a single word to the neighborhood at large, and because I wasn't paying very close attention, I thought what he had screamed was "BLAAAAAAAAH!"

I said to G, "Why is he screaming 'BLAAAAAAAAH'?" and she said, through tears of laughter, "He's not screaming 'BLAAAAAAAAH,' he's screaming his dog's name, Pal. You know, 'PAAAAAAAAL!'"

We both laughed until we were nearly sick, and ever since then, we've been turning to each other at random moments -- in the grocery store, in the car, when I'm tucking her into bed at night -- and saying "BLAAAAAAAAH!" I'm sure this doesn't sound even slightly funny to anyone who wasn't there, but I've had to stop twice to stifle giggles while typing out the story.

It's the little things.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If I can't swim after forty days

When last we spoke, my dishwasher had broken, followed straight away by a mysterious backup in the kitchen sink. Badness.

So for the next couple of days after that, the sink kept filling up with hot, greasy water and food debris at random times, prompting me to call the management office twice and ask for someone to come out and look at it. It had drained and was empty on Thursday morning, but when G and I got home from her school fundraiser on Thursday night, it had not only backed up again, but spilled over and flooded the kitchen.

At that point I threw every towel we own down on the floor and called the maintenance emergency number. About half an hour later, the repair guy arrived, somewhat grudgingly (WTF? Is a flood not an emergency? It was last time I checked.) He discovered that either the upstairs or next-door neighbor's garbage disposal was clogged, and their rinse water and ground-up food was coming up in our sink. Ugh! He then disappeared for about 10 minutes and in his absence, the sink made a horrible sucking, gurgling sound and drained for good, leaving behind a mess that looked exactly like stomach contents -- remnants of shredded chicken and rice and some gooey yellow stuff and a sort of red grease. Double ugh!

I spent the next hour and a half scrubbing this glurge out of the sink and off the counter top, throwing away water-damaged items, sopping up standing water on the floor and in the cupboard under the sink, and mopping the tile, gagging all the time because it was just so gross. My own ground-up leftovers would have been bad enough, but this felt like a stranger had strolled in, puked in the kitchen, and left me to clean up the mess.

Anyway, I finally got everything to an acceptable level of cleanliness, but that wasn't the end of my troubles. I'd noticed that the carpet around the edges of the kitchen felt damp, but it wasn't soaked, so I wasn't too worried. Well, apparently "damp" is just as bad as "soaked," because when G and I got home on Friday evening, I opened the front door and was nearly knocked over by the smell of mold that blasted out. I've spent the last two days airing and drying and cleaning, but it still reeks -- downstairs worse than upstairs, but you can smell it everywhere. In addition to the runoff from the tile, I'm fairly sure that water seeped through the dividing wall between the kitchen and the living room and wet the carpet behind the big armoire that holds our television. I can't move the armoire to find out (last time we moved, it took three or four men to shift it) but it feels pretty clammy back there.

The weird thing is that I've been plagued by water problems in the last two places I've lived. In the triplex where we lived with P, we had to get the pots and pans out to catch drips every time it rained, the bathroom ceiling collapsed on me because of a leak in the standpipe, and two days after G and I moved out, a pipe under the kitchen sink burst and flooded the living room with 40 gallons of boiling water. Since we've lived here, the tub in G's bathroom has developed a leak that poured down the outside wall of the building, the hall ceiling has flooded and sagged from air-conditioner overflow, and now this. I don't really believe in ghosts, but if I did, I'd be wondering whether some poor drowned person was trying to send me a message!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Not so gr8, rly


Called the management to report that my dishwasher was refusing to drain and regurgitating hot water and suds onto the kitchen floor.

Saturday and Sunday:

Grumpily washed dishes by hand.


Came home to find a note from the repairman stating that the dishwasher "works fine" and I should "use the correct soap." (I'm thinking he saw the bottle of regular dish soap that I had been using to wash dishes IN THE SINK, because I COULDN'T USE THE EFFING DISHWASHER, and assumed that I had half-wittedly used that instead of dishwasher soap.) With this assurance, I loaded the dishwasher and ran it, and when it got to the rinse cycle, dirty water backed up into both sides of the sink and wouldn't drain. I suppose this is an improvement in that it isn't spilling onto the floor, but not such an improvement in that now I can't use the sink OR the dishwasher.

Color me unimpressed.

On the bright side, G has decided that she now will eat sandwiches made with processed cheese slices, bringing the total options for her packed lunches to three. (The other two are jelly sandwiches, which come home uneaten half the time, and cold plain pasta.) I can't begin to tell you how challenging it is to create a cold lunch for a picky vegetarian who insists on a "main course," but refuses to eat peanut butter, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt (except Gogurt), real cheese, or any of the other vegetarian staples. I hope she manages to expand her repertoire before she leaves for college, though I suppose at least she'll have a hot plate and a microwave at her disposal there.