Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And I laughed when I saw them, in spite of myself.

I feel the need to get these sugarplums nailed down before they are reduced to faded visions in my wee little head:

Dee thought the right jolly old elf that came to visit our Christmas Eve celebrations was "just pretend" because his voice "sounded a lot like Uncle Forrest's." Also, she was a little suspect because the Uncle Forrest Santa gave her a Fisher Price camera instead of the princess doll she had requested. She was certain it would arrive in her stocking, like all gifts from Santa. I did my best to boost her materialistic expectations for years to come by explaining that sometimes, Santa brings presents at random parties, under the tree and he also leaves a stash in your stocking. I'm sure a lifetime of disappointment and putting on a game face for her mother's benefit will begin holiday season 2010.

T received his beloved hard plastic dinosaur family under the tree. Since then, the Dinos have joined T for long winter’s naps in his crib. When he woke up with a croup like cough on Christmas night, we spent some time breathing in the bathroom while the shower pumped up the steam volume. When we returned to his crib, T, in a barky whisper, immediately inquired about the whereabouts of his dinosaurs.  Then T lined them all up by his pillow before declaring that he was "all bettr."  Translation:  A Happy Christmas to all, then, and to all a good-night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Insignificant numbers.

Hub and parents, with Dee, are out shopping 3 stores to get the food for all of his childhood favorites.  So I've been home "alone" for 17 minutes.   4 minutes were spent getting the rice going for dinner tonight, 8 spent picking up the kitchen, 5 was for surfing the net (legit, actual free time), and now Baby Nar is crying.  Ugg.  After 2 days with her doting grandparents, Nar is demanding to be held all 21 of her waking hours.

I think I hear T stirring in his crib. Up from nap already.  I myself have slept a total of 6 hours the past 2 nights and not because I have an important brief to write and file or some other time sensitive task from my old life.  No.  I'm just busy getting my butt kicked by the holidays.  From my quick, but precious, recent excursions into the blog world, that seems to be the story all over.  It's good to feel a part of something. 

OK.  Must stop.  After 12 minutes of crying, mother guilt has kicked in and I must get baby.  Hope to be back later.

5 hours, 29 minutes later.  Dinner is done, Frosty the Snowman movie viewed because its the holidays, big kids in bed, but Baby N is still rooting.  I'm tired because I started this whole holiday visit staying up till 2 am making 4 curtain panels from scratch.  I had been meaning to sew the stupid window coverings for 8 months or so, but procrastination got the best of me.  It was only my 10 year effort to impress my inlaws that caused me to get the job done a mere 8 hours before their plane touched down.  Now my mother in law can change clothes in peace without my fenced backyard to see. 

Later that same day, Martha let me down.  I attempted to make her fabulous looking gingerbread snowflakes.  But the dough stuck to the pan, the parchment paper and everything else.  Even when I followed her meticulous, "freeze 15 minutes to set after rolling," and "freeze another 15 minutes to set after cutting out cookies but before transferring to pan" instructions.  Yawn.  I should have followed the recipe of that has-been, Mrs. Fields.  While her 80's bangs and hair color do look dated, her gingerbread once worked for me.  I was childless then, so maybe it was a matter of energy.

So at 9:15 pm, I mixed up some fool proof sugar cookies.  Let's just say Crisco is a necessary ingredient.  The reason for all this stress?  Another deadline, of course.  Many weeks ago, I offered to host a homemade cookie decorating party for my friends and their preschoolers on holiday break.  In our perpetual scramble to fill the days, I offered up cookies at 10 am. 

At 7:30 am today, with sugar cookie dough chilled over 1 night, my mother in law began baking.  In in the interim, I cleaned house, fed and changed kids, made frosting and assembled individual frost and sprinkle stations for the 4 and under set.  At 9:57, while changing out of my pajamas and into real clothes for the party, I glanced out the window and noticed my girlfriend circling the block.  Fortunately, she had 1 Starbucks coffee in hand for me, and the awesomeness not to arrive 1 second too soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Name that gnome.

Last Sunday at Dee's school party, a little gnome that's a stranger to me gave my kids an image of himself in the form of a plush toy. His name is "Tomtegubbar," and apparently, he's Swedish:

A few days earlier, while scrambling to get the dessert slot on the sign up sheet for the party, I noticed a mostly foreign word at the top of the page. I recognized the "tomte" part, because c'mon, that's common knowledge to us third gen Swedish Americans. Tomten is the little guy like Santa who brings presents on Christmas. He's also the guy (along with his friends) who appears in tchochke form all over my house come Christmastime, mostly because of the "Made in Sweden" stickers affixed to the miniature clogs. It's how I know he's my people.

Spry, huh?

   You go, GF!

So with the confidence of a gal who knows her ethnic clutter, I asked about the tomtegubbar thing. "Is it German?," I asked.

I said that I'd heard of tomte, but that gubbar part, ahhh, no. The teachers explained that a former, real Swedish family, who's kids had graduated and gone on to win prospective Nobel prizes, had first introduced the humble school to Tomtegubbar. Turns out that he is no plain jane tomte, he is Sweden's one true holiday house gnome. The one with the goods.

"Ohhh," I said. "Did I mention that I can bake some mean pepparkakors, Swedish for ginger cookies? It's my grandmother's recipe.  The one from Sweden." They didn't care. I had already been revealed as the white bread goober that I am.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Old Wooly.

That's right, I tell the Boden people. Just send it to: 5555 My Address, where romance goes to die (I've heard they use fives in Hollywood for addresses and phone numbers. I'm pretty sure I'm almost there).

If I could stick an instant read thermometer into "room temperature" at my 1927, drafty old house, we could verify what I already know. It's cold in here; at least 20 degrees cooler than the 70 degrees indicated on my heat register. That box is never accurate, and at this point, I treat it only as a wish list.

To keep me ambulatory as I bumble about my day, I have come to rely on a trusted friend; Old Wooly. This was my first Boden purchase, a clearance item that is 100% lambswool. I know this because the tag says so, but also because when I wear Wooly, it warms the very core of my soul. Seriously. Wooly is a work horse. In Wooly's two short years of life, it has shrunk beyond buttoning (an unfortunate dryer incident), and acquired a little hole that looks like I put a cheese patch there for a mouse to nibble. Gross.

Nonetheless, wool has become a prerequisite for all my sweater purchases. If it's not wool, it's crap. Equipped with that shopping mantra, I've also found a sister for Wooly. A cheaper, more trendy model from TJ Maxx that boasts bell sleeves but that same great lambswool. Unlike Wooly (and my Crocs - Tim Gunn says they're taboo), I actually wear this little number outside of the home.

Wooly and his little friend have not been well received by Hub. Perhaps because their high circulation in my wardrobe batting order remind him of that box of a flowery housecoat worn by grandmothers the world over (at least in the 1970's and prior). You know, the one that suggests an androgynous being underneath that can cook a mean goulash, but is, well, matronly.   Hub tells me that he doesn't like housecoats, flannel pajamas with piping and wool.  Apparently, wool is itchy for some people.  Wool is a turn off for some people.  Hub suggests whether maybe some snug fitting, athletic microfleece can sub in for Old Wooly. 

Like I've said before, I'd like to believe that I'm not a number of things, including simply matronly. I'd also like to believe that I'm a sporty, tight microfleece wearing kind of gal.  However, I've found something that works.  And if the sweater fits (snugly, for certain), if it keeps me warm, and if I don't have to button (or zip) it, or go to the gym to justify owning it,  I might have finally found that identity I've been searching for...at least until Hub gets home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Voo doo.

I'm pretty sure I'm just a pin cushion with hips. While wearing pajamas that were last washed about a week ago (a recurring theme for me), I knelt down yesterday to give Dee a good morning hug and to ever so pleasantly, but not too urgently, ask her to go potty first thing and then get dressed for preschool. Despite my efforts to make the end of the sentence lilt up like the helpful remarks of Cinderella's devoted animal friends, Dee's response was to push away from me in her cutie jammie clad three year old body and say, "Mama, you don't smell good." Ouch. And a good morning to you too, dearheart.

I presume, per usual, that she sensed how very precious pee in the potty means to me. And how very quickly thereafter the wiping, flushing, hand washing, tooth brushing, dressing, hair combing and breakfast eating must occur before my true angel of a friend, who's still treating me like Baby Nar is one week old, comes to pick up Dee and take her to preschool. So we rush and I get stressed and yell sometimes. It's a way of life.

I'm okay dealing with the aftermath of our hurried morning routine. My unmade bed, dishes harboring the beginnings of cereal concrete and breakfast for the kids by way of snack trap. So long...as I...get...the...girl...out...the DOOR! I also feel a certain sense of accomplishment if my buddy doesn't have to actually come up the porch to fetch Dee. I guess I'm not as okay with the fact that my daughter's first thought when she sees me is, YOU STINK!

On occasion, Dee has also been known to tell me that:

"You have a weird butt," edited to "you look like a nice monster," when I sought clarification. Ouch.

The ever popular, "you smell like a doggie," or "your hair looks weird." Ouch again.

The other night, after I served the family a lovely dinner of penne pasta with Kalmata olives and tuna (all white tuna in water, mind you), Dee informed me that I "didn't do a good job on dinner." Ouch one more time.

How easily I forget that I do often smell like drying baby spit up, or even day old baby spit up. Which might smell like dog sometimes. I know Dee doesn't like dogs. And usually when Dee says my hair looks weird, I know deep down inside that it does. I must have slept on it wrong and the bobby pin didn't stay in right to form the part I want.... Or its just not as frizzy as I like it.

My sweet baby doll also reminds me that I "did good" on dinner sometimes. Those times usually involve noodles and cheese that rhyme with "raft," but sometimes a delicate miso soup or her grandmother's Chinese spare ribs (tried with great effort on many occasions by me).

Dee also often tells me that I "look pretty." Those utterances usually first require that I put on tights or the dreaded nylons and two inch heels. While elastic leg wear isn't a necessity of my current duties and invitations, I've been known to find an excuse to wear such things, because they're magical.

It's at those times that I'm pretty sure my daughter thinks I'm a princess. Then all I have to do to seal the deal is actually play dress up with her, or do a craft.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A good thing?

Last week, as we all returned back to the children's activities, briefly suspended for Thanksgiving break, many of the people in my little life asked me about the big day. I hosted a small gathering for Thanksgiving. That's right. I did the turkey with all the trimmins' between swaddling sessions and toddler smack downs. My cousin and her family, my uncle, and some friends shared the day with us. I was in control, as I like it. I got to review my cook books, online recipes, stuff that I've wanted to try for a year since I first saw it on the Martha Stewart show, and a new recipe to doctor from last week's Parade magazine. In reality, my cousin brought almost half the food, but the feast still felt like mine.

After everything was said and done, I made my hub recap the day with me. And by "recap," I mean talk over every detail of the food I had prepared. What tasted awesome, what was too dry (the stuffing, sadly). And to tell me again what he thought was awesome. I was feeling some kind of natural high that caused me to stay up past 2 am, coming up with what appeared - at the time - to be some knockout blog ideas for future posts (I'm pretty sure it was the fancy holiday wine). The high stayed with me through the weekend when we magically transformed the house from cornucopia central to a winter wonderland and then hosted some friends for a long overdue dinner (the hub's a chef and I'm forever intimidated).

In any event, wow, what a weekend. I was happy. We did it. I got to cook and hub got to clean up after me. When Monday and Tuesday came, I skipped merrily back to preschool and toddler school. Everywhere along the way, the people that know me best in this town inquired about Thanksgiving. Over and over, I was asked questions like these:

"How was dinner, did you use all Martha Stewart recipes?," or

"Did everything come out like Martha Stewart?" and finally,

"Oh, you must be so pleased."

It was almost like I had just birthed a healthy bouncing baby, without complications. Except I was - and am - concerned. What's with all the Martha Stewart references? Over the past two years as a stay at home, mother of three mom, have I inadvertently hitched my identity to the Martha Stewart brand? And what about all of that shameless product promotion? While preparing crafts for the toddler school party, do I just casually reference the features of the Popsicle sticks I'm using? While baking, do I remind my listeners of the wonders of Ziploc baggies for all sorts of air tight purposes?

The truth is, I like watching Martha Stewart. It's rated "G" and it's my go-to show, especially when the kids are milling about. It's on DVR, and the show's content feeds that comfortable part of me that my mom nurtured. Growing up, we baked and baked and baked, and sewed a little, decorated the house, and talked about it all with a disgusting amount of genuine interest. We still do.

The problem now, as I creep toward the dreaded "4-0," is that I'd like to believe that I have a little more edge to my personality than that (as you've probably noted from this blog, there's a lot of things that I'd like to believe). Can't I be one of those gals who's just now rekindling her "need for speed," or mining for dandy garage band downloads?

The second truth is, I was always a slow mover. A solid junior varsity runner. The comforts of home are actually a comfort to me. I suppose that's why I've chosen to do all this home stuff at this time in life. All I need now, I guess, are a couple child rearing segments on Martha.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dirty job.

The other morning, while I was nursing Baby N in her room, T - still in his crib - called across the hall to me:

T: Maaaaaammaa, I wna wr my rhynocrs shrt!

Me: No honey, you can't. It's not clean.

T: I wnt mine futball shrt.

Me: No, it's still in the wash too.

T: Mine airpln shrt.

Me: No, honey. I'm sorry. I think that's dirty too.

Finally, after flipping through his Rolodex of shirts that he used to like to wear, T offered up one more option. This time, T's query was not quick and casual. Nor did it escalate in demand, like his other requests. The question lacked any hope that the shirt would soon be slapped onto his body. No. This time, T's hesitant,"Tgr one?" puffed out like a brand new medical resident offering up a diagnosis.

Poor kid. "Tgr one" has been at the bottom of the hamper for weeks, even months. I'm surprised T even remembered that he once possessed a shirt with a big tiger head on the front.

I racked my own Rolodex. Dragon shirt? No way. That was deep-sixed weeks before the tiger. Other football shirt? Maybe. Lame baseball shirt with tiny fake cardinal and three-quarter sleeves? Probably.

You know you're a terrible laundress when a two year old can't even find anything to wear.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm thankful for a dark kitchen and a Tupperware full of real whip cream that isn't flat and watery yet.

I'm thankful for loads of salt. Especially finishing salt, introduced to me and supplied to me in addictive volumes by a dear friend.

I'm thankful for light, sweet wine. Both white and red.

I'm thankful for holidays with cousins. All the fun, no baggage.

I'm thankful for a gaming system. It makes everyone happy, especially my husband.

I'm thankful for chocolate turkeys on a stick. They were gone in a flash. I think Dee inhaled hers.

I'm thankful for the Duplo hitch and wagon set for T to drive around the coffee table about 60 bajillion times.

I'm thankful for cranberries with cardamom spice. It makes everyone feel a little more Swedish-American.

I'm thankful for remembering the rice this time. Ten years and my husband finally feels at home.

I'm thankful for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Wow. Three hours of babysitting.

I'm thankful for a day of blissful cooking while dear hub cleaned up after me.

I'm thankful for my hazelnut and persimmon salad. Validation for a year of just about vegetarianism. Also, there was finishing salt.

Of course, I'm thankful for my three little babies, sleeping now after a day full of lots of attention from loving people, sweets and not-so-age-appropriate 4 wheeler video games riddled with headers and crayons. Especially when it was Mama's turn.

Also, did I mention the finishing salt?

Happy Thanksgiving Day, dearhearts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rock and rumble.

Those first morning cries are not urgent or sad. Steady, measured bursts of sound come from my baby daughter's mouth to wake me up. I retrieve Baby N from her crib and am greeted with a smile and the sounds of gulping. She starts moving her arms and legs like a challenged octopus and gives me the look of pure glee that is reserved just for me. We settle in with the Boppy and the blanket and she curls her body toward me.

Every morning, my Baby N and I nurse and rock in the same place. It's the bright red rocker that has harbored the spills and snuggles of two newborns before her. The rocker stands out as the "eclectic" piece in my gender neutral, jungle themed nursery, which adeptly reappeared for each kid in three different houses.

Baby N stretches her legs straight as planks and pulls her arms high above her head, fists tight and eyes closed. Her chin is tilted up and her lips pucker out and downward, reveling in the stretch. It's the newborn stretch that stands out for me in the blur of newborn hood. Baby N is now full and satisfied, and its as if she's telling me that the day can now begin. She's received the jump start required for a relatively seamless transition to the car seat (not to mention the spit up that inevitably appears when I squeeze her stuffing out with the five point harness).

From here, Baby N will take extra long naps while I scurry to her siblings' engagements or succumb to the siren song of the grocery store. She's ready to bump along, without complaint, over three flights of stairs to her brother's toddler school. She'll readily accept lunch in the snug fit of a non swiveling chair secured to a table at the local bowling alley. Later, Baby N will endure the "narrows" between the van and the garage wall as I make a a muddled attempt to get from car to house while carrying her, the diaper bag, T-Bone's plastic dinosaurs and various food and drink vessels. Once we reach the threshold, she'll patiently wait - inside or out - while I escort her sister to the bathroom to avoid a potty accident. From there, her next meal is any one's guess. Baby N may get top billing in the living room because my latte is still hot and I need a reason to sit down. Or she may have to wait, fretting at a low rumble in the bouncy chair while I tear up cold cuts for lunch or read T-Bone a story and get him down for his nap.

Throughout it all, the one constant my baby doll can rely on is a good rock in the red chair. One might expect a bang and rumble, quickly escalating to thunder in this unjust existence. Strangely, up to this point, Baby N has elected to take the high road. She sleeps soundly through the night swaddled as tight as flannel stretches and coos and giggles with her daddy and I after her sibs go to bed. It's a treasured time, like easy summer evenings or the bright days of September. Yet even now, as we delve into Baby N's third month of life, her personality is unraveling a calm and patient nature, not the Japanese "thunder" that the name Nari (Baby N), is supposed to embody. Perhaps she'll save the storms for teenage-dom, or even tomorrow. But for now, I'm happy to rock along in her quiet existence.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

That jiggly bit.

So, I'm back at the YMCA. This time, I'm not bobbing around in the zero approach pool with swim diapered kids or suffocating in the sauna-like atmosphere of the indoor pool in late July watching swim lessons while 15 months pregnant. No, this time, I'm putting myself first, trying to run off the baby weight while learning the intricacies of locker room etiquette from the retirees who seem to have established - and rigorously enforce - those rules. At this point, I'm mostly failing on all levels. Mainly because I don't have time to wait my turn for the curtained showers (the preschool clock is ticking), and because of all the cookie variations that are available to me.

I imagine the exercise helps, but I believe I expend more energy getting to the gym than any cardio that actually happens on the proverbial treadmill. I'm also finding that while the 2 hour per Diem/who cares how many kids you have/in-house daycare is worth the gym membership alone, I'd rather sit at the Y Cafe with my friends - kid free - than don Lycra and "feel the burn."

The other day I learned, while naked in the open showers and scrubbing away with my new travel size carrot-flavored shampoo (for avid gymrats), that 38 is actually the old 12. A superfit thirty-something mom (who - in a fair world - would have kids no younger than 10), didn't have her shower essentials. I, per subtle instruction from the gym grannies, offered up my gymrat shampoo. This exchange alone required me to talk to another person while naked. And when Superfit Mom accepted my offer, I was then required to traverse across the shower area for the hand off. All the while aware that someone other than my husband could now fully observe the muffin top that has become an impressive layer cake.

Ugg. I'm back. Lamenting a flat chest, butt zits, or whatever other body image issue that was causing me to pine for the curtained showers in the mid '80s. Ugg again. At this point, aren't I significantly closer to that red hat and purple clothing that serve as signs of self acceptance? Haven't the years of ladder climbing, successes, tears, love and labor moved my little pink car closer to a win in the "Game of Life?" The answer appears to be a quiet, but persistent voice in my head mouthing, "no."

Damn. I thought maybe the carrot shampoo would do the trick this time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A late introduction.

Hey there, dearheart.

I say that to all of my friends. The ones I really love, and the ones I know that I’m going to love. Once you’re in, I become a bit of a stalker.

So, I’m trying my hand at this blog business. I get it that most people don’t care, but I guess it’s the three or so people who birthed me, married me, or held my hand through serious relationship pain that I’m targeting. So...let's meet the family that you've already met!

Today I’m thinking about the fact that I have to force myself to exercise or really do anything to better my well-being. You would think that this sort of objective wouldn’t require much cajoling, but it does. In my lazy, real self world, I would sit with bags and bags of Mint Milanos watching House Hunters (or Two & 1/2 Men, of all shows!) until I learned that I missed the bag of Cheetos behind all the aging Asian food in my pantry that my half Chinese, half Japanese (third-gen American) husband collects (referred hereinafter as "Hub"). Seriously, we have some apparently "perfectly preserved" dried sausages that were purchased in Chinatown in Chicago in 2001. The stuff has made the cut through two cross country moves!

To escape this perpetual food search, and to kid myself that I do have a purpose here, I resort to tricks. I force myself to schedule activities, do errands (a life long endeavor), and – oh – watch my children. It’s a lot easier to do so long as the bathtub isn’t running and I don't feel the need to clean the kitchen....

Anyhoo, wow. I just ran two ½ marathons this summer and fall. Regretfully, my body doesn’t look much better than it did after my little son, T-Bone (or "T"), arrived 18 months ago. Isn’t he tough? He’s not actually. Barely hanging on to the first percentile weight wise, but it’s the nickname my Hub dreams about, all 5 feet, 7inches of him.

We also have my darling daughter, almost-three Dee, who describes herself as the "sis," and manages to finagle the word "purple" into every conversation. Like, when I ask, "Are you a spank?," she'll say, "No, I'm a purple spank."

What else? I often make jokes like I spank my kids, but I don't. I'm not sure why I do it, maybe it's because I was spanked as a kid - and much more often - threatened to be spanked. My parents were and are loving and wonderful, and obviously, I survived. There may even be some colors flying around somewhere....

I guess it is a nervous humor, like toddler potty humor. Like the kind my kids and I freely engage in every time we find ourselves in a drive through coffee line, with plenty of time to make fake toot and fart sounds.

At the moment, I have some fabulous things surrounding my little aura. First among them is the fact that we are expecting our third child, due in August. We had a name for T when he was in utero - Tiny Bun. This one hasn't yet picked up a name. Dee likes to call him/her the "Baby on the Mantle," referring to the rolled up ultrasound pics that reside above the fireplace. Poor third kid. But very much anticipated. Maybe "Dog-Eared Spank" is appropriate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What would Lincoln do?

On the third of three weekends spent by myself with the kids while Hub worked, I sloshed around this past Sunday with the kids in the Y pool. After a solid hour of making the pool circuit, wherein I held T up front and Dee hung from my shoulders while we scooted around the big mushroom that rains chlorine and avoided the perpetually dumping buckets a few feet over, I finally called it good and we made efforts to get out.

While drying off T, the 18 month old, I had the bright idea to remove his swim shirt and shorts before putting on his baby beach robe, in hopes of warding off hypothermia. Dee took this action as a cue to strip, and promptly had her suit off and was back in the water - naked as a jay bird - before I had opportunity to maneuver the terry cloth over T's little bird arms.

In that same moment, the teenage lifeguard swept over to advise me that disrobing was not allowed "on deck," and that (slimy, open toilet) family changing rooms were available for that purpose. While gripping Dee's arm, my first reaction was not the professional, accommodating, "thank you, it won't happen again," that I aspire to fall upon with Obama-like regularity. Instead, I was instantly defensive, and exclaimed (at least three times), "BUT, he's still wearing his swim diaper...."

Of course T's fig leaf did nothing to assuage Dee's nakedness and our obvious violation of what must be Rule No. 427 of the Y's pool rules. The disappointed lifeguard seized on this weakness in logic, causing me to end the conversation with more defensiveness. Something like, "well, that wasn't intended," and then, finally, "okay."

Wow, I'm smooth. For once in my life, I'd like to avoid turning conversations that do not involve praise for me into something negative, even argumentative. I get that the lawyerly thing courses through my veins, but must I always explain myself? I figured by my mid thirties, humility and the "Serenity Now" principles could help me to keep my mouth shut.

You know, to take the high road, like Abraham Lincoln. While listening to an interview with a Lincoln historian during the "Lincoln's 200!" birthday festivities, I learned that in his day, President Lincoln was often the butt of jokes. Lincoln shook these off with aplomb, however, because he had such a strong sense of self worth. Perhaps that's my problem, then. Self-esteem issues and aggressiveness. No wonder I'm grinding. (:

Friday, February 20, 2009

The nightly grind.

Every other day or so, I play "chase" with my kids. I pretend to be a bear, coming up on all fours from the basement. I "grrrrrrr" at them, and crawl around the corner. They wait for me, get face to face, and then scamper and squeal away. Sometimes they growl back, presumably because they think I'm only half nuts, and will soon return to the comforting tasks of blanket fetching and snack conjuring.

The bear I face at night growls and grinds away at my permanent teeth. It comes from that half nuts part of me that has apparently been driven to the brink by motherhood.

I wasn't always a grinder. I was fitted for a plastic night guard about four years ago, after I'd already made a good dusting of my enamel. Things, and by things, I mean those little white cubes in my mouth that allow me to lead a full and happy life, have only deteriorated since my daughter's birth. At the current moment, as I pamper and avoid paddling the two kids I have, and await the arrival of their sibling, that dang bear attempts to dislodge a tooth on the lower right side from its very roots. My dentist tells me that the cost to repair my own unraveling will range around $30K. My dad tells me that for that price, I could buy a new head.

Today, on the cusp of my second trimester, I learned from my OB that I have actually lost weight since the last appointment. This fact is not a result of morning sickness or loss of appetite, but because of the bear. The grinding has recently caused enough discomfort to keep me from eating. Eating, and all that munching and crunching that it requires, causes my right jaw to ache and radiate pain by dinner time. If I don't head things off with Tylenol well in advance, I might as well settle for a can of Ensure.

I'm not sure what this means. Maybe I'm coming full circle, and will soon be reduced to a baby-esque liquid diet myself. I understand through my anecdotal (and very scientific) research, that the stress of parenting small children can increase teeth grinding. Is my grinding a slow, ugli-fying, and costly form of suicide? Would the treadmill help (please say it isn't so)? Hypnosis?

Does anyone have any other ideas for grrrrring back at the bear?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Peach and peanut butter sandwiches.

Mrs. M, or as my mother fondly called her, "Jean," was my old lady babysitter for a couple of summers when I was 8 or 9. I hated every minute spent with her. And I think my brother will back me up on that sentiment. Except for the one precious day when his friend's mom picked him up early, and the opportunity allowed him a whole afternoon of smug happiness at my expense.

As I said, Jean was old (I feel that I can call her by her first name now that I survived childhood). Also, she was mean. Jean lived in a little house on the side of a busy mountain highway, with her big dogs and her aspen leaves and wildflower-in-resin jewelry projects (God help us if we entered the room where her dried leaves and such were stored).

What I remember about this lady is that she reprimanded me when I laughed. She said that I was too loud. This, about the kid who was always labeled the "shy" one. The "thank goodness her birthday was beyond the cutoff for first grade so she could gain a few months on the other kids," one.

Every morsel of food Jean ever fixed for us made me sick, so much so that every meal ended with at least a dry heave. It was sort of my homage to her. Peach sandwiches were regular sustenance, and when I say "peach," I mean slimy slices of canned peaches, not a big juicy one from Grandma's heirloom tree out back. No, we had fruit cocktail and peanut butter (likely tainted), on wheat bread.

Also, there was nothing to do at Jean's (except laugh to tears). Usually, on warm days, my brother and I would spend as much of the day away from her, in her driveway, digging "scenes" in the dirt with sticks. My favorite was a giant mermaid. Then, when it was time to come in to eat, or when that magic time when "dad was almost here," approached, she marched us to the bathroom for a scrubbing with her infinity bar of homemade soap. My face still feels dry.

Also, we never left the house expect to venture to the woods behind her house to dump her garbage in a hole as big as a quarry pit. Apparently, the hole existed for Jean's trash alone (never mind our fine furried, and not so furried, friends).

Under her vice grip, we also periodically made Frogger-like crossings of the busy highway to get to the post office across the street. Inevitably, when we returned home, we were met with a sea of pee that her dogs would leave on the linoleum that lined every inch of the house.

One day, I came up with a solution to my own problems (the woman could cause a kid to start bed wetting). I brought my trusty baby blanket with me that day. Upon arriving at Jean's, I promptly sat on her vinyl couch, covered my entire person with the blanket, including my head, and feigned sickness until one of my parents came to release us. As a result/reward, I was not forced to eat anything. I thought I really had something. I thought Jean and I had finally struck a working relationship. Unfortunately, the next day, she banned me from the couch and head coverings of any kind.

So the "la-la-la-la, I can't hear you" trick didn't work with Jean. But my pleas to my mother of the honest truth about Jean didn't work either. My mom listened to me, but she didn't do anything to get me the heck out of Dodge. Back then, I couldn't understand why she kept us there, and I didn't really get it, like most things, until I had kids myself. Turns out, mom did Jean's hair, and the babysitting arrangement was likely an in-kind exchange.

At the moment, I'm trying to figure out where, and for how long, I should let my kid go to preschool. My sanity and money, along with D's well being, play a role in the decision. I haven't decided yet if I should send D to the "guaranteed to be an elected official, a saver of the planet, or at least an Elk's scholarship recipient" school, or the other cheaper, "more religious than we are" one that starts early enough for Hub to drop her off (freeing me up to address pressing issues, like breakfast dishes).

I guess before I do anything, I should check the snack menus.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trip wires.

So I had this friend in high school whose mother drove me up the wall. We would be all ready to leave her house - hair teased, tye-dye's side knotted - just grabbing our fab purses from the Limited. And just as we were about to slip out for a viewing of the Little Mermaid and dinner at Pizza Hut, or some other dorky, straight-as-an-arrow activity, Amy's mother, I remember her name was Barbara, would call out:

"Amy, did you fill up the Waggoneer with gas?"
"Amy, don't forget, you need to return those Reebok hikers tomorrow."
"Also, please take your brother's ski poles out to the garage."

And just as the question/answer/task period got excruciating, Barbara would call out, "Amy, come here a minute, I need to talk to you."

At which point, I would wait at the front door, peer at myself in the mirror in the hall, and contemplate how inferior my clothes, and general being were, to Amy's. My obsession with my lack of cash relative to my peers has happily followed me through life. Back then, I wore Amy's dress to homecoming. Not the new purple ribbed and double-vested one that she had purchased especially for the occasion, of course, but some utterly unflattering dropped waist type like the one Chelsea Clinton later made famous as a pre-teen at the White House.

Eventually, we would make our escape, although I don't believe Amy ever considered the at-the-door exchange with her mother something to escape. That booby-trap feeling, like the hole in the woods covered with a precarious layer of sticks and leaves, that's bound to cause me a delay, is particularly my own. It's bloomed over the years into a proper pet peeve, and I find, especially with a spouse and children, that I am surrounded by such bear traps.

I knew when I first met Hub that he had some Barbara-like tendencies. Inevitably, during those first blissful days of dating, when we were are all buckled into the car, ready to head out to a sunny baseball game, and then to loll away the rest of the evening at a rooftop bar, Hub would jump out of the car several times to get his sunglasses, or his chapstick, or his little bag of meds that med-types must carry with them at all times. The process would burn me up.

My children too, just like Barbara (and apparently Hub), seem to exist in my life to seek out things to keep me from what I want. Just when I settle in to check my little sites on the computer after a hearty lunch, a kid will scream from around the corner. Inevitably, someone has tripped on a hula hoop, hit their toe wrong when jumping off a bathroom stool, or reached the point of no return because they can't wrench a plastic train from behind the dresser. The process that ensues, when I have to get up, find the child, reprimand the offending object, console the kid, give a little kiss and pat, before finally returning to my rightful place at the kitchen table, is simply exhausting.

It also leads to resentment, hours of "kid shows" for my precious ones, and the urge to simply give up and stay in my pajamas all day. Like today. It's as if I'm still in that dropped waist dress of Amy's. Still resentful, and still wondering if I'm going anywhere anyway.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yes, I will have you.

I will have you
Yes I will have you
I will find a way and I will have you
Like a butterfly
A wild butterfly
I will collect you and capture you
You are an obsession
You're my obsession

("My Obsession," by Animotion).

I'm not talking about a hunk of a man here, or even the four layer coconut cake that calls to me weekly. No, I obsess about a house down the street that I didn't buy last fall. It's sort of a reverse buyer's remorse affliction.

After weathering the yet-to-be-named recession in late '07, moving for a job, and holding a lovely, but slightly quirky main-floor master home for over a year, we SOLD IT, actually sold the sucker in August. Then, at the precise moment that the market dried up and people battened down the hatches, we started our long anticipated home search. It took about 15 minutes. I know every circa 1940's "Cape Cod-esque" home in my 20 block target area, generally with four-foot high attic ceilings and little tiny bedrooms for the gnomes that live upstairs. Everything was too little for too much money. Except one. My realtor (QT Blonde) thought it was too much. Hub thought it was too much. Something about bigger - and more - fish in the sea. The house went off the market (apparently) until the spring.

QT Blonde had some polite phone conversations with the for-sale-by-owner homeowner. To no avail. They wouldn't come down enough, and we (and by "we," I mean blood thirsty Hub) wouldn't come up from what we understood the home was worth. So nothing happened, and we all entered the hideous winter season that has turned my rental into a personal insane asylum.

In the last few months I have turned "the House on 26th" into a Mecca of sorts. Everyday that the snow allows me to maneuver my automobile out of the driveway, I casually "swing by." Every time I muster enough energy to load the double stroller with kids and snacks for a walk, we cruise 26th. Every running route included a convenient rest break in front of the House on 26th. It's gotten to the point that Hub suggested that we pose for our holiday snapshot in front of the place.

The problem with that, and most of my stalking tendencies, is that the family who lives there is always home. Pruning trees, happily greeting preschoolers on the sidewalk, touching up the paint on the front door. Halloween brought a perfect collection of pumpkins on the front stoop (one for each family member, I'm certain). And the day after Thanksgiving, a night drive revealed to me a Christmas tree beaming out from the front picture window, accompanied by those absolutely uniform white lights along the roof line that I thought only professionals could affix.

Unfortunately, other observations have slightly marred my dreams of Christmases to come at the House on 26th with my own tangle of lights. For one, I think the homeowners' cars have changed. I swear, the "Honda only" family appears to now own a Toyota and a Subaru. Also, from what I can see from the street, the expansive attic bedroom that was once presented as a kids' room (and permanently designated as such in my world) now appears to contain a queen size bed flush against the East window. And also, Hub thinks all the kids look six months older than the other ones. But he doesn't have any hard evidence (smart ass).

So...maybe they sold it or maybe they are renting it out. At this point, I don't really want to know if the House on 26th is beyond my grasp. Spring, and the uptick in the market are a long way away. For the moment, as I rock back and forth in my snow fort, images of my kids pressing their noses from the inside of the windows at the House on 26th sustain eternal hope.