Monday, August 31, 2009

The Day In Which Holly Deems Herself Capable Enough to Tune Her Own Stinking Piano

Tomorrow, being September 1st and all, means that school and winter preparation must commence. On the September page of my calendar in the kitchen, which is the only organizational method I really have for knowing what exactly I should be doing on a day to day basis, what year it is, how old my children are, etc., I have put down the costly expenses that come with the onset of a new season. These include things like: get chimney cleaned, get furnace cleaned, tune piano, plant bulbs, get snow tires, get school clothes and supplies and withdrawal bribe money for the teachers, etc.

As I looked over this list, I immediately crossed off plant bulbs. (I have never ONCE done this in the fall. No… once. I remember. My dad and stepmom helped and it was cold out and my hands hurt.) I scrutinized the list to see what other things I could scrimp on.

The piano desperately needs tuning. Caleb starts piano lessons shortly and I can’t bear to listen to him practice if the piano is going to sound as it does in its current state. In its current condition, it would not be fit for a seedy bar in a bad part of Detroit.

However, shelling out $100 for a tuning always seems so terribly painful. And it was with furrowed brow that I sat at my kitchen table sipping W-Coke when I thought to myself, SELF… perhaps you could tune the piano!

And why not? I can tune a guitar! And guitars and pianos are both string-type instruments! I consider myself a resourceful and a somewhat intelligent being; how hard could this be? Though I wasn’t blessed with perfect pitch like my father, I have a good ear and know flat from sharp. It’s just a matter of tightening or loosening the strings.

I began to get excited. Ideas always seem so good and innovative in the first few minutes after you’ve thought of them.

I do have a history of tuning musical instruments, beginning, I believe, in seventh grade band. I played the sax-a-ma-phone and if memory serves me correct, I don’t recall tuning it much in years before seventh grade band. I suppose our instructors were more concerned with us eking out an actual note in the general vicinity of a correct pitch. But in seventh grade band, everyone tuned their instruments before practice. I sat and listened through the cacophony of instruments playing concert A to see if I could tell if I was in tune. (I couldn’t.)

The girl next to me, and I don’t remember her name, was older and didn’t talk to me much. But I remember the following exchange vividly. During the first week of school, she turned to me as we were tuning our respective sax-a-ma-phones.

“You are very flat,” she stated, rather flatly. So I adjusted my mouthpiece accordingly and played again. “Still flat,” she said. I adjusted my mouthpiece again. I let out a nice long concert A with a bit of vibrato at the end. She shook her head, sighed in disgust, and turned away from me.

I quit band after the ninth grade. It was for the best, really, for everyone involved.

After making the decision to tune my own piano, which is an upright Steinway, I went and removed all items perched on the piano with gusto. Then I dusted the top of the piano, because it really called for dusting. I opened the top and peered in at the hammers and strings and then played a bit of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and imagined Jerry dancing around trying to tire out Tom.

Caleb came by to see what the heck I was doing.

What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m going to tune our piano.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m going to make it sound better.”

“Are you going to fix the D-note?” (The D above middle C sounds especially bad.)

“Yes. Yes I am.”

“Well that’s good.” And then he went off and played “spy on Daniel” which is the latest craze at the Jennings’ household.

As I fiddled with the innards of the piano, I couldn’t help but note that the strings were, well, thicker than I imagined them to be. And the tighteners (I don’t know what else to call them) were not like tuning pegs on a guitar. They weren’t gonna budge with hands. I immediately thought… I shall use a small wrench for this project. This is when I decided to google “how to tune an upright piano.”

Apparently, there are specific tools one needs to tune a piano. Using a small wrench is NOT recommended as you could break strings. For a couple of brief moments, I considered purchasing such a tool, known in the piano tuning industry as a “tuning lever.”

As I browsed the exciting website, I also realized I hadn’t thought about what I had in my home that could dispel a perfectly pitched tone. (Unless, of course, I could get Ella to scream continuously for hours. Her highest pitch is a perfect E flat. How do I know it is perfect? One can sense these things.) My first thought was my old harmonica… and I think it was then- when I realized I was considering using a harmonica to tune my piano- that I saw the absolute lunacy of my plan.

So, I closed up shop and put everything back where it belonged and played the D above middle C and shuddered. And then I looked up the piano tuner’s phone number and resolved to call him before the week was out.

One the plus side, while browsing the internet, I discovered new and exciting items available for music lovers. If you should come to my house within the next couple of months, you may very well find yourself staring at keyboard themed toilet paper while sitting on the pot. (Because one must support the arts somehow.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Holly's Adventures at Sea (and some on land, too)

On July 28th, Holly writes:

We are leaving August 22 from New Orleans to a couple of spots in Mexico and then back to New Orleans again. I'm totally pumped. I plan to eat, sleep, read, eat, swim, and terrorize Mexican natives. It's going to be totally sweet and awesome.

The following is an account of said journey across the great Gulf of Mexico.

Day 1: The day in which Holly and John leave for the warmer part of the country, called "The South."

We awoke at 4:30am and stumbled around in the dark and left for the airport, but not before returning our movie rentals to the Family Video. The flights were uneventful. We arrived in New Orleans and took a shuttle bus right to the port of New Orleans, which is the most amazing port at the end of the very brown Mississippi. It is everything that the Rochester fast ferry COULD NEVER have been because, even though a hurricane did not recently ravage our fair town, no tourists seem to ever cometh forth.

If you, like me, love being a tourist, New Orleans is the city for you. Its airport is named after Louis Armstrong, for heaven’s sake. It is a cool town. You can participate in all manner of guided tours: haunted house tours, cemetery tours, bayou tours, garden district tours, riverboat cruises, and the list goes on and on. We had about three hours to kill before our big boat left the port, so we wandered about the French Quarter and marveled at the wonder that is the city of New Orleans, a city that because of its poorly planned geographical location simply should not be.

We also marveled at how ridiculously friendly Southerners are. Now, I realize that New Orleans’ residents are sensitive about certain cruise lines and other tourist companies heading out of the city with Katrina never again to return, so some of their exuberance might be attributed to the mere excitement of reclaiming their glory as a top-tourist destination in the U.S. (The streets were pleasantly filled but not overflowing with plump white people taking pictures with bulky cameras underneath bright-colored sun visors.) But most of the tourists hailed from Southern towns like Memphis or Baton Rouge. I have a strange suspicion that their kindness has something to do with the fact that Southerners are brought up with good old-fashioned manners and an ethos of genuine consideration. I have never met so many people I really like gathered in one place before. Except for that guy who cut us in line as we were about to purchase beignets at CafĂ© Du Monde. Not cool, dude.

We wished we could have stayed late into the evening, when the streets come alive with jazz and blues and the smells of Cajun cooking, but alas, the ship blew its whistle and we had to be off.

Some interesting facts about Louisiana:

...In Louisiana, biting someone with your natural teeth is considered a simple assault, but biting someone with your false teeth is considered an aggravated assault.

...Louisiana is the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law.

...The Superdome in New Orleans is the world’s largest steel-constructed room unobstructed by posts.

We climbed aboard our big boat in the late afternoon and settled into our cabin where I took a much needed snooze. Later that evening, I had steak for dinner. Cooked medium.

Day 2: The day in which Holly makes good on her promise to sleep a lot.

I took a nice long morning nap, had a late lunch, and then had an afternoon siesta. I read a bit in between.

John and I contemplated various shore excursions. I was excited about swimming with dolphins. It has been my lifelong dream to swim in spiritual symbiosis with the gentle dolphin. My dreams almost came to fruition during our Bahamas trip in 2005; alas it was not meant to be. Dolphins, apparently, get “aggressive” with pregnant women. I was forbidden to get in the water with dolphins. In fact, that trip was the only time in my life I feared stepping into the ocean and spotting a dolphin, not a shark, fin.

BUT… this August day, I was happily not with child and ready to make my life-long dream a reality, despite John’s insistence that anyone who hates pregnant women has got to be an &*!#*. Then I saw the price-tag for the dolphin excursion. $179.95. Per person.

Perhaps swimming with dolphins is not so much a dream as it is a remote desire...

This was the night I dragged John to the karaoke lounge after our late dinner. I signed up to sing a song and waited patiently as person after person was called to the stage.

Keisha from Baton Rouge! Who all is from Baton Rouge? (The crowd goes wild.)

Mollie from Chattanooga! Who all’s from Tennessee? (The crowd roars!)

Jared from San Antonio. Who all’s from Texas tonight? (A steady clapping of hands.)

Finally they called me up. I received applause BEFORE I EVEN SANG! That’s how nice Southerners are. Then, our hostess, an extremely hyper short lady, asked where I was from. I shouted, with perhaps a bit too much pep, ROCHESTER NEW YORK!

Dead silence. Nothing but the sound of crickets, chirping. This is amazing since we were in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Hyper short lady doesn’t even ask if anyone else is from New York. Instead, she states… “It’s okay! I’m from New York too!” I think she was trying to reassure me?

That evening I had lobster for dinner. With butter. Lots of butter.

Day 3: The day in which Holly terrorizes Mexican natives and swims.

We left the big boat to head out to the town of Progreso, Mexico, where we were told there would be Mayan ruins to look at. We found a reasonably priced tour on land and boarded an air-conditioned bus that traveled through the Yucatan to Dzibilchaltun,the remnants of a once large city of Mesoamerica. The Mayans did a weird and useful thing and incorporated their knowledge of astronomy into their architectural monoliths and buildings. During the equinox, the sun aligns with the Temple of the Seven Dolls, creating a luminous spectacle that always draws a huge crowd. It has been determined that some of these structures served as a calendar. I’m not quite sure how, BUT the calendar seems to point to a marker-date when the sun perfectly aligns with the southern star gate building during the winter equinox in the year 2012.

The Temple of the Seven Dolls

It you didn’t know already, best you hear it from me. I don’t mean to shock you but the end of the world is coming, and it’s coming in December of 2012. Be ye prepared.

Religious wack-a-doos from all walks of life across the globe believe this to be the truth and, do not be alarmed, actually associate the end times as described in the bible with these Mayan astrological predictions. If you want to learn more about this, I will be printing out flyers and leaving them tucked inside car windshield wipers in mall parking lots within the next couple of weeks.

(OR watch the movie starring John Cusack coming out this fall.)

If there are creatures such as this walking on land, who knows what lurks within murky Dzibilchaltun waters.

I also jumped into the famous Dzibilchaltun cenote only to quickly climb out with much fanfare as little fishies were biting my toes. I didn’t realize they were just little fishies. I felt fairly certain a creepy and evil vestige of Mayan history had emerged from this deep cave just to pull me down into its watery netherworld. Hence, I shrieked and flapped and frightened the Mexican natives with my outlandish behavior.

This is a cenote. Now you know.

I was quite exhausted after that ordeal so I went back to the ship and took a nap.

I had steak for dinner. Medium rare. And ice cream for dessert.

Day 4: The day in which things take a turn for the worse.

Can mortals then (said I), with Gods compare?
Behold a God; mine is the watry care:
Through your wide realms I take my mazy way,
Branch into streams, and o'er the region stray:
No foreign guest your daughter's charms adores,
But one who rises in your native shores.
Let not his punishment your pity move;
Is Juno's hate an argument for love?
Though you your life from fair Alcmena drew,
Jove's a feign'd father, or by fraud a true.
Chuse then; confess thy mother's honour lost,
Or thy descent from Jove no longer boast.
While thus I spoke, he look'd with stern disdain,
Nor could the sallies of his wrath restrain,
Which thus break forth.
This arm decides our right;
Vanquish in words, be mine the prize in fight.
Ovid, The Metamorphoses

It was going to be a bad day. I knew this as I lay, writhing on a cot in the big boat’s infirmary in intense stomach pain, looking up at a (relatively) small, Polynesian man who nevertheless loomed over me armed with a long and portentous looking hypodermic needle. He then said the following:

“I would now like to stick this in your butt.”

(Rather long and awkward pause.)

John replies:

“I can almost guarantee you’ll have to buy her dinner first.”

Apparently this is what comes of angering the Mayan gods with my facetious talk and improper behavior on sacred grounds.

Should I not have pretended ancient Mayan peoples were about to burn me alive?

They gave me pain meds in the form of pills, injections, and a liquid medicine laced with lidocaine, which I promptly threw up. There has been much speculation as to what made me so sick. My theory is the recent inhalation of rich, fatty foods like steak and butter and ice cream. Of course, that explains the stomach cramps but not the intense and persistent vomiting. That can be attributed to a) a nasty little Mexican germ or b) the ghost of my diseased gallbladder come back to torment me.

I spent the next 24 hours in my cabin. At some point, we received a note under our door, informing us that I was quarantined and if they caught me leaving my room, they would be forced to shoot me in the head and throw me overboard.

On the bright side, I was to receive all of the FREE BOTTLED WATER I WANTED!!! Because that’s what one wants in a really great vacation: free bottles of Dasani.

John, who loves his cell phone, finds reception no matter where he is. He called my mother and informed her of my precarious state. After hearing our tale of woe, she paused and then told him the following:

“She really should have come with a warranty.”

I had nothing for dinner. I ate nothing all day.

Day 5: The day in which Holly revives herself by walking about the ship contemplating the purchase of items that are clearly overpriced. She also mopes quite a bit because she was unable to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Cozumel. She comforts herself by taking a nap.

The morning at sea was rough; we entered choppy waters and even ventured through what one adorable Southerner called a “squa-all.” We spent a considerable amount of time on the top, front deck staring into the horizon, spotting ships and oil rigs and the occasional manna ray that bellied up to the surface.

We ate our last dinner with our table companions: all couples from Southern States. They were the greatest people. I truly feel that I could bop on down to Chattanooga tomorrow and show up on Harold and Stacy’s doorstep and they might actually let me in. And be happy about it. Maybe. Then again, I think they might believe I have the plague…

Our server's name was Margo. I wanted to tell him my niece's name was Margot, but then I thought better of it.

We spent our last night in the big boat’s Universal Lounge where we watched a broadway-style musical entitled Ticket to Ride: A Tribute to the Beatles. I enjoyed it. I may have even waved a glowy stick around. John fell asleep but I woke him up during the singing of the nah nah nah nahs in Hey Jude.

Day 6: The day in which Holly must admit that despite being incapacitated for 20% of the trip, she still had a totally sweet and awesome anniversary vacation with her hubby, who, it so happens, is the most understanding, patient, and forgiving husband on earth.

The flights home were a little turbulent but were, for the most part, uneventful. Our children were returned to us in superior form. Ben keeps calling me Grandma. This is annoying. Daniel cries for his Nini. This, too, is annoying. Ella calls John Gampa. This is normal, and we are relieved.

Would I go on a cruise again? Yes, but only after I give my delicate internal system a good three years to recover. Until then, you can find me repelling down the Grand Canyon or reading a book on the beaches of the Outer Banks. I’m going to be a land creature for a while.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Of Mice and Men and Goggies

Before I go any further, I should tell you that I had no idea that the word goggy was a derogatory term for a certain part of anatomy. No, I'm not going to tell you what part... you have to google that yourself. And to you who googled goggy in hopes to find what I think you may have wanted to find... shame on you! This is a family site. So go away.

This baby girl needs a home!

Tonight, John and I will discuss whether or not we will get a puppy when we get back from cruise. This is an ongoing discussion in the Jennings household.

It’s been an exciting week. Sunday, I learned a friend from my father-in-law’s church in Newfane has taken up breeding shelties, a brand of goggy that has a special place in my heart.

My mom grew up with a sheltie and bought us one when I was fifteen. We named him Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) and we loved him and snuggled him and spoiled him rotten.

Over the years it turned out that Calvin, as dogs go, was kind of a jerk. It might have had something to do with the spoiling. He would bite if provoked and was almost snobbish in his mannerisms. When I would home from college, I would call him to me and he would stare straight at me and then turn and walk the other way. At the time, we rationalized his behavior.

“Ohhh, how sweet! He’s upset with you for going away to college! He misses you!” And I would run after him and pet his fuzzy head and dote on him until he left my arms in a huff.

He wasn’t mad at me. He was just a jerk. But he was very good looking.

Things changed after Caleb was born. Calvin was no longer the #1 cutie-pie in my life. I watched him like a hawk around my little boy and felt no sympathy when I kicked him into the backyard in order to keep Caleb safe.

Calvin lived to the ripe old age of fourteen. I went with my mother when she decided to put him down; he could no longer walk. (The decision to accompany her to the vet was one of the most grown-up decisions I’ve ever made.) It was the most heart-wrenching few minutes of my life and remains one of the reasons I don’t want to get a dog. I don’t want to do that again. If it was so hard to say goodbye to a jerk dog, how much harder will it be to say goodbye to a loving, loyal dog?

I remain devoted to the sheltie breed, because as a group, they are incredibly intelligent, sweet, and beautiful dogs. The puppies we visited on Sunday are very used to children, having played and jumped all over my friend’s three young daughters. As I read this, I see that I sound delusional, but it’s true! Shelties have great qualities and are very people-oriented. We just got a dud. (We loved him just the same.)

This past week, things have been moving so fast that I haven’t had time to consider this new idea, a little sheltie in our home.

On Monday, I went to my friend’s house to go swimming. Caleb had told me beforehand that he was going to attempt to swim without his life-jacket. Honest to God I didn’t know he was going to run and jump in first-thing, before anyone else got into the pool. It did not go well. There was flailing and choking and desperate calls for help. What could I do? I jumped in after him, fully clothed, shoes on, and fished him out.

Tuesday, I walked through a crowd of protestors, so that was exciting, and yesterday, I hunted and caught a mouse in my house. I think it scurried in when one of the boys left the sliding door open. It was running along the wall toward the television when I first spotted it.

I wish I could say I didn’t flap my arms scream and run about like a looney-bird. I wish. I eventually gained my composure (only to lose it several times later) and got a large mixing bowl with which to capture the mouse. All I could think about was that it would chew the wires behind the television which would, in turn, cause a fire. This is irrational thinking from a completely irrational person.

I cornered the mouse in the playroom. Daniel and Ella were laughing and clapping their hands like it was Christmas morning. This is the most excitement we’ve had in our house since I forgot to shut the windows during a thunderstorm. I was making a daring move to get the mouse when it came straight at me, which is totally against mouse-running protocol, by the way, and it RAN OVER MY FEET. Daniel nearly passed out with delight.

I, on the other hand, know that if I had had any liquid in my bladder at that time, I would have totally peed my pants.

Eventually I did capture the mouse by expertly covering it with the mixing bowl. I had no idea what to do with it after I contained it. Even with a plate, I didn’t see how I could flip the mixing bowl without risking the mouse falling out and running away and becoming mayor of and propogating its own mouse colony in the walls of my home. So I dragged the bowl across the floor slowly, making my way to the sliding glass doors in the playroom. The mouse pooped in bowl, and so as I dragged it, a tiny brown trail followed behind us. We made it to the door where it ran out and under the deck and is, I heard, in therapy because of the traumatic experience it had to endure.

Ben will also be going into therapy because he believes his mommy purposefully and maliciously ridded the house of his beloved pet mouse. Apparently, they got very attached the five minutes in which it was scurrying about the living room.

That was the excitement yesterday.

Today? Today Daniel had a tantrum of cosmic proportions. He had a “Jack-Jack-from-The-Incredibles” tantrum. He screamed so loud he turned red like a turnip.

So that was somewhat exciting. And tiring. I’m still tired from the ordeal. (Why the conniption fit? Because, apparently, he wanted to wear his THOMAS shirt, not his baseball shirt. Buddy, if you could talk, we wouldn’t run into these little miscommunications.)

Excitement keeps you on your toes. It sharpens the mind and, occasionally, your reflexes. So why not throw a goggy into the mix? An expensive goggy who sheds and isn’t potty-trained? Who needs shots and so on and so forth? Maybe? Maybe not....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

When We Used to Be in Love

My husband is two terrible, horrible things. He is a lawyer AND a lobbyist. I rarely say this out loud. Usually, when people ask what he does, I tell them he works in the government affairs department at a law-firm. This is completely true and sounds pleasant.

When people ask what I do, I don’t ever say housewife. I say I am the manager of a fledgling but promising terrorist organization and I have four subordinates to whom I give orders. This does not sound pleasant, but it does sound a lot more interesting than housewife.

This evening, I accompanied my lawyer-lobbyist husband of nearly ten years to the ancient (as far as American cities are concerned) city of Buffalo, where we attended a fundraiser for a local senator aboard a harbor boat. I.e., we went on a booze cruise. Ella had a blast.

No, we didn’t take Ella or any other young child. We procured babysitting and so this event was sort of a date. Occasionally, John’s job comes with some perks, and this evening happened to be a rather lovely event. Sometimes, John has to go to affairs where he is required to “shmooze” clients or politicians. I do not do well at these affairs. I do not mingle. Shy people generally hate making inane small talk with people they don’t know. It makes us feel squeamish inside. When forced to do these things, I generally find excuses to go to the bathroom, where I linger, avoiding the loquacious crowd.

We had to WALK THROUGH the protestors to get to the boat. This is also something shy people don’t relish doing. Luckily, there are very few times in life one must walk through a crowd of angry protestors.

These particular protestors seemed to lack passion. They didn’t really pay attention to US, pers se, but directed their rather drone chants at the senator. Walking through the paltry crowd did make me feel three things I know I am not: elite, political, and unabashed. I felt strangely compelled to shout out, “You don’t know me! You don’t know me!”

I don’t even know what the protestors were protesting against. They formed a group outside of the marina and waved rather vague protest signs at us, something about the federal reserve? What is your local senator going to do about the federal reserve, people? They were white and middle-aged and basically a harmless lot. You know, the sort of people who show up at town hall meetings railing about Obama’s health care plan.

John didn’t really know many people at this particular fundraiser, so I didn’t have to play little wifey-poo who mingles. We sat at a table with a couple who had been married 45 years (makes our ten seem… paltry) and ate a plentiful meal of ziti and salad and cheesy potatoes and white wine. We rose our glasses, or plastic cups, rather, in the direction of the protestors, because we like to pretend that we are rabble-rousers.

The boat ride about the harbor was fun. Only two people got so drunk that they jumped off the boat and we were not invaded by Somali pirates, which is always a good thing. John and I argued over which was the superior city, Buffalo or Rochester, and I won, of course.

The best part of the whole evening was that I didn’t even get sick. I wore my anti-nausea wrist bands and chewed ginger gum, which tastes like puke, by the way. This bodes very well for our cruise. (Not the ginger gum tasting like puke, but me not getting seasick.)

On the drive home, we thought about visiting our old apartment in Amherst and decided against it. We reminisced about our early years of marriage, when John was in law school and I was trying to decide what to do with my life. (I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I KNOW! Let’s have a baby even though we’re practically destitute so that I can postpone that decision for a while!) We lived in the ugliest duplex that was, if nothing else, pretty darn spacious.
Ahhh, the good old days when we had to shoo our drug-dealing neighbors off our driveway (strangely, their preferred spot for dealing their hasheesh) and we slept in on the weekends and watched tons of movies on John’s school breaks and took weekend jaunts to visit friends and family… back in those days when we used to be in love.

This is our really stupid joke for when we reminisce about our days of yore.

“John, remember when you used to take me to the theater? You know, when we used to be in love?”

“Hey, Holly! Remember when we used to make out during movies? You know, when we used to be in love?”

“Hey John, remember when you used to make pancakes on Saturday mornings? You know, when we used to be in love?”

“Holly, remember when you used to shave your legs on a semi-regular basis? You know, when we used to be in love?”

Obviously, we still consider ourselves “in love” though it is probable that my not shaving my legs often has taken some of the passion from our marriage. (Also, the no more pancakes on Saturday mornings? That does not invoke passion either.)

However… it is, I believe, very likely that in another ten years I will say the following:

“Hey you. Remember that fun boat ride we took in the Buffalo harbor? Remember when you put your arms around me because I got chilly even though we were in front of work-people? The one where I waved while you made muscle-arms at the people who passed us in speed boats? And remember how on the way home I sang Disney princess songs and you didn’t even turn on the radio to drown me out? You know… when we used to be in love?”

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Going to the beach with 4 kids is not for wimps

We went to the beach today.

What a hassle. There’s the gathering of the beach supplies, the slathering on of sunscreen, and the horrific mistake of accidentally viewing oneself in front of the mirror in one's bathing suit. (I admit that this trip to Hamlin was in part a testing of the proverbial waters to see how people would respond to me in a bathing suit while on cruise. No one seemed to notice me or care… and there were actually a lot of mommies with, um, flab, who were wearing THEIR bathing suits too.)

We generally had a good time. Since Ella can sit and play for hours upon hours in the sandbox in our backyard, I figured that the beach would be like a fantasy gone wild for her. I imagined that I would lounge on the beach blanket reading a magazine while she played happily next to me in the sand.

I could not have predicted that her preferred beach activity would be to throw little pebbles into the water or at people and that all attempts to get her to stop would fail.

I should have predicted that she would wander off any chance she got in order to join other groups of individuals who were immersed in their own beach activities. She invaded a family sand castle-making party. She plopped herself right next to the daddy and threw sand into their castle's moat.

She joined up with a group of pre-teen boys who were burying themselves in the sand. This activity appealed to her. She “helped” them by, what else, throwing sand on them. She found ways and reasons to throw sand that seriously made me question what I thought was a lack of intelligence in this unique little two-year old.

When I spend time with Ella in a public place, I often end up feeling somewhat insulted and neglected. Sometimes I think she would like to be a part of any family but ours. I ended up spending a good part of the afternoon chasing her around and prying her from picnics, mothers who were sitting in the sand chatting with one another, and groups of kids who were making various sand creations.

John is a horrible beach companion. I mean, really. If you go to the beach with YOUR FAMILY, is it appropriate to put on your headphones and listen to your iPod?

Caleb and Ben LOVED the water. They swam and splashed and had a jolly good time. I watched from the shoreline and worried about objects I saw in the water. I pulled out a band-aid, much to John’s dismay (OH THE HUMANITY! AND THE DISEASES!) and panicked when I saw a small, dark brown, floater. Turns out it was a small, dark brown piece of driftwood. Good thing. I was about to bail everyone out and run for the dunes. (On the walk out, I did spy a used condom in the sand. Or maybe it wasn’t used. I didn’t inspect. In fact, I’d rather not talk about it at all. It is very disturbing to see such a thing where children tend to frolic.)

Daniel had a few brave moments in the water, but eventually succumbed to Ella’s pebble and sand throwing activities. Except that he picked large pebbles. Some might call them rocks. He may have thrown them at people.

All in all, a generally good trip. I might even call it a success. Ben actually went under water on his own at one point, so yes, definitely a success. And today, I must admit, IIIIIII FEEEEEEL FIIIIIIINE!!!!

ACK! Caleb's short pockets are hanging out in an indecent fashion!

Daniel is pissy because I told him he can no longer throw rocks at people. Note the hand holding the iPod in the corner....


La la la... I like to throw sand... la la la...

There was this incredibly adorable child there...

NO there aren't any pics of me at the beach! You know by now I suffer from depression, right? Sheesh people!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sometimes I get the blahs

Warning: this post has lots of sentences without verbs
And… fear not… funny, light-hearted Holly will be back ASAP! Promise.

Today was such a beautiful day. Warm in the sun, pleasantly cool in the shade. I had such plans for the day: basic household chores, get a little writing done, play with the kids outdoors, that kind of stuff.

By late morning I fell into a bit of a funk. Actually, I’ve been in a funk for the past several days. Life has seemed a little more tedious than usual. John’s late nights have seemed longer, the bedtime rituals more daunting, the laundry more oppressive, my phone silent, my head achy, my mind wandering to lonely places I shouldn’t let it wander to.

All of this caught up to me as I sat on the landing of my stairs, listening to Ben and Daniel fight over a toy while Caleb pestered me for a snack. I sat there, feeling the mundane rituals of housewifery weigh me down and I suddenly felt so overwhelmed that I became nauseous.

It was then I remembered I hadn’t filled my prescription in the last couple of days.

The prescription. The antidepressant prescription. The one that keeps Holly going lightly instead of going downhill fast.

I went to grab the bottle to call my trusty pharmacist when I saw those words no one in my state wants to see: NO MORE REFILLS.

Which meant I would have to go to Rite Aid and plead my case and get them to give me some pills to tide me over for the next few days. Which meant I would have to call my doctor, who would tell me I needed to come in so he could assess the situation.

A normal person, if there is such a being, which I doubt, is able to manage life so she doesn’t get bogged down in the details. Perhaps there is a schedule: chores, work, meals, kids, extra-curricular activities. A person in a depressed state is unable to rationally plan the day accordingly. All of the day’s little challenges and tasks and responsibilities seem heaped together in a tangled, garbled mess and the impossibility of getting all you need to get accomplished overshadows the possibility of getting something accomplished. Which, of course, leads to anxiety and fear and hopelessness, and all of it seems so vast and insurmountable but at the same time, utterly pointless.

And then you are numb, sitting stagnantly on the landing of your stairs, surrounded by toys and mismatched socks and the mail you were going to sort through. The sing-song sounds of children’s television play in the background but the kids aren’t even paying attention to it, which means of course that they probably watch too much television, which makes you feel like an even crappier mother.

And making lunch seems exhausting. Thinking about making dinner nearly causes a panic attack. The rest of the day goes by like static or a monotone hum or the buzzing of the fly that slipped noisily into the house when you opened the garage to take the rotting, putrid garbage out, filled with dirty disposable diapers that will sit in some landfill for years and years and years.

When you realize you are stumped about dinner and that your husband isn’t coming home until late and that your daughter hasn’t eaten a vegetable in weeks and weeks, the tears start to flow. Then come the choking sobs, the sniveling runny nose and the rocking back and forth like a frightened child. Because that’s what you are: a frightened child with four frightened children who have no idea why they’re mother is so… sad.

And of course, it isn’t rational. I love my life. I love my children. I love my home and my mundane rituals like attempting the morning crossword while Ben draws pictures of Jedi Knights next to me or getting dressed while Ella plays with my makeup brushes. This sadness is a biological phenomenon and no one can convince be otherwise. Because when I’m on the medication, I’m as close as I can get to the “normal” woman who has a messy but happy home and who doesn’t go over the edge over the thought of what she will do if her two-year olds refuse to take a nap again.

I got my “emergency supply” of meds and will be fine tomorrow. Today, I have a killer headache because I’ve been grinding my teeth since this morning. Today I wanted to be anywhere but home.

Tomorrow, I will be home again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where the devil is my dinnertime sleeping pillow?

This is what happens to little girls who refuse to take their naps. Don't feel sorry for her. Really. Feel sorry for her extremely tired mama who wanted to take a nap right then too, but had to pick up all of the food on the floor, do the dishes, fold laundry, wipe down the counters and the table, give baths, clean up all the sand that fell out of people's pants, tuck kids into bed, wipe Ben's butt after he pooped (why is his poop schedule now ten minutes after he goes to bed no matter what time he goes to bed????), finish my own dinner, and watch a movie with my husband.

Do. Not. Feel. Sorry. For. Her.

(The movie was so cute, btw. I forget the title. It had Paul Rudd in it and the girl who used to be Jim's girlfriend on The Office. John says she has an adam's apple but I think she's pretty.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blatant Self Promotion: Free Book Giveaway!

In honor of my interview with Double Duty author Christina Tingflof on, I am holding a drawing where anyone can enter to win the new edition of this classic "raising twins manual."

So if you have twins, or know anyone who has twins, or want twins, or want to get a gift to someone who has twins, or just think it's cool to learn about twins... check out the article and the drawing information.

Anyone can participate! Book arrives in the mail free to you! Yay! Free loot!

I'm done self-promoting my article now. Have a lovely day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What happened to Ben???!!!

Warning: This post contains disturbing images of my second born, Ben. Be assured that he is okay; no medical attention was necessary. He is apparently a very poor preschool fighter.

So Ben got in a bar fight last night.

This is what happens when you have five boys running amuck about the house, wrestling and playing with only sporadic supervision. One of them is bound to end up looking like Rocky Balboa at the end of any of his movies.

I slept in late this morning. The latest I have in a long time. So late that I’m embarrassed to write the hour I arose from my comfy bed. When I went downstairs and saw Ben’s face, a little piece of me died inside.

No, not really. Mostly I was grateful I hadn’t scheduled our family picture taking session at Target this week.

It was a bit shocking and I'll be the first to admit that he looks a little hideous. His face is reminiscent of Sloth’s from The Goonies.

Speaking of which, there is a Goonies 2 possibly maybe in the works. I’m serious. Original cast. Cyndi Lauper. The whole nine yards. This is totally the comeback that Corey Feldman needs. (I heart Corey Feldman, btw.)

I’m sure it will be a great success, just like Dirty Dancing 2.

Perhaps Ben can play the role of Sloth's deformed yet adorable offspring...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Marriage in Trouble

Today I fought with a thistle and lost. (This has nothing to do with my marriage, btw. I do not regularly call John a thistle.)

I did a lot of yardwork. I also cleared off our white-trash front porch, taking time to move the woodpile from the porch to the side of the house. Ella and Daniel then took it upon themselves to move the wood from its new location to the middle of the driveway where they stacked it like blocks. It kept them busy, happy, and in my eyesight, so I let them do it.

Holy cow those two can stack kindling like it's their job. This winter, I'm totally sending them out to get wood for the fire. By the time I was done pruning the bushes, pulling out a zillion weeds, cleaning up the garage, and tending to my thistle wounds, I really didn't feel like picking up the little village they had created out of firewood.

Again, it kept them entertained and kept Ella from playing in the ant colony by the sidewalk, so it was worth it. (I was seriously afraid she was going to eat the ants. She eats dirt regularly. I'm beginning to suspect she has pica.)

We all went out to get ice cream at Tim Hortons. The Tim Hortons in Chili now has a Cold Stone Creamery. I have to say that the employees didn't seem so thrilled about their new ice cream shop. One actually said to me, "are you sure you don't want a donut instead?" I guess hand-mixing ice cream all night is hard work, to which I say, try having twins and make me a cone, buster.

After our outdoor adventures, all of the kids looked terrible- dirty fingernails, ice cream dripping down their shirts, hair sticking out in all directions... and they smelled a bit earthy. Caleb and Ben haven't quite gotten the ice-cream cone thing down yet. This is me when they eat an ice cream cone:

"Lick over there! Now the other side is dripping! Lick all around the bottom! Not the very bottom! The bottom of the ice cream part! Don't bite down, just lick around! Oh, just give me the cone."

And then I devour the whole thing.

It's times like those that I look forward to our impending anniversary cruise the most. It will be a lovely timewhere I can eat food without eight little eyeballs staring at me, pleading with me to share a bite. You'd think I lived with four starving puppy-dogs.

John and I really need to get away. Our marriage is in peril. John has done something unforgivable. We might not even make it to our ten-year anniversary.

John has brought video games into our marital bed.

It was late at night and he was waiting for a load of laundry to get done so he could throw it in the dryer. I was tired and ready for sleep. He brought his laptop into our bed and played Civilization while he waited.

This has never happened before.

I think playing video games in the marital bed is akin to going to the bathroom in front of your spouse. When these things occur, the marriage is in big trouble and drastic measures need to take place. I don't care if your husband claims he's close to being the ruler of ancient Greece, keep it out of the bed!

I gotta go now. I'm an emotional basket-case, as you can imagine and Shark Week is happening as I write this. Goodnight.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The thing about Daniel...

I live with a guy who verbally and emotionally abuses me on a regular basis.

I know. You are shocked. Let me give you some examples so you will know I am telling the truth.

Sometimes, when I smile at him, he grunts at me. Once in a while I think he actually snarls. This happens most often right after he wakes up. Hey, I’m not a morning person either, but I try to be a decent human being anyway.

If he asks me for something and I don’t jump to it THAT SECOND, he withholds affection. He shuts down and refuses to look at me at all. He crosses his arms and glares at me until I feel very uncomfortable.

Sometimes, he throws things in an act of aggression. I think he’s trying to establish himself as the alpha male. He can be sexist, constantly expecting that I as the female get him drinks and food. He won’t let me near his stuff: God FORBID I play around with his cell phone.

Quite frankly, his behavior frightens me at times.

There have been moments where I have felt like I was in danger physically. He hit me once. Maybe more than once. One time, he bit me on the knee.

Before you call social services, I should tell you this guy is 2 years old.

You see, the thing about Daniel is…

He can be kind of a jerk.

But I keep going back for more. He’s just so stinking good looking. And when he’s in a good mood, when he’s been fed, he’s had enough to drink and his pants are dry… oh the good times we have. The snuggling! The slobbery kisses! The laughter that emanates from his belly!

The thing is, after he is cruel, he almost always is sorry. He comes to me and puts his arms out and I take him back every time. I hold him and tell him I love him. Mostly because if I didn’t, well…

I think we can stop this twisted little analogy now.

I do it because I’m his mama and that’s what mamas do.

(Can you tell I’m having a difficult Daniel day?)