Monday, March 26, 2012

On Sugar and Caffeine

I have a habit of making grand gestures and resolutions only to succumb to the first temptation that crosses my path. (With the exception of my marriage vow, naturally.) In other words: no, my “no refined sugar for Lent!” decree was not a complete success. (Did I write about my "no refined sugar for Lent!" decree? Anyway, I made one.) In my defense, I’ve made some helpful substitutions: almond butter on rice cakes instead of peanut butter and jellies; yogurt and a banana instead of a bagel; Kashi cereal instead of not-Kashi cereal. I’m going to have an omelet for lunch instead of a Whoopie Pie. So that’s something. (Every time I SEE a Whoopie Pie, a cupcake, or a donut and pass it by, an occurrence that happens far too often, an angel gets its wings.) Also, I’ve been going to the gym.

I love the Y. It’s bright, clean, and has every piece of exercise equipment and exercise class under the sun. I don’t even mind that the senior citizens in the community have turned it into a social club. So what if they don’t exercise, but just mill around drinking coffee and glaring at the kids who run into them on their way to the play center? When I’m 75, I’m going to do whatever I want, too. I will definitely clog up the lanes in the lap pool and then complain loudly when someone accidentally bumps me.

I do mind the people who get aggressive in the parking lot. God forbid we don’t get the closest parking space to the door. At the gym. Where we’re going to walk on a treadmill for 45 minutes. I understand if it’s a mom with a zillion kids or if it’s a rainy day, but to the little miss twenty-something who put my life in peril in pursuit of a parking space, you have issues. And I don’t like you.

As for the sugar thing, my pastor said that God doesn’t care if you stop eating chocolate. If we substitute “chocolate” for “jellybeans,” then hopefully, God and I are square. Easter is two weeks away, and I am going to make a valiant effort during the home stretch. By valiant effort, I mean that I’m going to make one last irresolute decree here on my blog under the auspices of religion.

Meanwhile, I went off caffeine this past weekend. Initially, it was accidental (no direct access), and then I decided, what the heck? I might as well rid this drug from my system.

To those considering giving up caffeine: the cold-turkey approach is a suck. John kept having me hold out my hands. Then he’d laugh hysterically because my ring finger wouldn’t stop trembling. Also, there was extreme nausea and the worst headache I’ve ever had. But it’s over now, and not being a coffee-drinker, I no longer feel the urgency to drink Diet Dr. Pepper at 10 in the morning. My kidneys will thank me someday.

I dedicate my Monday morning song to my husband, because he puts up with a whole lot from me. No, I’m serious. I’m difficult. And I’m thankful I’m still the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with.

Happy Monday. To those of you sipping your caffeinated beverages, I now look down on you with disgust for I am a better person than you. Ha ha.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Women Be Crazy

Yesterday, I was watching Blues Clues. Sort of by myself. I really can’t explain. It was the episode where Steve leaves to go to college and announces that his brother Joe is going to take his place at the house. At the end of the episode, Steve starts saying goodbye to everyone. It was like the final scene in Oz in The Wizard of Oz. “Bye side-table drawer. Bye thinking chair. Bye Mr. Salt. Bye Mr. Pepper. Goodbye Blue,” Joe says, wistfully with a strong hint of melancholy. Then he turns to the screen, “Goodbye friends.”

I start bawling. “Goodbye Steve! You cute little green-shirted man child! Waahhhhhhh!”

It’s definitely the time of the month when I am prone to weeping, if you know what I mean.

Caleb is growing up, and while my crying still visibly upsets the other three, Caleb is very awkward about it. He kind of pats my shoulder and stares at me, with a mixture of wonder and fear, and tells me, “You’re being very weird.”

“I liked Steve,” I blubber. You’d think I was watching Steel Magnolias. The truth is, I never warmed up to Joe. He’s an interloper.

“I’m going to turn this off now,” says Caleb. “You’re too big to be watching this anyway.”

“What do you mean, big? Are you calling me fat?”

Caleb’s eyes grow wide. I assure him I’m just messing with him. But seriously, I say, what did you mean by big?

Caleb goes to his room. I continue folding laundry while watching kids’ television shows. The Wonder Pets is always good for a mood booster. Don’t get me started on that Ming-Ming, though. What a self-absorbed ducking that girl is.

Caleb cautiously ventures down later. I decide to have a heart-to-heart with him.

“Sorry I was crying,” I say. “I was just being silly.”

“It’s okay. You cry a lot. I’m getting used to it.”

“I don’t cry too much.” Caleb listed three recent occasions where I shed a tear or 60,000.

“You cry more than me,” he said, “and I’m a kid!”

“I’ll try to cry less.”

“It’s okay. I understand why you cry.”


"Because you’re a woman. Women cry more than men. That’s why I don’t cry a lot.”

“Why do you think women cry more than men?”

"Because,” whispers Caleb, “you’re emotional. And crazy. Women are crazy.”

I was going to protest, but he’s right. Women are emotional and crazy. Some (ahem) more than others. And my boys are going to have to get used to it. God help us when Ella gets to be a teenager. Talk about crazy.

An interesting interview with the guy who played Steve. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This weather just isn’t normal. It’s the most wonderful aberration I’ve ever witnessed. On March 19th, I got a slight sunburn. March 19th is technically still winter.

I totally expect it to snow come Easter.

Today, it is 78 degrees outside. In Rochester, NY. Last night I dreamt of daffodils and lilies-of-the-valley and blankets of blue forget-me-nots. My entire dream was about walking through a forest of flowers. For someone who generally spends March a phone call away from the psych ward, dreaming about flowers and waking up to sunshine and tweeting birds is an… aberration. A lovely aberration.

I took the twins for their five-year physical. They both passed, which was good. Ella fell in the parking lot today and had cuts and scrapes and bruises on her knees, elbows, and knuckles. Daniel has numerous bruises on his legs from playing his favorite game “Fast and Dangerous.” I’m not going to go into the specifics of the game; it involves his tricycle and a hill. I sat in the doctor’s room with the fish-bordered wall and was certain that once the nurse left the room, she would call social services.

The writing life is bustling at the moment. I’m now the parenting columnist for Edible Buffalo Magazine, I received a positive response from a query I sent out (I hope to have an essay published soon in this well-regarded magazine), I’ve picked up two new regular freelance clients, and my “novel” is 1/3 of the way written. Unless, of course, it isn’t, but I guess I won’t know that until it’s done. I’m convinced it’s total crap, but I persevere. It’s a total aberration for me to have stuck with any piece of writing for this long.

While other writing is coming along famously, I feel creatively bankrupt when it comes to this blog. I meant it when I said perhaps I’d run out of words. My kids aren’t cooperating. They aren’t providing the blog fodder they have in the past. Blog prompts on the internet are lame. Kiah the Wonder Dog has calmed down significantly which is wonderful, but who wants to read about a dog who lies around in the sun all day? There are ants in my kitchen. Do you want to hear my rant against ants in my kitchen? I didn’t think so.

So, I’m in desperate need of some blog inspiration. If you have any, send it my way. Until then, enjoy spring.

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
Robert Frost

Monday, March 19, 2012

Driving With the Windows Down

Caleb is really into cars lately. He may even become (gasp) a Nascar fan.

“If I were a car,” Caleb said, “I’d be a Ford Shelby gt500.”

“Really?” I responded. “And what would Ben be?”

“A Ford gt40.”

“And Daniel?”

“Hmmm. A Corvette zr1.”

“And how about Ella?”

“Ella could be a Jaguar xf.”

“And what about me? What kind of car would I be?”

“A Chevy Impala.”

Well, crap.

Here's a song you listen to on a 75 degrees day while you're driving fast, windows down...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

I have a retired neighbor who lives next door. I’ll call him Hank.

Hank is kind of an a$$hole.

See that? I hardly even disguised the word. That’s how strongly I feel about this.

The one thing I love about winter is that you don’t see your neighbors for at least four months. Then, when spring comes with its splendid silent sun, his beams full-dazzling (Walt Whitman- not me), everyone emerges from their caves, eager to get started on the lawn work.

During the warm months, Hank mows and trims his lawn at least twice a week, pulls weeds from his multiple flower gardens, shapes his lilac bushes, and waters the whole shebang. He does all of this without a shirt on.

If he’s not doing lawn work, he’s lounging in his pool, railing about right-wing conspiracies to whichever poor sucker happens to be within earshot, usually his demure wife or someone on the telephone.

His political lawn signs never match our political lawn signs, which is probably one of the reasons he doesn’t like me.

He doesn’t like me. I wave when he heads out to the mailbox; he turns his head. I tell him how beautiful his begonias look; he shrugs. I attempt small talk: “Sure is hot today!” He responds in a deadpan tone: “I like it this way.”

The house was empty a year before we moved in, and I don’t think he has adjusted to the noise. We live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, but my children are raucous. Loud. Shrieky.

And then there’s Kiah the Wonder Dog, who has three main purposes in life: to look regal at all times, to one day defeat the vacuum cleaner, and to guard her territory (the backyard) like its Israel and the rest of the world is Palestine. Apparently, according to Kiah, Hank is from Palestine, because I haven’t seen such animosity between two individuals since I watched that show Homeland last year.

Yesterday I was outside trying to attach the bike trailer to the bike, and was agitated. The twins were fighting over a basketball even though there are two basketballs, because it is the law of twins to want the same thing even if there is an identical counterpart. One twin usually wins (the same twin who came out twice as large as his own counterpart), but let me tell you what: the other does not go down quietly.

She was not going down quietly when Hank walked by. I waved my greasy hands in a friendly fashion while behind me Ella said something like, “Nooo you NOOOOOO! AHHHHHH! EEEEEEEEK! MINE!” and he kind of shook his head.

I already run inside whenever the recycling man comes around. I don’t think I have the energy to avoid Hank.

I’m determined to win him over. Even if he thinks I’m a breeder with no lawn-maintenance skills. Because, dammitt, I’m NICE and people LIKE ME and my kids are CUTE.

I may avoid him the day he opens his pool, however. I think there are about 25 baseballs in there, which he’ll probably throw angrily back over the fence while Kiah barks her most ferocious bark.

Maybe we should just move.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Morning News

I think maybe I used up all my words. Either that or I need some blog post prompts.

I have little of interest to say.

The weather here is gorgeous. I’m actually thinking of running off to JoAnn’s to buy some Easter décor. I always felt that nothing looks more depressing than Easter eggs on sparse branches in the dead of snowy March, but my crocuses are up and daffodils aren’t far behind. There is so much hope at the beginning of spring. I’ve demanded a porch swing for Mother’s Week where I plan to idle the summer away writing and reading and snoozing while my kids wreak havoc on the neighborhood. (I’m a superior mother. That’s why I get an entire Mother’s Week.)

In other news:

Good/ bad news: I had an interview at a real corporatey place where people wear heels and makeup. I thought I did okay, although I may have talked with my hands a bit much, and I might have said, “When I get this job…” I was trying to be confident. I think I came off as slightly unhinged.

There’s nothing wrong with working in pajamas, anyway.

Bad news: John’s traveling again so I’m left to my own devices, which means I’m eating jellybeans late at night while working on my “novel,” which has far too many characters for me to keep track of. Also, they’re mostly very badly behaved. I need to get control over them.

On Saturday, my family intervened on the chaos that is my life and hauled an entire dumpster full of junk out of my basement and garage. Good news: John’s luxury vehicle now fits in the garage. Bad news: Holly no longer has the collection of birthday cards she received when she turned ten.

Bad news: This week, I’m taking Caleb in to radiology because of his “failure to thrive.” I.e., he is the shortest third-grader in the world. Ella is off to get genetic testing on Friday, and Daniel is off to the doctor later today to see if there is good reason for his limping.

My children exhaust me.

Good news: Ben is healthy and cute!

Bad news: Kiah the Wonder Dog ate my jellybeans.

Good news: Kiah the Wonder Dog ate my jellybeans.

And that’s my life in a nutshell. Also, I had a remarkably awesome hair weekend.

For your Monday-morning happy song project selection: Some Bobby Darin.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Back to the 80s

I've been on an 80s kick lately, which makes my husband very sad, but I'm having fun.

My kids love this song.  It begins, "She was a be-bop baby."  They think this is hysterical.

"Be-bop baby!  Baaaa hahahahaha!"  (I haven't even told them the band's name is "The Hooters.")

We listen to this song over and over and over again.  Luckily, it's a cheerful little song and just watching the band members spastically kick thin air when they get excited has made my day happier.  Hopefully it will yours, too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't Use Psychology On Your Wife

(A Calvin & Hobbes cartoon)
(A Calvin & Hobbes cartoon)

I am writing a “novel.” I am putting “novel” in quotations because I find that “putting things in quotations” makes things appear “less pretentious.”

A few months ago, I had two chapters and a lot of problems. For instance, I didn’t know how my “novel” would end. This is a serious problem discussed in detail in the imposing “Plot and Structure” book I picked up years ago when I was a part of the Writer’s Digest Book Club. I belonged to a lot of book clubs back in the day. There was the Disney Book Club, the Cookbook Book Club, and the Writer’s Digest Book Club. Never mind that I didn’t have kids and didn't cook or write. I had dreams. And writing a “novel” has been a dream of mine since I first picked up a pen to write the thrilling short story, “I Wish My Parents Would Get Me a Dog.” (I was so naïve back at six.)

Today, I have 8 chapters, a notebook I carry around with me in case I suddenly get inspired right there in line at Rite Aid, those incredible Sharpie no-bleed pens, Papermate pencils, a sort of outline in the aforementioned notebook, a complete set of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons for when I get discouraged and feel like crying, and most importantly, an ending.

I have an ending.

Several months ago, I read the first chapter to my husband, who is the meanest person in the world. He loves me, but he can be very, very cruel. He gave me “constructive criticism.” I was told my theme was cliché and that my choice of certain words “ridiculous.” Then, he gave me a kiss on the forehead and told me to work on it.

I’m not even kidding.

Last night, I asked John why he hadn’t asked me how my “novel” was going. He put down his book and said, “How is your novel going?”

“Do you remember what it was about?”

“Yes, of course I remember what it was about.”

He didn’t, which really doesn’t bode well for me, I guess. He asked for the “manuscript.” I refused because his last criticism had gutted me.

“I gave you constructive criticism!” he protested.

“NO!” I said. “You gave me criticism. Constructive criticism means saying some nice things, too.”

“Actually, psychologists say you shouldn’t say nice things when giving constructive criticism because when you actually criticize, the person won’t take you seriously. So, no, I didn’t tell you good things. I told you helpful things.”

First of all, men, never use psychology on your wife, especially when she’s writing a “novel.”

Second of all, I can find no such evidence of his above thesis. Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D says to sandwich criticism in between layers of positivity.  Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus has the most awesome name I've ever heard and therefore I believe everything he says.

Finally, I’m reluctant to ever let John read anything of mine ever again, though undoubtedly I will because I actually respect his stupid mean opinion.

This is all leading up to the following: I may ask one of you to read my “novel” one day soon, and when I do, I only ask that you please use the sandwich method of constructive criticism.

(If people are going to use psychology on me, I should at least be allowed to choose the type of psychology.)