Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pull Yourself Together (Wo)man!

This December, I forgot to go to a doctor’s appointment. Then I forgot to go to the follow-up appointment. Then I miraculously found the October cable bill which heretofore resided in and amongst Preschooler’s art supplies instead of the LARGE BINDER CLEARLY LABELED “BILLS.”

Unfortunately, this has been the state of my existence ever since moving back to Wisconsin. Calendars get lost or buried under clutter. Bills get misplaced (ahem), and then paid late. Appointments get missed. Chores go unprioritized and unfinished.

I’ve tried to get it together. I bought a planner. I used it twice and then Preschooler turned it into an art portfolio, which the gnomes who live in my basement stole to use as a rain shelter.

I tried to use iCal, but I’m lucky if I check my e-mail more than twice a week. I only open my laptop on regular basis to use Safari and Pages, enabling my addiction to blogs and writing and crack. Wait, not crack.

It doesn’t help that Husband and I never got the hang of to-do lists. We just sort of did things as they came (usually in one fell swoop), then proudly congratulated ourselves on being adults. Then, we’d stop doing things, then we’d get sad, then anxious, and then we sort of wither away under piles of newspapers and dirty socks.

Strangely enough, I never had this problem prior to being a stay-at-home mom. Franklin Covey Day Planner = my brain. I never missed tests, never missed appointments, never missed meetings. Time-management was my middle name, except for when it was Marie, and later, Pelnar.

My solution to my newfound hole-in-the-brain syndrome? NAIL EVERYTHING TO THE WALL.

I’ve purchased a giant white-board monthly calendar that will be hung on the wall, along with several letter bins. There is also a giant chalkboard to write daily to-do lists, so every one can see whether I’ve completed a task, and shun accordingly.

I know part of the problem (ok, all of it) is me. I have to keep up on using these things, or all the fancy tools in the world won't help me be more organized.

At least by sticking my calendars, bills, and to-do lists, on the wall, they won't get lost. And my walls will look pretty, even if the water bill is currently being used to insulate Preschooler’s doll house.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Biting The Bullet. But Not A Bullet. That Would Hurt.

I've been away from this blog for a week. My time was committed to visiting relatives, being jolly, and then sleeping 19,034,803 hours while my in-laws watched over my children.

Now I'm facing my blog, and I can't write.

It's not because I no longer want to blog. I do.

It's not because I have nothing to say. I do.

It's because I'm afraid. Starting my blog was like jumping off a bridge, except I didn't get wet. Baring my self, my opinions, and my writing to the world was like facing down a grizzly bear, while wearing nothing but a suit of marshmallows.


Little known fact. Bears love marshmallows.

Strangely enough, baring my self, my opinions, and my writing to friends and family was even more terrifying. It was like facing down a grizzly bear, while wearing nothing but a suit of marshmallows, and the grizzly is wearing a live hornet's nest as a hat.


Bear + hornets + hat = unstoppable killing machine.

And now, after a 5 day absence, I have to do it again. And it's damn scary.

So I'm writing this post to let every one know how chicken-shit I am. Then I'll promptly publish a second post, in hopes to bury this post under new material, not unlike a serial killer buries a body under a pile of mulch, covered by a second body. I think.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve, WHY ARE YOU WRITING A POST ON CHRISTMAS EVE?

I haven't been home for my family's Christmas celebration in three years (I think.)

I've seen relatives I haven't seen for more than three years. I've met long-lost relatives that no one's seen for 20 years.

My family is happy. My family is healthy.

I am healthy.

I'm finding peace with God. I'm finding peace with myself.

So for a moment, all is calm, all is bright.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010: My Year In Review

January: Broke down.

February: Stopped functioning.

March: Got help.

April: Felt better.

May: Worked my a-- off toward a promotion.

June: Quit my job.

July: Learned how to be a stay-at-home mom.

August: Started this blog.

September: Packed. And packed. And then I packed.

October: Moved back to Wisconsin

November: Had my midlife crisis

December: Wrote this post.

And there you have it. The most boring post in the history of the internets.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm Pretty Sure Lionel Richie's Ballerina Girl Knew How To Use The Potty

Ever since I was 3, I was a dancer. You name it, I did it: ballet, lyrical, pointe, jazz, tap, performing, ballroom, Moldovan folk....


The 1980's were not kind to any one. Not even ballerinas.
Also, I'm notoriously unphotogenic. More on that later.

I danced until I left for college. I was a member of a dance company that can only be described as...industrious. In addition to the normal conferences, competitions, and recitals, we also danced at many festivals and events during the Christmas and summer seasons.


To this day, every time I hear "Run, Run Rudolf," I start to twitch.
Also, to my chagrin, Bryan Adams never made an official
appearance at our annual Christmas shows.

My years in dance were some of my best of childhood memories probably in part because by the time I was 13, I spent nearly as much time in the dance studio as I did in school.

I only stopped when I was 18, because I was curious as to what real teenagers did with free time on their hands. I took a couple dance courses in college, but my knees rebelled. I had to discontinue this activity, lest I become a cripple. Also, since I knew I wanted to go to law school, I needed to spend more time studying, and less time in frivolous (albeit loved) activities.

Lately, Prechooler has declared she is a ballerina. Actually, she declared she is a puppy ballerina. Whatever.

I swear this is through no influence of my own. I'm trying with all my might not to push her to dance unless she explicitly says she wants to. I don't want her to feel later in life that she is obligated to dance just because I did. But, I've already researched dance studios in our neck of of the woods, JUST IN CASE.

One studio in particular has an excellent preschool program. Unfortunately they require pupils be potty-trained before starting the program, which Preschooler is not.

We've tried, oh how we've tried. Incentives didn't work - not sticker charts, M&M's, toys from the dollar bin at Target. Nothing.

We tried making her sit on the potty at regular intervals. We tried letting her pick out her own potty and big girl underwear. We tried backing off and doing nothing at all. Nothing worked.

Now I've tried to explain that if she uses the potty now, she can go to ballerina studio and become a real ballerina. But I'm not certain she understands the concept of doing something now for a later reward.

So what's a mother to do? Mothers older and more experienced than tell me not to worry - nobody ever went to kindergarten in diapers.

But I think Preschooler is giving THAT axiom a run for its money.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Usurped

Meet “Baby”:


Looks like a sperm wrapped up in a Snuggie. But what would I know?


“Baby” came into our lives a couple months after Baby (the real one) was born. It was a gift, an afterthought, for Preschooler (then Toddler). It was intended to act as a buffer to the avalanche of presents a new baby receives.

From day one, “Baby” was Preschooler's constant companion. “Baby” went to bed with her. “Baby” woke up with her. “Baby” went to daycare with her. “Baby” joined us on every car ride, fitting neatly in the cupholder of Preschooler’s car seat.

But recently, “Baby’s” role in Preschooler’s world has been usurped by a small pink teddy bear. It’s not even a real teddy bear, it’s an unnatural hybrid of a blanket and a teddy bear.


Such abominations are usually hunted down by peasants with
pitchforks and garlic. Usually

She’s had this teddy since the day she was born, and never noticed it until now. Heck, I almost put it in the “donate” pile when preparing for our move to Wisconsin.

Poor loyal “Baby!!!”

Is it wrong that Husband and I feel bad for “Baby?” It’s one thing when a childhood lovie is outgrown, but it’s another thing when it’s simply replaced.

Worst of all, I think I know where this came from. In every book or show about Santa, his sack of toys spills over with a candy cane, a toy soldier, a doll, and ... a teddy bear. In fact, Preschooler has pointed out that ubiquitous teddy bear regularly since she adopted her teddy bear.

There is hope... Baby (the real one) has had her eyes on “Baby” since day one. Today she found Baby lying abandoned on Preschooler’s bed. She instantly grabbed hold of THAT forbidden treasure, and kept it in her firm grasp until she got downstairs.

She tried to give it back to Preschooler, but the offer was spurned. So “Baby” may find a new role in life, even though Husband and I are not prepared to see any of our “babies” grow up.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Can't Bake. DEAR GOD, I CANNOT BAKE!

I kind of suck at baking. The only thing that I’m consistently able to produce is cobbler. I make a mean cobbler.

I tried to bake cookies with my kids last week. I really did. It’s the Holidays, after all. Otherwise they’ll end up on a therapist’s couch sobbing , “Mom never made Christmas cookies.” And I don’t need that shame-spiral right now.

First, I tried gingerbread men. I had a store-bought mix, so it should’ve been fool-proof.

Well, the gingerbread-mix people hadn’t counted on me! I made the dough. It was sticky. I thought, “This needs more flour.” So I continued adding flour till the dough was stable enough to withstand a rolling pin. I must have added a cup of extra flour.

I rolled the dough, and cut out the men. They baked up fine. I frosted them, and Preschooler assisted with adding the sprinkles. That is, she dumped an entire jar of sprinkles on one gingerbread man and announced, “I’m done!”

When the frosting set, I tasted a cookie. It tasted like shellacked cardboard. Ooops. Apparently the cure for sticky dough is to chill it for a while. Also, when making royal icing, adding an entire 2 1/2 pound bag of powdered sugar is probably overkill. WHO KNEW?

Undeterred, my next attempt was a double-chocolate chip cookie with marshmallows. When all was said and done, they spread all over the pan into a large, sticky half-burned mess. I tried to do a search for a picture of the "cookie" I created. I couldn't find any. I'M JUST THAT GOOD!

Finally, I tried a peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate and powdered sugar. This time I remembered that my cookie-saving-grace was to replace butter with vegetable shortening, and using self-rising flour instead of all-purpose flour. For those familiar with baking, I know. Weird.

This time, I ended up with beautiful peanut butter cookies. Then I ruined them by dipping them in chocolate and powdered sugar.

I ate a couple, then gave up. The only thing I could taste was cavities. Husband didn’t even try them. I tossed the whole mess.

The next afternoon, after rummaging around in the kitchen, Husband asked, “Where are the cookies?”

“What cookies?” I asked. I didn’t make any cookies. I only made atrocities.

“The ones you made yesterday,” he answered.

“I tossed them. They weren’t any good.”

“I didn’t even try one!” His disappointment was palpable. Crap, there’s that shame-spiral again.

I hope Santa likes cobbler. It’s all I can offer.

Also, I hope he likes tequila - I could sure go for a margarita right about now.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Don't Over-Think Things. And Don't Stick Your Hand In The Snow.

For the first time since I started this blog, I am at a loss of what to write. I have a lot of starts to posts, but they don’t go anywhere.

Take, for example:

Best Friend and lived kitty-corner to each other. That is, if the homes in our neighborhood were the 4 corner states of the United State, she’d be Colorado and I’d be Arizona, at least from my perspective.


We did this all the time.

The first winter we spent together she took off her mitten and stuck her hand in the snow. Then she cried, and we had to go inside. At the time I thought, “WTF are you doing?!”

Now, as a parent, I understand her thought process. The snow looked soft and pretty. If she touched it would it feel like a sparkly marshmallow? NO. It felt cold and wet. DAMMIT.

And then, how do I end it? Something about the innocence of youth? Something about how dorky Best Friend and I were?

Maybe, sometimes, a story doesn’t have a deeper meaning. It just ends. Sometimes things just happen, they are what they are, they don’t need complex analysis.

Sometimes, I need to stop over-thinking everything, and just go on with it. Or let it go. Whatever is more appropriate.

Also, I didn’t want to end the week with a post about a detachable penis.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just When You Think Nothing Happens To You....

Disclaimer: Smut isn't my usual genre. But for the sake of this post, I have to use the word penis. It can't be helped. Fair warning.

I went to the grocery store today. Upon opening the car door, I was faced with a strange something lying on the cold, snowy pavement. I tried to take a picture with my cell phone, but all I got was this:


What do you mean you don’t know what this is?!

The mystery object was...some....thing.....

It looked something like a plantain, but there was no knobby bits at the end.


It wasn't this. Maybe...

It also looked something like a kielbasa, but it wasn’t ring shaped. Sometimes smoked sausages are packed more like traditional sausages. Either way, those suckers are vacuum-packed in my neck of the woods. So in order for one to hit the ground of a parking lot, some one had to ravenously gnaw at the vacuum seal until it tore open, so they could consume then-and-there the cold, raw meat.


Getting closer. Sort of...

No one is that desperate for sausage. Except maybe the homeless. Now I feel bad.

Anyhow, it was probably either a malformed plantain, or a sausage of unusual shape and/or destruction.

But I prefer to think it was this:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

There Is No Wonderland. Just Winter. Also, Bah Humbug.

I tend to be a real hermit come winter.


Alas, it is snowing.

I avoid going outside. And, I avoid going outside. And then, I avoid going outside.

I don’t like snow. I don’t care that I grew up in Wisconsin. I don’t care that I spent 2 1/2 years living in colder Minnesota. I don’t care that I spent 3 1/2 years in milder (albeit still cold. Sort of. Sometimes.) Ohio.

I don’t like snow. I don’t like being cold.

But I do like an excuse to add hot cocoa and mochas to my hot beverage repertoire.

I like duping myself into making heart-attack inducing casseroles (hotdish to my friends in Minnesota) reasoning they'll stick to my bones.


You mean corn-dog casserole ISN’T good fore me? But it has corn in it!

I like being able to stay in my sweatpants all day, since I’m not going anywhere. Actually, I already do that, even when I have places to go. But now it’s LEGIT.

However, my hermit ways also manifest themselves when I’m depressed. I pine, not for the fjords, but for a deep, dark cave where I can go unnoticed and silent until the end of days. Like the prisoners of Plato’s cave, I see only the false shadows of my mind’s making.

Hermiting in the winter is ok, so long as it limits itself to things like sweaters and hot chocolate. It is not ok when it harbors solitude and sadness.

For me, at least, it’s a fine line.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mama the Grouch

When I first started this stay-at-home gig, I could’ve been mistaken for the cheerful fairy. At the beginning it was all:


Time to put your shoes on!



Of course I’ll play princess puppy dance party with you!

Now it’s more like:


What are you doing? Come back here this instant!


If I catch you whining one more time, you'll get time out!
Also, I hate Jeeps!

I wonder if my children’s crabby moods are simply a product of my crabby moods, and we’re caught in some sort of ridiculous symbiotic relationship, where we all feed off of each other’s crabby-ness until we’ve all reached a point of crabby saturation.


That’s it, Jim. Take ‘er to shore.

Sometimes, I'm just so frustrated. I try to tell myself things like:

“They’re only 3 and 1. They don’t have any other ways to express their feelings.”

“Take a deep breath and assess - is this a fight worth having?”

But then I also tell myself things like:

“If you were happier, they’d be happier.”

“Why are you such a grouch to your own children?”

It’s hard to allow myself to be frustrated, without shaming myself for feeling frustrated. It’s hard to allow myself to be angry, without shaming myself for feeling angry.

I love my kids. I love that I can be at home with them while they’re still so little. So why am I so frustrated? So beat-down?

So grouchy?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Walker, Baby Ranger*

What, you don’t remember the hit Walker, Texas Ranger? Me either. Let’s move on, shall we?


Never forget...

Baby finally took her first steps. At 15 1/2 months.

Both my kids were late walkers. Preschooler didn’t learn until 16 1/2 months. Those 16 1/2 months were spent in anxious concern that because my daughter was a late bloomer in the walking department, she would probably have to roll and crab-crawl** to job interviews when she’s 23.

With Baby I had no compunction whatsoever. My kids were just late walkers. That’s just the way they rolled (or crab-crawled.) Whatever.

So screw developmental assessments!

There, I’ve said it.

At every baby well visit I’m handed a questionnaire and asked to tick off the items my baby is able to accomplish. The 12 month questionnaire went something like this:

Can your baby pick up a small object between his forefinger and thumb? Check.

Can your child speak at least one recognizable word besides mama and dada? Check.

Can your baby identify the area of an isosceles triangle. Uhhh....check?

But there’s one assessment question that has always screwed both my children over.

Does your baby walk yet, or at least cruise?
NO.

Our pediatrician in Ohio responded to this with:

It’s probably nothing. BUT...

And that “but” would drive my new-parent anxiety off a cliff and into a ravine filled with thorn bushes, and probably bears.


OMNOMOMNOMNOM...

By the time Baby came into our lives, I was no longer concerned with her pokey gross motor development. And neither was her new pediatrician, who basically said, “Who cares? See you in 3 months.”

Lots of things are more difficult with 2 children. Time management. Shopping. Sanity.

But some things, like diaper-changing and expectations, are easier.

* I owe the entire concept of this title to my best friend's cat.

** Crab-crawl refers to this funky way of mobilization, where my kids scoot around on their butts using both hands and one knee in front of them. It's not to be confused with traditional crab-crawling.


Faster, my minions, faster!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Yes Preschooler, There Is a Santa Claus. Sorta. I think.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. Actually, there is no goose. I’m filling the void by getting fat(ter).

I’m spending my time stringing cranberry garland that may rot on our live Christmas tree that may loose all its needles before Christmas actually begins.


This may be the cleanest part of my home by the time Santa comes.

I’ve also spent my time in a futile effort to keep my living room clean so we don’t have to use a complicated rope-and-pulley system to suspend the tree over the pile of dirty laundry. In my living room. I know, I don’t know how that happened either.

There is only so much that will keep my children occupied during this time.

For Baby it’s pens (mercifully capped), my sharp scissors, exposed electrical outlets, and anything else that will result in her immanent demise.

For Preschooler it’s glitter. Lots and lots of glitter. She has always enjoyed art projects, so I keep an assortment of paint, crayons, colored paper, and, yes, glitter around for her to use. I did this with the good intentions of letting her express her creativity, and to keep her out of my hair for 5 minutes. Unfortunately, though it keeps her busy, it results in a heart-attack inducing mess.

At least the glitter on my carpet is festive, right? Right?

Explaining Santa thing has also proven difficult. I honestly believe the sex talk would be easier.


Now about this Santa thing...

But I find myself tripping over my tongue trying to explain the lie of the jolly fat man.

Part of me wants to to tell her it is TRUE. Because that’s what makes it fun. And so she won’t be the kid on the playground who ruins it for every one else.

But I can’t do it. Because it’s not true.

I’d much rather put it in the context of myth. That it’s a really fun thing to do. That since the beginning of time people have found ways to celebrate that even though winter is dark and bleak, there is still hope.

But what kind of 3 year old can appreciate myth?

And then there’s the whole Jesus thing. It would be so easy if I could explain that Jesus was a real man sent to earth by God to spread the message of peace and love, and that since he saved us from sin we celebrate the day of his birth. It’s not to say this isn’t true. It very well could be. But as I’m still looking for spiritual faith and guidance myself, I’m not sure how to approach this issue with my children.

The funny thing about all this is I LOVE Christmas.

I love decorating my house with lights and evergreens.

I love being with my family, so we can celebrate (or at least appreciate) our love for each other. I love giving presents to my family, in part because I love to shop and it’s more fun to shop for others rather than myself.

I love giving to my community in the form of charity and volunteering.

I LOVE Christmas. Even if I don’t understand it.

And now I have to go. Baby is trying to eat my lipstick. With her eyeball.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting Schooled

Warning: I am way over-thinking things. I should probably stop thinking. And brathing.


What, you breathe instead of brathe? Heathen.

Preschooler (who is not in preschool) turned 3 this autumn. This means that she’d start conventional preschool next fall, in order to complete 2 years of preschool and enter kindergarten at age 5.

And I’m a bit freaked out.

Preschooler is smart, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my child and I’m biased and believe everything she does is brilliant (although this is true.) She could identify all the letters of the alphabet by 18 months. She knew all the letter sounds by 2 1/2. She counts to 30, understands the concept of zero, and can do very simple arithmetic, i.e. addition and subtraction with numbers 10 and under.

The thing is, I don’t think she’s doing all this by rote. Because one day she’ll just reveal these concepts in conversation with us, and I’ll ask Husband:

Me: Did you teach her this?

Husband: No, did you?

Me: No. OMG what do we do? We have to encourage this somehow! All this talent will go to waste if I don’t encourage this right now, and she’ll end up homeless on the street begging for change in exchange for sounding out 3-letter words and adding 4 + 3, and it will be all my fault!

Husband: No way. She’s a genius! Let’s notify the media!

Me: She’s not a genius! She’s just too smart for her own good. Or my own good. Whatever. Anyhow, we need to get her in some sort of program where she can continue working on these skills.

Preschooler: I like ham!

Husband and I and those close to us believe she needs to be in some sort of preschool program now, to help her further develop these talents until she can start “real” preschool. Problem is, we can’t afford it.

So, I’ve started teaching her at home a bit. For the past week or so, we sit at the kitchen table about 10-15 minutes a day, and I work with her on basic reading and math skills. I’ve checked out books from the library about teaching math with manipulatives and teaching phonics skills. We sing a song or two. We read a lot throughout the day. I try to get her to a playground or other activity where she can run amuck with other kids a few times a week. We continually work on things like manners and self-help skills.

Hopefully, by the time she enters a conventional preschool program next year, she’ll be equipped academically to focus her attentions on social skills. Because, as I’ll explain later, this is what she needs to work on the most.

So, she’s getting schooled in ... school. And I’m getting schooled in ... school. And hopefully, if this works out, she won’t be the kid in kindergarten who eats paste.


The secret to eating delicious paste is to do it in full view of others.
That way, your peers will be fraught with envy as you wallow in your sticky gluttony.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I Did Over My Thanksgiving Break: The Bad (And Ugly)

This (as always) is so tough to admit.

Depression touched me again. It is no respecter of occasion or holiday. It is always the pink elephant in My room, My mind, My life. It is something, because I have bipolar disorder, I will always have to keep in check.

I had a bout of depression over the Thanksgiving holiday. It wasn’t the worst. I had no suicidal thoughts this time.

But it wasn’t the best. I don’t know why it hit me when I was surrounded by people who loved me.

For those who were there and didn't notice anything, don't worry. For better or worse (usually worse) I put on a "happy" poker face no matter how I feel. For those who were there, and did notice something was up, this was it.

Maybe it’s because we finally weaned me off of antidepressants, so I can be treated solely by mood stabilizers on a daily basis.

Maybe it’s because, even though I LOVE my family, and I LOVE a good party, I’m still an introvert who needs to take a break from the action in order to recharge. And in all the action, I failed to take such a break until it was too late.

Maybe it’s because my two kids only wanted MOMMY, even though there were 4 grandparents, 1 aunt, 2 brothers-in-law, 1 uncle, 3 cousins, and a host of other in-laws and friends who would’ve happily relieved me of my kids for an hour or two.

I was fine Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday it crept up on me. By Friday I broke down, in private with my husband.

Because part of me is still ashamed of my condition. And even though I try so hard, I still am reluctant to show my true face to my loved ones, even though I know they want to know, and they want to help.

I loved my Thanksgiving holiday. But I didn’t love this.

Also, I realize the dearth of pictures with snarky comments in my last few posts. So sheerly for your pleasure, I present this:



The pets asked to be dressed like this, I swear.
Actually, I personally think this image looks shopped.
But the pets asked for it to be Photo Shopped. Really.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dear Sir and Madame: You Are No Longer Welcome In This Fine Establishment

Baby screams. She screams when we’re out. She screams all about. She screams at home. She screams in a dome (I assume).

Husband and I can no longer stand the screaming, the incessant screaming by Miss Screamy McScreamsalot.

And now it’s come to this: we can no longer go to restaurants.

We were SPOILED by Preschooler who from day one stayed quiet and well-behaved in restaurants, even grown-up restaurants WITH NO CHILDREN’S MENUS.

Baby was ok for about eleven months. No more. By one year she started getting antsy. Then she got squirrely. And then she screamed. And screamed. And screamed some more.

And today, we found ourself at Olive Garden, a place we would’ve scorned with our pretentious asses in college, but now patronize frequently because they bring breadsticks to our table RIGHT AWAY.

And Baby, as is so often the case, started screaming. She screamed so much that the group of four seated next to us asked to be moved. Husband and I looked at each other and realized we have become those parents. The parents with that kid. The parents who apparently can’t or won’t sooth their screaming child.

The parents who should no longer bring their children to sit-down restaurants until the kids are older.

Maybe things will change when Baby is able to communicate more effectively.

Maybe things will change once she is older, and we’re better able to reason with her.

But if anyone knows how to stop the screaming, let me know. Seriously. Because I can no longer stand it.

Not in my home. Not when we roam. And if we stay in, the screaming begins. And then I cry. Seriously.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What I Did Over My Thanksgiving Vacation: The Good

The destination was my Parents’ abode. I haven’t been to my Parents’ Thanksgiving celebration in 3 years. This was not born out of any ill-will, but because it isn’t convenient to drive for 7 hours followed by another 7 hour drive home that same day, because some one (me) had to work the following Friday and Saturday. I know, I don’t know how this happened either.

It need not be said that my children were excited. They knew who Grandma & Grandpa were, and they knew they were a mere 1 1/2 hours away. Previous trips to Grandma & Grandpa’s house used to involve an interminable car ride followed by WTF?! Where’s my house?!

For what it’s worth they would have become just as excited by the prospect of going to Husband’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving, although it’s a 5 hour drive. However, it used to be a 7 hour drive to my parents, plus another 7 hour drive the following day to reach Husband's parents’ house, resulting in a double WTF?! Where’s my house?!

My kids ran around the our house like Dachshunds on crack, except they may have thought they actually were Dachshunds on cracks. WHO KNOWS?

We loaded up and drove to my parents house. We started unpacking to tally up what we forgot to bring. I forgot to bring any bras except the sports bra I was currently wearing. CLASSY!

The actual Thanksgiving celebration was lovely. I made 5 pies and 1 casserole. I ate 1 plate of dinner Thanksgiving evening, and another for lunch the next day. I ate pie for breakfast. Twice.

Friday is traditionally “Movie Day” at my parents, that is the relatives go to the movie theater so we can enjoy each others presence without having to talk to each other for a couple hours. Husband and I saw “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows: Part One.” Husband and I were especially excited, because we haven't seen a movie since “The Simpsons” movie which came out in 2007. Again, CLASSY!

All in all, I got to party with my family while enjoying a ridiculously large meal. I saw a movie for the first time in 3 years. My kids stayed up past 10:00 pm each day due to sheer excitement and junk food (resulting in approximately 48 meltdowns.)

I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eat An Extra Piece Of Pie. Really. It's OK

This post is an exercise in brevity, except now that I've written this sentence, I'm no longer being concise.

Crap.

In any case, I wish only two things for you this Thanksgiving:

1) Blood relatives are family. Friends are family. I hope you can find solace in their presence this Thanksgiving. Many are not so lucky.

2) Eat an extra slice of pie. Really. You'll thank yourself the next day. Also, pie is always a breakfast food. Don't forget.

I'll be back by Monday. Happy Thanksgiving to all! And to my Canadian readers, Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm Not Outside That Stupid Box!

I enjoy a good glass of beer. So I was really excited to see the premier of the new Discovery Channel show “Brew Masters.”

Husband and I hunkered down with the remote and...

The opening credits started. Ooooohhh look, shiny copper things! Hops! People walking! (We’re easily impressed.)

But then, right in the opening credits, they had to go and use the phrase “outside the box.” As in, “I wasn’t satisfied with the traditional beers on the market, so I decided to think outside the box.”

I grimaced. Husband shuddered.

We watched about 5 minutes and changed the channel to something more enlightening:


This is the only reason I know what a Snooki is

I hate the phrase “outside the box.” It is trite, vague, and condescending. He could’ve said “I decided to try something different,” or “I thought I’d start something new.”

Outside the box - what the hell does that imply?

I know conventional wisdom claims it means that, if you’re “inside the box,” you’re just thinking of or accepting current norms. You need to try something new. But really, why can’t you just say that? You don’t need a “catchphrase” to say, “We need to try something different.”

Furthermore, implying you’re inside the box is also an indirect way of saying “I think you’re a mime.” And who wants that?


I know it’s you...

Now, let’s tackle being “outside of the box.” Yes, I know it’s just a way of saying you are being innovative, and thinking of new solutions for old problems. But again, why can’t you just say that? You don’t need a “catchphrase” to say “That was a great idea! We haven’t tried that before!”

Furthermore, if it is implied that you are “outside the box,” then where exactly are you? Uncharted territory? The 4th dimension? No. Most likely you are in your living room, or maybe the garage or the post office.


You are probably not here

Honestly, I think catchphrases like this are designed only for filler in lackluster resumes and insipid powerpoint presentations. I know, this is kind of a cruel thing to say.

I guess I’m just not thinking “outside the box.” No wait, I’m actually just ranting on about a stupid catchphrase. Either way.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Death Awaits You All With Nasty, Big, Pointy Teeth

Baby is teething. She gums everything. Lately she has taken to gumming my toes. I’ll be sitting with my feet up on the ottoman, and she’ll just come by and start gnawing on my big toe like a tiny curly-headed piranha.

It sort of tickles. I laugh.

But recently Baby approached Preschooler and started nibbling on her toes.

“MOMMY! HELP!” Preschooler cried. “SHE’S EATING ME!”

I stifled my laughter, and gently chided Baby (mostly to mollify Preschooler), “We don’t bite. Biting hurts.”

But then those little love nibbles on my toes turned into actual bites with sharp, little teeth. The gentle chiding turned into an all out, “OW! We Don’t Bite. Biting Hurts.”

One day was particularly trying. Baby was running her reign of terror. Having been scolded for biting approximately 392 times for biting, she was now upturning all my baskets, ripping up all my books, eating all my power cords, and generally being a nuisance.

To make matters worse, Baby seemed hellbent on antagonizing Preschooler, and every time she approached Preschooler, Preschooler would scream, “NOOOOOO!!! Go Away! Mama, Baby Is Getting Me!”

By about 8 pm, Baby turbo-crawled towards Preschooler, who was pinned against the wall crying, “Mama, stop her!”

And it hit me.

“Preschooler,” I asked. “Are you afraid Baby will bite you?”

Preschooler nodded, tears running down her face.

“Oh honey,” I said, helping her onto my lap. “I promise, I’ll never let Baby bite you.”

“And you too, Mommy?”

“Yes, I promise, I’ll never let Baby bite me either.”

And then she was ok. She got off my lap, and started playing with Baby, who only wanted Preschooler’s attention in the first place.

In conclusion, I let Baby continue biting. Bad. I reassured Preschooler that, as the parent, I’ll always protect her. Good. But, if had never let Baby bite, Preschooler would never need assurance in the first place.

Crap, I’m still not doing this parenting thing right.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Is It With My Kids And Dogs, WE DON'T EVEN HAVE A DOG!!!!

Preschooler has spent all day, every day, for the past month-and-a-half pretending she is a doggie. She crawls, pants, and whines. I have to address her as “little doggie” to convince her to do anything. For example, I might say, "Preschooler, go eat your lunch. It’s on the kitchen table."

Preschooler interprets this command as “Go eat your poison. It’s on the burning pyre of doom.”

But if I say, “Little doggie, go eat your doggie lunch at the doggie table,” she will smile and happily eat her lunch. Thank God she hasn’t started smashing her head into her cereal bowl in effort to also eat like a doggie.

It’s a win-lose situation. On one hand, indulging in he fantasy convinces her to do what I want. On the other hand, having to play the explicit role of “Mommy Doggie” for 45 days straight has slowly caused me to go insane.

Alas, Baby seems to think she is a doggie. She chews on the following items:

Not food.




Not food. Except for cannibals.




Not food. Also, pay your bills on time, lest they destroy your
everlasting soul with their oppressive glare of doom.

She plays with the dirty laundry, and gets into the wastebaskets. She literally sits on top of your feet while you try to pay bills, cook dinner, or write your autobiography. She steals toys from her sister, and immediately tears them up.

So which is worse - the child who knows she is only pretending to be a doggie and prefers it that way, or the child who possibly thinks she is a doggie and doesn’t understand she is a human child.

Thank god they’re cute. My kids that is. And dogs. But not my kids when they think they're dogs. Or something like that.

Rhyme and Reason and Huh?

I love blogging. I love having an outlet to write, knowing that even an incredibly minuscule percentage of the population will listen to and think about what I write.

But sometimes it is hard to write about the bigger issues. Things like...

... the atrocity of the new TSA safety regulation

... the demise of journalism

... how the public touting of motherhood and “mommy blogs” is NOT a step back for the women’s movement

So I end up saying f---it, and I write posts about pie and horses instead.

Writing about the more important issues necessitates careful planning phrasing. I can’t just quickly spew out an opinion without regard to the sensibilities of others. To do so masks and weakens what is otherwise an important point. I’ve done that before, and I’m not proud of it.

Unfortunately, I haven’t the time to indulge in the careful planning that an opinionated post requires, mostly because somehow I’ve ended up busier as a stay-at-home mom than I was when I worked.

Maybe the above posts will become part of this blog. Maybe they won’t.

I guess I just want to reassure myself that this blog is more important than it seems. That it isn’t just a place to revel in my own ridiculousness or a place to vent my pain. That this blog plays a role in the larger social context.

That my opinions have worth.

That I have worth.

By the way, Preschooler thinks shadows are footprints (and I can’t convince her otherwise), and all my chairs are no longer chairs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course Of Course. Except When It's a Goat. Or Something.

At some point in their lives, many girls have an infatuation with horses.

Mine started around age 10 or 11. I had gone horseback riding on a couple vacations and I think once at girl scout camp. For no particular reason except that they fell under the category of “cute” animals, and I did enjoy the rides, I decided I “loved” horses.

It didn’t hurt that the only horses I previously rode were on carousels:

Actually, I usually chose the chicken.

And, I never did get that pony.

And actually, the only ponies I was allowed were these:


Really, what little girl could resist?

This new-found obsession started off more or less normally. But then things got weird.

First, I learned how to draw horses. I got a library book all about drawing horses, and painstakingly taught myself how to draw a variety of horses in a variety of poses.


By me. Or Picasso. Probably Picasso.

Later, a new family to the neighborhood bought a couple acres right next to my friend Debbie’s house. And that family had 2 horses, with a small stable! Bonus! They let Debbie and I watch the horses from the fence any time we wanted, and if the neighbors were home, they sometimes let us pet the horses or feed them an apple or carrot.

But then things got weird...

One family at the far end of the street lived in a small house. It turned out they liked horses too. They liked horses so much, they converted their garage into a stable.

And then the neighbors on the other end of the street decided to raise some goats. I don't know how this was allowed. Our street must have been zoned residential-agricultural-crazyland.

So now it was not an unusual sight to see up to four horses trotting along with riders on their backs, and a goat or two grazing by the street. It was like living in 1885, except it was 1991 and we had things like cars and grocery stores. And Milwaukee was a mere 25 minute drive away, so it took hardly any effort to reach a grocery store that sold goat milk, and maybe even goat meat. WHO KNEW?

The garage-horses were well-cared for and loved, but something about the whole situation seemed kind of sad. Because when it came down to it, I just felt horses ought not be stored in a garage. And the goats, while also adorable, were just plain weird.

My horse-adoration died down a bit after that. I was old enough to know we couldn't afford stabling fees, and if the only alternative was to buy a horse and have it live in the garage, well, I just didn't want to do that. And the horse would probably breed with the goats to make some sort of monstrous horse-goat hybrid called a gorse or a hoat or something.

I still like horses to some extent. But we aren't, and will likely never be, in a location or financial position where we could keep a horse either on our land or in a stable. So I guess I'll just have to introduce my children to these:


My name is Cotton Candy and I'm forever getting into
mischief trying to eat sweet treats in Blossom's garden.
I am not making this up.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Knew Three-Year-Olds Wore Gauntlets?

Before I had kids, I was advised by my elders, “Choose your battles. If you try to fight every little issue with your kids, you’ll go crazy. Decide what issues are really important, and which ones can slide.”

Well, my battle lines are drawn. Here’s what I’m currently not fighting. Go ahead, JUDGE!

My children can eat food they find on the floor.

I can only vacuum so often, and we don’t have a dog. If one of my rugrats finds an errant Cheerio, and eats it before I have a chance to step on it and grind it into the carpet, more power to them.

If it’s whole-grain, my kids can eat it at breakfast.

There isn’t that much difference in my book between whole-grain goldfish and a Cheerio.

TV is A-Ok in my home.

We go WAY over the recommended 2-hour limit. On a good day, we watch around 4 hours a day (assuming we are not away from home entirely.) Don’t get me started on the bad days. But my kids are smart, polite, imaginative, and they play well on their own and with others. I’ve let this one go.

That being said....

I’m still learning to choose my battles.

Do I dole out snacks on demand so long as the child says "please," or do I yell, “NO! WAIT FOR SNACKTIME!”

We keep a laundry basket in our living room (don’t ask). The kids will not leave it alone when it’s on the floor. I don’t want the laundry basket to be a permanent fixture on my sideboard, right next to the photo of Great-Aunt Edith. Do I punish the kids every time they empty the laundry basket, or do I just say f--- it?

So far I'm aided by the fact that most of my “battles” involve food, and because children under the age of 3 only possess rudimentary skills of logic and debate. This will not always be the case.

But I'm choosing not to fight that battle at this time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Post In Which I Beleatedly Relate My Two Birth Stories

Hey fellas : This post is about giving birth. I'll talk about things like vaginas and poop. If this makes you nervous, please exit now, and direct your attention to something such as ESPN.com. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Pregnancy #1

My first pregnancy was a surprise.

We had just moved to Ohio, an unexpected move we were only given 2 months to plan for. When you and your husband don’t know any one, you *ahem* find other ways to entertain yourselves.

I was on the pill. I used it correctly. It failed. My OB/GYN said it was likely due to stress.

And I was an anxiety-ridden mess. We were both still in school. We were still living on student loans. We hadn’t planned on having children for at least 3 more years.

I graduated from law school. It took me 2 months to find a job. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

I started my new job at the same time I started my third trimester. I had 3 months to become totally competent in a difficult field, so I wouldn’t appear incapable when I returned after my 6 week maternity leave. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

It was 2 weeks before my due date. My doctor was concerned. The baby never dropped, a sign he interpreted as a very big baby. Ultrasounds revealed a 10-11 pound baby. He told me there was a 50-50 chance I’d need a C-section. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

We induced 2 days later. I was given gel to ripen my cervix. My body reacted so poorly to the gel that we had to quit using it. I couldn’t sleep all night.

I labored. I got an epidural. I pushed for an hour and a half. My doctor thought things weren’t moving fast enough. He gave me an episiotomy. Without even asking.

The baby was born. She was only 7 pounds. Turns out she just had a giant head. I got a 3rd-degree tear despite the episiotomy. I had been awake for approximately 22 hours. I could barely stay lucid enough to hold my new baby.

I wanted to breastfeed. The baby just wouldn’t latch. I got a little help from the lactation consultants, but the minute they’d leave, the baby would stop latching. She’d cry all the time. I didn’t know how to help her. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

The second day in the hospital, the baby finally fell asleep. My husband and family left to get a meal, thinking I’d finally get some rest.

10 minutes later, the nurses rolled her bassinet back into my room because she wouldn’t stop screaming. And I broke down. Because my baby couldn’t be soothed. Because I was so exhausted, and she wouldn’t give me even 10 minutes to rest. The nurses were so concerned about me they called my husband, and asked him to come back.

It was a sign of things to come.

I was sent home with a baby who still felt like a stranger.

The recovery from childbirth was unexpectedly worse than the birth itself. I spent 3 days so constipated I could barely function. No amount of Dulcolax would help. My doctor finally prescribed an industrial strength stool-softener.

It worked. Too well. For the following 3 days I couldn’t control my bowels. I was so ashamed of myself. I literally felt like an animal.

And the baby still wouldn’t latch. For 5 days I could hardly feed her. I was an anxiety ridden-mess. We finally broke down and gave her a bottle of formula. I was so ashamed that I was unable to feed my own baby.

I began pumping like a fiend, mostly because if I had to bottle-feed, I was at least going to feed her breast milk. Two weeks after I gave birth I ended up with a sever case of mastitis, with a fever so high I became delirious.

My best friend from law school traveled to Ohio and nursed me through the mastitis. But after it healed, it was clear to me I just couldn’t handle breastfeeding. I was certain this would ruin my baby. I was an anxiety ridden-mess.

And the worst thing of all, was that the baby still felt like a stranger, albeit a stranger I felt no ill-will towards. It was like being a babysitter. You felt obligated to care for your charge, but it wasn’t the mother-love I expected.

Just before my maternity leave was up, I finally started to experience the mother-love I was so anxious to find. I hated to take her to daycare. I was sure this would ruin her. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

I took her to daycare. For the first two weeks I cried more than she did at drop off.

Eventually I was able to function at work, and take my baby to daycare without tears. But I could never shake the guilt I felt that I had to take her to daycare. I was an anxiety-ridden mess.

Pregnancy #2

My second pregnancy was also a surprise, only because my husband and I acted like stupid teenagers who thought “one time wouldn’t hurt.” Mentally I was medicated enough to control the anxiety.

But it was a difficult pregnancy. I had morning-sickness for 20 weeks straight. During my 6th month I had some bleeding from an indeterminate cause. I was told to take it easy.

One month later it became clear the baby wasn’t growing at the rate it should. I began bi-weekly non-stress tests and told to abstain from work.

Another month later it became clear the baby wasn’t growing at all. We entered a precarious system of balancing the baby’s health while encouraging her to stay in the womb until her lungs fully developed.

Ultimately we were able to keep her in me for 39 weeks. My labor was easy. My doctor was kinder. My recover was remarkably swifter. The baby was born 4 pounds, 10 ounces. She was little, but very healthy and strong. We had determined straight away not to breast feed for my own mental health, a decision I and my doctor supported whole-heartedly. Everything went right.

And it didn’t matter.

Just as before, I felt like a babysitter, unable to capture the love I hoped would happen almost immediately. Just as before my depression worsened.

By the time the baby was three months old, I was so low that my husband knew, and I knew, that bad things would happen if I didn’t get help. I was scared. My husband was scared. The next opening at a psychiatrist’s office wasn’t for 3 months. My doctor put me on the highest dosage of Effexor she could legally prescribe. I pushed on through for the next 3 months, even though I could barely function.

Finally, I saw a psychiatrist, and for the first time in 2 years was properly diagnosed with and treated for bipolar depression.

Ultimately, my pregnancies were the best surprise ever. They reminded me that sometimes there is a hand greater than yours guiding things. I am blessed.

In the future

We haven’t ruled out the possibility of a third pregnancy, now that I’m properly medicated.

If I ever get pregnant again, it would be, in part, that I just want one opportunity to love my baby fiercely the minute she is born, not months later.

That strikes me as a selfish reason reason to have a baby.

But it’s true.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remember Our Veterans - Even When It's Not Veteran's Day

Wars are controversial. We only have to look back a few years to remember this. We only have to look back a few years more to remember the Vietnam war, a war that polarized the nation.

My dad had no interest in fighting a war. But it didn’t matter; he was drafted anyway. He was 18.

He enrolled as a Marine, fought for a year, and returned home a changed man to a world that had changed while he was gone.

He doesn’t talk about his time in combat very much. Maybe he just doesn’t want to dwell on a bitter past, when the future has been so good to him.

To this day, every time he meets a Marine he greets him, shakes his hand, and has a few words.

For him, every day is Veteran’s Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For Those Who Don’t Like Cake, Let Me Present: Birthday Pie (No, not that kind you sick bastards)

The one thing that exonerated my birthday, until I could legally drink (ahem), was birthday pie.

My mom makes The. Best. Apple pie. It’s all homemade - the flakey crusts, the apple filling, everything.

Cake is good. Cake has its place in the world. But cake has its limits.

If you like frosting, there is inherently too much cake, not enough frosting. And face it, if you’re like me and don’t care for frosting, eating naked cake is sort of dry and crumbly and sad.

Pie, on the other hand, is completely virtuous.

Fruit filling, whether homemade or canned, is always delicious.

For those who don’t like fruit filling, there are a myriad of other options - chocolate, pecan, and banana cream to name a few.

And crust has its place in the world of pie - it gives tooth to the pie, and a slight saltiness to complement the filling.

And, unlike cake, pie can stand alone with or without ice cream.

Therefore, pie is better than cake. For those who need a diagram:


Pie is soul-affirming and delicious. Cake is fraught with ennui.


So, when mom asked what flavor cake I wanted for my 14th birthday, I threw her a curveball.

Me: I want pie!

Mom: ??? Really?

Me: Yeah! I love pie! I want apple!

Mom acquiesced and made me the apple pie. And I loved it. I think I had a birthday pie for the next 3 or 4 years.

The birthday pie tradition died when I left for college, but that was only because every time I came home she made sure there was pie waiting for me. So I knew pie was only 1.5 hours away from me, whenever I wanted it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PSA: Avoid Garbage Cans On Your Birthday

Birthdays haven’t always been the best of times for me.

It might have started at my 5th birthday. My birthday party was at McDonald’s, which was awesome at the time. And apparently it is still awesome. My nephew had his 5th birthday party at McDonald’s, and it was well received by all.

But back in my day, McDonald’s didn’t have the indoor playlands they do now, with all of the tubes and slides.

This is the best thing ever!!!

There were some outdoor playgrounds, but since my birthday was in November, I don’t think we played on them.

Uhhhhh...these were cool too! Yeah.

So, my birthday party was celebrated indoors. There is a photo of me playing some sort of basketball game while wearing a little paper hat. We probably ate cheeseburgers or chicken nuggets. I think there was a cake. All in all, it was a success.

Until I stuck my finger in the garbage can.

The garbage can had one of those flap doors. There was a gap between the bottom of the door, and the rest of the garbage can. It was small, but I had small hands. Would my pointer finger fit in that gap? It did! Hooray!

Victory is fleeting. I tried to pull my finger out, and it was stuck. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, my poor mother freed my finger.

I was wary of birthday parties after that. But my birthdays were utterly exonerated, as I’ll explain in my next post, by birthday pie (no, not that kind you sick bastards.)


Need a Little Patience, Yeah

I had a whole post written about how impatient Preschooler can be and how she is now a backseat driver in pigtails. But I can’t bring myself to post it. Not right now. Because I am out of patience.

I haven’t cried like this since January, before I was properly diagnosed with bipolar depression.

I am at my wit’s end...

...Because I can’t spend one half-hour at the gym before the staff calls for me to pick up Baby, who won’t stop screaming

...Because Preschooler whined the whole way from the gym to Trader Joe’s, and then had a meltdown because we had to park in a parking ramp.

...Because Preschooler and Baby are literally underfoot all the time, and I keep stepping on them.

...Because I’m weary of telling Preschooler she has to wait, knowing this will lead either to a tantrum or more whining and a time-out.

...Because I actually screamed at Baby to “knock it off,” instead of a sharp “no” and gentle redirection, when she kept trying to grab at everything she knows she’s not supposed to have.

...Because when Baby screamed and cried when I tried to rock her to sleep, I cried too asking her to just please stop crying. And I didn’t stop to think that all she wanted was a bottle.

I resent my children right now for not letting me have one minute to myself without demanding something from me. I am so angry right now that I can’t appreciate how good they really are most of the time.

And I feel incredibly guilty that I feel so angry and resentful towards them. And my guilt only increases when I think that maybe I’m not raising them well. Maybe they sense my negative vibes, and are just reacting to that.

Maybe this is all my fault.

I know I’m not the first to feel this way. I know I won’t be the last. And in a way I hate publishing posts like this that do nothing but allow me to blow off steam. Who really wants to read that dreck?

But thank you, internets, for allowing me an outlet for my pain. Because just journaling would just cause me to stew over and internalize my negative feelings. Blogging about my feelings at least means they are outside, not inside. Communicated, not hidden.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't Worry - I'm An English Major!

Disclaimer: This post is about grammar. I sincerely apologize, and may God strike me down dead, if I am incorrect or if the post itself contains grammatical errors. Alas, no one is perfect.

Grammatical errors make me angry. They make me want to stab unicorns.


Don't worry, I only hunt unicorn for food, not sport.

I don't look down on any one who makes a grammatical mistake, or uses incorrect punctuation. I make those same mistakes as well. That being said, let me take you back to high school English class ....

English teacher: If you’re combining two independent clauses you should use a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Here’s a fun acronym to help you out.. FANBOYS!

For
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So

Student: Wha..? And also, Zzzzzz.....

Forward five to ten years in time. You’re writing an academic paper, or maybe a memorandum for work. You don’t remember how to use commas, and the phrase FANBOYS conjures some sort of vague memory involving pop music and perhaps Bartles and Jaymes.

For heaven’s sake don’t just make up grammar as you go along! Consult a manual, a website or a friendly English major for advice.

The following errors make me particularly twitchy...

1) Their / There / They’re

“Their” is a possessive adjective

“There” refers to a place

“They’re” is short for They Are.

Example: They’re grateful their ponies are over there in the kitchen.

2) A lot / Alot / Allot

"Alot" is not a word.

This sentence should not exist: I have alot of beer-drenched ponies in my kitchen.

"A lot" means a large quantity.

Example: I have a lot of beer-drenched ponies in my kitchen.

"Allot" is a verb. It means to distribute.

Example: I allot each blogger one beer-drenched pony.

3) Affect / Effect

"Affect" is a verb. It means, “To influence or to have an effect on.”

Example: The type of beer used affects how many beer-drenched ponies will fit in your kitchen.

"Effect" is a noun. It means, “Something brought about by a cause."

Example: A positive effect of the beer-drenching incident was ponies with a rich malt flavor balanced by a slight hoppy bitterness.

4) All Right / Alright

"All right" is a synonym for okay or satisfactory. It can also mean “all correct.”

Example: It's all right to store your beer-drenched ponies in the kitchen.

Alright is not a word. Neither is gorleshabib. No amount of non-standard usage will make it so.

This sentence should not exist: You should always store your beer-drenched ponies in the kitchen.

And don’t even get me started on “Irregardless...”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why Math Makes Me Sad

I entered elementary school in the 1980’s and "new math" was all the rage. Times tables and memorization were tossed out the window, and arithmetic was taught solely by using little yellow blocks.


See? Math.

I didn’t get the point of those little yellow blocks. Were we to construct buildings? A small fort, perhaps? Certainly they had nothing to do with numbers. Consequently, after two years worth of math, I didn’t understand basic arithmetic operations.

Mom was dismayed to find we no longer learned times-tables. Her theory was that kids need to know the times-tables - even if they didn’t understand what they meant - so they could quickly recall the facts in “real life” situations. She drilled me with flash cards all summer until I completely mastered the times-tables forwards and backwards.

It worked. From thereon out I was placed in the advanced math track, all because of those flashcards. However, I figured if Mom made me do flash cards all summer to supplement what I should’ve learned in school, I must be really bad at math.

Math was thankfully benign over the next 6 years or so. But then came geometry... trigonometry... precalculus... calculus and things went downhill.


Uh-oh! She's struggling with math again!

Calculus especially became the bane of my existence. I was too proud to ask for help, but too stupid to know the answers. I was clearly bad at math. Would there be more flashcards?

Later, when I took my college entrance exams, I was somehow deemed qualified to skip pre-calculus and head straight to calculus. Calculus went well for a day and a half, but then they started using pictures.

It's a rainbow tent! Wait, that's math? Oops.

And then they started using big words.


This message was clearly forged by Lucifer himself.

I was in over my head. Once again, I proved to be too stupid to learn math. I studied every single day with the help of a teaching assistant with a thick Bulgarian accent. I ended up with a D.

I was very proud of that D. It meant I didn’t fail. And I never took math again.

Huzzah!

It wasn’t until I was 21 that I realized, despite the need for flashcards, I wasn’t bad at math - I was good at math. Or at least competent.

Lesson learned: flashcards are good for math. But bad for self-esteem.

We will destroy your soul.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Free-Range Chickens

When I was growing up it was common for neighborhood kids to spontaneously get together and run amok around the neighborhood.

Even when Best Friend broke her arm roughhousing, it wasn’t a major call for alarm. Basically we were advised not to be so stupid in the future.

When I was about 5, I got separated from Mom in a department store. I freaked out, mostly because I was afraid she’d leave the store without me and I’d have to live in Kohl’s FOREVER. Fortunately, I knew enough to find a clerk who helped me find my mom (she was only about 5 feet away).

By age 8 or 9 Mom let me browse the toy department (and later clothes department), while she did the shopping. After all, I was well-behaved.

What would happen now if I, as a parent, let my tween browse for toys or clothes or shoes at a department store while I shopped for bras and underwear in the same store?

Obviously if my child was being a pain in the ass, we’d both be shunned by employees and shoppers alike. But even if my child was well-mannered, I fear I’d still be shunned for leaving my tween alone and unsupervised.

I want my children to have the same freedoms I had as a child. I want to raise “free-range kids.”

No, not these.

After all, crime rates have continued to fall over the past 10 years - and this includes crimes against children. And kids are significantly more likely to be abducted by family members, than by strangers. I’m more afraid of other parents’ sky-is-falling reactions than I am of child abduction or molestation.

My children are 3 and 1, so I can’t let them fly the coop yet. But soon enough I will. Because independence should be their decision, not just mine. Because freedom to roam fosters self-reliance.

Safety is important. But so is common sense. Parenting requires balance. Which makes me wonder: Who are the real free-range chickens here?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Balancing Act

The princesses have descended upon my household.

Since she was born, Preschooler was exposed to a wide variety of toys; dolls, tea sets, dress-up, but also cars, trucks, and trains. And she played pretty equally with all of them.

But lately, it’s princesses, princesses, princesses. All her dress-up involves princesses. All her dolls are princesses. All day she pretends she’s a princess (except for the days she pretends she’s an airplane). Even when she pretends to be a doctor, one of her favorite activities, she is now a princess doctor.

And her cars, trucks, and trains are starting to see less and less playtime.

I know that many mothers before me have struggled with, and blogged about, how to raise children while avoiding gender stereotypes, expectations, and restrictions. Well, now it’s my turn.

I don’t know how to respond to this new-found obsession with princesses. I want to raise my girls the way I was raised, to know that I do not have to be limited or defined by my gender.

At the same time, to be honest, all my favorite childhood activities were “girly” activities. I loved Barbies. I loved dresses. I declined opportunities to play soccer or softball in favor of dancing ballet. And I turned out ok.

Because even though Best Friend and I played Barbies every single day one memorable summer, the Barbies usually dressed in their ball gowns and then became astronauts who explored distant galaxies.

And when I struggled with math class, I knew that my struggles had nothing to do with being a girl.

And thanks to the efforts of countless women before me, I took for granted that my high school had both a boy's basketball team and a girl's basketball team.

Perhaps it’s all about balance. Because thousands of women before me fought for, marched for, strove for women's rights, I can offer my child a choice. Barbie dolls or basketballs - it’s up to her.