Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where’s My Hand-Basket? Recalculating.

Last Friday, I journeyed with my children and in-laws to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.  Since this was a three-hour trip each way, and I’m not terribly familiar with the Chicago area, I needed some directional assistance.  

Instead of printing out directions from Google Maps, or bringing along my extra-large atlas, I decided to rely solely on my Garmin.  I don’t know why I keep doing this; it never works out well for me.

Nevertheless, we all piled into my minivan, and we were on our way.

About 45 minutes into the trip, we finally reached the point where no one knew where we were anymore.  Oh, we had a general idea.  On a road. In Wisconsin.  Under the sun. 

Not too long after, the Garmin (in her delightful British accent) directed us to exit the interstate, and head onto a state highway.  Like dutiful sheep, we followed her directions off I-90, onto Highway 14, and back .... onto I-90. It was a portent of things to come.


Undaunted, we sojourned on, eventually crossing the Wisconsin-Illinois border. After another 90 miles, or so, the Garmin told us to exit the Interstate just outside downtown Chicago.  This seemed reasonable.

Turns out “reasonable” is subjective.  The next hour went something like this:

Garmin: “Go 3.6 miles, then keep right.”

Me: “There is no ‘keep right’ - it’s just a 6 lane highway.”

Father-in-law: “Should I turn right?”

Me: “No, keep going forward.”

Garmin: “Recalculating.  Turn right on Ohio St.”

Me: “We’re already on Ohio St.”

Father-in-law: “Should I take the next right?”

Me: “Probably.”

Garmin: “Recalculating.  Go .8 miles.”

Me: “Ok...”

We travel .3 miles.

Garmin: “Recalculating.”

Me: ???

Father-in-law: “Which way should we go?”

Me: “I don’t know!  Keep going straight!”

Garmin: “Recalculating.  Keep left on Lakeshore Drive.”

Me:  “Uh-oh.  I think ‘keep left’ meant go down that ramp.”

Father-in-law: “What ramp?”

Mother-in-law: “Should I pull out our Garmin to see what it says?”

Garmin: “Recalculating.”

Me: “Ok.”

Garmin #2: “Aquiering satellites.”

Garmin #1:  “Turn left onto Wacker Dr.”

Me: “WTF?  That takes us away from the lake!”

Mother-in-law:  “What should we do?”

Me: “The aquarium is on the lake!”

Garmin #2: "Go 2.7 miles, then turn right on Columbus Dr."

Garmin #1: “Turn left onto Wacker Dr.”

Garmin #2: “Turn right on Columbus Dr.”

Me: “Is this Hell?  I think we’re in Hell.”

Garmin #1: “Recalculating.”

Garmin #2: “Recalculating.”

At that point, all 3 of our heads exploded.

Preschooler: “Are we there yet?”

In the end, we ended up following my in-law’s Garmin.  After all, the gentleman in their Garmin had an American accent.  The lady in my Garmin was from the UK.  She probably wasn’t that familiar with the Chicago area.

And despite the fact that (unbeknownst to us), Chicago public schools were on spring break, and every parent (lest they go insane) brought their child to the aquarium that day, the outing was a success.

We saw fish.  We ate lunch.  We even managed to make it back home. 

Upon arriving at home, we relayed this harrowing adventure to Husband.

Him: “Huh.  I guess we need to update our maps.”

Me: “I thought we did that.”

Him: “No.”

Me: “So when we don’t update our maps, Garmin calculates its directions based on Dante’s seven layers of Hell?”

Him: “Apparently so.”


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Worthwhile Endeavor

I love having Preschooler create artwork, as it keeps her attention longer than just about any other activity. Scribbled lines are her forte. Lots and lots of scribbled lines. I've mentioned before how much Preschooler loves princesses, and her drawings are no exception.

"It's a castle!" she tells me, for the 2,930th time.

Of course it's a castle!

But a few days ago, she waved this at me:

It's a castle - with cookies!

Circles.  Tiny, colored-in circles dancing around the scribbled lines. 

She figured out circles.  And I was there.

I was there the day she figured out circles. I didn't find out about it from a teacher, possibly days after the fact, when she came home waving a picture with her name at the bottom that she made at school.

I'm stupidly, inordinately proud of those circles.

When I was working, I never begrudged the fact that I wouldn't be there for some of my children's firsts.  There would be the first time they did something at school, and then the first time they did that same thing at home.

I was ok with this, because I had to be ok with it.  Staying at home wasn't an option when Husband was still a full-time student.

Now I'm at home, for a couple years, while Husband works.  His job is temporary, two years tops.  So even though it meant taking a noticeable hit to our take-home income, it just didn't seem worth it (much less possible) for me to find a temporary job that paid enough to keep two kids in all-day daycare and then some.

But it's worth it.  Those circles made it worth it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Word Games

I love learning new words.  When I was in college, and had free access to it, I’d read the Oxford English Dictionary...FOR FUN.  And I make good use of my computer’s dictionary and thesaurus program* in writing this blog. 

After all, why say “allow” when you could say “permit,” “sanction,” “acquiesce,” or... “brook?”

Brook?  Let’s investigate this further. 

verb [ trans. ] [with negative ] formal
tolerate or allow (something, typically dissent or opposition) : Jenny would brook no criticism of Matthew.


Let’s check another example.

Why say “deceive” when you can say “delude,” “hoodwink,” or ... “lead up the garden path?”


Now, just because these words and phrases are new to me, doesn’t mean they’re entirely archaic or unknown.  I’m willing to bet I’ll be inundated with people telling me “Uhhhh... I use the verb form of ‘brook’ all the time,” or “I thought every one knew the phrase ‘lead up the garden path.’”

To them I say, “Don’t be such a killjoy (or spoilsport, wet blanket, damper, party pooper, prophet of doom - yes, prophet of doom.)”  Just for you, I’m going to say “bubbler” instead of “drinking fountain,” and “pop” instead of “soda.”  Or “soda” instead of “pop.”  Whichever annoys you more.

Apparently I’m a jerk towards people who know more than me.  I’ll have to work on that.

*All definitions quoted can be attributed to the New Oxford American Dictionary on Dictionary Version 2.1.3 (80.4) Apple Inc.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How To Squander Twelve Hours A Week Without Even Trying

As you may (but probably didn’t) notice, I recently took a short break from internet land.  I needed some time to clear my brain of a bevy of mental clutter, where “mental clutter” = “having-numerous-anxiety-attacks-about-the-fact-I’m-not-working-outside-the-home-and-the-only-cure-MUST-be-to-throw-110%-of-my-energy-into-SOMETHING-and-for-some-stupid-reason-writing-doesn’t-count-for-no-reason-except-I-seem-to-LIKE-making-myself-miserable-so-maybe-I’ll-take-a-break-from-the-internet-for-a-little-bit-so-I-can-focus-on-PRODUCTIVE-activities-that-will-never-appear-on-a-resume-but-WILL-confirm-my-need-to-feel-awesome.” 

And don’t you try to sell my psyche on the whole, “You’re awesome no matter how much you accomplish,” bit.  Because my psyche is pretty adept at being my worst enemy, and will not be deterred from that goal. 

Until they invent 26 hour days, there was no way I’d be able to make the transformation to master of the hearth and home; something had to give.  So here is what I was able to accomplish with the extra 12 hours or so I gained through internet-abstinence.
  • Drew up a “spring cleaning” list that will likely take until 2013 to finish. 
  • Got a sinus infection.
  • Realized that since I don’t read newspapers or watch the news, I should probably at least go on the internet to read my news aggregates, in case something important happens.  And it’s a good thing I did, or I’d be the last person on Earth to learn that Sammy  Hagar was abducted by aliens.
  • Showered daily.
  • Taught Toddler where her tummy is.
  • NOT clean my disgusting bathrooms.
  • Read Fellowship of the Ring
  • Learned French.  Not really.  
  • NOT go to the gym 3 times.
  • Helped Preschooler make 7 pictures of animals using glitter.
  • Went to the bank and got milk, in the same day.
  • Washed dishes, wiped butts, picked up toys.  Wait, I do that every day.
As you can see, it was time well spent. Now if you'll excuse me, I have five days worth of blog-reading to catch up on.  Two steps forward, one step back.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Read. Read This Book. Die. Die A Little Inside.

Behold!  Look what Preschooler picked out from the library ALL BY HERSELF:

Some one inherited Mommy’s love of kitsch!

Ready to peruse this blast-from-the-past? Here we go!

See Dick... bounce a ball with no shadow, bending the laws of light at will.

Is it a mystery orb? A massive drop of blood? A flying tomato?  
Only time will tell.
See Mom.  What is she ironing? A giant housecoat?

Women in the 50’s wore housecoats, not bathrobes.  Look it up.

See Jane... beat little Sally with a golf umbrella.

Show no mercy.

See Jane... strangle Spot with the red ribbon.


See Sally... dress-up like the Grim Reaper.  Of Clowns.

 Where’s my scythe?

To its credit, many a youth learned to read from "Dick and Jane," and its cute-but-disturbing illustrations.  Not nearly as offensive as Betty Crocker, but funny nonetheless.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Excuse Me, I Have A Date With A Mud-Puddle

The temperature outside is creeping above freezing, and, per government mandate, the days are growing longer.  Spring is here.

If I can use one word that describe spring for me, it’s "rush."  And "mud."  Ok, two words.

I have nothing against Spring, but I’m always in a hurry for it to be over.  Growing up in Wisconsin, we weren’t really free-and-clear of any late season snowstorms until April.  Imposing the Easter Bunny on the land when there’s still a noticeable amount of snow on the ground, strains the very elements of logic.

 Rebirth, my ass.

So, the quicker we blast through spring, the quicker we’re safely in the realm of summer, and the quicker we’re out of winter’s long reach.

If you just moved to Florida, you’d have nothing more to bitch about.  
Also, Disney World.  Hooray!

In addition, Spring always seems to engulf me in copious amounts of mud. This is probably because I’m in such a damn hurry to rid myself of winter, that I engage in springtime activities ridiculously early.  I’d be the one trying to ride my bike in March with ice still on the ground.  Needless to say, I’d fall in the mud.

It doesn’t stop there.  In college, a friend and I attempted to fly kites in April. The ground was still rock hard, but we didn’t let that deter us.  We walked downtown, purchased some kites, and ran back and forth over the playing field in front of our dorm trying to launch our kites skyward.  I don’t think I had flown a kite for 10 years, so it took a few tries to get the kite in the air.

There were three notable events surrounding this victory.  One was that a kind but misguided young man bum-rushed us, proclaiming his joy at finding other kite-fliers.

Him: Oh my God!  There are other kite enthusiasts here!  Oh, man!  What kind of kites are you flying?

Us: Er...um...they came from the store?

Him: blink.  blink, blink.

Us:  Sorry.  We don’t really fly kites that much.  We just wanted to get outside now that the weather is nicer.

Him: Oh....ok.  Well, if you ever want to fly kites, let me know.

The second notable event was that we both got sunburned.  Badly.  Apparently having skin that can only kindly be described as “alabaster” is no match for April sunshine capable of warming the earth to a whopping forty degrees.

The third notable event was that was that, despite the ground being completely frozen, I still managed to find the sole mud-puddle, and inadvertently sink my right foot ankle-deep in it.  It was a portent of things to come.

The mild temperatures continued for the next few days, and I was emboldened to take a long walk on campus.  I walked to the top of one of the highest hills, and looked over one of the lakes forming the isthmus that my college-town sat on.  The vastness of the sky and water makes it look like you’re standing in a big blue sphere.  I felt a wave of calm wash over me. 

Full of joy, I took one step further and thought, “Wow, the ground is kind of squishy.”  And with that, I slipped and fell down the length of the hill, only to end up in yet another mud puddle. 

I trudged back to my dorm, covered head to toe in mud, garnering the concern of my fellow dorm-mates.

Them:  Oh my god, what happened?

Me:  I fell down a hill.

Them:  Are you hurt?  Do you need to go to the health clinic?

Me: Uhh...No.  No I do not.

I got to repeat this exchange about ten more times.  Unfortunately, there’s no cure for klutziness.

Long story short, I have nothing against spring, only that it’s too wet.  Bring it on!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


“Am I beautiful?”  Preschooler asks me, swathed in her princess dress-up clothes.

“Yes you are!”  I say.  “But you know what’s better than being beautiful?  That you are smart and kind and brave and helpful.”

Preschooler contemplates this.  Several seconds later... “Mama, guess what?  I’m a beautiful princess!”

I’m not sure what to make of this.  We do reminder her, on a daily basis, that she is smart.  We thank her for being helpful.  We compliment her when she’s nice to her sister.

And, we tell her she is beautiful.  Actually, I’m probably a little too conscientious about telling her this.  I never felt beautiful growing up, and I want to instill in her a sense that she is beautiful just the way she is.

Yet for all of the daily reminders of her intelligence, her helpfulness, her kindness what does she seem to walk away with?  Beauty.

Some (ok, lots) of this comes out when she plays “princesses.”  Which is pretty darn often.  In fact, I’m not sure there’s a waking moment where she isn’t, in some corner of her mind, a princess.

I could blame Disney for this.  But, I think she’d be enthralled with princesses even if the Disney Princesses didn’t exist.  And when we watch princess movies, I try to emphasize other positive behaviors the heroines display, beyond beauty.

To be honest, I don’t quite get it.  When I was a kid, Disney Princesses were not the commercial powerhouse they are today.  Oh, they were on the radar, in the sense that some girls had Cinderella on VHS, but that was about it.

I liked princesses, but I was a nerd (though I didn’t realize it at the time.)  Best Friend and I might have dressed our Barbies in ball gowns, but then we sent them to the moon in a space shuttle. Cape Canaveral was quite relevant at the time, and space camp was definitely on MY bucket list.

Somehow, things seem to be going different for Preschooler.  Like any parent, I want her to feel beautiful in her own skin. 

But when it comes to pride, I want her to know she is smart, kind, helpful... any redeeming quality other than beauty.

Update:  I wonder if this has to do with her maturity level.  At three, she might be able to appreciate that pretty things are "nice,"  but she doesn't have the maturity to appreciate that being smart, or kind, or brave is also "nice."

Update (again):  Mom has insisted that I stop calling myself a "nerd." She she always thought I was really cool, since I usually marched to the beat of a different drum. This is probably fodder for a future post.  Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Are They Made From Real Girl Scouts?

I hated having to sell Girl Scout Cookies as a kid.  It was always an exercise in crushed hopes.

In my troupe, some sort of prize went to the girl who sold the most cookies.  I don’t remember what the prize was.  If I were in charge, the prize would be never having to sell cookies again.

Congratulations, Suzie!  You’ve sold your lifetime quota of cookies.  
The rest of you?   Back in line!

We’d be handed a little pamphlet describing each cookie and an order form.  In my 7-year-old heart, I really wanted to be a part of the cookie-making process.  Unfortunately, we didn’t actually bake any cookies.  I daydreamed wistfully of those lucky Girl Scouts that (I assumed) got to work in the cookie-making factory.

 Mmmmm.....child labor.

My dream of being a child-laborer was quashed.  Still, there was the prospect that, if I couldn’t actually bake any cookies, I’d be the best darn cookie-sales-scout ever.

So, I’d haul myself through the neighborhood in all my buck-toothed, knobby-kneed glory, knocking on doors and asking, “Wannabuysomecookies?”

Some neighbors “wouldn’t be home.”  I can’t say I’d blame them.  It’s easier to simply ignore a kid, than to have to tell them, “NO!  I do not want your cookies or for you to be successful in life.  I have high cholesterol.”

Most neighbors, though, bought at least one pity-box. I lived in a small neighborhood, so I don’t think I had more than 10 or so doors to knock on in the first place.

I’d turn up to the next troupe meeting with my handful of cookie orders, only to be met with girls who not only lived in larger neighborhoods, but had parents who worked in offices that allowed them to hock their child’s cookies to their co-workers.

Naturally, I didn’t win the cookie-selling prize.  I don't even know if I earned a cookie-selling badge.  I just don’t have the salesperson knack. 

Later on in high-school I had to participate in various candy-bar selling fundraisers.  We’d all have to buy several boxes of candy to sell, and whatever we didn’t sell, we were stuck with.  People who once had sympathy for a goofy-looking child selling cookies, had little patience for an awkward teenager hocking candy bars.

Believe it or not, it is possible to grow tired of eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, especially when you are the proud owner of 20 unsold giant-sized packs.

Each bite tastes like failure.

So, these days, I have a great deal of sympathy for any wayward children pimping candy or cookies or wrapping paper in hopes of going to summer camp, or buying team uniforms, or whatever.  It’s not their fault. 

Eight is a little young to be forced to reckon with the fact that you may not have a future career in sales.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Champagne Wishes And Caffinated Dreams

Some people remember their first kiss, their first car, their first... ummmm... period? 

Sorry, dudes.

I remember my first cup of coffee.

I was a junior in college, and facing an all-nighter in order to finish a writing assignment.  Caffeine was required, and I was out of my usual culprits.

Pop is for the weak.  That’s, right, I called it POP.  MUWAHAHAHAHA!

I barely had time to finish the paper, much less go to the grocery store.  No, another solution had to be found.

Enter my wonderful roommate.  She had been drinking coffee since high school, and always had a bountiful supply on hand.   She showed me how to brew up a pot, and soon....I lost my coffee virginity.


That first cup was black, as my roommate didn’t go in for any fancy artificial creamers.  I didn’t like the way it tasted.  But I loved the way it kept me up in time to finish that paper.  And I’m pretty sure I got an ‘A.’

Thanks, coffee!

From that point on, for better or worse, I was hooked.  Coffee followed me to class throughout college, even night classes. My first “real” job was made bearable only by the presence of the city’s best coffee shop right across the street from my apartment.  Law school and coffee went together like peanut butter and bananas.

What?  I like them.

I welcomed the presence of flavored coffee, half-and-half, and yes, artificial creamers.

Enjoying this is like admitting you like lutefisk.  
You know you’ll be shunned, but you don’t really care.

I’ll still drink it black, if necessary.  Black coffee is better than no coffee, and it is necessary if you’re eating a rich dessert.  Who can stomach a piece of flourless chocolate cake together with a cup of sugar-laced coffee?


During my pregnancies, I was forced to give up coffee.  This initially was more upsetting than having to give up wine.  BUT, Mother Nature was kind enough to make me throw up every time I even smelled coffee.  It was probably the only time that puking made gestation MORE bearable.

Thanks, Mother Nature!

All of this to lead up to the fact that, since Toddler has been up all night for weeks with an ear infection, coffee has been more important than ever.  And with talk of ear tubes in the works, I have a feeling it will continue to play a critical role in my ability to function like a normal adult. 

To the best of my abilities, which may not be saying much.