Friday, March 27, 2009

#300 (Oh, and we're growing popcorn)

300 blog posts! Why fame and fortune have not found me, I've no idea.

In any case, #300 seems somehow noteworthy, so I'd like to take the opportunity to thank the folks who read my blog. Without the little people, where would I be? But seriously, I appreciate all of the feedback and encouragement from my witty readers. I'd also like to thank those who link to my blog, as that's always appreciated. I generally receive 50-90 visits a day, and many of those readers found me through those referring links. For the Boo Radleys who keep visiting my blog because you did a Google search and found an innocent post about fathers kissing their children, would you sick fucks please go away? Seriously, you need medication and, probably, prison time. I should just delete the entry, but dammit - I even did research for that one!

In other news, we are growing popcorn. I thought you'd like to be the first to know.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on. As I was picking A up from school a few days ago, one of the teachers remarked, "She sure is excited about planting sunflowers with you!" I gave her a puzzled look. "You're not, um, growing sunflowers?" she asked.

"Not that I know of. Also, we're not throwing the dance party she keeps chattering about."

A keeps bringing up this "dancy party" that she's throwing and told me that maybe I can come. Maybe - if I play my cards right, I guess. As far as I can tell, the dance party is separate from the Strawberry Shortcake party she is having for her birthday, though I would imagine that dancing is also welcome at that event.

Regarding the sunflowers, I did mention to A in passing that maybe we could attempt to grow some flowers when it gets warmer. I was thinking of petunias and such. I don't know the first thing about sunflowers. As you can surmise from the photo below (of a plant that resides in my home), horticulture is not on my list of skills. However, I do water the plants periodically and last time I watered this one, I couldn't help but notice that popcorn kernels were suddenly floating in the water. These, it seems are the seeds she has planted so far. When our first batch of popcorn starts sprouting, we'll be sure to invite everyone over for a snack. You are also welcome to dance while you eat our popcorn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How much me is too much?

Although my blog may leave the impression that nothing is sacred (poop seems to come up more often than it should), one topic I have purposely dodged lately is weight loss. Suffice it to say that I continue to fight the good fight, though I seem to lose more rounds than I win. Speaking of losing, may I share a pet peeve with you? It's the word itself. No one seems to know the difference between lose and loose. If you visit some of the message boards on the Weight Watchers site, everyone is crowing about how much weight they want to loose. These are the same people who bust out with, "I need advise!" Or even, "I should of . . . " Oh, it maketh me weep. I don't mean to be a language snob but criminy!

I haven't discussed my weight battle recently because, well, after a while the whole thing gets a tad embarrassing. I should've slain this demon a long time ago, right? Alas, no. I may stab it, tie it up, and throw it under my bed, but it lives on. It comes to me in quiet moments and says, "Hey, you remember that there are Girl Scout cookies in the pantry, right?" I ignore the demon but then it sidles up to me and hisses in my ear, "Don't forget - they're thinnnn minnnnntsssss!" I can eat an entire sleeve of the Girl Scout thin mints in one sitting. I have a male co-worker who has been trying to gain five pounds for all the years I've known him. I can accomplish this feat in a single weekend.

At the moment, and it is truly the briefest of moments, I am at my goal weight. Maintaining it is the hardest part of all (significantly more difficult than losing the weight in the first place). I should confess that when I selected my goal weight as part of the Weight Watchers program, I chose the highest possible weight in the range for my height, minus one pound. I've known this body for a while now (I'm an old, old, old, old, old lady, after all) and it's told me flat-out that it does not intend to be 120 pounds. If I were a sixth-grader or had lost my legs in a tragic accident - then maybe.

I wish I could travel back in time and pull myself aside at my wedding. No one ever gets back to their pre-wedding fighting weight, but I would at least warn myself not to let things get too out of hand. Or at least not to allow the denial to last quite so long if they did.

I have struggled with my weight for much of my adult life, but it got the better of me in the early years after P and I got married. My weight gain essentially followed a path through four miscarriages (from 1999 through 2003). With each loss, I cared just a little bit less about myself and this stupid, defective package that I came in. Brownies couldn't replace my babies, but it sure seemed worth a try.

By 2004, I was almost resigned to the idea that I would not be a mom. My mother said to me, "Claudia, you have to find a way to make it happen. You just have to find a way." I think I really needed that little nudge. My husband wanted children but isn't really the proactive type. He's more the "que sera sera" type. A close friend of mine became pregnant that summer and somehow, envisioning her as a mom helped me to formulate a vision like that for myself. I scheduled a meeting with a social worker at an adoption agency very soon thereafter.

I am not in any position to give weight loss advice, but I will say this. If you have a friend or family member who is overweight . . . whatever you do, do not take them aside and tell them that you are concerned about it. I know that may seem counter-intuitive, but trust me on this one. My husband was very wise not to say a word. If he had, I would not have changed my eating habits. I simply would have gone to greater lengths to hide them. For anyone who is overweight (and unhappy because of it), they must simply come to their own moment where they want change and are willing to work for it. I had my moment in July of 2005, when I saw some photos of myself with my beautiful new baby girl. I just couldn't deny it anymore. There I was with my elasticized waistband and my doughy appendages. I joined Weight Watchers in September of that year and have attended the meetings ever since. I currently weigh 67 pounds less than what I weighed that summer. I have been as much as 70 pounds under my starting weight, and as little as 50 pounds under.

My daughter was obviously a catalyst for my directional shift. I have often told my friends that I know I will be doing lots of things to embarrass A as she grows up, and I didn't want my weight to be one of those things. Singing in front of her friends, sitting behind her at the movie theater when she is on a date . . . ah, I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kids say the . . .

My daughter knows that when I take a bath, I'd really like to be alone (she can't comprehend why I would not want the company of a three-year-old during moments of attempted relaxation, but I believe she at least understands the concept). I want to read a book and sip some wine - and I'd like to do these things all by myself.

Sunday night was bath night for the kid. As I stood in the doorway, she gave me a serious sort of look and repeated what she had heard me say so many times.

"I'm taking a bath and I need to be alone." She jutted out her chin for emphasis. I should add that she was not exactly lounging in the warm water and reading a novel. Instead, she was sitting on Uniqua from the Backyardigans, wearing her Little Mermaid washcloth on her head, and feeding purple foam soap to Gretchen.

"I can't leave you alone," I replied. "You could slip and hit your head and then you might fall into the water. I don't want you to die, I want to keep you safe."

I hadn't intended to pull out the big guns quite like that (I even startled myself a bit when I said it), but I did want her to know that bath time isn't just about flooding the tile floor and drinking murky bathwater (why why why do kids do that?) Water, as we know all too well, is far from innocuous in so many ways. [Insert Hurricane Katrina flashback here.]

She frowned. "I'm not going to die, Mama."

"Of course not," I reassured her, smiling. "Not until you are an old, old lady."

She, apparently mishearing me, replied, "Yeah, you are a old, old, old, old, old lady."

There were so many "olds" in there that I lost count. Now, my mom was only 18 when I was born, but she seemed pretty old to me when I was a kid. My sister once asked our mother, "Did they have pens and pencils when you were a kid?" That went over about as well as you are thinking it did. Nonetheless, I can imagine that in a three-year-old's mind, anyone older than she is, well, old.

I may be a little long in the tooth, but I am not as mentally infirm as my daughter seems to think, however.

When I picked her up from Kindercare on Monday, her teacher informed me that my little buttercup had a) poked a kid in the eye with a marker and b) pinched another classmate during storytime. I pulled A aside to have A TALK with her.

Me: "Did you pinch someone?"

Her: "No."

Me: "Really? You didn't pinch anyone?"

Her: "No"

Me (realizing my interrogation techniques were failing miserably): "Who did you pinch?"

Her: "Autumn."

I learned this one through my years as a volunteer for Boxer rescue. When someone surrenders a dog, we've learned to ask questions several different ways in order to get accurate responses. Has your dog ever bitten anyone? No! Has your dog ever nipped at anyone? No! Has your dog ever snapped at anyone? Well, there was this one time . . .

I never did get a confession on the other crime. When I pressed her about it, she just kept saying, "Because I said I was sorry!" Her circular logic confused me after a while, so I gave up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


My husband earned a prize of sorts at work. He was invited to choose a piece of crap from a catalog. He received a similar invitation a few years ago, which is how we ended up with our Dustbuster (AKA cat-litter-sucker-upper - its sole use in our home). While AIG executives enjoy their bajillion dollar bonuses, our little clan makes do with small household appliances. What did he choose from the catalog du crap this time, you ask? A set of walkie-talkies.

The package arrived in the mail a couple days ago. P opened it, inserted batteries in the hatch of each unit, and handed one walkie-talkie to the kid. I don't know which of them was more excited about this little prize. I never saw the catalog myself, but I'm hard-pressed to believe that there was nothing even vaguely useful in there. I questioned the wisdom of his selection. He just kept repeating, "But it's got an eleven-mile range!"

Him: We can use these if we get separated at the state fair!
Me: Or, we could just use our cell phones.
Him: Yeah, but that costs money and these don't.
Me: Actually, no, it doesn't cost us anything to call each oth-
Him: Or when you take the kid to the park!
Me: You're right. These will be very useful.

He couldn't be convinced that we have no earthly use for walkie-talkies, so I conceded.

Now, every evening, the two of them split up and then talk to each other on their walkie-talkies.

"Father! What are you doing?!"
"I'm watching TV!"
"Father! What are you doing now?!"

It's extra fun for me, because I can hear A in the other room yelling into the walkie-talkie, so essentially I get to hear everything twice. They also tell each other knock-knock jokes via walkie-talkie. And sometimes, they push the button just to laugh.

Why I say "one" when someone asks me how many children I have is beyond me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

She's got your eyelashes

I took the kid to my Weight Watchers meeting on Saturday morning. She's reached the age where she is actually capable of being reasonably quiet for thirty minutes while the members chat about the almighty struggle. The ladies at Weight Watchers adore the kid. There is nothing that gets a group of women (mostly middle-aged) going like a little girl with a head full of ringlets. Moreover, a little girlie-girl who refuses to wear anything but dresses - some of them all but eat her alive.

A woman I've known for a few years happened to be sitting next to us. A climbed onto my lap and I rubbed her back as I listened to the group leader speak. Connie leaned over and said, "She's got your eyelashes!" I'm assuming she doesn't know that my daughter is not the fruit of my loin, so I simply smiled and nodded. This daughter of mine . . . she is my sharp-witted pistol, my wee companion, the fulfillment of a dream. I can shape who she is in many ways, but one thing I can never take credit for is her DNA.

I imagine that Connie saw the two of us sitting there and wanted to say something nice. People like to look at parents and children and point out similarities. Apparently finding nothing else, she came up with the eyelash compliment. It was tantamount to saying, "Look at you two with your identical livers!"

Truth be told, A does resemble her dad a bit. And goodness knows she takes after him in lots of ways. The other day she asked to watch Noggin after I picked her up from school. However, her dad was recording "Wolverine: The X-Men" and I was recording "Dr. Phil" (cuz I'm all intellectual like dat). The DVR will not let you watch a third program while two others are being simultaneously recorded. I decided to stop recording The X-Men (what, you didn't think I was going to ditch Dr. Phil, did you?). Well, the kid went into hysterics and demanded to watch the X-Men. So, I let her watch it even though a) her father was not home and b) I'm not entirely sure if the content is appropriate for a three-year-old.

I always thought the resemblance was a bit stronger before she grew hair:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Let me just say THIS about THAT

I typically don't use my blog as a platform for discussing current events. In most cases, there isn't much I can say that hasn't already been uttered by a thousand other bloggers. As such, I have not mentioned the much-maligned "Octu Mom." Until now, anyway. Nadya Suleman continues to be in the news, ad nauseum, so it's hard to avoid her. It's like trying to avoid oxygen or McDonald's.

The truth is, my seven-year struggle to become a mom left me with the complete inability to be fair to this woman. My perspective is colored by the loss of four babies. I have two beefs with her (well, probably more than two if you want to get all technical about it). The first is her comments regarding her life as an only child. Nadya Suleman has repeated several times in various interviews that because she was an only child, she did not get enough love growing up. I cannot wrap my brain around this at all. My daughter is an only child (at least in our home - she does have a biological half-sibling out there) and as such, she gets the undivided attention of two parents. She can't get away with much because we are on her like white on rice. She is not some undersupervised child among fourteen. If anything, she will grow up saying that we smothered her with our attention and affection, not that she "didn't get enough love." She has grandparents, cousins, and friends galore. Lonely she ain't.

Now, when my daughter was born, I did pose a few questions to friends and co-workers who are only children. I wanted reassurance that one can grow up healthy and well-adjusted even without brothers and sisters. Some stated quite honestly that they wish they'd had siblings. Others said they wanted for nothing and didn't mind being the sole offspring of their parents. I don't think most couples set out to have only one child, but sometimes the universe has other ideas and you find that you're a party of three for the long haul.

The other beef is, of course, the utter lunacy of it all. Fourteen children? Even the Waltons would have thought this woman was a few bricks shy of a load. If you want to know who is most offended by this whole circus, try visiting some internet message boards for people who are suffering from infertility. Or an adoption message board, where hundreds of anxious couples wait eons for a child. One of my online acquaintances (who has been battling infertility for several years) pointed out that she doesn't want eight babies. She's not even asking for two. Just one. One baby would make all of her dreams come true.

When pressed about why she felt she had to use all of the embryos, Nadya Suleman stated that if she hadn't used them, they would have been destroyed or adopted. In the scheme of things, is adoption really the worst thing that could happen to those embryos? I know some people feel a little oogy about having their DNA out in the world, but is anyone's DNA really that sacred? Was carrying those eight babies worth all the risks, some of which are so extreme that they had never been calculated until now? A woman's uterus was not meant to carry a litter. It's really just that simple.

Speaking of which, have you seen this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show? So inappropriate but so darned amusing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beef fat? WTF?!

As a vegetarian, I am accustomed to reading labels. The ubiquitous chicken is snuck into a lot of products where you'd hardly expect to find it. Canned soups are a literal minefield; vegetable soup is seldom vegetarian. I love black-eyed peas but I know to check the can to ensure that bacon has not been added. Refried beans are often married to lard. The list goes on and on.

One aisle at the grocery store where I thought I was off the hook, however, was the bakery section. No one is sneaking chicken parts into brownies, or at least logic would seem to dictate that they shouldn't be doing so.

Nonetheless, I recently learned that I cannot eat Hostess' 100 Calorie Packs. I had purchased them several times and it never occurred to me to read the label. I like to have a small snack midway through the morning at work, and this seemed to be the perfect option. They're sweet, and most varieties are only one point on the Weight Watchers plan.

My favorite was the chocolate. But oh, such a betrayal.

Here are the ingredients:

Sugar, Water, Polydextrose, Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate {B1}, Riboflavin {B2}, Folic Acid)], Egg Whites, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa, Glycerin, Maltitol Syrup, Cornstarch, Corn Syrup, Contains 2% or Less of: Soy Protein Isolate, Soybean Oil, Corn Flour, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Cottonseed Fiber, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Salt, Chocolate Liquor, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Sulfate, Agar, Locust Bean Gum, Dextrose, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sweet Dairy Whey, Maltodextrin, Acesulfame Potassium, Neotame, Leavenings (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate), Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Soy Flour, Natural and Artificial Flavors (Contain Caramel Color), Potassium Sorbate and Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Soy Lecithin.

It's probably for the best that I can't eat them. I don't recognize most of the other ingredients, so I figure that can't be a good sign. I've now replaced this snack with low-fat string cheese or a serving of baby carrots. But still . . . why does a wee little cupcake need to contain beef fat? Why why why? The world has gone mad.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The stuff I put in my mouth

The mystery began in the fall of 2007. I was having lunch with my pastor at a vegetarian cafe downtown. It was a weekday and I had blocked off 90 minutes on my calendar at work. I was looking forward to chatting with Reverend Sandy and getting to know her better.

I ordered a black bean burger, something I had eaten many times at other restaurants, though not at this cafe as far as I could recall. I took a few bites of my burger and as Reverend Sandy and I continued to chat about one's spiritual journey through life, I started to realize that my tongue was sort of burning. And then my throat followed suit. I then realized that the left side of my lower lip was starting to swell. The pastor was not looking at me oddly or anything, so I came to the conclusion that whatever was going on, it must not be TOO bad.

Now, a sensible person would probably stop eating the sandwich at this point. A hungry person who didn't realize she was having an allergic reaction, however, would keep eating. Each bite was less fun than the last. The burger didn't even taste good anymore. Finally, when my palms started to itch like mad, I abandoned my lunch altogether. My torso was starting to itch and I began to wheeze a bit (I do have asthma).

I got in my car and took a hit off my rescue inhaler. I took a peek at my ribcage and confirmed that I was breaking out in hives (sexy!). It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to make it back to work, so I called in and then went home and took Benadryl. It took four Benadryl to tame this thing - enough to bring down a horse, I suspect.

The next day, I looked at the cafe's menu to see if I could figure out what ingredient may have caused the reaction, but it yielded few clues. I'd never dealt with a food allergy before and I wasn't sure where to start. I just knew I wasn't going to eat that particular black bean burger at that particular restaurant ever again.

My next reaction came in February of 2008. My mom was visiting and she picked up a bag of bulk granola cereal at the grocery store. She poured herself a bowl of the granola and found that it was tragically stale. She decided to "doctor it up." She filled a pizza pan with the cereal, sprinkled cinnamon and other stuff on it, and put it in the oven to bake. Later, on my way through the kitchen, I took a pinch of the still-warm granola and tossed it into my yap. My lip swelled immediately. I brushed my teeth, took some Benadryl, and spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch. I have to assume that my mother's attempt on my life was unintentional. I am, after all, her favorite.

Since then, I've had a couple more reactions. The list of stuff I can't eat is growing longer, but I still can't figure out what ingredient is causing it. Another reaction occurred after I ate whole wheat pasta with jarred red sauce. Thinking that some sort of herb or spice was at the route of my allergy, I decided that it must have been the sauce. So I tossed out the sauce and bought a different kind. Then I repeated the scenario (ate the very same meal) about a week later and realized that it had been the pasta, not the sauce. However, I don't think I'm allergic to wheat - I eat wheat bread all the time.

A few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker at church who brought in several loaves of freshly baked bread. My daughter was eating a slice of a sweet chocolate bread. I took a bite and realized immediately that if I ate so much as another crumb, I would spend the rest of the day zonked out on Benadryl. I was tempted to ask the lady for the recipe, since telling her "Hey, your bread made me sick" didn't seem appropriate.

My most recent reaction was to some store-bought brownies that a friend brought to a ladies' weekend getaway. You have no idea how much I wanted to eat those brownies. I have mourned them ever since.

If either of my readers has any idea what is making me sick, please send your thoughts my way. I do have an allergist who treats my asthma, so I will ask him about it on my next visit. I have no idea how one goes about discovering which ingredient, or combination thereof, is provoking an allergy. I'd better not develop an allergy to chocolate and/or wine - God would NOT do that to me, I'm sure of it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Daddy Mac Will Make You Jump Jump

You won't find anyone so grateful for a meal as a dog who's been starved. My current Boxers, Gideon and Gretchen, were around 40 pounds each they came into rescue. They both weigh in the low 60's now, which gives you an idea of just how emaciated my sweet pooches were.

Though healthy now, neither has forgotten the hungry days that came before. Therefore, each meal is met with much fanfare and theatrics.

As I prepare their breakfast each morning, Gideon stands at the edge of the kitchen and leaps into the air. Straight up, several feet off the ground. I decided to attempt to capture it on video this morning. He only leaps once during this clip, but here 'tis:

In the background, you can hear Gretchen tap dancing on the kitchen floor. She dances while Gideon leaps. This scenario is repeated twice a day, every day. I should add that my nine-year-old foster dog, Fritz, is not in the video, because he refuses to get up early. You should see the dirty look he gives me when my alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. (I'm guessing that both of my readers will side with Fritz on this one.)

Guests and visitors always marvel over Giddy's vertical leap. He does it when he wants to come in from outside (BECAUSE IT'S AN EMERGENCY! I MUST COME IN NOW! EVEN THOUGH I JUST DEMANDED TO GO OUT FIVE SECONDS AGO!) He jumps as high as he can and then smacks the glass repeatedly with his paw, which is just as endearing as it sounds. I routinely clean smears off the sliding glass door that are at my eye level, sometimes higher. What makes his leaping so remarkable is that when he was found (left in a crate, outside a shelter), his left foreleg had been broken. However, too much time had passed since the break and we were unable to have it repaired. If you could see his x-ray, you'd be amazed at how jumbled up his bones are. He compensates for it by pushing up higher on his toes on that leg and miraculously, barely limps at all. I give him glucosamine every morning to help his joints deal with the constant misalignment. He is likely to develop arthritis eventually, but for now, he continues to defy gravity with his leaps.

I think this unbridled joie de vivre is one of the reason I love my dogs so much. Every day is a new day, no grudges are held over from the day before. I can run outside to check the mail and be met with great fanfare when I come back in. And mealtime, of course, is the greatest celebration of all. We should all be as grateful for our kibble, ne c'est pas?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My daughter and I went to the grocery store after work yesterday. After some intense negotiations, we settled on a bribe. She would agree to accept a small bag of Cheetos in exchange for staying in the shopping cart.

I navigated up and down the aisles as quickly as I could, crossing items off my list as I sped along. My daughter crunched loudly on her snack and sang "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" at the top of her lungs for everyone's shopping entertainment. ("PUT 'EM TOGETHER AND WHAT HAVE YOU GOT?!")

Have you ever noticed how no one else at the grocery store is EVER in a hurry? I watched a woman carry out an intensive comparison of three different types of salad dressing. She read the labels, she made notes - she did everything except juggle them. And I watched her because I had no choice. She would not move. Finally, we made it to the register and I started loading our stuff onto the belt. Just then, there was a commotion at the next register. I saw white-shirted managerial-type people come rushing towards the registers. It took a few seconds before I understood what was going on. The cashier behind us had fallen over and had embarked on a series of seizures. Fellow employees rushed to her side and placed a makeshift cushion under the young woman's head. I felt a bit conspicuous standing there, but with no medical training, it's not as if I could have helped. ("Does anyone need help with their website? No? Okay, just checking!")

It took only a few minutes for the paramedics to arrive. The cashier looked young - maybe 19 or 20. I'm getting to the age where someone like her could technically be my daughter. I teared up a little when I thought of her parents and how worried they would be as soon as they found out. The emergency response team quickly assessed the young woman and loaded her onto a back board and then onto a gurney. Her thin, pale arm fell off to the side momentarily before all of the straps were in place. My daughter watched as they pushed the gurney towards the door. Just then, the young woman had another seizure. In querying the cashier who was ringing up our stuff, I learned that the other employee does have epilepsy. I've never had a seizure myself, but I can imagine they must be harrowing. Scary to have, scary to watch.

As we left the building, the ambulance and fire truck were still out front. A started asking me lots of questions about what was going on. It was difficult to explain. I told her that the girl was sick and that the men came to help her. She asked why they came to help her, so I explained that helping people is their job. I also tried to stress to her that the girl was very sick, not just a tummy ache or something like that. I didn't want her thinking that an ambulance might haul her off next time she was under the weather.

I thought about that young woman well into the evening, wondering how she was doing, whether her fretful parents were now at her side. I looked at my own little goober, orange Cheeto dust still caked in the corner of her mouth. She is healthy. Her brain, for the most part, works the way it is supposed to. It is at times easy to forget that the absence of something can be a blessing, too.

Burning a hole in my pocket

So, you may be thinking to yourself, "Self, did Claudia find all the songs she wanted to buy with her iTune gift cards?"

I am here to report that I have $12.43 left (out of the fitty-five with which I started) and I can't seem to part with it. You know how when you're at the mall and you have no money to spend, suddenly you see everything you've ever wanted? The perfect pair of jeans, the bra that lifts and separates like no other, the most fabulous pair of shoes ever manufactured? And then when you're at the mall and you have a gift card from your birthday, suddenly nothing is good enough for you? It's kinda like that.

I did check out the songs that were recommended to me via my blog and on Facebook (And by "check out" I mean that I listened to the thirty-second snippet that iTunes doles out.) I bought a few of the suggested songs. Others appeared to have the makings of a practical joke. ("She really bought that one? No shit?!")

The song I keep coming back to in recent weeks is "My Girls" by Animal Collective. Try listening to it with headphones - it's even better that way.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Undue Influence

In the photo above, my daughter is wearing a hair implement that she picked out herself. It's essentially a ponytail holder with four sheer strips of fabric attached. There are a few rhinestones thrown in for good measure. It's cute. She digs it.

But then: "Kylie said I look like I have a paper towel on my head."

I told her that Kylie (a girl in A's class at Kindercare) has no fashion sense and that she can just ignore what she says. This Kylie character probably wears white shoes after Labor Day and mixes pink and red.

This little exchange did get me thinking about the rising tide of external influences in my daughter's life, though. I've been able to hold much of it at bay for a long time. At home, she does not watch a lot of network television. Before bedtime she will often watch one of her Disney DVDs or one of her favorite shows on Noggin. Noggin is commercial-free (proof that there is a God, I think), which is nice because she isn't being pounded constantly by toy advertisements and whatnot. At Christmastime, she had a hard time thinking of what she should put on her Santa list because she wasn't fully aware of just how vast her choices really were.

Bit by bit, though, the big bad world is seeping in. She is influenced by kids in her class. All of her classmates are three to four years old, but many have older siblings. Through them, my daughter is now aware of Hannah Montana. I think Hannah Montana is pretty harmless, but I'm not about to buy my child any of the 489,324 products that bear Miley Cyrus' likeness. Or at least I will hold out as long as I can. My stand against Disney Princesses lasted about half a day.

Last night, A announced that she wants a Strawberry Shortcake theme for her birthday, though I'm not really sure why - Strawberry Shortcake does not figure prominently in her life as far as I'm aware. After throwing up in my mouth a little, I told her, "Sure!" My middle sister loved Strawberry Shortcake when she was a kid and that was the first thing I thought of. My sister had a little doll and the red hair smelled like strawberries. One time, I sniffed the doll's head and my sister flew into an apoplectic rage and started screaming, "STOP! YOU'LL SMELL HER ALL UP!"

I may still try to talk A into something a little more unisex, since there will be boys at her party. The fear, though, is that she might choose something worse. She also spoke of the possibility of a Spiderman party.

Friday, March 6, 2009

20 years

I don't eat my dogs . . . or their friends

I am celebrating a bit of a milestone this year: 20 years of vegetarianism! I don't recall the precise date when I turned that corner, but I know I was 19 and that it was right after my first year of college. I had talked about becoming a vegetarian through most of high school, but my mom was worried that my health would suffer. (She is now a vegetarian also, as is my youngest sister.) So, I had to wait until I was an adult, or at least some close facsimile.

I did not immediately give up all forms of meat. I retained my right to eat seafood for a few months because I felt it would be easier to make the transition that way. I am from Maryland originally (and lived in Virginia from the ages of 8 to 25), and with the Chesapeake Bay being relatively close by, the blue crab often figures prominently in one's diet. I remember sitting at crab feasts with my father's family, the scent of Old Bay seasoning hanging in the air. There were rows of people with their heads down, cracking those big claws with a mallet and then dipping the crab meat in vinegar. To this day, the blue crab is the only thing I miss (honest!)

Once I fully made the transition to a completely vegetarian diet, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I would tread a little lighter on the earth, I hoped, and carve a narrower path on my way through this life. And, I want the same for my daughter.

Aside from the conscience-relieving aspects of vegetarianism, there are other benefits. Even at my pre-Weight Watchers weight, I have never had even the tiniest elevation in my cholesterol. I think it's well established that a vegetarian diet is healthy over all, provided you get enough protein (which is easily obtained from many sources, such as beans). Also, many of the vegetarian items I eat (such as Boca burgers) are extremely low in fat and calories. (Brownies are also vegetarian, which is how people like me end up at Weight Watchers.)

People often say to me, "Oh, I could never be a vegetarian." Well, you could, you just don't wanna. And that's fine, but just do like your mother taught you and be honest. I'm not going to sell you a ticket to a guilt trip (well, maybe just a short little jaunt). All I would ask is that you pay attention to where your food comes from. If you are buying inexpensive meat at the grocery store, you are supporting factory farming - no two ways about it. Doing a little research into factory farming is what prompted me to become a vegetarian 20 years ago. There is nothing humane about factory farming and I knew I was not worth that kind of suffering. In the scheme of things, I'm just not all that important and other creatures shouldn't have to suffer for me if I can help it.

That's all I'll say about that, because I'd hate to lose one of my two readers. A 50% drop in readership would be truly tragic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wee Little Nerd

I'm going to tell you a secret about my husband. Come closer. No, closer. Okay. He reads comic books.

Our basement is full of them. Boxes and boxes of comics, each slender book sitting contentedly in its own little plastic baggie. Our basement flooded once, but don't fret - the comics live on their own shelving system, out of harm's way. You can imagine my joy and relief when I learned that my Christmas decorations were ruined but that the comic books were juuuuuust fine.

But wait, it gets worse. He also reads D&D books. For the uninitiated, D&D stands for Dungeons & Dragons, a game that was in vogue in the late 70s and early 80s. My husband does not play D&D, but he does read the books. He also reads Sci-Fi novels with titles like "The Crystal Shard" (I wish I were making that up, but that is an actual title.) The characters in the books always have names like Mordara and Jalara. The women, as far as I can tell, have elven ears and heaving bosoms. Planets are in peril, evil must be fought. Yada yada yada.

So anyway, that's his thing and I've no doubt that there are worse hobbies out there. I should be grateful that his hobby is not, say, crack. Periodically I do make him move some of the piles of books to the basement - mostly so that visitors cannot see them.

Despite my husband's initial reluctance over swapping our cable box for a DVR, it only took about 24 hours before he started filling it with his geek shows. My lonely episode of "House" sits among countless airings of X-Men cartoons and some sort of Star Wars: Clone Wars thing (he also listens to podcasts that dissect these shows and freely admits that the podcasts are longer than the episodes themselves.) Again, I try to look the other way, but he is now watching these cartoons WITH MY DAUGHTER. He even gave her an X-Men book, which sits in her bookcase alongside "Goodnight Moon" and "Is Your Mama a Llama?"

The other day, she was "reading" her X-Men book and I asked her about the characters on the cover. She pointed to them and named them. "That's Storm. That's Rogue." I tapped the hulking figure in the middle and asked, "Who's that?" (I wasn't just testing her - I really didn't know.)

She looked at me as if my IQ had suddenly plummeted into the single digits. "That. Is. Wolverine!" She rolled her eyes.

I am not sure how long this father-daughter activity will last, to be honest. In just a few short years, she'll be asking her dad and me to drop her off six blocks from her destination because we're such a blight on her social life. I think every kid goes through that stage where your parents embarrass you just by inhaling oxygen in your presence. But for now, they are two nerds in a pod.

Monday, March 2, 2009

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake

I squeezed as much mileage as I could out of Santa during the Christmas season. "You know how Santa feels about dirty teeth," I would tell my daughter in as ominous a tone as I could manage. It was pretty effective because even now she will often exclaim, "Santa loves sparkling teeth!"

Since it's now March, I figured it was safe to start using this guy as ammunition:

I've been conjuring images of empty Easter baskets, of eggs left undyed and unhidden, of candy undelivered. When I picked her up from school today, A asked me, "Would you please tell the Easter Bunny that I'm being a good girl?"

"Sure," I replied. "As soon as you can pull it off for more than eight consecutive minutes."

Between now and April 12th, I expect there will be several instances of inappropriate marker usage, water purposely poured out of the bathtub, and at least one dog-related incident. "Ohhhhh, I don't think the Easter Bunny wants you doing THAT," I'll say with a frown. Truly, I have no shame. Just when you think you've sunk as low as a parent can go, you find you haven't even gotten started. Of course there is a law prohibiting kids from leaving the dinner table until their vegetables are gone - everybody knows that.

Once Easter passes, I'll shift into it's-almost-your-birthday-so-I-wouldn't-do-that-if-I-were-you mode. There is a dearth of mythological holiday-related figures in the summertime, so I'm not sure what I'll do then. We need a Memorial Day fairy, that's what we need.