Sunday, May 31, 2009

Breakin' the law, breakin' the law (with apologies to Judas Priest)

I did the unthinkable yesterday. In fact, I'm not even sure it's legal. I bought white pants. More specifically, white denim capris (what? they were on sale!). After I got them home, I realized they were perhaps a bit too reminiscent of "Dirty Dancing" for comfort.

I've been avoiding white pants my entire life, mostly because of a girl named Honelore. I remember her last name, too, but I'll keep it to myself. And yes, that was her real first name, though I might be off on the spelling. In junior high, Honelore got her period one day. While wearing white pants. And apparently, she failed to notice for quite a while. The whole school knew about it before lunchtime and her name went down in infamy. I tucked that little lesson away in my brain. White pants = bad.

The other problem with white pants is, of course, the fact that they are not slimming. At all. So why did I purposely buy an optical ass enlarger? That, my friends, is the question.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Paging: The Worst Mother Ever

I took the kid with me on Saturday morning to run some errands. We sat through a Weight Watchers meeting, then had breakfast with my friend Nancy, then bought some annuals and grass seed at the garden shop, and finally hit Barnes & Noble. I was in need of a new book to read and figured I'd pick one up for A as well.

The children's section is in the back of the expansive store. It features one of those tabletop train sets, and the kid loves it. I tried to head her off by letting her know that she would be given ample opportunity to play with the train if she would just agree to wait patiently while I selected a book to read. I figured I'd choose some offbeat paperback and then sit in the children's section and read while she played. Her patience, however, ran out after .0003 seconds, and she began edging closer to the train. Finally, I gave up and escorted her back there. An older boy was already there playing with the wooden trains. I knelt down and whispered to my daughter. "Blah blah blah share share share blah blah other kid blah blah don't wander away blah blah." She nodded and grabbed a caboose.

I knew I couldn't go too far, so I headed to the biography section just outside the children's area. I could hear A playing with the other kid. Then I heard another boy show up on the scene and some wrangling over trains seemed to ensue. I walked back over and whispered my vague "sharing" pep talk again. I wandered a bit farther away, to the nature section, and then back to the biographies. I was looking for a good memoir but nothing was popping out at me. A lot of junk, though. I mean, Candy Spelling? Seriously?

Suddenly, I realized something wasn't quite right. No longer able to hear my kid negotiating with the others, I tucked a book (Diablo Cody's memoir) under my arm and walked back to the train. I found only rough-housing boys. No curly-headed girl in a sundress. A mom sitting in an upholstered chair looked up at me. "She got mad and headed that way," she said, pointing to the far end of the children's section. I walked in that direction but somehow knew I'd come up empty-handed. Which is exactly what happened.

I sighed and headed towards the front of the store, knowing that it would be nearly impossible to find my child amidst the countless aisles and books and people. I held my breath and waited for the loudspeaker announcement, which I somehow knew was coming.

"Attention. Would the mother of A______ please come to the front registers?" (Why did we teach that child her own name?) The voice then repeated the announcement, just in case the coffee sippers over in the cafe missed the news about the irresponsible parent.

That announcement was what the rest of the book shoppers heard, but what my brain heard was:

"Would the worst mother in the history of all time, even worse than that mom in Texas who drowned all of her kids in the bathtub, please retrieve your forlorn, neglected child from the front of the store, where she waits for you with a tear-stained face and a broken heart?"

This, my friends, is a low point in parenting to be sure. What kind of mother loses her child? I trudged to the front of the store and saw a middle-aged lady smiling and consoling my daughter. "Thank you," I told her. "I was right around the corner. I don't know how she didn't see me. Probably walked right past me! Ha ha!" She nodded and walked off, probably to look up the number for Child Protective Services.

I knelt down next to the kid and said, "You were supposed to stay by the train!" She frowned and began muttering about how it was actually my fault for abandoning her. I decided that I had reached Maximum Barnes & Noble and got in line to check out. But, it was Saturday, the busiest day of the week, so of course only one register was open. I'm sure they wouldn't have it any other way. I don't think I've ever actually seen two registers operating simultaneously at Barnes & Noble. And no, I don't want to join your %&*#ing savings club!

We stood in the line for what seemed an eternity - her pulling miniature books off shelves that were situated right at her eye level and me countering with pointless time-out threats. The day, it seemed, could not get any worse. But then . . .

"Mama! I gotta go potty!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Twelve years ago today, I walked down the aisle at Cameron United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a beautiful day, everyone was where they were supposed to be, and the groomsmen were not hung over (as far as I could tell). I was thinner than I'll ever be at any point in my life again, though I think a lengthy stomach flu could get me into the ballpark one of these days. My proud stad was at my left side, supporting my arm in the crook of his. He was wearing a white shirt under his tuxedo, even though I had told him approximately 782 times that my dress was ivory and that his tuxedo shirt should match. To men, the difference between white and ivory is tantamount to "splitting hairs."

At the alter stood my intended, smiling widely. He had a ding on his forehead. The day before, he had slammed his skull into an overhang at my sister's house. Then he informed me that it was actually my fault that he had injured himself, because I had called him from the other room.

Fifteen minutes later, we were hitched. A dozen years later, we stand on the other side of home ownership, a cross-country move, four miscarriages, multiple dogs and cats, and most life-altering of all: parenthood. The kid gets mad when she sees photographs from our wedding. "Why wasn't I there?!" she fumes.

I'm not much of a poet, but I thought I'd share the poem that was read at the wedding:

Wedding Poem

I'll fold up my heart
Like an origami bird
And present it to you
For safekeeping

And sometimes you'll unfold it
You won't remember
How to get it back
Just the right way

Or you may press it too tightly
As between the pages of some
Too large tome, until
It flutters and bounces into focus

And me, I am collecting
Here is the night I asked you to dance
Here is the moment you sank to one knee
Here is the day of hopeful promises

Together we have spun ourselves
Into something familiar, yet not overly so
My friend, my valentine, my husband
Encircling my heart in a band of gold
Happy anniversary, handsome. I still dig you. But please know that when you kick the bucket, I am still planning to sell all of your comics for one dollar. Cheers!

Friday, May 22, 2009

4 going on 24

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look at your young child and, just for a fleeting moment, you catch a fast-forward glimpse of the adult version of her? Not the chubby-cheeked Dora-watching incarnation, but the calls-you-from-college-to-request-money-for-beer-books version?

Last night, I gave in to the latest request for Play-Doh play time. In those heady post-Christmas days, I was allowing Play-Doh to be ground into my carpet about once a week. Now we're down to a once-monthly sort of thing. I keep the mushy gunk and its related accessories in a bin at the top of her bedroom closet, so that Miss Tenth Percentile is only reminded of its existence if she looks way, way up. She has a better memory than you'd think, though. So, I set up everything in her room and then put up the baby gate so that the dogs couldn't come in and eat the Play-Doh (for whatever reason, the dogs are drawn to it like zombies are drawn to the living).

My daughter remains obsessed with birthdays (just 11 1/3 months to go!) and is always molding the grey Play-Doh into birthday cakes. It's grey because that's what always happens when one combines all the colors. She learned about the concept of mixing primary colors on Blue's Clues, but she's always asking me about weird combinations. "Mama, what do you get when you mix orange, purple, and green?" "Grey," I always think to myself.

She called me into her bedroom to celebrate a birthday - mine this time. "How old am I?" I asked. I hoisted myself over the gate.

"Four, just like me," she responded matter-of-factly. She pretended to light the candles on top of the grey blob and then sat down in a blue plastic chair (and instructed me to do the same). She folded her hands in her lap and took a deep breath.

"Happy birthday to youuuuu," she began, and then stopped. "Quick! Turn out the light!" I guess we had forgotten that this ritual requires semi-darkness. I flipped the light switch behind my head and let her finish the song. "Happy birthday, dear Maaaaamaaaaa! Happy birthday to you!" She smiled at me in the twilight, her eyes shining.

And then - for a quick moment, I saw it. A flash: a stunning young woman with still-bouncy curls, the baby fat gone from her cheeks. And then, just as suddenly, she was four again. "Now it's my birthday," she announced, snatching the Play-Doh cake out of my hands.

It's bittersweet, this business of growing up. But just when I think it is all passing too quickly, I find a fruit snack wrapper in the toy box or a mysterious sticky spot on the dog's head and then I am reminded . . . childhood has much left to offer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

The simulator ride at Chuck E Cheese

Here's a brief report on the weekend's events. Yes, I know the following week is half over but as my daughter would say, "you get what you get and you don't frow a fit."

My sister and her family were in town for the past few days. I had a "stomach thing" (that's the technical term) for the last two days of their visit, which put a damper on some of the festivities. But, looking on the bright side, I'm likely to have a kick-ass weigh-in at Weight Watchers this week. I'm trying on this new "glass is half full" attitude for size.

My sister did complete the marathon, and in fine form I might add! The marathon was extremely well organized. Each time she passed over a timing mat, a microchip in her shoe caused a text message to be sent to my phone. Her boyfriend and I were able to round up the kids (my niece and nephew plus my youngster) and head to several points along the way to assemble a cheering squad on the sidelines. We made posters and brought along a few noisemakers for added effect. Just after the five mile mark, the marathon actually passed right through our neighborhood. We had to walk about six blocks (one way!) to cheer her on, so I hope she appreciated how much we exerted ourselves for her. We also met up with her at the 13.1 mile mark, the 20 mile mark (AKA "the wall"), and the finish line. It was a very emotional moment to hear my sister's name being called as she crossed that line. I'm so proud of her!

After the marathon, I took all three kids to Chuck E Cheese because I'm the best mom/aunt in the history of time and space. I even brought along color-coded plastic cups so that the kids could keep their tokens and tickets straight. Do I think ahead or what?

Needless to say, my sister was pretty sore the next day. At one point she was lying on the couch and could hear the two younger kids bickering. Frustrated, she said, "God, I can't even get up and yell at my kids!" I drove to McDonald's and bought her some fries and a "real" Coke. Her stomach was iffy but she was hungry! I still haven't figured out what made me sick, but it seems to be related to some Moose Munch that I bought at Harry & David on Saturday night. Not only does typing the words "Moose Munch" bring back a wave of nausea, but even just seeing the transaction in Microsoft Money on my computer makes me physically ill.

The kid was very happy to have her cousins visiting for a few days (the only drawback was that Crabby McCrabbikins did not get enough sleep during their visit and is still a bear at this point). I felt like I should pay my ten-year-old niece, because she did such a good job of keeping my daughter occupied. We had a trip to the park, a visit to an indoor play joint, and an excursion to a wildlife sanctuary. The grown-ups also had a night out.

Life is getting back to normal now. My niece made several attempts to "misplace" her headgear while she was at my house, so I'm convinced I'm going to find it behind my couch or something. She doesn't care that her braces cost more than a decent used car - she hates the headgear. I'm going to start saying "that sucks worse than headgear!" and see if it catches on.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Very Strange, Aye

She runs - on purpose!

I'll be offline for a few days (sorry to disappoint my reader!), as my middle sister and her family are flying in for a visit. My sister is planning to run a marathon while she is here, which really puts a crimp in our weekend social plans but to each her own, right? Seriously, though, I am extremely proud of her. I was never much of a distance runner myself. My sister and I have the same parents and yet only one of us is tall, thin, tan, and beautiful. But I did get bigger boobs than she did! And a slightly better nose.

On a completely unrelated topic . . .

I took a look at my blog's stats this morning and I never cease to be amazed at some of the Google searches that people do which link them back to my blog. Here is a random sampling:

kevin blitzer --> This is the name of my friend who died recently (lots of variations of his name came up). I should thank him for generating some traffic for me. The irony there is that he used to make fun of my blog all the time. He still would if he could.

i spy my mom --> That ain't right.

what rhymes with mom --> Prom, glom, jiggedy-jiggedy bom bom? Methinks someone included a very sad little non-rhyming poem in a Mother's Day card.

abducted in alabaster --> Crime wave in Alabaster, apparently.

different ways to say "combines" kids --> Combining them, as in a recipe? Some days I think my kid was combined with that evil Gremlin from the movie. Hoo boy, is she ever giving us a run for our money lately.

how to strange ideas for kids --> I'm not sure if the kids are strange or the ideas are strange. Possibly both.

mom exhibitionist --> I'm going to ask you one more time to stop talking about my mom like that.

pink smells like ? --> Nothing like blue, I'll tell you that much.

tingly mouth sensation after eating bread --> This reminds me, I had ANOTHER allergic reaction on Saturday. This time it was a muffin that contained a bajillion ingredients. You'd think I would've known better.

what ingredient in brownies make me feel sick allergic --> If you find out, please let me know. This food allergy thing is driving me bonkers.

does green alabaster glow in the dark? --> I'm going to confess right now that I have no idea what alabaster is (other than the color/descriptor, I mean).

how to play i spy with my little eye --> This makes me really sad for some reason. It's like looking up the instructions for playing "tag" or something.

red tube searching niece --> You gotta start somewhere, I guess.

why is my mom being chewbacca --> I got nothin'.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Call Me Momomo

Envelope from Mother's Day Card

I'd like to think it’s pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, sort of like Kokomo. Needless to say, I will be saving this card and envelope (AKA “embelope”) for the rest of my days. When she’s 13 and has started calling me a whole new set of names, I’ll pull out this pink envelope and clutch it to my chest, remembering those all-too-brief days when a little girl called me Mama and watched Blue’s Clues in my bed.

On Mother’s Day, I think not just of my mom and my own role as a mother, but also of the person whose unfathomable sacrifice gave me that title in the first place. I think of A’s birthmom every single day. After my daughter was born, I struggled to find the words to say ‘thank you’ to her. And I did my best, in spoken word and in written letters. Eventually I concluded that the language, despite its power and beauty, does not provide words adequate for this lofty purpose. You cannot simply thank someone for a life. Instead, I try to live each day with a grateful heart and never to forget. It seems like the very least I could do.

Mother’s Day was fairly quiet. I received a balloon, an iTunes gift card, some dark chocolate, and a bouquet of flowers. The main gift I asked for was: an uninterrupted meal. I wanted to complete one meal without having to pick up anyone’s fork off the floor, refill cups of juice, or bellow, “Stop throwing food to the dogs!” After church, we went to a Mexican restaurant. The kid ordered macaroni and cheese, which was served with a breadstick. She slathered the breadstick with butter and proceeded to suck the butter off the breadstick. Then she asked me if she could open the other pat of butter that was sitting on her plate. I began to argue with her about it, but then started chanting “uninterrupted meal, uninterrupted meal” and rocking in my chair so that her dad could handle it.

“Father, can I open the other butter?” she asked.
“Sure!” He smiled and nodded at me, watching to see if I was twitching from the wrongness of his response. I looked down and ate my 800th tortilla chip instead (do those things multiply after they set the basket on your table? sure seems like it).

A few seconds later, I looked over to see my sweet little cherub sticking her tongue directly into the small plastic butter container. She cut out the middleman (the breadstick) and went straight for the cholesterol prize. By the time we headed out, she had eaten two pats of butter, five mostaccioli noodles, and the whipped cream off the complimentary sopapilla dessert. And we wonder why her height is in the tenth percentile.

We stayed home the rest of the day. I did some shopping on iTunes and then steam cleaned the carpets. Every so often A would ask, "Is it STILL Mother's day?" Apparently this "being nice to your primary caregiver" thing was stressing her out, because she landed in time-out twice before bedtime. She actually seemed surprised to learn that throwing dirt at the dog's head is a time-outable offense. There I go again with my unreasonable expectations.

Momomo out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hey Kevin

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.

Remember how you used to tease me about my preference for dating military guys back when I was in college? I hit almost every branch of the service (even the Coast Guard!) but never could find a Navy sailor who fit the bill. You used to say, “Claudia’s entertained more troops than Bob Hope!” That was one of your better one-liners. (For the benefit of my reader, I married a Marine 12 years ago and am entertaining only him – and not nearly as often as he’d like, either.)

The other day I thought of another funny episode. We were at my friend Jackie’s house (this was years ago) and an acquaintance of hers was also there. The guy was a bit of an ass and got into a debate with you (about some nonsensical topic that I can't recall). You were having a lot of fun verbally sparring with him. Convinced he had the upper hand, he leapt to his feet and loudly asked, “Do you capitulate?” And you yelled, “Capitulate?! I’m not even breathing heavy!”

Some of your jokes were legitimately amusing and others were painful groaners. Either way, you kept delivering them, undeterred. At your funeral, many of the mourners talked about your sense of humor. Sometimes I still expect to turn on my computer and find some goofy Facebook update from you, usually a veiled sexual reference with some salty language thrown in for good measure. If you could find a way to keep sending them, I've no doubt you would. Your sister still posts on your wall sometimes - she misses you terribly.

Remember the time you came to Buca di Beppo with my family a few years ago? You sat next to my niece and played with her. We were celebrating my birthday and the birth of my nephew. After you died, my grandma remembered that dinner right away and talked about what a "nice young man" you were. Don't worry, I didn't tell her any different. You were always a good friend to me, cheerfully showing up at family functions and whatnot.

Did you know that a bunch of the old crowd got back in touch because of you? We all regret that your death was the catalyst, but I thought you would enjoy knowing that some of us found each other again. I had lunch with Dave Manley a couple days after the funeral (Remember how we always used Dave's last name at restaurants so that we could be the "Manley Party?"). I know he misses you. I also recall how Khau was mad at you for about six months because you paid your portion of the tip with change one time. "I can't believe that guy pay with change!" he would say in his not-quite-perfect English. And Chris, of course, would always look at the bill and remark, "Okay, who ordered sales tax?"

Chris and his wife Beth invited everyone back to their house after the funeral. We enjoyed a toast in your honor. I think we were all a bit stunned – we didn’t expect to be losing any of our classmates until sometime after retirement. And then, unexpectedly, you left us.

I can't seem to delete your email address from my address book. Or your old emails. I can talk about you now without fighting back the tears, the sharp edges of my grief becoming duller with time. Sometimes they still come. I miss you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shorty Had a Party

The kid and her cousin

Well, after talking about the event ad nauseum for 364 days prior, the kid finally had her birthday party on Saturday. The party was held at the Little Gym. We had a total of eight kids, which turned out to be a good number. They played games in the gym, climbed on the equipment, and beat each other about the head and neck with styrofoam tubes. Then they retired to the party room where they ate cake and then cheered on the birthday girl while she opened her gifts. My friend Jennifer (well, A says that Jennifer is HER BEST FRIEND) brought the kid some Bendaroos. This was her favorite gift - she even prefers the Bendaroos over the bicycle P and I bought for her (and the bike has streamers! and a ringy-dingy bell!). At the end of the party one of the Little Gym employees told the kids that the birthday girl was going to give each of her friends a gift. She was referring to the goodie bags I had filled the night before, but A misunderstood and thought she had to give her gifts back to the kids. "Okay, I'll give them my presents," she said with a slight frown, "But I'm keeping the Bendaroos."

I ordered a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake, in keeping with the theme my daughter selected. I was charged an additional $5.00 for the "edible image" of Strawberry Shortcake. The term "edible" is used rather loosely here. Just a word to the wise - the edible cake image isn't the culinary miracle that the bakeries would have you believe. It's weird and chewy. We have a hunk of cake left at home and no one really wants it because of that top layer of yuck. I'm sure the kids didn't notice, but I think the adults did. Or at least the ones with taste buds.

On Monday, the kid had her annual visit to the pediatrician. I was curious to see where she would fall on the height/weight charts now, because I've noticed that when I see her with a group of kids her age, she is generally the most petite. She weighs 34 pounds and is 37 1/4" tall. 25th percentile for weight and 10th percentile for height. I think that officially makes her . . . short. From birth she generally tracked at the 50th percentile for height and weight, but she's definitely slipped. Slacker!

Of course, as a mom, it leaves me wondering if I've done anything wrong. We are vegetarian so I am always fretting over whether or not I am getting enough protein into her. It's challenging to get kids to eat a balanced diet, no matter what sort of food pyramid you may follow. Ultimately, though, I think she's just naturally petite. Her birthparents are of average height and weight so my guess is that A will end up comfortably average as well by the time she reaches adulthood. I'm not overly concerned about it at this point. When the kid tells me, "I'm a big girl!" I think to myself, "Well, actually . . . "

When we checked in at the pediatrician's office, the receptionist handed me a form I had not been given on prior visits. It was a family health history form that I was supposed to fill out. I filled out A's name and general information, and left the rest blank. I was not prepared for this little stumbling block. Her birthmom did fill out a family health history for us four year ago. It covers her side of the family. I reviewed it at that time and then filed it away. I have no information on A's birthfather and his medical history. I have to confess that it has never bothered me too much (the lack of a medical history, I mean), because that way my daughter doesn't grow up waiting to contract whatever may have killed some biological relative decades ago. However, I realize it may be important to her when she gets older, which is why I saved the one we do have. I will always do my best to tell her anything she wants to know.

The only other noteworthy aspect of our visit to the pediatrician's office was the list of questions I brought along. I asked Dr. Alexander the dumbest question of his career, I have no doubt. I'm sure he went home and told his wife, "Yeah, somebody finally topped it." Wondering what I asked him? Okay, here goes: "What color are my daughter's eyes?" Historically, they have been blue. Sort of a slate blue. That's why the song lyric "dancing down the street with her suede blue eyes" always makes me think of my daughter. But over time, they've changed a bit and now I honestly don't know. Sometimes they are gray. Other times they are green. Sometimes she mixes in some gold just to throw me off. I have no idea what she is going to put on her driver's license, but I guess she's got 12 years to figure it out. Are you also wondering what the the pediatrician said? He actually punted. He said, "They're very pretty."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Girl

"I gotta get the mail!" you told me excitedly as you hopped out of the van. You ran towards the curb, your curls bouncing against your shoulders. I followed you down the driveway, ready to bark a mom-warning if you got too close to the street. You cannot reach the mailbox, but you are obsessed with grabbing the mail each day.

I lifted you up so that you could open the white mailbox. You pulled out several envelopes, mostly junk mail. You frowned, irritated to find there was nothing for you. I took the mail and handed you a postcard offering a fantastic deal on carpet cleaning. "I think this one's for you," I said, closing the hatch.

You grabbed the neon green card in your hand and started to run back up the driveway. "I'm gonna win!" you called over your shoulder. Everything is a competition lately. I walked slowly into the garage, intending to let you get to the door first. You stopped mid-stride and spun around, your new spring dress fluttering around your legs. You put your marker-streaked hand in mine and grabbed my fingers, pulling me into a run. We reached the door at the same time. "Mama, we both winned!" you yelled. We laughed: me, because I have a better understanding of how races (and verb tenses) are supposed to work, and you, because you were genuinely thrilled about our mutual victory.

"We sure did," I responded, and unlocked the door.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What I don't need

One. More. Savings. Card.

My newish wallet is splitting at the seams because I'm forcing it to tote around a stack of plastic savings cards thicker than my wrist. I've got one for my local grocery store - this was my firstborn. And many more: Best Buy, a local cafe that is going to give me a free cup of coffee as soon as I have enough points (I do not drink coffee), the Children's Place, a gardening center, Build-a-Bear, Borders, Qdoba, Petsmart . . . the list goes on and on. I've been working on getting a free pretzel from Auntie Anne's for the better part of three years.

I was at Toys R Us (or "Toys Sure R Expensive" as Dave Barry used to call it) yesterday and the dour-faced employee (working at Toys R Us isn't as fun and festive as one might think, apparently) offered me a savings card. I hesitated. Then she said, "Oh, it's not a credit card. It's free." I didn't hesitate because I thought it was a credit card, but because I am simply out of space for these bleeping cards.

"No thanks," I replied finally. I've started turning them down more and more, because the odds of me using them seem to be getting slimmer and slimmer. Not to mention the time it takes to fish it out of my wallet when there are a dozen people behind me in line. ("Did you say the card is blue? You sure? Will my library card do the trick?") Spend a bajillion dollars in a particular store to earn points and eventually, probably sometime after I retire, I'll get a free cookie or something. The whole experience is akin to clipping coupons. If the paper towel company can afford to sell me a roll for 20 cents less, why not just sell it to me for 20 cents less? Why must we play this ridiculous game?

Please don't tell Auntie Anne about this little outburst. I do still want that pretzel.