Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Working From Home, or Reindeer Are Ugly

Now that we have achieved a safe rear view distance from the mayhem of the Christmas season, lovely and magical though it was, I can begin thinking clearly again. Due to the arduous demands of overspending online and wrapping mass-produced items in paper with friendly/adorable reindeer printed on it, trivial things like thinking clearly and eating leafy green vegetables are set aside between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to be resumed only once the shredded scraps of four-dollars-per-roll reindeer paper have been disposed of and the mass-produced items held within have been assimilated without a trace into the overabundant collection of mass-produced items that everyone already owned. Now, finally, I can have a salad and reflect.

Strike that. School vacation. Continued mayhem, different flavor.

The Tornadoes are at that adorable age where they can neither be left to their own devices while I go to the office nor have any desire to spend a waking minute in the company of anyone older than themselves. This makes for a truly touching experience. Instead of spending this week engaged in quality activities with them, or putting on attractive clothes and leaving them in the paid care of others while I interact with other adults all day, both of which evoke fond memories of Christmas vacations past, I will pass the next several days ricocheting between pointlessly staring at the screens of my remote access workstation, knowing full well that I can't actually accomplish anything this way, and being coldly ignored by my own children in favor of a stream of other people's kids who are apparently never fed anything at their own homes.

Oh sure, I suppose I can still use this time to reflect. As long as none of my thoughts require more than three seconds to complete, as that is about how much time elapses between teenagers throwing open the pantry door to rustle every packaged food product inside before grabbing something and walking away with the door left open. I will repeatedly tear myself away from staring uselessly at my work screens to close that damn door and then yell uselessly down the stairs that the kitchen is now closed, dammit, and then I will return to staring uselessly at my work screens. Perhaps on my journeys from desk to pantry door, I will reflect. But before you start framing up helpful hints about reducing the quantity of packaged food choices and replacing it with healthier options that we can all prepare together, to the health and bonding benefit of all, let me point out that I've used the word "adorable" twice in an ironic manner, once to describe reindeer and another time the Tornadoes. In the last twenty-seven days, neither of them (the Tornadoes, that is, I can't speak for the reindeer) has turned down a single proffered sugar-laden baked treat. Trust me, they are not adorable right now. (Still the Tornadoes. Although, if you have ever seen an actual reindeer, well.) I will eat my hastily prepared salad over the kitchen sink in solitude, if it's all the same to you.

I have to leave you now, because it is time for the bright spot of my week. I have to place a call to my employer's tech help desk, located in an overfriendly Midwestern state, to seek assistance getting remote access set up on my new laptop. I can't wait to talk to an over friendly midwesterner. It might be the only cheerful voice directed at me that I hear all week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Fifty-Seventh Happiest Place On Earth (Approximately)

Last weekend, my Groom excitedly escorted me to his thirty year high school reunion. Here is where I pause, so as to recover from the multiple mind-blowing facts packed into that declarative sentence.

Anyway, we don't get out much these days. So preparing for this momentous evening entailed many wardrobe changes, hair adjustments, makeup applications, and checking of the profile in the mirror accompanied by the traditional sucking-in-of-the-stomach. Me, I just threw on some jeans and hung out on Facebook until he was ready. I kid!

(This is pretty dicey territory, you know. My Groom is generally not too thrilled about blogness featuring, well, him. But in fairness, he pretty much knew five minutes into the reunion that he would wind up here.)

We both cleaned up pretty thoroughly and put on something nice and drove for what felt like three and a half days to meet up with all of his old football buddies. I am not at all kidding when I tell you that my Groom was giddy with anticipation.

The reunion was held in the dingy back room of a dingy restaurant which probably should have given up about a decade ago, judging by the decor. Apparently, this is where all of the reunions have been held. The deterioration was painfully obvious even to those of us who had never been there before. And I haven't even gotten to the attendees yet. We were greeted in the dark parking lot by a woman and her husband out grabbing a last minute smoke before heading in to "face the music" as she put it. She immediately recognized my Groom. Sadly, he did not recognize her. Inside the lobby/pizza buffet area, we collected our name tags and a stapled alumni directory. On the directory cover we were pronounced "Blue and White Sponsors" of the reunion. My Groom confessed that he had "added a little extra" to the ticket charge to help with the exorbitant cost of putting on the event. My Groom is especially fond of attracting appreciation in an understated manner. I love this about him, partly because it often lends itself to comic moments of revealed naivety about what other people value. Like high school reunions, for instance.

Out of a graduating class of about three hundred, twenty-four made an appearance. I would say the overriding theme of the night for most of those present was Closure. Football buddies? Not so much. Mostly people to whom football players did not give the time of day. Just about everyone remembered my Groom. My Groom, however, recalled about five of them. Heads of hair? Also not so much. Plenty of big, round bellies, though. And lots and lots of Old. Old as far as the eye could see, which wasn't all that far since everyone kept reaching for their reading glasses and grumbling about the name tag font being too small.

Thankfully, one and all remembered my Groom as being a kind person. This helped when it came time to find a place to sit for dinner. We selected a table full of strangers (they were all tables full of strangers) and passed an enjoyable hour or so sharing a dinner of lukewarm Italian food and stories of Where We Are Now with three lovely couples whose names I never caught. My Groom's Blue and White Sponsor money helped provide all present with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.

After dinner, someone produced a camera and corralled the twenty-three strangers plus my Groom to pose for a group picture. It didn't look right at all. It looked like my tall, full head of hair Groom standing in a crowd of amiable senior citizens. That was about all the reuniting he could take at that point, so we hugged a few strangers and left.

It's been an interesting few days watching my Groom absorb the lessons of this night. Lessons like not everyone found high school to be a glorious experience. And even if it was a glorious experience, people may not show up because life has not continued to be quite so glorious for them. And twenty-five dollars doesn't buy what it used to, such as chocolate sauce for the ice cream.

Anyway, it was a lovely evening and a nice way to wrap up a week away at Disney World with the Tornadoes. There is really nothing to say about our trip to Disney World. It went exactly the way such a trip is manufactured to go, and now we own headbands with mouse ears on them. And now, we are on to Christmas.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Only Sixteen Hundred Fifty-Six More Days

Eighth grader is taxing the limits of my Motherosity, let me tell you. Taxing it like a gainfully employed middle class American. Like cigarettes in New York City. If this kid pushes down any harder on my buttons today, I might burst into a live reenactment of Willy Wonka's elevator.

Motherosity is the word I use to describe the otherwise indescribable package of skills and characteristics required to raise decent children without dosing them daily with Benadryl. Patience, understanding, love, discipline, ability to multi-task...these are terms for amateur gardeners. Motherosity is a special brand of fierceness married to tenderness having an illicit affair with omniscience in regard to your child's whereabouts, doings and needs: Some days, all are content with their lot and life carries on. Other days, it's a hot mess.

Guess which day today is.

Today, for starters, is Monday. Monday is the day that comes after the weekend is over - hence, "weekend", signifying the end of the previous week - and thus most people regard as the time to get back to business. For eighth grader, this translates to Go To School and Then Come Home and Do Your Homework and Clean Your Room. How many Mondays have I said this now? Monday is a day when Sixth Grader has multiple activities to be shuttled off to attend, thereby rendering Eighth Grader alone for a brief period of time during which she could easily demonstrate to me how marvelously mature and ready she is for the TV she wants in her room and the laptop she wants for Christmas. How? Come Home and Do Your Homework and Clean Your Room. That's twice just this evening alone that I have spelled it out, and I bet you got it the first time.

Imagine for a moment that you are Eighth Grader. You have been in middle school for approximately fifty-one Mondays now, and with few exceptions the instructions on Mondays have sounded exactly the same. And the instructions are what again?

Go to school. Come home. Do your homework. Clean your room.

Imagine further that on Friday night, you went to a nine-thirty movie with your friends and then slept over one of those friend's houses. Imagine that on Saturday, you had several of your friends over your own house and, although you were instructed that said friends must go home at ten, you did not communicate this to said friends UNTIL ten, thereby postponing their ride-getting ability by an additional half hour. Step out on the imagining branch one more length and dress up in your Halloween costume, go trick-or-treating with your pack o' friends sans parents and then unexpectedly bring your entire pack-o'-friends home with you, on Sunday night as your mother is putting dinner on the table, and liberally spread them and their candy and their discarded costumes around the kitchen and family room, triggering the "must feed children" mechanism of the Motherosity so that the family's dinner for four is made to now feed nine, five of whom again don't seem to have any immediate plans to go home. (I will not bore you with the tedium that is Why Trick-or -Treating in November. I'm just grateful that it's over.)

Remember. You are in Eighth Grade. When I was in eighth grade, there was no way I would have been able to pack that much friend time into one weekend. Weekends belonged to my seventy hour a week working father, and most of them were dead silent except for his window rattling snoring on the living room couch. But this is not that childhood. Motherosity inflation has occurred such that the "I want your friends to hang out here so I can get to know them" mechanism has been activated and occasionally belched smoke from overuse. Fine. So, fun weekend. And now it's Monday. And what do we do on Monday?

Apparently, we go to the coffee shop with our friends after school and have the audacity to text our mother asking if she can bring us money. When our mother doesn't reply and we still have no money, apparently we then bring all of our friends home with us and assume they can "hang out". When my Groom, who was delegated shuttle-arounder of Sixth Grader today, firmly nixes this "hanging out," we place an angry call to our mother at work and proceed to have a screaming match with my Groom for my helpless enjoyment. We rile things up so severely that we induce Sixth Grader to tearfully join in, because the only thing that Sixth Grader ever wants is for everyone to be happy and get along perfectly. We finally acknowledge that our mother is on the phone with us and undoubtedly we hear her say "everyone must leave right now, go and clean your room.". Undoubtedly we hear this.

When our mother arrives home roughly an hour later, where are we? Are we cleaning our room? No. We are HANGING AROUND on the front steps outside WITH OUR FRIENDS because they are WAITING FOR THEIR RIDES. Which it seems they are calling for at this present moment. For the first time.

I wish I could say that bestowing the gift of "You're grounded" gave me some sense of satisfaction, some payoff for being the adult here. But really, without the Benadryl option, grounding is just a major pain in the ass. More monitoring, days of being looked at with scowling incredulity that she is really and truly grounded, and at the end of it, the blank response of an unremorseful teenager who does not get that someday her kids are going to put her through these same headaches and then, finally, she will get it and appreciate my Motherosity.

I consoled myself by counting up roughly how many more days until I move this child out of my house and into a college dorm. Preferably one that is close enough for her to come home on weekends for a home-cooked meal, but that requires her, on Mondays, to be back at school and off my watch.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Turn the Page

It seems incredibly unfair that it's practically the end of October again. Wasn't it just blazing hot and sticky outside? Weren't we just cooking burgers and dogs on the grill for lunch every day as if it were a dietary requirement?

I just finished reading this really terrible novel, on the cover of which it was proclaimed to be a "killer beach read", and I distinctly remember buying it for exactly that reason and with that plan in mind. Turns out, I am slightly repelled by "beach reads" whether or not I am at the beach. It took me until the first day of fall to pick the thing up and read it. Finishing it made me feel sad for those who may have wasted their precious summer hours reading it, until I realized that I, too, had invested time in it and that while I was doing so - while I wasn't looking up- my daughters both got a little bit older. Eighth Grader and Sixth Grader. Curse you, badly written beach read. Curse you.

This has been the first October in probably a dozen years that I have skipped all of my normal fall activities. Carving a jack-o-lantern. Eating pumpkin seeds. Picking apples. Baking apple things. Dedicating thought and debate to Halloween costumes for myself and the Tornadoes. The outside of my house is lightly adorned with Halloween decorations, but I can't take credit for that. That is what happens when you get married and go away for five days with the Groom, leaving your mother in charge of your kids and your home. Your mother decorates things. She also manages to find where you store your worn clothes that need to be dry-cleaned, and since you were careful to make sure every single bit of the household's actual laundry was done before you left town, she washes and dries your dry-cleaning. Fortunately, I've had time to go shopping to replace my only two cream colored tops, since I wasn't going to the pumpkin patch and all anyway. But I digress.

I suppose if the apple orchard promised to be brimming with fourteen year old boys, I would have been able to get Eighth Grader interested in going. Fourteen year old boys are apparently where it's at for her now. Can you think of anything less enticing, seriously? I am trying to
remain open and welcoming, I really am. But sometimes, when I look at her face and see how completely checked out she is while doing
pretty much any activity not involving hanging out with a boy, I just want to shake her little head. And then hand her some warm apple crisp, remind her we can watch the Great Pumpkin after dinner if she finishes all her homework. But who am I kidding? The Great Pumpkin cannot hold a candle to a moody adolescent boy who says he loves you but also likes four of your best friends. Plus, remember? I didn't make any apple crisp this year.

Not to be outdone, Sixth Grader has also come down with a case of the Boys. Unlike her sister, she still possesses the wherewithal to put them in their place when they act like little pukes toward her or her friends. They are easily dispensed of and in good time replaced. In between , she has still managed to find time to start writing her wish list for Christmas. She has begun slipping her list to me, carefully buried
inside pocket-sized packets of poetry she has written for the occasion, as a way to both butter me up and prove that she is clever and mature enough for the high-priced electronics on her list. She is currently my favorite. That doesn't mean she's getting the electronics. But I do like the effort.

This passage of time thing really slugged me in the gut yesterday afternoon. I was able to convince the girls to go costume shopping with me by acting as if it was the absolute last thing on Earth that I wanted to do (often does the trick). I spent the outing teetering between making Eighth Grader go back for more and more clothing to cover herself with, for crying out loud (no self- respecting bunny would go out in public without leggings under that frilly pink tutu, you can just forget about those white stockings, young lady) and gently reminding Sixth Grader that while I understand she likes the IDEA of looking creepy, inevitably she ends up asking to tone it down because she is scaring herself , so let's not waste money on weird smelling makeup that will get thrown away unused. It was great fun.

I took advantage of the fact that I was spending money on them to mention, numerous times, that when we got home I thought I might make some pumpkin muffins. Subliminally, what I said was that they should hang about the kitchen and inhale the aromas of love, possibly arguing over who would get to sit next to me while we watched Halloween specials later on.

Did this come to pass? Well. There were pumpkin muffins. As for aromas of love...if a can of pumpkin is opened while your daughters are outside talking about boys, does the can opener make a sound?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh Boy?...Oh Boy?

Oh, Blogosphere. Do you still exist?

Allow me to catch you up on a few outstanding matters. After .8 years of living in our "new" home together, two things have transpired. First, the last of the contractors has finally gone home. All of the home improvements that we have elected, and can currently afford, to do have been done. No more buzzing saws, drills, dust, making way for electricians and plumbers to cut holes in things, and parking in the street due to seventeen pickup trucks hogging all of our driveway space until their arbitrarily determined quitting time. It's just us. And the Tornadoes. And the Tornadoes' gazillion friends, eating all of our food and swimming in our pool. Serenity.

The second thing: Future Husband and I have finally decided when and where to get married.

We'd debated the available options on time and location until we could no longer kid ourselves about the fact that we were actually procrastinating about getting married at all. So we've decided on a date in the fall, and will hold the festivities right here at our house. Exciting, right? A wedding date! For me!

Except here's the thing. I'm thinking of not inviting Future Husband to the wedding. Not because I don't love him or don't want to actually be married to him. I'm thinking of not inviting him because, now that we have made these two decisions, there is a little bit of planning to do. In order for planning to commence, there must occasionally be a conversation about various items. And every time I initiate said conversation, Future Husband says, apparently reflexively, "Oh boy."

"Who do you think we should invite?"
"Oh boy."
"My photographer friend is available."
"Oh boy."
"We'll probably need a bartender, right?"
"Oh boy."

So last night, Future Husband and I were watching "Cake Boss" with the Tornadoes before bedtime. Cake Boss was making a wedding cake of epic proportions, as he tends to do, and this made me think that a traditional cake is not something I want at our party. So I ever so casually said to Future Husband, "Do you think we're going to need to have a cake?" And Future Husband said, "Oh boy." And this is when I got the idea that I might not invite him. I'll have to check with the photographer and see if that is workable. I'm sure it is. She's a very talented photographer.

Now listen here. I am no Bridezilla. Weddings, brides, ceremonies - these are nouns and that fall far out of my natural vocabulary. I was never one of those little girls who fantasized about her perfect wedding or perfect groom or perfectly blissful married future. The whole idea of marriage still makes me shiver slightly, mainly because I failed so spectacularly the first time I tried it. And? Didn't plan my first wedding, people. Other than my dress and the music selection, I left every stinking detail up to my mother and my bridal party. Didn't pick the venue, the photographer, the cake, the food - whatever other dozen decisions that had to be made to pull together someone else's vision of that day in my life, I let them go to it. It was the beginning of the end, and I acted like I knew it.

When I say, though, that Future Husband and I were procrastinating about getting married, what I mean is this: it feels like we already are married. Provided that marriage is supposed to feel like complete comfort and faith in being with this other person who is your partner, companion, and lover, and you can easily see yourself spending every day of the rest of your life with them. I don't know, maybe that's just me eating more vegetables. But I suspect it could resemble a good marriage. In my opinion, the point of following through with an actual wedding is to give our family and friends - and most significantly, our kids from other marriages - a means of officially acknowledging and celebrating our togetherness. And I was thinking that maybe it might be kind of a fun party to plan.

But the "Oh boy" reflex? Not fun to hear, lover boy. Not fun.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts On How Not Hungry I Am

Fourteen days remaining until the big 4-0. I have managed to reduce myself by six of the eight pounds I am gunning for. Okay, five. It WAS six, but then there was the Chinese Food For Dinner Debacle last night...merely the logical follow-up to the buffalo chicken mac and cheese I had eaten for lunch. Which I then topped off with a cocktail, failing to use lower calorie juice as the mixer. The Chinese Food for Dinner was topped off, I mean. Not the spicy pasta lunch. Because that would have been wrong.

So three pounds to go, with two weeks to make it happen. The great news is that I have achieved the desperately sought after "breaking of the range" that has been the bane of my weight management existence for the last five years. The bad news is that, with the exception of yesterday, I mostly feel like killing everyone in sight just so I can take their food. I'm not too picky about what the food is, either. I may have been tempted to pluck the partially eaten apple out of a complete stranger's hand in the elevator a few days ago, for instance.

My stomach is in a constant state of babble. I believe it is saying, "Seriously, woman. Get me that apple." Or "Would it be so hard for you to throw a cracker in this chicken and vegetable soup?" Or "I've had it up to HERE (stomach indicates dotted line slightly above thin layer of greek yogurt with fruit) with this yogurt. Where's the bacon? Where's my cheesy english muffin? Dammit, woman, this is NOT WHAT I ORDERED!"

I exaggerate. Really, it hasn't been so bad. I'm being very healthy about the whole thing. And I have some experience with this process, having repeated it in about twelve thousand variations since I was a teenager. Proper nutrition is a priority. Okay, reaching this completely superfluous goal by my birthday is actually the priority. But nutrition is right after that.

Let's talk about something else. Let's talk about the completely ridiculous statement that people keep uttering to me about 40 being "just a number". It's just a number! Really? I didn't think of that. Why isn't that comforting? Can anyone tell me? It's not that I'm exactly devastated over this pending birthday. No, not devastated. Angst-y and somewhat disappointed that so much is still undone. Also, curious about what lies ahead. Possibilities and surprises, certainly those lie ahead. Opportunity. Special moments. Also, menopause. Menopause lies ahead. Failing health. Death. So, some not so surprising things. If it's all the same to you, I think I will continue to regard this milestone as slightly more than "just a number." You don't have to play along. But the first person to utter that nonsensical platitude on my actual birthday will wear their slice of cake. Or pie. I'm hoping for key lime pie instead of cake. Now that I think about it, why don't you just go ahead and let that platitude rip - because honestly, I am really freaking hungry, and I don't necessarily want to share my 40th birthday key lime pie with any of you to begin with. Get your own pie.

...Sorry. That outburst was unnecessary. I blame it on low blood sugar. Okay, thanks for stopping by today. Fourteen days and counting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winning, Duh.

What a fantastic week I have been having! Simply beyond my wildest dreams. Really, the wonderfulness of each day has just compounded the cumulative joy coursing through my veins. Clearly, I am winning.

On Sunday morning, Future Husband and I managed to carve out a full two hours together. Seeing as I have barely laid eyes on him since that miraculous accomplishment, I remember those hours with a kind of nostalgic fondness. Looking back, I'd say it was foolish of us to squander our time lingering over a leisurely breakfast and talking about the future. What we should have been doing is drafting and running through a family haz mat plan , or boning up on our animal emergency triage skills. (It will be clear momentarily that I've just made an unfortunate pun; let's not get ahead of ourselves.). But no, we chose to devote two costly hours to speaking in full sentences, completing thoughts, and daring to dream. What can you do? What's done is done.

The weekend had gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, so I suppose we thought we deserved the break. We've been having some trouble with our washing machine, you see. About a week earlier, it went crazy and flooded a third of our newly finished basement. It seemed odd, since the washing machine does not even reside on the side of the basement that we finished, that it should deposit so much water onto the floor that it reached across the stairwell to be absorbed by the new carpet. Also, no soap. The final drain cycle, we supposed.

So we had begun the clean up process, called the washing machine repair people, missed being home in time to meet them during the appointed four hour window in the middle of the day, watched the laundry pile achieve the mountainous stage, banned all Tornado friends from visiting our house, and relocated Fifth Grader's chinchilla to higher ground in the first floor bathroom. Chinchilla did not care for her relocation. On Friday night, she decided to climb the side of her cage, possibly looking for a way out. She has very small toes. She lodged one of her very small toes in the corner of her cage, and hung there until Saturday morning when Fifth Grader came to say good morning. She then freaked out while Fifth Grader and I worked to free her. Which we did - free her - but not her toe. It broke off.

Cut to Fifth Grader, chinchilla and I rushing off to the animal hospital, chinchilla's wounded foot wrapped in a washcloth. Slow motion through three hours while chinchilla undergoes surgery to reconstruct her toe with what bone and flesh remains; vet explains painkiller and antibiotic administration requirements to an 11 year old girl; and three hundred dollars is extracted from my checking account. Fifth Grader also briefly complained during this experience that her knee was hurting her. "Huh," I think I said. Then I took them home, collected Seventh Grader, and sped off to spend some more money on lacrosse equipment.

If we leap from Spendthrift Saturday to just after our leisurely breakfast on Sunday, we will see Fifth Grader lovingly doling out chinchilla meds while slightly whimpering, "My knee hurts more than yesterday." If we then skip ahead slightly more, to about an hour after I (again) discounted her complaints of pain, we will begin to notice a very unpleasant aroma wafting up from the just dried basement. If we investigate this horrid smell, we find that incredibly stinky water is gushing into the basement through a hole in the wall, once again flooding both sides and this time getting the job done with finality.

Turns out, the washing machine is fine.

The septic tank? Not so much.

It's all pretty much a blur since then. Moments of awesomeness have included an evening at the laundromat, more money spent on more lacrosse equipment, the appearance and advancement of fever and cough in Seventh Grader, spilling Rodent Motrin on the sleeve of my "dry clean only" blouse, and...I know I'm forgetting something...oh! I did finally get fed up with Fifth Grader walking like Frankenstein's monster and simpering about what was OBVIOUSLY growing pains. To prove my point, I took her to see her doctor on Tuesday after dinner. After examining the little hypochondriac, the doctor bandied about comforting words like "MRI" and "orthopedic doctor", something about "possibly going in with a scope and cleaning out" her knee.

"SEE?" Fifth Grader practically screamed at me.

So right now I have to go check Seventh Grader's temperature. It was down to 100 this morning. Then I guess I better schedule that orthopedic appointment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How Many Calories in Tiger Blood?

This morning I made a regretful decision. For three months, I have adamantly refused to have anything at all to do with a scale; yet, at 6 a.m. today, for reasons unexplainable, I decided to prove how smart I am by finally stepping aboard.

Oh, man. I am a big dummy.

I think Charlie Sheen must be partially to blame for this misstep. Watching his flagrant dismissal of reality - and clear descent into Cuckoo Land - play out on every available media outlet, I guess I caught a germ of his bravado. Momentarily forgetting that his brand of bravado is largely chemically induced. At any rate, his blameability is highly accessible right now. So I will take my own flagrant dismissal of the reality that one cannot claim her means of estimating her current weight to be the way her jeans fit on any given day, then presume that the reason these jeans are no longer fitting so well is because they must have shrunk in the wash - when, in fact, she wore them multiple times before washing again and this did not make them fit any better - I will point it in the direction of Mr. Tiger Blood In His Veins. He won't even notice.

More likely responsible is the fact that I just finished reading Bridget Jones's Diary. Yes, about fifteen years behind schedule, and long after having seen the movie. Naturally the book is much better; additionally hilarious knowing how the movie version was ultimately cast. Clever, clever casting. Yes, everybody already knew that by now. Shut up. My point: it is written in diary form, with a daily header featuring Ms. Jones's weight and various caloric intakes over the course of an eventful year. I couldn't help but notice that her weight range is basically my own weight range. I also couldn't help but notice how very range-y she was across this range, which caused me to contemplate how narrow my own range has become. Specifically, I seem to have lingered at the higher end of said range for the better part of five years now; most steadily at the low point of the higher range, occasionally ticking up to the high point, and practically never breaking through the low point to visit the middle range. In other words, I have spent five years losing and gaining the exact same five pounds, when what I wanted was to lose that plus maybe another three to five. You know, reach the lower range and then stay there. Three months had passed since I last tortured myself by checking my "progress". Reading this fictitious diary was thoroughly entertaining. Charlie Sheen is crazy. Let's step on that scale.

High point. High range. Nice.

Marry this information to the inescapable facts that in 38 days I will turn 40, and have NOT yet written my own blockbuster debut novel, and have NOT yet married the love of my life, and have NOT yet travelled outside this continent...Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present Me Careening Off the Self Esteem Cliff. You may kiss my ass.

Cue the crazed woman mentally assembling plan to at least reach high end of middle weight range by 40th birthday (in 38 DAYS). See crazed woman veer into CVS on way to work to buy bright yellow notebook for food journal and newest Clean Eating magazine in hopes of finding clean eating versions of edible foods (read: things full of cheese and potatoes and cream sauces). Tread lightly near snarling crazed woman who forced herself to eat fiber rich bar and orange for breakfast and has already written "green salad with chicken breast" in pen under Lunch, therefore having absolutely nothing to look forward to for the rest of the day. She is not to be toyed with, kiddies.

I take consolation in the following:

1. This yellow notebook is very cute, and perhaps will inspire my food journal writing
2. The love of my life has, in fact, put a ring on it
3. Quite a few of my girlfriends have already turned 40 and it does not seem to be end of the world for them
4. There is some scrumptious-looking manicotti on the cover of Clean Eating

Maybe this won't completely suck. Maybe I will write all about it over the next 38 days. Maybe if I buy a lottery ticket I will win millions, which I can spend on an extended stay at a luxurious European health spa - in EUROPE - where I will write freely all day while purifying myself with cucumber and melon-infused delectables.

God, I'm hungry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

She Ain't Heavy. She's My Grandmouse

Fifth Grader has been pestering me for a dog since the dawn of time. I blame this on dogs, for acting all frolicky and cute when they belong to other people. Not to disparage dogs without cause, I'm just saying this has not been my experience when they reside with me.

I have precisely two personal dog experiences to draw upon. The first was a Shepherd Collie mix that "belonged" to my little sister. It began "belonging" to her when she was about eight years old and I was in high school, during a miserable trip to the boonies of Maine to see my father's relatives. A visit to an aunt's house brought us in contact with a basket of fluffy puppies. I paid zero attention to the basket of fluffy puppies. I didn't like puppies, and my aunt's house smelled like cooked onions and turnip. I desperately wanted to get back in the car and begin the six hour drive home. At this point in my life, I was in rabid pursuit of securing myself a musician boyfriend. This down home family visit? Nothing but a waste of valuable boy hunting time. Maddeningly, a fluffy puppy in a box made the six hour drive home with us. I was beyond disgusted.

The puppy grew up and lived for about sixteen years, ultimately becoming a beloved companion to my father. I am able to appreciate the poignancy of this relationship mostly because I only had to live with the furball for about eighteen months. Sorry, Sis. I just wasn't a fan.

Dog Experience Number Two came along courtesy of Former Husband, who loved all things as long as they were brand new. The Tornadoes were quite young and totally unable to help take care of a demanding pet. I was working long hours to compensate for Former Husband's lack of same. Let's get a German Shepherd!

How I loved standing in the snow at 5 a.m. waiting for the dog to pee! What joy overcame me when she scarfed down my entire dinner while I helped a potty training girl back into her Pull up in the bathroom upstairs! The good times only multiplied as she grew bigger and stronger. Former Husband simply couldn't find the time between EBay auctions to take her to obedience class. Thus, I made it clear when we divorced that I did not wish to retain custody of the giant wild animal. I'm told that Former Husband found her a good home with a retired couple on an apple farm. And I called a moratorium on dogs as pets.

So as I said, Fifth Grader, who recalls our time with the giant wild animal in a slightly more rose-colored hue, has campaigned relentlessly for another dog for quite some time. For a while I chose to deflect the issue by ignoring it. Then came a bout of definitive "No"s. Then we moved, and I tried saying nothing so that Future Husband could take the fall. That wasn't so good for the relationship with Future Husband. Plan D:

"What might you settle for instead of a dog?"

"A rabbit?" Too smelly. "Rat?" Too gross. "Hamster?" "Guinea pig?" Yuck and double yuck. Then I recalled a co-worker from long ago who brought her pet chinchilla into the office for a visit. Its personality reminded me of a squirrel. I have never seen anyone with a pet chinchilla since. A rare, fuzzy pet with a perky personality - a perfect match for my non-conformist tween! It was decided.

It was decided almost three months ago, actually. Many hours have been spent since then on researching chins, preparing for a chin, looking for a chin, having our Craigslist responses to "chin needs home" ads blown off, and finally having our application to a Chin Rescue League declined because we could not name the exact brand of timothy hay we would provide (we decided the nice people at the Chin Rescue League might make excellent subjects for an animal episode of Hoarders, so ridiculously arduous is their re-homing approval process). A fully outfitted multi-level cage sat, unused, on its well supplied table for a month. Finally, we broke down. And went to a pet store.

Cut to this morning: Day Four of Fifth Grader's love affair with her new baby. It is indeed very cute and squirrel like in personality. And as I mentioned, it lives in a cage. Big plus. I have been very careful not to handle the little critter too much, wanting Fifth Grader to firmly establish with it that she is the Mama. A little more challenging has been minimizing the torrent of newborn care advice I find myself wanting to spew at her. It's her baby, after all. She's read the books. She needs to find her way. It will all be fine! But a routine would help her a lot. And that seems like not enough food in her bowl. And there may be another way to arrange things in that cage.

Okay, I am too young to play this role. Waay too young. I'll be upstairs if you need me.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New York, New York. Except Not.

A week ago yesterday, I was in New York City with the Tornadoes. It was Day Two of a three day trip which I had arranged months earlier as their "big" Christmas gift, and which began a week ago Friday with an excruciatingly slow bus ride in the middle of a blizzard.

Aside from the prolonged commute, Day One played out pretty much exactly as I had been rehearsing it in my head for two months: Infected with the energy of the city at night, we ignored the bitter cold and set off for Rockefeller Center, where we ice skated and then rode to the Top of the Rock and gazed out at the city surrounding us. The Tornadoes honored my request for a texting moratorium with ease. It was so magical, I didn't even mind that we had dinner at Olive Garden.

Day Two? Still bitterly cold out. My planned itinerary of museums, local eateries and general assimilation? Not so much. How about hours upon hours in Times Square inside Toys R Us, Aeropostale, Forever 21 and American Eagle? They are too different, Mom. They are multiple floors. How about TGI Fridays for lunch and Sbarro for dinner? And about that art you want us to see and possibly find inspiring. How about an eighty dollar hansom cab tour of Central Park instead? It's culture, Mom. See? The Friends fountain! You love Friends! And that school over there? That's where Buddy the Elf picked up his little brother! And here's where they got into their epic snowball fight! Culture! So what if the charming West African hansom cab operator said that the author of Stuart Little also wrote Alice in Wonderland. We have blankets!

We did follow the planned evening agenda of attending a show with the rest of our bus trip group. Putting aside the fact that our designated show, Billy Elliott, was positively riddled with foul language and inappropriate sexual references (which would lead, several days later, to Fifth Grader being taken into the hallway at school to "have a talk" with the Vice Principal, who is Australian and who happens to know the meaning behind those derogatory terms that Fifth Grader was "sharing" with her curious classmates), I'd say it was a delightful night of family fun. And I only had to tell Seventh Grader once to stop texting in the middle of the show.

A perfect ending to the evening, as I had envisioned (for two months), would have been to share animated discussion of the performance we had witnessed while also sharing a little after-show dessert. Almost as much fun was what we actually did: tromp on back to Times Square in skirts and nylons and heeled boots (still bitterly cold out, mind you) in order to retrieve Fifth Grader's cell phone, which she had accidentally left in a third floor dressing room of American Eagle earlier in the day. We then chose to retire for the night to our hot, dry-as-a-bone hotel room. This was a great idea, most notably because it provided just the missing environmental ingredient needed to push my burgeoning cold into full bloom.

A week ago today, I surrendered my plans to introduce the Tornadoes to Greenwich Village and SoHo. Instead, I sniffled and sneezed my way through Times Square - AGAIN - to help them frantically throw away their spending money on cheap t shirts and candy. Once that fun was had, I blew their minds. "Yes," I said, "I am perfectly okay with sitting in the hotel lobby for hours until the bus comes so you can text and play on your iPods." I settled them into the lobby, excused myself for fifteen minutes to clear out the nearest Duane Reade of all of its tissues and cold medicine, plus a quick stop at the only Dunkin' Donuts I had seen in three days, settled into a hotel lobby chair and died. When the bus arrived, I boarded and died again. I was resurrected about midday on Wednesday.

I'm so glad to have been able to take them to New York for an entire weekend. It is one of my favorite places on the planet. I'm equally glad to have transformed into writing the details of our special weekend. Sitting here in my toasty but well ventilated living room, with my sinuses clear and my day free of plans, I look back on the story that has just unfolded on my computer screen. And I wish to take back the fourteen times this weekend I have whined, "I am so bored."

I'm going to take a nap now.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There Are Plenty of Reasons to Envy Me

Yesterday was not the best day.

In typical misleading fashion, it started out exhibiting best day attributes. Exhibit A: A successful five a.m. two mile run outside in twelve degree weather, and I didn't even die. Exhibit B: All of the laundry is clean AND put away. Pretty good start, yes? Then we had to wake up Seventh Grader.

Oh, Seventh Grader.

It never stops puzzling me how my wonderfully sweet and loving firstborn has transformed into something that, were I a small child, I would want to make absolutely sure was not lurking in my closet before the lights went out at night. I swear, she used to be kind. And moldable. Not so yesterday. It began with her inability to get out of bed, despite being summoned multiple times. Then, once she arose, she encountered a hair crisis. The hair crisis required twenty plus minutes of confrontation with the straightener, although at this point she had only fifteen minutes to spare. No matter. It was a CRISIS. As the seconds ticked by, and Future Husband (her ride for the week) finally said "I'll be in the car" with an air of resignation, I began to nag. Hey, you know what I hate doing more than just about anything? Nagging. Particularly the Tornadoes. We might as well just spray each other with nitroglycerin once nagging enters the picture. There is much muttering under the breath, to which I helplessly roar in response "WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?" which, you know, is such an effective communication technique for a grown woman to employ.

Eventually, Seventh Grader made her way downstairs, with icy daggers shooting out of her deeply black-lined eyes and her hair a marvel of straightened perfection. I made an attempt to change the subject and nag her about something else completely, namely her after school plans and homework. There was, of course, no agreement on either of these fronts. So I was forced to play my parental "this is how it's going to be" card. Always a crowd pleaser. Then she left, and I wept gratuitously.

I have always loved school. Historically, I have loved it for the learning aspects, but now I have a new reason to love school. And that reason is that Seventh Grader and I are forced to take a seven hour hiatus from one another. It's my recovery time. I use it to remind myself, and to be reminded by others, that I am in fact not a horrible person. Fifth Grader I still miss during the day. She still thinks I'm fabulous. True, she has begun to exhibit the occasional twinge of tween monsterness. The difference with Fifth Grader is she is incredibly self aware, and wishes for nothing more than to not grow up, not because she wants to remain childlike - although there may be a little bit of that going on - but because she has so much to do and see and try and master. She doesn't have time to dwell on her looming hormonal madness. She has a master checklist and she must complete it. Sound like anyone else we know? Seventh Grader lives in a perpetual state of annoyance with us both.

Ultimately, the school day had to end. Fifth Grader dutifully came home, followed instructions regarding taking her allotted snack/tv/computer time and then finishing all of her homework before going outside to play. Seventh Grader naturally modified her homecoming instructions to suit her, lingered endlessly over a bowl of cereal, and necessitated my leaning against the kitchen counter for ninety minutes to ensure that she did at least ninety percent of her homework, which of course "ruined" her Tuesday. Didn't do anything marvelous for mine either, but who am I? We agreed that she could finish her homework today, a snow day that was all but guaranteed. I wiped the blood and tears from my eyes and made dinner while she slunk off to the computer to tell her friends how awful her life is. Fifth Grader made intermittent appearances during this time. She was a bit mopey. She didn't want to talk about it. "What happens at school, stays at school" she recited at one point. Not altogether reassuring to my ears, but I didn't press.

After dinner, Seventh Grader and I put the gloves back on for the day's final round. The issue? Taking a shower. I was in favor. She was against. There was howling. Howling. I kid you not. At this point, my nerves were so completely shredded that I let it go. If the child truly wishes to shower every third Sunday, I say fine. This could ultimately be the answer to my fretting over her disproportionate social life/purposeful use of time ratio. If she stinks to high heaven, who is going to want to hang out with her? Stink away, little girl. Stink away.

Mercifully, bedtime arrived. After all of that, Seventh Grader and I did still manage an affectionate and even tender goodnight hug. So there's that. Fifth Grader capped the night off with the following:

"I didn't have the best day today, mom. But I still love you a lot." Aww.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm Thinking Epic. In a Baby Steps Kind of Way.

Here we are again, at the start of a new year. No doubt the fitness centers are all overflowing with Resolutioners, and celery sticks are flying off the produce shelves at grocery stores nationwide. I don't think I've heard anyone utter a curse word within a ten mile radius over the past four days, and that is just truly disturbing, really.

Thus, it pains me to confess that I am a card carrying member of the New Year's Resolution Club. Always have been. Can't seem to help myself. I am internally programmed to crave self-improvement. It's a sickness. Much like keeping a notebook where I write down the title and author of every book that I finish reading, and also alphabetizing said books on their bookshelves. And spending an inordinate amount of time making lists in my head of the things I need to get done on a daily basis. And always needing to have an ample supply of pain reliever on the premises, just in case. There, I have given voice to just about all of my neuroses - and if I have left any out that you are aware of, just shut up about it.

So I have repeatedly read that a good way to back up one's commitment to achieving New Year's Resolutions is to share them with a friend. Then, I suppose, because you have stated your intentions out loud, you are more likely to follow through. Well, I happen to know that this is utter crap. Just the same, I will use this time and space to share with you my resolutions for 2011.

Resolution #1: Write on a regular basis. OK. This is about the fourteenth year in a row that I have made this particular resolution. Some years it sticks, other years I massively suck at it. I can say with total candor that 2010 was a massively suckish year - but this does not stop me from resolving once again to write, weekly with any luck, even if I don't feel like it. Writing this blog might be a good place to start.

Resolution #2: Take responsibility for my own sorry-ass emotional bullshit. I think I will leave the mystique in that statement and simply reiterate: writing this blog might be a good place to start.

Resolution #3: Get marathon ready. Sadly, AficioNada is not going to be of much aid on this front. No way to achieve Resolution #3 without running a whole bunch. Not a compatible activity with typing. I do have a plan for this bad boy, which is to be ready for, and run, a half marathon in May. Part two of my plan is to be ready for, and run, a full marathon in October. But I'm not quite so hardcore about achieving part two. Let's just get to May first, mkay?

Resolution #4: Practice gratitude. A few months ago, I read this article about some dude whose life felt completely apart. To celebrate his coming apartness, he decided to write a thank you note every day for a year. Then, naturally, he wrote a book about his thank you note experience. Seems like I could kill two birds with one stone here. Seriously, I shared this story with the Tornadoes, and attempted to impress upon them how cool it might be to try this ourselves. But naturally, not every day. How about one thank you note per week? Surely they can think of ONE person a week to thank. So we haven't done a thing about it yet. But I am committed to giving this a go this year. And because our home is governed under a benevolent dictatorship (...me), the Tornadoes are committed as well. Because I told them that they are. And now I've told you, so I guess that means we're all on the hook.

So there you go. My New Year's Resolutions in a nutshell. If you have made any resolutions, I wish you the best of luck. And keep an eye out for your thank you note.