Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sandwiched between the grocery trip from hell (a hell in which I would swear that someone had secretly given my children a couple of Red Bulls each) and a Mom’s Night Out I organized for my Mothers of Multiples club, it happened. I was driving, a block or two from home, whiny insanity still echoing in my ears, when I came around a turn and saw this.

A sunset. How cliché. I mean really Pam? A sunset? Yes, really. There was no question. I pulled onto the shoulder, put on my hazards, and got out of the car. The 4” heels of my favorite brown boots sunk into the rain-saturated earth, and the hem of my too-long jeans got soaked, as I got out of my car to look, and breathe, and take that picture with the camera on my phone. It’s not a great shot. I didn’t take it to be a great shot. I am many kinds of artist, but a photographer is not one of them, and even if I were, the camera on my phone is not up to the job of capturing what I saw with my eyes and my soul. I took this photo for me, to remind me. To remind me to look, and breathe, and take moments as they are offered. Moments of grace.

When I lived in California, pre-kids, there was a place halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz called Pescadero Beach. When the tide is out, it has a sandy beach, but there are better beaches for sand and surf. But it’s quiet—on colder days it’s often deserted—and the waves splash on the rocks like a postcard, and there are tiny perfect creatures in endless tide pools, and one rock perfectly shaped for sitting. For sitting and looking and breathing.

I got engaged on that beach, and you would think that would be what I remember most about it, but it isn’t. I remember quiet days there by myself, listening to the birds, breathing in the living smell of the sea, feeling the wind and salt spray on my face and in my hair, watching the sun set on the water, opening myself up and quieting my mind and leaving a space to let grace come in.

I don’t leave that space much anymore.

I’m busy and stressed and overscheduled. My sleep-deprived body drops into unconsciousness as soon as I sit still. There is no room for space, no time for grace. So sometimes grace has to come along and smack me upside the head. “Hey dumb-ass, here’s a miraculous friggin’ sunset for you! Wake the hell up, you sleepwalking zombie! Wake UP!”

OK, OK, I’m awake. Now what?

I don’t know.

I don’t know is an excellent place to start.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The pop-by

A few months ago, a family with three-year-old twins moved in down the block from us. They are maybe only five houses away, but the lots are big, and their house is in the wrong direction (that is, uphill), so we hadn’t quite gotten around to being gracious and welcoming neighbors. Our neighborhood is kind of anti-welcoming. People are all very pleasant, but I have lived here for six years and I only know a handful of neighbors to say hi. The houses are far enough apart that parents drive their kids from house to house on Halloween, or many just go to a more easily navigated area (one with sidewalks, which our neighborhood also lacks) to trick-or-treat.

I know the families on each side of us, and the one across the street. I know the dog-walkers and the power-walkers from walks with the kids. I know a few moms from the cul-de-sac in the back of the neighborhood where we like to walk and play. I know the guy who testified against the schmuck who robbed our house last year. That’s pretty much it. We all wave from our minivans and keep to ourselves. It’s a bummer when you really do run out of sugar in the middle of a recipe, but it’s kind of OK with me. I like my privacy and I am not a fan of the pop-by.

The pop-by, for those who don’t use the expression, is when a neighbor or other acquaintance appears unannounced at your front door. It’s friendly, and neighborly, and I am firmly and vehemently against it.

So here’s why I’m anti-pop-by. It’s very simple. If I am home and not busy, I am in my pajamas. I may be technically wearing clothes, but I am almost certainly not wearing a bra, and there’s a 50-50 chance that at least one of my kids is running around in underpants or less. Also, unless I know people are coming over, the house is probably covered in toys, clothes the kids took off and dropped wherever they fell, goldfish crumbs, and a nice cozy layer of dust. It makes me crazy, but that’s just how we live at this particular stage of my life. It feels like I spend all of my time trying to maintain that level of squalor without it devolving into an even lower ring of hell.

I came home from a night out a few weeks ago and was informed that the new neighbors had done a pop-by while I was gone. I glanced around the living room, horrified, but my hubby reassured me that he had gone outside to talk with them and hadn’t let them in. Relief. Un-neighborly, unfriendly relief. They left their names, but no contact info, and invited us to come on by any time.

Ugh, they’re pro-pop-by. They couldn’t possibly be my people.

But when we went on our walks, we started walking up the hill first to see if they were home. Yesterday, for the first time, they were. It was around noon. The mom was in her PJs. And the kids were wearing PJ tops with underpants. And there were toys everywhere and Cheerio crumbs on the floor and a pile of magazines that had clearly been the recent victim of some sort of tantrum or gleeful naughtiness. Yay, just like us! She used to live in Santa Cruz. Her husband has a PhD. Her kids watched an hour of TV in the hour and twenty minutes we were there, and we bonded over how TV is awesome and totally teaches our kids stuff.

She scooped up the magazines, and threw some dirty clothes in the hamper, but otherwise didn’t seem at all fazed by the fact that she was meeting me for the first time in her PJs. She’s pro-pop-by, but she is my people after all. What were the odds?

So next time I need a cup of sugar… I don’t know… maybe.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes… comes my voice

Every parent of a preschooler has experienced it. We hear something coming from our child’s mouth that sounds eerily familiar. From the words to the inflection and facial expression, it’s us to a tee. It can be embarrassing, hilarious, or a sobering mirror.

Sometimes, it reassures us that our kids are getting messages of love. Once, my daughter was watching me re-write the grocery list in order by aisle. (Does everyone do this or did I just inadvertently reveal that I am a freak? Oh well, either way.) She simply observed for a moment, and then said quietly, “Mommy, that’s beautiful” in the sweetest, proudest-sounding voice I have ever heard. That’s me. I do exactly that. I watch them draw, and then I tell them their art is beautiful. Yes, I know that I should be using non-judgment phrases like “I like how you made that wiggly line” or whatever, but I don’t. I tell them their art is beautiful, in exactly the tone of voice I heard coming from my daughter’s mouth. When my kids say, “I love you so so so SO much forever,” I know that they are hearing me when I say it to them. And when I hear one tell the other, “I’m so proud of you,” my heart just about explodes.

Too often, I hear my voice mirrored back saying things I shouldn’t. The other day, irritated and impatient in the grocery store parking lot—I don’t remember why—I muttered, “Jesus” under my breath. Both kids looked at me and started chanting “Jesus Christ” over and over. Um, that’s bad. That’s very bad. Hilarious, but bad. I guess it could be worse. It could be the “for f**k’s sake” that emerged from my son one day and then never again. Blame for that one is squarely on Daddy’s shoulders. But the old JC name-in-vain thing is all me. My hubby and I have tried very hard to tame our potty mouths, which is apparently working to some degree, because the word “friggin’” has become very popular among preschoolers in our house. I honestly think that one is funny as hell, but their teachers won’t, so I guess we nip that in the bud too. If anyone has an f-bomb substitute that would be socially acceptable coming from the mouth of a four-year-old, please let me know. I desperately need one.

My favorite (yes even better than “for f**k’s sake”) is hearing them make rules, lay down discipline, or be firm parents. Every time my son receives a time out, he informs me in perfect firm-but-calm parent voice that “we never, EVER give time-outs in this house!” Once, at dinnertime, he gave me a choice: He could play Mario Kart Wii now and eat later, or I could bring his plate to the couch so he could take bites between races. When I chose option C, turn off the Wii and come to the table, he informed me calmly and politely, “That’s not a choice, Mommy. I gave you two choices. You have to pick one.” My daughter’s rendition of the steps of “1-2-3 Magic” is much better than my husband’s. When he has trouble following the steps, I like to remind him that it’s so simple a three-year-old can do it.

And then some words are just plain funny coming from the mouth of a four-year-old, especially when they are used correctly: “Actually,” “otherwise,” “reboot,” “nunchuck.” Nothing is more silly and at the same time sobering than hearing your kid tell you, “I’ll come to dinner in a minute. I just have to check one more e-mail.”

The “one more e-mail” moments make me cringe. The “I’m so proud of you” moments make me cry in a good way. Kids are a mirror. They show both the good and the bad. But unlike a physical mirror, the stuff you don’t like hearing back is stuff that you can change if you want to. And that makes me so grateful. So I stopped writing this blog entry in the middle when my son asked me to play Hullabaloo with him. I put it off again to snuggle with my daughter. Interrupting my flow makes it harder to write coherently. My blog may suffer for it. But better my blog than my kids. Any day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sauntering under the raised bar

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. About parenting and competition and self-acceptance. I have been working on re-doing the kids’ rooms with the goal of making them excited to have their own rooms after sharing for four years. I’m planning all sorts of ludicrous things for the princess room I always wanted as a kid and the Mario Kart room that I think every little boy might have wanted. I am custom-making a castle bed for my daughter and modifying a little Tikes car bed for my son to make it look like the Wild Wing car from Mario Kart. I am doing a mural in my son’s room and using GlitterGlaze to make my daughter’s walls sparkly. I’m swapping out ceiling fixtures and adding lots of fabulous details that they will never notice.

I was thinking yesterday that if I were someone on the outside looking in, I might be irritated at that mom who was raising the bar.

And it hit me. Blammo. (No, not decorative gourd season. Um, by the way, if you don’t like excessive profanity, don’t click that decorative gourd link.) Aaaaanyway, as I was saying, it hit me. Blammo. I’m not raising the bar. I’m just doing what I love to do. I fully recognize that my kids would be just as happy with some Disney Princess and Mario printed comforters. Everything else I am doing in those rooms, I am doing because I love to plan and decorate rooms. I’m decorating those rooms for ME.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah, duh, of course you’re doing it for you. Your kids are four. I thought you were smart, but if it took you that long to figure it out, you’re really dumb and I’m not reading your blog anymore.” Yes, duh. I did already know that. But also, wow. Because those moms who made their own baby food? Maybe they like cooking and mashing things. Moms whose houses are always clean? That’s probably important to them or maybe they find cleaning therapeutic. Moms who somehow manage to show up in clean clothing with their hair done and makeup that doesn’t look like it was put on in the dark? They must be really into fashion. Moms who go to the park a lot? Maybe they like fresh air more than they like the catchy tunes of the Fresh Beats. Moms who are thin? Maybe they enjoy working out, or maybe the child care at the gym gives them their only alone time of the day, (or maybe they just have a fast metabolism… but let’s not talk about those bitches because then I start getting all swear-y.) Moms who don’t have any crumbs on the floor of the minivan? Well, OK, something weird is definitely going on with those moms. But other than that, do you see it?

Here’s my point. We do what matters to us. And if someone else wants to raise the bar, let them. And then just walk the hell under it. Do your thing. Your kids will remember you for the things at which you are awesome. I remember my mom’s amazing cooking and baking. I remember that we were allowed (nay, encouraged) to get dirty. I remember that she took us to museums. I remember that she (and my dad) made our Halloween costumes. She was awesome at those things. Was our house clean? Nope. Did I care? Nope.

My kids will remember that I took them to the Renaissance Faire, that I decorated their rooms for them, that the three things we never ran out of were fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and brownies, that I planned fun parties, that we did a lot of painting and art, that sometimes I let them stay up late for family fires outside, and that I snuggled them and tickled them and just loved them like crazy.

We all know it’s not a competition. But some days, I forget. And I think most of us, when we forget, probably feel like we are losing. We’re not. We rock. We’re good at what we’re good at, and our kids will remember that we loved them in all of the ways that we are best at showing it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The ding dong guide to the fitting room

Sometimes my kids are amazing. They tell me imaginative and amazing stories about how the world works. They hug me tight and kiss me and tell me that they love me so so so so much. They dance and spin and make music and make my day. Today is shaping up to be one of those days. Friday? Not so much. It was one of those nonstop whining days when nothing I do is good enough for them, and I get beyond sick of trying. By the time we got home from the tear-filled grocery store trip, I was more than ready to pass them off to Daddy. I went into the office to catch up on facebook and e-mail, but my usual 20-minute Mommy detox didn’t have the usual effect. I needed a more serious intervention. It was time for some retail therapy.

Honey, I love you. Take the kids. I’m going to Ross.

I joke sometimes that if it weren’t for Ross and Marshall’s, I would be naked. The Old Navy clearance rack plays its part in keeping me from getting arrested for indecent exposure, but mostly, it’s Ross and Marshall’s. I have sticker shock everywhere else. I am used to paying $30 for a Calvin Klein dress, $20 or less for a pair of jeans, and $25 for a good winter coat. That’s how I roll. So Friday night, I closed that place down. I bought some kick-ass black boots (for just $18! And yes, for those in the know, that is a pink clearance sticker on the price tag), a pair of jeans, some black pants, a sweater, a strapless bra, and some clothes for my kids. I came home euphoric. Retail therapy is magical, like drugs without the health risks. Retail therapy does carry its own risks, to the budget in particular. But in my budgetary defense, I tried on my fall clothes recently, and they all looked like pajamas. It turns out that spring and summer attire is much more forgiving of a 30 pound weight loss than the fall wardrobe. Which makes sense. In spring and summer, you show skin. In the fall, your clothes actually have to fit you, and mine just don’t.

Clothes shopping is not as easy as it used to be. Before my metabolism thunked to a stop, I had a very good clothes body. I could try on 10 things and they would all look good, so it was just a question of style. Gaining weight made things a little more challenging, but I still looked pretty good in most clothing. And then I had twins. I weigh 20 pounds less now than I did when I got pregnant, but everything has moved around. Between the diastasis and the abundant extra skin on my belly, my body has become much more difficult to dress. But after a few years in this new body, I am once again a well-oiled machine in the fitting room. Here are some of my best tips:

1) Wear your favorite jeans and a cute top to go shopping. Look at yourself. This is how good you should feel in everything. If you don’t like those new jeans as much as you like your favorite jeans, don’t buy them.

2) Never try on a top without pants or jeans on. It may look really nice with your undies, but the important question is: How’s it gonna to look with your muffin top?

3) Slouch. If you’re like me, when you look in the mirror, you stand up straighter. Maybe you even suck it in a little. It’s a reflex. Let it hang out. Slump a little. Do you still like it? Oh man, if you do, buy it.

4) Try on everything. If you like it, try it on. Make the fitting room attendant hate you. It’s their job to put all of your discards away. It’s probably not a fun job, but in this economy, they are probably happy to have it. Be friendly. Smile, with genuine warmth. Be a bright spot in their day. And keep them in a job. My ratio in the fitting room is maybe 10% yes. Maybe less. I try on a lot of no’s, because you never know, and the things I buy are not usually the things I thought would look good. You have to try it on.

5) You don’t have to try on everything. I know. I know what I just said. But here’s what. If you’re a DDD cup, you can look at a top and KNOW that that “under bust” seam may not even make it under your nipples. So don’t bother. If you like the cut but you don’t like the way the fabric feels, that will be even more true when it’s rubbing on your tender armpit skin. Don’t waste time.

6) If you even THINK the word “Spanx,” it’s a no. I like a good corset as much as the next girl. Really, I like a good well-made corset way more than the next girl, with a steel busk and spiral steel boning and at least a 6” reduction in waist measurement… *blush*… but I digress. So, um, yeah, corsets are awesome. For a special occasion dress, sure, rock your Spanx (or better yet rock a luscious Dark Garden corset). But on a random Tuesday, you just want to wear your clothes without having to wear some torturous foundational garment. Some deliciously torturous... um, never mind. Here’s my point. Don’t buy an outfit imagining how good it will look with Spanx. You’re not gonna want to wear Spanx out to dinner. If you do, I don’t think we can be friends.

7) If it’s a maybe, it’s a no. Almost right? No. But it might be cute if maybe... no. If you don’t love it, it’s a no. But but but... what about? No. Save your money for stuff you love.

8) This should be obvious, but if you have to lose weight to wear it, no. Not even if you’re PMS-ing or bloaty that day.

9) Sweater dresses, just no. Save yourself the trouble. They look really cute on the hanger. Because hangers don’t have any fat. If you’re shaped a little bit like a hanger, have at it. For the rest of us, with bulges and whatnot, they are a nightmare. If they don’t show the bulges, they look like a sack. If they fit properly, they. show. everything. Save yourself the body image issues. Don’t even bother. (The exception to this rule is sweater dresses with some kind of belt or structure in the waist/belly region. If they have something that is going to cut across the problem area, by all means, follow rule #4 and try it on.)

10) It’s not you, it’s the clothes. When you start to feel like your body is freakish, put your favorite jeans and your cute top back on. See how cute you are? Stupid clothes don’t fit you. Your body is perfect and can look awesome in the right clothes. These are not the right clothes. Look how much money you’re saving by not buying them.

11) Plan alterations with caution. Those makeover shows talk a lot about getting clothes altered. “Fit to the biggest part of you and take it in everywhere else.” Um, that’s awesome when you’re buying $200 jeans on “What Not to Wear,” but when you’re buying $15 jeans at Marshall’s, you’re not gonna want to shell out another $15-20 to get the waist taken in and the hem taken up. If you have a tailor you trust and you know what it will cost to make the alteration you need, go ahead. I have a friend who has to alter every pair of pants she buys. She just figures it into the price of the pants. If that’s not you, you’ll probably never get them altered. They’ll probably sit in your closet with a price tag on them until the day you give them to Goodwill.

12) Do the ebay thing. No, don’t buy clothes on ebay. It doesn’t work. But you know how on ebay you figure out your maximum bid? Do that. Don’t look at price tags when you’re putting stuff in your cart. Just try it on. And then say, “What would I spend?” Be honest. And then if it’s more, don’t buy it. This is kind of a Ross/Marshall’s/Kohl’s strategy. At a department store, a pair of pants might be like $200, so save yourself the trouble and don’t bother trying that on, because they could come with a built-in vibrator and I still wouldn’t pay $200 for a pair of pants. But at Ross and Marshall’s you can do this. Nothing is likely to be more than $40, and most stuff will be under $25. So you think, “Hmmm, cute top. Maybe with jeans. Ummmm, $16.” And then you turn over the tag and it turns out it’s a BCBG Max Azria top for $29.00. Don’t buy it. Or you turn over the tag and it’s on clearance for $7. Score.

13) It's OK to buy nothing. Some days, you don't score. That's OK. As in life, don't settle.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The bat

This was a favorite entry from my old myspace blog. It was originally written on August 8, 2006. I had no kids, and wasn't even pregnant yet. My current mood was "amused." (Remember myspace? Remember how we thought nothing could ever displace it? Remember sparkly hearts and stars assaulting your eyeballs, and unicorns chasing after your mouse cursor? And, OMG, remember when I had that haircut??) I don't go to myspace anymore, except when someone asks me for the link to "the bat story." So, inspired by yesterday's snake post, here is the bat... brought into the twenty-tens or the teens, or whatever you would like to call this decade. Enjoy.


Once upon a time... a couple was deeply involved in their nightly ritual. It was about 2am. The wife, Pam, was watching the Gilmore Girls marathon on Tivo, trying to get the most from her persistent insomnia. The husband, John, was happily snoring beside her, having fallen asleep hours earlier about 10 minutes into an episode of Entourage. Their little cat Monty was snoozing in a C shape on John's other side. (You know that piece of music that is used to indicate an idyllic state of peace? The one they used on the Smurfs? Insert that here.)

All of a sudden, something by the bedroom door caught Pam's eye, distracting her away from Lorelai's witty banter. She thought it was a moth, but no. As it swooped from the doorway and glided below the beams of the canopy style bed within 2 feet from Pam's startled face, she got a good look at it. It was a bat. A very cute bat, looking shockingly like Stellaluna (a bat from a children's book which you should read if you never have). It was tiny, the size of a mouse, a little furry body with the velvety soft skin of its wings stretched out over it's cute little delicate arm bones. But still, it was a friggin' bat.

Pam began to call John's name. He continued to sleep peacefully. She called louder. Still, he slept. Finally, she grabbed him and shook him. "John," she shouted, "there is a bat in our bedroom."

No doubt he thought he was still dreaming, but then he opened his eyes just as the bat took another flapping pass above the bed. The sound emanating from him can be described in only one way. As he leapt from the bed to cower on the floor with his pillow clutched to his chest, John screamed like a woman. Pam began to laugh, a sound which (punctuated by a few shrieks when the bat got too close) pretty much lasts for the rest of this story.

Monty couldn't believe how rude the humans were being. He walked haughtily, clad only in his dignity, into the living room. As he left, he gave them both a superior stare, but neither seemed to notice for some reason. "Pffft," he thought to himself. "Humans."

Pam, still laughing, got out of the bed to open the sliding doors to the deck. She moved back the flat sheet that is thumbtacked to the door frame where curtains should be, and opened the sliding door, hoping the bat would fly out. He did fly out... out of the bedroom and into the living room, where he began to do Ouija board figure eights from the living room to the dining room and back again.

Our scantily clad hero and butt naked heroine (whose laugh was now beginning to take on a slightly hysterical 2am quality), ran out to the living room where Monty was posing pleasingly on top of the room divider. Monty preened, but the humans were still looking at something else. Rolling his eyes, Monty looked up to see what the humans were so excited about, and saw something flying around the ceiling. A bird? A flying mouse? What was this thing? It looked delicious. Monty sent out his mind control to lure the creature closer for the kill. Obligingly, the flying dinner flapped down to within arms reach. At that moment, to his eternal shame, Monty felt himself startle. Skin red with embarrassment under his black fur, he tried to pretend he had lost interest and was merely strolling back into the bedroom, but as he turned the corner, he broke into a low slinking run. He just hoped the humans hadn't seen him.

Meanwhile, John had opened the front door, and Pam the back door in hopes that the little bat would hear the socially inept cicadas who were out to play in the wrong year and would fly out to eat them. The bat toyed with them, flying close to the open doorway and then screeching "Psych!" in sonar as he circled back into the room. The bat was starting to get tired. He flapped up to a hanging candle holder, placed there as if just for him, and gave the funny humans his best money shot as he hung upside down from the candle holder with his little wings folded around him. "They wouldn't want to miss that," he thought to himself, satisfied.

As he hung there, the little bat realized that the humans were looking at him with a strange look in their eye. He was irate. "They think... they think... ," he sputtered in sonar, "they think I'm CUTE! I'll show them." He flew as fast as he could directly at the head of the male human, who gave a gratifying shriek and ducked behind the door. "Ha ha," thought the bat, "I have him now. He flew behind the door with the human into the little triangle created by the door and the corner the human was crouched in. The way that the human scampered out of the corner screaming was very pleasing.

But by now, the cackle of the female human was beginning to hurt his sonar receptors. With one backward glance at the chaotic domestic tableau, he flew out the door and off into the night.

The End

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The snake

So in case you’ve missed it, the east coast has royally pissed off Mama Nature. Earthquake, hurricane, and now this week, thanks to massive flooding from another storm, we have a plague of snakes. I’m not going to speculate on what might have caused this rift between us and the green lady (*cough*oil pipeline*cough*smog regulation*), but it’s getting downright biblical around here. Relax, I’m not going to talk about the environment or politics or the Bible. I’m just going to talk about the snake.

Last night, I walked out into the garage to get... what the hell was I going out there to get? Cleaning products? I don’t know. Whatever it was, I never got it, because there on the floor curled around the wheel of the garage fridge/freezer was a four foot black snake.

I could have just left him there, because I'm not particularly afraid of snakes, and he was guarding the beer fridge, not the wine fridge, so this was really my husband's problem to deal with. Buuuuut, I could hear in the pitch of hubby's voice as he asked, "What are we going to do?" that this was either going to be my problem or we were going to have to hire someone. Money aside, while we were waiting for someone to show up, I would have had to get my husband his beers, and that is so not me. I’m not that girl. I’m the girl who puts on some gloves and tries to shake off the heebie-jeebies so I can deal with the snake.

Unfortunately, some zip-ties had fallen into my gloves, and the feeling of something mysterious and unexpected inside the fingers made me squeal like a… well, like a man. But I got the zip ties out, took a deep breath and went back out to the garage.

Of course, we photographed the snake first. (Because if it's not on facebook, it didn't happen.) But there was this annoying paper in the way, making it look like I have a messy garage. So I went to try to take off the paper, and the snake jumped at me. That's when I realized that the paper was a glue trap that our extermination company uses to track what bugs are getting into the garage. Poor snakey. I pulled at the sticky trap some more, but that thing was not coming off. At this point, the snake took off into the... well... into the pile of boxes and general crap that lives in our garage. My husband was yelling, "Get it. Get it. Don't let it get away!" Um, I'm not grabbing an injured snake by the tail, you nut job. You don’t like how I’m doing this job, you can get the snake out of the garage next time.

So the snake is getting away. But then his glue trap got stuck on a box. So he's stuck. And bumming. At this point, I started talking really nicely to the snake, hoping we could get a thorn-in-the-lion's-paw thing going between us. It didn’t sound like Harry Potter. I just spoke English.

The hubs suggested putting it in a box, which seemed a more reasonable suggestion than me dragging it outside by the tail. So I grabbed a box, spoke soothingly to the snake some more, and then gently unstuck the sticky trap from the cardboard where it was stuck and put the snake in the box. Snakey was with me, the most cooperative snake I have ever had the pleasure of putting into a box. [Yes, yes, please feel free to make pleasure of putting a snake in a box jokes here. I’ll wait.] He thought about jumping out of the box, but I think he knew I had his best interests at heart. Here are two things you should know if you’re ever going to try this at home. One, snakes are stronger than you think. It’s not like a cat or whatever. They are made of solid muscle. Two, snakes are heavier than you think. All of that “muscle weighs more than fat” malarkey must be true, because snakes are heavy! Oh and three, don’t try this at home. Snakes will bite, even the non-venomous ones. Don’t mess with snakes. OK, back to the story.

So while I was taking him out, I had my husband grab me some safety scissors. I used the scissors to cut off as much of the sticky trap as I could, so at least the snake wouldn't get stuck on anything else. And I swear, I swear, that snake held completely still for the operation. Good snake. We understood each other. It was kind of nice in a weird way.

Except that while this was happening, my husband yells, "There's another one!" Yes, slithering maybe ten inches away from my bare foot on the driveway is a baby snake. With stripes.

It was dark out, and I don't know much about snakes, but I don’t mess with any stinkin' striped snakes, because I think we have at least one venomous striped snake in this area. So I hurried to finish up with my massive, but ultimately safe, black snake so that I could get the hell away from the teeny tiny cute 7-inch mystery snake. I looked up that mini-snake on the web later and I’m pretty sure it was a newborn copperhead. Yikes.

Anyway, that’s the end. For now. I hope that poor snakey is OK. Maybe he can shed his skin early and get rid of the rest of the rest of that stupid sticky thing. And while you're out there, friend snake, please tell all of the other snakes that we're nice people and they don't need to be messing with us. Especially the copperheads. Thank you. Respectfully yours, Pam

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The poophole loophole

Poophole loophole. That title has been rattling around in my head for a few days, but I almost didn’t use it. Because it really wants to be the title of a much cooler and edgier article, maybe about how girls are using the back door as a way to maintain their technical virginity. But I don’t have anything to say about virginity right now. For me, that ship has sailed. Around the earth. Several times. And ran aground on a sand bar and then was kidnapped by pirates and is now the faded façade of a greasy spoon in the Outer Banks. I’m sorry poophole loophole, you are going to be the title of this blog entry instead. This blog entry about how my kids use taking a crap as an excuse to get out of bed at bedtime. I’m really sorry.

[Side note: I googled it, and urban dictionary does have an entry for the virginity-related phenomenon I described. I don’t care. I’m using it anyway. It had few enough google results that it is not a super commonly-used phrase. Til now, that is! Mwa-ha-ha! I hereby hijack thee, poophole loophole!]

OK, enough talk about the title. Let’s talk about the problem.

My kids are not good sleepers. Well, that’s not fair. Really, one of my kids is not a good sleeper, and the other one gets caught up in the bed-jumping fun of it all. We have tried sticker charts, taking away toys, marble reward systems, special clocks. We have tried everything we can think of. Bedtime is a fiasco. For a long time, we had a small potty in their bedroom so that when they had to pee in the night, they wouldn’t come out into the hallway and realize that Mommy and Daddy were still awake, watching TV, and generally partying and celebrating the fact that the kids were in bed. But they’ve been potty-trained for over a year, so we took away their posh “ensuite” bathroom and now they have to use the regular toilet like peasants. Pro: I no longer have to clean up their bodily waste more-than-daily from a small plastic basin. Con: They now have a completely irrefutable excuse for coming out of their bedroom at any hour.

My least favorite words to hear in the middle of True Blood or Project Runway are these: “Mommy, Daddy, I have to make a poo-poo.”

Sigh. You can’t tell them NOT to make a poo-poo, and they usually squeeze out at least a little, so you can’t accuse them of faking. But they get out of bed, at 9 or 10pm... aaaaaaand they sit there. For fifteen minutes, or half an hour, they just flipping sit there. “I’m not done yet.” How do you argue? You can’t rush a deuce. They come when they come. But go to bed, please. Pinch off your loaf and GO. TO. BED. Please. Because Sookie is having a dream about seducing Bill and Eric both at once, and I really need to get back to that right now. Plus, this is MY time. You were in bed! Come on. Mommy and Daddy get maybe an hour of grown-up time before Daddy succumbs to TV-induced narcolepsy. And you are, quite literally, $#!tting all over our grown-up time. Do you save it up all day? Sigh sigh and triple sigh.

Soon, I will teach them to just get up and do their business and go back to bed. But for now, the #2 still requires adult intervention. Let me just say this: Nothing is less conducive to quality Mommy-Daddy time than a well-timed deuce.

So we scold and we chivvy and we bribe. And we wait. Wait for the deuce. And then we wipe the butt, and return to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress. At which time the second kid wanders out. “I need to make a poo-poo.”

Damn you, poophole loophole. Damn you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Some hurricane stats

Number of hours we were without power: about 85

How many days that equals for those who don’t want to do math: 3½

Number of days I was prepared to go without power: 2

Number of days being without power was kind of fun, like camping: 1 (after which it just sucked)

How many times you have to fill our largest bowl with water from the tub in order to flush the toilet (because we get our water from a well, so when we lose power, we lose water): 6

How many gallons of water we bought because all of the websites say to buy a gallon per person per day for 3 days: 12

Other than the tub filled with water, which was used for flushing toilets, washing hands, and one desperate ice-cold whore’s bath, how many of those 12 gallons of water we actually used: 2
(Apparently beer and wine, which we had in abundance, replaced most of the water we should have needed. Also, I suspect most of those two gallons were used to make coffee on the grill.)

How many years one can avoid cleaning out the fridge and freezer before Mother Nature bitch slaps you into cleaning it: 3

Expiration date on the oldest thing found in the freezer: 2009

Number of ice packs found in the freezer that I had accused my parents of stealing, which they totally didn’t steal and I’m sorry: 11

Number of loaves of banana bread that could have been made by the bananas frozen in my freezer: 7 (21 bananas)

Number of half-jars of salsa found in my fridge: 9

Number of jars of pickles: 7

How much it will cost to replace all of that food, from milk and eggs to Lean Pockets and frozen pizza to Chinese mustard and fish sauce: I don’t want to think about it

How many amazing people offered to take us in when they heard we were without power: 5 (Thank you, deeply, all of you.)

How much we love our friends Eve and John, at whose house we stayed for 2 nights, who let us shower in their glorious hot water, whose toilets flush without using bowls of water to fill the tank, who always have lots and lots of wine and beer in the house, and who make us laugh our butts off loudly and often: infinity

Bright sides that come immediately to mind (I’m sure there are more): 8

1) No one I know was injured. No trees fell on our house. We basically got through this storm with nothing more than an inconvenience.
2) We spent some quality time as a family without technology getting in the way.
3) We got to spend a wonderful couple of days with friends.
4) I remembered how much I miss cooking on gas burners, and now I know that I can cook on the propane burner on our grill, which works just as well as a gas cooktop.
5) My 2 fridges and 2 freezers are now super-clean.
6) I don’t have to feel guilty when my kids watch loads of TV and play Wii for a few days because they were in withdrawal.
7) We have a renewed gratitude for the little things, like being able to flush the toilet and wash our hands after going to the bathroom.
8) We were reminded what amazing friends we have.