Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let it be resolved...

Every year I make resolutions that are challenging (obtain PhD in Genetics from MIT), if not nearly impossible given my time constraints (run a marathon on every continent and in all 50 US states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). Sometimes it takes me all year to do these things (teach the dog to write and speak Latin) and I find myself panicking in December that I might not get them done (start my own cable television network). So this year I am lowering the bar.

There is nothing I find more satisfying than making a list and then checking things off. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, evidence that I am moving forward in life, getting things done. However, the list can also be a source of angst. Currently I have two items on my general household to-do list that have been there since last spring, maybe longer. It drives me crazy. These are mundane things, not goals, just tasks. I could erase them and pretend they never existed, but they are both things that need doing. For 2011 I vow not to make to-do lists that include things that I may not get to.

So in pondering what would make good resolutions I decided to turn to my children. My resolutions are not going to revolve around them (train daughter to be the first 8 year old astronaut) or even us as a family (develop a musical act that wins American Idol). Instead I am going to draw from their experiences of what clearly are challenges. These are things they should be doing, but can't quite manage to accomplish. With my additional years of experience I am certain I can get them done. In fact, I am even going to include some *reach resolutions* for extra credit. So here is my list:

1. Brush teeth, twice, every day.
*reach resolution = not smear toothpaste all over the sink in the process, and if I do, clean it up.

2. Brush hair, every day.
* reach resolution = including the back, even though I can't see it so it must not be there.

3. Keep my face clean of food, dirt and paint.

4. Close the door behind me when I go in or out of the house.

5. Do not drop my coat, hat, shoes, backpack directly in front of the door when I come home.
*reach resolution = hang them up or put them in the bin that is one foot away.

After creating this list of resolutions I feel fairly confident I can achieve them successfully. Already I feel the burden of accomplishment lifting from my shoulders. I realize that this means I have to push some things out into 2012 (discover intelligent life on other planets, perform on Broadway) but I figure it is a small price to pay for this year of no pressure. Another added benefit is how it may help my whole family. Perhaps by setting an example for my children they will realize that if you work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone and dream big, anything is possible.

Monday, December 27, 2010


So my thoughtful husband got me a Kindle for Christmas. I am thrilled, how fun, a new gadget. And now I am more likely to have my book on hand while I sit waiting for my kids to finish (insert name of extracurricular activity here). Think of all the reading I will get to! My brain may eventually return to it's pre-children state of usefulness! Vocabulary words that aren't monosyllabic will spill out of my mouth. I will speak in sentences again, with complete thoughts! I will be interesting!

But wait, there is a problem. I have a large stack of books waiting to be read. Books I really want to read, that have been patiently waiting for me to get to them. Probably close to $100 worth of books I am eager to read and over time, will read. But now I have the Kindle so I don't need these heavy, ink and paper hard copy books anymore. These dinosaurs of print. No problem, I will purchase these books for my Kindle! But wait, I have already purchased these books. Do I repurchase them for the Kindle and waste the money I spent on the hard copy books? Absolutely not! I will read these hard copy books and get my money's worth, then I will start purchasing books for my Kindle. But wait, the stack of books is quite large. Close to $100 worth of books large. It will take me at least 6 months, maybe more to get through them. And all that time my Kindle will sit there unused, money wasted. That doesn't work either.

What should I do? While I ponder this dilemma I will watch Hulu and play Solitaire and Scrabble on my Kindle. Eventually the answer will come to me. And perhaps that giant pile of hard copy dinosaurs will read itself?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

She's Crafty

When my daughter was in preschool she was blessed with a very creative teacher. Not only was this teacher funny, spunky, and musical, but she could turn anything into art. The kids painted with all sorts of substances, many not meant to be used as paint. They used unusual things as their paint brushes, including their noses. She taught most of the kids that they also had the ability to create art using whatever was around them. I say most because let's face it, even at three some kids don't posses the creativity gene (especially me).

My daughter embraced this idea of everything can be used for art like she was living in a loft in an art cooperative in Tribeca. It started small, with various household items used for projects like buttons, paper plates, coffee filters. Then it grew when she decided to fashion entire outfits out of printer paper and tape. Her interests and abilities flourished. When she was 5 she wrote, created the stage props, directed, acted and produced a one-girl show on the life cycle of a flower. I was thrilled - smart and artistic! But over the past two years I have started to realize her arts and crafts have a dark side.

The rate at which she produces her art is alarming. It is not unusual for her to crank out a few illustrations, a sculpture out of items she pulls from the recycling bin, a love note to mommy and a haiku, all before she goes to school in the morning. Even more alarming than the rate of her production is her volume. Last month it came to my attention that I have three large plastic bins jam packed with her masterpieces. And I can't bring myself to purge them.

Next week my daughter turns 8 and I have come to realize that the older your kids get the faster time seems to fly by. Kids have a way of simultaneously making some days (most) feel like the longest day of your life and that a year has gone by in the blink of an eye. Because of this I find myself becoming panicked at the idea of not preserving each and every memento. I know the teenage years are coming fast and furious, and I want to hold onto that memory of when I was her hero. When she would draw pictures and write stories to entertain her younger brother...because she liked him. I have already learned the lesson of how you blink your eyes and your sweet toddler who was just learning to walk is now going on sleepovers and wants to wear makeup. In some ways I feel like holding onto this art will slow down time. Suspend her at age 7 for just a little longer.

I am not a sentimental person by nature. In fact, if you asked my husband, he would speculate that I lack the sentimental gene. I love to purge things and the more I can put in the recycling bin the better I feel. Let's keep things minimal. However, when it comes to my daughter's stuff, I find myself destined for starring in an episode of Hoarders. It physically pains me to throw any of it away - the napkin doodles from the restaurant, the pipe cleaner ornament or the rubber band necklace. Okay, so that last one I pitched without a second thought.

But it's getting worse. The volume and variety can leave me with piles upon piles of stuff after a particularly prolific weekend. Some days I find stacks of watercolor pictures of...her feelings. The other day she proudly showed off the wind chimes she had made out of string and a few empty wine and beer bottles. Even my husband couldn't muster any sentimentality for that one.

So I do have a line. It is faint, and far away, but I feel fairly certain you won't find me smothered to death one day, under a pile of mandalas, thumb print art, pom pom creatures, glitter glue, feathers and popsicle stick replicas of Falling Water. But you will find me with lots of reminders of my little girl. Three full bins and counting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I have been a very good girl this year. I have executed countless thankless and demanding tasks with a cheery smile (most of the time). A considerable amount of my time has been spent volunteering under demanding and less-than-glamorous circumstances. This year I have exercised on a regular basis, ate mostly okay (like you are one to judge me) and lent a helping hand whenever needed. In some cases, both hands and both feet.

For Christmas I am not asking for jewels, or furs, or piles of money. I am not even asking for a new car, because let's face it, I will only back it into things and scrape it up against parking garage poles like I do the current one.

What I would like for Christmas is peace.

Although world peace would be wonderful because then I would win the Nobel prize and be on the cover of Time magazine, I would settle for peace in my house. In other words, I want 24 hours of serenity. I could potentially achieve this by going away somewhere with my husband - or send my kids somewhere, like the kennel (dogs, kids...whatever). But, here's the kicker, I want the peace in my home with all five of us present (including the dog, I'm dreaming big here).

What a glorious Christmas miracle it would be to wake up in the morning and have my lovely family all come downstairs dressed in seasonally appropriate clothing with big smiles on their faces. "Good morning saint-mother", they would greet me. After making sure I had a hot cup of coffee and the newspaper they would proceed to make themselves a healthy breakfast. Happily. Without arguing. Or complaining. Afterward they would wash their dishes and trot off to brush their teeth and hair. Without being nagged.

In my Christmas wish it is Saturday, so there would be no need for them to make their own school lunches (again, with healthy fare) or remind themselves that it was time to go to the bus and that they needed to put on jackets, hats and gloves. Instead we would just lounge about for a bit. I would go for a run while they worked on making homemade gifts for the elderly. Happily. Without arguing. Or complaining.

Once I got back from my run I would shower and we would head out for a fun-filled family activity. Perhaps a museum or other educational opportunity. They would thank me for enriching their lives and giving them the opportunity to learn.

Later we would go out to lunch at a restaurant that had table cloths and didn't serve chicken nuggets, tenders or strips. There wouldn't be any hot dogs, hamburgers or pizza either. My children would be excited to try something new to eat that they had never heard of. And like it. Happily. Without arguing. Or complaining.

After lunch we would head home for some rest time. We would all take brief naps to rejuvenate. We may also read silently to relax, or read aloud as a family without any quarreling over what we should read or any interruptions during the reading.

The rest of the day would proceed in this same manner. Family games, cleaning the house, taking the dog for a walk, candlelight dinner with a lively intellectually stimulating discussion about current events. Then, as a family, we would watch a movie that we all agreed upon. Happily. Without arguing. Or complaining.

At the end of the day they would bathe themselves quietly, put on their pajamas, and brush their teeth. Then they would summon my husband and me and perform a modified version of The Sound of Music "So long, farewell". We would read stories and they would turn out their lights and drift off to sleep. Happily. Without arguing. Or complaining.

So Santa, I realize this is a tall order. I hope you will take my request under consideration and make my wildest dreams come true.

Happy Hour Mama

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The friend

I have a wonderful friend, let's call her Shmeth. I adore Shmeth despite the fact that I am inferior to her in every way. Shmeth is blonder than I am (naturally), thinner than I am, a better dresser than I am (like that would be hard to do) and smarter than I am (empirically speaking, she went to Harvard Law School for god's sake. I went to...not Harvard Law School). Shmeth also sews, bakes a mean pan of brownies and always has the perfect teacher gift at the ready. You can never look good next to Shmeth. And yet I absolutely adore her because she is a *true friend*.

When I was younger a true friend was someone who was there for you when you got dumped by the love of your life, or held your hair in the bathroom of some frat party. And made sure you made it home from that same frat party. Or tells you that you are really smart even thoughyou failed French 101 because you suck at romance languages no matter how hard you tried.

Later in life the true friend celebrated with you when you got that amazing job, and later the promotion. She stood up with you at your wedding and didn't blink an eye when you went all psycho about the bridesmaid dresses, shoes, and hosiery being a certain shade. Or when you actually cried because you were having an August wedding and white tulips are not available in August in Seattle.

The true friend supported you through your pregnancies no matter how hormonal you got. She assured you that it was perfectly okay to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's each night and sleep 20 hours a day when you were pregnant. In fact, there would be something wrong with you if you weren't doing these things. The baby's health might suffer otherwise. She was there for you once you had the baby and looked like a complete sleep-deprived, nonsensical disaster for two years, and then another two years after that because you had a second baby.

But I didn't meet Shmeth until all those events had passed. So why would I have such loyalty and love for a woman who, in comparison, makes me look so...mediocre?

A few months ago we were out to dinner with our families. It wasn't a fancy restaurant but it was in a public place. We were tired and hungry and it was a long time until we got our food. Once our food came I looked down the table at my son who all of the sudden vomited onto his plate. Then he did it a second and a third time. I jumped up from my seat and started cleaning up while simultaneously whisking him away, out of the restaurant and to the car. At that moment Shmeth could have looked at me, or my son with horror. She could have frowned, screamed, or vomited herself (which is what I might have done). Instead she smiled, rolled her eyes and laughed. Then she offered to drive my daughter and husband home if they wanted to stay and finish their meals. Seriously. The actions of a true friend who understands that hey, vomit happens.

So Shmeth, I forgive you for being blonder than me, thinner than me, a better dresser, smarter and all around more talented. I am just glad I found you because you help me get through my days a little easier.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm on a road to nowhere

I am directionally challenged. It has taken me many years to accept this deficiency, and if asked I probably would still deny it. For some reason I think I can find my way around, that I somehow have a sixth sense that can get me places. The truth is, I don't. My kids have come to accept that going anywhere with me will involve at least one, if not several, u-turns.

Just the other day I was late picking up a friend because I got lost on the way to her house. She lives approximately five blocks away. Granted, I was driving to her house from a different point of origin than I usually do, but it still wasn't so vastly different, and let's face it, the city of Falls Church is only 2 miles wide. There is no reason to get lost. And yet, I regularly get the streets, cross streets, and so on confused. You could mention a street that is two blocks away from me and I would probably just look at you blankly. It's that bad. And god help me if I ever have to go outside the beltway. You may never see me again if not for my GPS.

Luckily for me, I have a husband who has known about my fatal flaw and loves me anyway. Since he discovered how bad it was when we were dating, and married me anyway, is a true testament to his acceptance (or resignation). While there are many minor instances I could describe of me getting lost, I will only tell you about the *big one*.

After finishing undergraduate in Seattle my husband and I moved to Boston for graduate / law school. We thought it would be really fun (and cheap) to get there by driving a U-Haul with all our possessions from one end of I-90 to the other. Things started out pretty well. We had our trip-tik from AAA and had broken out the segments of our journey into manageable driving chunks. We did a bit of touring on the way - the Lewis and Clark caverns, Mount Rushmore, which may have put a bit of a strain on the U-Haul engine going up and completely destroyed the breaks on the way down. The midwest is pretty boring driving. It takes a whole day to drive across Montana, where we were heard to comment to each other more than once, "That sure is a big sky...".

On day three we were more than halfway through South Dakota (another snoozer) and I was reading the map when I had a revelation. Great news - we only have a few more hours left to drive until we reach our destination for the day! Dave seemed skeptical. Was I sure that we were so close to the Wisconsin border? Absolutely, I told him. I was confident that we would be able to reach our goal for the day in time for dinner and could have a relaxing evening. He queried me a few more times but I was adamant. And so we drove on.

A few hours later, near the South Dakota border, we stopped and switched drivers. Dave picked up the map and after a few minutes asked how I figured we only had an hour or so to go when he calculated at around six more hours of driving until we reached Wisconsin. I looked over at the map and scrutinized it closely (you can do that and still drive when you are in the midwest because it is just one straight road). After a minute or so I realized my error. Whoops, it looks like I forgot about Minnesota.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Have yourself a Lucy little Christmas

Our house is run by an 11 pound Jack Russell Terrier named Lucy. She is so petite you can pick her up with one hand and carry her under your arm like a pocketbook. But don't be lulled into thinking she isn't in charge as one certain 7 year old little girl in our family did last December.

My son has recognized Lucy's power from a very early age. He takes great pains to make sure she always has the best that life offers. Need a place to sleep? Here, let me make a comfy nest for you out of these four blankets and three to the fire place. Are you hungry? Let me give you a treat or ten. You'd prefer my hot dog instead? Here you go - I'll just have mom make me another one. In other words, he always pays Lucy first and she has no qualms about shaking him down for more.

Last December Callie went to a birthday party where the theme was Winter Wonderland and all the girls made beautiful gingerbread houses. The mom sent the confections home wrapped in cellophane and tied with a silk ribbon. The next morning we went out for a few hours. When we got back I was the first into the house and saw mysterious shards of plastic wrap...cellophane. Upon closer inspection I discovered bits of crumbled...gingerbread. Lucy had gotten up onto the kitchen table, chewed a hole or two into the cellophane, knocked the gingerbread house onto the floor where it smashed to pieces and ate almost all of it. Her stomach was so full and distended you probably could see a gumdrop or two protruding.

When Callie came up behind me and saw the carnage she was devastated and began yelling at the dog. Luckily I was able to save the situation by letting her know I had purchased two gingerbread house kits earlier that week and we could make them that night. She was mollified.

The next day was Monday and Callie had art class in the late afternoon. We walked into the house around dinner time where the kids discovered another disaster. Lucy had climbed up on a bench in order to reach the window sill where the advent calendars were sitting. These were the kind made of corrugated cardboard boxes (very sturdy) in the shape of a Christmas tree where you could put a piece of chocolate in each box. The dog had managed to rip some of the boxes out of the frame out and eat about six days worth of chocolate kisses...but only from Callie's calendar. Charlie's remained untouched. (For those who are worried I contacted the vet and Hershey's milk chocolate, while not a recommended part of a dog's diet, is not toxic, though the tinfoil wrappers may make for some interesting digestion).

Callie was extremely upset at this development. Not only had Lucy ruined her advent calendar, she had eaten her chocolate. After many promises from me that I would go out first thing in the morning to purchase replacement chocolate she calmed down.

Two days later Callie, a friend and Charlie made cute little Christmas cookies. I lovingly arranged them on a platter which was on the kitchen counter. Yes, you guessed it. Lucy somehow managed to get up onto the kitchen counter, walk right past the two new gingerbread houses and eat some cookies off of the platter. But only the ones Callie made. She was beside herself.

Since that dark time Callie has been very deferential to Lucy. She makes her special cards and presents, crowns and jewelry, builds her comfy beds, buys her treats at the farmer's market and is the first to suggest we take her on a walk or throw her ball. In return Lucy sleeps on her bed occasionally and rolls around on the ground appreciatively when Callie scratches her belly. Who needs Santa when we have Lucy to punish those who are naughty and reward those who are nice?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You say it's your birthday....

My daughter was born on December 27th. Her original due date was December 28th. During my pregnancy people would enthusiastically ask *when are you due?!* and when I told them their faces would fall. Like I had *really* screwed this one up. Apparently there is no worse fate for a child (or an adult) then to be born between December 24th and January 1st. People would comment, "Oh, the poor thing, no one will *ever* remember her birthday. They will be too busy with Christmas to care".

I swore that *would not* be the fate of *my* child. Oh no sir, my child would know she was loved and her birth was not an inconvenient event jammed between putting up a Christmas tree and a champagne toast with Dick Clark at midnight.

So from the very beginning I made sure that her birthday was a special occasion. I realize now that I may have gone *a bit* overboard. By the time she got to preschool we had established a schedule where her *school birthday* would be celebrated in mid-December when she would bring cupcakes in for her classmates. Then we would celebrate her *real* birthday on the 27th, and to make sure she felt it was special there would be no leftover Christmas wrapping paper used, no Christmas colored plates, etc. She would not be made to feel that we just slapped something together. She would get the whole enchilada of birthday extravaganza - balloons, streamers, a banner, cake. Just for the family. Once break was over and everyone was back she would have a party with her friends in mid-January, again with streamers, balloons, banner, a cake and so on. So when you think about it, her birthday is basically a month long celebration. We should just rename that thirty day period Callie-fest.

My daughter honestly believes her birthday is a national holiday and who can blame her. After all, *everyone* has the day off from school, many people are off of work. I am surprised she doesn't demand a parade outside our house on the big day. She starts occasionally mentioning her birthday party in the late-spring. By summer time she has already picked out the cupcakes for her class (chocolate *and* vanilla, so people have a choice), the cake for the family (ice cream) and the cake for her party (vanilla, because everyone likes vanilla). By September she has formulated her ideas for the party with her friends and written me very specific instructions for its execution. The guest list was solidified by October. The outfit for the party has already been selected. I am expected to go out and purchase two crowns, one to be worn on her actual birthday and one for the party. I know these may all sound like unreasonable demands, but I have no one to blame but myself. I have lead her to believe that she *should* have this much hype in my attempt to overcompensate for allowing her entry into the world on such a shameful date.

Last year I baked cupcakes to bring in for her class. I arrived with her brother in tow, beaming and bearing the delicious baked goods. Once I arrived she took me aside and said those words that strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere - *I don't feel good, my tummy hurts*. We made a beeline for the bathroom were she repeatedly vomited so I took her home, leaving the cupcakes for her class and teacher to enjoy. It was Friday and it wasn't like they would keep over the weekend. The next time I made cupcakes in an attempt to properly celebrate with her classmates there was a snow storm and school was cancelled. Snow storm + two dozen cupcakes is not a good combination for the waistline. I told her I would try one more time and after that she would get cookies from the grocery store. Probably in a box. Luckily the weather and her stomach cooperated.

This year I have hired Martha Stewart to hand deliver cupcakes that she has made, each in the likeness of my daughter. I have made arrangements with the school for an assembly in her honor, where Taylor Swift will perform. Because nothing is too good for my little Christmas-time baby.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have a friend, let's call her *Shmulie*. Shmulie is very supportive of my essays and likes to send me positive, encouraging feedback about my musings. She has a fantastic blog of her own with lots of followers and people who view her work. Shmulie writes on a *daily* basis, sometimes more than one post. All brilliant, witty and well written, every day for close to six months. Recently Shmulie sent me a suggestion - perhaps my essays would be easier to read if I put them in paragraph form? She acknowledged that while she recognized I was going for a *stream-of-consciousness-vibe* the paragraphs would make them more *reader-friendly*. Um, yeah. Stream of consciousness... What Shmulie doesn't realize is that actually I was just being lazy. Too many years out of the workforce and my writing now reads like a grocery list. It's a miracle I remember how to use punctuation at all.

Once she pointed it out I became self-conscious. What if my readers (all three of you) *would* prefer if I made things a little easier to read? Well of course I would have to clean them up. In the same way that I would *never* allow anyone inside my house unless it was to a reasonable standard of cleanliness (except Beth) my writing must be presentable. And not give people a headache. If people are going to read this (all three of you) then I *must* make sure that Strunk and White would be proud. Thank you Shmulie, you have saved me from myself and your feedback is much appreciated.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What are you running from?

I am a runner. I haven't always been one. In fact, I came to it somewhat late in life. It started when my second child was a year old. His older sister was at preschool, he didn't need a morning nap anymore but was too tired and cranky to be much fun in the mid-morning, so I would put him in the jog stroller and started to run. At first it was only a couple of miles, but it grew, especially when I discovered it was the perfect antidote to the dropping-the-morning-nap crankiness. For the first mile or so he would look around quietly, for the next 2-4 miles he would doze, and then wake up during the last mile and play on the playground while I stretched. And by the end of the summer I realized, *hey, I run a lot on a regular basis, I could do a 10-mile race*. And so I did.

I am not a particularly fast runner, but I am not slow either. Running works for me because I am uncoordinated and lack agility. You don't need either to run distances. You just put one foot in front of the other and try not to trip (which happens sometimes but I persevere). It helps to have the right gear and I confess I have become one of those weirdos who have three pairs of running shoes. All identical. Now that I have asthma I also have to wear something to cover my mouth and nose when it is really cold out. Although it is a loud multi-colored stripe I still look sinister...or goofy, especially when I am wearing a headband to cover my ears and sunglasses. Before I accepted my status as *runner*, as opposed to *occasional jogger* I would be concerned about how I looked. Now I don't care. This is evident in my appearance before, during and after I run. Not only does my attire leave a lot to be desired, my hair and everything is simply unattractive. And I don't care.

I can't say I would necessarily have chosen running as my exercise of choice. Instead I think that it chose me. It was so...peaceful. Quiet. Really quiet. The kind of peace and quiet I hadn't had in four years, since my first child was born. So my son and I continued to run together and once he outgrew the stroller (and the dozing) and had turned into an ornery three year old...four year old...five year old... I kept running. Not only was it peaceful, but I could choose my own music to play on my iPod for the first time in several years. I realized that there are no children asking you to make them a hot dog when you are on the running path. If you come across some siblings squabbling you just run on by and it's not your problem. The only messes I see are from dogs, and since it's not my dog I just keep on going.

It gives me a window of time when I am by myself without anything else I can do For me, that's what makes it different from walking. When you are running you can't multitask. You can't talk on the phone, check your email, send or receive a text message or schedule appointments. I can't be out for a run and pull over to the side for a few minutes to make sure no one needs anything (okay, I could, but when I am running I don't want to. I just want to

I do a lot of thinking while I run - what I need to do with the rest of my day, how I am going to fit it all in, pending projects and so on. Sometimes I think about people I am irritated with. How they make me so angry and I need to let them know as soon as this stupid run is over (which I never do, because once the run is over I feel good and the top priority is a latte and a shower). But the fact of the matter is, I can't stay focused on that for too long because inevitably I need to think about...running. These thoughts are usually not pleasant. Popular running thoughts include: *this sucks, I wish I was done*, *this sucks, my hamstring hurts*, *this sucks, I can't breathe*, *this sucks, my foot hurts*, *this sucks, I can't believe I am only at mile two and have four more to go*, *this sucks, my knee hurts*, *this sucks, it's freaking cold out*, *this sucks, it's freaking hot out*. There are many more, but you get the picture.

There are also some good thoughts in there because I see some amazing scenery. I am fortunate to live in the Washington DC area and have such fantastic places to run. Where else can you do a six mile loop and see Iwo Jima, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and that crazy white box, the Kennedy Center? Sometimes I literally get choked up, and not just from lack of oxygen. I am also amazed at the wild life I encounter. On the tow path in Georgetown I regularly see blue herons. And every time I shake my head (while running, being careful not to lose my balance)and think to myself *a freaking heron, go figure*. And the people are also entertaining. Out on the W&OD there is a guy who ran without shoes. I understand that is now the *in* thing to do, and it is supposedly *orthotically superior* (I also make up new words on my runs). However, *dude*, it's February. For the love of god, put some shoes on. And my all-time favorite so far - Mr. I-am-taking-shots-directly-from-my-bottle-of-vodka-in-the-middle-of-the-day-while-I-take-my-walk-with-my-dog-on-the-W&OD. With my lack of balance and coordination I almost veered off the trail into a ditch in shock.

My goal for 2011 is to run the Marine Corps Marathon. When people ask me why I respond - 26.2 miles of no kids and peace and quiet. What other reason do I need?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do you really need that?

I love Costco. I truly do. If you ask me, it is the happiest place on earth. The great thing about Costco is that very few people really *need* to go. Unless you own a small restaurant, are a family of eight, or the parent of teenage boys it just isn't necessary. There is nothing there you need. Nothing. Not only can you get your industrial sized pack of paper towels or toilet paper at Target for about the same price, Target is closer and you are pretty much guaranteed it will have what you came for in the brand you want. And you won't walk away with two DVDs you had no intention of buying (what a great price, and on Blu Ray!)the new Rock Band III, a book on WWII with pop-ups, and the assortment of greeting cards pack.

That is not the case with Costco, which is what makes it wonderful. Once you get there you start to wonder how you ever lived without some of these things. Why yes, now that you mention it, I *do* need a velour Snuggie, some micro-fleece socks in garish colors and a pack of miniature flashlights that can be stowed around the house, never to be seen again because we can't remember where we put them. The point is you never know what you will find at Costco. Things you didn't even know you needed until you saw them there. And the prices - why they must be great since you are pushing your cart around a slab concrete floor in a warehouse with small birds flying about overhead. Of course the things are a steal - you don't even get a shopping bag to cart the stuff to your car.

I have found over the years that Costco can also break your heart. Why would you start carrying a brand of lotion that I fell in love with when I bought it from you (with a coupon!), only to cruelly stop six months later and now I must buy a bottle at Rite Aid that is half the size for the same cost as your super-sized item. It can also tease - maybe we'll have it, maybe we won't. You won't know until you get here. And oh yeah, just because we don't have it today doesn't mean we *won't* have it four days from now. And just because we have that best-selling book you have been considering purchasing as a gift for your mom *today* doesn't mean it will be in stock tomorrow, or ever again for that matter.

The pressure can be deadly, but not for someone like me who has been shopping there for over two decades. I am not one of those *newbie* Costco shoppers. You know, the ones that come out with the 5 gallon tub of mayonnaise because it's such a *great deal*. I confess that in my earlier years of shopping I would get caught up in the excitement of the samples and find myself the owner of a case of frozen pigs-in-a-blanket. That box of Flents Wipe'N Clear individual packets *seemed* like a good idea at the time, but three years after the purchase I still have more than half of the case left. And then there are the things that come in Costco sized containers that you can eat all of, but shouldn't. When is it ever a good idea to get a tub of gummy bears larger than your kitchen sink? And yes, if you ate steak every night for a week you could justify the pack of fillets for that amazing price. Just verify your medical coverage beforehand to make sure it will cover your bypass surgery.

But now I am older and wiser. There are items that I buy in the ridiculous Costco sizes, but they are honestly things I use in their entirety. Yes, my family will in fact go through this entire pack of 16 hot dog buns before they go stale. Yes, this giant pack of hot dog buns goes with the giant pack of hot dogs that is next to it (four packs of 12 dogs). And yes, the three pack of super-sized bottles of ketchup will be used within a few months. Trust me. So who am I to judge the lady in line behind me with the bottle of vinegar bigger than my first born child?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where did you come from?

Last night I walked into my daughter's room to discover her engaged in a serious discussion with her brother. She was sitting on her bed in her pajamas and he was standing in the middle of her room. Naked, except for a pair of Batman socks. My mouth opened. Then closed. Then opened and closed a few more times searching for the appropriate words that escaped me until finally I gave up and walked out.

I come from a long line of women. Okay, so that may seem obvious, but what I mean is that the men in our family are there by marriage. So imagine my surprise when I discovered we were having a son. It started with the ultrasound where I badgered the technician - are you sure? Check again. It's not that I was opposed to having a boy, it's just that I didn't know what to do with one. We had a girl, and the next one was supposed to be her sister. That was the natural order of things. But we did indeed have a boy, and every single day I am reminded how unprepared I am for this job.

For starters, no one tells you that the desire to blow everything up starts very early on, pretty much before actual speech. *Anything* can be made into a weapon, being naked is not a cause for alarm, and bathroom humor never gets old. Ever. Before having a son I thought these were stereotypes. Exaggerated over-generalizations. With each passing year I am learning that they are in fact my reality.

In the early years I was amazed to discover the vast wealth of knowledge I had accumulated about...trucks. I could tell you about any truck on the road - what it was used for, who drove it, and so on. Although I had no practical need for this knowledge I am confident it is more useful then my extensive knowledge of 80s music. Now that the boy is almost six I have shed my truck data and replaced it with a disturbing level of knowledge about...Star Wars. One of my high points (or low points, depending on how you look at it) was when I found Mace Windu's head while cleaning out my van. Not only was I thrilled to find Mace's head because his headless action figure body disturbed me more than I like to admit, but I instantly knew whose head I had found.

I also find myself uttering phrases without the slightest trace of self-consciousness or absurdity, such as *stop playing with the bees in the bush* or *kicking your friend and having him kick you is not a game*. The other day he had a friend over. First I had to tell them to stop kicking each other. Next I told them to stop punching each other, at which point they cried out: then what is there for us to do?

I am not saying it would have been easier if I'd had a second girl, or that I would have things under control more than I do. Or that I would be able to shed my self-bestowed title of *mediocre mom*. I just often have the feeling that up there god is laughing at me. That my son is a daily reminder to me to *lighten up*. I am constantly amazed and amused by how this little guy thinks. I mean really, *why not* play the air guitar while jumping on your bed...naked?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Can you hear me now?

Today I went to the store to get a new *smart phone*. This is to replace my old smart phone that had faithfully served me for almost three years. This was the phone I had reluctantly purchased, not convinced that a stay-at-home-mom needs a phone that can keep an elaborate calendar, store information on everyone I meet and do everything but make dinner (although it does have recipes for what I can make for dinner, or make reservations for dinner, or reviews of which places serve the best dinner).

Fast forward three years and I am not sure how I survived *before* I had my smart phone. It keeps all my *valuable data* such as my calendar, contacts for everyone I know and most importantly, it provides me with valuable *apps* that allow me to look up important information while standing in the meat department of the grocery store, like "salt pork". The funny part is that this device is called a *smart phone* and yet I rarely use the *phone* part of it. In fact, when it rings I usually look around perplexed as to the source of the noise, despite my *very* distinctive ring tone (I am not joking, it is very unique, ask me about it). As a result, I don't so much as answer my calls as I retrieve messages people leave because it takes me too long to associate the *noise* with someone trying to call me. If the phone part of my smart phone were to stop working I probably wouldn't notice for several days, maybe more than a week.

And yet, the most important aspect of having the smart phone is the urgent need to have *a phone* with you at all times. Why? Because what if someone needs to reach you? Urgently! It occurs to me that this ability to be reached any time, any where, was not something my mother and her generation worried about. These were woman who left their homes, went to the grocery store and other errands and appointments during the day and *they weren't reachable*. I marvel at their risk-taking, reckless behavior. What if the school had called and Bobby had vomited or contracted lice? Heck, come to think of it, most of them didn't have voice mail or an answering machine either. So if the school did call, not only couldn't these women be reached while they were at Target or at step aerobics, but the school would have to repeatedly call until someone could be reached. Oh, the horror. It should also be pointed out that they didn't have the contact information on hand for everyone they knew so they couldn't call someone if they needed something. Urgently! Like salt pork. Why? Because these phone books were back home on the counter, next to...the phone.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that I can be reached quickly if Susie gets hit in the head with a ball at PE, but sometimes I wonder if things have gone too far when I start to contemplate whether the yoga instructor would notice if I snuck out to check if I have any messages. I am so obsessed with being reachable that I take the phone into the bathroom with me and set it on the counter while I shower. Just in case. I am sure there is a name for this type of neurotic behavior. Perhaps I can look up a diagnosis and treatment on one of my apps?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Letting Go

For the first few years of her life my daughter was content to let me select her outfits each day. I was fortunate in the sense that this willingness on her part lasted much longer than most little girls. Perhaps this is why, when the time came, and she began to assert her fashion independence, I wasn't willing to let go that easily. While most moms would probably laugh at the *creative ensembles* their offspring came up with I couldn't help but be aghast. Really? You want to wear that top with those pants? Let's be reasonable - how about this lovely top instead?And those socks are a travesty. Let's get out some nice white ones with the lace trim.

But really it was minor transgressions - shades of colors that god didn't mean to go together, the occasional clashing pattern, but nothing outright hideous. And I tried, I really tried to let go of micromanaging her fashion decisions. I realized that letting go of this one small thing was a good first step for me in a lifetime of letting go. Oh but how I cringed when she went out dressed as a valentine in head to toe red and pink. After several battles I vowed to let her make her own choices as long as they were seasonally appropriate (there must be *some* standards).

And then came the day of *the outfit*. She showed up ready to go to school wearing some horizontally striped boot cut leggings in garish jewel tones (how did those get in the drawer?), a bright blue and and red t-shirt from a soccer clinic she attended, black shoes, yellow socks and a lavender wind breaker. It was my worst nightmare. I may have gasped, or even let out a squeak of surprise, but instead of demanding she change I took several deep, calming breaths and drove her to school.

I was feeling rather virtuous in my tolerance and acceptance. I congratulated myself for *letting go*. And then the following week I got the Valentine's Day gift she made for me in class. A beautiful frame she painstakingly created containing a picture of her with the biggest smile I have ever seen, she was positively beaming. And she was wearing *the outfit*. Although I can honestly say that get up is seared into my brain forever, now I have photographic proof to produce when she is a teenager. It pays to be virtuous.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Capturing the moment

Back when I was growing up parents showed up to our sporting events carrying...nothing. Okay, since I grew up in Seattle they often carried umbrellas, but that was it. I don't think we even brought gallon-sized sports drinks with extra electrolytes in case someone dehydrated during the brief increments of time we were clumped together, *playing*, on the field. If any photos were taken it was by the *professional* photographer at the end of the season. That was the only proof that we ever played soccer. And yet I remember, as do my teammates, and my parents.

The other day I was at my son's soccer game. Like a good soccer mom I had my collapsible chair, my water, water for each of my children and my husband, snacks, the DSLR camera for *really good* action shots, the pocket digital camera for emergencies and the flip video camera to catch some action sequences. My son loves soccer like I love ice cream - too much is never enough (for those of you old enough to remember, this was also what Billy Idol sneered in the MTV promo ads back in the day, but that's for another post). So there I am snapping away like a mad woman. Shot after beautiful shot of my son playing soccer in the splendid fall weather in all his glory. It's the last game of the season and neither team has scored a goal. Then suddenly the crowd is cheering wildly - our team scored! I lower the camera from my face long enough to ask the other moms, "who scored that goal"? Your son, they answer. I had missed the moment because I was so busy capturing the moment. Perhaps next season I will leave the camera at home and savor the present.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

Before you have children you should have to spend a lot of time *really* getting to know yourself. I am not talking a Meyers-Briggs test, or figuring out what you are good at, what you need out of life to fill your cup of self-esteem or even having your colors done. I am talking about recognizing and acknowledging those qualities about yourself that are really...annoying. Difficult on the people around you. Perhaps if all the future parents out there were forced to do this before the big day arrived they wouldn't be so surprised several years later when it dawns on you (with horror) that you have created a *mini-me*.

When they are younger mini-me can be very cute. Oh look, she loves pink and shoes and handbags, just like her mama. Oh look, mini-me is walking around the house toting a Nordstrom shopping bag and a pretend credit card. Oh, isn't it sweet that mini-me can't carry a tune and doesn't know it? And my proudest: isn't it great how mini-me has organized all her books into categories and sub-categories? These things are quaint when mini-me is 2 or 3. But eventually they get older and the less-than-desireable qualities of a mini-me start showing themselves.

Case in point: my mini-me has declared that manual labor isn't really *her thing*. As a result, she expects that all chores should be taken off her plate and redistributed (preferably to her younger brother) and she should be responsible for things such as ensuring we all have the appropriate accessories. Mini-me also has *world class litigator* in her career future. She can argue anything, anytime, with anyone until you decide you have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do winning an argument with her. Example: last spring mini-me was convinced that Washington, DC was actually a part of Virginia. Apparently some sort of annex or suburb near as I could tell. She presented several (equally untrue and illogical) arguments to support her claim, and even when confronted with a MAP, refused to acknowledge she was wrong.

One time I asked my husband if he thought it was harder being me and having to deal with me, or being him and having to deal with two *me*s. He just smirked.