Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

A couple of the other blogs that I read have done "best of" lists to highlight their most popular posts of the year. Since I only blogged for three months in 2012 this seems a little silly, but it is a good way of wrapping up the year/quarter. Plus, it might help if you want to read something from the archives, but don't want to waste your time on one of the crappy posts (because, believe it or not some of the posts are a bit crappy). These posts have been vetted by peers and you'll have some independent verification that they are worth wasting a few minutes reading.

10. Mental Dental - In which I took all three children to the dentist and the Boy gets confused between an iguana and a Mexican border town.

Speaking of the dentist, the Girl just wrote this poem:

Rotten Teeth 
She has rotten teeth, I agree,
I hope she brushes them for company.
Those green spots
are as green as the grass stains on my pants.
Those black spots look like smushed ants.
Look at that plaque attack!
The back of her teeth are oh so gray,
most of her money must go to the dentist to pay.
The yellow dots on her teeth are so bold,
I might have mistaken them for mold!
The cavities are so thick,
they look like a mile-long stick.
Her teeth are dirty, I agree,
I hope she brushes them for company!

9. Lice, Lice Baby - In which I recount the horrors of lice detection on a family vacation. Also, I make my first/only product plugs: Elimilice to get rid of the lice and Fairy Tales hair products to keep them from coming back. Full disclosure, the nice people at Fairy Tales hair sent me some shampoo and conditioner after I mentioned the products. It made me indescribably happy. Whenever anyone asks me about the benefits of blogging I mention that I received free lice-repelling products and they slowly move away from me.

8. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta - In which I jerk some tears over the time the wonderful doctors and nurses at CHOA took care of the 4-month old Boy when he was very sick with RSV. My friend Katie and I helped out with the winter fundraiser when she decorated mailboxes and I tried not to mess them up. The spring fundraiser (in case you are interested) is a Cajun dance party called a Fais Do-Do on February 2, 2013.

7. News and Updates - In which the Happy Enchiladas have their first gig and I linked to my ode to the holiday catalog in USA Today.

6. Fun with Autocomplete - This is my all-time favorite, which is a little sad because it was my seventh post. Nothing like peaking early! Little-known fact: I cut this post to 750 words and submitted it to USA Today and it was accepted, but then I revealed/let it slip that it had been posted on my blog in a longer form and they wouldn't publish it. Womp, womp, womp. Also, shortly thereafter, this came out in the New York Times and I wrote an email to the public editor because it was weirdly close to my post. I received this response:

It's great minds thing alike, but I will pass this along to an editor on the business desk so that she is aware of your concerns.  We appreciate your feedback.

[Name withheld so as not to publicly call out this guy for not proofing his emails when he works at the freaking NYT]
Office of the Public Editor
The New York Times

I am very pleased that I got a response at all, so I probably shouldn't be too critical of the typo, but when you have the word "editor" in your job title you are naturally held to a higher standard.

Also, I have an interesting(?) autocomplete story. Blue Mopheads Maureen and I went to a blogging conference that was helpful in confirming several things to me about bloggers: most are crazy in a harmless and entertaining way, most are middle-aged women, and most are overly eager to please. The hosts of the conference were a locally famous female humor writer and a gay man who I'd never heard of probably because his target audience (according to the female humor writer) is lonely gay men who come home from bars alone. Anyway, they were using the man's laptop to project our blogs up on a screen and Google was autocompleting with some terms with which I am not familiar, but gave great insight into what the man was searching on his computer. I'm still puzzling over "anal pillow relax." If you know what it means, please do not tell me.

5. Work it Out - In which I review my exercise DVDs. I'm hoping that someone (Amy Dixon, Jackie Warner, or Jillian Michaels) will send me some new DVDs so I can do some more reviews, but that hasn't happened. Perhaps calling them out for improperly counting (Jackie), becoming caricatures of themselves (Jillian), or weird editing of the videos (Amy) was the wrong strategy if you want to get free things. I may be the worst panderer ever. On the plus side, you must see that if I ever rave about something here it must really be good because I make fun of everything.

4. Food in Mouth Disease - In which I discuss the strange things that doctors say to patients and reveal that one, I have a tendency to insult people without intending to do so, and two, I have a uterus that plays hide-and-go-seek in my abdomen. I have to confess that my concern was that this would be my post that would go viral (ha!) and I would be known as the lady blogger with the peek-a-boo uterus. But look, in a day in age when Kim Kardashian is famous for having a big ass and a sex tape being famous for your uterus is probably kind of quaint and demure. Also, congrats to Kim and Kanye on their baby news.

3. Women Drivers and the Men Who Save Them - In which I explain this mishap:

and discuss that men actually enjoy getting cars out of these predicaments. I recommend that if you want to get a group of men working together you should drive your car into someone's koi pond and look helpless. The lawyer in me hastens to add that this is a joke and you should not drive your car into a koi pond and that, if you do, please do not sue me.

2. Welcome! - In which I introduce myself and make fun of Utah for the first time. This, like Little Mommy Doctor Mommy, Nutella, and Audrey the Moose will become inside jokes that will deter people from reading the blog because they don't understand what I'm talking about. In case you are wondering about my 2013 plans, they do include adding a section that will explain commonly referred-to things in the blog. LMDM will be described as my arch nemesis and will be pictured with her glowing forehead.

1. 20 Things I Learned This Week - Really, that's the top one. This surprises me because it's kind of mommy blogger-ish which means it is mainly for female-type readers with kids. This means that my small cadre of male-type readers (i.e. Sebastian, Matt, Greg (unless I say uterus, in which case Greg has to wash his eyes and get electroshock treatments to recover), my BIL, and the K) are probably not going to read it. Well, the K might read it because I give him a pop quiz every night on the subject matter of each post and if he doesn't pass I make him sleep on the couch.

So, those are the top 10 OWTL posts as chosen by you, the readers. I'm a little sad that my recent post on Tina Fey's book and my scar didn't make the list.  I'll have you know that Dad called me after he read it and thought it was hysterically funny. This is in keeping with Dad thinking that being chained to his front porch as a child is hysterically funny. This is also further evidence that there is a fine line between childhood trauma and fodder for a humor blog. That fine line is attitude and hindsight.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Messed With Texas

As you might have noticed, I've been out of pocket for the last few days. We made a quick trip over to Mississippi to visit with the K's family. Spending time in the real south (because, let's face it, Atlanta isn't really southern anymore) emphasizes to me how you can't take the Jersey out of the girl. When I first moved from New Jersey after college, I lived in Texas and felt like a foreigner. This is probably because many Texans still have this belief about Texas:

I foolishly thought that because I'd been raised by a southern mother that I could totally get along in Texas without a problem. I quickly realized that eating grits and okra does nothing more to prepare you for Texas than growing up in Anniston, Alabama and having a neighbor in "witness protection" prepares you to traverse the streets of Newark.

The top five things about Texas that I found mystifying:

1. People are really, really proud of being from Texas. This was a singular revelation to me. I can't say I was ever proud of being from New Jersey. I felt like people assumed negative things about me because I was from there (bad hair, bad accent, rude, shops at the "mawl," and spends the summer "down the showre.") People from Texas seemed unconcerned about what I thought of their Texas-ness. It was like they just all assumed I'd prefer to be like them.

2. Many people show their pride in their Texas heritage by getting things that show they're from Texas. I'm talking about earrings, pillows, and cutting boards in the shape of the state and shirts emblazoned with "Don't Mess With Texas" or "Everything is Bigger in Texas,"and "American By Birth, Texan By the Grace of God." I feel certain you could never get equivalent merchandise about any other state. You can get this shirt if you're from New Jersey:


Not exactly the same attitude. I had gone from a state with an inferiority complex to one with a superiority complex. It was very disconcerting.

3. Everyone is good-looking. Even the ugly people in Texas would be beauty queens in other states. I realize that this couldn't possibly be true, but yet I would search in vain for the troll-like and unwashed to no avail. One time I did just catch a glimpse of a scruffy fellow heading into a viaduct in Austin. But, I think it was just Matthew McConaughey. 

4. Parking is everywhere. Okay, maybe you have to be from New Jersey or at least a built-up area to appreciate this, but I couldn't get over parking in fields. In New Jersey you had to park in a designated lot or parallel park on the street. In Texas you'd be at some restaurant and the parking lot would be filled, so you'd just park in the nearest field. Or, they'd be no lot and everyone just knew to park in the field as a first resort. Of course I knew what fields were because I'd seen them in the opening credits of "Little House on the Prairie" but since that took place in the 1880s, I didn't know they were for parking. 

5. Car window messages were very popular. I thought this was very strange when I first got to Austin. Everyone seemed to have important things to write in shoe polish on their car windows. "Taylor's 21!" "Beat the Aggies!" or "Pledge Tri-Delt."Sometimes I felt that it went too far like when I saw the car that said, "Acquitted of the Rape Charges!!" I'm not sure if this still goes on. Maybe they've been replaced by oval stickers with the initials of vacation destinations and stick figure depictions of families. This is a nice combination of shoe polish and stick figure family:

I did get more comfortable being in Texas, but it took a little while. Things were slower, people were polite, and I got used to everyone being blonde and tan. After I lived there for about a year, I moved back to New Jersey for the summer. I took a job in New York and on my first day commuting home via bus I went up to the information counter at Port Authority. 

Me: Excuse me. Can you tell me where the Suburban Transit bus to New Brunswick departs from?
Information Counter Lady: You one way? 
Me: Excuse me?
ICL: You one way or round trip?
Me: Round trip.
ICL: What you got, sh*t for brains? Just go to wherever the bus left you at this morning. 
Me: Thanks!

That's an entirely true story. Suddenly I missed Texas. Badly. 


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tina and Me

I treated myself to an early Christmas gift and downloaded "Bossypants" by Tina Fey onto my/the children's iPad last week. I know that the book came out about three years ago, but I'm about three years behind when it comes to popular culture. Have y'all heard of this texting thing that all the kids are doing? Anyway, I was struck when reading the book with just how much Tina and I have in common. I mean, obviously we both have low-rated television shows on NBC starring Alec Baldwin, we were both the first female head writers at Saturday Night Live, and we're both half Greek. Okay, so none of that is actually true. But, Tina and I do have one thing in common, which is a facial scar.

Tina got her scar when she was in kindergarten and a stranger cut her face with a knife in the alley behind her house. I acquired mine in much less dramatic fashion, unless you consider being cut by my parents' coffee table dramatic. Mom insists that it didn't even look like a bad cut and that the doctor was unimpressed and didn't bother with stitches. The result is that I have an inch-long white scar above the left side of my lip. It doesn't even really show up in pictures unless I do an unflattering extreme close-up. Voila!

It is noticeable in real life, but I only remember a couple of times when someone asked me about it. When I was in law school, a guy cornered me when I was studying in the library. "I have something really important to ask you," he said. I was thinking it would be something like, "What's a tort?" or "Why are we wasting the best years of our lives in this soul-sucking endeavor?" But, his question was: "Did you get that scar on your face from running through a sliding glass door?" It was such an oddly specific question, like when the Girl asked me whether Mitt Romney did the voice of the Cat the animated Cat in the Hat cartoon.

When I was about eight and bored, I started pestering Dad about my scar. I said something like, "I wish I didn't have this scar. If I didn't have this scar I would be so much prettier." I think I was looking for attention, because I really didn't think that it made me less pretty or care much about the scar at all. I couldn't see it on a day-to-day basis and no one seemed repulsed or horrified by it, so I just didn't give it much thought. Dad was reading the New York Times and clearly didn't feel like dealing with my faked complaints. "Well," he said without looking away from his article, "some really beautiful women have one thing about them that might detract from their beauty, but it makes them interesting to look at. For instance, Jane Bryant Quinn has really bad skin and Lesley Stahl wears glasses."

Jane Bryant Quinn
Lesley Stahl
I couldn't find any stock pictures of Lesley Stahl circa 1978 or even any ones of her with glasses other than the one that appears to be from TMZ. So, what do y'all think is the weirdest thing about that pep talk? Is it that Dad acknowledged that the scar did make me less pretty? Or, is the weirdest thing that Dad's beauty ideals in the late 1970s were not, say, Farrah Fawcett or Bo Derek, but a financial reporter and a CBS News White House correspondent? I'd say the latter. While I was still absorbing being compared to two middle-aged lady reporters, he hit me with this second inspirational thought: "You know, Susie, some women grow hair above their lips when they get older. Maybe you'll get a little mustache and it will cover up the scar."

Excuse me? I'd say that high on the list of images you don't want to have as an eight year old girl is that you might grow up to have your very own mustache. I had a copy of the "Guinness Book of World Records," so I'd seen pictures of the bearded lady and Dad had a beard and mustache, so I knew I had the facial hair gene. On the plus side, Dad had totally distracted me from any concerns about my scar. On the negative side, I was now convinced that I was destined to grow a mustache. I had also learned an important life lesson which is, if you interrupt a professor reading the newspaper with faked concerns related to vanity, you kind of get what you deserve.

Thankfully, it's 30 years later and the glossy black mustache I'd envisioned never materialized. And, if it had, there's always electrolysis and waxing and the no!no! hair removal system (which has the most tantalizing infomercial I've seen recently). Do you think that Tina and her father had a similar conversation when, as a child, she complained about her scar? Her father probably said something like, "Don't worry, maybe someday you'll grow big hairy arms and man hands and no one will even notice your scar." He'd be right.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Disappointing Christmas Story

Merry Christmas, everyone! I am happy to report that despite our recent track record, Santa delivered a Christmas miracle in that we didn't have to take anyone to urgent care today. Folks, it is a new low when not having to seek emergency medical care on Christmas is a miracle, but there it is. 

The Boy woke up first at about 6 am which is totally unusual. He's the kid I drag out of bed twenty minutes before school, shove into some clothes like an inept valet, and force feed a slice of toast as we're running out the door. So, you'd think his reason for getting up at 6 on Christmas was to open gifts. No. He was hungry. The Girl followed next around 7 am and immediately started doing an inventory of presents. When she finished her gift census she flopped down on the couch in a very teenager-y way and declared that this would be the worst Christmas ever. The Boy's big gift was a basketball backboard and it was sitting, unwrapped, under the tree because the elves were like, "Screw that, Santa. There's not enough wrapping paper at the North Pole CVS to cover that up." The Girl and the Baby's presents from Santa were wrapped by their stockings. Somehow the Girl could tell from looking at her wrapped present that it was going to be terribly disappointing and unfairly paltry when compared with the Boy's basketball goal. She moaned and groaned and carried on about her disaster of a Christmas until I could stand it no longer. 

Me: You want to hear a story about a disappointing Christmas?
The Girl: No, not really.
Me: Good. I'm going to tell you about what happened to Daddy when he was your age.
The Girl: But, I don't want...
Me: When Daddy was a kid he really, really wanted a Bowie knife for Christmas.
The Girl: What's that?
Me: It's this:

The Girl: That looks kinda dangerous.
Me: It is and you are never allowed to have one. But, Daddy grew up in Mississippi and needed it to skin possums and squirrels to take to school in his lunch pail. Anyway, on Christmas morning there was a box wrapped up under the tree and it was the size and shape of a Bowie knife and it was for Daddy. He was so excited to open the gift. He just knew that it was going to be the knife. So, Daddy ripped off the paper and opened the box. Do you know what was inside?
The Girl: The knife?
Me: A lint brush.
The Girl: What?
Me: This thing:
The Girl: Oh no.
Me: Oh yes. I promise you, there are no lint brushes in any of your Christmas gifts.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, or a fantastic time at the movies (did you see Le Mis?) and eating Chinese food. And, I sincerely hope that you were not disappointed by receiving a lint brush that you hoped was a Bowie knife.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Not Pinterest-Perfect

I know you all won't believe me, because I hardly believe it, but the Girl came down with a stomach bug yesterday. I know. I hoped that it was a one (puke) and done situation and she seemed fine when I checked on her last night before I went to bed. This morning she got up early and when I got out of bed she was forcing the K to watch "Love It or List It" with her. (I think it's great that she watches home renovation shows just like I do.) We all sat and watched for a little bit until the K reached over to pat the Girl's head.

The K: What's in your hair?
The Girl: Hmmm. I don't know. Maybe it's from when I threw up.
Me: You took a shower after you threw up. It was like a 40 minute shower. I'm pretty sure you were clean when you went to bed.
The Girl: It may have been from the other night when I threw up in bed.
Me: What? What other night?
The Girl: The night when I threw up in bed and went back to sleep.
The K: Last night?
The Girl: Could be.

WTF? AYKM? YPIBASN??  (That's an acronym for "you puked in bed and said nothing?" I promise, it'll be the new LOL.)

So, I went up to her room and took in the awfulness of the situation. I guess she woke up briefly and just pulled her afghan from the foot of her bed up to the top and covered up the mess. I stripped off the sheets, the pillow cases, and the duvet cover. It was also on the rug, some stuffed animals, the afghan, the mattress pad, and, worst of all, the dust ruffle. That required pulling off the mattress and getting the dust ruffle from between the mattress and box spring. Blah.

Here's the room in disarray:

I have to be honest, I just threw everything in the wash without looking to see what was machine-washable. If the things weren't washed, they'd be ruined anyway, so what's the difference?

This is not the first time we got up to some sort of bodily fluids mess in one of the kids' rooms. A couple of years ago, the Boy stormed downstairs one morning in a huff. "Somebody pooped all over my floor last night!" He was totally indignant. The K was home, so I dispatched him to see what was going on. The Boy has a rug on his floor and a huge foam puzzle of the world:

I know, super clean at the moment. The Boy was really obsessed with geography for a while and Mom got him the puzzle. It was supposed to stay at her house, but the Boy liked it so much that it came home with us and has been on his bedroom floor ever since.

Anyway, that morning, the K checked out the situation and came back downstairs.

Me: What? What's happening up there?
The K: All I know is someone really doesn't like Russia.
Me: Why?
The K: Someone took a big dump right on top of it on the map.

We figured that the Boy, who was fighting a stomach bug, had gotten up in the middle of the night, made it a couple steps from the bed, let loose on Russia, and got back into bed without waking up. The Boy was in utter, total denial that he had anything to do with it, but since we didn't have Audrey the Moose back then, we're pretty sure it was the Boy.

As much as I hate that the kids are sick, it does remind me that my first world problems, like having too many presents to wrap, are not that big a deal. I mean, boo hoo for me. The kids are going to be fine, they're generally healthy, and we're all together for Christmas. This may not be the holiday I pictured, but it doesn't have to be a Pinterest-perfect Christmas to be wonderful and real and sincere. We may not be building color-coordinated gingerbread houses and I won't be making a french toast casserole tomorrow night to pop into the oven to eat on Christmas morning, but that's okay. I felt even more optimistic about the holiday when I consulted the Girl's magic 8 ball with the question, "will this be a happy Christmas?"

Outlook good! That is as close to a guarantee as I am going to get. I'll take it. Merry Christmas Eve eve, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How You Doin'?

Well, my plan A, that the world would come to an end and I wouldn't have to wrap gifts, didn't pan out. Neither did plan B, that elves would come in the night and wrap the gifts for me. I guess things are pretty busy at Santa's workshop so he couldn't spare any of the little guys to come and help. I'm sure it's just because I'm so exhausted, but when I think about the elves making toys in the North Pole, I'm totally picturing a third world sweatshop. It's all dark and dangerous and the elves have dark circles under their eyes and an evil foreman elf is walking around the shop with a candy cane, beating the elves who slack off. Golly, that's a terrible image. That's what being stuck in your house for three weeks, trying to get ready for Christmas with children cycling illnesses will do to you! Dark thoughts, dark thoughts. Anyway, I was reduced to plan C, wrapping the gifts myself. I wrapped presents for over two hours today and I'm still not finished. The good news is that there wasn't a candy cane wielding elf to be seen.

This whole month would have been even harder, tending to sick children, staring at the four walls,  without the kindness and thanks of my little ones. Because I know that sarcasm is sometimes hard to detect in writing, I'll just tell you...major sarcasm.Yesterday, the Girl started petting my hair when I was working on the computer.

The Girl: Your hair smells good.
Me: Thanks.
The Girl: Just like turkey bacon. Do dogs follow you home?

Just those three black dogs looking at me ominously and cursing me to months of home-confinement.

Then there's the Boy. I'm pretty sure that he's responsible for this one:

I can't figure out if it came off my shirt, or if it was always stuck to the toilet. In either case, "Kick Me" stickers smack of kindness and compassion.

Then the Baby kindly styled my hair for me the other morning:

How you doin'?

Worse than the hairstyle (which is reminiscent of "There's Something About Mary") was looking at the pictures I took of myself. Some old lady is inhabiting my face and she looks disturbingly like Dad. To think I've spent years thinking that I'll end up looking like Mom and I end up looking like Dad. I did not see that one coming. Thank goodness for the lighting filters on Camera+ is all I can say.

And, I feel totally misled by the Elf on the Shelf people. I thought that the children would magically be prompted to exhibit better behavior because of the Elf threat. He's going back to the North Pole every night to give Santa the naughty or nice report on them, right? They're acting exactly the same as they always do. And Abe, the Elf, instead of providing me with any help in the way of wrapping gifts, baking cookies, or at least vanquishing my enemies is doing stuff like this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

What good is he to me? He hasn't done a darn thing to help out around here.

Ohhh. Well played, Abe. Well played.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Feel Fine

By the time you all read this, I may already be gone. Of course, so will you all if the Mayans are right. Nothing puts you in an apocalyptic frame of mind like listening to end of the world songs. Did you all know that there is a Wikipedia entry devoted to apocalyptic songs? Not to be confused with the more specific songs that are better for the zombie apocalypse which you can find here. That's a perfect example of a "distinction without a difference," as we said in law. If we're all annihilated, who cares if it's by zombies or meteors or Biblical prophesy?

I think my favorite apocalyptic song is "It's the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)" by Athens, Georgia's own R.E.M. Did you all ever hear that the lyrics contain a reference to the University of Virginia? About 1 minute 20 seconds into the song, the official lyrics are: "Watch a heel, crush, crush/Uh-oh this means no fear, cavalier..." A law school friend of mine (and UVa alum) insisted that the real lyrics were a reference to the former UVa president, Robert O'Neil banning alcohol at fraternity rush parties back in 1985. So, the lyrics are, in fact, "Watch O'Neil crush rush/Uh-oh this means no beer, Cavalier..."

I'm going to admit to being a smidgen jealous if this turns out to be true because R.E.M. certainly had no songs about Rutgers, unless "You Can't Get There From Here" is a reference to the byzantine bus system at RU.

Sister went to UVa for law school and had a far more enjoyable law school experience than either the K or I did at our respective law schools. Did y'all know that at UVa law they have a themed party every single night for the entire month of February? When Sister was there one of the parties involved some epic beer pong contest, with a twist. One of Sister's classmates had no given middle name. So, the winner of beer pong got to bestow a middle name on no-middle-name guy. The winner chose the name "D'Brickashaw." So, no middle name guy went the next day and legally changed his name to Joe D'Brickashaw Smith, or whatever. (D'Brickashaw Ferguson was an offensive tackle for the University of Virginia at the time Sister was in school. I would go into how he got his name, but that may be too long a tangent, even for me. Read about it here.)

You know what we did at Emory law school parties? People got really, really drunk and made foolish decisions. That's it.

So, I figure that a lot of bloggers and websites will tell you what you should be doing before the world ends. But, I'm going to tell you what not to do on your last day on earth:

1. Clean the oven, or the fridge, or the toilets.
2. Get a colonoscopy.
3. Start a diet or skip dessert.
4. Stop sniffing glue:

5. Exercise.
6. Start reading "War and Peace." (Did you know that book is over 1,400 pages long??)
7. Make cookies that require the dough to sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before baking.
8. Go to Utah. (That's my second Utah dig in this blog. I'm sure it's a great place, but I just remember seeing a bumper stick when I was young and impressionable that said, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may be in Utah." My prejudice has been with me ever since.)
9. Go out to a bar in hopes of "meeting someone." That would be the beginning of the most depressing story ever. I'm sure Nicholas Sparks has written a book with that plot.
10. Write a really long blog post that most people won't get until the day of the apocalypse...Hey, wait a minute! See y'all...maybe!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wrapping and Ribbon

I know that you'd think that being home for over two weeks straight with sick children would mean that I was totally finished with my Christmas present wrapping. Not so. Let me show you the current state of affairs here:

If that doesn't make you want to eat an entire jar of Nutella, you have more self-control than I do. I'm going to bed tonight and hope that Abe the Elf will do something other than replace Baby Jesus in our nativity scene:

or rig up a basketball hoop:

I hope he'll wrap all the Christmas gifts! Yes, yes, it seems unlikely to me, too, but I can always dream.

An additional problem is that I may run out of gift wrap and bags because the children have already raided my supplies to "wrap" their gifts. I have to say that I cried a little inside when I saw that instead of using gift tags, the Girl wrote each gift recipient's name in green Sharpie on the outside of the bags so that we can't reuse any of them.

Also, the gifts? Not so desirable. Unless I miss my guess, the Boy will not be that excited about the eight inch Canadian flag (a leftover favor from his birthday party) and the rock that the Baby got him for Christmas. Yes, damn it, I looked in the gift bags. I was so curious about how they could have gotten everyone gifts without leaving the house that I couldn't help myself. Next year I'm totally doing the same thing: I'm just going to walk around the house and start wrapping up random objects for everyone. When next Christmas rolls around and the K gets a back issue of "Southern Living" and a can of soup, that'll be why.

While we're on the subject of wrapping and ribbons, I wanted to share the Facebook post of a sorority sister who lives in in a town near Newtown, Connecticut. She writes, "[w]e thought we would put green ribbons (Newtown school color) around our trees to show our support for our neighbors. We hope we can get this to catch on throughout the country. Please pass it on. For our younger ones we are just telling them we are decorating our trees."

I've got mine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Foot in Mouth Disease

Hey, y'all going to the doctor seems to be my new hobby. I was lucky enough to take the Girl to the doctor four times last week and I took the Baby to the doctor today, after my own trip to the dentist. Do you know, I get frustrated at the doctor sometimes. I mean, by and large the actual medical treatment I've received has been fine, it's just that the bedside manner of some of these folks leave much to be desired.

Warning: the first story contains a discussion of a gynecological exam in purely G/PG terms, but if this is distasteful to you, please rejoin us in two paragraphs when I talk about lawyers.

When I was in law school, I went to the Emory Clinic for my medical needs because it's your only option when you're on the university insurance. When I went in for a gynecological exam, the nurse practitioner asked if I would mind if a student conducted the exam. Now, I should have just said no since I wasn't practicing to be a lawyer on people with real legal problems and I was far less likely to cause lasting harm on someone with my ineptitude. But, since it seemed rude to refuse, I agreed to let the student examine me. So, she starts poking around and after a minute backed away from my nether regions with what I can only describe as a horrified look on her face. She says in this stage whisper to the real nurse, "She doesn't have a uterus."

Okay, I hope it's not over-sharing to let you know that I, in fact, do have a uterus. I've used it three times to grow babies, so I'm fairly sure it's been there for a while. Although I did see a fascinating program (on TLC, I'm sure) about a British lady who had triplets, one of which grew outside the uterus.   After I started laughing because, really, the whole thing was ridiculous, the real nurse took a peek and located my uterus, which must have been hiding to play a trick on the student nurse. Silly!

Lawyers are generally not specimens of good health. It's a job with long hours and a lot of stress. When I worked at a big firm, we were always going to the doctor to see whether it was the drinking or the stress that was going to take us. One day, a colleague came back from his physical looking chagrined. "The doctor told me I was in pretty good shape for 37," he said. Unfortunately, my friend was 27. The doctor's manner turned more grim after my friend corrected him.

I know I'm being unfairly critical because I'm sure I would do and say worse if I were a doctor. I'm terrible about delivering bad news because I'm such a pleaser. I'm sure I'd say things like, "it's sort of terminal" and "you have six months, but, on the bright side, maybe you'll be hit by a truck tomorrow." Once I start going off the rails with my crazy talk, I just keep on going; trying to make it better, but making it much, much worse.

For example, the other night I was at a party and a friend was telling me about the back injury that was going to prevent her from exercising for a month. I went off on this whole thing about how she didn't need to worry because she'd probably just atrophy instead of getting fat. As the words were coming out of my mouth, I knew that it was the most ill-concieved pep talk ever, but I just couldn't stop blabbing. I tried to make it better by saying that when  I'm unable to exercise, I atrophy, too and I start looking like an Oakie. I sucked in my cheeks to show her. In my head I was picturing this:

What is my problem? I'm pretty sure that it did not help her feel any better, but because she's very nice and southern she was totally gracious. If she were from New Jersey she probably would have flipped a table and called me a "prostitution whore" like Teresa from Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Can you all do me a favor? If you all are ever with me and I start going off on some crazy-talk tangent, please just yell, "Prostitution Whore!" to get me to stop. Alternatively, you could yell, "you have no uterus!" Whatever seems most appropriate under the circumstances.

Monday, December 17, 2012

You Get What you Get...

The kids have been writing and revising their Christmas wish lists, which is super inconvenient because changing their minds at this point is not an option. The Boy added "dart board" to his list yesterday which is too bad for him because the elves at Amazon can't get it to him before Christmas. You see, I'm still housebound with a sick kid and can't make it to the store. (Pink eye is truly the gift that keeps on giving. The Baby is the latest recipient.) So, at this point, whatever we've gotten, they are stuck with whether it's on version 86 of the list, or not.

Let's start with visuals of the Christmas Lists. Here is the list the Girl wrote a few days ago, starting with the addressee:

Santa Clause. Sigh. Guess who inherited the bad spelling gene from me? I'm guessing he's an independent clause, or maybe a relative clause.

Okay, in case you can't read it:

Hi Santa!,
I hope I've been very good this year. I'd like to list what I want for Christmas.
[Kindel] (sic)
[Ipod touch & headphones]
[Tickets to the curcis] (sic)
[at least $20]

I like that she gave him a dollar minimum, just so he'd know that she's not fooling around about the cash. I'm surprised that she didn't request certain denominations: "tens and twenties are preferable," or something like that. Speaking of money, I bet you're wondering why she has that orange pocket in the corner with the dollar bill sticking out. Read on:

The post script reads: PS I put a 1 dollar bill up in that corner! Just in case, you know haffta (sic) take Marta or whatever!

It's a little known fact that, on occasion, the reindeer go on strike and Santa is forced to take public transportation. Here's the photographic proof:

Looks like Santa may have hit the eggnog a little too hard. I'm trying to figure out what country this picture is from. The poster in the background looks like it may be in Cyrillic. So, perhaps it was the vodka that Santa may have hit a little too hard.

I thought it was a little strange for the Girl to ask Santa for at least $20, but then give him a $1 for Marta. Unfortunately for Santa, the price of a one way fare on Marta is $2.50. Maybe since he's already bringing her cash, he can just borrow a buck 50 to top off his fare card should it become necessary. Ever since the reindeer followed the elves and unionized, *shake head* sheesh!

The Girl recently added this appendix to the original letter:

Dear Santa,
I would like to add some thing to my list: A Penguin dream lite. Thanks!

But, since this was written, she's now switched to a turtle dream lite, which means I have to figure out what to do with the penguin one that's sitting in a box in the study/random and sundry junk room. Part of me wants to say, "penguin, turtle, what's the difference?" Obviously, one's a bird that doesn't fly and the other is a reptile that lays eggs in the sand. But, when it comes to dream lites (that's really the way they spell it) they're both un-cuddly, battery-filled contraptions that sit inertly and project colored stars on the ceiling. Who cares which animal is doing that? The Girl, clearly. Does anyone out there have a turtle dream lite that they want to swap for a penguin? Send me a comment and we can work out a deal.

She ends the addendum to the letter like this:

P.S. Tell me if i'm noddy or nice!

I just picture Santa nodding his head. Yes, you are noddy. Bless her heart. Spellcheck, Sweetie. 

Here is the Boy's letter:

Dear Santa,
I would like a dart Board, a Basket Ball Back Board, a dream Light penguin[,] iPod touch, a Globe, and you can give me a few random boy things.

First of all, he did not inherit the atrocious speller gene, although he may have inherited the Inappropriately Capitalized word Gene and the omitted commas gene. Otherwise, someone needs to tell me where to get a "dream light penguin iPod touch."

Second of all, you remember this is the child who charged a bazillion dollars (okay, $200+) on iTunes buying pretend football players? Where is his inquiry to Santa about his niceness or naughtiness? Nada. The Boy just assumes he's been good enough to get stuff, even if he's not technically "good." By the way, if your kid ever makes a bunch of in-app charges, call Apple. They refunded all of our money. Sadly, getting that taken care of was probably the highlight of the day on Friday.

So, also, what on earth are "random boy things?" Snips and snails and puppy dog tails? I know Santa was once a boy and familiar with random boy things, but I'm a middle-aged (owning it) woman who has no clue what this means. What do y'all think? Bucket of worms? Pile of ripped jeans and dirty socks? Freaking yogurt squeezer wrappers in my filing cabinet:

I mean, what is that? Who raised this child?

Thank goodness the Baby is too little to write anything but her name (sort of), so she could just tell me that she wants a Doodle Bear (hopefully less insane than Little Mommy Doctor Mommy Doll) and a new baby doll stroller because her old one broke. Done!

I can promise you that the kids are not getting everything on their lists (hint: no iPod Touch for anyone). And, they are getting some things that aren't on their lists. Santa has to make some on-the-fly changes when he's been taking sick elves to the doctor for the last two weeks. Santa may resort to cash as a stocking stuffer. At least $20, of course!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Writing

Horrible, horrible, horrible. That was my reaction to the Connecticut school shooting. I don't want to imagine the devastation of the families of the people who were killed. I can't help but cry when I think of twenty children who were sent off to school yesterday morning, but never made it home to be tucked into bed last night. I feel for the children who survived the shooting, but saw things that no one should have to witness. It will be a long and difficult journey for them to come to terms with the trauma they experienced.

I made the conscious choice to shelter my own children from any news of this horror. I don't want them to think that everything in life is sunshine and roses, but this is not the event to use as a teachable moment. The location of the crime and the fact that the majority of victims were children makes it too relatable and imaginable to them. They don't need to think that this might happen to them in our little neighborhood school.

When the time comes that the children learn about Sandy Hook, or Columbine, or 9/11, I want them to have a way to process their thoughts and feeling about these events. Of course if they want to talk about their fears and concerns, I will be there to listen. If they need to talk to someone else, a therapist or counselor, that will be absolutely fine. But, I will also encourage them to write about their feelings.

Ever since I was little, I loved to write. Writing pretty much got me through high school. You know those, "It gets better" videos that have been made to convince gay teens to hang on, that there is life after high school? Well, honestly, I think that that message is true for a lot of teenagers, gay and straight. I can't really explain the sources of my high school angst, I just remember spending the better part of four years feeling like I wasn't participating in my own life. Things were happening over which I no control and I was just going through the motions each day, marking time until I could get out.

Writing did several important things for me. First, it gave me control. When real life went awry and things didn't turn out the way I wanted, I could plot true life events into a fictional story and change the outcome. Of course my reality didn't change, but in some alternative universe, all was right. I was lucky to have a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to write (shout out to Carol Lefelt) and forced me to submit my short stories to contests. For someone like me who has a massive fear that I totally suck and no one is telling me, it was a pretty hard sell. When I won first place for a story I wrote my junior year, it was the first time I felt like I was really good at something. Success in writing gave me some much-needed confidence.

The Boy inherited a lot of my personality traits, so I've encouraged him to start writing. I bought him a notebook, zipped off a very official looking label for the front, and instructed the girls to keep away: This is the Boy's property, his thoughts, and they are not to defile it with pictures of flowers and ponies. The Boy can also have problems expressing his anger and frustration (hello, me again!) and writing can help him to make sense of these feelings.

Our wonderful babysitter, Tara came yesterday to watch the Girl because she was still home sick from school. I was desperate to get a little bit of Christmas shopping accomplished, and frankly, just needed to be away from the house for a while. While I was out, Tara showed the kids this great writing website called Storybird.

If your kid is a little more visual and won't go for the notebook writing, this might be a good alternative. The website features series of pictures by different artists that could tell different stories. You just go in and supply the text for the pictures. It's not just for kids, either. If you've always wanted to write a children's book, this would be a great resource. There are also a lot of websites that cater to kid writers in the tween and teen age groups.  

For adults, my friend Erica posted about the website Cowbird (oddly, I don't think that it's related to Storybird). The website encourages people to share stories with a goal to create a "public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on," available for others to look to for guidance. A great goal. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, right?

Obviously, writing isn't going to save us from random violent acts. But, if it lets one confused kid find peace in our crazy world, that's a good thing.  

Friday, December 14, 2012


Earlier this week, a friend was commenting on the run of bad luck (in the form of childhood illnesses) that we've been having. "You must feel like you're cursed!" she joked. I laughed and thought about how this isn't my first trip to the germ rodeo (yee haw, ride 'em nasopharyngitis). We've gone through so many winters just like this one, but worse, when the kids missed months of school. At least the Girl is old enough now that she can fairly reliably tell us what is bothering her and she doesn't puke when she runs a fever like she did when she was younger. No, frankly, while the past couple of weeks have sucked, I've seen worse.

But, I am nothing if not entirely too suggestible, so I started thinking....what if we are cursed? I don't have much personal knowledge of curses or the occult. In fact, pretty much everything I know about witchcraft comes from watching "Bewitched."

However, according to Dad, my grandmother retained a neighborhood witch to cure Dad of his stammer. The witch chanted some spell over Dad's crib and his speech was miraculously fixed. If only Colin Firth had the witch from Filthadelphia, he could have skipped all that work with Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech," but then, I guess that would have been a much different movie. Later, the same witch supposedly worked her magic to get Dad's aunt to stop smoking.  

But, how can you tell when you're cursed? The answer was only a Google search away. On Doktor Snake's website (voodoo spells and magick for all your needs) I learned that there are ten signs to look for to determine whether you are cursed. (Don't you love how there are exactly ten signs? It's such a nice, round number.) Okay, let's see if I might be cursed:

1. Nightmares - Apparently, if you have recurring dreams that you are killed or injured, or being bitten by snakes or stung by scorpions, this is a "sure fire" sign that you are cursed. I haven't been sleeping that well, but I don't recall any snakes or scorpions showing up in my dreams lately. Verdict: Not Cursed
2. Loss of Energy - If you were once full of "zest for life," but are now prone to "gloomy thoughts" the cause might be a hex. Yes, after being home with sick children for twelve days, I will admit to some gloomy thoughts. Verdict: Cursed
3. Financial Loss - If you've lost money, it might be a jinx. Crap! The Boy and his damn iTune charges! Verdict: Cursed
4. Relationship Difficulties - If things were going great in your relationship, but then turn sour without reason, it could be a curse. No, things haven't gone sour between me and the K. But, if we have any problems it's not without reason. It's because I'm going crazy from being home with sick people. Verdict: Not Cursed
5. Health Problems - If you have "inexplicable health issues, strange allergies...panic attacks, fear of leaving your home...or other inexplicable fears" it might be "baleful conjure." We do have health problems, but they're not inexplicable and I certainly have no fear of leaving the home. In fact, I've gotten to the point where I will volunteer to do the most unpleasant errands, just to leave the house. Anyone need some port-a-potties emptied? I'm your gal. Verdict: Not Cursed
6. Dark Omens - If your favorite jewelry is broken, if you see three black crows in a graveyard, "if you notice three jet black dogs in the street looking ominously at is not a good sign." No kidding? If I ever see three black dogs looking ominously at me, I will not be googling "Am I cursed." It will be pretty darn evident. Verdict: Not Cursed

Are they looking ominously? Well, maybe that one on the left who appears like he only has one eye. Actually, they're pretty cute.

7. Unexplained Pains - If you get nagging pains anywhere in your body, someone might be working evil conjure against you. Okay, so my knee has been popping in and out of joint for the last week. I've got to say Verdict: Cursed
8. Trouble Sleeping - If you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, it might be a sign that the "dark root doctor is targeting you with bad goopher." I have no clue what "bad goopher" is, but I am having trouble sleeping and I'm waking up. Verdict: Cursed
9. Legal Problems - If you have been hit by a lawsuit or criminal charges, it might be a curse. No lawsuits, but I'm wondering about how Doktor Snake is going to feel about me reproducing all of his content on my blog. Let's hope he thinks it's a compliment and not copyright infringement. Or worse. Verdict: Not Cursed (for now)
10. Bad Luck - If you've had a long run of bad things happening to you, it's probably a jinx. Kids sick off and on for the last month? I'd say that's bad luck. Verdict: Cursed

So, what to do? I came out with five factors pointing towards being cursed and five against being cursed. Just to be safe, I thought I'd find out how to get rid of my possible curse. I found another website to help me with getting rid of the curse in an article aptly entitled, "How to Break a Curse for the Beginner." Sounds like the author had me in mind. In the subsection entitled "What to Do," the first line is great:
If you are cursed, then it is most likely low-end magick practiced by an amateur. Professionals are generally occupied with more important things.
Yes, don't get all high and mighty about being cursed. The professional cursers are busy cursing important people like poor Kate Middleton, some lowly dabbler is responsible for your curse. What a revelation that cursing is done in a caste system where only those of the same importance level can curse each other.

To break a curse, you need the following items: the target (me, I think), a tub of water large enough to submerge the target, a large quantity of sea salt.

The best times to curse-break are: new moon (anyone else thinking Duran Duran), a Thursday, noon, midnight, dawn, dusk.

The rest of the steps are as follows, directly from the website, italics are my comments:

  1. Fill the tub with water. Temperature should be comfortable for a long soak if the target is a living thing. (Is this a joke? I might love curse breaking.)
  2. Open and hold up the container of sea salt.
  3. Clear your mind and say the following words while concentrating on what they mean to you. Say them slowly, confidently, and meditatively: "In the names of my ancestors, my gods, and myself, I call upon thee, oh creatures of Earth and Water. Come forth, cleanse "name of target" of all evil and alien magicks, and restore them (me, it) to balance and health. By our wills combined, so mote it be." (I'm worried about clearing my mind and remembering the words. Forget about saying them confidently.)
  4. Pour the salt into the water. Use a lot. (Do you think the salt industry is behind this?)
  5. Keeping your mind in that calm and meditative state, submerge or wash the target slowly. If you are the target, get in the tub and simply lay back and soak. Relax. Let everything slip away. (I like!)
  6. Do this for at least ten minutes. When you are done, drain the water away down the drain and rinse it off the target. It is absolutely necessary that all of the saltwater is washed off of the target! (I guess the salt is drawing out the evil?)
  7. When you are done, say the following in the same way you did step 3: "I thank thee, oh creatures of Earth and Water, in the name of myself, my gods, and my ancestors. Be released to your homes, doing no harm on your way, and return to me with glad hearts when next you are summoned. By our wills combined, so mote it be."
I'm pretty sure that a woman came up with these directions of how to break a curse. A man's curse breaking would involve buying a really large television and eating chicken wings.

This curse breaking is nice and relaxing, like meditation or yoga. Had I only known, I would have been breaking curses on a daily basis. Telling the children that Mommy has to go break a curse has a more purposeful ring to it than Mommy needs to hide in the bathroom for a little while. And, think about all the time I spent wasted taking the Girl to the doctor (as opposed to the doktor) and giving her antibiotics when I all I needed to do to fix everything is to go and soak in the tub. Ahh, this water is so relaxing. So mote it be.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gingerbread House

Yesterday we were in desperate need of some holiday cheer, so I took out the gingerbread house kit that I'd picked up at Target a few weeks ago. I followed all the directions on the box: kneading the icing for one minute, carefully piping the icing down the sides of the front, and holding the pieces together for the requisite period of time. Still, when it was all put together, it looked like this:

The Baby got a little over-zealous with opening up all the gingerbread pieces, which is how it cracked. It wasn't Santa and his reindeer landing on the roof.

After a few minutes, the whole thing came down like a 2-1 bungalow in the Great Lakes neighborhood. (Translation: we have lots of tear-downs and rebuilds in our area).

I found this all to be poignant and fitting because I feel a little bit like our real house is falling apart, too. After the Baby spent all last week down with the crud, the Girl caught her cold and is wracking up the secondary infections like the Duggers wrack up children. As of today, she has bronchitis, a double ear infection, and an eye infection. Our window sill/medicine cabinet looks like this:

Thank goodness the house next door is vacant, or our neighbors would think that we are cooking up meth in here. (Obviously, organic honey is a key ingredient in methamphetamine!)

Meanwhile, the Boy has been left largely unsupervised, which allowed him to charge over $150.00 on iTunes buying players on Big Win Football. Has anyone ever successfully challenged Apple about something like this? The K is planning to call and trot out his best contract law argument: the Boy is a minor and can't be bound by the terms and use agreement, but I'm not all that optimistic. I hope the Boy got some really good pretend players for all that real money.

Since the Girl is sick and less animated than usual, the Baby has seen fit to fill the void.  Yesterday, when I was driving the Baby home from school and the Girl was practically asleep in the back of the van, the Baby informed me that Audrey the Moose has a new name: Ella Cookie. This is confusing because Ella Cookie is the name of the gerbil in the Baby's classroom that we will be fostering over winter break. I tried to convince the Baby that it is best for Audrey to stay as Audrey because it would be confusing for some sort of mischief to happen and not know if it was Audrey, now known as Ella Cookie, or Ella Cookie the gerbil who caused the mischief. The Baby said that now only Abe our Elf on the Shelf causes mischief.

Then, because I've lost all sense of normal conversation topics since I've been trapped in the house for 11 days,  I told the girls about Prince and how he had the fight with the record company and changed his name to the symbol and then everyone called him “the artist formerly known as…” because no one knew what to call the symbol.

Me: So, then he made up with his record company and went back to being called Prince.
The Baby: Did he play football?
Me: No. He is really short.
The Baby: Really short?
Me: Yes, he’s about 5’3” and he likes to wear high heels because he’s so short. And purple.
The Girl: Does he have a high voice, like Justin Beiber?
Me: I guess so. Some of his famous songs are “1999” and "Purple Rain" and “Little Red Corvette.”
The Baby: Was the red purple?
Me: No. He likes purple, but the Corvette, which is a car, was red.
The Baby: Little red riding hood likes red.
Me: Yes.
The Baby: I call it a coat.
Me: You call her little Red Riding Coat?
The Baby: (yelling) No, Mommy!  It’s Little Red Riding Hood, not coat.

The Girl has got to get better so that the balance of power can be restored and the Baby will stop yelling at me about my knowledge of fairy tale characters. More importantly, the Girl has to get better because her tolerance of being home with me was even shorter than her sister's. Today, with a temperature of 101.5, she begged me to let her go back to school tomorrow so that she can learn about the partial-products algorithm from someone who doesn't have to Google it. And most importantly, she has to get better because I may literally go insane from the sound of her coughing. Are we sure that it is babies crying and not the sound of a loved one's incessant coughing that we use to torture terrorism suspects? The sound of the coughing has broken me, I promise you that.

Back to the Gingerbread House. I decided that the icing was the problem and I happened to have some old (scary old) Betty Crocker cookie decorating icing that I used to cement the house together. Voila:

As Hemingway said, "The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are strong at the broken places." Let's hope that Ernie was right about that; for the house and for me.