Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friends, part 3

Continued from prior posts.

Some friendships, even those that seem perfect and eternal, end. People move on. Their interests change. Their values change. And sometimes all you have left are pictures and memories you'd rather erase. I guess that's the appeal of movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: there are relationships I've had that I would just as soon pretend had never happened. Because even years later, the wounds still hurt. What would I be if I hadn't experienced those memories? How would my character be different?

And, perhaps the other valid question: why do I feel a need to write about this broken relationship? Well, the story is important. What happened changed me. It informs how I relate to other people.

I started college in 1988, at the tender age of 17, having chosen a school 750 miles away from home. I didn't know anyone there. Given the fact that I had attended three high schools, all in different states, I was undaunted.

Next door to my dorm room lived L.A. and her roommate. L.A. was full-on Southern. Raised in a small Georgia town, on the campus of a boarding school (her parents were on the faculty), and a legacy Chi Omega, she was a shining example of what our college was all about. She and I also planned the same major: art history.

L.A. and I took a long time to become friends. She went through sorority rush (about 80% of the women in college did); I did not. I was a smoker; she was not. I had fun hair; she had a bob. I was politically liberal; she voted for Bush (the elder). Not much in common. But rush didn't work out for her (despite her Chi-O legacy status, they did not invite her to pledge). So she and I were independents, I by choice, and she by circumstance.

The Greek scene was a big deal at our small school. Such a big deal, in fact, that the college decided to add another sorority, or three, to Sorority Row. By then, I had seen my roommate truly loving her Greek sisters, and I saw that the Greek world might not be so bad. L.A. had wanted to pledge before, so she and I attended the informational meetings and decided to join this new pledge class.

That's what bonded us. Well, that and the art history classes.

The following year, we were participants in rush, from the other side. We came up with a pretty good pledge class which included J.G., a hearty small-town Southern girl with a big personality and a bigger laugh. As time went on, the three of us became very good friends.

Greek life, it turns out, didn't really suit me, and I left the sorority in the spring of my sophomore year. The friendships, however, stuck. The three of us, along with my then-boyfriend Craig, and a few other people, were a tight group who spent a great deal of time together.

Senior year I moved off campus, as did J.G. I also got a job off-campus and was dividing my time between school and "real life." Craig had already graduated and was struggling to make ends meet. I was writing my thesis, keeping up with my classes, working hard, and playing hard, too. I threw a legendary party that December. By spring, the main topic of conversation was what would happen after graduation. J.G. had one more year to go as an undergraduate, but L.A. and I were almost finished. Internships? Graduate school? Work? Relocation? Big questions.

Because my relationship with Craig was most important to me, I decided to stay in Memphis and work. By the end of April I had secured two part-time jobs, one at a museum and one working for a graphic designer/artist representative. Neither paid well, but they seemed to be a foot in the door.

L.A. was still looking, and had her sights set on an internship in North Carolina. J.G., L.A. and I were together when the envelope arrived: she did not get the internship.

The look that the two of them exchanged didn't really register with me until later.

That Friday, we were at a dance club blowing off some steam. J.G. and L.A. pulled me aside, sat me down, and dropped a bomb. They were in love. They had been together for months. They were lesbians. They were a couple.

It took me a week to realize it wasn't a joke. I wasn't on Candid Camera.

The gay part didn't bother me; I had known for years that J.G. was bisexual. The hiding it from me bothered me quite a bit. The secrecy.

After graduation, L.A. stayed in Memphis and attended graduate school and completed an internship. I worked and got engaged. J.G. finished her last year of school. We were all busy with our separate lives and with our relationships. Craig and I married eleven months after I graduated, and J.G. and L.A. were bridesmaids. J.G. even caught the bouquet at the wedding (and they moved in together a month later, just around the corner from us).

This is where things fell apart. Craig often worked nights. I worked 9-5, Monday to Friday. Which meant I was alone with the cats many nights. Having lived in my parents' house, then dorms, then a very social apartment building, I wasn't accustomed to being alone, and I often visited L.A. and J.G. or invited them over. And suddenly, with no warning, they stopped calling and stopped returning my calls.

After months of not hearing from them, I called one night and left a long, sad, pathetic message on their answering machine. I told them that whatever I had done, I was sorry. I told them I missed them. I told them I didn't know what had happened.

We got together a few nights later, and they spelled it out for me: I was too needy. I was treating them like my "token" gay friends. They were moving on. But they didn't want things to be ugly. They wanted to be able to run into us at reunions and stuff without it being awkward. They even made it clear that they regretted that by dumping me, they wouldn't be able to hang out with Craig anymore.


I still bristle at that. TOKEN GAY FRIENDS??? We were friends before they were gay. I didn't care, still don't, never will, that they were gay. They were my best friends, and they just stopped. They moved on. And the mention of running into each other at reunions? Horrible. But it was cruel, seriously cruel, to bring Craig into the discussion. "Yeah, we love your husband but really don't like you a bit." Lovely.

With no other option, I moved on too. JWM moved to Memphis and I started graduate school and then had kids. I made new friends. Poof!

Memphis, however, is a small town. We run into them sometimes (though not at reunions, which we don't attend), and it's still uncomfortable. Case in point: in 2004, we took the kids to see Shrek 2. We saw J.G. and L.A. sitting in the back row. The movie was about to start, so we didn't stop to chat, but instead said hello as we passed them, then sat down (not in the same row). When the movie was over, I figured we'd chat a moment, maybe get a coffee, blah blah blah. But no. They headed that off at the pass. They were nowhere to be seen after the movie. Sure, maybe they had somewhere else to be. But it sure seemed like they were avoiding us (and by us I mean "me").

I still don't really understand what happened. People do sometimes outgrow friendships. It's hard, however, to have someone tell you that they've outgrown you. This experience has colored subsequent relationships. I've been more cautious. I've been more guarded. I've been very conscious of appearing needy, and have cast myself in the opposite role, waiting to be approached rather than approaching, curbing my enthusiasm. It's not something I'm proud of, and it's dishonest, but so far, it's necessary.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Friends, part 2

Continued from prior post.

Not every woman has a friend from high school who remains a friend in adulthood. It's not always an easy transition. JWM stores memories that I'd sometimes rather erase. She knows some serious dirt on me - some really embarrassing stories that make me cringe (but, truth be told, it's a two-way street and I could dish on her, too). Sometimes I wish she'd forget some of that dirt (especially when she reminds me of it - I keep those high school yearbooks in a box on a closet shelf for a reason!). But she also remembers some moments that defined me and shaped my adult life. She was there for the milestones: the prom, graduation, leaving for college, falling in love, the wedding, the birth of my children. And I was there for hers, too. There are precious few people in my life who can recall stories and the accompanying laughter or tears with just a word or two. JWM is that friend.

So. It's my junior year of high school. I've moved to a new place, again. I'm starting school in a new school, again.

(I'll interrupt the story a moment to make an aside. There are a couple of other significant friends I had that year, but I'm not including stories about them because when those friendships ended - on the same day - it was really, really horrible and painful and I'd just as soon not go there, and honestly, I don't care anything about them as adults. I don't know or care where or what they are doing, or even if they're alive. So if you're reading this and wondering about B.S. and E.S., here's their mention. Bitches.)

Where were we? Oh, yes, I met my friend J.W.M. We circled each other for a while, having a class in common and both invovled with theater, and it was good. That first year in Michigan, we weren't as close as we became later (only because I was wasting my time with those bitches mentioned above, plus I was extremely boy-crazy that year), but we were comfortable friends, and by my birthday we were good enough friends that she bought me a present. And I bought her one, too.

We grew closer my senior year, and even double dated to the prom. We stayed in touch through college, and she even visited me in Memphis a few times (riding along with my parents) and we met in Chicago, too, where she met my then-boyfriend Craig for the first time. When I returned for the summers, we spent as much time as possible together, going out, staying in, having a great time (and even hanging out with a rock band back in the day). When I moved into my first apartment in Memphis, she came to visit, braving the horrible Memphis August heat. A little over a year later, she returned to attend my first wedding shower (again, driving down with my mom). And a few more months later, she visited again, this time to be a bridesmaid.

JWM's life got complicated after that. Around the time she finished college, she had a pretty significant romantic relationship that ended very badly. That man was bad news, and he treated her like garbage. (And I'm being kind. Bastard.) She made some bad decisions about the relationship, but his behavior was inexcusable. Eventually she really, really understood that, and she made a decision: she was moving to Memphis.

She moved into our guest room for a few months, while she found her feet in my city. She found work and an apartment and made friends and went on some dates. We spent a lot of time together, and life was grand. I don't, however, want to paint a picture that is all roses and love and unicorns. We sometimes had, um, issues. We had gotten very good at being long-distance friends, only reuniting for weeks or months out of the year. We were great correspondents. We were amazing at talking on the phone. Sometimes the immediacy of living near each other was hard. And each of us made decisions that the other didn't necessarily like. The transition from school friends to adult friends was not always graceful, but it was made.

But we made it through. I had a baby and she's the godmother. She threw an awesome baby shower that makes me grin to remember it.

She got married the same month my daughter turned a year old. It was my turn to be a bridesmaid. The man she married was difficult. When they were dating, they had come close to breaking up several times, and honestly, when they decided to get married I was shocked. She must have known that the relationship was less-than-ideal when she asked me, the evening before she got married, "Am I making a mistake?"

What could I say? I was a complete and total coward and mumbled, "You're only making legal what your heart already has decided," or some complete crap like that. The marriage was short and rocky and over in a year.

We spent a lot of time together the summer of 1999. My second child was a newborn, I had quit my job, and she was going through what one goes through when one's first marriage ends. He didn't make the divorce easy. But one morning in December she drove to my house looking jubilant. Her divorce was final. It was over.

The next spring, she wanted me to meet someone. She'd met him (I don't remember how) and he was nice and EMPLOYED! and STRAIGHT! and seemed to be pretty great. I checked him out and he didn't seem even a little toxic. Cute, smart, interesting, witty, even. And smitten. He was going to love her. Things looked good from my vantage point, and I gave her the thumbs up.
Good thing I did, because Earth Day that year brought them a bit of a surprise. She called me about ten seconds after the second line appeared on the pregnancy test. She was going to have the baby, and the father-to-be couldn't be happier. I, too, was delighted. Delighted that she was happy. Delighted that she had met a man who knew how to be a man. Delighted that she would be a mom.

The next few months were hard for JWM; she had morning, noon, and night sickness. Her gall bladder went bad. Pregnancy was a physical nightmare. But there was a wedding, too, that summer, and a real honeymoon, and the newlyweds were happy and in love. The end of her pregnancy got dicey, with toxemia rearing its unwelcome head, and she didn't get the birth she wanted, but she got a healthy baby and a proud papa and she was okay.

Our friendship, however, was growing a bit distant. By choice or by chance, every time I tried to call or visit after the baby was born, she was sleeping or occupied and not taking visitors. I wanted to be there for my friend but I wasn't able to. Unbeknownst to me, she was having a very hard time with breastfeeding and really needed help. I wish I'd tried harder to be there and support her. I wish she'd called me and asked for support. But that's not how it happened*.

She and her husband decided that spring (2001) to move away from Memphis. He had never liked Memphis, and the summers were hard for my Michigan-native best friend. I was sorry to see her go, but things had gotten strained, at least in my mind, and we hardly saw each other anymore anyway, despite living only a few blocks apart.

Fortunately, we already had practice at being long-distance friends. Remember? We were really good at that for a long time. And it was like riding a bike - we're still good at it! We've seen each other about once a year (when we visited Michigan or she came to Memphis) and we've had a great time. We talk on the phone for at least an hour a month. She had another baby, a lovely little girl who was born in a victorious homebirth. This time she was prepared for breastfeeding difficulties and sailed through her second child's infancy. And she's expecting a third in just a few weeks!

Being apart, however, has its drawbacks. She has expressed that her biggest regret in having moved is missing the opportunity to watch her goddaughter turn from child to woman. And since she and her family moved when their firstborn was months old, I've not gotten to see her parent. It still sometimes seems unreal to me that she is a mother, because I've not witnessed it. Like anyone with children, sometimes she needs to interrupt our telephone conversation to give attention to one of her children. I listen closely at those times for a hint of what kind of mother she is. So far, my take is that she's sensible and sensitive. Which sounds lovely, and not really a bit surprising. She loves language and I'm sure she will transmit that love to her children.

She's the first friend that I knew, with every fiber of my being, would still be my friend when we're old. We joked, ages ago, about being old ladies and living together with a bunch of cats. It's still not hard for me to imagine. And maybe we'll even start that garage band she's been wanting to start.


*I wrote this before receiving an email from JWM. I had written to make sure it was okay to blog about her, and to check to see if anything was off-limits. Her response was very interesting, and she told her side of that story, unprompted. It's very interesting to me that we actually saw it more similarly than I had thought. If we're lucky she'll comment. (hint hint)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Friends part 1 (birth to tenth grade)

This week I'm going to blog about my friends. I'm attempting to do this in chronological order, oldest friends to newest, which means there will be some posts that deal with more than one friend, and some posts will focus on specific, significant friends. I'm using initials instead of names because some of these people might not appreciate their business being all over the internet. You might see yourself if you're lucky.

I was born in the early 1970's, so I've got thirty-odd years of life behind me. Having moved, on average, every two years until age seventeen, I accumulated several short-term friendships that have all fizzled. This post will attempt to describe a few important kids I knew before I "grew up." With the exception of one, I've not had contact with these kids (now adults, I would assume) since high school or before.

Ages 0-4:
I really don't remember. I played with kids. They were cute and small and I hope they're all happy, healthy adults now.

Ages 5-9:
My best friend was C.S. She and I became friends in a pretty typical fashion: we began playing together on the playground at school in kindergarten. We had different teachers, so until we had a playdate (which was not a word back then) we were "recess" friends. The friendship stuck, and became firmly cemented by a few other factors: our brothers were the same ages and played well together, and, most importantly, our moms played well together. In fact, our moms are still friends, and I still hear news of C.S. today, although it's been fifteen years since we saw each other.

C.S. and I played "pretend" most of the time. Some of our pretend worlds were quite elaborate, filled with evil witches and fairies and princesses and all kinds of fanciful things. We also made up dances and played with her Barbies and were pretty typical little girls.

We attended different schools most of the time we knew each other, and I had a lot of problems getting along with the other kids. C.S. would get very upset when I described what was happening at school and sometimes expressed her dismay: "I wish I could go there - I'd give those mean girls an Indian burn!" Any friend who's offering a beat-down (even a minimal one) to your nemesis is a great friend.

My family moved twice in less than a year, with no significant friends left behind, so let's fast forward to junior high, the seat of the significant friendship.

Ages 11-13:
M.M. came from a "troubled" home. Her mom was hot in that way that really you don't want your mom to be, especially when you're an adolescent. We lived in a small town, and small town people talk. I have a feeling that M.M.'s mother was not nearly the harlot she was made out to be, as the rumor mill was quite amazing, but she had a bad reputation and that was what mattered in communities like that. I look back and think that if they'd lived somewhere else, like in a big city, that her family may have been much more socially-acceptable. But they didn't, and they weren't.

M.M. and I loved to sing, and we spent a great deal of time at school (before school, after school, during school) involved in music. We became "BFFs" in seventh grade, and I supported her through her parents' divorce. The divorce was ugly and bitter, and it broke M.M.'s heart. It also left M.M.'s mother in financial ruin, losing her house, her telephone service, and sometimes it seemed, her mind. M.M. stayed positive in eighth grade, despite the challenges she faced at home, dreaming of a better life someday when she would be a famous singer.

Due to the custody arrangements, she went away the summer between eighth grade and ninth grade to live with her dad. I was busy that summer with lots of travel. I also experienced my first real kiss, and grew up a little, all without M.M.

Despite the fact that she and I had exchanged letters and even called each other a few times, things didn't just slip back into place when she returned. We tried, and maybe we tried a little too hard, sneaking out of my parents' house to bring a tape to the radio station's DJ of us singing (ugh, embarrassing, and, TOTALLY BUSTED - grounded for life, it seemed). The aftermath of that was hard. It was made clear to me at home that M.M. was a bad influence (I maintain that neither she nor I acted as the "leader" in that stunt - it just happened). It was made clear that my friendship with M.M. was not something my family supported or appreciated. And somehow I got the message, and things became strained. (I'm pretty sure that M.M.'s mother had a very similar conversation with her as well.)

M.M. and I had a huge argument a week or two later, and I said some really awful things. I also wrote a cruel note to her. Not my proudest moment, and the final nail in that friendship's coffin. I drifted through ninth grade without a best friend, and was quite relieved when my parents announced that we were moving out of state.

I stayed in touch with a few other girls from that town though high school, and I heard from them that M.M.'s family had moved to another town and that M.M. had really gone into a downward spiral of alcohol and sex. I hope those were just rumors, but I bet they weren't. I hope she's okay.

Age 14:
We arrived in the next place about a week before I started tenth grade. My dad was finishing his M.B.A., and we knew we would live in this town for exactly one year, maybe even a little less.

The great thing about moving as a teenager is that it gives you the opportunity to start over. It also gives you a chance to try on a different persona. That's what happened in my sophomore year of high school.

I tried on theater, and it was a great fit. Through the school's theater department, and the associated productions, I met a really great girl, K.S. K.S. was not pretty, but she was smart, funny, and interesting. We liked the same music and shared a similar sense of humor. She's the friend I miss the most of those "lost in the move" friends. The last I heard from her was in college. She had been studying in Central America and something really terrible happened to her, and her parents did the most horrible thing and said it was her fault. She was climbing back from the depths of depression, and we lost touch. I hope she's okay now.

We moved, as planned, that summer. My last two years of high school were in a new school in the suburbs where I was faced with new social challenges and the task of reinventing myself again.

To be continued.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What do you think of this?

Blogger Melissa Summers of Suburban Bliss was on television today, discussing the "new" trend of moms having a drink or two at playgroups.

Melissa's kids are a bit younger than my own, so I really don't experience "playgroups" anymore, but anyway. I watched the segment and am stunned at how our society has found yet another way to pit mothers against each other.

When my kids were little, we were on a pretty tight budget, so I don't remember terribly many times that I drank, whether with friends or not. However, we did host New Year's parties which were attended by people with kids, and there were certainly adult beverages in the room. And children. And nothing bad happened.

And as the budget has allowed a bit more discretionary spending over the past few years, my kids have certainly seen Mommy and Daddy drinking wine or beer. In fact, there's a lot of evidence that red wine is good for Mommy and Daddy.

The more I think about this interview, the more I become infuriated. Is this what we're doing, now? In America? Calling mothers to the carpet? Mothers who sacrifice and do the best they can to raise nice children? Mothers who are, more than ever, isolated from family and friends, don't know their neighbors because of our more-mobile-than-ever society? Mothers who work hard with no pay? Because this whole Mommy Wars thing is a bunch of crap.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would criticize my family for our style of parenting - I work about 45 hours a week and also do volunteer work that takes me away from the family for another eight or so hours per week. My husband does the laundry and picks up the kids from school. But you know what? My kids are great. They're loved. They have parents who are involved not only in their lives, but in the life of adulthood, too. The kids get glimpses behind the adult "curtain" more and more, because we think they need to see what adulthood is before they get there. So they see us have a glass of wine. They hear grown-up conversations. They even see us kissing sometimes.

But you know what? They're totally not ready to watch Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Don't ask.


So Craig is taking the kids and leaving me.

(Insert dramatic music.)

Until tomorrow.

Susie's best friend moved to Nashville last year, and it's her birthday, so off they go to celebrate. With ice skating and sleepovers and ice cream and puppies. Tweens. So cute and giggly.

Delightfully enough, this best friend has a younger brother the exact same age as Alex. This brother thinks Alex is the most awesome kid in the whole world. When they still lived in Memphis, after a sleepover he tried to keep Alex from leaving, asking, "Can we keep him? Please?" So Alex will be entertained and adored, too.

Craig, on the other hand, will enjoy a night alone in a semi-respectable motel, with Ipod, computer, and DVD's. And liquor.

And as luck would have it, I've already got plans (plans that were made ages ago and ETCHED IN STONE which is why I'm not going to Nashville). Plans that involve girls and night and in (though "out" for me because it's not in my house) and makeup and beverages and food! Maybe we'll even braid each other's hair!

With the vacancies in my house until sometime Saturday afternoon, I have very noble plans to clean and do laundry and sew patches onto Susie's girl scout sash and even make a skirt like this and even make a weekly meal plan and grocery shop. But let's get real. What will I really do? Have you seen my TIVO? No? There's a bunch of this and this and this and I bet I won't even get dressed until well after noon with all that temptation. I do need to stop by the jewelry store to pick up my sweetie's finally-repaired wedding ring and my Christmas necklace with the new chain.

So please forgive me if I don't blog this weekend. Climbing the stairs to the PC may not fit into my plans even a little bit.

****Roomba update: I finally got brave and let the Roomba upstairs. The manual assures the reader that Roomba has infrared sensors that won't allow it to tumble down the stairs. My upstairs hall carpet looks great, and Roomba did not fall down the stairs even once. I love this little thing. I want to spoon with it. And give it an outfit.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What parts yourself do you hope that your child gets from you?

That's the question posed by the crazy, hip, blog mamas for next week. Since I always seem to miss the deadline, I'm writing this entry early and maybe I'll make it on time.

The husband and I are quite similar in many ways. We seem able to withstand the same degree of messiness (very little), we have goofy senses of humor, we both write well and were good students, we play well with others, and we like television, books, movies, and music (in no particular order) more than most other pursuits. And eating out, although we don't do that as much as we used to.

The biggest difference between the two of us is that while we both love music, he's not a bit musical. Not that he's opposed to being musical - he wishes he were. But he's not. And really, he's a wonderful, wonderful guy, but you don't want to hear him sing. Sorry, honey.

On the other hand, I started taking piano lessons at age 5, and took through most of high school and even in college. I was in all the choir groups I could be in junior and senior high, and loved performing in musicals. I sing at church, I sing in the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble, and I sing in the car. (I never sing in the shower, though.) Along with the singing and playing piano comes a knowledge of how music works, thanks to my wonderful parents for sending me to advanced music theory classes when I was nine. That deeper understanding of music, I think, allows me a different appreciation for it.

Fortunately, I hear a lot of music in both of the kids. Susie was tapped for an audition-only community chorus and has been chosen to represent her school's piano program in more than one recital. Alex hasn't had any formal piano lessons (yet) but has an amazing ability to noodle out some familiar melodies (and by "familiar" I refer to the Habanera from Carmen - pretty cool for seven, right?). His sister has also proven to be a pretty good piano teacher; he's learning a whole level (the one she took last year) from her. Honestly, I think we can skip that year of instruction for him and move straight to the level she's in now. He also has a really sweet singing voice that will likely improve to something quite special with a little instruction and practice.

Beyond music, however, there are some other things I hope my kids get from me.

I deeply believe in engaging with the community around me. I do that by being extremely involved at church as well as with the vocal arts group. I also know my neighbors and strive to be a good neighbor. There are other community organizations with which I would like to be involved, but there's only so much time in the day, and honestly, if I took on more activities I'd be selling my family short.

The kids already have a strong sense of family unity, and I hope they keep that with them into their adult lives. A strong family unit will serve them well in childhood and (hopefully) will inform their parenting, so my grandchildren will be just as wonderful as my children.

I'm also trying to impart to them:

  • a sense of right and wrong

  • a healthy skepticism of so-called authority

  • the desire to leave things better than they found them

  • compassion for others

  • the knowledge that playing is important

  • a love of real food

  • an appreciation of local history and a sense of place

  • the knowledge that skin color is meaningless

  • the belief that working for justice is the most important work we can do
Now, if the question were different: what parts of yourself do you hope your children DON'T get, we might get a much longer post!

Birth order

Almost everything I hear about birth order rings true to me.

Having only two children, and being from a family with just two children, I don't have much to report about middle children. However, the more I read about the traits of eldest children and youngest children, the more I see myself and my brother, and, even more so, my daughter (eldest) and my son (youngest).

When Susie was a baby, only six months old, someone told me that I didn't have a baby, I had a robot. While that was a bit of an overstatement, I must admit that she was an amazingly easy, "good" baby. She cried little, smiled much, hit her milestones at precisely the appointed time, and had 100 words before she was eighteen months old.

As she's grown, she continues to be "good". And maybe a bit driven sometimes. She gets great report cards. Her teachers think she's "a delight to teach". She was tapped to be in the All-City Chorus - the only fourth grader to be selected from her school. And last week her piano teacher picked her to participate in the All-City piano recital, adding another hour per week of lessons to focus on one piece. Our phone rings at least once a night for her....generally another kid in class needing help with homework. Last night, she told us that anytime she doesn't make an A on a test (the teacher announces the A's), the rest of the class looks at her and makes amazed noises. She gets stressed about school.

Eldest children are reputed to be adult-pleasers, perfectionists, achievers, conformists. Youngest children are said to be the entertainers, the charmers, the rebels.

And Alex is charming. And definitely has a different perspective than his sister. He'll try anything once. Any strange food, any activity. He's funny as can be - making crazy faces or dances, singing silly songs of his own invention. But there's a bit of a dark side to that. He's fussy and difficult and sometimes doesn't know when his joke isn't funny. He teases his sister too much sometimes.

He's a quiet kid at school, which means his wacky sense of humor is easily missed by the adults. He also enjoys classwork (seriously), which makes him a "pleasure to have in class." His teacher this year seems to have a better understanding of him; she commented to me the other day that he's really a funny kid. I was delighted that she noticed, as the teacher last year never did seem to get inside his head.

As a baby, Alex was much more intense than his sister. His highs were higher, and his lows were much lower. Did he have colic? I still don't know for sure, but he definitely did a lot more crying than his sister. He smiled earlier, talked earlier, potty trained earlier, refused solid food for what seemed forever, and nursed longer. He loved to be held in a sling (Susie didn't ever take to it). His first laugh was so different from hers. Susie had a sweet, musical laugh (she still does). When he first laughed (in the car, at his sister who kept saying "PBJ Otter!"), we honestly thought he was choking. It was a wheezy, bizarre laugh that consumed his entire body. He has a lot of different laughs now, some of them quite forced-sounding, like machine gun fire.

Craig and I are both the eldest in our families, and we generally relate to the characteristics of eldest children (but not entirely). We live a fairly conventional life, albeit with quirks. I'm definitely a "pleaser" (sometimes too much, Craig would say), and we were both good students who attended a good college. We've also found, to some amount of surprise, that almost all our close friends are also the eldest children in their families. Craig's mother is also an eldest. My parents, however, are both second-born, my mother of two and father of three. Growing up, I felt like my father probably had the easiest time relating to both me and my brother, since he had grown up with an older sister AND a younger brother, so he knew what each of us was going through.

My brother, however, was much better at physical tasks than I was. I was dismally bad at ballet and tap and still am a pretty horrible dancer. I remember my brother would build models that required a great deal of fine motor control. (EDIT: he says his models mostly sucked. I say that's not the point - the point is he had the patience and the fine motor skills to make them at all.) He also ran cross-country, earning team MVP his Freshman year of high school. (EDIT: It was his Junior year, and he was also team captain and more.) Academically, we both coasted a bit more than we should have, but I was more of a conventionally successful student, getting a degree and most of a graduate degree. My brother never did finish college, but has forged his own path in a fairly new field (digital imaging). He's definitely more of a rebel than I will ever be. (EDIT: did you notice that he totally didn't argue with me on that one?)

So if the studies I've seen are correct, Susie will go on to lead a fairly conventional life. She'll do well, even very well. She'll have a house and a dog and a cat and 1.8 children and she'll probably be the president of the PTA and have a great job. Alex, however, might live up to the shirt I gave him for Christmas and do something entirely different. With cool hair.

No surprises here.

Advanced Big 45 Personality Test Results
Group Attachment74%
Impulse Control42%
Emotional Stability56%
Take Free Advanced Big 45 Personality Test
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Factorlow scorehigh score
Gregariousness86%quiet, reclusiveengaging, socially bold
Sociability74%withdrawn, hiddenwarm, open, inviting
Assertiveness78%timid, gunshycontrolling, aggressive
Poise70%uneasy around otherssocially comfortable
Leadership74%stays in backgroundprefers to lead
Provocativeness74%modest, plays it safebold, uninhibited, cocky
Self-Disclosure58%private, containedvery open and revealing
Talkativeness74%quiet, stealthy, invisiblemotor mouth, loud
Group Attachment74%loves solitudeprefers to be with others
Understanding62%insensitive, schizoidrespectful, sympathetic
Warmth74%disinterested in otherssupportive, helpful
Morality58%break/ignore the rulesplay by the rules
Pleasantness66%aloof or disagreeablegets along with others
Empathy62%out of tune w/ othersin tune with others
Cooperation62%competitive, warlikeagreeable, peaceful
Sympathy66%socially inconsideratesocially conscious
Tenderness50%cold hearted, selfishwarm hearted, selfless
Nurturance46%self pleasing, me firstpeople pleasing, me last
Conscientiousness70%reckless, unscheduled careful, planner
Efficiency74%unreliable, lazyfinisher, follows through
Dutifulness70%leisurely, derelictstrict, rule abiding
Purposefulness66%inattentive, undisciplinedprepared, focused
Organization66%relaxed, obliviousdetail oriented, anal
Cautiousness34%impulsive, spendthriftrestrained, cautious
Rationality66%irrational, randomdirect, logical
Perfectionism70%careless, error pronedetail obsessed
Planning74%disorganized, randomscheduled, clean
Stability66%easily frustratedcalm, cool, unphased
Happiness78%unhappy, dissatisfiedself content, positive
Calmness62%touchy, volatileeven tempered, tolerant
Moderation50%needs instant gratificationeasily delays gratification
Toughness66%hypersensitive, moodythick skinned
Impulse Control42%lacks self controlmaintains composure
Imperturbability46%highly emotionalemotionally contained
Cool-headedness50%demanding, controllingaccommodating
Tranquility46%emotionally volatileemotionally neutral
Intellect90%instinctive, non-analyticalintellectual, analytical
Ingenuity82%lacks new ideasinnovative, novel
Reflection62%unreflective, coarseart and beauty lover
Competence82%slow to understand/thinkintellectual, brainy
Quickness86%intellectually dependentintellectually independent
Introspection58%not self reflectiveself searching
Creativity86%dull headedsynthesizer, iconoclast
Imagination54%practical, realisticdreamer, unrealistic
Depth58%lacks curiositymental explorer

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yoga part 2

Sorry for the high emotion yesterday. I got carried away answering an email and it turned into that blog post.

But really, I had something ELSE that I was planning to blog about, and I'm going to try to reconstruct it today.

Big breath.

Yoga, part 2: Seven-year-old boys look funny doing yoga.

Clearly, we all know now that I've had an off-again, on-again relationship with yoga (actually it began in college, but it completely didn't "stick" until much later). What I haven't said yet is that, occasionally, I've done yoga with kids. When I taught preschool and we had a ten-minute "gap", I'd sometimes teach the kids a yoga pose or two. Mainly because it was freaking hiLARious to watch their little bodies try to assume the poses. Because most kids? Are totally clumsy. They'd fall down, they'd giggle, it was great.

And at church, when I was on the religious education committee, we were trying to decide what to do with the kids during the summer (usually they do a summer-long, multi-age study that's very "lite" and fun and doesn't require knowledge of previous lessons). Someone (maybe it was me) suggested yoga. Since there are several people in the church who practice yoga, it was a good fit. And I somehow wound up teaching for a Sunday or two. And it was fun. Some of the kids, including Susie, took the practice very seriously. Susie even has a yoga book,
Fly Like A Butterfly: Yoga for Children, that she took with her to church to share with the teacher.

Susie is the athlete in our family. She's got amazing body awareness and coordination. She learned to ride a bike in, um, ten minutes or so. She mastered her Heelys in a couple of hours. So yoga? Comes naturally to her. (And it doesn't hurt that when she was little, like three, she LOVED to watch yoga videos. I had one that was filmed in the Bahamas and she used to watch it before naps.)

Alex, however, is a little more inside his head and less in his body. He's floppy and fidgety and ohmygosh it took forEVER for him to learn to ride his bike and he's finally got his Heelys figured out a month after he got them. But I think his saving grace is that he's not a bit self-conscious when he's learning these skills. He'll try and try and try and fall down and look silly and just not care. And watching him do yoga? Is funny. He earnestly tries. But doesn't have enough body awareness to put himself into a pose correctly. And meditation? Comes as naturally to him as it does to me, which is to say not at all. He and I totally busted each other looking around when our eyes were supposed to be closed. But he also arranged his arms so that we would be holding hands during the meditation and how cute is that?

The part that is so cool is that both of them want to go back. I knew Susie would. Because she's good at it and loves yoga with a deep love. Alex, however, surprises me with his willingness to try anything, even if it doesn't come naturally.

More on that later.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Okay, here's a fair warning. You might want to get a tissue. You've been warned. If you hate to read sad stories, um, go check out some other blog that's funny.

Still here? Here goes nothing.

In 1997 I became a mom. Despite my best intentions, I had a cesarean section. It was not easy, and I definitely had my moments of feeling like a failure. After all, my mother had delivered me and my brother naturally (at least mostly naturally) in the South in the early 1970's, which was no mean feat. My mother-in-law, too, had delivered her three children with ease. I had assumed that I, too, would have a glorious natural childbirth experience.

I got lucky and was able to breastfeed pretty easily. The first month, however, was not all wine and roses, and my husband (Craig) spied a flier for La Leche League and urged me to go to a meeting. My mother had given me her old copy of "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding," telling me that the book had good information, but that the ladies of LLL were a bit "culty."

So with a little trepidation, I walked to the Quaker meeting house for my first LLL meeting. I maneuvered my big bulky stroller into the small space and felt more than a little awkward. After all, baby-toting was still very new to me.

The first person I made eye contact with was a young, radiant pregnant woman. She smiled warmly and invited me to sit with her. In a few minutes, I had learned that she was pregnant with her second child and that her first child, Arabella, was a preschooler. I also learned that this nice woman was a writer and was very interested in yoga, and that she was a fallen-away vegetarian. She was articulate and pretty and interesting and wow! She was my first official "mommy friend."

We saw each other often at LLL meetings and even got together other times. She had a beautiful baby boy (who walked at 8 months!) and co-founded the Memphis chapter of Attachment Parenting International. She began teaching yoga, beginning with a prenatal yoga class, which I attended. She brought food to my house when my second child was born, and provided plenty of emotional support when I made the difficult decision to quit my job. When her child was diagnosed with Asperger's, I was there for her as she learned to navigate the world of IEP's and alternative therapies. In 2000, she asked me to be a co-leader of the API group.

Christie was beautiful. That showed all the time. She had a ready smile and a musical laugh. She was gentle and positive. After September 11, she threw herself into organizing "Peace Picnics" at her child's preschool. She was devoted to National TV Turnoff week, which always made me laugh, because at my house, the TV wouldn't know what to do if it were off for a whole week! She was also very talented and disciplined. She landed a major writing contract - four children's books to be co-written with Bill and Martha Sears! She kept that news to herself as long as she possibly could, but when she finally told me, she was ready to burst. It was amazing! (And the books are fantastic! Buy them!)

In 2002, I was working part-time, and Christie asked me to attend her sparsely-populated Wednesday morning yoga class. It was a level 2 class, a little more challenging than I was ready for, but the only class that fit into my schedule. Generally there were two to five women in the class, and we all enjoyed getting to know each other. Around June of that year, I noticed that Christie was acting a little, well, ditzy. And about as soon as I started suspecting, she told me that she was pregnant again. Delightful news! Craig and I had already decided that we were done having children, so another baby to spoil!

Christie decided to cut back to just prenatal yoga classes in September. Which meant I didn't see her every week anymore. I drifted into another yoga class on Wednesday mornings, but it was crowded and the room was always cold; it wasn't the same.

She and I talked on the phone plenty, and still had our monthly API meetings. Except in October, when we both totally forgot the meeting (the fourth Monday had come earlier in the month than usual...we both thought the meeting was the following week). I called her after work on October 28, 2002, and we had a great conversation about our kids, our lives, Halloween costumes, the API group, our shared forgetfulness, and soup. And that was the last time we talked.

My answering machine was blinking when I got home from work on Tuesday, November 5. It was a friend, telling me that Christie had been in a car accident on Monday afternoon. It was bad, but the kids were okay. I returned the call and learned that Christie was not okay. They had taken the baby via c-section. Christie wasn't going to wake up.

Christie was going to die. She might already be dead.

I remember falling to the floor and crying. Once I collected my wits, I called the hospital, trying to get some information. One person told me that she wasn't on the census. Another person said that she was in surgery. I didn't get it. (Craig finally, gently told me what I failed to understand: they were taking her organs, which she was able to donate.)

I attended my Wednesday yoga class the next day, tearful. The teacher had known Christie and was crying, too. I did the poses and cried.

Her funeral was the following Friday. Craig and I attended, and the cathedral was full. The eulogy was delivered by Christie's best friend and fellow writer, Emily Yellin. She read from Christie's journals. Her journals conveyed her passion for writing, for yoga, for her husband, for her children.

I fell away from yoga. Any time I tried it, Christie's cheerful voice, her constant tweaking of the pose, her pretty voice when she chanted, all haunted me. Craig and the kids gave me a yoga mat and props for Christmas, and they pretty much spent all their time in the closet, like most exercise equipment does.

But last night I took the kids to a yoga class. It was a good class: gentle and breath-centered, a different approach than Christie's perfectionist Iyengar school of yoga. But in the quiet, just for a moment, I knew something. Christie would be glad that I was there.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The boy is the sick (not really anymore though)

Pukefest 2007 has reared its ugly head. The Boy (but he now wants his Internet name to be Alex) was all showered and dressed for church yesterday, ate two bites of cereal, and immediately threw it all up on the kitchen floor. Needless to say, he missed church and apparently threw up even more while Susie and I were gone. Fortunately, he had good aim, and a bowl that he carried around, so no more messes.

He ran low grade fever and looked pretty much like death warmed over all color in his face, very sleepy, etc., and didn't hold anything down until about 7 p.m. So we decided to keep him home from school today.

Mondays are very busy for me at work. And since our department has a management vacancy right now, I really didn't feel that it would be a good decision to stay home all day. So I, dedicated and loyal employee that I am, woke up at o'dark-thirty and got to work well before the sun was up. I put in two hours before I needed to be back home to tag in as The Husband (heretofore to be known as Craig) had to go teach. I brought home some work that is for a web-based application, so I didn't quite leave my colleagues in a lurch.

Amazing how efficient one can be when one is on a deadline. I got all the work done in two hours that normally takes three, and even did some other things that someone else usually does (because they arrive that early every day). So that wasn't bad.

And now Alex is playing video games and looking like the picture of health. I'm just waiting for him to digest some real food, then I'll be convinced.

In other news, there might be other news. I've decided to be superstitious about it, though, so I'm not going to tell the internets what's going on until I know for sure.

Friday, January 19, 2007

More cooking with kids, girl-style

Last night was Susie's night in the kitchen. Being two years older than The Boy, she's a bit more coordinated and was able to do more of the actual prep work for a dinner of salad sandwiches. She peeled and chopped the eggs and mixed up the egg and olive, and squeezed out all the moisture from the spinach and helped mix the spinach salad.

None of the cooking was remotely difficult or reliant on attention to cooking times, so we spent the time chatting about various things, mainly her newfound ability to cry with almost no provocation at all.

She's noticed it, too.

It's science fair time, and in fourth grade the kids are required to submit a project. Much of the work has been completed in class, in stages, so the parents haven't felt pressured to make a science project for their kids. But the project is culminating (and hopefully, baby teeth are decaying in our samples of soda and other liquids as we speak) and she's stressed.

In part she's stressed because she opted to work with a group instead of on her own. (Which is a mark of how different she is from me.) (And I'll post about that in greater depth some other time.)

Susie is a great student - really a teacher's dream - and as a result, our telephone rings a lot each evening with a few of her friends calling for homework help. The first few times it happened it was cute. It was a compliment. Now it's annoying. Susie needs downtime and she really likes her family time in the evenings. We're a busy, on-the-go family with lots of activities throughout the week, and the quiet evenings are crucial for her.

Add to that the fact that one of her friends is a high-drama friend who has trouble with the idea that "Best friends" does not mean "Exclusive friends", and you've got a 'tween who needs some time with mom.

I wish I could tell her that all this will end fast and that it's all going to be okay and not to worry about it, but I can't. That would be dishonest. My life at school was sheer hell from fourth grade to seventh, and only marginally better for eighth to eleventh. Really, in all honesty, I much prefer adulthood. Eight to seventeen was a time I would prefer to forget.

But Susie has social skills that I couldn't have dreamed of having when I was twice her age. At two she was so self-assured and confident and got along well with other kids. (My mother once remarked, while watching her play with a bunch of other kids at at La Leche League meeting, that there was no way I could have done that at the same age.) When she started preschool the teachers were stunned that she'd never been in daycare or preschool before. She's very, very good with people.

She also has an amazing degree of intrapersonal awareness (Gardner fans, that one was for you!). She knows what she's feeling and often she knows why. She can describe what "stressed about science project" feels like in a physical way (feels like crying and swallows down that lump in her throat). And she knows why her friends get on her nerves.

Living with a kid with this much self-awareness and social sophistication is humbling. It also keeps me a little on edge, reining myself in, because it's very, very easy to slip and treat her like she's older than she is. So I walk a thin line to keep my expectations of her and conversations with her on an age-appropriate level. Because nine going on thirty is really still just nine.

From Holidays in M...

And she's really good at chopping eggs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Little girls love French desserts

Last night was Girl Scouts, and since The Husband is back to school, that means I'm on Girl Scout duty (and The Boy gets to come with me). The girls are getting ready for Thinking Day, which is essentially an international festival in which each troop chooses a different country and makes a visual and skit presentation. We studied Ireland a couple of years ago, and last year, the girls (unprompted by any adults, I promise) chose Iraq. This year they chose France, which is tres facile compared to Iraq.

Since I'm not a camper and really don't enjoy entertaining groups of giggling girls and don't live in the right kind of house to be the cookie mom, Thinking Day is where I get to give my time and skills to the troop. Because I love cooking, and part of the presentation is a bite-sized morsel, for each girl in the service unit (roughly 200), that represents our country. For Ireland, I baked 20 loaves of Irish Soda Bread (thank goodness Thinking Day is in February! That made the kitchen so nice and cozy warm.), and for Iraq I made a carrot dish called Helawat al Jazr, which is amazingly sweet and you don't want to know how many pounds of carrots I used. Because it was a lot. I could have kept a farm of rabbits for at least a week.

Last night, since the girls were doing research and learning all about France, I made crepes for their snack. And I was a little nervous about it, since some girls in that age group (1st-5th grade) are notoriously picky. But I figured if I also brought strawberries, vanilla pudding, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream in a can, they'd be good sports.

So I grabbed my crepemaker (doesn't everyone have one?), whipped up the crepe batter in the blender, transferred it to a Tupperware container, and hit the road.

Making the crepes took about an hour, but I was not even trying to rush. The Boy acted as my garbage disposal: he ate whatever crepes didn't quite turn out right (not quite circular, holes in them, etc.) . This is the child who, like me, prefers his pancakes plain or with a little butter. (I've been known to eat a whole batch of crepes with nothing in or on them, so I totally get where he's coming from.) One girl's dad was in the kitchen with me, and he took a whirl with M'Sieur Crepe too (and he did great!).

Each girl got to choose her own fillings, and no crepes were thrown away. A few girls wanted seconds, but we really had just the right number for each girl and adult to have one. And they loved them and life was wonderful. As a working mom who does not have time to bake cookies and do all that other fun stuff, I definitely felt like I had won the mommy wars last night.

The question did arise: what will I make for Thinking Day itself? Our troop leader always wants to make my life simple and suggested that we simply buy and slice French bread. But really, doing this mad quantity cooking one day a year is really a lot of fun for me. So I'm thinking mini-tarts (like Anthony Bourdain's recipe for Tartes au Poires) or mini-quiches.

I don't have my family cookbook handy, so I'll edit to add the recipes for crepes and Irish Soda bread later. But here's the Iraqi carrots. Yummy.

Helawat al Jazr (Sweet Cardamom Carrots)

Ingredients: 1 pound carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
Pine nuts

Steam the carrots with the sugar, milk, cardamom, and lemon peel for about 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Pour into a sieve, pressing firmly on the carrots to remove all the liquid. Set the liquid aside.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Add the carrots, stirring to coat with the flour mixture, and toss for 3 or 4 minutes.
Pour the reserved liquid over the carrots, mix well, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into individual serving dishes and garnish with pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, and raisins.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Boy is The Awesome

[edited to add: The ladies over at Crazy Hip Blog Mamas and LTDChix have asked us to share our "Living the Mommy Dream" stories. This one is one of my favorites. May 29, 2007

edited further to add: I won! June 21, 2007]

On Monday, while my family enjoyed the traditional Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday bar lunch (doesn't everyone do that?), we made a meal plan for the week. I know, I know. Stop flaunting my superior organizational skills, right? Well, we did. And I wanted some buy-in from the under-five-foot crowd, so each kid (and husband) took ownership of one meal. They chose the menu and would be responsible for at least hanging out in the kitchen during the preparation.

So last night was The Boy's meal. Spaghetti. But we are physically incapable of stopping at just spaghetti. That would be too easy. So we also did Mock Chicken Parmesan (which contains neither chicken nor Parmesan), Italian spinach, spinach and cheese ravioli, and salad. Which is enough fun for two people right there, but as the phrase goes, The Boy "kicked it up a notch."

Because he insisted that we pretend during our preparations that we were on a cooking show. So we had to address the camera and demonstrate techniques and have witty banter and, get this, go to commercial. Yes, we had commercial breaks in which we commiserated about the hot lights and the annoying guy with the camera. Because? We're totally on crack.

Best part? Hard to say. The food was fabulous. Watching my son wield a santoku knife and slice a tomato very carefully (and quite well) was pretty great. But making a mundane task into some seriously fun mother-son time? Was awesome.

Plus, he totally ate spinach.

Recipes? I'm almost ashamed since it was so easy.

Italianish Spinach
Thaw a package of chopped frozen spinach (the 10 oz. size). When it's thawed, squeeze out the water. Mix spinach with 1/2 cup lowfat or nonfat sour cream and about 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Mock Chicken Parmesan
Pour about 1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce into a baking dish (I use Ragu organic garden vegetable). Place four vegetarian "chicken" patties into the dish (Boca is our favorite). Spoon about 2 tablespoons sauce over each patty, then sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon mozzarella cheese. Put in the oven with the spinach. Watch how fast it disappears. Whine that Boca only puts four patties in a box when everyone knows they should put six.

The rest of it is not worthy of recipes since it simply involves raw vegetables, the remainder of the jar of sauce, and some pasta.

Susie's night is tomorrow. She chose "Picnic night" so we'll be making sandwiches and sitting on the floor. Except if we want to sit on chairs. She's nice that way.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Sorry for the vacancy yesterday. It was a holiday and I was otherwise occupied on the computer. Plus, it was raining and cold and I couldn't think of anything to write.

Can I just say that scanning one's old photos into one's computer is tedious at best? I'm just going to count myself lucky to have a laptop so I could watch television whilst scanning.

"Why," you may ask, "did you embark on such a time-consuming and boring endeavor?"

Because. I hate hate hate hate hate putting photos into albums. They take up too much space and aren't really fun to look at and now, thanks to the power of the intarweb, I've found a new obsession.

The photobook.

I've made two so far and I don't see any signs that I'm stopping anytime soon.

Case in point: our wedding pictures. We've been married, um, almost fourteen years. And in those almost fourteen years, I've done exactly NOTHING to make our wedding album any different than it was when the photographer gave it to us. I've not reprinted any of the pictures. (Wait, I did put one picture into a I must've put one of the "second string" pictures into the album.) The album is boring. So yesterday, after scanning all those pictures, and a few others, I made this. So if you're just dying to see what I looked like as a blonde, and about 30 pounds lighter, and how The Husband looked with hair, you can see it. (But if you print one for yourself and I don't know you, that's just creepy.)

I expect that I will have more scanning to do since I've decided to make a book to commemorate Susie's first ten years (yes, she's almost ten. I know. Ouch.). And my goodness, she was well-documented for the first four or so years. Then I became a slacker and took less pictures. So if you have any good pictures of Susie from the last five years, please share them with me. Preferably electronically. Because I really don't want to scan any more than I have to.

In other news, American Idol is on tonight. I'm particularly excited because I know someone who auditioned and heard the magic words, "Welcome to Hollywood!" Woot! I'm already behind on my TV viewing since I missed the second two hours of the 24 premier last night. And I've got a meeting tonight and tomorrow, so that means I'll have SIX hours of television on TIVO.

Okay, nothing else to say. But look for a forthcoming post on evidence, in my very own yard, of global warming.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My other children

Last night I was with some friends, all of whom do not have children (yet), and the night before that I was with some other friends, one of whose children are grown and out of the house. The conversation moved to pets, and the change of lifestyle and status the pets enjoy after kids.

Before kids, we had pets. I had a passel of cats and a beloved dog. None of these pets are alive now, but they remain quite fixed in my memory. So here's a story of each of my first babies. None of them ever moved to the new house, so all these memories are from our first house.

Rocky: was our childhood dog. Didn't last long - we moved cross country and didn't take him with us. He was cute and small but lived outside so wasn't cuddly and sweet. So he doesn't really count.

Scooter: my first cat, purchased from a pet store in 1989, before my sophomore year of college. Why did I pick her? Because she came right up to me and bit my finger. She set the bar VERY high, and no other cat has come even remotely close to her awesomeness. Smart, gorgeous, and had attitude for miles. If she were human, she wouldn't be my friend, because she was way the hell too cool for that. But she was very sweet to me (and later, to my kids) when I was sick.

From Pets
In fact, every time I got sick (or later, one of my kids got sick) she would lay on my chest and cuddle. And for the first two-thirds of her life, that was all the cuddling you'd get from her. She mellowed and became more affectionate with age, but she also lost some of her bladder control and, as a result, spent more time outside. Sadly, the dogs next door were unruly and undisciplined and wild and big and thought cats were tasty. They got her and did some damage. Fortunately the neighbors knew they were culpable and took her to the animal emergency center, paid for her treatment, and brought her home. She was 15 when that happened. She never was quite the same, and she very quietly passed away early in the morning on Pearl Harbor Day 2004. I miss her very much but am so relieved that she died quietly and on her own. My husband called me to tell me she had died, and waited until I came home before he buried her in the back yard.

From Pets
My second cat. He was big, dumb, and possessive. I likened him to the feline version of a luggy guy who occasionally would beat up his girlfriend because she looked at someone else. He was also gorgeous and very verbal and had the prettiest eyes and was so muscly. And he loved me with a love so great and deep and intense that when our baby boy came home from the hospital, he totally lost his $hit and tried to hurt the baby and I kicked him out and he got hit by a car a few months later and I wasn't sad a bit about it because? If you try to hurt my kid you are dead to me.

From Pets
Oh my gosh she was darling. The cutest fuzziest kitten. Who adored Warhol and me and Rich and everyone else. We called her "lap slut" because it didn't matter who you were, if you came to my house and sat down, she was going to sit on your lap. Love, love, love. She was the best cat and never broke anything or marked anything. And she started sneaking out of the house through the basement vent and early one morning (Bastille Day) my neighbor called me because she was in her driveway and broken. I guess she had been hit by a car and her back was broken. She was conscious still and we gave her some emetrol with tuna fish and I cuddled her until we could take her to the vet and he put her to sleep and I cried all day. My husband buried her in the back yard. She was 11.

From Pets
Oh my darling darling Quentin. My first "real" dog. I adopted him from the Humane Society on first sight. I wanted a dog who would be gentle with my cats, and I also had visions of saving a dog from death row. Turns out the Humane Society was a "no kill" shelter, but this one was, in fact, likely to be put to sleep. Because he was blind. Not old and blind. Puppy and blind. Well, I don't know if it was his scruffy good looks (golden retriever and chow mix) or his adorable vacant stare (blind) or his really sweet personality, but I was smitten. Oh yes. But he wasn't ready for adoption yet (needed to be neutered), so I visited him every weekend. And then he went to the vet for his surgery and they realized he had DISTEMPER. But they had saved a couple of dogs from distemper before, so they treated him. And I visited him, like, every day. Because I was so in love. And he was okay and got fixed and came home with me and happily ever after, except occasional seizures (from the distemper). I threw a party for him and even made a "cake" out of canned dog food (gross). And the next year we had a party on the anniversary of his adoption day (which was an awesome party).

He walked and walked and walked with me, with me and my neighbor, with me and my husband. He was there when I was in labor the first time, walking the neighborhood at 10 p.m. when we were trying to figure out if it was time to go to the hostpital. And when we brought her home from the hospital, he sniffed her gently, but thoroughly, then gave her a lick on the head, and that was that.

Susie learned to crawl chasing him around. She pulled up on him, grabbing handfuls of golden fuzzy fur to balance herself. And somehow, in her first year, she figured out that he was different (blind) and that she could totally play tricks on him. He was so patient with my toddlers. So sweet. And then, when he was about 10, he started getting lost in the house. More and more. And he got cranky. And we knew that we couldn't move him to a two-story house with no fenced backyard and he was old and tired and we put him to sleep the day we moved out of the old house, when he was about 12. And many tears were shed and I still wonder if I did the wrong thing.

Our current "crew" of pets are all about the same age, but also have different stories.

Buffy, the cat, arrived the Christmas after Frida died. She was a replacement cat. I wanted a blonde tabby. That's what she is. Not a lot in the personality department, but she is very snuggly and she adores Susie and mostly sleeps with her. She's also astonishingly fat and frequently knocks down the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs when she's trying to go upstairs.

From New Year's Day
Biscuit, the dog, was Susie's sixth birthday present. She's a golden retriever mix, and she's very naughty. Still much puppy remains in her. She will run away at every opportunity, which has caused us numerous embarrassing moments (or hours) of trying to apprehend her. She also barks and lunges at strangers, which is sometimes great and sometimes embarrassing. She's awesome with children and sometimes tries to be a lap dog. I love her.

Gravy, the other dog, was The Boy's sixth birthday present, but we waited until we were in the new house before we picked him up.
From New Year's Day
He's older, about seven, and deaf. And small. Papillion and pomeranian mix. He's adorable but a bit clingy (probably because of the deafness) and he has some other issues too. Whose dog is he really, though? Mine. His day doesn't start until I am there. The kids have reported that he does not move from his sleeping spot the entire time I'm gone to work. And if I go upstairs he stands at the bottom of the stairs and makes this horrible wailing sound which I doubt he'd make if he could hear it, because, ouch! He totally crowds me in the bed and I love him anyway.

So those are the pets. I'm not counting the various kittens we've fostered because they don't count as pets. They were temps.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Five things

Here's a list of five things you might not know about me (thanks, Crazy Hip Blog Mamas). I'm having to dig deep, since my mother and brother and best friend since high school all read this. And they know a lot.

1. I fell in love with my husband almost at first sight. We met at a party on Saturday and by Wednesday I knew I was going to marry him. I even wrote it in my journal.

2. I've tried gambling a couple of times (in casinos) and I got the most horrible stomachache after losing $10 of someone else's money that I really can't do it. I've never bought a lottery ticket, either.

3. I'm very likely third in line to be our church's president. If things happen that way, I'll be the youngest president in our congregation's history.

4. I ate macaroni and cheese in three out of four meals this week (Tuesday dinner, Wednesday lunch, and Wednesday dinner). I've really got to stop that.

5. I still get extremely awkward and tongue-tied when I'm around a guy that I find attractive (other than my husband, around whom I'm always totally smooth and so cool and witty). It's really quite embarrassing. But if I'm around guys that I like but don't find attractive, I'm an incorrigible flirt. (Is that bad?) (My husband thinks it's funny, mostly.)

So, did you learn anything?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Second place no more (I hope)

I so need to win this!

Why? Because it's PINK, for goodness sakes! Pink is not only my favorite color, my signature color, the color of my house, but it's my effing SUPERPOWER!!!!

And maybe, just maybe, I could finally learn to win one of those newfangled games so my son won't think I'm hopeless.

Okay, that's a stretch.

Please oh please oh please oh please let me win this one!!!

Because pink? It's the new black. Really.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I hear them chirping, people. Did I get too political? I'll bring the sexyback, I promise. (Sorry, I watched about .084629 seconds of the People's Choice Awards last night, and that's what's stuck in my head today.)

Talk to me! What do you hope happens in 2007 that hasn't happened so far? (See me write the tricky you can't say "avoid nuclear holocaust" because we've been avoiding it forever so far.....see?)

Okay, here's mine. I want to buy a brand new car in 2007.