Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When the Stars Go Blue

It's only Tuesday. But it has already been that kind of week around here.

Without getting into anything in particular, I'll just say that nothing in my life seems to be going particularly well at the moment. There is a blind feeling of speeding down a path that is not one that I want to go down right now. And, perhaps most pervasive, there is a sense of loss for a person that I knew for such a fleeting, relatively short time.

So here I sit at my desk, wearing all black and listening to the Ryan Adams station on Pandora like some lovesick 20 year old. I kinda don't know what to do with myself. Where ever I find myself, whatever I am doing, it doesn't seem quite right, doesn't seem to be what I really need to be doing.

Mama said there'd be days like these I suppose. Kind thoughts appreciated. Also appreciated: bottles of wine.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Let's Talk "Birthday"

Alice turns two a week from today. This is a monumental event. Not really because of the birthday itself, per se, but because at that point, we will officially be in the "Terrible Two's" and I'll be able to explain any of her wild behavior by saying, "SHE'S TWO, FOR CHRISSAKES!!!" Perhaps then whoever I'm talking to will understand a bit and put down the taser and the elephant tranquilizers.

I'll just be straight and say that sure, I remember my kid's birthdays. If you manage to push something out of yourself that weighs over five pounds or so you tend to remember the date(s) you did it. However, it sure doesn't hurt that starting about a month before each one, my mother starts asking, "What you going to do for Alice's birthday?" And I have to start coming up with something to get her off my back. I've started to get really creative. When she asked for about the fourth time while we were at the beach (which says something about her nutty-professor forgetfulness), I said, "Well, I thought about getting some strippers and one of those cakes in the shape of a penis. And I'm thinking of calling Vince Neil and see if he'll do the entertainment." I don't think she has asked since. What's funny is that now my father has gotten into the act. Ya'll, we are at Threat Con Delta when my dad is starting to get curious about birthday parties. I even went, "Seriously? You're asking me about this?" He goes, "Um, yeah," and I say, "Well, ok, um....."

I'm not one of those mothers, as you've probably guessed, that thinks about her kid's birthday parties for a year. My husband used to work with someone who reserved spaces for her kids' parties up to two years in advance. I know of people who get caterers. Nope. Not me. I definitely want my kids to have a special day, but there's a limit, you know? And even if I don't spend the better part of my life obsessing over it, I think I throw a pretty mean party. Here's what I do:

1. Buy some streamers and some plates with whatever character/color the kid likes.
2. Clean the house.
3. Make a bunch of food. People like food. I like preparing food. We're good.

There. Done. There is really not a lot of planning involved. ESPECIALLY when your kid is 2. I mean, what is she going to do? Have a crapload of people over and do body shots? Fly her closest friends to Vegas? SHE'S TWO. She knows very few people outside of our families, and even if she knew everyone in our area code, the fact remains that SHE IS TWO. Give her a spoonful of frosting and a cardboard box with a wooden spoon and she's good for a couple of hours.

I've kind of pulled the whole thing out of my ass, basically just to answer the myriad "What are you doing for Allie's birthday?" questions, but here's my plan. Ask everyone to bring a book since that is her favorite thing (besides, of course, destroying Tokyo). Dress her up in a red dress and striped tights so she looks like Olivia, her favorite character. Make lots of red foods, since Olivia likes red and Alice loves tomato sauce. BOOM. Did I just blow your mind with my party planning magic? Really? Because I literally came up with that shit in the 30 seconds of saying "Uhhhh...." after my mother in law asked what I was doing for the anniversary of my child's birth. Oh, and make this cake. I don't know why I want to do that so badly--I assure you, it is mostly for my own selfish reasons such as I love making Martha's swiss meringue buttercream, I have a lot of gel food coloring that I like using (I keep it in a tackle box!), blah blah blah.

When I was a kid, my mom would bake me a Wilton cake, this (obviously) being one of my favorites. One year she did that and bought me a whoopie cushion. That was the best birthday EVER. Sure, I got gifts every year. But there was no big party. Sometimes I got a sleepover. But that was it. I had two parties that didn't take place in our living room--one at McDonald's when I was four, and another at the Pizza Hut across the road from my house. I am just fine, ya'll. I'm not going to go shoot up a party supply store because I didn't ever have pony rides on my special day. My kids will be fine too. In fact, I'm sure they'll look back and think, "Golly gee whillickers, that sure was fun!" Because birthdays are fun by their very nature. You eat cake, you get gifts, people wear funny hats. No pony rides needed.

My only real issue right now is setting the date. Matt has this thing where he thinks we should do the party on her actual birthday, but that is a Thursday, and I know I'll be super tired from work and from whatever else life decides to throw my way that day (the universe doesn't give you a freebie on your kid's birthday, I'm sorry to report). I want to do it Labor Day weekend where I have some time and everyone can come and not feel stressed about getting back home/to work/etc. That will be a little bit after her actual birthday (like a week and a half), but SHE'S TWO, lest we forget. And I thought we'd do a little something on her day, like I'll make her some enchiladas (thinking of making this weekend and putting in the fridge/freezer so that I get maximum play time with her that day) and maybe a Wilton cake of my own (a small one). Just a little recognition of the day. Does anyone think that is neglectful of me? I hope not.

So weigh in on birthdays, if you like? Big deal or not so much? What was your most memorable childhood birthday? I'd love to hear about it.

Moment of Zen

I am not a pretty girl. Never have been. (There are a ton of pictures on Facebook from my family vacation that will attest to this fact, but if you are my friend and you are judging, let me just say that if you had my husband, and he was making you do the things he was making us all do, you would look similar.) I've always been "cute" or "fun" or "smart" or had someone comment on my eyes or my skin or my hair. Never the total package. I'm the Jessie Spano to the rest of the world's collective Kelly Kapowski. And I'm ok with that. I'm never going to be gorgeous, just as I'm never going to be (consistently) a size 2 and I'm never going to learn Chinese and I'm never going to be an Olympic gymnast.

But I do fix up pretty well. It has taken me 28 long years, but I've started to get the hang of looking "pulled together." I can put together an outfit, I know how many accessories are too many, what kind of cuts flatter my figure, where to buy my clothes. I know that my hair looks best when hot rollered or pulled stick, stick straight, and that a bit of Smashbox Lip Gloss in Radiant at 2:00 p.m. (combined with a Diet Coke from McDonald's) will make me look more awake. Yes, these are things that I've worked on over the course of years. But they are also the kind of things that I take pride in. It's my "thing." If you come to my house, you will not find designer home furnishings, and I do not drive a fancy, or even nice, car. But I have no debt (other than no-good, very-bad, awful student loans) and I look nice on a day to day basis. Those are my goals, and I'm happy with them.

Looking pulled together, however, is not a goal of lots of those around me here in my rural area. You don't know how totally REFRESHING it was to be in DC last week and see people everyday on the train, at a museum, at a restaurant, who had obviously taken pride in what they put on that morning. Matt and I both noticed it. I surreptitiously pulled out a little W&M notepad to write down future outfit ideas on the train, so impressed was I by what I saw. Was it everyone? No. But there were people there who, like me, gave a damn. And it was nice.

But, alas, like I said previously, living here you don't see that a lot. I went to the grocery store on my lunch break today to pick up stuff for breakfast for dinner tonight (trying out some new [healthy] dishes and will definitely report on here how it goes!). I was just kind of happily walking about picking up my stuff, so pleased to be at the grocery store without having to entertain Alice or make sure that Gabby and Sam aren't picking up stuff with crazy faux-ingredients. I walked past a couple a few times who were also buying stuff. I'll just be frank and say that they looked quite poor and probably addicted to something. Both were dressed in oversized sweats and t-shirts. The girl was wearing some flip flops and had her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, no make-up. To be honest, it didn't really register, because this is kind of the going look in the grocery store here (and probably, sadly, a lot of places). However, I noticed the guy kind of smiling at me a couple of times. Most notably, I was picking up some bittersweet chocolate and some coarse sea salt (for a special back-to-school week treat for the fam) in the baking aisle, and I almost backed into him. I smiled and apologized, just the same as I would do if he were an 80 year old grandmother or a dignitary or a spider from Mars. I could feel him watching me as I walked back to my cart and on down the aisle.

The girlfriend, however, didn't take this too well. We checked out around the same time, she and he a bit ahead of me. By the time I paid and got my stuff back in the cart, she and he had taken their things and settled on a bench in the front of the store, presumably to wait on someone else. As I was walking by, I heard girlfriend say loudly (and pointedly), "I DON'T KNOW WHO THE HELL SHE THINKS SHE IS, BUT I FEEL SORRY FOR HER BECAUSE THAT SHIT CAN'T BE COMFORTABLE."

It took me a minute to figure it out, but when I did, I looked out of the corner of my eye. She was glaring right at me. The boyfriend was kind of nervously giggling at this point and going, "Nah, nah, you know it ain't like that," as I picked up my stuff out of the cart to walk out to the car.

That, my friends, was my moment of zen.

To be honest, it is pretty comfortable. Right now I'm wearing a denim pencil skirt, a white sleeveless shirt that is a bit loose and a lavender cardigan. Nothing fancy. My only jewelry is a pair of drop earrings made out of different colored pastel stones. I am also wearing black croco peep toe heels that I've had forever. I blew out my hair this morning and straightened it--almost halfway, to be honest, because I had to get lunches packed.

But regardless of what it is, even if I were wearing something boned or heels an inch higher or a shorter skirt, it would still be more comfortable than a lack of self-confidence. Because being happy with what you've got is a whole hell of a lot more welcoming than a pair of ratty sweatpants anyday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dear Alice:

This past week, Alice, we went on a vacation to Washington, D.C. You will remember it kindly as the "trip where Mama threatened to sell me to gypsies."

Alice, I love you, more than words can ever express. You are amazing in the way you can light up a room, in the glorious effervescence of your face and actions. You are bubbly and bright and you have the most amazing smile.

But, girlfriend, you are, in the words of my grandmother, SOMETHING ELSE.

During our one week trip, you did the following: 1) terrorized a tiny Chinese restaurant until the management plied you with extra chop sticks and some cookies, 2) tried to escape a Metro car, 3) yelled "GOD LO-OVES YOU" (which you learned at bible school a few weeks back) over and over again to every person walking between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument with us like some crazed Jehovah's Witness with a methamphetamine problem, 4) picked up about 40 sticks in a park and then laid them at the feet of the poor guy who was supposed to be leading us on a Lincoln Assassination walking tour, 5) other things too numerous to even begin to count.

Part of this is our fault, I suppose, in that we didn't really consider the fact that you would be nearly two years old when planning this trip. Our bad. Another part of this is that your behavior has gone to 11 this past month or so, the trip being no exception. So while we could have seen this coming, I guess, I don't think there was any way to really know how, erm, far-reaching your personality development would be. At this point in your short life, it is hard to guage what you will be from minute to minute--for instance, you were fine at other restaurants we visited during our trip. Perhaps you just didn't like the decor of that poor Chinese establishment.

And as much as your behavior exasperates me at times, I have to say that I love it. You are spirited in a way that is refreshing and fun, in a way that is much different from your older siblings. Sure, you're a bit loud at times. Yeah, you like to run. But you are also sweet and kind, and whenever I say something to you about it, you go, "Saw-wee, Mama!" and I can tell that you genuinely are. I want to see you have that spirit forever, that wild-eyed lust for life. I posted a picture of you on Facebook with that gleam in your eye, and a friend commented that she wished she could bottle your happiness. I agree wholeheartedly, wishing that I could bottle it for when you turn 12 and have some kind of boy issues or a friend who is not so much a friend any more. I sincerely hope that I can always look into your eyes and see that burgeoning mischief.

You and I are alike in a lot ways--same kind of rebellious spirit, same general joviality. In a way, I almost look to you, wishing I still had a bit of that wildness, that devil may care attitude. I think of that, of a tattoo that I've wanted to get since college, and think that because of you, I might just do it.

So, Alice, no matter how many sighes I heave, no matter how many cross words leave my tongue, I never really want you to change. Sure, I don't want to have to apologize for the 10th time to the poor little woman with the cookies and chopsticks, and I'd rather not have to whisk you away to the bathroom for a break when we're in a museum and you discover how to make yourself snort. I do expect a modicum of good behavior. But that wild spirit? I don't want it to be tamed, not now, not ever.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


This is going to come off a bit ranty. Fair warning, ya'll. This has been brewing in my psyche, worming its way around my brain through vacations and sleep and Pinterest sessions. And especially on Facebook. Facebook can just suck it.

Here's the thing. I am not crafty. Nor am I artsy. The lowest grade I ever made in high school (and no, I'm not shitting you) was in Home Ec, most notably, the sewing section. I made this absolutely atrocious pillow with a bunny on the front that I gave to my grandmother (aka, the sweetest woman on earth) for Christmas, and even she was like, "Um....thanks?" I have been tempted throughout the years to take up knitting or crocheting or something else equally as benign and then found myself cursing wildly within the first five minutes OF READING THE INSTRUCTION BOOKLET. It is just not in me. Just as it is not in me to understand science, science fiction or any of the Lord of the Rings novels.

So I guess I'm coming at this whole thing already at an 0-2 count. I know I can't do it, so subconsciously, maybe that is what is fueling my rage. Take it with a grain of salt, I guess.

But, I can't help but get a little, well, perturbed, when I see all this DIY stuff floating around on the interwebz. Like I am supposed to, as a woman, have this huge desire to make my own glue for my kids and sew their clothes and make little envelopes out of fabric for them so that when they get up each day, they can read a little inspirational note from me (an example I've thought of: "Gabby, If you don't pick up your laundry, I am going to staple it to your face. LOVE YA! MOM"). Yeah, I'm not going to do that. If you want to, whatever, I don't care. If you want to do it while naked, while smoking a bong, while listening to George Jones' Greatest Hits, I still don't care. Live and let live, ya'll. What I do, in fact, care about is the prevailing thought amongst many DIY-er's that I have encountered that you HAVE to do it. That it is not optional. That if you don't, it is tantamount to giving your kid a bottle full of Mountain Dew and a straight razor and saying "HAVE AT IT. Call me if you bleed or something."

This, I think, is just one more thing that we women have to struggle with in this endless battle of trying to be perfect. Or rather, to appear as though perfect. At last count, I figure that we all have to be doing the following on a daily basis:
1. Get up. Look perfect. Exercise. Put on a face full of make-up and blow out your hair every day to perfection. Be careful to not look "too" good though, because people might think you are having an affair if you do. Wear heels, but not really high heels, because really high heels mean that you are a slut and that you don't care about your children.
2. Fix a perfect breakfast buffet (with options for picky eaters!) for your children. Eat a banana and drink black coffee and call it a morning. In the middle of this, pack lunches that you have homemade, preferably of ethnic foods so that child does not become a bad eater.
3. Get everyone to school while quizzing kids with homework trivia on the way.
4. Go to work. Do perfectly. Smile a lot.
5. Come home to clean home. Clean it some more.
6. Make child a dress and supervise a craft project using homemade glue and a castle made out of an old pool noodle.
7. Prepare a lovely dinner. Not too much sugar! Go easy on the butter, FATTY!
8. Shuffle everyone to bed. Make sure no one has spent more than two hours looking at a screen of any kind. Wash behind everyone's ears.
9. Have amazing, glorious sex with husband, preferably utilizing three different positions, a feather, and a garter belt. Don't want anyone to get bored!
10. Go to sleep for 8 wonderful hours.

Ya'll, I'm just going to honest here, which is not something you see on the internet that often. This was my day yesterday.
1. Get up. Try not to wake baby who is saying "MOMMY" in her sleep. Turn on shower so that I can't hear her anymore.
2. Put dry shampoo on my hair since I'm too lazy to wash it. Hot roller the heck out of that crap. Curse loudly when I realize I'm out of Bumble and Bumble Setting Spray. Baby, who had gone back to sleep, rustles around. Say "FML" under my breath.
3. Strap on a pair of leopard print heels that are high enough to warrant future back surgery on my part. They are comfy though, and I like them.
4. Walk out through overgrown yard that my husband and I neglected to pay $80 to have mowed while we were gone on vacation. Be vaguely worried that neighbor will come out and give me a glare.
5. Drive to work with the gas light on. Drive to McDonald's to buy some oatmeal, but realize the line is too long and I'm a tad late. Go without breakfast. Remember to call the water company about the bill I totally forgot to pay before we left for our trips and blame them for my own forgetfulness since they are too stupid to automatically withdraw like every other company in the whole damn world.
6. Get to work. Wait until everyone is gone to meetings and curse at the typewriter for being a bitch. Forget to call someone about a meeting. Hang out on Facebook until I get mad at all the people posting how many miles they ran the night before while I was eating a strawberry shortcake at TGI Friday's.
7. Have a busy day and end up not eating lunch, but I did manage to solve some printing issues and get a shit ton of work done. Be happy with myself. Husband calls and tells me to pick up some butter on the way home. Curse husband.
8. Leave work. Buy gas and butter and get mildly happy when a weird kid checks me out at the gas station. Go to Pal's and buy a humongous tea and a large order of french fries.
9. Get home to messy house with the still overgrown lawn. Pick up baby who is wearing mismatched winter pajamas (that's on Matt, though). Sit down on couch with several catalogs and a big pen. Mark "must have" and "dream" purchases while baby watches Olivia. Pretend that I'm watching as well.
10. Remember that I have to do laundry from the trip. Start it. Moan a lot about it.
11. Remember that I have two other children. Go see them in their rooms. Child 1 is both texting a cousin in Richmond, while using her DS to talk to the same cousin. That's two screens. Child 2 is playing Magic on the Playstation and starts harassing me about buying him some more cards. Tell him I'll do it Wednesday. Make no plans to actually do that on Wednesday.
12. Fix mashed potatoes with lots of butter and honey glazed carrots with extra honey for supper while husband grills steaks. Delight in the unhealthiness of my contributions.
13. Clean off table but leave dishes dirty in the kitchen because we are out of dishwasher tabs and both of us forgot to buy them, and I did enough dishes for one day while I was making supper.
14. Play with youngest kids on the floor. Find a half eaten banana laying on top of the TiVo.
15. Leave husband in the living room with Child 2, still playing Magic. Check on Child 1 who is now watching something on TLC and still chatting on two devices with her cousin. Take Child 3 to bed. Find Java Chip Frappuccino ice cream in the freezer and decide that I love my husband again, despite the butter incident. Give him a hug, which he is surprised about.
16. Eat the whole single serving ice cream thingie and pass out in bed while watching Hoarders, leaving make-up on. Leave husband to put other children in bed.

Now, I have better days. I was insanely tired yesterday from our trips and having arrived home at 2:30 the night before. But still. That's a pretty accurate portrayal of hum-drum life. It is not perfect. I am not perfect.

But there is a lot of love in the imperfection. Last night, Alice fell asleep and I looked at her, the same chubby cheeked profile she's had since birth. She is happy and loved and fun. My son is the kindest, most sensitive soul that I know. And my oldest daughter is amazing and funny and wise. I love them, and while I don't show them that love with crafts and love notes, it is there, and it works for us.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I should get back to work. And quit being vaguely tempted to try to make Alice a pillowcase dress (I have the cutest pillowcases from my college apartment, ya'll. It would be so cool---um, NO.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back in Black

Last night at about 2:30 a.m., I returned from my myriad vacations. Ya'll, I am tired. But I am happy.

This has to be sort of short and sweet because I have a crazy amount of things to do, especially given that my poor, sad children return to school in TWO DAYS. But know that I am well, and I have a shit ton of stuff to opine about. Namely:

1. What it is like being married to a living, breathing incarnation of Clark Griswold.
2. What I REALLY think about our nation's capitol.
3. God, I've got to get out of this place.
4. And by "this place" I mean this town. For real this time. No backsies.
5. And, most importantly, OH MY GAH it's time for FALL and I want LEATHER AND TWEED. In my head right now, "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow is playing in a constant loop and I'm raiding a Nordstrom in complete ecstasy.
6. Oh, and I'm trying to be more fiscally responsible because you know, "adult," "moving," "freeform jazz," "tax exemption". And also because my husband told me to. And he used big words and moved his hands a lot. And well, because there's grad school, which looms out there. And none of this jives with number 5, does it?
7. Fuck that noise. SHOES.