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November 2005
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December 2005

Merry & Bright

Patrick's preschool had a gingerbread house decorating party today. As you may recall I have tended to keep Patrick away from unwholesome foods, preferring to offer a nice dried apricot (high in fiber! packed with essential vitamins! sweetened with goodness!) whenever a treat seems appropriate. It is not surprising, therefore, that he proceeded to dive headfirst into the nearest bowl of M&Ms today and managed to not come up for air until he had completed three laps. I was appalled of course but 'tis the season and I expect he will eventually climb back down from Mt. Marshmallow.

Taking someone's excellent suggestion I had ordered both of Patrick's teachers a stack of personalized notepads. Before we left the party Patrick presented one to the first teacher, saying, "This is for you from me. I got it for you by myself and it is from me. All by myself."

His teacher took the wrapped box and said, "Wow, Patrick, thank you so much."

Patrick said, "I got it just for you. From me."

Then he leaned forward to peer at the gift and asked, "What is it?" 

+++

Many years ago Steve and I pinky-swore a blood oath that we would never drag our sentient children (child, obviously, but this is a flashback and we just didn't know we were dooooooomed in reproductive maaaaaatters) across the country for Christmas Day. So much more festive to see the little faces light up with the sparkling magic of the holiday in one's own home, we concurred. Better to visit with extended family in the days that follow, we agreed.

This Christmas was slated for Steve's side of the family and, in keeping to our sacred vow, my husband telephoned his father in October to let them to know that we would be joining them, still brimming with yule and joy and whatnot, on the 26th.

As far as I can tell the conversation went like this:

Steve - We thought we would come the day after Christmas

Father-in-law - This disappoints me.

Steve (folding like a movie theater seat) - Oh. Nevermind then. We will just book tickets for the busiest travel days of the year. Can't wait!   

I was... surprised by this change of plan but am now looking forward to it. With any luck our predawn flight to DC will get re-routed multiple times and I will have the opportunity to wish each and every one of you many happy returns of the season face-to-face as we lay-over in an airport near you. Won't that be fun?


This Time It's Personal: More Like Pale Pink II

Updated to add:

Ha HA! Her follow-up email arrived in Steve's inbox moments ago as I sat on his lap discussing the playoff wildcard scenario and how we can simultaneously root for and against Atlanta in an effort to support multiple hometown teams with outside chances at a berth. What can I say? We are a devoted and happy couple.

Anyway, the first sentence of the new email thanked him for taking the time to meet with her. The second sentence read, ahem, and I quote, "You look like Pierce Brosnan, by the way."

HONESTLY. I mean, REALLY. I mean, WELL. So there it is. We were so totally right, is all I am saying.

The Brosnan thing is actually true, sort of, and reminds me of a rather funny story. Many years ago Steve and I went to see a Pierce Brosnan film in the theater. As we left I remarked upon his (Steve's) resemblance to him (Remington Steele.) Steve concurred and gazed admiringly at himself as reflected in the window of a parked car. Then he sighed and said, "But I don't have the blue eyes."

"What on earth would you do with blue eyes?" I asked, meaning of course that he was already quite handsome enough for his own good.

He was silent for a long time, obviously pondering the question like one would when asked how they would first spend a hypothetical million dollars. Then he said, "Wellllllll, I wouldn't be with you....."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Clearly the Executive Pear has his number and realizes the way to Steve's pretty heart is to grab him by his vanities. I hope they will be very happy together. Do you think it is too soon to ask her to take over writing the holiday cards? I haven't even started them yet.


More Like Pale Pink

"So how was it?" I asked Steve as he walked in the door.

He jumped, most likely because I was RIGHT THERE and I am rarely in the habit of just hanging out in the tiny tiled area that exists between our laundry room and powder room and passes in our house for what suburbanites lovingly call a Mud Room. It is also the entryway from the garage and, incidentally and irrelevantly, perpetually filthy. Mud Room, indeed. Of course he might have been jumpy from the Guilt, so as I took his coat I repeated the question, "How was it?"

"Borders?" he replied. "Borders was unbelievably busy. The lines stretched all the way back to... ."

"No!" I snapped. "Your DATE. The DATE you went on before you stopped at Borders for me. How was your DATE?"

"Oh, ha ha. Right. It was fine."

He removed his shoes, placed them carefully six inches away from the bathmat that I have put down in an effort to try to capture some of the melting snow that plagues me, and walked towards his office.

I suppose I could have left it at that but, really, after the rousing discussion we have had on the adulterous emailer: her intentions, her morals and her future, I felt I owed it to you to pursue the matter.

"Was she pretty?" Always start with the obvious question.

"Ummmmm, no." This was the right answer, naturally, but he might have been dissembling in an effort to spare my feelings.

"Do you think Margarita Neighbor is pretty?" I asked.

"Definitely! Absolutely! Oh yes!" Steve replied a bit more warmly than was strictly necessary but, again, it was the right answer. Margarita Neighbor is pretty.

"Well, what happened? Did she twirl her hair? Peep upwards at you from lowered lids? Pat your sleeve? Mention the fact that she married young, so young, and really, what does a young girl know of Life? Did she shake her groove thing and suggest that you adjourn the meeting to the back seat of her Chevy Tahoe?"

I had Steve's attention.

"Do you want to know what happened?" he asked. "Do you really want to know? It was actually much much worse than anything you have just described."

I raised one trembling hand to my lips and supported myself with the other on his desk. Preparing for the blow, you understand.

"She asked me..." He leaned forward. "She asked me to give her my opinion on the best ways to decertify the union at their Minneapolis facility."

I was silent for a moment and then I started laughing. "OH NO!"

"OH YES!" he replied.

"But... but what did you do?" Steve, you see, knows less about union decertification than you do. Or I do. Or that trio of fat squirrels out there.

"I faked it," he said with dignity.

"You should have distracted her by offering to shake YOUR groove thing."

"I know. I thought about it as she kept quizzing me but, really, it is hard to get certain people off the subject of unions. I doubt she would have noticed."

"So to sum up...."

"To sum up she was a well-groomed, little, pear-shaped businesswoman in her late forties with an undeniable executive presence and union troubles. And you," he kissed me on my nose, "are adorable. Now get out of my office."

So I did. And I raced over here to tell you all about it. 

I loved the comments on the last post and no, I did not check anybody's IP address. If I had your secret I would naturally carry it with me to the grave, but I do not. A special PS to she of the stunted sex dwarf: please email me so we can be very best friends forever. CHRIST that was funny. And "overlap" when used to describe the circumstances surrounding my first and second husbands has a great deal of charm. I would like to say that there were extraordinary circumstances that drove me to do things I would not otherwise have ever considered but I think the truth of the matter is that I am just a natural born cheater. An intoxicating blend of insecurity, selfishness and an inability to delay gratification for more than five seconds, that's me. I could probably be tempted to upgrade even Steve some day, provided I found someone who was richer, funnier, more handsome, sexier and a better father to Patrick. Which is, you know, not bloody likely. So unlikely, in fact, that one is tempted to say I would find such a person... never.


Scarlet

Steve received an email this morning from a client (from a female client) that ended thusly:

"I am toying with the idea of meeting you when I am in MSP next week... if you do that. Or do you just stay a voice on the phone?"

I was standing behind Steve's chair at the time trying to cajole him into leaving his office for the briefest second in order to drive me across the river to this darling little art gallery which, I was certain, contained the absolute perfect Christmas present for his parents that we could buy and, in doing so, end my holiday shopping angst forever. From this vantage point behind the desk, therefore, it was impossible for me not to read the email as it came in and, having read it, it was impossible for me not to make a vinegary remark.

"Well!" I observed, "THAT seems a little flirty!"

He did not respond so I expanded my interpretation, "Toying? She is inviting you to visualize her toying with something? How obscene. And...." I dropped my voice to a husky contralto, "or do you just stay a voice on the phone? I mean, REALLY! It's tantamount to smacking you in the face with her panties."

Steve, bless him, resembles nothing so much as a peevish fifteen-year-old when he gets defensive, and in this instance he rose to form by assuming an air of superhuman patience tried beyond endurance and said, "Duh! She's MARRIED." Like that would shut me up. Like ha HA! wiggle out of that one, Mrs. Forensic! Not living on a rainbow-colored cloud like my dear husband Opie I found it pitifully easy to do so.

Married people, I told Steve and I will tell you (make sure the kids leave the room here, folks) married people sometimes engage in naughty acts with people to whom they are not married. No! It is true! The Bible talks about it and everything.

I am not, I should add, distressed by this email in the slightest. If you had ever had the benefit of speaking with Steve on the phone you too would be scheduling assignations. He has a BEAUTIFUL speaking voice, really he does. Melts you like chocolate, honestly. Besides, being on the wrong end of adultery is not one of my big fears. Snakes, driving in the dark, biological warfare... these things keep me up at night. The worry that Steve will start sleeping around? Not so much.

Not that I believe Steve is above that sort of thing (anyone who has ever stated with absolute conviction that Reginald would never ever betray their marriage gets my Nose Wrinkle of Disapproval: 1] never say never, honey and 2] it is so offensive to everyone who has ever been left sitting there like a chump trying to figure out how they were supposed to know the person they love and trusted has been lying to them) but he barely gets fifteen minutes away from me a day, if that. For him to initiate and then culminate a torrid affair I think he would need at least twenty. The motivation might be there, who knows, but the opportunity is sadly lacking.

The question remains, though, do those two sentences in her email strike you as being a bit warmer than professional courtesy dictates? Steve said I was mad (you must think me mad!) but... nah, I am right. He said I could ask you, though, so I am. All opinions welcome.


Gift Exchange

I honestly cannot remember the last time I was this sick. Yesterday I lay in bed at four in the morning trying to decide which was better: quietly expire from what was obviously meningitis or wake up Patrick and Steve and then be obliged to deal with both of them, bleary hungry and cold, in an emergency room. I somehow fell back asleep while debating the demerits of each course of action and subsequently felt good enough by 8 am to brush my teeth without screaming. So diagnosis: Not Meningitis. While I still feel like pustulent chunder, the smart money is now on my living until the holidays.

Ah, the holidays.

Lights, goodwill, the warmth of family and friends gathering together to cherish the bonds of companionship and community and, in honor and in celebration of these wondrous ties, many cultures have established rituals that involve certain foods, traditional songs and an exchange of gifts.

!

I don't know how your domestic partnership is arranged but part of the unspoken arrangement through which Steve keeps me in mascaras and standing mixers is that I am solely responsible for identifying, locating, acquiring, wrapping, and insuring that all presents for both sides of the family for every birthday Christmas promotion and Filipino-American Friendship Day arrive on time and in good taste.

Which means every few months I look at the calendar and exclaim "Damn it!" and then scurry into Steve's office bleating, "What do you want to get your (father/step-mother/sister/sister's husband) for (his/her/their) (birthday/anniversary/confirmation hearing)?" Steve will always respond with cold silence, which, to be fair, is exactly how I would react if he burst upon me resting in the bathtub one afternoon and shouted, "Quick! Earn something!" From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, and all that.   

This most wonderful time of the year is upon us again and I have drug myself from my humidifier in order to do a server-load of online shopping in the shortest possible time. I have hopes for a nap before Patrick emerges from his enforced Quiet Time (you don't have to go to sleep but you sure have to get the hell outta here, as an old favorite bartender used to say, sort of.) Patrick, bless his sweet heart, has very agreeably spent many hours under the covers of my bed with me reading stories. The other twenty odd hours that he is awake each day (where'd the nap go, huh?) Steve has been lovingly tending to his every need. This is why Patrick's conversation for the past two days has been heavily peppered with "You didn't see anything!" "You bit the hand, Marty! You bit the hand!" and "San DIEGO!" Steve is from the parenting school that adheres to the rightness of parking the wee bairn in front of a video until Mommy gets better. I am unclear as to just how many times in succession Patrick has seen this particular DVD but I am quite certain he is rivaled only by the film's production manager (name the movie. win a virtual cookie.)       

But I digress. My house is in ruins and here I am, fiddling.

During the past few days of fevered wakefulness I had a couple of generic present ideas that I thought were pretty good. And, while I enter item numbers in open windows B through Z, I figured it would be neighborly of me to share them with you. Perhaps I am the only person who experiences chest pains when Walgreens breaks out the Christmas music around Halloween but I find generating gift ideas for people I do not really know all that well (*cough* INLAWS *cough*) quite stressful.

So, for what it is worth, these are a few things I have come up with for the hard-to-shop-for crowd:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/ You know the people who you spend hours trying to figure out what else they could possibly need or want and you suspect that the answer is NOTHING and yet, you still have to give them something? Ta DA! I offer: The gift of giving! To do this nicely you need to find a cause that they actually care about, though. Charity Navigator has a search function to assist with this process although I was sorry that they do not neatly label the nonprofits: "Liberal" "UltraLiberal" "WhackoLiberal" "VanillaModerate" "Scary Conservative" etc. It would have made things easier as I was trying to find le gift juste for my mother-in-law.

Monogrammed Handkerchiefs. Oh, stop laughing. For $37 these good people http://www.monogramsinc.com will send you a set of four linen handkerchiefs with a three initial monogram embroidered on it. This was by far the cheapest place I could find for something similar and, while no one is going to mistake them for treasured family heirlooms lovingly preserved from County Mayo, they have arrived chez me and I pass them as presentable. And a nice handkerchief is nothing to sneeze at. Oh, hahahahaha... hmmmm. DayQuil. Anyway, look, sometimes you just have to give them something other than Crabtree&Evelyn or a sweater. Why not a scrap of linen?

The ingenuiTEA tea pot. It is the coolest little thing ever. Go to http://www.adagio.com and under their gift gallery you can find the ingenuiTEA plus three tins of tea for $19. I am a tea drinker and love mine but surely even a non-drinker would think it was nifty. And may I remind you that sooner or later even the best of us get horribly horribly ill and need tea? Well then.

A crockpot. I am serious. I am giving slow-cookers to all my stressed relations this year plus a cookbook or two selected with their individual weird food avoisions in mind. It is actually kind of a crappy gift because slow-cookers don't make life any easier, what with all the browning and scraping you have to do ahead of time, BUT it gives the illusion of time-saving and I think that counts. I am deeply attached to my Rival SmartPot Programmable model so that is what I am recommending. The idea of this crockpot is quaintly retro while the stainless steel utters for the Ineffable Now. And I am sending you to http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com because their in-store customer service has to be seen to be believed. Just last week I was in there looking for the only thing Patrick has specifically and repeatedly asked for for Christmas ("gray numbers with holes" translation: 1 in. tin cookie cutters in the shape of numbers to go with his collection of 1 in. tin cookie cutters in the shape of letters. yes. naturally) and no fewer than six sales clerks tried to force a cart on me. The last one actually knocked me unconscious when I politely refused, put me in the basket with my items and wheeled me through checkout. Now THAT'S service.

OK. That is it for me. I am all shivery and my tea mug is empty. Do you have any ideas that you would like to share? Knock yourselves out. Link away. Personally, I am still sadly lacking in the preschool teacher/rural postal carrier/frequent sitter category as well as the Random Adult Female group and the ever baffling Adult Male. The best I have come up with for the latter is cashmere-lined leather gloves. Which would be really nice, actually, if I had any intention on spending $100 on a pair of gloves for anybody. Which I do not.

Oh! And all of the babies of my acquaintance are getting Farm Yard Friends Bowling. Um, everyone seems to be carrying it, try Amazon. The preschool set is getting GeoTrax. I love these trains. LOVE them. Of course, Steve and I like to use them to create villages and whatnot and Patrick (any guesses?) Patrick likes to use the tracks to form lower-case letters. True story. This year Patrick will be getting a blend of the educational stuff he pines for and the toys we like. Like cars. And building sets. And a sled. And gray numbers with holes.   

OK. Really. All done.


Ground Round

What I need is some sort of generic Patrick-Is-Sick-Again post that I can slap up here at a moment's notice, perhaps utilizing a nifty shortcut key (ctrl-P for plague, something like that.) Although I consider Patrick to be a fit child, robust even, a portrait of good health, all cherry lips and bright eyes, it should be acknowledged that he has been felled by a cold every other week since he started preschool. And each cold has gone pretty much exactly like this: runny nose and glassy eyes one afternoon immediately followed by a terrible night in which he and I are up four or five times due to fever and general crumminess. Then two to three days of congestion and irritability rounded off by a week or more of minor and sporadic coughing. This particular bout was made notable by two things: the first was that he developed a red spot in one eye that quickly took over until both his eyes looked like they were filled with blood (tres disgusting, although not pink-eye which I am sure is what you are thinking); and the second was that my concern over his horrible eyes led me to actually bring him into the urgent care on Thursday where they confirmed that he had an eye infection (duh!) and went on to diagnose two infected ears as well (huh!)

So, I ask, snippily, what is the deal with antibiotics these days? My understanding has always been that most childhood illness are viral and therefore resistant to antibiotics so you can just skip the unnecessary and ineffective doping and run with the juices and the motrins and the soups and time heals all et ceteras. BUT, my housewife's handbook continues, ear infections tend to be swampy bacterial messes and when one (or two) is (are) spotted you break out the amoxicillin (or penicillin, back in my day of continuously infected, shell-like ears.)

The pediatrician we saw did, indeed, give us an amoxicillin prescription as well as some antibacterial eye drops (although he said that he did not know whether the eye thing was viral or bacterial but he suspected the former so what is with the eye drops which are, may I add, VERY VERY hard to administer to a three year old?) and Packy is supposed to be on them for a week and five days respectively. Which is fine. But Friday night we threw an enormous party (did you hear it? did we keep you awake? excellent! after years and years of throwing terrible parties Steve and I are inordinately proud of this one, it was HUGE and RAUCOUS and QUITE FABULOUS, if we do say so ourselves) and it was attended by, well, let us just say every physician in the country because that it what it seemed like when they all launched into a vituperative argument in my living room about whether Baby Blood Eyes should or should not be given antibiotics for this or that or anything, really, ever.

Up until that point in the evening I had been very good, conscious of the warning that my increasingly scratchy throat and the slight pressure behind my eyes was issuing. You are getting siiiiiiick, they said, go to bed with a booooooook, they urged. So I compromised with my better self and was staying up but just drinking water. Then the Machaon Posse starting yelling at me and each other and I began to doubt the very underpinnings of my maternal instincts and someone magically appeared with a bottle of red wine and an empty glass and, looking deeply into my eyes, murmured, "It's not like you to refuse a small glass of wine, Julia." I am pretty sure it was the devil, now that I think about it, but I agreed it was not like me to refuse a teensy splash of wine with an old friend and subsequently awoke yesterday morning with both a crushing hangover and the full gale force of Patrick's virus.

Always one to look on the bright side, today was a thousand times better. I now have a fever and a pounding sinus headache and I can only breathe with great effort BUT I am no longer hungover. So, yay me.

I am going back to bed. Patrick seems to be getting better but his eyes still look like he went through a windshield. My abdominal wound (thank you for the thoughts on it) has finally scabbed over but I am uncertain about its long-term prognosis. It will be Ugly, most certainly, but that doesn't bother me so much as the possibility that it will continue to be as sensitive as it is right now. I rolled over on it this morning and screamed. It felt as if I had been knifed (no, no, not infected, just sore.) Steve said I am just like the Little Mermaid only for me it will be belly dancing rather than walking. Anyway, heeding the excellent advice of a blog comment, I have scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist (for about five years from now- my god, but dermatologists have extraordinary waiting times for new patients.) I do not have any pressing concerns (apart from this scar) but I find it likely as Caspar the Friendly Freckled Blogger that I will probably have more skin weirdness in the future and I think an ongoing relationship with a specialist is advisable.   

Holy Hippocrates, I just read this over and I am blushing hot (or perhaps my fever is back.) I sound like I am about eighty years old. Any other ailments I can talk about? Would you like to hear about Patrick's bowels? Steve's bad knee? Shall I tell you about how this reminds me of my grandmother's mother, no, not Willie, that was her step-mother, I mean Zona, who died during the Influenza Epidemic of 1919, no no, wait, it was 1918, no... no 1919, that's right because Wilma turned 20 the year R.B. had all that trouble with the schoolmaster's daughter....