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February 2009

Kately

When I was twenty I fell hopelessly in love with a guy named Julian. He was funny. He was smart. He was gorgeous and random and artistic and athletic and perfect. I had always kept the corner of my eye on him as he floated around campus, playing rugby and walking on water, and then one day he was standing in front of me - in the pouring rain, no less; hands jammed into his pockets - asking if, maybe, I might want to do something some time? I felt like the match when it hits the gunpowder. Boom. We were together for about a year and when I look back on that time it plays like a montage clip of every romantic movie ever made. Julian outside my window at two in the morning with dozens of stolen daffodils in a Tasters Choice vase. A train ride to DC and a perfect summer's day. Making a $3 dinner, splitting the last beer, staying up all night reading trashy books in companionable silence... I felt easy with him. I really loved him.

So the day he left for the Peace Corps was a hard one. I had driven him up to New York and when I returned to our apartment in Baltimore I didn't even make it out of the living room. I lay down on the floor and cried like I would never stop. My friend Kate called. Was I OK; did I want her to come over?

"No, I'm fine," I lied through swollen eyes and a running nose. "Don't come over."

I hung up, rolled onto my other side and started crying again.   

I contemplated ignoring the doorbell when it rang an hour later. Unless it was Death (hey, I didn't even eat the mousse!) I wasn't interested. The buzzer kept going so I unstuck my face from the floor and shuffled out of my apartment. At the front door stood Kate holding a box of chocolate-covered cookies in one hand and a 1.5 liter bottle of wine in the other. And I have never been so happy to see anyone in my life. I almost knocked her down in my effort to fling myself wetly into her arms.

Years from now my great-grandchildren will beg, "Oh PLEASE don't tell us the story about Kate and the cookies again. We got it. Women are empathetic and wonderful and when you are feeling low and vulnerable they will always find a way to boost your spirits."

And I'll say, "I will not only tell you the story about Kate but I will also tell you about a time during the Great Recession when I lost my first writing job and I was sad but the internet showed up and got me drunk on margaritas. Then they all came back the next day with a gallon of Coca-Cola and an Egg McMuffin. Now sit down before I rewrite my will and leave the collection of Agatha Christie paperbacks to a home for cats."

I am grateful and embarrassed and touched beyond words by your sympathy. I went from feeling this big to feeling this big and... you know that might not be a good thing - Steve always says there is plenty of me as it is - but holy cats I know what it feels like to be a pancake. For two days I have been swimming in warm syrup and butter. So thank you very much for the kindness.

These days, my mother says. These days people are angry. These days people are confused and uncertain. These days people are worried about money. We are, I know. I don't even open the monthly securities envelopes anymore, too disheartening. Huh. "Securities." I never noticed how wildly inappropriate that is. But, anyway, at least we're all in it together. Me, you, REDBOOK. I know my sweet editors never in a million years wanted to hurt my feelings and I've had my cry so... onward. Upward. You guys really think I should write a book? I'm flattered and well, maybe. OK. Oh and I TRIED to sell blogads. Last Fall. I signed up and waited expectantly as my modest-but-respectable traffic showed up in their rolls. And waited. Annnnnd waited. No one wanted me. After years of resisting the urge to prostitute my muse it was really humiliating to finally squeeze into some spandex; only to go home alone night after night. Julie said perhaps my delicate art cannot bear the harsh scrutiny of unfeeling commerce but I dunno... I felt like a tool. Still, I might try again. Can't hurt, especially now that I have already confessed how embarrassed I was the first time. So, if you notice a sad little Advertise Here link wearing a pair of heels and too much lipstick just avert your gaze.

Highlights. Hidden Pictures. Two.

In this picture can you find a hole punched into a wall? How about a painting that an art teacher might call "too dark" for stained glass? You know, I crack myself up. I really do.

In this picture can you find something a little... odd about the way a child's father has completed a change of clothing?

Enjoy your weekend. And thanks again. Really.

PS I looked over my old blogads blurb and realized it sucks. A lot. I have a friend who is struggling with the bio part of her book proposal, largely because her self-effacing Midwestern modesty prohibits her from writing about herself in glowing third person. I suggested she should have someone else write it for her. And although modesty is not usually one of my major failings I certainly could use some help with the suck. So if you want to take a stab at summarizing my blog in a pithy, commercially attractive fashion so I can steal your idea wholesale I'd be grateful.


So Short It's A Sentence

It's impossible to offer an opinion online without offending someone. And I want you to like me, I want everyone to like me (I probably need to work on this) so I have tried over the years to file down some of my edges. Whenever possible I limit my observations to noting that kittens are cute or the sun, it is sunny. It's safer that way. So I know as I type this that someone is going to identify with it and feel annoyed and I am sorry. Really I am. But...

I have never understood the point of writing a personal blog and withholding information from it. I mean really big major things, like "We abruptly moved to Rome last month after Carl's bail hearing" or "I haven't wanted to say anything but I'm seven months pregnant." I might choose not to mention that Steve - maddened by pain apparently - punched a hole in the kitchen wall last night after accidentally kicking the edge of the open dishwasher door but only because I don't want you to think he's a sociopath. Besides it's not relevant to the general scheme of things. It can be left out of the Clif Notes, if you see what I mean. But, by and large, I try to keep you posted on the things that matter to me. After all, this is my blog. What else is there to write about?

So it has been killing me that I have been unable for the past month to tell you this: REDBOOK laid me off, let me go, released me from our monthly agreement and I am heartbroken. HEARTBROKEN, my god. I got an email at the end of January asking for a phone call and I thought "Hmmm, that's not good" and sure enough it wasn't. They were very nice about it but, you know, freelance budgets or lack thereof and no bail-out in sight for the downtrodden journalist whose only area of expertise is herself.

Anyway, I wrote my last post at REDBOOK today. I knew it was too good to last. Who in their right minds would continue to pay me to piffle for any period of time? Still, I loved that I had a job and it was all mine and I really worked hard to meet my obligations there. And now it's over. So I cried this afternoon. That is all. 


Sweetness, I Was Only Joking

One minute Edward was sitting here eating oranges (confession: they were mandarin oranges in light syrup and therefore 137% sugar and I don't care; I like 'em) and the next he had slumped over in his seat having fallen into a gentle doze. This was a little odd since it wasn't even noon yet and they are in the habit of taking just one nap in the afternoon, but whatever. You don't have to tell me twice. Putting Edward down for a nap is thing of beauty and a joy everlasting. It is never too early or too light or too repetitive for him to go sleep. He just grabs his blanket and rolls over. I love that about Edward. Caroline is much less agreeable under identical circumstances. She complains. She kvetches. She throws everything out of her crib and then howls because she has nothing in her crib. I would say a good third of the time she fails to nap entirely and then she is a gibbering irritating mess by about four thirty.

So I put Edward down yesterday and he promptly fell asleep. Patrick had disappeared into the basement after breakfast so it was just me and Cricket. She seemed happy to play in my room so I got dressed and - as she was still trying to coax the cat from under the bed once I was done - washed my face. When I finished hanging up the towel she was gone. One lousy baby to keep track of and I lost her in less than two minutes. I mean, really lost her because she wasn't in the living room or Steve's office or the kitchen or the laundry room... . I got a little panicky because, well, lord, the baby was missing but then I noticed that the bottom corner of the gate blocking the stairs had been pried loose leaving a Caroline-sized opening behind. Menace Girl strikes again. I found her sitting on Patrick's bed (it's a low, low bed - I bought the shortest one I could find because I was worried that Patrick would move out of his crib and break his legs falling out of a big boy bed; you know, I was really crazy) with a marker in each hand. In a story (most likely a picture book called 'Bad Baby') she would have written all over the walls and her face; but the truth is that she was just sucking on the caps and looking out the window. When I walked in the door she gave me a how-clever-am-I look and then crawled to the edge of the bed, flipped herself around and dropped off the side feet first. She's naughty but she's competent.

You would think with all of Caroline's climbing she would have mastered walking a couple of months ago, but no. She can take a few steps but it is not her preferred mode of transport. She's more like a duck: terrific with the vertical movement but herky-jerky on the ground. Of course, who needs the ground when there is all that sky?

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I like this series for two reasons: Edward in the background looking like a scholarly monk ignoring a circus act; and Caroline's sublime Everest expression at the end.

I don't think of them as being twins, although even as I type that I realize I am not sure exactly how I define twinness and in what sense I feel Caroline and Edward miss the mark. I don't think it's just the fact that one is an apple and one is an orange (boy/girl; dark/fair; tall/short; bookish/athletic; sleeper/non-sleeper; eats alot; eats alittle.) I suppose I've always assumed (perhaps more romantically than accurately) that twins have some kind of mystical connectedness that other people sense but cannot fully understand; whereas Caroline and Edward are like two babies who became housemates via craigslist. They get along fine but Caroline has to keep writing her name on the soy milk because although Edward prefers it; it is HERS. Meanwhile Edward wonders if it would kill her to just hand over the remote control the first time he grabs for it; it's such a hassle to have to keep stealing things repeatedly.

Speaking of soy milk, have you ever tasted this stuff? It's liquid candy. I like sweet. In fact, I regularly add another spoonful of sugar to everything Steve swears is already coma-inducing but... wow. This is SWEET. No wonder Edward keeps trying to switch cups with Caroline. The problem is that within two hours of consuming cow's milk Caroline spontaneously combusts in the most revolting of ways. Every time. At our last pediatric appointment I told the doctor that Cricket has an obvious sensitivity to dairy and is it ok to just put her on soy? He looked skeptical with my layparent's assessment, even after I told him that my brother has never been able to tolerate milk and my mother's father had a full-blown milk allergy... surely this represents a familial trend? He told me to take her off it for a month and then try again. I was, like, um, ooookkkkkkkk but... . We tried milk again and I am tempted to send him the dry-cleaning bill. I'm just saying is all. Of course - to return to my original point - my attempts to keep her from cow's milk for thirty days have been repeatedly thwarted by Edward's two cup monte; so maybe the experiment was invalid?

Yesterday I woke up late after a crappy night (thank you Caroline.) Steve was in the livingroom with the children.

"Watch this," he said and he tossed Edward up into the air. Edward did the joyful baby hooting with joy thing but I was not struck but how happy he was. I was struck by...

"Oh my god he looks just like Farrah Fawcett," I said.

"Yeah, that's what I thought," Steve said.

Seriously. Maybe Leif Garrett. But seriously.

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He needs a haircut. Or a Bedazzler. Work those feathers, disco baby.

Patrick was invited to a sleepover birthday party and I twittered about it for a couple of days. Would he, wouldn't he, should he, shouldn't he... I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I had realized that Patrick's seeming uncertainty was for my benefit. When I called my friend the morning of the party to say that I was pretty sure Patrick was going to come home after the dinner she said, "Oh yeah, he already told my son that he was coming for the party but he wasn't going to spend the night. They're cool." I was, like, oh, right, good. Fine then. I felt like a dope.

Steve does this in restaurants. The waitress says, "Do you want another beer?" and Steve always says, "Not just yet" when he means "No. I am done drinking beer for the night. I will not require any more beer this evening. Feel free to forget about my possible beverage needs for the remainder of our time here." I think he has some misplaced sense that it is more polite to be vague? Or maybe it's some latent commitment phobia and he is afraid that if he says that he is done but changes his mind later he will be unable to do so? Like if he says "I think I will have another beer after all since my wife seems to have grabbed the wine bottle with both hands and is not sharing" the waitress will look dismayed and confess that when he said he was done the first time they took an axe to all the kegs and the last of the beer is gurgling down the waste pipe as she speaks. As someone who waited tables for seven years I always want to smack Steve when he does this - you keep a checklist in your head when you wait tables and the goal is to work your way down the list crossing things off until the check is paid. When someone gives you a question mark rather than a nice completion it screws up your rhythm - you have to keep going back at random to see if they want another damned beer or not.

I have noticed - and forgive me, my fellow Land o Lakers, perhaps this is not a regional trait; it's just that I have only seen it here - that when I invite Minnesotans to a dinner or something they frequently have a hard time saying no when they mean no. Instead they say, "Well, we have a hockey game and a boy scout meeting and an out-of-town wedding but we'll try to make it!" Which is - again, forgive me - worse than fucking useless. Prudence indicates that you only cook for people who might reasonably be expected to attend but you don't want to have to split a chicken breast three ways if hockey, the boy scouts, and the wedding all get canceled.

Cripes where was I? Oh. Patrick had no intention on spending the night but his innate Minnesotanness combined with his nature/nurtured Steveness and prevented him from telling me so in straightforward fashion. I see from his backpack that he has just been invited to yet another birthday with yet another sleepover addendum for next weekend and this time I plan to just accept on his behalf for cake only. Save me a lot of fussing.   

I had a little time this weekend so I poked around Facebook again. Like I told you, my entire Facebook world begins and ends with people I knew in grade/junior high/high school and it is interesting to see where people wound up. Pleasant. Nostalgic. And the photos people saved are great. I am embarrassed to admit this because the one great truism of fashion is that everything looks ridiculous twenty years later; but I think outfits circa 1988 are kinda awesome. Not MINE I hasten to clarify as I have been wearing jeans and solid colored tshirts since birth but I was looking at some old photos last night and the ripped tights and short skirt with The Cramps shirt and the kente cloth hat and leather jacket? Still looks cool to me.

Oh dear. Maybe I have no fashion sense. What a blow.

I am amused by how easily I can slip back twenty years and feel pretty much the same way I did at the time. I got friended by one of my great high school loves (I accepted, naturally) and as I scrolled through his existing friends my teeth clicked together when I saw a profile for the girl for whom he dumped me. TWICE, as I recall. He broke up with me TWICE in order to more fully slather her with devotion. I glared at the screen and tried to decide if the teeny tiny profile picture her is prettier than the teeny tiny profile picture me.

"Oh shut up," I said as Steve walked into the kitchen.
"What? What did I do?" he asked.
"Oh you fucking men with your fucking MIRANDAS."

And then you have the people who have had exactly as much time as I have had since graduating high school and yet they have used the interval to become interesting. So what have you been up to Julia? I have three children, I live in Minnesota and there is no textile manufactured from which I cannot remove cat vomit. Fascinating! And you? I put my life on the line every day to protect famous people from stalkers; see my gun and my expensive sunglasses?

Not only is it a time suck; it is making me feel like a complete loser.

PS He friended Miranda before he friended me. BASTARD.


Six Apo Gaia

I.    It is with a head thunk that I acknowledge virtuously embracing Goodreads (reading is fundamental) while even more virtuously rebuffing Facebook (make new friends; keep the old; maintain both via constant online monitoring.) As you might recall I cited my compulsive nature; my inability to stop at just one... whatever. So it is unfortunate that on Saturday I noticed the link to the Goodreads neverending book trivia quiz. Note the adjective: neverending. As of last night when I finally gave my laptop to Steve to hide I was on question 698. Assuming that it takes my pitiful satellite connection thirty seconds to load a new page; that represents... um.... almost six hours hours spent answering book questions. In truth it was more like twenty-four since I would hand Caroline some banana, consider whether or not Macbeth is the thane of Cawdor or if that is too obvious, tell Edward to give Caroline back her banana... and so on.

I seriously need to learn some self-control. Although for the record, I am kinda kicking ass on book trivia.

II.    I was right in assuming that Patrick would like Calvin and Hobbes. What I failed to realize is that Patrick would take Calvin and Hobbes as some kind of sacred text, a holy writ designed for thoughtful study and careful emulation.

I'm taking a lot of pictures like this as a result.

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I probably should have gone with a Family Circus anthology instead. Little, um, Peewee? No PJ and Dolly and Not-Me with the footprints... good clean wholesome entertainment for everyone. Zero sassmouth. Yessir.

Last night Patrick asked me to guess who his favorite character is.

Calvin? No. Hobbes? No. Then who?

"Susie!"

Really? Why Susie?

"I just think she's very funny."

"Then why not imitate her instead of obnoxious Calvin?" I said.

"Then why not imitate her instead of obnoxious Calvin?" Patrick said.

I... when I first read Calvin and Hobbes back in junior high (grade school?) I used to think the babysitter who sent Calvin to bed at five in the afternoon was pretty mean but I now recognize her as a child-rearing genius whose methods have no equal.

I have been wondering about this: I can count on one hand the number of times I lost my temper with Patrick between the ages of birth and five. Seriously. Either I was a saint or Patrick was or maybe my temperament is just of a sort that remains unruffled by toddler/preschool rebellions. Now, however, I would have to take my socks off to get an accurate freakout tally - and that is before Patrick has even walked out the door most mornings. My mother thinks that Patrick has grown adept at pushing my buttons. I worry that I have less patience as a direct result of having more children; like I have X amounts of maternal grace under pressure and with X/3 I get crazy. This makes me feel guilty because it is not like I am yelling at Edward or Caroline. I'm still as serene and calm with them as I have ever been: no no no, darling, please don't pull my hair, let go, sweetheart, that's right. who's a good girl? oop! let's not climb in the drawer. oh my goodness, no no, let's not pull out the nasty trash, ok, cricket? ok sweet girl? kiss kiss tickle kiss.

But poor Patrick gets: Legos DOWN! FIND backpack! coat ON! no! NOT BACKWARDS! COME ON! coat NOW! move FEET! get in CAR! SCHOOL! NOW! GO!

There is something about the way Patrick goes boneless in the morning that brings out the very worst of my primordial instincts. 

III.    Edward. Oh my god I love Edward. I love Edward so much that I am goofy about him and have been so swept away by my pasion that I overcame my aversion to sing-songy nicknames . I started calling him Eddybear and now we cannot seem to stop. "Awwwww who's my EddyBear?" we say as he barrels his nice round head into our stomachs, patting our faces with his soft fat hands. He is getting more adept at walking; standing on his hindlegs like he as all the time in the world before taking three, five, seven steps towards whatever. He likes music. He will eat anything except ravioli. And he continues to be... one wants to say obsessed... with circles.

Here he tries to match the rubbermaid lid to the right container - an exercise I personally find tedious but he was willing to devote a good fifteen minutes to completing. I like the second picture in which he holds the lid behind his head and surveys the possibilities after the bowl in picture one was too big. Then the intense concentration in the third photo. Finally: victory! 

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He's cute.

However, he needs to work on his twin skills because one of these days Caroline is going to pick something up with those clever, delicate hands of hers and whap him upside the head with it. The other day I was trying to take a video of Caroline. Edward wanted me to pick him up. I did not. So Edward spun around, zipped over to where Caroline was sitting minding her own business, and shoved her as hard as he could in the chest. She went over like a house of cards. He laughed as he crawled back towards me; her lip trembled from the injustice of it.

Today I put Edward in his high chair. I gave him some Cheerios, then I put Caroline in her seat. I needed to wash her tray so I left her strapped in but tray-less. She reached over for a Cheerio from Edward. He coldly looked at her hand resting on his tray, picked up her hand with two fingers and flung it to the side. I told him to share and moved two of his fifty Cheerios close enough to Caroline that she could reach them. Edward immediately ate those two and then carefully pushed the rest as far away from her as possible.   

Edward's generous nature has yet to unfold before us like some beautiful flower. In fact, so far he is managing to keep the entire meadow completely hidden.

IV.    I have no story to go with this picture

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Caroline's eyes settled into a muddy green and I am infatuated by them. I find it hard to get a picture of her when she is not smiling. This speaks well of her sunny ebullience but personally I love how she looks when she is pensive. So I like this one.

V.    I had an anxiety dream last night. This in itself is not particularly unusual; although it was rather cruel under the circumstances since I couldn't fall asleep until two and Caroline was up between three and five. It was annoying to be stressed both awake and asleep. But the anxiety dreams are common enough and since I have a pedestrian mind they are, in general, fairly cliched: I have to take an exam for a class I have not attended in twenty years/ I am starring in a play upon which the curtain is about to open but I do not know a single line/ I have a flight to catch in half an hour but my luggage is locked in a car I do not recognize and the airport is on the other side of town... . You know, the usual panic inducing stuff. Last night followed the same pattern but this time I was thwarted over and over again in my desperate attempts to get my haircut.

It was weird.

I contemplated this newfound hair angst this morning and I think it might be related to a conversation I had recently in which a friend was bitching about a work colleague of his. And during the course of enumerating this colleague's many flaws he touched briefly upon what he considered to be her age-inappropriate attire (skirt to here; blouse to there) and he said - in passing - something like "...and she has two older kids and really long hair and she never answers emails et cetera."

It stung. The hair part, I mean, although I also have a problem with emails.

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I am reaching what the French so tactfully refer to as un age certain. Thirty-seven is not what anyone would describe as the springtime of my girlhood. And although nothing on earth could compel me to wish to be even one year younger (I would kill myself before I was in my twenties again. seriously. I LOVE my thirties) I do wonder... is it time to cut my hair? It falls to about the bra strap. Isn't this a rule of some kind? Like white shoes/Labor Day and a year's heavy mourning?

VI.    Patrick's class just celebrated their one hundredth day of school. I swear we never did any such thing when I was a child but just as I was telling my brother that I thought this particular school made the whole concept up he told me that my nephew's school does the same thing. And that there are picture books dedicated to it. So what do I know?

As part of their celebration the children filled out a booklet of personal "one hundred things." I wish I had access to all of them because I think they would read like poetry. Patrick's alone was beautiful in an offbeat way:

I could make 100 footprints.

I could not eat 100 chicken legs.

But the very last page of his book... I am crying with laughter all over again as I post this.


Quaint

I have had insomnia my entire life. I am of the cannot-fall-asleep in the first place variety but once I am asleep I can usually stay asleep. I mean, provided that I am not woken up by Patrick's middle of the night theories on dark matter or Edward's sudden realization that he is not being held or Steve brushing his goddamned teeth (no one will ever ever convince me that this habit does not take oral hygiene beyond the realm of Attentive and into the reaches of Crazy - although I admit he has nice teeth) or Caroline's distress when her reasonable desire to breathe through her nose cannot be accommodated... provided none of these things occur to wake me up I can usually rely upon a solid five or six hours. In other words, I have not had six consecutive hours of sleep in years. Which is fine; one deals as one needs must. But knowing that the likelihood that I am going to have another abbreviated night is in the neighboorhood of 1000% I try to do what I can to fall asleep quickly in the first place, which for me includes avoiding caffeine after a certain hour. I find that even a small cup of tea in the afternoon drastically impairs my ability to doze off before dawn.

I'm sure you can see where I am going with this: namely, the reason that I am sitting here eating coffee ice cream out of the container at 9:30 in the morning is because I suffer from chronic insomnia. All very reasonable. And thanks for asking.... STEVE.

Now that I think about it, a couple of you left comments recently asking about insomnia. Having taken anywhere from one to four hours to fall asleep for over thirty years I can tell you that it ranges in suckitude from merely boring (you are ten years old in a dark quiet house listening to the furnace for hours) to full-blown panic (you are thirty-seven years old and your husband is out of town and you are getting sick and you know that the children will be waking up in five, four, three, two... hours and you are going to have to deal but you will be so tired you will want to cry so you. must. fall. asleep. NOW. damn. it) but beyond that I have absolutely nothing to suggest. I heard exercise helps but I have never seen a difference, personally. Tylenol PM works for me a little but what am I going to do, take it every night until I die? Besides I cannot take any at this point in my life because if you are woken up too soon it makes you feel like you are trying to climb out of a bucket of glue. With Caroline and Edward still treating me as their personal concierge it would be a disaster. When I was younger I would read until they made me turn the light off. Then I would lie there. Now I read until I cannot keep my eyes open (this is how I go through about a book a day, depending upon the size and the subject - I tend to skip over plot lines that bore me. like War and Peace I finished in a few days but I skipped, you know, the war.)

Tangent: I got an email a while ago from a nice woman inviting me to be her friend at Goodreads. I had never heard of it so I went to check it out and thought it was charming. You review/rate books you liked or hated and then you have friends who do the same. I am always looking for new things to read (see above: nineteen hour days) and this seemed like an excellent way to receive reliable book recommendations. So I signed up, neglected to accept the friendvitation and forgot about it. Then a couple of weeks ago I got a second invitation from another woman. I was enchanted with her likes (chockablock Dorothy Dunnett and Austen) and amused to see that she also could not finish Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a book into which I invested weeks before it slipped under the bed and stayed there. Again I thought about what a good idea this was for me, neglected to accept her invitation and forgot about it.

Today I managed to accomplish six impossible things before lunch and one of them was to log onto Goodreads, accept my invitations, and add the first five books I could think of to my profile. So I am officially open for good reading (via the same email address I have linked over there) and if you want to swap book stuff with me please do. Let's be reading buddies.

Speaking of which, when he was here over Christmas my brother mentioned that he had gotten in touch with an old friend of his via Facebook.

"Hey Jules," he said. "Are you on Facebook?"

I threw a glass of wine on my lap and had to excuse myself.

Once changed I returned to the group.

"Hey Jules," said my brother. "Are you on Fac... ."

"OH MY GOD IS THAT THE BABY?" I screamed and raced upstairs.

I dodged him all week but eventually he cornered me: "So I've been meaning to ask you - are you on Facebook?"

At which point I had to explain to my beloved brother that while, yes, technically, I do have a Facebook profile I would be forced to decline any attempt on his part to add me to his list of online well-wishers. To paraphrase Fred Astaire: I don't friend; don't ask me.

I have an addictive personality. I will always accept just one more glass of wine. I downloaded an arcade MAME a little while ago and played Q*Bert until four in the morning. I have never kept a pack of gum for more than an hour - recently I bought one of those little tubs of bubblemint thinking that five times more gum would last me longer but it just meant that I chewed my way through 60 pieces of gum at a rate of, like, one a minute. So within about two days of joining Facebook I realized that it was not going to work for me. I had been lured on by my oldest friend who mentioned that someone had posted pictures from elementary school visible only to friends; in much the same way someone might casually tell me that they just this minute opened a bottle of 1994 Screaming Eagle cabernet... was I sure I didn't want to try a little? Who can resist pictures of people they haven't seen in twenty... uh, fuck, twenty-five years? Not me. Thus, I joined and friended and was befriended and I had a rollicking time getting virtually reacquainted with all of my favorite people from the dear old school. And then there were the old pictures and people added other old pictures and current pictures and then new people joined and they added stuff and there was updating and chatting and the next thing I knew an entire weekend had passed during which I barely spoke except to say, "Oh my god look at who this is! It's old so-and-so, did I ever tell you about so-and-so, no, wow, I should, really, remind me, later, can't talk, friending... ."

So I backed away slowly and have not logged on since, which is a pity because I was about to join a virtual snowball fight with half of the people I loved best when I was 12. Facebook is a many-splendor'd thing and it's too bad that I am not to be trusted within a hundred clicks of the place.

Steve was gone this weekend and Caroline woke up Saturday morning with a weird swollen blister thing on the inside her lip that bled at the edges. It was all very plagues of Egypt and went a long way towards explaining her nonstop screaming the night before. With Steve in Florida my urgent care options were limited (don't go; go but take all three children - BLECH) but my friend Noelle not only answered her phone at 8:01 on a Saturday morning; she arrived at my door within half an hour. Her respected opinion was that the sore was part of Caroline's overall virus-cold thing so there was nothing to be done; but she tactfully supported my desire to go to urgent care anyway and agreed to let me leave her with two of her kids and my remaining two. Next she managed to make me not feel stupid when I returned with the news that the sore was part of Caroline's overall virus-cold thing and thus there was nothing to be done. Then she helped me decipher the cryptic ibuprofen dosage that the doctor gave me (I had been seriously underdosing Caroline; thus the inconsolable screamy screaming) and finally gave me the hint via her family practice doctor husband that made the rest of the weekend so much less nightmarish: when there is a need for extended pain management (like when a bloody little wound exists right on your sucking lip) one can alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen, meaning motrin every six hours and tylenol in between. I tried it and that afternoon Caroline took her first nap in three days.

I love my friend Noelle.

This is one of those posts that I pick at all day long. I started with ice cream for breakfast and I am now at dinnertime for the babies. When I talked to my mom tonight I mentioned that I hope neither of the twinks has a shellfish allergy as they were getting shrimp for dinner.

My mother allowed for a significant pause before asking what, exactly, the plan was if either of the wonderbabies IS allergic to shellfish?    

I cheerfully said, "Emergency room!" and she replied, "Since it's been two whole days since your last visit?" And although, DUH, GOD, it was URGENT CARE not the ER, and I TOTALLY know what I am doing MOTHER, I suppose an abominable shrimp allergy would fit neatly into the Old Testament weekend we were having. Next up: frogs!

So I gave Caroline and Edward pasta and carrots and shrimp for dinner and Caroline acted like it was an all she could eat shrimp buffet. She loved it. Then she got fussy and I went to take her out of her high chair and saw a red mark on her wrist with little welts forming. So I freaked out and started yelling about hives and fatal reactions and whatnot before Steve came over and realized that she had just gotten her wrist pinched by the seat. Thank heavens he's back or I would have called long-suffering Noelle again.

When Caroline isn't in horrible pain she has developed the following little habit: she climbs into an empty popcorn tin that the boy scouts conned me into buying this year and she gathers all of her toys around her.

I don't know why she feels this is something to be defiant about but clearly she does.
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Edward initially thought this was a little weird.
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But eventually decided to play and let play. She might be odd but she's his sister, damn it.
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Edward has his own quirky habit which I regret I have not yet captured on film. He loves circles. They got a wooden shape puzzle for Christmas and Edward immediately gravitated towards it. At first he just chewed on the pieces but then it was like a light was turned on and he was, all, hey, if this piece can come OUT it can also go IN. So he started putting the pieces back into the puzzle. Or rather, the piece. He could only do the circle, which made me laugh every time. If you create a small enough sphere of expertise you can totally dominate it. This is how I became the world's leading internet expert on trying to conceive with a reciprocal balanced translocation between chromosomes one and four. But I digress. He has since gone on to nail the square and the triangle and the oval and the rectangle (no child born of man can fit that octagon in place; 'tis the devil's polygon) but his love of the circle persists. Last week he put the purple lid back on the jumbo desitin jar. Tonight he delicately picked up the cap to the baby shampoo and placed it back on the bottle.

"Are you done being compulsive so I can rinse you off?" I asked. He smiled.

Finally, a Patrick story which amused me:

I tucked him into bed the other night and he said, "I love the way the moonlight is shimmering on the icicles. It's so pretty."

I looked and agreed it was indeed very pretty. Then I complimented him on his phrasing.

"Maybe you'll be a writer," I said.

"No, I'm going to be an astronaut."

"Well," I said, like the tool I am, "then you'll need to do well in school and get into a good college. Lots of people want to be astronauts so it is a pretty competitive field."

"I know where I am going to college," said Patrick.

"Where?"

"I'm going to [community college whose building Patrick has seen from the highway] because I don't ever want to learn how to drive. That way you and Daddy can take turns driving me."

Ah. Well. Good luck with that.


Not Quite Exactly

For a week I worried about which team would receive my valuable moral support in the event of a Ravens-Eagles Superbowl. On the one hand we have Donovan McNabb. I like Donovan McNabb. I like the way he came back after being benched and I like that he's a battered football veteran. Besides, I have a vague proprietary interest in Philadelphia since it lies along the I-95 corridor of my girlhood. It's not DC and it's not Baltimore, but it's close. On the other hand the Ravens are Baltimore. You know, BALTIMORE. I love Baltimore. I love the Shot Tower and Patterson Park and the way the McCormick factory used to make the grotty little streets along the harbor smell like spicy heaven. I also like Ray Lewis - murder indictment notwithstanding - and I think the purple and black uniforms are dressy. However, quarterback Joe Flaco, Falco, Flacco whatever was born in 1985. Which means I could have babysat for him; if his parents had asked me and if I was free that night. On principle I disapprove.

So it was a long week leading up to the championship games and I did a lot of soul-searching. Then both the Ravens and the Eagles got their asses neatly packaged and handed back to them and I was faced with a new dilemma: Cardinals (eye roll) or Steelers (yawn)? I like an underdog but Warner leaves me beyond cold. The Steelers are full of themselves and favored by six and a half but my friend Seth really likes them and I really like my friend Seth...

what? You don't like football? You don't care about the Cardinals or the Steelers? Fine. Moving on.

I was surprised by the number of you who enthusiastically recommended Pittsburgh as a place to live. Not, I hasten to add, because of the football team that I am no longer discussing or because I don't think Pittsburgh is nice - I do! really! I like the way the three rivers come together and anyone who is passionate about Baltimore could find things to love about Pittsburgh - but because there are certain cities one associates with rabid partiality (hello Bay Area) or blank confusion over why anyone would want to live anywhere else (hiya New York) and Pittsburgh never struck me as one of them. But lots of you mentioned Pittsburgh. So ok. Spin that rally towel.  

Steve and I had a great time reading your comments. Steve would say, "This sensible person has recommended Colorado, noting that the state has everything a non-tool could possibly want" and I would counter, "I'm surprised she was able to type after slathering on all that moisturizer to keep her hands from splitting open in the dry air; a problem my new best friend on page two does not have as the refreshing Oregon climate lends a dewy glow of health to every complexion."

As we talked about various areas I remembered why we wound up in Minnesota in the first place: Steve has always wanted to move back to Colorado (he went to college there. his best friend lives there. mountains thrill him) and I am happiest when it is raining (enough said); The Prince and The Frog Get Married and Compromise by Doing Something Not Quite Exactly For Either of Them. It's not that I am totally opposed to Colorado or that Steve is vehemently against the Pacific Northwest; we just aren't two hearts beating as one on the subject. We decided to take trips to both places next summer (I have never actually been to Oregon I just suspect that I would like it based upon general rumored dampness and recommendations from people I like) and see how we feel. And rather than pick up and move I think it might be advisable to take a sabbatical year with a rental and try out whatever area we think we might like. I looked at a few house swapping websites in order to gauge whether that might work for us but there are surprisingly few people out there are anxious to trade their Tuscan villa for a year in Minnesota. Not that we want to go to Italy, you understand, just that the market for the Upper Midwest is decidedly niche. Anyway, when we aren't fighting bitterly about whether a summer shower every afternoon counts as rain (it doesn't) or whether I could actually live in a state that possesses only one Target per 3.5 million people (Steve fights dirty and, oh Oregon, are you kidding me?) we are continuing to enjoy the discussion. So thank you for your input. Oh, and an extra thanks to Zerch for recommending www.findyourspot.com, a website that generates suggestions on where you might want to live based upon how you answer a couple of pages worth of questions (warning: they ask for a lot of personal information. they do not, however, require that it be your actual personal information.) I am not quite sure what to make of the fact that the site first recommended Charleston, West Virginia for me but I got a lot of mileage out of the next three suggestions: Portland, Eugene and Corvallis. Of course, Steve was over there with Boulder and Fort Collins and Jackson, Wyoming. Twenty cities each and not a single one was the same. Or in the same state. Or even the same region.          

Fortunately we like Minnesota and all of our stuff is here; so there's that.

Against my better judgment we went out with the children to dinner last night. It might have been ok if things had gone according to plan (called ahead for a table, timed dinner perfectly between nap and bedtime) however the fire department arrived at the restaurant five minutes before we did. True story. So we went in search of something else, considered going home, drove aimlessly for a bit, returned to the original place which was no longer evacuated and wound up sitting down to eat at approximately the same time as the littlest finks usually go to bed.

"This is a terrible terrible idea," I moaned.

"Live a little," said Steve.

Caroline thought the whole thing was very pleasant and exciting and sat in her high chair politely eating bread and sweet potato like a dinner guest who wants to be invited back again. Patrick did the crossword puzzle on the kids' menu and drank cranberry juice. Edward hit his head against the edge of the table and cried. A nice woman stopped and told him he was a pretty baby to which he responded by first looking horrified and then uttering a piercing yell like an air raid siren right in her face. He sort of went downhill from there, what with arching his back and kicking his feet and making a total nuisance of himself.

As I understand it - unless the only other person in the place happens to be my mother - no one in a restaurant is going to find my children as adorable and charming as I do. This applies to pig-tailed Caroline quietly eating her dinner but this especially applies to Edward the banshee. So he and I spent the remainder of our abbreviated evening in the ladies' room making faces at ourselves in the mirror.  My entire meal went home in a box.

"Never again," I swore.

"Oh, but I love listening to you complain," said Steve.

I once read an article, probably in the Washington Post, about some coffee place that had a full-blown feud going between the parents who liked to bring their young children to hang out there and... the rest of the planet. The owner posted a sign saying something like Your Children are Not Welcome Here and a bunch of people got all huffed but another bunch of people were all oh yeah etc. As I recall the article had a lot of good quotes; one in particular from a woman who said, "I just want to be able to have a cup of coffee [with her two year old in tow] and relax." And I read this and wondered if she was crazy. Seriously. Who thinks they can relax (RELAX!) in public with a small child? Or that they are entitled to do so. For shame, lady, for shame. But (here's my point) I am sure at least half the people in the restaurant last night heard Edward's head slam yell and Edward's stranger danger warning system and Edward's get me out of the seat and walk me around yapping and thought we were crazy to go out to dinner with the little bodies in the first place. And I'm certain that there is some critical difference between that woman and her coffee and me and my glass of wine but... I'm damned if I can think of it.

Hey, good LORD. Why did no one inform me that the Superbowl has started without me? I haven't even decided who I want to win yet.

Random baby picture. I like it.

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Updated: Oooh! That was actually a good game. I felt sure that the Cardinals were going to be trounced by the Steelers - hence the anticipated boredom - but it was exciting until the end. Nice.