Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Good Kids Bad Habits

I read in a book that our children will be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

I ran to The Partner in alarm. I squeaked out the news and asked him what he thought.

He looked at me funny. “I think it means The Boss won’t live as many years as we do.”

I tried to collect myself amidst a series of eye twitches. “I am not asking you to explain the concept to me. I get that. I want to know what we’re going to do about it.”

“You’re the one reading the book.”

Yes, I’m the one reading the book. In this house, I’m always the one reading the book. I’ve loved words on paper since the day I deciphered my first children’s story. But I’ve never been particularly interested in non-fiction and am even less inclined to accept someone else’s idea of self-help. When I signed on to review Good Kids Bad Habits, by Jennifer Tractenberg, for the Parent Blogger’s Network, I hadn’t tried to read a parenting book in its entirety since I threw down What To Expect When You’re Expecting in disgust.

I have, however, cracked the binding on some cookbooks and nutritional guides (à la The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood by Dr. Sears) and I hoped to find similarly useful information, charts and lists when I started in on Good Kids Bad Habits. The back of the book promised “insightful tips, preventative steps, and kids smarts” to help us parents teach our children to be the “healthiest adults they can be—while still allowing them to be kids.”

Though the book covers everything from nutrition, to exercise, to safety, it is the former category from which I extracted most of the usable information. As the mother of a 19-month old girl, my biggest concerns revolve around finding the best foods to feed her rapidly growing body and mind. I particularly liked the “Keep Your Family’s Diet Colorful” chart, which lists a variety of foods according to color and suggests that you buy at least two items from each color category on every shopping trip.

The rest of the book did not hold my attention, as its focus on the wide-ranging toddler-to-teen demographic lost me when it skewed toward the older part of that spectrum with discussions on things like homework, video game playing, and the kind of outside activities for which my topsy-turvy toddler is not ready. More forward- and big-picture-thinking parents could no doubt learn a lot by reading up on the inevitable challenges of the years ahead, but I ended up bored by subject matter to which I couldn’t relate.

For those who aren’t as literally, spirtually and emotionally procrastinatory as I am, Good Kids Bad Habits is a much more valuable read. However, I do have enough foresight to put it on my book shelf, befitting its status as a reference book that I will most likely go back to as my daughter’s life renders new chapters more and more relevant.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Buy This House

The Partner does not like it when I spout words such as these: "Our house is going to be on the market for a very, very long time" and "All the houses we want to buy will already be sold by the time we get an offer on ours. "He calls it negativity; I call it reality. What he considers optimism is what I look at as lying to oneself. I hate lies.

We knew going into this that there are a few significant factors working against our home's place in the real estate market. Its position on a busy road is one of them. Its two bed, one bath status is another. The fact that it is over 200 years old will probably scare away some people who would otherwise be attracted to the reasonable price.

For all those reasons, I'm inclined to put off our search for a new home until we have an offer on this place. That way I won't get my heart set on a property that someone else will snatch up while wait for ours to sell.

The Partner, on the other hand, believes in the necessity of familiarizing ourselves with what's out there so that we aren't forced to make a rushed decision once we finally do sell our house. He also thinks we should put in an offer contingent upon the sale of our home if we happen to find a place we're in love with.

Well, I refuse to fall in love with another house just to watch some home-wrecker come and take it away from me. It hasn't even been a full week since we started going on showings and already, the first house we looked at (and really liked) sold.

What would you do in such a situation? Put the search on hold or keep looking?

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Hairy Situation, Part III

In follow-up to the Great Big Apple Blowout, I give you this photo, taken that evening. It was The Boss's first experience with the clamor of the city and its towering skyline. She was fascinated with "up," only looking street-level when a dog pranced by. Then it was "dog!" and "woof!" My freshly blown-dry hair lifted in the breeze and I admired my daughter's perspective.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

You, Me and Blogger Makes Free

It sometimes occurs to me how inane by blog is. The thought crossed my mind today, actually, after I left comments on a couple military blogs upon which I stumbled. The soldiers behind those Blogger templates live out tales of heart and guts every day. They share their perspective in a way that's invaluable in the telling. Each post is layers deep.

I came back here after leaving those comments and assessed my last few posts with a more distanced eye. I forced myself to look past my mommyblogging myopia. I tried to find something universal, or at least something that would be even halfway interesting to a person not in possession of two stretch-marked breasts and a blown-out vaginal canal. But I couldn't come up with anyting.

I realize certain people attract a certain audience and that no single entity (with the possible exception of Anna Nicole Smith) is going to interest everybody. But when I start looking at my blog as other, more removed, parties must see it, well, then I start to wonder why even I am still interested.

I'm a mom. A mom who likes to write. A mom who likes to write and hates to clean. A mom who likes to write and hates to clean and wonders what it might be like to have done things differently, or to start doing them differently now.

And I guess that's what it's all about--finding inspiration to do things differently, to make that difference. Because it is important to me to be more than a mother, more than a writer, more than a bad housekeeper. More than someone who wonders when she should wander.

In Afghanistan and Iraq and points all over the globe, there are women and men in the United States military who are larger than life in their dauntless determination and in their sacrifice. Reading the blogs of soldiers in the different armed forces reminds me of that.

And once I get past the idea that they are doing huge things and I'm not, I am more inspired than ever to live more fully, and to a more pronounced effect, the life that the American military has secured for me.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The No Show

It was late in coming, but it's here with a vengeance.

The Boss has learned the word "no."

The shake of her head and her turned away face has been replaced with a chorus of clear negativity. "No, no, no, no!" She says it in the morning when I pick her up from her crib. It's not that she doesn't want to join the world of the waking, as far as I can tell; it's that she likes the sound of her own defiance. She says it when I hold out a cup of the milk she has already expressed a desire for. She walks away. I leave it on a chair at her level. I turn my back and she comes back to get it.

I tell her I'm going to make a phone call. "No!" She bleats. I dial the number anyway. My mother picks up. I ask The Boss if she would like to speak to nana. "No!" she insists as she walks over to me anyway. I put the phone to her ear. The Boss's light breath is the only thing audible on the other end.

"Say hi to nana," I suggest.

"No!" she replies.

"Did you hear that?" I ask my mother.

Mom just laughs.

"Do you think if I ignore it, it'll go away?"

"No," mom says.

The Boss runs of out the room, leaving in her wake another "no" that confirms it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Hairy Situation, Part II

...So, I saw a sign in the window of a mid-town salon. The mid-week, mid-day price seemed like a good one, and I needed a hair cut. The price was ten dollars cheaper than their regular cut and blow dry rate listed next to the door, so I went in. They took me right away.

The hairdresser washed my hair in that relaxing, scalp massage kind of way. I closed my eyes with contentment. A little conditioning later, I was seated at her station. The first indication that something was amiss came when she started combing out my hair and applying some sort of product to the roots. I had never gotten a hair cut where they applied product before they applied the scissors. I got nervous.

Next thing I know, she had sectioned off the upper layers and was brandishing a blow dryer. She powered it on and went to work on my thin brown locks. Finally, it clicked. I was paying $30 to get my hitherto perfectly serviceable coif re-blown. There was no haircut involved. The special in the window said "Blow Dry Special." It did not say "Cut and Blow Dry." Idiot! I shouted in silence. Idiot!

Maybe $30 doesn't seem like a lot to some people, but the numbers swam around my head in 72 point font, bolded. I thought of all the things I could get for that amount of money, and all the things I routinely denied myself. The tears welled up in my eyes as I realized the City had gotten the best of me again. I looked down at the magazine in front of me and focused on "Get a Better Body in 30 Days" so that I could think about something other than the urge to cry.

It was too late to tell her I had actually wanted a cut and I was way too embarrassed to let on that I didn't know exactly what I was getting in the first place. It reminded me of being in Germany on my honeymoon, when I ordered something off a menu I could not understand and was told by the waitress--in gestures, not words--that I did not really want to order what I had, in fact, ordered.

"Yes," I told her. "That's what I want." I nodded my head vehemently. I had picked something and I was committed to it. I cared not a whit that I had no idea what would be arriving on my plate.

"Nein," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"Nein," she said.

I stared at her as my face started to droop. My eyes filled up. I relented. "Okay." I pointed at The Partner with a sigh. "I'll have what he's having."

She left with the revised order and my tears overflowed. The Partner stared at me in undisguised amusement and patted my hand. I felt completely out of control. I could not be trusted to order my own meal. I was helpless in a strange land. I sat there with blurred vision and thought that I'd rather eat pig brain with a side of tongue than feel so incapable of making my own decisions.

Back on American soil yesterday, I realized that class can be as much of a barrier as language. None of the salons I ever knew about touted blow dry specials, sans cut, in their front window like it was some kind of big deal, so the concept was completely foreign to me. I should've figured it out, but I didn't. When the hairdresser put down the dryer and removed my black cape, I thanked her and handed her a tip. I trudged out the door into the bleak afternoon with hair that looked no better than if I had stepped out of my own bathroom for free.

The Partner was waiting for me at the hotel. This is the guy who consistently fails to notice any haircut I actually do end up getting. Yesterday in the bar of the Roosevelt, he said "Looks good." I faced him with eyes rolled high in my head beneath sharply raised brows. I slumped in my chair.

"Oh, God. What happened this time?" he asked, that knowing smile already pulling at his lips.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Hairy Situation, Part I

Where I come from, people under the age of 75 do not employ others to wash and blow dry their hair. Cut it, yes. Color it, yes. But shampooing is taken care of in the shower and blow drying is done in front of the bathroom mirror all by one's lonesome.

I only bring this up because I was in the City today. The big, red apple of a city. The city that has reduced me to tears on more than one occasion, like the time six years ago when I trekked over the Henry Hudson Parkway and onto the Avenue of the Americas to vie for a spot at Time Magazine. Don't get me wrong--it wasn't the failed interview that made me weep. Oh, no. It was the lunch line at a Blimpie's sandwich shop, which was moving too fast for me to intervene before the lineman squirted oil and vinegar all over my salad. I did not want oil and vinegar. I did not want to be pushed along by the next person's tray into the cash register with a dripping, fatty mass of lettuce. I did not want to pay an exorbitant price for a fast food I didn't care to eat. Still, I fumbled through a wallet full of change in search of an elusive nickel while the pressure from the growing crowd bore into my right hip. All I wanted was to slow the goddamn down.

So, today in the window of a midtown salon, I saw a sign...

To Be Continued

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


My status as a lapsed Catholic does not preclude me from milking the Lenten ideals of sacrifice and personal growth for all they're worth. To that end, I will be posting on this blog every day for the next forty. It's sort of a self-imposed NaBloPoMo, only without the prizes that I never win anyway. This time around the incentive is my desire to be a better writer, a more disciplined craftsperson, and a more reflective thinker.

Oh, and Peeps. There will be lots of Peeps at the end. Hard Peeps, exposed to the air and solidified into a carnival of stale sugar.

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Market Price

This is where our family started almost three years ago, in an old Cape that has been housing beginnings for more than two centuries.

We brought our daughter home on a hot July day to a backyard barbecue with friends.

In the spare-room-turned-nursery, she had a place of her own (not that she used it for the first four months).

The seasons changed, and we stayed warm in the cold.

We read books.

The house was never clean.

Today we put our house on the market. I'm boxing up our old beginnings and putting them in storage until they can merge with the new. Life is tidier in this holding pattern.

So we wait.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


February does not inspire me. There aren't many pages on the calendar that do, but this miserable mini-month is by far the worst.

I bought The Partner socks and corduroys for Valentine's Day. It is just occurring to me now how ridiculous that is. We have known each other for almost ten of these romance-centric holidays and it's come to this. Yet, I'm too lethargic to do anything more than note the absurdity.

Last night I retired to the bedroom in hopes of receiving an inaugural rub-down with the massage oil The Partner purchased, much more thoughtfully than I, for the occasion of the day. I sat up in bed while he removed the tags and stickers from his cords as if mired in mid-winter molasses. He threw them away. He bent over to pick up random debris that had escaped the garbage can. He plodded about the room, removing clothing and accessories and putting everything in its God damn rightful place. I thought of spontaneity and urgency. My face fell. I yawned. He lumbered over to the alarm clock, so pokey.

My head hit the pillow and, well, you can guess the rest. I came back to consciousness this morning with skin that was most decidedly unsupple, and a couple other unsatisfied organs to boot.

I have nothing to say. I have no thoughts in my head. I live in New England and it's February.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sneak Peek

Warning: If you are married to me, DO NOT LOOK ANY FURTHER! Tear your eyes away from the screen, NOW!

Okay, hopefully we're alone, dear Internets. Here is a sneak peek at the Valentine's Day card I created for The Partner. I cannot take credit for the quote, as it is one he coined himself.

Click here for the link.

Some say the official Valentine's Day holiday is superfluous, and that every relationship should be filled with an entire year's worth of loving celebration.

To them, I say "kiss this."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

July Fifth at the Family Fold Redux

For the past several months, I've been participating in what's become a happy tradition--the Blog Exchange. It's that time of the month when my regular readers (all four of them) invariably start to wonder what kind of schizophrenic spell has overtaken me and my writing style. The BE is the brainchild of Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored, who describes it as a place "where blog authors can stretch their writing muscles, discuss and debate timely topics, and gain new readers by placing their post on someone else's blog."

However, after speaking with a few of my friends-turned-readers, I've discovered that not everyone follows the whole "exchange" concept through to the end. They'll read the entry on my blog, but won't click on the link that brings them to the site where they can find my own guest post. To that end, I have decided to repost my latest BE entry right here on home cyber turf. If you've already read it, please excuse the redundancy--but feel free to comment on what you think about the whole BE concept.

And now, reprinted with my own permission:

July Fifth at the Family Fold

The writers challenge:
Write a post in the voice/style of a famous person (actor, singer, author, whatever). It can be a hot topic, current issue, or just a regular old post.

The readers challenge:
To guess the identity of the famous person

June’s smile was a gaping halo of summertime. She lit me up. I remember that night at the Grand Ole Opry when I told her I’d always wanted to meet her. She said, “I feel like I know you already.” I took her by the hand and she was warm, not hot like the Hell we went through after that.

My sky is June-blue. It’s wide open beyond the hewn beams of the Fold. The clouds take the shape of signs that I’m not alone, not unlovable. Once she said she was ashamed to tell me that she felt it from the very beginning, when I wasn’t hers to love. Then, I was afraid to say it, too. But the fire was there. She wrote about it in a song and the shame turned to pride.

I sang it today. I was hoarse beforehand. I’ve been surprised lately by how old and tired I feel. I swigged some water and apologized. I heard “it’s okay,” and other murmurings. One lady called out to me. She said, “You don’t have to even sing.”

“I don’t?” I looked up and smiled. “Okay.”

They laughed, all of them. And my fingers found the strings. I sang June’s song.

I thank God for June. I love her with all my heart.

It’s July now, and she’s gone.

Monday, February 05, 2007

When a House is Not a Home

The wind in my house-selling and -hunting sails has been cut by The Partner's declaration that "it doesn't matter how nice of a house we buy--it's still going to look like a slum once you move in."

I've mentioned before that I'm not the neatest person. Housekeeping is not in my bag of tricks. I leave dishes in the sink overnight. The laundry turns into a moutainous load. Piles of outgrown clothing litter The Boss's bedroom. But I wouldn't call our house a slum. I would call it a place that takes a few hours to make presentable when we have guests over.

Of course, it didn't help my case any when he awoke this morning, after going to sleep mad, to find that he had no fresh boxers to wear.

The good thing about selling a house is that the showings will force me to keep our home in a constant state of clean. There will be no piles of used or unused items. There will be nary a dust ball in sight. The vacuum cleaner and Swiffer Wet Mop will get more use in three months than they've gotten in three years. I've already started boxing up superfluous kitsch and resigning it to the basement.

But the fear is that I'll return to my own devices once we move into a new home. The Partner asks, with good reason, why he can't expect to live out every day in the kind of clutter-free environment that guests see when they come over. But housekeeping, for me, is like exercising and writing. Even though I know all three acts are essential to my well-being and full of rewards, I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to carry them out. If I have to do any of those things, I will, but if I have the luxury of putting them off, well, I'll do that, too.

If it wasn't for this latest altercation involving my lazy slum-making characteristics, The Partner and I would be approaching the forth day in a row without fighting. For a couple that hasn't been able to string together two harmonic days in two years, that would've been quite a feat. But now we're back in the same old boat.

I'm beginning to think that pointing that old boat in the direction of a new home isn't going to change anything, and not just because I'm too lazy to paddle.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Red Retrospective

These are the compiled posts about Red, a woman I first wrote about six months back. There are more related posts to come, I'm sure, but for now I'll step back into the archives for a little Red Retrospective.

80s Flashback

In Bed

The Funeral*

And in case anyone is interested in some slightly more up-to-date information, I am happy to report that Red is going to be a grandmother. How time does fly.

*Since this one was guest posted on another blog as part of the Blog Exchange, I decided to change names to protect the innocent.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Llamas and Limos

The writers challenge: Write a post in the voice/style of a famous person (actor, singer, author, whatever). It can be a hot topic, current issue, or just a regular old post.

The readers challenge: To guess the identity of the famous person, plus an extra gold star on your sticky chart if you can correctly identify all 12 words and/or phrases that are directly linked to this star.


We passed the 6 month mark a few weeks ago and I feel like I am getting into the groove of this parenting malarkey now, and actually feel like a proper mum not just someone pretending to be one. I spent the first few months convinced that someone would out me as an impostor or child abductor as they stood outside the baby changing room in the supermarket listening to the string of expletives coming from under the door as I fumbled with nappy fastenings and knocked the contents of the diaper bag flying everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fairly common occurrence, I just know now that these things happen to everyone not just me and I’m fairly confident that we will get through the next 6 months and live to tell the story.

Looking back over the last 6 months is really heart warming as the mind plays its old trick and edits out the horrible bits just leaving you with the memories to cherish. I do vaguely remember being curled up in the corner sobbing silently, not daring to move a muscle in case the god damn infernal thing started crying again, wishing for someone to come along and rescue me; but those memories are very hazy and have a not-quite-believable quality to them now.

Looking forwards over the next 6 months is still quite frightening when thoughts turn to the bumps and bruises and running around after her that learning to crawl properly and then walk is going to entail and travelling to England with her alone to visit my family is a terrify prospect. Although the frightening parts about the holiday centre more around the fact that I am taking actual time out of my life in this beautiful place to go to grotty old England – not quite the beach holiday on La Isla Bonita I have been dreaming about but you can’t have everything I guess, and she would only eat the bleeding sand and then spend the rest of the day crying with a tummy bug, so England is probably a better option.

Also coming up in about 5.5 months will be the first birthday party! Like a virgin children’s party planner that I am, I have been day dreaming (yes even at this early stage) pleasant things about who will be there and what we will do and have had my mind blown by the idea that Little Moo will be big enough to eat a piece of her own birthday cake, however, after reading a bit about children’s parties, I thank my lucky star that we don’t live in America, Hawaii in particular, as it has been flagged by as the highest ranking community of extreme pressure when it comes to planning and throwing birthday parties for your children.

The website tell of horror stories of a $250,000 birthday party in Florida for a 7-year old girl, with limos, an adult party with alcohol, the grand ballroom for the kids, helicopter rides, horses, and wild animals; a one year olds party in a Minnesota community with 60 guests where the gift opening took two hours and the party infant slept through most of it and a mother who worked hard to plan a nice at-home party for her eight year old daughter, who announced at the end, “It just wasn’t magic enough.”

No way is Little Moo going to become such a material girl; I’d have spanked her little ass from here to the end of the road and back again for a comment like that. When I was a kid (how to make yourself feel old with just 4 little words) we didn’t have much money and a birthday party meant inviting a handful of your friends over to play games like musical bumps and pass the parcel, the goody bag had a slice of home made cake and a couple of penny sweets in it and the only animal entertainment we had was watching the cat chase the dog around the garden not cougars, llamas and such. Christ, my father would turn in his grave (if he was actually dead that is, which he isn’t) at the thought of so much money going to waste on a bunch of spoilt kids that wouldn’t remember it in a few weeks. Well its OK papa, don’t preach, I have no intention of joining the people that throw these in-vogue parties, I might be borderline crazy, but even I’m not that insane.

Although I do like the idea of the separate adult party with alcohol…and a few llamas couldn’t hurt I suppose.

Yes, I am joking.

About the llamas that is.

If you think I’m going to spend a couple of hours in the company of 6 or 7 small people and a bucket full of E numbers and stay sober, you’ve got another thing coming.
- Guest posted for the Blog Exchange by Heather

When not chasing reindeer out of my garden, being chased over our farm by cows or servicing the needs of our 6 month old tyrant, Little Moo, I can usually be found at my blog, Surviving Motherhood, which is where you will find Binky, your usual hostess with the most-ess, today as we partake in this months Blog Exchange.

For more info on The Blog Exchange and to read this month's other blog exchange posts, click here.