Thursday, August 28, 2008

Please Pass the Breast Milk

We are sitting at the dinner table as The Boss forks pork chop and peas into her mouth with agonizing slowness. She talks more than she eats, a fact that stretches out dinnertime by a good hour on a nightly basis. She chews, she swallows, and she licks the residue from the corners of her mouth. Then she speaks.

"Why don't men have milk in their boobs?"

The Partner and I grin at each other from where we sit before The Boss. I remain mute long enough to indicate that he's going to have to take this one.

"Because men aren't designed to have babies and feed them. But women are."

The Boss nods her understanding. The up-and-down shake of her head is deliberate. Her mind processes information the same way her back teeth grind down pork to a swallowable squish--with the utmost thoroughness. But she's still only three years old. There are some concepts that elude her. She doesn't know about time, for instance: how fast it goes, and that it stops for no one.

"When I grow older and my boobs get bigger," she says, "I can feed my brother."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Random Notes from the Dentist's Chair

The hygienist pulled a file from a tray that gleamed the silver shine of something sterile and applied it--with quick, cursory strokes--to the tip of the dental pick. When she took the instrument to my teeth, sweeping the metal just under my gums, my eyes shut into a grimace that pulled my cheeks with it. I widened my jaw to counteract the scrunch.

As she worked on my teeth and more than likely rehearsed the ol' "perhaps it's time you acknowledged the existence of dental floss" lecture in her head, I was left to my own mental devices. This is what I thought as I lay there with a bloddy, gaping maw: I would rather get weekly pap smears than go through this crap twice a year.

If flossing is the answer, it's not an easy one. I mean, do I even know anyone who flosses? The Partner doesn't. My parents don't. I saw a lot of things amidst the communal indiscretion of dorm living during my college days, but flossing wasn't among them. I can only come up with one friend that I know for sure used to floss on a daily basis (while watching television, no less)--but she is now the mother of infant triplets and I have to wonder how she could possibly find a spare minute, let alone the requisite amount of energy, to suck on tooth string once every 24 hours. If I'm wrong, I hope she'll comment below. I may very well be wrong. The girl is shockingly disciplined.

When the dentist came in to poke around the hygienist's handiwork in an effort to at least make it look like he was doing something to earn the $300/hour being billed to my insurance company, he told me I really work my jaw like a pro. Okay, he didn't use those exact words, but I'm sure I'm not flattering myself too much. What he said was, "you're the ideal patient, the way you hold your mouth open so wide."

That's not what he tells all the girls, is it?

Monday, August 25, 2008


Jocelyn, a beautiful writer with a beautiful son and a beautiful husband and a whole bunch of beautiful stories to her credit (if you think I'm overdoing the beautifuls, just go to her site and try to tell me I'm wrong) tagged me for a meme asking participants to create a memoir in six words.

Here's mine:

This stoic New Englander laughs anyway.

Photo by Lauren

For some more six word memoirs--some haunting, some funny, some obscure--go here.

And to do my memely duty, I'm passing it along to Mrs. Chicken, Amy at Binkytown, Lauren at Memoir, Fitz and/or Duff at My Mom Genes, and jen at one plus two. There's something about this meme that really intrigues me. I can't wait to see how each of you spins your own six word yarn.

1. Write a six-word memoir.

2. Post it to your blog, maybe with a pic.

3. Link to the person who tagged you

4. Tag a few folks

5. Leave a comment for them with an invite to play.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Chicken Nugget

You can find me over at Chicken and Cheese, where I am guest posting for Mrs. Chicken. She had herself a baby boy just a couple weeks ago. The two of us are now situational sisters, both raising a pre-school girl and an infant boy while building a freelance writing career. I'm happy to have such a talented, sensitive and funny woman to share the experience with.

If you aren't familiar with her site, take some time to look around when you get there. Chicken and Cheese is an eat-in establishment. A drive-thru just wouldn't do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

The Partner walked out of the house this morning on his way to work with a purple umbrella tucked under his arm. "I'm going toleave this in your car because it's supposed to rain today."

It was a sweet, protective gesture on its face. I think I swooned a bit. But it was early, and my mind was still cloudy. Things became clearer When I really started to think about the underlying meaning.

This is what raingear says about my general level of competence in any given situation: Not only do I not know enough to come in out of the rain, but I'm incapable of remembering my own umbrella.

On the bright side, The Boss always remembers her umbrella.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The White Trash Mom Handbook

The White Trash Mom Handbook by Michelle Lamar with Molly Wendland actually has very little to do with being white or trashy. If you find that fact disappointing, the WTMH is probably not for you. But if you enjoy a bit of tackiness more as a literary conceit than a literal comparison, read on.

Being a White Trash Mom as Lamar describes it is accepting the fact that you can't do it "all." It's about embracing your imperfections and having a little fun with them. The book is based on the premise that today's society pressures parents to be perfect, leading mere mortal mothers to fight for the unobtainable Supermom status. It's a losing battle with an imaginary foe. You're not perfect, and neither is anyone else.

Right now my oldest child, aged 3, is about to start nursery school. The WTMH tells me that parenting in pre-school is bush-league compared to the K-12 years of professional bullshit. That's a scary concept, because I'm already getting inklings that even pre-school politics are outside my comfort zone. I have a lot to learn from the White Trash Moms.

Some key things I discovered are:

1) Brown-nosing your children's teachers is crucial. They can make your kids' lives much easier if they have the motivation to do so. Give them presents. Donate school supplies. Volunteer to help cut out shapes for that activity or to collect and organize all those General Mills Box Tops. Your children will thank you (probably not literally, but the sentiment will shine through).

2) It's important to be true to yourself and your morals, but know that a certain degree of conformity (or the illusion of such) is necessary if you don't want your children to have to deal with the re-percussions of their mom marching to the beat of her own drummer. It's all about working the system from the inside--from fake-baking for the holiday party (caramel squares melted over fork-smushed, store-brought brownies to create that all important homemade look) to picking the volunteer duty with the best return on your investment.

3) One should never, ever (Lamar used 26 ever's to drive this point home) confront the parents of a child who is bullying your own. "For the most part," Lamar writes, "kids who are jerks have parents who are jerks."

The White Trash Mom Handbook is not about maneuvering your way around the trailer park, barefoot with a bump. It's about navigating the school yard as a parent. I heard about the book through the Parent Bloggers Network, and I'm glad I did.


Last week The Boss honed her networking skills while on vacation in Acadia National Park. She made friends everywhere she went. The fact that she is so gregarious and charming never ceases to amaze me. I did not exhibit those traits as a child, and it's such non-familiarity that makes my daughter seem so much more strange and wonderful to me.

At dinner on a deck in Bar Harbor, The Boss walked up to a girl who appeared to be right around her age.

"What's your name?" The Boss inquired.

"Hannah," the girl replied.

"Hi, Hannah," said The Boss. Then she went on to engage Hannah in a conversation about several of the most recent things to catch her fancy, including the life sized whale perched behind the restaurant at which we were eating. "Did you see that fank whale back there? Mom and dad said I can go touch it after we eat." Fank, in case you were wondering, is three-year-old-speak for fake.

"That's not a fank whale," said three-and-a-half-year-old Hannah, calling upon the six months of experience she had on The Boss. "It's a sculpture."

The Boss was all agreement. "Yes, yes. A sculpture." They went on like that for more than ten minutes as The Partner and I watched, transfixed. At that moment in time, on a warm deck in Maine while the sun shone on a high tide, I was sure I had never been better entertained in any of my thirty years. The best things in life are ones first experienced, and everything about the scene was new. From what The Boss saw and discussed with Hannah to the way we hung on their every word, there was no room for the jaded.

Later, atop Cadillac Mountain, The Boss held onto her father's hand as the two of them tromped over flat rocks toward the ocean view. She was prepared for what we had promised her would be an amazing sight. Squeezing his knuckles with baby-soft reassurance, The Boss looked up at The Partner.

"I'll keep my blue eyes open so I don't miss the scenery," she said.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Change of Heart

This is a ridiculous story. I was once playing Donkey Kong on the Intellivision with my father around the time that such a game console was popular. It was my father's turn, and he made it all the way up to Donkey Kong only to be crushed by a barrel right at the big ape's feet. It was an understandable mistake; not realizing he had one last ladder to climb, he thought he'd already beaten the round.

I was a sensitive child. That's the only explanation. With dad's game ended, he asked if I wanted to play. I said no. Then I went to my room and cried because my poor father hadn't known that the game wasn't over. I thought my father knew everything. I was moved to tears because he didn't.

I'm thinking about that today because I still hate the idea of my father facing disappointment, or the unknown, or fear. The lesson I first learned from Donkey Kong has only been reinforced as I've grown. My father is human. It's a strange understanding to have as someone's child--knowing that while I can control my own emotions, I am powerless when it comes to his.

My dad went in today for a cardioversion, which is an electrical shock to re-set the heart so the heart's natural pacemaker can take over. His first appointment earlier this week was cut short when it was shown that the medication used to thin his blood had not thinned it enough to reduce the risk of stroke associated with the procedure. So he went back in today. I'm still waiting to hear how it went.

I get all tight in the windpipe area just thinking about it. And, yes, I still think it's ridiculous that my first premonition of that feeling came in highly pixelated form on an old, wood-paneled console channeling Intellivision.