Monday, March 30, 2009

Questionable Parenting Decisions

We've all made them, right? Help a girl out here. Lie if you have to.

A week or so ago I let Bear, who is 12, see a PG-13 movie at a sleepover. "Knowing" with Nicolas Cage, to be exact. I haven't let her see many PG-13s yet, so I did the conscientious mom thing and checked online to see why it had the PG-13 rating. It looked suspenseful, with some action movie style violence, and some language (nothing she doesn't hear around here when Mom cuts herself chopping onions). I was mostly concerned about sexual content, and I didn't see any mention of that, so I gave permission.



She later confessed that she watched half of the movie with her hands over her eyes, and the other half with her hands over her ears when it got loud. Despite this, she swore up and down when she got home that she loved it and that it was "the best movie ever." She described the plot in excruciating detail over and over again, popping out from unpacking her overnight bag to say, "Oh, yeah, there was also this part where...." I took this to mean that, though she'd been scared, it was more of the Pleasantly Freaked Out variety than the Emotionally Scarred for Life variety.

Silly me.

Fast forward to a few nights past, when the plot points and images had had awhile to marinate in her overactive imagination. I woke from a dead sleep with an awareness that something was off. Groggy from sleep, I wasn't able to place a finger on what was wrong until I started to sit up and heard a small voice behind me say,

"Hi, Mom. I thought I'd just lay with you guys for awhile."

I turned to see Bear lying on top of the covers between Daddy Shortbread and me. She had a Webkinz (well-known protectors against evil?) clutched to her chest. I walked her back to her room, and she seemed content to climb into her own bed with a kiss on the cheek and assurances that everything was fine. I'd been back in bed for about twenty seconds when I heard her footfalls again in the hall.

She thought she'd sleep on the couch. Was that OK? Yes. Go to sleep.

(two minutes later): No, the couch was even freakier. She was going to get a drink. Fine. You don't need to tell me. Just go to bed.

(two minutes later): Of course, it was still pretty dark in her room, and there was a strong possibility that there were floating faces in her closet. No faces in the closet, Bear. Here, I'll get you a nightlight.

(45 seconds later): Did I know that sometimes nightlights make weird shadows? Some of them look a lot like faces. Bear. You're killing me. You really are. Please, for the love of God, go to bed. I wil take personal responsibility for any and all floating faces.


The next day, as I was driving her to dance rehearsal, we passed the movie theater.

Bear: Oh, Mom, look! "Knowing" is still playing! I really want you to go see that with me. It was the best movie ever.

She was completely baffled when I told her that there was no way AT ALL ever even if she gave me a million skillion dollars that I would take her to see that movie again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The first crocus of spring:
Thank goodness. It's been a long winter.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Not So Much TGIF as Thank God I Survived the Week

Things That Made This Morning Suck - in crescendoing order:

1. Having the stomach flu.

2. Crappy night's sleep, in which I thought a serial killer was tapping on the window because a creepy dude selling meat out of his truck came to my door yesterday.

3. Finally waking up from said crappy night to discover that the tapping sound was actually freezing rain hitting the window. Toss-up as to whether or not this was any improvement over the serial killer.

4. Making Daddy Shortbread's coffee while having stomach flu because I was grateful he was taking the girls to school for me. He was in the shower, and I wanted to do something nice for him. However, coffee (normally my life's blood) smells like retch to me when I'm sick.

5. Cue the cat. Who retches. On the carpet, of course.

6. Clean up cat retch and try to hold my breath and avert eyes. Difficult to effectively clean this way. Succumb to dry heaves.

Bear (a.ka. World's Most Sensitive Person to All Things Vomit-Related): Moooom, can you stop doing that? You're grossing me out, and I'm trying to eat!

Me (in the manner of Bill the Cat): I'm - ack- not- oop, ACK - trying to!

7. Hear large splashing sound and "oops" from Bug, who was in the kitchen. Pull self together to investigate. Notice enormous family-size jug of juice has fallen out of the fridge and come open because Certain People (*cough* Bear *cough*) like to just slap the lid on without actually screwing it on. Lake Cranberry-Pomegranate is spreading like a tsunami across the linoleum. Consider crying. Clean it up instead.

On the extreme upside of stomach flu, my week's diet of tea and toast seems to have had the anticipated result of Bonus Weight Loss! Suck on THAT, Dr. Atkins.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oh Yeah, That's Why I Keep Them

I've been under the weather, gastrointestinally speaking, the last few days. This evening after my shower, I walked into my bedroom to find Bug's stuffed giraffe (Dr. David), fully dressed in his surgical scrubs, lying on my bed. Beside him was a note:

Dear Mom,
I hope you feel better.

Now come on, you've got to admit... that's seriously freaking adorable.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Attention Telemarketers

I have instructed my children to tell you that yes, their mother is home, but unfortunately she only speaks the African clicking language. If you still insist on talking to me, I will get on the phone and click at you until you hang up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Irritating the Local Wildlife

This weekend we continued the prepping of the Formerly Glitter Popcorn Ceiling (soon to be the Yummy Smooth White Ceiling). We scraped, sponged, vacuumed, and stain-sealed in mind-numbing rotation. It was the very definition of thankless.

While I was "taking a break from working" (i.e., looking for an excuse to stand around and do nothing for awhile), I decided to photograph the action at the birdfeeder. We've had a lot more birdsong around here in the mornings, and the feeders have been hopping as spring approaches.

Chickadees have always been one of my favorite feeder visitors. They're just so darn teeny and cute. Maisy the cat also seems to have a fondness for them, but I think it's less about the cute and more about the crunchy. Lucky for them, she's an indoor cat.
I think this little dude just noticed me. He's giving me the beady eyeball.
"Nothing to see here. Nothing. To. See. Just looking at my little birdie toes. Move along, please."
"Why are you still here?"
Yep, he's onto me.
Look at him getting all ruffled and badass with his itty-bitty self."You. Woman. With the enormous black plastic thing attached to your eye. Don't you have work to do?"
Isn't he just precious when he's pissed off?Oh, look how cute! Now he's giving me the little birdie cold shoulder. Or is it cold wing? I have no idea what's PC in this situation.
"You are dead to me. But please continue to fill the cylinder with seed."

My work here is done. Back to the ceiling.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Standardized Testing: As Much Fun As You Remember

For the past two weeks, my kids have been having standardized testing at school. TWO WEEKS of standardized tests. Why not just pull their toenails off with pliers and be done with it?

At Bug's second trimester conference this week, her third grade teacher handed Daddy Shortbread and I a sheet of paper with gaily colored apples, crayons, and school buses around the margin.

"I had the students write a letter to their parents about their experience taking the MEA test," she told us, "This is Bug's."

Dear Mom & Dad,
MEAs are soooooo not fun! Did you do them when you were in school? Probably not. I have to admit, the math section was easiest but both sections were pretty easy. Even though it's not as bad as Bear told me it would be, it isn't something to look forward to. The thing that really stinks is that we only get a calculator when we don't really need it and when we do need it, they aren't allowed.

She also shared with us a small piece Bug had written about trying to play ball with our cat but failing because the ball kept getting lost in Maisy's stomach fat.

Also an essay Bug wrote on My Favorite Toy, which described a game on her Nintendo DS in excruciating, three page detail. (Of course my kid had to pick a video game as her favorite toy, making me look like the Worst Mother Ever). I weakly mentioned that she doesn't play many video games once the weather turns nicer, but the teacher just smiled blandly at me, probably having heard that from hundreds of parents. (She doesn't! I swear!)

I guess I'd better step up my game around here, lest a certain short, judgmental writer decide to "share" anymore at school. Yikes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


My best friend and I were in a car accident last week. A car of teenagers flew through a red light and t-boned my friend's van. The driver of the other car broke her wrist, but still found the energy to leap out of her crappy turquoise car and start screaming at my friend, "You ran the red light!"

As if. I guess that means that all of the other driver sitting patiently at the traffic light going the same direction as the teenage missile were mistaken? Or coincidentally all from a country where it's considered a courtesy to stop at green lights?

We were lucky not to have any injuries, although my friend's van had to be towed to a repair shop. Because none of the third-party witnesses bothered to call the police or stop to check if we were OK, my friend will likely have to pay her full deductible. The police cannot declare either party at fault unless they (the cop) actually witnessed the accident.

My friend and I have totally opposite reactions in times of stress. In the minutes following the crash, she sobbed and was unable to say anything but, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!" I felt completely calm and tried to talk soothingly to her, especially when she began to shake all over, as if she were in shock. I called 911 and gathered her insurance and registration from the glove compartment for the police. By the time her husband arrived, about half an hour later, she was still shaky and upset. I felt eerily calm and rational.

By mid-afternoon, she was back to normal, phoning insurance agents, arranging a rental car, and starting to get royally pissed over the whole situation. I found myself imagining a succession of "what ifs" and became suddenly paralyzed with fear. Thank God the kids weren't with us...thank God she wasn't going faster...thank God we weren't hit into oncoming traffic...

Even now, a week later, I am unnaturally wary about driving. I find myself panicky when a driver out in front of me, even when there's plenty of room. A flash of color in my peripheral vision makes me break out in a cold sweat. I create excuses not to drive across town, when normally I would welcome the chance to get out of the house.

This, too, shall pass, right?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gearing Up For Bathing Suit Season

Because of the age of my kids and my inability to refrain from bodysurfing when confronted with nice crashy waves, it's an unavoidable fact that I will be forced to appear publicly in a bathing suit within the next three months. The early signs of spring outside my window have prodded me from yoga-panted comfort and general sloth into full-blown Panic Mode. With newfound resolve and verve, I am BACK on TRACK with exercise!

Check it out:

1. Do 30 minutes of Wii Fit Yoga.

2. Feel very proud and bendy afterward.

3. Bake chocolate cake layered with whipped cream and strawberries. Serve generous hunks for dessert. Strawberries are fruit, so this doesn't really count as dessert.

1. Do 45 minutes of abs and upper-body weights.

2. Revel in soreness of arm muscles. Fancy that I can already see some improved definition.

3. Bake double batch of chocolate chip muffins "for the children." Sample two for my evening snack along with a glass of milk. Calcium is important.

1. Take 45 minute exercise walk despite the 20 degree temperature.

2. Feel virtuous.

3. Whip up batch of homemade granola with extra coconut and pecans. Everyone knows granola is health food.

Does anyone spot a theme here??

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Maine: Infinitesimally More Interesting With Leaves.

A couple of weeks ago, in the spirit of get-me-OUT-of-this-God-forsaken-house-before-I-start-killing-people, I suggested that we take a Sunday drive. I knew that a big storm was scheduled to begin its snow dumpage that night, and so help me, if I was going to be stuck inside tomorrow, then I was getting out today. Absolutely anywhere would suit me just fine. It was the "out" part that most concerned me; the details were just gravy. But ideally, our route should intersect with a Starbucks at some point. Ooh, and lunch at some random diner. That would be nice, too. Bug and Bear were initially suspicious of a plan to go for an indefinite drive. They wanted to know where? (Don't know. Around.) For how long? (Don't know. Awhile - bring stuff to do in the car.) They attempted a little preemptive whining, but must have spied the crazy lurking in my eyes because they didn't put much effort into it and eventually wandered off to locate their iPods and DS's.

In the car, they decided to share earbuds and listen to an audio book on Bug's iPod with shockingly little sibling bickerment. There was even some ceremonial sharing of Tic-Tacs. Daddy Shortbread and I quirked an eyebrow at each other but wisely did not comment. That whole catch-them-being-good thing really only works when they're little. At this age, within three seconds of my saying, "I'm so proud of how well you two are getting along!" they feel compelled to stage a skirmish just on principle.
I love the old red brick buildings that line the main streets of most towns here. You miss a lot of the architerctural detail when you're cruising by in your car, but I made Daddy Shortbread slow way down, so I could snap a few appreciative shots.

Sometime in the noonish hour, we pulled into a small diner in Is This Even a Town?, Maine. We enjoyed a modest lunch (for the love of all things culinary, NEVER order the chicken marsala at a diner - stick to the grilled cheese and fries) while attended to by a waitress who was long on charm but somewhat disconcertingly short on teeth.

The drive accomplished its goal of getting us out, but I couldn't help trying to picture the mournful, bare countryside as it will look once the trees leaf out. There is a subtle beauty in wintry fields and trees, but by March I'm done with subtlety and ready for the blatant, in-your-face display of Spring. Come on, baby...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not Quite Ready

For several weeks now, I've been suspecting that Bug may be catching on to the whole Santa/Easter Bunny charade. She's nine, and kids talk at that age. She's certainly heard the theories by now. Last night, I decided to launch a small fishing expedition with the feeling that if she asks me point-blank, I'll tell her the truth.

Me: Are you excited about Easter?

Bug: Yes!

Me: Do you have any questions about Easter?

Bug (frowning): What do you mean?

Me (wondering how the hell you have this conversation): Well, I just wanted you to know that if there's anything you're wondering about, you can ask me.

Bug: Huh. OK.

Me (trying new tack): Are your friends excited for Easter?

Bug: Yep. (pauses) Of course...(long, thoughtful pause) some of them don't believe in the Easter Bunny.

Me (a-ha!): Really?

Bug: Do you believe?

Me (nodding vaguely, not making eye contact)

Bug: 'Cause sometimes I wonder...I doesn't make sense that a huge rabbit brings candy all over the world, does it?

Me: Hmm.

Bug: Some of my friends think their parents get up in the middle of the night and put the candy in their baskets.

Me: And what do you think?

Bug (very decisively): I think it's a man in a rabbit suit.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What Serves For Pillow Talk Around Here

Scene: Daddy Shortbread and I have just turned off the bedroom lights. We are both exhausted after a crappy week and grateful to be at that part of the day where it's dark, and you are no longer required to do anything other than sleep.

Also? In addition to my standard two cups of coffee in the morning, I had a grande latte around 3:00.

And a Diet Coke with dinner.

I was TIRED. I still had four hours of awake time ahead of me. It was practically medicinal.

Have I ever mentioned that caffeine late in the day makes me slightly paranoid? Really no big deal. Just thought I'd mention it.


Me (suddenly alert): Hey, did you hear that?

Daddy Shortbread (who knows me well): Yes. It was nothing.

Me: It sounded like one of the cats. Did you put them downstairs? (We put them in Cat Jail aka Our Family Room overnight, as they are wont to do things like frolic on our heads at 2:30 am).

DS: Yes.

Me: And shut the door?

DS (possibly growling): Yesss.

Me: If you're sure... (letting my voice trail off doubtfully)

DS: I'm. Sure.

Me: Oh. Because I'd hate to call 911 and have it be the cat again.

(Remind me to tell you this story sometime).

DS (pretending to sleep):

Me (listening intently): Hey, I know you're not sleeping.

DS: You're not calling 911. There's no way an intruder got into the dining room in the three minutes between me turning off the light and coming to bed.

Me (really getting freaked out): Oh, my God. I hadn't even thought of an intruder!

DS: Well, what the hell did you think it was?

Me (truly freaked out): A cat ghost.


Me (defensively): It sounded EXACTLY like a cat jumping from the dining room table onto the floor.

DS (rolling over): Good night.

Me: But now I'm thinking about intruders. I can't fall asleep.


Me: I need to you to get up and check the snow outside the window for footprints.

DS (gets up irritably and pretends to peer through window slat): Nothing.

Me: You weren't even looking. Do it again, but use the big flashlight.

DS: Wait a minute. Did you have Diet Coke at dinner?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another Snow Day. Oh, Goody.

By March, the novelty of snow days has worn off (for me, at least - my kids are pretty much always on board for sleeping in). Whereas December and January snow days inspired me to whip up homemade pancakes and engineer elaborate art projects with the girls, in March you're more likely to find me huddled in a corner muttering profanities. Quietly, but with great fervor.

We've hit the allotted number of snow days in our school district, meaning that any more days cancelled for snow are tacked on to the end of the school year. And that SUCKS. Schools in Maine are in session until around June 20th anyway, and there have been really snowy years where Maine kids are still in school until July. Frankly, I'd probably be likely to call them in "sick" and head to the beach. Maine summers are short. Use it or lose it.

This Monday was a snow day (as was last Monday!). We got a fresh foot of snow atop the two-ish feet we already had. See my kids trekking up the hill to sled? I was watching them out the window and thought, huh, that doesn't look as deep as I expected. I guess I'll take the camera and go out back with them.

Yeah, funny story here. You know how kids are lighter than adults? A smarter person than me would have realized that perhaps the kids weren't sinking down through all the layers of snow. Whereas I ..*cough* not as light as a kid. I sank all the way down past my knees. Making it kind of hard to lift my legs high enough to take a step without falling down. Especially when you're holding expensive camera equipment. And not wearing gloves.

I may or may not have fallen completely over onto my back and required the kids' help to extricate myself from the backyard snow-impersonating-as-quicksand. It wasn't my proudest moment. The children seemed to enjoy it, though.This is me pretending to be happy that I get to fire up the tractor and snow-blow the driveway. Again. Sigh.
While I began the always-pleasant task of wrestling the tractor with its immense snow-blower attachment out of the garage, the girls migrated to the front yard and declared their intention to build a snow fort. Once I began the actual snow-blowing, though, they abandoned their fort idea for a new game of their invention. Running jerkily through the deep snow of the yard, they followed alongside me down the driveway, getting completely pelted with the snow thrown by the blower. This evolved into flinging themselves facedown in the cushiony drifts and waiting for deluge of snow, then running ahead again and flinging themselves down again. Repeat 126 times. Apparently, this is hilarious.

Far funnier to me was when I finally put the tractor away and took a good look at Bear and Bug. I mean at The Snow Children of Maine. Even Bear's eyelashes were coated in snow a la The White Witch from the Narnia movies. "Don't shake it off!" I ordered and ran for the camera.
"My hood feels heavy," Bear complained, as she turned around to let me take a photo of the backs of their heads. Hmm. I wonder why that would be? Maybe because it's completely packed full of snow?? It was right around this point that Bear caught a glimpse of herself in the camera lens and her amusement with the whole situation started to turn to alarm. Her hands flew to her head, and she whispered, "My hair. It's totally frozen." Really? You think? How mysterious.
She began to try to pull the balls of snow and ice out of her horrifically tangled hair. It wasn't happening. I began to giggle at her consternation, as she kept looking over at me like Do something, you're the mom.

"Arrg! Arrg! It won't come out! How will I get it out?" Bear asked in a slightly hysterical tone, patting frantically at her head at her snow-encased head.
By now I was laughing so hard that my cold-induced asthma kicked in, and though I was trying to tell her that, babe, it's ICE, it melts, and a nice hot shower will take care of it, I couldn't manage to get the words out between the wheezing and the laughing. I finally choked out, "shower" and saw the comprehension and relief dawn on her face.
Bug was equally amused by her sister's distress and her mother's helpless wheezy laughter.

Aren't snow days awesome?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Signs of the Apocalypse

1. I served bison burgers (yep, literally, ground bison) for dinner yesterday. My kids ate them without complaint. OK, so I may not have actually disclosed the fact that they were eating bison per se, but these kids can sniff out a new ingredient, brand, or recipe substitution like cranky, furless bloodhounds. I actually managed to get one by them. This is HUGE.

2. Last night Bear came to me and said, "Mom, would it be OK if I set my alarm to wake up earlier in the morning?" I stifle the wild giggle that erupts at the thought of Bear voluntarily waking up before 6:00 am and manage to answer her sweetly, "Sure, honey, that would be fine." I wait for her to laugh and tell me she's joking, but she calmly leaves and goes into her room. I trail her suspiciously and see her re-setting her alarm.

2. This morning, Bear's alarm goes off a 5:40 am. I hear her turn it off. I doze until 6:00 am when Daddy Shortbread gets up and begins his I Am Not A Morning Person performance piece.

"Hey," I tell him, as he begins the part where he shuffles to the bathroom with his eyes closed, "Stick your head in Bear's room and tell her to start waking up." He leaves, then returns to tell me that her light is on and her door is closed.

Oooh, well-played, Bear! I think, figuring that she woke up long enough to flip on her light and shut the door, thinking that this would con us into thinking she is awake. Ha. I get up and head to her bedroom, knowing I'll find the typical morning scenario of Bear snuggled deep under her comforter, sound asleep and completely resistant to noise, light, or any attempt to rouse her.

Opening her door, I find her completely dressed and sitting on her already-made bed reading a book.

4. For the first time in weeks, none of us are currently sick.