Friday, July 30, 2010

And Now I'm Too Tired To Go On Vacation

Much like you never realize as a kid all the labor your mother goes through to make the holidays happen, you also do not realize that leaving on vacation takes WORK. We're leaving for Ohio tomorrow to hang with my family for awhile, then detouring to Niagara Falls on our way home.

Yeah, that's a 1000 mile road trip. Each way. With kids. One of whom is prone to car sickness. It's going to be a par-TAY.

We had a narrowly averted crisis this morning, when we realized that Tom's laptop has no DVD drive, and mine has no working headphone jack. I.e.: no movies in the car to help the kids pass the time and prevent them from killing each other with fast-food sporks out of boredom. Believe me, I was as upset as they were. Then, in what I can only attribute to a Christmas (in July) miracle, with the kids pleading for me to try the headphone jack one more time, the damn thing suddenly worked. Uncle Awesome swooped in with updated DVD-running software (this probably has a more accurate name), and WE'RE A GO FOR MOVIES IN THE CAR. Yay!

This morning, I've:

-mowed the lawn one last time

-baked road trip cookies (which I realize some of you may consider optional, but I do not)

-baked road trip muffins (see above)

-packed toiletries and medicines

-double-checked the kids' suitcases (so as to ensure that we don't arrive in Ohio only to realize that Child #1 has no underwear and Child #2 has 25 shirts, but only one pair of shorts).

-cleaned the ice-chest in preparation for stocking it with drinks tomorrow

Now I'm actually thinking I might have time to pack my own suitcase, although I'm going to have to evacuate the cat first, who has decided that my suitcase makes the ideal napping spot. Then I'll have to vacuum the cat hair out of it. At which point, I'll probably need to stop and have a cup of coffee.

We leave at 6:00 a.m. We are not morning people. This promises to be just all kinds of fun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


So, uh, the horrific insomnia I wrote about a couple of posts back? That's been keeping me awake, wandering my house and eating pudding cups after midnight for nearly a month now? You know what else has been going on for nearly a month now?

*dying of shame*

I've ... um ... kind of been drinking iced tea by the bucketful. Like almost a pitcher a day.

And I understand that for most of you, this would be a no-brainer connection. Tom had even asked me at one point, as I sat sipping an enormous frosty cup of iced tea at 7:30 pm, if it had caffeine.

"No," I assured him happily, "It's Lipton. All Lipton tea is decaffeinated."

Right? Right? Tell me I'm not alone on this (wrong) assumption. Wasn't their slogan something like "naturally decaffeinated" a few years back?


Well, fine. Suffice it to say that the lack of sleep had become dire enough that I was wracking my brain (and the internet) to figure out what had been keeping me awake at night.

1. Perimenopause/shifting hormonal levels (self diagnosed!)

2. Brain tumor (always a favorite contender)

3. Tom and his creaky C-PAP mask that he wears to sleep (hey, what good is being married if you can't blame random crap on your spouse?)

I don't even know what led me to the cupboard where I keep the tea bags, but as I turned the box over and over in my hands, I do recall thinking You'd think if this stuff was decaffeinated that they would advertise that somewhere on the box. No proudly emblazoned "naturally decaffeinated." Suspicious.

And, oh! There on the back by the nutritional information were the words "This product contains 10 mg. caffeine per 8 fl. oz. serving." I stood there stunned. I felt personally betrayed.

That was three days ago. I've had two really good night sleep since.

1. Early Alzheimer's (what company used to say "naturally decaffeinated"??)
2. Brain Tumor (I don't want to jinx myself by taking it out of the running).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Culture Month (But Pronounced "Culchah" Because It Amuses Me)

A month or so ago, Tom and I had one of those heart-to-heart "State of the Union" marriage talks, where we ramble indiscriminately, but without rancor, about any and all aspects of our married lives.

For example:

Him: What's up with the new weeding style?

Me: Hmm?

Him: The one where you rip them out and leave them in little piles all over the grass and I eventually pick them up a week or two later when they turn brown...?

Me: Ah. I figured I would eventually mow over them with the tractor and mulch 'em up. Sort of like fertilizing the grass but without chemicals.

Him: Please don't.

Me: Noted. Can we address the energetic sucking of breath mints?

Him: They taste better when you oxygenate them during the dissolving process.

Me: By sucking them like an old person sucking on their dentures?

Him: Oh. OK, then. I'll work on it.

Me: Appreciated.

The one thing we both agreed on is that we both miss the cultural activities we used to attend when we lived in bigger towns. It's not that those opportunities don't exist in Maine, but you have to be a little more assertive in searching them out. We decided to make that a new priority.

In the past two weeks, we've attended:

*2 end-of-session concerts at Bear's band camp (obviously we would have gone to these anyway, but they were really amazingly good and deserve mention)
*three classical concerts at a nearby college
*"Chicago" at the Maine State Music Theatre

And we're looking into tickets to see the Broadway touring company of "Spamalot" when they come through this fall.

Surprise Side Effects of OPERATION CULCHAH:

1. Bug is now obsessed with taking cello lessons. When we sat down at one of the concerts, she popped right back up out of her seat and demanded that I switch seats with her because she "couldn't see the cello." We're looking into lessons.

2. Bear, three year adherent of the jeans/shorts and t-shirt dress code, is suddenly passionately into dresses.

3. Bug spent Saturday uploading 306 classical pieces onto her iPod. After playing them in her room for several hours, she reports that classical music "calms the cats."

4. I got to buy new shoes. Score.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Yeah, I'm still yammering on about the pond. People, I LOVES IT. Like, ridiculously so. I like the way it looks, like buying cute little water plants to float in it, like sitting on the porch listening to the waterfall, like arranging rocks around it. It completes me. For now, anyway. Until I think up a new project/obsession.
You can imagine my delight when I discovered that the pond had acquired its first voluntary resident the other day. I'm not counting the minnows we caught and dumped in. For all I know, it's like Guantanomo Pond to them. This little guy came on purpose.

Meet Leonard:
Leonard's about two inches long and already has staked out a favorite spot right by the waterfall. We think he's ridiculously cool, and even Tom has been delightedly spouting things like," If you build it, they will come." We're easily amused around here.

Yesterday, Bug and I went out to toss some fish food into the pond and see if we could spot Leonard, when she said, "Look! There's another one." The dark blob on one of my water plants that I'd dismissed as a leaf turned out to be another frog.

His name is Emmett, and at four inches long, he could absolutely take Leonard in a frog fight.

Frogparazzi: Bear was mid-facial, but rushed outside to meet our new resident anyway.
We don't get out much.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I have always been a champion sleeper. I excel at:
-Falling Asleep Instantly
-Sleeping Regardless of Actually Laying Down
-Ability to Stay Asleep for Ten Hours (Unless Prodded by Offspring to Make Breakfast)

No, I'm not narcileptic, which, inconvenience aside, would be a cool and obscure diagnosis I could use to impress people. Rats.

On a typical night, I tend to wake up several times a night, listen for restless children or serial killers who may have wandered into the house, then roll over and fall instantly back asleep. Lately? Not so much with the falling back asleep part. I've been going to bed, falling asleep with my usual élan, only to awake an hour and a half later in a state of what I can only describe as WIDETHEFUCKAWAKE. (Apologies to those of you with delicate sensibilities; there is simply no other description which conveys the exact shade of wakefulness I experience).

After a night or two laying in bed watching the minutes, then hours tick away without a hint of drowsiness., I began to wonder if this was no fluke, but the new normal. If so, the new normal sucks.

The third night, I began to wonder What do people do to make themselves sleepy? Warm milk, it occurred to me. Then, ew. Being one who prefers one's milky beverages of the icy cold variety, just the thought of warm milk skeeves me out. I doubted it would result in sleep. Vomiting, possibly. Sleep, no.

Which is why, at 12:20 a.m., I was seated on my kitchen floor, back against the refrigerator door, eating a pudding cup. What? Pudding is made with milk. Also: yummy. It just didn't make me sleepy.

I wander to the living room and do pretend yoga, which is mostly just stretching and assuming poses that are vaguely "yoga-esque" because I don't actually know any yoga poses. I now feel stretchier, but not the tiniest bit sleepy. I lay on my back on the floor for awhile and think about how not sleepy I feel. 12:58 a.m.

I open my laptop and squint at Facebook and email for awhile. Getting my glasses from the bedroom would enable me to actually read FB and email, but I don't want to wake up Tom by rummaging around on my dresser. Plus, reading my friends' Facebook status updates while having to guess at about every other word is pretty entertaining. For about four and a half minutes. 1:05 a.m.

1:06 a.m. I eat another pudding cup.

1:12 a.m. I go sit on the front porch. Too hot. Too dark (is that a bear lurking behind the hydrangea bush?). Still humid. I go back inside.

I rummage oh-so-quietly on my dresser and retrieve my glasses. In the guest room, I read an entire library book of Bear's. This kills about an hour and a half. 2:52 a.m.

I go back to bed. Surely, surely now I will fall asleep. I lay on my right side for awhile, then flip to my left. Tom is maddeningly asleep. I ask softly, "Hey, does the air conditioner sound weird to you?" He doesn't answer. I flip back to my right side and think That's it! No more tossing and turning. I will just lay here very still and eventually I will have to fall asleep.

3: 05. Except... I keep remembering how much better my left side felt. I feel like if I could just flip back to my left side, I would finally fall asleep. My right side sucks. My hip aches, and my feet feel twitchy. I tell myself sternly that I'm not allowed to change position.

Twenty seconds later I cave and turn to my left side. Damn. The right side was better.

It's 3:28 am. I'm never going to sleep again, I think. I probably have a brain tumor, and it's pressing on the brain thingy that makes you sleepy. I consider Googling what part of the brain makes you sleep, but don't.

Finally, at 3:40 a.m., mostly because I can't think of a single other thing to do (interesting how productive things like cleaning never occur to me when I can't sleep), I take a shower. I stretch it out by using every single shower product I own. I rinse and repeat. I exfoliate. I shave. I loofah.

And finally, at 4:03 a.m., I sleep.

Until 7:00, when Bug wanders in to ask if it can be a pancakes for breakfast day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Here's the phone call you don't want to receive while your kid's at camp:

Bear: Hi, Mommy.

Me: Hi, kiddo!

Bear: So did you hear what's happening up here?

Me: What do you mean?

Bear (very matter of fact): There was an armed robbery at a bank near the university, so they put the whole campus on lockdown.

Me: What?

Bear: The guy escaped, and they haven't found him yet.

Me: Where are you?

Bear: We had to go to the basement of the dorm. They just now let us go up to our rooms, but we can't leave the building.

Me (frantically logging on to the computer to find a news update): OK, honey. Are you all right?

Bear (sounding distracted): Yeah. Hey, I think they might get us pizza for dinner!

Now I tend to be pretty good at thinking up potential random disaster scenarios in my head, and I had already worried about Bear having a nut allergy reaction at camp, developing appendicitis, dorm fires, and whether there would be a lifeguard when they went swimming. I confess that armed robbery had not occurred to me. I guess I need to start thinking bigger in my paranoia.

All's well that ends well, and they ended the lockdown an hour or so later in time for the kids to go to the dining hall for dinner. Bear was mostly bummed that they didn't get to order pizza.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lake Days

We've actually been having summer weather this summer in Maine, something many of you, no doubt, take for granted where you live. If you were reading my blog last summer, you'll remember that 2009 was The Summer That Wasn't in Maine. Rain, rain, rain, followed by very cloudy cool day, followed by rain. June through mid-August. Every damned day. In mid-August we had precisely five summery days, and then it began to cool into fall-like weather. I'm still waiting for my refund check.

2010 has decided to make up for 2009 with a cavalcade of heat and humidity. I walk out my front door and am instantly drenched in sweat. Sitting perfectly still in the shade? Full-body sweat. My best friend has coined a new word: "swass" to describe the lovely combination of sweat trickling down your *ahem* heinie, such that when you stand up you appear to have wet your pants. This is usually accompanied by "swoobs", which I'm betting you can figure out on your own, and I will only hint delicately at by saying that it usually results in having to wring out your bra.

My favorite coping mechanism for the heat is to sit inside in the air conditioning with a glass of iced tea and my Kindle. When my mothering guilt kicks in, I load up the kids and head for the lake.
This is our go-to lake, about 20 minutes north of us. It's kid-friendly (sand beach and a gradually sloping lake bed that provides a huge swimming area that's not scary-deep). It's also mom-friendly (clean bathrooms with FLUSH toilets!). Win-win, except for the having to wear a bathing suit in public part. I just got a cute new one, though, so even that isn't too big of a deal this year.

The girls each brought a friend:
Which didn't stop them from engaging in some light sibling warfare:
The older girls discovered the ruins of an old stone wall way out in the lake, where the water was about eight feet deep. They dove down wearing goggles to examine it and check out the fish swimming amongst the rocks. The younger two, of course, were dying to check it out, but because I have this secret paranoia of someone else's kid drowning on my watch (I've never been the same since reading "Map of the World", an Oprah book from years ago, where a little girl drowns while her mother's friend is watching her), I made them each take a noodle out with them and buddy up with one of the big girls. I kept an eagle eye on them while pretending to read a book.
I am totally unfair and don't trust them, I've been informed. I can live with that.

Side note: do you see how crazy-tan my girls are? This after diligently slathering them with 50 spf sunscreen each time they go out. It's their grandma's Native American blood showing. They're usually both about the shade of a burnished walnut by the time they go back to school. I would have killed for that base back in the day. I remember laying out in the backyard with coconut suntan lotion (not to be confused with sunscreen!) and never wound up even half that tan.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Camper

Yesterday we dropped Bear off at band camp. It was more than a little weird helping my 13-year-old move into a dorm room and get settled, then climbing into the van and making the 75 mile drive home without her. This is her first sleepaway camp, her first time being away from home for longer than one night. Two nights ago, she got nervous. "I'm really going to miss you, Mom," she told me at bedtime and confessed that her secret fear was that she'd be too homesick and have to come home.

Flash-forward to Camp Day, and this is what she was saying: "Boy, I can't wait for you and Daddy to leave, so I'll feel like I'm really at camp!"

And that evening? When she called home for the first time? "I'VE FOUND MY PEOPLE!" she announced triumphantly. She chattered about how as they finished their auditions, kids were sent into a mini-auditorium to wait. A sports movie was playing, and kids were largely ignoring it to read or talk. But then ... the movie was switched out for a Blue Man Group concert DVD, and the room fell raptly silent to watch. Bear couldn't get over this.

I can't wait to hear what this week holds for her, and I have a sneaking feeling that I'd better start saving up for next year...

Friday, July 9, 2010


Last month, Tom and I had our fifteenth wedding anniversary. (And, hey, did I ever mention that when I went to get my wedding gown fitted the seamstress had to take in the waist by quite a bit to make it fit me? I like to work that into conversation when I can because no way is THAT ever going to happen again. I mean, unless I get one of those weird flesh eating bacteria diseases and it miraculously focuses just on my waist. Maybe then).

We made plans to go (à deux) to one of our favorite restaurants after Tom got off from work. That morning I pulled my little black dress out of the closet and selected my favorite long, pink accent necklace to wear with it. Pink toenails, my brand-new black patent leather wedge sandals, and a pink bag would complete the look. I don't get many opportunities to dress up (unless we're talking my nice baseball cap, rather than the dirty sweat-stained one I garden in), so each time I went into my bedroom that day, I took the opportunity to peek at my planned outfit. I pondered which perfume to wear.

I should probably back up and mention that my anniversary fell two days after my spectacular Backwards With a Full Twist fall into the pond hole? So that in addition to being my wedding anniversary, June 24th also marked the day in which my foot most resembled a swollen corpse foot? Yet somehow, as I looked forward all day to going out with my husband, it never really occurred to me that this would be a problem. Despite the inability to bear any weight on that foot. Or the fact that the foot began to swell rapidly and alarmingly within ten minutes of being up and around.

Around 4:00, I pondered my cute, strappy patent leather wedges and (in a blinding epiphany) realized that I had precisely zero chance of getting them on my foot. In fact, short of a strap-on snowshoe, I couldn't really think of any footwear that would work.

I called Tom and confessed that my Foot o'Shame was going to ruin our anniversary dinner. He gallantly offered to get takeout for all four of us from the same restaurant. I re-hung my black dress in the closet and tucked the pink necklace back into the jewelry box.

"You have a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to Daddy's & my anniversary dinner," I told the girls. "Only one condition: you have to set the table."

They agreed. There was whispered consultation, then they sent my to my room, where I iced my foot and listened nervously to the alarming amount of clatter coming from the front of the house.

I whipped out my cell phone and texted Tom:

Me: Told kids they can share our takeout only if they set table. Am fabulous mom.

Tom: Food ordered! Home soon.

Me: Kids just yelled don't come out. Smell matches. Bad?

Tom: Smoke alarm will be next...

Me: Just heard them both leave by front door. Weird.

Tom: I'd get out now, if I were you.

Me: Also, cat just flew back here looking clearly freaked out. Hear much running of water.

Tom: NOW. Get out now.

Me: Thinking I can make ladder of bed sheets and escape by window. Foot may be problem.

Not long after, Bug and Bear came to my door and called me out. This is what they'd done:

Not bad! I was especially impressed that they thought to pull out place mats (non-matching, but I appreciated the thought), put ice in the drinks, and picked flowers from the garden for a centerpiece. The lit candle explained the matches.

I may not have looked nearly as cute as I'd hoped (black yoga pants, t-shirt, ponytail, foot o'shame), but it turned out to be one of our best anniversary dinners to date.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Scene: This morning. Temperature: 92 degrees. Humidity: Off the fricking charts, judging my my hair-o-meter. [Meaning I can see frizz out of both sides of my peripheral vision simultaneously. It's a fairly exact science].

Me: I want to get a nice 4th of July picture by the flags and the garden. Come on, you two. Smile!

Bear: It's too bright. I can't keep my eyes open. (much exaggerated squinting)

Bug whining and shifting from foot to foor): My feeeeet hurt.

Me (growl): Smile.

Bug: Can't we do this inside? It's too sunny.

Me: Then it wouldn't be by the flags or the garden, would it? Now stand closer together.

Bear: I can't stand too close to her. I'm on a slope. I'll look freakishly tall.

Me: Fine. Then switch places.

Bug: What?! No. Then I'll look freakishly tall.


Bear (under her breath): Jeez...

Bug (blinks in bewildered manner): OK. Hey, will we be done here soon?

All that, my friends, to bring you these two Fourth of July photos of these seemingly angelic sisters. DO NOT BE FOOLED.

They're off at the parade with Tom right now, while I sip coffee in the air conditioning and recover from our photo session. No, actually, I stayed home to rest my wretched foot, whose feeble limits I pushed yesterday.

"Just a soft tissue injury! Probably!" said the doctor on Wednesday. "They can take quite a while to heal. Try to stay off of it and wear ugly shoes." Well actually, she said "shoes with better support than those", while gesturing to my adorable leather thongs with silver accents. There was also some talk about wrapping it in an Ace bandage, which ... no. An Ace bandage in 178% humidity? Methinks wallowing in a pool with my foot propped up on its very own floatie is a much more pleasant scenario.

I took my traitorous foot and the girls down to the park yesterday to hear an Elton John tribute band play and eat ridiculously unhealthy fair food. Note: eating fried dough while sitting in the shade of a willow tree on a riverbank listening to a band play is suspiciously close to heaven. Only my ugly shoes kept me tethered in reality.

Happy Independence Day!

PS: Oddly, the foot really doesn't hurt much while I'm walking on it. Just mildly burny. It's later, once I'm off of it that it aches like a sonofabitch. Anyone else ever experienced that phenomenon? I'd welcome any input, since I still don't really know what's wrong with it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I've helped to parent this kid through many phases:

-The Middle of the Night Feedings Phase
-The Random Screeching and Flinging of the Sippy Cup Phase
-The Potty Training Phase (also known as Two Months o' Hell)
-The Fear of Encountering a Man Made of Cans Phase
-The Crabbing at One's Younger Sister Phase (ongoing)
-The "What Homework?" Phase
-The Snotty Tone of Voice Phase

This latest one though is potentially more fraught with peril than any of the ones that came before. Bear is starting to wear makeup.

She's been allowed to wear (light) mascara and lipgloss since this spring, and this week she asked if she could start wearing eyeliner and shadow. Now, I'm not a moron. An eighth grade girl who wants to wear makeup and whose parents forbid it, will wait until she's out of the house before spackling it on with a trowel. Then she'll carefully wash her face before coming home. Rinse and repeat.

No, if there's going to be makeup, then I'm going to be the self-appointed Head of Quality Control. To that end, I gave my consent and tempered it with some simple rules for makeup application.

(Young Teen Edition)

1. Slathereth not of thy makeup onto thine face, for thee willst appear a skanky ho-bag.

2. Weareth not of thine eyeliner in a complete circle around thine eye, for it will rendereth them small and beady, like the crows of the yard.
3. Selecteth not a black eyeliner for it is too harsh for thine youthful aspect and will projecteth both an image of easy virtue and a dearth of aesthetic sensibility.

4. Lineth not thine lips in a color not exactly matched to thy lipstick unless ye wish to be mistaken for a clown of the circus.

5. Shouldst ye feel the need to wear foundation, weareth only the foundation of the shade which is exactly that of thine skin. Useth a small amount and blendeth well, unless ye wish to be openly mocked for sporting The Line of Shame alongst thine jawbone.

6. Weareth thine makeup to enhance, not to createth a mask. Because again, there will ensueth mocking. Likely from thine mother.

7. Purchaseth NEVER of the lipstick in the shades of white or black or any color which occureth not in the color spectrum of actual human lips.

8. Buyeth only of the good quality makeup, for that of the inferior quality will raise boils and unsightly blemishes on thy face.

9. Washeth thine face well at the end of the day, for thy mother wisheth not to see thy makeup in the form of smudges on thine pillowcase and, yay, willst rebel and confiscateth said makeup in a show of much fury and raising of the voice.

10. Beareth in mind that The Mother shall be both Judge and Jury where all makeup application be concerned. The Mother has allowed, but The Mother will surely as hellfire taketh away.