she’s a girl with glasses

february won’t you be my valentine

Considering it’s been nearly two months since my last post and the subject I’m writing about now, I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t have a massive issue with holidays– and, of course, what this massive issue I have is. Whatever, it’s my blog, if I feel like dissecting my consciousness, I’ll do it. Right now, though, I’m here to bitch.

This year, both of my kids started at a new school. K went to kindergarten and first grade at a school about 7 miles from our home: we liked the kindergarten and were disappointed in first grade. As such, when we were looking for an ECE for M, and discovered the program at the school that was reopening near my parents, we decided to enroll them both. It was mostly for the program– green living, community consciousness, learning by participation and student input– but also because I can’t bend the laws of space and time, and all elementary schools get out at the same time.

Now, we love this school. So far, it has lived up to all of its promises. My daughter’s class has planted a garden from which they were able to harvest vegetables this last fall for a party, calculated the amount of energy their school is using through lighting and how to reduce it, and have become educated such subjects as biomass, solar energy and recycling. My son’s class is all about learning how to work with others and grow as a person within a community. They’re both thriving. They do yoga every morning and they complain when they have a day off.

So why am I tantruming right now? Valentine’s Day.

It’s likely not for the reason you think. I’m against kids being left out, but, in my experience, both as a kid in school and with K, I’ve never seen one left out. You’re required to bring a Valentine for everyone in the class. Seems nice enough to me.

Their school has decided to “reinvent” the holiday. No store-bought Valentines. No candy. Kids are “welcome” to make handmade Valentines for everyone in the class.

Now, that’s all well and good. There is entirely too much consumption in the world. But I’m pouting. Why? I made a plan with the kids to make little organza bags with a handful of candies inside and whatever Valentine boxes they wanted from the store. I’m not the mom who forbids princesses and Disney from the house. I understand the love of those strange little cards in the flat boxes. Why not indulge one day a year?

And, most importantly, at least to me: why no treats? If this was a treat-free school, if we’d signed on for that, then fine. But, really, this is a school that likes a party. The Winter Fest in K’s class included cupcakes and cookies. Every birthday has been marked by the same. Sugar is not forbidden. Neither classroom is peanut-free. Chocolate flows freely.

But Valentine’s Day has brought a sudden turn-around. I am not a sap. I don’t give two shits about getting a card or flowers from my husband. For me, Valentine’s Day is two things and the first is candy. My family is all about holidays where you eat. We’ve changed most of them to become about the eating rather than anything else: turkey on Thanksgiving (it’s the model, of course, for all other holidays), prime rib on Christmas, more turkey on Easter (made spring-like with asparagus and salads), burgers and pie on Fourth of July. We’re an eating family. Valentine’s Day means sweets.

But, more importantly to me: Valentine’s Day is a day to remember to be nice. Yes, it’s a manufactured holiday, invented solely to increase card and candy sales. I don’t believe the conspiracy about making single folks feel bad, but, sure, it’s a way to drive up spending on things you wouldn’t ordinarily think about. But, when you’re a kid, it’s about getting to tell your friends you like them. And that’s important. Kids, in general, are assholes. My kids certainly are, and I think they’re superior to most. Kids need to be reminded not to be dicks for a day.

In this vein, their school is having them write letters to each other talking about what they feel makes their classmate a valuable member of the community. Great! But no one can write twenty letters in the allotted time in class. Considering how K likes to fluff up her writing, making up a fake sort of cursive, if she gets through one, I’ll be impressed. How’s that for making every kid feel included? Each child gets through two or three letters, plenty of kids are bound to be left out.

I’m a gift-giver. I love giving presents, I love finding things that will make people smile. I’ve been that way since I was very small and, as my father likes to tell people, kind of constantly, I would give everyone who came my way a slice of bologna. It was my favorite thing, and so I wanted to share it. I send my best friend gifts constantly. I rarely see something I want for myself, but every time I leave the house, I find at least a dozen presents I’d love to give people in my life.

Valentine’s Day is about delicious sweets and being kind to others. What, exactly, is so wrong with making sure everyone of my kids’ classmates gets a little handful of candy from him and her? It’s really the simplest thing: this is something I like and I want you to have it. Reinvent the holiday? Why are we fixing the wheel?


happy xmas
December 23, 2010, 4:33 pm
Filed under: blog, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

I’m a Grinch right now. I didn’t start the holiday season as such– I don’t start it as much of an elf, either, I’m more of a “panic and over-compensate at the gate” kind of person– but I’ve certainly morphed into one in the last week. It’s partially the fact that both of my kids’ birthdays are on either side of Christmas and, so, any extra stress one might feel planning celebrations for small children is just compounded, twice over, during the most stressful time of the year.

I am apparently very fertile in early April. This is why I am celibate from March until May.

We started this downslide towards Grinch Lorrie with a failing on the part of my sugar cookie recipe a mere two days before I was to deliver nearly 3 dozen to my children’s classes at school. While I managed this crisis with *gasp* store-bought, the decorating took me another four hours. There was no time to take a breath after this, as their birthday party was scheduled 2 days later. Directly thereafter, I came down with a crippling cold, leading into these last few days before Christmas, when the press is really on.

I’m crabby. I’m having a crappy week. I don’t really want to bring everyone down with me, so I’m making an effort to bring myself back up and welcome you to join me.

I’m not Christian, but this scene stops my breath every time it airs. Followed immediately by this scene, which makes me cry and my husband mocks me for:

I only saw this movie for the first time a couple weeks ago. It’s brilliant.

Yay, Puss in Boots! I love this scene more than my husband loves candy canes (and if you could see the consumption of candy canes in this house, you’d understand the gravity of this announcement).

NSFW or Kids in the least, but it’s my favorite holiday song.

I’m feeling better already! Cap it off with this brilliant strip on Christmas past by Hyperbole and a Half. She’s my hero.

Got anything else? Link me in comments. I need regular shots of holiday encouragement.

safe in the sound
November 3, 2010, 9:33 pm
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You don’t sleep in a hospital. This is a given: you don’t sleep and, in my case, you apparently don’t eat, resulting in two pounds lost on what we began calling the “Stress and Starvation Diet.” Something about your kid being a patient for a week just does that to you.

It was just appendicitis, I’ll say that up front. Appendicitis that resulted in a rupture. I’d never actually known anyone who had their appendix removed and my experience had been totally and completely defined by a remembered episode of Step By Step when I was about twelve years old. The signs were clear, according to that piece of TGIF viewing: sudden stabbing pain, a hardened belly, unsympathetic parents.

We had none of those, not really. Three-quarters of the family down with the flu, when my daughter didn’t recover the same day we did, we thought she just got it worse. We set her up in bed with whatever she wanted to eat and episodes of Fraggle Rock (see how sympathetic we were?!). It was the next day when she was walking oddly and my husband, the nurse, suggested we take her to the ER.

From there, things went predictably haywire. There was a standoffish nurse and delayed medications, a CAT scan with a tube up my little daughter’s bum, which she took in a fashion more befitting Tudor royalty, giving me just wide eyes and a mouth rounded in a perfect “O” of surprise. A transfer from one hospital to another was ordered, and took three times longer than it should have. She was taken in for surgery, we pried her brother off the walls in his boredom.

I was unaware of the aftermath such a thing entails. Step By Step, I recall, showed the family clustered around the ill girl’s bed after her surgery, the music swelled, and the episode was over. As this is, honestly, the only episode I remember of the show, I don’t know if they continued any line of this story later. Perhaps they did and my education wouldn’t have been so woefully incomplete if I’d just remembered to tune in. As it was, I was under the impression that we’d leave the next day, maybe the day after. It was laproscopic surgery, after all: why would they need her there when all three cuts added up to less than an inch wide?

It as the pus, of course. Funny how many things come down to pus.

She was put on rounds of antibiotics. Another dose every six hours. A machine that gave a loud, mournful beep at the end of each course. Another machine that threw a tantrum even more often, for reasons that were never quite clear to me. The medications and saline bags hung from something like a coat tree, and when she visited the playroom of the hospital with a couple cancer patients, it was a forest of the things.

The space given to the parents was a version of a fold-out couch that was something like sleeping at an airport and just as restful. I woke when the nurse came in during the night as K slept like a rock. I woke every hour and checked on her, checked her IV and her hair and where her feet were creeping.

I lost it on the third day. It was something tiny, something I can’t even remember a week later, but I burst into tears and couldn’t breathe, clutching at my husband and sobbing just off the main lobby; I was a miserable advertisement.

It’s one thing to suffer yourself. It’s something else completely to stand aside and watch your child suffer.

Even now, having walked out of the hospital nearly five days ago, I check on her incessantly. She was sent home with a PICC line and further antibiotics. A home health nurse arrived to show us how to administer them, as A was not familiar with their equipment. I was overwhelmed and refused to participate in a practice session and left the room to cry. The next morning, having managed more than an hour of sleep, I followed my husband’s directions. Today, I could probably do it in my sleep.

I never stayed overnight in the hospital before I was pregnant with my daughter at twenty-four. My first surgery was her birth. She was absolutely dwarfed in her bed, and hated the hospital food. I informed her that she was consistently taking years off my life and, if she wanted me to live to see fifty, she needed to knock this shit off.

I watch her sleep, every night, as I have every day since the day she was born.

little bribes
October 13, 2010, 8:01 am
Filed under: blog | Tags: , , ,

The first night, my husband swore he would enjoy sleeping with the shades open. At three in the morning, he got up to draw the black-out curtains across the blinding lights of the Strip.

Two weeks later, my memories of Las Vegas are colored by insufferable heat, the blinding white of faux ancient statuary, the inescapable clatter and flash of the casino floor, and the groove cut into the back of my foot by a new pair of red high heels.

I don’t know if the brain can properly present a chronological display of an experience in Las Vegas. My own flashes like a montage, like something from a home movie without sound, badly edited and cast on the wall.

Our hotel only opened last December, one in a series of glass and steel between the white plaster and stucco and water of the Monte Carlo and famed Bellagio. Perfume is pumped into the circulation system and I sustained an allergic headache for the first day and a half before buying overpriced anti-histamines from the Walgreens down the block, though I could still taste the scent at the back of my throat every time I breathed in.

We stopped at the bathrooms at the back of the Plaza casino floor. When I came out of the stall, I washed my hands, then reached for paper towels under the disposal bin for hypodermic needles.

We walked two miles down the strip after dark, drawn by the crack-boom of the Bellagio water show. Instead of a photo of the water, I took pictures of the crowds holding their cameras over their heads to catch a blurry frame of the experience.

Perhaps more accurately, our trip started at the airport in Denver when a man sat down behind us in the waiting area, wearing head-to-toe purple, including a fedora riding low on his forehead. He spoke loudly on his cell phone, and kicked at my seat, but when he was collected by a friend and headed for a different area of the concourse, I actually mourned my chance to sit beside him on the plane.

In Madame Tussands, my husband realized his dream of posing with Snoop Dog. The artifice of the wax museum was strangely lesser than that outside, from the Eiffel tower at Paris to the robot show in Cesar’s Palace. The figures didn’t look as though they’d start breathing, but they were more likely to than it was to rain in the Venetian.

The shuttle driver regaled us with stories about how many ambulances show up on the Strip each day, and his trips all over the world before settling in Las Vegas. His accent was thick and the van roared in such a way that I could barely hear him, but when he hugged me at the airport, I hugged him back.

in between days
August 4, 2010, 1:40 pm
Filed under: blog, other | Tags: , , ,

The brain is a funny thing. I can barely remember my name from day to day– no, really, recently, repeatedly, I’ve tried to sign things with my maiden name and came up blank on my first name while writing an email– but I can readily pull up memories from years ago that will not help me in any way right now. For instance, my brain did its usual meandering along the path of thoughts, starting with school supplies, then to organization, then to the shed in our backyard and how it scares the crap out of me because my husband’s version of “organize” is to shove things in and close the door quickly (plus, we had an enormous black widow spider living in there for a time), and then struck upon an image that has most definitely not hit me in a good number of years.

It was of the little red barn in my parents’ backyard of the house they owned for twenty years before moving to the one where they live now. When I say barn, I mean it was shaped like a barn. We lived in a rather established neighborhood near downtown Denver, so this was no big farm. It was a shed, shaped like a barn. Maybe it was a baby barn once upon a time. As it was, I could climb on the roof. And jump off. I never claimed to be bright.

My parents are some of the tidiest people on earth. My father is a packrat, but his version of this involves lots of Rubbermaid containers. My mother could likely clear their house of everything but a low bed and a bell and be pleased as hell with herself but, as we’ve recently deduced, the older she gets, the more she resembles a cat. She’d be happy anywhere with a soft spot in the sun.

When I was a kid, the barn held the basics of any other shed: lawn mower, bikes, tools. What I remember best about it, and the vision that struck the other day, was how organized it was. No cram and slam like my husband. The barn was, as I said, very small, but my father had organized it to the point that there was a path for walking inside. It was easy to get my bike in and out. What I clearly envisioned the other day was the view from the over-sized door: the bikes lined up at the front, in front of the lawn mower that sat unused once a lawn service was hired, along the walls a gas can, saw horses, rakes and shovels and hoses, lawn chairs hanging from tidy hooks on the ceiling. It smelled like gasoline and dust and sunlight. I don’t believe we ever had anything more than a house spider in it.

I inherited my father’s love of organizing, and also his packrat tendencies. I did not, however, get one iota of my mother’s simplicity gene, though I have her same sort of supposed-OCD, only without the motivation behind it. I want everything to have its place, but finding those places and putting them there exhausts me with the mere thought.

It goes without saying that I’m not much of a housekeeper.

This is likely why I adore back to school shopping so very much. I love the idea and promise of such clean and amazing organization. I love the unused slots of folders and newly sharpened pencils, backpacks not yet straining under the weight of books and notepads. I’ve not attended school in some time– I graduated college in 2002, attended a handful of classes in 2004, and had to wait until 2008 to reasonably spend money on school supplies when my daughter entered kindergarten a year early, and so it’s like Christmas, in a way.

My son is starting school for the first time this year, so we’d been waiting for both lists of required supplies before heading out. When we got them, I might have been more giddy than the kids. Outside the exciting parts, the backpacks and lunch bags and folders, they’re unimpressed. I want to do lines of fresh erasers, roll around in pencil shavings.

I told my husband a stupid story I read in a John Mayer interview (that’s right). It was something about the most romantic gift he’d given a girl was a basket full of office supplies, as they’d both confessed a love of them. I woke up on my birthday to a filing box full of folders, notebooks, pens, highlighters, a hot pink stapler, and post-it notes. I think I cried. It truly was the most romantic gift he’d ever given me.

Today, I organized the kids’ supplies while they decorated their folders. I couldn’t help it: I picked up a pinkie eraser and took a long, deep sniff. It sent chills down my spine. Apparently some memories just never leave.

it’s just a passing phase
July 21, 2010, 3:14 pm
Filed under: blog, writing | Tags: , , ,

I have been sitting here, attempting to write a synopsis of my novel for an hour. An hour, and I have two lines, half a sentence, and no period. I can’t even clearly map it out, this sentence, even as I know my novel backwards and forwards.

This is daunting. And now, this is me attempting to wax poetic while at the same time avoiding the actual task at hand.

In truth, the issue is very simple: stylistically, I am a concise writer, rather efficient with my use of words… in a long format. I structure my fiction in bursts, in clusters, but these bursts and clusters are joined together, spread over pages and formed into a cloud of the same. However, in speech, I am a rambler. I use the word like as a form of pause more often than I’d like to admit. Anyone who has entered a conversation with me knows I have trouble shutting up. I babble, I get sidetracked, I get wound up. I talk with my hands a lot; I’ve been known to gesture right into drinks and people’s faces. I talk at hyper-speed and interrupt often. I have baffled native-English speakers.

It seems strange that my writing style is so the opposite, but, in my brain, I’m so much clearer in my words and intentions than ever translated into the air. I’m not sure if I have some tunnel from my brain to my mouth that has the unique ability to take perfectly formed and logical thoughts and turn them into Valley Girl speak from the mid-80s whatever the subject matter. I’m much more intelligent than I sound when I speak. I don’t doubt that I’ve convinced more than one person of the opposite in my lifetime.

It doesn’t help that I have a faint lisp.

So this combined results in a clash of expression. Where I have a concise writing style, giving a synopsis (in this case for a query letter) is more conversational, like sitting a friend down to tell them about your writing. As we’ve noted: my skills are not in conversation. Several friends have read the NOD ™, but those who haven’t, when they ask the dreaded what’s it about? are treated to ten minutes of “um” and “like” and “well, not really but..” until I throw up my hands and say “YOU SHOULD READ IT, IT’S NOT AS BAD AS I MAKE IT SOUND.”

Ringing endorsement, that is.

Without offering to send every person who stumbles on this blog a copy of my manuscript (premature career death, anyone?), any clue how to write up a compelling synopsis without breaking into the written equivilant of flailing arms and a Valley Girl voice lisping: “No, really, it’s better than that! Please come back!”

Things are dire around here when I’m contemplating baking, like, cupcakes. Ya know?

caught me on the downslide, downturn
June 25, 2010, 7:37 pm
Filed under: blog | Tags: , , , ,

I come up with things to talk and write about almost all day. Most of these seem to come up in the shower, which, for whatever reason, is the place where I apparently am my smartest. I’m still looking for a computer that is waterproof.

As it is, I think it’s quite obvious that these brilliant pieces never make it to the screen. From time to time, I get a bit down, but the distractions of two kids, a dog that thinks she’s supposed to be hunting our three cats, a house that is always just this side of disaster and my own vivid addiction to ridiculous celebrity gossip and watching Netflix Instant Play make my brain turn instantly to goo once I am out of the hot stream of water.

What I’m saying is this: I’m a piss-poor blogger and I apologize. I am making a promise at this point to produce for you, my wee group of devoted readers, that I will post something at least once a week. I will make good on that brilliance I incur in the shower instead of wandering out for another episode of the Tudors (though, let’s face it, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ crazy eyes are a frightening motivator). I will tell you the tale of my eBay finds and how my children proved death is not the end all be all. I will share with you the story of the existential journey my friend and I took looking for a gas station in my twenties and how I’m quite sure that I’m supposed to write a play based on it. I hope you’ll indulge me these fits of whiny depression and ridiculous fangirl squealing that is very likely– nay, positively– to occur.

I have fingers on these hands and will be using them.

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