Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dirty Words

Last week, my oldest asked me what condoms were. Trojans, specifically. In a very clinical way, I explained the barrier method of contraception, and when I reached the part where I said "and the semen is unable to...", she held up a hand and yelled "OK! GOT IT!".

The only good part about sex talk with your tween is watching her get completely grossed out about it. So grossed out that, with luck, she'll not want to do it until she's thirty.

So imagine my surprise when, sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office, she pointed out a Trojan ad in a magazine.

"Look here, Mom! These condoms are twisted!" she said. Complete with a finger shoot, wink and tongue click.

I died.

I can not remember when, if ever, I became comfortable with the fact that my parents had sex. I do remember one trip to the beach as an adult, where my parents occupied the room above mine. "Good hell!" the Husband said. "What are they doing up there?"

"Apparently, there is some furniture that needs to be moved around." I said stonily, turning over and covering my head with a pillow.

So it baffles me that my child would be comfortable enough to talk to me about these things. It's a good thing, right?

Before their daughter entered middle school, my friend D- and her husband decided to sit down with her and go over some of the new words she might be learning. Middle school is, apparently, the place where weenies become dicks and tee tees become pussies. They went down the list of every slang word and curse word they could think of, as their daughter sat there, wide eyed and jaw agape. How they got through the list with a straight face is beyond me. "Balls" is just about the funniest word in the world, and anytime someone says "play with your balls", I just about pee myself.

But, they get through the list and leave the room and do a little post-con in the kitchen.

"Oh, shit." D- says, "Did we forget cock?"
"Oh, I think we did. You're going to have to do that one." her husband replied.

So D- walked back to her daughter's bedroom while her husband skulked around the corner, walked in and said, "We forgot one - cock." at which point both she and her husband started laughing hysterically.

Their daughter rolled her eyes and said, "How mature."

I don't stand a chance.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Are You Going to Eat That?

There are moments in your life where time stands still. When it seems you are a disembodied spirit, floating above, peering down at your corporeal self doing something incredibly stupid. From the ether, your spirit-self opens its mouth in a vain attempt to communicate, but all that escapes is a whoooosh of air. In your head, you scream- that is not chocolate!

It is too late.

I seem to lack that spilt second decision making skill. Somewhere between the thought (what is that?) and the action (placing mystery object in my mouth), there should be a moment of hesitation. A moment where my brain kicks in and says, hey, wait a minute.

I have put an embarrassing number of things into my mouth without first determining their origin, or considering their current state. All of my children have gone through the Cheerio stage, where their primary snack has been the ubiquitous "O". As a result, Cheerios were often found in the deepest, darkest corners of bags and cars and bras. Channeling my Depression-era ancestors, I was loathe to toss them out, and often, too often, ate them instead. I remember very clearly one instance where, taking off my bra after a long day, I discovered a Cheerio clinging with desperation to my right breast. It had, no doubt, been there most of the day; it had imprinted a tiny circle into my skin and had long lost any crunch it may have had.

Naturally, I ate it. And as I chewed the stale, slightly soft morsel, I thought to myself - am I really eating cereal off my boob?

Toddlers love to share their food. Preferably after they've mashed it and smashed it, rolled it around in their chubby fists until it can only be described as grimy, and - if they really love you - they'll even pre-chew it. The Husband will say, 'No, thank you!' over and over until even my very persistent children give up. I, on the other hand, will smile and pop the piece in my mouth and eat it with relish, even if my brain is yelling what the fuck are you dooooooing???

I like to think it's because I love them more.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Leader of the Free World

Things you are never going to see me talk about on Southern Fried Children: Politics. That's pretty much it. Chances are, if you know me, you know my politics, and you know I have no interest in discussing it, unless you are in complete agreement with me. I can't stand to argue, and I see no point in it, knowing that the chance of me changing someone's mind is about the same as them changing mine. Slim to none.

That said, I have often thought about what I would do, if I had the opportunity to run our great nation. I don't know much about the inner workings of Washington, but I do know that simple rules are the best rules. And if I were in charge, I'd apply our house rules to every one, and every thing. If I can expect little kids to follow these rules, surely we could do it as a country. Right?

Rule #1: If you make the mess, you clean it up.
Rule #2: Keep your hands to yourself.
Rule #3: Remember that you are a lot bigger, and you can hurt a smaller person, even if you don't mean to.
Rule #4: If you touch your butt, or anyone else's butt for that matter, wash your hands.
Rule #5: If you want to buy something at the store, you'd better bring your own money.
Rule #6: If you use the last of something, replace it.
Rule #7: Respect other people's privacy.
Rule #8: Eat good food and move your body. It will help keep you well.
Rule #9: If you get sick, I will take care of you.
Rule #10: Share.
Rule #11: Take care of your things, they'll last longer.
Rule #12: Say you're sorry when you're wrong, and accept apologies when you've been wronged.
Rule #13: Be who you are. My love is unconditional.

And if you don't follow the rules? And stern talking to, and perhaps a time out.

If only it were that easy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I'm writing a story. It's a real story, and by real story I mean I am not talking about poop or farting, and I am trying to adhere to the rules of grammar and punctuation. It is the longest thing I've ever written.

I think about it constantly. I think about what my characters are doing when they're not within the confines of the story. I think about changing words or adding things, and I am forever scrambling for one of my little notebooks or the back of an envelope before the words evaporate as they travel from my brain through my fingers and out the pen. Or, sometimes, crayon.

Often, what was absolute poetry in my head becomes complete shit after it's written down. One sentence actually made me laugh out loud when I read it.

It is not a funny story.

After I handed the first draft to the Husband to read, I was filled with such anxiety that I immediately wanted to snatch it back and shred it. It's shit! I have to start over. And when he handed it back and I started to edit, I wanted to cry with every mark I made.

This is what I love to do? Really?

The more I edit, the better I like it, the less it resembles something I wrote in my eighth grade journal. But I know that I will place it in an envelope and send it off and spend the next two months trying not to throw up every time I think about it.

I think about my friend MOV over at Mothers of Brothers Blog, and her new book, and all the work she's put into it. I think about J Rose at Cheeseblarg and the amazing art she creates, and Reese at Reese Rants and Raves, who's throwing up about her own short story. I think about all the people I know who put take risks in order to do what they love. They inspire me.

If they can do it, so can I. The least I can do is try.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Lovely Life

I am not a photographer. But I feel remiss in not sharing some of my horrible photos from January, which is one of the most joyous months around here. So, today I'm going to use many pictures and few words - the exact opposite of what I usually do.

From Katie's 11th birthday -
And Julia's 5th (both Katie's and Julia's cakes were made by my mom, who is awesome.)-
Also for Julia's birthday -
Yes, I know. I just love taking horribly unflattering pictures of myself and putting them up for the scads of people who read my blog. But this one has a good explanation: At the beginning of the year, parents can sign up to be the "Mystery Reader" at Julia's preschool. Mystery Reader always comes on a Thursday, and Julia's birthday happened to fall on a Thursday, so it worked out perfectly for me to sign up.

Ahoy, there! You may be asking yourself. But why is ye old scallywag in that blasted costumery?

Because my Mystery Reader day happened to fall on Dress Like a Pirate Day. I was a little nervous, because Julia gets embarrassed easily, and the last thing I wanted to do was make her cry on her birthday. I (wisely) decided to forgo the fake mustache and eye patch, and I had a normal shirt on under me bonny coat, just in case.

She loved it. But she asked me to change before we went to lunch at Chuck E. Cheese. Because, you know, I might look weird in a place that has a giant rat walking around, dancing and serving food.

Then we went on our Second Annual Birthday Trip to Great Wolf Lodge. Which is one of the best places in the world.

 Katie is not that weirdly white, I just took a bad picture. And this is the closest I could get to a normal smile, which is to say not at all.

The last picture is not awesome, but what's happening in the lower left hand corner is.

Friday, January 20, 2012


There are a small number of chores that fall outside my realm of responsibility. Mowing. Cleaning the garage. Fixing things. Picking up dog poop. All things that I classify as outside maintenance. I am strictly an inside maintenance kind of gal.

People poop = Bring it!
Doggy poop = Hells no.

Just like everything, there are times when the outside maintenance items get thrown into my chore soup. I will occasionally mow our tiny yard or clear off the shelves in the garage. I almost always pull weeds and spread pine straw. And every now and again, I will don the plastic grocery bag of shame and pick up dog shit.

The Husband uses a pooper scooper contraption, an instrument that, despite every effort, I can not get the hang of. I end up mashing turds, or missing the bag, or the bag itself falls off and the turds tumble out in a great pile. So I opt to bag my hand, wrinkle my nose, and get up close and personal with the by products of Shutup Roxy's varied and colorful diet. Polly Pockets, Barbie shoes, crayons, small articles of clothing - the contents of her crap almost make it a game.

Is that a tiny hairbrush? Oh, nope. My Little Pony head!

Usually, it's a once a week chore. During the summer time, when temperatures soar and the backyard becomes a giant, steaming pile of dog logs, the frequency increases. In the winter, when the lawnmower is put away for the season, and we're outside less frequently, and the pudding pops have turned to shitsicles, well- it's easy to forget. The backyard becomes The Shitting Fields.

"Man. I really need to pick up poop." The Husband says.

The next day it rains. Every pooper-picker-upper in the world knows you can't bag black bananas the day after it rains. You have to give it a day to dry out. So, two days later-

"Man. I really, really need to pick up poop."

The next day, of course, it rains.

Shutup Roxy, having run out of room, lays a hogan on the patio.

The forecast calls for rain all weekend and I have reached my turd tolerance limit. This afternoon, I put Henry down for a nap, turned on Spongebob for Julia, double bagged my hand, and braced myself for the cavalcade of crap.

What I encountered was poop in every size, shape, texture and stage of poopness. Some of it, so old it had gone gray and become fossilized. Some of it had what could only be described as a growth. A lone Polly Pocket head gazed up at me, encapsulated in a fudge pocket, only her face and her long, gray hair was visible. Except it wasn't hair. There were some butt nuggets that didn't even look like they had come from Roxy. Maybe she's been inviting the neighborhood dogs over. Hey! Come shit in my yard! No, no, they don't mind! I do it all the time!

In the end, I picked up a bag of full of poop that weighed more than my two youngest children combined. As I placed the bags in the garbage can, something fell from above onto my hand. I looked up, and it started to rain.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Julia fills a room. From this very small person comes an enormous force of self, and she makes her way into every inch of a space. Her voice, her smile, her endless energy; she takes it over completely. When Julia leaves a room, the silence is deafening.

She is exhausting.

She is a child of extremes, and she elicits extreme emotions from me. There are times when I find myself clenching my fists and gritting my teeth and using every ounce of willpower I have not to completely lose my mind with her. And other times, I love her so hard it feels like a giant hand is squeezing my heart until it might just burst inside of me. Julia is fierce, and that is how I love her - fiercely.

She is a whirling dervish - constantly moving, exceptionally loud, blindingly bright. She is the spirit of this family, and we would be considerably more dull without her.

Today, my girl in the middle is five years old. Today, I am going to dress like a pirate and surprise her at school and read to her class and take her to Chuck E Cheese for lunch, just the two of us. I am going to play every game she wants to and let her make a mess and not once, not once, tell her to be quiet. I am going to make her mashed potatoes and mac and cheese and salad for dinner, and let her have two pieces of cake if she wants to. I will let her stay up late and watch a movie and sleep in my room. And as she drifts off to sleep, I will kiss her head and whisper, Good night, Birthday Girl. You are perfect and I love you so much.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I spent an fantastic afternoon and evening with two of my dearest friends this weekend. I don't get out much by myself, and when I do it's usually associated with super fun activities like oil changes and pap smears. So, I was excited to spend afternoon out with my pants on.

We met at a large shopping center to do some window shopping before we had dinner. My friend N- was in desperate need of caffeine, and there happened to be an expensive, well known java establishment in the strip mall. I happen to be a huge fan of paying $4 for a cup of coffee, so I happily stood in line with her. She ordered a cappucino, which is pretty straightforward in the world of $4 coffee drinks, and the three of us sat down to wait.

And wait.
And wait.

I watched the woman behind the counter with growing concern. She was alone, making drinks, and frequently consulting a manual. "Oh." I said. "That can't be good."

N-'s drink was finally ready and she took it to the condiment bar to add sugar. She came back to table scowling. "There's chocolate syrup all over the top of my cappucino."

"That's not right." I said.
N- took the drink backto the counter and I groaned. This was not going to go well.

"Hi, I just ordered a cappucino?" She said it like an apology.
"Yes?" the woman replied.
"Well, this has chocolate syrup on it."
"Oh, you didn't want chocoloate syrup on it?"

Now, it's not like she ordered a salad with no tomatoes, or a hamburger, hold the mayo. Ordering a cappucino with no chocolate syrup is a little like ordering a grilled cheese with no oatmeal.

"No, I don't want chocolate syrup."
"Because some people like the syrup."
"No, I just want a cappucino."

N- returned to the table and I thought of all the things I could order, without the customary chocolate syrup. Spaghetti, no syrup. Chili dog, chocolate syrup on the side. Taco, no choco.

Finally, after another ridiculously long wait, the cappucino was done. "Cappucino!" she yelled for all to hear. Then looking at N-, she added - "NO CHOCOLATE!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012


An old friend sent me a note last week, telling me that another old friend had died after a two year struggle with cancer. It was sad, in the way that hearing morbid news about someone you once knew is - oh, that is awful. Followed by a quick prayer for her children, and a fleeting thought of thanks for my own good fortune.

Along with the note came a link to a Caring Bridge journal, it's worth the read, my friend said.

When the link opened, I was surprised to see the girl I knew, disguised as a woman. Under the long hair and mature face, I could still see the very awkward twelve year old girl she'd been.

We were good enough friends in school. Occasionally, we'd go to each others' house, or chat in school. But mostly, she was a little bit of a know it all and separated herself from the rest of us. Because she truly was so much brighter than us all; her brain outstripping her body, and everyone around her. Looking back, I think it must have been lonely, having to sit there and listen to us natter on about leg warmers and armpit hair, when her mind was lightyears away.

I half expected the Caring Bridge journal to be written in that same matter of fact way she spoke as a child. And indeed, the first paragraph of every entry is a straightforward, clinical description of her medical condition. Then her voice abruptly changes, and she talks for several paragraphs about mundane things. About the animals she sees out her window, about her childrens' school and sports, about visits with family and friends. It's as if she's saying 'yes, yes, all this is wrong. But the rest of it, that is my life.'

I'm certain it was by design. I finished each entry thinking about what a wonderful life she had, how loved she was. She wrote with such clarity, and, without being overly sentimental, was so grateful. What a comfort her words will be to her children, to see that everyday their mother's primary focus, her great joy, was in the love she felt for them.

How many times must she have said to herself, I am 39 years old. I have three children and a husband who loves me. Every day I have with them is a gift.

I could say those very words, but I have the leisure of good health, the complacency of good fortune.

She was always smarter than me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Tale of the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien: Part III

(Part I)
(Part II)

The disclaimer: (Please note, after publishing this, I was contacted by the fine folks at the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, concerned about my experience. This is slightly mortifying. This story happened well over 20 years ago and I'm sure that my experience would be very different today. And, I'm kind of given to exaggeration. A little. I'm putting this disclaimer at the top of each part of the story, lest someone searching for this fine vessel think it is an accurate portrayal of what the experience may be today.)

Jenny stood before us, all business, her permanent grin now forced. As the crowd circled around her, she raised her megaphone and with false cheeriness informed us- "There will be a slight delay in the performance by the Blue Angels." The crowd groaned. Or perhaps it was our stomachs, all growling in unison as the prospect of being filled floated further away.

The reason for the delay, of course, was fog. The everyday 'oh isn't this charming' fog of the San Francisco Bay had turned into something even the elite Blue Angels could not penetrate.

"I'm sure we'll see them soon!" Jenny said, smiling at the hostile faces in front of her. These people were hungry, they were chilly, they were moist, and most of all they wanted their damned Blue Angels. Jenny raised her megaphone as if to say something else, then thought better of it. She turned and scurried away below.

"I bet she has food down there." my brother said, his eyes narrowing.

"Shane, no." I whispered. My brother, while merely delinquent on an average day became positively threatening when hungry.

"You could distract her..."
"If she gives us any trouble, we'll just throw her..."
"Dude. No."
"I was just kidding. Heh heh."

"What are you two whispering about?" my mother interrupted. I rolled my eyes, my brother shifted on his feet. My dad leaned on the rail and chain smoked. She looked at me, "Aren't you glad we're at least spending the day together?"

In the more than twenty years since that day, we have given my mother countless amounts of grief. We have made jokes at her expense and exaggerated the events of that day to the extent that even we're not sure exactly what happened. Looking back at things with a different perspective - a mother's perspective - I realize that she didn't care where we were, or what we were doing. Her children were growing, one close to gone, and all she wanted was a day without distraction where we could focus on being with each other.

If I'd had this perspective then, I might have said "Oh, Mom. You're right. At least we're together!"

But I was 17 and I would rather have been anywhere on earth than stuck on a fucking ship without food in the middle of the San Francisco Bay with my family. "This is the worst day of my life." I told her.

Half an hour went by.
An hour went by.

And then, in the distance, we heard the roar of jet engines. We could hear them, but we couldn't yet see them. All the waiting, the lack of food, Jenny, the banana - all of it faded into the background because finally, finally the Blue Angels were on the scene! The air vibrated, the crowd stood with upturned faces, awaiting our saviors. The Blue Angels would redeem this suck of a day! The Blue Angels would restore our faith in God and Country and Bay Cruises! From a giant sized boombox atop a card table, the strains of Lee Greenwood mingled with the near deafening sound of the approaching aircraft.

"Where are they? Where are they?" my Dad was searching the sky, his gaze like a laser beam cutting through the fog.

And I'm proud to be an American...

And the planes and Lee and my Dad - oh my God, is my Dad crying? - I am 17 years old and fuck my dreams of Greenpeace because I AM GOING TO DIE OF PATRIOTISM RIGHT HERE ON THE DECK OF THE SS JEREMIAH O'BRIEN!


The Blue Angels flew right over us! They were, there were - completely invisible.

We could not see a goddamn thing.

Not a spin or a dive or a wing or a nose of a plane. For all we knew, it could have been a 747 landing at SFO.

"Fuck." my mother whispered.

The sound from the crowd was something like the long, low hiss of a balloon slowly losing air. Unsure what to do, we all lined the deck railing and looked woefully into the distance. If this were a better story, we would have turned all Lord of the Flies on Jenny and stoned her with her banana stash. But we never saw Jenny or her megaphone again.

It was another hour before we made it into port, another fog delay in getting a tug out to the big ship. We didn't speak as we disembarked, or as we drove away from the Pier. It was only after we'd finally stopped and ate a little that we once again felt human, and able to communicate.

"Well," my mother smiled, "We'll laugh about this someday."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Tale of the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien: Part II

(Please note, after publishing this, I was contacted by the fine folks at the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, concerned about my experience. This is slightly mortifying. This story happened well over 20 years ago and I'm sure that my experience would be very different today. And, I'm kind of given to exaggeration. A little. I'm putting this disclaimer at the top of each part of the story, lest someone searching for this fine vessel think it is an accurate portrayal of what the experience may be today.)

(Read Part I Here)

"Jenny" walked past, efficient looking in her practical pants and comfortable shoes, perky smile plastered to her face. "Excuse me," my mother stopped her. "We missed breakfast, do you know if there's anything we could get for a snack?"

"Snack?" Jenny was clearly not used to these kind of questions. She was more suited to answering things like was the S.S. Jeremiah in any major battles? And what are these doohickeys for? It was if the thought of a bag of chips was too much for her, and she stood there gape mouthed, staring at my mother.

"Yes, snacks. Food?"

Jenny snapped back to attention. "Oh! Maybe you can look around?" She smiled brightly, happy to have been such a help, and continued walking.

My mother turned to my brother Shane and me and said, "See what you can find."

My brother at 12 had yet to hit that growth spurt boys often do, where they grow tall and lanky. He was still short and decidedly unlanky, and bore a striking resemblance to Vern from Stand By Me. His very fitting nickname was "Gourd Head".

Shane was born slightly delinquent and possessed inate skills that the finest criminal minds in the world would envy. He was notorious in our neighborhood for his low level criminal activity - selling our dad's cigarettes, lighting small things on fire, removing street signs. One summer he took a cut from every lemonade stand within a five block radius, in return for his 'protection'. He was the suburban pimp of cool and refreshing summer beverages. He could smell food through a locked door and could hear a tuna can being opened within half a mile. It was this particular skill my mom was counting on as she sent us on our mission.

We scoured the ship. There was not actually much to scour. Since the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien had been retired from duty, it had been completely stripped of any item which may have been deemed useful. We weren't even able to find where they were keeping lunch, and when we once again ran into Jenny, we discovered why.

"Oh, there's no lunch! As soon as the Blue Angels fly over in about, ohhhh," she glanced at her watch, "30 minutes, we'll be heading back into port! You'll be back at Fisherman's Wharf in time for lunch!" She turned on her heel and kept moving. The key to looking efficient: always seem to be going somewhere.

"No lunch." Shane said. "Dad is going to be pissed." Just then his nose started twitching and he looked over to where Jenny had been standing while we talked. There on the counter lay a single, sad banana. "That's mine!" he lunged for the fruit. But I was closer and snatched it up. "Don't even think about it!"

We returned to the deck and found our parents and sat huddled together, eating Jenny's banana.

"She said we'll be back by lunch." I smiled weakly. "And the Blue Angels will be here in half an hour!"

My father stood against the railing, chain smoking. He would finish one, field strip it, and put the butt into his jacket pocket. Almost two hours into the sea cruise, and his pocket bulged. I desperately hoped my mom had an extra pack in her purse. If they didn't eat and ran out of cigarettes before the end of this trip, someone might have to die. I secretely hoped it would be Jenny.

Half an hour, I thought. Half an hour, a fly over and we'll be headed back to port and food and home. I leaned into the mist and imagined a whaling ship in the distance. Would I be able to climb the side of it while holding a dagger in my mouth? Would I look cuter in a pea coat or wet suit?

Finally, the hour was upon us. People started to congregate on the deck and look skyward. We all stood in anticipation of the feats of awesomeness that were about to take place. Just then, Jenny made her way into the center of the crowd and raised her megaphone.

Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Tale of the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien: Part I

(Please note, after publishing this, I was contacted by the fine folks at the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, concerned about my experience. This is slightly mortifying. This story happened well over 20 years ago and I'm sure that my experience would be very different today. And, I'm kind of given to exaggeration. A little. I'm putting this disclaimer at the top of each part of the story, lest someone searching for this fine vessel think it is an accurate portrayal of what the experience may be today.)

I'm not sure how my mom got the tickets. Maybe she won them, maybe someone at work gave them to her. Whatever their origin, they were the perfect excuse for her to get us all out together for the dreaded 'family time'. My mother and father, my brother Shane, and I were going to spend a day cruising the San Francisco Bay, enjoying delicious refreshments, and marveling at a private aeronautic performance by none other than the Blue Angels. It was to be a spectacular day. Our vessel - the retired battleship, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien.

That morning was a typically beautiful San Francisco summer day - 55 degrees and drizzling. We were running behind, most likely due to my insistence in taking two hours to get my hair just right using my Richard Caruso Molecular Hairsetter. At seventeen, there were only two things of great import in my life: saving the planet, and my hair.

I was deep into my Greenpeace phase. It was my 'after-Broadway' plan. After I had made my name in lights, I would retire to the quiet life of chaining myself to whaling ships and throwing red paint on women in fur. I would make my home somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, despite my hatred of Birkenstocks and armpit hair. I was a big fan of Pearl Jam. While I wasn't excited about spending a day with my parents and twelve year old brother, I was excited to spend it pretending to zip across the open ocean in a Greenpeace dinghy, calling from my megaphone, "Release the dolphin!".

Plus, who doesn't like the Blue Angels?

My mom was frantic during our drive into The City. "We're going to miss it, Kelly Marie, because of you and that hair." She was near tears when we finally pulled up to the dock. "Run!" she cried, "Just run!" We boarded the ship at the very last minute, smiled and high-fived each other. We'd skipped breakfast in our mad dash, and a helpful woman in a red shirt and the name tag "Jenny" pointed us toward the back of the ship and a teaming mob of people. "There's breakfast!" she said.

My father hated waiting in lines and so suggested, "Let's wait 'til it thins out." So we waited, and the thinning didn't take long. We hurried over to the buffet and discovered - nothing. Not one crumb of stale donut or morsel of flaky croissant. Even the whole fruit was gone. Even the honeydew melon, which no one ever eats. There was bottled water, and so we each grabbed one and went to find a place to sit.

Except, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien is a retired battleship, not a cruise ship. Before they hired it out to cruise, one would think that it would be outfitted to accommodate people instead of battle-stuff.

One would be wrong.

There was not so much as a deck chair, a bench, a upended milk crate or hay bale upon which to sit. So we huddled, alternately squatting and leaning against the deck railing, clutching our bottles of water, doused with drizzling rain and sea spray. Our bellies would have to wait until lunch. Then, full on whatever delicious fare they'd served us, we'd watch with wonder as the Blue Angels performed their aerial trickery.

My father remained an optimist. "I bet they'll be beer with lunch." In his estimation, few situations could not be improved with beer. It was then that I looked up and noticed the banner hanging from the ship:

"M.A.D.D - Mothers Against Drunk Driving - Thanks You For Your Support!!!"

"Dad," I said, and gestured to the sign.

"Goddamn." he sighed.

To be continued.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


The Husband and I had a slight disagreement the other night about the meaning of the word inertia. In trying to think of the right example, what I could have said was Me! Just look at me!

There are days when I feel like I am hardly here at all; like I might suddenly wake up mid-sentence and think, oh, here I am. Where have I been?

I am a creature of habit and routine. Once that routine is disturbed, it is incredibly difficult to get back to it. And until I do, I find myself floundering, wandering around in a mental fog that allows me just enough clarity to get things done. What needs to be done, anyway.

Children are the enemy of predictability, and while they thrive on routine, they rarely accept it willingly. This is when we do homework, then we have supper, then baths, then bed. But there is always a project, or a meltdown, or an event, or a spill or fight or just one more minute, that throws the simplest of evenings off kilter.

Then there are the things that I need to do for my own sanity, that seem to get moved to the bottom of the list. At first it was valid reasons, then apathy, and it has moved into a kind of inertia. Unable to move forward, unwilling to stay still, unsure what to do.

My children, it seems, get it from me.

It seems unlikely that I will wake up one morning, with a renewed resolve and boundless energy. And so I will sit down, pen in hand, and do what I do best: plan. I will plan my day with as much attention as I do the kids', with the hope that I will thrive on my self imposed routine as much as they do. It will require discipline and work and dedication, all things that, if I had them, I wouldn't be in this predicament to begin with.

I have a friend that always says, 'It's not a problem, it's an opportunity to do good.' In this instance it's incredibly true. Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity. My very best is the best I can do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oral Exam

My dentist is a nice fellow. He has a big, shiny new office in our little bitty town, and he's made a good name for himself among our odd mix of citizens. Farmers and socialites alike, he fills and drills and whitens. He does not discriminate.

He breezes in to inspect my teeth after the hygenist has finished the dirty work. He mutters some numbers to the hygenist, chastises me to floss better, and, inevitably, asks me a question.

"So, how old are your kids now?" It's never a yes or no question. Never something I can respond to with a gesture.

He seems unwilling to wait, or maybe it's just me, so I do my best to answer him while his gloved hands are still in my mouth.

"Ehwebbn, algo figh, algo woo."

"Eleven! Almost five and almost two! When are the little one's birthdays?" He's stetched one side of my mouth as far back as it will go.

"Uhh Wanury ag Fegruy."

"Wow! And your oldest is January, too, right? You really know how to stack them up!"

We laugh together. Well, he laughs. I kind of go ACK ACK ACK ACK and start choking on my own spit.

"Easy, now! Hahaha! Did you guys have family in for Christmas?" He now has both sides of my mouth stretched out and I swear he's in there up to his elbows.

"Wo, ju I ohm. See's hewe."

"That's right, your mom lives right down the street from you." Wow, this guy is good.

He crawls out of my mouth and pulls off his gloves with a double snap. "Looks great!" he says as he heads out the door. "See you in six months!"

"Great, thank you Doctor." I reply.

He turns in the doorway. "Excuse me?" he asks, "I didn't catch that."

Thursday, January 5, 2012


10 things I love (people don't count):
  1. Masterpiece Theatre
  2. Coffee
  3. When some weird place on my body, like my breastbone, pops
  4. Showering alone
  5. Silence
  6. Completing a task without being interrupted
  7. Eating a meal without having someone take food off my plate
  8. Going to the bathroom alone
  9. Listening to NPR and not Kidz Bop
  10. Silence (so nice, I put it twice)
It was a long ass Christmas break, folks. The slight disappointment I felt sending Katie and Julia to school on Monday was far outweighed by the promise of an hour to myself.

Because if all the stars align correctly, Henry will take a nap while the girls are gone and I have approximately 60 minutes to do...anything. Blissfully alone. I adore my kids, I love that they are nutballs and loud and fun and busy. But I find that if I don't have just a little bit of time to myself everyday, I want to lock them all in a closet.

After two weeks of a chocolate and candy fueled overindulgence of epic proportions, I'm not sure who's behavior was worse - theirs or mine.

North Carolina schools are adding five days to the school year in the fall, and in some counties they’re taking those days out of Christmas break. My initial reaction was disappointment, quickly followed by, oh, that might not be so bad. I know that in that long February-March stretch without a break, I will be longing for days without homework and activities and lunches and morning drama. But right now, I’m going to enjoy being – Alone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good Enough

This is the truth: My life is only as complicated as I make it. And I have a habit of making it complicated.

"You don't always have to make something." The Husband said, as he was leaving for work. It was the day of the Christmas luncheon at his office, and he had neglected to tell me that he was supposed to bring in a dessert. So I found myself, at 6:30 in the morning, trying to come up with an amazing dessert that I could prepare, attractively package, and deliver to his office (30 minutes away) by noon. While at the same time supervising my children, whose insanity reached a fever pitch during Christmas break.

"I'll just buy something." he said.

I gasped.

"It's not a big deal. It's not like it's a reflection on you."

Oh, really? Because it is. Because you're going to show up with store bought cookies and everyone is going to think you have a horrible wife who can't cook and is probably a bad mother and unlikeable to boot. Because my self worth is somehow wrapped up in the quality of the dessert on the stupid work buffet.

That is either hugely self absorbed, or an issue for a therapist. Either way, it's fucked.

I'm not resolving to do anything this year. Mostly because I think it's silly to pick one day to change your life. I mean, what's wrong with March? Partly because I suck and can't keep resolutions. But I am going to try, try very hard, to not be so worried that what I do is who I am.

"Buy the damned cookies." I said.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Leap Blog Day!

Join me, mothersofbrothersblogWe Band of Mothers, Just Inappropriate and more for Leap Blog Day on February 29! This is a great opportunity to build your readership by guest posting on someone else's blog, and highlighting a favorite blogger on yours!

Contact any blogger you like (including the ones just named above) and ask them to do a guest post for you. If they agree, post it on February 29 linking back to their site and referencing Leap Blog Day. Likewise, if you are contacted to do a guest post for Leap Blog Day, please consider doing it. (Feel free to do more than one guest post if you want.)  

Click HERE for more details on how YOU can participate.  Post this on your social media sites and spread the word - let's mix things up on Leap Day!

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Year

A year ago today, I sat down at the computer and started writing a fun little family blog. I wanted something to string together far flung family and friends, and connect them to us. I wanted to take on Project 365, posting a picture a day. I wanted a little place to indulge my love of writing and, well, everyone has a blog, don't they?

Things didn't quite work out the way I'd planned. I changed directions a dozen times. I sucked at posting pictures. I found myself talking about my underwear and grief and things that had absolutely nothing, and absolutely everything, to do with our small lives. If I were to measure what I intended to do with what I actually did, then it's been a spectacular failure.

I couldn't be happier.

I have had more fun writing this blog, and (virtually) meeting so many interesting people, and being inspired to become a better writer, than maybe anything. Ever.

Thank you so much for your support. I am truly grateful.

And because I love you guys, here's a short story:

I used to travel extensively for work. I was in my very early 20's, childless, and The Husband was still The Boyfriend. It was a very long time ago.

(I start every story that involves illegal activity with that caveat.)

Sometimes, before a flight, I would catch a little buzz to make my in flight experience more pleasant. This would involve sitting in my car in the parking deck and smoking a little leafy green herb. It was my pre-pre-flight check. On this particular day, I toked it up, and by the time it was my turn to check in, I was feeling super mellow.

Until the woman asked, "Could you tell me what's in the tub?"

It was a large plastic bin, exactly the same one I had carried on a hundred other flights, containing exactly the same things it always did. None of which I could remember.

"Ummmmmmm." I said. "Ohhhhhhh."

"Ma'am? Could you tell me what's in the bin?"

"Yes. Sure. Yeah." I said. Just say something. Anything! "Ropes."

What the fuck? Did I just say ropes? She's going to think I'm some weirdo sex fiend, or a rock climber. Or a magician. Why did I say ropes?

But this was long before some woman stoned out of her mind and allegedly carrying a tub full of ropes would even raise an eyebrow. So she said "Okay." and handed me my boarding pass.

Here is a little fact about marijuana, if you're not familiar with the effects: everything is cool until something happens to harsh your mellow. And then it sucks. The whole ropes incident has made me paranoid. What if she knows that I am on drugs and is calling someone? What if I'm not supposed to be carrying ropes and they're searching my bags? What if they call my boss? What if they call my DAD?

By the time I reach the gate, I am almost in tears. The flight is full, and there are few seats available in the waiting area. I quickly sit down, determined to pull my shit together and get on the plane with no further incidents.

Until I notice the man. A seemingly normal businessman, reading the newspaper a few seats away from me. But, when I look up, he has folded the corner of the paper down and is looking at me. Intently. When he catches my eye, he does the most alarming thing - he winks.

There is only one explanation for this. I am being followed by the Feds. The airport authorities have alerted the FBI and I am under survellience. They've been waiting for years to pin something on me, ever since my ill fated volunteer efforts for Ross Perot, not to mention my Greenpeace sticker, or that picture of me and a Nelson Mandela cutout.

I go to the restroom, lock myself in a stall and pull out my cellular phone to call The Boyfriend. Do you remember when we called them 'cellular phones'? I carried it in my enormous purse, because it was the size of a small dog. I had to prop it up against the sanitary napkin trashcan to dial the numbers.

"Honey? I just want you to know that there might be trouble. It's the Feds. I told them I had ropes, and now they're watching me."

"Yeah. Did you smoke pot?" he yawned.

"Maybe a little. What should I do?"

"Don't be a dumbass, and stop smoking weed before you fly."

He never fails me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


She was born on a Friday, the first day of the first month of a new century. She was pink and fat and hairy and perfect. The drive home from the hospital was cold and dark, and she never closed her eyes. She saw stars and lights and wonder all around her.

Those first few days were surreal; neither her father nor I had any idea what we were doing, and we didn't pretend to. She was what I can now recognize as a 'good baby'. She was, in fact, a near perfect baby. Even so, those first weeks are a blur of nursing, diapers and tears (mostly mine). Second only to the overwhelming feeling of love was the crushing weight of my own inadequacy.

I would never be good enough.

The reality of it all hit me one morning as I got her dressed. She had, as newborns sometimes do, fallen asleep mid-change. As she lie there quietly breathing, I held my ear to her chest. It was the first time I'd heard her heartbeat independent of my body. The sound twisted my chest into a knot that's yet to be unraveled. It said to me, I am yours, you are mine.

She is kind and funny and happy and prone to dramatics. She is fearless in front of an audience, yet scared of the dark. She is kind. She is terrible about making decisions and keeping her room clean. She is creative and smart and loving and a horrible dancer. She still sees the wonder in everything around her.

She is my heart, my love, my own. She is mine and I am hers. Happy birthday, my New Year's Girl. You are The Beginning.

(I have joined NaBloPoMo again for January, and the theme for the month is 'Beginnings'. I can think of no better beginning than our first child, our Katie, who celebrates her eleventh birthday today.)