Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Proper Mayonnaise Salad

(My guest blogger for Leap Blog Day is the very talented Tangled Lou from Periphery. She is  a terrifically beautiful writer who manages to turn the every day into something stunning with her amazing imagery. Reading Periphery leaves me feeling like I just took a warm bath in a big tub, with candles and ambient lighting, and no kids asking me 'why do your nipples look like that?'. Check out her blog, I know you'll love her as much as I do. If you want to see where I'm posting today, check out Reese Rants & Raves and Triad Moms on Main. Make like Kriss Kross and jump, jump!) 


My in-laws all hail from New Orleans and its murky environs. My mother-in-law is a twin, and one of four sisters in a matriarchy that only a five to one estrogen ratio and that special voodoo version of New Orleans Catholicism can produce. She is, to say the least, outspoken. But outspoken in a way that reapplies its lipstick after every meal and sleeps on brush rollers every night.

Holidays at the in-laws' house were a huge adjustment for me when I was first married. Conversations tended to be shouted over the top of a ubiquitous television, and largely consisted of non sequitur, as no one appeared to be listening to anything that anyone else was shouting. Then the aunts and uncles would show up. Uncle Bob, a great big man from a family of giants would show up with his mother and assorted siblings in tow, with a jug of bourbon under his arm and shout: "I hope you made ham, because I brought the Turkey!" and proceed to pour a tumbler full of Wild Turkey and Coke for his 80-year-old mother who proclaimed every year: "I like to drink my Turkey!" I spent most holidays trying to disappear into the couch and hoping no one asked me a direct question, to which I would have to shout an answer as their back receded before me.

My first Christmas as the dubious daughter-in-law - a quiet, bookish, non-Catholic Yankee with an exotic upbringing (not just out of the South, out of the country!) - I did my level best to turn that dubious into dutiful. As my mother-in-law cursed and fussed in the kitchen, I came in and offered to help. I was a Yankee, but not completely without social graces.

"Um, you can make the salad," my mother-in-law decided. She gestured to the sideboard where the ingredients were awaiting construction. Here is what I found:

A can of pineapple rings.
A head of iceberg lettuce.
A jar of maraschino cherries.
A bag of shredded orange cheese.
The largest jar of mayonnaise I had ever seen outside of the food service industry.

Was this some sort of a test? Was I being hazed? It was like those IQ tests where you are given a group of completely nonsensical things and required to tell a story about them. I completely panicked. I didn't want to appear incompetent to my new mother-in-law, nor could I find my husband who always disappeared into his childhood self, shouting along with the rest of them. So it was just me and the mayonnaise. I had a dim recollection of some sort of stacked salad from pot-lucks as a child, so I did the best I could, layering each plate with a lettuce leaf, pineapple ring, a sprinkle of cheese and a cherry. I was completely at a loss as to what to do with the mayo, so I just left it on the side with the giant spoon she had provided me.

As we all came to the table for dinner, my sister-in-law, the consistent front runner for family matriarch should my mother-in-law ever exit the scene, bellowed just as we were all shushed for saying grace: "Mooooom! What's wrong with the salad?!" I died a little as my mother-in-law shot her The Look and swatted her with a dish towel. I was horrified to learn, as everyone went about righting their salads, that between the pineapple ring and the shredded cheese belonged a giant glob of mayonnaise. It was a family tradition, passed down from the original matriarch in the old country, know as "Nawlins". 

As my new family grew to tolerate my foreign ways, I was no longer put on salad duty and simply asked to bring a dessert. I also grew more accustomed to the rollicking family holidays. One year my father-in-law, a small and demented man (rendered smaller by the sheer force of his wife and more demented by copious amounts of Busch Light) disappeared into the garage with Uncle Bernard, a large and affable man with a taste for Wild Turkey and outlandish stories. There was a hubbub in the kitchen when they returned.
"You what?!" my mother-in-law shrieked. "You went out there and..." completely winded by her outrage, she was almost at a loss for words. "You went out there and SOLD THAT MAN A FISHING POLE?!" I wasn't sure whether my amusement or terror should prevail as she continued to rant. "ON CHRISTMAS, no less?! You sold that man a fishing pole ON CHRISTMAS! What is WRONG with you?!" Knowing their place, the two men slunk outside with the offending fishing pole to smoke and drink cheap beer in the quiet of the garage.

By the time my husband's younger sister got married, I was allowed to sit with the family at the church, but not to actually participate in the wedding, nor to sit at the head table. My job was to corral the cousins who were also not really "blood" and keep them occupied. One of these cousins was possibly the most tedious person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I sat in the second limo, dressed in the dress my mother-in-law insisted on buying for me when I said I was thinking of making my dress for the wedding, my hair shellacked into some sort of helmet and trying not to scratch my make-uppy face, wondering why I wasn't allowed to ride with my husband. I remember clearly calculating the time it would take me to remove my shoe and thrust the heel of it through the tedious cousin's eye socket and make a quick getaway before anyone noticed I was gone. I decided not to risk it. 

The other night, my husband and I were talking about this very incident and wondering what his mother would have said if I had actually gone through with my murderous plans. It was a tough call. One the one hand, she was as annoyed by this guy as much as I was and he wasn't really "blood", so she might have thanked me. On the other hand, I could have ended up on the receiving end of a shrieking lecture: "You what?! YOU KILLED A MAN?! ON MY DAUGHTER'S WEDDING DAY?! What is WRONG with you?! On the way to the CHURCH, no less?!" My husband does a haunting impression of my mother-in-law. When our giggles died down, my darling husband said:

"Well, what do you expect from a girl that doesn't know how to make a proper mayonnaise salad?"

Monday, February 27, 2012


This is the thing about control: When I don't have it, I want it. When I have it, I desperately want to give it away.

The older I get, the less I want. The less I want to be the boss, to be in charge, to make the rules. I despise confrontation and hate conflict. Aggression makes me terribly uncomfortable. And so, when I find myself in a room teaming with all these things, I want to crawl into a cozy little hole with a six pack, some chocolate, and season two of Downton Abbey.

I walked into my house this evening and looked at my husband and said, "I am very tired. I just want to write little stories and play with my kids." And that is about the truest thing I have ever said. All I want to do is simplify, simplify, simplify. I don't want to volunteer or raise my hand or give an opinion. I don't want to coordinate or dictate or negotiate or aggrevate.

I want to write little stories, and play with my kids.

I don't want to be on the committee or chair the committee or form the committee or contact the committee about joining the committee. I don't want to email or voicemail or snail mail or carrier pigeon anyone. I don't want to pick up or drop off or carpool or potluck. I don't, I absofuckinglutely DON'T want to host, anything.

I want to write little stories, and play with my kids.

I want to go to the party instead of throwing it.
I want to buy it instead of making it.
I want to say, No. No, not because I have other plans, but because I just don't want to.

But I will do none of this. I will say yes. I will host. I will make the covered dish and volunteer for pick up and join your committee. I will smile and nod and thank you, despite the heat in my face and the lump in my throat. I will do it because it needs to be done, and because that's what I do. Because that's what everyone does - no one is special and we're all in this stupid boat. One day, we an sit back and give responsibility the big, fat middle finger, and knowing that is enough to get us through today.

And I will write little stories, and play with my kids, because that is what I want to do. That, I can control.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Suspicious Vehicle

There's been a rash of break-ins here in Caucasian Acres, and it's made the residents a little jumpy. Doors that have previously been left unlocked are firmly shut and the deadbolt thrown. The ADT Security man has been seen daily and will, no doubt, be enjoying a nice spring bonus. Front porch lights and driveway lights are left blazing all night long, making the alleyways look like landing strips.

Despite the proximity of our houses and vigilance of our neighbors and increased presence of our local law enforcement, we are LIVING IN FEAR.

'Living in fear' quite often results in 'living in ridiculousness'. It's a fine line.

Last Saturday night, the Husband went out with some friends. One of those friends parked his car in front of our house. Our house, with it's front porch light on, and back porch light on, and numerous lights on within the house. After they went out, I tucked my darlings into bed and settled in for a relaxing evening alone. I applied various lotions to my feet, put on socks and slippers, slipped into my floor length granny nightie, and went upstairs to the computer to write. Or watch videos of people popping huge zits.

Around 10:15, the doorbell rang. My first instinct was that it was Katie, who was spending the night at a friend's house a few doors down. Had she gotten sick? I hurried down the stairs, and, as I did, looked out the windows of the door.

There was a police car sitting in front of my house.

The very last thing you want to see sitting in front of your house while you're husband is out is a police car. I was shaking as I opened the door. I stood with my arms held tight against my chest , trying to contain my chestiness. It is funny, the things that go through your mind in an instant.

My boobs, with their southwest and northeast pointing nipples, will be a distraction to this poor man giving me bad news. 
Oh please please please let him be okay. 
Good God, why don't I own a robe?
If I faint and he has to help me up, he is going to be very uncomfortable doing so, what with my boobs and all. 
After I get over the heart crushing grief, I am going to be so embarrassed. 
God please I will never do anything bad ever again. 
Fuck me, I am wearing socks with slippers. What a loser. 

The Husband was, of course, safe. A neighbor had called about the 'suspicious vehicle' in front of our house. After ensuring the officer that I did indeed live at this address (what gave it away? The nightie? The slippers? The lack of a bra?) and that the vehicle in front of the house was owned by a friend, I sent him on his way.

I don't know which one of us got the bigger scare that night.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Serious Interview With the Author

I am a little disappointed in the number of people who want to interview me for something. Mostly, because my brain is fried and stressed and full of stupid anxiety and thoughts of punching people in the throat. Interviews are easy, because they require very little thinking on my part. I could post something light and witty, and not have it bogged down by the bullshit that is currently taking up space in my head.

So, like I say to my family - DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE? I will interview myself. I searched the internet for some interview questions, and the results follow. This is either super awesome, or super pathetic. Whatever.

1. If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?
This is a ridiculous question. People are animals, so I guess if I had to choose an animal to be, I'd be a person. If I had to be a wild, non-speaking type animal? A bird, maybe. They fly, which is badass. They poop wherever they want, which must be very freeing. They also throw up food into their kids' mouths. And they eat worms. OK, maybe not a bird.

2. Why are manhole covers round?
This is an interview question? Because they are heavy and you can't roll a square manhole cover.

3. How would you explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew?
Say you took a big poop into a box. Then all the little pieces that make up your poop, like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese and Gogurts, all went into their own little boxes inside the big box. That is a database.

4. If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
This is the easiest question I found. I would be blue cheese - a little chunky, a little smelly, and an acquired taste.

5. Betty or Veronica?
Betty. Betty Betty Betty, a million times Betty. And Batman over Superman and John Bender over Andrew Clark and Han Solo over Luke Skywalker. But Veronica over the Heathers.

6. What is it about me that makes you so drawn to me?
I am not kidding, this was a question on a website full of interview questions. If someone asked me this is an interview, I'd do a complete Scooby Doo face and get out of there, quick. But if you, dear reader, asked me, I would say "Because you are super good looking and smarter than average."

7. Why is 11 not pronounced 'onety-one'?
You guys are killing me. I don't know, but it should be. Henceforth, I shall dispense with the teen nonsense, and refer to that sequence of numbers as the oneties.

8. Who would win a battle between a ninja and a pirate?
Pirate. Ninjas are stealthy, but pirates are ruthless motherfuckers.

9. If you had an entire day to yourself, what would you do? 
I would like to say that I would go for a long run, take a hot shower, read, eat a nice lunch out, take a nap, go to the bookstore, write. But the truth is I would fuck around on the computer until noon, when I'd eat a piece of boloney on white bread, then watch You Tube videos until I realized it was 8 pm and I had yet to get out of my pajamas. At that point, I might take a shower and have a beer, or I might just crawl into bed stinking and watch My Fair Wedding with David Tutera until I fell asleep.

10. Are you really this awesome in real life? 
Believe it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


"Are you a big boy, or a baby?" I ask the wiggly boy in my lap.
"BABY!" he yells.

He is not just any baby, he is my baby.

When I wordlessly held the stick with the very clear two lines up in front of my husband, you could have knocked him over with a feather. We had never gotten pregnant without trying, and sometimes trying and trying, and we were surprised. Very surprised.

As we watched a fuzzy black screen come to life as a cold wand slid over my jellied belly, and listened to the tech say the words "There is your son," we were surprised.

When he was born in an unexpected way, we were surprised. When he walked sooner and ran faster and climbed higher, we were surprised, and slightly terrified. He hurtles his little body through space at alarming speeds, with frightening velocity and little regard for the laws of physics, or his mother's nerves. Our days are filled with near misses and bumps and bruises and boo boo packs. Our days are filled with surprises.

He is adored by his sisters and babied and mommied and loved within an inch of his life. He is the sweetest and the cuddliest and the most charming, we all agree. There is not a woman of any age who is safe from him, all long eyelashes and sweet smile and chubby little hands waving. He has us all wrapped around his tiny finger.

And so today, as I pulled him into my lap, I ask again-

"Henry! It's your birthday! Are you two today?"
"Jep!" he answers.
"Yes, you are two! Are you a big boy, or a baby?"

He smiles his Henry smile and cuddles closer and says without hesitation, "Baby."

Yes, you are. Now and always, my baby.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Shane's Story

In every family, each person has a 'signature' story. Maybe it's the time Uncle Bill helped a cow give birth, or that time Aunt Jean stabbed Cousin Joey at Thanksgiving dinner. It's the one event that, like it or not, defines who you are for time eternal.

For my brother Shane, it all started with him not being able to wipe his ass.

Shane was five, and there is no five year old on the planet who wipes their ass worth a shit (ba dum bum). So, what happened was kind of not his fault, or so he'll tell you.

Because he was not properly wiping, he had tremendous skid marks in his little underwear. Great swaths of poo stained his every pair, and my mother would get so irritated. "Shane, honey! Wipe until the paper's clean!" I could hear her yell from the laundry room. It became his bathroom mantra, and you'd hear him chanting it, walking down the hall towards the toilet. Wipe until the paper's clean...wipe until the paper's clean.

But try as he might - maybe it was his stubby little arms - the boy could not get his arse free of feces.

To avoid the wrath of my mother, he did what any sneaky five year old boy would do - he started hiding his dirty underwear.

He got away with it for awhile, but eventually my mom noticed that the child had no clean drawers. She checked the laundry, his dresser, the closet - but no underwear. She started poking around, and went to look under his bed. She caught a whiff of something poo-smelling (which can be the natural smell of boy) when she lifted the bed skirt. Shane, criminal in behavior from birth, had not simply shoved his poopie underwear under the bed. He had cut a hole in the box springs, and stashed the offenders away.


Mom threw the underwear away. At the time, I'm sure I thought it a waste. In retrospect, I would have done the same thing. She bought him all new underwear, gave him yet another lesson in proper butt wiping techniques, and considered the problem solved.

A couple of weeks passed.

One day, Shane came out of the bathroom after his morning constitution. "Toilet's clogged!" he announced. Now, this was before low flow toilets, and my father prided himself in a commode that could really suck down some turds. You could flush an entire head of cabbage down our toilets, no problem-o.

My Dad had a thing for toilets. I'll never forget the time we went on a family vacation to San Diego. The zoo, the ocean, the shops, the restaurants - all the fabulous sites of San Diego, and it was the hotel toilet that captured my dad's heart. "It's a Bemis." he whispered. I wasn't sure what that meant. When we returned home, he spent weeks searching out not just any Bemis toilet seat, but that particular Bemis toilet seat which had so satisfactorily cradled his butt in San Diego.

He was somewhat of a commode connoisseur.

So when Shane yelled, "Toilet's clogged!", we knew there was a serious problem. My mom tried to clear it.

No luck.

My dad tried to clear it. "Lord, Boy! What did you do in here?" Anyone who has ever had a five year old can tell you, the output is approximately five times the input, and a little kid can lay down a serious log. But this was extreme.

"Get The Snake." Dad said.

The Snake was the rusted length of coil that was tossed in the corner of the garage. It may have actually been a plumber's snake at one time, but it was clearly past it's poo-clearing prime. My dad cranked it out the best he could, until he hit what seemed to be cement.

"We're going to have to call the plumber." It was admitting defeat. We all knew, it must be bad.

The plumber showed up with his new, shiny The Snake. He probed and poked and prodded. He disassembled. He sighed heavily and went errrrrrr... a lot. He, predictably, showed his crack.

The entire time this was going on, my brother hovered around the periphery. He was nervous, that was clear, but he was also excited. He loved to pull things apart and put them together, so while this might have been tedious to an 10 year old girl like me, to Shane it was very, very cool.

It was about to get cooler.

The backhoe arrived after lunch, accompanied by a crew of five. The men plotted out our backyard with sticks and strings, and began to dig. All afternoon, they dug - stopping occasionally to talk about what they were doing, their Marlboros hanging from the corners of dry mouths. My father joined them, talking, gesturing, smoking.

It has always been fascinating to me, watching men smoke. How they can get the very edge of a cigarette to stick to their bottom lip and hang there, smoke curling up into their squinty eyes. How can they see? I wondered. Years later, I'd try the trick myself. I ended up half blind in my right eye, with a hole in my living room carpet.

Shane and I spent most of the afternoon on the deck, watching the hole get wider and deeper. A man would go down and need help getting back out. By the time the sun began to set and mom went in to start supper, the hole had taken over most of the backyard. Just as we thought they'd run out of daylight, there was a flurry of activity. The Man in Charge signaled to the backhoe to stop digging, and called the men over to where he was standing in the hole.

"They found something." my dad half whispered. "Miss Debby!", he called to my mom, "They found something!"

My mom came running from the kitchen with a dishrag in her hand. We rushed down the deck stairs and peered over the edge of the deep chasm. I don't know what I expected to come out of that hole. What had they found? A body? A dinosaur? Gold? I was ten, the possibilities were endless.

I held my breath. My mom rang the dishrag in her hands. My father put out his cigarette and narrowed his gaze. Shane chewed his lower lip.

"I think I found your problem." The Man said. And from the depths of the hole he raised a stick, high into the air. In the fading light, we could see the object clearly - a small, stained pair of boys' underpants, festooned with tiny red fire engines.

We all looked at my small brother, standing there wide eyed. He slowly turned his head and with all the innocence he could muster, spoke -

"They're not mine!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

There Is A Simple Man

There is a simple man who lives in my house. He wakes every morning and showers, even if he has nowhere to go, and drinks his coffee black, and reads the words of people smarter than you or I, or him. He squints at first, because he forgets that his eyes are older now, and then remembers to fumble around for a pair of readers to bring everything into focus.

There is a simple man who lives in my house who gets down on his knees to pray, every day, for things that do and don't concern him. He prays for people who are too busy to pray for themselves. Then he does his exercises in the closet, so he won't wake the toddler who's taken over his bed.

There is a simple man who lives in my house who can not see an overflowing trashcan or an empty box or a pair of shoes - or four - on the floor. But occasionally I catch him looking at me and I know he sees me. I can feel his eyes on my face and in my head and on my heart.

There is a simple man who lives in my house who goes to a job five days a week, and works longer than any man should have to. He doesn't complain about his coworkers or his boss or his customers. I can see the stress around the corners of his mouth and in the way he holds his shoulders, but he keeps it to himself.

There is a simple man who lives in my house, whose departure starts a countdown to his return. So much a part of me, that I feel like I am holding my breath while he's away. Small faces pressed against a glass, waiting to see him coming around a corner. Me, busy in the kitchen, pretending like my heart doesn't still skip a beat when he walks through the door.

There is a simple man who lives in my house, whom I love, still. More than I knew I could, after all this time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finish This Post

I have a half dozen (or more) drafts of posts. Rants that lost steam, good ideas that turned out to be not so good ideas, things that were funny in my head that lost their humor on paper. Every so often, I go back and review these posts. Sometimes they get deleted, sometimes they get completed, sometimes they morph into a completely different post.

Sometimes, I can't remember what the hell I was going to say. The following is one such post. So, what do you think I was about to say?


I love Facebook. I love keeping up on a daily basis with friends and family from the far flung to those right here in town that I don't get to see as often as I'd like. I like seeing pictures and hearing funny little bits of everyday life. I even like having some of my childhood friends on there. In some ways, they keep me tethered to my past, and help me remember things I would otherwise forget.

It can be uncomfortable, too. Watching like some creepy voyeur as friends put their squabbles on display, or air strange grievances, or vaguebook about the latest wrong committed against them. Most people I know will admit to keeping a Facebook friend for the sheer entertainment value. This is probably morally reprehensible, but most of us love a good trainwreck. It's like watching Hoarders to feel better about the state of your closets.

But I've noticed a disturbing trend - Facebook makes people stupid. I...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Big Dumb Bully

I just finished reading a post on BlogHer about adult bullies, and clicked over to Facebook where a different person was talking about the same issue. In the past week, I've had my own run in with an adult bully, and the people who live a few doors down continue to be the terror of the neighborhood. Through church and the PTA, volunteer organizations and social groups, I keep encountering these unpleasant people and always walk away thinking the same thing -

What the fuck is wrong with people?

In Rosalind Wiseman's very good Queen Bee Moms and Kingpen Dads (her follow up to Queen Bees and Wannabes), she rightly pegs the majority of these people as the schoolyard bully, all grown up. They consider their ideas to be the best ones, their experiences to be the most valid, their opinions to be the right ones. So insistent are they, that they often end up in positions of leadership, perpetuating the cycle of bullying. Only now with authority.

If a person is very skilled, very diplomatic and very patient, they can turn the bully into an ally, maybe even harness their powers for the greater good.

Most of us want to skip the diplomacy and punch them in the face. But because we're NOT bullies, we smile and roll over and vent privately to family and friends. Or blogs.

So what would happen if we stood up to these people and said, 'Hey, jerk. Stop being such a jerk.' Would they? Would it make a difference at all? Are we too nice to say anything to begin with?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Do It!

My children's independence is a great source of pride. Oh, look! I'll say. She just marches right in there and doesn't look back! Or, I've never had to teach them to do it, they just do it! Independence is a hallmark of good parenting. Either that or complete neglect, but I'd like to think it's the former. "My do it!" has been the battle cry of all my children.

But sometimes - sometimes I just want to tell them to let me do it.

Sometimes, I don't have half an hour for you to fiddly fart around with your buckle. Just sit your ass down and let me buckle it and let's go. I have shit to do.

Henry, sensing that his two year birthday is upcoming, has decided to adopt the WAYS OF TWO a little early. For those of you not familiar with the WAYS OF TWO, let me explain: It means your kid becomes a total asshole about ridiculous things. Mostly, things to do with independence. Independent dressing, independent car seat getting into, independent eating. It means that if you dare to take the wrapper off a cupcake, you are risking a meltdown of epic proportions.

It means that you have to take the cheese stick out of the fridge, hide it behind your back, take the wrapper off, then re-wrap it before you hand it to your child to "unwrap".

It means that he will walk around with his shoes on the wrong feet, because he likes them that way! It feels good!

It means that there is nothing too heavy for him to lift, or too tall for him to climb, or to difficult for him to figure out. He is TWO, and you can not fuck with TWO. You know nothing, Parent! I am TWO!

Today, as we were running late to drop Julia at preschool, and I dared to pick him up to put him in his car seat, he threw a tantrum. I'm dodging head butts and trying to use my elbow to fold him down at the waist (like a stroller, or an ironing board, children bend if you apply pressure in the right places), and he is screaming and kicking his legs. Julia, who is calmly sitting in her seat waiting, rolls her eyes and mutters under her breath, "Kids."

The wisdom of five.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Leap Blog Day - Sign Up Now!

If you haven't already clicked on that little green frog to the left and signed up for Leap Blog Day, you still have time! So far we have almost 40 bloggers who will be mixing it up on February 29, guest posting on other blogs and featuring amazing talent on their own pages.

If you've signed up and haven't found someone to post for you, please look over the list and pick someone RIGHT NOW! Everyone should have their posts written and to the host blog by February 21 (deadline extended from 2/15). If you have not been asked to write a blog, please contact me at and we'll match you up with someone who's looking!

Happy leaping!

Monday, February 6, 2012


My husband has an extraordinary memory. He can tell you the specific details of a hundred moments, from his earliest childhood. They are true memories - not just something that's been planted by many retellings, like the story of one's birth. Oh, the day I was born? Yes, I remember it well! My mother peed all over a nurse!

Memories for me are fuzzy at best, especially in early childhood. I can remember the way my grandmother smelled, or how small I felt sitting in my father's lap, but the first day of school, any first day? I am completely blank. The memories I do have are random and strange, and I know they must hold the key to something, but I'm not sure what.

I remember the day my brother was born. I just knew he'd be a boy, I wanted a brother more than anything. I remember being the happiest I'd ever been when I heard the news. He is mine! I remember thinking he was the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen.

I remember third grade, standing at the bus stop on the corner of Drumheller Road (the road sign of which we would cover the 'Drum' with one hand and the 'er' with the other, leaving only the 'hell', because we were so bad). I remember a woman cutting the corner too close and running over my Miss Piggy lunchbox at the end of the driveway. She didn't stop.

I remember the enormous snowfall that same year, and my mother calling me in from building a snowman. I remember sitting at the kitchen table watching puddles form at my feet as she told me my grandmother died.

I remember kissing my friend Missy with our hands over our mouths, after watching Grease. just for practice.

I remember my friend Julie farting during the Presidential Fitness Test in junior high, as I held her feet. It may have been the funniest thing ever. Ever.

I remember sitting on the hood of a Mustang in the hills of Orinda with my prom date, looking at the lights of the valley and thinking how easy life was, and surely that would last forever.

I remember driving away from my parents, in a car packed to the brim with nothing, and the boy I loved in the driver's seat.

I remember sitting in an upstairs room in my wedding dress in the heat of June, while women buzzed around me, adjusting and powdering and beaming. I remember looking at the window and thinking, if I sit very still, I will become very small, and I can just melt right out that window.

I remember later, being glad I couldn't.

I remember being a person I didn't like.

I remember losses with shocking clarity. The memory of my children's births are hazy and surreal, but the memory of the feelings are not. The first, surprising, emotion - relief.

I remember being with my children many, many times, and thinking - This. I need to remember this. But damned if I can remember what this was.

I wish I had written it all down, good and bad and meaningless. I wish I knew exactly what I'd said, and exactly what was so funny at the time. I wish I remembered more.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pillow Power

When I was nine, I prided myself on my lovely, longish, clean and well shaped fingernails. Like anything that a person is especially proud of, I was certain that other people were jealous. Oh look at her fingernails! I could imagine the other fourth graders saying. I wish I had fingernails like that! Maybe I didn't have the coolest leg warmers, and maybe I sucked at making friendship bracelets from fishing lures, but my nails were fabulous.

You know who else likes long fingernails? Witches.

It's a well known fact, to nine year old girls at least, that witches sneak into your room while you are sleeping and rip out your fingernails, if they happen to be long and lovely. I could avoid this fate by simply trimming my nails, but I was far too vain. Instead, I would carefully tuck myself into bed, slide my hands under my pillow, and will them to stay there throughout the night. As an added barrier against evil, I would surround my body with my stuffed animals. Papa Smurf at my feet. Fozzie Bear had my back. Strawberry Shortcake and her posse kept watch against a frontal assault. And Miss Piggy, ever vigilant, sat by my pillow. Even witches know not to fuck with the Pig.

I would fall asleep to the mantra don't move your hands, don't move your hands, and wake with great relief to my intact nails.

After my fear of fingernail stealing witches had faded, and I stopped sleeping with stuffed pigs and fruit-scented dolls, I still fell asleep with my hands tucked safely away under my pillow. Even now, I can't drift off until they slide into that cool space, hidden away -protected from witches.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Hardest Stage of Parenting

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are newborns. All they do is eat and poop and cry and they can't do anything for themselves. You are certain you will never sleep again.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are toddlers. They're into everything and eating everything, including everything they're not supposed to eat, and no surface is safe from their grubby, grabby hands.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are preschoolers. Their motto is I CAN DO IT and sometimes they can't, but tell them so and risk unleashing a monster. They are equal parts charm and insanity, and there is no reasoning with them.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are in elementary school. They're trying hard to sit still when all they really want to do is play. They struggle (and you do, too) with independence. Don't dare call them a little kid, even when they're crawling into your lap to snuggle.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are in middle school. Hormones make a tween a crazy person. They have the body of a young adult and the decision making skills of a 4 year old. They will make you beam with pride, until you discover the boogers they've wiped on the wall.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are teenagers. All they want to do is get away, and, sometimes, you wish they would get away. You try to reconcile their increasing freedoms with your own overwhelming fear. You are tempted to kick them out the door, then scramble to pull them back in and never let go.

The hardest stage of parenthood is when your children are grown. When you stop being number one on their speed dial, and days go by when you don't even know what they're doing. When they talk about their 'family' to other people, and you realize they're not talking about you.

The hardest stage of parenting is the one you're in right now.

The good news is, it's also the easiest.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Am Sorry I Use the F-Word So Much

Every year, my friends over at Triad Moms on Main have the Mom's Choice Awards for local businesses. This year, I am one of the nominees for "Best Local Blog or Website".

I think my mom nominated me.

I'm in esteemed company. I joked with my friend and fellow nominee Kristen from Four Hens and a Rooster that if there was an award for the blog with the most liberal use of f-bombs, I would win hands down.

If you found SFC via the Mom's Choice Awards, here are some of my favorite recent posts. Thanks for stopping by, and sorry for saying fuck so much.

Carolyn & Taco
The Tale of the SS Jeremiah O'Brien: Part I (also, Parts II and III)