December 23, 2009

Christmas Miracle?


“What a blessing!”

“It’s meant to be! God doesn’t give you more than you can handle!”


Read more about the Christmas Miracle... or not at MA! Motherhood with Attitude.

December 01, 2009

Coming Out

So, things have been a little quiet on the home front lately, as my seventy hundred avid readers may have noticed. Why the shy, you ask? Well, it's hard to write about anything at all when the one thing that is consuming your every thought is the one thing you can't write about. Yet. I'm a terrible liar, you see. (It's one of Kurt's favorite qualities in me) And I'm no good with secrets. Recently faced with a secret that I am unable to lie about, I've just sort of, you know... retreated.

But here I am, words on a page. Ready to write? No. But here we go anyway. Ready?

I'm pregnant.

If you need to take a minute and go, "What the FUCK?", feel free. I've needed several minutes (hours, days, weeks) of that myself. We didn't plan this. Anyone who knows me (for that matter, anyone who's stood somewhere in the same room while I'm on the topic) knows I didn't want any more children. We were done, finito, end of story. Full stop.

Or not, apparently.

As the nurse at the doctor's office told me, "These things happen, hon." Yeah. They should tell people that when they hand out the Pill prescriptions. "Here's your birth control, nearly 100% effective, but just remember... these things happen."

We had our first ultrasound on Monday. There on the screen popped up this little THING. It was wriggling. And right in the middle of it was a rapid flashing, like a crystal spinning in bright light. The heart. The tiny, squirmy bean had a heart and it was beating inside of ME. Doesn't get much more real than that.

We're having a baby. A third baby. Mother of three. "How many kids do you have?", they'll ask at the salon, at the dentist, at the check-out stand and I'll say, "Three".


And it's a good thing. Of course it is. Pregnancy isn't really my favorite thing in the world, but it'll be fun (maybe fun isn't the right word) to have another chance at labor and birth. That's the ultimate experience, the definitive experience, of being a woman.

And, of course, there's the baby. The little bean with the flashing heart. So invisible now, (except for my exhaustion and constant sensation of nearly gagging), that little itty bitty blob will do an amazing trick in the next 7 months and turn into a person. Crazy how that happens.

But it's a bad thing, too, and I'm not going to sugar-coat it and pretend it's all hunky-dory. There's a reason I didn't want any more kids and it has very little to do with my waistline. After Silvia things were bad. BAD. So bad that there are big chunks of her first years that I don't even remember. It was scary and hard and destructive and all kinds of other creepy words and we, as a family, decided not to risk that again. Two kids, two beautiful and healthy girls, were great. We were complete. Life, once sanity returned, was GOOD.

Now it's all re-defined. Yes, we are prepared this time if I start to have problems again. We know what to look for, we have a great doctor and support system. It won't be the torturous trial and error it was last time. But even the prospect of feeling that way, that hate and hopelessness, again... it's terrifying to me.

There are other things, too. My future, the career I've been slowly paving the road for, is now set farther out of my reach as I start all over again from the beginning. My girls will be big sisters. Silvia will be the dreaded MIDDLE CHILD (oh the horror). Kurt and I will never sleep. My boobs will get ginormous again. My stomach will stretch out even more. All my friends with school age children will be off doing their kids-are-at-school-so-now-I-have-a-life stuff and I will be trapped at home with a newborn's nap schedule. Three little bodies crawling on me, needing me, demanding me completely-- and there's only one me. MINIVAN.

All that, and every other trivial thought to cross my mind, doesn't silence the part of me, though, that says, "Wow. A baby. How cool!". It's exciting. And horrific. And beautiful. And shocking.

There has been crying. Oh my, yes. But we've had a lot of laughter, too. Sometimes the unthinkable, when it's staring you right in the face, is just plain hilarious.

Once I have to resort to stretchy pants I will start to really dig into the OHMYGODCANIDOTHIS?! part of the puzzle. For now, I mostly find the immediate physical reality fairly distracting, so I'll just burp like a truck driver, steal a nap during Sesame Street and save the rest for later as much as I can.

Good times.

November 23, 2009

Cookie, Cookie

It's that time of year again. Cookie Time.

Several years ago, right after Kurt and I got married, we went to Austria to visit his family for Christmas. Auntie Hilde is the consummate hostess. Like magic, drinks, snacks, nibbles and treats would appear at hand the moment we'd sit down. Her specialty? Holiday cookies. She had made batches and batches and then, yes, more batches of every kind of cookie you could imagine-- thumbprint jam cookies, bars, chocolate confections and any number of others that I don't know the name for. We ate LOTS.

Since then, I've always had this vision in my head of preparing ahead of time several different varieties for the holidays and making up plates of the cornucopia to hand out to friends and neighbors.

What I end up with, though, is a small stack of chocolate chip cookies and a pan full of fudge. Apparently that is all I can make easily. Well, those and, of course, my favorite cookie of all time, the chocolate peanut butter cookie.

The recipe comes off the back of the Reese's chip bag, but I don't care if it's mainstream and generic. It's GOOD. And as appetizing and lovely to the eye as a platter of jewel like treats may be, I'm just as happy to settle for a box of these and call it a day.

Here, I spread the joy (please note, these are NOT super-duper-health-nut-good-for-you cookies. That would defeat the purpose entirely):

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baker's cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pkg peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together dry ingredients. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy, then add eggs and vanilla. Gradually add in flour mixture, beating well until completely mixed (the dough will be thick). Gently fold in chips. Drop rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheet. Cook for 8-9 minutes. DO NOT overbake- cookies will be soft, puff while baking and flatten slightly while cooling. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen.

November 02, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

Oh god. Oh GOD. I signed up. I committed. I should BE committed.

So it's Day Two and I've got 30 words. That's right! Only 49,970 words to go!! So what am I doing? Typing away, letting the story find itself and evolve into something mystical outside myself? No.

I am on my blog, wasting time and eating leftover Halloween candy. Great.

Yesterday my excuse was we had a high-tech ban on Sunday's. Neither Kurt nor I spend time on our laptops at all, so it was a perfect day to NOT start my book. Today, I justified my lack of progress by the need to get Anna's birthday things together and finish up the grocery shopping while the kids are in preschool. Now it is 10:30 in the morning, with 2 hours to go before I pick them up and I am trying SO HARD to think of other things to do! The kitchen is a mess. There is always laundry. I'm overdue for my home manicure hour.

And look! Halloween candy! Can't leave that lying around.

Ok, enough random bloggy babble. I am now (oops, had a Freudian typo there, I wrote "not" first) going to go and write the Great American First Draft of Ick. Wish me luck. I promise, I will never-ever-ever make you read it! Cheers!

October 15, 2009

Who's behind you?

This picture from a friend's wedding (courtesy, once again, of Trystan Photography) is just about my favorite picture ever of Kurt and me. Firstly, I'm actually dressed up and holding a gin and tonic, always a good memory to capture. Next, Kurt looks happy and silly and adorable, caught in a moment of relaxation not often seen lately. And finally, I love that guy behind us, just strolling along, doing his own thing. He's totally unaware he's just been captured for all eternity behind a blissfully happy couple. It makes me wonder how I must fit into the background of other people's lives, too, how many vacation pictures have me wiping my kids noses or calling out to my husband behind someone's carefully posed family shots.
There are bits and pieces of other people's lives and memories tucked all over our own. I like that.

October 12, 2009

She shoots... she scores! Woohoo!

I did it, I did it, I really did it. Go, me! I finished my whole week from the CE menu challenge even though at first it seemed complicated and impossible and besides, I almost never finish anything. But I did it.

Funny thing is, by Sunday, it was easy. I didn't even look too much at the printout on the fridge because I had the hang of it all. Plan ahead every few days. Eat every 3-4 hours. Drink 2 cups of water with most meals. Stick to fresher, less processed or sugary ingredients and snacks. Look for a general balance of proteins, fats and fiber. Pay attention to your portions just by noticing how full you actually are. Try something new.

Heck, I even learned to love my coffee with half the sugar and milk I used to mix in, go figure on that one. (I'm still not okay with plain egg whites, though, but I am okay with not being okay with them. Does that make sense?)

Over all it was a good week. I feel renewed and motivated. The best part, or maybe not the best but the biggest reminder, was lasagne night last night. Kurt's dad had us over for a big, rich lasagne dinner followed by chocolate cake. We had wine and bruschetta for appetizers. It was a lot of food and I was excited. I felt like I deserved to indulge, like I'd earned it.

After the first glass of white wine, I started to get a headache. After the bruschetta, I was totally full. After the first few bites of lasagne (which was really delicious in the moment) I felt like I would burst. By the time the cake came around my stomach was bubbling unpleasantly, even after 2 glasses of crisp water.

I still ate the cake, though. Of course I did! In fact, that was the best part of the whole night, to the point that I nearly embarrassed myself. When the first bite of cake and frosting hit my tongue, a huge shiver of pure pleasure shot through me. Quite involuntarily, my eyes shut and I kind of... well... moaned.

Kurt choked on his wine and nearly died trying not to laugh hysterically. He later told me that he'd seen that expression on my face before, but only when we were alone. That's right, y'all. Chocolate orgasm! Ahhh...

Even with that finale, by the time we got home I felt sick, really sick. My headache turned into a raging migraine as I lay in bed, fighting the urge to go throw up. I finally downed two Tylenol PM just to knock me out and make the pain stop.

This morning, after a couple glasses of water, a hearty CE breakfast and a nice cup of coffee, I feel much better. But I've taken the lesson to heart. Even though the dinner last night was exquisite, my body has learned to thrive on and expect moderation, even after just a week.

So I'm sticking with the plan, adjusting it to make it my own. I liked feeling good and not hungry, I liked trying new things. I especially liked that one bite of chocolate, after abstaining from sweets for awhile, was practically X-rated. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Later this week... Pumpkin Spice Latte. (May not be appropriate for younger audiences!!)

But I'm sticking to a small with skim milk. Don't want to go overboard and end up in full overdose barf mode again. So that's my Clean Eating Week wrap-up. I'm sure it's been a thrill ride for you, my dear readers (all 7 of you). I certainly learned a lot.

Coming up next... NaNoWriMo? How many challenges do you think I can finish this year?

October 10, 2009

Home stretch, Day 5

It's cold today, icy stinging cold with freezing rain and black ice on the road and that feeling like your fingers and toes will never warm up. I've had my hands wrapped around hot mugs of tea, coffee and, yes, hot chocolate all morning and I'm still worried about frost-bite. I have friends with their furnaces broken right now and seriously, I don't know how they're functioning. It's COLD.

Yesterday was chilly, too, but without all the ice. By now, I feel totally comfortable with the whole CE thing; I know when to eat, what kind of foods to look for, what's a good portion, etc. So, after cabin fever with the kids all day kicked in, we headed out to the mall so they could run around in the play place for a bit and burn off their mania. Kurt met us there later and we headed up to the food court for dinner.

Uh-oh. Food courts aren't notorious for clean eating, so I felt a little trepidation at first. But I know my stuff now, y'all! I can make good decisions! I had a grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette, and saved my whole grain allotment for after we got home, with another yummy slice of Great Harvest bread. I love that stuff. I have no patience for making my own bread, but reaping someone else's rewards fills me with warm fuzzies.

So. Here I am, one day away from the challenge, marinating on what I've gotten out of it, what I want to take forward, what's not going to fit for me. And you know what? I think, surprisingly, a lot of it does fit. Except the egg whites, don't I keep coming back to that? Can't handle plain egg whites. I made scrambled eggs this morning and added in one whole egg, which made a big difference. I'm not sure why the yolk isn't considered "clean" except maybe for the saturated fat, but whatever. A yolk here and there does not make the world stop turning. I need my yolks, people. It's a sacrifice I just have to make.

That's pretty much it, not fascinating at all. There's only so much you can say about healthy food, right? The control freak in me adores the schedule posted on the fridge and my stubborn side is determined to see this through and be a better person for it, dammit. At this point, though, we're all bored of hearing me say, "Yum, feel healthy, things are good, wheeee!". "Lemme esplain... no, wait... lemme sum up." (Princess Bride, cliff top duel, I love Inigo Montoya!)

Tomorrow-- lasagne. Monday... still good things, I think. The best part is, I will not be torturing my devoted readers with every bite that passes my lips! Thanks for putting up with the challenge, which I am pretty sure was a challenge in and of itself.

Now, go forth and eat almonds!

Day 5:

Breakfast was my good ol' cereal combo with peanut butter toast and a banana. Polished off the hummus for a snack in the morning and fell back on my almonds and pear for the afternoon. The suggested lunch was a strawberry spinach salad with poppy seed dressing, which was good, but not at all filling, so I added in walnuts and a slice of Ezekiel toast on the side. Much better. Dinner, like I said, was a chick-fil-a grilled chicken salad. I didn't even steal any of Silvia's fries, go me! Then cranberry almond bread for dessert. Sprinkle the day with tea and rain on it with water and you've got the whole shebang!

October 09, 2009

Day 4 and dirty dishes

My dishwasher is still broken. Kaput. A glorified dish rack. Grrr... It won't be fixed until next Tuesday. For those of you keeping count that's eight days from when it broke. "Fast and reliable service", my ass. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The lack of dishes (since I am procrastinating the washing up more and more with each passing hour) has certainly begun to play a role in my adherence to the exact CE menu. I've switched around breakfasts and snacks that are less cooking intensive, like cereal instead of scrambled eggs with veggies or oatmeal (it sticks like glue to the bowls). I know, lazy, but I just HATE washing dishes and the pile already looming is bad enough as it is.

The dinners, however, I love even with all the clean-up. Last night we had Adobo-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Pico de Gallo and it was soooo gooood. Even though I thought I knew better, I've been surprised at how tasty most of the recipes this week has been. I guess I had an underlying belief that "healthy" and "clean" meant blah. Instead I find it tastes better than even my perfected go-to dinners. The focus is on flavor, lots of fresh additions and spice combinations that bring out the best in the food. In CE magazine there are hundreds of recipes that I'm excited to dig into, now.

I'm reminded now of what I already knew but had forgotten. My body thrives on a healthy balance. I'm less tired, sleeping better, feeling more focused and patient (not the Dalai Lama by any stretch, but better than my usual temper). As this week goes on I realize now it's not as hard as it seemed on Monday, that there's a lot more flexibility than I saw before and that it's not even TOO much more expensive than the more ready-to-eat foods I usually rely on.

Except for the supplements, that is, which I have a hard time justifying. I take a discount adult gummy vitamin everyday and that's about the limits of my efforts. I balk at buying the pricey almond butter, much less bee pollen. My excuse for not diving into that aisle at the store is that, with all the fresh food I'm eating, I don't really need anything extra.

One other thing... I miss Starbucks. I do. I think I've mentioned it every day this week. I know all the sweet stuff is not good for you, but it's good for my SPIRIT, you know? Next week I plan to indulge. The difference I hope to hold on to is it's an indulgence, not a daily necessity (Kurt will like that, too, since he disapproves of Starbucks on a moral level).

Day 4 in review:

Started the day with whole grain cereal sprinkled with flaxseed, milk, fresh berries and a slice of toast and peanut butter. This is my favorite breakfast. Since morning is not my most cognizant time, having this in place is great. Fills me up, it's easy to prepare and tastes good. Plus, yay, no egg whites.

Lunch was a salmon salad with celery, green onion and bell peppers. I tossed in some spinach to give it a more salad-y feel and added a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I also had a side of cottage cheese, which I haven't decided if I still like or not. Skipped the crackers, just felt too full.

I only had one snack, a pear and almonds, which is also my favorite go-to snack. Add a cup of tea and it's perfect. Isn't it funny how everything seems SO filling and satisfying? I can't remember the last time I ate so much every day but didn't put on 15 pounds.

Dinner was the pork tenderloin, delicious and for once I didn't over cook it! I am notorious for hockey puck pork, Kurt just about had a heart attack from shock. I went off-menu for dessert and had a slice of cranberry almond bread from Great Harvest, but I only had one piece and it's an all-fresh ingredients bakery so it's fine.

Still struggling to drink enough water. Why is that so hard? If I had to eat cookies every two hours I'm sure I'd fit it in somehow, so why do I forget taking a drink? (OK, that's a bad comparison as water has no chocolate chips, but you see my point...)

I'm off to wash seven hundred and forty-two dishes. Good times!

October 08, 2009

Day 3: Go me!

I am really proud of myself, really. Here I am, starting off my fourth day of a strict fresh-healthy-balanced meal plan and 1) I feel pretty good, 2) I'm totally getting into the swing of things and 3) I made my very first risotto last night and it did not suck!

The trick I think (not to the risotto, the other things) is that I eat every 3-4 hours. And since all the meals are really filling it seems like I'm getting to snack time right as, or even before, I'm hungry again. Since my traditional style is coffee for breakfast, starving by 11, grazing on little bites of whatever I can find (like a bite of Anna's sandwich, goldfish, some toast, crackers, cookies, etc.) that by dinner time I'm full but unsatisfied and eat way more than I need.

This wasn't always true. Last year, with all the wacky and crazy going on, I got WAY addicted to my routines. I had lists of lists sub-divided into alternate lists. Totally a control thing in a world gone mad. Anyway, as part of the recovery education, Kurt and I both learned a lot about the nutritional side of mental health. These days it seems the go-to solution is medication and a lot of docs leave it there. But with my compulsive lists, research and goal-oriented behavior I found out there is a lot more to it than that. Don't get me wrong, I took my pills and still do. Some things a vegetable alone will not heal.

But there's so much evidence that a healthy lifestyle, even down to something so simple as water, can have a major impact on depression. At the hospital the nurses were constantly following us around with cups of water to help our bodies process the medications more effectively. Turns out there are some meds that won't even work if you don't take enough water with them.

From water I jumped to sugars and processed foods, learning more about how they effect your brain function as well as your bodily functions. I got into a very, very healthy eating and exercise plan last year that did a lot, A LOT, to carry me back to me.

But time goes on and things start to slip. I've been skipping workouts as more "important" things come up, eating on the fly with whatever's at hand, skipping breakfast, drinking too much caffeine, etc. Doing this week, even just three days so far, I feel better. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel clean. Having it all laid out for me, too, in a neat little grid that I can check off and review, appeals to my inner control-freak. I'm loving having a list, even when everything on it is not so appealing.

I don't love it all. No. I do not like plain egg whites except in smoothies, I just don't. And smoothies with nothing but milk and oatmeal, flax and half a banana? Very texture-ly disturbing. The thing is, though, that it's a lifestyle, not a diet plan. So yeah, I can replace, adjust, find the things I like. This week I'm trying everything at least once, just to see if I might like it. That's what I always tell Anna, right? Turns out oats added to a regular fruit smoothie are not bad and that sucker will expand and fill you up for DAYS. Live and learn.

So now I'm contemplating adding my current comfort with flexibility to my past (ok, and present) obsession with controlled routines. And I think I can do this. Not totally limited, not without good old-fashioned chocolate cake and a tasty sweet latte from time to time, but in a general way. It tastes (mostly) good and I feel good. How nice is that?

I want all and sundry to know though, next Sunday evening we're having dinner over at my father-in-law's place and he's making a traditional, cooked-the-sauce-all-day, lasagne for us. I cannot wait. The best part? Considering how well I'm eating this week, I have absolutely no guilt about the upcoming indulgence. I plan to enjoy every. single. bite. YUM.

Day 3 in review:

I'm sticking to the grains for breakfast since the egg-whites are just gross, especially first thing in the morning. A nice whole grain cereal topped with a sprinkle of ground flax (not bad like I imagined), some fruit and peanut butter toast. Big breakfasts seem counter-intuitive but are SO working great for me. And coffee. Oh my, yes.

Lunch was a grilled chicken salad with a whole wheat tortilla-- boring but fine. Snacks are my favorites right now because there's no prep at all. The best for me is a handful of almonds and an apple, with a cup of tea. Also did the Amazing Expanding Smoothie with Magic Rolled Oats.

For dinner I made the risotto with scallops and roasted asparagus and Kurt said it was "Awesome!!". Stirring risotto non-stop for half an hour is a pain-- in the wrist. It was a time-intensive dinner and I was grumpy by the end of it, just thinking about all those dishes I now have to wash, but it was good, I have to admit. Yay, me. I skipped the after-dinner snack, I was just too full.

PS. I know you are all THRILLED to be reading blow-by-blow accounts of what I eat each day. I hope that by Day 7 your joy will know no bounds (because it'll be over, right?).

October 07, 2009

Day 2: clean eating challenge

It's Wednesday morning at 7, the house is still asleep (or at least not crawling in my lap asking for hot chocolate) and I'm drinking a big tall glass of water. WATER. Not delicious hot coffee with a splash of milk, the warm mug a comfort in my hand, but plain old H2O.

There's a change for you. The water part, 2 liters a day which translates to 2 cups at most meals, has been the hardest part of this whole challenge so far. I simply do not drink enough water, period. Sitting down and grabbing a cup of the stuff every time I eat feels weird and I've been ending up slamming it down AFTER I eat just to get in my quota. Even then, I'm still not getting all the clear goodness prescribed.

Two days d'eau, though, and I feel different. My skin feels less crackly, which in Colorado is akin to saying I don't feel very hot on the 4th of July. I've lost my 2 P.M. nap slouch, where I pretend to be meditating while Anna has her Sesame Street break. She's very sweet and has yet to mention the drool when I fall sideways on her during Elmo's World. This week, though, I've been okay. Not exactly Peppy McPepper, but still functional. Whether that's the water or the OTHER liquid side effect I just don't know.

Speaking of which, I have to pee. RIGHT NOW. It's hard to crash out for a nap when I am dashing to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. Keeps me on my toes, friends. Well, and on my booty but let's not go there, right?

Actually, let's. As you may know, I've evolved in my acceptance of the less glorious human realities in the course of my marriage and the requirements of motherhood. Even so, I'm not so proud of this particular reality. This diet contains a lot of protein, a lot of fiber and a lot of fruits and vegetables. It's a change from my usual less-strict and spur of the moment style and there are... consequences. So far, no was has blamed me out right but I know it's me. That old junior high saying is proving true in our home this week... she who smelt it, dealt it. (Sorry, Kurt)

On that pleasant note, Day 2 in review:

I didn't have the spinach for breakfast, mine keeps going bad, which brings up the question, how do you make fresh produce last longer? I switched out a breakfast from later in the week and decided to move around some of the snacks and other meals, too. As long as it's on there, I figure it doesn't matter which day I eat it, right? So I had muesli with low-fat milk, sprinkled with flax seed. I haven't gone on to buy all the other supplements, like bee pollen-- it's too expensive, but that's for another day. THEN, on top of that, I had Ezekiel bread with organic peanut butter (again, almond butter is pricey) and, of course the water. And coffee. Big breakfast, I was extra-full.

Snacks were hummus and raw veg, tasted just fine (toot, toot!!) and later, almonds and an apple. Lunch threw me for a loop, but it wasn't gross, just not my idea of yum-- cottage cheese mixed with chopped apples and grapes, with two crisp bread crackers. Weird, but not bad, exactly.

Dinner was Cajun Shrimp Stir-Fry. I served the Kashi Whole Grain Pilaf on the side, it's a favorite, and the whole thing was delish!

Then, my sneaky treat, off-menu for sure. As you know, I have the wonderous Keurig machine and my order came yesterday with a box of Dark Hot Chocolate. I could not resist, so instead of my after-dinner popcorn, I had a steaming cup of yum. I feel no guilt! On to Day 3.

October 05, 2009

cleaning to eat clean- what a monday

My dishwasher is kaput. The hose split right down the center and puked water ALL OVER the kitchen floor (the now-buckling and swollen hardwood floor). The repair guy will have to order a new hose which will take anywhere from a day to a week. Why is it that repair guys give you these HUGE windows of possibility, by the way? Why not just admit you have absolutely no idea when anything will happen and it's all up to the whims of fate? At least then I'd know he felt as lost in the current as I did!

Anyway. We had a big family dinner last night and used about all our dishes, which were in the wash, which lost continence all over the place... which means I just spent the last hour washing every dish we own, by hand. They are now drip-drying in the conveniently place dishwasher.

Why is it so convenient? Did I not mention that it's pulled out completely into the middle of the kitchen, blocking everything, so the floor underneath can air-dry? Did I leave that out?

I'm thinking sea bass and risotto are beyond me tonight. Looks like it's going to be hearty cereal with yogurt and berries. Doesn't sound that bad, actually. Hell, as long as I keep my back to the kitchen entirely, nothing seems that bad at all.

Day One in review:

Breakfast was a disaster (see earlier post), live and learn. First snack of almond butter and apple slices was yummy. Lunch was tuna salad and I substituted salmon since we had leftovers. The afternoon snack was a smoothie with a banana, oatmeal and flax and it was GROSS. Strangely, Anna loved it, I let her finish mine once the gag reflex calmed down. Dinner was supposed to be sea bass with mango salsa AND risotto with sea scallops AND roasted veggies. The two seafood dishes seem like main dishes, so I was in doubt about being able to eat it all. That's one thing I've noticed, too, there's way more food then I can really eat. I guess that's a good thing, right? Either because the menu is so plentiful or because I am not sitting around feeling starved. All the water probably fills me up, too, but I am a little tired of all MY potty breaks on top of all Silvia's potty breaks, too.

Ok, enough babbling. Off to watch the floors buckle. Thank goodness for our dry climate, maybe it'll all smooth out within the week.

It's a challenge

This morning I sat down for breakfast with the girls. They each had a (homemade and reheated) pancake with (low-sugar) strawberry jam, as evidenced by the totally happy pink mustaches gracing their faces.

My breakfast was a bit less joyful. The bowl in front of me contained a chunky, sickly blue mash dotted over with several dark spots of blueberries. Yum, right? I managed to gulp down about half of it by simply not looking at it while I ate. Then I gave up and tossed the whole mess.

Yuck. My spirits sank and I thought, yeesh, what have I gotten myself into?

This week, starting with my sumptuous breakfast, I am participating in a Clean Eating 7-Day Challenge. Of course, there's only one other friend in the mix with me but we're keeping strong together.

Clean eating (CE) is pretty much what it sounds like: eating clean, healthy and minimally processed foods in moderation. For instance, one of the tips is to look for foods with only one or two ingredients listed on the label to avoid processed, man-made additives. There's other details to the lifestyle, as well, like eating every 3-4 hours, drinking 2 liters of water a day and getting lean proteins in every meal, combined of course with veggies, whole grains and exercise. Mostly common sense stuff, but taken to a more serious level of commitment.

I eat fairly well, in general. I learned last year that one of the things that helped me feel healthy and stay balanced was cutting way back on sugars and processed foods. Generally I still stick to that. But hey, like all recovering emotional eaters, I go through big ol' junk binges, just for the fun and bellyache of it all. That was my first motivation for doing this week of cleanliness. The empty containers of Peppermint ice cream, Oreo's and chips bags littering our trash bins lately don't exactly fill me with pride, more like gas and belly rolls. To put it more concisely, my jeans have begun to bitch me out every morning when I try and button up. Time to bring on the health. Plus, hey, something to pass the time, right?

Seriously, though, I really want to know how people do this, eat this way, LIVE this way, all the time. There's a huge amount of planning involved, not to mention conviction. To stick to it 100%, one would have to eat out very rarely and selectively, prep food ahead of time every single day AND carry something with you wherever you go, shop at least twice a week to keep up with all the fresh produce, and generally learn to ignore and avoid all the delicious temptations lining the streets of our society. Pumpkin Spice Latte from the drive-thru? Nope. Probably you could make one cleanly at home with a little creativity, but it just wouldn't be the same. Coffee and tea for clean eaters only comes in black. (Here, I cheat, but a tsp. of sugar and splash of milk aren't going to screw-up the whole experiment.)

I'm not making this sound appetizing, am I. Okay, here it is. I think it's brilliant in theory-- healthy, nutritional and, with good planning and handy recipes, often very tasty. My curiosity comes from wondering how someone could live this way ALL THE TIME. Will I feel deprived this week, or does it all fall into place? How hard is it, really, to keep on top of the planning and groceries? For that matter, is it significantly more expensive than your Standard American Diet (SAD)? Will my kids see me munching on hummus and go, "YUM! Mama, bring on the chickpeas!"

Okay, so let's go back to the oatmeal gone oh-so-wrong this morning. I messed it up all on my own. The menu said, "Dry oatmeal with egg whites cooked in water and top with mixed berries" and that's what I did. I stirred my egg whites and water into the oatmeal and cooked it. Then I stirred in (after trying to mush up all the chunks of egg white) frozen blueberries, thus the blue.

When I called Jess (my CE cohort for the week) and asked if she'd been able to choke the mess down, she almost hung up on me from laughing so hard. So maybe it made more sense (and would have been way less gross) to cook the oatmeal, add the berries and then serve it with cooked egg whites ON THE SIDE.

It was early, I hadn't had my coffee. Anyone could have made the same mistake. Hopefully I'll be a little more rational in the rest of my experiments this week.

Tonight: Sea bass with mango salsa, risotto and asparagus. Sounds good to me! Cross your fingers for me that it doesn't turn out blue and lumpy.

PS. Big congratulations to Alison and Colin! Their baby girl, April Caroline, was born this morning and everyone is healthy and doing well.

October 02, 2009


So I've been deep in thought. Or at least, deep in procrastination. I've had some conundrums in my head, some what-if's and certainly more than some splurges of personally indulgent self-doubt.

Conundrums. How to re-define friendships as they shift with the times? It's tricky and sometimes fairly uncomfortable. Especially if, here's the sticky spot, the other person doesn't know the winds have changed? Hmm. It's a part of the mommy-land that doesn't show up on the map often. I started out a stay-at-home mom and found my footing around other stay-at-home mom's. Our babies played together, we drank coffee and cried and commiserated and laughed at the absurdity of it. Then... the kids get older. Interests and schedules change, priorities shift, school lurks on the horizon. The mommy part of it all drifts apart, leaving the realization that perhaps that connection WAS the friendship in the first place. The kids grow up and make new friends and then... I do, too?

What-if's. Changes in career, life, expectations-- without seeming to, it can all snowball into bigger questions than were originally asked. For instance, I've decided to take Anna out of 3-day a week preschool. She and Silvia will go 2 mornings a week from now on. This decision did NOT come easily. Partly, saving moolah is an issue. But that issue leads to the question, "Is saving that chunk of cash worth the change?". And then THAT question leads to, "Does that 4 hours of preschool benefit Anna any more than an extra 4 hours with me?". Which turns into, "What is it that I do in those hours that necessitates her absence? Silvia's with me on those days anyway, so it's not like I'm all wild in my freedom.".

On and on it goes. The key is to know where to stop it and that's where I am. For now, the girls will have two mornings a week of preschool and 3 mornings a week with me. If they drive me bonkers, I can always go to the gym. If I need a day off, I have family in the area who can spot me some childcare from time to time. Overall, I feel, while it doesn't save a whole lot of money, spending that money doesn't really save us anything either.

I'm re-thinking the atmosphere and flow of our lives, what's important, what needs to go, what we can add in. They say you should take down, dust and move around the ephemera in your house at least once a year to freshen things up and provide a new perspective.

My ephemera is dusted and ready to move. I just need to figure out exactly where to put it.

September 30, 2009


"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a
while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"

--Ray Bradbury

September 04, 2009

Looney Tunes

I had no idea it was a holiday weekend. Seriously, NO CLUE. Someone said something the other day about going to the Balloon Classic this weekend and I thought, "Huh? That's not until Labor Day, what a crack head!". Okay, I didn't think crack head, more along the lines of "crazy confused person lost in time", but crack head is more concise.

Turns out I am the crack head (see definition above). Labor Day weekend? How did that happen? Lately we've been caught up in a blurry ribbon of time passing, disjointed, with no clear separations between days. Kurt has been working overtime and when he's not working overtime, he's thinking about work and when he's not thinking about work he's trying to sleep through work-inspired insomnia. It's not a good place to be.

Sometimes I just don't understand this whole corporate thing-- I mean, working your staff into the ground to the point they spontaneously combust and leave nothing but a pile of ashes where a once whole and productive human being lived? How is that going to improve your bottom line? By the time you're ready to send in the numbers, the office building will be an empty, ashy graveyard like something out of The Road.

Needless to say, when he's so overwhelmed and exhausted, I am overwhelmed and exhausted, too. His extra hours equal extra hours for me, too, but with one critical difference. I can take breaks. I can go outside and walk or distract my "projects" with the lure of swing sets and Little Einsteins. I have no looming deadlines other than meals, baths and bed time. The kids go to school a few times a week which leaves me with plenty of time to work on the minutia that piles up. He has to let his accumulate, unattended, until it finally drops like a cartoon piano on his head.

So, it's Labor Day weekend. A holiday. I'll get the house ready for a relaxing weekend, clearing away chores and stocking up groceries. Maybe we can just settle in and take deep breaths for 72 hours straight. Perhaps there will be french toast and mountain vistas. Or even mini golf. Please join me in a united prayer than Kurt can dodge the piano, send his project to it's room for time out and finally get a good night's sleep. The guy deserves better than this. Amen.

August 30, 2009

The danger of forgetting

Every single time I see more news coverage of Michael Jackson-- his death, life, "legacy"-- it sickens me. Yesterday was his birthday, and millions of people showed up at events all over the world to remember him.

CBS Sunday Morning offered up this opinion piece last month. It is a poignant reminder, and indictment, that haunts me with the reality of how disturbing our national media priorities have become.

Michael Jackson's birthday with 24 hours news coverage? I'm fairly certain there are at least 4,337 families out there that don't give a damn. And neither do I.

August 21, 2009

Friday already?

What a week. In retrospect it's difficult to write about the whammy moment, but now that the shock has worn off it's smaller in my mind. Anna had a big run in with her bestest friend this week. Long story short, Anna ended up getting cracked across the head with a toy broom in the middle of a fairly quiet and unprovoked moment. The sound of the impact, which we heard from the other room, just rings through my mind, along with the image of her sitting there with her hands and face covered in blood.

The cut bled like anything. I discovered that old adage about head wounds bleeding ferociously is actually TRUE, who knew? (not me!) Once I got it all cleared away and most of the bleeding stopped it turned out to be a small but very deep cut, almost a puncture. Anyway, it's the biggest of all awkward, upsetting and unexpected moments we've hit to date with our kids interacting with other kids. Anna's very much afraid of her friend right now. But, with a child's unique ability to compartmentalize, at the same time she remembers the rest of that playdate as AWESOME!

Why the joy and sorrow? She learned to sit on the big potty without her little kid seat after watching, and overly participating in, her friend going potty. (Never though I'd have to say, "Sweetie, we don't help our friends wipe.") She is BEYOND proud and very grateful, always talking about her friend teaching her. In the same conversation, though, as if it's two different people (which it almost feels like it is), she talks about being hit and being scared and not wanting to play with the girl again.

I totally understand and respect her fear (and have to admit to some fear of my own). On the selfish side, though, I'm bummed that there won't be anymore playdates, at least for awhile. The other girl's mom is a good friend and that's when we usually hung out, so it's going to take some juggling to get together from now on. I don't know... awkward and uncomfortable all around, but hopefully a growth experience for us all, too?

Other than that, it's actually been a nice week-- Silvia is has begun the evolution from incontinence to iron-willed control. Ok, maybe not iron-willed, maybe more like industrial-cardboard-willed, but it's something! I experienced one entire day this week, with my kids around every minute, without changing any diapers at all. We were even out and about most of that day and she still had no accidents. It was so freeing I can not even explain it except to say that I now know how birds feel when they drop off a high perch and then their wings catch the wind and they SOAR. A life without diapers... what ever will I do with my time?

I'm taking a break from hardcore writing at the moment, I need to regroup and find something more interesting to dig into (as opposed to preschooler tussles and pee). So that's all I've got for today!

Oh, and a quote...

"We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it."
--Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

August 14, 2009

Wrap it up

All you pregnant ladies, (and you are EVERYWHERE I LOOK) I envy you. There's no great announcement of Baby Fever going on here. I just hate my period, also known in this household as OH MY GOD OUCH AND I CAN'T FIND A SPOON SO I AM GOING TO CRY, and want it to take a loooooong vacation.

I realize creating life is kind of maybe a disproportionate solution to PMS, but there's a little crazy wacked up voice in my head this week whispering that 9 months of discomfort and a following 18 (at least) years of responsibility seems like a small price to pay.

Fortunately, I am used to fucked up voices in my head, so I'm able to kick this one to the curb with all the rest-- it can keep the "run, run, just keep running THEIR LEGS ARE TOO SHORT TO CATCH YOU!" voice company.

Midol is totally cheaper.

Last night I ordered pizza because I couldn't stand up straight from cramps and was so tired I kept falling asleep over the hot stovetop (or I would have if I had been motivated enough to try and turn on the stovetop and cook). I got one small cheese pizza for the girls and one large pizza with stuff for Kurt and me. Then he came home and was all, "What's with all the pizza, I only like cheese pizza, don't you know that? Why waste $10 on a pizza no one wants to eat?"

And I was all, "I know you hate me, stop beating around the bush and KICK ME OUT ALREADY!"

As I've mentioned before, Kurt is a saint. He gave me a Look, patted my hand, rounded the girls up to watch Cinderella in the basement with him and sent me off to bed with a book. Best of all, he said NOTHING about me being a crackhead this morning. Love that guy.

I am all better now.

In that theme, here's our Quote of the Week!!

"Marriage is not merely sharing the fettuccine, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccine restaurant in the first place." ~Calvin Trillin

August 07, 2009

Food for thought

So this week started out poopy-- literally. Anna finally decided that vegetables were her friends and would make her very tall (and, as such, superior to all). The direct result of this onslaught of green beans, cucumbers and carrots should be fairly simple to deduce. We stayed home Tuesday since proximity to the bathroom became The Goal of the Day.

In general, though, I think this week had more redemption to offer than failure. I cooked dinner again for my father-in-law on Wednesday night and, much to my surprise, it was delicious. Morrocan Fish Tangine. Sounds fancy, but was actually super simple. I prepped the whole mess before anyone showed up, popped it in the oven and, voila, dinner. Add in a nice salad and side of rice (God bless you, Kashi whole grain pilaf!) and we had a whole edible meal. And no rubber chickens in sight!

Confidence restored, I tackled my next challenge--, the website for Hybrid Mom magazine, a small but national publication. I responded to a call for writers in May and, out of a waterfall of writing samples, they offered me a "job" for their team blog. Of course, these blogging whatnots don't pay, but the exposure is awesome and also serves as a major compilation of writing samples that I can flaunt for other jobs.

The other MAJOR payoff for me is the motivation of deadlines. I have to write something, anything, by a certain time each week. While Janalee and Tiffany over at MA! are very forgiving in their "once a week" rule, I still try to stick to that with some regularity. The gig is not so flexible. As part of team blog, we each write a post for one day of the week. So, if I don't write, there's a full day of nothing and, remember that waterfall of applications? I can be replaced.

For the first two posts I refurbished some of my older material as my introduction. But this week was the moment of truth, time for fresh words. I jumped on the bandwagon, settled in, pulled up Word... and stared at my computer for an hour. Demoralized, I got up for a late night cup of coffee-- and right there, found my topic.

And that's how writing works for me. You go with some small thing and try to pull bigger things out of it. Much like magic hats but only with horses and elephants instead of rabbits. (Any topic suggestions from little things in your own world?)

So I did it, it's up, I'm live and now I've found a good groove to carry my through the next moments. My weeks start on Friday night and so far I'm thinking the next one is looking less poopy in general.

Quote of the week:

"In Mexico we have a word for sushi: Bait." --Jose Simon

August 04, 2009

Tasty memories

My grandmother used to get up every morning at about 5:30 and go make a big pot of strong coffee. The kitchen light would glow against the darkness of the rest of the house while she sat at the table, cup in hand. She would smoke one or two cigarettes as she made her way through a few cups of black coffee, all in the still quiet of the pre-dawn morning.

Then came what I've always suspected is the real reason for her early rising-- chocolate marshmallow pinwheel cookies. She'd set one out on a plate, pulled from the strategically hidden package high in the cupboard. Between puffs and sips, she'd eat the cookie up in tiny, delightful bites.

In all other ways, my grandmother was a fairly austere woman. She was slight ("5 foot one and THREE QUARTERS" she always insisted), she did not enjoy shopping or flippant, casual conversation and used a firm hand, especially on our behinds, to keep my brother and me in line. She very rarely went out by herself, preferring to stay home and care for her dogs and garden. Tempered by an overall sense of subdued awe, she inspired our love and, ever so slightly, fear.

With two grown sons living in her home, and two grandchildren on top of that, this morning routine always seemed to me to be a near-sacred reclamation of her own personal space. So for the handful of times I would peek into the hallway and see her there in the kitchen, even at six years old, I understood never to bring it up.

Of course, being a highly intelligent woman with a grandmother's skill for sensing small lurking children, she knew I was there each time. One morning, while I sat peering around the corner into the kitchen, she turned, looked directly at me and said, "Come here, girl."

Oh, the terror.

Heart pounding, I tip-toed down the hallway until the kitchen light fell on my face. She just... stared at me.

Then, without a word or change of expression, she stood up and pulled out another chair.

"Sit down."

You better believe my butt hit the seat almost before my feet took a step. Then a miracle happened. Grandma walked to the cupboard, reached up high and pulled out the package of cookies. She put one on a plate and set it in front of me, then poured me a small glass of milk.

There we sat, bathed in light, eating cookies while the rest of the house, the rest of the world, slept. We didn't talk but when I looked up at her with a crumble of chocolate stuck to my chin, she smiled and patted my hand.

I have many fond memories of that time in my life but that quiet, secret morning is still one of my very favorites. It goes without saying, so are those cookies.

July 31, 2009


I felt awful, y'all. Really terrible, nearly in tears, hiding in the kitchen to take big breaths and bite my cheeks really hard AWFUL. My father-in-law's first day here and I'm trying to make a good impression and prove I do not cook like Chandler and Joey and MY MEATLOAF IS FALLING APART. Seriously crumbling to the point of mystery meat.

Devastated does not cover it for me. Worse, everyone ate it like, "Mmm, yummy, this is the best pile of ground beef and seasoning I've ever had. Wish I had a spoon to scoop up more of the tastiness that has rolled off the table!".

Big surprise, Kurt's dad cooked for us every subsequent night.

I hate having to admit it, but what is the internet for if not to come clean to billions of total strangers? I have not been feeling my best, not for awhile now. Mostly, there's the overreacting (though I don't really believe it's too far-fetched to be mortified at a plate full of what appears to be lumpy kitty litter) to every little thing and worrying. Oh the worrying. It's part of every interaction I have- with my friends, my husband, my editor, my children's teachers, that guy in the grocery store who looked at me funny and then cut his eyes away like OH MY GOD DOES SHE EVEN REALIZE THERE IS A MASSIVE ZIT IN THE MIDDLE OF HER FACE THAT USED TO BE HER NOSE?!

When I dropped my kids off today and discovered it was Bike Day and I forgot to bring their bikes, I apologized to every single person I saw INCLUDING THE JANITOR on my rush out the door to get them and prove that I was not that mom who ignores her kids and undoubtedly spends her days smoking and drinking with her bra straps hanging out as she leaves the gas on and flirts with the mailman.


It's mortifying to face the fact that I am not in my happy place. But I do not feel so good. There has been some crying, I won't lie. My skin is terrible, my clothes don't fit and I forgot to get Ovaltine at the store and now we are all out and my children HATE ME.

I have to go to the gym, get my 20 minutes of sunshine, set up my schedule for the next week at least. Or, in this vacuum of motivation, I should at the very least put my make-up on and fix my hair. And it wouldn't hurt my career to actually write something palatable and somewhere in the same month as my deadlines.

But really, all I can think about is how to survive making another meal for my family that does not reduce me to a puddle of WHAT A LOSER. Maybe chicken? Not that hard to do and hey, if I mess it up at least we won't have to go out and buy a rubber chicken for our next gag gift.

(Watch out, lucky reader, it may be YOU who gets those bouncy leftovers!)

(and let's all just join in again for another round of POOR KURT THAT MAN'S FORBEARANCE PUTS MOTHER TERESA TO SHAME)

July 27, 2009


Sometimes other people's words make SO MUCH more sense than mine. I try to think of it as motivation to excel rather than motivation to give up the ghost in total defeat. And so...

"I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration." --Steve Martin

(courtesy of every supportive e-mail Janalee's ever sent me)

July 22, 2009

Cinnabon's got nuthin' on me

Kurt's out of town and all his ladies are feeling the lack. Yesterday Anna was playing with the little girl from across the street whose parents divorced about a year ago. Anna said something about "daddy not living here right now because he was far away", to which the neighbor girl responded, "Yeah, like me and my mom, we don't live with daddy either, we live separate".

I stopped myself from jumping in to clarify the details with a simple smack to the head and mumbled, "they're 4, forget about it". Still, it sat with me. It's not that I worry Anna will think there's something wrong with the occasional business trip-- she still thinks the entire nation is approximately the size of an airport, which must explain why everyone goes there for vacations.

It stuck because, in reality, we are pretty much the exact opposite of separated. Kurt and I have never spent more than a week apart at a time from the moment we met, and then only rarely. Honestly. I'm not even sure it's been a full week, at that, just a few days here and there. Maybe it's cheesy or we're still holding on to that newlywed flush, but the truth is that we don't LIKE being away from each other. It feels wrong, weird and vaguely unnatural, like forgetting to wear your underwear. Okay, maybe not like the underwear thing exactly, but you get the idea.

Sure, a few days in control of the remote, eating fish sticks with the kids and skipping one of my bi-weekly bouts with the razor is fun (yes, I shave maybe twice a week. If you don't like it, don't look down). It's safe to say I do the dishes a lot less compulsively and there are probably cracker crumbs in the bed from my late-night reading sprees a la Ritz.

But I read all night because I can't sleep when he's not here. Part of it is your typical hyper-alert-someone-will-break-in kind of thing. Mostly, though... I miss him. I feel lonely and sad and I miss him.

He steals the covers. He snores. Sometimes (let's not be shy) he toots in his sleep. I'm sure I'm no better (if you want to hear about my charms, though, you'll have to wait for Kurt to start a blog). Regardless, first thing every morning, before our eyes even fully open, he leans over and kisses me. My days that don't start with that kiss are not nearly as good.

(I realize this sticky sweetness may not go well with everyone's morning cup of coffee, so bear with me through the last gooey bit and then you're free to return to your regularly scheduled cynicism of the day.)

He'll be back tomorrow, only three days away from me, and I can't wait. Our 6th anniversary is this weekend and while it may not seem to be one of the Big Ones, it still feels pretty great to me. I love my husband. He's funny and supportive and smart and looks amazing in a nice suit-- and even better out of one (mmm-hmmm!). We're still two very distinct individuals, even occasionally at odds, but when we drive each other crazy, it's usually in the most frustrating and wonderful ways.

More than all that, though, is I can say with all certainty that my kids won't find themselves explaining to friends about their parents not living together any more, for one simple reason. We don't know how to live apart. For good times or bad, in sickness or in health, that's a lesson I'm quite happy never to learn-- so long as we both shall live.

Happy anniversary, baby. Promise I'll shake out the sheets before you get home.

July 10, 2009

Take me away

When it comes to figuring me out, you can pretty much always tell how I am based solely on what kind of books are beginning to pile up around the house. My reading habits lean toward inundation. (Kurt loves this-- his favorite thing in the world is sorting and straightening the piles of hardbacks vs. paperbacks throughout the house.)

I have books by my bed and books in the living room and books in the family room and books on my desk and books in my car and often a book (and notebook) in my purse. When they all mesh, like right now, it means my aim has narrowed down to a concentrated point. There have been times when every book in sight was some level of self-help-- stress management, establishing boundaries, inner peace, healthy living, practical discipline for kids, etc.

Right now, though, all my books are screaming escape. Calgon, take me away. Or rather, in this case, Valdemar take me away. This series is wholly fantastical, occasionally juvenile and almost always romantic. It is all based on one world with magic and mind-powers and heroes and peril and happy endings. I have read all the books over and over again from junior high on.

Now, I know fantasy novels are not everyone's cup of vodka-laced tea, but for me they're a total refuge. It's a world that has nothing to do, in any way, with my own. There are no parallels and most importantly, no deep thoughts. This series makes no apologies for itself. It is simply one ever-expanding fairy tale of epic proportions with the occasional PG-13 love scene thrown in for spice.

I'm halfway through the third or fourth trilogy and there are still several to go. I can read them all in a matter of days, a week tops, because the lines of text are so worn down by my eyes now that each sentence comes across as more of a brief thought than separate words.

My children are good kids for the most part and my husband, as much as I tease him on these pages (sorry about the half-naked boat picture, sweetie!), is my understanding and supportive defender and friend. I am a lucky and blessed person. I truly am grateful every day.

But all the same, I sometimes just wish I had a magic horse and could blow things up with the power of my mind alone. How cathartic would that be, right?

July 02, 2009


The main wall in our family room is covered with a montage of pictures from our honeymoon trip to Italy in May 2006. In the traditional sense it wasn't really our honeymoon, we'd been married 3 years at the time. But it was our first big vacation by ourselves since Anna was born. We've always said that a honeymoon is wasted on newlyweds-- at that point McDonald's is romantic when seen through the stars in your eyes. The romance of Italy stands out so much more after a few years of daily diapers and date nights at home with a rented DVD and microwave popcorn.

The highlight of the trip was Positano, a little luxury town built into a cliff side of the Amalfi Coast. I can't even describe it except to say imagine every Bond movie beach scene and then picture yourself in the middle of it, minus the guns and peril. Ta da!

One afternoon we rented a motor boat and went out by ourselves on the bay. We got down there expecting to sign release forms, be issued life jackets and driven around for an hour by a licensed boat driver (driver? captain? pilot? there is a word here that escapes me). What we actually found was a guy who gave Kurt a 30 second tutorial at the controls, handed me down into the boat and pushed us out of the dock on our own.

It was SO MUCH FUN. The water was a clear, perfect blue, we were totally alone except for a few other boats off in the distance and the sun felt like a silky blanket on our skin. At one point we idled across from a small island populated by nothing more than flocks of very vocal, and apparently orgasmic, birds. I lay back in the sun and pulled the straps of my swimsuit off to even out my tan line.

And then Kurt took off, as fast as he could go.

I nearly flew off the back but managed to stay on board by holding onto the ropes along the side with white-knuckled concentration. The boat was bouncing violently in the waves as he picked up speed, rocking me all over the place.

I shouldn't have worried about falling in the water, though, because within moments my very own pair of life preservers came flying out of my suit. There I was, flat on my back, spread eagle in my grasp of the side ropes, boobs out and bouncing wildly around. Kurt glanced back at me, eyes on fire, shaking with maniacal laughter.

He finally stopped his mad dash along the coastline and I let go of my death grip, tucked the girls back in and beat the hell out of his sunburned back.

This is one of his fondest memories of our whole trip, of which there is no picture on the wall.

Thank God.

June 26, 2009

Calling writers

Here's a chance for essay writers:

Real Simple's Life Lessons Contest

When did you realize you had become a grown-up? Share your lesson and you could win. 1500 words or less.

And, hey, in that vein, how about a 100 word or less comment here on the same theme?

I'll start...

I had my own apartment, a salaried job, business cards and furniture that I had actually bought instead of inherited. Every morning I got dressed in business casual, blow-dried my hair and wore a watch. My shoes were not comfortable. I had my own liquor cabinet. But adulthood didn't hit me until I looked up one day and saw that all the pictures on my wall were framed-- not taped at the corners or hanging on for dear life from thumb tacks. Right there, childhood left me behind.

June 23, 2009

In your face

My heart pounded, my hands shook. As my fingers pressed the call button, the flip-flops in my belly turned into rolling ocean waves.


I will not cry, I will not cry... "Ummm... hi? It's Megan. I just... I'm sorry to call, I was just wondering if you had to leave early today? It's just that... well, the house doesn't look... I'm not trying to be mean, it just seems like... ummm... maybe you didn't finish?"

That's right! I had a near-panic attack because (drum roll, please) I had to call and ask my cleaning lady to come finish a shoddy job. Drama! Disaster! Life-altering confrontation!

Or, if you look at it another way, totally no big deal and completely justified. I pay her, right? She's a nice lady, we get along well, but if the job's not getting done, it would seem obvious to ask her to fix the problem. It's not that the situation was monumental, it's that I had to bring it up at all.

I do not confront. I was, oh the horror, the girl at the office who cried under pressure. I don't want to cry, it's certainly not something I am proud of-- quite the opposite, actually. I always feel like the World Champion Loser whenever I fall into a case of the wimpies. But I just can't stop myself. It builds up in the back of my throat and just sort of happens.

The worst part is the apologizing. I swear, on more than one occasion (I am very clutzy), I've bumped into a piece of furniture and muttered, "OW! Sorry...". Probably that table was just sitting there, minding its own business and having a nice day of supporting magazines and then I come along and RUIN EVERYTHING.

Because it's all my fault, right? Somehow in my twisty little psyche, everything works its way around to being my fault. My fault the living room isn't clean, my fault Kurt's laundry isn't totally dry (okay, maybe that was my fault, but everyone knows it's better to air-dry jeans, right? RIGHT?), my fault the lady at the checkout rolls her eyes when I offer up a stack of coupons... gee, sorry for trying to save money legitimately in a way that is part of your job. My bad.

I'm also an expert at avoiding confrontation and then spending hours, days, afterwards thinking of totally awesome, biting and sarcastic things I could have said. If I had a chance to write a script before every run-in, I'd be famous! (Famous for being a bitch, but better that than a doormat, I suppose.)

After I stumbled out an explanation to my housekeeper, she calmly said, "No, don't apologize. I run my own business and I need to know these things to keep my customers. I'll come back this afternoon and fix things up, okay?"

Totally reasonable. That's the part that always gets me, that so many people in the face of every day confrontation are totally reasonable. It's not a big deal to them, so why do I let it be a big deal to me? It's a matter of esteem-building, I suppose. All sorts of psychological mumbo-jumbo should come into play. Stuart Smalley had it all right with his daily affirmations-- "I'm a good person and, gosh darnit, people like me!".

Really, I think the best solution for the problem is just practice. I need to confront MORE. You, over there! You just walked right in front of me and let the door close in my face as I stand here carrying two children. Didn't your mother teach you any manners? Hey, dude, thanks for delivering my Chinese food, but save your nasty look for someone else, okay? You had to drive two blocks to get here and I'm not tipping more than a buck.

And you! You, over there in your smug horizontal solidity. Stop trying to break my toes! You aren't the only table in town and I could have you on a one-way trip to Goodwill in a second. I'm NOT sorry!

Gee... I feel better already. Next time you see me, watch out! I might just be (crying and shaking) in your face.

(Next post will be about the shift from pre-confrontational anxiety to post-confrontational regret. But hey! Then I can bring "I'm sorry" back in a legitimate context, yay!)

June 15, 2009


On the floor of our utility room, there is a maze of deadly sticky traps. In the center of this gauntlet is the largest trap, a glossy black rectangle topped with irresistible bait- a shining dollop of rich peanut butter.

And leading away from the traps... a trail of peanut butter footprints.

June 12, 2009


I lost my credit card today. The total panic I felt at this moment was awe-inspiring. My mind filled with a rush of oh-my-god-someone-is-going-to-buy-a-new-cell-phone/car/flat screen-and-Kurt-will-think-it-was-me! The best part about losing your card is that the lost or stolen card number is ON THE BACK OF THE CARD. Fabulous. Then, upon finally tracking down this number, the exactly opposite of a helpline, they ask you for your card number.

"I don't have it, that's why I'm calling. I DON'T HAVE MY CARD."

"I'm sorry, ma'am. I need that number. Let me transfer you..."

Sweet God.

40 minutes later (and let's admit it, several breaks to go cry in a corner), they finally have the card cancelled. At this point all I want to do is destroy my phone, return to hand-written letters and generally tell the entire technological society to go screw itself and plant a garden. But no, there is not yet an opening for illogical hatred of all things electronic. Now I must enjoy the dreaded RECORDED MESSAGE.

Why not hang up, you ask? Because I have to confirm with a live person that I heard and understood the lawyer-ass-covering babble. If I do not then I have to start ALL OVER.

I cannot go grocery shopping today. And you know what? I'm so glad. Because if I had to face one more person asking me in a supremely fake monotone, "Hi! How is your day and what can I do for you?", I may just forgo my commitment to sanity and pull a full on case of cra-ZAZY.

I could do it, too. You think it wouldn't be that scary? That's because I like you and you've been LUCKY.

(and yes, I am AWARE of my extensive use of all caps. IT'S HOW I FEEL, OK?)

June 05, 2009


I saw a commercial today with Brooke Shields, advertising a new medical wonder cream that makes your eyelashes grow in thicker. Following the list of potential side effects, a friendly voice chimed, "Consult your doctor to see if FluffyEyes (or whatever it was called) is right for you!".

Considering Brooke's most recent claim to fame is her book Down Came the Rain about her struggle with postpartum depression, I'd say she should probably consult, not just her doctor, but her psychiatrist. Because, honey, if you're trying to fix things by pharmaceutically plumping your eyelashes, you need to get back in that chair and have a long talk.

A nice long talk is exactly what I had, too, recently- with myself. To be honest, if things had continued on the path I was hitting, I probably would have headed back to my doctor, too.

I've hesitated to bring this out in the open, considering I made a very unsuccessful attempt at a spending freeze in the past. Money has been very much on my mind lately. While I am not immune to the current financial state of things in neighborhoods just like mine, I find that my own personal struggle with the dollar has less to do with the economy and more to do with the soothing nature of mindless excess.

A few weeks ago, I found myself wandering the aisles at Target once again--for the 4th time that day. I didn't need anything, I hadn't bothered to make up an excuse for shopping, like shoes for the girls or cheap cereal. I was just THERE. A lot. The moment culminated in a surge of personal disgust that nearly had me upchucking on the health and beauty products. I put it all down, whatever it was in my little basket, and left. By the time I got halfway past the check-out stands I was nearly running and by the time I reached my car, I was crying.

Possibly something was not right here.

I don't shop expensively, I don't shop in big gulps of shocking amounts. I whittle away: face cream here, pair of cheap shoes there, new bargain purse, drive-thru noshes instead of PB&J. The illusion of being thrifty builds up until the end of the month. Then I can't meet Kurt's eyes and my purse feels heavy from small change receipts and I swear (unsuccessfully) that next month, I'll be more aware, more careful.

I feel terrible when I shop, too, did you know that? It's not fun. I feel pressured, short of breath and time, anxious both when I buy something and when I don't. The problem is, thinking about it and going out to do it feels just as calming as actually shopping does not.

I have edged away from this topic even as it has grown larger in my view. There's nothing so fun as proudly announcing a new challenge and then failing miserably (as I did a while ago). But I am sitting here weeks away from that nauseating moment in Target and I can firmly say that I have not been back.

It's not about the money, it has never been about the money. Quite frankly, though, it should be. Otherwise I am just another stereotypical spoiled housewife with a car full of shopping bags, willfully ignorant and blatantly indulgent. I have a comfortable life, I am an intelligent person and I know better.

So here's what it comes down to, a question not of what I don't need but what I do. Obviously I'm not talking about deciding between name brand and generic- the truth is there's no doubt about whether or not what I buy is necessary, regardless of the decision I make in that moment. I'm not talking about things at all.

I need to be able to meet Kurt's eyes when he balances the family budget. I need my daughter to know that happiness does not come from a big superstore aimed straight at her integrity. My mind, though healthy now, still has a current underneath waiting to carry me off in a stream of self-disgust. To stay above that I have learned to be proactive, preventive and honest. You can imagine the irritation it's been to find myself once again sabotaging my own stability.

My focus now is not so much on a spending freeze (though you can bet that's a big part of it) but at having enough self-awareness not to try and fill up empty spaces with a pile of packaging, advertising, illusion...and FluffyEyes.

May 30, 2009

Time off, time on

Weekends are special to me. Usually with Kurt home, I'm not on point with the girls, so I take a long shower, bother to shave my legs (WOW!), read a bit of a book or write some in relative peace. Even when we're all doing things together, the general atmosphere is relaxed. Two on two, life is just a bit easier.

Right now, Kurt's dad is visiting from out of town. He's looking for condos and might decide to move here (YAY!). I'm really happy to have him here, the girls are ecstatic, and we've been having a great visit-- fun conversations, fun dinners, silly kids showing off, etc.

But, by necessity, the boys are out this Saturday morning looking at condos with the realtor. Since two small kids running around strangers homes is probably not conducive to a good shopping experience, I'm hanging with the girls at home. It's fine, it's something I do all the time, but... sigh. I miss my Saturday a bit. Mostly, to be honest, my whining comes from the fact that I have to think of something for us to do, which is usually Kurt's raison d'etre on the weekends. Lazy lack of originality is what plagues me today.

But, on the bright side, I am showered and dressed (though not shaved, but who will ever know? Except y'all, I mean). It's a beautiful day and still cool in the morning. I shall venture out, bounce around the park and maybe (gulp!) take the girls to chik-fil-a for lunch. (note to self: probably should try to get them to eat more colorful foods than chicken and pasta).

The boys (aka Kurt and Otto, perhaps not boys in right, but since we ladies outnumber them this weekend, we'll call 'em what we want) will be back this afternoon and plan to make a delicious dinner-- something to do with eggplant and pasta, yum!

Tomorrow we've all got the day off: church, puttering and dinner with my family. And Kurt is home from work for the first few days next week, so we'll have plenty of time to let him plan our days. In retrospect, the weekend is just shunted forward a bit, not lost at all. Sounds perfect to me!

May 25, 2009

People Pleaser

In the writing class I'm taking, one question that keeps coming up is, "What are you afraid of when you write?". I'm not talking about the whole keep-your-back-to-the-wall-so-the-monsters-can't-creep-on-you-as-you-type scenario. (Seriously, though. Anyone who's seen even the most innocuous of suspense films knows leaving a door open behind you is just asking for trouble.)

The real fear for any non-fiction writer is writing about other people. Our lives do not exist in a vacuum. My memories, my experiences, the moments that have shaped me, hurt me and healed me, nearly all have other people involved. Whether it's peripheral or front-and-center, there's no real way to write without touching, to some extent, on other people's roles and actions.

While at first this may not seem like a big deal, you have to consider that not everyone, more likely no one, remembers any moment in the same way. Everyone owns, only, their singular perspective. That's their truth. So writing about something where other's truths overlap is tricky territory. For instance, awhile back, at my mom's request, I planned a big anniversary party for her and my step-dad. Long story short, the whole process was a disaster of miscommunication and incredible stress, which peaked for me when my mom told me very clearly that she had never asked me to do anything for the anniversary and it had all been my idea. Does it matter who was right? Not really-- we each believe our part and that's our own truth. It leads to two VERY different stories.

And right there, you have my biggest fear about writing. Even just mentioning the anniversary debacle gives me hives because I know my mom will read this. But if I want to be a writer, and I do, I have to assume that at some point lots of people I know could read lots of things I write that may not, perhaps even probably will not, mesh well with their own perspectives.

It's a balancing act. I don't want to offend but I still want to tell a story. I have learned to avoid direct personal references for the most part, though of course Kurt knows he's (almost) never off-limits. The key, I find, is to only write about how I felt, what I saw, what happened through MY eyes.

One example is from a while back when I reconciled with a very good friend. We met in a bookstore and I saw her before she saw me. If I wrote about the encounter as, "watching her ignoring me, tensely hoping I wouldn't show up and exuding anger", that'd be putting a whole lot of my drama into her head- a place where I have never been. (By the way, I just made all that shit up for flair- she was none of those things.) I'm comfortable with her reading that story because I tried to write about it as closely as I could from what I felt, saw, did and perceived.

Because that's all I have, right? The stuff in my head may not all be solid, but it's mine. I can't apologize or shy away from a story I want to tell just because someone else may not see it the same way. I can only do my best to be considerate and tread softly. That doesn't mean it's not scary, though. I've never been confrontational and sometimes telling a story can feel a lot like a throw-down.

But it's not, or at least it doesn't need to be. It's just a way for me to make sense of things. Since my life often feels jumbled and without sense at all, I suppose I need to get over the fear and put things together as best I know how. Hopefully, I can do that without stepping on any toes or pissing anyone off.

Yeah, right.

May 23, 2009

Falling off the edge of the world sure sounds nice sometimes

As a kid I used to sit inside stories while everyone else went out to play. Not so much inside writing stories, though I did that too, but inside the tales themselves.

I wasn't just reading-- coursing eyes over words, absorbing only a few in each line, just enough to grab the gist of it and move on. I was inside, living it, shaping my own life to fit. I remember vividly making friends with a tree in my father's apartment complex during a thunderstorm. I was so deeply entrenched in the adventures of the Pevensies that I really believed I could wile my way into Narnia, too. The most obvious way seemed to be through the good graces of the unappreciated denizens of our own world... and it really was a nice old tree. (I seem to remember it talking back to me, but perhaps that's something I should best keep to myself.)

Being ripped away from an absorbing book had almost a physical pain, leaving me sullen and graceless, bereft (though being a teenager helped with that part, too). I wanted back IN and when my book would end I'd find myself floundering. Where to go? What to do?

The answer, clearly, was to find another story to shelter me in it's world. Thank God for series'.

It's harder these days to find books that consume me so entirely as they did back then. I don't know if it's because the books I read aren't as good or if I'm simply not as capable of that absorbing suspension of disbelief. Part of the problem now, too, is that escaping so completely away just isn't feasible in my life anymore. Sure, I can get sucked in and read until 4 in the morning... but I still have to get up at 6. It's lovely to sit down for a bit while the girls nap, but with an ear out for them and a corner of my mind on the laundry, dishes and dinner, it's not quite so easy to sink into the dream.

Still, for all life's distractions and all my grown-up responsibilities and sensibilities, I'd really love to find two nearly mythical things: a perfect moment outside of time and inside a perfect book.

Any suggestions?

my horse ran away

The funny thing about routines is how easy they are to take for granted. For instance, I was so firmly ensconced in my exercise schedule that it never occurred to me that taking a day off here and there would do any harm.

Turns out that foundation was not so firm as I thought and now, neither is my belly. In the past month or so, due to the kids' illnesses, my excuses and ultimately laziness, I've missed more workouts than I've made. It's not a huge deal, and while I am now aching with the punishment of having to recover my strength, I know that I can and that I will. If nothing else, my humiliating lack of buff-ness at the gym with Kurt this morning has provided barrels of motivation.

It's not just little things like that, though. My writing has felt more and more like a chore and I've found myself grasping at every little excuse not to get it done. At this very moment a thunderstorm is rolling through and there's a little voice nagging me to turn off the computer in case of lightening- even though I'm using battery power.

It's cliche and whiny, I know, but starting something new is hard. It's hard and sometimes, lately, I just don't want to do it. There's an inherent comfort of sinking into basic household maintenance, setting my more challenging aspirations aside. When I clean the house, finish the laundry, do the shopping and plan out dinner, there is no real question as to my ability to succeed. The more I dip into this potential career of words, I encounter levels of complexity and resistance that I never even considered before. My own hesitancy is daunting all by itself. Add in all the other hurdles I need to jump... and I find dusting myself off and starting all over again to be more and more difficult.

But, here I sit, waiting to be struck by lightening so I won't have to move on to my waiting homework. But at least I'm here, right? I haven't really given up... I'm just hoping the horse that threw me will make it's way back on it's own. I can kind of see it in the distance, but the damn thing seems to be loitering in the vicinity of an apple tree. I suppose I'll have to chase it down soon, but for the moment, I think I'm going to let the dust settle and just sit here for a bit, right where I fell.

How's that for inspirational?

May 05, 2009

hello, sunrise... it's me!

I remember in high school getting up at 5:30 A.M. every morning. The bus came at 6:40 and classes started at (precisely) 7:04. Why 5:30? My brothers would roll out of bed at 6:30, snag a bowl of cereal and eat it on the street corner. For years, my mom would walk down there every few days to reclaim her dishes.

But for me, that was just impossible. It had to be 5:30, so I could shower and fix my hair and change my clothes a few times and do my best 15-year-old make up art. Then I had to finish my homework. I need that extra hour to get pretty and fresh.

I am sitting here with soaking wet hair, a bare face and mostly clean gym clothes. This is some quantifiable motivation- drag my ass out of bed at 6? You better believe I am not going to waste time getting cute for the boys on the bus. HELL NO.

Still, some things are too deeply ingrained to let go... I am still doing my homework on the run.

May 04, 2009

sad conclusion

I love my sleep, especially my mornings. The slow waking up, dreamily turning to cuddle with Kurt, waiting for my eyes to open all of their own volition- it's lovely. I'm just not a hustle-and-bustle morning person.

But I also just don't have extra time to do what I need to do. When the girls are at school, I end up running around rotating laundry, cleaning the kitchen, buying groceries with kid-free luxury. With leftover time, I work out and then, with the last chunk I can scrounge, I work. But that's not enough time when it comes to writing. I am discovering more and more, there's more to writing than just sitting down and sorting through words. There is, sigh, organization. Filing, tracking submissions, follow-up, phone calls, research and, let's not forget, screen-staring in absolute frustration.

I squeeze in a few hours on the weekends, I pull in a few hours at night during the week, but I need MORE TIME. And so, I have reached a sad, sad conclusion. I must bid my slow sleepy mornings adieu.

It's not like I get to laze about in the A.M. as it is. Anna invades our room with giggles and squirms between 6:45 and 7 and we're all up by 7:15, usually with quick morning ablutions already behind us. Then I get the girls up and decent (or generally tidy-ish) while Kurt gets breakfast, we enjoy a coffee and cereal, brush teeth and, poof!, everyone's out the door. Tuesday and Thursday are easier, since the girls and I don't have to poof until about 9, but it's still not what I'd call sleeping in.

But I still need time, an extra hour or so that I don't have to steal from an otherwise full, though not jam-packed, day. So, starting this week, my alarm will be set for 6 A.M. Or, more precisely, ten 'til 6 so that I have a few bleary moments to pry open my eyes, kiss my blissfully sleeping husband and stumble into workout clothes. I know eventually, in theory, it'll become easier to wake up ahead of the crew, but for the moment... damn, I'm so not thrilled.

I need that hour. I can get up before I take the girls to school and get exercise out of the way which will leave a free spot in the morning to stare at my screen in frustration. On non-school days, I can write and file and research (and don't forget the frustrated staring) in peace and quiet before the playroom explodes at precisely 7:45 A.M.

If I could just settle for staying a housewife and stay-at-home mom for the time being, I'd be able to "sleep in" (on a side note, there was a time in my life when sleeping in meant waking up at nearly noon, but that is gone and dust). I have to say, with all honesty, that this decision to get up only an hour earlier has called all this "freelance writer" nonsense into serious doubt.

But onward and upward, right? Let's hope this is a sacrifice I can stick to, or otherwise it's going to take me a LOT longer to find my sea legs in this business. My comfort and support is many-fold, though. I have a new desk, a husband who is thrilled for me, I blossoming belief in my own ability, a treadmill in the basement and something else which, at the present, is more important than all of those combined.

A fabulous, magical and nearly instant coffee machine. Keurig, I heart you.

April 13, 2009

List, list, Everyone loves a list

Since I know everyone is just breathless to find out what makes me tick, tock and smile, here's a few of my current fav's. I will not be putting jelly beans or Reese's bunny candies on the list because I am trying to completely banish them from my thoughts. So there will be no delicious chocolate peanut butter bunnies, you here? I certainly won't mention Jelly Belly's either, or that the popcorn flavor is my favorite and I wrestled one out of the grasp of my crying two-year-old yesterday in a completely shameless display of greed. And Peeps are totally beneath my notice. Especially the timeless yellow chicks, the classic Peep before all Peeps, that are currently on sake for half off today.

Shall we move on? (mmmmm... peeeeeeps)

1) My egg timer: I am not an efficient person. It's quite possible for me to lose several hours and then be completely bewildered about why I have "no time". Enter the egg timer. I picked up on this idea from "Sink Reflections", a book I pull down and skim from time to time (in an ironic display of procrastination) when the laundry is piling up, the floor has more crumbs visible than hardwood and my children want to know why mommy won't give them milk (because there is none in the fridge and hasn't been for at least three days). The egg timer is my rigid task master- I sit down to whatever task I plan to lose myself in and set that little ticker to 30 minutes, 45, one hour. Just as I'm about to achieve full-immersion, the bell goes off like a bomb and shocks me quite literally out of my seat. Time to get up, shake and stretch, move on down the list (you know how I like my lists).

2) Easter candy: wait... NO! NOT ON THE LIST.

3) Pandora Radio: This is awesome. You can create your own radio stations based on a certain singer or band that you like and then edit what songs it plays that you like or hate. It remembers your exact tastes and gradually refines the stations to fit. IT'S AWESOME and even better, it's free. Who needs to buy music anymore?

4) Yogi Lemon Ginger Tea: This is my favorite after-dinner treat, and yes, it is a treat. There's something in the mix, maybe the hit of licorice, that adds a bit of sweetness. Coupled with a few of these shortbread-like arrowroot cookies, and it's perfect to settle your tummy, nerves and sweet tooth without any of the added guilt or heaviness of a big dessert. (note to self- time to go get more, to replace the Easter candy)

5) Writer Mama: In terms of inspiration, "just do it" attitude and support, this is just about the best site, book and class series that I've found.

6) My Desk

7) Purging toys: This is my house and I am an adult. Toys, with all their insidious creeping spread, will not be allowed to overtake my home. Every few months, I take a box and sort through the piles. I always find that there are little bits and pieces that are either broken, trash or totally forgotten by my kids. Poof! Off they go. I save the maybe items in a tub in the basement and if the girls don't miss them for a few weeks, they join the rest of the rabble in the charity box. There are two benefits to this. One is obvious- I have less crap to trip over and wage war against. The second is, believe it or not, that it helps the girls. They play more sedately and happily (or mostly happily) clean up the more simple herd. They also end up being more imaginative with less fodder to fill in the details for them. It's a win, win.

8) My research: This is my second favorite part of my chosen career path (with the actual writing being the first). To stay on top of current trends, spark new ideas and familiarize myself with my target market I have to, get this, sit down with a cup of coffee, a stack of magazines, a notebook and relax into it all. It's important to note here that the eggtimer is critical to this activity, otherwise I'd do it all day.

9) Recycling: SO easy. It's very impressive and gratifying to see that our piles of recycling every week are more than double the actual trash we throw away. It's so easy these days, too. Curbside pick-up of completely mixed recycling (no sorting!) is only about $5 a month more. Do it, y'all! DO IT!

10) The fantastic way this chocolate peanut butter bunny just melts so delicately in my mouth....

(At Christmas I had to have Kurt throw out the leftover candy for me because I just... couldn't... do... it. My hand would hold the bag over the trashcan, trembling and frozen in its grasp. It just feels so wrong. Thank God, once he does the dirty work for me, we'll be safe again until Halloween. Mmmmm... candy corn...)