Monday, April 28, 2008

The "P" Word

Ours is a household with loose rules. We try not to sweat the small stuff, parenting-wise, so that Sophie, Alex and I are together and present, instead of arguing over whether it's OK or not to wear your Crocs to bed. It's not for everyone, but this is the way our family is. Sophie takes great pleasure in picking out her clothes each day before school to create a very unique look that I like to call Boca Raton Bag Lady. Further, the rules are: You can pretty much wear what you want to bed, as long as you sleep; you can pretty much have whatever you want for dinner as long as you eat at least some of it. Wearing seatbelts in the car is non-negotiable, but, hey, you can use any word you want at home, as long as you don't cuss at school.

And then today, the chickens came home to roost.

"Mom," Sophie explained to me today, "you can call big girl underpants 'panties.'" I think I may have lost consciousness for a moment.

You see, for reasons I can't explain, but that probably have to do with a certain series of obscene phone calls that plagued my childhood home in the early '80s, I can't bear to hear the word "panties," much less say it. Even typing the word gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I'm probably going to have to spend the rest of my night with my fingers resting in a bath of sulphuric acid. ("You're soaking in it!")

No one is sadder than I that a new reign of censorship has begun between my daughter and I. Here we are, after three and a half years under my careful tutelage--"These are your underpants"--arguing over the P word in the backyard.

"No, honey, actually you can't call them panties," I said, wincing. "They are underwear or underpants or even undergarments, but that's all." And thus a new rule was born: You can call them panties, as long as you only do so at school. I can't wait for her teenage years; I'm considering getting it over with and taking a pickax to my eardrums now.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Winter Time Warp: How a Virus Turned February Turned Into April Part I

A few months ago, which seems like a few years ago, I was trying my damndest to get Sophie well from some virus that desperately clung to her like one of those creepy boyfriends we’ve all had. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Steve.) She’d been sick with something or other pretty much all winter, which I was trying not to take personally, even though in Boulder, that’s almost impossible. When learning that a family has fallen prey to cold and flu season, it’s not just customary—it’s mandatory—to ask the mother if she’s fed her family anything but organic vegetables, or to blame gluten, sugar, artificial colors, or hand sanitizer. And if the mother had committed to breastfeeding longer, her children wouldn't get sick in the first place. Yes, mea culpa on making sensitive, deeply personal decisions, like weaning Sophie a month, a day, a year longer than someone else thinks I should have. (Like sometime before she started shaving her legs and bringing home calculus homework, for example.)

And while Sophie was entering the third or fourth day of viral symptoms, I slogged inside our nearest drugstore with my clammy, whining toddler draped over my shoulder for an over-the-counter medication we use when things go south. The woman at the counter looked at me as if I had just asked for cyanide. “We don’t carry it,” she eyed me, “people overdose their kids with it.” I’d been fetching juice, laundering the vomit out of everything we own, and watching Blue’s Clues for 48 hours straight, and it took herculean restraint not to overdose that woman’s face with my fist.

This illness, at first, wasn’t anything that I hadn’t endured before, and I had to be grateful that we’d moved away from Vail, where I didn’t know anyone who could help me while Alex was away, and where the physicians were more like EMTs in really expensive shoes. It was during that winter we spent in Vail that I invented a system of helping nurses and doctors triage their pediatric patients in the waiting room just by looking at the kind of shape their mothers were in. When Sophie was on the well side, I looked like a regular mom who could have used some highlights and a breath mint, but was otherwise holding it together OK. When she got really sick, and when her fever rose to 104.5 the minute her medication wore off, I looked a lot like Nick Nolte’s mug shot from 2002.

Living in a real place, where my parents can help me when things get really bad, and the doctors know how to do other things besides treat ski injuries, I felt a little better. Then on the night of February 5th, after we’d seen Sophie’s pediatrician, and were taking a new round of antibiotics, I looked at Sophie and didn't like how she was doing. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something told me things were bad, and were going to get worse. With my spidey sense tingling, I paged the on-call doctor, and got a phone triage nurse at Children’s Hospital. “What you’ve just described to me constitutes a 911 call. How does she look?”
“Like shit actually,” I said. I hung up, and packed us all into the car. I didn’t bother changing my clothes; despite the weather, I didn’t even put on a coat. I headed for the emergency room without passing go or collecting two hundred dollars.

Stay tuned for the continuation of Winter Time Warp: How a Virus Turned February Turned Into April, coming soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

On Sunday, I'll turn 39. The end of the road for my thirties, and the beginning of the road for things like menopause and Matlock re-runs. Not only will this call it quits between me and what was for the most part a painful and dare I say transformative decade, but it's also one of those birthdays that falls on the day of the week I was born. I'm sure that somehow, maybe to someone who studies astrology or some sort of mysticism, this is important. Practically speaking, the liquor stores are closed in Colorado on Sundays, which means that I'll have get my shopping out of the way on Saturday if I plan on drinking alone.

I will say that, age notwithstanding, I still don't feel old, and if last night's trip to the liquor store (do you see a theme here?) means anything, I don't necessarily always look it.

I went to my friendly neighborhood liquor store last night for a bottle of wine to pour down the kid's throat before bed share with Alex. I don't usually go there, since the strip mall that it's in kind of gives me the willies, and because their prices remind me of the shower scene from Shawshank Redemption.

I was there because I was in a hurry, and in my haste, grabbed a bottle of something resembling red wine. What could possibly happen? All wine in any container smaller than a gallon is pretty much good wine. I went to the counter, where the clerk asked to see my I.D. He looked at it and laughed, looked up at me, and said in whatever accent he has, "Ha! You look so young!" We laughed together then, maybe a little too much, and then I proceeded to take home perhaps the worst tasting bottle of wine possible, which is saying something, considering that my palate is not that much more discriminating than my garbage disposal. So.

I guess I'll leave the gun and take the canolli, so to speak, and just assume that the clerk was telling the truth instead of trying to throw off my consumer spidey sense that the wine I was about to drink was nothing less awful than what a frat boy would mix up in preparation for the next backyard bash. Maybe the guy is right now having his vision checked, or the light bulbs in the store replaced. Maybe the life expectancy of the women in his country is fourteen, or maybe I just look younger than 39. Since I don't plan on going back there--ever--to ask the man in the new glasses, I get to decide that the answer is the latter. It'll be my birthday present to myself. Just in case, the next time I try my wine-buying skillz, I'll have my I.D. handy.

Why Google is King, Plus a Suggestion

In furtherance of failing to post any original thoughts of my own, I'm going to tell you about my friend Dawn, who managed to recently do two things:
1. Join the new millennium and switch her email provider from Excite (which, by the way, refused to deliver any of my mail to her, each and every time); and,
2. Explain in plain terms why Google is the genius giant it has become.

Note that Dawn is a lot of things, but she's not an information age guru. She's not a tech biz junkie, nor is she electronically inclined. In fact, she doesn't own a TV. She's a wife, a dog and horse person, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a damned good writer. She's terrible at keeping in touch for the most part, but when she does, it's always a learning experience. Take, for example, the email she sent me yesterday, in which she demonstrated point #2 from above, and which is posted totally without any kind of permission whatsoever:

"My new email is through google, and it seems to know what's best for me when it comes to picking out sidebar advertising depending on with whom I am corresponding, and about what. For some reason, whatever we are talking about makes it think of 'Guitar Lessons in Boulder' and 'Find a Therapist.' Hmm. There is a niche job for me right there. If I could only play guitar and or give advice."

Google, if you're listening--and I know you are--there's some gold there in that last sentence. What if, while you were pushing targeted ads, you could also provide some sort of career/life coaching to go with them? I know it seems like a long shot, but you were too once. Take that idea for free; after all, you're the Big Brother I never had.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Double Dipping

Dear Friends,
Cross-posting alert: I'm too swamped to post to my own blog, but have found the will to post to someone else's. My entry at, entitled Thinking Outside the Basement Box, is not only pretty good, IMHO, it's kind of a useful. Next week, at Kill Your Lunch Hour: Our heroine explains why she will never again be caught at a hospital without tampons in her purse. Stay tuned. Until then, Zwaggle, everyone!