Thursday, November 12, 2009

Peaceful Cracker

From my forthcoming cookbook, How to Make Snacks Like a Dork, comes this little gem: Sugar Out the Yin Yang. Its origin is this...

As a follow up from the My Daughter's Starting Kindergarten and I'm Starting my Mid-Life Crisis blog post, which is probably a lot like the fanfare-heavy Red Book that's coming out, I've become adept at the school lunch. This basically means that I make a lunch and two snacks for Sophie each day, she ignores all of it, and I pretend not to care. The sad truth is: The full lunch box at the end of every day is making me crazy.

So, instead of letting her eat or not eat, I've decided to go the extra mile, think outside the box, and embody a lot of other lame sayings. These mental and epicurean gymnastics have finally lead to today's masterpiece. I told her in the car, "You can eat it now or zen." She didn't get it, which is good. In our family, you can get punched in the head for a stupid pun like that.

I'm not sure whether this is my greatest achievement to date, or my greatest shame. Here's what it is:
About a tablespoon marshmallow cream
About a tablespoon Nutella
1 plain rice cake
1 marshmallow
1 chocolate chip
Calories per serving: Who cares?

What I like about this little treat is that it's like ebony and ivory, living together in perfect harmony on a rice cake. What Sophie likes about it is that she can pick off the chocolate chip, lick the marshmallow cream off one side, and easily toss the rest in the bushes. Everybody wins.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Smart/Dumb Like a Fox (in Faux Fur)?

My friend Laura Benedict has lost her mind. Or has she? You may know Laura from her novels,
Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts and Isabella Moon, or the anthology she edited, Surreal South, or her blog, Notes From the Handbasket. How do I know her? From MySpace, of course.

As I learned today, however, she's got a brand new bag, so to speak. She's decided, as she explains, "to spend a year shopping exclusively at one of the world's most reviled but also most innovative retailers--Wal-Mart (including and Sam's Club)--for all of my clothes, accessories, makeup, jewelry, lingerie and shoes. This is a personal challenge for me." Amen, sister.

She'll chronicle her experience at her new-new blog, Wardrobe by Sam, where she'll seek the answer to the question, "Can a Self-Confessed Clothing Snob Find a Year's Worth of Fashion Happiness at the World's Biggest Discount Store?" I don't know, Laura, can you? Let's all find out together. Personally, I can't wait for the post in which she's forced to ask for a bra fitting, but that's just the way I am.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wine Saves Lives

Today I sent Sophie on her first day of kindergarten. The whole way there, I felt like hurling. "Are you OK, Soaf?" I kept asking her. "Are you OK, honey?" She was. When it came time for her to go, she got in line and left without even saying goodbye. She looked like she'd been going to elementary school her whole life. The pride! The relief! The exclamation points! Looking back on her short life and my slightly longer one, I felt the same way watching her roll over for the first time, or sing all the verses to "Clementine" for my dad. Thank goodness she's made it to the next milestone. She must be a genius! And all inflation, all pontification aside, we have so much to be grateful for, it's ridiculous.

This is Tessa Paprocki, her husband Adam, and their son Landon. I didn't know them, but my friend Andre worked with Tessa at Synergy Fine Wines, an independent wine distributor in Denver. It was probably right around the time this picture was taken, sometime in January, 2009, that Tessa learned she had stage four breast cancer that had spread to her lungs, spine, and liver. Tessa died, following a series of treatments, in July. Landon is now eight months old.

Tessa didn't see Landon walk or talk. His first day of school is a handful of his lifetimes away. Adam is a new, first-time parent who's probably scared to death, like I was, only he's got to figure out how to raise a baby as a single dad and the keeper of Mama's memory.

Breast cancer.

Yesterday Andre emailed her friends to let them know that Synergy Fine Wines is donating to Landon's trust 100% of the wholesale price of one of their wines: The 2008 Lucia Lucy Rosé from Pisoni Vineyards. No strangers to championing the cause of fighting breast cancer, the Pisoni family donates a portion of Lucy Rosé sales to the Susan B. Komen Foundation and local individuals fighting breast cancer--and they've done so since Lucy's inception. So it's fitting that you'll find a pink ribbon 'round every bottle of Lucy.

When the Pisonis heard about Landon, they offered to donate an additional 40 cases for the cause. The Synergy sales reps, warehouse and delivery teams offered their support at no charge, along with the freight company, Advantage Transportation. Now you can play along too. If you're in Boulder, you can support the Paprockis by buying Lucy Rosé in Boulder at three local retailers. I bought three bottles today to celebrate this startling transition to a new trend in our family's history--going to school without bitterly complaining the whole way.

Face it: You're going to buy wine this weekend anyway. And if you're like me, you walk into Boulder Liquor Mart with its six acres of shelves, choke, and end up with a bottle you picked because there was a hedgehog on the label. But now you know better. Wherever you are, buy Lucy, support women, and say "yes!" to life. And when you buy it at one of these local retailers, you help Landon. When you drink it, don't forget to thank your lucky stars and make a toast to someone you love. Spread the word.

Find Lucy at:
Liquor Mart 1750 15th St, Boulder (303) 449-3374
Boulder Wine Merchant 2690 Broadway St, Boulder (303) 443-6761
Superior Liquor 100 Superior Plaza Way # 100, Superior (303) 499-6600

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kindergarten Krisis

I am avoiding going to the store for school lunch fixin's. I am most decidedly dragging my feet on this, the day before the day before Sophie starts Kindergarten. I had no idea I would feel so much anxiety, such nostalgia, such terror. I've spent the better part of today feeling fragile and weepy, probably because it seems impossible that I'm going to commit my little girl to a big brick building with a flagpole outside, where she will stay all day with people she doesn't already know, and then come out, hopefully holding the same lunch bag she went in with. I know I will obsess over whether it's empty at the end of the day, or still packed with 2/3 of the food I sent with her. And so I will drag my feet through the grocery store, choosing the things that will become Sophie's first school lunches with the care that Indiana Jones chose the grail. Will I choose wisely?

I took Sophie to her last day of preschool this morning. She's been going there since the age of 20 months, with a brief hiatus while we served a winter-long sentence in Vail. On her first day there, she sat down for circle time and requested the song "Pistol Packin' Mama." When her teacher said she didn't know it, Sophie reminded her that it started with the lyrics, "Drinkin' beer in a cabaret..."

Our preschool was a small school where everyone knew each other, and where I felt super comfortable. I considered it an extension of our own home environment: A place where I wasn't afraid to be myself. I wrote the class newsletter (sometimes), and helped organize events. I went along on field trips, and made phone calls urging parents to attend the next meeting. Sometimes. I joined a school-sponsored exercise group and carped about Alex's carping about tuition. Lunches and snacks were provided; I never packed one meal. Now that all that's over, I don't know what I'm doing. How exciting.

And I don't know that her new school will know what it's doing, either. How will Sophie's teacher know that such subtle cues as wanting to sit down and rest mean that a trip to the school nurse--and then probably home--is in order? How will she know that the statement, "I have a forehead," means that she's feverish and headache-y? How will she know that Sophie spends as much time falling down as she does standing up? Who will be there to apply the bandage, and will it have princesses on it? I am tempted to write a how-to manual, staple it to Sophie's shirt, and then show up at school to read it aloud. I am tempted to tattoo her address and phone number to her belly, upside down, so that if she blanks, she can look down her shirt and read it to whomever needs to call me--stat.

Thankfully, Sophie is unable to come along for my midlife crisis-like hayride. Her excitement is palpable; she couldn't be happier about this next adventure in big-girl beginnings, which is why my behavior must baffle her right out of the pink Chuck Taylor's she's about to outgrow. While I was rooting around the fridge for the makings of yesterday's one-food-group dinner that we ate standing at the island in the kitchen instead of the table, Sophie mentioned her friend, Grace. "Mom, can you believe two of Gracie's teeth are loose?" I spun around, pointed my finger at her and said, "Don't even think about starting to lose your teeth yet!"

But I have hope that by the time the leaves fall and it's dark enough in the mornings that an alarm is necessary to wake up on time, I'll have it together. I imagine we'll get busy making bake sale cookies and memorizing school plays. And it'll be like I'm getting to go to school all over again, only with wine and chocolate at the end of the day instead of milk and carrot sticks. I'll learn all over again what kind of mother I am, and what kind I'll become. And if I get stuck, I can always ask Sophie for help. She seems to have everything under control.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Roughshod Guide to Being Five

Congratulations! Now that you're almost five years old, there are all sorts of things you can do and understand for yourself. Your motor skills are now sophisticated enough to hold you in place for a good five seconds after spinning yourself around for the entire length of your favorite song. This is a triumph, despite all the puking. Don't worry; that's a trait that's harder to kick, and just when you think you've got it, you discover frat parties and the associated hazards of bed spins (not to mention date rape.)

Now that you're almost five, it's time for you to grasp the concept of the movie sequel. When Beethoven's Second is on the Disney Channel, wonder if you should disqualify yourself from watching it because you never saw "Beethoven's One." (See The Roughshod Guide to Being Six, wherein you'll work on disqualifying it from your movie lineup because, let's face it, there really weren't that many unanswered questions from the original, except why John Hughes would dare write such a thing, even under a synonym. Yes, why, John Hughes? Why would you do this to us? After the pedestal my generation put you on for Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club.)

Another thing, now that you're approaching the age of five: Whatever agreements may transpire between you and another person, get them in writing, even with family. Especially with family. Specifically, when your dad tells you you can visit him at work on Wednesday, seal the deal and avoid breach of contract by having him write it down, and include the words, "I really, really seriously mean it." Secure your own representation in the matter by having your mom read the writing loud, word for word, to prevent any misunderstandings. Just because you can't read very well yet doesn't make you a sucker.

When dealing with life's injustices, look inside yourself for the answers. When the sky falls, paint a new one. Look to the example of your neighborhood friends, the brother-sister duo who are tortured and subjected nightly, as are you, to the horrors of--gasp--Going to Bed at a Reasonable Hour. Separated by their respective bedroom doors, and the acres of hallway between them, the brother and sister called out to each other for comfort. After the young one, the sister, pressed her face to the bottom crack of the door and told her brother, "I'm so sad," her brother, as wise as only an almost-five-year-old can be, counseled her. "Do something you love!" he trumpeted through the solid core of his own door.

Begin to grasp the power of death. Realize it's permanent, which is, for your mother, about the length of an episode of The Wiggles. Realize that not only does it last forever, but that it's the one force in the universe powerful enough to make cat ownership possible. The next time you ask for a cat, and are reminded that you can never have one because of your father's allergies, ask about what would happen if Daddy happened to die. Could you have one then?

Finally, begin to recognize facial cues, however subtle they may be, and interpret their meanings. Be able to predict, simply by looking at your mother's face, when she's about to cry. While this skill comes in handy later, say, when you're able to leave the house by yourself (see The Roughshod Guide to Being Five and a Half) and get the hell out of Dodge the minute things get heavy, what's more important is learning to feel empathy and compassion for the other person. Because usually, when your mother makes the "I'm going to lose it" face, it's because she's realized there's no more gin in the house. (See also: Neilsen, Brigitte.)

Stay tuned and join us for future Roughshod Guides, coming soon, including The Roughshod Guide to Sneaking Out in the Middle of the Night to Meet Your Gay Boyfriend, and Running for Student Council on the "My Boobs are on Facebook" Platform: a Roughshod Guide Supplemental.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Dad From "Uncle"

In honor of Father's Day this weekend, here's one from the "Men are From Mars" files, and one of my favorite true stories. (Hi Wendy and Brian!)

Wendy and Brian recently had their first child, and as Wendy closed in on her due date, Brian was going through the motions of first-time fatherhood. He reminded Wendy to keep her phone handy. Then he had another idea. "I know," said Brian, "let's have a code word so that if you go into labor and need a ride to the hospital, you can text me with it." In fact, he thought Wendy should keep the code word in her outbox so that she could dash it off with one keystroke when the big moment came. "When you need to go to the hospital," he explained, "text me the word 'uncle.'"

Wendy asked the same thing I would have, which was, "Why don't I just type 'I need to go to the hospital?'" It's been a few months since then; Mom and baby are doing fine, and Brian is currently learning the police and fire phonetic alphabets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You've Waited Too Long to Potty Train When...

After April's breastfeeding frenzy post, "You Know You've Been Breastfeeding too Long When..." the clamoring for more of my child-rearing advice has reached new (and totally fictional) highs. Today, a loyal reader in Fort Lee, New Jersey asks, "My three-year old son is still happy to wear diapers, and shows no interest in potty training. When is it time to lay down the loo law?"
Poopy Pants McGee

Dear Poopy,
First off, only you can decide when it's time to take a more aggressive approach in persuading your little bundle of joy to stop hauling around his own little bundles. Ask your pediatrician when it's developmentally appropriate, given your son's history and temperament. And, I've put together a set of guiding principles to help you and other parents decide when enough is enough.
  • When you send the kid out to buy a package of his own diapers--along with some milk and eggs--you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When he tells you he's had an accident, and it's necessary to clarify whether he's talking about his pants or his car, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When your daughter complains about the lack of thong-style diapers on the market that match her Hooters uniform, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • If your precious one is audited by the IRS for claiming Huggies as an expense, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When your son is forced to leave basketball practice because his cup runneth over, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When you decide to switch from wet wipes to Swiffer Wet Jet pads, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • When you offer to read to your daughter while she sits on the potty, and she suggests a Danielle Steele novel, you've waited too long to potty train.
  • After offering to show your son a movie about potty training, and he asks if it's called Two Girls, One Cup, seek professional help. And also, you've waited too long to potty train.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Mom Felony Prevention

I'll never forget the days and months when nap time was THE most important time of the day. And even though we lived then on a dirt road in a tiny mountain town, a solicitor or delivery person of some kind would find us, and knock on the door. This meant tears for everyone, as the dogs would bark wildly, waking up little Sophie, who would, upon noticing that she had been tricked into falling asleep DURING THE DAY, scream and cry and wreak havoc on my plans to shower or use the bathroom by myself. I would fling open the front door, in tears myself, and wreak havoc on the young salesperson's plans to keep breathing.

After a few of these episodes, I posted a note on the door that said simply, "No solicitors." But here's the thing about solicitors: Much like a lot of us, they're in denial about who and what they are. After scolding one such well-meaning boy holding a container of dish detergent, he explained, "I'm not a 'solicitor,'" going so far as to bend his fingers into quotation marks on either side of his head. "I'm spreading Joy." I wondered if a judge would believe me if I said, "I didn't staple a 'no solicitors' note to his head, Your Honor. I was simply spreading the word."

No matter. I went back to the drawing board and soon after and invented a sign that worked so well that I made several copies and handed them out to all my new mom friends who bemoaned the same problem. Now, thanks to the Interwebszs, you can use it too, in the hopes that it leads you not into the temptation to spread the word with your red Swingline stapler.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Forty Five Minutes

A month after Sophie was born, I made arrangements for her to stay home with Alex for an hour so that I could go someplace and write. I'll never forget how he looked holding her tiny, sleeping body as I closed the door: Scared to death. And because Sophie and I hadn't been away from each other longer than the length of time it took me to use the bathroom, I made skid marks in the driveway taking off.

By the time I got to the coffee shop, ordered my drink, sat down, and booted up my computer, I only had 45 minutes left to get back into a habit I had effectively abandoned for several months. So when the guy near me pointed to my laptop and asked, "Is that Windows or Linux you're running?" I said, "I have 45 minutes."

This is what happens with the anxiety and the sleep deprivation and the fear that you will mess everything up: You become a better steward of the things that are most important to you. Because in between the diapers, and the baths, and the feedings and the feedings and the feedings, all I could ask myself was: Will all the good stuff I used to love be there, waiting for me, when I'm me again?

Of course, now I know the good news. Yes, the best stuff--the stuff that fills me up and puts me in touch with who I really am--is still around. And the "bad news." I'll never be "me" again. As someone who has spent too much time trying to go back home, that so-called bad news has dogged me. I'm working on it; peeling back the layers of my identity, bemoaning each one, hoping it's the last I'll have to surrender. (Of course it never is.) Lately, I've been grieving the fact that I may never have an actual social life ever again. I know, it sounds silly, but as I watched youngsters gather for bloodies last Sunday, I wept like a pageant queen stripped of her title. I feared I may never drink my breakfast in this town again.

There is one bit of comfort in all of this, which is this: The things I've been forced to abandon during the course of motherhood were never that good for me in the first place. I may actually be a better, more deliberate person today, and wouldn't that be something? The things I still insist on doing are the really important things, because it's too exhausting, too much of a fight clinging to the things that don't. There's no glamour, no sex appeal in that philosophy, I know, but I'm counting on it. Because someday, Sophie's going to renege on her insistence that she and I to to college together, and here I'll be, with my laptop. With so much longer than 45 minutes on the clock.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Adult's Guide to Children's Entertainment

One of the most overwhelming parts of parenting or babysitting a youngster is choosing from the vast array of materials that have been created for consumers under the age of 18. Without discussing the quality of these offerings--*cough*Hanna Montana*cough*--Disney alone is responsible for an astounding number of movies, shows, and CDs that exist today, and that's only one very fertile fish in the proverbial sea.

So as a companion and/or refresher to what many new parents and caregivers may consider a difficult time in navigating children's literature, movies, and music, I've summarized in a more adult fashion some of the old and new offerings available today.

In books:
Green Eggs and Ham--a commodities trader learns that the only way to overcome impossible quotas is to harass his prospects with rhyming sales propositions until they agree to try his unique product line. In an attempt to pitch Sam, his targeted potential customer, a variety of settings, including certain modes of transportation, were exploited to bend the consumer's will. What we learn here is that you can get people to do just about anything--even eat green meat--if you ask them over and over. (See also: my husband.)

In movies:
The Little Mermaid--our heroine, in the throes of lust, fails to retain legal counsel prior to signing certain iron-clad agreements with other mythical human/fish hybrid creatures. Let this be a lesson to fathers of young celebs everywhere: Had King Triton put a promise ring on Ariel's finger, instead of assigning a flamboyant crab to escort her into dodgy situations away from home, she would have simply been married, divorced, and dating Tony Romo by now.

Cinderella--a young woman enters the high-caliber dating scene and learns under high-pressure circumstances that part of getting the guy is hanging out with girls who are significantly less hot than you are. Also, everyone loves clear shoes. What I'll never understand is why the fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a carriage for sending Cinderella to a ball, instead of turning a zucchini into a cell phone for calling social services on the wicked stepmother. Whatever.

Sleeping Beauty--either invite everyone you know, or don't let anyone crash your daughter's christening: That's what we learn from this tale of a young princess, Aurora, whose Sleep Number is changed from 45 to infinity the day she turns 16. This narcoleptic curse is exacted by Malifico, and becomes manifest when Aurora pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Not only did the debacle ruin the entire spinning wheel industry, but sources close to the family reveal that Aurora and Malifico orchestrated the disagreement as a way to distract TMZ from covering Aurora's leaked sex tape with Prince Phillip.

In music:
"Little Bunny Foo Foo"--The People's Republic of Field Mice hires a mercenary with a heart of gold, the Good Fairy, to launch a counterstrike against The Foo's endless reign of terrorist tactics of frequent head-bopping, and perhaps, according to NPR, covert waterboarding.

In music/TV:
The Wiggles--Four dudes from Australia don a creepy sort of Star Trek system of color-coded outfit, to boldly go where maybe a few men have gone before, if you know what I mean. Most mothers agree that the television show is fine as a distraction while they're trying to prepare dinner or make out with the FedEx guy on the front porch, but listening to The Wiggles in the car is proven to cause severe suicidal tendencies, resulting in the urge to either drive your family off the nearest cliff, or park the car in a closed garage with the engine running.

Since this is just a sampler of the kinds of awesome entertainment available to kids today, look for future installments of An Adult's Guide to Children's Entertainment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fictional Ad Campaigns: Metamucil

Dear Metamucil,
Please call me regarding a new ad campaign I have in mind, the focus of which is targeted toward the aging Generation X population and its collective love of the Young Guns trilogy. I have it on good authority that Emilio Estevez, a huge fan of the Berry Burst flavor in your product line, is excited about the opportunity to step in as Metamucil's new spokesperson; further, Jon Bon Jovi has expressed an interest in writing and performing your next jingle, in the tradition of his contribution to the Young Guns II soundtrack, "Blaze of Glory."

In furtherance of providing an example of our totally fictional campaign strategy based on the imagined relationship opportunity that exists between you and a sizable segment of what journos everywhere are calling The Next Best Generation, I'm sending you this poster to present at your next marketing confab. Until then, stay gold loose, Pony Boy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Overheard at My House: Father's Day

Her: With Father's Day coming up, I want to get Jim a really great gift, but he always finds his gifts before I have a chance to surprise him.

Me: That's what you get for buying in advance.

Her: I just need a really good hiding place.

Me: If he's anything like Alex, you could put it next to the vacuum cleaner, or the laundry detergent.

Her: (thinking) I guess I'll keep it next to my clitoris then.

Me: Even my LOLcat is speechless.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Great First Dates: Achilles

"All you girls can talk about is my heel."
--Achilles, at a TGIFridays, 1994, moments before buying his first Porsche

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reverse Makeover

Dear TLC, please call me, I have a new show idea. It's called Reverse Makeover. The premise is this: you take a nice, normal enough gal or guy, and over the course of time, strip away any and all qualities that may have made him or her attractive in any way. It's the home version of the game show called life. You may have heard of it.

The "before" and "after" reveals at the end are startling, to say the least. Just as an example, here's one:

Anyway, TLC, whether you decide to option the show or not, I'm going ahead with my own personal pilot, which is actually already in full swing. It started several years ago, with a knee injury that left me with a limp for 18 months. Then there was my personal favorite, a goiter--yes, they still exist--that caused my eyes to bulge and my hair to fall out. In more recent months, I've stepped up my game quite a bit, so that the interesting changes in my appearance are happening faster than I can correct them. As the Queen of Hearts said in Alice in Wonderland, "Here, it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place."

Earlier this year, I noticed my hair turning quite gray, which I "fixed" with an at-home dye job that turned orange after I went swimming. After the chlorine had its way with the color, the springtime sun began turning my hair a nice lemony yellow. It's cheery, sure, but technically, I'm a winter. Why, just this morning, I chipped my front tooth while biting my nails (seriously), as if my teeth weren't goofy enough. My dentist can't see me for another week, so I was thinking between now and then I would take the opportunity to get impetigo on, say, my chin, and start some sort of action figure collection. I hope it's not too late to start growing ear hair. (I'll have to ask my dad how he does it.)

Anyway, I hope to hear from you soon, since there's no telling whether I'll be available by the time you reply. This toenail fungus looks like it may be spreading.

Jody Reale
P.S. If you're not interested in this show, perhaps you may be interested in another show I have in mind based on the common phenomenon of running to the store in your flannel reindeer pajamas for cookie dough and tampons, and running into your high school boyfriend for the first time in twenty years. Think about it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Landscaping: I Need a Miracle

Behold, this is the result of a mere weekend's worth of yard work, and I've still got tons to do, based on the mess I've made that was intended to eventually improve things. In short: Landscaping is hard, as evidenced by the top of my forearm pictured here, which is pretty scraped and scratched up from pruning various bushes, trees, and shrubs. This is the result of watching too many DIY home improvement shows that convince you that, in an afternoon, you can undo everything a Colorado winter has done to your property. Contrary to neighborhood suspicions, I have not been trying to find a new injection site for intravenous Miracle Grow. Yet.

Now that I've begun what I've come to call one of my dumbest undertakings ever, I realize that I could use a miracle. Keep this on the down-low, but I suspect I may be getting one. Note this image of the underside of my forearm. Note the eyes, nose, and mouth that have appeared there in scabby relief. My guess is that, by the time I'm done with the whole yard--lawn, garden, and trees--we'll be able to make out the image of a religious icon in startling detail. I say that because this kind of thing happens to me all the time.

Take, for example, this photo of my full back tattoo:

It's a depiction of my cat, Fluffy, chasing a ball of yarn, but if you squint your eyes, you can see the faintest resemblance to the Virgin Mary.

And then there's this: The ashtray I sculpted and inscribed for my mom at summer camp one year that looks an awful lot like Jesus' own mother (with cherubs). We finally had to put it away, since balancing a cigarette on what appears to be Mary's lap was freaking people out.

Now here's the dilemma: Just like the holy cheese sandwich a Vegas casino bought for twenty eight thousand clams, these items are on sale now at eBay at rock bottom reserves. But what am I supposed to do with my arm? Certainly not more yard work.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cute Overload

Teacher Appreciation Week was last week, and Sophie's preschool went into full-tilt celebration mode, with all kinds of special treats for teachers, including two days in which one teacher from each classroom got to take off for two hours in the afternoon while a parent helped out the remaining teacher in charge. When I got there for my volunteer shift, I was assigned the toddler classroom, a gaggle of about ten two-year-olds.

It was about 1:00 in the afternoon, nap time, and everyone had taken to their mats and blankets all about the floor. The lights were out and the curtains drawn, and the New Age-y instrumental music was doing its Pavlovian work, lulling everyone to sleep. I was charged with rubbing little Claudia's back while she worked her pacifier and let her eyes droop. She blinked and blinked, one longer than the next until her eyes closed for the duration. Thandi was laying face up, staring peacefully at the ceiling, and told her teacher she didn't need any back-rubbing to get to sleep, she was just fine the way she was. Everyone else was already out cold.

"Holy cow," I whispered to Jenna, the teacher, "this is cute."
"I know," she said.
I took another look. "I mean really, really cute," I pressed.

My shift consisted of taking in all the tiny, wide feet sticking out of the bottoms of blankets, as if I were tending a colony of Fred Flintstone's relatives. I forgot how sweet it is to see wisps of diaper sticking out of the waistband of a tiny pair of khakis. They tossed, turned, smiled in their sleep, wrestled with their blankets. One little girl slept with her legs tucked under her chest, her mouth wide open so that her blankets were soaked by the time she woke up. The music, the darkened room, and the teacher working quietly on Mother's Day tokens in a tiny chair in the corner was almost too much. I sat by the light of the window for the next two hours, reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and wondered what I had done to deserve all this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You've Got Snail

You've Got Snail is my new 7-minute Zenumentary dedicated to one of our favorite pets: Dorothy the Snail. In all honesty, I know I'm the only one who is fascinated and comforted by her, but I also like to think that the snail cam might add some peace to your day, and that watching it for a few would be something someone like SARK would recommend. Give it a watch, and remember, sometimes it's good to slooooow down. Peace.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Six More Weeks of Winter

Behold, Sophie's first YouTube-published film. I think she's a minimalist, and really good at capturing the angst of what it's been like dealing with the cold, wet Colorado weather all month. Here she is (or at least a glimpse of her shoes), doing what we always do while we wait for Old Man Winter to take a hint and head for Australia. (Specifically, we hang out indoors, listening to Jeff Kagan.)

Caveat Dramamine: You folks prone to sea sickness might want to hold out for the videos in which Sophie holds still while shooting the scene. Look for that one to hit YouTube never.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Even if it is Fake

Why yes, actually, I am the 2009 Mother of the Year. And because I'll suspend my disbelief six ways from Sunday for any amount of appreciation, I'll take the award and pretend it really exists. Now if you'll excuse me, I've only got a few minutes before the press corps shows up wanting to know what's next for a woman like me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Four is a Magic Number

What I'm noticing about being a first time mom is that every new stage that Sophie reaches in life is better than the one before it. I imagine this stops being the case sometime during the teens, but I'm still holding a half-full cup.

At four and a half, Sophie is real character, with her ability to hold long conversations about her feelings, and short ones about her mini existential crises. "After we die, do we get new families?" But what I love about the age of four is that it's the state line between child and toddler.

Last night, we were talking about the differences between boys and girls, and the "sugar and spice" rhyme came to mind. Sophie thought and said, "I don't like that part." She thought, pacing like a mad scientist, and then stopped. "I like," she said, "Rubies and pearls, diamonds and curls." My jaw dropped and I asked, "Did you just make that up?"
"Yes," she said, finding a Kix ball in the carpet and eating it.

Ten seconds later, she looked at me with panic in her eyes and started peeing on the floor. I guess that phone call I had begun making to the Julliard admissions department can wait a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Know You've Been Breastfeeding Too Long When...

New mothers ask me all the time (by which I mean never), “Jody Reale, what’s your take on breastfeeding?” I usually tell them that, whether you decide to breastfeed or not, it’s your choice. Don’t be bullied; weigh the benefits against your personality, your own happiness.

They then usually ask me, “That sounds good, but how long should I breastfeed?” I like to say that, again, it’s totally up to you. Of course, you should do what you want, but if you’re looking for some guidelines, here are a few that have helped thousands of imaginary women everywhere understand when it’s time to dry up.

  • If you have to ask your son to shave first, or to put out his cigarette before nursing, you’ve been breastfeeding too long.
  • If you nurse your child while you help her with her trigonometry homework, you’ve breastfed too long.
  • If your child asks you to ride shotgun to the drive-thru because she doesn’t have enough money for both a drink and a Big Mac, you’ve breastfed too long.
  • If your breast pump is coal-powered, you’ve been breastfeeding for too long.
  • If your son invites you to a frat party called “I drink your milkshake,” RUN AWAY. Also, you’ve been breastfeeding too long.
  • If your child’s idea of mixing a White Russian involves having you stand between a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Kahlua, you’ve definitely breastfed too long.
  • If you’re wearing breast pads and a Depends undergarment, you’ve probably breastfed for too long.
  • If your favorite nursing bra is also your daughter's favorite nursing bra, you've breastfed for too long.
  • And if your child prepares his cappuccino by putting you in the steam room for 15 minutes first, you've most definitely breastfed for too long.

Moms, I hope this helps.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here's Looking Up Your Old Address

From 2000-2006 we lived in Nederland, Colorado, where we enjoyed a simple mountain lifestyle 20 minutes and 3,000 vertical feet from Boulder. Our house was small, our driveway was steep, our dogs were off-leash, and everyone was more or less happy. What I wonder now, three years after having left, is this: How did it escape my attention (until now) that the same town that keeps a frozen dead guy in a Tuff Shed (and throws a festival of the same name every year) is also the same town with a neighborhood of questionable street names? (Must be middle age kicking in.) See pictured here a map of some of my favorites, including the famed Hummer Drive.

Where the Magic Happens
The Cold Springs neighborhood, just off the Peak to Peak Highway, is where you'll find the neighborhood that, all of a sudden, sounds to me like one big double entendre. Take, for example Rocky Knob Lane, Wolftongue Road. By the time you get to Shady Hollow, Big Jack Ct, and Cougar Run (where all the hot older ladies live), even Thunder Ridge starts to sound dirty. It's like the only thing missing is Beaver Road (which is not that far away, but then again, Beaver never is).

You Can't Make This Stuff Up
I miss a lot of things about Nederland. The people, the charm, the scenery. And now I have one more thing to miss about the place: Giving directions. If we were ever to move back there, I'd insist on buying a place in the Cold Springs area, like it or not. Because if I did, in all seriousness, I might end up having to tell someone to meet me at the corner of Last Chance and Hummer. Sadly, it looks as if both quickly come to a dead end.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Give Parenting Advice in the Most Annoying Way Possible

  1. Make sure that the person you're advising wants no part of your insight. Your input should come out of nowhere, without provocation, and at the most inconvenient time. If you can muster a condescending tone, use it as much as possible.
  2. When "offering" your coaching, make sure it stems from information that is either clinically unsubstantiated, or was popular in the 1950s.
  3. As a next step, begin with the assumption that children are hell-bent on deliberately making their parents' lives miserable, instead of just trying to get some need met, especially when the child is under the age of 1. Try phrases like, "He loves to push your buttons."
  4. Next, make some sort of character judgment on the child for his/her behavior. Say things directly to the child, such as, "You're manipulative," and "you're going to grow up spoiled." Use other terms involving the words "monster," "brat," and "pig-headed" for good measure.
  5. Lastly, whatever you do, use the word "control" several times in your counsel. This control should be exerted for no other purpose than its own sake. Make sure that the parent you're advising knows that it's better to forgo relationships that are based on love and understanding than to lose control of the child at any given moment. Dismiss the greater lessons the child could otherwise learn about choice, responsibility, and working things out together with others instead of doing as told in every situation. When the parent says the only control she plans on using in the situation is the Janet Jackson album, look confused and a little put out.

To recap: Be annoying, be brusque, and if possible, take matters into your own hands while the parent isn't looking. After all, you're the expert.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Is it Me, or is it Windy In Here?

The Winds of Change takes what looks like a much-needed break in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Caribbean

How do you feel about change? Considering Barack Obama's success in the last presidential election, most folks seem like they're a-OK with it. But me? (All political leanings aside) not so much.

I say this, not because of any particular feeling I can put my finger on, but because of the symptoms. The crankiness, the mood swings. My most embarrassing confession is that I'm a sleep-eater when I'm troubled, so let's just say that I've been coming downstairs in the morning to some compelling evidence that either the Keebler Elves love fluffer nutter sandwiches as much as I do, or I'm subconsciously concerned that my dentist doesn't have enough work.

And maybe, just maybe, it's because I'm turning 40 on Monday, the 13th of all dates, and I have no idea how to be a grown-up. I guess something like that'll keep you up nights, stuffing down a box of Paul Newman's Own Champion Chip Cookies and then going back to bed with chocolate morsels carving a tunnel between your teeth.

For my birthday, I've decided I want a membership to the local Y. And dental insurance. Lots of dental insurance.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Twitterverse Curse

Before I begin, I'm going to acknowledge that it's one thing to blog about a dream I had--sure, that's gross enough. It's another to blog about a tweet I wrote while I was dreaming, but that's exactly what I'm about to do. Biz Stone, honey, congratulations. You win.

I've been catching a lot of messages in the media and in more personal communications about why Twitter is--or isn't--the hot new thing. And I guess last night, while I was trying in vain to turn off my brain before going to sleep, I remembered a very unfortunate glimpse I caught of Barbara Walters entering another of her curmudgeonly rants on The View about how she despises the very idea of a medium in which just anyone is encouraged to say just anything. As I lay in bed, I decided there was only one thing that could annoy me more than The View or Barbara Walters. And that's Barbara Walters on Twitter.

Taking what comfort I could from knowing that Barbara Walters will never Twitter, I fell asleep, only to dream that I was a Hollywood movie lackey charged with the task of writing the tag line and some promotional copy for the upcoming thriller, The Curse of the Lesbian Vampire Killers. Deciding to try out some of my first drafts on the Twitterverse, I opened a browser and typed:

"The Curse says there will be blood. About every 28 days. "

The dream didn't last long enough for me to realize the results of my little focus group, and I don't know if this says anything about the validity of social media or not, but I do know one thing: If anyone ever asks me if I Twitter, I can free my tongue from my cheek when I reply, "Twitter? Oh, I do that in my sleep."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Domestic Activism

I admit it: as my life changes, the things, the causes, I'm most passionate about change along with it. I used to think of myself as an activist; now I'm lucky to consider myself at all. I think that's OK, so long as I don't become so bland that I forget that it's not all about the dishes, the laundry, the house, the big aspirations yet unmet. So long as I don't forget that life is messy, and sometimes that's when it's best.

For those of you who find yourselves with messes you're worried about, for those of you who feel like you're out of juice; for those of you whose cups are runnething over, I salute you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sometimes a Picture's Worth Only Three Words

For those times when you want to say something without actually having to say it, today's original graphic kind of says it all.

Happy President's Day, everybody.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Three Wishes

Two of my kitchen drawers are completely empty; I purge the closets every season. We've only got one dog right now. And also I'm a hoarder.

Peek at the picture: (unless you're with PETA). It's my wishbone collection, started back before the equally gruesome days of Alex's new vegan diet. I keep it on the windowsill over the sink so that, while I'm doing dishes, I can see how many wishes I've got coming to me, how many good things I have left.

My wishes aren't the only things saved and coddled in the safe harbor of my kitchen. I have two generous spa certificates in my possession, gifts I received from the person who knows how much I hate spending money on anything "luxe," as the kids say. I plan to spend one on my annual summer pedicure, an event so auspicious that it's like celebrating the new year. I once explained to a friend that the timing of the expenditure is carefully planned. Deliberate. "When the outside half my big toe is red, and the inside half is plain old natural nail, I know it's January."

"Let me get this straight," she said. "You use your toenails as a calendar?"
"It's not a bug, it's a feature," I told her.

The other spa certificate isn't so easily spent. Chances are good that I will agonize over its redemption, and when Alex encouarges me to cash it in for a massage or a facial, I will likely look at him like he's suggested I sell one of my kidneys on the black market. "Use it?" I'll ask with my arms crossed. "If I use it, I won't have it anymore."

I commit this same kind of flawed logic to other things too, specifically shampoos and bath products, including the fancy little soaps and lotions I've taken from fancy resorts. "What? They're travel-sized," I say, stuffing them into the Ziplock bag that's bulging with last year's stash. I now have sufficient materials to coat the Burning Man playa with enough lotion to create the world's biggest slip 'n slide. (I can't wait for the email that tells me it's already been done.)

But when I consider that the Dead Sea is dead primarily because there's no outlet for the incoming water other than evaporation, I look down at my toes and wonder if I'm doing myself any favors. When I consider that Ernest Holmes was onto something with his writings on the Law of Circulation, I think I feel a resolution of sorts coming on, not that I'm into resolutions or anything.

Maybe I can just say, "No more hoarding," in 2009, or any other year. I will use my things up, knowing that it's an act of gratitude, maybe even a kind of prayer, when doing so. I will faithfully use myself up, too, knowing that being too careful, too tight-fisted with one's self is the battle cry of the fearful. Whether the law of conservation of matter holds up in a laboratory or not, I will work my own experiment and let go of all my wishes, knowing that the only shortage--and the only source--of real wishes exists only in my imagination. Not on my windowsill.

I will resist the urge to engage in any more emotional constipation and let the cosmic equivalent to gravity do its work. I will exercise my gratitude and my own potential by letting loose the hounds. For my own good, I will sacrifice in order to receive. Personal growth hurts; it's going to be difficult, but I'm up to it.

I'll be at the spa.