Category Archives: Family, It's a Trip

Feeding the Family, on $15 a day

January 18, 2009

I wrote a post last summer for the Chicago Mom's Blog last year about shopping at Aldi's.

A couple of months ago, a Wall Street News reporter came looking to interview me because of it. Because writing about how to "make do" is all the rage, what with our impending (*shhhh*) recession. It's au current - trendy, even.

Me? Trendy? Ha!

As if I could be proud of this. The dire straights we face (as opposed to the dire straights we listen to while we vacuum).

This is the fear that keeps me up, tossing and turning and telling myself to dream of winning the lottery (although, interestingly, we don't play it).

Continue reading "Feeding the Family, on $15 a day"
Tags: Thrifty, budget, family, parenting, economy, choice, life
Posted on January 18, 2009 at 10:56 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And then...

July 14, 2008

So, CD quit his job!

I'll tell you after he's served his notice where he worked - and you'll get right away why this place wasn't a happy place to work.

Wait, wait, don't tell me - you want to know if he got a new one first?

HE DID!!!!!!!!

After all these years, he found a job he wanted and the job wanted him right back. (Well, 5 months of interviews later. No, not kidding.) He starts in about two weeks, and if I were any happier or prouder? I'd frigging explode.

For those who are curious - he's an IT SR. ADMIN. The new job bumped his title, but he was already doing the work at soul-sucking job. His long-term dream is to be a robotics engineer, and he goes to school part time for it.

Oh, and one more thing - the new job, like the old one, has the hours he wanted - 6AM to 3PM. He likes being home in the afternoons to help homeschool, take classes himself, putter on the house, and throw the ball around.

Excuse me while I sorta float around for a while :)

Tags: Quit, Job, Career, Hired, New
Posted on July 14, 2008 at 12:48 PM and filed under: Thy Wedded Life
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Even After

July 11, 2008

A friend said to me not long ago that being around CD, Bear and I can be a little hard to take because we sort of block others out.

That wasn't easy to hear.

I don't want to be that person. I don't want us to be that family. I think of myself, of us, as open. Curious.

Isn't it strange how wrong I am about the person in the mirror?

A couple of years ago, we started putting up walls because there was so much pain and anger around CD's depression. As much as I vented, there was that much more I couldn't - wouldn't - say.

And I never realized that even as we healed, the wall obviously didn't come down. Although Bear has many friends and is really social - the truth is that we seem happiest these days when we're the 3 of us, whether piled on the couch with Sara watching Mythbusters or walking along the river with our ice cream cones.

This can't be healthy. But I'm not sure I know how to let go, let in. I tell myself we're just a close family, and maybe we are. Yet...

Even after everything becomes all right again, it isn't over.

Tags: Family, Dynamic, Depression, Recovery, Isolate, Love, Parenting
Posted on July 11, 2008 at 12:58 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Common Ground

May 18, 2008

If love is measured in how much we enjoy doing the same things, then we fail.

There are only 3 of us, but I swear we equal about 12 different opinions. Doesn't matter the topic.

For example, of all the food in all the world - there are exactly 3 meals that the 3 of us like the same. Two of which are made by someone else (IKEA Meatballs and Panda Express) and the third? Yeah, hamburger.

CD is an Icelandic Socialist, I'm a Christian Independent, and Bear is a moderate Democrat who often switches to Republican due to his strong feelings about fiscal responsibility (oh, do YOU want to be the one to explain to my 7 year old that he's too young for informed political opinions? Yeah, have fun with that.)

We took the Belief-O-Matic, and I came up 100% as a Mainline Conservative Protestant, CD was a mix of Christian, neo-pagan, and Unitarian Universalism, and Bear? A Liberal Protestant and Quaker, (both 100%)!

We have different sleep patterns, levels of fitness, taste in decorating, and ideas of fun.

And yet?

It's amazing how much common ground we find, every day. Tonight we all piled onto the couch with bowls of pasta (different sauces, of course) and watched Mythbusters. After we were done eating, Sara McFluffy jumped up and spread across our legs as we stayed in a pile, enjoying the end of the show.

Looking at us, at how much we really enjoy just being together, I sort of stepped outside myself in wonder. That we are so different, and yet have forged this wide ribbon of common experiences that are uniquely, amazingly, us.

Of all the blessings in the world, this is the one I am most grateful for. Not to be too sappy for words on a Sunday Night, but you know - there have been a lot of years in my existence when I could never have imagined this kind of happiness. So I apologize for my misty moments of awe, they are unfashionable and trite.

And miraculous.

Boomdiadah, boom.

(Our favorite new commercial, but watch out - it's addictive!)

Posted on May 18, 2008 at 08:26 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Goodbye, Maggie Bear

April 18, 2008

The other half is gone.

As we skid into the end of a crappy week, punctuated by an earthquake, we had to put down my dear companion Maggie Bear.

She and I had been together for over 20 years.

I miss her already. So damn much.


Posted on April 18, 2008 at 06:59 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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We'd like to welcome Kosovo...

February 18, 2008

This is the world:

world shower curtain

Or, at least the world according to the shower curtain in our bathroom.

Now, by the authority vested in me as a Sharpie-wielding fuzzy-pink-bathrobe wearing BBC-News-watching woman of Earth... (ahem)

We, here at the Big Blue House, would like to formally recognize the world's newest country...Kosovo.

world shower curtain

We'd like to say we were first in recognizing their sovereignty, but apparently President Bush did that...uh, and almost ahead of the country itself.

We'd like to apologize for any misspellings. No dishonor intended. We hail the good people.

Thank you for attending. Now, if everyone could step back in the hallway, punch and cookies will be served.

Posted on February 18, 2008 at 07:45 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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All Right

Last November, I celebrated my birthday by discovering a big huge honking cyst in my brain. It was the straw, as they say, that broke the camel's back.

Which, I suspect, makes me a camel.

But moving right along.

You know how people, they say to you "Everything is gonna be all right?"

That's nice to hear.

It is.

But it doesn't make it so. Wishes? Are not fishes.

However, eventually I have come to a like opinion. Everything is going to be all right.

We dreamed of moving North, of a different lifestyle and of all sorts of firefly-like floaty things.

What we got, instead, is mounting debt - much of it medical - rooted in the same old place and time and a quick slide into what life is like when good health doesn't come back this time. But don't give up, life will surprise you with - like the little flowers that peek up through the snow just when you think there's no color left in the world.

And one thing I know, more than anything else right now - we're not alone. You're not alone. Sometimes a bad day turns into a bad week and bad news begins to feel like a habit you can't break.

But hang on tight to that line, because the wind always changes. The sun always comes back. And the color will once again saturate the world.

Hang on.

Posted on February 18, 2008 at 02:44 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Dumb Dog (Ours of course)

February 02, 2008

It snowed last night. A lot. Then it started snowing again this morning.

When I took 10-month-old, 55-pound Sara out her crate and told her to go do her business in the backyard, she seemed more than happy to follow my orders.

Until I opened the door. To about a foot of pristine snow.

Dog's pretty tall.

Snow was taller.

She leaped like a frog over to her usual spot. Squatted. Leaped and woofed in surprise.

Snow, I'm assuming, went to a place that snow had never gone before.

She swam like a dolphin through the drifts to another spot. Creamy dog, white snow, more falling. It was like watching a shadow.

Squatted again. Leaped again. Woofed. Again. Turned and gave me the dirtiest expression a dog has ever given a human. EVER.

"Get over it, princess," I told her, shivering in my pink fluffy bathrobe.

She gave me a look that said "No, YOU get over it!"

Roamed a bit more. Like a deranged mouse looking for the way out. At this point covered in a nice frosting of snow, all the way to her chin.

She eventually found a low spot in the drifts, right next to the house. I mean THIS-CLOSE. And, as God as my witness, attempted to do her business while all squished up AND leaning against the outside wall of our house.


Boom! Righted herself, scrambled, tripped over her paws, finally righted herself, have herself a good shake, and looked at me with snow all over her muzzle like the Grinch that stole Christmas.

Gave me a look and whimpered.

Like somehow this was all my fault because I wouldn't let her use our bathroom indoors?

Good heavens. I marched over and informed her in no uncertain terms to get herself busy before I became a human Popsicle.

She heaved a sigh and ran off through the snow, racing in circles, until finally she had MADE a low spot that suited her, um, purposes.

Then trotted over to me, carrying enough snow to make 3 Frosty's and a good armory of snowballs.

"Get in your crate," I told her AND her snow.

She slunk there. Another dirty look.

And? It's STILL snowing!

Posted on February 02, 2008 at 06:06 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Home Again, Home Again Lickety Split

September 05, 2007

Well, I forgot my blog password on this trip. You'd think I'd have it memorized - but in truth, my home computer does. So when my laptop gave me the ol' blink-blink I'm-WAITING at password prompt, I was completely lost.

We're home.

And if I may be petty, just for a second, may I say... I won't miss Chicago traffic. Wherever we end up - unless we move onto a median strip in L.A. - will have less traffic and for that reason alone I bounce with anticipation.

Each summer, the hardest part is always the last 50 miles.

From the moment we saw the 'Welcome to Chicago' sign to the moment we turned off the car in the driveway we were in excruciating bumper-to-bumper and CD and I just looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thought.

"I hope the house sells fast"... (you know, once we actually get it on the market.)

We may still love the neighborhood. The art glass in the living room that glows in the afternoons. The walk up to the park on a soft night.

But we are DONE with the traffic.

Posted on September 05, 2007 at 07:15 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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It's 106 miles to Chicago. We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses... hit it

August 24, 2007

In a couple of hours and 2 days late, we pull out for for our annual August trip to see my family in Boston. We thought by making the trip much shorter this year (only 10 days) that it wouldn't be such a big deal.

We had no idea that the Apocalypse was coming in the form of endless rain. Tornadoes. Wind. And a mountain of laundry that has applied to the Hague for reclassification as a sentient being.

No my suitcase isn't in the car, why do you ask?

In point of fact, I can't remember if I brushed my teeth this morning. The storms have pushed the days together and at some point I remember it was dark and I was naked and the pillowcase was soft and my husband's hand was warm and then it was gray again and rainy again and Allstate was explaining how to amend our damages claim.

Bear and a friend are decimating his room constructing a Transformer-Magnetix monster that I am assured could devour THE CITY MOMMY. THE WHOLE CITY. EVEN THE TREES AND THE DOGS.

What are the dogs doing in the trees?

Silly rabbit.

I'll be in Buffalo for lunch tomorrow. Come Hell or ... well, not high water.

Any more water and I'm strapping pontoons to my house and buying a really big paddle.

Actually, if it rains every step of the way, I will not mind. My Zen now encompasses all form of airborne water.

It's the wind and the ginormous lightning that freaks me.

The little voice inside my head sometimes remembers to panic about this.

And the 7-foot long to-do list I'm ignoring.

But mostly it does Jello shots and naps.

And the rest of me?

Is going to go finish packing.

Posted on August 24, 2007 at 01:24 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Joy is running water

August 13, 2007

Last night, we got home from seeing the matine of High School Musical and having an early dinner after with Dee in Logan Square.

CD picked up that old cast iron sink from the driveway and brought it back into the house.

And a few hours later, I had running water in the kitchen for the first time in over 3 weeks. And a working dishwasher.

I am now halfway through washing and putting away every kitchen item we own. I have never been so happy in my life to do dishes. I can't even admit how gross it was living without.

Bear has had a slow day of sorting socks and watering tomatoes as I've pushed forward on my to-do list. The pool starts family swim in a few minutes and I've promised him a long stay.

After my raw and bleeding last post, I've had a lot of thoughts. When I pour myself out like that, it is usually a great release of steam and thought.

But afterwards, I remember - hey this my REAL name out here. How crazy am I?

But today, I am firmly wrapped in my flag of productivity. Rocking out as I rotate the laundry. And deciding to let the joy of running water wash away deeper worries until tomorrow.

Posted on August 13, 2007 at 03:51 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The Jews Killed Jesus

August 02, 2007

"So the Jews killed Jesus?" some kids asked in my white-bread Connecticut Sunday school.

"That's right," the teacher said.

And so my first indoctrination into the inheritance of prejudice was made. With a simple sentence, and no blurry soft innuendo.

It was a bald statement of why Jews.Are.Bad.

And it didn't take graduating the 17th grade with a Theology minor on top of 5 years as a chaplain to realize that my pastor with the rosy cheeks and rumbly sense of humor was teaching us kids to condemn.

I knew it right then.

At 13.

Although I didn't have the courage to speak up, just the cowardice to silently disagree.

And it was sheer luck of the heart and my family that I knew better.

I mean, no one runs around dousing a pan of flaming saganaki shouting "the Greeks killed Socrates!"

And what that pastor was saying seemed just as.... off.

Now of course I know it's much worse.

My parents worked hard to raise me without prejudice, which is an amazing feat in New England. Because that bastion of Abolitionism has the demographics of Wonder Bread, fought integration right up into the 1980's, and features a basketball team that, don't forget, found the one white guy in America who could jump.

I wanted to do more than that for Bear.

My point, and I do have one, is that this is the one great fear CD and I have about moving back to the East Coast (if that's what we end up doing... and it is certainly looking that way.)

We chose the Oak Park area precisely because of its wide mix of population.
It put him with a rainbow of other kids: ones whose Mommies wear veils, ones whose skin is different color from his, ones that have two daddies...

This area is by no means perfect, but it was the best we could find with our priorities.

Yes, kids (and adults) will be mean, and segregate, and clique up. It's a Lord of the Flies world, still.

But at least he SEES the rainbow world around him. Just being on a t-ball team that looks like a United Nations conference is, in and of itself, a powerful teacher.

Yet now, at the tender age of 6, we are packing boxes. We are counting fondue forks and donating some of the zabillion odd spoons we've found. We are looking online at towns and neighborhoods.

"What will it be like?" Bear asks, carefully separating the packing paper in a pile for me.

'White!' I want to scream. "You've been there," I remind him. "On vacation..."

My husband sees my distress and tries to comfort me. "You and I ended up OK," CD reminds me, his lips in my hair. "And we grew up practically in gallon jugs of white milk."

I sigh, and nod. "But we had overcome so much programming. When I think back to all the stupid stuff I used to carry around in my brain. And the assumptions I made..." I blush, even now, in shame. "If I'd married Darnell, the cab driver from Zimbabwe, this would be a whole 'nother issue."

"Didn't he want to take you back with him to meet his other wives?" CD reminds me.

"Details," I scoff, holding him tight. Instead I married this Icelander, and we built this life together....

With this child. Who will of course be exposed to all kinds of intolerance in his life. There never really was any way to avoid it.

But the little voice inside me says it will be harder now. Maybe this my own prejudice, wouldn't that be funny?, but this is what I am afraid of in moving back where I was once told that the Jews killed Jesus.

[CD would like to add that a) Yes, the strange and not-so-lovely 'Bunker for Christ' people also live in this area so let's not pretend it's nirvana, b) That prejudice lurks even in the seemingly most integrated communities, maybe is being taught right this minute at a Sunday School near us, and that it's our job as parents to teach differently, and c) That he strongly doubts his wife meant ANY slur at all (to which I heartily agree but reminded him that it just wasn't OK then or now to teach kids to condemn, wholesale, an entire faith population.)]

Tags: prejudice, jew, new_england, moving, fear, christian, hate
Posted on August 02, 2007 at 02:43 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Last Night With Harry

July 24, 2007


I'm not a HUGE HarryPotterphile, but I do love what Jo Rowling has done with her books. I've read each installment, though sometimes with tepid interest.

But this was the last one. The very last, she said. So I made plans to attend the 'Countdown to Midnight' in Oak Park. We stumbled onto the last one and had a great time.

My friend and her two kids (a boy and a girl) came over to join us and my friend handmade them all cloaks and wands. Thus we had a Harry (her son), a Hermione (her daughter - who has the perfect smile and hair for it) and yes, of course, Ron (Bear). [I have a blurryish picture of the 3 of them ahead of me, if I get permission from my friend I'll post it.]

cdharrypotternight.jpg(Oak Park Library. CD takes a picture as I take a picture of him in Bear's cloak. 7/20/07)

The 3 were so convincing that they spent the night accepting compliments, having strangers take their pictures, and merrily, blissfully, being utterly wonderful.

The event? Meh.

I think it was better the previous book release, for some reason. They blocked off the traffic more, and had really transformed the sidewalks and in-between spaces in a Diagon Alley - with street performers and jelly beans hawkers and just, more of a festival kind of an air.

maraudersmap.jpg(The Map for the 2007 event, and Bear's homemade wand. 7/20/07)

Our favorite last time? The 'interpretive dance' performance on the stage in the park to music from the Potter movies. I mean, C'MON - this was classic.

This time seemed like a lot of crowds for not that much attraction. Maybe I'm cynical, now. I dunno.

If I had to pick a favorite thing - it would be the people themselves. Last time it felt like there were more 'Harrys' and 'Hermiones' but this time... it was much more a mixture. Draco and Ron and just random characters. And so many adults got into it, too.

I once had a 'Trekkie' (or is it 'Trekker'?) working for me on a project who put in a vacation request for a really critical point. "You don't understand," she told me. "It's a really important convention...I won't be the only Uhura there!"

It was kind of like that - people allowing their fantasy alter-egos free reign in a truly non-creepy, joyous way.

wisewoman.jpg(She gave out fortunes and trinkets. Giving Bear a protection spell. And later, a spell to remember the protection spell. 07/20/07)

I left before midnight, calling CD (who stayed behind with our son and our friends to get the book) and hearing the countdown in the background from the crowd around him. It was like some kind of New Year's Eve, hearing the screaming and celebrating that erupted as the books were finally handed out.

wizardonabikeeby.jpg(He rode up and down the streets posing and smiling. And, um, handing out gourds. 7/20/07)

The next day, my friend and I both huddled over our copies... letting the kids play in the backyard as we slipped into the pages with Harry and experienced his last moments of childhood and his ultimate showdown with YouKnowWho.

"I finished," she told me Sunday morning.

"Me too," I smiled.

And there's something bittersweet in that.

Posted on July 24, 2007 at 12:10 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Ebb Tide

June 28, 2007

Living in this chaos is hard. Agonizing. Crazy-making.

But the moment we clear it away, it will be time to put the house up for sale. And I think that's why we're moving slowly these past 2 weeks.

It's here. It's now. Look around. If we clean this up, if we shed this mess then you and he and I will have to say goodbye.

And, we're afraid. Sad. Resentful, or maybe mulish is a better word.

There's always an excuse why we're not quite ready yet to move on. Each morning, he goes off to work. Then it's our turn to get up and get going. Find a path to the fridge and the microwave to make some kind of breakfast. Trip over boxes and crap and God-what-is-that to the basket of clean laundry in the dining room.

Eventually, blessedly, we're off too. Camp, swimming lessons, art class, play date, store.

But then, we come home. And it's waiting for us.

Nearing this ultimate low point. The moment when the tide has slunk completely away. And all that is left is the stench and boil of the muddy ocean bottom.

This is the time, in the deep dark, that you turned to me and said 'it's always darkest before the dawn', and we giggled and made love again.

This is the time, you pulled my hair back off my face and told me close my eyes and rest, that our son needed me strong to be born.

This is the time, you called from far away. Woke me up with that ringing and said please, now, give us another chance. You wanted to come home.

This is the time we stood, lights burning in every room as we waited for the night to turn, as we prayed from our souls that his fever would break.

This is the time we shouted at each other in the rental car, speeding along Seine on stupid skinny streets with a stupid wrong map and trying to stop arguing but not able to, not able to...

This is the time, after all those times, that you gathered me up in bed and said 'Everything's going to be all right.... every thing will be fine. I promise.' and kissed my forehead and I believed you, and could sleep.

Weekend comes with sun and heat and day and we ... paint, spackle, study, eat. Pretend that we haven't missed every deadline we set, that the money will somehow keep stretching, that we have endless more summer days to finish this in between all the other things summer means.

In the night, we know better.

It's an ebb tide, close to bottom now.

Just around the corner. Just around the corner....

Posted on June 28, 2007 at 12:51 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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A Day in the Life

June 08, 2007

Here's how I never end up posting...

Yesterday morning, after some homeschool and then parking Bear in my room with some lunch and the Fairly OddParents. Sat down and started to respond to my emails, catch up on people's blogs, and check out the other places I write.

Yes, I prostitute myself. For a little bit of money, but it makes a huge difference these days. I write this blog, contribute to this blog, and as long as I'm sharing...for no money at all, I just joined this blog too.

A couple of the long emails I'd written looked like they had the seeds of Corporate Mommy post in them, so I began a draft.

Then I decided that it was too mundane. I mean, really. Who cares about our kitchen renovations and cardboard castles when the G8 summit is underway?

But I had to stop my dithering because I realized that suddenly and literally? I was panting with heat.

Feeling like someone had stuck the sun down my shirt. I could not get cool.

I decided I must be having some kind of premature hot flash and jumped into a shiveringly brisk shower.

I got out and felt about as cool and refreshed as a Bayou swamp in August.

"Bear..." I shouted as a I walked and toweled and panted. "Are you feeling..."

And there, hugging the box air conditioner like a crack monkey, was my son.

"It's hot," he huffed, his Captain Obvious cape firmly attached.

"No Duh!" I agreed, snatching up the thingy that tells me the temperature inside and out - and YES, dammit, feeling relieved that it wasn't just me.

"Well?" he demanded. "Well? Well? Well!!!"

"You don't even know what the numbers mean!" I scoffed, wishing I knew where my glasses were cuz the display is itty-biity. What? It IS!

"Mom... it's at least a 100, right?!"

(When the hell did he learn temperature?!) "Um, 94."

"OK, I think we should got ot the pool now! Do you, Mom?"

I just stood there and dripped.

Pleasant? No.

"Mom!! Puhleeeeeeze! Hurry!" he shouted, his naked fanny wiggling as he pulled up his Transformer's swimsuit.

"Uh... OK."

I grabbed a handful of towels out of the basket, dug up the pool bag, and started packing it while (at the same time) sitting in my office chair and wondering if I should save my draft or hit 'Delete'.

Started typing again, a little inspired, while out of the corner of my eye my son lost his patience. A few moments later, I was racing him out the door.

We were at the pool for almost 5 hours. Yes, with copious sunscreen, cover-ups, and even a cabana boy who chased us around with a big ol' palm frond.

Did no good. I'm pink.

When I got back to my computer last night, I didn't even check half my open windows. Yawning, crispy, I had minimum energy left.

This morning, I decided that I was glad I hadn't published what I wrote yesterday because in my time away, I had come to firmly believe that the trivialities of my life were ridiculous.

I looked at what I wrote before we'd bugged out to the massive Rehm pool yesterday.

And wondered why I felt everything I had to say since I left my job has seemed increasingly.... un-postable.

There's something important here. Part of peeling back the cover of my life and seeing the broken bits.

But I just...can't. At this moment.

(deep breath)

Here's what I found on the screen, though. Unchanged from yesterday. Silly...

.Change in plans, as always.

Instead of putting away the laundry, or prepping the kitchen floor, or finishing the homeschool chapters, or even finishing the gardening and weeding... we're heading over to the pool.

It is infinity degrees out today and the cicadas are roaring and Bear and I are going to kill each other if we don't get relief because even the box air conditioner can't keep up (we need fans to help move the cool air around).

The kitchen was demo'd a couple of weeks ago. Upper cabinets are installed. Lower cabinets are dry-fitted. Primer paint is up - we're keeping the tile, losing the wallpaper. Two-tone (cream and darker cream) paint job this weekend, if, you know, we don't decide to go to Blues Fest downtown or Midsommarfest in Andersonville. Or both. Heh.

The cabinets are mid-grade; a medium-brown maple. Pretty. Floor is peel & stick, but not criminally ugly. Pale browns, greens & blues. Countertop's Corian and being professionally made & installed with an under-counter sink - colors a little darker than floor.

That's gotta wait until after the lower cabinets, plumbing, electric is finished and inspected. Yes, we finally got a permit - with caveats for about a dozen inspections on it. "It's an old kitchen, you need to bring it up to modern codes," the lady told me with a fake smile at Town Hall.

"Do you have those written down for me?"

"You can find them online."


"Oh," she sighed like I'd asked her to give me her firstborn. "I'm not good with computers. Just look. Come back some other time if you can't find them."

(Note: HATE the people who work at city hall.)

No idea about roof yet - money dwindling, we're thinking how to get it done.

Downstairs basement - room just under stairs back to windows completely cleaned out, washed (mostly). That will be the staging room - all the packed up stuff will be put there so we can completely empty the other rooms and wash the basement.

Upstairs, kitchen stuff EVERYWHERE. Ugh.

Otherwise, clothes are all washed, sorted, organized. All that is left is what we wear. Bear? Has PLENTY of clothes.

He has built a HUGE castle structure out of the empty cabinet boxes in the front room - complete with turrets, periscopes, secret windows.

Tomorrow is officially our 'last day' of homeschool. Although truthfully? We'll kepp going on his reading, writing, and some of the other basic stuff - like time & money math. But that won't stop us from having a party to celebrate.

Tomorrow night, I fully expect to be doing the limbo down the sidewalk and singing shanty songs loudly to myself and the eleventy gazillion cicadas.

Sara is fine. She had a urinary tract infection that made it impossible for her to hold her pee so despite coming to us fairly housetrained, she had a bunch of accidents for a few weeks. Now we need to re-housebreak her, which means a lot of time in her crate. She gets pissed and tries to break out because if she isn't THIS CLOSE to HER boy at all times, her heart breaks and she's miserable.

Also? She likes to get her water bowl in her teeth and dump it on her head.

She's doubled in size, is very soft and sweet and smart and has the goofiest personality. And LOVES to retrieve!

OK, he has RUN OUT OF PATIENCE. As I type this, he is looking for my car keys.

OH MY GOD, he's found them and I think he's serious. Just what was my frelling my husband thinking? Showing a 6-year-old the workings of a 2-ton automotive?!

Dagnabbit, Bear's heading for the...

Gotta run.



Posted on June 08, 2007 at 09:30 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Sara Eats Cicadas

May 28, 2007

While I avoid the big purple gorilla in the room (Hi Gorilla!), you may have heard that here in the Chicago area we've been infested with cicadas. Brood 18, the 17-year-cycle cicadas (red-eyed locust freaks), erupted this week - pouring over every outside surface like scurrying, winged lava.

There is, seriously, one on every leaf of my hosta.

At night, you can feel the vibration of the millions of them - moving, molting, mating.

They sound like a vacuum cleaner. They stick like flypaper to whatever they land on. They are harmless, non-toxic, and - let's face it - a little apocolyptic.



Not ME. Sara.

Here's a movie we made this weekend of her snacking down:

Posted on May 28, 2007 at 08:44 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Furry Wonder

May 01, 2007

It's amazing what happens when you let go of the rope...

On Saturday, and not all prodded by my previous post *cough* and all the wonderful advice I got from it, CD and I slashed our expectations of what we can do to get the house ready for sale. Then? We pulled the trigger on ordering a kitchen. The house really can't be sold without a kitchen, or a new roof. The current roof was viciously ripped open this spring by mutant demon-spawn raccoons - who have since moved into the Radisson, complaining that our towels are not 'thirsty' enough for their tastes. Whatever the hell that means.

The current kitchen was, unfortunately, NOT ripped open by the mutant raccoons. That would have actually been helpful, since the demo is going to be a pain. No, the kitchen is just a strange 100-year-old bend in a hallway.

Feeling mighty-dang proud of ourselves, we also decided to pull the trigger on another long-promised adventure....

Please, meet Sara:


She is a 2-month old Golden Retriever/Poodle mix.


A more mellow, soft, sweet girl you have never met.


We're in love.

Posted on May 01, 2007 at 06:28 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Homeward Bound

April 19, 2007

Tomorrow morning, we aim the car westward and home again.

This trip weighed much harder on Bear and I than any we have taken before.

Maybe because each town was not so much a discovery as a possible new home. Entered with the thought "Could we live here? Is this the place?"

Maybe because I have now been sick for 4 months, and added to Bear's allergies we have had short fuses and this tender, lingering tiredness.

Maybe because the weather has been stormy and gusty and it has been hard to feel warm.

Maybe because it is hard, sometimes, to face the relationships we really have with our families. With who they are outside the holidays, on average Mondays with errands and stubbed toes and demons of their own.

Is this really how it is?

I don't know.

Snippets of songs gather together. Home, and long roads. Wandering, and finding. Daydreams, and rag dolls and the toys that come with fast food meals. Old photographs hung on the walls, and the stories behind them. And the squish of the puddles, again and again.

I want to be homeward bound.

Posted on April 19, 2007 at 08:01 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Into a Nor'Easter

April 18, 2007

The first place we stopped in New Brunswick was Grand Falls, where it was still, decidedly, winter.

Also? Francophone. Oh, the lovely time I've had trying to apply my France-type French with a thick American accent to communicating in Quebec. Just the word "oui" - so simple, yes? - caused a hiccup.

But pretty pretty country.grandfallsnb.JPG

Dear Florenceville,

Your highway sign boasts that your town is the "French Fry Capital of the World".
And yet? Not ONE French Fry to be purchased in the ten blocks of town. Sears catalog store? Yep. Quaint (and a little scary) bridge over the gorge? Yep. Gas station with barbeque chips? Yep.

But NOT.ONE.HOT.FRENCH.FRY to be found.

You might want to look into this.

"French Fry Capital of the WORLD"...not "New Brunswick" or "Canada" or even "the North Atlantic". The whole thing sets up certain expectations.

Just saying.

Our favorite town in New Brunswick had to be St. John. Some might argue that so close to the US border that it is not a true Canadian town. I wasn't there long enough to be informed on the subject.

All I know is that it is gorgeous. Not just in the cute-tourist way, either. It is a real working town in the midst of so much natural beauty. Ah, the coastline, the houses, the people. We lingered for as long as we could, just soaking up this place. It reminded us of long-ago homes.



The view from the bridge as we waited to re-enter the US. Overcast? Yes. But pleasant and green with leftover piles of snow tucked away.

Nothing ominous here...

...Until we were firmly back in the States.

By the time I dropped off CD at the Portland, Maine airport, the storm was kicking up in gusts and wet. He didn't want to go, and I hated to see him leave.


The first mile in 1600 that I drove was with wipers squeaking and knuckles white on the wheel. It was supposed to take 90 minutes to get to my father's house.

It took twice that.

The Nor'Easter came in with high winds, snow, and icy rain. The van skittered like a bug.

We arrived, finally.

I dragged in the suitcases and bags.

Stripped Bear down and put him in dry clothes.

And then we curled up together. And collapsed.

Posted on April 18, 2007 at 07:39 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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On The Road

April 13, 2007

Armed with camera, stack of pillows, and a cooler full of Oberweis milk (don't ask)... we were off.


Crossed over at Detroit and headed for London, Ontario.

London Ontario.JPG

You know you're in Canada when...


Stopped for lunch along Lake Erie...


The water on this side of the lake is so beautiful...


Out of Ontario and into Quebec province... c'est ca?


Welcome to Montreal...


Street seller.


Goodnight and on to New Brunswick...

rearview sunset.JPG

Posted on April 13, 2007 at 03:39 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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You Say Hello...

April 09, 2007

Tonight we're crossing the border into Canada for a visit. It's Bear's first trip offically out of the U.S. but his passport isn't ready - so we've got about 50 pieces of ID for him (including some report cards and a really cute baby picture plus copies of his Passport photos).

The lady who answered the US helpline told me not to worry - that I wouldn't need his passport since we were traveling by car and I could just bring his driver's license and Birth Certificate.

"Um, he's 6," I said.

"Right," she answered.

Long pause as I realized, with growing horror, that she actually wasn't going to figure out that 6 year olds? Don't drive. Well, not legally.

When I called Canada, the man there cheerfully told me that the Birth Certificate and Baptism Certificate would be fine.

*big sigh of relief*


CD flies back next Sunday night so he can be at work on Monday morning. He'll fly to Boston the following weekend and drive us home.

We're crossing in Detroit. Then we're traveling to Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec City, Fredericton, NB and finally stopping in for a few days in Moncton, NB. Coming home via the US; Portland, Providence, Boston, Buffalo, and then gunning it the last 500 miles home to Chicago (our usual method).

If you live along the way, consider me waving enthusiastically in your direction.

I'll post from the road.


Posted on April 09, 2007 at 01:01 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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April 05, 2007

Last Thanksgiving, we lost our old cat Zazoo.

He left behind Maggie, who I've had for about 20 years. Who has never lived without another pet friend to keep her company. Who has been lonely.

The last five months have been hell.

Each night (because cats? are nocturnal) she screams. And screams. All these years and I never knew that a cat could be that LOUD.

And then, if one of us comes out to see what's wrong, she literally will just look at us and say *meow* - like 'oh, did you want to stay up and play with me?'

Taking her to bed with us only causes her to use our sleeping bodies as toys to be batted.

We've tried everything.

We're exhausted.

The only thing that helps is to give her a dose of itty-bitty kitty antidepressants before bedtime. Which are expensive, people.

Next Monday, we are leaving for 2 weeks up in Canada (driving from Toronto to New Brunswick, down to visit my family in Massachusetts, and then back).

And when we get back? We're getting a P-U-P-P-Y. Bear has wanted one forever, his doctor has greenlighted it, Canada says 'sure', ... so there is no stopping us.

Now, Maggie may not be happy to discover that the new ball of fluff coming to keep her company is of the canine variety. But she'll get over it.

Oh, yeah. If she knows what's good for her? She'll get over it FAST.

And let us get a good night's sleep.

Posted on April 05, 2007 at 08:15 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Gee-oh, Gee-oh

March 22, 2007

I'm unclear on these new Child Abuse laws....

Do they include exposing my son to 80's rock?

Because, if so, I am in deep trouble.

Spring came out from behind its rock the other day and viciously attacked us with bright sun, a warming Earth, and a couple dozen purple-and-orange crocuses waving from the front yard.

As we drove from yon to hither and back (the parent's lament), I rolled down the windows and turned up the radio. Flipping through the usual channels because I wasn't in the mood for RadioDisney (which is evil) or classical. I wanted peppy, light.

I got the Police.

As the guitar and drums rolled into the speaker, he shouted from the back "this one, Mommy! This song!" and I wondered if it was a bad thing that he a) recognizes most of the songs from "Ghost in the Machine"? b) and can sing them all by heart?


Once upon a time, this album played over and over again during a party at my house Senior year and a guy name Steve and I crawled under the pool table to avoid some inanity and ended up kissing. Steve, compared to the guys I had known before, was a very good kisser.

And though it meant nothing more than that, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" will forever remind me of being tucked under Steve's arm, hearing him sing some lyrics, and feeling his lips, and smiling while we kissed.

Until now.

Now that memory is going to fight with the one from an early Spring day. A day before the night when we would get to meet the author Mary Pope Osborne. The afternoon we raked out the front yard and laid down extra soil and fertilizer for our last spring in the big blue house. The day we stopped for the 2nd time in a week for Slushies on the way home.

The day my 6-year-old belted out, in tune and on melody, "I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day. And ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way..."

And a moment of misty, thinking, thinking - someday, you know, he might.

And then it was time to sing the "Gee-oh, gee-oh" part.

So I did.

Except, he shouted from the back, "Mommy! It's Hee-o! Hee-o!"

I firmly believe that he should be 7 before I let him win one of these arguments. So I just shook my head in beat and belted out (off key) "Its a big enough umbrella; but its always me that ends up getting wet!"

He giggled.


Posted on March 22, 2007 at 07:41 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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I Am Waiting For Vizzini

March 06, 2007

When I was in my 20's, I did a little too much Princess Bride. Yeah, at first I would tell myself that I was only gonna watch it on the weekends. Then, the next thing you know, I was loading the movie on random Tuesdays - telling myself it was OK, because I'd had a hard day.

I found myself slipping quotes into inappropriate situations; "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned... I got involved in a land war. In Asia." "Have fun storming your wedding!" "Sir, you use the word 'incompetant' a lot. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I made my dad and grandmother go with me to a Mandy Patinkin concert once. Thank God that man can actually sing, because I didn't check beforehand. It could have been so, so, so very bad.

I knew I couldn't make excuses anymore once I found myself late at night... following updates of Cary Elwe's career.

Yes, I knew I needed help.

I just didn't know how to ask.

I go through these phases, these little obsessions. Little. Well, compared to a tsunami, maybe. Princess Bride, wedding flowers, Al Green songs, Dawson's Creek, Tom Selleck, quiche, General Hospital, Lyle Lovett...

It's pretty obvious that I have a problem. Problems. These additictions, indulgences that waste time. That I should give up, probably. And grow up.

Except the Tom Selleck thing. Tom Selleck, I'll never surrender. He was my poster-boy crush back in the day and everyone gets one poster-boy crush. It's in the by-laws.

So somehow these past few months I've pushed myself away from my silliness. Soaked myself up in the rest of my life. Got serious about freelancing, homeschooling, facing what needs to be done. And if I allowed myself a TiVo'd soap opera, then I would only allow myself to watch it fast forward - reading the subtitles to save time.

And, damn.

I'm here to say... I'm here to witness. Girl gets dull and overpointy when she rakes all the fluff outta life.

The other day, I just gave up and TiVo'd a bunch of Alias reruns. In the dark of the night, I made a bowl of salsa and chips and curled up with Michael Vartan.

Well, you know what I mean.

It's good to be back.

Posted on March 06, 2007 at 09:03 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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... and the deep blue sea

January 04, 2007

I don't know how my son managed to have fun at such a half-hearted attempt at camp - but when I picked him up (about 2 hours early), he was smiling.

I had gotten nothing done, nothing.

In a couple of months we are selling this house. I look around. And freak the hell out.

So much to do. We'll be working right up to the minute our first open house starts.

And? And? We still haven't decided where we're moving. What comes next.

Leaving Dee's party on Monday, I was disengaging from a conversation. I think I was talking about swimming with the dolphins last month off Key largo.

"Wait," she asked - "what's new with the house?"

"Oh," I said. "Well, we picked out a kitchen. And we have some kind of plan. Whatever comes together by April or so - that's when the house goes up for sale. "

"Then where?"

"Well, we think Iceland for a visit this summer. And maybe England."

We looked at each other while I pulled on my coat.

"I don't know where we'll end up," I admitted. "Maybe back here. Maybe Canada. We've decided to be open."

And I thought 'That sounds insane. That sounds utterly nuts! When in the world did I go from coffee-talk about my job and Bear's life to being the off-kilter loony tune who doesn't know where she and her family are going to be living in 6 months? This woman is about to give me such a look! Such a comment!.' And I even braced myself a little.

Because this is all wrong, right?

But she just called "Good Luck!" as we started down the stairs to the car.

Posted on January 04, 2007 at 08:31 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Time heals... nothing

January 02, 2007

When I was growing up, I hoarded resentment.

After all, there was so much of it lying around to be had.

I saw the inequities all around me, and it seemed like my straw was always shortest in the sucks-the-worst competitions.

I didn't know then. I didn't know that an upper-middle-class white girl in New England has it so damn good that she doesn't know from inequity.
That little crack in the cosmic egg came later.

In the meantime, back in that time, it was so hard to keep in the anger at the unfairness.

Sometimes, my family still makes choices that baffle me. And there will be this strange Twilight Zone moment when I'll just get so pissed.

Even though, in the long and deep of things, it doesn't really effect me. Even though I immediately snap back.

The conditioning of childhood has left these buttons in me that I don't seem to be able to disarm.

I mean, I'm a grown-up - right? I'm over it.

So why does what they do still just sock me in the gut, if only for a moment?

Posted on January 02, 2007 at 11:03 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Flaming Knot in the Center of my Back

November 28, 2006

Almost 6 years ago. We were newlyweds, new parents, looking to plunk down some roots in a nice community with good schools.

Turns out? Not so much with affording that.

So we bought this house instead. It looked like a cozy place to stay while we saved up for the real house and a great investement.

The years turned it into our home.

Yet it has never truly fit. The neighborhood was outstanding - big park, walk to trains and shopping and the library.

But the house itself?


There are no closets. Really. Instead, we've got a 1920's kitchen that literally can not be made clean. Tiny bedrooms, 1 small bathroom, and arthritic electricity that goes to sleep during rainstorms. And let's not ever forget the unnatural squirrel-raccoon love affair playing out nightly in the attic.

We have sunk thousands of dollars and hundreds upon hundreds of hours improving the best we can. You just can't force this house to be another house, if you pick up what I'm laying down here.

So two years ago, we started looking *seriously* for the next place. Colorado. Canada. Minneapolis. Portland.

Traveled to other states, looked around, applied for jobs, and skimmed online real estate ads.

Nothing came together.

We didn't feel any urgency about it until last Easter, when a reporter showed up on the sidewalk looking for a quote.

Turns out that across the street, our co-chairs in the Block Party? One of them is defrocked Catholic Priest who has had over $2 Millions paid out to the half-dozen former prepubescent boys who had come forward and won suit.

CD and I spent that whole weekend with a thick ball of dread resting between us. If we'd been waiting for a signpost in bold letters, with a siren on top, that was it. The loud SMACK of the trigger being pulled. We jumped at the sound, startled in our lives.

And since then, we've known in our bones that we would be selling this spring, once 'real estate season' begins.

But to get there, we had a real estate angent help us build a list of to-do's that would help the house sell, and for what it is really worth. Since I, silly rabbitt, decideed to play teh part of a stay at home mom this year.. guess who got all the lovely assignments?

Well, hey, I was a high-powered corporate muck. I can get it all done AND learn to make my own paper. Right?

Except you know what I realized today?

Holy Shit, it's already December.

Seriously. I need a nail gun, a couple gallons of latex paint, a garbage skip, about two million storage boxes, some bathroom tile, and a tall, ripped handyman named Sven.

Yeah, the last one is just for fun.

Posted on November 28, 2006 at 08:46 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Hungry Like A Wolf

November 26, 2006

It's amazing what a couple days of raking and yard work in beautiful weather can do for your souls - and muscles.

OK, no one tell my brother - but we're getting him an iPod for Christmas. We were bartering for one and then CD picked up this Christmas job at the electronics store and he gets dibs on the insane clearance stuff. This is a secret so besides everyone on the internet, let's just keep it under our hats....

We're going to preload it with a few of songs.

I happen to have an, err, bizarrely huge MP3 collection. I was one of those early Napster anarchists (But all legal now! I swear!). NO idea what kind of crack I used to smoke, but I got stuff like Peaches and Herb.


Kalisah inspired the idea pick songs from the late 8o's and early 90's. You know, stuff from when my *younger* brother was in high school.

Here's the list so far .... thoughts?

1. "Hungry Like a Wolf" Duran Duran
2. "Vogue" Madonna
3. "Vacation" The Go-Go's
4. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" Nirvana
5. "Can't Touch This" MC Hammer
6. "Under the Bridge" Red Hot Chili Peppers
7. "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" Green Day
8. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" Tears for Fears
9. "Ice Ice Baby" Vanilla Ice
10. "One" U2

Posted on November 26, 2006 at 05:04 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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He's gone.

November 25, 2006

Zazzoo, the silvery furball that shared our lives and was Maggie's true companion for 13 years, died today.

Services will be held tomorrow, followed by a burial under the old apple tree in the backyard.

Namaste, Zazz. Namaste.


Zazz is at rest now; Bear placed fluffy cattails and berries with him and CD found a nice big stone to protect his sleep. Thank you, so much, for all the generous comments. It's helped.
Posted on November 25, 2006 at 12:18 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And then you die.

November 22, 2006

zazzooandbear112000.jpgOnce upon a time, I got a kitten.

I was impossibly young, and living with my first love.

I wanted, he indulged, and we ended up with this tiny bit of fluff who lived on my shoulder and pushed her cold nose in my ear with small purrs.

I called her Maggie.

This isn't a story about Maggie.

When Maggie was about 5 years old, there was tragedy. We'd had another cat and he died. Maggie, from loss, tried to join him. I didn't know cats could care so much. Could be so lonely that they would sit in a corner, uneating, ungroomed. Breaking my heart with her broken spirit.

My ex and I decided to get her another partner. Somehow, we ended up with this big, fat, silvery thing with more names than I can remember. He didn't like people much. He liked food. He didn't care for being held, although he'd suffer a pat if you bent down to bestow it.

And? He adored Maggie.

Somewhere along the way, he became Zazzoo. My ex left them both with me when we finally parted - almost a decade of water under our bridge. You have to take them both. They're a set, he said.

So I suffered Zazzoo for love of Maggie.

It was the three of us for a long while, and I grew more accustomed to his face. We declared peace and stayed out of each other's way.

Then, CD. He was spending a weekend, some months into this fling of ours, I remember him yelping. A manly yelp, sure.

"You have"

"Didn't I mention that?" 600 square feet of apartment, I'd been certain he'd noticed before.

It was when Bear was born that Zazzoo became real. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, Zazzoo melted for love of our baby. He was boneless, clawless, completely dear to our own baby boy.

We were all, the four of us, suprised how that worked out.

No longer just Maggie's bitch, he truly liked being around Bear. Would skulk over and keep an eye on him. Offer his thick fur for a touch.

We always figured that we'd be stuck with this strange little beast of a cat until the end of time. He seemed sturdy and endless. I'd tease him, that when Maggie went - hey, he could consider his own clock punched.

He'd give me a swish of his tail and march away.

I'm clearly not that frightening.

It's taken a day to notice, since we came home. Because he'd hidden himself away in the cellar. But when he didn't come up for food tonight, we knew. Found him curled up in an old rag pile, listless and breathing slowly with effort.

Oh, I thought. Oh, I think he's dying.

And Bear, seeing it on my face, began to cry.

CD and I locked eyes, and the sadness came in waves. How easy to forget the math, but he must be 19 or 20, now. He was middle-aged, they said, when we adopted him and that was 13 years ago.

A lifetime, really.

We carried him upstairs, to a bed of towels. Bear and CD and I talked about our years with him. And how sad it is when we ask animals to be our companions that we do it knowing that their walk will be shorter than ours, and we'll be left behind when they float away.

Now they two have gone to bed while I keep vigil with my old companion, Zazzoo. He's resting, comfortably. Maggie is nearby, licking him ever so often.

I've told him I will stay up with him as long as he wants. And that if it's time for him to leave he knows I will take good care of his beloveds, of his little Maggie and of his bouncy copper boy.

And I told him, too, that if he'd like to stay with us awhile longer, that would be fine.

He looks at me, and huffs a bit. And knows that he was always welcome here. That he still is.

And I look at him, and sigh a bit. And think, how I will miss him. And try not to get him too wet with my tears.

Posted on November 22, 2006 at 12:54 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Dude, it was harsh. And needs a good cleaning.

November 21, 2006

We were so delayed out of West Palm Beach that I was on a first name basis with most of the employees. The flight was rocked with turbulence. By the time we landed at Chicago's Midway airport, we were wilted and snarling on the sharp end of 8 hours of travel.

Then had to wait an HOUR for our luggage to appear.

No, I am not stretching the truth.

60 frigging minutes of watching that silver belt spin and spin with that one frigging green flowered suitcase.

By the time Dee pulled into the driveway, we sprang out of her car like Jack in the Boxes. (Um, I don't think we even thanked her for the ride.)

Bear ran up the front stairs and started banging on the door like the cats could let him in.

The house? Smelled pretty yucky. But I was too tired to care. It was 1AM and I stripped and dove under the covers.

When I woke up this morning, it was like coming to in a horror movie.

I'd left a couple of days before CD and Bear, with a to-do list for them.

One they had clearly made into a paper airplane.

There are week-old dirty dishes in my kitchen.

The margerine was left out on the counter.

I will not even describe what has happened inside my fridge, except to say - it's gonna take a hazmat suit, a bottle of bleach, and a Tiawanese acrobat to get it clean.

Speaking of clean, they did the laundry! Loads and loads of it!

Then DUMPED it on every free surface of the living room.

(I can only assume this was to facilitate the subsequent rummaging for the 5 ratty t-shirts and single pair of too-small underwear they each packed for themselves.)

The cats, of course, carefully plotted their days so that EACH and EVERY pile has been slept in and shed on in our absence.

There is no clean place for my eyes to rest.

Two years ago, I would have been furious. Back then, I had a divorce lawyer on speed-dial and hidden Tylenol stashes in each room.

Two years ago, I was juggling a multi-million dollar global IT project with an executive who liked to get me on a teleconference with my team and see how badly he could humiliate me in front of them. I would spend 5 hours prepping for those calls, and he would always find the one thing, the one single small thing, that he could stab me with.

"What's that, Elizabeth? A decimal in the wrong place on your daily spending report from France? Oh, only a dollar you say? I'm curious, when does our company's money matter to you? When it's a thousand? A million?..."

And then CD would walk through the door, just as I would start responding, and shout 'What's for dinner?'

Ah, the good old days.

That was then.

Look, I know that you're probably saying "Hey, Elizabeth is blowing sunshine up her OWN ASS again! What flexibility!"

But here's the thing.

2 years ago, see, I'd bought into this lie. That somehow, there was something called perfect-town and I was on a military style march to there. That "if-only", you know? If only CD was well. If only he would have some kind of epiphany. If only my boss would take a Paxil. If only.

Not to crack any cosmic eggs, but turns out? Not so much.

My husband, bless him, is working 2 jobs to keep us going. He is swallowing his pride for one of those jobs. He got like 5 hours of sleep last night, and then went off to 13 hour-day while I sat on the sofa sipping coffee and thinking about a nap.

Yes, he sucks at organizing anything that can't be plugged in.

He's a clutter-monger.

He packs like an over-caffeinated squirrel.

And I love him.

God doesn't give anyone everything.

I look around at this mess, and realize that we have too much crap and clutter as a family. That there are ways to make things easier. That I hate cleaning, absolutely. And I HATE cleaning up after my husband.

But at least I can make the 6-year-old help. And, you know, I'm with him. Not some egomaniacal 50-year-old with a need to overcompensate for what I can only assume is a deficiency in another area.

I am firmly determined to change my outlook on life in these 100 days.


Did I mention?

It's good to be home.

Although... I could have used a few more days in paradise.

Posted on November 21, 2006 at 11:59 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Having a wonderful time

November 17, 2006

Delray Beach Bear.JPG

Well, it's been a week of our 10-day break. We've been to the beach, and Disney World's Animal Kingdom, spent eleventy jillion hours in the pool, and jauntily bounced the Intracoastal on a Jet Ski.

Weather? 80 degrees, blue skies, and warm breezes. (Yes, damn you, Florida! Damn your tropical warmth!)

Health-wise I am, finally, well.

Seriously? I can not begin to decribe what a blessing this week has been. I feel like a new person. Even the moments I have spent dancing with my Grandmother's ghost have been healing.

My mom once told me that there is no such thing as a "geographical cure".

No offense meant to my mom, but she's wrong.

If what ails you has chilled your world into shades of gray? Then get thee to paradise.

'Cuz... yeah.


Posted on November 17, 2006 at 07:34 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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She's Not Here

November 15, 2006

I don't have an image editing prgram here, so please excuse grainy pictures...
balcony2.JPG She had the chairs reupholstered to match the new sofa when I was in college. Soft Florida colors to match the palm trees and the waterview.

The card taped by the thermostat tells me in her handwriting to set the dial to "auto".

Her stapler is lined up with her tape dispenser on her desk. Liitle address stickers with her name.

The embroidery she was always working tucked, unfinished, with the crossword puzzle books on the shelf.

In the morning, the sun blasts onto the balcony.

I stir my coffee, and pad across the room. It's a shadow, I know. But my heart leaps before I can tell it no.


It's been 5 years, heart.

You should know by now.

She's not here.

Posted on November 15, 2006 at 12:55 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Goodbye, Sister

November 08, 2006

This is Wemouth Cemetery. The end of that row is where they laid my grandmother's body to rest.

Of course, she isn't really there.

Grandma was, well, my Grandma. She didn't back cookies, couldn't cook worth a damn, argued politics with a keen passion, played Gin like a cardshark, and was the first person to argue my viewpoints with me.

When Bush was finally declared the winner of the Florida election and thus, President, she called me up chuckling - "Your guy never had a chance down here."

She called me 'sister' towards the end, as a form of endearment. Shaking her keys at me when she was impatient for us to be off, as I would pack up my purse and tell her to 'shh'. Her silver curls and grinning eyes trying to look all bossy and imperious.


Of all the relatives around my childhood, she's the one I stayed in a conversation with throughout my life. The one I got to know, and the one I let know me.

We hardly agreed on much - politics, decorating, even marriage. But we got each other. And we liked to spend our Sunday nights arguing on the phone about foreign policy and CSI plots.

When my cat fell out the window of the apratment back in my poor, poor days. He had a really broken leg. A few days later, I got a check from her for $500 - completely unasked for. I called her up, in confusion.

"For the vet bills, dear."

When my cat died a few days later, I called her again. I was unable to say anything, I was so sad.

"Elizabeth, is that you?" she guessed. "Oh, he died, didn't he...?"

Some years back, I went on a hunt for her gravestone. I had to see it.

I thought I was fine, you know. As we strolled up and down the rows looking for her name - my name.

And then we found it.

I almost broke into a million pieces. Like I'd decided she wasn't really dead until then. Until I traced her name, my name, in the stone.

Bear and CD and I held each other for a long time as I cried.

Then Bear found 3 beautiful stones. We placed them on the grave she shares with my grandfather, and remembered her. We prayed for her. We missed her.

Since she died, I've been trying to get to Florida, to her condo.

From there from the time I was a kid, I would visit her (and Grandfather, while he lived) each winter. She and I that would hang out at Denny's (Grandma loved her some Early Bird Special on a Senior Discount) and chatter away the late afternoon. Then we'd walk the beach at sunset. Watch the night sky for stars.

My father and his brother kept the condo. Got a dumpster and cleared it out. Now they rent it out for 6 months each year - Dec to May.

florida.jpgSince she passed, it became something of a compulsion, to walk that stretch of beach again. To listen to those waves.

This year, my father relented to a time when we could go down to the condo. The week of November 13. Yes, my birthday. Even sent us the keys.

Our bookkeeper could be heard shouting all the way from Canada. That we'd have to use a credit card. That we can't really afford this. Really.

The last 2 weeks, I've been so sick. Coughing for air. And hanging on for this day.

On Friday, I have to be well enough to go, I would tell myself. Even if I have to pack dirty clothes, and travel with bed head. Even if I cough my way across country.

Last year? Paris.

This year? Florida.

Warmth. And salty breezes. Palm trees, with their long giraffe-like trunks. Pastels and long sunsets. And the memory of my grandmother's laugh on the sea.

I've shed tears into the ground of her death. Her 'no more'.

Today I fly to where her life was.

To be warm, to smile, maybe to cry. To relax, unwind, and be open. Maybe, to find a little healing.

In more ways than one.

Posted on November 08, 2006 at 11:52 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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13 Months

November 05, 2006

My son was asleep in his car seat behind me. Around his wrist, a bright yellow hospital bracelet. I looked back at him often, my heart swelling in gratitude at his peaceful expression, his feverless cheeks.

Down on the car floor, my phone lit up and I ignored it. Despite being on Emergency Leave, my phone had logged over 30 incoming calls. 13 messages. My deputy had been let go due to budget concerns and my manager was attempting to fill in. I had told him a dozen times that I was not in a sitaution where I could deal with work. He kept calling (...)

All at once, the leaves have dropped down from the trees. Raining, floating, diving into the still-green grass.

There's a breeze that is something cool but not yet cold.

It's been 13 months.

"When did you leave your job?" She asks on the phone, clickety-clacking her keyboard.

"March, uh the last day in March."

"Uh, huh - and you didn't call us then?"

"No, no... I wouldn't be now, except I need a little relief for a few months... I hate these things..."

"March, 2006," she repeats, cutting me short.

Bear comes into the kitchen, clings to my leg a moment. I ruffle his hair and help him stand on the chair. And together, we build him a snack. Of fruit and milk and crackers.

"No peanut butter," he whispers. "It has a loud taste."

"Well, I'm going to put in your deferrment. Effective..."

"But I can still pay the interest, right? I don't want these things to grow... I haven't been in college since - "

"Let me finish," she says sharply. "Yes. Effective to May. That's previous. And expiring in January. The interest is $15 a month, pay that if you wish. Then we won't capitalize it. Which means, to add it to the balance of your remaining loan amount. Otherwise, your loan amount will be larger at the end of the year than it was at the begining. Do you understand?"

13 months ago, I was managing a project funded based on speculation of the return on investement on $40 million worth of capital assets.

I think I can understand what happens if I don't pay the $15.

Not that I say so.

"I have to ask, were you fired for cause?"

I chuckled as I helped Bear down and sent him off to the table with his snack.

He told me I wasn't being a team player. He fashioned an inconvenience into an emergency. Exhausted, angry, I finally hung up on him.

"No," I answered finally.

No, each of my annual reviews said that I used to be really good at the job I used to resent so much. That I exceeded expectations, even as I was ripped in two. No, lady, I used to be 'advancement tracked'. Ain't that a laugh?

"Is there anything else?"

"Uh, yes..." I nibble my lip. Finally, I say it out loud. "I think I want to teach. I mean, I want to write, but so far that just isn't paying the bills. And I used to teach, high school and college. It was years and years ago but I think I want to do it again. I would need to take some classes. Theology and half a masters in Project Management won't... I mean, I think I want to teach writing. Like that."

She waits for the actual question.

"I know I still have an outstanding balance from my first go-around but..."

"You want to know if you can take out another loan?" she asks, a little too snarky for my tastes.

Not that I say so.

My crisp assumption of power began drifting away from me when I left my career. When the world begain blinking its tepid eye at my Stay-at-home-mothering. When I stopped having a tally of how many I manage and how important my responsibilities were.

Now I wipe the counter, and wait.

"Yes," she says.

"Uh, yes?"

"Yes, you did not exhaust your maximums. You are in good standing. But we are not a lending institution...."

"I understand," I say hurriedly, hanging up. I want to whoop for joy, but instead I just smile at the plant hanging over the kitchen sink.

13 months ago, it was a thunderstorm. It was a yellow hospital band around my son's wrist and my husband's strength against my fears. It was the fog, and the clearing.

It was finding myself successfully climbing up a mountain, and then looking around to realize - it was the wrong one.

"More milk," he says, showing me an empty cup. His smile makes me forget the autumn night, the long road ahead, the lady on the other end of the line.

"Of course," I agree, reaching for the jug.

Of course.

Posted on November 05, 2006 at 07:27 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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November 02, 2006

I came down with a cold last week. Bear gave it to me, on purpose. Fiendish 6 year old knew he would have days of soup and television, if only he could fell the great mean mommy who makes him do his chores and go to school. Plotted with some of the great biologists of our time, came up with a bug that would sit on my chest until I slipped into a twilight space of Arthur and chocolate milk.

This afternoon, finally, I called CD in surrender.

"Come home," I begged. I was dozing in and out while Bear hopped around me. Sniffly himself, but full of mischief, too. Me asleep, child awake - this was the most dangerous combination known to man.

"I can't," he told me - his team already fallen to similar microbic beasts, he couldn't leave his company unsupported. Much like my breasts.

But I digress.

I gave him no choice; "Bear is making himself popcorn! In the microwave! Also? Haggis! There are wildebeasts roaming the hall. Or livestock-shaped laundry that has been willed into life, into playmates for our child. Plus I think he's cruising the internet, looking for Dora's home number."

He groaned and told me he'd do what he could. But that I should have backup plan.

He reminded me that we had a Very Important Call with our bookkeeper today. About the gap between what is due and what is coming. About the little things we needed in the meantime. Like microwave popcorn. And insurance premiums.

I flaked, completely irresponsibly.

For weeks now, I have blown off the weekly finances meeting on the flimsy pretext that the bookkeeper and CD have it at the very moment I drive Bear to Kindergarten and walk him to class. This week, they finally rescheduled it.

And me, with my silly little fever and bone-crushing exhaustion.

In fact, I called CD in the midst of it, croaked at him (because there was a frog hanging from my tonsils) to get his skinny fanny homeward. "I am drowning in bedclothes! And your son has a cup of ice, some Halloween candy, and he's headed for the blender. The blender, dammit!"

At some point, an hour or so later, I heard my husband's dulcet tones, snarling from the front room; "I'm home!"

And from there, it all went downhill. CD turned a blind eye to Bear's incomplete homework, the dishes in the sink. He kicked the laundry monster into the hall corner, and told me to sleep.

When I woke up, disoriented, hours later, a foamy dread tugged at me.

As the pressure dials up, we break down. We slip into old, bad habits. Old, bad feelings. Old, bad ... old. Bad.

He knows it is not my fault that I am sick, on a day when it is impossible for him to take care of us. He knows that the money strains will eventually sort themselves out, and until then we are each doing our best.

But my husband, he was depressed for many years. Someone once said that depression is angry turned inward, and I think that is at least partially true. I remember that chip on his shoulder, it waves at me in recognition. I remember that sullen gleam in his eye.

I can't stand feeling all victim-like. As I don't remind him when he comes home with some fast food for us that he forgot to pick up tissues. I grab a wad of toilet paper, and pretend not to see how he didn't help. Try to keep the narrow laser beam on what he did do.

He came home. He watched our son. So I could sleep.

Forget how it used to be. Forget swallowing my own emotions and needs and wants. Forget how I used to tiptoe on the eggshells that kept the peace.

As I tiptoe, one more time.

Angry. And sick. And tired.

This too shall pass.

And hopefully, soon enough.

Posted on November 02, 2006 at 10:59 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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A hard rain is gonna fall. But not just yet.

October 24, 2006

There's been some relief in the financial doom and gloom.

CD has found a second job. Just a little something at his favorite IT store. But it means a lot.

First, because for months upon months no one would give him a second glance. Like the Goodyear blimp squatted on his head with an LED sign proclaiming "Do Not Hire Me!" in big letters.

Spots he was outrageously qualified for would blink at him slowly and then shout "next!"

As I forged a routine with Bear, CD splashed helplessly. Even his counselor growing confused. Not understanding that week after week with application after application bringing not even a phone call, not even an email... stung CD's thin hide. Finally, CD brought himself able to discuss it with her.

Like kids who mulishly push away homework complaining that it's dumb - when inside it is them themselves that feel overwhelmed. CD at first had complained that he hadn't ever truly signed on to being breadwinner. That he felt forced into doing something he just didn't feel he should have to do.

Then, the ball of frustration and fear began to unravel. And he was able to say the truth - I'm scared. I'm trying, and not getting anywhere. What if I never find a position, don't find a way to support us in time?

And just as we faced ruin, just as we started to cash in the future to pay for today, the phone began to ring.

Ain't that the way it always goes?

So the most important thing this part-time gig brings us is hope. CD was hired. Enthusiastically and happily offered paying work. And where there is one - there is more. He can believe again that others can see his worth. That the right new full-time position will follow.

Of course, the second - and most stunningly obvious - point to this second job is that it buys us time.

Bear and I can continue having "school" here at home in the mornings. I can continue to be the one to drive him to the afternoon Kindergarten at the public elementary. And late afternoons can continue to be cooking, and cleaning. And T-Ball, and karate. And Power Rangers and popcorn and cuddling on the couch. And errands. And Go Fish. And dancing to vintage John Mellencamp or Zap Mama. And raking the growing pile of leaves carpeting the lawn. And coming up with outrageous Wile E Coyote squacoon catching schemes.

I can continue to hunt freelance writing gigs instead of looking for a weekend waitressing job or even more frightening - heading back into the corporate jungle.

(Shameless Plug and Snoopy Dance of Joy - Orbitz just published the podcast I wrote about Roscoe Village, Chicago! It's here or copy the link []. Yay, Orbitz! I love you and your puppets. Really.)

I can continue to make a fool of myself with story ideas for a book or articles. Hanging on to that little thread of hope that maybe I could actually be a writer on my tax returns as well as in my Glenda-laden fantasies.

We can hang on.

I worked two jobs for the first 3 months of this year. I was tired, wired, and quick to snap. Of course, I also didn't have a clone of me to support me, but snickering is unbecoming so I won't go too far down that road.

Instead I'll just say that all this makes CD a bit of a hero around here and Bear and I are doing everything we can to make the 12+ hour days as bearable on him as possible.

Posted on October 24, 2006 at 12:25 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Repeat after me: "I have not gone nutty like a squacoon"

October 16, 2006

As we continue to seek a new job for CD and scrounge up money on my own 2.5 "free" hours a day... I realize that I have become a little nutty.


In between karate and T-ball and permission slips and job applications and craft projects and making do with less, I think I am just about to scream... and then something else comes up and I have to reschedule screaming.

It's like I found my afterburners.... And there's a kind of empowering giddiness to it sometimes, especially as I implement the stuff on my '100 days of towards a change' list.

So (and here's the segue) have I mentioned that we have a young racoon living in our attic? And a squirrel? Yes, both have been spotted on occasion - ripping into our soffits and skittering above our ceilings.

Clearly, they are cohabitating in some kind of Jerry-Springer "Caught on Video" unnatural relationship but they are always careful not to be caught leaving or entering at the same time. Sort of implying a time-share thing. Much like the "unproven except everyone knew it was going on Brad and Angelina" thing way back, uh... last spring.

But whatever kind of Republican-baiting kind of lifestyle they are engaging in, it is time they stopped doing it in our house. So we borrowed a small animal live trap from a friend and set it up in the attic.

No joy in Mudville.

For a week of nights, the racoon-squirrel (squacoon!) outwitted us, folks.

So CD got the idea to leave the trap in the driveway just under their favorite soffit with a Mighty Beef can of cat food as bait.

You know what Mighty Beef bait catches you?

A cat.

Stunning, ain't it?

There it was. A big puffball of neighborhood cat. Blinking and shivering. Maybe feral. So we called the town's non-emergency police number specifically set up for animal control.

And got their voice mail.

Left a message.

24 hours later, they hadn't called back and Puffball was REALLY pissed. And thinking about pressing aggravated kidnapping charges.

We let her go.

It was either that or adopt her.

Undaunted in his squacoon mission, CD reloaded the trap.

This morning, on my way to drive Bear to school, we stepped out the back door to find... Son of Puffball. A little gray thing, scrunched up against the cold rain.

I sighed, and bustled Bear off to the van.

25 minutes later, I pulled back into the driveway. Son of Puff was dripping wet and watching me with big eyes. In the dark gap of the ripped-open (again!) soffit above us, I swear I saw golden eyes blinking - with smirk. Cheshire-cat kind of smirk. The kind of smirk that makes me want to buy a BB Gun. Yes, me.

I squatted next to the trap.

"Puffy," I said to the gray tribble. "Puffy, you picked the wrong can of cat food."

Puffy didn't say much back.

"I'm supposed to call the Police so they can put you to sleep. Kill you, really. 'Cuz you're not only homeless and probably rabid. You are also, clearly, stupid. Dumber than a squacoon, for damn sure."

Puffy shook his fur.

With a sigh, I slipped open the trap and let him run free.

I told myself it was because I am just too busy to be dealing with cats taking up space in a squacoon trap.

But it was nice to watch him run like a blur through the bright green grass of our backyard. For a place where no laundry needed doing, and no list needed checking off.

Posted on October 16, 2006 at 06:48 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Blinded by the... inability to see

October 13, 2006


T-96 days to go in my 100 days of Change and I've run into my first semi-major snag.

See these glasses? Well, if anyone finds them - please let me know. The reward is my sanity and my brain, which aches.

I think Flipsy stole them.

Flipsy is the stuffed Mammoth in the picture. He and his twin (yes, we have two) are Bear's favorite stuffed animals. Flipsy 1 and Flipsy 2 enjoy randomly attacking me. Like Kato from the Pink Panther movies, they're always flying out of another room or sneaking up on me.

Usually with a giggling 6-year-old running the show.

In the past, it has been known to happen that there would be the Flipsies, coquettishly cuddling on Bear's bed in their usually place of honor. One of them, oh so casually, wearing my glasses.

(Yes, my son mastered the art of the subtle snark before he could even talk the language.)

But not today. They are GONE. GONE, I said. I've looked in all the usual spots - including their rightful home on the bookshelf.

Man, oh man.

Now, I have often said that I don't really need glasses. My left eye is a little weak, always has been. "No big deal. I can get along without my glasses."


I miss .... my missing glasses.

I needed them to be on the computer 10 hours a day, back in the day. But when I left that gig, I got lazy about my glasses. I mean, besides writing articles and blog entries and helping Bear with his coloring.... what kind of strain did I really have ahead of me?

A lot, as it turns out.

See, Kindergarten is very paper-intensive. No one warned me about this. It wasn't true of Happy Montessori. But Public Kindergarten sends me home the equivilent of a small forest in paper each week.

With itty bitty tiny words. Which I am supposed to read and respond to.

And it is utterly freaking out my unglassed eyeballs.

There is homework, every night.

And an in-school project, every day. And then the 'required' forms - permissions for flouride and pictures and field trips and immunization record reminders.

And then the school notices - assemblies, closings, PTA meetings, athletic games, optional nighttime activities, police notices about safety; town meetings and ward meetings and "hang out with the mayor" meetings.

Don't forget the fundraisers. Oy! He went to private school for 4 years and NEVER did I see the likes of such fundraising. Book sales. Wrapping paper sales. Knick-knacks. And awards for highest sales, that are used to incentivize the children during even mroe assemblies. And deadlines. and daedline REMINDERS. IN ASTROBRIGHT COLORS. Don't forget the pleas for donations of ASTROBRIGHT PAPER.

And if all this wasn't enough, there is my 100-day plan. Which has me finally assembling, reading, and organizing the mountain of paper by my desk. And pitching article ideas. And begging for work.

The good news is - since leaving Mega I think I have popped maybe 3 Tums. DOwn from a dozen a day. The bad news? I am running riot on the Tylenol for my eye-strain headaches.

If this keeps up, I will actually have to break down and buy a new pair. Because to continue on my quest to change a life - I really must be able to read all the fine print.

Posted on October 13, 2006 at 10:11 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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It will never go away

October 05, 2006

When I was first diagnosed with Lupus, I was relieved.

I'd never heard of it before. I was just so freaking glad to finally know the boogyman. After months of knowing I was not crazy, just sick. I had begun to feel... crazy.

After each battery of exams, we would learn - it was not this, it was not that.

I had just started a new career, and spent over 6 months on a derailment. Living on my savings and the generosity of my family as it took about 3 months after my diagnosis to get me well. And to realize - oh, man, this is actually kinda a serious thing.

How obnoxious I became. They told me that infections and illnesses that are fine for people without Lupus could prove fatal to me. I started carrying Lysol with me and washing my hands like a fiend. I mean, at one point my hands were so red and chapped from constant washing that they became infected.

It was crazy-making.

It took a year before I had it all under control. I learned what set me off into a Lupus flare. I learned where to relax, and where to remain viligent.

I put down the can of Lysol, and stepped away slowly....

It will never go away. But eventually it becomes normal.

That's where we are with CD, now. In that place where he has been getting better since his most recent flare. But we don't yet feel normal.

He's been late to work twice this week. Sure, it could be a bad alarm clock. Or the effects of a new med. But it could also be the rain or stress triggering his brain to another dark flare. And if it is, how deep will it take him?

Will he be able to work? To take care of himself?

I live on pins and needles. Deep breaths and decaf tea.

I want to be a good partner. But most days I hum with a kind of low-grade fear. I just wish we could fold time to a little bit in the future, where we've learned what normal will be.

Posted on October 05, 2006 at 08:57 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Drama and Heroes, on a smaller scale.

October 03, 2006

This global warming shit is really getting on my nerves. All those icebergs melting off the North Pole and raining on my house.

Seriously, don't help me with the math - I know what I know: It is raining former glaciers on me and no one can prove different.

We haul the antique door out to work on it. Then we quickly stuff it back in the garage as clouds darken. This has now been going on for 2 weeks. You wouldn't think it would take that long to get 2 coats of varnish on one side, 2 coats of paint on the other, and a new lock mechanism installed. And it wouldn't. If only I had a nice airplane hangar to work in.

CD worked 6 hours of overtime last night on an extra project. Meanwhile, I was supposed to lightly sand the door between coats, so it was on sawhorses out back.

I was on the phone when it got dark. Ominous dark. Possibly organ music was playing.

Into the rising gusts thinking 'Oh, Not Again with the Rain!' I went. Got a tarp and wrapped the door on the sawhorses. Closed up the windows. And then, someone took a chisel to the sky.

Rain literally dropped, like out of a celestial bucket.

Off and on all afternoon, into the night. The winds rising and shivering against our windows.

Bear and I played cards, tackled computer games, snacked on popcorn, snuggled in for Scooby Doo movies. Every time I tried to leave him and get something work-ish done, thunder would slam into the house and we'd end back up in a people-pile.

It was after 10 when CD came home. We were both up to greet him.

But he quickly changed and headed back out.

"What? Stay in, get dry. I'll heat you up some..."

He shook his head. "I've got to get the door in, the tarp is completely blown off. And I have to try and do something about the flooded street."

20 minutes later, picked my way through the mist and the wet and the really dark night to where my husband stood - literally knee-deep in water on the street in front of our house.

"Oh, God." The road was entirely submerged for about a 30 feet stretch. "Is it going to reach the house?"

"No," he told me. He had a long pole and was working at the sewer grate. "The leaves have caught in the sewer entrance."

We heard a lot of sirens in the distance. A cop drove by, slowing down as the water reached over all its tires. Up and down the street the water wasn't as high, but the asphalt was only visible in the middle of the road.

I went in and wrapped Bear, who was watching from the living room, in a long raincoat. Carried him on my back outside.

CD had miraculously cleared the sewer opening. A small funnel appeared in the water by his calves, as the worst of it drained. The water levels receded down our driveway, inch by inch.

"It'll clog up again," CD told us as we moved back into the house. "But the rain's pretty much stopped. I think we'll be all right."

This morning, we awoke to sunshine. CD already gone for work. Bear climbed into bed with me. "Mommy! The leaves are in the street and the water is gone! I saw a real flood! The biggest flood ever! Where did it go?"

"Mmmm, good question..." I yawned.

"It's a beautiful day," he insisted, nudging me with one of his little sharp elbows. "Let's go outside and see what the flood left!"

Pulling myself from under the covers, I managed to steer Bear towards the hallway without tripping over his excitement too badly.


"Yes, Bear?"

"Is Daddy a hero for fixing the flood?"

"Well, I think he's a really smart and good daddy to go out there in the cold and fix it..."

He gave me look. "No. He's a Hero Daddy. What if we had to swim to bed last night!"

And what else could I do...but agree?

Tags: Flood, rain, weather, life, family
Posted on October 03, 2006 at 10:16 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Wild Winds

September 28, 2006

The first time I fell in love, it was autumn. I was 21. I thought I was world-weary, sage, and strong.

I was wrong.

I remember the first kiss, because in so many ways, it was my first real kiss. If I touch my lips now, I can still feel that spark.

Walking his dog after dinner, a sweater against the cool wind, we pictured our lives. Kids, jobs, house, vacations, retirement, world. We set it to music. We decorated the bedrooms. We twined up our fingers and grinned at each other as we strolled.

Ask me. I still remember our future-daughter's name.

Then a decade passed and none of it came true. You put that much love, admiration, passion into a bond and bind it with gold. Don't matter a damn. Won't get it done.

Life is half chances and half perserverance. And you never get to choose. The strangest things happen out of the blue on an ordinairy, isn't-it-warm-for-the-season Thursday afternoon.

The train pulls away, and you say goodbye.

It's autumn again.

Yet another decade gone.

Don't get so many of those that I wouldn't notice.

I remember last fall, squeezing the stuffing out of every day. So busy that my hands shook. The guy who spoke French with an Irish accent would call at 6am. Bear had to be at school by 8:30. Elia always made me wait. CD wanted dinner before karate. And the e.VP who'd ring me at 9pm looking for status on tomorrow, 'cuz he could never remember what time zone I was in.

I knew every second what I was feeling. The rush of sensation like I was being pushed through some kind of crazy neon tunnel. And each night, Bear would sleep as I watched - a day older. And I'd wonder what kind of day it had been, through his eyes and toes and ears.

You know?

I was thinking about that today. Kind of quiet day, as I sorted through some more of the endless piles I've made in my slow (some might say leisurely) scrub of the house. As I did dishes. As I picked out Bear's clothes, and cheered him on during his writing practice. And listened about how Kindergarten class went.

I watched the branches bow to the wind outside the window and I lost myself to thought in the living room.

It occurred to me, that I never had that daughter.

It occured to me that I got a hell of a first kiss.

It occured to me that I get less done in a day than I used to in an hour.

It occurred to me that, well, that's OK by me.

This is not the autumn of dreams. This is not the autumn of kisses. This is not the autumn of tears. This is not the autumn wrestling regrets as I watch my son sleep.

Now is a new season. An autumn of the next decade.

Of dusky afternoons making soup. Of ennui and fine lines. This is the season of my bright green suede jacket, and the scarf I picked up in Paris last year. Of looming disaster and waffles in the morning. This is the season of mothering, and letting go. Of knock-knock jokes and finishing long-started things. Of gusts that lift my hair, and of growing it long again. Of breezes that tug the pitches out of the strike zone, and maybe bring my husband's arms back around mine.

I love this time of year. Of pumpkins and squash and crunchy leaves and freshly sharpened pencils. I remembered that this afternoon as the steam from cooking pasta melted my face and my aged cat watched from the chair.

You know why people fight so hard to love, to marry, to become parents?

Because it's worth it.

This life, these choices, His will, a different pace. For this season.

An autumn of wild winds.

Posted on September 28, 2006 at 10:09 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Que Sera Sera (a long rant, full of sound and fury, signifying little)

August 25, 2006

whalewatchsunsetcape082506EBY.JPGGrowing up, I never knew a lot of money. Even so, my family and I had a certain way of life. We skiied, and played tennis, and swam. My dad's parents had a little cottage on the water by Gloucester, so much of the summer would be spent there - taking out the little sailboat, walking the beaches, and at night playing endless rounds of gin rummy.

There was always a week spent on Cape Cod, usually shared with another family to save money - a gaggle of giggling kids stuffed in sandy sleeping bags at night being yelled at to go to sleep by the parents who were smoking and laughing over bridge games in the other room.

Holidays and special occasions were a New England stampede of relatives in madras and polo shirts. My mom's siblings and their kids, my dad's parents, his brother, and assorted pseudo-family of folks who had been friends of the family going back for generations. Whose grandfathers had been close with my grandfathers, whose mothers had double-dated with my mom.

There was always a kids table, even when the event was FOR a kid - which galled us under-21 set. Little Jimmy just played in the State Finals and aren't we proud of him and he's over there at the rickety card table sharing burgers and chips with the 4 year olds. But it was the way things were.

Maybe that's why, even though I was bullied as a kid, I came out OK. Because, man, I always knew I was loved. And I mean, bone-deep love by a family as varied and wide as a village. The kind of love that doesn't care if you're a pain in the ass and a show-off and have shiny braces on. Because I was one of the clan. I was claimed.

And this is what I wanted for him. For my Bear. For my miracle child with bright red hair and a zillion freckles.

I wanted him stamped with the seal of family, for all the world - and mostly him - to see. I wanted him at that damn kids table, eating with a plastic fork. I wanted him looking up from his tournament or recital to the embarrassingly loud hoots and hollers of a dozen relatives. I wanted him to know, into his blood, that there was a village out there - the security of that.

But I made a mistake.

I moved away. I left Massachusetts for Chicago and London and anywhere else and I never looked back. So I shouldn't be surprised that the rest did, too.

I shouldn't be. Yet, I was.

The world I grew up in is gone.

I suspect it faded away long ago. It's just that I wanted, so much, for my son. It hurts me to admit how much.

Each Thanksgiving, spent with just CD and Bear and I curled up on the couch watching a movie and eating take-out. Each special occasion - when Dee's presence or my mom's (who, really, is Bear's number 1 fan) was all that marked a difference. Something felt missing.

I should have been building new traditions, instead of working so hard to resurrect the ones I knew. And to my son, and my husband, who feel happily complete with just us - there is no understanding of why I am looking around, looking for more.

They do not see ghosts of holidays past. The room doesn't feel quiet. They do not miss the laughter and chaos they never knew. This is just me. And something I must let go, so that what I want doesn't tarnish what I have. I left for Chicago 20 years ago, and built a new life. It was incredibly unrealistic and selfish of me to think that the old one had waited for me and my child. That time hadn't marched on everywhere.

My father invited CD and Bear and I to join him and his wife and her kids (I'd met the son a couple of times, but never the daughter) at a Cape Cod rental house. Dad and his wife have been together for 12 years, since her kids were little. Built a life together that was kept pretty separate of me. I don't know why, maybe because I was already living in Chicago when they got together.

So we said yes to the invitation, because hey - its the Cape. And my dad and his wife took us yesterday on a Whale Watch - something I'd never done before. Bear was uncertain about the whole thing but soon was scampering about the boat giggling and watching the Humpbacks fluke and spout.

We were lucky, the whales came so close they actually swam under boat. I leaned forward an told my Dad's wife how thankful I was they they had brought us - it was an adventure we could not have afforded to give Bear this summer. And he was absolutely thrilled by the Whales and was learning so much.

She turned to her daughter and they tried to figure out if the whales had ever come so close before.

And I sat there and quietly realized that they had been coming to the Cape every summer.

Looking at whales every summer.

The same weeks that we'd been here, and never occurred to them to say "hey, come down and join us for a day".

I don't know why that was the final piece to my revelation. I don't know why that's what finally made it all click in my mind.

It stung to realize how excluded we'd been. That especially my little son, my father's only grandchild...

Yeah. I choked up a little about that. Yeah, I did.

I walked up to the bow of the ship, and stared into the sunset, and tried not to cry. Just a little self-pity party.

It's hard to feel left out. No matter what your age. Especially when you've worked so hard on your child's behalf to be included.

Up on that bow, the wind tangling my hair. I thought, how I missed my Uncle Mike. How I missed my grandmother, my dad's mom, who had been such a good friend and the heart of that side of the family. How I'd tried so hard to stay connected to my family and CD's family and how, really, it had been this sort of silly fruitless effort.

And with deep breaths, I realized - This is now. Things have changed. So what if I am no longer part of a big family that I can share with my son.

And then I realized.

I am still claimed. And so is he. And so is CD.

We claim each other.

Our village is small, our family just a handful. It is time to stop thinking that somehow means it is less.

We are healthy. We are together. We can enjoy my dad and his family for this moment. We can experience these whales.

I finally noticed the beautiful sunset. The blue waves. The lighthouses in the distance as we made our way back to port. My son, laughing and giving CD a run for his money.

I let go of the rail, and remembered the camera. Thought to take some pictures of these memories.

I let go.


Posted on August 25, 2006 at 11:14 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The good, the bad, and the cost of gas

August 15, 2006

So we left Chicago at 9 at night. The van practically carpeted in pilows and blankies. CD had his favorite driving snacks at hand (beef jerky, chex mix, mountain dew) and by 10PM Bear and I were asleep on our respective bench seats (seat-belted in like tootsie rolls).

When I awoke at 5 the next morning, the sun was a pink crease in the windshield. We were exiting the highway to the Buffalo (NY) airport. All too fast, CD had kissed us and said goodbye.

He called 3 hours later, already back home and headed into bed. We just can't afford for him to take any unpaid time off this year, so he's back at work.

Meanwhile, I pulled into my mother's driveway at 3PM. Adjusted for the time difference, we made the 1,000 miles in 17 hours flat. A new family record. So was the cost of gas this time - over $100 plus the $30 in tolls.

But happy as we are to be here, it's just not the same. Without him.

God, I'm a sap.

Posted on August 15, 2006 at 07:41 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody.

July 14, 2006


(This is part one...)

I packed in a huff and a rush, having let myself get so overwhelmed by the prospect of this all that I procrastinated the heck out of my "to-do" list - that right there says something profound. I am famous for getting things done.

So I stuffed his Elmo suitcase and my bulky black one and did the best I could to remember what I was forgetting and at 7AM that fateful Saturday, we headed into the west.

You know those movies where the road trip becomse a montage of music and little snapshots and at the end, the car is beaten down and dusty and the occupants somehow moved through some life change?


Well, that is EXACTLY what happened. But more on that later.


If you look to the left, you'll see a LOT of IOWA. That tall green stuff? Corn. 'Nuf said.

Pit stop in Nebraska. Omaha. If you're of a certain age, you'll join me in singing "Mutual of Omaha means peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeople..."



Visit to the Omaha Zoo, where kids can take feed sticks into an aviary and enjoy having any of dozens of brightly colored domestic birds landing on them. Bear (and I) were entranced.

Our friends there are almost like family, and it was a warm nest of a visit.

But moving right along. Yes folks, that right there is even MORE Iowa, just outside the window.

And, finally, South Dakota.

The bright kelly green stalks of corn give way to grassland. Sandy-colored miles of it with the rare tree. And the flat Earth begins to roll and pitch, and swerve.

We stopped wherever our fancy struck. For the Corn Palace. For that big ol' drugstore in Wall. To meander through the Badlands. For a sundown service at the "big Heads", with Bear curled up in my lap as a ranger talked to us about Theodore Roosevelt. To talk with an archeologist volunteer about the bone she was excavating.

We slept together in hotel beds, his growing limbs restless. We swam for hours in the hotel pools. We held hands as we crossed the street. And we missed CD dreadfully.

And then it was time to pack up the van, plug in the DVD player, fill up our Big Gulp cups with ice and juice. 1400 miles to home, gassed up, windshield wiper fluid topped off.


"Yeah, Mommy?"

"We got a long, long drive now..."

"OK, Mommy. If you get tired, I could drive for a little while."

"Sounds good, hun. Just give it about 11 years."

Foot over the gas peddle, sunglasses on. Hit it.

Posted on July 14, 2006 at 06:00 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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June 20, 2006

On Saturday morning, we leave for Omaha, Nebraska for a friend's milestone birthday party. On Monday morning, Bear and I will head off for the Badlands (CD is flying back to Chicago to work).

I've never been to the Badlands. Although I've created one or two...

Continue reading "Badlands"
Posted on June 20, 2006 at 06:12 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Ole Ole Ole

June 19, 2006

What an amazing weekend.

Continue reading "Ole Ole Ole"
Posted on June 19, 2006 at 07:56 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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2 Weddings and a Memorial

June 16, 2006

It was around now, so many years ago it seems, that I first met CD.

Continue reading "2 Weddings and a Memorial"
Posted on June 16, 2006 at 12:12 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Summer Days/Look for America

June 14, 2006

Growing up, in sandy New England. School would let out, and my mom would drag out that canvas beach bag - like the ones they sell at Land's End? Over weeks, the layer of sand in the bottom would rise, no matter how much she'd knock it out at the end of the days.

Sweaty plastic bottles of juice. Bags of chips and carrot sticks. Towels that were always a little damp. T-shirts and romance novels and beach toys and plastic sunglasses.

And there were swimming lessons and half-day camps and play dates. And hours upon hours at the pond or the beach. Sunburnt cheeks with smears of zinc, sea glass and "perfect" rocks that we'd beg to take home, and long rides in the car to and fro and the hot vinyl seats and the radio blasting and licking popsicles we got from the ice cream man.


I spent all of my 20's together/apart with my first love. There are so many reasons why love wasn't enough. The most abiding reason was our different dreams. Of my dream, of being that mom. Of that child in the backseat singing along as we played the radio loud. Of a canvas bag full of sand and treasures, swimsuits under our t-shirts, flip-flops slapping as we walked.

You'll remember me when the west wind moves / Among the fields of barley / You can tell the sun in his jealous sky / When we walked in fields of gold

And there have been have been five summers since Bear was born. Five summers that I have tried to be that mother to him while being the professional woman I also was. Five summers of me in slacks, on the other side of a fence and watching. Five summers of my telling him to be quiet as I drove with a teleconference hanging in my ear. Five summers of dropping him off, and picking him up later. Of hearing him and Elia through the window as they splashed through the sprinkler in the backyard, and blocking them out so I could concentrate.

I never made promises lightly / And there have been some that I've broken / But I swear in the days still left / We will walk in fields of gold / We'll walk in fields of gold

While I believe, with all my mind and conviction, that there is no right way to do it - Lord knows that I have never been at peace with the path my mothering was taking. I am just not that good at multi-tasking, that I ever felt like I was doing justice to all my roles.

And more than that, it is never far from my mind that I will get one childhood with this boy. A handful of summer nights standing outside the ice cream place licking the melting chocolate chips from our fists. And then it will be time for him to join his friends, his own children, his destiny.

Five summers gone, already.


This summer comes at the expense of our savings and, maybe, a little bit of our security. I lay awake some nights, listening to the fan twirl, pushing away the feeling of panic. Of what happens in September.

But yesterday, as we drove home from the swimming pool with Bear licking his bomb pop in the backseat, with freckles over the light tan on my arm, with a familiar song on the radio. We were plotting the summer. Our plan to visit all 50 states before he is 10 years old. We're up to 16, and it was serious discussion to figure out where to next. About the Grand Canyon, and hunting dinosaur bones.

... I realized that I finally had my dream.

We pulled into the driveway, in the warm afternoon sun. His lips were bright blue and red, the towels damp over the seats. CD came out and lifted him from the van while I gathered everything up into my big bag.

Inside, the shadows were long and the house was quiet. As his father dressed him in dry clothes and tucked him in for a nap, Bear chattered softly about the ordinary adventures of a mid-June day.

I leaned against the wall with a smile.

They say: be careful what you wish for, you just may get it. Well, after 20 years of deaming, this one has come true.

It is a joy as fleeting as a summer. And worth every moment in gold.

Many years have passed since those summer days / Among the fields of barley/ See the children run as the sun goes down / As you lie in fields of gold
Posted on June 14, 2006 at 10:58 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And then, the acid-dropped Sunday

June 04, 2006

Back when we were first dating, sometimes I would visit CD at his job.

It was a small shop full of geeks and nerds and strange men on strange drugs who had inflatable women in the back of their vans for those special lunches (yes, really). It would be too easy to say in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man... and untrue. Because CD was 20/20 and respected for his skills and quiet leadership.

I fell in love with that man. At a time when I thought I would never fall in love again. But I did. With him.

Funny how life happens. What "happily ever after" looks like down the line.

Last year, I realized that weekends had become these crazy pockets. The cell phone in my purse, my email on alert, and I would grab Bear and go. Birthday parties, and errands, and adventures. Trying to stuff a week's worth of physical attention into crazy days. CD along for the ride, usually driving. Sometimes sniping.

I lived on the edge of everything, popping Tylenols and Motrins. I left the cleaning and whatnot to the day-to-day Elia and occasional hired maid service. Dry cleaners for everything except underwear. And jammies. Dinner from a restaurant. Sometimes lunch, too.

This is how you make it on the corporate ladder. Outsource as much as possible, race to make all the ticks on the calendar, multi-task like a demon, and never really have a moment when you feel like all's right with the world.

But now CD and I are creating a new life for ourselves. And Bear and I have hours in each other's company without a to-do list. The money's gone, Elia's gone, and dinner is whatever I cook.

We putter and stall. Hours of housework then hours of nothing. We stutter a rhythm hasn't found its beat.

CD wants a leaf blower, but we have to save up. The tree has barfed its annual spring tonnage of little green florets all over our cars and the driveway. Last year, we swept it all a couple of times. This year, the load is greater.

He drags out the wet/dry vac and I say "If you're hauling that out, then please vacuum the cars." He nods without looking up.

Back in the house, Bear passes by me with a hamper.

It's dinner time, but we're not hungry. I made late brunch and late snacks and the sun is up and no one wants to stop and eat. Fine.

Chores are left ignored. Piles and piles of clothes cleaned and folded need putting away. The kitchen floor needs washing. The beds need changing. I head into Bear's room and he's filled up his hamper with the contents of his dresser. He mulishly doesn't make eye contact.

"I am running away from home," he tells me fiercely, tugging the hamper behind him.

"Oh," tiredly, as I follow him out of curiousity.

"Yes, I am going to live in the van. For real," he drags the clothes down the front steps and I see he has set up a bed for himself in the front seat of the minivan.

I also notice that my husband is intently vacuuming the green shit off the driveway. He is halfway done.

Bear pulls his hamper into the van and then closes himself in, locking the doors and giving me a look that dares me to challenge his kingdom.

It's almost 6PM and I close my eyes. Easy math says this family is farther behind today than we were last night.

I sit down on the front steps in the breeze of a long shadow. Breathe deep, heart hurting. I tell you, I can not stop the voice inside of me that says this doesn't feel right. And I argue back to myself that the feeling of right comes and goes, and more often the former over the latter.

The chicken is marinating. The sky is blue. A long time ago, I fell in love with a man who is currently vacuuming a driveway. And we made the child who just marched past me with a suitcase and a plastic blue light saber, off to his new home in our minivan.

This is now.

Posted on June 04, 2006 at 05:57 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Truce! And a cake! And a parade!

June 01, 2006

I want to thank the many who commiserated over Darth Vader's CD's housework lament. (I mean, commiserated with me. ME!) And the great advice - all of which we read, and digested, and discussed.

I am happy to report: Truce has befallen. (Um, can a truce befall? Is there a better verb for this? Yes? No? OK, then, moving along.)

In the end, CD decided after many teeth-crunching days & nights that perhaps not so much with telling me I need to be a better housewife. In fact, maybe a little more with him folding the laundry and loading the dishwasher and hoovering every rug in sight.

To sum up: we worked a compromise. The cornerstone being - trust. That each of us will do as we can, with both being ultimately responsible for all.

That tingling you're feeling right now? Yeah, that's mine. Peace and relief from every pore. Have at it.

I thought we were going to end up in some prehistoric battle (cue the "King Kong" sound effects) but the light, she's been seen.


I don't care if he looked into the deep abyss that was my outrage and scampered back to the land of reasonable out of sheer terror, or actually had one of those Dr. Phil "light bulb" moments. Either way, I've got a spring in my heart and a song in my step.

Of course, it's hard to find much wrong with the world now that the frigging heat wave has broken and it's finally less than 90F outside and the flowers are blooming and the world is beautiful.

I might be moved to muse angrily on the fact that it was the ex-Catholic Priest Pedophile across the street that gave us our lovely peony bushes (back when we just thought they were "the nice guys").

But who can be angry at such beauty?


So, Monday was Memorial Day. We remembered this year that it is Elmhurst that puts on the best parade around and high-tailed it over there just in time. In between countless somber reminders of those we were there to honor - as Lincoln said, "gave the last full measure of devotion" ... they throw candy for the kids.

Bizarre. But true.

Apparently the crack-smoking monkeys at parade central figured Memorial Day needed some kind of 'hook' and thus the tradition was born of politicians pelting small children with tootsie rolls that melt in their pockets and, forgotten there, then destroy entire loads of laundry.

Bear, of course, got a front-row seat on the curb. Scored a baseball-hat full. His father was so proud.


Being a long, hot weekend (and us without central air), we hit the beach. (Well, not so much me. CD built me a cave out of an umbrella and towels. From whence I cheered and watched and took lots of pictures of the muchly hatted and sunscreened family.)


And finally, our good moods like ginger ale stayed fizzy long enough that when Bear announced to me on Wednesday that "tomorrow is Flipsy's birthday!", I nodded and said "okay, let's have a party!"

And so it was that the ladies in the bakery department inscribed a cake for a stuffed animal....


...that was enjoyed by the boy.


You'll notice that poor Flipsy (the blue wooly mammoth) and his other best buddy EliaBear were unable to taste the delightful cake (mostly due to both their mouths being sewn shut. Also? they're inanimate. Not like you didn't know, but in case you wondered...)

Flipsy was also unable to enjoy his birthday gift - a Matchbox car that Bear picked out for him and paid for with his own money. Luckily, Bear was able to have fun with it on behalf of his furry friend.

It was a nice way to end a week that also included Yoga class and family dinners and many tickle fights.

If it sounds like I am saying that life, right now, seems sweet? It is because it is.

The shock of it, like the chocolate and buttercream frosting of a little birthday cake, surprises me too.

What happened to the goth Corporate Mommy?

The black silk pants and over-scribed dayplanner?

Have I taken a nutty?

I dunno.

It's not like I've gone utter daft. I mean, I know what day it is and where I live and who the President should be. (*cough*)

I am clear-eyed about the impending doom of dwindling savings and the void of an unplanned future.

And I know that this doesn't sound or even feel like me. At all. Not the usual and depended-upon Elizabeth Blair York, über Project Manager. But you know what?...

After this week, when the steadily dwindling darkness finally gave way fully to day...

I have come to this new philosophy honestly. Really.

I don't know what comes next in life. I tried searching, but have now realized that the path to the next dot on my life's map will probably not be forced. It will be discovered, with an open heart, in its own time. Let the tides of life ebb and flow. I give myself to parades and giggles and a mountain of laundry (that he will fold).

I walked away from success and security.

And found faith that something better is ahead.


Something better is now.

Tags: Memorial Day, Parade, Family, Housework Battle
Posted on June 01, 2006 at 05:36 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Little Bullies

May 23, 2006

My son has been raised, both at home and at school, under a code of rules. And while he can throw a punch that would land you on your aunt fanny, he adheres to this code and treats people, by and large, respectfully (at least as far as I know).

This has worked for Bear socially as well as morally - his is very popular at school with all his classmates (who attended his birthday party in record numbers) and with the teachers.

But the world isn't just bright and civilized places.

Which is why there is a certain park near our home that I avoid. It is close by and the crowd of kids there is rough. Almost feral.

The kids taunt each other and swear openly. Little kids, as young as 2 or 3, find themselves the targets of fistfuls of gravel and bark tossed from above. Boys hunch at the top of the plastic climbing wall and try and push down the kids who are trying to make it to the top - resulting of falls into the hard bark and gravel from heights of 4 or 5 feet.

And I have no idea where their parents are. There were 7 adults for the 30 or so kids that were there.

Yeah, it's all "Lord of the Flies" at that playground.

It was so beautiful today that I forgot all my reservations and stopped there with Bear after school. Dummy, dummy me.

There was a group of kids who Bear thought looked about his size, so he approached to play with them. They threw bark at him and teased him about his "clown hair".

I found him, arms wrapped around his knees hiding under a plastic shelter. He looked at me with sad and confused blue eyes.

I sighed. "Fight back," I advised.

He nodded seriously, dug up a mound of dirt and gravel, marched up the them and bombs away.

The next thing I knew, they were all the best of friends.

Which was also a problem. Because these kids were bullies.

They were trash-talking the other kids, shoving each other, and taking risks that scared the hell out of me. And then out of a kid who looked about 4 years old, urging another boy to keep up - "C'mon, asshole!"

I threw my purse over my shoulder and marched up to my son and said "Time to go."

Bear ignored me.

Finally, I grabbed his arm. The other kids then began trying to pull him away from me. Shouting at him that they would rescue him from the mean woman. One of the kids pulled his sweat pants practically to Bear's knees as he grabbed his legs off the ground.

My son;s body was in a tug of war with me at one end and 4 little children on the other and he went from laughing to scared but it didn't stop.

Finally, I shouted for them to stop immediately. The 4 looked at me defiantly for a long moment before stepping away. I had a moment of sheer outrage and panic.

Then I took my son's hand and we marched out. My heart thudding a mile a minute.

I need a valium. Seriously.

Posted on May 23, 2006 at 03:38 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And then, there's the pedophile across the street

May 16, 2006

The day before Easter, I was prepping up the ham while CD and Bear played T-ball in the back yard. A stranger came up the driveway, as I watched from the window. CD spotted him quickly and moved to intercept him while I headed down to the back door to keep an eye on Bear.

He was all "Do you live here?" to CD in a way that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.


He was....

a reporter.

Investigating yet another "Roman Catholic priest molested children" story, based on a new lawsuit that had been filed.

Except, in this case the ex-priest had already had several cases against him settled by the Church. Although the reporter was vague, he encouraged CD to do a search on the internet.

(Which I began immediately.)

And there he was. (The site has all names and information on priests the Catholic Church has revealed.)

The Guy across the street. The one that lives with his partner in the nicest house on the block. My co-planner in the block parties. A former priest who molested children.

I leaned against the wall, fighting nausea.

He's not in the National Sex Offenders Registry because he's never been convicted.


Don't ask me about innocent until proven guilty.

The next time he waved at me across the street, I wished him dead. It's visceral, gut-level hatred. And it has been with CD and I now for weeks.

We've told Bear that the guys across the street are not safe people any more. Thank God we were able to make the point clear and serious without going into detail. (Is there a right way to do this sort of thing?)

There's a pedophile across the street from our happy home in Pleasantville.

Posted on May 16, 2006 at 03:05 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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What to do with a Sunny Thursday

March 30, 2006

1) Cry a little and yell at husband for no reason I can remember

2) Feed child a fruit rollup

3) Let child watch Pokemon on his portable DVD player. Cry a little more

4) Freak out about all the undone things, the disaster of a home, the paperwork, the nagging sense that back at Mega - things are falling apart

5) Catch the last half-hour of the Charmed Piper and Leo wedding episode while re-printing the very last months of the family calendar (the old one runs out in ... oh,... 48 hours)

6) Decide enough is enough and head into a long, hot shower (Digging up somewhat clean towels and making way through landmine path to downstairs drier for clean clothes)

7) Grab some stuff, don't let self panic about money, breathe, take 3 Ibuprofens

8) Buckle child in car

9) Make it to McDonald's at 10:31AM. Bastards have stopped selling breakfast. They agree, after much begging, to sell us some sausages and juice and french fries. Decide this counts as a meal

10) Have a picnic in the parking lot listening to a souther fried rock CD and arguing the benefits of Megatron turning into a good guy on Transformer Planet

11) Meander up and down the mall. Duck into the dollar store for cheap craft supplies. Duck into Marshalls for kid underwear, socks, and t-shirts

12) Drop off Blockbuster movie, buy phone charger for new cell phone, explain to Bear why it is not nice to call the cashier "old"

13) Visit with Elia for a few minutes to wish her well on her vacation. Let Bear cry on my shoulder at the thought of not seeing her for a couple of weeks

14) Pull into the do-it-yourself car wash. Vacuum the hell out of the interior and rake out all the detrius

15) Zip Bear into a knee-length bright yellow slicker, drop 8 bucks of quarters into the machine, and run hell bent for leather out of reach. Cheer him on as he scrubs and sprays everything

16) Use cloths meant for drying car for drying kid

17) Head to park with bag of bread heels and scraps to feed the ducks. Gently correct Bear's duck-feeding style as he windmills his arms in gigantic swoops and then beans Mrs. Duck on the head with a partial loaf of stale French Bread

18) Sigh of relief when Mrs. Duck appears irritated but not concussed. Allow Bear to join a herd of like-sized little boys up and down the playground on the understanding that we are leaving in 5 minutes

19) 2 minute warning, given 5 minutes later

20) 1 minute warning

21) After 20 minutes of frustrated "time to go's", shout Bear's full legal name and to COME HERE in Icelandic, firmly

22) Try not to grin at sweaty, grinning boy who presents himself begging for more time. Must act like responsible parent and get child to his nap

23) Arrive home, unpack car, tuck child into bed with 27 bazillion stuffed animals and pillows. He's asleep before I leave the room

24) Breathe

Posted on March 30, 2006 at 02:53 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Sunshine, on my shoulders

The sun came out this morning.

We were supposed to head out to the zoo, but we blew our spring break budget on the Field Museum to hang out with dinosaurs.

So now we're brainstorming what comes next.....

No corporate templates for this, huh?

Posted on March 30, 2006 at 07:48 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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A Measure of Progress

February 25, 2006

Arizona. CD's company has a hub there. Arizona. A town somewhere between hot and damnhot.

Even though it is a longshot on paper, I know better.

It's karma.

See, I believe that everyone has special kinds of karma.

Bad karma - like my friend whose car has been hit over a dozen times.

And good karma.

My mother, for example, has parking karma. If you have her in the car, you can count on a parking space opening up right in front. Seriously.

A friend of mine has cheap ticket karma. He once went to Paris for a weekend in late summer for $150 roundtrip.

Me? I have job karma. Except for one notable year-long period in my life, I have always been able to find work.

When we first moved into this house, and CD was showing signs of the darkness that later decended, I said to him one morning that maybe I should think about a part-time job.

That afternoon, our new neighbor came out as we were in the yard and offered me (practically a stranger) a part-time job at his company.

CD looked at me and rolled his eyes.

CD does not have job karma. He's brilliant and reliable and talented. Once he is hired, he is the kind of guy that gets lots of promotions and employee of the month or whatever.

When we were pregnant, the law firm he worked at held a big surprise baby shower - for him. He was disgustingly beloved there.

Yep, once hired CD is king of the road.

But getting a new job? ugh.

So it is a very reasonable fear I have that in his quest to make enough money to support this family - we will end up in Arizona. Because these people already know CD. They want to keep him and promote him.

Realizing this the other morning, I began to panic. I started thinking up ways to avoid learning to love cacti.

"Look," I said. "I'll go back to work. Mega will take me back. Then we'll move to Minnesota. A reasonable house, in a good school district. Near a lake and a park. And then you'll look for a new job and once you have one, I'll quit again. How does that sound?"

And his expression turned relieved, and he smiled.

And I breathed and smiled back.

And that lasted for about, honestly, 10 minutes.

Then he looked at me and away. "We can't," he said, finally. "We have to go forward, not back."

"But I don't like Arizona," I argued.

"Maybe I will find something new here."

He put his arm around me, and I rested my face against his chest.

And even though I was a little upset? I was also a little proud. Maybe a lot.

It's taking a long time for us to find our feet, but that moment was a measure of progress. Maybe a small one, but in the right direction.

Posted on February 25, 2006 at 06:47 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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A dive into the land O lakes

February 22, 2006

Just an update, before I head over to that ugly pile of suitcases and unpack...

We're back from an impromptu trip to Minnesota. Saturday afternoon and CD, Bear and I were talking about how we wanted to do something with the 3-day weekend.

We put together our decision last fall to investgate the Twin Cities as a possible move-to place and our talk over Christmas that this should be the winter we got Bear on ski's for the first time. A little presto-magic-Hilton and shazam!, we were on the road.

No laptops, no internet, and only a couple of our cell phones. It was just us three hanging out and having some much-needed family time.

We went skiing on a local hill (As expected, Bear was outstanding. Already better than most Icelanders. Did I say that out loud? Whoops. Heh.) and swimming in the hotel's pool. We wandered neighborhoods, we ate in local restaurants, and tried to get a feel for the Twin Cities.

Lovely. Really.

Not that we're moving there. Although CD's put in resumes, there hasn't been a job offer in his salary range (even after adjusting for the Chicago-to-Minnesota deflation).

The only prospect right now in the 'It Can Support the Family' categorty is from his current job, which is thinking of offering him a promotion which would be (wait for it....) tied to a relocation to a desert town (EGADS).

I'm talking a hot, more hot, sandy, no-green kind of town.

Where, upon arrival, I would melt.

Yes, of course, his people are my people and if the job takes us to a place where you need to shake out your shoes for scorpions, well ... all righty. It's a new day. It's a new paradigm. So I would (gladly?) pack up the sunscreen and Bear's collection of 10 millions toys and follow the work.

But until then, frolic we did in the land of 10,000 lakes and a heckofalotta snow. With crossed fingers that we could end up someplace like that rather than someplace like the Mojave.

Posted on February 22, 2006 at 09:28 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

January 09, 2006

Saturday was just about perfect.

After he got home from Karate, my waiter, Monsieur Bear, arrived at my bedside with his Spiderman clipboard and his Crayola Marker to take my breakfast order.

I sleepily requested eggs, scrambled. What I got was half a fruit rollup, and a fascinating array of snack foods including popcorn (CD was drafted to help there). And a glass of ice water in a flower vase.

Delicious, really.

But even that elegant sufficiency and the comfort of our sea of bedclothes and pillows weren't enough to keeps us inside for long. And off we ventured into the wild blue yonder of... downtown Oak Park.

We hit the diner for a second breakfast. While Bear flirted easily with the waitress (batting his baby blues and tossing them his famous crooked grin), CD and I dug into a meal that reminded us why we don't eat at diners much - oy, the grease.

Then we happily walked into the blustery wind of the umpteenth (rough approximation) of steely, windy weather. We ducked into the paint-a-plate place, something we'd never done before (although Happy Montessori has happily engaged Bear in ceramics before). Whiled away a warm hour engrossed in colors and textures as we fumbled our paintbrushes onto naked forms. Amateurish with bright colors and sloppy technique, we cheerfully forked over a king's ransom to have them all fired over the next week.

Bear, meanwhile, was done with his projects fairly quickly and had time left over as CD and I finished ours to make conversation with the staff, chat with some classmates who happened by, and carefully replace our paints to their rightful spots.

Afterwards, we strolled along, window shopping, until finally ducking into an ice cream shop with windblown hair and big eyes. In front of us, they blended the ice cream with candy bars or chocolate chips. The result was such a rich yummy dessert that neither Bear nor I could manage even half our small cups.

(CD manfully was able to demolish his.)

It was dust when we got home, but not too late for a long winter's nap.

I was struck by how nice the day had been. How we'd enjoyed each other's company had so much fun - laughing and creating and walking in the breezes.

Then today...


No. I have decided to stop here. For the next 24 hours, there will only be good news. Agreed? Can we all get together on that one?

OK, then.

Thank you.

Posted on January 09, 2006 at 07:26 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Finding a Hero

December 16, 2005

This is turning into a very special holiday....

I think back to the early days of 'blogging'. Back when my site was one of those wedding websites that I would update each day with details and commentary that no one in the world could have cared about. I remember wanting to win a Way Cool Wedding award so bad.... and squealing when I did.

I was happy. Not the silly kind of happy that I'd been in my 20's, but there was a lightness in me. For a couple fo years there, I can remember thinking that there was something brightly surreal in my world... to be having all my dreams come true. Not perfect, no. Not without struggle. Not without tears.

But to meet someone that inspired my respect, and my love. To walk with him into a lifeof "us". To be hired as a full-time employee of a corporation, for the first time in my life. To have benefits and a 401K and life insurance and stuff. Paid vacation. Oh, paid vacation is so nice....

To see the two pink lines on the pregnancy test... to hang on to that baby so hard. To will him to survive inside me. To touch his face with my face, to look up through my tears at my husband. To know we were a family, now. In a way we'd never been before.

And then the bottom dropped out.

I have shared this struggle out loud, because keeping it to myself almost destroyed me. Carrying the weight of the world because an illness has rendered your partner dependant .... it's a walk I don't think I was strong enough to make. I have seen so many, many websites full of so much more grace, and patience than I have shown.

No. I haven't shown much dignity. I am ashamed to say it... but I got angry.

And everyone in a 100-mile radius got to feel the blowback.

I got angry, stayed angry, got counseling, and was still angry. Look, I'm the first one to praise better living through chemistry, okay? Drugs are beautiful. I'll put it on a t-shirt and wear it proudly. Are you listening, Tom Cruise? DRUGS ARE BEAUTIFUL.

They just didn't work for me.

It's like the old story about the lion with the thorn in his paw. He growls and snarls and treats everyone around him like crap.

And let's recall, shall we?

Did we heal the Lion with a double dose of Wellbutrin and some discussion about his feelings?

No, I think not.

We took the thorn out of his paw.

My thorn has been stuck in my paw for 5 years. It has been the burden of being the one left to do it all.

Luckily, for most of those years I had 3 amazing bosses in a row at Mega. Thank God, and I mean that with every drop of blood in my veins. These guys challenged me, supprted me, drew out my best, and affirmed that I was valuable. I worked from home, tons of flexibility, and still was able to make an important contribution.

Not that a good job made life bearable. Just a little less unbearable.

I can remember, in one my truly gone-nuts moments, screaming at CD that he had to be well already.

Because, you know, screaming has been scientifically proven to heal anything that ails ya.

I remember that and I just want to hide in a corner with my embarressment.

Then (insert ominous music here) last spring. When I entered the world of the Very Bad Boss. And this, this is where the line got drawn in Sharpie. This, this on top of already been physically and emotionally as burnt as my last batch of ginger snaps. This is where I went against a Sicilian when Death was on the line. This, this was where I got racked up like a goose in the roner of the night while I was blinded by the light....

Wait. I am babbling.


What I mean to say is this.... ding.

I got done.

Time to take the crazy life back to Target for an exchange.

Seriously....? I needed a hero.

Someone to hold me and tell me it is going to be all right. Someone to get on the line with me, and help carry the load. What I've needed was to not be sitting on the couch at 3 in the morning, rocking back and forth and wondering what I was going to have to fail at so I could at least get some of the other stuff done.

Because that's what I had been doing for years.

The paradigm was desperate for a shift.

I dreamed of doing science experiments with Bear in the afternoons and making chicken pot pie from scratch. Taking one of Dee's yoga classes. But most of all, of feeling not alone anymore.

I used to beg God, in my prayers. Please. Give me the strength because I don't have it..

In in my waking days, I wished for a hero.

Well. CD came home the other night and told me that he'd found a possible second job. And wrapped his arm around me. And told me we could handle this together. That we could handle anything together. That I should pick a date, and walk off the job. Done. And I looked at him like I haven't looked at him in years. And I saw something in his eyes, and realized it was a guy I haven't seen in a long, long time.

My husband.

I wasn't expecting it. I'm not sure I trust it. Did things get better, while I was busy complaing about them?

Was there a memo? Did I get the memo?

But no. There he is. And I think he means it. And I think it's real. And I think maybe, it's time to hold my arms open and have faith. Thats the only way we'll know for sure....

Forget the knight on the dang horse.

I think, maybe, there's something much better right here.

Posted on December 16, 2005 at 11:54 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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I, Elizabeth, being of an almost sound mind...

November 10, 2005

It is a humbling thing.

Since we've never done this before, I mean both of us left Bear for any real length of time, we've had to prepare.

Our Wills have been updated. A Special Power of Attorney issued for Dee so she can do things like sign Bear out of school and authorize non-emergency treatment. A compiling of important documents into sharp new Ikea boxes....

We aren't worth much, you know. But we sure do have a lot of paper. Savings Bonds, College Funds, a litte bit in investments, school loans (still!), my work benefits (life and health insurance) and his work benefits, the number of our bookkeeper (keeper of the True State of Things), Living Will, copies of our passports, mortgage, car title, my whole life policy....

CD curled up behind me on the bed this morning as I heaved great sighs. It's been a little raw to see us reflected in official seals and balances and notarized decisions. It's terrifying to think of Dee needing them.

Our family situations and citizenships being what they are, it is a Gilded Hedge Maze if anything happens to us. And having to plan those out, having to push my mind down the paths of of the "what if's...." have made my stomach heave.

"I'm scared," I told CD as he held me. "I don't want to leave him...."

CD nodded.

"Next time, we take him with, OK?"

CD agreed.

We drifted off into our thoughts, in the shadowed early morning.

"But you're done now with all that stuff?" he asked.

I hadn't the heart to tell him that the mountain in my new office wasn't done. Dee still needed the really important instructions compiled....

Our itinerary,
What to pack in Bear's school lunches,
How to work the TiVo and the satellite,
The bedtime rituals,
And where we keep the liquor.

Posted on November 10, 2005 at 07:21 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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And now for something completely different

October 10, 2005

October brings our annual trip to Bengston's Farm (warning! midi on site!).

Much warmer than last year. We skipped the pig races and concentrated on the important things: kettle corn, feeding carrots to baby llamas, and getting the perfect pumpkin for the evil mutant squirrels to demolish to decorate.

pumpkinhunt.jpg So we headed down the hill away to the field of pumpkins and let Bear loose. Off he ran. And ran. And ran. The boy inspected only eleventy bagazillion pumkins. If it was orange, he was considering it.

He found a big one after about 10 minutes that made him grin. We grinned back and thought ourselves lucky. No. No. No. The limpid pools of blue (so recently ill and sad) batted at us, pleading. Bat, bat. Plead, plead.

"Can I have two pumpkins this year? One big and one small?" Bat, bat, bat.

With a sigh, I nodded. CD clearly mouthed the word 'sucker' at me over Bear's head. Meanwhile, our son did his ricochet rabbit pumpkin hunting act for a solid 4 or 5 acres of pumkins.

Finally, a lovely smaller pumpkin was found. Clearly, it met some kind of secret Bear criteria. I nodded, tiredly, and we marched down the hill with it to join CD.

bearhayride.jpg"Wait!" Bear pleaded as the tractor came to take us back up to the checkout. "There is THREE people in the family. We need THREE pumpkins!"

Seeing my weakness for my son's eyes, CD firmly jumped between us. Super-Dad! With hands on hips and a granite expression. "TWO Pumpkins is all we're getting!"

Yeah, we're such badass parents.

Although he seemed melancholy on the ride, it turned out he was just tired.

By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, Bear was out cold (and snoring just a little). His hand in mine in the backseat. A few minutes later, I was too. Happiness, blue skies, and pumpkin hunting turns out to be a recipe for a long nap.

And all I could think as I slipped into sleep is "this is how the days should be".

Posted on October 10, 2005 at 09:53 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Not exactly the To-Do list I had in mind

October 05, 2005

Stealing a bit from the brilliant Everyday Stranger...

8:29AM Wake up. Realize that CD didn't re-set the alarm when he left for work. I have 60 seconds to get up, get Bear up, and get him the 7 miles to school. 7 city miles. There is no way it's gonna happen. Sure, if I had one of those FLYING CARS we were all promised ...

8:40AM From under the pile of pillows faintly hear Bear shouting "Mommy! It's time to get up." Huh? Hrmf? OK, honey! Just give mommy a minute to get up!

8:45AM Whomp! I have been climbed. By a big giggling Bear. The pillows, they are no defense!

9:30AM I have my 'fat' jeans on and they are tight, people. TIGHT. I am about to chew my own arm off as a weight-loss plan. But thank my stars we are finally gonna walk out the door. Uh, not so fast. Am reminded by Bear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

9:40AM Am reminded why we sit to eat. Like civilized people. In my haste to herd us out the door, I have caused Bear to now be wearing the most of important meal of the day. Apologize profusely as I head back to his room fo a fresh shirt. Stand there and wonder why I am there.

9:50AM Attempt to leave the house. Bear reminds me that lunch is an important meal, too. Plop him in front of Nick Jr. while I race back to the kitchen and grab peanut butter and jelly.

10:00AM Oh. Dear. God. We never cleaned out his lunchbox from the Friday he got sick, almost two weeks ago. The inhumanity of moldy watermelon! Repress gacking urge as I attempt to wipe it clean.

10:20AM A glance back at Bear as we finally hit the road to his school and I realize he is still wearing blue yoghurt. Gah. Pull into Old Navy with a squeal and run with him to the boys section. New blue shirt on clearance: $4.99.

10:35AM Pull up at his school. There's SOMEONE parked in the only emergency spot. Pull ahead into the tow zone and flip on the flashers.

10:36AM Ring the doorbell and wave at the security camera. Pull the ancient door open with a heave as the buzzer sounds.

10:37AM He's halfway to the stairs when the office lady comes around the corner. "Excuse me! You DID know that there is no school today?"

10:38AM Slight cardiac event as I look around at the empty hallway and realize this is NOT a bad dream.

10:45AM Back in the car on the phone with CD. Reminding him of that bargain we had where I do all the running around he does the scheduling and planning. Growling and snarling. Oh, I'm a joy to be married to.

11:15AM Home again. The place is STILL a wreck because the magic fairies didn't come and clean it. Bitches. Bear looks wearily at the nest on the couch where he has spent most of the last 2 weeks. I rub his hair and promise it will only be for a little while.

11:25AM Wow, I actually have time left in my sick-day bank. Find the courage to leave a message for my HR rep - "You know how I was coming back to work today? Uh, not so much." Wonder vaguely if I will actually be fired or if the grievance I filed will protect me for a while more. Wonder if I actually had pushed the button to disconnect the call before I reminded Bear, for the bagillionth time, that playing with his penis is a private activity and not something boys do just because they are bored.

11:35AM Sing the "Backpack" song with Bear and Dora as I type on the laptop. Stubbornly do not open work mail. Try to get Bear excited about a day spent cleaning the house. From the look he gives me, I can tell that my tight jeans have kept the blood from my brain.

11:35AM Whisper to Bear that we will have a fun day. He grins and we plot a little. Tell him that I am sorry that there's no school. That he has to spend the day with me, again. Feel his small hand slip into mine as he whispers back "That's OK, mommy." Lean down and kiss his head as he tells me that our days together are his favorite.

Posted on October 05, 2005 at 11:41 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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They Said

October 02, 2005

I'm too tired to pull my thoughts and words together, but Bear has - finally - turned the corner. It has been 10 days of crazy high fevers, vomiting, headaches, and hives that covered his body and swelled into his eyes. It has been battling the itching, the dehydration, and the disorientation (at one point, he cried in my arms that he wanted his mommy).

4 visits to the doctors, including one to the best Children's hospital in Chicago, and we still don't know what the cause was. That is a battle for another day. Tonight is for a long hot shower, peace of mind, and a deep sleep.

They said this evening on the television that the Internet is a dangerous place, full of cold-blooded opportunists with schemes and petty despots with diatribes.

Wish they could get a load of you evildoers, what with your support and sympathy and encouragement and advice. Heh. Wouldn't that ruin their hypothesis?

Really? Thank you.

Posted on October 02, 2005 at 09:30 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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I see you

September 14, 2005

We're curled up together. Let's guess who has most of the pillows.

He pokes his head through. "I see you!" he giggles.

"I see you, too," I giggle back. And then cough. Yesterday, I took down all the mismatched hardware in the dining room and spray painted it all copper - the curtain rods, the metal parts of the chandelier... One of the 68 bagazillion jobs we need to do before listing the house. And? I forgot to wear a mask so I breathed in too much of the paint and my nose and throat are sore.

Dummy me.

He sticks his head back up. Blue eyes concerned. "Are you ok, mommy?"

Cough. Cough. Coughcough. "Yes, fine."

He burrows again for a moment. "Is it mrf mrf?"


Back comes the red head from the pile of pillows. "Is it Friday yet?"

"Nope, Wednesday."

"Are you sure?"


Sigh. "I wanted it to be my big boy birthday day party."

"That's Sunday."

"How many days is that?"

"Four days."

"Four days! That's a lot. I thought you said two days."

"No, two days until Friday."

"Is that when we're going to look at more houses with Uncle Joe?"

"No. That's Saturday."

"And how many days is that."

"Three days."

"Three days! That's too many!"

Cough. Cough. Coughcoughcough. (Get up. Blow my nose. Gross myself out. Crawl back into bed.)

"Are you all right, Mommy?"

"Yes, Bear. It's almost time for you to get up and go to school."

"Will I have a new school soon?"

"No, honey. Remember? You are going to finish the whole school year at Happy Montessori."

"The whole year?"


"That's my whole life! I want to move to my new room right now."

"It does sound exciting, huh?"

(No response as he burrows.)

I sigh. Think about the day ahead of me. What needs doing at work. What needs doing in my house. Freak myself out. I sigh some more and stare at the wall.

A little hand sneaks out and tickles my foot. "Jack Jack Attack!" He yells from behind the safety of a pile of king-size pillows. He repeats it as a chant; "Jack Jack Attack! Jack Jack Attack! Jack Jack Attack! Jack Jack Attack! Jack Jack Attack! Jack Jack Attack!"

"Stop!" I beg.

Immediate silence.

"Bear?" (I poke the pile.)

Giggling erupts from the pillows, and squirming. Little face slowly emerges. "I see you!"

Posted on September 14, 2005 at 08:02 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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September 13, 2005

Since my favorite Blue Sloth asked... a little ditty about how our days are going...

CD is working 7AM-3PM (ish) at his job in the suburbs and I am working now from around 7AM to 5:30 or 6PM here at home for Mega - my work equals around 8 or 9 hours, since I also get Bear up, run him to Montessori, pick him up, have lunch with him...

Elia is here M-Th from either 12 or 1-4PM. (Instead of 12-6PM before) She watches Bear, takes him up to the park, lets him doze in front of the TV (Arthur! Lives!) and then moves him into bed for his nap (yes, my 5 year old still naps). As she goes along, she usually does a load of dishes, straightens up, rotates laundry, folds Bear's clothes and puts them away... we've always had a rule that it is Bear first, everything else second, but since she fell in love she seems to be parking Bear in front of the TV more often and going down to the cellar to slowly fold laundry.

The truth is that I think she's burned out on taking care of Bear, although I know she loves him deeply. She wants to spend time with her boyfriend - at her house or at her brother's restaurant. I understand that, although Bear is upset because he can feel that he is no longer the only apple in Elia's eye...

Sometime between 3:30 and 4PM (depending on traffic), CD gets home and takes over being chief Bear wrangler and tickler of feet.

Bear and CD do manly things like mow the lawn, spackle the back room, play Rescue Heroes and 'Knights' (complete with their plastic swords and shields), run to Home Depot, wash the car, read Jack and Annie books, ride bikes, and cuddle with popcorn in front of KimPossible.

Ssomewhere between 5 and 6PM, I exit my office like a groundhog in February, blink a few times, and start dinner. By then Elia has left - she has really gone from being almost a full-time babysitter to being more of an afternoon mother's helper (or father's). So that means we are all doing more household stuff now, which is actually working out all right (I say with a wince).

I think they call it sequencing, this approach to child care, but all I know is that it is taking a lot of patience and flexibility. We'll see if the benefits are what we expect....

Posted on September 13, 2005 at 11:12 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Get Over It

August 25, 2005

Warning: If you're tired of my complaining - you know, "I hate my job because I want to be home with kid" - then skip this post.

It has been a bad day. And I am hurting.

Not just because some freak cut me off in the parking lot (did she think she was in NEW YORK? There were a dozen other open parking spaces all around us, but no - she had to jump into the one I was heading into - racing around me with a squeal at like mach 10, causing me to thank my stars CD keeps the van and its brakes maintained regularly).

So. The day. The bad part. It started this morning, when CD was heading into work. He has a lot of flexibility with his schedule, so I shouldn't have been upset that he didn't leave until 10AM.

But it triggered a flashback to the dark times, you know? And all the fear and shaking crawled from my mind into my body. It was just after Bear was born, when CD's darkness began to expand into our lives. One of those first symptoms was a persistant tardiness. To try and help him fight the lethargy that would cause him to miss his train, I would drive CD into work each morning. Bear would cry the entire way because he had an unsual infant's motion sickness.

Ultimately, it did no good.

Flash forward to this morning, and CD is back at work. But I remain skittish and twice shy.

So even if we sold the house and moved somewhere with a cheaper cost of living, even if I belt-tightened, even if I home-schooled instead of the $900/month Montessori, even if I didn't have a babysitter or any other assistance. Even if all those things happened and we actually had enough dollars (which we wouldn't), it wouldn't be enough.

Because in my heart of hearts, I am not sure I could trust. I would be afraid that the darkness would return to claim CD. I am terrified that CD could sink again, and I would be desperately seeking a way to save our home and tend to our son.

So my deepest desire is out of reach. Which is probably why I'm told again and again to "get over it".

But I don't know how.

At this very moment, my son is at the park with his babysitter and I am in front of my computer, working. Is he warm? Safe? Is it going to start raining again? Does he have a raincoat? Is he being guided in fair play and good sportsmanship? Is Elia chatting with her boyfriend or is she watching? Is he tired for a nap yet?

He had McDonald's for lunch, because I had no time to deal with it. I was 15 minutes late for my therapist's appointment because I then had to rush back to the McDonald's and pick them up when they discovered that the PlayPlace was closed for repairs. I reluctantly dropped them off at her place, where her boyfriend's car was parked out front like a huge warning that she had other distractions. I wondered if I would hear more stories from Bear about how "boyfriends and girlfriends nap together" or if my conversation with Elia is still ringing in her ears.

Then my therapist told me he was prescribing me Ambien so I would get some sleep. No more Lexapro, maybe something else. He hunted through my family history for bipolar disorder.

$170 an hour, this guy. And we weren't even talking about issues.

I said to him "Look, I am not bipolar, and I don't want drugs. The problem here is in my life."

He told me that he needed me to be well-rested so I could deal with that very thing.

I said to him "Look, I keep being told to get over it. But what am I supposed to get over? My son is 4 years old, with one year left before he starts full-day school. I waited until I was in my mid-30's to have him because I believe with every drop of my blood that I should be a stay-at-home mom. I had my ducks in a row, and they were shot out of the water. And now, every single frigging day, I HAND MY SON OVER. Do you understand? Do you?"

He told me our time was up.

As I walked back to the car, to pick up Bear and Elia and drive them back to my house, to finish updating my project plans and prepare for more meetings, to make dinner, to drive Elia home again and my son to karate, I called CD. I told him to alert our bookkeeper to the check I'd written.

He yelled at me for not getting the insurance to cover it up front.

I tried not to cry all the way home.

Get Over It.

As if.

(End. Rant.) (Start. Chocolate.)

Posted on August 25, 2005 at 01:56 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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August 02, 2005

In 3 days, we will be on the road for our annual pilgrimage to the East Coast.

Away from my crazy manager (who got in an argument with me today about my use of the phrase "work package"). Away from the politics of my current assignment. Away from this old house and its clutter and chaos and half-finished projects. Away from living and working and sleeping in the same 100 square feet.

I will make sand castles at the beach and ignore my vericose veins and chubby legs (and hope everyone else does, too). I will slather Bear and I in sunscreen and splash in the waves. I will hold my husband's hand as we walk.

It is time again to pack up the van and drive 950 miles to where I come from.

Posted on August 02, 2005 at 12:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The Start of Goodbye

June 22, 2005

Yesterday started the night before. We packed, and hemmed, and ironed, and organized. Collapsed into bed so late that when the alarm went of at 5:30AM, we resisted. But eventually we did pull ourselves up and into the day.

6:30AM We started for the car, although it took about 20 more minutes before we had finished running back into the house for "one more thing" and actually pulled out of the driveway.

7:00AM Bear dropped off at Elia's, we headed to Midway Airport for our flight to Boston.

8:00AM Midway security being the clusterfudge of all time, it took us over 45 minutes to get through the scan line. They were announcing our names over the loudspeaker as we scrambled to our gate.

[time change + 1 hour]

11:30AM It is a running joke in my family that I can't get a ride from Logan Airport. Today was no different. We caught the "Silver Line" - a bus that becomes a subway. We switched over to the red line to MIT (Kendall Square).

Met up with my mom and brother and we all grabbed a quick bite at the food court. It was easy just to chat, look through the most recent Bear pictures, and share a laugh and pretend that it was just another day.

But then it was time to head over to MIT's unique chapel for the service.

1:45PM The whole family gathered in an anteroom. The lovely obituaries mention 2 nephews and 1 niece. But families are more than common blood; marriages and children created 17 people who called this amazing man "Uncle Mike".

2PM We approached the chapel in pairs as a lone bagpiper stood in the dappled shade by the entrance and played the mourners in. It finally hit me why we were there.

Mike had attended MIT from undergraduate through doctorate and then returned to teach. The eulogists had pulled his school records going all the way back to the beginning. It was bittersweet to hear how he'd always been special, always been kind and smart, always been more interested in the questions than the answers.

Another of my uncles talked about Mike, the guy. The one who loved to laugh, who joined in on games of Rail Baron, loved crosswords and was always interested in the world.

Then my cell phone went off. It took 4 rings for me to silence it.

[insert several moments of embarressment here]

His co-workers talked about Mike's amazing teaching skills and genuine rapport and devotion to his students. One brought with him a book that contained the thousands of emails the school had received from all the people who'd heard of Mike's passing and had to reach out and tell someone how much Mike had meant to them.

Most of us count ourselves lucky if we have a pond of people whose lives we touch in any meaningful way.

Mike had a rushing, roaring river.

Mike was universally recognized for being an amazing teacher and advisor. He won the sardonic Big Screw Award, the prestigious Baker Award, and at one point he had won MIT's "Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year" for 10 years straight.

At the end of the memorial, it was announced that MIT was renaming that last award after Mike.

3PM We walked up 3 flights of stairs to the reception. A long dark-clad line of solemn faces past chattering students who watched us with curious eyes.

I pulled into a corner at one point to check my phone. It had been Elia. I quickly called back and discovered that there had been a misunderstanding about the child seat but Dee had taken care of it. As I was talking, I looked up and realized I was surrounded by a small crowd of family friends waiting express their sympathy.

We walked together into the large reception room. The food was amazing, but I couldn't taste it.

I put on what CD calls my "Chatty Cathy" persona - I was engaging and talkative and accessible.

I was miserable.

4:15PM With red eyes and wrenched hearts, a cousin, CD, & I grabbed a cab back to Logan. Windows down to the hot Boston sun, we looked out at the blue water and the brick apartment buildings as we rolled by.

5:30PM There's a Legal Seafood inside Boston's airport. As we sat down, my boss call my cell phone. I answered it long enough to tell him to go away.

Then the 3 of us ordered strong cocktails and ordered food and talked about how the rest of the family was doing. As if we were doing any better.

Well, after an hour or so, maybe we were.

[time change - 1 hour]

8:00PM We landed into the Chicago sunset. Last hugs and off to our car and home.

As we drove, CD talked about the tour Mike had given him and Bear of MIT last summer - before we knew Mike was sick. Before the end began.

They'd gone to Mike's classroom and office, had lunch in the cafeteria.

Mike told CD how there's an aisle at MIT called "the infinite corridor". In what has become a sort of ceremony ("MITHenge" [thanks, Kimberly!]), twice a year all the doors along the corridor are opened and people line the sides and then, just at the right moment, the sun will shine through from begining to end.

I would like to think that, somehow, from now on, whenever they throw open those doors, Mike's spirit will be there. Traveling the sunbeam along the rows of rapt students, teachers, and staff.

[I thought I'd done with tears, but I was wrong.]

We pulled into the driveway and Bear came racing from the backyard into my arms. As I held him tight, he whispered to me "Did you say goodbye to Uncle Mike?"

And I kissed him hard. "Not yet," I told him. "Not just yet."

Posted on June 22, 2005 at 01:11 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Befuddled, Flappity, Go

June 21, 2005

I was responding in the comments, but it got so dang long....

First of all, let me say thank you for commenting and sharing your opinions. It's been a long day, but after reading what you had to say I think that maybe I was old-fashioned, and maybe I am too quick to judge.

But either way, I'll stand by the decision I made today. I believe it is inappropriate for caregivers to a) not pay attention to the children in their care and b) model behavior ("resting" in a horizontal position on a couch with a man or telling my son that boyfriends/girlfriends sleep together) without talking it over with me.

For me, this is an issue of personal responsibility and professional boundaries. Elia and CD and I absolutely must have a conversation about what is OK and isn't in this new territory.

And we need to know her boyfriend a LOT better before Bear spends time with him in a situation where they may be alone.

But we didn't have time for that conversation between yesterday and today, which is why I had my friend check on her and Bear today. (I mentioned this to Elia; "Dee will be by a lot today, making sure you two are all right here on your own".)

I am happy that Elia is in love, for her sake. I am happy to see her happy.

It was mean-spirited of me to bemoan the fallout, and I feel bad about that.

But about being paranoid? As a parent, I think I will always fall on the side of paranoia - and apologize later, if needed.

It's like we say to Bear; "Safety First".

Posted on June 21, 2005 at 09:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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June 20, 2005

After 4 years, the worst things I can say about my babysitter, Elia, are that she doesn't drive and she lets Bear have his way too much. Otherwise, she has been the light that makes the rest of my life possible.

Until now.

Now? Now that dang woman has fallen in looooooooove.

At thirty-something. That shy, sweet, pretty girl of ours is all manicured and fluffy hair and grinning like a cat at an all you can eat canary buffet.

Every once in a while, we let Bear spend the afternoon at her house. It is a duplex, with her brother and his family on the larger half. His two sons are about Bear's age and the three of them pound from room to room like a small herd of water buffalo.

Today, as I was dropping Bear off, Elia brought the gregarious man to meet me. He talked fast and actually tried interpreting her to me at one point, being helpful in a way that was not quite appropriate (Elia and I speak a form of our own Spanglish that does us quite well).

After I picked Bear up, he chattered on and on and in that monologue somewhere was the disturbing news that at one point, when he went back to Elia's side of the house, she was lying on the couch with her new boyfriend "Taking a nap".

"Boyfriends and girlfriends take naps together on a couch," Bear told me.

The rest of the afternoon, from what I understand, went smoothly and there were no more incidents.

But now there are bats in my stomach.

Big. Bats.

Flappity, flappity....

Meanwhile, CD and I are flying out tomorrow morning for my Uncle's memorial at M.I.T. We'll turn around and be back tomorrow night. But to be on the safe side, I've asked my firend Dee to stop by the house - a lot.

For more than 4 years, I've known in my gut that this woman would throw herself in front of a bus to save my son. But now, she's suddenly 13 with no boundaries or sense left in her head.



Posted on June 20, 2005 at 10:23 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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A tribute to a fine man

June 10, 2005

Blessed to know him, and have the joy of his company throughout my life. And saddened, beyond words, that he is gone from this world.

Uncle Mike's Obituary. (Link available upon request)

Posted on June 10, 2005 at 08:57 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Goodbye, Uncle Mike

June 09, 2005

My beloved Uncle passed away this morning.

The world is a little dim today, for he was a bright light. Survived by his amazing wife and daughter, family and friends who delighted in his humor and his gentle intelligence, and the thousands of students who considered him a blessing and who worked diligently to be among those he would lead into graduation each year.

He loved life. He loved people. And we loved him.

Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

-Anne Bronte

Posted on June 09, 2005 at 10:24 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Creepy Guys

June 02, 2005

My neighbor, Jonesie, came over today as we were saying goodbye to my mom. She told us that yesterday, while we were all out, she saw a group of kids sitting on our front steps.

These guys were familiar to us.

They are a white suburban pack of gansta hoodlum wannabes. They dress like the Unabomber or city punks. They are in my neighborhood the last couple of weeks because the kid up the street who used to mow our lawn has turned into a bored dropout who wants, desperately, to belong.

Artie was a sweet kid with emotional problems and learning disabilities. Eventually the school district started tutoring him at home to keep the mayhem at a minimum. Both his parents are spread too thin and he had a lot of unsupervised time, so he took up with these kids.

And now the police are a common visitor. Because this is Pleasantville and these are kids wander in an aimless mass on the sidewalks. The neighbors give them the hairy eyeball and have "911" on the speed dial.

But Artie likes us, so he still waves when he and his friends walk by in a slouched semi-mob seething with attitude. And Bear enthusiastically waves back, and I do, too.

Then, this posse decided to spend some of yesterday camped out on our front doorstep.

My neighbor, Jonesie, didn't like the look of it, so she marched across the street in her teeny skirt and strappy cami (it's what she always wears. Hey, she's like 26 years old and built like supermodel - why not?).

I guess the kids tried to act like they knew us. Tried to tell her they were invited to be on our steps waiting for us to get home. But Jonesie didn't buy it - she challenged them, and wouldn't leave until they got themselves off our property.

When she told us from the little she overheard that they might have intended to ask us for money by pretending they were raising funds for something. But she wasn't sure, she just didn't like the entitled attitude they had hanging out on our front steps while we weren't home.

(Yes, she IS wonderful.)

I don't know why these kids were on our doorstop. Did they think because we were nice enough to wave that somehow that was an invitation to scam us for money? I know I shouldn't jump to conclusions, maybe they had some legitimate reason. Because the alternative was that by acknowledging Artie's wave, we somehow made ourselves targets. And dagnabbit, I refuse to live in a way that makes me pull down my arm and pretend that guys who scare me a little (and they do) aren't somehow human.

But reasons aside, they got right up in our space and stayed there. CD and I knew with a look as the neighbor talked that we had to take what happened seriously.

Because what these boys didn't know, but what have found out if any one of them had reached up to the doorknob, is that we don't lock our house except when we're going on vacation and at night.

Never have.

Now CD and I have decided we must change our ways. And it has made us both inexplicably and deeply sad.

Posted on June 02, 2005 at 01:25 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Die, Gerbils, Die! (Midnight Ramblings)

May 25, 2005

It's 1:04 in the morning and, well, I don't know how to break it to myself but sometimes a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do...

Self? You're not asleep.


Yeah, excuses, excuses. But we both know the terrible truth. It's those damn gerbils again.

Continue reading "Die, Gerbils, Die! (Midnight Ramblings)"
Posted on May 25, 2005 at 01:51 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Asleep at the wheel

May 24, 2005

CD's still out of town, which means I'm not getting any sleep.

No. Not "awwwww". Not sweet.

I lay in bed thinking thinking thinking ... the demon gerbils in my mind don't stop. "Was that a noise? What if there's a robber?! I've never been good with physical confrontation. If it's a robber what will I do? Oh, dagnabbit. I'm not in good shape, I'm overweight, I've got high blood pressure, what if something happens to me in the night? Bear doesn't know how to call 9-1-1!!!"

Yeah, need some kind of medication, yo. I get that. Years of this self-imposed opressive sense of total responsibility has meant that I get myself twisted up around the axle sometimes in a really bad way. I forget to let go of those things I have no control over. Or maybe just forgotten how.

In less freaky news, I'm making paella for dinner. I bought a clothspin for Bear's nose. A little aromatic hardship for Mr Snarkypants won't hurt the boy. Not my job to make his life a walk through the park. No, need to prepare him to live in a world that does, from time to time, STINK. And? I need some seafood. I need it now.

I'm also on a househunt. More on that later. Althought I can promise you right here and right now that mine is not as interesting as Helen's - who is bidding nearly $1Million American dollars on a lovely fixer-upper outside London. *swoon*

I haven't been this tired since Bear was a baby. I think I've had a total of maybe 12 hours sleep since Saturday. The gerbil in my brain spinning, spinning, spinning.

"Nick and Jessica, Good God. Are they a sign of the apocolypse? Is RP right? Should I balance my retirement portfolio more heavily at the expense of Bear's college fund? Am I a bad mommy if I have the dry cleaner hem Bear's karate pants? Gotta find a new family dentist. Are the long-term needs of the tsunami victims being addressed? I have to get my expenses submitted, have to, have to...."

Someone, please.

Kill the damn gerbil.

Posted on May 24, 2005 at 08:23 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Death by Details

May 19, 2005

I'm begining to fall behind in everything.

Driving Bear and his babysitter to all the play dates and such, tracking all the end of the school year stuff, and not getting enough uniterrupted time to do my job means that I'm missing deadlines, skipping steps, running late, and feeling squished with all the stress.

CD shares his cubby at work so he keeps the personal stuff to an absolute minimum. That means he's unplugged from 8:30AM to 6PM every day. And, unfortunately, he hasn't built up the organizational effort to track the details that swirl like snow around a family - especially those that include Bear.

And because "I'm home", it is expected that I am both mom and employee - able, somehow, to juggle financial audits while convincing a screaming, overtired 4 year old that he HAS to take a nap while his adoring but non-confrontational babysitter murmurs gently beside me.

Yesterday, I discovered that CD hadn't yet made arrangements for Bear's summer care. This was the one thing I really needed him to do. Bear's school ends in 2 weeks. I am proud to say that I didn't scream or lose my temper. I did, however, cry with disappointment and stress.

Like planning a lovely night out at the movies for us but not getting a babysitter for Bear, CD's gestures can be sweet but incomplete. So I have learned this habit of hunting the details like a pig for truffles. Agressively seeking the minutae that will bitch slap my family if not tended.

But I often fail. It is too much. Things slip through the cracks. Like that contract we didn't sign and return on time - which precipitated a crisis about putting Bear into Kindergarten next year.

My job is high-profile and demanding. One of my mentors warned me, after my last promotion, that if I looked around at the successful people in my strata I would find they had one thing in common - a domestic situation that actually supported their careers.

She said: Elizabeth, a single shining performance or two will get you the promotion. But without a supportive home environment, you won't get there from here.

And she's right.

I try to see the forest for the trees. To accept my limitations and own that I'm dying in the details. That for my own sanity and health, the juggling act I've been doing as senior management and primary homemaker has got to STOP. But the person who needs to hear it most and do something about isn't listening -


Posted on May 19, 2005 at 11:09 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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In a day

May 18, 2005

Last night, about 1AM, we awoke to Bear calling to us from across the hall that he was thirsty.

Being the responsive, loving parents that we are, we both pulled pillows over our heads.

Bear's wail grew progressively louder and more insistent.

I nudged CD.

Me: Rock, Paper, Scissors?

CD: Mutter mutter mutter.

Me: What?

CD: Uh, Brick.

I peered tiredly at my hand in the dim. Me: Paper.

CD (groaning): Uummm clearly peas television.

Me: What?

CD: I'm exercising my nuclear option.

(Note: unfortunately for him, the nuclear option was not available. He ended up fetching the drink for Mr. Thirstypants.)


This morning, as CD was chasing Bear around trying to get him out the door for school and I was still lazing in bed (after all, my commute has been sharply decreased from ALL THE WAY DOWN THE HALL to: the other side of my bedroom).

Bear scampered into bed with me with a defiant glare at CD.

Bear: I want to stay here in bed with you. I like you best.

Me: I like you, too, but you have to go to school.

Bear (outraged): But they don't let me bring my favorite pillow!


Driving Bear and Elia to a playgroup this afternoon, we came to a congested intersection where a long funeral procession was streaming against the light. (This sparked a whole conversation about 'What is Dead' that I'm still having the shakes over.)

Then, just as the car snarl had grown completely outrageous, an ambulance tried to crash through on their way to, I dunno - save a life or make the day-old sale at the Sara Lee outlet store.

But, Alas!, the hillbillies in the funeral procession decided that the little orange flags on their windows trumped a lights-blazing ambulance and refused to give right-of-way.

All the cars surrounding this little show-down, having seen too many episodes of 'American Idol', thought they should vote on who should win and began chiming in by leaning on their horns. Into this cacophany, the ambulance decided to press the point by turning up its siren to ULTRA SCREECH setting.

As the blood began to gush from my ears,
I muttered: Oh, for heaven's sake! No amount of loud is gonna cure stupid!

From the back seat, Bear: Mommy! You said 'Stupid'! That's a bad word!

Me: Yes, I'm sorry honey. I lost my patience.

Bear: Well, that's no excuse. You should control your words!

Posted on May 18, 2005 at 02:02 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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UPDATED: Which way do we go?

May 11, 2005


Well, we got the contract and gave our deposit. We are putting Bear into Kindergarten in the fall so he can stay in the same class with all his friends and the teacher he's had for the past 2 years. We've decided to decide next year whether he's ready for 1st grade or if we should keep him a second year in the Kindergarten. This idea came from you guys, and it was a fabulous one. Montessori combines the 3,4 and 5 year-olds so it wouldn't be confusing or hurtful at all to keep him back next year since he'd just be returning to the same class with 2/3 of the same kids.

Some folks asked, so here it is: Tuition is about $6,750 for preschool, about $7,500 for Kindergarten (which is an extra 3 hours/day), and about $8,000 for 1st thru 3rd grade at this well-respected Montessori school in a decent suburb just outside Chicago. Plus activity costs, supplies, and a minimum comittment of volunteer time on the parents.

Because Bear's birthday is the first week in September, and he'll be 5 this year, we are deeply torn about whether he should start Kindergarten next fall.

On the one hand, since he is in a Montessori classroom, it doesn't matter - he is in a blended environment with other 3, 4 and 5 year-olds and there is no diferentiation on which ones are the "Kindergartners".

But then at 11:30 every morning, most of the kids go downstairs and get picked up to go home. Except the Kindergartners, who go out to the play area for recess before lunch and then to merge with the other Kindergartners for afternoon class.

There are so many arguments about whether it is best for a child to be the youngest or oldest in the class and this is exactly where we are stuck with Bear. He will either be one or the other.

His teacher says he's almost ready for Kindergarten, and that she could support whichever decision we make.

With some allowances made so that kids can stay with their favorite teachers for all 3 years if they want, there are quotas for each class with a third percentage of the population in each age group. Bear's current teacher has only has a few spots open for next year and they are all for Kindergarten kids. Another teacher has some non-Kindergarten spots.

We missed initial enrollment but the director has kindly offered us our choice of these two remaining spots. But of course, we need to decide quickly.


Posted on May 11, 2005 at 06:53 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Early Morning Constipation

May 04, 2005

I was dreaming of living in a NYC penthouse, with - and I don't understand this - Ashton & Demi and clan in the other apartment on the floor and sharing the large deck. I wore gorgeous gowns and amazing shoes and smelled like Coco by Chanel.

I was twirling into the apartment, in a striped silk cocktail dress that would make Sarah Jessica Parker weep with envy, when I heard it:

Bear: It won't come out.

CD: Well sit some more and keep trying.

Bear: It's hard and it won't come out.

*Pulled a pillow over my head. Reminded myself that it is definitely CD's turn to deal with this. I have taken off two mornings from work in the last couple of months when over-indulgence in goldfish crackers or molasses cookies caused this problem before.*

In my dream, there were tall trees providing dappled shadows into my lovely apartment. And a view of Central Park. A riot of sunset on the horizon. Count Basey was providing the soundtrack.

CD: We have some pills. They go up your boom-boom and will make the poopy soft and come out.

Bear: Do they hurt?

CD: They shouldn't. They feel funny, though. Can you be brave?

Bear: Yes, I can be brave, Daddy.

*Rolled over and pretended I was still asleep. Reminded myself that last month CD had been happily sitting in his cubby while I had been rubbing Bear's back and speaking in soothing tones while he sat on the toilet and waited for the orange juice to work.*

CD: I can't find the suppositories.

ME: I bought new ones, in the medicine cabinet in the kitchen.

CD: What's this other stuff?

ME: Oral medicine that does the same thing.

Bear: (After tasting it) Uh, that's yucky. Can we do the other one that goes in the boom-boom?

CD: (Tasting it himself) Gross.

ME: Cod liver oil and flavorings.

CD: (Making a face) No amount of flavorings can help cod liver oil.

I dig back under the covers and try to recapture my sepia dream. The light, the breeze, the music. I change the neckline of my dress to more low cut, night falls and the lights of New York come alive on the other side of the floor-length windows.

I have a martini, and stroll out on the deck. A tall, dark man (maybe CD? Maybe Clive Owen?) is there, smoking a cigar. I hear the faint sounds of a party from the other apartment.

He looks at me, and grins. I grin back. He leaves the cigar in a large crystal ashtray and walks towards me, holding out his hand. The moment we touch, I get shivers.

Bear: The poopy won't hurt?

CD: No, the medicine will make it soft.

Bear: OK.

CD: (Trying to hide his grossed-out expression) Now let's put it in your boom-boom.

ME: (Sighing, opening my eyes and getting out of bed) Let me get a towel, this could be messy.

All's Well That Ends Well: Sure enough, while CD ran to Dunkies to get us some coffee and bagel, Bear had a successful run to the potty. Grinning, he explaimed that the poopy had been soft and had come "right out"!

Mysterious guy on the deck, however, has drifted away for good into the mist of dreams. Ah, well.

Posted on May 04, 2005 at 09:29 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Picking Your Battles

May 02, 2005

Opening his first Birthday present, ever. August, 2001.

There he is, with that stubborn look we know so well. Eleven months old there, we were still getting settled in the house. Bear wanted that box open, and NOW.

They ask if he's got that fiery personality that redheads are known for. Actually, he's pretty laid back. But when he wants something, he's like a Doberman. Don't mess with him if you aren't fully suited up, cup and all.

Today in the car, it was his turn to pick the song:

Me: Look, it's my car. I get a veto.

Him: But I like the Shrek song (Smashmouth's "I'm a Believer")

Me: Not again. What about Will Smith? "Just the Two of Us" or "Wild Wild West"?

Him: No, Mommy. The Shrek song.

Me: No way, Jose. How about some disco? Or Doobie Brothers?

Him: Shrek.

Me: Look, Bear. When I was growing up, they didn't have car seats, or even seat belts in the back seat.

Him: Really?

Me: Yep. And phones had cords, and TV didn't 'pause', and water didn't come out of the refridgerator door. And there were no DVD players in the car - much less CD players.

Him: Why not?

Me: Because they weren't invented yet. But the point here is that this should be fun for me, too and I am tired of Shrek and the Drumline soundtrack. How about John Mellencamp? You like "Jack & Diane".

Him: Fine.

Me: Good.

Him: After Shrek.

Posted on May 02, 2005 at 08:16 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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24 More Hours

April 08, 2005

Since CD started his new job in November, he has been flown to Texas 3 times to meet up with the national team for training. Yeah, for a job he is already grossly overqualified to do, but let's not start on that subject OK?

When I travel, I have a self-imposed rule that I never plan to be away from my son more that 3 nights. I will usually fly out on a Monday morning and come back on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, CD's boss decided that the entire team should stay over Friday night so he can host them all to a party on Saturday. Unpaid time, mind you.

I can not imagine the scenario where I would demand this OR agree to it. HOW is this boss guy was so insensitive to the burden he's putting on all these guys and so unclear about professional boundaries?

Did he just land on this planet? The deal is that you go out on Wednesday or Thursday night so your team can be home with their families Friday.

But not this guy. Nope.

Bear hasn't seen his Daddy since Monday morning and for whatever reason missed their usual lunchtime conversation the first 3 days of the week. Today, Bear went into an emotional freefall. He refused to talk with CD at lunch. Then demanded to call him hours later, just to break out in tears when CD came on the line.

He found a picture of CD and has been carrying it around today in his pocket. When it was nap time, he brought over all his stuff from his bed to mine. We crawled into bed together, him clutching my hair. His blue eyes staring into mine and welling up. Finally he collapsed into hysterics, wailing for his Daddy and asking if CD was ever coming home. I rocked him until he fell asleep in my arms.

CD just called to tell me that he and the team, at loose ends tonight, are going out to a bar. It took all the patience of an adult not to slam down the phone in frustration.

I've just got to get my son through 24 more hours.

Posted on April 08, 2005 at 05:13 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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End of Innocence

March 28, 2005

Let's start with the good news. Because like last week's outfit, you have to hang your hat somewhere and I'm all about the silver lining.

The company was good, the egg hunt in the backyard a happy diversion and I didn't burn the ham. (Normally, we wouldn't worry about my ability to make a ham. I mean, HAM. Puh-lease. But on Saturday night I walloped a roast within an inch of its life and made very wet jerky so I skittered into Easter with a bit of a twitch and shake. Happily, all was well...)

The Menu:
Ham with cherry/orange Grand Marnier glaze
Scalloped potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes
Asparagus with a citrus cream sauce
Stuffed tomatoes
Sweet baby peas
Homemade bread and fresh butter
Margarita Cheesecake
Chocolate Pudding Pie
Served with: Sangria, water and then coffee service.

Afterwards, we all went out for a waddle. We waddled up the block to the big park.

The playground structure was teeming with kids and parents, so my mom and Bear stopped there while the rest of us waddled the around the park.

By the time we got back, about 15 minutes later, my mother's face was a thundercloud.

Two brothers, aged about 8 and the other about 5, were bullying Bear.

The small one was calling Bear names to get him to chase him and then the big one would come up behind Bear and try to hurt him.

My mother saw what there were up to and stuck close. The small one didn't like that and kept telling my mother to go away and sit down. (How sick is that, telling the grown-up to go away so they could have my son all to themselves?) But even sticking close, her dogged interventions had little effect.

They didn't have any fear of her. They knew exactly how nasty they could be, where the line was. Thankfully, Bear grew pissed-off and marched away, telling them they weren't his friends and he didn't want to play with them.

Bear went off to sit at a picnic bench and he and my mom were sitting there as the rest of us came around the track.

The two boys didn't give up. They were still trying to engage Bear. We could see the little one running over to them, taunting Bear right in front of my mom's face. The big one stood watching from the jungle gym, and even I thought he was creepy and menacing. Such a little kid to have such a nasty expression.

Mom said it was like watching a sick kind of con act. You could tell that they had done this before, the little brother enticing the kids and the big brother hurting them.

As I approached, Bear got irritated and marched over to the where the bigger brother was at the top of a little ladder to confront him. The big brother started swinging his foot as my kid climbed, and you could see the "accidental" foot in my son's face coming.

I shouted, and jogged up. "Hey, big kid, it's time for my son to go home. Do me a favor and don't let him up there!" Big kid looked at me, the 4 adults behind me, and my mother approaching from the other direction, and stopped swinging his foot.

I grabbed my son under the arms and carried him right off the ladder and over to the path, where his dad and Godmother started tickling his exposed tummy. We headed home.

As we left the playground, Bear told us what happened. He told us about how the boys that they weren't his friends and he'd walked away from them.

"How do you feel?" I asked, after we all told him that walking away was the right thing to do.

"Good," Bear said.

We were reminded that in karate class, Bear has been taught how to deal with people who want to hurt him and he showed us how to break away and run somewhere safe and shout for help. That he knows there are bad people in the world.

The problem is that we never told him those bad people could be his own size.

Today, I have to sit down and warn his babysitter about those boys. My stomach hurts. I'm mad. I'm sad. My son is only 4 years old.

But yesterday signaled the beginning of the end of innocence.

Posted on March 28, 2005 at 08:15 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Post-Nuptials And Such

March 20, 2005

After such a dramatic week, it has been a very normal weekend. We've been cleaning, and shopping, and doing chores. CD and Bear have once again taken shovel and muscle to the tree stump on the edge of the driveway. And once again, they have turned back with that tree stump still firmly in the ground.

We figure it will take chains. And a 4X4. Maybe dynamite. Or a beaver.

I was up last night for a few hours, thinking.

It's difficult for me to think that somehow, the idea of a post-nup has demonized CD. I have done something, communicated something, wrong. And I don't know how to fix it.

My husband is not an American citizen. We did plan to sign a post-nup that had our agreement about Bear's nationality and raising in it.

We've both been exposed at what break-ups can do to children in multi-national relationships, so it just seemed like a reasonable thing to do. We just never followed through. It's hung on the to-do list for years.

In the shifting landscape of our marriage, we've said and done things we both regret. But we've always come back to our senses quickly. Even if we couldn't solve the problem, we found a way to be kind to each other.

But what if we couldn't?

So we thought about and agreed that Bear would have both his parents within a 50 mile radius. And be raised in America unless we both agreed otherwise. But be a citizen of both countries, and be exposed to both languages and customs.

We just never wrote it down.

Is it coming up now because things are rough? Yeah.

Is it coming up now because CD imagined a worst-case scenario and it scared him? Yeah.

Do I wish things were better between us? Hell, yeah.

I do, with all my heart.

I knew a guy once. Gorgeous. Charismatic. Successful. Promiscous. Always wore a condom. Always.

"Elizabeth," he once told me over lunch (just as friends. I knew better.) "You'd be amazed how many women try and convince me it's not necessary. Daft. Maybe crafty. I actually left an apartment once because she insisted we leave it off. No doing."

I never understand those women either. Protection in and of itself should never insinuate there's something irreedemably wrong. Sometimes all it means is: 'just in case'.

This piece of paper doesn't make CD a bad guy. I do not, in any way, resent him for asking for it. It was my idea in the first place, all those years ago.

Sure, I get mad at CD for many reasons. But not that he asked that we execute the post-nup before I take his son 4 hours away for a couple of months.

I can't imagine why I would say no.

So I was up for a few hours last night. Wondering if maybe I complained too much. Vented too hard. And I don't know what to do. I feel bad that anyone would think I was sleeping with the enemy. It's not how I feel. Isolated, angry, tearful? Yes. Pushed to the edge of the cliff and looking down sometimes? Yes. Scared? Yes, Yes. Uncertain, sad? Yes, again.

But no, not given up. No.


Posted on March 20, 2005 at 01:09 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Need a Lawyer

March 18, 2005

Hi, does anyone know a good family lawyer in the Chicago area?

I need someone competent and reasonable.

Please email me if you have any recommendations, thanks!

Posted on March 18, 2005 at 09:11 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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What was lost

March 08, 2005

RP, another MuNu blogger, has 2 amazing children - a girl and a boy. The girl is a little older, although they are close in age. They are close, period. Recently, he posted about how they hold hands in the car. Now he has a picture up.

I think about how my little brother and I weren't always close, but how we used to hold hands in the night when we were afraid. He would slip into my room in the dark, and sit on the floor by my bed, and reach up with his hand.

God, I miss the us we used to be.

Bear wants a sibling so desperately that it hurts. He turns friends into sisters and brothers. He begs for us to give him a baby to love.

I wish we had.

Somedays I feel like I have failed him in every part of my being by consigning him to life as an only child.

Posted on March 08, 2005 at 01:15 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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T Minus 12

February 09, 2005

Well, I have been really working hard at my job lately. Pouring myself into an overtime effort. And tomorrow morning, I give the BIG presentation. The one that really is going to knock the SOCKS of the VP. In just about 13 hours.

Through an interesting misunderstanding of the phrases "A.M." and "P.M.", my mother will be arriving at the airport at the very same time.

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities.


If anyone has some free time tomorrow morning, could you swing by O'Hare and pick up my mom?


Posted on February 09, 2005 at 08:57 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Knock Knock, Deux

First you have to know that CD's been tell ing this joke a lot because it really cracks him up:

Q: How many Cubists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: A fish.

As most mornings, Bear crawled in bed with me while CD was in the shower. Hey Mommy, he said. I rolled over and he grinned.

Then he giggled and said:

Who's there?

Uh, a light bulb

A light bulb, who?

Have you seen my fish?

Posted on February 09, 2005 at 08:12 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Snow Day!

January 23, 2005

Picture by Elizabeth: White Out, 01/22/2005

Yesterday morning we woke up to a foot of snow on the ground and it was still snowing and, worse, blowing in a hard wind. We suited up and headed out to shovel. Our neighbors, known as "The Guys", saw us struggling and brought over their new snowblower.

The 3-hour job was thus slashed to 45 minutes. We could barely see each other for the snow - it was rapidly turning into a white-out.

Then we all went up and down the block making sure all the steps and sidewalks were clear.

One of the guys has a beard and it was frozen into icicles. Eventually we had to raise the flag and head in.

So it is officially a weekend of snow days at our house. There's all-day jammies, hot chocolate, a stack of DVD's, and a pile of firewood raring to go. The sun is threatening to shine so we may just bundle back up later and go sledding.

I only wish it could last longer.

Posted on January 23, 2005 at 01:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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January 20, 2005

Bear thinks snow is a treat. He loves helping CD shovel and building snowmen and digging snow tunnels. He loves his snow boots and his new gloves and throwing snowballs.

Bear had a busy day yesterday, what with school and karate class and then open classroom night back at his school. By the time we all got home with a bag of Panda Express take-out at 7:30PM, we were all beat.

What I meant to say, was that CD and I were beat, and grumpy. Bear was still up, up, up. "It's SNOWING!" he announced as we pulled into the driveway. But we were spoilsports and told him to come inside. Eat first, shovel later.

After dinner, I opted to head to bed. Bear followed me with an armful of books. He informed me he was going to read me to sleep.

He told me the stories in 4 books. Reciting words by heart, making things up when he couldn't remember the words. He patted my sleepy head in between books, and took the time to stop and show me the pictures before he turned the pages.

When he was done, he made sure I was tucked in and kissed my head.

That's the kind of kid my kid is.

The day he learned about the Tsunami victims, we began remembering them in the prayers we say before we eat. That night, we were talking about what we could do to help.

Bear decided we should give the money from our change jar. When it was explained to him that this would mean no treats for a while - like gumballs and movie rentals, he looked straight at me and said "That's OK, we have a house."

I've been scared to death since talking with his teacher that something might actually be wrong with Bear. That we have somehow hurt his spirit or his emotional health.

My Bear, who pays such close atention in karate class, who loves the snow, who reads me stories, and who wants to give his gumball money to the Tsunami victims. I thought and prayed a lot about my little 4-year old miracle with the chubby cheeks and glossy red hair, who asks if he can help about 100 times a day and who's imperious at times, and impatient, and yes - even hyper.

Yes, I've spent the last couple of days agonizing about it. Talking with my friend the social worker. Observing him, looking for wounds in his soul or alarms in his behavior. And by 5AM this morning, in the pink glow of the snowy sky, I made a decision.

We're going to be OK.

Posted on January 20, 2005 at 03:02 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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About the boy

January 19, 2005

His lead teacher spoke to me at length. Like 45 minutes.

It seems that while Bear is sweet, funny, gregarious, bright, active, and curious.... since the holiday break he's also been a little - hyper.

She said that most kids come back from holidays and long weekends this way. Unable to settle down or ignoring her instructions. That even a time-out only brings them in line for about 5 minutes.

But Bear hasn't "settled down" even though the rest of the class has. That she has to get right in his face and demand his attention several times a morning. That he is using all the "works" (Montessori learning materials) as weapons (ka-pow ka-pow) against the rules. She laughed a little and said that Bear is not the only one - but is something of a ringleader.

She's been his teacher for 2 years, and really likes Bear. So I knew this was hard for her.

She asked if there was something going on at home.

All I could think was - CD and I have finally patched together a good peace, a strong path forward and faith that we're on the right path...

And now? Now? Now my sweet Bear is (finally?) acting out.


Post Script: Bear doesn't have ADD or ADHD or other disorders. We're pretty sure this is acting out. When he wants to, he has amazing concentration and reasoning skills and can control his behavior.

Posted on January 19, 2005 at 10:40 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The Worst 4 Words

January 18, 2005

I just have to say this - Rainbow Feather is fine. He's home and he's happy.

And when I said I hate birds - I meant the ones in cages. I have a feeder right outside my office window. I get a kick from the rare Cardinal sighting, the afternoon coos from the loon in Autumn. M'kay?

Of course, yes, I do also like eating birds. With a nice Chianti. But that's another show all together.

So this morning, I put my game shirt back on and showed up for work ready to take the plate. By the time I had to leave and go pick up Bear from his morning Montessori program, I was feeling pretty empowered, I tell you what.

Hopping to keep warm at the school entrance, waiting for my son, his teacher caught my eye and waved me closer to her. And then she uttered those words that deflated my whole mood. The Worst 4 Words in the English language:

We've got to talk.

I must have given her quite the look. Because she added; It's nothing too bad. I'll call you this afternoon.


Posted on January 18, 2005 at 12:33 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Rainbow Feathers and Me

January 17, 2005

We had a 3-day weekend because of the Martin Luther King Holiday. Since we have clearly pissed off someone at Bear's Montessori school, we got to share this weekend with a garrulous bird named Rainbow Feathers.

I am not a bird person. Rainbow Feathers somehow knew this and squawked at me. A lot. All weekend.

3 in the morning, getting myself a glass of water. SQUAWK! Practically dropped of a heart attack right there in the kitchen.

Filling his food tray, hopped over near me and tried to BITE me! When I told him to behave? He SQUAWKED up a storm. And let me tell you, I don't speak bird but I am pretty sure he was saying some pretty nasty things.

I got my own back. I made homemade chicken salad, and ate it right there - in full view of the bird. Heh. Take that. Oh, yeah. You be afraid, you twinkie-sized waste of feathers.

While I was ate it, I kept going with the pot and turned the bones and remaining chicken into homemade stock. The house smelled like chicken soup for hours.

Then the bird looked... I dunno. Don't laugh at me. But, sad. I started feeling pretty bad for being so petty. So I found the bird a treat - some peanut stuff he was supposed to like.

The bird rewarded me by sticking his ass up against the side of the cage and trying to poop on the floor.

How is it that this bird can share a classroom with 20 bright, curious preschoolers and 2 of the nicest teachers you'll ever meet for 3 hours every day and be mean and calculating? Explain that to me.

Rainbow Feathers did not come with instructions. They sent this bird home with us without instructions. All there was in his little overnight bag was his cover and some food.

This was all the help they gave dumbass people like us - who, I kid you not, could not figure out what kind of bird this is. Searched the whole freaking Internet. Looked at more bird pictures than I EVER want to see in a lifetime.

Big birds. Little birds. Birds with funny beaks. Greenish yellow birds. Yellow greenish birds. Birds that sing, whistle, and tweet.

I hate birds.

Couldn't look up instructions if you can't figure out what kind of bird you got.

Which prompted CD to comment that this was probably Rainbow Feathers the 16th. There's a pet store somewhere that keeps Rainbow Feathers clones on hand for that regular Sunday night occurance - the parent running in with a dead bird saying "You got something that looks just like this?"

Otherwise, these 3 days have gone by so fast. For those keeping score - I got 60% of my to-do list done, including a plan of attack for saving my program.

And we also had a lot of fun - cooking, coloring, playing Scrabble (Bear stole all the "B's" because they were his), and enjoying time in the warmth of our family room in front of the fire.

But the best part. And I mean, the very best part. That will be tomorrow morning.

When we take Rainbow Feathers BACK.

Posted on January 17, 2005 at 08:10 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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These are Days

January 08, 2005

SO Bear has decided he doesn't need naps any more.

Except, he does. Which is how we ended up at the grocery store this evening with a wired up 4-year-old bouncing in the cart in the exact manner it says not to do. Right there, in the pictograms.

We barely made it to the check-out lane with our sanity intact.

Note: Every Friday we get an "allowance". We take out the money we will need for the week: Babysitter, Groceries, Take-Out, Gas for the car, like that. When the cash is gone, it better be next Friday.

So CD asks me, casually, as they are ringing up the magilla-billion items from our cart, grabbed in haste while keeping our overtired son from committing 4 kinds of federal mayhem. He asks me, as we read on the rags facing us that Jen and Brad are Together! Breaking Up!, How much money do we have for groceries.

And I freeze.

I have no flipping clue.

And as I start to pull out my wallet to see how much money we have, and I look over and realize that the cashier in the next lane is the boy next door. Literally, our neighbor's son. Who has been forced by his mother to babysit for us on occasion and I think that's why he growls and runs when he sees us.

And in my head, I picture it: I don't have enough money, CD's left the cash card at home, we're torn between charging groceries on the credit card or having the manager come over and approve a void. The line behind us grows restless. And there, the boy from next door, watching us.

All this. Because I have a mind that Stephen King would envy, y'all.

Just an average day at the grocery store... but NO, now they are "THE NEIGHBORHOOD OUTCASTS".

The total came to $120. I had that and money to spare. Of course I did, silly. We do this every week.

Gotta dial back on the Tylenol or something.

I made sure we waved to the neighbor boy as we were leaving. Us, lovely family. Who had PLENTY of money. And who's son is not the one yelling C0ck-c0ck-c0ck-c0ck-a-DOODIE! as we head for the exit.

Posted on January 08, 2005 at 08:51 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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How to charm me

January 04, 2005

So, being the people we are - we did the math. How much we can afford to pay for a car without having to do the Bad Thing.

You know, the Bad Thing. Incure a Car Payment.

So we set ourselves a budget. Looked at the cost of keeping the Piece of Sh*t car on the road. Talked about priorities. And then, because he had to take the morning off, CD hit the web. Edmunds. Carmax. Like that.

10 minutes later, he instant messages me.

With a link to a used Jag.

In our price range.

Ha! I scoffed (Scoffed!). What about...? I shouted to him, 3 rooms away. Repairs. Upkeep. Insurance!

He ambles to my office, leans against my desk.

Honey, face it. It's in our budget.

We can't have a Jag in Pleasantville, I demur.

He raises an eyebrow. (Damn, I wish I could do that.)

We'll get a Honda, I suggest. Safe. Reliable. Gas efficient, I remind my husband, the Environmentalist. Friendly to the environment. If only there was a used hybrid in our price range....

He shrugs. Look, the Jag is in our price range. It's a second car, you've always wanted one, and we can afford it.

I sit, stunned. I sit, charmed. A puddle of charmed. He winks at me. I smile. It occurs to me, that this is the first time in the longest time that he has pushed one of my fantasies, one of my never-will-happen dreams. The silly things. The things that you mention, looking in the window without ever really thinking they will come true.

It feels warm and good.

I wink back.

Posted on January 04, 2005 at 10:57 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Happy ....

December 28, 2004

Where IS the Corporate Mommy these days? Knee-deep in the BOB Awards. My super-secret work for Mr. "We're having a baby!" and his partner-in-Bobdom, Jay.

Also? In my home. This year, CD brought many of his Scandanavian traditions to life. We had traditional dinners, and gifts from elves, Advent candles, language lessons.

I've been reminded that our world has so many ways to celebrate this time of year - some as ancient as the land, others created in our lifetime. All meant to bring people together, joined with the spirits of goodwill and peace.

dec2004 018.jpg

The darkness weakens.
The sun rises higher,
The frozen ground rejoices.
God grant you a Merry Yule,
And happy winter hours.

-Scandanavian Blessing

Posted on December 28, 2004 at 11:55 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Semper Fi (Fortune Cookie Wisdom for the Year's End)

December 27, 2004

A couple of years ago, my former boss, Reed, assigned me this program. This thing was so high-profile, and complicated, and HARD. I was in over my head.

To top it all off, one of the senior guys on my team delighted in doing the opposite of whatever I asked him to do. Because of him, I started each day with the breakfast of champions: 3 Tylenol and a cup of antacid.

Before that Christmas, I called a teleconference with this guy, Reed and myself. To call this guy on the carpet and demand a commitment that he change his behavior.

After the call, Reed asked me why I'd done that. Reed said that that I'd had no reason to embaress the man in front of his boss's boss.

I felt immediately ashamed.

What's really wrong? Reed asked me.

What's wrong? I repeated, near tears. What isn't wrong?

I gave him my litany - my first program with an 8-figure budget, incompetant vendors shipping product to the wrong locations, resources that were staging a slow-down because of layoff fears, yada yada yada....

Reed listened kindly and said And?

And? And What?

Nothing you haven't handled before. If on a smaller scale. So tell me, what's the real problem here?


He spent about an hour then, chatting with me, until I realized what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. And never once did he tell me what to do.

You know, I worked for the Church for years. But it was Reed - a former soldier - who taught me some important lessons that I try and bring back to the center of my life each Christmas:

1) Don't judge a person by their worst trait or their worst day

2) Remember that a person's dignity is sacred. Do nothing to violate it.

3) Your problem with someone else is almost always that: your problem. Not theirs.

4) Everyone is carrying their own solutions with them. The most effective way to help someone out in the dark is not to push them where you think they should go. It is, instead, to become a flashlight for them to use in discovering their own way out.

5) Forgive. Especially yourself.

Posted on December 27, 2004 at 10:52 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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I love. The winter weather.

December 22, 2004

dec2004 066.jpg
Our Christmas Tree, 12/2004

Well, family lands tomorrow so I guess, yes, there really is a Christmas this year, Santa Claus.

Continue reading "I love. The winter weather."
Posted on December 22, 2004 at 08:17 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Previously, on Corporate Mommy

December 08, 2004

This is an entry for Blogging for Books. It is silly. The topic - "Your life as a sitcom." And let me say that Anna's entry had me peeing myself and Elizabeth's (the other Elizabeth) had me nodding in violent I wasn't even going to try. (I get intimidated real easy.) But wait. I needed some silly. So good, bad or indifferent - here is your primer to Corporate Mommy, the Sitcom.

Previously, on Corporate Mommy...

This season, the previously light-hearted and laugh-filled world of Corporate Mommy took a serious turn when the Corporate Parents began grappling with the question of having more children. Not to say that the characters America has come to love weren't still delighting with their wacky adventures!

Yes, the hijinks continued as the Corporate Family tackled a 900-mile road trip with a loose door strapped to their van (".... it was like having a giant thudding vibrator strapped to our heads"), cheered their team on to winning the World Series (Begone! Curse of Danny Darwin!), and got anti-Political (“Really, what this election needs is a good swift kick in the butt by Miss Manners”) - all with their usual sangfroid.

Meanwhile, the storyline about fertility spun into an arc about the slow rift this sparked in the foundation of the Corporate Marriage.

In upcoming episodes, the antics of the Corporate Family will continue to be tempered by the gravitas of this crisis and the determination of this couple to find a way back to good – or even, hopefully, better.

About Corporate Mommy.

From the Emmy-winning writers/executive producers that brought you hits like “My Mother the Stapler” and “Hazel, The Teen-aged Tycoon”, Corporate Mommy chronicles the klutzy, chaotic and madcap adventures of a work-at-home mother juggling the corporate sharks in one hand and her 4-year-old wunderkind son in the other.

Picture Rhoda Morgenstern doing a craft with birdseed, peanut butter and curling ribbon while managing a 7-figure budget review over her headset. Corporate Mommy is the family sitcom that brings the boardroom into the dining room.

Who can forget the time she tried to get mascara off her tongue before a big client meeting? Or the time she just missed hitting the ‘mute’ button before her son told a co-worker about her breasts?

On a given day, Elizabeth might find herself explaining to her employees the difference between their corporate emails and startrek.alt.newsgroup or putting out a house fire in her living room. The world of Corporate Mommy is a wild and unpredictable ride!

As a mother working in senior management, Corporate Mommy (Elizabeth) faces the challenge of so many modern parents - finding balance. Often is the time that a 2-hour teleconference on determining the earned value of a program seems like a nice break from chasing an active and precocious preschooler. While her husband envies her easy commute (down the hall) and her “business casual” attire (jeans); she envies his escape to a world full of other adults each day.

Elizabeth's huband, Corporate Daddy (CD), is a tall, dark, and quiet Scandinavian who is the perfect foil for his short, curvy and blonde wife. CD happily indulges his Elizabeth’s love of FarScape, and freely admits he said “I love you” first. As well as his IT career and his university studies in robotics, CD’s most compelling interest is in being a great father.

But the breakout star of this family sitcom is undeniably Corporate Son (Bear). You've seen his coppery good looks on the covers of "Toddler Times" and "PreSchooler Beat". A long-awaited Miracle Baby, Bear’s passions include outsmarting his babysitter, snappy comebacks., music (dancing, listening, encouraging, even discussing Warren Zevon tunes), and recording his poopies for posterity. Bear’s sweetness is, by now, legendary. His career goal is to become the Blue Power Ranger.

Check your local listings and join the Corporate Mommy family of fans today!

Posted on December 08, 2004 at 09:26 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Let It Snow

November 24, 2004

Picture by Elizabeth: Bear and CD | The first big snow at Little House, 02/2002

We woke up late, both of us sick now. Outside it is cold and windy and dark. He burrowed in his covers and asked, just to be certain, "Today Daddy comes home on a plane?" And I answered, "Yes, Bear." Assured, he peeked out a little bit and looked out his window. After a while he asked "And then will it snow?"

Isn't it amazing, the magic of snow? It's drizzling here, but it's cold. We're ready for our magic. Bring it on, let it snow....

Posted on November 24, 2004 at 11:52 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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I am UberChick - the mighty new multi-handed rapping superhero who can leap bad vendors in a single bound!

November 11, 2004

For those of you keeping score at home, we are now at 48 hours until my birthday.

So what have I been up to in preparation of this important galactic holiday?

On the one hand, my crazy job is just busting out all with good news.

Yeah, I'm lying.

Actually, I am surrounded by bad crazy people. I'm stressing so bad that my mentor called me tonight and cautioned me that it's not a good idea to do my One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest impression while leaving status updates on his voice mail. He is after all, a vice president. Try and have some decorum, for heaven's sake.

But Muffins on a stick, how many ways exactly can a vendor's product break? I mean REALLY. I'm from the boonies of New England. So I get all wobbly thinking 9 or 10 zeroes look like real money. And I start expecting things like .. uhh... a working product for that kind of dough.

And definitely not excuses like "the dog ate my code". Or my personal favorite; "whoops?". Definitely. Not.

I do not WANT any more service restoration team meetings, root cause analysis reports, change requests, tiger teams, red teams, rapid response plans, or executive summits. No I do NOT, Sam-I-Am.

On the other hand, oh lookie there - CD is leaving on Sunday for 10 days on a sudden business trip to Texas. Which means that from here to Thanksgiving week I get to juggle the futtlemuch Vendors (see above) and the full-time responsibility of da'Bear. Which, you know, is cool. Because I'm a Superhero.

But wait.

All is not lost.

Because here in on this last hand, which is looking pretty puffy because I'm retaining enough water to source Niagra Falls... there is my husband - who just ran to a library 45 minutes away to check out their FarScape DVD collection so I'd have something to watch on those cold lonely nights without him.

AND in the yellow bedroom with a slide-a-bed and the Rescue Hero collection? There is my Bear sleeping with his face in the pillow and his rumpus up in the air. For you non-parents, this is also known in Yoga as child's pose. Oh. My. Stars. Scrumptious, this is. Adorable.

And absolutely guaranteed to get you humming "I like Big Butts and I cannot lie..." Even if, like me, that's the ONLY lyric you know to the song. Just wiggle a little and hum until it comes around again on the refrain...

You know what I want for my birthday? For real?

A nap.

Posted on November 11, 2004 at 11:01 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Report Card

Just like so many before us, CD and I huddled before Bear was born and made him so many promises. Last night, I began to think about how we were doing....
(Hummed, where available in Blog-o-sonic, to the tune of 'Forever Young' by Bob Dylan.)

1. We promise that you will always be loved, that you will know love as an action we choose every day;

2. We promise that you will always know that you are part of the family (even if we embaress you into disavowing us from ages 11-18)

3. We promise that in our family, we will give, teach, and demand: respect, kindness, cooperation and sharing

4. We promise to laugh. We promise that you will hear laughter in you home as long as we live. We promise to inspire your laughter, share your laughter, and laugh at you every time you let us dress you for Halloween

5. We promise that you will always have the necessities of life

6. We promise that you will know hardship; that we will do everything we can to prepare you for it; that we will model to you the power that comes from doing what is hard and what is right

7. We promise that we will always have your back, that you will always know that there are at least two people in this world who believe in you - even when you're wrong, even when you're afraid, even when you pretend not to care

8. We promise that we will do everything we can to teach you how and when to fight for yourself - physically, vocally, emotionally, intelligently

9. We promise that we will make a path in your life to God, and that you will know there is something greater than yourself to which you are responsible

10. We promise that our goal is to grow you right out of our house. That we will be preparing you for that every moment we are lucky enough to be parenting you:

That we will teach you how to take care of your body; how to wipe; how to groom; how to tweeze; the importance of protective equipment; the addictive rush of physical exertion; the thrill of competition; the bonding that comes from of team sports; how to be a friend; how to see past the differences to the samenesses;

the value of a dollar; how to balance a checkbook; how to cook for yourself and anyone else who may come along;

how to avoid making anyone else come along until you are ready; what "ready" means;

how to buy a condom; how to buy a car; how to buy a house; how to buy a melon; how to how to budget sensibly; how to save for long-away dreams;

how bear an injustice; how not to;

how to drive a car; how to take care of your things;

how to change a fuse; how to write a research paper in a single night; how to patch drywall; how to make a paper airplane;

how to travel; how to pack lightly;

how to make a good first impression; how to get back up when you fall down; how to dress for the occcasion; how to waltz; how to iron a dress shirt;

how to have a conversation; how to forgive; how to be grateful; how to be still.

11. We promise to honor your dreams more than the ones we will have for you

12. We promise you our honesty. We promise that we will squirm and blush, but we will not hide from answering the questions you may have

13. We promise you that there will be rules; and we won't back down from our expectations that you follow them

14. We promise to read you a story

15. We promise to proudly pull out those baby pictures of you - especially the ones in the bathtub - with the least amount of provocation and whenever possible

And because RP asked
: We give ourselves a B-.

We both find it harder to stay "present" to Bear that we'd thought. Sometimes we find ourselves "unplugging" from him much more than we ever thought. Oh, the guilt, the GUILT! Using the TV or letting him slip into his own world in his room or at the playground.

And we TOTALLY dropped off the list all the things we thought we'd do SOOOO well - like NOT having TV, or making all his food (From scratch! Organic!) and never letting him see the inside of a McDonalds (Yeah, right - he can tell you what kind of toy he wants in his Happy Meal *groan*) or things like crafts (Tie-Dying his clothes! With vegetable dyes we make ourselves! From things gathered on our nature walks! That we take in protest of strip mining!).

This was inspired by someone, can't remember who.... Tell me and I will credit you

Posted on November 11, 2004 at 09:40 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The Great Pumpkin

October 17, 2004

Picture by Elizabeth: Into the Pumpkin Farm, 10/2004

Today was the annual trek to the pumpkin farm.

Since he was born, we've used a picture of Bear atop pumpkins as our Christmas Card. Yes, the hair. Right. So off we went, in eleventy-degree freezing weather. But clear as a bell, with colors aglow.

This place is nearly an amusement park. With food stands and a gift shop and pig races (yes, Arnold Schwartzenpigger won!) and a maze through the corn fields. Bear petted everything at the petting zoo, including some animals that would surprise you. Baby Water Buffalos, as it turns out, have warm tongues. In case you were wondering.

We got our pictures, and even a pumpkin. Bear threw himself atop a large misshapen thing that he hugged and rolled towards us, pleading with his big blue eyes. We gave in. We're suckers. CD carried the beast for a quarter mile back to the car, a sleepy and grateful Bear tagging behind happily.

Picture by Elizabeth: Pumpkin Field, 10/2004

I'm wind-burnt, full-up, happy, and not entirely de-stressed. I head off to dreams of John Crichton and caramel apples. Good night.

Posted on October 17, 2004 at 11:23 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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With This Ring

October 16, 2004

It is a cold and dark and blustery day in Chicagoland. The three of us burrowed under the down comforter this morning until the last possible minute. Reluctantly Bear and I dropped CD off at work.

"Where are we going to go now?" Bear asked me as I turned onto Lake Shore Drive.

Good question.

Picture by Elizabeth: Runner on Lake Michigan, 10/2004

The lake was deep green and almost deserted. Navy Pier was lit up like a neon sign. So I swung into the $19 parking lot and in we trundled - over, over, around the strange singing people, and up the escalator to the Children's Museum.

Bear liked everything: the dinosaur dig, the water works, the construction zone, the ambulance and safety display, but his absolute favorite thing was Clifford's world.

He strapped on an official mail bag and delivered and picked up letters from the mailboxes scattered throughout the display. Then he would sort them at the 'Birdwell Post Office'. Giggle, concentrate, triumphantly match, rinse, repeat.

Picture by Elizabeth: Bear in Birdwell Post Office, 10/2004

I was struck by how many Dads were there. Usually, Bear and I hit the Children's Museums (we have a national membership) during the week when, and not to be sexist but reality is what it is, there is hardly a dad to be found.

Today, though, it was Dads-aplenty. All ages, sizes, colors, and shapes. And wedding rings galore. Big yellow gold numbers, thin silvery ones, and all kinds in between.

As Bear did his rounds back and forth, I watched families sifting around us. I smiled as one man gently tucked a strand of hair behind his wife's ear, the engraving of his ring catching the light. Another man, handsome and leather jacketed, enwined his fingers with his wife's and then pulled them up so he could kiss the back of her hand.

I laughed as one dad with gold practically down to his knuckle laid down in submission on the floor while his 3 boys (THREE!) pounced all over him. His wife held their pile of coats and tried to stifle a laugh as her man caught an accidental knee to the groin. His "oof!" had 20 of us, nearby, in a compassionate group groan.

I missed CD, and thought about how much fun he'd have with us. I thought about how his ring would join the tonnage of husbands' rings in the room. I thought about how profound and sacred it is to push a ring on someone's finger and claim them as your mate.

It's that moment. That intimate, vulnerable moment when the question is asked - "will you? me?". A wedding ring shouts "yes"!

In my religion we call it 'an outward symbol of an inward grace'.

I know not all cultures use them. My parents never wore wedding rings in the 22 years they were married. So I have no idea how I come by this... conviction. But there is something about them that resonates deep in my soul.

On an autumn night a long time ago, I once danced on a sidewalk under a streetlight to Anita Baker's Giving you the Best That I got as it echoed out to us from a party. I remember getting choked up at the line "I bet everything on my wedding ring".

I still get choked up when I hear that line.

Shaking off my thoughts, I saw that the big dog himself had showed up for an interview with a television crew. Bear informed me that the “guy in the Clifford costume� gave him "a bad feeling" so we put away the postal tools and moved on.

Picture by Elizabeth: Clifford, 10/2004

Bear held my hand, and twirled my ring.

I smiled to myself.

Back on the road, the hard winds rocking the van at the stoplight, dang if that Anita Baker song didn't come on the radio. Guess I was in synch with somebody out in radioland.

I sang loudly and badly as we looped out of Navy Pier. I got choked up at the end like I always do. The streets felt almost deserted. The wind was pushing aginst the few people out on the sidewalks. The threatening sky was a dark ceiling overhead, and I wondered if we'd make it hom before the rain hit.

Picture by Elizabeth: Leaving Navy Pier, 10/2004

“Mommy?� Bear asked, puffy-eyed and tired in the back seat.

“Yes, Bear?� I answered, turning down the music.

“Next time, we should bring Daddy. OK? Does that sound like a good idea?�

“That sounds like an excellent idea,� I agreed.

And I thought of CD, wearing my ring as he worked. A physical, visible, unspoken announcement that he is a part of me, wherever he is. And me, a part of him.

And we... a part of him.

Posted on October 16, 2004 at 09:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Promise Me

October 13, 2004

Make me a promise.

Promise me if CD and I don't work things out, that you'll help me hold on to my humanity. Promise me you'll print this out, this open letter of Post-Nuptial promise and you'll stick it to my head with Crazy Glue so I can't avoid my own words.

Promise me.

Not that we're getting divorced. I know love isn't enough but it counts for some serious glue - and we do actually have a bulldozer full of it for each other. Adoring, sweet, scrumptious kind love for each other.


I was reading Emily's blog today and she isn't the first one to demonize her Ex. To end up in an angry battle where she and he are slinging unholy mud at each other. I mean even in my own family, this has happened before my own eyes.

Two people, who make a child together. Who will be the only two people in the world who will ever, ever be so in love together for that baby and who that baby grows up to be.


Remind me that CD was the one, who believed even after the doctor had given up. Remind me that CD roared Bear's name, grinning, when that heartbeat showed strong. Remind me that we slept together, and it was CD's neck that pillowed our new Bear, and how I wept with too much love.

If it all falls apart, and I strap on the gloves, stop me.

Point to CD, and tell me again how this man has every right that I do to our child. That he is flawed and infuriating sometimes but he is good always. That he should never have to beg for his access to his child. That nothing he does to me as a husband should be taken out on him as a father.

Remind me.

If I forget and allow this miracle, this child we walked through coals to have, to become a bone between two dogs. Kick me in the ass.

Remind me that I am an adult, and can use my words. That I am an adult and can use my ears. That I am an adult and know how to share gracefully.

That every tragedy does not have to have a bad guy.

Promise me that you will squeeze my hand and point my anger to ground, where it will not defile my son's heroic vision of his father.

Promise me that no matter what, I will not assume that I am somehow the more entitled parent because of biology.

Promise me that you will help guide me away from retribution or fear to a place where I remember that no divorce could ever stop me from sharing parenthood with CD.

I know that we don't all get happily ever after. I learned that a long time ago. But I fully intend to spend the rest of my life with this man, and torture my son with the embarrassment of finding my dead body astride his father's - with a wicked grin on my face and my false teeth in a glass by the bed.

But just in case. I mean, just as a plan for a very last resort ...

Promise me.


Posted on October 13, 2004 at 08:28 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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The First Weekend

October 10, 2004

Fall is our season, me and Bear's.

I was a stay at home mom and he was a newborn in the fall of 2000. I pushed him marathons of miles on those city sidewalks deep with leaves. We were bundled against the brisk wind, and would often stop at the local coffee shop to breathe in the warm steam.

After that, it was set. It gets colder, and Bear and I seem to reconnect.

I remember last year, one afternoon, Bear came up to me and announced that we should rake the leaves. So out we went, and for crisp sunny hours we built and destroyed the same piles over and over.

This weekend felt like the first real weekend of autumn. The chill has settled into the mornings, although the days are fine. The leaves have just begun to turn.

With CD working, Bear and I indulged ourselves. Friday night we grabbed a flashlight and walked for almost 2 hours around the neighborhood admiring all the Halloween displays.

Everywhere else is amateur league it seems, compared to here - my own personal Pleasantville. Here, people decorate for each season as if, at any time, a truck could come by and haul your house off to be in a parade. Bear and I admired the dozens of displays, the colored lights and ghosts and giant spiderwebs. The orange spotlights on scarecrows and pumpkins.


Saturday we dawdled for hours, playing at the park and leting Bear ride his bike along the sidewalks with first fallen leaves crunching beneath his wheels. His Spiderman backpack filled with a snack, and his PowerRanger sword from his costume near at hand, in case an Immortal should suddenly appear and need to be dueled.


Today we snuggled at home, he dressed in full Blue Power Ranger kit and me, well, not. He dragged over a chair and helped me finally clear out the backlog of dishes. We made apple smelling suds with Dawn and scrubbed side by side, playing an alphabet game - coming up with as many words as we could for a particular sound.

At bedtime, he pulled over his current favorite book - a poem by James Riley - and we read it together, the words we've almost got down by heart. These are the days that take the sting out of the rest of life. It was a good weekend. It was a great weekend. And I think? We both needed one.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here --
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock --
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries -- kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below -- the clover over-head! --
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

From: WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN, by James Whitcomb Riley

Posted on October 10, 2004 at 10:27 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Oh, the Ya-Ya's we'll see

October 08, 2004

Never heard of ya-ya’s? Strap a preschooler into a 5-point harness in a minivan. Start driving. No matter how many DVD's, sing-alongs, sticker books or snacks you run through - eventually, the child's head will start to spin in complete rotation while he screams the theme to Digimon over and over like a satanic chant.

Remember that? From the never-ending fairy tale that was our trip to Boston JUST THIS AUGUST?

Like labor and my wedding planning, I'd had the Asgard remove those 60 hours (there and back) from my memory banks so I wouldn't go stark raving loony and start doing illegal things with flowers beyond just the getting-to-know-you conversations we've been having lately.

But now, now it rushes back to me. In Technicolor. And I am afraid.

I am very afraid.

CD (in the background): Honey? Which route are we taking this time? New York or Ohio?

Me (shuddering, muttering, to myself): help

Posted on October 08, 2004 at 06:12 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Be Like Homer

Today we found out that my beloved Uncle is sick. He is very sick. As my Aunt wrote: "Keep us in your positive thoughts. I want more time with this man."

After I found out, I wasn't doing a good job of holding it together. This was definitely a "Take this job and shove it" day. But some things couldn't be rescheduled on account of life sucking. So I called up this old picture, and put one foot in front of the other.

Like my husband's favorite Simpson's episode - the one that ends with Homer, at his job station, surrounded by pictures of Baby Maggie. The sign above him has been altered so it reads "Do it for her."


P.S. They still fall asleep like this, and I still sneak up and take pictures when they do. I've learned to turn off the flash, though.

P.P.S. All good thoughts for my Uncle are deeply, deeply appreciated.

Posted on October 08, 2004 at 12:37 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Back to Good

October 05, 2004

Everyone hides shades of shame,
But looking inside we’re the same,
We’re the same and we’re all grown now,
But we don’t know how
To get it back to good

- Matchbox Twenty

Since we got back from our Boston trip last month, it's been a struggle. It's like depression is catching and I caught some. It’s been harder to laugh, and easier to cry.

A lot of invisible lines have been crossed, and instead of dealing with things I just kept lowering the bar. It's OK to gain those few pounds back; it's OK to let this report or that presentation slide. It's OK to watch people I love flounder, let them sort it out for themselves. The laundry is just as good from the basket as the shelf.

And then the other night, I was looking for that thing that you use to clean ceiling fans, and it wasn't in the first place I looked. I sat on the floor, angry and frustrated and CD said from the doorway, hands on his hips; "What?”

And I said, "I don't want to live like this, anymore."

And his mouth made an irritated moue, with a gust of exhaled air. And he made some defensive noises - like yes, he knows. It isn't all peaches and cream right now. So, why was I rubbing his nose in it?

But I wasn't. And he's bright, our CD, so he caught on quick. This is about me. This is about me and not him and not Bear. This is about something going on in me, maybe a mid-life crisis. And it isn't going to be solved easy.

I can't talk, about what's in my head. Not here. Not yet.

Progress comes in baby steps towards improvement. Making it a little better each day until some of these bigger knots get a little looser.

And tonight? Well, tonight was a miracle. It was a trip back to Normal, and it was like a tonic. A fresh warm breeze in the morning when you expected frost.

We caught the magic hour of afternoon might and headed over to Fantastic Sam's. You know the place? They have a Barbie's Pink Convertible for Bear to sit in and Dum-Dum Lollipops for after the haircut. And the people there, they come running for my Bear. They admire his manners and bring little plastic bags so we can capture the glorious copper silk they chop from his head.


Then we drove over to the shopping plaza, windows open. Talking about Rescue Heroes, and going out pumpkin shopping next weekend, and household stuff. Admiring the way fall was flirting with the bits of Illinois prairie visible here and there.


Pulled into CD's secular Mecca. Got stripper for the antique door we hauled 1000 miles ("Thwacka Thwacka Thwacka"). Bear investigated every snow blower on display. Every. One. In fact, gave a tour to one of the HD Employees - showing which ones had "pusher spouts" and which ones "were not very big".


And as the sun set over the strip mall, we headed home again home again lickety split.


The guys made nice with the king of domestic power tools - the canister vacuum. They Hoovered and I attacked the kitchen. It was the most non-kosher meal ever created (I know this, because I once served it to a Kosher Jew. One doesn't forget being caught THAT much without a clue) - Beef Stroganoff. Made with steak and mushrooms and red wine and cream, over Lite egg noodles. Like drinking a Diet Coke with a Big Mac, but the effort was there.

And Bear went to sleep, in non-Superman pajamas (because both pairs were in the wash). And CD took a hot bath, after satisfying himself that I was all right. That it had been an OK night.

But it had been more than that. It was a normal night. It had been a baby step, back to good.

Posted on October 05, 2004 at 12:39 AM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Stupid Snaps and Bad Puddles

October 04, 2004

Twice a year, I wake up at Freezing Forsaken Crack O'Dawn and drive 45 minutes to a county fairground. There, I stand in line for about 90 minutes, hopping up and down, and drinking the last of my very-bad no-good McD's coffee (with about 100 sugars). And finally, at 8AM, I pay my dollar and get the 30 seconds all that effort bought me.

30 seconds as the first (FIRST!) one at the piles of boy's clothes at the worlds nicest and best-run rummage sale you will ever find.

Here, gender stereotypes are proven. Because the piles of girl clothing actually teeter; pastel towers that reach up to eye level. Adults smoothly sort through them, chatting to each other. Chatting!!

By comparison, the little piles at the boys' tables are scraps. They are grabbed up indiscriminately by snarling, territorial parents. Sweat pants and pajamas are pounced on in rabid packs. It's not all 'Lord of the Flies' though - some civility remains as we growl "Excuse me" to each other while ripping windbreakers off hangars.

There are "sorting tables" at the back, where you can surreptitiously flip through your booty. My piles of blue and red give me away as a “boy” parent, and anything I discard into the "return to tables" box is immediately grabbed up by a pack of wild adults, who've been eyeing me and drooling.

This is a 'good' resale - all the clothes are good quality. No visible stains, rips, loose hems or anything like that. The clothes I bring home are a mix of Tar-jay and Old Navy labels as well as Gap, Children's Place, and Gymboree.

But it's getting harder and harder. Boys' clothing past 4T gets worn out, not outgrown. There was less to choose from at this recent sale and I was hard-pressed this time to find even half of what Bear will need for the next 6 months.

Plus, the women who have been my partners and advisors in this twice-annual pilgrimage have all dropped out, one by one. I was alone in the crowd.

So it was a uniquely poignant frustration that followed Bear's accident on the bathroom floor last night.

He was wearing a pair of his "new" pants for the first time and I hadn't realized when I bought them that the snap was very tight. Bear couldn't undo it in time, as he bounced around doing the "potty dance" while I was running his tub.

By the time we got him free, there was a small puddle. He looked so sad, as I quickly wiped it up.

"I’m sorry," he said, from atop his throne and using an entire roll of Charmin on that which was about to be in a sudsy bath.

"No worries, sweetie. I’m sorry that there’s a bad snap on the pants," I said, pulling on the fastener to make it a little looser. "But now it should be fixed. All better."

And even though I knew that I could have just as randomly spent $25 on a new pair of pants and had them be just as stupidly designed, suddenly I was just overwhelmed. I love our life. The sacrifices that we make are negligible, when weighed against the reward of bringing up Bear ourselves, at home. So I don’t mind, that he’s wearing used pants with a stupid snap.

But sometimes? I do.

Bear flushed the toilet a couple of times just to be sure and clambered past me into his tub. Then he clambered out again and hugged me. “I like my blue pants,” he whispered in my ear. My chest hurt so bad with love, that I almost started crying.

When he was back in his tub, he looked down and said “Oops, puddle!”

I threw down a towel on it and smiled. “This was a good puddle,” I said, doing the “twist” to wipe it up with my feet.

And he laughed. And it made me laugh, too.

Posted on October 04, 2004 at 07:15 AM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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My Guys (See? I'm not deep)

September 30, 2004

This is for Helen, whom I adore and who (evil, evil) had the temerity to call me "deep". Oh, my broken heart. I will thus endeavor to be as absolutely silly and shallow as I can for the rest of the week. This made possible because the quarterly review is OVER and DONE. Ding, dong the meeting's done! The meeting's done! The meeting's done! Bwa-double-HA for at least another 10 weeks! (Can you tell I've had twice as much coffee as I've had hours of sleep? Can you? WELL?)

Without further ado:

"Well, my tummy wants pocorn. And my mouth wants yoghurt. So I think I need chocolate."
- Bear, to Elia and I, on his choice of snack.

"No, Bear. No. Although, I like your thinking...."
- CD, To Bear, as he insisted that Elia didn't actually have to go home last night and could spend the night in the lower bunk of his bed.

"What are we supposed to do? Duck?"
- CD, to me and Bear, as we drove past a sign on our way home that said 'Beware Low Flying Planes'.

-Bear, in response.

"*big sigh* Pajama Sam needs a time out."
- Bear, on being foiled at his computer game.

"That's OK, Mommy. This is a hard song."
- Bear, last night, on correcting my air guitar to Genisis' 'Follow You Follow Me' as we bounced on the daybed during a work break.

"Mommy! I love this song! Dance with me, baby!"
- Bear, to me, in response to the opening bars of "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas.

"Dance with me, baby, PLEASE!"
- Bear, to me, upon being told that the previous was unacceptable language.

"No more Doody Brothers, Mommy! I mean it!"
- Bear, on my choice of music.

"This is for Daddy, so he will get better."
-Bear, on giving me a cracker yesterday that he'd 'cooked' in his play kitchen, for CD who was sick in bed.

"Mommy! Don't yell at the squirrels! They aren't eating the flowers. They are sniffing the flowers. See? *SNIFF!* Be quiet to the squirrels, they don't like yelling."
"Bear, they are NOT sniffing. They are eating. They are eating our flowers and our tulip bulbs. That's naughty."
"Mommy, they are sniffing. They TOLD me."
- Bear, as we were outside this morning.

"Mommy, I think you need a nap now."
- Bear, interrupting my 4th chorus of "Ding Dong the Meeting's Dead"

Posted on September 30, 2004 at 12:15 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Goodbye Summer, You Piece of Crap

September 22, 2004

It doesn't seem fair to blame summer for the problems we've been facing the last 3 months.

But? I'm still happy to see it GO GO GO.

Complaining isn't my bag, but these last days of the season have been a BITCH in need of a smack. To get you in the mood for this recent litany of woe, let's choose some music. There was a mean, tacky song about Ted Kennedy when I was growing up. It went:

Your Father's Dead
and Your Mother's Dead
and Your Brother's Dead
and Your Brother's Dead
And Your car doesn't float.
(And you'll never be presidenttttttttt...)

In the mood? OK here goes...

1) My brother hurt himself catching a football. My brother, who has played hockey for 25 years, got hurt catching a football. This morning, he had 4+ hours of open-throat surgery (yeah, ew) so they could dig pieces of a broken disk out of his spinal column and put in some titanium. How scary and awful is that?

2) Friday, the phone rings. "Honey?" CD says. "Where are you?" I ask. "Walking home," CD said, huffing. "Guh?" I respond, intelligently. "The van wouldn't start when I came out of Blockbuster," he informs me. Turns out? Broken battery electrical thingy or something. 2 days of cafutzing, plus $$$ out of savings.

3) Friday, some more. My mom calls to read me letter that came for me at her house. Seems there's been a freakout with the DMV's computer, and they're suspending my license. For an a fine that was levied 18 YEARS AGO. (Also? PAID) Mom asks me "Well, didn't you take care of this?" "Yes mom. I went through this 10 years ago, had to get receipts and letters of clearance when I got my Mass License. Don't you remember?" "Well," she says, "Then you should still have the receipts, right?" Uh, no. No indeedy. When I moved cross-country to start a new corporate life, with only a backpack of belongings - can you believe? I DIDN'T SAVE THE RECEIPTS. Oh, it's going to be suspended in 3 weeks. In the middle of my business trip. For an executive summit. Gah.

4) Sunday, watching Bear at the playground. He'd just completed his first week with CD as a temporary stay-at-home dad and it had been a trying week for all of us. So we were having a "fun break" but then Bear bumped his head and started crying. Bear couldn't stop crying, and I started rocking him and cuddling him and trying to comfort him. I had been sitting in a little blue house, playing along with him because there were no kids his age around. In between snotty bouts of tears, Bear asked me if I was going to miss the blue house when we left the playground. He insisted I take a picture of it. Even after I did, he was not consoled. I think maybe that he was missing his school, and his friends, and that the new arrangement with Daddy was wearing on him. Realized that I am an awful, bad, evil mommy.

9-19-2004 017.jpg

5) Monday. Am informed by actual operational boss that I will no longer be running my program. Am being somewhat demoted so I can support another program. Apeshit ensues.

6) Monday night. Dinner meeting with vendor. They had giveaway goodie bags. This was supposed to be GOOD. Except? The shirts won't fit me. They are classy button down shirts, with NO ROOM FOR BOOBS. Women, in my part of the industry, still uncommon. Not UNHEARD OF. But hey. Also? I got HUGGED. No one else got hugged. Just me. Maybe they liked my boobs.

7) Tuesday, really ready to vomit with stress. Limit future career options to save my current posting in a series of political machinations that would make Machiavelli proud. Some people in my company are very glad, and cheer. Others are giving me the stinkeye and plotting.

8) But wait, when I woke up - my phones weren't working. Took 2 hours to fix that. Lovely phone company. Lovely. Not like I was trying to rearrange breakfast meetings, save my job, or find out how my brother - who was having OPEN THROAT SURGERY (thankyouverymuch) - was doing.

To recap:

Brother. Ow.
Son. Oh, honey...
Car. $$$.
Current Job. Yikes.
Career. Yeah, tired of being the only one with boobs. Well, wait - some of the guys... ok ok. Let me rephrase. The only one in a bra.
Driver's License. tick, tick tick...

And? And? I'm back up a pant size since vacation.

(Dare me to say it? Dare me? You DO?!)

And my car doesn't float.

Tags: Life, work, vendor, bad news,
Posted on September 22, 2004 at 02:07 AM and filed under: In My Life
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The Way We Were

September 17, 2004

CD and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this week.

Our love story isn't tidy. It was uncomfortable at times, and overlapped other lives. Too much drama.

When CD and I met, it was an explosion of chemistry. After the dust cleared, we agreed - looking at our goals and our situations - that it made sense to keep it casual. It was to be dinners and a movie. It was to be conversation and long walks. It was to be lighthearted. No hard feelings. No strings, no profound expectations, no exclusivity.

About 3 or 4 months into it, I rented my spare bedroom to a guy who was relocating to Chicago.

My new roommate, "Harry", was a co-worker of CD's . I'd met him about a month after I'd met CD. I'd had 2 or 3 dates with Harry and it had been "meh". He was more enchanted by my circle of friends than he was with me. So it was with a little relief that I stipulated that we would NOT date if he was living in my apartment. Completely platonic. He said he understood.

Of course, he immediately began acting as though we were married.

With sinking anger, I realized that I had gotten myself into one of those sticky interpersonal situations that are so agonizing for me.

Continue reading "The Way We Were"
Tags: Love, Relationship, Dating, Marriage, Story, Life, Together
Posted on September 17, 2004 at 04:54 PM and filed under: Thy Wedded Life
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Slow Boat to Chicago

September 07, 2004

".... it was like having a giant thudding vibrator strapped to our heads. The only relief would come on the open upward stretches, when the van simply buzzed around us"

This is the worst of the trip, the part we were awake for... Boston to Pennsylvania, the longest 580 miles. Ever.

Start time: 6AM, Sunday Morning
Route: Mass Pike - 134 miles
Time: 5 hours 15 minutes

Our alarms were set for 5:30AM and it was still dusky dark when we pulled out of my mom's driveway. We hit Dunkin Donuts (CD - "Can we get going already?") and then put our backs to the sunrise and hopped the highway towards the Mass Pike.

As soon as we hit 50 mph, the antique door that we had bought at New England Salvage and strapped to the roof rack started making a horrible noise; "thwacka thwacka THWACKATHWACKA!"

We pulled over and rearranged the door. Bear, almost asleep in the back, groaned.

20 more miles. 30 more minutes of "THWACKA thwacka THWACKA!"

Holy crap, we were barely to Worcester and we couldn't go over 50mph without rendering ourselves senseless with the noise. We stopped to readjust that ^(*&*$#@! door about a dozen times. We came thisclose to hucking it into a drainage ditch.

There are some serious hills on the Mass Pike. The road is forcibly wedged into rock cliffs, the striations from the dynamite blasts still visible. As the road narrowed, the 'thwacka' noise would increase - it was like having a giant thudding vibrator strapped to our heads. The only relief would come on the open upward stretches, when the van simply buzzed around us, quietly.

By Sturbridge, we were all bonkers. We pulled into the service center and had breakfast, got gas, and ran like banshees in circles. Bear's backseat nest was rearranged and his new Digimon DVD restarted. CD battled the door (again).

"Thwacka! ThwackThwackThwackTHWACKA!" for another hour as we gritted our teeth and made for the New York border.

New York
Hit the border on: Sunday Morning, 11:15AM
Route: NY State Thruway - 442 miles
Time: 11 hours 45 minutes

The first 125 miles of New York state passed in stupor. We were 3 numb bunnies, staring with glassy eyes at the miles of asphalt.

We'd passed through miles of construction, beautiful scenery, and glorious weather and never noticed a thing.

Thwacka. Thwacka.

By Utica, CD had passed back into anger and defiantly pulled off the thruway looking for a Target or something and some kind of solution.

What we found instead was a place called Big Lots. We'd never been to a Big Lots before. Oh. My. Stars. Have you ever been to a Big Lots? This is like a nice clean flea market.

We found a bunch of Rescue Heroes action figures and stuff for Bear's birthday! We found snacks! We found a bra! We found a cheap, streamlined boombox for Bear! We found a garden sprinkler thing! And best of all? We found a foam egg crate mattress liner!

All this, for like 5 bucks.

Out in the parking lot, CD and I pulled the %^#@@! door off the van roof, wrapped it in egg crate, and put it back on. We got back on the road.


Oh, the blessing this was. I can't begin to explain. Nirvana.

I stuck the cruise control on 72mph and we tried to make up some of our lost time.

The next 200 miles spun by in a blur. Other than some bathroom and gas breaks, we sailed into the sunset on wings.

In Buffalo, we asked the toll booth guy for directions to his favorite hot wings joint. He sent us to Duffs. Wowza. CD, who is a hot wings gourmand of the highest caliber, purred like a kitten. Bear and I played in the grass with his new action figures.

Then we decided, what the heck?! Let's go to Canada.

After about 15 minutes waiting about a mile from the border in traffic, we decided that Canada? Not so much.

We turned around and headed to Niagara Falls. We pulled into the park just about sunset.

The lookout tower over Niagara

It was a 3-hour detour, give or take. We were all physically exerted, fed, and awed by the time we clambered back into the car. The plan was to drive to Erie and spend the night at a hotel.

40 miles later, we pulled into the Angola rest area - which actually sits in the grassy thruway median, accessible via a walking bridge from either side of the highway.

We took over the family bathroom (I love family bathrooms) to wash up, brush teeth, change into soft clothes/pajamas, and whatnot. Then we made a family decision - we were feeling strong, it was only around 10 PM. Erie was about an hour or so away - but did we really need to stop? Why not just keep driving until we got tired?

So we picked up some coffee and juice, cleaned up the car some and rearranged Bear's nest back into optimal sleeping position. The cool night air was good for a few stretches.

50 miles to the the Pennsylvania border, 550 miles home, a full tank of gas, a sleeping (wait - what time is it here?) 3 year old, a cooler full of juice and snacks, and a quiet door strapped to the roof.

Hit it.

Continue reading "Slow Boat to Chicago"
Tags: Road, Trip, Family, Life, Memory, Humor
Posted on September 07, 2004 at 08:33 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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Fenway Cathedral

September 02, 2004


Fenway Park, from Sect 18, Box 39, Row G, Seat 1
Game 67: Ana 7 - BoSox 12 (Yeah Baby), 09/01/2004

My old friend Kevin was into baseball in a very big way and infected me with it when I was in my 20's. I lost count of how many games we caught together.

I remember one night, Kevin and I drove around Chicago looking for a somewhere quiet we could talk. It was a melancholy night, just before he moved away.

Finally he pulled over on Addison, and I looked up at that old sign over the stadium. "I think this," he told me quietly as we gazed at Wrigley Field, "is about as Holy a place in Chicago as you could find."

I understood.

Baseball is a language that has given me common ground with other people as well. Like my dad.

Last night, he took CD and I to the Red Sox-Anaheim Angels game. Dad surprised us with amazing seats, and we lucked out with weather - warm with a cool breeze and a bright moon.

Johnny Damon got 5 hits for 5 at-bats and made it home 3 times. Millar got a 3-run homer. Manny got walked a couple of times. Red Sox spanked Anaheim. It was a rollicking boisterous game, and a great time.

It was the second Fenway game I've been to with my dad.

Aug 18, 1993 was the first time we'd taken in a Red Sox home game together. We got same-day SRO tickets, White Sox/Red Sox and grabbed some programs and some beers.

Danny Darwin, #44, was the starting pitcher. Usually, the Red Sox go through pitchers in a game like a cocktail nuts at a bar - but this day would be different.

It was a sunny summer day and my dad and I found a piece of railing with a good view. As the first outs were made, Dad and I got into a rhythm - he held the beers while I scored the game. He'd look over my shoulder once in a while, correcting my marks - "That was 9 to 3" he'd say. Or, "I'm not sure they gave him the error on that play."

Midway through the top of the 3rd, and a hush began to spread around the stadium. Dad peered at my box scores and asked, "Is that what I.." and I nodded. We shared a long look, and then held our breath.

Darwin, that inconsistent pitcher, was pitching a perfect game.

The full stadium was riveted. We watched in absolute silence.

5th inning, into the 6th and we still had, unbelievably, a no-hitter on our hands. Danny was throwing strike after strike. The catcher, Tony Pena, had practically crawled out of his shorts. Darwin was cool. We were praying, pulling, with glistening eyes and bated breath.

The Chicago White Sox were swinging with everything they had. And theirs was a roster of power hitters.

But no one could get a piece of Darwin.

Finally, in the 8th, with one out, Dan Pasqua connected and ran hell bent for leather before settling on 3rd. Darwin retrieved the ball, ready to pitch to the next batter. As though nothing had happened. No sign of disappointment, just steady focus.

But the fans had were not about to let the moment slide by. Before he could throw the next pitch, we stopped the play.

The noise erupted all at once, overtaking me with emotion. My eyes were puddled with tears. I looked around and saw that every man, woman, and child was up. Dad put out beers on the ground and we joined in pounding our hands together in a beat that shook the walls.

"Darwin, Darwin..." came the cheer. We screamed ourselves hoarse for long minutes, while the refs let the man have his due. Darwin stood alone, tall on the mound.

This wasn't Ripken, or Williams, or any of the guys who I've cheered for before or since. This wasn't Ramirez last night, used to the pounding affirmation from stadium full of admirers.

This was Danny Darwin. Traded around, stats up and down, the oldest guy on the team. You think he'd want to bust out in the Macarena. But there's an unwritten code in baseball. It's dictates a calm, unruffled gratitude to appreciation. A stoic's approach to the boiling emotions of the game. Darwin embodied all the class and grace of that code on that August afternoon.

He simply nodded in acknowledgement.

And I joined with 30,000 fans to peal a last hoot of frenzied joy and appreciation before allowing Darwin to finish his day's work- a 5-0 shutout that was much more than the stats of the day.

It was the best game I've ever seen.

Last night, my Dad driving out of Boston and we look back at the park, windows open and the night breeze still soft and cool.

I got a chill watching Fenway recede. It's as Holy a place in Boston as you could find.

Tags: Baseball, Boston, Chicago, Family, Memories, Fenway, Red Sox
Posted on September 02, 2004 at 03:59 PM and filed under: In My Life
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The Only Job I Ever Wanted

August 06, 2004

Note: This is my entry for Jay Allen's cool Blogging for Books contest. The assigned topic: best or worst experience you've ever had working for someone else. I picked "all of the above". Jay has said that for this we should get our funny going. And I tried. But I have written, instead, what my husband is calling "A funeral hymn for a dream". I hope you forgive me.

Late at night, I'm holding on for tomorrow.

My son woke up this morning, and came looking for me. I wasn't there. He asked my husband "Mommy not home yet?" Because he hadn't seen me in a day. Because I came home so late last night and left so early this morning. I told myself, when I heard this with a flinch at lunch, that I would make it up to him.

I left the customer's office at 3PM but it took 2 hours to get home. I found my son, wired from watching TV all day. His teeth still unbrushed. I found my husband, writhing with the flu and a fever and hanging on by a thread.

I meant to help. I meant to.

But I had to collapse for a few hours before I could even remember my name.

I've become the kind of parent that I can't look in the eye. I cringe to think how easily I sometimes unplug from my son's life.

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

Growing up, I knew my life's ambition was to be a mom. I played teacher. I played author. I played rock star. Inside I knew being a mother was the one true thing I wanted to do with my days and my nights. Knew it like some people know they want to be astronauts, or doctors.

I also knew that paying jobs and me, well, let's just say that we didn't get along so well.

My first job? Babysitter. 13 years old. Let the popcorn catch fire and their kitchen was never the same. Paint took care of the most of this discoloration but the smell lingered for about 5 years.

My second job? Grocery store. Cashier. I stank. The manager was a family friend and he would regularly key into a register with my code and work it, in order to bing up my all-important "Items Per Minute" average.

Then my uncle died and I took off some time for the funeral. Then I asked for some more time off to go to his funeral again. Naturally, they had to fire me.

I actually felt bad for them when my father went in and demanded they expunge my records. How could they know that the shipping company had temporarily lost my uncle, necessitating an actual second funeral.

Even I thought it sounded like I was making it up.

My third job? At a restaurant. On my first day, I succeeded in committing a series of errors that, cumulatively, was nothing short of felonious.

But even after using a paper cup on the shake machine (to save time) instead of the metal one and spraying an entire line of customers with chocolate shake. Even after dropping the cash register tray on the floor, causing a scramble for money all over the restaurant. Even after exploding the top of the iced tea dispenser. Even after spilling the oil from the fryer and causing a nice cook to head to the the hospital with a possible concussion...

...Even after all that, they made me keep coming back.

Like my own "Twilight Zone" meets "Groundhog Day". The manager was my English teacher. Clearly on some kind of a Yoda trip. I, however, am no kind of a Luke Skywalker.

My first job in college? Campus tour guide. Accidentally led a group of alumni into a wedding in progress at the campus chapel.

My first job out of college? File clerk at a factory. Walking around and around a table collating a handout. And around. In nylons. In summer. In a break room. In a factory. With, you know, beefy men around. Taking LOTS of breaks. And trying to pat me.

My next job? As a temp in a trucking company, as a receptionist. I was fired after 4 days and called into my Temp Manager's office. "Elizabeth," the woman said sternly. "Don't wear your skirts so tight. Or so... yellow. And only one button undone on your blouse."

"Can it be the bottom button or does it have to be the top?" I snarked. She fired me on the spot.

Eventually, I became a chaplain. The kind of warm fuzzy job that didn't include me being near money, electricity, food or food by-products, or hornball truckers.

I regularly worked projects with other charitable agencies. One time a group of us was making our way into one of the Projects here in Chicago, when a big guy tackled me to the ground. He covered me with his sweaty body and kept telling me to shut up.

I screamed and never noticed the rest of our little group huddled nearby.

"Quiet!" He ordered in my ear. "Stay still for God's sake. Can't you see we're being shot at?"

It wasn't for another 10 years that I finally "fit" somewhere. I intuitively understood MegaCorp. It was like all these bizarre half-skills that I'd acquired all my life suddenly knit together to make me really good at something.

Hard? Yes.

Crying in the bathroom, hoping no one notices me. That kind of hard.

Learning to swim with the corporate sharks, I had a few bites taken out of me. But I am good at this. I am better at this than anyone I know outside my corporate life. I want to sing the chorus from Handel's Messiah. I love this job! I LOVE this job!

And looking back, I would have done it for a decade, maybe a lifetime, happily; stuffing my first dream away.

Then Bear came along.

And in an instant, I remembered why I was put on this Earth. I was born to be his mother.

And I dropped Mega like a hot rock.

Once he was in my arms, I knew certainly what I had known as a dream growing up. Motherhood was the only job I want as a full-time occupation. Luckily for me I had 7 months. 7 months where our plans worked and my job description was two words: Bear's Mother.

There isn't a word for how my soul felt. Happy is the pastel wannabe of the word. Amazing is a dim cousin.

Then circumstances changed and I was suddenly scrambling to nail down a paycheck job. Thank God, Mega took me back. Thank God, I do well at Mega. Thank God, Mega pays me well in return and set me up to work from home.

But there are days when I have to leave before he wakes. Days I am still gone when he goes to sleep. And I don't get to pick the days. Sometimes those are the days when Bear really needs me. One time it was the day he took his first steps. This is not Mega's fault. These are my choices.

Even though it's the only job I ever wanted, it's not my only job.

That means after doing dozens of jobs really, really, really badly I find myself torn between 2 jobs I love.

Well, maybe "torn" is not the right word. "Torn" implies that I am tugged between knowing which one I should do. I know I should be with my son.

What has me "torn" is the work. Ripped up inside over increments of hours, when my ability to prioritize is hog-tied. When the almighty dollar comes first and I twist in agony waiting to get back to who is really important.

God help me, I have not turned out to be the mother I could have been or the mother I wanted to be.

I am trying, instead, to be the best mother I can be.

I'm making decisions in the creases and sometimes? Too often? I am getting it wrong. Those are the times, like right now - like at this very moment in the deep of the night -that I just pray and hold on.

Hold on for tomorrow and try again.

Continue reading "The Only Job I Ever Wanted"
Posted on August 06, 2004 at 12:58 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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Moons and Junes and ferris wheels

July 13, 2004

I was dreaming about you in 1988.

That's when you started to become real, when I knew in my heart that I would see you soon. You'd be the first of many; a loud, chaotic, affectionate bunch that I was in training to manage. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians were singing "What I Am" on the radio as I made vanilla potpourri or some other homey craft and fantasized about non-alliterative family-friendly furniture that wasn't criminally ugly.

I was dreaming about you in 1991.

The cats and I moved into Chicago so I could go back to college. That summer, I was cleaning homes for cash and living in an empty, gusty apartment. I would sit on the fire escape with my dinner and watch the alley in the twilight.

I would sleep under the window: the bedroom always smelled like peaches and there was a little breeze. I had to get used to the occasional wail of sirens as I laid quietly, rubbing my belly and feeling you slipping farther away from being real.

I stopped dreaming about you in 1993.

Curled up in a bunk, clutching a plane ticket, and mourning. You already know that I don't cry pretty. My eyes turn red, my nose runs, and my face creases.

Oh, honey. It was like I couldn't wash that sweaty sad hospital scent off me. No one could help and it was such aloneness. Alone, as it slipped away. And then, I slipped away, too.

It was over a year before I exhaled and came home. It was a long time before you were dreamed of again.

I dreamed of you again in 1997.

Music by Goo Goo dolls and Savage Garden and Sugar Ray on the radio. A new job with Mega Corp. A new love, with your Dad. And suddenly, you were there again.

Clear in my dreams and my waking hours. You and your siblings, and a home for us all. I walked in sunshine, chewing peppermint gum and grinning like I had the secret of life.

You were real in 2000.

We'd joked about a millennium baby and then, suddenly, we had one.

Bright coppery tufts of hair and clear curious eyes. I was singing Joni Mitchell to you in my arms, feeling "The dizzy dancing way you feel, When every fairy tale comes real."

We whispered, the three of us deep in the night, about all our dreams.

There would be sandy summer days with relatives. Wind chimes and dragon tales and soccer balls. There would be homework and snowball fights and band-aids.

We designed tree forts, planned car trips, and imagined big Sunday dinners and holiday traditions that we would invent and carry into the future. I wanted you to be able to share all this - your childhood - with other children. Siblings to grow up with and against, challenge and enjoy, hate and love.

In my dreams of you, there were always more.

But it doesn't seem like it will be a blessing we'll have. And I'm sorry.

I've thought about this so much over the last few weeks and you should know, it isn't for lack of wanting or trying. I'm not normally a quitter. But the miracle of you took the dedication of an entire group of doctors, the bedrest of your stir-crazy mom, and the bedrock belief of your dad.

Somehow, now, I feel it in my bones. Lightning is only going to strike this particular spot once.

It is what it is.

For all the lonely times you may have in the years ahead, know we will be doing everything we can to saturate your life with the camaraderie of others.

For the times when there will only be your parents on the other side of the dinner table, know that we will do everything in our power to expand your view of your world.

No, this wasn't the original plan. But that doesn't mean that the reality will be any less amazing. If ever there was a child who was dreamed of, and then came true - it was you.

You are loved, you are enough, we are enough. We are a family.

Continue reading " Moons and Junes and ferris wheels"
Tags: Infertility, Pregnancy, Life, Parenting, Family, Goals, Plans, Hopes, Love, Baby, Children, Award-Winning, Blog,
Posted on July 13, 2004 at 04:41 PM and filed under: Mother to the First Power
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A Beautiful Noise

January 14, 2000

It was a good news/bad news situation.

What to do when holding a positive pregnancy test, in the knowledge that you'd gone through half a box of Stay-Free Lights the week before in what you'd thought was your period?

Well, what we did was get scared. Immediately. While still standing in the bathroom, before CD had even finished getting the shampoo from his hair.

In a surreal haze - when you KNOW it's all surreal but still manage to put one foot in front of the other - we got ourselves out of the house and off to work.

I called my friend M. on the cell phone during the morning commute. I told her what was going on and she urged me to call my doctor. So I did, but the the nurse on duty told me that my usual doctor was in the process of retiring (NOW?!?) and wasn't around. She would have to hunt down another doctor for me.

I got to work about an hour later (argh I was working in the far west suburbs!) and immediately as I sat down, the nurse called and told me she had found someone who could see me.

I stood back up and walked out the door.

An hour and a half later, CD and I met with Dr. S.; CD held my hand as Dr. S did an internal exam as well as ordering several others. (This was CD's first introduction to a speculum. Dr: "CD - this is the big shiny medeival device I am about to insert into your wife" CD: "Gah?")

We pretended everything was fine. Yes - we made small talk. Don't underestimate our ability to make small talk under the most extreme of conditions. If there was a contest for this, we'd be the undisputed champions.

Then Dr. S. sat us down and explained to us that although I was pregnant, I was also bleeding, my cervix wasn't fully closed, and combined with the cramping - he believed...

He believed my body was not supporting the pregnancy.

He gave us a handout entitled "Miscarriage". He said he would pray for us. He scheduled us for a follow-up sonogram. Said we would discuss "options" afterwards. He actually said "aprox. 1 out of 10 pregnancies end up in 'silent miscarriages'."

I knew the drill, but this was CD's first experience with the "it doesn't always go well" world. WE held hands tightly, as Dr. S. scheduled an Ultrasound for us for later in the week.

We went home with our "So, you've had a miscarriage" handout; angry, quiet, at turns telling each other it was fine. CD gently tucked me into the couch with my legs up. We didn't have a conversation. We just waited.

After two brutal days and nights of spotting and cramping and crying, we reported to the local hospital for the Ultrasound. The technician made CD wait outside while he searched for the fetus. (Something no one will ever, ever, ever do to us again. We are immeasurably stronger together than we are apart.)

The technician found it (A jellybean, really), and the nurse went to get CD in. We watched for agonizing moments as the technician tried to find heart movement or heart sounds.

And then. The miracle. We just hung on and listened to the beautiful noise and cried. We were still, amazingly, beautifully pregnant!

And for the first time, we were happy. Just for then. As we floated down the stairs and out the door and down the sidewalk. As we plucked the parking ticket off the windshield of the car.

Happy. Pregnant. Happy.

Tags: Family, Life, Infertility, Pregnancy, Goals, Plans, Hopes
Posted on January 14, 2000 at 01:19 PM and filed under: Family, It's a Trip
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