Tuesday, December 30, 2008

a long long day

Try as I might, I can seldom get Quinn and Reilly up before 11:30am. I haven't decided whether this is because we homeschool, or if it's the reason we homeschool. I'm fairly casual about it because hell, I get a lot done in those quiet morning hours. But every other week I see Scott at 11:00am, and on alternating weeks it's 2:00pm. The 11 o'clock mornings are quite the scramble, no matter what time I put the little darlings to bed. In fact last night, in preparation for today's early session, I let Reilly spend the night at my mom's, so she'd already be there, and truth be told, Quinn is a bit easier to roust than his sister.

Imagine my surprise when I was awakened at 5:00am today by my smiling son, all showered and happy, and already done with his chores. He was hoping for some extra game time, to which I consented, and, since I am both a nightowl and an early bird, I got up and made a wicked to-do list. By 6:00am I had already vacuumed my car, done all the laundry, dusted the house, and mailed the New Years cards. I was really pretty pleased with myself, but dreading the day ahead, as I had appointments at 11:00 and 4:00pm, and would be marooned downtown for four hours. Ugh. I needed a calendar, so I planned to peruse the Book Bin for several hours, but was so frustrated by the selection (all kittens and outhouses [???]) that I grabbed the only suitable option (Hawaii), and fled. I was so smart, I drove v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y up Commercial to Lifesource to get a salad, but suddenly they're like $25.00/lb., so I left. Next up was Fred Meyer to buy impulse earrings and a gift for a friend, which was supposed to take at least an hour but somehow I was out of there in 12 minutes. I sauntered to my car, and got a text from a friend. Behind the wheel, I opted to relax and enjoy my text chat, hoping it would stretch out for two hours. At some point I decided that reclining my seat would make the chat oh so comfy, and uh, the next thing I knew, I was startled awake by a text from Pamela saying "I totally overslept today." I was so disoriented I just stared at it, groggily thinking maybe I had typed it myself, having just awakened from a very unexpected nap. We had casually spoken earlier of meeting for coffee, but none of that made sense to me in the moment. I just lay there, reclined, completely unaware of the fact that I was still at Fred Meyer, and had just slept there for two hours. It was as though I was a castaway, alone in the car, with no one around. Both liberating, especially since I devoured my ration of two Twix bars (shhh...), and frightening, because I was afraid that if I raised my seat, everyone in Salem would know that I was passed out in the parking lot like some hobo. Then Gab texted to remind me of my 4:00 appointment, so I bolted upright, and blasted the heat to thaw the icicles on my fingers. I still had 45 minutes, so I crept further up Commercial to get a bean burrito at Muchas Gracias. Sometimes they just give me the burrito, sometimes they give me the kids meal, sometimes it's $2.15, and sometimes it's $4.85. It's a roll of the dice, but it was life or death. Suddenly, at long last, I was actually in a hurry to make my appointment, since I always forget where it is, despite having been there yesterday. So I careened downtown, gobbling the messiest burrito in documented history, glops everywhere, curious passersby EVERYWHERE, but I made it just in time. Two hours later I was headed home to dive into disc one of Lost, season 4, which we have all been frothing over. Approximately 80 episodes in, a friend texted and wanted to meet, and I lept at the chance because I was eager to give her her misshapen, hideous gift. She was quite and gracious, though as Jacob says, I know she went home and spit it into her napkin. (It is not edible, fyi.)

I just walked in, and cleaned the living room, and got some things ready to mail, and sorted laundry, and decided to post this stream-of-consciousness crap. I am so ashamed to have napped at Fred Meyer. I may as well have curled up on one of their three-foot display beds. But it ate up two hours, so get off my back.

Believe it or not, I'm not ready for bed. There's still folding and wiping aplenty, and then perhaps I'll lie down. It feels like I've endured Chinese sleep torture, and yet my engine's still humming. It was great to have the extra two hours, and I've almost convinced myself that the nap never happened, but all the same, if my son ever wakes up at 5:00am again, I'm locking him inside one of my new ottomans...and I'm keeping the other one, along with a blanket, in my car.

Monday, December 29, 2008

gab, meet the twins:

I knew you were on the brink of violence about not seeing the ottomans, so this pic is just for you. And the seven other people who were disappointed by my egregious oversight in not posting pics in my christmas blog. My mom got me the first one, and then I had to buy another one because one seemed terribly unbalanced, and everyone was using it, and because I'm excessive.

Impressive right? You needn't point out that they don't match the glorious turquoise, wanna-be-mod throw pillows which I now loathe because turquoise sucks, and belongs in New Mexico. I already know.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

ottoman empire

Since I typically overwhelm my (two) readers with my pathological verbosity, I thought I'd give you some reprieve and overwhelm you with pictures instead. Yeah right, you I'm still going to blather on, pics or no pics.

We had an amazing christmas, and I hope you can all say the same. Naturally, during the preceding weeks of shopping, there were intermittent bouts of wanting to hang myself with my neighbor's noose (see previous blog), but even I can't reach that high, so I forged on, immersing myself in retail mania. We celebrate at my mom's, since Todd is Ebenezer Scrooge incarnate (said in love), and she and I always overspend. As magical as it is to watch my little darlings open 6,000 presents, the minute I haul all the shit home in 17 laundry baskets, I rue the day the baby Jesus was...well, I vow never to let it happen again. This year we made our tenth consecutive vow not to overdo it. And praise be to that sweet baby Jesus, we managed to tone it down this year. A lot. We promised to spend a little more on a few perfect gifts, and forgo (my dearest mother's propensity for) last-minute Rite-Aid impulse buys. The kids and I spent the night in the living room, watching Home Alone, and even though they are total sleeper-inners, I expected to be rousted and rushed to get to Gia's (my mom). To my surprise, they slept until 11:00, and it was I who shook them awake. En route to my ma's, as has become custom, I stopped at Starbucks and Jack-in-the-Crack for breakfast sandwiches so I don't become a bellowing tyrant about my kids eating candy in the morning. (I HATE that!)

The following are little portholes into an absolutely perfect christmas. (Well, except that Mom scoured the universe for a Barack Obama calendar, but was unable to find one. I was so sure I was getting one I actually asked, "Where's my calendar?" Lol.)

The loot: (Keep in mind this is for five people.)

Could this beautiful boy be any happier? He loves giving presents!

Gia, who brings christmas to life, with her beloved Quinn and Reilly:

The one day a year my semi-goth, pirate-loving, black-wearing girl gets all soft and festive (with her prized classic Rudolph):

The tiniest box in the world. I was obsessed with it, and didn't want to mar its cuteness by opening it. As for my chipped ghetto thumbnail? There's a story. Ever since I became allergic to every consumable food on earth, I have adhered to a diet of mostly bananas and dry Ramen. The weight is melting off so I've been whistling Dixie, you know? Except it turns out I'm malnourished because of my appalling prison food regimen, so my fingernails have begun falling completely off, a fact which no amount of polish can disguise. And my hair is falling out too. B says I will get scurvy soon. I'll have to brush up on my pirate jargon. Anyway, I love this box:

The collage we made Mom of her four grandkids:

Reilly's stocking was so overstuffed it begged us to call 911:

One thing Reilly really wanted was a diamond ring from an actual jeweler. I lucked out found the perfect one at Nordstrom (for $28), and we were all verklempt as her eyes filled with tears when she saw it. She says it's her favourite gift. (Heart melting.)

After going on a daunting treasure hunt, as is our custom for the kids' big present, I tricked Quinn into thinking I had gotten him some LAME video game, to which he responded with the perfect mixture of indignance and grace. He then discovered that inside the box was a receipt (reservation) for a soon-to-be-released game called Halo Wars, which was the only thing he wanted for christmas:

My mom and me, so happy to see everyone smile, and secretly happy it's fucking over. (ho ho ho) And no, my mom didn't get an eye lift, she's just trying to get ready for the flash:

Scorn me if you must, but they are the reason for the season. I have no idea why there is a haze over Reilly, nor why it looks as though Quinn's head is a transplant. What can I say, we're not perfect:

See? It was such a fabulous day my kids were glowing:

As always, we asked each other to name his/her favorite gift, and aside from Reilly's ring, which won out over a stereo and a scooter, none of us could. My mom cried over her certificate for the geese I bought in her name for a family in Africa through Heifer International. Same as last year, when I bought chickens. But she also loved her collage, and was awe-struck by the thought my kids into their gifts to her. Quinn's fave, when pressed, was Halo Wars. As for me, well, I have enough gift cards to build a house of cards, and you bet your ass I'm going EVERYWHERE tomorrow. If I remember, they were for Lane Bryant, Rockstar hair salon, Starbucks, and like 8 million dollars to Old Navy, since that appeared be everyone's default, lol. But, in terms of tangible things, I am so madly in love with my new red suede ottoman, I am going to fondle it right now, and buy another one tomorrow. I mean, these ridiculous legs have to go somewhere!

So that's my story, in too many pictures, and too many words. We have so much to be grateful for, and I hope everyone shared in that sentiment today. Thanks be to the fleet of friends who texted glad tidings as early as 7:08am. Not naming names (Megan). The deluge of festivity and love put a smile on this old curmudgeon's face.

And Jacob? Queen of evasive maneuvers and unanswered texts? I just want to say, I'll get you my pretty...and your little dog too!

Merry christmas guys.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

love thy neighbor?

Look, I'm the last person to judge the appearance of someone's house. After all, I live in a ramshackle 70's manufactured hovel, pieced together by the previous owners with, I'm guessing, Elmer's glue, duct tape, and a serious inability to comprehend symmetry nor really, aesthetics of any kind. So this post is not borne of malice nor judgement pertaining to the conditions in which people live. Just crazy fucks who clearly fell through the system.

But we have this neighbor, who lives at the end of the cul-de-sac behind us, whose home and yard are actually pristine. But something is terribly amiss. He, whose name I do not know, is a peculiar, and possibly dangerous, semi-shut-in, whose abode is plastered with a frightening assortment of signs and the most original lawn ornaments I've ever seen. Clearly he is mentally unstable. He drives through the neighborhood several times a day, at 1 mph, in a truck covered in confederate flags, looking for God knows what. But I'm guessing lesbians. Hear me out.

Several years ago while walking with the kids on said cul-de-sac, Todd and I were quite alarmed to discover that at the very bottom of his driveway was a seemingly brand new toilet, with a jug of bleach on the seat, and huge containers of laundry detergent sitting next to it on either side. Furthermore, his very clean dwelling is adorned with extremely explicit signs saying things like, "Hang the dykes," and "Bitch crossing." Now, it is worth noting that this is not Wisteria Lane, and we do not know our neighbors, especially the ones behind us, but somehow, Todd surmised that the target of these hostile, unsightly, visual assaults is a lesbian couple in a neighboring house. Mind you, I've never laid eyes on this couple, nor do I have any proof that they exist, nor does their house have a rainbow flag out front, nor anything else that might raise the ire of some crazy old coot looking for an outlet for his rage. Their house is clean, their yard well-cared-for, cars new. So my best guess is that his "crimes" are purely hate-driven, which makes me very glad his fence is sooo high, as it is in our yard. Oddly enough, while he has always raised every red flag I possess (and I've even borrowed a few from others), the kids and I used to see him every morning at Borders, when we used to do our schoolwork there. He ordered coffee, black, and chatted amiably with the staff, and then shuffled out, presumably to scour our neighborhood for any goddamn deviant dykes. Todd has also said that he's chatted with the psycho over the fence before, and that he was totally normal and conversational. But, um, hello! He has a toilet on his driveway, stacked with cleaning solvents, presumably to cleanse his territory from the vileness of the lesbians. (Gasp!) I mean really, can a person who patrols the streets eerily, and who has a toilet on his driveway, and a noose hanging from his antenna really even be on the spectrum of normal? My verdict is no. Recently, as the snow has invaded, I've walked around my back yard in the morning, and several times have heard him, though I can't see him over the fence, come out onto his porch as early as 7:30am to scream and bellow at the offending dykes. It is really disconcerting, and I am dying to know if they've actually done anything to him, besides exist.

So yeah, it's really odd, and sometimes creepy. I mean, one would think, even with an antenna from the olden times, that he could find something on TV compelling enough to keep his scary ass inside. Then again, we have premium cable and there's never a damned thing on...maybe I ought to start screaming out my front door at our neighbor who always parks askew in his driveway.

I was able to capture these pics from my back porch. I tried to peek around to snap the toilet, but the fence was too great a barrier in my invasion of his privacy. It's just as well, I'd prefer he not know I exist.

Friday, December 19, 2008

little miss jekyll and hyde

Recently, Reilly responded to a difficult situation by refusing to speak. Since this was as unexpected as the return of the Hale Bopp comet, I was a trifle concerned, and thus tried for an hour to coerce my chatterbox to talk to me. FYI: Anyone who enters a battle of wills with Reilly will lose. Period. A while later I encountered this note, and despite its eerie resemblance to a ransom note, I laughed my ass off.

Fast forward to today. Rei spent the day with my mom while I shopped, and when I picked her up, I was greeted by the sweetest snowman I've ever seen, which she made all by herself.

How can the same eight year old have written this note, and built this snowman?

Whence do these conflicting moods come?

The world may never know...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

when the weather outside is frightening...

Pretty much the only things that keep me home are vomiting, an empty gas tank, and impulse haircuts. Otherwise, I'm outta here. I have a strong aversion to being in my house for long, or even significant, durations. There are several uninteresting reasons for this, but they don't matter. What matters is that somehow Monday found me home all day, though I can't recall why. It was just Quinny and me, and he was all sprawled out on the couch reading, and growing an average of three inches per minute.

My kids get very excited about the gifts they buy, and every year they amaze me with the things they select. Not only that, but they have serious stealth powers when it comes to buying/wrapping/stashing. This year Quinn bought some awkwardly-shaped items, so when he finished his book he asked me to help him wrap...EVERYTHING HE BOUGHT. Sure, totally, I'd love to, right? So I hauled out our really awkward pseudo-bin I guess you could call it, and we proceeded to cover the entire living room with paper, bows, microscopic scraps, shards of errant ribbon, and so forth. Yeah, it was the best. My OCD went into Four-wheel-drive. Quinn knows the basics of wrapping. That is to say, things that are square or rectangular. But what do I do with a reindeer sticking mostly out of the package? Well honey, you get a bigger box, and some tissue, blah blah blah.

One thing he was really concerned about was attempting to use cursive on all the tags. He has written exclusively in ALL CAPS for like three years, so cursive requires an awakening of a whole new lobe of his brain. He was doing really well, but got angsty about capital G's. I wrote several for him, and confessed that they're not exactly my favorite cursive letter either. So he focused on the tiny, slippery tag, and ended up writing such a beautiful G we've been asked to ship the tag to the Smithsonian after christmas. I was really proud of him. He perfected taut corners, how to hold the seam and rip off the tape, and most importantly, improvisation. 'Cause you know, some shit is always going to go wrong when wrapping presents. He was so pleased to see everything wrapped (except for my gift, which he surreptitiously managed to buy today), and I was so pleased to get all the shiny, sticky, itty bitty wrapping scraps out of my living room. I was really proud of him, even though he did use one gold bow, and gold is really...not my favorite. I love that my kids love to give, and that they care about every detail.

I also love that I've been out at least three times a day since then, despite the snow and ice. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

prison break

My kids' bedroom is approximately the size of a prison cell. Hell, our entire house is roughly the size of two prison cells, hence my constant battle with--and whining about--clutter. It's not that I can't keep it clean, I mean, it's no secret that I pretty much scrub it to the bone everyday. But the clutter, sigh... Quinn and Reilly share a cell, er, room, which is dominated by bunk beds, two full sized dressers, a 7-ft. bookshelf, various Rubbermaid stackable drawers, and scads of other so-called space-saving units stuffed to the brim with every knick-knack-paddy whack one could ever conceive of, and more. Reilly has what seems to be an incurable case of shop-a-holicism (don't know where she gets that, shhh), and is quite adept at stuffing it all away in crevices, drawers, underneath things, and among the menagerie that resides on her bed. Quinn is far less driven by the need to save every toothpick. (Which Rei would name "toothpicky" in an effort to humanize it and therefore be allowed to save it.) But he does have expensive Lego sets and Halo action figures that require safe, high-up living quarters, of which there were none. Until yesterday.

With christmas fast-approaching, I couldn't live another day with their room packed to the gills, so when the kids woke up, I announced that instead of daily chores, we were going to CLEAN OUR ROOM! Needless to say, they were popping champagne and turning cartwheels. Now, I was too ashamed to take a "before" picture, which I know cheapens the "after" picture, but I couldn't bear for Gail to see how bad it had gotten. My main priority was to throw away as much as I could, which meant that I held a trash bag close to me and tossed everything I could without them (Reilly) seeing. Bye bye toothpicky, rubberbandy, empty Ziploc baggy, you get it. I discovered that my girl saves every shopping bag, tag, errant v-shaped (ruined) bobby pin, and all their useless cousin trash. They've saved every birthday card they've ever gotten, so I picked out the few precious ones and slipped the rest into my burgeoning bag. Meanwhile, I set Reilly to culling through her stuffties and getting rid of some (by some I mean five--tiny ones). Quinn dutifully put away his laundry, rounded up wayward Legos and put them in the aforementioned leaning tower of stackable drawers, and was generally quite amenable to throwing things away. But my darling daughter fought hard to save every centimeter-sized piece of paper money she made ten years ago so her stuffties could have their own currency. Christ, I thought she was going to hire a lawyer. But Mama's sneaky, and won the battle. My goal was organize all their books so the two remaining shelves up top could showcase Quinn's precious figures. Mission accomplished, though naturally Mom set them up all wrong. Throughout gutting this catastrophe, I was wiping down every surface with Clorox wipes, and felt so good when the joint began to sparkle. Despite the fact that the kids have been over Dr. Seuss for like five years, I don't have the heart to get rid of all his books, so I crammed those in to their own special space.

The hardest part was when Reilly pulled 7,005 stuffties from underneath her bunk and spent two hours "sorting" them, by which I mean getting rid of none, but repacking them into assorted vehicles and weird things, just so, and mashing them back under the bed. Oh well. We ditched several large useless baskets and one giant mesh cylindrical nightmare receptical which housed a fleet of unused stuffties. Yea! I wasn't able to wrestle away the life-sized horse with duct tape on its legs, but you know, I was secure in my over all feat.

Finally, my moment came, and I charged in with the vacuum cleaner and squealed in delight every time an enemy particle was sucked away forever. Alas, the room is clean, and I no longer have worms of worry and dread crawling through my head about it. I'm really proud of my kids. So proud that I decided to assign chores after all, since we were on a roll. I'm so relishing the clean, shiny surfaces, and will enjoy them for 13 days until evil christmas invades and laughs in my face as the kids haul in all the things I'm so excitedly buying now, lol. But at least there are vacancies underneath the beds and dressers, so I can turn a blind eye for six more months until I can no longer longer tolerate the din of the paperclippy family, nestled somewhere in the bed rail.

Friday, November 28, 2008

attention shoppers

First things first. The moral of this story is never to be texting an extremely sensitive conversation, with someone's heart on the line, while fighting off 2,000 Japanese tourists in search of the very last green GAP hoodie, size xxl, in the world, for your son. Got it?

(I realize it is way un-PC to specify that they were Japanese tourists, but they were in fact Japanese tourists, so deal with it.)

So we went to bed one recent summer night and awakened to freezing black winter. (Um, hello? Has anyone seen fall?) As such, it's time to outfit the kids for the various forms that winter takes in our inclement state. Sometimes a long-sleeved t-shirt will suffice, other days a hoodie is your best bet, and then there are the sideways rain days where you pull out the puffy parkas and scarves and wooly hats that frizz your hair to oblivion. Anyway, my kids grow an average of six inches a week, so of course they needed all new stuff. Off to Old Navy to stock up on the essentials. Quinn is a dream. Some pants (size 16! He's 10!), some sweats, some hoodies, and big man undies, and he's set. (Papa got him shoes later.)

But Christ Almighty, then there's Reilly. I love my daughter. More than words can convey, but this girl would have Mother Teresa screaming for corporal punishment if she were ever to shop with my precious daughter. Here's the problem: She doesn't want some fucked-up Miley Cyrus bullshit, she's not into goth, nor makeup, nor any look in particular, she simply doesn't like anything. Ever. She has a closet full of clothes and wears the same black pants and black shirt everyday. She even confessed, to my OCD horror, that she recently pulled her outfit from the hamper and rolled it with my lint roller so as to give the appearance of cleanliness. OMG. Needless to say my experience with her was in stark contrast to my easy-breezy twenty minute spree with Quinn.

Rather than threatening to make her wear yellow Wal*Mart sweat suits all winter, I hatched the ingenious plan to have a girls' day and head to the GAP in Woodburn. In retrospect I believe the only reason she agreed to go was for the frappucino she got en route. But I digress... We got a killer parking spot (I am known for this), and approached the door, beating off the swarms of people pouring out the door. We pushed our way back to the kids' section and began perusing the inventory. I had made it clear to Rei that we were looking for coats, hoodies, pants, WINTER GARMENTS. Naturally she made a bee-line for some ridiculous, 80's polka-dotted, repulsive hat that made me vomit, discreetly. I redirected her to the jackets, where she was ambivalent, but eventually decided on a really cute one because I manipulated her and told someone she admires has a coat like that. She will never wear it. (Hasn't worn it yet, tags still on.)

Now might be a good time to mention that Rei has certain wardrobe rules, even though I know I shouldn't let her. She will not wear most coats, jeans, sweaters, jeans, any shoe that is not a flip-flop, nor jeans. She is so skinny that when we cinch them up there's like a softball-sized knot in her back. She wants to wear shorts and flip-flops with some ugly threadbare pullover handed down by the aforementioned person whose fashion sense she admires. I recently threw it away in hopes of ushering in a new era. So I patiently watched as she browsed ear muffs, pajamas, belts, heinous patent leather things, waiting for her to spy some pants or anything else on the list. The hoodies were buy-one-get-one, so after slaughtering at least twenty people to get some for Quinn, I coaxed Rei into picking out some too. I forced her into one pair of jeans, that fit perfectly, and when I asked if she would wear them, she said, "I don't really do denim." For $28.00 I was not pushing it.

That concluded our GAP bonanza, and we snagged a sweet spot at 75th in line at the registers. We (I) opted to give Old Navy another go, and I re-learned the futility of trying to make her see the allure of jeans. Rei does have a bit of an edge, and is drawn to skulls and pirate stripes and all the things you dream of for your daughter. We found a hoodie, a shirt, and praise be to Jesus, ten more colors of the black yoga pants she wears everyday. I mean, every color was absolutely abhorrent, because they're yoga pants and should only be black, but she's so skinny you do what you gotta do, even if it means allowing her to get pink ones (puke), sky blue ones (wretch), grey ones (eh), and wisely, more black ones. All in all, I was pleased, but we still had to tackle the most volatile clothing issue: shoes. We had already scoured heaven and earth for the perfect skater shoes, to no avail. She really wanted to go to the skate shop in the mall, and in my sweaty, throw-in-the-towel-and-let-her-wear-flip-flops-all-winter desperation, I dragged my carcass to the ridiculous shop, with her skipping 50 feet in front of me. She immediately spied what she wanted, and I heaved a sigh of relief that they were actually pretty cute. And only cost about three months' wages. So I called Todd, who was so glad I had undertaken this mammoth, maddening task, and not him, that he readily agreed to getting the shoes.

With our bags full of every black garment we could cull from the racks, as well as the black shoes, we set out for the car. To my absolute dread, Reilly reminded me that last time we were in the mall I promised to go into one of those hepatitis/who-knows-what-else, riddled photo booths (which are spelled "foto" booths for chrissake!). I had grown rather irritable as our seemingly failed shopping trip wore on, so I thought it might help end the night on a sweet note if I indulged my girl and crammed my ass into this diseased claustrophobia nightmare for her. Please try not to conjure up images of a hippo in a VW Beetle okay? But it was bad. The first problem was everything. These booths are made for three of Reilly, not one of her mama. We scrunched onto the bench and the screen showed that while Rei looked bright-eyed and smiley, I was only sagging shirt and cleavage. For those who don't know, I'm 6'1", so I didn't line up right for the camera. Thus began what ought to have been my olympic gold medalist contortionist routine, wherein I slumped off the three-inch-wide bench, onto the dirt/spit/god knows-covered floorboard so the camera could see my face, a feat about which I was none too thrilled. Okay but that wasn't enough of a sacrifice, for the camera still only showed my shoulders. So I literally sat on the floor, and unfurled my mile-long legs completely out of the booth, to be seen by every passing gawker, and positioned myself so that we could get our $3.00 worth with these damned pictures! Might I qualify by saying, well, no need, you'll see the pics. For what they are, they turned out alright, except one, wherein I inexplicably french kissed my daughter. No really. She tilted her head to make room for her ginormous mother, and somehow my instinctive response was to make out with her. Please don't call protective services, this really isn't a normal practice in our family. I was simply trying to salvage what I could of our merriment-turned-to-angst.

Despite my frustrations, I'm proud to report mission accomplished, all the way down to the shoes. As for Reilly's enthusiasm for her hard-won bags of loot, well, she has worn the same black pants and black shirt everyday since. Sigh.

Monday, November 10, 2008

13 going on 10

Quinn turned ten. He crossed that threshold into double digits, and I'm surprisingly mournful about it. His doctor said recently that physically he is already 13, a surprise to no one, but his tender heart is still ten, and very much mine, and I never want that to change.

T and I were reflecting how it has come to be that our gentle giant is now ten, and he reassured me by saying, "In all fairness, Quinn has been ten since he was one." It's so true. He spoke in full sentences by 6-7 months, and used to point to the night sky and say so sweetly, "Have it, the moon?" He used to pull the hair on T's chest and say, "Papa has a lot of grass on his chest!" He was the most loving baby in the world, and that hasn't changed, though he is establishing, to my heartache, some autonomy. He's a boy, and plays Halo, and watches these You Tube videos about geeks that, really, are so painful, I wonder if he should be in a special helmet. Last year for his birthday he wanted Legos, and this year he wanted video grabbers, splicing thingies, connector cables, and all the apparatus that mark his entry into tween geekdom. Sigh.

I had my babies 17 months apart, which was totally insane. Sometimes, when I would be rocking them both all day, having long forgotten about showers and food, I'd remember the words of Erma Bombeck: "The days are long but the years are short." While it was profoundly true, it gave me very little comfort then, and sadly, it gives me less comfort now, now that they are half grown. Soon I will release them into the wild, and am bound to love them, no matter what. Even if they opt out of college (gasp!), get ugly piercings, drive motorcycles, date losers, or pull some goth bullshit. Obviously, becoming Republicans is the deal breaker, and I'd no longer be obligated to love them. But I still would. They're my babies, and I'm so not ready to let go. I'd still carry them to bed if Quinn wasn't taller than me, and if Reilly didn't have a 100-piece menagerie that require being transported in a very specific series of blankets and strings.

Now they cook, text their friends, have sovereignty over their hair (shudder), clothing, Quinn drives, and they know more about my phone and the computer than I do. I know should be grateful, and I am, but their independence is a double-edged sword. Quinn is best friends with his dad, which melts my heart, since fabulous fathers are tragically scarce, but I grab him up and hold him as often as he'll let me.

So to commemorate his passage into near-adulthood, we lavished him with video equipment galore, and between Papa, aunties, and both grandmas, the kid raked in enough cash to buy some property. We all went to Red Robin, where I managed not to have a panic attack, and then back home for his succulent Konditerei cake.

Happy birthday my precious boy, you've made me the happiest mama ever!

Quinn and Rei nestled in the loot:

Rei opening her card:

The cake, which I could not eat, which I did eat:

Quinny's great big card-o-cash:

Cherished Halo action figures:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

bacon redemption

Things got pretty desperate this morning in my epic and pitiful quest for breakfast. I pulled myself along the carpet, foaming at the mouth, speaking in tongues, until I became too weak to speak at all. With my deteriorating mental acuity, I likened myself to Smeagol, scrambling about on all fours, skin sallow, hair falling out, scavenging hopefully for a dead fish under the computer chair or perhaps some maggots on a bookshelf. But my hunting prowess leaves a lot to be desired, and I totally struck out.

Todd got up and set about his weekly mission to pawn all the rotting fruit onto us, and today he started with pears (perhaps my least favorite fruit). Nevertheless, no Smeagol in her right mind would pass up any food at this point, so I snatched it away and ate it crouched in the corner, hissing at anyone who neared. "It's a wonder," I thought, "that Todd just got up and started peeling fruit. I never would have thought of that."

The pears gave me just the boost I needed to commence my extended weekend ritual cleaning extravaganza. We're talking bleaching sinks, mopping the laundry room, cowering under the computer desk to wipe down those dusty atrocious cords, taking toothpicks to offending crevices, wiping down cupboards and baseboards (is anyone else having an orgasm?). One of my dreaded chores is changing the sheets in the master bedroom Todd and I share alternatingly. The mattress is really thick so one has to pull the corners of the sheet as if s/he were Hulk Hogan to make it fit and it typically makes me sweat, which really pisses me off. So I was just stripping the bed down to its nakedness when T appeared and said, "Hey, I'll make the bed if you'll cook this bacon." In an instant, thoughts of greasy splatters sullying the stove top I just cleaned emerged, and I blurted out, "No way." But then, as I fumbled with the bitch of a fitted sheet, I remembered that B bakes her bacon. With one percent guilt for cheating, I told Todd I would in fact accept his deal, and I put the bacon in the oven. Twenty minutes later, having forgotten all about it, vacuuming away, T rescued it from being burned to a cinder and we basically swam in strips of delicious perfection until we hurt. Much like Scrooge McDuck swam through his money. Bacon has always been a real dilemma for me because it's splendid (right Gab?), yet messier than a motherfucker, which is not worth it for me. But today I outsmarted it, and what a delectable coup that was.

I just hope T has another deal for me at lunchtime...

self pity rant

I'm just beginning the third week of my new lifelong, do-not-pass-go, no-possibility-of-parole, sentence of eating essentially Top Ramen and wheat germ for the rest of my life. I survived the first week because B baked me some uber-healthy muffins which were definitely dense in that earthy way, but very tasty. Ever the lazy bastard, I basically just ate those for every meal. Then I got all motivated and started making salsadillas for lunch. (Avocado and salsa on a corn tortilla, sans cheese [oh cheese].)

Week two found me in a compromised mental state, so I checked into Chez Kinch, where I slept and slept and slept and was awakened for custom-made treats such as the best wraps in the world, delectable scones, meat charred to perfection, an assortment of potatoes (with real commercial ketchup!), and so much more. I had approximately 1.5 brain cells functioning, and never did I strain them to think about what to eat.

Back at the home front, I am the first one up today and in need of nourishment so I can take my pills, so I don't go crazy, yada yada yada. I hunted Like Man vs. Wild for some grub (even a real grub would do), but alas, all I can find is sourdough bread, chocolate donuts, yogurt, pudding, bagels, protein powder (can't have the whey), waffles, and a spider in the corner above me. Now, we know what Bear Grylls would do. He'd roast the spider over a match and then wash it down with his own urine, or whose ever urine happened to be lying around his neck in a snake skin. But this is a tiny spider, not enough to chase down my 1,105 pills. We all know I don't cook, but there isn't much here even if I did. I can't have pot roast for breakfast, nor soup, that's just wrong. All my avocados went bad the week I was spent at B's, stupid bastards. On the bright side, today is grocery day, but I don't even know what to put on the list. I think my cooking retardation ought to entitle me to a handicap tag for my car. I so desperately want the sourdough toast. Damn you all. And coffee? We'd better not even go there, lest I kill someone.

Fuck it, I just won't take the pills. Then I'll have another breakdown and go back to B's. Take that Bear Grylls.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

tears on my pillow...and everywhere else

Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Me? I was a drug-addicted, brilliant con man sperm, and across the country, a super feminist artist egg. The twain would not meet for 14 years, though I will note that even as some random cellular glop, I was studying the Kennedys, and have never stopped. I always felt remiss that I was nowhere to be found on that devastating historical day.

Little did I know I'd be front and center for our generation's question of the century:

Where were you when you saw/heard the words, 'CNN'S PROJECTED WINNER, PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA?'

As 30 of you know, I crumpled to a heap on the floor and cried. For five days. I still can't articulate the profundity of that moment. I was certain the Republicans were going to rig it, so when Obama cleaned up that map, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and then BAM! he took the election in a landslide victory, my legs just gave out on me. My heart burst open, my brain turned to static, and all I could do was cry and cry. And cry. In my heart, I am fierce seeker of justice, something we see precious little of these days, no matter where we look. Obama's victory was so totally just it knocked the wind out of me. Literally.

Then there was the little matter of my subsequent nervous breakdown this week, during which I alternately didn't know who Barack Obama was, and licked his picture on the front page of the newspaper. I have no excuse. I'm nuts. I'm just now crawling out of the mental quagmire, so pardon my audacity in thinking I could compose a blog post worth reading. I just Obama had Obama to Obama say Obama something.

Monday, November 3, 2008


On the worst day of your life, the top three songs to avoid at all cost, in order, are:

3. Into the Mystic by Van Morrison

2. Say Hello Wave Goodbye by David Gray

(and the number one slice-your-heart-to-pieces song of all time?)

1. The Promise by Tracy Chapman

I was going to attach links but thought better of it, as I myself half regret knowing these songs exist. (Today, I fully regret it.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

anyone have a couple slings in xxxxxl?

Boy, you can take the kids out of co-sleeping, but it's proving impossible to take the co-sleeping out of the kids. By now, our epic history of nine years together is known by all, and I proudly blogged several months ago about the kids' transition into their own beds. Well, in all fairness, I think a partial retraction is warranted, because the kids still seem bewildered each night when I attempt to shepherd them into their room. I come from a long line of nightowls, who must have a few hours at night to read, fold laundry, watch TV (who, me?), or just flatline in the comfort of some hard-won solitude. But my darlings Quinn and Reilly apparently equate being sent to bed with me biting off their umbilical cords and sending them down the proverbial river. Sigh. They will use every ploy they possess to persuade me to let them sleep in the living room next to me, and often succeed primarily because Reilly is a master at finding that one strand of a heart string I forgot to shield. "Mom we have to sleep out here because I just spent the night with Gia (my mom)." In fairness, she certainly has no problem spending five consecutive nights with my mom, as well she shouldn't. But bring the girl home, and suddenly she will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if she can't sleep in my nostrils. Score one for Rei with the "I just spent the night with Gia" tactic. Another maneuver they use with startling success, it to ask to "sit by" me for "just a while longer," to which I also have no defense because they're so sweet in their jammies, six feet tall, trying to pile on top of me on our ever-falling-apart couch. Sometimes they need to sleep with me because it's raining, or because there's folded laundry on their beds that they're too tired to put away, or because Reilly suspects a migraine might be on its way. "Yes, okay." "Yes, okay." "Yes, okay." After a day spent overseeing chores, lessons, appropriate clothing, flossing, and fighting, it feels so good to be revel in them. I know it's in their best interest to have a bedtime routine and that their pillow-top mattresses are so much better for them than the floor, but jeez, it's so hard to say no to Dalmatian slippers and to a boy giant clutching his prized stuffed animal mushrooms. (These can be seen in the picture below, carefully covered in a blanket) So get off my back okay? That's where my kids sleep!

(I'm sure Todd's relishing his $800 investment in bunk beds...actually, he too feels that kids sleeping on their own is totally counter-intuitive, so he's cool.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

do me a favor?

Okay since I can no longer eat dairy, eggs, whey, sugar, honey, cranberries, pecans, or much of anything besides sand for the rest of my life, I sort of feel like you all owe me something.

And what I want is for you to click this link and really pay attention. You've all heard it before, but I believe a new day is dawning, and I want everyone to feel as invigorated as I do listening to this right now.

Please and thank you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

not for the faint of heart

So yeah, this is what we call a homeschool inservice day:

Reilly had a sleepover, and in an effort to mask my OCD, which was screaming all night long, I let the girls get into our crafts, nail polish, etc. FYI: I only have these things to seem like a good mom, I don't actually like to let the kids use this stuff. Here's why (deep breath Gail, it's not a pretty picture):

Oh and it gets so much worse (Gail I'm Fed Exing you some Xanax!):

I'm ashamed to say it took several days to organize this heap, and we had ourselves a little vacation, which we mostly spent away from home because, well, you saw the pictures. Anyway, I finally showed that disaster site who's boss and school's back in session:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

the icing on my life

This is a card Reilly made for me on Todd's birthday:

crazy little thing called life

In case you ever wondered why I am the way I am:


After a battery of tests that was both mortifying and painful, my doctor opted to do a comprehensive food allergy test. This involved a simple blood test, and cost $169, as opposed to having a fireman's hose ... up my ... to the tune of $1,268, after insurance. The results just came in. I'm allergic to all dairy and baker's yeast, which basically means the entire cornerstone of my diet just crumble into dust. Immediately, thoughts of a breadless, cheeseless, butterless life spent searching for palatable faux-foods began swirling through my mind, and before I knew it, I was drafting something that resembled a rough suicide note. You see, I don't even cook, and have absolutely no imagination when it comes to food preparation, so my predicament was looking rather bleak. I totally failed to share in B's excited description of faux cream cheese, which she swears "...is so delicious you'll lick the spoon!" Yeah. We'll see. For now, I feel it is my moral obligation to polish off the sourdough bread, bagels, and actual cream cheese, so as not to be wasteful. And there is no way I will ever sully my coffee with some soy bullshit.


The uber-talented Gabrielle finished my birthday collage and I am so in love with it we might have a civil ceremony. Also, it has brought tears to me eyes more than once. Knowing my love of rainbows, she thoughtfully constructed this masterpiece, and I don't mind telling you, I'm verklempt. (Pic makes it look warped, but I assure you, it's perfectly straight.)


My million dollar phone is equipped for everything, except phone calls. Seriously, it can change a flat tire, nurse your baby, and is even a neurosurgeon, but the motherfucker is so unreliable for phone calls that my people are starting to hate me because they can never hear me. I am world-renowned multi-tasker, this is well-known, so when I'm on the phone, I'm also washing my car, doing dishes, etc., but not with the EnV (sp?). Not only is it four inches too short to be useful, but its reception is so poor, it cannot be fathomed. When I try to talk to B, I occasionally ease onto the floor so as to fold a piece or two of laundry, and the instant I rest the phone on my shoulder, she starts yelling that I've swallowed the phone, she can't hear me, and she has to go. It was sold to me because my tech guy knows I text over 2,500 times per month, and it is a great texting device. But it's not a phone. In any event, Wednesday night it totally went tits-up. I could neither send nor receive a text, the command button broke, my inbox was full and I couldn't erase messages, and I was missing the fucking debates! Knowing I was still under warranty, I flew to the Verizon store, in a cami sans bra, some zip up hoodie relic from my closet, flip flops, and the worst two-bit hooker hair I have ever had. So my credibility, walking in the door, was in the negative numbers. True to my life, the punk-ass, mole-looking kid with really sparse hair and a French tickler, opened my phone and it worked. Perfectly. The button, which had gotten jammed all the way into the socket, had somehow popped back up as I sped down Market Street at 55mph, running several red lights. So ultimately, he sneered authoritatively (he was wearing a bad-ass lanyard, I must say), and said tough shit. I was livid. I am livid. So if you accidentally sever your carotid artery and mine is the only phone number accessible on your phone, you know, text me.


While I was screaming, crying, and blaspheming to the high heavens about my phone, I asked the kids to turn on CNN so I could listen to the debates. Amidst my fury, I glanced over and saw that both Quinn and Reilly were sitting, rapt, in front of the TV, watching our man Obama annihilate McCain, who my kids call The Chipmunk. Nothing warms a mother's heart like knowing her kids are good Democrats, lol. As an added bonus, Reilly told me that she got an email from Defenders of Wildlife, detailing how Sarah Palin shoots wolves from helicopters, and how she has taken them off the endangered list so people can continue to shoot them. Furthermore, folks are handsomely rewarded for turning in the legs and feet of these wolves. So, on top of being Democrats, my kids know why they are Democrats. Few things are as pleasing to me.


Is there anyone left on earth that doesn't know that I take like fifty different medications just to maintain the modicum of sanity I do have? Right, I didn't think so. Even with insurance, these pills are expensive yo, and I am very careful with them, putting them in a seven-day sorter every week. Somehow, a day before the phone-fucking-tastrophe, I discovered all the pills had gotten wet or melted or something, inside the little compartments, which click shut. If you worked it out mathematically, it was about $100 loss, but worse, it wiped out my Xanax, and you can't just get that shit refilled whenever. So within a day and a half I was in full withdrawal, with bugs in my skin, ringing in my ears, shaking violently, and my mouth felt like it was a) having carpet installed, and b) being electrocuted. I do not recommend experiencing Xanax withdrawl, and in fact, people die from it. B's dad was put on .25 mgs a day last year, but stopped because he was too sleepy, and BAM! He had a heart attack and almost died. In contrast, I take 3 mgs a day, so I should totally be six feet under. It's the worst feeling ever, like your skin is being grated off, but your tongue is of no use to you, so you can't tell anyone. I got the prescription refilled yesterday so I ought to resume my role as the marginally insane loudmouthed bitch you all know and tolerate because you like B.


The remodeling in the back bathroom is finished, and there is no trace of sawdust or wood chips.


The super nice guy who remodeled said bathroom charged Todd $1,700 more than his bid. Apparently he raised his rates between the time he emailed Todd his quote, and the time he finished our bathroom. Poor Todd, no sooner does he earn a fucking dollar, then it gets sucked away immediately, usually by some surgery of mine. I like to have one each year, so I can spend my convalescence at B and Adam's house, getting addicted to TV series on DVD. In any event, now Todd has to find someone else to remodel the front bathroom, which is way ghetto, and I have to chew my carpeted tongue off trying not to complain and burden him with my haste.


Gail bought a house and is moving in today!


Why can't I buy a house and be moving today? Haven't I served my sentence here? Oh yeah, I think maybe God had to put earplugs in during the phone meltdown.


At last check, Obama was eight points ahead of the chipmunk, and at the risk of seeming overly confident, I've got my eye on the prize.


Fuck. He's going to get assassinated. Best case scenario, the Republicans will rig the election again, but I worry a lot that Obama will actually be taken out. Like Paul Wellstone. It still happens people.


Certain friends aren't pregnant.


I've been manic for two weeks.


I'VE BEEN MANIC FOR TWO WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKS!! (Do you know how much I can get done during a manic episode? Though, I do talk like an auctioneer on meth, according to B.)


It seems I no longer stop for yellow lights, nor lights that are inarguably red. You probably ought to know that if you're getting in my car.


When all else fails, this song will get you through virtually anything. The lyrics are heinous, and once you start playing it, you cannot stop, and sometimes that means Maia gives herself a dyke haircut, and sometimes it means you are accidentally dancing, screaming the f-word, when the dryer repairman comes. Whatever.

Good times.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


...life is so awful that all you can do is scratch at your skin while walking in a circle around your house, which you've never seen before, listening to Tracy Chapman's The Promise on continuous loop.

Sometimes things hurt so much you're completely numb to the headline news, no matter how many trillions are involved, nor how many deaths. Sometimes you clutch your phone, certain that you don't know another living soul, wishing you did, because then you could ask what your name is.

Sometimes you're so overwhelmed you don't even remember getting dressed, or notice that your pants are backwards, or that your towel fell off your head six hours ago, and the mess beneath it was left to weave itself into an actual nest.

Sometimes you're stretched beyond your threshold. Sometimes you're so fragile a cool breeze could shatter you into a million pieces.

And sometimes, when nothing will ever be right in the world ever again, and all you see is haze, you walk into a room and discover that deep down in the recesses of the husk that is you, lo and behold, there was one little smile hiding down there.

Maybe I won't evaporate today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

there's no place like home...where are my ruby slippers?

What do you get when you mix Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with finding a toilet in your bedroom?

Oh, I dunno, shit for brains?

Behold the master bath:

The perils of remodeling.

Toto, I don't think all the Xanax in Kansas will get us through this...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

mothers without borders

My previous post, about my declining health, while rich in detail and ripe with candor, barely elicited a nickel's worth of sympathy (read: comments) from you unfeeling bastards, so I hesitate to post again. However, having just survived an apocalypse of sorts, I couldn't suppress my primal need to scrawl my story along the cave walls for everyone to see.

Last week my mom forwarded an email from Borders advertising a kid party this Saturday (today), apparently to celebrate the new children's area. Immediately my stomach began churning, for joining inane revelry in large groups of strangers is pretty much a little slice of hell as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately I have unwittingly passed this discomfort along to my kids, whom you will never find sitting Indian-style on a carpet with thirty other kids singing "If You're Happy and You Know It." Thus, I was quite surprised when Reilly asked if we could go. My initial response was to try and appeal to her judgmental side and tell her that it was going to be totally lame. She would have believed me. Alas, I have recently embarked upon a mission to reclaim some of the innocence my kids have lost due to my loud, cynical, and incessant views on life in general. Compounding the pressure in this particular case was the fact that I knew my mom would ask later if we had gone. While she is a truly amazing mother, grandmother, human being, and Democrat, she harbors a bit of doubt about my kids' education. Like many of us, she constantly applies a public school standard to what we're doing, and always calculates that my kids are coming up just a tad short, which she puts as nicely as possible. All in all, I knew I was destined for the "exciting games and prizes" today.

The celebration only ran from 2-4pm, so of course I was reminded of this at 2:13 while checking my email, dripping wet from a shower. All I wanted in the world today was to stretch out in comfy pants and finish my book, but my internal moral compass (mine's a miniature, which I'm sure surprises no one) led me to ask Reilly if she still wanted to go. I clung to the hope that just the magnanimous act of asking would be rewarded karmically, and that she would say no. So, I flinched a little when she said she did. Quinn was with Todd, and opted out, so I was left to slap on a little makeup and the aforementioned comfy pants, and make my daughter's day.

(By the way, one of the ways in which Murphy's Law applies to my particular life is that if I go to Borders in yoga pants, flip flops, unpainted toenails, and my hair half wet, the laws of nature guarantee that I will see one, if not all, of my mortal enemies. And I have more than you may think. So today's outfit redemption was my custom-made Obama shirt. My enemies are all Republicans, and they are all a great deal less intelligent than I, so I decided to flaunt my Democratic pride, and hope no one saw my toenails.)

Okay okay so Reilly and I made our way through Borders, anticipating a gleeful swarm of kids, moving from one age-appropriate activity to another (as promised in the email). What we saw, however, were twenty very young children seated on the floor singing a song about a lima bean. There was some sort of pun, like, "Where oh where has that lima been." I literally had to use my hand to wipe the scowl off my face, and then I looked down at Rei, hoping I'd succeeded in conjuring up an excited look. But, I could see instantly that Reilly was doing the exact same thing. So we stood, like wallflowers at a school dance (which my kids will never attend, take THAT Mom!), trying to figure out what to do. She would sooner have stripped naked than squeeze in amongst the gaggle of five year olds on the floor, to sing a song she doesn't know. (What can I say? Raffi didn't do the lima bean song.) Telepathically I knew that the whole scene was embarrassing for Reilly, and that we were both noting the disparity between the vibrant email, and what we saw before us. Just when we were beginning to slink away, the adult leading the singing announced that it was time for the scavenger hunt. Okay now this was promising. We took one of the sheets, gave it a quick glance, and scurried towards our first challenge. The paper asked who the Democratic Presidential candidate is, and instructed us to find a book about him, and to write the title and author's name. Easy enough. Reilly said, rather audibly, "That's easy, Barack Obama!" Oh the pride. The second question was about the Republican candidate, which Reilly also knows, so we were really cooking. It was a little troubling that the space in between each instruction was a little over a millimeter, so we started getting frustrated. My way of expressing frustration is to criticize my daughter's handwriting, and to shrink in pain, certain that everyone in Borders can see that she still begins a few of her letters from the bottom. The bottom! (Gasp! Maybe Mom is RIGHT!) Shortly thereafter we realized that our problems had only just begun, for squeezing letters into a space like this = for a child who is accustomed to regular lined paper, is nothing compared to the mind-numbing obscurity of the rest of the questions. Now, we love love love Borders, and we go there all the time. When we entered the other day, to pick out Todd's birthday presents, Quinn and Reilly knew exactly where to go. But today, after our initial rush of confidence, Rei and I were struck by the subsequent challenges. I mean, perhaps we haven't acquainted ourselves thoroughly enough with Borders' vast sea of titles, but how the hell am I supposed to find the sixth book written by the half brother of Lithuania's most popular author, let alone Reilly? When asked to find a "HISTORY" book "ALL ABOUT" your favorite state, Rei and I were nearly driven into comas scouring shelf after sodding shelf looking for anything about California. (Little traitor, ain't she?) Finally I blurted out, "What about the fucking gold rush?" Just when I was about to enlist in Al Qaida out of desperation, we saw a book about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Reilly's hands literally shook as she wrote, some from the top, some from the bottom. The best I could not to harass her was to sigh a lot and bite my lip until it bled. Next up we had to find a book about our favorite sport. Conveniently, the 3'x10' sign that said "Sports & Leisure" actually leads you to the health and wellness aisle. My sweet determined girl and I sifted through approximately 615 books on everything from cancer to diabetes to macrobiotic diets, before we realized their error. Then, once we found the sports aisle, we were dismayed that there was nothing about track. So Rei said how about cheerleading? Nada. Swimming? Zilch. In fact the only sports recognized by Borders at all are football, baseball, basketball, and golf. Luckily, we found a stowaway about bowling, which Rei has done. Must have been some errant Waldenbooks return...

We were sweating profusely, and swearing like sailors (well, one of us was). These questions were so confounding as to almost make my pituitary gland explode. Were all the other kids using this same list? Where were their parents? Did we accidentally get the MENSA scavenger hunt sheet? Find a book "ALL ABOUT" the ninth deepest fault line in Japan. So immersed were we in our quest for an excerpt from page 455 of the book written by the scientist who split the quark the second to the last time, that we actually began hyperventilating when we read the next question: Find a CD featuring three brothers. OMG. Could it be? We looked at each other. "The Jonas Brothers, right?" We said it aloud. We reread the sheet to make sure they weren't asking for their producer's blood type. Nope, just the Jonas Brothers. Reilly nearly collapsed from the lack of complexity of this question. Finally, we hunted down a Disney DVD about some sort of camp, and we were done. Ragged, limping, husks of ourselves, we returned to the children's area, which had become a ghost town. We found one of the employees who had sung the lima bean song, and we flung ourselves at her feet, as though we had just crossed the desert and she had the canteen. Her face lit up, she grabbed our sheet with gusto, and as marched over to what was, presumably, the prize shelf. She readily stuffed something into Reilly's hand, and as we walked away, blinking our eyes back into focus, we saw that in this demented, mind-altering game, Borders had bested us. For all our hard work, for all our valor and determination, we received a leaflet with a cupcake recipe on it. Seeing that Reilly was also dialing the recruiting officer for Al Qaida, I remembered the "free beverage and free cookie," and steered my shell-shocked daughter to the cafe. After watching a stream of about nine kids walk away with drinks, I asked confidently, "Hi, is this where they're handing out the refreshments for the kids' party?" Not even looking up, the employee said, "Oh, um, actually, the deal was that if you bought a large drink, you got a small one free." It was as though we had survived a war and then missed our ride home. I clutched her tiny, cramped-from-all-the-writing hand, and we left in silence. Everything we had been through (like kneeling in spilled chai to write down an answer), more tedium than a year at Harvard Law School, my baby's blistered fingers. For what? A recipe? I am so pissed. Never again will I stifle my lack of enthusiasm for these lima-bean-sing-a-long festivities, attended by children who look like they're auditioning to appear on an episode of Barney. I will wear my scorn proudly, along with my Obama shirt, and I will forevermore drill it into my kids that it is imperative to see the prize before you accept the challenge. And we'll try not to bake any dynamite into those motherfucking cupcakes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

the truth behind WMD--the novella

I have been reticent about putting my mystery plague into words, but the past eleven weeks have been so utterly surreal I suddenly feel I must do just that, lest there be any doubt as to the accuracy of my memories.

It's safe to say most of you know something, if not everything, about this affliction of no know origin, and its sensitive nature, and why I might hesitate to post it for all the world (read: my seven readers) to see. But whatever. I have suffered so many indignities I scarcely care if you all know that for nearly three months, I have been running a significant fever, and diarrhea that would liken me to a rocket ship. Being the busy mom I am, it took a few weeks to even notice anything was wrong, until I found myself in the bathroom one morning, crying for my mom at 4am. Literally people. She rushed over with some Immodium, and we called the doctor. Ultimately, I crashed and never made it to my appointment that day, and I assumed the worst was over. Um, can we say n-a-i-v-e?

Cut to weeks later, when I couldn't travel five feet from my bathroom, and narrowly averted several disasters trying to do simple things like shop for groceries. One particularly memorable episode involved Fred Meyer remodeling their bathrooms and providing customers with a handy portable restroom in the parking lot. Just when I had grown accustomed to this interim arrangement, I had the misfortune of having a truly dreadful emergency wherein the doors to the portable building were suddenly locked. Squirming and sweating, I sent Quinn in to ask, basically, "what the hell?" He ran back and explained that the new bathrooms were finished, and the grim reality of having to trek what felt like eight hundred miles back into the store began to dawn on me. Wasting no time, I grabbed my kids and sprinted like FloJo to the new facilities, praying that my compromised bowel would spare me what could have been the worst nightmare imaginable. After this, those close to me insisted I see my doctor, and I dutifully, though sheepishly, went in, and was greeted rather loudly by the receptionist with, "Hi Cheyenne. You're here for the diarrhea right?" Can you see how my pride has slowly eroded? The nurse, who also seemed to put quite an emphasis on the word 'diarrhea' when she called me back, discovered I had a fever too, and indicated that this combination might be pretty serious. The doctor concurred, and suddenly diagnoses like Celiac's and Crohn's disease were being bandied about. Before I let the gravity of those words sink in, my fragile and embarrassed mind was assaulted by the words 'blood test' and, sorry to say, 'stool samples.' Tempted as I am, being a wanna-be writer, to paint you a picture of this most unconscionable um, assignment, I shall spare us all, so that I don't have to unfriend every single one of you. Suffice it to say, contrary to what one may assume, it is exceedingly, achingly, possible to be completely humiliated all by one's lonesome, and with no witnesses. And let me just add that it was of little consolation to complete the task, for what follows is a skulking, pride-swallowing trek into the clinic to deposit...well, you know. Not surprisingly, the staff was rather blunt, and loud, about my purpose there, and it was all I could do not to grab one of the germ-riddled ballpoint pens provided in a cup on the counter, and rip out my jugular with it. I left. And washed my hands until they bled.

As news grew of my charming ailment, friends and family sweetly offered all forms of help and kindness. It became increasingly difficult for me to attend social functions, which naturally raised serious alarm amongst people who know that my need to be out and about is, in essence, a bottomless pit. One gathering I was determined to make was Gabrielle's art show debut. She is a brilliant craftswoman and artist, and I really needed to show my support, even if she is somewhat delinquent when it comes to promised collages (wink! love you!). Seated on the, or should I say, sunken into, the ratty couch at CHC, clutching one of the bathroom keys secretly, I was pleased when Pam took a seat next to me. She smiled, gave me a once-over, and, realizing I was still combating the illness, said, "You are a walking medical disaster." I nodded and looked down, like a dog who knows he has done wrong. I admit that despite being said with no malice whatsoever, it stung. I am known throughout the land for being the busiest person alive, manic even, and capable of accomplishing more than is humanly possible, most days. But in this moment I was reduced to what felt like a sloth. I couldn't, and still can't, get the words "walking medical disaster" out of my mind. It connotates weakness, dependency, and worst of all, burden, which I confess I have become. So the real WMD, it turns out, is me.

This wouldn't be a saga without all my gruesome samples testing negative. I didn't have a parasite, E. coli, various other toxins, or L-5128, whatever the hell that is. As relieved as I was not to have been stricken with L-5128, I was disappointed that my illness had evaded diagnosis. My doctor was equally stymied, and referred me to a gastroenterologist, which is just not good news, any way you slice it (no pun intended--you'll find out later). There are only two ways in for a gastroenterologist, and I'd sooner chew off my own feet than consent to either one. As unluck would have it, this very nice tiny little doctor informed me that he'd be exploring both, BOTH, er, entrances? Being that Chinese is his primary language, and he clearly hasn't been speaking English long, it was virtually impossible to employ my masterful repertoire of body language and wit to express my dismay and/or change his mind. He was very business-like, which was at once comforting and disturbing. "Who endeavors to practice a kind of medicine that requires becoming very acquainted with people's rectums?" I asked myself. Mind you, I was only 3 degrees less troubled by the thought of a hose being rammed down my throat. I decided to skip town, and find some quiet cave where I could suffer my fever and diarrhea in peace, with a modicum of dignity. Of course I'd just keep switching caves, to keep things sanitary. The fantasy of my new life burst when the doctor asked me which prep fluid I preferred. Now, I knew from my surgery last year (walking medical disaster) that this was NOT good news. I stammered for about three hours, which elicited absolutely no sympathy from anyone, and finally said whichever one tasted less salty. I was handed a bottle the size of a gas can, and an encouraging tip that the lemon-lime flavor packet was quite popular. Already my gut was in knots, and my appointment wasn't until November.

"November?!?!?!?" Shouted everyone in the universe. No one could believe I was being made to wait three months for my colonoscopy/upper endoscopy. I'm telling you, several people were going to storm the office, and demand that the little Chinaman insert his scope right then and there. Me, I was ambivalent. Sure I was eager to get some news, but the other part of me wanted to cement my rectum shut and hang a sign that said, "Closed for business." Turns out several events conspired to hasten this appointment. For one thing, my doctor noticed in my chart that I had lost 23 pounds in two and a half weeks. And my psychiatrist, also an MD, was growing very concerned about the delicate balance of managing my medications while I was so sick. So a few weeks ago, while I waited for three hours in Dr. D's office, she made phone calls to my psych doc and the Chinaman, and I was ordered to the hospital immediately. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go. Boy, Pam had no idea how true her words were. Dr. B (psych) was absolutely adamant that I not go through the ER. You see, as my body became less and less able to absorb anything, he had to reduce several of my meds, and I was starting to experience mood instability and ocd. He felt it would send me over the edge to spend five hours in the cesspool that is the Salem Hospital ER. So I ran home to grab whatever it is one grabs for an indefinite hospital sentence, and my unwavering advocate, B, drove me to my doom. Almost instantly this became a scenario I knew I had to live long enough to blog about. Sadly, many of the details escape me. One thing that was paramount was my CONSTANT consumption of water. On a particularly bad night earlier that week, when B had called Dr. B to report that I had been crying for four hours over not having a toothbrush, his on-call colleague took down all of our information and insisted that I had neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and that water was the only thing keeping me alive. (walking medical disaster)

I was shown to my bed and put on the sheerest gown known to man, before a nice-enough nurse came in. Can I just say, her black roots, juxtaposed against her yellow hair, rendered me somewhat uneasy. Yeah, I'm judgemental like that. Straight away B asked for some water and we were absolutely floored to learn that I was not to have any until the elusive Dr. Walker was finished rounding and worked up a diet plan. "Um," B started, and I could see her trying desperately to suppress the flames that were trying to erupt from her throat. "Water is what's keeping her alive, so she really needs some right now." Unmoved by her insistence, Yellow Hair with Roots simply repeated that I was not to have water. Or food. Or my psych meds. Or an IV. Or blood draws. So what the fuck was I doing there? Yeah, that's what we wanted to know. I was supposed to be tested for neuroleptic malignant syndrome, and to make sure my Lithium wasn't making me toxic, so Dr. B could stop worrying that he was killing me, and the nurses acted as though I was merely there to partake of their top-of-the-line nightwear and 13" television, and nothing more. Each of the five nurses was less helpful than the last, and finally, after many hours, B could not contain her rage. She ORDERED them to get me some water, and by the way, when B orders you to do something, you'd better either do it, or be Carl fucking Lewis. One of the underling nurses was intimidated enough to bring me ice chips. So it could be said that for a fleeting five hour moment, I subsisted on twenty ice chips from a styrofoam cup. Not the proudest way to die, I thought, and hoped someone would have the sense and courtesy to dress up my demise for the obituary. Meanwhile, we were trying to call Dr. B, to let him know I was being denied my psych drugs, but the operator claimed that once I was admitted to the hospital, I was out of his jurisdiction, so to speak. Um, this did not bode well for B's growing ire. We asked the nurses to ask Dr. Walker, whose existence we began to doubt, to please call Dr. B, and were told, verbatim, "Dr. Walker said he's not going to make a physician consult or a diet plan for you because he doesn't want anymore on his plate." Have you ever seen a normal, beautiful, 30-yr old woman literally morph into a 18-ft long lioness? Well that's what happened. Though she managed not to kill anyone, or threaten anyone's actual life (though she did threaten their jobs, and the hospital), B was so enraged I swear to God I could see her blood boiling beneath her skin. She demanded that I be released, and let me tell you, they were practically skipping-to-my-loo to get me the hell out of there, but then one nurse mentioned that if I signed out AMA, my insurance wouldn't cover the $9,000 admittance.


Walking medical disaster.

So I was stuck. Around midnight, Dr. Fucker, I mean, Walker, sauntered in and proceeded to yell at me for circumventing the ER, and didn't even hear me when I explained that my doctors insisted I do it that way. He asked me about my parents, and wanted to know why my father died at 51. I knew I was in trouble. There's really no good answer for that. I mean, to say suicide, for instance, strips me of any credibility I may have had, but to tell the truth, which is cirrhosis, was the nail in the coffin of our doctor/patient relationship. "Yep, that's right, my father was an alcoholic." Though I didn't actually say that, the words hung in the air for a while, and I stared at him, daring him to provoke my own inner lioness. So he ordered water, what a hero, and some blood work, which they did after I finally fell asleep at 3am. They managed to blow the vein and get blood all over me. Whatever. Then more draws at 5am. I knew that 7am would bring with it a new doctor, and I didn't know whether to be glad or terrified. First I was told I may not see her at all because I was the lowest priority patient in the hospital. As morning broke, friends were texting offers to come see me, which, and I know this sounds ungrateful and irrational, really worried me because I had morning hospital face/hair. This is never good. When I had my appendectomy in '06 (walking medical disaster), and people came to visit me, I put a blanket over my head. Anyway, B and I were texting and decided I needed to get the hell out of there. They weren't actually doing anything for me, and I was at risk of Pam showing up to see my limp brassy hair and black crescents under my eyes. But part of me did want her to come, to take me home with her and give me fluids at her house, like she had done a month before, the first time Dr. D had ordered me to the hospital for dehydration. At long last, something positive happened in this whole epic, fraying yarn. Dr. Norton, the one who may never see me at all because I was just an amoeba on the underbelly of the hospital, marched in. First she complimented me for watching Frasier on tv, which I took to mean that it was clear we were intellectual equals. Then she took some history and said, "Why are you even still here? We're not doing a damned thing for you!" I could have cried, but alas, being deprived of water for gazillion hours, I had no tears. I told her how I wasn't given my meds, and how no one would call Dr. B, to which she replied that he was a very good friend of hers and she'd be calling him right away. And then she apologized, told me that I did not have neuroleptic malignant syndrome, nor Lithium toxicity, and was free to go!

Oh did I mention that all my doctors conspired to move my colonoscopy/upper endoscopy to that next Thursday? Pardon me for not putting up balloons, I just knew that procedure was going to be a debacle at best.

In the spirit of adding credence to Pam's theory, I should mention that the day before I was hospitalized, I stepped on a 3" rusty-ass nail dropped by the roofers replacing our roof. B and I spent four hours at urgent care, where I'm sure we picked up untold infections. The doctor, who I'm pretty sure had done a stint as Krusty the Clown, dug waaaay up inside the puncture wound and pulled out an inch-long piece of the flip flop I was wearing when I stepped on the damned thing. Then he tore away all the flesh and commented on how big my feet are, and ordered a tetanus shot. I am severely needle-phobic, so I began to tremble, cry, beg, and generally embarrass the hell out of B. The nurse came in, I wasted no time telling her we would forever have to be enemies, and she wasted no time responding by plunging the needle in my arm. What could I do? I fainted. (walking medical disaster)

The day after I was in the hospital, Reilly got bit by a dog twice. She's okay, but it was really scary, and there was a moment in which I actually had to weigh running so far from the bathroom to tend to her. Of course, I chanced it, and I reiterate, she's fine.

I know this is getting long but I can't help myself. Next up was prepping for my rendezvous with the Chinaman. I spent the two preceding days at B's, as well as the day after, because my kids have a hard time seeing me very sick. The first day of my stay I was to begin my fast. Naturally, they were all eating Safeway bagels, which wafted into my face tauntingly. B tried to make foods that I wouldn't enjoy, but at that point I would have eaten a rhinoceros. Alas, I made it through the starvation, but then it was time to drink THE STUFF. B, bless her heart, added the lemon-lime flavor packet, iced it down, gave me a straw, everything she could to make it better, and it still tasted like the sweat from a pig's balls. I was supposed to drink the entire gallon over two days, and after proudly, surprisingly, finishing my nighttime portion, I began to believe that I wouldn't die from it. Ha! If any of you have made it this far, you know that I was in fact going to die from it. First I was in the bathroom, which B had scrubbed to a shine and turned into a veritable colonoscopy prep haven, and threw up seven hundred gallons of saline poison into the garbage can. I then crawled to my chair and passed out. Later I awoke with a fierce need to check the locks on my car (remember I said my ocd tendencies were emerging?). Despite B's protests, I staggered down the steps, and then, five feet from my car, puked my guts right onto her roses. It was light out, and true to form, every goddamned neighbor B has was on a walk right in front of her house. I could not stop heaving, which I can only imagine delighted B to no end, and made her infinitely glad she took me in. Afterward, what remained of me did in fact check my car locks. And then I went to bed.

Thursday morning: I refused to drink anymore Nulytely. Refused. I was weak, scared, and still trying to fend off a haunting feeling that something was going to go wrong. My appointment was at 3:30 and I couldn't have any water after 12:00. That was really tough. My tongue turned to stone, and I couldn't shut up about it. "Drink your spit!" Rosie encouraged. Of course, that is what I did. Finally it was time to go, and I knew there was no way out. B and I arrived at the clinic and were told that the doctor was running an hour and a half late, and could we please just sit by the shiny new drinking fountains and not use them until he was ready. I fell asleep in my chair until the nurse came in to usher me back to the point of no return. She forced a very large needle into my arm, and I asked her all kinds of questions about being put under and staying under, etc. She assured me I'd be out cold. In the operating room, I lay on the bed, suddenly concerned that someone would see my ass, lol. I stared at the pulse/ox monitor, paying no mind to the screen next to it, which would soon be featuring my colon. The nurse asked if I could feel the shot yet. I said no. A few minutes later she asked again, and again I showed her that I was wide awake. Tears were flowing by this point. I knew there would be no la-la land for me. After the next attempt, the doctor couldn't wait, and he um, began. I could feel every inch, or should I say, foot? I knew he was cutting pieces out for biopsy and I tried to escape to someplace more pleasant in my mind. Like maybe prison. Eventually he was done jostling the hose up my ass, and found a new hose to go down my throat. It was so surreal, I can scarcely describe it. I can't believe I remained still. Finally they were finished, and I was wheeled to a recovery area, where most patients sleep it off, but I just started getting dressed, trying not to feel completely humiliated. I wasn't some slumbering anonymous rectum, I was a walking/talking real-life person with an actual face to associate with the rectum. The doc told B my intestine, from my esophagus to my colon, was inflamed and they had biopsied several spots. He said it wasn't likely to be cancer, but it could be Celiac's or Crohn's. All I cared about was getting some Safeway bagels and going back to B's.

You've all been so thoughtful and faithful to call, text, and visit during this time, and part of the reason I wrote this was to share the outcome of the Chinaman's expedition.


Nothing. All tests were negative. No Celiac's. No Crohn's. No cancer. No answer.

And so it goes. I'd love to expound upon my feelings regarding this wild goose chase for a diagnosis, but wouldn't you know, I have to go to the bathroom.