Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday Night Wrap-Up

I enhanced my Wonderful Wednesday TV viewing last night with a Leinie's Summer Shandy and some peanut butter banana ice cream. 

Side note: Anyone within 50 miles of a SuperTarget must run immediately to the frozen foods section and try one of the new flavors of Archer Farms ice cream. They're knock-offs of Haagen-Dazs (so they come in the tiny cartons), only the flavors are better. Sea Salt Pretzel Carmel?? Believe me, I love a good pint of Dulce de Leche ice cream, but throw in some salty, chocolate covered pretzels and it's just beyond good. And even thought they don't make a big deal about it in the name, the Peanut Butter Banana actually contains peanut butter cups...uh-huh. I think tonight I might have to douse the whole thing in carmel sauce just to see how far I can push it. 

Anyway, let's talk about TV. Finally a Project Runway challenge involving real fabric and design! I know this exposes me as totally unhip (as if you didn't know), but Kenley's dress (below) was hideous. I mean, I didn't think she should lose, but I also didn't think she should win. 

Leanne, on the other hand, actually made something pretty, but obviously too wearable to win. 

As for Emily being eliminated...well, that dress was pretty ugly. Uglier than the lame clock-inspired dress? I suppose it was a toss up design-wise, but I think points should have been awarded for the inspiration they chose. Which do you find more reminiscent of NYC at night? Moving lights or a clock face? I know I can barely even check my watch without thinking of Manhattan at night. 

Anyway, onto Shear Genius. The shortcut challenge was more fun than the elimination challenge. I felt a tiny bit bad for the models, as almost none of them seemed like the type that would choose hot pink hair, but hey, a free cut and color is a free cut and color. But I am now convinced that Nekisa is either related to or sleeping with a producer of that show because you can't be called out in the bottom on every single challenge and not get eliminated at some point. And now she's starting to piss Jaclyn Smith off, which can't be good. 

Ok, so Charlie's Angels. I'm sure it seemed like a brilliant challenge on were the producers to know that the stylists would be so disappointing? I kind of wish one of the teams had been inspired by the shortcut challenge and done some punk rock angels. That would have been slightly more interesting. 

Maybe next week they will all have to shave portraits of their fellow contestants onto the backs of the heads of professional basketball players...sounds like shear genius to me. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Survey Says...

Is it bad that last week, when my boys happened to see Family Feud as we were scrolling through the channel guide, I was secretly excited that they were excited? That I felt a combination of relief and smugness at the fact that it wasn't me who introduced them to it, but my generally anti-TV mother? It seems they watched it the last time they spent a sick day at her house.

Is it even worse that I am slowly allowing 4 p.m. to become Feud time at our house? I'm trying to come up with some way to spin it as educational, but other than schooling them on the degradation of our society, I can't come up with another educational angle...

Still, I kind of love that show. And I'm kind of glad that they love it, too.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


The teenager is home. Back in his bed where he belongs. Hallelujah.

I realize there will be a grace period...that things will probably seem remarkably smooth for a few days before - BAM! - I find myself feeling those familiar pangs of frustration and disbelief at whatever is or is not going through his head...but right now I'm content to enjoy this feeling of calm...of relief...the feeling that things are as they should be again.

I know it won't be easy, but I believe it will be better this time. The break was needed as much as the reunion. I think we've all grown a little bit and have a slightly different perspective going back into it. The trick will be to maintain this new, enlightened perspective when fear and anger are staring us remember what's really important and what is not. To keep him close without controlling him and to let him be free without letting go of him.

Times like these call for a little Shel Silverstein:

Listen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts,
the impossibles,
the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, 
then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child. 
Anything can be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All the Fluff

Time to fluff up the blog a bit. I fear it's running the risk of taking too dark a turn and while it might be therapeutic for me, I don't really want to make the rest of you endure bring on the fluff!

I read Courtney Love's blog on Myspace because I am totally intrigued by her...really, if someone gave her a 24-hour reality channel, I'd watch. It's like peering into a parallel universe. And yes, I do like her music. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly) most of her blogs are incoherent, but she must have been fairly lucid when she wrote this new one* now I get to my point: She says she's going to hang a sign on her computer that reads: "DO NOT BLOG. EMBARRASSES CHILD." 

Ha. Maybe DO NOT LEAVE HOUSE. EMBARRASSES CHILD. would make more sense. Seriously, Frances Bean is about a year younger than our teenager and if she shares his attention span, then I doubt she's ever made it more than 2 lines into one of her mother's blogs. But I love the humanity of it. Hey, if Courtney Love can raise a teenager, so can I, right? 

In other fluff, another Wonderful Wednesday on Bravo has passed. I'm already starting to think it was a bad a idea to put Project Runway and Shear Genius on the same night -- especially with Project Runway first. Project Runway is so good that Shear Genius is really paling in comparison...I mean, it's a great filler show for when the rest of my shows are on hiatus, but there seems to be only so much you can do with hair. And really, was all that crying really necessary last night? Rest assured, though, I will see it to the end. I couldn't possibly give up on one of my shows this far into the season. 

Btw, I am so glad Suede won. His was the best dress by far and the only one that didn't look like it fell off a truck headed for DEB. I kind of want to wear it...where would I be going? 

I have to say that Bravo is being very smart this season in keeping its viewers. I don't even usually watch commercials (I just see them zoom by on fast-forward), but I still managed to spot the teasers for the revamped "Million Dollar Listing," the new season of "Top Design" (which I kind of didn't think would ever return), and was even mildly interested in that salon show with Tabitha. 

But let's face it, I'll pretty much give any of their reality shows a shot. They clearly know how to appeal to my inner bitch/voyeur. Love it. 

*Edited 7/27/08: Ms. Love has removed this blog entry, claiming she didn't post it...hackers or something. Too bad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Won't Worry My Life Away

I'm supposed to be working. I am sitting in a coffee shop, trying to work, but anxiety about the teenager keeps wafting through...distracting me.

He has now flown two coops in less than 3 months, so I guess I can't really take it all too personally. We tried the disciplined approach. His grandparents tried the patient/indulgent approach and none of it worked. The moral of the story? Sometimes things need to run their course.

It's the anticipation that kills me. I am aware that he may choose to sleep on his friends' floors for a week, to remain in a chemically-induced stupor for as long as he can, but one day this insular existence will end. Whether he wears out his welcome, blows through his stash, or, by some miracle, wakes up and realizes it's time for reckoning, it will end. How and when are the questions that churn in my gut. At least he's not driving... 

Still, I know that worrying won't change the outcome. All I can do is wait. No matter how long the hours and days might seem now, they will be tiny nothings in the grand scheme of things. One day this will be behind us. In the meantime, we all have to keep moving's all we can do.

**Special note, that Jason Mraz song was playing in the coffee shop when I started writing this. Now it's "Someone to Watch Over Me." Signs from the universe? I think so.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I finished reading “Death by Pad Thai and Other Unforgettable Meals” yesterday. It’s a collection of short stories about food experiences. Good book. A little self-indulgent with all the authors managing to work in references to the books they’ve had published (which, in most cases, adds little to the stories about food), but still good.

As usual, I was struck by one particular sentence in one story. Naturally, it had nothing to do with food. In her story, “Yes,” author Lan Samantha Chang is speaking of her younger self and writes, “It was easier to obey than to learn what I wanted.”

I could give you the entire context of the sentence, but it doesn’t actually matter. It struck a chord with me all on its own, removed from the story, as a description of my childhood and of why I’ve had so much trouble finding direction as an adult. Not that I always did everything I was told, but I was careful to keep the things I felt I shouldn’t be doing separate from the things I knew were expected from me. On the surface at least, I was a very obedient child.

I’m thinking of all of this, of course, in relation to the teenager, whom you could say is backsliding, but I suspect that he never actually moved forward in the way we thought. Let’s just say his determination to be stupid has become obvious once again.

This idea of obedience as the easiest path is one of the reasons I have so much trouble understanding him. I can’t put myself in his place because I can’t fathom being so blatant and unapologetic about my indiscretions. Why make things so hard for yourself? It’s so much easier to accept the opportunities people offer you…why would you go out of your way to screw up every chance you’re given?

In an effort to see the bright side (sometimes you really need to find a bright side), I’d like to think that his compulsion for disobedience will help him find his own way. Maybe earlier in life than others do.

Of course, the combination of disobedience and mushy teenager brain is not producing stellar results right now, but I hope that someday, somehow he’ll have to grow up a little bit. He’ll have to start recognizing when he is choosing the opposite path because it’s what he wants and when he is just doing it to be a pain in the ass and he’ll have to start to see how one produces much better results than the other...right?

Because I can appreciate disobedience when it comes from a well-intentioned and healthy place. I hope he gets there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

That's a Good Dog

There's an article on today about how service dogs are helping kids with autism. Interesting. I'm all for anything that helps kids with autism (and their families) lead fuller, safer, more independent lives.

With Owen being at the mild end of the spectrum, we are lucky not to have the safety issues that many parents of kids with autism experience -- specifically the impulse to run off without warning -- but there was something else intriguing in the article: Some of these dogs actually intervene and stop meltdowns. The dog apparently calms the kid down, heading off the meltdown. How great would that be?

My husband has been trying to convince me to get a dog for years. Show me a hypoallergenic, non-barking dog trained to stop meltdowns and you've got yourself a deal, honey. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reality Wednesdays

Thank you, Bravo TV for making Wednesdays the highlight of my TV-viewing week. Before I even had time to mourn the loss of Top Chef, you sated me with Shear Genius. And now you've doubled the pleasure with a new season of Project Runway all in one night! 

Alright, so even though I love it, I don't think Project Runway got off to the strongest start. I hope that this season isn't made up entirely of rehashed challenges just because the show is leaving the network - that would be a waste of what could be its last good season. (Sorry, I just don't have any faith in the Lifetime network.) 

I wish there was a practice round. Like if the first show was just to get the designers warmed up and nobody went home until the next episode. It just seems so sad to bring the contestants all the way there, put them in the opening credits, tell their stories, and then send them straight back home (or to top-secret lockdown, whichever) 24 hours later. I mean, at least Top Chef and Shear Genius have the mini-challenges before they start booting people off...I guess it's all part of the drama.

Really, I felt bad for Jerry. Maybe the producers did, too, since they clipped together his meet-the-contestant interview to make it clear that he was doing just fine without the show. I just would have liked to see what earned him a spot on the show to begin with because I have a feeling that his shower-curtain-raincoat getup wasn't an accurate reflection of his abilities. 

I'd like to say something about Shear Genius, too, but I am too pissed off about the Meredith vs. Nekisa debacle. 

Oh well, I guess I have to accept some heartbreak if I'm going to be a reality TV junkie.  

Monday, July 14, 2008


Just a quick note to say that I survived my first visit back to the aforementioned lion's den today. There were no traumatic flashbacks and I don't even think I wanted to vomit when I entered the building...that, my friends, is progress.

I'd love to tell you that I totally rocked the meeting, but I think I actually managed to contribute nothing. Could be worse least I didn't disrupt or otherwise derail the meeting. Pity the fool who comes between the borgs and their next strategic initiative.

I mean, er, I hope that next time I can better facilitate the development of a dynamic approach to the complex issue they are trying to tackle.

Yes, that's what I mean.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Contentment and Art

Do you have those days when everything seems to fall into place? When life seems suddenly easy and your kids seem perfect and life is just good? It doesn't even have to be the whole day -- just a few hours that are so good that they overshadow any of the not-so-fun parts of the rest of the day. 

I want to bottle that feeling of contentment. I want to tear off a scrap of it and carry it in my pocket. I want to figure out its recipe and make more of it day after day. 

It feels so simple, really. We decided to finally hit the artist-designed mini golf course at the Walker Art Center this morning. It was the perfect day for it. Not too hot, beautiful blue skies...perfect. We all had a good time on the course, although my personal review is that it wasn't a very good value. For $26, we only got to play 7 holes. If we'd wanted to play the other course (another 6 holes), we would have had to pay an additional $13. No thanks. 

When we were done putting, we walked across the street to the Sculpture Garden, which the boys had never seen (which is ridiculous now that I think about it). The boys became unexpectedly giddy as we walked through the sculptures and arrived at Spoonbridge and Cherry.

Needless to say, we will be returning to the Sculpture Garden soon, as I can't think of any other free activity that's elicited this much excitement from the kids lately.

After our art adventure, we took the kids to Chiang Mai Thai for lunch. I had pad thai on my mind because I just started reading "Death by Pad Thai." (I haven't actually gotten to anything about pad thai yet, but the name was enough to start the craving.) The boys had never had Thai food, but I was undaunted. 

One order of chicken satay, cream cheese wontons, pad thai, a banana smoothie, and a Sprite later and we were all nice and full without a single tantrum or refusal to eat - even from Mr. "Do they have macaroni and cheese?" Owen. 

Maybe it's silly, but I couldn't have been more proud. It's a wonderful feeling to know that you can take your kids to new places -- "grown-up" places -- and that all of you can actually enjoy yourselves. It's that feeling that our lives are fully integrated...that we are still people and that parenthood isn't just a constant loop of cartoons and ketchup and interminable games of Chutes & Ladders. Not that we don't still have all those things, but it's nice to know that there's more.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No Good, Very Bad Day

The last 24 hours have been very eventful and strange...not always in a good way.  As I mentioned in my previous post, my beloved cat was put to sleep yesterday evening. (Oh, and here's a tip: If looking at your recently departed pet makes you cry, maybe don't post a giant photo of her on your blog...unless you like staring into her sad eyes every time you visit your page.)

In a bizarre twist of fate, right around the time my cat was being euthanized, I got offered a well-paying project by someone I know and respect. The catch? It will force me to re-enter the lion's return to my former corporate employer (albeit temporarily) and not just attend meetings, but lead them. But I'm a big girl, right? I can do this. It's been two and a half years! So why did my stomach immediately clench up? Seriously, we are beyond counting cars at this point. Stay tuned to see if this is what pushes me over the edge. 

So today started out nicely enough with a playdate at the park. Then right around lunch time, the sky started growing dark...and darker...and darker. Then the tornado sirens went on, so I gathered my boys and we went down to the basement. Naturally, I had the TV on to see if we were, in fact, going to be swept up in a funnel cloud, but in an effort to distract my little worrywart, Aidan, I decided we needed some lighter viewing. I was relieved to find a rerun of "America's Best Dance Crew," which easily took the boys' minds off of the storm...

Until the screen went black and a foreboding voice who identified himself as a member of the police force came on to tell us that we were under a severe thunderstorm warning, that the storm could be dangerous and that we should not call the police department unless there was an emergency. Did you know that could happen? I didn't. I thought cable provided a cocoon from local threats. So much for pretending all was well. 

Conveniently, the storm stopped in time for us to leave for the boys' 5-year check-up at the doctor's office (yes, I'm tardy on that one). In good news, there was not only no tornado, but also none of the promised hail. Just a lot of wind and rain.

So we are walking out the door for the doctor's appointment, when I see smoke coming from behind my garage. A tree that stands approximately one foot from my garage is on fire. Upon closer inspection, it appears to be caught in the power lines and is throwing sparks...a lot of sparks...very close to the roof of my garage. I call 911. In minutes, a volunteer firefighter comes walking up my driveway (he must be one of my neighbors - who knew?). He takes a look and tells me they'll get to it as soon as they can, but in the meantime, it's not going to burn my garage down. He seems like he probably knows what he's talking about, so off we go to the doctor's office...with me only mildly concerned that I might not have a garage when I return. 

The check-up goes fine -- the boys regale their doctor with detailed descriptions of both their birthday party and the Wii games they received at the party -- until it's time for the dreaded 5-year immunizations. Only, they didn't know to dread them because I didn't warn them ahead of time. I figured there was no reason to make them worry. I also figured they'd do fine now that they are older...

What I did not figure was that they didn't know what it meant to "get a shot" and by the time I realized their confusion, the needles (4 of them!) were already going into Aidan's arms. "Ow! It hurts!" he exclaimed, completely surprised and confused. "I know," I whispered, feeling terrible that I didn't give him a better idea of what to expect. 

And then there was my little Owen, who was sitting right there the whole time, but somehow managed to block out his brother's cries of pain and make his way onto the exam table completely oblivious to what was about to happen. Whereas Aidan had yelped, Owen screamed. "It hurts!" he yelled at me, expecting me to make it stop. "Please!" he cried at the nurses. And even though by then it was over, I couldn't help it, I cried too...he was just so shocked that anyone would hurt him on purpose, it was heartbreaking. 

I am happy to report that a couple of lollipops took the boys' minds off the shots (although now they are both complaining that their arms hurt) and my garage did not burn down while we were gone. However, I have had enough for one day...or two days, as it were. 

It's time for some brainless television and a glass of wine. I have to rest up...who knows what I might need my strength for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Goodbye, Kitty

This is Zara. I got her on my 15th birthday, when she was just 10 weeks old. 

We had a lot of pets when I was growing up, but Zara has always been mine. She accompanied me through all of my moves. She was there through high school, college, moving in with my now-husband... everything. She is the only cat I've ever met who could play fetch. Even my dad, who hated cats, liked Zara, whom he used to affectionately call "Cat in the Hat." She is a good cat.

The last few years haven't been that kind to Zara; between my adult-onset cat allergies and the birth of my boys, I haven't spent much time with her lately. Still, I hope that the first 11 years, when I spoiled her rotten, have made up for it. 

Today we must say goodbye to Zara. She is 16 and her kidneys are failing.

I will miss you, Zara. Just not your hair. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mondays at the Beach

This is what Monday mornings should be like...

In lieu of the grand family vacation I wanted to take this summer, we took a mini-vacation (minication?) to Duluth on Sunday. Yesterday morning, after enjoying our "free" hotel breakfast (Lucky Charms AND waffles? This is living!) we walked down to the beach so the boys could throw another five zillion rocks into Lake Superior before it was time to go home. 

I mentioned to my husband that I'd like to spend every Monday morning on a beach. He offered that perhaps that was just the structure that my crazy "let's live in an RV and see the country" plan was missing. So rather than wander aimlessly around the country, we could set a goal to wake up each Monday next to a body of water -- ideally one with crashing waves. Sounds good to me. 

So now all we need is an RV, someone to pay our mortgage while we're gone, oh, and a well-paying job that provides benefits while allowing us to work from anywhere, whenever we want. We'll be on the road in no time!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Weight We Carry

We all have baggage. No matter what good intentions your parents might have had, you can bet they managed to screw you up in one way or another.

As parents ourselves, one of our many jobs is to try not to pass our baggage onto our kids. And while it’s true that we’ll probably just end up screwing them up in another way, at least our kids will have their own baggage to carry and not ours. Because really, once they get to therapy down the road, it will be easier for them to own their issues if they are, in fact, theirs.

You know that feeling when you became a parent that you would never do _____ the way your parents did? Imagine losing that opportunity – even temporarily.

We are still struggling with the teenager, only now it’s from a distance, as he is staying with his grandparents. The situation has not only crystallized the baggage my husband still carries, but has raised a lot of concerns about the way that same baggage is now being passed directly onto the teenager without the generational filtration system that is necessary for improvement. It’s like standing behind a two-way mirror, watching mistakes being repeated, knowing full well what the outcome will be, and not being able to stop it.

It's not being able to parent.

Who knows what’s best? It’s about perspective. As our parents’ grown children, we have a perspective they will never have – the same will be true for our children. So even though I believe I’m doing my best today, my kids will have the knowledge they need to do even better with their kids. I would never wish that opportunity away from them.

And I hope that when that time comes, I will know better than to think that I know better.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Rockets Red Glare

We tend to celebrate Independence Day a day early over here thanks to the annual event our local park holds on July 3rd. It's nice, actually, as it takes the pressure off figuring out what to do on the 4th since we've already fulfilled the pyrotechnic requirements of the holiday. 

Now, I admit that all the waiting and the accompanying whining that comes with keeping children (not just mine, but all children) up 1-2 hours past their bedtime is enough to make me want to skip the fireworks altogether...except then you see that look on their faces when the first explosion finally comes and, well, it seems worth it. 

But here's my wish: Could someone hold a separate fireworks display specifically for those who view such events as an excuse to get drunk in public? Because while such behavior didn't bother me much before I had kids, it really gets to me now. It's not that I'm against drinking, it's that I'm against mixing loud, drunk people and children. I mean, I wouldn't bring my kids to your kegger, so don't bring your drunk ass to my family's fireworks display. Seriously.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Even though it’s barely even July, I already I have to figure out what the boys are doing this fall. I mean, in addition to kindergarten (!), of course.

The easy answer would be “nothing.” They don’t have to be involved in any extracurriculars…it would be cheaper and less chaotic to be sure. Except, Aidan really wants to learn hip-hop dancing (thank you, “So You Think You Can Dance”) and I feel compelled to balance out Aidan’s activity by signing Owen up for something.

Plus, now that they are five I’m trying to encourage separate interests when possible. They are already SO competitive over everything, that I think it would be good for them each to have their own “thing.” However, figuring out what those “things” should be is proving difficult, as Aidan wants to try everything and Owen has a “me too!” attitude about everything Aidan does.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to put Owen in a social skills class (that is, if I can find one without a waitlist). I know it’s something he needs to work on, but part of me thinks he gets better practice when thrown into activities with “typical” kids. I’m not saying learning to hold a real conversation isn’t a valuable skill, but I’m wondering if it’s a skill he could build on while also learning something else.

As usual, I feel underqualified to make these decisions…but my gut is telling me we should try him out on piano. Concert pianists don’t really need to be good conversationalists, right?

**Special note: Check out Judith's Autismville blog today. See? I'm not crazy! Or, at least, it's going around...the more the merrier, I say.**

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Weird Science

The other day I found myself with electrodes stuck to my back, lying on a bed of ice, draped in a blanket, staring at inspirational quotes that had been taped to the ceiling, and all I could think was, "How did I get myself into this?"

I mentioned in an earlier post that I might have inadvertently joined a cult...a spinal care cult. It started out innocently enough. I had a massage gift certificate I'd been meaning to use. Following the massage (which was awesome), my masseuse informed me that since they were a clinic and I have scoliosis, I might be able to get massages covered by my insurance. 

Free massages?! My brain exclaimed. Sign me up!

Overcome with joy at the prospect of getting a weekly massage, I happily handed over my insurance card for "verifying." Flash forward a few days and I'm back at the clinic agreeing to come in 2 days a week to partake in their "unique approach to healing."  

Here's the thing: I don't like to seek treatment for my maladies. Nothing that requires more than one visit to a doctor, anyway. So I've had back pain associated with my scoliosis since I was a teenager. Add to that being rear-ended, pregnancy, carrying around two babies/toddlers and working at a computer since college and I've just sort of grown accustomed to discomfort. Had there not been a massage being dangled in front of me, I can assure you I wouldn't have jumped at the chance to fix my back purely for my own health. 

So after agreeing to terms that seem stunningly close to insurance fraud, I stifled the laughter and filed away my snide comments as they walked me through the "therapies:" the low-level laser that resembles a UPC scanner, the weird roller thing that feels as if you're being run over by a 10-ton vibrator and yes, the electrodes and ice combo. To be fair, there is also a legit physical therapy part of the process that incorporates pilates and will actually probably be very good for me - unfortunately, that's only about 1/4 of each visit.

Okay, so I'm not really a believer yet, but I've decided to drink the Kool-aid this time because really, what wouldn't I do for a weekly massage? 

I'll keep you posted on my progress. Send help if I start talking about getting any kind of spinal care-related tattoos. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Therapeutic Moment

I have been given an assignment. Every time I start to feel anxious, I'm supposed to count red cars. If I am not in view of a street (like inside my house), I'm supposed to open up a magazine and see if there are any red cars in there. 

It's called thought stopping. Interesting? I think so.  

It reminds me of the episode of Oprah I saw where the expert was explaining that FEAR stands for "Fearing Events that Aren't Real." Then she asked a question that stuck with me, "How much of your life have you spent fearing things that haven't happened?"

If, like me, your answer is "too much," then perhaps you'd like to count cars with me. Sure, it's hokey, but who knows? It could work.