Monday, September 29, 2008

Something Familiar

I read this article in the new issue of Metro last night and thought it was worth sharing even though I don't think most of you have a teenager putting you through hell...

I want the author, Susan Gaines, to be my mentor...or something like my sponsor, know, I want to be able to call her up mid panic attack and have her tell me what to do or just that it's going to be alright. Only, after what she's been through, I wouldn't really want to do that to her. 

Let's just say the article resonated -- particularly the line where she says she "feared going to the grocery store where I might run into neighbors whose children all seemed to be doing well." The feeling that everyone else's kids seem to be better off than yours is just plain heart-wrenching.

I think the main reason I liked the article is that it provided me with a little relief. Sure, there's the relief that comes from knowing others have gone through this too. Then the relief of feeling (hoping?) that our teenager isn't as bad off as hers. But mostly it's the relief of knowing that she's seen her son through to adulthood and has now found a way to stop his choices from affecting her life. 

That's what we're trying to do...we've made a lot of progress but keep running into new stumbling blocks. It's more than a little difficult to separate yourself from the choices that your child makes while you are still legally responsible for him and he is living under your roof. 

But still, we keep going. Hoping that every day we have to endure his suffering is one more day we might show him there's a better way. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Great Urban Racers, Are We

BFF Kevin and I successfully completed the Great Urban Race yesterday. I think I'm hooked. I might have to refocus my travel obsession on going places to compete in treasure hunts, although had we not been familiar with the city, we would have been at a big disadvantage.

So we went to the registration/starting point yesterday, having no idea what to expect. I wondered how many other people would actually have heard about this thing. I also worried that it would be a bunch of drunk college students and we'd be the ancient 30-something team trying to keep up with the kids. 

Turns out there were somewhere around 75 teams spanning in age from early-20's through 50's. Good crowd. You could tell by the serious game faces on a few of the teams that they were there to win  -- the top 3 winners got free entry into the national competition, where the grand prize is $10,000, so I suppose that's serious business...if you think you've got a shot at it. We chose to be more realistic and simply focus on finishing the race. 

At noon, the Race staff handed out envelopes to every team and told us we could open them on "Go!" What we got was a list of 12 clues and we had to solve 11 of them (you got to choose one to skip) in any order that we wanted. 

A flash of panic washed over me as I first scanned the list: the first clue was in hieroglyphic code that had to be deciphered. The second one listed a specific location - unfortunately, we had never heard of it. Another clue made reference to "the Weezer song that hit as high as #2 on the 1995 US Modern Rock tracks." There was word scramble, a riddle, a physical challenge, and, of course, a couple scavenger clues that required us to bring certain items back to the finish line with us. 

We knew we needed to make a plan, but standing amid 150 people running in all directions, our first instinct was to run, too. Right away we knew we had to get downtown for at least three of the clues, so we tried to take the bus (only public transportation is allowed) while also calling our phone-a-friend to have her start googling. After maybe 4 minutes of sitting at the bus stop and seeing no bus, we started walking. 

This brought us to the always-welcoming Grumpy's Bar, where we made the decision to use the wi-fi (I brought my laptop) and compile our list of every location we needed to visit. (And btw, Kevin gets full credit for cracking the hieroglyphics and solving the riddle.) I maintain that this was a smart move, even though we would later learn that by the time we were leaving Grumpy's with our itinerary, the first place team was 15 minutes away from crossing the finish line. They are either superhuman or had a GPS and a lot of people standing by to Google for them while they ran.

Right away, we had our "skip" clue chosen for us by failing to notice that we only had a 1-hour window to get to one of the clues - oops. I guess that saved us the trouble of having to choose. 

So off we went. First we jumped on a bus, thinking we'd head to our farthest point first. That was a fabulous plan, only we got on the wrong we found ourselves in the middle of downtown. No problem. We expertly navigated the city, banging out 5 of our clues...including this one, which required us to get a picture of 4 or more people cartwheeling in front of Candyland:

They weren't kidding about pushing you out of your comfort zone. 

After the impressive accomplishment of solving nearly half of the clues, we felt we deserved a celebratory drink. Since we chose to have this drink in the middle of Gameworks -- one of our clue locations -- we had the pleasure of pointing many teams in the right direction, while they looked at us quizzically as we sipped our cold beverages. One team actually came up and asked us why we were just sitting there. We told them we knew we weren't going to win, so we were just having fun. 

The looks on their faces was both confused and possibly angry that we weren't taking it more seriously. Perhaps as way of apology, Kevin felt compelled to start giving them answers. I was okay with one, but by the second I thought we had been congenial enough and should perhaps let them solve their own clues. I mean, it's not that fun if someone just gives you all the answers, right? (really, I was protecting their fun...)

After our downtown leg, we headed to Loring Park, where we had to complete a physical challenge involving "Buddy Walkers." It's sort of like a pair of wooden skis with ropes that you hold onto, and you have to walk in tandem so no one falls off. Falling off means starting over. I should point out here that there is a 17 inch height difference between Kevin and me. But thanks to our strategic use of "right, left, right, left," we didn't fall off!! Woohoo!

Next it was across the bridge to the sculpture garden (Clue #3: "Take a photo of both teammates in front of the real sculpture that's pictured somewhere on"), then onto another bus to get to Uptown. Naturally, we got on the wrong bus AGAIN (my fault), so more walking, walking and then we were able to knock off our last 3 clues within minutes of each other. 

This is a where a more competitive team might have rushed back to cross the finish line. We, however, chose to have another celebratory drink at Liquor Lyle's. Somehow I'd never been there and Kevin felt it necessary to right this wrong immediately.

After more bus mishaps, we did finally make it back to the finish line. I believe our time was 4 hours and 15 minutes -- well clear of the 5-hour limit. Did we place? Um, no. Pretty much the top 25 teams finished in about half our time. But hey, we weren't last and we did manage to solve all of our clues correctly, so I consider it a success.  

Is it too late to become a professional treasure hunt competitor? 

Friday, September 26, 2008

Competition, Here I Come...

Tomorrow I am doing something I have never done...

Competing in a RACE! Not just any race, mind you, a race based on a reality television show (really, what other kind of race would I enter myself in?). 

It's called the Great Urban Race. This company goes from city to city staging these Amazing Race-type events -- only unlike The Amazing Race, you actually have to solve clues to figure out where to go. (How can I get such a job?)

Those of you familiar with my affinity for treasure hunts can appreciate the dream-come-true quality of this occasion. 

Of course, I'm not competing alone. It's teams of two and my BFF/cosmic twin Kevin has agreed to be my partner...his commitment to winning is questionable (that's a total understatement), but I am confident we can at least finish the thing within the allotted 5 hours. 

Our team name is K-squared (he's a KK, I'm a KK). We even got matching shirts made! Here's our team logo:

In case you're not well-versed in Wingdings, this is what you get when type "KK", which is an amazing coincidence since it's also an accurate depiction of our attitudes toward most things. (But not treasure hunts, treasure hunts get a giant, beaming smiley face from me!)

I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. It could end in victory. It could end with us crying on the street corner, still stuck on clue #1. More than likely, it will be somewhere in between those two scenarios...let's hope there is no skyscraper bungee jumping or eating of pig intestines. Cuz we are not competing for a million dollars.

I promise a full recap tomorrow (or possibly Sunday if I'm wrecked after the intense competition).  Go K-squared!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Thoughts on Jenny McCarthy

I didn't watch Jenny McCarthy on Oprah yesterday - I couldn't do it again after her last appearance made me want to vomit - but I've already started hearing the backlash. 

She refers to her son's autism in the past tense, because he's been "cured" - by her, of course.

Supermom extraordinaire. 

I have a lot of problems with Jenny McCarthy. The fact that she's a talentless starf*^ker doesn't even top the list. 

I would have been happy to see her shed her blonde bimbo image and reveal herself to be an intelligent woman fighting for her son. Instead, what I see is someone who doesn't want to have a special needs child. It doesn't fit into the glamorous Hollywood persona she's been working so hard to build. 

Ah, but lucky for her, autism is a hot topic these days -- an opportunity to resurrect her never-really-famous-for-anything career. So why not take that smudge on her glossy little life and turn it into an asset? Now she can admit that her son HAD autism, while also taking credit for being such a committed mother that she was able to CURE him! Unlike the rest of us slack-ass parents just sitting around waiting for a medical explanation for this neurological disorder.

I feel sorry for her son because his mother will never accept him for who he is. She will continue to deny that his brain works differently than her own and she will probably spend the rest of her life trying to squeeze him into her narrow definition of "normal."  

Do I think she loves him? Absolutely. I also think she loves the idea of having a "normal" child. She loves it so much that she is trying to make it true by going on national television to proclaim his normalcy. This should come as no surprise from a woman who has clearly devoted her life to keeping up appearances.

As for her assertion that the rest of us simply aren't well informed enough or haven't worked hard enough to help our children: Fuck you, Jenny McCarthy. 

Tell that to the parents who have given up everything -- their homes, their jobs, their health, their marriages -- to help their children, and yet these children are still so mysteriously locked inside themselves, that they cannot speak. Parents who don't know whether their children will ever be able to say "I love you." Parents who wonder what their children will do when they are no longer around to care for them. 

And don't think Oprah is getting off the hook here. I sent a letter last time and I'll do it again. Oprah is being irresponsible by repeatedly having Jenny McCarthy sit on her stage, spouting her lies, without ever offering a counterpoint. Where is the equally outspoken expert standing up for those of us who believe in science? Who believe that the money that will be spent on Jenny's new book would be much better spent on autism research? On helping the families who can't afford their children's therapies? 

Where is the follow-up show that profiles the mothers who are clinically depressed as a result of feeling like they have failed their autistic children? Who feel like they must just not be good enough parents because they weren't able to cure their kids the way Jenny did? Where's the show about the parents who have killed their autistic children out of a sense of hopelessness and fear? I guess that wouldn't make for such a fun, feel-good episode...

With the incidence of autism as high as it is, I have to believe there is another celebrity out there who is living with the complexities of autism. One who understands the disorder and understands that, so far, there is no cure. Who understands that blaming the parents makes everything worse. Who will speak out in favor of research and early intervention without exploiting their child. Who can speak intelligently about how to have hope without living in denial. How to see every baby step as progress. And how to love your child for who he is. 

Whoever you are, I hope you've got Oprah's number.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Solo with kids

One of these days, I'm going to write a blog about how content I am. About how thankful I am for my life and my kids and how lucky I feel...I swear, I am. 

But not today. Today I am admitting the overwhelming sense of overwhelmedness(?) that I feel when I wake up in the morning knowing that I am facing yet another 4, 5, 6 day stretch in single parent mode (and btw, yes, I know that real single parents have it much harder). About the urge I have to keep the kids home from school and cancel all appointments and stay in my pajamas all day and not fight with anyone about putting on shoes or doing homework or eating their lunch...the desire to accomplish absolutely nothing.  

My husband has to travel for work - that's part of his job...the job that provides us with health insurance and a decent wage from which we try to live. I knew he would have to travel when he took this job. It seemed worth it to have a stable income and health insurance that actually pays for things like doctor visits.  But when the travel stacks up and he's gone more than he is's just too much.

I'd love to be derive some sort of strength from knowing I can single-handedly keep the household humming along with minor interruption...but as Liz Phair so succinctly sums it up, "There are days when I'm too tired."* 

Plus, I suspect that all the so-called supermoms cry themselves to sleep at night...or at least have developed some kind of pill habit (not that I'm judging).

It's not that the day-to-day logistics of parenting are tremendously difficult. It's not exactly complicated work. I'm not saving lives or solving global crises...maybe it's just the nonstop mundanity that exhausts me. And the knowing that back-up isn't coming. 

More than anything, I think what weighs on me are my conflicting feelings of wanting to be near these little people, whom I love more than anything...wanting to do everything in my power to make them happy...while simultaneously wanting to hand them the remote and crawl back under the covers (or better, to jet off to Aruba). 

Believe me, I don't think I'm unique in feeling this way, it's just that sometimes the only way to relieve some of the pressure is to say these things out loud. And so... 

My husband is out of town again and it sucks. My kids will likely watch too much TV and we'll probably get fast food for dinner at least once (even though our account balance says we shouldn't) and I'll likely be in bed by 8:30, eating ice cream out of carton...but we will all be okay. And probably even mostly happy. 

*From "Wind and the Mountain" (Contrary to popular belief, not all of her post "Whip-Smart" material is crap)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pie in the Sky

I woke up this morning fantasizing about becoming a pie maker. Learning to make flakey crusts from scratch…coming up with my own fantastic recipes à la “Waitress.”

I blame this fantasy on watching the American Pie Challenge on the Food Network before bed. And I’m still wondering how one becomes part of the American Pie Council…

But really, this is just part of the career crisis that seems to seize me every six months or so. I’m fantasizing about making writing a hobby and making something else my career…and I’m not saying that pie making is easy -- because, as it stands, the only pies I can make involve Cool Whip and pudding mix – but there’s just something so straightforward and honest about it.

Looks like that KitchenAid stand mixer is going on my Christmas comes in boysenberry.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pancakes, Piano and Wii...Oh My!

Today I had the rare opportunity to hang out with my little Owen for the entire morning -- just the two of us -- while Aidan was out playing dress-up with daddy at the Renaissance Festival.

Owen is about 400 times more talkative when his brother isn't around and it was nice to get to focus all of my attention on him for several hours. I asked him if he wanted to get something special for breakfast. He chose the Original Pancake House (the kid has good taste). 

Between the hot chocolate and the chocolate chip pancakes, I'm pretty sure he consumed more whipped cream and chocolate chips than anything resembling breakfast, but he had a good time..if there was any doubt about that, he put it to rest by exclaiming for everyone within a 20 foot radius  to hear, "That was SO fun!" as we left the restaurant. 

After stopping back home for some solo Wii time (imagine the excitement of not having to take turns for one short hour of your little twin life), we were off to Owen's very first piano class at MacPhail. 

I should note here that today was our Walk Now for Autism event and Team Owen was regrettably absent...although I think my sister-in-law might have been there to represent us. I had planned on being there with the kids right up until I realized that Owen would have to miss his first piano class. As much as I wanted to show my support for Autism Speaks, I didn't want to set Owen up to be a week behind the rest of his (neurotypical) class. But all the donations went to the cause, so that's still something to feel good about. 

Anyway, back to piano class... 

That's Owen's little head sticking up on the other side of that piano. How CUTE is that? They're all wired up to the teacher via headsets. The whole classroom vibe seems a bit serious for my taste, but I guess that's how they produce the next generation of, Owen likes structure, so it might be right up his alley. He seemed very proud of himself when class was over, which is always a good sign.  

After piano, it was time to go back home and meet up with Owen's other half, who arrived a dirty, whiney mess, but was quickly revived with some mac 'n' cheese and a shower. 

Tomorrow is Owen's day with daddy and my alone time with Aidan. He hasn't told me what he wants to do yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slosh, Slosh

Homework assignment #1? Check.

But I'm not exactly proud of what I wrote. In fact, if it was a situation where we had to stand up and read out loud to the class, I'd probably skip that day. (This way we just have to post our assignments on the class message board for everyone to laugh at in private.)

I'm sorry to say that I've allowed my years of corporate writing to sink me into this "good enough" mindset. As in, "Eh, it's not great, but it's good enough." I am sloshing around in a puddle of mediocrity...a really deep puddle out of which I haven't quite mustered the determination to climb.

Sometimes when I'm writing, I start to veer off into flowery sentiment or overdramatic metaphor and then I stop myself because it just doesn't seem...honest. It seems like I'm just writing a lot of words that sound good rather than saying anything that means anything.

This makes me wonder if good writers sometimes just sort of let the words lead them. If they let what sounds good matter more than what's real. Or do they all actually think the way they write? If so, I really need to step up the quality of my thoughts...let me just add that to the to-do list quick. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Inevitable...and Delaying It

So I have a tiny respite from corporate propagandizing today and I'm trying to enjoy it, but I've got this travel writing assignment hanging over my head. 

In good news, I know what I'm writing about and it's pictured above (can you guess the location? "Nondescript forest" does not count.) least it's something nice to think about even if putting word to page is feeling a little daunting at the moment. 

In bad news, there is sickness on the horizon. Both the boys are stuffy and glassy-eyed today and I'm getting that familiar hot/cold feeling mixed with a headache that won't quit...the first cold of the school year is coming for us. 

This means I should really get my piece written tonight, before waking up with a sore throat and clogged sinuses...or worse, before the kids wake up with fevers and can't go to school tomorrow. Crap. This seriously conflicts with my predilection for procrastination.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Tangled Tales I (Wish I Could) Weave

The travel writing class has begun. It's an online class, so really all that means is that our first lecture was posted and we got our first assignment. Once a week, we all join in for an online chat with our instructor (who is also an editor for Lonely Planet!). 

So I'd like to say that I'm off to a running start, but...not so much. I have to write about something here, something interesting little slice of my city...something I love about it...something I think others will love about it. A place or activity that I have to actually go do or see before I write 1500 words about it (by Friday). It sounds so simple, right? 

And here we go, one little assignment puts it all into everyday life has been reduced to a rotation of elementary school hallway, my kitchen, SuperTarget and (on a good day) Starbucks. Sure, I vaguely recall having done interesting things at one point...sometimes I even have the opportunity to go out and do them now...but I don't exactly feel qualified to unlock some secret side of my city...unless maybe you didn't know that Wolfgang Puck Express is the best place to eat with your kids at the Mall of America because not only do they serve mac 'n' cheese and pizza, but they have grown-up food, too, including fabulous butternut squash soup. This is not the type of "travel writing" I had in mind. 

I should be honest about what's really bothering me. It's not just that I don't seem to have a single creative idea in my head. It's that the other members of my class all appear to be fabulously jetset -- no less than three of them are actually living abroad currently -- and the only other one who mentioned an interest in family travel also mentioned that she's already had a travel article published...about the time she took her 4 kids to Paris for a long weekend. 

I'm jealous, yes. But more than being jealous, I'm intimidated. Being able to take your kids to Paris might not make you a good writer, but it definitely means you've got some interesting things to write about. Sure, I can write well, but if all I'm writing about is kids-eat-free nights and how to navigate downtown with a stroller, well...let's just say I'll be appealing to a somewhat smaller demographic. (And possibly boring myself to tears in the process.)

This is all just me working out my neuroses. I'm sure it will be fine. My riveting piece on the indoor playground near my house will totally stand up to tales of learning to crack fresh coconuts in Tahiti or visiting the monastery in Bhutan...yep, it's all in my head. All in my head.

So anyway, does anyone have any suggestions on things that make Minneapolis interesting?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trick or Treat?

My kids want to be ghosts for Halloween. We talked through all sorts of fun ideas (like being a frog and a prince)...we went to the megacostumestore and dismissed all of the crappy pirate and superhero costumes...but nothing stuck. 

Then a couple of days ago Aidan came to me and announced, very seriously, that he had decided to be a ghost for Halloween. My first (silent) reaction was disappointment, as if he should have come up with something more creative (seriously, I don't know why I care), but within a split-second I realized what a fabulous development this was, as he had magically chosen the one costume that uncrafty me can make myself rather than shelling out $50 at Pottery Barn. Woohoo!

Owen was an easy sell. He responded with an "Okay!" that suggested he was glad somebody else had figured it out for him. 

So I went online for some ghospiration -- even though I'm pretty sure all I need is a white sheet and a pair of scissors -- and was horrified to find that apparently some people actually buy ghost costumes for their children:

Crappy, creepy ghost costumes that bare far too close of a resemblance to something a Klan member would wear for my comfort. 

Or, you could choose to go the "friendly" ghost route:

I guess the smattering of patchwork makes that worth $20 plus know how those friendly ghosts are always patching themselves up, right?

I feel like buying your child a ghost costume is sort of like admitting that you let your kids eat Velveeta cheese slices for you just couldn't be bothered to find something better. 

I mean, if you're going to buy a costume, get some bang for your buck. Buy something that would have been nearly impossible to make yourself (read: anything other than a ghost). If nothing else, it will make you feel less guilty for not being crafty.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Ok, so I'm officially giving up the reality recaps because even though I love Project Runway, it's just not doing much to inspire a lot of words out of me this season. This does not mean, however, that I won't still comment on my favorite shows when the occasion arises...

So without going into a lot of detail, did you see what the contestants on Top Design did with those bomb shelters? Half of them were nicer than my living room (my living room is nice, btw). Okay, but am I the only one who thinks it's weird that Ricky Shroder's wife is on the show? Yes, I understand that she wants to be recognized for her own thing, but is becoming a reality television contestant really the best way to do that? 

This is all made weirder by the fact that she isn't telling anyone she's Ricky Shroder's wife...I'm all for personal fulfillment, but I kind of think that if I were her, I might just enjoy the luxury of being married to a child star.

Moving on, let's talk about the newest Real World/Road Rules challenge. Now let me start out by saying that I am aware that I am not the demographic for this...that being over 30 makes me ancient by MTV standards. But what can I say? I can't let go. I don't watch The Real World or Road Rules anymore, but I loved them once and there's something about the challenges that I still like...even though even the people I actually recognize, I don't actually know from their shows (with the exceptions of Tonya and Robin), just from the other challenges. 

Gone are the days of Eric Neis and Julie and even Puck...but still, I am intrigued by these challenges. None more so than this latest one, The Island. They dump all these kids, who have devoted their lives to being caricatures of real people, on an island and tell them that eventually they'll have to build a raft and row their way out to a farther island, where all the cash is stashed. In the meantime, just hang out and learn to hate (or luuuuuv) each other. 

What do they do first? Get drunk! Of course! What else are you going to do on a deserted island? Plus, it appears that while they have an unlimited supply of booze, they have nothing but rice and coconuts to eat...I can't wait to see who dies of dehydration first! 

Okay, but seriously, if Tonya can grow up and become a functioning member of society, doesn't it give you hope for humanity? Yes, so she's only functioning in a town in Nebraska with a population of 500+, but still...

Ah, I love this stuff. It's candy for my brain. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

There's Got to Be a Better Way

Remember that corporate gig I mentioned, oh, 9 weeks ago? The one I was worried might push me over the edge? Yeah, well, it's still going on and the edge is well within my view. 

I think my problem is that I've become incapable of putting up with the manufactured chaos that goes with corporate America. I mean, it's one thing if I'm only dealing with people over email now and then, but it's quite another to have to make personal appearances and numerous phone calls and act as if the chaos is not only real, but totally acceptable. 

You're all insane! runs through my mind on a constant loop anytime I have to enter the corporate campus. This same mantra comes to me when forced to sit through conference calls that mostly entail talking about how gosh darn busy everyone is. So busy that they can't be on time to meetings or sometimes even schedule meetings...meetings that they insist on having before anything can proceed. 

I know that because I am a freelancer who stays home with her kids people assume I lounge around eating bon-bons all day and should therefore be available at a moment's notice, but I'm actually probably busier with actual things than the average corporate automaton. The big difference is that I don't have to participate in group think before I am able to accomplish a task. I just go out and do it. And I don't even have to have a meeting after I've done it to talk about what I did! 

It's amazing how efficient you can be when you don't waste so much time talking about how to be efficient. 

Resentful? Just a little. I try to keep my hostility under wraps by reminding myself how lucky I am that I only have to spend a few hours a week in this world vs. my whole week, or worse, my entire career...still, I need to work harder on finding a way to make a living that does not include the Borg. Or at least, a lot less of it. 

Which brings me to my exciting news! I'm taking a class in travel writing. It's probably the most obvious career choice for me given that I'm a writer obsessed with travel...and yet I've always put off trying to get into it, telling myself it's too competitive and very few people really get paid to travel, anyway. (This is especially silly given that I was a music reviewer, which is arguably more competitive and harder to break into.) I still have those doubts, but I'm jumping in anyway. 

I have a bad habit of quitting things when I get overwhelmed, so I'm making a public vow that I won't quit this. It's only 8 weeks and I'm told I'll come out with actual pieces I could pitch to magazines...wish me luck. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mac 'n' Cheese

Tonight I made what food critic/cookbook author Ann Hodgman claims is "the best macaroni and cheese." I did it all, the makeshift double-boiler, the evaporated milk, the Velveeta...

Let me save you all of the trouble. Not only is it not the best, my kids wouldn't even eat more than a bite. Another 45 minutes wasted in the kitchen...oh well, it was worth a try.  

Hate is a 4 Letter Word

A disturbing thing happened at Target this morning. We were meandering through the grocery aisles and I heard a woman snap, "I hate shopping with you!" I turned my head to see a mom in her 40's with three kids between the ages of 3 and 6. 

Before I could even attempt to feel sympathy for this woman (because I've had that same thought at times, but never said it aloud), the dialogue between this adult and her 3-year-old deteriorated into "I hate you!" "Well, I hate you." "Well I hate you more." "Well I hate you the most."

Shoppers within a 10-foot radius looked around in alarm, not sure whether to point out the many ways she was damaging her kids or run and hide. My first instinct was to get my kids out of earshot. My second instinct was to cry. I hate to think what goes on when they're not out in public. 

I really do try not to be judgmental with other moms, but some people are so reckless with their children that it breaks my heart. 

But, in that special way that kids do, Aidan was able to lighten the mood toward the end of our shopping trip, when we were searching for a nail clipper. (Someone is stealing my nail clippers, I swear.) As we were wandering around, I absentmindedly said, "If you were a nail clipper, where would you be?"

To which Aidan responded: "I would be under the couch watching game shows and I'd only come out when you weren't home and then I'd walk around the house." Um, you think he knows something I don't?

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I'm feeling frustrated. Not surprised, just frustrated. Yes, it's about the teenager. Nothing major, really, just another display of selfishness and stupidity.

The gist is that he owes us money. We didn't lend him any, but we paid for football and he chose to drop out 3 days in -- coming to us to say he'd pay us back the almost-$200 we paid. Great. Except he doesn't want to do anything to earn any money - he just knew what he had to say to escape a big lecture. 

In fact, now he wants us to give him money (we nixed the allowance as soon as we found out he was buying drugs with it). His new position is that the child support we collect from his birth mother is his and we are obligated to give it to him. By not doing so, we are greedy and obviously profiting from his misery. To which I say, talk to me when you have any idea what it takes to run a household. 

How is it possible that we raised someone with zero integrity and virtually no common sense? I mean, if there's one thing I've got, it's common fu*king sense -- have I failed to pass this trait on to the boy I have raised for more than 11 years? It seems impossible. 

Yes, yes, teenagers are dumb. But sometimes I worry that he's especially dumb. Like he has some sort of immunity to reason. His actions are so shoot-yourself-in-the-foot stupid that I really just have no response. This leaves me with the feeling that I will either simply grin and bear the rest of his high school career (until he's booted out to face the cruel world on his own) or I will run away to a Caribbean island and teach my boys to make and sell seashell necklaces on the beach. 

Neither of these options seems...healthy. So for the sake of sanity, I'm feeling inclined to follow the age-old wisdom that if you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing. (this excludes my blog, of course) Can I say nothing for 21 months? 

No, but I can at least say nothing for now. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Half-Ass Reality Recap

I'm afraid the Friday recap is becoming a habit...and who really wants to read a recap 2 days after the shows aired? I must admit that my Weeds viewing has cut into my Bravo viewing. Sadly, there are only so many hours between when my children go to sleep and when I can no longer keep my eyes open. Hard choices must be made.

Ok, so last night I did fit Project Runway into my night. The "Foreign Affair" thing was kinda fun. I thought Kenley should have won. 
I get that it seemed too "easy" compared to the others' three-piece ensembles, but the girl shouldn't be punished just because everybody else bit off more than they could chew. Plus, her dress is way cuter than Leanne's ill-fitting coat and blueberry dress. 

As for Stella being was time. 

The woman has a niche - leather and studs. She wasn't able to (or interested in) translating that skill into high fashion, so she had to leave. But since she made it pretty clear that she didn't really need this show anyway, I wish her the best. If I ever become a rockstar and need some leather chaps, I will look her up. 

Wish I could comment on Top Design. It's sitting patiently in my Tivo queue, waiting for me to run out of episodes of Weeds. I'm sure I'll get to it this weekend. 

Btw, although I am still in love with Weeds, I am more than halfway through season 2 and I'm already missing the fresh-faced, naive Nancy Botwin from season 1. I know, I know, there has to be drama, but I'm not loving the DEA storyline. That is all I care to say at this juncture.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So Much

Whew! Yesterday was a big day. The boys even had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual so they could recover...and so I could watch the first disc of season 2 of Weeds. (Next disc is coming today!)

The first day of kindergarten wasn't our only big event. We also had the first day of Aidan's hip-hop dance class. Owen had a last-minute fit of feeling left out, which broke my heart, but I know it's for the best. Synchronized choreography and Owen will probably never be friends. Solo freestyle breakdancing? Maybe. Anyway, I signed Owen up for his own piano class for 5-year-olds (somehow they teach a group of kids piano all at once), which he is excited about -- and which came in handy when the well-meaning mothers at dance class asked why he wasn't participating.

The other big event of the day was the teenager's birthday present: tickets to the Rage Against the Machine concert -- on his birthday, during the Republican National Convention, no less (could there be a better time to see RATM?). As expected, the concert ended in a vaguely political, rock-fueled riot. The closest the teenager came to the riot was being stuck in the traffic it caused, which I think is a good thing as I'm not ready for middle-of-the-night phone calls from the police station. 

The euphoria of seeing a really good rock show was still with him this morning. Let's hope his life has been changed in some small way for the better. 

So after all that, do I get to lounge around the house in sweatpants today? No. Today brings the first day of swimming lessons. I am dumb. I've turned into one of those mothers who over-schedules her kids...only it happened unintentionally. I want them to learn to swim for safety reasons, but Aidan really wanted to take hip-hop dancing, which left Owen in need of a counter balance activity. And here I am with lessons three days a week. Someday I will learn how to say no to learning experiences without feeling like I'm cheating my kids...but not today. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It Has Begun

Day 1: The boys woke up excited this morning. We took pictures with their little backpacks and made sure to eat a good breakfast. 

When we got to school, things were so chaotic that there was no time for tears. Owen had a little fit about hanging up his backpack, but I think he was overwhelmed by all of the noise in the hall - I'm hoping he'll get used to it. Then Aidan got upset because he ripped his name tag by accident (they are forced to wear nametags around their necks for the first week), but the teacher fixed it with a little scotch tape. 

When I kissed them goodbye, they were already absorbed in the school's "newscast," which they play every morning on TVs in the classroom (I haven't decided how I feel about that yet). 

Pick-up went well too - we're supposed to wait out in our cars for the kids to exit the building, which is weird, but all of us moms had gathered outside the door to greet them on their first day. The sub special ed teacher walked out with the boys so he could introduce himself. He already seems to care about Owen, so I think we're off to a good start there (despite my concerns yesterday). Let's hope the real teacher is as warm and fuzzy. 

The boys were bubbling with excitement. According to them, they colored, they read "The Kissing Hand," they sang a song, and they ate a snack...pretty much everything you could hope for in a day of kindergarten. 

And so it has begun...let's hope the whole year turns out as well as today. 


In honor of my beloved-but-misguided stepson turning 17 today, I thought it fitting to dig out an old post from my old blog. It was a vision that came to me around Christmas time when we were arguing with him about getting a job (he still hasn't) and his birth mother dropped $300 cash in his lap to show how much she "cares." Cuz really, not a lot has changed and it's still just as funny.

What starts as an undercover "horticultural" operation in his dorm room closet will unleash a previously-undiscovered passion for farming and he will move to the mountains where he will grow his own food and live off the grid in an underground cabin. When the peace and quiet becomes overwhelming, he will teach himself to play guitar. On a whim, he'll roll into town one day for open mic night at the local bar, where he will debut his original tune, "You Can't Buy My Love for $300," the heart-wrenching tale of his relationship with his mother, which will instantaneously catapult him into stardom because, well, we all know girls dig tortured souls.

So you see, maybe he's right. Maybe he doesn't need to learn to hold a job or manage money...his future as an organic farming singer/songwriter is virtually dangling in front of him - all he has to do is reach out and grab it.

Happy birthday to the kid who I still believe can do anything he puts his mind to. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Getting Oriented

Tomorrow is the official start of kindergarten, but today was orientation. I really tried to go in there with a good attitude, but in the end, my cynicism was only strengthened. 

As soon as we arrived, they separated parents and kids, which is okay, except that the kids had to spend an hour in a classroom with a teacher that is NOT their kindergarten teacher, while the parents endured a presentation by the actual kindergarten teacher that could have just as easily been read from the nicely stapled packets we all received. The gist? 
  • Bring a snack -- but under no circumstances should a peanut come into contact with that snack. 
  • Keep your kids home if they're sick -- but you are a negligent parent if you don't send them to school any other day, including if you take them on vacation to Disneyworld. 
  • Bad kids go to the "quiet room" -- you don't want your kid to go there.
  • Your child will have homework every night, which means you will have homework every night because you have to sign off on everything once it's done.
So what can I say? I wasn't impressed. The teacher seems nice enough, but why didn't anyone think to provide a time where the kids could actually meet her? When I went to get the boys from the playroom, Aidan said, "Our teacher wasn't there!" He was (rightly) confused. So I brought them back to the parent-only room to introduce them to their teacher.

I asked their teacher why we haven't received a scrap of information about who Owen's special ed teachers will be. And why weren't any of them there? I know my kid isn't the only one with an IEP - shouldn't this orientation be a little more inclusive? 

As expected, their teacher didn't know anything about it, but she did offer the useful tidbit that the woman in charge of coordinating special ed services at their school had to have surgery and would be out for 4 more weeks. Um, so what does that mean to me? Their teacher guessed that there just wouldn't be any special ed services for 4 weeks (or more)...

So what you are telling me is that my son will have an entire month to settle into the "typical" school routine and then you will begin yanking him out of class to work with teachers he's never met? Brilliant. 

I got home and called the principal to see if he could provide a better answer, but given that it's the first day of school for the rest of the grades, I'm not holding my breath on a call back today. 

I know, it's probably all my fault. I should have called the district back in August when I still hadn't heard anything, but stupid me figured it wouldn't be that big of a deal to simply speak to the teachers at the orientation. I mean, the plan is already documented, all I needed was to meet the people involved. 

Add to all that the fact that they are going to spend next week writing the letter A and learning to read the words I, a, and is, and well, I just don't have a lot of faith. 

And speaking of faith, while we were getting on the school bus that we were all forced to ride around the block (even the kids who aren't going to take the school bus), Aidan pipes up with the question: "Why do all the churches have plus signs on them?" Those are crosses, honey. "What's a cross?" 

And there you have it. Our complete lack of religion exposed before all of my children's would-be friends and their parents. It's not that I'm ashamed that I don't subscribe to organized religion, it's just not a great icebreaker...especially out here in suburbia. 

With this much excitement in a 90-minute orientation, I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring. Here's hoping the kids' enthusiasm eclipses my cynicism.