Sunday, November 30, 2008


This is where I'll be eating dinner tonight...because I will be in LAS VEGAS! I'm continuing my tour of celebrity chef restaurants with Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. Last trip, we hit Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak (it was awesome!), maybe next time we'll try one of Mario Batali's spots...or maybe that will be the trip I realize my dream of partaking in Joel Robuchon's 16-course tasting menu. Or maybe not.

Unlike most of my Vegas trips, there is no real itinerary planned for this visit to Sin City - in fact, our reservations tonight at Mesa are pretty much it. I'm tagging along on my husband's work trip and it's unclear how long his work days will be, so I haven't been able to plan much...this will likely result in me having endless hours to slot-hop...

All my friends should be on the lookout for a midday call announcing that I've tapped into my inner Hunter S. Thompson and will not be returning until the book is finished.

I debated bringing my laptop so I could blog about my solo adventures, but I figured it would be too tricky to balance my laptop and a cocktail while winning millions at a Price is Right slot machine, so you'll have to wait until I get back for a full report. However, there's a good chance that I'll photo blog from my phone over here

Viva Las Vegas!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Here is where I write the floweriest, most eloquent post about how thankful I am for my husband and my kids. About how much they mean to me, and not in that syrupy Hallmark way, but with meaningful words that accurately convey the depths of my emotions...

Except that's really not gonna happen, so instead, here are some other things I'm feeling thankful for as I sit here in my Cakespy Yum! apron, preparing for the fiasco that will so be my annual Thanksgiving brunch. 

I am thankful...

1. for pumpkin pancakes. They are not only delicious, but they gave me an excuse to make brunch our tradition, thus freeing me from ever having to cook a turkey.

2. that my dad was here the first Thanksgiving that I ever made these pumpkin pancakes and that he held my boys even though they were still tiny and it made him totally uncomfortable.

3. for Starbucks and their seasonal drinks. I can't help but feel better when sipping a peppermint mocha. 

4. for my therapist, who helps me make sense of the chaos that is often my life and pushes me to act out of love rather than fear.

5. for Tivo, for allowing me to feed my reality TV addiction without ever having to remember when anything is on.  

6. for my friends, who listen patiently and always say the right things when I am in the midst of a crisis, even though they probably have other things they'd rather be doing.

7. for Las Vegas, where I will be just 76 hours from now(!), evading the nervous breakdown that's been knocking at my door.  

8. for everyone who reads my blog. It's really an honor to have so many people take time out of their day to read my random thoughts and neurotic ramblings. (Comments are always appreciated!)

There's more, of course, but my brunch guests are arriving in 40 minutes, so I must get out of my head and back into the kitchen. I hope you all find lots to be thankful for today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Words by Another

While I gather my thoughts for a Thanksgiving post, I give you this really beautiful essay on family from Babble:

I hope to be back tomorrow with something even half as articulate as that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Finding Our Way

***For those of you wishing I’d get back to lighter topics like funny things my kids say or Top Chef, I say: I’m with you, I’d like to get back to those things as well…I’m working on it, but would be remiss not to mention the weightier things going on at the moment.***

We can probably all name things we’ve done that we hope to never have to do again. This weekend I added “visiting my child in lockdown treatment center” to my list. I hope to never have to do that again, but I would if that’s where he needed to be.

I could also add “watching my child present his drug chart” to the list. This is the presentation that patients are asked to give to their parents when being released from inpatient treatment. It’s an inventory of all the drugs they’ve ever done, including how much and how often. Therapeutic significance aside, it’s the kind of thing you, as a parent, can’t help feeling that you could have happily gone your whole life without knowing.

There is good news, of course. Despite the pain of this process, I do feel like we’re moving forward. I know it won’t be easy. I know it’s up to him. I know he will stumble a few times before he finds solid ground. But at least we’re somewhere other than that dead space where we all know the truth, but no one wants to speak it…where everyone wants to do something, but no one knows what to do.

At least we’ve got a roadmap now. And even though it’s his journey to make, we can help him up when he falls and be his cheering section at every step.

I don't know if I just got exceptionally complicated children or what, but this parenting stuff is f*^king hard. I didn't know if it was possible to feel more helpless than I did when my tiny babies were hooked to ventilators, but I'm starting to think so. 

Thank you to everyone who has asked if there's anything you can do. If I could ask you to carry this heaviness in my heart for even five minutes, I would. As it stands, your kind words do make it easier. Thanks.

Friday, November 21, 2008


An interesting and deceiving thing about anxiety is that you think you're preparing yourself for something...or everything. You think worrying about every possible scenario means that you'll know what to do when it happens, but then when you are actually confronted by one of your fears, it's always different than you thought and your reaction will probably surprise you. And all that anxiety was a waste of time.

I know this, and yet it doesn't quiet the "what ifs" that scream in a constant loop through my mind. Knowing that I can't prepare only makes me more anxious.

I could say many things about the situation with the teenager here...about how every time I think we've seen the worst of it, it gets worse...but the important thing for today is that he is safe. He is with people who are helping him and so far, he seems to be warming up to the idea that maybe life doesn't have to be so hard. That is to say that I am hopeful, but in an ultra-cautious, don't-want-to-have-my-heart-broken-again-this-week way. The bottom line is that as long as he's willing to go another round, so are we.

Because no matter how terrified I am of what will happen next, it can't be worse than having to confront my greatest fear of all...never having to worry about him again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm Just a Little Black Rain Cloud

I’m in another week where it was Sunday and then I looked up and it was Wednesday and I don’t really know how it happened. I suppose I’ve been busy with things, but mostly it feels like I’ve been living in a haze of frustration and sadness.

I mentioned the brain tumor/surgery situation a friend of mine is going through in a previous post. This person has been a mentor to me. An inspiration. He is someone I respect immensely. The world can’t afford to lose someone like him – not now, not like this. His situation is improving in some ways and even more precarious in others. It’s really all just waiting and hoping and, well, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and I guess it’s starting to piss me off.

In the same vein is the teenager situation, which has only continued to deteriorate. Sadly, a treatment program seems like the only hope at this point and even my hope for that isn’t great. You can’t change somebody who doesn’t want to change and since he continues to find people that will prevent him from hitting bottom, he hasn’t reached the point where change is the only option.

It’s difficult to describe how painful it is to watch and how helpless we feel - kudos to my husband who has shown superhuman strength through all of this even though his heart is being ground up into tiny pieces.

As a parent, it's hard to accept that you can't help. It’s not unlike the way I felt when I went into preterm labor at just 23 weeks pregnant. I would have gladly agreed to be put into a coma for three months (in fact, I asked if it was possible) if that would have bought my babies the extra time they needed to grow.

If there was something I could actually do for him…a way to take away his pain and give him the will to want something better…I would do it. I would give every happy memory we’ve shared in the past 12 years in exchange for some assurance that he was going to be okay. But the reality is that he has to make himself better and all we can do is be here when he’s ready. And, well, that just really sucks.

So, TGIW, cuz I could really use a good episode of Top Chef to take my mind off all this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I'm struggling with this Christmas thing...I guess I struggle with it every year. I want to shop. I like to shop. I don't really get to shop much (groceries don't count). Alas, the budget does not allow for shopping. 

But it's not really about wanting to shop, it's more that I'd really like to get all of my friends presents. I enjoy picking out the exact right thing for each person. I even like wrapping. If I could, I'd totally be one of those people perpetually giving out random gifts because "I saw it and it reminded me of you." I'd like to be that person. 

I think what it is -- and this might surprise those of you who only know me through the blogosphere -- is that I'm not very emotional (unless I'm watching ER or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), so gifts are sort of a way to tell people what they mean to me without having to get all sappy about it. 

In lieu of gifts, I always have this idea that I'm going to send all of my friends exquisite Christmas cards, in which I will write exactly the right thing...words that will touch them so deeply that they will shed a tear and keep that card for eternity, referring back to it now and then to be reminded of how special our friendship is. Like a Hallmark commercial come to life!

Right. Except you see, I get hung up on this sappy thing. This fear that being too sentimental will creep everybody out. Or, that I won't be able to find the right words and I'll write something entirely stupid.

The solution to this, of course, is to simply send photo cards that only have room for our names and maybe "Happy Holidays!" I do love photo cards.

Will this year be different? Well, probably not. But maybe I'll find the courage to write some of those things anyway. Even if it's not Christmas. Just because. 

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Blue Zoo Train

This is one of the space fillers on the Disney Channel. (You know, so they only have to make their real shows 16 minutes long.) But every time I am forced to watch it, I can't help feeling that the animals are on their way to being euthanized...much like the singer's career.

(Please note: The song I'm referring to is 30 seconds in - past the intro)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hot and Furry

Happy Thursday. How great is Top Chef?

If you gave me 15 apples and told me I had 20 minutes to prepare a dish, you would be lucky to get a plate of sliced apples with some cheese on the side. Or maybe, if I was feeling super motivated, I would stuff one of the apples with peanut butter - and it would probably take almost the entire 20 minutes for me to core the thing. There would be nary a seared scallop or porkloin in sight.

I thought it was a good first episode. I don't think I'll miss either of the eliminated contestants...I guess I'll never know. But when will they learn to stop making salads? I like a good salad, but when you've got competitors sous viding chicken and making remoulade, maybe you should do something more than toss a few ingredients over some lettuce? Just a thought.

Onto other matters...

I'm thinking of getting the boys a pair of hamsters. I won't demand that they teach them tricks, but I won't discourage it, either.

You see, we are currently pet-less. Our last cat got shipped off to live with the teenager at his grandparents' house (she was his cat and Aidan and I are allergic). I've never been without a pet...ever. We always had lots of pets when I was growing up. At one point, we had 2 dogs, a cat, 2 rabbits, a hamster and a rat. I'm not sure how this happened, given my mother's obsessive need for cleanliness, but I remember thinking it was great - especially since I doubt I cleaned up after or fed any of them.

Anyway, back to the hamsters. I'm looking for a pet that doesn't take up much space, doesn't require training, doesn't make noise, and doesn't shed. Hamsters are cute and furry and they can run around the house in one of those big plastic balls (or two balls - we won't throw them both in the same one). I realize I'll have to clean a cage once a week, but I think I can handle that.

Horrible idea or best Christmas present ever?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good Things

Waking up to our first substantial snowfall of the season could have made this a depressing day. (I really think I might stop leaving my house until May.)

So in the spirit of staving off depression, here are five things that are making me happy today:

1. Cheerios (and Owen)
My little Owen is still sick and had to stay home from school again today, so I took him to SuperTarget with me and told him he could pick out any food he wanted (he hasn't been wanting to eat much). Did he go for Twinkies? Cookies? Chips? Nope. "Let's go to the cereal aisle!" he said. All he wanted in the entire world was a box of strawberry Cheerios. That made me smile.

2. Brain surgery 
Okay, it wasn't the surgery that made me happy, it was learning that someone important to me got through it successfully and is on his way to recovery. I realize the rest of the list now pales in comparison, but the whole brain tumor thing comes with its own depressing thoughts, so I'm being grateful for the small things. 

3. Toys R Us
I realized today that the reason I tend to hate this place is that I only go at Christmas. When I went this morning, it was virtually deserted and halfway organized. This made me realize that there are many, many games and movies and toys that look pretty fun...and that Target has a really limited toy section...and that I'm never going to be able to stick to our two present rule for the kids this Christmas. For the record, this rule has never been followed, but it's a nice goal.

4. Wicked
I'm going to see it tonight! Have I ever mentioned my secret longing to be in a Broadway musical?

5. Top Chef
Just as we're hunkering down for a long, cold winter, Bravo brings the greatest cooking competition on television back! I think I'm going to watch every episode twice this season just to make sure I've properly savored every moment. The things these people come up with on the spot astound me. But as we know, I can barely follow a recipe. Yay Top Chef! Wednesday nights are wonderful again!

Feel free to post your own happy things from today. Together, we can overcome the gray skies, cold air and sloppy, wet snow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Travel fever and other illnesses

Yesterday I had an endoscopy. For those of you who have not experienced this joy, they stick a lighted tube down your throat and look at your stomach. They claim you are semi-conscious for this, but I don't remember much of it. Turns out I do not have an ulcer, as previously thought. Does this explain my abdominal pain? No, it just means I wasted a day getting a tube stuck down my throat, but at least now we've ruled out my stomach as the culprit. 

So, as you can guess, I didn't really do anything yesterday. I woke up this morning to find out that today would be much the same, as I have two sick little boys who can't go to school. So we will lay around and watch a lot of GSN ("Sickies get to watch a lot of TV!" Owen informed me this morning.) and I will attempt to feed them chicken noodle soup and that'll be about it. I haven't yet decided whether we will get dressed...I'm thinking no.

All this "free" time coupled with the teenager stress has driven me back into imaginary travel planning mode. I'm beginning to love the idea of jaunting off to the Caribbean over Christmas. I think it should be our new tradition...all I need is a sponsor. I'll wear whatever brand of clothing you want! I'll drink sports drinks or serve my children your brand of snacks, just send us to the beach!

Better yet, send us to Hawaii. The boys and I just watched part one of the Jon and Kate Plus 8 Hawaii episode and "jealous" does not begin to describe my emotion. Don't get me wrong, they deserve free trips. Having survived having twin infants myself, I think Jon and Kate deserve a lifetime of free vacations after having six at a time...I just wish there were free vacations for the rest of us. I mean, I want to take my children snorkeling with the sea turtles. 

It doesn't even have to be free, really. If someone just wants to comp our luxury hotel room or our plane tickets, we'll pay for the rest. And I'll write a really excellent blog about it...promise

Yeah, well, anyway, you know where to find me. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Potlucks R (Not) Us

While I try to shake the intense anger and sadness that I have about our recent events with the teenager, I thought I’d tell you a story that I meant to tell you last week, but which got lost in the election euphoria.

Now that the boys are in elementary school, requests to join the PTA or, at the very least, give them money, bombard me. To assuage my guilt at constantly ignoring these requests, I volunteered to make something for this teacher appreciation dinner. (Truthfully, the dinner happened to be the same night as our parent-teacher conference, so I figured that if I was going to be there anyway, I might as well bring something.)

I got assigned a dessert. Awesome! I’ll make brownies! I thought. (Interestingly, we can bring homemade food items for the teachers, but not the kids.) But then I realized the brownie mix I had was for peanut butter brownies and since the school is peanut-free, I thought that might be a bad idea. Why I didn’t just go buy a plain brownie mix, I have no idea.

No, instead, I got this ridiculous idea to make something seasonal…pumpkin bars? Pumpkin cheesecake? No, because, you see, I already have tried and true recipes for those items…no, I thought it would be much better to Google a recipe for pumpkin cake (“The Best Ever Pumpkin Cake”) and then make said cake for the very first time and serve it to my children’s teachers.

So I did. The universe was trying to tell me not to…first we ran late at our playdate that day, so I didn’t think we’d have time to make the cake, but then, just before turning to go to the grocery store to simply buy some cookies, I convinced myself we had just enough time.

Once I was one-third of the way into making the cake, I realized the recipe called for 3 eggs and I only had 2...Oh well, I thought, how big of a deal can one egg be? (I still really don’t know the answer to that question, but I clearly was less concerned because I knew I wouldn’t be eating the cake.)

So I mixed all the ingredients – including the whole stick of melted butter that the recipe called for – and it was a weird recipe where you mix all the guts of the cake, but then sprinkle the actual cake mix on top. I had read ahead enough to know that. However, I had not read carefully enough to realize that the melted stick of butter was supposed to be dumped over the dry cake mix just before putting it in the oven. Well, maybe some of that butter will make up for that missing egg, I reasoned.

But you see, dry cake mix is just dry cake mix no matter how long you bake it, and naturally that was my last stick of butter, so I thought maybe melting some margarine and hastily dumping over the top of the cake once it was already in the oven might be good enough.

So the cake baked and, surprisingly, it came out looking fairly cake-like. However, it came out of the oven approximately 3 minutes before we had to leave to go to the boys’ conferences, which meant there would be no time for cooling.

It occurred to me that I could simply bring the frosting separately and one of the teachers would probably be kind enough to put it on later when they were ready to eat it…I remember thinking that, but next thing I knew, I was attempting to spread frosting on a burning hot pile of cake mix…it didn’t go well, but hey, it was done! All I had to do was throw on some plastic wrap and get out the door.

Any of you familiar with physics (or baking) might know what happened next…having trapped all of the heat in with the plastic wrap, the frosting proceeded to melt into a pool of bubbly froth. As an added bonus, that stick of butter that wasn’t supposed to be in there began seeping through the foil cake pan, leaving a slick, fatty film on everything it touched. Yum.

At this point, it would have been easy to just pitch the thing. To pretend I forgot my volunteer duties entirely or even go explain to the woman at the front desk that I simply f*ed up the cake I was supposed to bring. But no, by this point I was determined to get that damn thing inside that school. I mean, it smelled pretty good.

But here’s what it looked like:

As I set it down in the school office, I muttered some embarrassed apologies about not having enough time to let it cool (no need to mention the butter incident) and then I fled. They don’t know who I am! I thought. I didn’t give them my name!

Do I think anyone ended up eating the melting cake of buttery death? No, I have a feeling that if anyone dared to cut into it, they were met with a pool of oily orange slop. For all I know, it made them all vomit up all of the delicious food that the other parents were nice enough to bring. I’m kind of hoping it just got thrown out based on appearance.

In retrospect, I should have given them my name, as it would have ensured that I was never again asked to provide food items at any event. But who knows, maybe next time I’ll redeem myself…maybe next time I’ll attempt my first soufflĂ©...or flambĂ©! What could possibly go wrong? 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Love and Loss and On and On

It’s funny how you can wake up in the morning and have no idea that this day – this very one – will contain something life changing. You open your eyes, so blissfully unaware, ready to go about your day like any other and then BAM, it happens…and life is different. You are different.

Had you told me that today my front door would get kicked in, that the police would be called to my home, that the teenager would cross that line and become frightening…well, I probably wouldn’t have gone to sleep last night. Or I would’ve hopped a plane to Key West with my boys.

The tension had been simmering just under the surface. I was careful not to set it off, but my husband does not share my need to avoid conflict – which is good, really, because sometimes conflict is necessary. When your teenager is using his newly-acquired car to skip class on a daily basis, it is necessary.

But how that turned into threats of violence, a splintered door frame, police officers standing in my mudroom, and a trip to the psych ward (for him, not me)…there’s just nothing rational about it. It can’t be justified or explained…it’s just the latest evidence of his pain and confusion.

I want to throw my arms around him and tell him it that it’s okay…that I don’t think he was really trying to hurt anybody or that I don’t think he’d do it again. But I don’t believe that anymore.

And so, once again we are apart. And it looks like that’s how it’s going to stay for awhile…and I wish I could make him understand how much we didn’t want it to be this way…how hard we tried…but right now, he just seems unreachable. So we wait…and hope for the day when he reaches back out to us and our lives change again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did!

Wow. I had begun to think that inspirational leaders were something that only existed in the past (and on "The West Wing"). As much as I wanted it, I didn't believe the corporatized political machine would let it happen...

All I can say is that for the first time since my kids were born, we will have a president we can be proud of. I already feel better about the world that I've brought them into and hopeful that they will grow up knowing that the people can change the system...that anything truly is possible. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smart People Vote

We got our voting done early this morning. We brought the kids because we wanted to show them how important Election Day is. But really, this is the third time they've come with us to vote -- most recently, they accompanied us to the primaries -- so I'm pretty sure now they think voting is something we do every few months. The fact that we have to go to a church to vote seems to be more interesting to them than the actual voting, but you know, it's all a learning experience either way. 

Surprisingly, we didn't have to wait in line to vote. I don't know what this says about our neighborhood...I'm hoping it means that everyone is voting after work...everyone except the guy (I'm just assuming it's a guy) who erected the 8 foot tall tribute to John McCain in his yard.

I wasn't really going to post anything about voting today. I don't consider myself to be very political, but I've still voted in every election since turning 18. I do not understand how anyone could be so apathetic as to not vote in the presidential election -- especially this presidential election. We really have the opportunity to change our country today.

However, if you are that apathetic, then I don't really feel like trying to convince you otherwise. I also suspect that your unwillingness to vote is not your biggest obstacle in life...just a guess.

Monday, November 3, 2008


My boys have a thing for commercials. Lately, they've been singing the Raisin Bran Crunch jingle, which is simply, "Raisin Bran Cruuuuunch! From Kellogg." I think this explains why I grabbed a box of the stuff today when I only went to the grocery store for lemonade (I don't have an explanation for the Banana Split Oreos, except, well, come on...).

This afternoon, Owen discovered the cereal while scavenging through the pantry for a snack. "Mommy! You got Raisin Bran Crunch!" He screamed excitedly. Then, turning to the living room, "Aidan! Mommy got Raisin Bran Crunch!" 

"Do you want some for a snack?" I asked.

His eyes got wide. "No!" Owen yelled. "Because it has raisins and I...Don't...Like...Raisins!"

"Well, these raisins have crunchy stuff on the outside, so maybe you would like them," I offered.

He looked at me for a moment. "And what do they taste like on the inside?" 

"Well...raisins," I sighed. 

He cannot be fooled.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When You Wish Upon a Star...

You might think by looking that we don't really like Halloween. We are that house on the block that turns all its lights out so you will not approach. Except rather than hiding inside and cursing all the loud children begging for candy, we're actually out with our kids trick-or-treating, so I think we have a valid excuse. 

Anyway, since I can only remember one year that we've ever been home long enough to hand out any candy, I stopped buying it, which means all I have to gorge myself on is the boys' loot. Except they counted it, which means I have to gain approval before taking any fun-size Snickers bars. Sneaking would throw their counts off, no doubt setting off a downward spiral that they will be telling their therapists about for years to come. 

I guess this is all to say that I haven't really been eating any candy, which is just as well since I've started my mental quest to lose 10 pounds. I feel confident that the physical quest will begin any day soon as I overcome my disdain for exercise and my love for carbs...and butter...and sugar. Yep, any day now.

In other news, we're going to Disney World!!!!!!!!!!! We've actually known for a little while now, but we just told the boys, so we can finally go public. My beloved and crazy aunt Linda (we all have a crazy aunt, right?) has an obsession with Disney World and therefore visits The Happiest Place on Earth on an annual basis. (For the record, this means I can officially call my Las Vegas obsession genetic.) This year, she wants the boys to experience the magic. Score.

And so, the 12-week countdown has begun. Aidan and I made a list of all the Disney movies we need to watch in preparation for this trip. The boys are already well-versed in all the Pixar flicks, as well as The Little Mermaid and Dumbo (trauma!), but they've never seen Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin or even The Lion King, so we've got some studying to do. You know, because I want them to have a deeper appreciation for the variously-themed mechanisms with which Disney will fly them through the air. 

Fun and planning. Fun and planning. I wouldn't want it any other way.