Monthly Archives: February 2007

Dawn of the (Not Quite) Dead

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I have cabin fever.

The kids and I have been cooped up together for a week straight now, sharing germs and bottles of Sudafed while we fight our way through a particularly pernicious head and chest cold. It struck Caleb first, crusting his face (and the back of his hand, which is apparently preferable to Kleenex) with dried goo from his nose. Before the sun set that same day, Katie and I were doubled over with sneezing fits and Caleb had developed a hoarse, throaty cough that evoked images of a very near future spent in a steam-filled bathroom with the hot shower running.

As we cancelled appointments and called in school absences, we kept hearing less-than-encouraging tales of bronchial infections and insidious viruses that dragged on for days and even weeks. So we settled in for the long haul. I cued up DVDs of favorite animated movies in our 5-disc changer, Paul prepared to take over teaching my Bible school classes, and we laid in a good supply of children’s cough and cold medicine.

Seven days later, we’re on our third jumbo box of Kleenex, I’ve watched “Flushed Away” eleven times, and Katie’s teacher just called us at home to make sure we haven’t suddenly pulled up stakes and moved out of the district. I have heard so many whiny, snuffling versions of the cry “Mommmmeeeee!” that I’m thinking of changing my handle to something foreign and very hard to pronounce.

The good news is that our forced solitude is drawing to an end. None of us is running a fever today, and aside from some minor sniffles, Katie has made an astonishing recovery over the past 24 hours. She’ll be heading back to school tomorrow. Caleb’s cough has been slower to fade, but he is also displaying signs of restlessness; I even imagine I hear a faint buzzing sound when I get close to him, like the crackle in the air around a power station. He’s been recharging his batteries for the last seven days, and they’re starting to smoke.

As for me, I love my kids dearly, but I’m getting desperate to see the sun again.

Today, I put on lipstick to walk out to the mailbox, just so it would feel like an excursion. Besides, you never know when you’ll run into somebody you know at the mailbox, and the washed-out zombie look I’ve been sporting might frighten my neighbors.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll talk to some actual adults, to make sure I remember how. Remind me–what do adults talk about? All I’ve got is the ‘square vs. triangle peanut butter sandwich cutting debate’ and an extensive knowledge of the secret urban life of London’s sewer-dwelling rats.

The Marriage Bed

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The vows are spoken. The rings are exchanged. The birdseed is flung, usually with enough force to raise welts on the bride’s neck. The newlywed couple climbs into their oh-so-tastefully decorated car and drives away into Happily Ever After. They make a quick stop in an exotic vacation spot, get matching sunburns, and finally return home to real life and a whole world of new adjustments.

Who handles the bills? Where will we spend holidays? How do we split up the housework? What do we do when we fight? Premarital counseling and couples classes abound to help the newly married navigate their way through these changes and decisions.

Sadly, however, most of these classes fail to address the one question that comes up each and every night of married life: how do we sleep together?

I’m not talking about s-e-x (or, as one of Paul’s more archaic college professors famously called it, “sexmaking.”) No, it’s way more pressing than that. I’m talking about the down-and-dirty logistics of two different people finding a comfortable way to catch their Zs night after night in the same bed.

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Maybe it was easy for you. You and your spouse collapsed into bed together on that very first night and woke up eight hours later with your hair attractively tousled and a goofy, well-rested smile on your face. But for countless others, the day after the wedding started with a bleary glance at the clock, a sleep deprived shudder, and a semi-hostile glance at the object of their recently-pledged affections to check and see if he or she had actually grown extra elbows and knees during the night.

I remember running into one such soul in the Student Center one day. Paul and I had just gotten engaged, and we were devoting this particular morning to gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes over cokes and a shared croissant. Suddenly, along came our friend Barry*, who ignored the stars in our eyes and plopped haphazardly down in the chair next to us. Barry and June had recently been married themselves, and we could not imagine how this wobbling, glazy-eyed creature could be the product of what was surely a blissful married life.

“What’s up?” Paul asked.

Barry raised his eyes to us and confessed, “I haven’t slept at all since the wedding.”

Paul and I cast arch grins at each other.

“No, no—it’s not what you think,” said Barry. We waited, nonplussed, for the explanation.

“It just that…well, June likes to cuddle. And I need my space, you know? I’m not used to sleeping with someone else. And…well…I-can’t-sleep-because-June’s-butt-is-always-touching-me!” he ended in a rush.

Paul and I very supportively burst into laughter. We continued to fail at suppressing our giggles while Barry described long nights of frustration wherein the sleeping June snuggled closer and closer to the desperate Barry until he was nearly falling on the floor in his constant quest for room to spread out.

We never heard anything more on that front, and, since the two are still happily married, I can only assume that they worked out some sort of mutually agreeable arrangement. A table tennis net down the center of the bed, perhaps?

This issue of space comes up a lot among married couples. Sometimes even the most loving and affectionate pair needs room to spread out before they can achieve peaceful slumber. Many of our friends and family members have ended up buying a king-size bed to accommodate these individual real estate requirements.

Paul and I are an anomaly among the people we know in that we’ve eschewed the king-size bed in favor of first a full-size and now a queen-size bed, which we love. We’ve slept on king-size mattresses before on vacations and while visiting people, but to a couple of cuddlers like us, it feels akin to sleeping in the vast emptiness of the Sahara desert, where the two of us crawl around all night like thirsty pilgrims looking for water that’s always just out of reach.

We’ve gone through many incarnations of our sleep positions, but somehow we always wind up touching, from me carelessly tossing my leg across both of his to him falling asleep with his hand resting on my pregnant belly. Currently we’re doing a classic spoon, flipping back and forth to take turns throughout the night at being the “big spoon.” (Although, personally, I like being the little spoon. I’ve never quite figured out what the big spoon is supposed to do with her arms.)

Anyway, with all the potential for hidden resentments and mounting health problems that accompany poor marital sleep habits, I think this is an issue that bears discussing in all those marriage preparation courses. It’s at least as important as who balances the checkbook. Or how holidays are celebrated. Or whether the husband rinses out his milk glass when he puts it in the sink instead of making his wife chip dried up milk particles out of the bottom of the glass with a wire brush.

You know, stuff like that.

*Names changed to protect those who would like to remain married.

If You Don’t Watch "The Office", Skip This Post

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Point One: All I can say is that I knew that New Roy was not, in fact, new at all, but a hopelessly dyed-in-the-wool Old Roy clothed in a very thin veneer of get-Pam-back-by-temporarily-acting-like-a-good-boyfriend-ness.

So while it’s worrisome to think that Roy might take his frustrations out on Jim, it’s definitely a good thing that Pam got a peek at his massive anger management issues before it was too late and she’d already done something stupid like buying the whole cow…errrr, bull….again. This time, he broke a mirror. Next time–well, thankfully, there won’t be a next time.

Point Two: Jan needs professional help.

Progress Report

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With nearly two months of the new year behind us, I decided this would be a good time to check in on my New Year’s resolutions to see how I’m doing. Considering that my usual modus operandi is to chuck my resolutions altogether about halfway through January, I’m pretty proud that I even have anything to report.

Resolution 1: to cut Diet Coke consumption in half. I have succeeded in drastically reducing my Diet Coke intake—not a difficult feat, considering that half of my usual 80 ounces is still a nice, round 40 ounces. Of course, even forty ounces of Diet Coke will effectively scour the acid corrosion off of a nine year old car battery, so, you know, I still have some work to do there. Additionally, I have actually been drinking water from time to time. I’m hoping that one day I might even start to like it. I’m told that water is an acquired taste.

Resolution 2: to show consideration for my fellow man at the grocery store by not abusing the express lane. I’m happy to report 100% compliance with this resolution. Not coincidentally, the number of dirty looks I get at the grocery store has decreased by 100% as well (although I still get the quizzical ones as people wonder how I can allow organic soy milk and Cheez Doodles to occupy the same cart.)

Resolution 3: to complete Caleb’s potty training. Wherever you are in the world, you probably heard my wild whoop of joy on the day we said goodbye to Pull-Ups forever and switched Caleb over to full-time big boy underpants. He still has accidents here and there (here is okay, but there is usually twenty miles from home without a spare pair of trousers in sight), but for all practical purposes, I consider him potty trained. And the heavens rejoiced.

Resolution 4: to fold my laundry before it reaches the ceiling. Ummm… Did I mention that Caleb is potty trained now?

Resolution 5: to lose my gym membership card. What gym membership card?

Resolution 6: to blog daily. I think I’ve missed three days since January 1, but I believe that I’ve honored the spirit of this resolution. Contrary to what I feared, daily blogging actually takes the pressure off of the blogger, in a sense. When you blog every day, no one expects you to be brilliant all the time. Reading your blog becomes a little like shopping at a thrift store—you know you’ll have to rifle through a bunch of uninspiring polyester to find something that you like. I’m okay with that.

Resolution 7: to stop overusing parentheses. I discarded this resolution mere days after making it. I’ve come to grips with my overly conversational writing style. Just like Popeye, I yam what I yam.

Super Secret Resolution 8: to lose weight. I didn’t include a weight loss resolution on my original blog entry, partly because everyone resolves to lose weight in the new year, and partly because I didn’t want anyone to know if I horribly crashed and burned. Now I feel good about telling you that I started the South Beach Diet (which is less a diet than a new way of looking at and choosing foods) on New Year’s Day and I have lost 13 pounds so far. The best part: once you get the basic concepts down, you hardly have to think about food at all. I hate counting calories or measuring ounces or recording fat grams, so this eating plan has been perfect for me. On Sunday, I got to wear a skirt that has been hanging in my closet, unworn, for a year. That’s a great reward!

So there you have it. Two months down, ten to go. I suppose I have my blog readers to thank for keeping me on track. Writing your goals down and sharing them with someone does wonders for your motivation. (And if that doesn’t help, there are always M&Ms. After all, they worked for Caleb!)

Bald is Beautiful

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It seems Britney Spears is taking a lot of flack from fans and industry professionals alike over her radical new hairstyle.

Or make that “no-hair style.”

The volume of the outcry, a mixed bag of concern, cackling, and condemnation, puts the importance of Britney’s follicular status roughly on par with that of Iran’s nuclear proliferation, the escalating showdown between Democratic presidential nominees, or the re-introduction of New Coke into the world’s soft drink supply*. Hearing the breathless coverage of this development, anyone might wonder if the sun is even going to go on rising if it has to face the specter of reflecting its rays off of Britney’s newly polished dome.

As for me, I have to confess a teeny, tiny bit of jealousy.

Ever since that bald chick stepped onscreen in the original Star Trek movie, I’ve harbored a secret desire to shave my head. I came dangerously close to doing it in my late teens, when my fascination with non-lethal rebelliousness was at its peak. Years passed and I thought I had finally squashed the urge, but then Demi Moore came along in G.I. Jane to prove once more that hair is optional.

Those of you who have never had long hair may not understand the temptation, the allure of letting your naked scalp breathe the air at last. My hair, though appreciated by Paul, is a constant, low-grade irritant to me. Here are some things I don’t love about it:

~its propensity for coming unfastened from my scalp and depositing itself all over the place, from the back of my sweaters, to the inside of the car, to the stubble on my husband’s chin. I shed like a Pomeranian in July.

~its unwillingness to conform itself to anything resembling a style, or indeed to even maintain the appearance of having been recently brushed, despite all efforts to the contrary.

~its habit of flying around and hanging in my face whenever my hands are full and I can’t brush it out of the way. There’s nothing like getting strands of your hair stuck in your wet lipstick when you’ve got two kids and an armful of groceries to maneuver into the car on a windy day.

It gets pulled when I play with the kids. It gets wound up in the vacuum brush. It catches bits of fluff and smidges of various substances which stick to it, unseen by me, until some kind soul comes up and fishes them out.

Now imagine the hairless life: long rides in the car with the windows down and no tangles, cool breezes flowing over your bare head on warm summer days, turning over in bed without having to sweep your hair out behind you and rearrange it on the pillow. How lovely.

So why don’t I do it? With so many reasons to hate my hair, why don’t I just shave it off like I’ve always dreamed?

Two problems:

1) Paul would cry.

2) I’ve done some checking, and I’m pretty sure that I have a bumpy, weird-shaped head. Let’s face it. It’s one thing for Demi Moore to go bald. It’s another thing altogether for us mere mortal women.

Anyway, I never thought I’d say this, but Britney, I salute you. Long may you shine.

*Don’t panic. I just threw in that last one to see if you were paying attention.

Pay It Forward

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I did it to myself.

Pay It Forward was on TV today, and I watched it. I watched it, knowing full well that by the end of it, I would be crying into the couch pillows and casting around for something to rid me of the squeezing ache of overwrought emotion in my chest*. I’m such a sucker.

I remember seeing this movie in the theater. I wasn’t the only one in need of a Kleenex and a hug; there were people all around me wearing the same thoughtful and exhausted expression as we shuffled, en masse, out to the popcorn-scented lobby. The reason? I think the concept behind Pay It Forward touches us all in some elemental place, the place where many of us have buried our first delicate ideals, our hopes for making a difference, our conviction that people really could be kinder to each other, after all.

When he receives a school assignment to change the world, Trevor hits upon the idea for Pay It Forward. He’ll do three good deeds for three different people, who, upon receiving the favor, will pay it forward instead of back, doing acts of service for three new people, who will each reach out to help three other people, setting off a chain reaction of people helping people for no other reason than to pass on the kindness they have received themselves. In the movie, a reporter stumbles across the story when his own car is demolished in an accident and a man walking by gives him the keys to a new one. What could have prompted such an extravagant and unusual gesture from a complete stranger?

Determined to find the answer to that question, the reporter hounds the man for the story behind the deed. As he traces back along the line of benefactors in search of the origins of the Pay It Forward movement, we discover that lives have been saved, paths changed, and wounds healed by the simple concept of goodness passed from person to person.

This isn’t a new idea.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. II Corinthians 1:3-4

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:11

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Perhaps that’s why this movie touches me so deeply. As a Christian, I should already be a big believer in Pay It Forward. After all, I’ve received hope, and a future, and a family. Underneath everything else that happens in my life (and believe me, there is ugliness, fear, and heartache to spare alongside the bounty of my blessings) is a joy that is absolutely untouchable. I know where home is, and nothing can stop me from getting there.

With such an abundance of wealth, how can I possibly keep it to myself?

I can’t.

So today, I’ll share my hope.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll share my chocolate.

*Chocolate functions tolerably well in this regard.

Wake Up Call

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This morning came way too early.

Paul gallantly offered to take the first shower so that I could pillage the Land of Nod for fifteen more blissful minutes. Alas, it was not to be.

Five minutes after the shower started running, a small but not-to-be-denied voice announced from the kids’ room: “Mommmeeeee! I’m awake now!” It was Caleb, and as I swung my reluctant feet to the floor and tried to blink back the light with my heavy eyelids, he came catapulting full-tilt into my arms for his morning hugs.

Little arms and legs wrapped around me for a big squeeze and then he pulled back a little to grin up into my face.

“This is a good day, isn’t it?” he chirped, before running off on his pajamafied feet to see how much playing he could accomplish before breakfast.

Sweet morning child. Keeper of the dawn. How would I know the sun was shining if you didn’t drag it around behind you, dripping its rays all over the place?

And yes.

It most certainly is a good day.

Paper Ponderings

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Today I was researching the history of toilet paper (you have to be prepared for any question when you’re a mom, you know) and there, among the many useful and essential snippets of latrine lore, I came across this interesting tidbit in the toilet paper timeline:

1792: the Old Farmer’s Almanac begins publication; there are several publications by the same name, as well as the Farmer’s Almanac, which began publication in 1960. Pages from these publications were often ripped out and used as toilet paper, and later editions have holes punched in them so they could be hung from a hook in outhouses. (Wikipedia)

I find this interesting. Apparently reading material in the bathroom is an older concept than I thought. Of course, the habit of using it as toilet paper probably created a little family tension. Just imagine: you rush out to the outhouse after a long day’s work in the fields, excited about finally reading that article on the latest plowing technology, only to find that your wife did her “business” earlier in the day and callously ripped out the first two pages to tend to her own needs. The dinner table is unusually silent that night, and over the weeks to come, as important weather predictions and planting charts disappear, unread, into the black abyss, resentment begins to grow. Eventually, the closeness you once shared is only a distant memory, and the two of you are unable to even vent your frustrations, since well-bred men and women didn’t speak to each other about such sensitive and personal issues.

Thankfully, someone finally came along and separated bathroom-related papers into two piles: one for reading and one for wiping, thus rescuing half of the world’s troubled marriages. Genius.

More food for thought:

Another matter of personal preference is how to prepare the toilet paper for usage. The predominating methods are either to “fold” a number of sheets together, or to “scrunch” sheets into a loose ball, with “wrapping” the paper round the hand being somewhat less popular. The intensely private nature of the subject, coupled with the fact that the methodology is instilled at a very young age, means that a majority of the people are unaware that the difference exists (or have even thought about it), and may react with shock upon learning that their partner uses an alternative method.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that scrunching is more common in America, and folding more common in the UK, and that this difference informs the construction of toilet paper sold in the two markets. (Wikipedia)
I am a folder. I’m not ashamed of it, although I was somewhat surprised to see that I am in the minority in this country. As for Paul, I honestly have no idea. Early in our marriage, we established ourselves as “private bathroom people”, and I am not privy (bah-dum-BAH!) to that information.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you use it, as long as you use it.

And as long as you install it so that the end hangs over the roller and not under. That is non-negotiable.