Category Archives: me

M.M.M.*

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As a fairly busy full-time homemaker and stay-at-home mom, I often wondered how women who worked for a paycheck by day and cared for a home and family by night ever found the time to do it all.

Now that I am a member of the legion of working mothers, I can finally and definitively answer that question for myself:

I don’t.

(Apologies to those of you out there who can and have and currently are doing it all and doing it quite well, thank-you-very-much.  Clearly I’m not talking to you.  You are Super Mom.  I’ve heard of you.  You have inadvertently stumbled across the blog of a well-intentioned, intermittently inspired, but *Merely Mortal Mom.  This blog is like yours, but with whining.  Allow me to redirect you: kryptonmoms.wordpress.com.  Be sure to check out their online store for the stylish new Maya Wrap/cape combo!)

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh, yes…

I miss housework.

Did I type that?  I must have, but I dozed off for a minute there, so I’m not entirely sure.  It’s true, nonetheless.

When I was at home, I did housework every day.  Mostly when I felt like it, with occasional breaks for reading or playing with Caleb or running errands, but with a regularity and efficiency that rendered my weekends completely free for family frivolity and lovely, languid afternoons of shameless vegetating.

Now the dreamlike landscape of my weekends has given way to a strange continent of laundry mountains, flowing with rivers of dishwashing detergent.  I’m playing catch up, but I must not be very good, because I haven’t caught up yet.

When I was working at home, I stayed up until midnight every evening with my night owl husband, nourishing my marriage with long, soulful talks and marathon horde-bashing sessions, knowing that I could always make up for it the next day with a quick doze on the couch when Caleb went down for a nap.

Now I’m the fuddy duddy falling asleep on the couch at nine-thirty, head back, mouth open as if frozen in the act of teaching my kindergarten class the short “o” sound–which is probably what I’m dreaming about.

When I was a full-time domestic engineer, I ran a tight ship.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  Dust was banished.  The toilet was clean.  The kids’ toys were sorted neatly into categorized bins at bedtime.  I cared about these things, deeply.

In recent weeks, I have waded through the contents of an upturned toy box to tuck the kids into bed, stopping only to kick a clear path to the door.  I have been slowly cultivating a science experiment of alarming color in the bowl of the toilet, and yesterday I wrote my To Do List in the dust on the coffee table.

To put it simply, I’m floundering.

I know the most important things are getting done.  I’m teaching, and I love it.  I’m spending time with my children, hugging and playing and reading a little every day.  Paul does help out when he can, and he and I still get some time together every night, even if we are under the gun to get in bed before my coach turns into a pumpkin.  Life is good, and I have absolutely no reason to complain (but when has that stopped me?)

The truth is, I miss my tight ship.  How do they do it, those other moms?

I am such a weenie.

Where’s a super hero when you really need one?

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The Green Police

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Given the current political climate, I should probably be confessing this in a darkened studio from behind a clown wig and a pair of dark glasses, using one of those electronic voice modulators to disguise my identity. But here it comes, anyway:

Up until very recently, I did not recycle. (*brief pause for collective gasp of amazement*) Nope, not one little bit. Like the thoughtless savage that I am, I tossed newspapers, glass bottles, and plastic bags alike in the bin, caring not that I was bloating the world’s landfills with evidence of my own conspicuous consumption. And the cans–oh, the cans! Do you know how many cans a Diet-Coke-aholic can go through in a week? Well, neither did I, until it happened.

We discovered a member of the Green Police living in our very own home.

I remember it clearly. It was Earth Day. Katie returned from third grade that afternoon full of information about environmental conservation, the white hot fervor of newborn activism burning in her eyes. As an assignment, her teacher had asked the class to find one thing they could personally do to help the environment. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hide. Suddenly, I was cowering in the glare of the spotlight, answering uncomfortable questions like: “How many bags of garbage does our family make in a week, Mom?” and “Why do we throw everything away instead of recycling it?” and “Isn’t taking care of the earth important?” Suddenly, my oft-repeated excuses for not recycling–that our apartment complex doesn’t provide recycling bins, that we don’t have enough room in our small living space to collect recyclables, that a few cans didn’t make much of a difference anyway–began to sound a little flimsy.

I saw my daughter, standing shining-eyed before me, bursting with youthful optimism, completely convinced that even one person’s actions can have an effect in the world–and it made me remember that I believe that, too.

***

So here I am, a recalcitrant recycler, rinsing out a Diet Coke can (my third today) in preparation for adding it to the stash under the sink. Then, when that bag is full, we will drive it out to the recycling bin in front of the school, where the drop box recycling program brings in welcome extra funds for classroom supplies. I can’t say it’s not a hassle, but it’s not nearly the hassle I expected.

Sometimes I do slip up. The other day, for example, I had gathered up our full-to-overflowing kitchen trash bag and was just tying it closed when Katie appeared and pointed to the aluminum evidence of a couple of my absent-minded infractions. (A pox on those translucent trash bags!) “Mom,” she said in a tone of voice usually reserved for my sole use, “did you forget to recycle those two cans?” Caught. Under Katie’s approving eye, I sheepishly fished them out of the muck and placed them in the proper receptacle.

I admit, I’m still not totally green. I haven’t traded in our dependable Ford for an eco-friendly hybrid vehicle. I use the air-conditioner with wild abandon. And I can’t seem to bring myself to buy 28 reusable canvas bags for our monthly groceries. But, thanks mostly to Katie, I do recycle cans. I’m saving the earth, raising money for education, and getting Al Gore off my back, all at the same time. And I know my kid is proud of me, and of herself, for making that happen, which is the best reward I could ask for.

The faintly virtuous feeling is just a bonus.

Borrowed Bliss

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Of the myriad tiny joys embedded in my day like so many Easter Eggs in the green grass, one of the sweetest occurs in the early evening, when my route home invariably takes me past a little wooden-faced building nestled in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, a place called The Hitching Post. Often, especially in the summer, the golden rays of late sun illuminating the small brick and clapboard structure also fall upon a wedding party milling around on the lawn outside, where a bride and groom and their retinue of devoted friends are either coming or going from the short and intimate ceremony inside the small chapel.

Sometimes the bride is in full regalia–veil, train and all–resplendent and rapturous beside her tuxedoed groom and matching taffeta-encrusted wedding party. Many times, though, she is less formally attired. Passing by the Post day after day, I have seen a Western themed wedding, a Medieval wedding, and even a wedding where everyone involved, including the happy couple, wore matching tee shirts. Whatever they’re wearing, they usually stop and pose for photos in front of the Hitching Post’s famous sign, sharing hugs and smiles with gathered family as passers-by honk and wave their congratulations in the spirit of bonhomie.

Even when the whole wedding party is dressed in jeans, it’s easy to tell which ones are the bride and groom: look for the couple that is gazing intently into each other’s eyes, giddy and slightly off-balance, as if they’ve just been hit over the head with a pillow-encased anvil. Glancing at them is like glancing into the sun. The joy lingers, radiates, spreads out in concentric circles from its source to wash over even me, driving by in my dusty red car, and suddenly I’m grinning like an idiot.

I do love a wedding.

Attack of the Robot Roaches

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I shaved a few years off of Paul’s life last night.

First, let me say that it wasn’t my fault. You see, I have this problem. There’s a communication breakdown between my brain and my body, wherein the little part of my brain whose business it is to crank out dreams sometimes forgets to alert my body that the sensory input is not real and that its (the body’s) services will not be needed for the night.

To put it more simply: I sleepwalk. And sleeptalk. And sleepfight evil aliens from the planet Krakkavid with a flamethrower I built out of household cleaning products.

My college roommates used to think it was hilarious. How they loved to regale me in the mornings with tales of my midnight lapses into pirate-speak and treks into the dorm room closet in search of the lobster people. Even Paul, who has to share a bed with the spaztastic night wanderer, finds it amusing when I spring upright in bed and insist that the puppy (the nonexistent one that we can’t have because of apartment regulations) has to get down off the bed, and I mean NOW.

He wasn’t laughing last night, however. I really scared him this time. The weird thing is that I remember most of it. I recall waking up to find that there was a swarm of giant half-robot half-cockroach creatures (no doubt spawned by some nefarious mad scientist) invading the apartment. I could hear them clickety-clackering around in the living room, and skittering up the sheets from the floor. When one of them leaped onto my chest, I smothered it quickly in the bedclothes and bolted from the bed like an avenging angel, determined to clear a path through the apartment and somehow get the kids to safety.

Well, I made it as far as the hallway, where I flicked on the light and peered around the corner into the kitchen, listening intently for the tap-tap of robotic insect feet. That was when I heard Paul’s voice.

“Katrina.” Firm. Loud.

I turned on the bedroom light. “What?” I asked impatiently.

“What are you doing? Are you awake?”

“Of course I’m awake,” I snapped, irritated. Paul told me later that the really scary thing was that I looked awake. And totally, utterly insane.

“What are you doing?” he repeated.

“I had to kill a…thing, in the bed, over there!” I spluttered, that sense of urgent danger making it hard for me to think. “We have to get the kids, babe. Because…there was a thing…a bunch of things…and…we have to…uh…” My voice trailed off. As usual, the rational act of explaining my delusion woke up the part of my brain that had, heretofore, been asleep at the switch. Reality reasserted itself slowly, laughing its butt off.

“I was dreaming, wasn’t I?”

“Yes.” He still looked worried. “Are you okay now?”

I promised that I was, and after a moment’s poking of the duvet “just to make sure”, I lay back down.

A few moments passed.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes!”

We slept.

I think Paul’s fear is that I’ll actually make it to the kids’ room one of these days. So far, my episodes have been brief ones. It usually only takes a few moments after I burst out of bed for me to awaken enough to realize that, in fact, the apartment isn’t flooding, nor is my pillowcase filled with spiders*. Soon, I’m tucked back into bed, sleeping soundly. The occurrence rarely repeats itself within the same night. I’ve heard of some people who prepare and eat food in their sleep, and a few unfortunate somnambulists who wander out their front doors or drive themselves around in the car only to wake up miles away from home with no memory of the trip. This is nothing like that. Still, I imagine it’s disconcerting to the outside observer.

I apologized to Paul this morning for scaring him so badly. “You remember that?” he asked, surprised. Many times, most times, I don’t remember. I’ve even accused him of making this stuff up. “Yes, I remember. And believe it or not, I was making perfect sense before you woke me up,” I teased.

He shuddered a little at the memory. “Your eyes were bloodshot, you know. You looked…” Words failed him.

Eventually, we’ll look back on this night and laugh.

But until then, I have to sleep in the laundry room.

*Spiders, more than any other dream object, get me moving. It’s a recurring theme. I can’t tell you how many times I have awakened Paul with the thrashing and squealing that accompany killing imaginary spiders. I’ve dreamed of them covering the duvet like a pulsating second blanket; I’ve dreamed of them dropping down from the ceiling on a thousand gossamer webs; I’ve dreamed of a giant, scabby, hair-covered one creeping around under the sheets. Ick. I loathe spiders.

Chubby Blood

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I had a bit of a nasty surprise this week.

On Tuesday, I went to the doctor’s office to have my routine thyroid check done and my prescription renewed. Usually I just have some blood drawn to measure my TSH, but because it’s been a long while since my last total health checkup, the doctor ordered a full blood work up.

On Wednesday, the nurse called. “We got most of your test results back. Your thyroid is perfect, so we renewed your prescription. All your other numbers so far are terrific! We’re just waiting on the lipid panel now, so we’ll call you when we get it.” “Great!” I said, righteously sure that I was only reaping the just rewards of my healthy diet.

Yesterday, the nurse called again. “Well, we have the rest of your blood work results. I’m afraid it’s not good news.” My heart skipped a beat. She went on, “Your cholesterol is high. It’s 266. And your LDL (that’s the bad cholesterol) is 183.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, “I don’t know what the numbers are supposed to be.”

“Your total cholesterol should be less than 200, and an optimal LDL level is below 100, so your readings are pretty high. Were you fasting before the test?” I said no. Apparently, she explained, cholesterol readings can be skewed quite a bit by food that is eaten shortly before having blood drawn. I breathed a sigh of relief as the nurse scheduled me for a follow up test this morning, to be preceded by a 12 hour fast.

Hungry and anxious, I drove back to the doctor’s office after dropping Katie off at school to have my blood drawn again. Since it was just a cholesterol test this time, they were able to process the results on site in about ten minutes.

The verdict? Total cholesterol: 264. LDL: 178. Chubby blood.

I talked for a few minutes with Mark, our doctor, about my choices. Unlike some patients, I can’t make many improvements in my diet. I already eat a low-fat, whole foods diet full of lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables, and have been since January. Most people on the South Beach Diet boast vastly improved cholesterol numbers; why not me? I agreed to add some oats to my largely grain-free menu, but Mark couldn’t suggest any other alterations. I also vowed to take up exercising with a dedication that has been–shall we say–a bit lacking in most of my previous efforts. All the same, Mark says that most people can only effect about a 10% change in their blood lipid levels through lifestyle change alone. Most high cholesterol problems are genetic, and many have to be treated with statin drugs. Instructed to come back in three months for another blood test, I was released to drive home, my mind whirling with new information.

Of course, I hopped on the internet as soon as I could and started researching both statins and natural remedies for high cholesterol. The news was mixed. Possible side effects like muscle fatigue, cognitive losses, and heart weakness make statins sound like more trouble than what they’re trying to fix. And I really hate the idea of relying on yet another prescription medicine to regulate something that my body should be regulating on its own. But some of the more natural alternatives look promising. I also found that there is some dissension among medical professionals as to the significance of various numbers. Many of them say that more important than the individual numbers themselves is the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) to LDL. Mine is very good. And my triglycerides are low, another good sign.

So I don’t know what to think.

Foolishly, I always imagined only older people had high cholesterol. It never crossed my mind to be concerned about it for myself. I mean, here I am, thirty-four years old, within five pounds of my goal weight, and eating better than I have in years, only to find out that my circulation system never got the memo.

And I’m a little ticked off about it, to tell you the truth.

Just Breathe

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2:40 a.m.

Caleb and I are awake and frantic and sealed up in the bathroom while the rest of the family sleeps. As I run the water as hot as it will go in the shower and the sink, he is inhaling billows of steam and fighting hard to breathe in and out through his congested sinuses and croupy cough.

I remember nights just like this with my mom, nights from my childhood that I’m sure were as scary for her as this one is for me, nights when she concentrated with panicky precision on every laborious breath rattling in and out of my lungs. I didn’t think about her back then, just about myself, and the pinpoint of light my world had become, its only focus to keep sucking oxygen through the suddenly tiny straw of my windpipe. I’m thinking about her now, though, and how helpless she must have felt as she willed each rasping breath, how she must have prayed silently, feverishly, for my lungs to open up and the frightening wheezing in my chest to fade away into silence. If she could have breathed for me, she would have.

When I remember those moments, I am suddenly aware of how much I take for granted the way I normally breathe, and the long, easy rivers of air that swirl through me all day long. What a precious gift.

Ten minutes pass, fifteen, and I can tell the water heater is nearly out of hot water as the steam clouds grow lighter. Caleb’s breathing has eased, and he’s already falling back to sleep in my arms. I wait a little longer and then carry him back to bed, rolling him onto his side and tucking the covers in around him. I listen for a moment to make sure his cough has really subsided, then say a prayer of thanks and tiptoe out of the room to fall into bed next Paul. Disaster averted again.

It’s just a common cold, true, but like me, Caleb has always been susceptible to breathing problems. Perhaps, like me, he’ll grow out of them. I hope so.

Until then, I’m sure there will be other nights like this one, other 2 a.m. prayer vigils where fears are lifted up and dissipated on clouds of steam.

Summer Lovin’

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My friend Marci, of scenic Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, gives me this blogging assignment straight from a recent late night game of Truth or Dare*:

“Tell all about your first kiss.”

Frankly, I wish there was more to tell. I could scintillate you with romantic details about any number of first kisses with this guy or that guy (for example, smooching a cute Dutch backpacker, whom I had met at the youth hostel and had known for all of perhaps three hours, beneath a sky full of fireworks in Orleans, France, on Bastille Day**), but the details of my Very First Kiss Ever fall a bit short of schoolgirl fantasy.

I was 13, I think. I was away at camp for the summer. Not just your normal “cabins-by-the-lake” sort of camp, but Sea Camp for brainy kids on Georgia’s beautiful (and primitive) Cumberland Island. We dug our own latrines (where we had to chase ghost crabs away before we could do our business), “bathed” in the surf, dissected a shark, cast nets for our dinner, and ate mussels that we dug up out of the marsh mud and boiled ourselves. We each had to come up with a science project involving the native ecosystem. Mine was about the locomotive apparatus of living sand dollars. It was my first long trip away from home, and it was a turning point in my life in terms of confidence and ambition. If you ever get the chance to send your kids on such an adventure, do it.

But back to the kiss.

It was free time, and we were swimming in the ocean, killing time between our lesson on the microscopic life of tidal pools and a planned moonlight hike through the island interior. There were around a dozen of us, boys and girls, and on this particular day, we were playing Truth or Dare. I can’t remember anything that happened before it was Blair’s turn. He chose Dare, brave boy. So quickly that I’ve always suspected it was arranged ahead of time, his friend said, “I dare you to kiss Katrina.”

So he did.

We were all standing shoulder deep in the warm coastal water, and it seemed like Blair was moving in slow motion as he made his way over to me. The kiss was mercifully quick, a mere peck, and then it was over, leaving my lips tasting of salt water. A little anticlimactic, I thought. And a lot more public than I imagined my first kiss would be.

Later, as we walked down the beach, Blair told me that he liked me. Clumsily, we held hands. I think he kissed me twice more before camp ended, each time an echo of the first–short and sweet.

Years later, forced to recount the straightforward details to girlfriends in yet another Truth or Dare game, it occurred to me to be embarrassed that the guy who gave me my Very First Kiss Ever was named Blair.***

*Which is an interesting coincidence, as you will see.

**Don’t tell my high school French teacher, who was supposed to be chaperoning us. It’s not her fault, anyway. I was incorrigible. And seventeen.)

***No offense if your name is Blair. It just didn’t jibe with my teenage ideal of a romantic hero. He was supposed to be named Max, or Derek, or Jack. “Blair” makes him sound like one of those obnoxious rich kids from “Pretty In Pink“.

Top 10 Reasons I Love Diet Coke

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Tonight’s topic comes from Lisa in Nashville, Tennessee! Everyone who knows me is used to seeing me with a can (sometimes a keg) of Diet Coke in my hand. What is the appeal? Here, for all the people who have gazed wonderingly at my 52 ounce Extreme Big Gulp full of bubbly brown gold, are the top ten things I love about Diet Coke.

10. That first sip: refreshing, fizzy, with a bit of a zing to it. Ahhhh…

9.  I love to see the look of horror on Paul’s face when I ask him to taste it because I think the waitress brought me regular Coke by mistake.

8. It keeps me awake while driving to the airport at 3 a.m.

7.  Diet Coke is available all over the world, and is pronounced “Diet Coke” in every language.  (By the by, we should consider establishing a universal word for “restroom”, because using the commonly understood signal–legs crossed, hopping up and down–is a little embarrassing.)

6. The Rule of Calorie Conservation and Exchange, which clearly states that drinking a Diet Coke with dinner offsets the triple hot fudge sundae you order for dessert.

5. The bubbles tickle my nose.

4. Goes equally well with foie gras, sushi, or Chicken Bacon Alfredo pizza.

3. You’ve gotta admit, that Mentos and Diet Coke thing is pretty cool.

2. It can dissolve acid corrosion off of a car battery.  Really!

1. What else am I going to drink? Water?

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

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There is a fine line between being a Geek’s Wife and being an actual Geek.

Last night…I crossed over.

I attended my first ever LAN party.

LAN stands for Local Area Network, and “LAN party” is geek shorthand for hooking a bunch of computers together at the same site, allowing the geek owners of said computers to play computer games together over the network into the wee, wee hours of the morning.

So last night, Paul and I packed up our computers, spare network cables, and assorted snacks, and set out for the home of our friends, Ryan and Regina, fellow World of Warcraft addicts and all around fun people. We brought movies and sleeping bags for the kids, who camped out in the next room while we crossed the plains and mountains of Azeroth, completing quests and fighting the Horde.

Now here I sit, the Morning After: stringy hair, yesterday’s clothes, jalapeno chip breath, and a Diet Coke hangover (there won’t be any pictures on this post, by the way.) I’m exhausted, rumpled, and grubby, and all I can think about is how cool it is that I got 146,000 xp (experience points, to the uninitiated) in one night and conquered six of the eight Maraudon bosses in a single run.

If that doesn’t make me a bona fide Geek, I don’t know what will.