Friday, June 30, 2006

Of soybean salad and ice cream

Boo Bug has a passionate interest in All Things Dinner. She wants to know what we’re having, when we’re having it, what precisely is in it…mostly, I believe she wants to know these things so she can begin refusing it long before it is on the table. Beat the rush, that kind of thing.

So tonight, she observed the assembling of the Diet Salad. It’s a convoluted affair (I’m starting to suspect the reason you lose weight on the Sonoma Diet is because it takes so long to make the food – you burn far more calories trying to chop and grind and mix than you consume when you eat it) involving shucked soybeans, parboiled snow peas, six minced gloves of garlic, a tablespoon of grated ginger, ‘thinly sliced’ carrots and Napa cabbage.

As I was putting it all together and drizzling it with the dressing, she looked at it dubiously. “What’s that?” she demanded.

“It’s a salad, honey.”

“Oh.” There was a considering pause. “I don’t like salad.”



“Even if it has soybeans and snow peas?”

“Yes, I really don’t like salad.” Another pause. Then, brightly, “But I do like ice cream!”

Me too, kid.

Me, too.

15 minutes earlier

The Sonoma Diet gave me this gem of wisdom today, regarding ways to cure yourself of the myriad of excuses we use for falling off the diet bandwagon: “For example, if you grab a waffle in the morning because you "don't have time" to eat a Sonoma Diet breakfast, one solution would be to get up 15 minutes earlier.”

This seems to be the expert solution du jour for all kinds of woes. All I need to do, to achieve a perfect figure, perfect hair, perfect home, perfect finances, save the world and balance the Federal budget, is to get up 15 minutes earlier.

Any time you say, “Man, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to {task here}”, some well-meaning person will chirp up with, “You know what I would do? Just get up 15 minutes earlier and jump right to it!”

Yes. Because sleeping is such a waste of good task-doing time. Heavens, what was I thinking, lying around in my bed until 4:30, or even {gasp} 5:00 every morning! I should be getting up at 4:15 so I can pay bills! Make it 4:00 and I could be having a mushroom omelet per my Sonoma Diet meal plan! Or shoot, let’s go whole hog, make it 3:00 and I can wash the car, clean the kitchen floors, do a load of laundry, have the omelet and pay the bills!

So much better than an extra hour and a half of sleep, right?

I can and do occasionally forego an hour (or two) of sleep to handle some extraordinary circumstance. Say we’re going away for the weekend – I might get up early all week so that I can piecemeal the chores I usually do in leisurely fashion on Saturday.

But the idea of permanently giving up my sleep to handle things I don’t have time for during the day?

Hey – I’ve got an idea! How about if we drop a few things off the old to-do list instead?! Like, for example, putting together a mushroom-feta omelet ‘experience’ on a work-day morning.

Or trying to get twenty hours of work into a twenty-four hour day.

Or struggling so hard to have, do and be every groovy thing our world has on offer. Which, given the sheer volume of cool things out there, is pretty much impossible anyway; and who knows how many equally cool things we're missing out on, in our vain attempts to have ALL the groovy coolness?

Off the list: Trying to put together a three-ingredient, multi-step omelet on a workday morning. I’ll take a nice bowl of low-fat, low-sugar, whole-grain cereal, thanks. The mushroom-feta omelet can jolly well wait until the weekend, when I have considerably more time for prep, sautéing, eating, and then cleaning up the debris.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The Experts™ at BabyCenter occasionally hit me right in the funny. Today, they were telling me about my 23-Month-Old, First week, and his/her abilities with throwing a ball. And I just about dissolved into laughter as I read the following:

“Your toddler may now be able to throw a ball overhand with ease, although she'll probably miss her target most of the time. The whole-arm coordination that allows her to roll or throw a ball at something (or someone) usually comes somewhere between 18 months and 3 years.”

Granted, my laughter may have been tinged with hysteria. See, Captain Adventure may still be lagging the pack when it comes to talking, but when it comes to his ability to throw things? Way ahead of the herd. Captain Adventure has excellent aim…when it comes to bouncing things off my head.

Want more juice? Don’t say ‘more juice’! Just bean Mommy on the head with the empty sippy cup! That’s the way to subtly get the message across that hey – this thing is empty!!

It is truly amazing just how hard a little, bitty 23-Month Old, First week, can manage to sling an empty juice cup. From clear across the room, no less.

In all fairness, though, I have to state: I was born to be the mother of a little boy. I have rather good reflexes. I am athletic by nature. I used to play tennis, basketball, run track, beat the crap out of people do kempo. My husband, himself no slouch in the martial arts department, has expressed admiration at both my reflexes and my vicious, no-holds-barred fighting style ability to hold my own in a bar brawl.

Nine times out of ten, I will snatch that cup out of the air long before it actually cracks my cranium. Sometimes without ever even looking at it directly (which is also a cool trick to pull during a bar brawl, by the way – it’s called ‘good use of peripheral vision and intuition’. Amaze your friends! Impress the bikers! Earn the title of Bad Momma – with serious bonus points if you then coolly and without a break in the conversation you’re having about the relative merits of Dante v. Descartes take a long swig from the beer bottle you just intercepted mid-flight. But I digress…).

That tenth time, however…OUCH!

I have told myself, as I dig through the drawer looking for a towel suitable to hold the ice I’m about to apply to my new black eye, that I should take great comfort in the fact that at least one of my children appears to have inherited my athleticism. That at least one of my kids is going to play football, or soccer, or basketball with me. Go on rollercoasters with me. Put up with me tagging along to karate. As I dig into the bottle of Motrin, I comfort myself with visions of Him and Me, backpacking through the Andes together. Maybe riding horses across the wild plains of Indiana. Taking Six Flags by storm, while the girly-girl sisters and their ‘what are you, MENTAL?!’ father watch enviously from the safety of the ground.

This is, of course, merely another example of my desperate Pollyannaism at work.

My son is a bruiser. Adorable, but vicious. With a gentle smile, he goes right for the jugular.

Yup. Definitely my child.

…I wonder if he’ll like kempo…

……and if he’ll be utterly mortified if I’m studying at the same dojo……

To The Darling Morons at Nuclear Imaging Medical Group...

To Whom It May Concern:

If you would like to receive payment in full on an account, it generally helps if you send a bill to the account holder. I never received a bill of any kind from you for the services you provided two months ago – you remember, the services my insurance only just finished settling up with you a few weeks ago?

Nevertheless and in spite of the rather short timeline here, I did just receive a collections notice from Cypress Collection Services. I paid them in full, immediately. That’s right! Though fiscally painful, though it may cost me as many as THREE WHOLE LATTES, a check for the full $9.45 has been sent to Cypress.

I figure you just lost a latte’s worth of income to Cypress – and serves you right.



In search of simplicity

This has been one of the rottenest years on record for me personally. Physically, mentally, spiritually, financially…just plain rotten. My take on 2006 to date is basically, “Check, please!”

I just want to leave now. Be done with this year. Let it slide into the rearview mirror and never speak of it again.

Things have been too complex, too complicated, too…noisy. It seems as though we are in a constant state of turmoil around here. Trips to Disneyland, or to visit grandparents, off to a wedding over here, a birthday party over there…too busy for this, too busy for that, too much to buy, too little cash. Debts rising, assets sinking…wanting to work, enjoying my work, but suffering from the vague feeling that I’m losing all sense of familial balance.

All of which comes together in a loud cry of, “I wish things were simpler, like they were in the good old days!!”

Funny thing, simplicity. Such a gentle little word. It conjures up pastoral scenes, doesn’t it? Lazy days reading books in the park. Living in a little cottage by the sea, watching the ships sailing along, eating our porridge by the flickering oil lamp…aaaaaah. Peace, quiet, tranquility, the bounty that is ‘enough’…

Of course, we couldn’t possibly have it, not at this particular time. Because, see, we’re working? Which means we simply must have the car payment and the mortgage and the daycare costs and the frantic rushing from Hither to Yon and the dry cleaning bill and the maid service and dinner out a couple times a week because I don’t have time to cook WHO may I ask has time to cook these days…?

We see it as not having any choice. Can’t change society, right? And we live in a society of specialized ringtones to let you know in advance which friend is calling, a world of constant need creation and fulfillment.

We are, in short, owned by our luxuries.

They build on each other. You start with one small thing. I’m going to get a latte at Starbucks this morning, a ‘special treat’. Next thing you know…you’ve got a two-latte-a-day habit formed. And you feel you must have them. If you decide to give them up, you’re ‘deprived’.

From socks to magazine subscriptions, we feel as though saying ‘no’ to anything we have a hankering for is somehow denying us something precious.

But of course, it also becomes overwhelming. We have so much stuff to store, so many places to go, so many things to see…we become exhausted by it and then we shriek that we want some damned simplicity.

Then we get a subscription to Real Simple magazine and, a few cunning (and expensive) organizational tips later, we’re back where we were. Drowning in things we can’t live with, or without.

Can you tell I’m a bit disgusted right now?

Oh my yes. Disgusted does not begin to cover it. I’m about half ready to pull up stakes, buy a cabin in the middle of the woods in Montana and refuse to get electricity or a working telephone. I’m so tired of all the noise, the demands on my time and energy.


All kidding aside, I’ve been pondering trying to get a healthy dose of simplicity into my life lately. How to balance needs and wants, how to shut down the madness that our lives have become in the last year.

I’m looking for some simplicity – and it isn’t as easy to find as you might think. Google ‘voluntary simplicity’. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? Holy carp, people! Next you’ll be telling me I need to live nekkid in the woods eating nothing but dirt! Geez. It’s like the Living Below Your Means fanatics, who get all sniffy if you commit such horrors as buying clothes at retail, or spend $50 on a wedding present you could have made yourself in only sixteen hours using recycled materials!

So I sifted through the sources and I found very little that I felt would help me right now. Because I don’t want to give up my job and live the life of the income-free a-la “Your Money or Your Life”; I don’t want to downsize us into a tiny little house, or tell my children we’re going to go live on a llama farm in Istanbul (do they have llama farms in Istanbul?) ‘for a while’.

All I want is a little more freedom. From all this…stuff. I want to have only what we need, and a few things we want. Nothing more. No clutter. No ‘noise’.


Well. Being that I am a rebel without a pause, I’m going to forge my own trail. Because I really am tired of being owned by such things as acrylic fingernails and cable television, and sick of all the rush and bother around me. I’m tired of not having any money, when in point of fact I’m making very good money thank-you-very-much.

Buckle up, Denizens. Mommy’s on another rampage, and things may get bumpy…

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gourmet everyday

Our new diet is basically forcing us into a kind of gourmet meal every single day. From grilled chicken and lettuce wraps to marinated pork loin roasts with roasted garlic and baby spinach, every single day is a kind of healthy epicurean adventure.

As I believe I have complained before, it’s expensive. The Smart Brain People have been putting out study after study in recent months picking apart the connections between poverty and obesity, asking themselves thoughtfully how the poor can afford to be so fat.

I have the perfect example of how this works. I needed 12 ounces of pork loin for one of the meals this week. There were three kinds of roast-worthy pork at the supermarket. Boneless pork tenderloin, for $4.69 a pound; boneless pork loin for $3.69; and pork shoulder for $1.99.

It took every ounce of willpower I had not to grab the shoulder. As I was reaching for the middle-road pork loin, I was agonizing over the price difference. I was thinking of all the other bills I’ve got to pay, all the other hooks that are tearing my paycheck to shreds. And all the while, that lovely marbled shoulder was cooing at me: “You know, I roast up good and tender…uh-huh…all this fat makes for self-basting, that’s what…I’m delicious and you know it…you know you want me…cheap…fatty…pork…shoulder…mmmmmmmm…”

I almost had to slap my own hand away from that shoulder. I had to remind myself, firmly, that while I may not be affluent, I am pretty darned far from poor. I do not have to freak out over a $1.25 difference between the pork shoulder and the pork loin.

But when I wandered into the canned goods aisle and reached for two cans of black beans…at $1.19 apiece…I realized that there is quite a lot I can do to bring the costs of this diet down.

Two cans of black beans will give us enough for this one week for $2.38.

Or, I can buy a bag of dry black beans for $0.99. Take them home and put them straight into the crockpot, cover with cold water and let them sit until I’m ready to go to bed – at which point, put in a little garlic powder, some dried onion flakes, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper. Turn the crockpot to low and go to bed. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans and set them into the fridge.

That evening, divvy them up. They won’t last long in the fridge, so put whatever you’re not going to use into the freezer when you get home from work. Viola. I’ve now got enough beans to last us several weeks, for less than the cost of one week’s worth.

It’s an old trick, reapplied. Anything I’m reaching to buy, I’m asking myself if I can get the raw materials for it and make it myself. If I’ve got red leaf lettuce on sale and romaine not…what’s the nutritional and taste difference? I can substitute arugula or mustard greens for escarole, get my grains in bulk from, make my own whole wheat, low fat bread.

This diet is still going to be more expensive than the ‘whatever was on sale’ cooking I usually do. And I’m probably going to be shrieking in dismay fairly regularly as I’m loading up my fridge with crisp, healthy fronds.

But on the other hand…my husband lost nine pounds in the first week. And I’m fitting into my jeans better – usually I’ve been making that “…well, you know how it is, putting on jeans that were just washed…” excuse during my morning huff-n-puff session. But the last few days, even right out of the dryer, they’re zipping up nicely and without a whole lot of groaning.

Which is good. Because honestly, having to start your day with a wrestling match against an inanimate object – and losing?!

Not fun. Not fun at all…

Thursday, June 22, 2006


The sound you have just heard is the air rushing back into the vacuum formerly occupied by stress.

Two days ago, I was so stressed out I got adrenaline surges every time the phone rang. Even if it was just my mom. I was just kind of in A State. Too much to do, too little time. So much on my plate from the job that I just felt utterly overwhelmed. Deadlines…slipping. Boss…embarrassed…in front of…client.


So this morning, I sat down at my computer bright and early and went back to the problem that had been stumping me for three long hours yesterday.

CASE WHEN blah blah blah THEN blah blah blah…works fine
WHEN yadda yadda yadda THEN yadda yadda yadda…works fine
where the hell is the problem? because there IS a problem…
WHEN so-forth-and-so-on THEN so-forth-and-so…
hang on a second…you don’t suppose…?

Bingo. Somewhere along the line, a very simple mathematical inconsistency was made. Nine times out of ten, the percentage is left as it is: .97, .03, .001.

This tenth time, someone had helpfully given us the leading ‘1’. 1.97, 1.03, 1.001…

So when we went to get our margin calculations and put in Price * (1 + pct)…we got ‘almost’ double what we ought to have gotten.


Calmly, competently, I fixed the source table to be like its nine brothers. Reran the stored procedures. Double checked that the numbers looked right and matched across all source tables.

Calmly, competently, I slammed out the draft reports and emailed them away.

Calmly, competently, I danced around the room bellowing, “Lookit me, m’bad self! Oh yeah! Dat’s right! You can run, but you can’t hide! Uh-huh! Dat’s right!!”

(Fortunately, I do not have a webcam. Because I’m pretty sure I looked damned silly.)

At the same time, I learned this morning that my daycare costs will be dropping by, get this, $192 per week by the end of the first week in August. This is because Captain Adventure is turning The Magic 2; also, Danger Mouse (now a full-time schoolager) and Eldest go back to school, cutting their costs almost in half.


The sudden release of stress is dizzying. I’m feeling so wild I may just go out and blow $20 on a pedicure. Seeing as how I am not only already over 40 hours for the week but well over 80 for the pay period…consider it shipped. I’m gonna do it.

No! Wait! Also, I’m gonna pay the extra $2 to get stupid little flowers outlined on my big toes!!

That’ right. That’s how wild I am right now. Jump back, gimmie room! I’ve gone wiiiiiild…!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Laughing at myself

I feel really sorry for people who take themselves seriously. People who can’t laugh at how mind-bogglingly stupid we can all be.

I now have a very clean, orderly desk. My keyboard has been air-dusted and rubbed down with lovely, electronics-friendly wipes. I have a new desk organizer, three tiers of orderly goodness. And a little revolving thingee for the pens, paperclips, Post-Its, stamps and return address labels.

There is not a shred of paper floating loose on my desk right now.

Not. One.


Because if I hadn’t been doing all this organizing and cleaning, which I told myself I simply had to do before I could possibly get anything else done due to the clutter = brain-drain effect, I would have been taking care of all the bills now sitting in neatly arranged stacks in the organizer. I would have been reading all the magazines lined up in the top tier. I would have been putting my Covey planner to good use organizing my life.

All of which I am telling myself that I simply must do before I can get on with the one thing that I really need to do before I do anything else, INCLUDING my job: decide whether I’m keeping my job.

I’m pretty sure I’m losing money by working. I’m pretty sure I’m losing an average of almost a thousand bucks a month…although I have to confess that I’m getting that number by dividing the number of months I’ve worked into the amount of new credit card debt we seem to have mysteriously acquired during said time.

It’s an ugly truth, and I don’t want to face it. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to even think about it.

Ergo…I’m cleaning. Organizing. Straightening. Puttering around with the filing system and neatly stacking things, doing the filing, sharpening the pencils…getting ready to get around to the possibility of maybe thinking about looking at the Dread Numbers and seeing just how bad it really is.

It’s so incredibly silly that I just had to stop and laugh at myself. Honestly. Like the problem will just…go away!...if I can just get the bills paid and the magazines read. Like suddenly, my income will be such that taxes and childcare won’t be sucking 80%+ of my gross salary into oblivion.

Like…all the stress I’m under is just going to magically disappear, if I can just wade through that back issue of The Economist I’ve been ignoring for two weeks.

Denial. It’s a beautiful and mysterious thing. I sat down here half an hour ago with steely determination: I was going to log into my accounting software and get to the bottom of The Issue. I would look at the cold, hard numbers. I would determine once and for all how much of it was extraordinary circumstance, and how much is sheer ‘we just don’t make enough for this’. I would make the judgment call: is it costing me more to work than I am earning? Or, is it costing so much for me to work that it just isn’t worth it.

Make a decision! Take charge of my destiny and decide whether it was best for my Den for me to work, or not! Be forceful! Take it like a woman!! Write the memo!!! I, Mother of Chaos, do herewith tender my resignation because I am bleeding money all over the Central Valley trying to make this work, while meanwhile my house is rapidly turning from a Den of Chaos into a Quagmire of Despair and my youngest is developing PermaCough, a common condition for the 4-and-under set who are in full-time daycare centers.

… then again, I could go in search of that cunning little postage stamp dispenser I got at the thrift store back in 1994…I just know it’s in here somewhere! Would you look at the state of this closet, *tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk*…

Great…another thing to keep track of things…

Yes. So. This is my ‘weight loss’ ticker.


Cool site. Kinda fun. But somehow I don’t think I’m going to be keeping this up…especially when it gets stuck right there for the next eighteen weeks…

Missing the point

Barron’s had an article this week about Diageo (a leader in liquor – manufacture and distribution of such brands as Smirnoff, Guinness, and Bailey’s).

I read the article (I really did), but the whole time I was thinking, “Hey! I have a friend who works there! I wonder what she’s up to this weekend…hmm…doesn’t she get booze at a discount or something…?”

I’m sure the article had a point.

I just…sorta…missed it…

(OK, not really - the point was basically that stocks like Diageo tend to ride out recessions better than others, because no matter how bad the economy may get we humans will tend to put our booze-buying at the top of the priority list. They pay a fairly decent dividend and still have some room for growth, although with today's price being right below the 52 week high and Anheuser thinking about going toe-to-toe with them I don't know that I'd move huge amounts into the stock at this precise moment. I might open a conservative position, though. Hmm. I wonder if shareholders can get booze discounts...?)

Captain Adventure: Rockmelter

Captain Adventure got a haircut yesterday. It was so long overdue that, upon being informed of our destination, his teachers gave out a cheer. You could barely see his eyes beneath his bangs, and his ears had long ago vanished into the tundra.

So we wandered over to Supercuts and he went from resembling a St. Bernard to being a rather handsome little boy in a matter of about ten minutes.

Then, we went next door to Starbucks for the traditional bribe reward for Good Behavior While Getting Haircuts.

Boo Bug got a krispy bar with miniature M&Ms. I got a triple grande non-fat (sigh) latte (double sigh) with one crummy Equal in it (LE SIGH). (This is another part of the Sonoma diet – for this first ten days, I’m supposed to avoid sugar in most of its forms, even ‘fake sugar’, on the theory that going cold turkey will cut my cravings for same. I consider the fact that I shared some [like, two nibbles] of MY Godiva bars with Eldest to be proof that I am taking this part of the diet very, very seriously indeed…because usually I’d hide in the back of the closet under the pile of outgrown clothing donations in the dead of night and suck it down, you know, in private.) (But I don’t have a problem. I could stop, any time I wanted to. I could. Just watch me. Because I might do it. One of these days. When I feel like it.)

Captain Adventure? He got a Snickerdoodle the size of his entire head, chosen for him by mommy in the midst of chaos, so he had no idea what he was getting.

We sat down at a table and I handed out the bags. Boo Bug, being much more sophisticated a diner, simply grabbed the krispy out of the bag and started picking the M&Ms off the top of it, chattering casually away about school, and friends, and haircuts, and bang trims, and how people can be expected to pretend Rapunzel if they keep getting their hair cut, duh!

Meanwhile, Captain Adventure was exploring the bag. He cracked it open and peeked inside. He looked up at me with his eyes {{{{THIS BIG}}}}. His newly-visible expression clearly said, “Mom, you won’t believe what is In. This. BAG!”

He reached in.

He pulled out the cookie.

All the concrete in the building promptly melted from being in the presence of the sweetest, gooiest, there-is-nothing-bad-in-the-whole-world-right-now smile that lit up his entire body. He just stared at that cookie for a long moment, taking in the cinnamon-sugar splendor before him.

Then, he brought it to his mouth with great reverence and took a nibble. Oh joy! His free hand lashed out, caught hold of my arm and held it. Mommy! Oh, Mommy! It’s a cookie! A great big honkin’ huge cookie! For me! It’s mine! Cinnamon sugar is the best flavor in the world and it’s on a cookie!!!!! (Does Mommy know her boy? Oh yes, Mommy does…)

It was overwhelming. He set the cookie down dead center on top of the bag and stared at it worshipfully, while I tried not to fall out of my chair laughing at him. You’d think the boy had never seen a cookie before in his life!

After an appropriate meditative pause, he leaned over, took my face in his hands the way he does when he wants to assure my complete attention, and gave me a great big drooly-crumbly-cookie kiss. Complete with sound effects: “MMMMMMMMMWAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Then he ate the cookie as if it were his first and last meal ever in his life. I expected him to eat maybe half the cookie, maybe as much as three-quarters of the cookie.

No. He ate the whole entire big-as-his-head cookie. And licked his fingers. And helped me clean the table, and trotted over to put his bag in the trash, and wiped his face with a napkin, then held up his arms to be picked up.

He put his arms around my neck and gave me another big kiss.

“Was that a good treat?” I asked him, rushing us back out to the van to start the evening frenzy: picking up the older two children, dinner-bath-story-bed-clean-pay-a-bill...

“Uh-huh,” he beamed up at me, patting my hair approvingly.

The child could melt a fifty ton block of granite.

Pray for me, friends. I am powerless to resist him already, and he only has 23 months practice thus far…

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sonoma in Review

Well, we’re almost a week into the Sonoma Diet thing, and I have the following gems to share:

The meals are really good. They are tasty, and flavorful and do not make you say to yourself, “Wow, I am on a diet!” I’m not going to post their recipes due to copyright, but I can heartily recommend checking out The Sonoma Diet Cookbook. They are not afraid of intense flavors or heat. Which is nice, because let’s face it: a lot of diet food is kind of ‘eh’, flavor-wise.

The meals thus far are, however, a little too high maintenance. I felt as though I spent the entire weekend either cooking, cleaning up the dishes, or setting things into marinades or over sieves to curdle or something. Granted, there were two extra people in the house which contributes to a certain ‘extra dishes’ thing, but still. A lot of prep and flipping and stirring and mincing. Not a great diet for those with time-constraints.

In their defense, however, I didn’t do a darned thing to mitigate that. I just let their system generate a menu and went with it. They have options that are ‘quick meals’, and I need to make sure I check that box for all breakfasts and lunches, and those dinners when I’m working and can’t take necessarily be home three hours before we want to eat to marinate the chicken, turning every half hour or so to ensure even coating.

My children…will not eat most of the meals. This is because my children are afraid of flavor. My godson ate the meals, cheerfully and with good appetite. He ate feta-topped omelets, garlic-crusted pork chops and roasted vegetables.

My godson is an awesome kid. My horrid children threw gagging fits over the very idea of feta. They also would not eat eggs scrambled with mushrooms, grape tomatoes, red onion and minced garlic. They insisted on having just butter-scrambled eggs. Plain. With no pepper, even.

I used to think that my children would be adventurous eaters, because I like adventurous cooking. “Ha!” I said to myself scornfully. “My children won’t be like Those Other Children, who will only eat McDonalds blandness and boxed Mac-n-Chez! No! Ha ha! I shall cook for them the roasted eggplant from their youth and behold, they shall find such things Good…!”

Or, not. Or, they will eat it when they are toddler age and younger, but then promptly begin refusing to eat it when they hit about 3 and continue refusing to even look at the food without serious dramatics until they turn…well, I don’t really know how old they’ll have to be. At 8, Eldest is starting to occasionally not fling herself to the floor in a sobbing fit when presented with something Dire (like stuffed tomatoes, or pasta in something other than standard Red Canned Spaghetti Sauce), but she still basically takes a microscopic nibble and then says carefully, “Welllllll…it isn’t that it’s bad, exactly, but I don’t think I really like it…”

(Meanwhile, her sisters are rolling on the ground feigning their deaths, having been poisoned by the stuffed tomato.) (Boo Bug can put forth disgusting-food-related crocodile tears faster than a UPS guy can doorbell-ditch you.) (I have had that guy ring my doorbell and be back in his truck and pulling out of the court before I could cross the ten feet between my desk and the front door to open it.) (Seriously. Do they have a remote control to my doorbell? Is he actually ringing it from the end of the block? I really do wonder…)

But I digress. What was I talking about? Oh yes. The Diet.

There is a lot of lettuce on this diet. A lot of it. A staggering amount of it, really. I like lettuce, but there does come a point when you say to yourself, “OK, enough with the greenery.” A point when you find yourself thoughtfully fingering your ears to ensure they aren’t lengthening, or rubbing your tailbone in fear that a little white cottonball tail is about to erupt from it.

However, it does encourage a certain regularity that, coming from many months of gallbladder-driven “Issues”, is rather nice.

Also, there is a lot of broccoli and asparagus. Which creates a certain…atmosphere. This is not a good diet for two people who share a small space – like, say, a tiny home office. Especially if one of them is A Guy, who will proudly trumpet forth and then try to get by on cute by saying, “’Scuze, pwease!”

It’s only cute when you’re in preschool, gentlemen. After that, it’s just kinda gross. And I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that payback is a bitch. A stone one.

In terms of weight loss, my husband refuses to weigh himself until a full week has passed; I’ve lost three pounds in four days. But since my weight can go +/- five pounds a week for no apparent reason, I’m not sure I can consider that to be real weight loss. It might just be tidal pull, for all I know.

And that is the Diet So Far, more or less in brief. I'm sure there will be more to come, mostly me whining about how I'm not losing any weight at all and being pissy because I forgot to put the chicken into the marinade and had to go all maverick with the recipe and THEN my children wouldn't even touch the stuff...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Oh, ack

You know what I love? I love it when, after having put in a nice long nine hour day, you come back after dinner to shut down your laptop and discover an email saying, “We need to provide the client an update on this by lunch tomorrow – will we have anything to show him? Please call me tomorrow morning to discuss…”

Bonus points if, uh, no. You don’t have anything to show him. Or the boss who sent you the email. If you’re just sitting there thinking, Uuuuuhhhh…I thought I had ALL DAY tomorrow to finish this…

Oh yeah. That right there, that’s the best.


It isn’t really as bad as it felt when I first read that email. When I first read that email, I had a moment of vertigo, imagining myself pounding back cup after cup of coffee and burning right through the night (and no doubt making an utter ass of myself in the client meeting the next day… “duuuuuuh, I do work good, huh?”.

But after I got done throwing clothes at random in the general direction of the laundry basket folding the clothing that was strewn all over the hall floor waiting to be folded, I realized that eh – this isn’t all that horrible.

All the data is gathered. All that really remains is to organize it, pop off a couple ‘case’ statements to put business requirements into a simple answer: If this, this, that, this and the other are true, THEN ‘A’; else if this, that, that, this, the other and your mother’s tennis shoes are true, THEN ‘B’; else, ‘C’ and thank you very much for playing!

The only thing that is annoying is that, seeing as how I’m querying against tables with an average of six million rows of data…simply running the queries is going to take ten, fifteen, thirty minutes apiece. I figure I’ve got at least six of these I’m going to want to have compiled and emailed back to said boss (who is on East Coast time right now and will be banging the keyboard at 6:00 in the morning, when EXCUSE ME!, I’m busy reading the Wall Street Journal!!!) (do NOT interrupt my morning Journal fix. Just…don’t…) before I give up for the night; as I generally am done with my Journal (don’t mess!) and on to working by 7:00…it should all be good.

I’ll still be in bed by 10. And, in the bizarre way life has of handing me sugar with lemons, it’s nice. I have guests arriving tomorrow, and all the hours I work tonight I will be shaving, guilt-free, off my afternoon tomorrow.

Not so bad after all, huh?

Now Leaving: Comfort Zone

I went grocery shopping today.

I had my list.

I went prepared.

Yet I wandered around for well over an hour searching for stuff before finally wending my heavily-laden way to the checkout to fork over $207.85 for a week’s worth of food.

Now leaving: Your Comfort Zone! Y’all come back and see us, y’hear?

Among the items that caused me no end of perplexity: Kalamata olives. Bottled roasted red peppers. Brussel sprouts. Shallots. (Which were not with the onions and garlic where they obviously belong. They were with the tomatoes. Why? I. Have. No. Idea.)

I watched the items being rung up and winced at just about every single one of them. $2.98 for romaine lettuce. $5 for red bell peppers. $8 for asparagus. $6 for bagged salad. $12 for a lousy pound of grill-worthy shrimp.

It was enough to make my frugal soul shrivel up in a fit of despair, I tell you! I tried to be brave, but I think my lip may have quivered ever-so-slightly as I swiped my credit card and signed that yes, I, agreed to abide by the payment agreement…for Two. Hundred. Seven. Dollars. And. 85/100’s…!

Why am I putting myself through this awful paradigm shift? Glad you asked. A few days ago, my husband and I were getting dressed for work. He selected a pair of new slacks, slipped them on, and started to button them. He hesitated. He sucked in a noisy breath. Grunted. Sucked in his breath again. Made various noises clearly indicating that he wished me to note he was having trouble with this simplest of dressing tasks.

Then he regarded himself sternly in the mirror and said grimly, “That’s it. I can’t button my pants.”

There followed a pause, obviously meant for me to say something. I pondered the possibilities for a moment, then made the following gentle, loving and supportive statement: “Yup. Yer a fat bastard, alright.”

“I’ve got to go back on The Diet,” he said firmly, without hesitating long enough to even cast a dirty look my way.

Le sigh.

In the interest of spousal solidarity…we diet together. I don’t technically need to lose weight, but it won’t do me any harm to tighten up the old captain’s quarters a bit. My doctor has told me (repeatedly) that nothing short of surgery will cause the floppage around my midsection to quit flopping (and getting caught in zippers, which is both mortifying and painful when it happens), but because I am hard of hearing and very good at denial due to constant practice, I persist in believing that a little diet and exercise will be enough to erase four babies worth of skin-floppage.

Left to myself, even when well-intentioned, I have no willpower. If I am not following a diet, I will gravitate to the cheap food and make cheap meals that are so shockingly bad for you it defies description.

So. We’re trying the Sonoma diet. This diet meets my stringent anti-bullchips requirements of not promising that you will lose six hundred pounds by June 18 by eliminating any one food group altogether, popping two pills four times a day, or by replacing two meals a day with a delicious strawberry-crème shake.

It gives me a clear menu plan and shopping list. Which is important, because if it didn’t tell me to buy two heads of romaine lettuce, I would decide that we’re not going to eat the lettuce anyway so I’m not buying it. Ditto the radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, brussel sprouts…

But, most importantly: Being the Sonoma diet…it appreciates wine. After these first ten days, during which they’re attempting to break us of such habits as eating an entire box of doughnuts for snack and slamming down a keg of beer between snack and dinner, wine is part of the meal plan.

This is a diet I think I can live with. If the $200 weekly grocery bill doesn’t kill me, of course…

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hip Hop, baby!

Captain Adventure likes to dance. He also likes to sing, wear other people’s shoes, and to bang things together.

So he was in seventh heaven Saturday night, when he had my shoes (which make a very satisfying bump-thump noise on the Pergo) and a pair of old cookie racks (Clang! Clang! Clang!). He was doing a rather involved little dance in the kitchen, gyrating his hips, clopping the shoes, singing and banging the racks together.

Then suddenly, he noticed he had an avid audience and stopped to address us, with the air of a professor of archeology explaining the mysteries of ancient Egypt.

“Ah, badda baah ba dadda mamma DA! DOOS!” {points down at the clown-sized shoes on his little feet}

“Are you dancing?” I asked, in that gushing, enthusiastic, higher-pitched voice instinct for some reason impels mothers to use with their babies. He stared at me, aghast. “Are you doing ballet?”

He gazed at me mournfully, the racks down at his side, his countenance downcast, and shook his head silently. His entire demeanor simply screamed: I am so misunderstood as an artist…

“Oh!” his father and I realized in unison. “Is it hip hop?”

He brightened, nodded, and said, “Uh-huh! Ab-op! ba-ba-ba-baaaaaaaaaaaa-ba-ba!” {returns to dancing and singing and clomping and banging the racks together}

Even Nigel Lythgoe would have been forced to admit: my son is one of the top ten most adorable hip hop artists in the world!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This just ain’t fair!

This morning, after having put in three hours between 5:30 and 9:30 (with one hour out to run children to school) doing minor tweaks to several tables, stored procedures, loading a new data wave and checking the validation reports, I logged into my time manager and discovered that I have worked 35 hours thus far this week.

Thursday, 9:00 a.m. And I’m within five hours of quittin’ time for the week. With a long day of face-time scheduled tomorrow.

Being that I am salaried, my choices are:

Go ahead and work overtime without pay on the theory that I will be thanked by my boss (who does notice such things) and perhaps it will be noted in a more fiscally-meaningful way in my bonus check at the end of the year.

Or, I can blow off the rest of today on the theory that I’m already going to be ending up with considerable overtime by the time the dust settles tomorrow and take care of some Den business that has been languishing around waiting for me to ‘have a minute’. Which I have not had because I have worked, on average, roughly twelve hours per day for the last three weeks in a scrambling attempt to get back on professional track after being sick for so long.

I’m going with Option 2. In fact, I’m going with Option 2 Prime, which is combining Den business (bank, swimming suits and new shoes for Denizens, ironing, meat market) with Mama Gets Treated Nicely (MGTN). Nails done, lunch out with a book (NOT work-related!), I might even spring for a pedicure (although that would be pushing the MGTN budget) (however, given current workload and everything that is about to get dog-piled onto me tomorrow while I’m at the office, I might be able to borrow against MGTN for the rest of the month at this point…).

In other words, I’m going Out today. Out! Into the world! Wearing a frilly shirt! And earrings! A belt that (mostly) goes with my (only slightly ancient) sandals which tie in (kinda) with my (rescued from underneath the laundry basket) purse which is holding my Treo (instead of having it give my belt a Batman Utility Belt look)!

In short – I sally forth this day from my Den with femininity!

And…with un-awesome hair. Because today, my hair has reverted to its normal state. Flat, frizzy, and in a ponytail because honestly – there is nothing else to be done with it. It scoffs at my curling iron. It sneers at the hairspray. It was straighter than a yardstick before I even got in the van for kid-taxiing.

It just ain’t fair, I tell you. Why, oh why, did I have awesome hair yesterday? When I spent fourteen hours pounding the keyboard at home. In my tiny little cave of an office. In the back of the house. Where nobody – NOBODY! – could see me. Where even I didn't notice how marvelous it looked until 3-o-effin'-clock in the afternoon?!

An entire precious day of Perfect Hair™! WASTED!!!!

You know what really adds insult to injury? By the time I had gone out, picked up the children, brought them home, fixed their dinner and all like that?

My hair had un-fabuloused itself. It had, in fact, been thoroughly rearranged by Captain Adventure, who comforts himself through all crises by stroking, petting, pulling, and chewing on my hair. It had also been steamed by the macaroni and cheese water, and then ‘styled’ by my six year old, who attempted to braid it. (She used tape. TAPE! Bright blue sticky tape! **sigh**)

Then and only then did my husband come home. Since my children, bless their little brainwashed hearts, always think I’m beautiful and have beautiful hair (it gets prettier when there are cookies in the house, too), their assertions that it really had looked awesome received nothing more than a cheerful, “Well of course it did! Mommy’s hair is always beautiful…oooooh, did you make cookies?!”



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm sorry, John, but....

I have got to try this at home!!!!!!!

Mentos. Diet Coke. Laughing so hard I almost choked. What's not to love?

And now, a moment of self praise

My hair looks awesome.

I became aware of this late this afternoon, when I went to wash my hands after a late lunch and glanced in the mirror for a damage report.

As someone whose fur usually resembles that of a drowned rat, you can imagine my surprise when standing there in the mirror was a woman with cascading ripples of russet perfection. It tumbled with a kind of devil-may-care lightness around my shoulders. “Curls?” it seemed to say. “What curls? Oh! These old things? Darling, I’ve had them just forever!”

They bounced. They waved. They hugged my shoulders in graceful drape. They looked like I had gotten them trimmed sometime this decade. In short, they had verve, something an awful lot of hair products have promised me but never actually delivered. My hair usually only looks like this for about two hours after I’ve shelled out $85 for a professional to color, cut and style it for me. And it takes them five different hair unguents and a welding torch to make it stay for that long.

This style apparently arranged itself (because I assure you, after I sprayed Herbal Essence Super Hold hairspray into my eyes, I did not spend another nanosecond trying to do anything with it) at some point this morning, and has been waiting all day for me to discover it.

I can tell by the way it is pretending that it always looks like this that it is very, very pleased with the way I yelped, “Oh. My. DAWG! My hair looks fantastic!!!”

If I had only known my hair was going to be like this today, I would have called in too sexy for work and gone out into the world. Nobly. For the benefit of mankind. So that everyone could bask in the warm glow of one of only about three Perfect Hair™ days I have ever enjoyed.

Oh well. At least I can carve my mark in the Internet. On this day, June 7, 2006, I had for a brief and shining few hours…Perfect Hair™.

Why I Am No Danger to the Fashion World #137

This morning, I decided in a moment of wild abandon to wear my hair down. Of course, in its natural state, my hair looks an awful lot like I’m related to a Shetland pony – frizzy and sticking out at odd angles. So I fired up my curling iron and tried to make it at least frizz, you know, in a controlled fashion.

And then, having spent “all that time” on it, I decided I should probably hit it with a little hairspray. Might even help make it look a little less frizzy, right?

I get out the hairspray, blow the dust off the bottle, aim it at my head and start depressing the plunger.

Nothing happens.

I push the button a few more times. Nada. Not even a sense that hairspray is thinking about moving into the little straw on its way to my head. It isn’t working. It appears to be broken.

What the heck? This is a pretty low-tech deal here - how can it be broken? This bears further investigation!

So I look directly at the sprayer and firmly squeeze the trigger one more time.

Y’all know what happened next, right?



A lovely thick mist of hairspray, right in the eyeballs.

I swear to you, my curling iron laughed. The hairspray just sat there, looking innocent. Like this:

Ha, ha, ha. Very funny, you two.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

No, really?

It is reasonably clear that the U.S. economy is entering a period of transition.

This statement of the bleedin’ obvious brought to you by Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve. You know – the guy who causes the stock market to jump a hundred points up or down every time he says anything? “Gee, this sure is a great shrimp cocktail!” UP! UP 200 POINTS! “Oh, I can’t have artichoke dip, it gives me heartburn.” DOWN! DOWN 300 POINTS!!!!!!!!


OK, don’t get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Bernanke. Even if he, and I do mean he personally, is causing my HELOC to inch upward every time he gets together with his cronies over there at the Federal Reserve. I do not envy him his job one little bit. See, if I mess up on the job…well, one (1) company might lose a few thousand (OK, maybe million, it depends on which project) dollars. Not that this doesn’t cause me some amount of pressure, but it is nothing like holding the entire American economy in my hands and trying not to, uh, break it.

Toss in that you’re new to the job, coming in not only in a {euphemism alert} challenging economic time {/euphemism alert}, but on the heels of {angelic music} Alan Greenspan {/angelic music}…well. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

But perhaps he needs a little translating. What his statement means, in Americanized English, is the following: “Wow, the economic poop is about to hit the recessionary fan, folks!”

There. Does that clear it up for you? I think I can clear up a few other statements here, too:

“Although we cannot ascertain the precise rates of resource utilization that the economy can sustain, we can have little doubt that, after three years of above-trend growth, slack has been substantially reduced.”

Folks have been spending way more than they can actually afford [largely courtesy of low interest loans], and have fairly well maxed out their options.

“A slowing of the real estate market will likely have the effect of restraining other forms of household spending as well, as homeowners no longer experience increases in the equity value of their homes at the rapid pace seen in recent years.”

That whole thing where you rack up an extra $15,000 - $25,000 in spending each year and then wave the Magic Refinancing Wand over it to make it just ‘go away’? Not gonna happen in the Coming Economic Times.

“Anecdotal reports suggest, however, that the labor market is tight in some industries and occupations and that employers are having difficulty attracting certain types of skilled workers.”

If your field requires experience and/or education, you won’t be hurt as bad as, say, the guy who carries heavy boxes for a living.

“Toward this end, and taking full account of the lags with which monetary policy affects the economy, the Committee will seek a trajectory for the economy that aligns economic activity with underlying productive capacity.”

We’re gonna take our best shot on this whole interest rate thing and hope for the best.

I think the one thing that we should take away from this is the one thing that isn’t actually said out loud, ever:

Harder times are coming. Put your house in order. See to it that you are spending your money wisely. Don’t buy stuff you know full well you can’t afford. Hint: if you HAVE to charge it, you can’t afford it. Get rid of debts that can double in cost without warning. Have a cash reserve to live on in case that job you’re so sure you’d never lose suddenly goes *bampf!* on you – or slashes your benefits down to nothing. Brace for a wild and bumpy ride in the stock market – your 401k may zigzag like a garter snake on linoleum. Don’t panic. Be patient. And keep your powder dry.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blue Cross irks me…

So. Back in EARLY APRIL, I had already shelled out $5,008 in ‘deductible’. The astute among you may note that this is actually a number greater than $4,800, which would be what my family deductible is supposed to be.

Well, all was groovy…for, like, four Explanations of Benefits.

Paid this, you owe that
Paid this, you owe that
Paid this, you owe nothing (we have now paid more than $5,500, which is our stop-loss period)
Paid this, you owe nothing

Paid nothing, you pay $980 and we apply it to your deductible
Paid nothing, you pay $49 and we apply it to your deductible
Paid nothing, you pay $624 and we apply it to your deductible

Excuse me, but, WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!

So I call them in order to scream WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?! into the phone, and do you know what she says to me?

She says, “Gee, there’s a lot of EOBs for this family and it’s really difficult for me to add them all up myself. I’m going to forward this to our other department, because this is what they do and they can do it really fast…

{wait for it}

{waaaaaait for iiiiiiiit}

Can you call back in two weeks?”

OK, now hang on a second. In the meantime, I’m being inundated with !URGENT! and !PAY NOW! bills from all these doctors and labs and so forth. Telling them I need to wait two weeks to find out if I have a dispute with y’all…really doesn’t cut it.

Also, let’s not look at the whole family. Let’s look just at me. I, alone, by myself, have shelled out $5,371 to date. (Total bills if we include the ones in my drawer waiting to be paid: $5,809.)

Check my math. Is not $5,371 > $4,800? Have I not, ergo, in any case, regardless of what my family is doing, managed all by my lonesome to meet the deductible requirements – that anything they might add, in point of fact, will only tip the scales further in the direction of Already Met Our Deductible Land? In which case…


First, I need a drink.

Then, I need to kill something (something virtual, not something real, I’m not that crazy-upset)

Toss in the fact that what has been charged for medical services so far this year is $33,336.40, and I need two drinks and an extended session of virtual murder.


I’m awfully glad I’m feeling better. Because I need every ounce of strength I possess to deal with Blue Cross…

Rotten weekends suck

Ah, the weekend. That peaceful time of rest and relaxation – a time to scrub from your skin the dirt and grit and slings and arrows of a long work-week, to bask in the glow of your loving family and cherished homestead.

Well. Sometimes, anyway.

This weekend…was not a great one around the Den of Chaos.

First of all, Captain Adventure has finally decided to burst into full-fledged Allergies. I'm ashamed to confess, my children get their allergies from me. Their daddy isn't allergic to anything that we've found yet. Me, I'm allergic to anything with fur and, from May through the end of July, will disintegrate into a pile of exploded sinuses and hives if I even think about going outside without taking my Loratadine tablets.

I'm not complaining, though. When I was their age, in addition to having to walk twelve miles barefoot through the snow uphill both ways to the pharmacy for a Primatene inhaler, a bottle of Visine and a box of Benadryl…they didn't really work, and I just wasn't allowed to leave the house from May through August 1. Being able to pop one of those 'no water needed' dissolving Alavert pills in the morning and be mostly OK through the rest of the day (as long as I don't overdo my exposure) – geez. I'm singin' the 'Freeeeeeeeeeeeedom!' song these days.

However. Captain Adventure is experiencing his first years as an Allergy Sufferer. Exploding sinuses. Ear infection from backed up snot. Rash. Itching all over his little body. Headache, I'm sure.

Not fun.

Naturally, he's been Temper Tantrum Boy for about a week.

So get the weekend. He is now taking two doses of white stuff for the ear infection, several daily doses of Children's Benadryl, Motrin and being slathered twice daily with a prescription cream for the rash. He feels like crap. (Mommy knows. Mommy has all the empathy in the world for this.)

We have a guest arrive Friday night. Mommy & Daddy & Guest have the babysitter come over Saturday so we can go be adults for a few hours (X-Men – I am still in love with Wolverine; Dark & Dangerous apparently remains my fantasy man-type, even though in real life I have chosen to marry a steady, gentle, reliable comedian-type who is about as "dark" and "brooding" as Cool Whip). Captain Adventure does not get a nap because the babysitter is not mommy or daddy, and he will not permit her to calm him to sleep. Logically, you'd think that if a toddler doesn't get a nap, he will hit the crib like a rock that night and sleep like a log.

Not Captain Adventure. When he doesn't get his nap, he becomes uber-hyper. So he's running around at 10:00, utterly unwilling to go to bed. Worse, when he does go to bed, he's so itchy and uncomfortable that he wakes up, repeatedly, screaming for attention. I broke down and cranked the AC up all night, because I know trying to sleep in a warm room with a rash is hell on earth. I try not to enjoy it too much, because in Real Life I'm way too cheap to keep my house a frosty 70 degrees all night.

So mommy and daddy play tag-team Coddle the Baby all night. I ended up taking the last few because daddy…wasn't doin' it right. Which is to stay, he very sensibly would rock him until he was dozing off and put him back in the crib. Mommy, fool that she is, would sit, and sit, and sit, until he was not only asleep, but his sinuses had drained enough that he was breathing more freely.

From 12:30 to 1:45. From 2:30 to 3:15. And then from 3:30 to 4:30 in the morning.

Then I went back to bed…and couldn't sleep. I lay awake, exhausted, aching all over, my own sinuses not too happy and my head pounding…thinking about all the things I needed to do and the logistics of this, that and the other and oh yeah, I wanted to build such and so table on this other server and then I can do a link-server thing to hook the two together and I need to remember that we're almost out of eggs and did I pay the water bill…?

The next morning I was so tired I literally crashed straight into a wall. Turned around and ran into it at a full charge, heading for the coffee maker. I've lived here for eight years, I knew the wall was there. But somehow…well…I forgot. And I walked into it. And it hurt.

Three triple-mochas later, I was still so tired I couldn't do anything but sit on my sofa staring straight ahead at Maisy while she tried to decide what they wanted to wear to Talulah's costume party. The dramatic moment when she realized that Eddie was also going to the party dressed as a queen (king?) was almost too much to bear! Whatever shall our heroine mousie do?!

We were supposed to go to a friend's son's birthday party yesterday. So we're getting ready to go and we realize that taking Captain Adventure anywhere is…pretty evil. For all concerned. He's in the kind of mood where he will go into full toddler meltdown because someone thought about touching a toy he was thinking about maybe playing with someday.

So eventually we decide that, between my own allergies not being so hot and Captain Adventure really not being fit for public appearances, I'd stay home with him while Daddy took the other three to the party.

Now, it gets really fun.

So I spent over an hour getting Captain Adventure happy. I finally got him settled down for a nice nap, got our houseguest (oh yeah, him) off on the road again. Took a shower – my first, by the way, in four days. It was just that kind of week. By the time I was un-kid-or-work-encumbered enough for a shower, I was too tired to do more than wash my face and feet and go to bed.

I took my shower and I came downstairs and said to myself, "You know what? I'm going to play my video game!"

So I turn on the baby monitor, make my fourth mocha of the day, go in and sit down and load up the game. I get twenty crummy minutes in and, right in the middle of taking out a lich, realize Eldest is standing at the office door sniffling.

What the…? A quick time check shows me that I have not fallen into some kind of wormhole and emerged eight hours later. The timing would have been something like this: Skid sideways into the driveway at their house, throw the gift out the window, turn around and drive home like a bat outta hell.

I asked her what happened, and she burst into tears and made sounds that vaguely resembled language.


Then, Danger Mouse walked into the house, sniffling and in her underwear.

And I knew.

Oh yes.

I knew precisely what had happened.

So I got Eldest and Boo Bug settled on the sofa watching cartoons, Danger Mouse into the tub armed with soap and a bottle of shampoo, and went outside where, sure enough, I found my husband hosing the vomit off every surface in the car.

Ironically, while I had been desperately holding onto my patience with both hands while trying to cuddle Captain Adventure out of his latest tantrum, resenting that he was off with the girls to the party having an ever-so-frolicsome time…he was actually stuck in horrific traffic with three bickering girl-children, one of them literally screaming at odd intervals until finally, when they were finally through the traffic and slightly more than halfway to the party, Danger Mouse had thrown up all over everything.

He'd had to strip her down to her underwear in front of God and everybody on the side of the road (and at six, she's old enough to be utterly humiliated by this and feel like Everybody in the World is staring at her), put all the vomit-encrusted stuff into the trunk, rearrange the seating such that everybody was appropriately belted and then decide: does he go on to the party and hope they can find clothes suitable for Danger Mouse to wear and do all the cleaning at the friend's house (they're good enough friends that he could have), or does he come home?

He came home.

Which was a good thing, because honestly – my children were horrible yesterday. I don't think it was just me being tired. They were noisy, squabbling little brats yesterday. They were picking at each other and me and anybody else they could get their vocabulary on, all day long. Boo Bug kept screaming when she couldn't keep up with the arguments verbally, which kept startling me and eventually gave me a noise-related headache.

It's so unusual for them that it really gets my attention when they are like this. Not only are they ordinarily rather well-behaved and polite little kids, they generally don't all act out at once. One kid at a time might be high maintenance – but not all four of them. Or two of them will squabble a little bit but subside quickly when reprimanded.

Not yesterday. Oh no. They fought like little tigers over everything. About 90% of our toys are currently in 'time out', which is how Mommy solves such issues. I don't try to play judge about who had which thing "first" or who got it as a present or anything. I give two warnings, and then I simply take the toy and put it in time out for a few days. End of problem. The kids have quickly learned to settle their differences quickly and quietly.

Smart kids are a beauty to behold.

But even the best of kids have their days, when they're grouchy and pissy – and when mommy and daddy aren't exactly on their game either, the chances of acting out about quadruple.

They were all disappointed not to have gone to the party; Eldest didn't feel particularly well both from having stayed up too late herself reading Harry Potter, and then daddy wouldn't let her play his video game; Danger Mouse was still feeling rocky and was just generally upset; Boo Bug was in A Mood for various reasons, not the least of which is that she is like a little emotional chameleon – she tends to reflect the emotions that are around her, and there was a lot of tension and ire in the house yesterday; Captain Adventure was a petty, 28-pound tyrant.

And then, I lost my cool about three hours into the siege and started just saying "NO!" to everything. Can I have some apple juice? NO! Can I play Don't Spill the Beans? NO! Can I go outside? NO! Can I play with nuclear waste? NO!!


Amazing what a good night's sleep can do, isn't it? Well. I'm still tired and cranky. But the kids are back to their usual cheerful selves. Even Captain Adventure, whose rash and ear infection finally seem to be coming under control, was beaming upon his servant with benevolent goodwill this morning. And packing away cinnamon bread with both hands.

Also, I would like to state for the record that I am very grateful for the staff of our daycare centers. Yes. You lovely ladies who take such excellent care of my children five days a week while I work to earn the money to pay you, who are unfailingly kind and fill their days with interesting projects to the point where they complain when they aren't going to school…you are shining angels of mercy.

I love you guys. {sniff} I really, really love you guys…