Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Change your shorts, change your life, change your life. Change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife

I've discovered the reason I never get anything done around here. Or the reason it SEEMS like I never get anything done. I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Particularly when it comes to getting things done around the house. Let me give you a for instance:

It is 9:30 in the morning. Nolan is having a nap. This means I have approximately an hour and a half to accomplish anything I'd like to accomplish without having to worry about taking care of/entertaining Nolan simultaneous to the accomplishing of things. (I often feel like a giant hand has just slammed down one of those buttons on a chess clock and shouted "Go!" the minute I put him down in his crib. I panic. What do I do first? Shower? Laundry? Eat? Ack!)

I decide I'd like to go down to our basement office setup and get on the computer for a little while. I hook Nolan's monitor to my waistband. I haven't eaten breakfast yet, so I figure I'll take a container of yogurt down with me to enjoy whilst I computerize. I go into the kitchen to get said yogurt.

I see Nolan's bib and high chair tray from breakfast that haven't been washed yet on the counter. I decide to quickly wash them so they'll be ready for lunch. I go over to the sink.

The sink is full of dirty dishes. I can't wash the bib and tray with a sink full of dishes. "Why are the dirty dishes not in the dishwasher?" I wonder.

Because the dishwasher is full of clean dishes, I discover. I open the dishwasher and begin unloading the clean dishes and putting them in the cabinets.

There is an empty beer bottle on top of the microwave waiting to be taken down to the recycling bin in the basement. I can't put dishes into the cabinet above the microwave while the beer bottle is blocking the way. I decide to quickly take the bottle down to the recycling bin.

I go downstairs. I pull the chain to turn on the light above the recycling area. Nothing happens. The light bulb is burned out. Damn.

I decide to quickly go back upstairs to get a light bulb from the linen closet in the bathroom. What's this on the floor of the bathroom? Towels? Why are there towels on the floor? Oh, yes, so I'd remember that they've been in use for two weeks and thus are dirty and need to go in the laundry. Right. I put them on the floor so I'd remember that.

I decide I'd better quickly throw those towels in the laundry. After all, the washing machine can run while I'm doing other things, right? I take the towels and the light bulb back downstairs.

I open the washing machine. What's this? There's wet laundry in the washing machine! It needs to go in the dryer, for heaven's sake! I put the towels on the floor.

I open the dryer. Crap. Clean clothes in there that need to be folded. Better quickly take those upstairs and throw them on the bed to be folded later. They'll get a little wrinkly, so what? I scoop all the clothes into my arms.

Upstairs again. Throw the clean clothes on the bed. I see the breast pump on the desk in the corner. Shit. If I'm gonna pump milk today, I'd better do it before Nolan wakes up and wants to nurse.

Oops, too late. There he is on the monitor, making little "Eh-eh-eh-eh" noises. Ding! Time's up! An hour and a half, just like that.

Does that sound like ADD? Or is that just Stay At Home Mom Syndrome?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow

Yay! We had a great weekend in New Hampshire. It was extra-frosty cold, which meant that KB's plan of outdoor fun with Nolan was limited to one five-minute sojurn on a sled, which Nolan quickly put the kibosh on. Witness the displeasure:

We gotta toughen that boy up, if ever our hopes to raise the 2022 Olympic Winter Games Snowboarding champion are to be satisfied.

Speaking of snowboarding, YAY! I had such a blast. Apparently, it is similar to riding a bike, except flatter, missing the wheels and on snow. Nolan stayed at the condo with KB, Alan and Kathleen, and I got to go to the mountain, Mt. Sunapee, all by myself. I had to re-acquaint myself with all the things I love and hate about snowboarding.

Love: Flying down the hill carving perfect turns without falling down. Hate: Falling over while getting off the lift on the kiddie hill. Love: Meeting random people on the lift and having 4.3 minute conversations that always end with "Have a great run!" Hate: Listening to self-absorbed high school boys on the lift talk about which girls "want them," Winter Formal, and their iPods. Love: Sitting in the summit lodge looking out over the gorgeous view of a large portion of New Hampshire. Hate: Paying $3.50 for a bottle of water in the lodge cafeteria. Love: 7-year olds in the lodge who come up to you and say, "Hi! What's your name?" completely at random. Hate: Seeing those same 7-year olds whizz by me in the terrain park after I've just done a spectacular face plant. Love: A storm that dumps 10 inches of fresh powder on Saturday afternoon when I know I'm coming back on Sunday. Hate: Driving back to the condo in the storm with BMW-driving assholes who think the laws of physics don't apply to them. Love: Landing a jump in the terrain park. Hate: Being so astonished at myself for landing the jump that I promptly wipe out. Love: Getting home in the afternoon exhausted and happy to a warm condo that smells of soup. Hate: Giant bruises on my knees and ass (you'd think I'd have plenty of padding) and being sore for days.

In short, I had an excellent time, and I hope it isn't another three years before I get to go again.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Slow ride, take it easy

We're going up to New Hampshire this weekend, for two reasons: One, to visit with Alan and Kathleen, KB's* stepfather and his wife, two of the coolest people in the world. Two, SO I CAN GO SNOWBOARDING! Huzzah! It has been three years since I've had a chance to ride, and to say I'm excited about it is like saying Jon Stewart is mildly amusing. I can't wait. I'm a little worried that I may have forgotten how to do it! It's probably like riding a bike, right? Nolan and KB are going to hang out at the condo with Kathleen and Alan, and I am going to GO SNOWBOARDING! (KB would come to the mountain, too, but he doesn't own equipment, so he would have to rent some, and that plus the lift tickets would be just a wee bit much for our finances at this point in time. What a guy, huh?)

The last time I actually rode my board wasn't even at a ski resort proper. Or improper. It was when we lived in New York City, on west 141st Street in Harlem. We were on the second floor of a brownstone right across the street from St. Nicholas park. The park is like a long rectangle positioned on a very steep hill, but shortways rather than longways. Does that make any sense? The hill goes from high to low across the shorter leg of the rectangle. If I had one of those Wacom tablets I'd draw it for you. It's a very cool park, with lots of stairs and paths that are great for walking. But on the end closest to our street, there was a fairly open grassy part of the hill with a few trees. Perfect for sledding. Or snowboarding.

So one fine January day, after it had snowed about 10 inches (a lot for New York, but nothing compared to the recent blizzard) I put on my snowpants and boots and trucked over to the park with my board. There were four kids with two sleds already there, taking turns zipping down the hill, wiping out at the bottom (you had to wipe out on purpose to avoid zipping straight on over the sidewalk and out into traffic on St. Nicholas Ave.) and then trudging back up the hill with the sled to let the other kid take a turn.

I show up with my board, and these kids (who were maybe 10 years old) looked at me like I was a stark, raving lunatic. "You gonna go down the hill on that?" one of them said to me, as if I was holding a cardboard box or a piece of plywood riddled with nails, rather than something that was expressly designed to go down snow-covered hills. "Gonna try," I said.

The snow was very wet, heavy and sticky, and I kept getting stuck on random clumps of muddy grass that had been turned up by the sledders' trips down the hill. The only solution (save waxing my board - not an option at the time) to sticky spots is to go faster and just sort of power over them. After a couple runs to get my feet under me, I started to really zip down. We had a few races among us, an unemployed 29-year old woman on a snowboard and four 10-year olds from Harlem. There were quite a few photo finishes, as they could go straight down hell for leather and I had to throw in a few turns to keep in control.

I had to really pull up short at the bottom to avoid the aforementioned sidewalk, and after only a few more runs, the bottom of the hill was all chopped up mud and grass. We decided to call it a day. The kids were slightly less skeptical of my snowboard by this point in time, and one of them even called it "cool," or whatever the current slang of the day that translated to "cool" was. I don't really remember because I'm not now nor have I ever been cool, but I have to say I felt pretty cool right then.

Since then we've moved to Boston. Our first winter here ('03-'04) was one of buying our house and saving up for our wedding, hence: no snowboarding. Our second winter here ('04-'05) I was pregnant with Nolan and, despite my asking my primary care physician, OB, and anyone else in the medical profession up to and including the receptionist at the OB's office, I was always told it was Not A Good Idea, hence: no snowboarding. Now, at long last: snowboarding.

I hope I feel as cool as I did back in New York.

Thanks for reading.

*I'm going to call my husband KB in this blog. He has, in the past, expressed some reservations about my putting details of our lives up on the Most Public Venue In The World, a.k.a. the internet (I don't think anyone out there is really going to care enough about our little world, not to mention even notice it in the first place, to cause trouble, but I do care about his feelings), so I will use a pseudonym for him, and I will be trying my damndest to remember not to put our last name on here anywhere. Plus, I can then start to give him funny nicknames a la Tenacious D. Kaybles comes to mind, for one. Or KB Toy and Hobby.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rock rock, rock n' roll high school

Nolan and I go to an "intergenerational" play group on Friday mornings at a senior citizens' residence here in town. There's a group of about 6 or 8 of us mom/kid combos (no dads at the moment) who all go to this residence, which is like a huge, gorgeous, well-appointed college dorm (certainly much nicer than anything I had in college) for a little socializing with the seniors. There are lots of different rooms for scheduled activities: the Arts and Crafts room, the Billiard Room (no Professor Plum or Colonel Mustard, alas), the Music Room, etc. When we take the elevator up to the second floor where the playroom is for our group, I always get a kick out of reading the events schedule for the day posted inside. They call our group "Babes in Arms," which is a little misleading since the babies mostly play on the floor and the seniors watch from chairs around the periphery of the room, but I guess it's catchier than "Intergenerational Play Group." They also have "Happy Hour" (which starts at 3pm - it is a senior citizens' residence, after all) and last Friday there was a listing for "Rabbi, Read" which I imagine was a Jewish religious service (no indication if they would be reading any Updike) since there isn't a synagogue in the building (I wouldn't be surprised if there was, though - that place is huge.) I imagine the staff works fairly hard to come up with cute names for the various events, either to try to generate interest among the residents, or to keep themselves entertained, or both.

The thing about going to this residence is that it really brings home the notion that as we get older, we start to regress back into childhood. The interactions among the various residents that come to the group reminds me of nothing so much as the social cliques that form in high school. I was holding Nolan and talking to one of the residents last week, and two other seniors were watching us and making catty remarks about the woman I was talking with: "She shouldn't touch his face so much. Babies don't like their faces touched." "Plus she could have germs. Who knows when she washed her hands?" I tried to ignore them, but I was subconsciously waiting for, "I heard she gave the homecoming king a blow job," or something along those lines. The same people always sit together (or not together) every week, and I sometimes feel that Nolan is a prize they are all wrangling for - it's easier when there are four or five moms and babies there, so there are enough of us to go around.

When you become old enough or infirm enough that it's no longer a good idea to be living on your own, you (perhaps with some reluctance) move into a residence. It's a transitional stage between independence and living with a caretaker, much like going to college, only in the reverse order. There are staff members who function similarly to the RAs in your dorm - they're there to help you get the most out of the place, basically. Then there are extreme cases such as people with Alzheimer's who continue regressing until they are completely unable to take care of even their basic bodily functions, much like, oh...say...an eight-month-old baby.

Where am I going with this? I don't know, exactly. There's a certain amount of wistfulness I feel when we're at this group. Many of the seniors spend our conversational time recounting their own children when they were babies, or talking about grandchildren and great-grandchildren that they have, who they always hope are coming to visit soon. (They also spend a fair amount of time asking me to repeat Nolan's name - it's not a familiar one to these Bettys and Bills and Marys). The sense I get is that they're saying to me, "I was someone once, too. I had a life that included babies and playgroups and toys, so don't think you've got a monopoly on that." What makes me sad is that when they talk like that, I get the feeling that they don't believe they really have much of a life now. I guess it's hard not to feel that most of your life is behind you when you're 80 or so, because, statistically speaking, you're right. Which is probably why the staff have to work so hard to get the seniors to go to lunch when the playgroup is over - they never want to leave the babies. They always ask if they can stay a little longer, or take the babies with them, as if the babies have a magical ability to keep their aging at bay. And maybe they do, at least for an hour and a half on Friday mornings.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Come mister tallyman, tally me bananas

My friend Erica recommended a service called Relish to me that provides you with five recipes and a coordinated shopping list every week. They guarantee that the entire list will cost you less than $80, and the recipes are picked so that you can use ingredients for more than one recipe. We tried out their trial menus last week, with a mixed amount of success.

We only needed four recipes for the week, so I nixed the tilapia right off the bat. I'm not a big fish person (gee, think that has anything to do with growing up in a frickin' desert?), even though I know I should be eating more fish because it's low fat, high in Omega whatsimadoodies and protein and all that. I'm just not really into fishyness. So that one was out. But we tried the chicken burritos with mango salsa, the pork tenderloin with blackberry sauce, the soy and ginger flank steak, and the ravioli with zucchini and pine nuts.

The best recipe by far was the ravioli. It was simple to make and tasty, made use of reasonably cheap ingredients (the fresh ravioli was pricey, but it was cancelled out by the dirt-cheap [no pun intended] zucchini), and tasted good as leftovers. I also liked the chicken burritos, but peeling and chopping the mango was a pain in the tuckus. The pork was okay, but the blackberry sauce needed to be thicker and more blackberry-y (the couscous that went with it was good - why don't we eat couscous more often?), and the flank steak was okay, too.

My biggest complaint is that the recipes aren't very well proof-read, particularly when you think this is their trial menu with which they're trying to convince people to use their service. The shopping list says "3 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts" while the recipe calls for "3 chicken breasts." Even if you're a lousy cook, you know that there's a heckuva difference between 3 breasts and 3 pounds of breasts. The shopping list calls for one package of "Ramen noodles, Oriental flavor," but then the recipe tells you to throw out the seasoning packet. Well then why the $&!# does it need to be Oriental flavor? I was in the Asian food aisle going, "Beef flavor, mushroom flavor, shrimp flavor... dammit!"

This isn't a big deal if you're a careful reader (as I am, but only AFTER I got home from the store and was ready to start cooking) but it's a big deal when you're at the supermarket with an eight-month old baby and you can't find the frickin' Oriental flavor Ramen noodles. Going to the store with Nolan is kind of like that show Supermarket Sweep, except instead of a timer and a screaming audience to put pressure on you, you've got the ever-looming threat of a child who could go nuclear at any second. Nolan is a pretty mellow kid*, but when he's done, he is Done with a capital D. There will be no, "Hang on, sweetie, I just need to find the minced ginger in a jar," no, "We've only got three more items, Pooter Pie, just hold on." Then you become the woman in the checkout line with the screaming child that all the elderly ladies look at askance. When he's finished, He. Is. Finished. And so am I.

So it was a mixed success. I think we probably will still sign up for the service - we're on a bit of a budget these days what with the single income and the third (adorable) mouth to feed, so having someone else come up with a week's menu that maximizes your grocery money is a pretty sweet thing. And it's only 5 bucks a month. So we'll take a crack at it.

Thanks for reading.

*My stepmother says that Nolan's easy-going personality is God's attempt to trick us into having more kids. I think God could probably take a simpler route to getting us to have more kids. After all, he was responsible for that whole immaculate conception thing, if I'm not mistaken.

Monday, February 20, 2006

There's not a lot of things that she'll take back

I think everyone who knows what it is they want to do with their lives (whether they're actually doing it or not) can recall the time in their life* when they first sort of went, "Ah-ha!" and figured out that they like that thing. (Wow, could that be any more vague?) For instance, say, me: I knew I really enjoyed reading and writing from a very young age, but I distinctly recall my seventh-grade English class as a turning point:

I had Scott Foster for a teacher, who was a very genial, easy-going man given to wearing hideous, hideous footwear. He had the first pair of Earth Shoes I ever remember seeing, and boy, were they atrocious. But he was an excellent teacher, and he was the first adult who ever responded to me as if I might one day be an adult too, as if I had things that were worth saying, and it was his job to help me shape them correctly so people would be interested in hearing them. (I once wrote a paper on the environment for his class, and next to a paragraph about the amount of trash in the ocean that mentioned styrofoam packing pellets, he had commented "I imagine people became crazed by their inability to rid their bodies of them and jumped into the sea." This struck me as a comment made between two equals, not that of a teacher to a student, and I really appreciated it for that reason. [Obviously, as I can still remember it verbatim almost 20 years later.])

His philosophy of writing was that you shouldn't worry too much about going back and trying to fix things while you were still in the process of doing the writing. He was more of the opinion that you should try to write your way out of any awkward or unclear things you had already said, and that maybe you would hit upon the best version that way. I took that to heart, because it helped to free me of that internal editor/critic in my head that's constantly going "That sucked! You're a sucky writer! That's the suckiest phrase that ever sucked a suck!" It didn't totally cure me of that, naturally, but it was the first time it had ever occurred to me that I didn't have to be perfect all the time, on my first attempt, no exceptions. Of course, he was still in favor of editing, he didn't mean you should never correct your mistakes, merely that it was better to keep going than to stop and obsess about what you were having difficulty with. (It's also worth noting that this was waaaaaay back in the age of typewriters, when fixing your mistakes was a wee bit more time-consuming.)

*Please, someone come up with a resolution to the whole his/her/their thing as regards the general plural pronoun. Strunk and White say "The use of he as pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention that has lost all suggestion of maleness." I don't agree. But I do agree that "The furor about he would be more impressive if there were a handy substitute for the word. Unfortunately, there isn't - or, at least, no one has come up with one yet." Please! Someone!

What I'm trying to say is this (bad news for my tens of readers): I will probably not do a whole lot of editing of my entries once they're posted. If I make a blatant factual error that I later discover, I will of course correct it, but I will probably make an addendum to the post rather than try to make it appear as if I never made the mistake in the first place. Pobody's nerfect and all that.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 17, 2006

She likes her hair to be real orange

Nolan has a book called "Windows to Color." It's from the Baby Einstein company, which I'm not really "into" as a parent, but we got it as a gift, so who am I to look a gift book in the mouth?

(I'm not sure I understand the whole philosophy of the Baby Einstein thing - the one experiment that was done on the so-called "Mozart Effect," in which classical music played while students were studying was thought to improve their brains, was conducted on college students. Not babies. And was later discredited and found to be mostly glitches in the data and not an actual improvement at all. So the idea that you can play certain music [or in this case, watch certain videos/read certain books/play with certain toys] and improve your baby's brain is just, well, nonsense. But I totally understand the desire to WANT to do that for your baby. I just don't think buying a DVD for $29.99 is the way to do it. You may have to actually...oh...I don't know...interact with your baby.)

But anyway. This book, Windows to Color, is pretty cute, as baby books tend to be. The idea is that each of five colors (yellow, blue, orange, red and green) is introduced with a famous painting that has that particular color predominantly in it. Then some characteristics of the color are mentioned, with a little cut-out window into the next page, which then has lots of objects that are that color. For example, blue: The first page is Marc Chagall's Blue Village and the words "cool" "deep" and "sky." Then you turn the page and there are some blueberries, a blue butterfly, a sky with clouds in it, etc.

But here's the thing: The page for red has, how shall I say, some weirdly inappropriate sexual innuendo. The painting is Georgia O'Keefe's Red Canna, which is to say, it's one of her vagina flowers. On the opposite page is a heart-shaped cutout and the words "hot" "rich" and "exciting." This, I think, is weird enough, but then when you turn the page, one of the red objects, a fire engine, has the number 69 on the front of it! (The others are a red rose and a ladybug.)

Is that weird? Is it just me? Is my brain totally reading sexual weirdness into something completely innocent?

I leave it to you, my tens of readers, to decide.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Been through the desert on a horse with no name

I took this photo in my backyard yesterday afternoon. We have a little stream that runs downhill across the back of our property, and there's a nice pattern of snow and rocks formed by the remnants of Sunday's Great Nor'Easter of Ought Six. Every time I see snow on those rocks I think of this painter Bev Doolittle, who is well known in the West (I think she's from Wyoming, where I grew up) but not too famous, as far as I know, in other parts of the world. My dentist had signed prints of hers in his office, and lots of my friends' parents had her prints in their houses. She does Western-themed paintings of bears, Indians, wolves, that kind of stuff, but with little hidden images everywhere - things you have to look closely to see. I always thought her work was a wee bit on the cheesy side - her picture descriptions tend to say things like "A broken song beneath the snow, the echo of a soaring joy, a shape in the mist, a touch in the rain, in wilderness you come again..you tell us what we used to know...you speak for all the free wild things whose ways were ours when the wind had wings." Which makes me go "Ecchhh." But she was quite popular in Wyoming.

Oops. I see from her online biography that she's actually from California. Huh. Anyway, take a look at www.bevdoolittle.net and check out the paintings "Three More For Breakfast" and "Pintos" (and others, if you're so inclined) and see if they don't remind you a wee bit of my backyard. Of course, we don't have any bears or horses in our backyard that I'm aware of, but I have seen a scraggly-looking coyote a couple of times.

As for me, I will try to figure out how to put links into my blog text so next time you can just click on them.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The more we get together, together, together...

Hi there!

This here's the inaugural posting of my blog. My main goal with this thing is to keep in better touch with friends and family who are scattered about the world in places where I can't drop in on them for coffee on a Tuesday afternoon when I'm bored or the baby is crying. I also would like (Two! I have two main goals!) to get more in the habit of writing on a regular basis and give myself a creative outlet. It would also be nice (Three! Three main goals! Nobody expects...) to have a location to post more frequent pictures of le bebe, so as to cut down on the pesky e-mails from people saying, "Aren't we due for more pictures of Nolan?"

Aaaaaaaaand that brings us to the real reason I'm here (Four! Four main goals - oh, never mind, I'll come in again.) I had a baby. About eight months ago. And you know all those cliches like, "Having a baby changes your life" and "You don't know how much you can love someone until you have a child"? They're totally, painfully, embarrassingly true. From the minute he was born (June 7th, 2005, 8:03 pm, if you're interested. No drugs at all, natural childbirth all the way, thank you very much) my first thought was "I would die for this baby." (After, of course, the thought "This kid's gonna be an only child, 'cause I'm NEVER doing that again.)*

My husband and I have moved quite a bit in the last few years, and I'm not one of those people who makes friends at the drop of a hat (or binky), so I needed a way to keep in touch with the friends I already have, as well as keep my family posted on Nolan's development and increasing adorability.

So that's it. The raison d'etre for the blog. In case you're wondering, "thptpth" is from Bloom County. It's what Bill the Cat always says (when he's not saying "Oop! Ack!"). It's long been a favorite expression of mine; sort of a raspberry, but not so much a raspberry as an expression of teasing or naughtiness, but rather a raspberry of dismissal. Like saying, "Whatever, dude." Except non-verbally. And yes, it is always spelled T-H-P-T-P-T-H.

My goal is to post every morning by getting up before Nolan and getting on the computer whilst still having my coffee and waking up, so posts may be incoherent (they may be incoherent even if I'm not posting first thing in the morning, but at least this way I have an excuse.)

Thanks for reading.

*I have since changed my mind about this.