Monday, January 31, 2011

Beware the husband who rises before dawn

My husband is about the nicest person in the world. If you want a problem solved, he can figure out the solution. If you're in need of an encouraging word, he knows the right thing to say. In fact, he'd probably give you the shirt off his back, he's just that sweet.

Except in the morning. That is the time you see the dark side of the man I married - a guy I call the doomsayer of dawn.

"I just don't remember winters being this bad before," he'll mutter as he gets dressed. "And you know, it's only going to get worse."

He'll also remind you that the cat threw up, a whole bunch of bills are due and something in the car is making an ominous sound - all before 7:30 a.m.

But as the sun rises, the doomsayer disappears. And the man swears it's not mornings he dislikes so much - it's just these long, cold Michigan winters. Of course, now we're on the cusp of another blizzard ... I might have to invest in some earplugs. But just until sunrise, honey, I swear.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chatting in the dentist office? Think twice

Yesterday, I sat sweating in a chair in the dentist's office. In the waiting room. Because I hate the dentist. Yes, I know. Bad. But I can't help it. I've tried to change. But I've had some negative experiences. However, I know how important the dentist is, and I'm fanatical about dental hygiene. So my kids go regularly. And they don't mind much at all.

They were both getting their teeth cleaned, and I was biding my time, taking deep breaths and reading fashion magazines. "This isn't so bad," I told myself. "Everyone seems nice here. Dentistry has changed a lot since I was a kid."

Then an elderly gentleman sitting across from me asked me the time. I told him. He grimaced. "Sure takes a long time to pull a tooth," he commented. I gave a sympathetic nod. "I'm sure things are going fine," I said. He leaned forward. "Years ago, a dentist was drilling my tooth and it shattered. He tried to fix it, but he did it wrong and it caused an abscess all along the top of my gum line. There was nothing anybody could do. I lost all my upper teeth."

WHAT THE ...?!Who shares a story like that in the dentist office?? I must have looked absolutely horrified, because he added hurriedly, "Not here. They fixed me up with some new ones here. Real nice." And then he smiled.

I smiled back, still in shock. I was still smiling when my kids bounded back out, safe and sound, teeth unshattered. And I was still smiling when I left without making an appointment for myself. Oh, I'll make one. I might just need a little recovery time. Or a full memory wipe.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Art Mom, second grade and Van Gogh's ear

If you're going to be an Art Mom for a group of second graders, and you sense you're losing their attention, don't try to be clever and mention Van Gogh's ear.

Just don't. Even if you feel you're doing it for the greater good. Because soon you will not be giving a presentation on art. You will be giving a presentation on ears.

Trust me. I spoke today at my son's classroom - finishing a program on color and mood that got cut short last week - and brought in a wide variety of art prints to discuss. I thought I was being entertaining. My audience disagreed.

Yawns. Whispers. Giggles. Uh-oh...I needed something to hold their attention.

So I brought out my ace in the hole - Starry Night. Yes! Ooohs and aahhs - who doesn't love Van Gogh's Starry Night? But I took it too far. Talking about the artist, I decided to clear up a teeny, tiny misconception. He didn't cut off his entire ear, I told them - just the bottom part of it. Now I had their attention. Everyone was very interested in art. Or, um, ears.

"Ewwwww!!! Did it hurt? Did it bleed?"
"That story reminds me of getting my ears pierced. But nothing was cut off."
"My catechism teacher ... I have never seen either one of his ears."

I tried to move on. We talked about other artists, from Mary Cassatt to Jean Honore Fragonard. At the end, I held up another beautiful Van Gogh painting, White Roses, and asked the kids how it made them feel. Calm, they said. Happy. Then a boy in the back raised his hand.

"It looks like he painted that slowly," he told me. "Like, maybe, he was thinking about his ear."

Monday, January 24, 2011

But... these maternity clothes are pretty

I was trolling through Target recently when I noticed a few of the maternity clothes on display. No, no, I'm not in the market. But I still couldn't stop staring. Because these clothes were actually pretty. Flattering, even.

Wow. No fair.

When I was pregnant - and it really wasn't that long ago - that's not what I was seeing. I found a lot of designers who assumed that pregnant women enjoyed dressing like sailors, with blue and white blouses with bows and jaunty collars. Ugh. I, for one, did not care to look like the Good Ship Lollipop.

Or then there was the ubiquitous all-black ensemble of a tunic and leggings. Was it supposed to be slimming? I don't know about you, but by my eighth month, I wasn't fooling anybody.

Now, I didn't shop in high-end places, so I might be doing a disservice to maternity sections at those stores. But I did shop around. And the larger I got, the slimmer my pickings became. I remember one time, I held up two choices to a friend. "What do you think?" I asked, holding up a crazy-quilt shirt and a lacy, low-cut tunic. "Do you see me as more, 'Demented hillbilly' or 'Trying too hard?'"

She shook her head. "They're both awful," she told me bluntly. "Come over to my house. The pool's open; we'll cut up the tarp."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What puts the luck in that lucky shirt?

I'm the one in this household who tends to value intuition. I'll admit, logic isn't always my strong suit.

I'm also interested in feng shui, find chakras fascinating, and think that yoga is a nice way to get centered.

My husband, a former sports editor, takes this all in stride with only a few surreptitious eye rolls. "At least one person in this family has logic," he'll grouse, heading off to pay bills and balance the checkbook.

So maybe that's why I thought it was so funny this morning to find him fretting over his Chicago Bears NFC North Champions shirt. The Bears face off against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The winner goes to the Super Bowl.

"I wore it last weekend, and they won," he told me. "So should I wash it? Or will I wash the luck out of it? Or was it the fact that it was clean that made it lucky? I can't decide."

Wait a second. He's the logical one? Hmmm. Anything for a win, I suppose, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sorry, Snuggie - you're just too comfy

So I finally caved and bought my daughter a Snuggie. Yes, yes, you know, those gigantic blanket things with sleeves.

Personally, I think they look just plain silly, but she's been wanting one for ages. And not just any Snuggie, of course, but the "Peace and Love" Snuggie with multi-colored peace signs all over it, if you can dig that, man.

She keeps telling me it is "sooooo comfortable," and that I just have to try it on.

Absolutely not. First of all, if it really was that comfortable and I did decide I wanted one, it would be a very bad idea. Anything large and forgiving that lets me comfortably eat my fill from the Pringles can is no friend to me.

Besides, I think it would weird out my husband. He even gets nervous when I wear my baggy sweats for too long. "Soooo," he'll ask casually. "Are we just giving up, then?"

Sorry, Snuggie. I'm just not comfortable dressing, well, that comfortable.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Welcome to the Last-Minute Household!

Tonight - another amazing performance by the fabulous Last-Minute Children!!

Sure, it's been a long weekend, but that's no reason to let mom in on the secret that there's really stinky gym clothes mouldering in your gym bag. Not until ... the last minute, of course!!

Oh, and what? There's a Tuesday quiz on kitchen measurements and some reading that's due tomorrow and maybe even a permission slip or two that needs to be signed? Ta da!! Welcome to the Last-Minute Household!!

Of course, Last-Minute Mom probably should have checked those book bags a little sooner, and maybe done laundry a little earlier, and perhaps been a little more militant with deadlines instead of letting everyone sit around and watch Percy Jackson fight Medusa - because that's the best part.

But really, what's a weekend without a little last-minute excitement, after all?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Yellow makes me feel like a banana ...

Does yellow make you feel like a banana? Is red just like lava? And does purple make you feel like an onion? If so, then you, too, will succeed as an Art Mom in my child's classroom.

Being an Art Mom is simple: You prepare a little program that teaches the kids about artists or color or a style of art, and then develop a little project to go with it. It's a lot of fun - second graders are a very appreciative audience.

I decided to talk about color and moods - you know, how does a color make you feel? Does red make you energetic? Does gray make you sad? Share with me, children! I read the Dr. Seuss book, "My Many Colored Days," to start, and then picked out a few paintings I felt evoked certain moods.

Here's what I didn't know. Second graders don't really know how to link colors with moods. So when I'd ask, "How does yellow make you feel?" the kids would shout out, "Banana!" or "Sunny!" and when I'd say, "What do you think of brown?" I'd hear, "Chicago Bears!" or "Meat!"

It was like some free-association therapy session. By the end, we were all giggling. Luckily, the very good-natured teacher stepped in to help out.

We ran out of time before we even got to the artists. So I'm not sure we learned too much about art that day. But I feel like I did get a nice dose of color therapy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Exercise? Love to, but it's too dang cold

My friend left work today, excited because she was heading straight to her new gym. For a few minutes I was envious. She would, after all, get to work out without small companions who make comments like, "Look, mom, I can stretch, too! I can stretch more than you!!" and "Wow, mom! Look how much the Wii says you weigh!!"

But then I looked outside and saw it was snowing. Again. My motivation left as quickly as it had arrived. Don't get me wrong. I want to be fit. I want sculpted arms and washboard abs and a butt you can bounce a quarter off of - yes, yes, I want it all.

But it's 10 freaking degrees outside. And it Won't Stop Snowing. I don't want to move. I want to wrap in a soft blanket, sit by the fire, drink tea and read books. Or maybe watch old movies.

Wait. What if I actually got up to change the channel? I've heard that can be done. I wonder ... how many calories would it burn?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Today's world can be a terrifying place

I had a nightmare Saturday night - jumbled, disjointed, frightening scenes. It started with our family going to a store's grand opening. It ended with me being trapped inside, watching a plane crash-land in the parking lot and skid into the building as panic and chaos erupted all around me.

I couldn't find my husband; I couldn't find my children.

In the dream, I think I was in a Wal-mart, but I might as well have been in a Safeway, because I'm sure the murderous rampage in Arizona is what prompted it all.

It's a reminder of a cold, hard fact: Today's world can turn suddenly, unexpectedly deadly. There's no place completely safe, no place to hide. But thinking about that too much almost paralyzes me; it always has. Instead, I just hug my kids, kiss my husband and do the best I can to keep everyone safe and appreciate what I have.

Then I hope and pray the havoc stays in my dreams.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Am I raising children or hungry wolves?

I grew up in a big family, and it was rare that my mom splurged on those yummy, high-priced treats like Oreos or Little Debbie snack cakes. But when she did buy them, she'd always issue a warning as she took them out of the bag - a sentence that puzzled me for years:

"I swear, I'm not going to buy these again if you're just going to eat them," she'd tell us as we hovered around her eagerly.

Cramming Oreos into my mouth, I'd just shrug. What does that even mean? My mom must be crazy.

But now, it's crystal clear. Growing up, there were six kids in my family. I only have two. And they are hungry wolves. They devour all that we buy immediately. And those high-priced, tasty treats? Gone. Immediately. Then they crave more. Aaaargh. How can the cookie jar be empty?? We just bought cookies! Why is there no ice cream?? We just bought ice cream!!

I swear, we're not going to buy those things again if they just keep eating them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This will be the year of the clean basement!

Welcome to 2011 - the year of the clean basement. No, seriously. I mean it this time.

See, it's not that our basement is dank and forbidding - far from it. On the contrary, it's a treasure trove guaranteed to suck you in.

If the children are there, we know we're doomed. Our oversized basement is toy central. Little toys, big toys, - toys that haven't been touched in years. But bring out that old stained, ragged bunny and my daughter clutches it to her chest like a long-lost sibling. "Mr. Bun??" she says, looking at me like I've just announced we're having rabbit for dinner. "I can't give away Mr. Bun!!"

Of course, I can't just blame the kids. I'm lured in by shelves of old videos, ("Hey, check it out! Let's watch X-Files!!"), my husband is mesmerized by sports paraphernalia, and then there's the giant basketball Pop-a-Shot that can be a bit distracting. (It is, for the record, known as "Mom's Folly." But I swear it didn't look that big in the store).

But no mind. This year we'll get through it all. This will be the year of the clean basement. It just might ... take awhile.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reality returns, and it's making me jittery

I think the last thing to go back into storage was the "Cookies for Santa" plate.

Tomorrow the kids go back to school, and I go back to work. Holidays are over, and reality returns. I'm not sure I'm ready. In fact, I have that unsettled, nervous feeling in my stomach - the one I used to get on Sunday nights when I knew I had a test Monday morning.

I don't have any exams tomorrow. I guess handling the morning routine will be a test in itself - seeing if I can get two sleepy kids out the door before the school bells ring.

And then there's the long-term - the goals I've set for myself. Writing more. Marketing my brand (and figuring out what it is!). Learning to Web design. Getting healthy. Spending more time with the family. Thinking too much about it now is overwhelming. So deep breaths, right? And one step at a time.