Thursday, September 30, 2010

I could put out an eye with these

I have been feeling a little boxed in lately. There is not one room in the house where I am truly alone other than the bathroom, and even that gets dicey depending on which dog is on my heels.

No, I am not referring to my husband.

It gets a little frustrating to walk into your bedroom, ready to: a) talk about my day; b) say something dirty to see if he is truly listening; or c) just change my clothes without stepping around bodies, or actually paying attention to my husband's frantic eye contact/head motion to not finish my thought out loud or flash him because there is someone right on my heels directly behind me that I didn't notice in my eagerness to *ahem* share.

If I get a drink, someone wants one too; if I take out the ice cream, everyone else wants some too; if I head for the computer, someone else is already on get the picture. It's life in a big family in a small house, I'm the Mom, I know, I know, I signed up for this gig and I'm stuck with it for the duration. I know.

But I am allowed to let it get to me once in a while.

The thing that made me snap happened one evening happened after I'd come home from work to find my husband had been called in to work. I'd walked into my bedroom, and, after having closed the door behind me (but not completely shut or locked it), I changed the channel and went into the bathroom to change my clothes. I took my shirt off but realized I needed the sleeping bra. Ridiculous to some, it really isn't much, just like a tshirt, really, but I just can't imagine being um, free, with all these kids around, all wanting a hug at some point of the night..nope, can't do it. I had my pants on, and my bra on (nothing scandalous, a beige plunge somewhat-false-advertising but who cares, it does make for a nice rack) when I opened the bathroom door and was half a step out when I see Nolan sitting on the edge of the bed, not five feet away, about to look over and start talking to me. Of course he'd changed the channel, too.

I don't think I have moved that fast in my entire life, and the force of the door closing was lost in the level of my "GET OUT!"

He was gone when I stepped out three seconds later.

I got changed and as I was walking down the hall to find him, we bumped into each other.

"Look, Boy," I said, remarkably calmly, "You will get an eyeful of something that will scar you for life if you do not knock on the door or at least, at least, knock on the bathroom door and say 'Hey, Mom, I'm out here' before you plant yourself in my room. THE DOOR IS CLOSED. FOR. A. REASON."

When my husband made it home, I went on a rant. "I want my own room. I want my own computer that no one else ever ever touches. I want my own t.v. ....." I trailed off when the solution became clear to me.

"I want my own apartment. Hey! That's exactly what we need. We could leave for a couple of hours, here and there, and just hang out. I could actually sex you up whenever I want and not worry that someone is just around the corner. We could talk, uninterruptedly making it through a conversation without losing our train of thought because we stopped to sign something or deal with ;what's for dinner?'!" We wouldn't abandon anyone, we would just have a place to go that is just ours. For like a grown up timeout."

Of course my husband just smiled, patted me on top of the head....and changed the channel.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Stop looking at him like that, he's only a baby

I was waiting for Ben to collect his instrument and backpack out of the van this morning when I dropped the crew off at the high school. I looked into my rearview mirror, to watch him get it. It's early when I drop them off, and I am still pretty sleepy, which means I am not beyond driving away before he's completely done, hatchback up and all.

I looked at the line of cars behind me and about two cars back, I see one of the girls I know--her hair is longer and I think she might be a senior this year. I was smiling to myself about how much she has changed since I first met her when I saw her cast a furtive glance at my van.

And push her hair over her shoulder and look back into her car (she was getting out too). And then look out of the corner of her eye at my car. As I watched her movements, hair swoosh- look-wait, don't look--no, I gotta look, it suddenly dawned on me what was happening.

Nolan and the others had walked away. This girl was eyeballing Ben, the boy wonder.

Ben has grown pretty tall over the summer and I predict he will be taller than Nolan by the end of the year. Big green eyes, nice smile---I have to admit that he is a good looking boy. But I am his Mom, of course I think he's a looker.

It appears someone else thinks so too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Strangers like family

It was like a scene from a movie:

The freeway had little traffic, a beautiful dawn was lightening the sky, and I had a van full of teenagers I was driving to the dreaded zero hour talking about their weekend plans. I saw a highway patrol motor officer coming up behind me and instinctively checked my speedometer to confirm I wasn't over the limit, then I continued on listening to the chatter of the kids.

I felt him rather than saw him slow down a bit as he passed me and looked over just in time to see him turn and give me a prolonged half-salute/wave. I smiled, returning the greeting, touched by the moment. As I watched him get smaller on the horizon, I swallowed the lump in my throat, reciting a little prayer that no matter what his day might bring him, that at the end of it, he be returned......safely home.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And then there are laughs that amuse only me

We had "Meet the Teacher" recently at the elementary school. We always go just to make sure the teacher assignments are what I thought (ahem, unofficially requested) them to be. Since I have volunteered so much in the past, some of the teachers are old favorites, and I like to say hello.
Of course, I didn't leave work on time, so I was late, and the kids had already gone around to meet their teachers. I decided to make the rounds anyway and as we were heading back to the car, I ran into one, an old favorite who has a child Nolan's age. We've compared notes over the years about what the kids are doing and my two that are still there really enjoy his class, so I was a little surprised that as he came up to me, smiling, holding out his hand, he looked like he was struggling to remember my name.

"Hi," *pause* "Eri...Erika," he said, stammering a little. He had that look on his face people get when they know they are saying the wrong thing but it's too late and they've committed, so they say it anyway. He shook my hand a little awkwardly, so I said, in a low voice:

"I thought we agreed never to repeat my stage name."

Had he been paying attention and not looking over my shoulder to take in the chaos around us, it would have been pretty funny. Instead, he turned his attention back to me and asked "What?"

"I said, 'How was your summer?'"

Monday, August 2, 2010

An impromptu laugh

I was laying in my bed earlier this evening with Audrey. I was stroking her hair and talking to her about her day. She is impatient about really, really wanting us to get a kitten. She asks about once a week, and I know her Dad is close to caving. Well, maybe not super close, but she looks at him, and pleads, and I can feel his resolve slip a little each time.

It's like watching an iceberg melt. It might take a while, but it still melts.

"Mommy, please can we get a kitty? Pleeeeeaaase?" she asked.

"Sweetie, no, not now."

"Why not?

"Because it's not the right time. We have 3 dogs. Coco wouldn't do well with a cat. And then there's the litterbox...."

"But I'll take care of it, I promise!"

"No, baby, I don't think so. You're gonna have to wait a while before we get a cat."

"Why do I have to wait a while? Why do I have to wait?"

"Because it's not always a good thing to get what you want right away. Sometimes, you have to wait to get what you really want...."

At this point, her Daddy exited the bathroom, and at just that moment, I continued: "...and eventually, if it works out, you get it. Your Daddy is still waiting for The Perfect Wife."

I looked over to see if he heard me just in time to see him lower his head and grin widely. Even after all this time, it is still nice to see him laugh at something I said like that, to render him speechless with something simple.

"Your Mama is perfect," he said.

Of course he did. He was just at the level of the bed that if he hadn't said that, or something, he'd have been speechless....and doubled over.

Five ounces of happy

My former neighbor was once showing off her brand new fancy coffeepot one afternoon. "It's so much nicer being able to make our own espresso at home," she said, "because Starbucks can get expensive when you drink it all the time."

I commented to her that I only drank coffee when I was at work, so the occasional Starbucks splurge didn't hurt too much.

She looked at me, horrified. "How on earth do you make it all day, chasing around the children? I never would have survived mine without coffee."

"Lately, I'm either pregnant or nursing," I giggled, "so it's not such a big deal. Besides, I looove coffee, and if had my own pot, I'd be dangerously addicted."

Fast forward about 10 years.

I made it through two years of waking up at 4:45 a.m. to get the band kid rolling for zero hour. I stop on my way to work and occasionally get a caffeine hit at whatever place hits my fancy. At work, we have the fancy Flavia machine.

And this weekend, I bought my first real (not teacup sized) coffeepot. It's not fancy, but right now, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

MMMMMMM. Bliss. Why did i deny myself so long??

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's that time

Two weeks ago, I was doing an early morning Walmart run when I stumbled supplies. I was doing a little happy dance instantly and it turned into a little jump-up-and-down when I saw the bright orange, green, blue, magenta, and red post-its.

Of course, I know my weakness well enough to take a deep breath and reassess.

Right before I turned back around and grabbed some post-its and a couple of, for work.

Yesterday I decided to go and actually get stuff for the kids as school starts tomorrow. It was chaos as every parent in town was thinking the same thing, but I know that over the course of this week, I'll be fielding "but I need it for class rightnowrightnowrightnow" every night when I get home from work. While a smart mother would wait until her kids go to class and THEN go get the supplies, I started thinking about it and decided that I didn't want to face the aisles at Target and Walmart every night after work this week for yet-one-more-item. I've been down this road before, I know what they will need.

And so I have my little chest of drawers full of composition books, folders, crayons, spiral notebooks, paper, markers, glue, glue sticks, index cards, colored pencils, highlighters, regular pencils, and notebook dividers. There's a towering pile of binders, a box of page protectors, and a 3 hole punch on top of it.

It sounds like a lot, but I guarantee by the end of this week, most of it will be distributed into the older kid's backpacks.

If not...I'm prepared for any school supply shortage.

You know, the ones that happen at 11 pm, the night before a project assigned 2 months previously is due?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

You never know when the cosmos is listening

One morning, about a month ago, I turned off the alarm. I didn't really want to get up, and the sigh on the other side of the bed told me I wasn't alone in my procrastinating to get the day started. I was idly scratching my husband's back, running my wardrobe through my head when I absentmindedly said, "I don't know what to wear today."

He rolled over and thoughtfully looked at the ceiling, all calm, as he said quietly: "I know. I have that same problem. I think that today I'll wear the blue one. Or the blue one. Or.....the blue one."

I smacked him on the arm. "That's not fair. You have a uniform, and you don't have to think about it."

He started listing all the reasons why he did have to think about it, something about different vests require different shirts, different pants, different this, different that, blah blah blah, and just as I was about to smother him with a pillow, he got up and started getting ready for work, so I snuggled the pillow for 15 more minutes instead, wardrobe forgotten for zzz's.

It's funny how the universe works. You meet strangers who know the same people you do at the playground; you run into relatives when you're on vacation; you say or wish something and suddenly, it happens.

That Friday, I got the news at work that the company decided that all lab personnel were going to be required to wear scrubs. They would buy them for us, and by the next Tuesday, we were trying them on. And they arrived about 10 days later.

They are black--we are a lab full of geek ninjas. And in spite of the fact that they are comfortable and it's like wearing pajamas to work, the first day I wore them, I felt as asexual as a sack of potatoes. Even though I was the first one to say that scrubs, with their utilitarian opacity, offered the perfect opportunity to wear wild underthings, I just couldn't get my groove on.

I'm hoping the zebra print clogs I am currently lusting after will take care of that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Girls are made of...

I'd just gotten in from work the other night and as I passed Audrey in the hall I was overcome with "gosh, she's so adorable." She was looking at me like she had really missed me so I stopped to give her a squeeze.

I held her face in my hands, rubbing her cheeks, "My lovely, my lovely, my lovely..." and she grinned up at me right as she said:

"Fire in the hole!" and promptly farted. Nothing silent or dainty about it.

Somehow, I don't think that hot air was supposed to be the "spice" in "sugar and spice."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Anyone got some scissors?

Of all the things I do for my spouse, I never thought I'd be asked to publicly humiliate myself. (Although, writing in a public forum like this, I risk it all the time.) I did something today that my husband has been teasing me about all day, something I am certain to never live down. You'll see.

My oldest, who is now 16, asked us a while back if he could go to a concert with his older cousin, who is 19, in Tucson today. Because I knew that Nolan would just be finished with band camp, and down to his last week of freedom before school starts, I agreed.

This morning, while we were getting ready to leave the house and meet his uncle halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, I started to get a little worried.

**He's not really been down to hang out on his own in Tucson before.

**His cousin, while he's a good kid, does get a little distracted easily.

**I just handed him a chunk of change larger than any I've sent him with before out in public. ($50...which amounts to a windfall, especially when it's simply handed to you, regardless of what you're supposed to use it for).

**What if he gets separated in a sea of bodies from his cousin at the concert? He doesn't know Tucson! Who will he call? Will he think to call?

**What if he decides a mosh pit is a good idea?

**What if he spends his money on hookers and blow? (Okay, I know, $50 is not enough for that, but I'm his Mom, and occasionally, I have leaned toward the dramatic when I'm having a nervy spaz attack.)

In between the admonishments to "stay with your cousin--don't get separated--be polite to your Tia Emma--yes, you might have to go to church with her--no, your blood won't start to boil when you dip your hand in the holy water--make sure you eat something--say thank you" I decided to add "Don't be waving your money around--be mindful of your surroundings--hide some of it from yourself in your wallet so you don't spend it all in one place--maybe it would be a better idea to go into the bathroom, take out what you need, and then go buy your tshirt or whatever--"

At this point, my husband is looking at me like I am insane, and I'm realizing that it's quite possible the boy has put his headphones in and is not listening to me at all. With a roll of his eyes I am certain he saves only for special occasions, my husband does not miss a beat: "That's stupid."

"What? I'm just telling him to be cautious! There's nothing wrong with that! Shrimpy Nana does that all the time! She leaves her basket with me, and goes into the bathroom because she hides her money in her bra! It's not so crazy! You've had lots of money in your wallet at Disneyland, you don't open it up like an idiot and wave it around, do you? You've been behind people in line who pay stupid, with a giant wad of money that screams "rob me" and that's annoying! I want him to be careful!"

My husband shakes his head and right when I think he might be about to agree with me, he starts to mock me:
"No, when I'm at Disneyland, I don't wave it around, I just..." at this point, he starts semi-shouting "Hey everyone, I've got a TON OF MONEY! I'M GONNA PAY NOW! WITH ALL THIS MONEY!! I'VE GOT AN ATM CARD, TOO, BUT I'M NOT GONNA USE IT! BUT I HAVE ONE! JUST SO YOU KNOW!!!"

I'm laughing so hard I'm crying, because it's one thing to realize you're overdoing the parenting, and another to realize that yes, that was something completely ridiculous that not only came out of your mouth, but you were absolutely serious about it at the time. There is just no defense, no way to save face and recover from that. So I laughed at my own advice and figured it wouldn't matter anyway, he's a teenager and it's in one ear, out the other.

Geez. It's too late for me to consider loosening the apron strings, I need to cut them and be done with it. He's 16, and I need to let him experience some of the world on his own, bit by bit, beyond walking to Circle K by himself, before I kick him out the door in a couple of years.

My husband will have to answer any phone calls that might come in the middle of the night tonight.

I'll be in the bathroom, ripping out the seams of the pockets in my bras.

Because you never know! What if the man behind you in line wants to steal your purse! You'll be left with nothing! Cochinomaranos!

Shrimpy Nana. Sometimes, I wish the things she's said to me over the years would fade from my brain, like long division and the Pythagorean Theorem....instead of digging in, waiting for the right moment to come out of my mouth and confirm the truth about my precarious hold on sanity.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If it's in a pot, I will kill it

Audrey is fascinated by plants.

Which is unfortunate, because I can't grow anything. I don't care what Martha has to say about how mint will overtake your yard, or how easy it is to grow your own herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, not the medicinal kind)--I can't do it. Windowboxes, small containers, regular old school put-it-in-the-ground...I kill it all.

I was feeling little hopeful when I let Audrey buy a succulent plant. I'd just read in Martha Stewart Living about how easy they were to maintain. I had visions of growing up this plant to such proportions that I might be able to actually buy pots for it as it grew and someday, send Audrey off to college with her own plant that we grew together since she was a little girl.

She named him George.

And I underwatered him like I was supposed to. He eventually started to outgrow is little 2-inch pot so I got him a new home and we transferred him over.

He started losing leaves.

I didn't lose hope. His stalk was growing, I figured this was a natural progression, like when your child plumps up and then grows an inch overnight (there's a lot of that going on around here).

He eventually became just a stalk.

And now he's a stalk that's turning brown.

Only I could get a plant that usually thrives on a little neglect and still have it die. Ugh. I'm going to have a service for George soon, and I am sure the little one will be sad. He will join all the other plants I have attempted to grow for the children. I should put out little rock tombstones with their names painted on them: "Here lies Little Guy. He died with his roots on. RIP"

She will ask me to plant her sunflower seeds, and I will gamely try, just for her. We can plant them on the side of the house, the sunniest part of the yard. I will let her tend them and hopefully they will grow up and be taller than she is before long.

If only I could get the weeds in the backyard would succumb to my touch-of-green-death.......

Monday, May 3, 2010

Some food groups are better than others

I recently started using a veggie/fruit co-op in my area. I really like it, because you don't get to pick what you get, and while sometimes, there are weirder veggies in the mix, mainly there is normal stuff in it to offset the oddness of kumquats.

Considering I usually always eat the same things, I am finding myself branching out into the unknown, looking up things I don't recognize on the internet (lavender lettuce with dark green edges?) and finding out how to use or cook said items.

My most recent foray into the veggie world was into the unknown goodness of artichokes. I've never cooked or eaten one in my entire life, and there were four in my basket this last weekend. I didn't want them to go to waste, as the last time I got a couple, I put them in the wrong part of the fridge and they froze into uselessness. I decided to look up how to clean and cook them, and do it right away.

I had them steaming while I was doing other kitchen duties when one of Audrey's friends' Mom called me. We were on the "whatcha doing?" track and when I mentioned "artichokes" she almost swooned through the phone...right before she let out a "You've NEVER eaten one before?" tsk tsk. She advised me to melt up a little butter and use that to dip the leaves in to eat them. "Just look at the base of the leaf, you'll figure it out," she said.

I have to admit some skepticism at this point. First of all, they are kinda weird looking. And even when they are in the spinach-cheesy dip, the only way I've ever encountered or eaten them before, they didn't bring out any oohs or ahhs from me. I have been told by others that they are just too much trouble to deal with, lots of work, little reward--so I was thinking that this exercise might turn out to be futile.

Once the time elapsed, and I had melted a little pat of butter all ready, I started peeling the leaves off. The first one made me gag a little--too close to the stem. I doggedly made my way through the rest of the leaves, finally figuring out late in the game that you can't really manhandle the leaf and start scraping it too far up with your teeth because nothing happens. Nope, the real goods are right at the tip of the leaf, and you have to be a little gentle or you'll miss the good stuff. I got to the middle and proceeded to try and remove the choke as effortlessly as I have seen it done on t.v. to get to what I'd heard was the real prize, the heart.

I looked at my meager bit of grayness in my hand and wondered why someone would work that hard for such a small return. I was unimpressed. What's all the fuss about? I thought to myself. I mean, if I am dipping something in melted butter, it had better be orgasmically good, otherwise, why bother?

I tried again with a second artichoke.

This artichoke was fleshier, and as is the natural course of things, the fleshiness made it that much better. I'd added a little lemon juice to the melted butter; by the time I got to the third leaf, my eyes closed, I let out a little sigh, and I let my tongue help coax the flesh out of the leaf juuuust so. It was heavenly. And I could see what the fuss was about. Yet I still mauled the heart into a pile of furry stuff and gray goo.

So I had to eat a third one.
I did much better this time, and the heart was worth the patience I forced myself to take with the choke. Wow. A reward at the end of all that work? Nice!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I did eat the fourth one, too. I felt somewhat hedonistic sucking the lemon butter off that last leaf, but I managed it without blushing, a tummy ache, or a cease-and-desist from the vegetarian lobby.

I don't know what got me, the warm caress of the leaf on my lower lip, or the melted lemon butter. (Seriously, you could dip a paper towel in melted lemon butter and it would be the best thing you ever tasted, wouldn't it?)

All I know is I am ready for more.

Bring it on, weird veggies. I got a steamer basket and a squeeze of lemon waiting for you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How 13 bucks saved my mind

I like order.

It's got a lot to do with my job, where I have to be precise and structured in my methods, spilling over into my daily life. I do things the same way every day, park in the same places, put my keys in the same place, even my purse has a special spot for everything and if something comes out, it goes right back in that spot when I'm done with it. (Which helps when I'm screeching down the highway and need a piece of gum right now.) Doing things the same way helps me keep from forgetting things, and helps me retrace my steps easily and find whatever it is I need, whether it's a kid left at school or my favorite pen. Not having things put back in the same place makes me craaaazzzy. (Just ask Ryan, who put my iPod back in my purse, but not in the same spot--I nearly drove off the road, I was so frantic, thinking he'd lost it.)

Right now there are a lot of things out of order around the house. It's not entirely laziness but a lack of motivation and time. Working full-time and trying to balance the time I spend with the kids has been a challenge for me this year, not to mention trying to balance in time for regular housecleaning. Not that I was super-super-eat-off-my-floor clean before, but I was considerably neater when I had an extra day or two to think about it.

I realized just how much the disorder was bothering me last week when I was looking into my pantry and it looked like Costco exploded in it. One of the problems we've been tackling is what to do during the time frame when the kids get home in the afternoon and we get home in the early evening, and dinner preparation is waiting on me, the last person into the house. A couple of 8:45 pm dinners made me realize that something had to be done, or I was going to be riding the guilt train forever; because that doesn't stop coming to your station just because you're working, and pizza all the time is not necessarily good for you. I gathered everyone together and proposed some solutions, the most obvious being that the older kids and Mr. W were going to have to pick up some culinary slack. Awesome idea, I told myself, let go of the kitchen, you control freak, and eat someone else's dinner once in a while.

The Marinade Explosion of 2010 notwithstanding (during which Ben found himself covered in marinade that "just exploded" out of the bag and my kitchen looked like someone committed a murder in it) this new regime had gone okay...until I looked into the pantry and realized that because it was such a mess, I knew where everything was...but no one else did, which is why Mr. W sent Nolan to the store to buy some spaghetti when there were 6 packages already in the pantry. And while I can throw amazing things together out of the supplies I have in there, Ryan is only going to see the Tostitos.

Inspiration struck me in Target, of course, when I was looking for a glass jar and saw shelves of organizers you can put in your pantry. Intrigued, I bought some plastic baskety-bins to house my baking supplies, as I had various chocolate chip bags about to stage an uprising with the sugar to take over the entire shelf, and an under-cabinet thing just the right length to hold a loaf of bread or two. I arranged that particular shelf when I got home and voila! a little pocket of order peeking out at me from the chaos. Thirteen bucks later, and I started breathing easier, and the spot between my brows unfurled, no botox required. Now, everytime I open the pantry, I look at that shelf and it makes me happy.

While I still can't look at the other shelves without cringing, I am feeling brave enough to tackle the rest of the pantry this weekend.

If only I felt brave enough to tackle the dust on my bookshelf, too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hug your favorite person in a lab coat

It's Lab Week April 19-23rd. Ordinarily the lab I used to work in would have some contests and a couple of fun things, maybe a potluck, and maybe a management-provided catered lunch, and maybe some swag from our vendors.

The lab I work in now goes all out. There will be contests all week, like dry ice shuffleboard, LabLympics (there are three individual and one group relay event), a salsa/guacamole competition, and all kinds of food all week long (breakfasts, lunches, ice cream social, barbeque in the park). The bottom line is that I won't be able to come home and complain about being worn out at all this week, not without risking an "Oh, pleaaase!" eyeroll from the family. (That's what I get for bragging a little about how this group outdoes my old one.)

One of our contests is for people to submit an account of "How I Became A Scientist" which will be emailed out to all, and we have to guess who it is. I thought I'd post my story here, if only to get a post in. It's been a long time since I've done one, I didn't think anyone would mind too terribly much if I cheated. Just a little.

Here's my story:

I became a scientist because of two people.

My parents.

I remember being about 6, and stumbling across a book inside one of our living room tables called “Biology”. It was big, and green, and I started looking through it. In the middle of the book were transparencies of all kinds of things. Plants, animals, a human body; the transparencies were designed to be looked at separately to look at details of certain systems or structures, or all together to get the full 3-D effect. I was completely fascinated by the frog and would flip through those pages, trying to figure it out. Eventually, Mom would catch me with the book, and while she did not mind me going through it, she worried about the transparencies getting torn, so she’d usually take it away after a little while.

But I’d always find it again.

Mom would take the time to talk to me about her biology class, not squeamish at all about the dissection portion, and how interesting it was. It was from my Mom that I first heard about DNA and how things could be inherited from your family. She was always curious about science and her musings to me would make me think. I wanted to find out the answers so that I could share them with her.

My Dad, on the other hand, was all about airplanes and space. He told me stories about astronauts and fighter jets and all about the math and physics that went into those endeavors. He stressed that math was not something to ever be afraid of and when he talked about the laws of motion, he spoke about them like they were old friends. I could not wait to meet them. On road trips, on our way home at night, he'd talk about astronomy, mythology, and the first man in outer space.

Their combined influence made me want to pursue science as a career. And while I never knew I’d be in the field I’m in when I was a little kid, I always knew that I would be a scientist.

As for my Mom's book...I still used to find it from time to time, and I still turned to the page with the frog splayed out on it. I've not been able to find it for a while...

...because my nephew has it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

When cups attack

Every had one of those days when things are going well?

*Kids off to school -- on time, permission slips signed. Score!

*Good, albeit big, hair day--I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!

*Stop for my bagel and coffee, and get a couple of treats for the ladies I work with and still am running on time--Nice!

I'm feeling very "you got it going on, Mama-san" while bobbing my head to the music I'm listening to...and look down to see peanut butter from my bagel has left a dribble on my jacket. I have napkins aplenty so I dab at it and manage to make it not too noticeable (another wardrobe crisis averted). I'm taking a sip of my coffee, and just as the light changes and I am putting my coffee back in the cupholder, the sleeve of the cup takes a weird turn and I dump coffee all over my lap.

On the bright side, I laugh, and think that maybe the caffeine will reduce the appearance of dimples in my thighs, without the expensive spa treatment.

I'm convinced I am the only adult in the world who should not leave the house unless she's wearing a bib.

In my case, given my graceful eating tendencies, it would have to be a bib....the size of Montana.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's raining, it's pouring

Nothing like a little rain to make me feel lazy.

I should be cleaning the house and making beds and taking care of a little grocery shopping, but I've been baking cookies and blogging.

I know if I go lay down and try to read, I'll be asleep. The dishes will stay in the sink, the chicken will stay in the fridge, and I will still be in my pajamas.

Pajamas being a far cry from yesterday, when I enjoyed a rare moment of glamour. I got my haircut in the morning, and she dried it straight. I love it when she does that, but I can't get the same smooth-like-glass sassiness she does. It's so awesome. I'd dropped by the mall to check out a new lip color I'd seen in a magazine. It looked terrible. And the lady at the counter intimidated me a little. Okay, a lot. In spite of my sassy coif. I tried another color of theirs and decided thanks, but no thanks. As I was about to head out to the van, I realized I hated the way my lips felt and before I knew it, my feet were headed towards the MAC counter. Oooooh. They were hosting an event, to roll out the spring colors and usually, when they have that many people in that particular corner, I am, again, intimidated, and don't stop. But my lips needed to go there, and as I scooted past the man wearing an orange coat and purple pants, not to mention the pink-haired model, I wasn't sure if I would stay long enough to do anything but grab a Kleenex. But suddenly, there I was, chatting up a salesgirl and looking at the colors, wiping the other stuff off my lips.

"Try this," she said, as she handed me a wand. I looked at my mouth and was a goner.

We started talking about some other things...and the next place I found myself was in a makeup chair, sassy coif pinned back, at the mercy of the salesgirl.

Man, she worked a mean brush. It felt soooo good as she painted and applied and chatted and explained. I could have sat there all day.

She handed me the mirror and I braced myself for the inevitable face-full-of-ohmygod-I'm-a-drag-queen makeup before opening my eyes to peek.

Holy cow.

"You'll be coming over every morning to my house to repeat this, right?" I beamed at her. I looked amazing. Even if it was more makeup than I'd use in two weeks, it was the most amazing bronze-and-reddishpink-and-glossy as I've ever been. It took an armload of personal restraint to not buy all the stuff I had on...except the lipstick.

Viva Glam Cindy, meet Viva Glam...Anna.

Of course, my husband was not home.

Of course, there is no photograph to post.

But it's nice to know that Glam Anna is still in here, even if she's hiding in pajamas.

My shirt's staying on

After my harrowing experience with the shrimp, I had to follow up with my doctor (who did prescribe me the epipen) and she recommended I go to an allergist (I'd already made the appointment).

The allergist was a little stymied, because usually, when people react to food, it's immediate. I was an unusual case. I told him I'd also poked myself on a cactus as I waited in line for my turn at the trough (who has LIVE cacti in a boardroom, I ask you?) and that I was not convinced that this event wasn't a contributing factor, considering I had to pull the thorns out of my arm (I had a sweater on and didn't realize they were there until they started making me itch) as I sat there having lunch. I'd cut some thorns off the thing to bring to my appointment and he said he'd make a concoction with them, and to come back for skin testing the following week. "No antihistimines in the meantime," he added.

Skin testing involves you taking off your shirt and allowing the nurse to poke you with little itty bitty needles that are dipped in various allergy-causing substances all over your back. And in my case, forearm and upper arm, too. I got tested for all the shellfish, fish, my cactus, nuts, and various "environmentals".

I knew I was not in for a good time when I felt spots on my back erupt and itch within two minutes of the nurse leaving. I'd giggled as she poked me as I am super ticklish, and now, in my agony, I felt I'd probably kick her the next time she came into the room. I concentrated on my iPod and just when I thought I'd not be able to handle it anymore, she came walking back in.

It's never good to hear a medical professional gasp as they enter a room and look at you. "I'm getting someone else to help me read this," she said, "so we can get it done as quickly as possible." I appreciated that effort, because had I not been sitting on my hands at that point, I'd most certainly have jumped off the table and started rubbing my back up against the door jamb like a bear. Maybe just a little rub here, I bargained with myself, gingerly easing my finger over a spot close to my shoulder just before she came back.

I heard series of numbers, like 8,20 and 11,45 and later I found out that the first number is the mm of width your hive is and the second number is for the redness/reaction flaring out from this. Once she was done, she wiped my back and arm off and then smeared anti-itch cream all over them. "He'll be in soon," she said, "go ahead and get dressed."

She didn't have to tell me twice. I got my shirt back on in record time and allowed myself to scratch a little. She came back in a few minutes later with a little cup of medicine and a pill. "For the itching," she said. While I reacted to the shellfish (the lobster hive was huge), my back reaction to me was by far worse.

My doctor came in and proclaimed, "You're allergic to the world."

I wasn't surprised. I knew this, but I didn't know to what degree. After we talked, we decided that I don't have a definitive answer for my reaction that landed me in the ER, but that due to my overall allergicness, maybe there were other environmental factors that, coupled with the shrimp, pushed me over the edge. Based on what has happened to me in the past, I was okay with this. I am not doing shots, and I will carry the epipen and liquid Benadryl with me at all times, and just be cautious, like I was before.

But I'll be a cheap date from here on out--no shellfish or lobster for me.

He did suggest I bring the food that I had that day to his office and eat it there, just to see what happens. I'm thinking I will pass on that--I'm just not up to it right now; maybe in a few weeks or maybe never...we'll see.

I called Mr. W as soon as I was out. "Guess what the doctor says I'm allergic to?" I asked with glee.

"Dust?" he replied hopefully.

"Nice try," I said. "Apparently, I'm allergic to everything in the world....except you."

I decided I'd wait to tell him I'd be needing a bigger purse. That Epipen takes up a lot of space.....

Purple is my color

I've had allergies my whole life, most usually the seasonal kind and occasionally the hive-y kind. I never know when they are going to hit. While I am universally careful about things I put on my skin, and plants I am around, I've never had to worry about what I eat.

Not until about a month ago.

I was at work and we were having a lab notebook signing party. I know. "Lab notebook" and "party" are not two words that are usually strung together to good effect, but for me and my geek colleagues, it means someone else picks up the tab for lunch and we get to nitpick over each other's lab notebooks, ultimately signing off (on each and every page) that the documentation of everyone's experiments is done appropriately. This time, we had Chinese food, from a place I've eaten from before and really liked. I branched out this time, though, and in addition to the garlic chicken, I decided to try the shrimp with pine nuts. I love shrimp. I've eaten it before, but.... came to pass that about an hour and a half afterwards, I was working in the lab, and my palm started to itch like mad. I figured I'd gotten some water under my glove, and that was causing the irritation...and then the back of my neck started itching. "Are you okay?" one of my friends asked, as she noticed me scratching. "Yeah," I said, "I'm just itchy, it's nothing, it's just hot in this coat." I blew it off for a few seconds, but then my, um, groin started itching, and there was no way to gracefully scratch that in public. I told my friend to take over for a few minutes so I could check out what was going on, because by that point, I'd ripped off my gloves to scratch at my neck. Once I got into the bathroom, my forearm was itching and parts of me felt like they were on fire. I pulled up my sleeve, and watched hives start popping out.

It was very "An American Werewolf in London."

I knew I was in trouble. I called down to my other coworkers for help and started heading towards the basement (where we usually work) to look for my boss. As I left the bathroom, my lip started itching. My boss and I missed each other because she took the stairs and I took the elevator. She ran back down to me and started popping Benadryl pills out to me (I took a couple) as I tried to not scratch and she started making calls, for help and maybe an epipen. I felt something in my mouth and suddenly, the itching didn't seem so important. "My tongue is swelling," I said to her as she said "I'm calling 911." I headed upstairs (finding us in that building is impossible if you don't know where to look) so that I could wait outside for the paramedics. I'm sitting on the bench, scratching, holding my cell phone, and doing the Mom checklist in my head of where all the kids were at and did they have rides home and where is my husband? I'm frustrated, because even though as I'm trying to make calls, I'm realizing no one will understand me because at this point, I wath tawthing like thwis. Finally the paramedics arrive, just as I'm starting to really panic, because my breathing feels shallow, and they want to chat. Really? I'm thinking, fixthisgivemesomethingnownownow and I'm miming for my boss to speak for me and the paramedics start looking like they are standing behind a tv screen gone to snow.

After we've provided them all the names of everyone I've ever met, they give me some more Benadryl through the IV they've started and within a few minutes, the tv screen of snow is gone. As they load me into the ambulance, my itching has miraculously stopped (oh, thank you) and I can breathe better (blessed oxygen), and I am feeling much more kindly towards the paramedics...but it was still the longest 15-minute ride of my life on the way to the ER.

Gawd. More questions.

I'm wishing for more medicine, because I'm so afraid the itching will return and don't want any part of that again. And I look up, just in time to see my husband in the doorway. The doc is standing behind him, cracking wise, and finally, finally, someone puts something in my IV that is sure to make the itching stay away for a while. After about twenty minutes, I hear myself talking but it's from that lovely Benadryl twilight-chill and I know I'm babbling and dozing at almost the same time but I really can't help it.

Great. My husband gets a preview of our golden years, minus the drool and pureed veggies.

I got discharged a couple of hours later, and my friend (who is my boss) that accompanied me got to ride back to her car in the back of a police car.

"It's not every day you get to ride in an ambulance and a police car," she joked as she climbed in the backseat.

"You just remember that when it's time for my review," I replied.

Later, I asked my husband why he was so non-plussed, so calm, adding for dramatic flair emphasis on the part where I pointed out "You do realize these kinds of reactions can be life-threatening." He gave me the look that says 'you're pushing it' and said that by the time he got to the ER, I was over the worst of it, and since he didn't witness the whole thing, it was easy for him to not overreact. I rolled my eyes and let the Benadryl take over. It wasn't until I overheard him telling one of his coworkers a few days later, "She was still all puffy when I got there, like that girl from Willy Wonka," that I even detected that he'd been a little rattled in the tone of his voice.

And it also explained to me why, as I dozed off that night in my Benadryl haze, I heard him say: "Good night, Violet."

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Black shoe polish, my post-it note read. I looked at it as I walked in the doors at Target, reciting it in a whisper as pondered what part of the store I'd find it in.

A smile like the sun interrupted my thoughts and the recollection of someone much taller than I was bobbing down into my field of vision came into play. "You must be Anna," he said, as we both reached out to shake hands and I read the name on his nameplate. "You're Eric," I said, smiling back. "I've heard a lot about you," he told me. "And I've heard a lot about you," I replied. "Only the bad stuff about me is true," I added. We both commented that it was nice to finally have a face to go with the name.

I wandered down past the makeup, finding myself in front of a shelf of brightly colored bowls, pausing to look at them, assessing their size and deciding that they were too small for my purposes. I turned towards the shoe department and went down an aisle about two steps before I was stopped by some lovely ivory cookware. Giada has a line of cookware in Target? I glanced over it and was scanning the shelf for mixing bowls when the voice in my head gently reminded me I was not going to find shoe polish in housewares.

I didn't hear the phone ring, but I heard my husband talking. I expectantly looked over, holding my breath, as he shook his head "no" and mouthed, "He didn't make it."

I put some cotton balls in my basket, and started heading for towards shoes. I stopped to look at the shirts in the men's department that were on sale, wondering if Nolan would wear the light blue one for his band audition the next day. Probably not, I thought, putting it back.

"Is this it?" the cashier said. "Yes," I answered, as I paid and left.

When I got to the van, a piece of paper fluttering down from the dash caught my eye. Black shoe polish, I read, as I sighed and headed back into the store.

Ordinarily, I find a lot of comfort in the mundane. I do the things I do for my family that keep them clothed and fed and supplied for their days, all the while feeling satisfied that the things I do are the family glue. I hope that they all go out into the world bearing the stamp of my love and are able to make it through the day gracefully because Mom remembered they needed new socks and put cookies in their lunches.

This day, looking for black shoe polish in Target, I am unable to find comfort in the mundane. This day, I am getting the things my husband needs so he can look his best out of respect for a fallen friend. The friend, Eric, who was such a joy to meet and whose smile could light up a stadium, was killed the other evening in the line of duty. He went to work. He made a traffic stop. He never made it back home. It is a horrible loss for the department and the community he served.

This day, while I am not taking comfort in the mundane, I am appreciating its subtle importance. Whether it's black shoe polish or the hugs we give each other as we head out the door, it's the glue that holds our lives together.

And hopefully, the glue that allows us to always come home.