Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Just a Quick Hello

Whew! We survived Christmas and a whirlwind trip to western Pennsylvania. No time for a longer post right now, but I will be back later with details.

The most amazing thing: at this moment (9:26 a.m.), Sean is still asleep. And Miss "I Don't Need No Sleep" Allison slept until 8:30. I couldn't ask for a better Christmas present than being able to sleep in!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

No Persistence of Memory

My grandfather had a wonderful term for my grandmother's forgetfulness.

"Helen," he'd say, "You're all balled up."

That just about sums it up for me these days. I feel that if my brain encounters one more piece of information, it will just erupt. Picture Terry Jones in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. You know, "One more thin mint. . .", then KABLOOEY.

I'd always had a reasonably satisfactory memory. I could remember appointments, chores, birthdays, financial obligations. Simultaneously, even.

Now that I'm a parent, it seems that any given piece of information enters my brain, flails about for a bit, and quickly vacates the premises. And we're not talking high-level quantum physics, either. Last night, for example, as I walked from room to room, the stream went like this:

Enter kitchen---Oh, I have to sign my brother-in-law's birthday card, and look, Allison's high chair still has crumbs on it, and wow! how did all these dishes get in the sink? Better take care of all that, but first, wait, isn't there something I needed to do upstairs? Right, bring laundry down.

I go upstairs, see the long trail of toys in my bedroom and hallway, pick those up, deduce that Sean is still awake (the repeated calls of "Mommy! Mommy! Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!" tipped me off), go in to see what on earth the problem could be THIS time (as opposed to the five preceding times), leave Sean's room, and go back downstairs. Then I see that the toys in the family room are still strewn about. While picking them up, I remember that my cell phone needs to be charged. But by the time I have finished picking up the toys, all thoughts of the cell phone have disintegrated. I do manage to sweep up the crumbs on the highchair and clean up the dishes.

No laundry was fetched that night, mind you, nor was the birthday card signed or the cell phone charged. I remember these things only retrospectively, when I'm at work and can't do anything about them. By the time I get home I will probably have forgotten about them.

Sometimes I think I am suffering only from Mommy Brain. When I yield to my more pessimistic and apocalyptic thought processes, though, I'm convinced I have a dire neurologic disorder.

Adding to my feelings of gross memory inadequacies is the fact that I am married to Mister My-Mind-Is-a-Steel-Trap. He remembers everything, from what he wore for his third birthday party to the names of every single character in every single Star Wars movie to the battles and generals of World War II. You'll never hear him say, "Hmm, now what did I go into this room for?"

At least one of us isn't all balled up.

Sunday, December 19, 2004



With just one week left before Christmas, the tree has been both purchased and decorated.

The key to marital harmony during the holidays: do not attempt to string up lights together---down that path lies certain acrimony. Designate one person as light-stringer (in our case, that would be me) while other person stands at the ready to offer assistance when tree pitches toward the floor.

And in case you were wondering, you'll find "attempting to decorate a tree while two children under the age of 3 are awake" as the definition of "futility" in the dictionary.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This could be my most narcissistic post yet. And that's saying something, I suppose. Don't say I didn’t warn you.

Since a few intrepid readers mentioned that they like receiving book recommendations, I thought it would be fun (for me, at least!) to list a few of my favorite authors and some books they've written. The list is heavy on the estrogen, is appallingly North American-centric, and is concentrated in the late 20th century. As you'll see, I'm far from a literary omnivore.

In no particular order:

Louise Erdrich: Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, Tracks. Her lyrical, elliptical prose takes my breath away.

Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries, Republic of Love, Larry's Party. What a loss when she died! She writes with a biographer's scrupulousness and makes ordinary lives sing.

Barbara Kingsolver: Animal Dreams, The Bean Trees, The Poisonwood Bible. Evocative, deeply passionate, and a bit of a scold. I love her a little less than I once did, but when she keeps the polemics from dominating the narrative her books soar.

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin. One of the smartest authors I've ever read. Her books are dense and gorgeous and sharp as a razor. When I read The Handmaid's Tale at age 15, it turned my world upside down.

Richard Russo: Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Empire Falls. No one writes better about down-on-their-luck men and once-thriving, now-dying small American towns. A fabulous storyteller.

Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres, Moo, Horse Heaven. Prolific and genre-busting: She can rework King Lear in one book and bite off the head of American academic life in the next; no two books of hers cover the same territory.

Anne Tyler: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist. Her prose is deceptively simple; there's a lot of heft behind those graceful, spare sentences.

Michael Chabon: The Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. His writing is just amazing, and if Cavalier and Clay is any indication, his talent is equally matched by his ambition.

Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tell My Horse. Thank heavens for Alice Walker's rediscovery of Hurston---otherwise, this Harlem Renaissance writer would have been consigned to obscurity. I especially enjoy her anthropological accounts of voodoo culture.

For those who have read this far: 1) Thanks for indulging me! and 2) Who would you recommend for me?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Quick Update

Allie is much better, and I am on the mend, too. Thanks for so many kind well wishes!

In fact, Allie is feeling so much better that when she was melting down over the great injustice of tonight's dinner selection (broccoli omelet), I felt not the least bit guilty about saying, "You know, Missy Boo, I am not at all impressed with these histrionics." Had she still been sick I would have been much more compassionate.

To achieve cosmic balance, of course, Sean now has a stomach bug. I think we're in for a messy night.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Stuck in the Mud

In my head lives a long post, and I'm afraid that it will be stuck there for a while. I've also had grandiose plans for posting at least every other day. That hasn't happened, either. Don't you hate it when real life interferes with blogging?

For now, here's where things stand: I've caught Allison's cold and have been hacking up bits and pieces of my lungs for about 5 days now. No one in my house has gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. Sean is on a food strike, and I'm considering taking him to the pediatrician's because I'm concerned that this is more than just a phase. Jeff has been working long hours and is facing an ever-mounting pile of projects. The fact that we're woefully unprepared for the holidays apparently is not a big enough impetus for us to actually do something about it.

Granted, in the grand scheme of suffering this is pretty paltry stuff compared to, say, living in the Sudan. But I'm a whiny sort of gal, in case you haven't noticed. Whiny and a huge procrastinator who's headed downstairs to finish watching The Two Towers instead of doing anything productive. Nighty night!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I Am So On Fire

Don't faint, but I finished another book. I know, I know, I really need to calm down with all this speed reading. Thanks to jury duty last week (sadly, the realm of jurisprudence never had a chance to behold my sparkling intellect---I didn't even leave the juror's waiting area), I got to read a book in one sitting! This despite the not inconsiderable interference from Montel and Days of Our Lives on the TV blaring at the front of the room.

Overall, I think I'd recommend Look at Me by Jennifer Egan. Caveat: I'm no good at plot summary, as will now become apparent. A car crash renders a fashion model completely unrecognizable. The book follows her attempts to resume her life in New York, and it traces a parallel story line about the teenage daughter of the model's childhood friend. Oh, and throw in a pre-9/11 terrorist cell and Big Brother-ish Web site that pays people for the rights to repackage their ordinary or extraordinary lives on the Internet. The author manages to weave Big Themes (identity, public and private personae, and the obsession with fame and appearance) among the more mundane plot elements.

I really liked Egan's first book, The Invisible Circus, and though I tend to view second books warily (Paging Donna Tartt! Was there ever a more disappointing follow-up novel than The Little Friend?), I found this one just ambitious and compelling enough.

Join us next time for your regularly scheduled boring Mommy blog. (Hey, I heard that sigh of relief!)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Christmas Is Coming, the Goose Is Getting Fat*

I'm almost afraid to type---will that gentle tap tap tapping noise wake the Fragile Sleepers? Guess I'll soon find out.

I've vowed not to whine too much about the past few nights. Suffice it to say that Allie's cold (croup, the pediatrician proclaims) and Sean's mysterious, on-and-off again insomnia have wrought some fairly sleepless nights. To complicate matters, Jeff's been away on a 2-day trip for work; around 1 a.m. this morning I silently (or did I say it out loud?) wished to trade places with him. Allie seems better tonight, so perhaps cautious optimism is in order.

Anyhoo. With Christmas looming on the horizon, I'm trying to staunch the usual panic that sets in every year about this time. I'm not in a Christmasy mood at all: no shopping to speak of done yet, only two measly wreaths hung. But there's plenty of time left, right?

This year I decided not to distribute a wish list of gifts to my family. Instead, I sent them a link to What Goes Around. It's kind of a charity registry---you pick charities that you'd like to donate to or have others donate to in your name, and then you circulate the list. Don't get me wrong---I enjoy receiving gifts as much as the next conspicuous consumer, but this year I'm feeling so blessed with all I have that asking for more seems like overkill to me.

With no small sense of irony, I'm now off to Amazon to start some shopping.

*I love the Muppet version of this Christmas carol. Just thinking about Miss Piggy singing "If you haven't got a half-penny then God bless you" makes me grin. I need to find "John Denver and the Muppets Christmas" on CD! The cassette tape I had when I was 9 is long gone.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Plans Thwarted

I had modest goals for this weekend. I've long since learned that my children have an unparalleled gift at shredding ambitious plans. One of my biggest adjustments to parenthood is accepting that entire weekends can pass by without one significant accomplishment having taken place.

So, this weekend's to-do list? Laundry, grocery shop, mop the kitchen floor, maybe start some Christmas shopping.

What actually transpired? Tending to the sick, mostly. The cold that hit Allie last week morphed into what must be some form of tuberculosis. Really, the coughing has at times been that nasty. She felt so ill most of the weekend that at some points the only thing she had the energy for was to rest her head on my shoulder as I held her. I hope that she starts feeling better soon, poor girl.

This experience reminds me of my maternity leave with Sean. I was so overwhelmed with infant care that I had no energy left over to tend to the house. I had to repeatedly remind myself that taking care of the baby was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. If the bathroom needed to be cleaned but instead I felt like rocking him for a few hours while he slept, so be it. Those daily chats with myself didn't quite eradicate my guilt or feelings of inadequacy, but they did help me gain some perspective.

Of the things on my to-do list this weekend, I did manage to do laundry and go grocery shopping. I'm learning to embrace such small victories.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Not-Quite-Extreme Makeover: Mimilou Edition

Well, whaddya think? Kind of snazzy, huh?

Thanks to Christina at BlogMoxie for the new design. At last I emerge from the limitations of Blogger templates and my sorry lack of HTML skills!

Plus, I needed a happier post to follow the preceding grumpfest.

Dissing Rudolph

Disclaimer: The rather snippy, grouchy tone of this post may have something to do with the fact that there is NO Diet Dr. Pepper in the vending machines at work. How I am supposed to work under such conditions?

This year, the television version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer turns 40. Yippee! Or not, as the case may be.

I was once a die-hard Rudolph fan. Every year I'd eagerly await the show. My freshman year of college, my friends and I even had a mini-party to celebrate the broadcast.

Soon after that, I had a small epiphany. RTRNR actually imparts a terrible, depressing message---that bigotry is acceptable.

Poor Rudolph has a congenital birth defect that renders him an outcast. His parents, visibly ashamed, hide him from society and try to masquerade his glowing nose. When the fake nose is dislodged, everyone shuns him. Not just the kids, mind you, but the grown-ups, too. Even Santa, the benevolent patriarch in this story, fails to intervene. Up to this point, the show could still redeem itself by demonstrating that bigotry is inexcusable and that everyone should accept Rudolph for who he is, nose and all.

But of course that's not what happens. Why is Rudolph ultimately accepted back into the community? Merely because he is USEFUL. Had that pesky storm not arisen, those moronic reindeer and the jolly old elf would have been content to continue in their social policy of intolerance and cruelty.

Merry freaking Christmas, kids.