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Posts Tagged ‘parenting angst’

The other day, Carla had a very specific request for dinner: “May I please have a bowl of white [iceberg] lettuce and a separate bowl of [shredded] cheese and another bowl of tomatoes so that I can put them together and make a salad?” 

Sure, child. Why not. 

I mentioned a while back that we are trying to increase Carla’s calcium intake. And by “we” I mean “me” because my husband seems wholly unconcerned by the issue. Not in an “I’m a Physician and Am Unworried” way, but in a “this is not my problem” way ARGH. And a teeny bit in a Thwarting Efforts way. My father (ALSO a physician) suggested we simply give Carla some Tums (calcium carbonate) and so I suggested to my husband that he grab a roll of Tums next time he was at the grocery store. He said a) we already have Tums at home and when I brightened and said “Oh! We can give Carla those!” he said no, that those Tums were for acid reflux. Blink. Blink blink. 

All of this is to say that I am continually working on getting more calcium into Carla. 

Smoothies, as I think I mentioned before, seemed like the perfect vehicle. Especially considering that Carla likes smoothies, and dislikes most other things. 

But there have been two problems.

  1. She hasn’t been in the mood for smoothies. Almost every day I say, “You’re going to have a smoothie for breakfast!” and she says, “No.” And then I argue with her a little bit, and make pleading noises about calcium intake, and she remains firm, and I give up. Because I am not going to waste a smoothie on her when she is clearly going to Stand Firm. And I get it! I like… chili, but I don’t want to eat it every day. If you told me chili had specific life-extending properties, I would still have a hard time drumming up enough enthusiasm to eat it every day. So I get it. I do. But also: JUST DRINK A SMOOTHIE.
  2. Smoothies do not contain as much calcium as I think. I made one for her with 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice, and 1 cup frozen mango chunks. That makes a LARGE cup of smoothie. And it contains about 40% of a person’s daily calcium. Sigh. It’s a big swoop forward on the calcium-intake-o-meter, but it’s not even halfway, and HOW do I get the rest of the way EVERY DAY?

I wonder if I could mix Carnation Instant Breakfast (200 mg calcium per packet) into her smoothies? 

I found a recipe for frozen yogurt treats that I might try. I broached the idea to Carla and she was a little suspicious, but it would be worth trying at least. Maybe I could mix some Carnation Instant Breakfast into some yogurt and pipe it onto cookie sheets and freeze it? I may give it a try.

I have been Googling like crazy, but the food sources of calcium seem to have so little (50 mg here, 125 mg there – and that’s for a FULL serving of foods she DOESN’T EAT), that it seems impossible to get them to add up to 1300 mg per day. And there is a lot of pooh-poohing of calcium supplements. I get it. I understand that most vitamins don’t have a whole lot of calcium anyway, and that you need to be taking Vitamin D as well so that you can properly absorb your calcium. But it would be really useful to just give Carla a chewable something and be done with it. There are Reasons that I don’t want to get the Viactiv chews (650 mg calcium per chew), but maybe I need to get past them. 

I know I tend to catastrophize. I know I do that. But I keep picturing Carla as an adult, with bones that shatter at the least provocation, and her wan little face asking the heavens, “Why, God, why did my mother not force me to get enough calcium when I was small? Why?” 

Now I understand why my parents were so adamant about me drinking a FULL GLASS of milk every day. (A cup of milk is only 300 mg!)

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One of the most difficult aspects of parenting (for a highly-anxious, prone-to-catastrophizing person like me) is that there is an endless number of potential issues to contend with, and that so many of them come up without warning or context, leaving you to wonder, Is this a normal variation that is just part of a typical childhood? Or is this pathological and requires intervention? 

I don’t even know what to give as an example, because the things seem to come entirely out of the blue and I have ZERO idea how to handle them. But things like lying or bed wetting or stuttering – all things that could be Just A Phase, or could be Signs Of A More Complex Problem, but you don’t know until you know, I guess? I hate that. I want to be able to ask my mom or go on Google and hear/read, “A small percentage (5 to 13%) of children DO tend to turn purple at some point, usually between the ages of 6 and 11, but sometimes as early as age 3. Sometimes the hue leans a bit more toward blue or a bit more toward magenta; it typically fades after six months, but can last for up to two years. Avoiding crucifers during this time can truncate the duration. If your child’s skin develops yellow polka dots during the purple phase, take them immediately to the doctor.” 

Like, just CLEAR and COMFORTING information that says, this is not super common, but it DOES happen, and here’s what to watch for if you are concerned it’s taking an atypical turn… Why can’t there be that for every possible variation of child behavior? WHY. 

(I know why.)

Anyway, what I am hoping to discuss currently is The Teenage Years. 

It seems that I have had MULTIPLE encounters lately with adults who like to say, “Just wait until she’s a teenager.” Sometimes, this is in response to Extreme Sassafras (why is there only one S on the end of this word??) on the part of my child, who sometimes turns up the sass factor because she has the mistaken impression that people find it charming/funny. Well. Some people do, in fact, find it charming and funny, which I find tiresome and irritating. But they don’t have to experience True Sass on a daily basis, so I suppose I should give them a break. Sometimes, this baffling warning comes in response to witnessing/discussing something lovely that my kid does – like how she still holds my hand (sometimes) when we’re walking, or how she’ll still sit on my lap while I read to her, or how she still loves to run up and fling herself at people she cares about for a big hug. “Just wait until she’s a teenager,” they’ll intone, this time with a tenor of pre-wistfulness or knowledgeable sadness.

I am familiar with the “cherish the moment” faction. And I am familiar with the “better sleep now, because you won’t sleep again once the baby’s born!” faction. And I am familiar with the concept of people who either forget how much they disliked being forewarned about things you can literally do nothing about or who feel in their heart of hearts that they have somehow encountered The One Person who has gone an entire lifetime without encountering the concept of a phase of life that literally all people go through. People are just… going to do this. From now until the end of time, probably. And yet, I still find this so irritating I want to scream. 

Probably it is because I am growing increasingly anxious/fearful of The Teenage Years with every passing day. 

And also, I am irritated because it feels inescapably gendered. I don’t think my friend who has sons gets “Just wait until he’s a teenager”ed every five minutes. Plus, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say things in knowing, faux-concerned voices about how a person (usually the father) is going to endure life with THREE TEENAGE DAUGHTERS, as if that is just the absolute worst thing that any human can live through. 

But mainly, I am irritated because I cannot do anything about it. Nothing. If we are very lucky, my daughter will grow and age and at some point become A Teenager. That is a thing that happens. I cannot prolong her not-a-teenager years any more than I can prolong my own youth. 

I am not discounting the very real effects of hormonal changes on young adults! I realize that teenagers CAN be moody and distant and disrespectful and all the terrible things! I get it! Puberty is an actual phenomenon that changes people’s behavior!  

But I am just super annoyed at the people who keep saying, “Just you wait.” WHAT am I supposed to do with that information? Cherish every non-teenage moment, I suppose. 

Today, I am going to make two lists. One list of things that I can look FORWARD to about the teenage years, and a list of things that I want to address when my daughter is a teen. Preferably, my husband and I would discuss and have a plan for these things well in advance, but to be honest, they seem both so horrifying and so far away that I am struggling to focus on them. 

Things About the Teenage Years to Look Forward To

  • Having a kid who can drive herself to / from places (I recognize that this is also a negative point, because I cannot fathom my precious baby a) operating an enormous motor vehicle or b) driving around in the world with so many oblivious idiots)
  • Being able to watch ALL (most) movies together
  • Prom
  • Having more time to myself / more silence (“Just you wait,” says the knowing post-teenage parent, “When she’s a teenager you’ll find yourself LONGING for the days when she talked nonstop for four straight hours.”)
  • Fewer toys cluttering up the house
  • Real conversations 
  • No need for a babysitter
  • Another cook in the house
  • No more playdates – or, at least, not being in charge of scheduling/organizing playdates and enduring the unbearable awkwardness of interacting with parents I don’t know 
  • No longer needing to be the communication bridge between my kid and her friends

Things I Want to Figure Out How to Address

  • Social media
  • Phone / screen time
  • Peer pressure around sex / drugs / alcohol / social media / appearance
  • Sexual assault
  • Driving, with and without friends
  • Spending the night at other kids’ houses
  • Romantic relationships

Well, these lists both seem too short. I did consult a few online lists along the lines of “Great Things About Having a Teen!” Some of them – like enjoying shopping together, or sharing clothing and makeup – seem difficult to predict; I don’t know if Carla will care about shopping or clothing or makeup. And I want to emphasize academics and career-planning, but I’m not sure how to do so in a way that prioritizes Carla’s personality/goals rather than emphasizing the values I grew up with, so I’m not putting it on the list currently. I will continue to think about these topics and add to the lists as I come up with new items. Let me know what you would include. (And if you have any good books about anticipating / raising teenagers, I would be interested in those!)

In the meantime, I ordered this book over the weekend: 

image from amazon.com

While Carla is not quite nine, we are knocking on nine’s door. I am really hoping that the heretofore kind, measured Louise Bates Ames doesn’t say anything akin to, “Just WAIT until she’s a teenager.”

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I have done it! I have done the thing I always think I should do, and never do, which is to GET UP when I awaken in the middle of the night and do something more useful than lying awake, counting how many hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep right then.

Lest you think I am no longer susceptible to the patterns of the past: I woke up at 3:00 a.m., almost on the dot, and then lay in bed/read soothing blog posts until 4:00, and then lay in bed in the dark, telling myself I should just GET UP ALREADY and start the day until 4:37. That’s when I finally Did The Thing and put on my glasses and came downstairs. I deserve a Sleep Award. Although, now that I think of it, a Sleep Award seems more appropriate for sleeping restfully through an entire eight-plus hours, so perhaps I’ll have to relinquish my claim.

In lieu of an award, I am drinking tea, as I do when I wake up. My stomach is a little uncomfortable with this idea – it thinks it is Sleeping Time, rather than Accepting Sustenance Time. It is also a little concerned about what time we will want lunch. 

If only the grocery store were open now, and I could get that over with! Oh well. I will blog about random nothings instead! 

  • Carla has been having extra trouble getting to sleep lately. Firstly, I feel just terrible that she has apparently inherited my fraught relationship with sleep. She has had trouble falling asleep her entire eight-and-a-half years, and that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of her life, which I hope is very long. At least, I suppose, she seems to be able to maintain sleep once she gets there. While I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep, my main issue is staying asleep.
  • Well, I suppose my brain is smoothing over the many, many times that Carla has come into my room at 3:00 or 4:00, or that I have awakened to learn that she had been awake for hours already. BUT, it seems less frequent than her troubles drifting off. The power of posting about something of the internet will immediately ensure that she wakes up at 3:00 every morning for the next month.
  • The only thing that comes close to the frustration of not being able to fall asleep is the frustration of one’s CHILD not being able to fall asleep. Last night, my husband and I were watching the first episode of Sex Education and I kept hearing suspicious thumps coming from upstairs. It was quite windy outside, and my husband felt that the thumps might be exterior noises, while I was quite sure they were human. And then we had one of those mildly irritating conversations I imagine happen frequently in any longterm partnership, where he said, “Do you want to go check on her?” and I said “yes,” because I’d HEARD “Do you want ME to go check on her?” And then he had to correct my misperception and I had to glare at him briefly before I went to investigate the source of the thumps. 
  • Thump source: Carla. Instead of reading quietly or thinking about sheep or doing deep breathing – all of which we have discussed AT LENGTH in regards to their soporific powers – she felt the best way to induce sleep was to get out of bed and gather some toys and play with them, in the bed. On the bed. Preposition the bed. Exasperation! Incredulity! How did she think this was a good way to get to sleep? And yet she seemed very sincere that she thought it would help. Trying to turn down the scold volume on my lecture, I removed the toys and reminded her of all the other options that we have discussed for helping lull our brains to sleep. Count backwards from 100. Count backwards by 5s from 1000. Imagine yourself, in great detail, walking along the route to somewhere you love. List 50 things you are grateful for. Go through the alphabet and name an animal beginning with each letter. Do some deep breathing. Read a book. Recite a poem over and over in your head. When I went back to check on her about 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. Sometimes it seems like the BEST way to induce sleep is to scold her about it. Which seems… not right. 
  • Carla mentioned to me that she cannot see pictures in her head, so the “walking along the route to somewhere you love” isn’t a viable option for her. I love that she’s so aware of what it’s like inside her head. I don’t see pictures in my head either, but I guess my internal travel writer is so descriptive that I can still make that option work. Or I can drum up a feeling of a place that is almost as vivid as an image. 
  • Also, it is unfair of me to expect that she remember these techniques when I am terrible at remembering them myself! Only when I am DESPERATE for sleep do I recall most of these strategies. The one that I use most often – mentally reciting Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” until I fall asleep – sometimes doesn’t even occur to me in the middle of a 3:00 am wakeup. Instead, I turn to my phone, which almost certainly makes it HARDER for me to sleep. 
  • There was supposed to be a secondly somewhere up there. I suppose you have forgotten about it as well. But on the off chance you were waiting on tenterhooks – “You did the ‘firstly,’ what’s the ‘secondly’? WHAT’S THE SECONDLY?” – I cannot remember. 
  • I have finished my first book of poetry for the year. One of my 2022 aspirations is to read a poem every morning, and I have been keeping up with that so far. However, I may not have chosen the best book to start out the year. I selected a book at random and came up with The Seven Ages by Louise Gluck. She has an umlaut over the u in her surname; I don’t how to do that on my computer. I adore Louise’s poetry. (This makes it sound as though we are on a first-name basis, which we are not. I did meet her once, though. We went out to lunch and she is as fascinating as one hopes a famous poet would be.) But The Seven Ages is all about her contemplating her own death. That’s all fine and good, and it resonates, and I appreciate reading her thoughts from the perspective of being 50ish because I am nearing that age. But it was also a little depressing. Perhaps I will try a Billy Collins book next; I own two of his collections, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the poems; my impression is that they are lighter and sometimes attempt to be humorous.
  • One of the Gluck poems has really stuck with me. It’s called “The Sensual World,” which, in my opinion, mis-implies what the poem is about or how to read it. But poems are very personal, so you do you, boo. Anyway, the poem is about how the world will grip you in startling and unpredictable and inescapable ways. There is this moment of exquisite beauty that the narrator recounts, in the kitchen of her grandmother. A tiny moment: a glass of juice; its taste; the way the light refracts through it. But it leads the narrator to offer an urgent warning about the trap that life has set for you: “you will never let go, you will never be satiated. / You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger. / Your body will age, you will continue to need. / You will want the earth, then more of the earth – / Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond. / It is encompassing, it will not minister. / Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, / it will not keep you alive.” It makes my heart pound, it resonates so deeply. I am so familiar with those moments – of shocking beauty that flares suddenly out of the mundane, of intense love provoked by the smallest, most inconsequential thing (a kitten at the pet store, butting its head against your hand; a child seeing you in distress and trying to soothe you with the very techniques you use to soothe the child; an unexpected kindness from a stranger; a moment of private humor with a spouse; a child, asleep, with hands folded beneath the chin as though posed). And I know the exact feeling of wanting to clutch those things with both hands even as I know – we all know – they are not ours to keep. It is not our lot to hold them forever, but only for the short time we have on this plane of existence. You will never let go. It will not keep you alive.
  • Yesterday, I experienced one of those moments of satisfaction/guilt that seem to be a hallmark of parenting. Carla was really anxious about returning to school (who knows why?!?! Is it the constant barrage of contradictory information, such as “Covid isn’t a big deal since you’re vaccinated; don’t worry too much, it probably won’t affect you too much if you get it” but also “make SURE you wear your mask and don’t breathe on anyone and for Todd’s sake, please don’t let anyone breathe on you!” Is it the fact that she hasn’t been in school for a month? Is it the fact that “school” could mean home/not home at any given time?) so I had to bribe her to even get her out the door yesterday morning. The bribe is not the satisfaction/guilt part, although perhaps it should be; it worked. I bribed her with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (we are reverting to a “desserts on weekends” kind of schedule) AND with “something fun.” (She claims she never ever gets to do what SHE wants, all she does is go to SCHOOL.) I told her she could pick anything non-screen related, and she picked playing Barbies together. Sigh. I haaaaaaaate pretend play. It is the worst. But I agreed, and after school we played Barbies for 30 minutes exactly. Which is nothing. A tiny amount of my day. Then, when we were doing our bedtime mindfulness routine, and we got to the part about “what were you grateful for today?”, Carla said, “I was grateful that I got to play Barbies with Mommy.” No hesistation. Awwww. What a worthwhile way to spend our time together! But also: guilt, because I HATE playing Barbies. And yet it is such a simple way to make my beloved child so happy! Ugh ugh ugh. Well, I am not promising anything, but I will TRY to do more Barbies with Carla. 
  • A thing it turns out I DO enjoy is playing Sleeping QueensDo you have this game? I ordered it on a “my child is not doing enough math” whim last weekend and it is QUITE fun. There’s a video on the product page that describes how to play; it seems much more complicated than it is. And it’s a much faster-paced game than I anticipated. The basic object is that you want to get as many queens as possible. To get the queens, or to keep your opponent from getting queens, or to prevent your opponent from getting your queens, you need special cards. Your only chance to get the special cards is to discard a card from your hand. And – here’s the math element – you can draw more cards if you have an equation. So if you have cards in the values of 1, 5, and 7, you can only discard one of them and pick up one new card. But if you have 2, 5, and 7, you can make an equation and discard all three; then you can draw three cards. If you have/know a child in the young elementary age group, I highly recommend it. Because the number cards only go up to ten, the math is quite easy for Carla (although there’s no harm in keeping up with basic addition and subtraction), but it would be ideal for someone who is just learning to add/subtract. We also do multiplication, when it’s possible. I really wish there were an expansion pack with higher-value numbers. Anyway, I find it to be a really fun game and we have already played at least a dozen times. BONUS: This is a game that you can easily play with two people, which means that we don’t have to wait for Daddy to be home. 
  • I made my first foray into baked oatmeal. I am a little reluctant to post about it, because I didn’t love it. And I WANT to love it. It was both better than I thought it would be and worse than I hoped. But I think I chose the wrong (for me) recipe. It called for coconut oil, which – to me (though not to my husband) – ending up being the predominant flavor. I wanted an APPLE flavor. Also, I don’t think I put in enough nuts. The nuts were my favorite part. I need to do more experimentation before I can make a firm decision about not liking it. I think I will try this recipe next. 
  • I had a mildly negative interaction the other day that is still gnawing at me. It’s one of those things where the situation felt very fraught, almost purely because I am overly concerned with what people think of me. And the rest of it was fraught because it involved Covid, and I am caught in a wildly swinging internal pendulum of “you can’t control it and you need to find some way to live with it without forcing your child to be a miserable hermit” and “it is perfectly reasonable to continue to take precautions for the sake of those who aren’t protected/in order to keep Carla in school ” and “if you allow Carla to go to school, then how is this situation different” and “it is okay to have boundaries and limits even if they seem arbitrary; everything seems arbitrary right now” and “you and Carla are both vaccinated, you really can relax a little sheesh” and “arrrrrggghhhhhh.” I fervently wish I were the type of person who a) knows the exact right thing to do in any given situation and b) doesn’t care what other people think of me. I am neither of those people though, I am me. And as much as I try to be breezy, breeziness is not in my nature. And I DO care what people think, and I hate that about myself but I do.
  • Totally related to the above point: It is not fair to present a situation in one way, with clear parameters, and then to change the parameters in the moment. It is especially not okay to then pressure people into accepting the new parameters. 
  • Gah.
  • We have a new addition to our Dinner Plan this week. My husband requested Taco Tuesday. I think you know that I will never turn down a request for tacos. This is the beauty of planning out fewer meals than one intends to eat. You can just slide tacos right into the mix, no biggie. It is especially helps when you haven’t yet made it to the grocery store.
  • That reminds me that I have my check-up this morningIt is a totally normal check-up, so it should be fine. But it’s with a new doctor, in a new office, in a new location. So I am a little anxious about all of those things. Will I find the office okay? Will I get there on time? Will I like the doctor? Also, will I meet her for the first time while naked? That’s never fun. And then I have to do it all over again in a couple of weeks, because my PCP is retiring and I had to find a new one. (Hopefully I won’t have to meet her naked, though.)

Well, that’s it. I am already painfully aware that today is going to be a grind to get through; my 3:00 a.m. alertness has eroded into fatigue. But blogging is a much better way to spend the early hours of the morning than tossing and turning next to my blissfully sleeping husband, waiting futilely for sleep to bless me with its presence. 

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We have snow this morning, our second proper snow of the season. The check-up I thought was scheduled for today is, in fact, scheduled for tomorrow. Which means my grocery shopping is now also moved to tomorrow. Most significantly, my child is back in school. I am hoping that everything goes as well as possible and that the kids are all in school for a good long time. See how breezy I am? SO BREEZY.

Dinners for the Week of January 10-January 16

  • Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon and Green Beans: I wonder if I could substitute a chicken breast for my husband, who’s not wild about salmon? This was indeed good, and I indeed made a chicken breast for my husband.
  • Roasted Garlic Balsamic Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts: I am going to attempt to combine these two recipes into a sheet pan dinner. Do the recipes recommend different temperatures? Yes. Am I still going to do it? Yes, I am. P.S. I almost never pan-sear anything before I put it in the oven. An extra dish to wash? Grease splatter all over my stove? No thank you. Works out just fine. 
  • Spicy Fish Taco Bowls: My husband suggested fish tacos recently, and this is an old favorite that we haven’t eaten in awhile. Plus, as everyone knows, if you put a taco in a bowl it tastes just as good. I will obviously omit the cherry tomatoes from the mango pico.
  • Sesame Soy Chicken Bowls: Two bowls in one week?!?! Yes, folks, I am going there. This recipe is new to me, but it sounds yummy. 
  • Air Fryer Parmesan Chicken with Broccoli and Hasselback Sweet Potatoes: I really don’t think my air fryer is big enough to hold chicken and broccoli at the same time… but maybe I could roast the broccoli? Or maybe I will just steam it as I usually do? Let’s leave it for Future Me to sort out. I also reserve the right to forget completely about the Hasselback sweet potatoes. But they look so intriguing! 
  • Lentil Soup: This is an Ina Garten recipe and everything she touches is magic, so I kind of want to try it out. Our current weather is IDEAL lentil soup weather. Maybe I will make a loaf of miracle no-knead bread as well. Maybe not. I am breezy. This lentil soup was a disappointment. It required a LOT of chopping, even though I bought pre-chopped mirepoix from Trader Joe’s. And it just didn’t taste like anything. I tried some of the modifications suggested in the comments, like adding a parmesan rind for a long time and adding some paprika. Nothing really helped. It was warm and hearty though and it made one million bowls worth of soup, so I will be eating it for A While. The very best it tasted was when you slathered a slice of warm sourdough in butter and dipped it into the soup. Then it was very good.

That’s enough meals for the week. I’m going to try to wrap my mind around this “found time” I have today, and make a cup of tea and try to focus on revisions (which, so far, involve a lot of writing, not that I need ANY EXTRA WORDS). Maybe I’ll do some laundry. Look at me being so breezy.

How breezy are you today? Are you as breezy as I am?

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Apparently day four is the day when my careful less indulgent eating meal plan falls apart and I beg my husband to pick me up a frozen pizza from Target.

Listen, it’s possible that I could have made it longer if this were a typical year. But we are right back in the thick of Pandemic Living (worst idea for a magazine ever – headlines include “The Best KN95 Masks NO ONE Knows About (Yet)!” and “7 Best Ways to Ensure You and Your Loved Ones Won’t Need to Be Seen in the Emergency Room” and “Is Eyebrow Bling the New Lipstick?”) and I am not drinking alcohol during the week (for now) and so I prescribed myself some medicinal pizza for dinner last night. And some randomosity for today.

  • We continue to be very, very lucky. The family members who have had Covid have fully recovered. The rest of us have somehow avoided it so far. Everyone is vaxxed (with the possible exception of my vaccine eligible niece but I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW) and boosted. My part of the world is fairly pro-mask, so most people in the few public places I visit are masked. I have been able to get my hands on rapid test kits and masks. My daughter’s school continues to take Covid very seriously, and has a mask mandate for everyone and a vaccine mandate for the faculty and staff. We are so, so lucky.
  • I know it’s just luck. I mean, as with a lot of “luck,” some of it is privilege. Where we live and where we send Carla to school being two stark examples. But it also seems so easy to fall into the belief that we haven’t contracted Covid because we are careful. I’m sure that’s helped, but I also know that LOTS of very careful people have been hit by Omicrom. We have either avoided it so far because we are super lucky, or it’s possible (I think) that we’ve had an asymptomatic case without knowing it.
  • Despite being SO LUCKY, I have been filled with despair all week. Early Pandemic-level despair, which I have been fortunate to avoid for many months at a time over the past yearish. The news – which I have been trying, semi-successfully to avoid (except when my husband texts me a particularly upsetting news item THANKS HUSBAND) – is so full of doom and gloom that I feel like I can sense my blood pressure shoot up with every headline. And we have been remote all week, which is a nightmare for my particular brand of child and her particular brand of mother. Plus, there has been the possibility hanging over our heads of another week of virtual learning, which is giving me a stomachache. I mean, there are LOTS OF GOOD REASONS to have virtual learning! Lots and lots! And I am grateful that I am not the one who had to make the decision, that’s for damn sure. But there are also, obviously, MANY BENEFITS to having one’s children physically in school, learning from a human instead of a screen, doing actual math instead of a video game (seriously) and interacting with friends in person. (Not to mention the benefits of in-person learning for the many, many parents who do not have the ability to work from home, or the bandwidth to work while supervising a child during remote school.)
  • We don’t know whether we will have virtual learning next week, too. I have been refreshing my email constantly. I don’t know what to hope for. That we continue to stay home and help drive down the number of Covid infections? Not that our school’s numbers were ever that high. That we return to in-person school for the sake of the children and the working parents and my own sanity? I think I will rejoice/weep at either outcome. Right now, I just want to KNOW so I can PREPARE MYSELF.
  • Possibly due to an urge to soothe the pandemic angst, or possibly this is just my typical post-holiday M.O., I have ordered a few lovely things lately. I got this gorgeous sweater from Nordstrom with a gift card. It is SO SOFT. And it’s totally different from what I normally wear – which tends toward casual and butt-covering. I recently bought a pair of these high-waisted jeans and I think the sweater would look very cute with it. But also… I can’t tell if the sleeves are TOO balloon-y? They are MUCH more balloony in real life than they are on the model. Do they emphasize my arms in a stylish way, or a cartoonish one? Do I look like Popeye after pandemic stress and despair forced him to give up his weight-lifting habit? The jury is still out. We shall see. On the Stay-at-Home Clothes front, I purchased a zip up hoodie that I’m hoping will cover my buttular region. It looks like it will cover my buttular region, based on the photo. But I share nothing in common, body-shape-wise, with the person modeling the hoodie, and I suspect my region is vaster. The hoodie hasn’t arrived yet, but it has “amazing” right in the name, so I have high expectations.

  • Retail therapy is fun even when the purchases aren’t for me. I also ordered this napping kittens calendar for Carla. We’d scrolled through many, many options and this was her favorite and she was obviously correct. I also got my husband another Magic Puzzle puzzle; I’d given him one called The Happy Isles for Christmas, and he loved it. I don’t even LIKE or DO puzzles and I loved it. My husband wouldn’t even let me help (my version of helping with a puzzle is finding one piece and then leaving), and I loved it. It is seriously so adorable, with a million fun things to look at, and even a list of things to find, like in a Where’s Waldo? book. Plus, there’s the “magic” aspect of the puzzle, which was really cool (but I can’t reveal that part because it is magic). If you are a puzzle lover or know one, this MUST be on your puzzle purchase list.
  • Did I tell you about my new salt and pepper shakers? It’s not a new purchase, but looking for those links reminded me that I got them in early December. We had been using one of those Costco pepper grinders for all our peppering needs, but the Costco salt grinders have never worked well for us… so for the last Costco-sized-salt-container-amount-of-time, we’d been salting our food with a Costco-sized salt container. Ridiculous. My husband’s family aren’t a salt and pepper on the table family, but even so, when they were here so often this past fall, I kept feeling so awkward about not having a proper set of shakers for the table. And my family ARE big salt and pepper at the table people, so I was feeling really anxious about it in advance of their visit. My neuroses are many and varied. The result is that I finally persuaded my non-salt-or-pepperer husband that I NEEDED these and I love them. (He does not love them. He only ever uses salt, and the salt grinder grinds crystals of salt that are, to be fair, bigger than your average engagement ring diamond. But it does not seem that you can buy a matching set of pre-ground salt and grindable pepper shakers. And they always [right?] come in a set.)
  • My computer is driving me crazy. the keyboard is not working correctly, and when i try to capitalize things, it either doesn’t work or it WORKS TOO MUCH. As when i am trying to emphasize VIa CApitalization, when the shift key gets over-enthusiastic and capitalizes two letters in a row. I have left the capitalization in this bullet as my computer wants it, for an example. It is Very ANnoying. YOu wouldnt believe how often i have to delete and retype. BLARGH.
  • Speaking of calendars, which we were, a few bullet points ago: if you use a physical calendar, what kinds of things do you fill it with? I do NOT use a physical calendar, even though I love calendars. I have tried many times in the past, and somewhere around February I forget about it and then don’t look at it again until June, when I make a renewed effort to use it… and then forget about it completely until I see Swistle’s annual calendar post and start drooling over all the fun and beautiful options out there. If you think I could resolve this issue with a daily calendar rather than a monthly one, you would be incorrect because I forget about those too. If I didn’t know this about myself, I would own Benjamin Dreyer’s day-to-day grammar and style version. What was the point of this bullet? Oh, right.
  • Speaking of calendars, again, still, I want to populate Carla’s calendar with important things, but I’m not sure what those THINGS should be. Obviously, I will add the birthdays of family members. And I think I can safely add the first day of spring break, the last day of school, maybe even the first day of school for next year if the school has posted that information already. But… what else? Do I add weekly things, like swimming lessons (which we are resuming this month yay/eek)? I WANT to add upcoming trips, of which we have two planned. I WANT to add summer camp (which we had to register for in early December do NOT get me started). But in Year Three of the Covid-19 Pandemic (I started to type “of the Current Pandemic” but that sounded much too bleak), I am wary. So wary. Do I put them on the calendar anyway, as a nod to hope and optimism?

  • Ah, hope. I have an aerogarden in my dining room, and I have been growing a tomato plant for many months. It has been disappointing, to say the least. I think we have harvested maybe six tomatoes total. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Some of the leaves are yellow; I go in and trim, but branches keep dying. Even so, the plant keeps growing, and keeps putting out these little hopeful blossoms… and once in a while, a baby tomato emerges like a promise kept. I kneel on the floor every morning to inspect the plant, to remove dead leaves, to whisper words of encouragement to the blooms. Many of them spread their petals into a bright reassuring star, only to disappear during the night. It is so discouraging, and it all feels like a metaphor.

  • My husband and I just finished all the Succession there is to watch. It is SUCH a good show, and i spend every episode marveling at how I can be invested in so many people I find abhorrent. We are looking for our next TV show to watch together. I think the two we are deciding between are The OA and Sex Education. I feel like we have watched EVERYTHING, but of course that isn’t true. If you have suggestions, new or old, I am waiting eagerly to hear them.
  • My husband and I have started, but not completed, two satisfying projects. The first is, of course, the basement craft room makeover, which has been paused during the work week. The second, which we did on a whim, was to cull (most of) bookshelves. My husband and I are both avid readers and, perhaps more so, avid book buyers. We also both believe in owning books, which has its benefits and disadvantages. This means that we tend toward keeping every book we buy, when not every book is one we NEED to own. It makes me sad to get rid of books, but really: if I read a book and didn’t love it, and my husband isn’t going to read it, and it isn’t autographed, and it wasn’t a Special Gift from a dear friend or family member… then I think it would be better off going to the library, where they can sell it to someone who really wants to read it. I am very pleased by the stack of books we were able to cull (and the number of spaces we have opened up for NEW BOOKS). Now I just need the libraries to re-open so I can donate them and get them out of my office!
  • Our library system, by the way, is pretty awesome. Even though the branches are currently closed to visitors, you can still order books and pick them up at the drive-up window. Plus, they often give away free rapid test kits. Carla and I went to the library to drop off a stack of books the other day and there was a police car parked at one end next to a sign that said “enter only.” I kept driving to the other end, which is where I usually turn into the library parking lot, but it was blocked by another police car and a sign that said “exit only.” I had to turn around to get back to the new entrance, and then followed a winding path through the parking lot, demarcated by construction cones. At the other end of the parking lot were two people standing next to big stacks of boxes. They seemed to be stopping each car that drove through the lot, so I rolled down my window to find out what was going on. One of the people asked how many members are in my family, and when I said “three,” he handed me three Covid test kits. I took them, because you don’t look a test kit horse in the mouth, and then I dropped off our library books in the drive-through lane. Then I texted everyone I knew that the library had a supply of test kits to give away. One friend replied that she would head to the library immediately, and then she noted that her new supply of Kn95 masks had arrived. I cheered and told her I was excited for the new masks I’d ordered to arrive… and immediately felt a sense of dissociation. THIS is what we text each other about now? THIS is cause for excitement? Free Covid tests and mask delivery? Eeeesh. Welcome to the new world, I guess.

  • These are the masks I got for Carla, by the way. We got a small package, just to try. They are quite expensive, but I saw them listed on a bunch of “best masks for kids” articles and I have some friends who use them and like them. (I have a referral code that can get you $5 off, if you want to try them. It’s not much, but it covers shipping and a teensy bit extra.) They shipped very quickly, and should be here Monday. I hope they fit and that Carla likes them.
  • On the way home from the library, I asked Carla what she thought she would remember about this time, when she is a grown up. She said she thinks her kids will probably think we mean party masks when we talk about masks. (I think she is thinking of the kind of masks that people wear to masquerades.) I laughed and agreed, and oh how I hope that’s true. I hope that masks (and rapid tests and virtual school) aren’t a necessary and regular part of life from this moment on. I hope that she can look back on these pandemic years with a veil of fog, because it was such a small, insignificant part of her childhood. I hope the next pandemic isn’t worse. I hope she grows up. I hope she has kids.
This is the bleakest photo I have on my camera roll. But it’s hopeful too. Those black, empty branches are part of a living tree. Someday soon they will have buds, then blossoms, then leaves.
  • Life is so up and down. It’s always like that, always will be. But the downs – right now – seem so much deeper. I don’t know what I thought, back in 2020. That the pandemic would be temporary? That we’d wear masks for a year, deal with Covid for a year, then be done with it forever? I feel like I always knew it would be a longer-term thing. But thinking something, knowing something, are different than believing them. And maybe I didn’t believe that this would be our way of life for many years, possibly forever. It’s a hard thing, to come around to the truth.

  • We just got an email from Carla’s school. They are back in person as of Monday. Cue the relief. Cue the anxiety. I think I’ll go have some leftover medicinal pizza.

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Welcome to the first week of dinners for the new year. An entire year of meal planning and shopping for those meals and cooking those meals (or not cooking them, in favor of something that sounds better/easier in the moment) and eating those meals and cleaning up those meals stretches before us.

While that doesn’t sound particularly appealing, I am feeling a tiny burst of energy about it all. The transition from indulgent holiday food to lighter, more regular meals feels refreshing. I spent a bunch of time this weekend looking through recipe blogs for new possibilities; it sometimes helps to have something New and Exciting – or at least New – to keep me out of the meal planning doldrums. I am going to lean into it while I can, before the inevitable drudgery of making meals day after day after day until death settles over me like a weighted blanket.

We did not make sticky toffee pudding yesterday, so that is back on the list for this weekend. (We did get food from my favorite Indian restaurant for dinner, and it was especially delicious. I would rather have chicken vindaloo ten times over than sticky toffee pudding, so it was a win for me. Plus, leftovers for lunch!)

This week, with Carla doing remote school (and therefore getting to sleep in a little later each morning), I am going to make an effort to have us all eat together. Normally, Carla eats dinner by herself at about 5:30 or 6:00, and my husband and I eat dinner around 8:00 or 8:30. Yes, I hate it, thanks. In an ideal world, we would eat together more often, giving us more family time together… and also giving us opportunities to model things like table manners and conversational skills and “trying new things” to Carla. I’m hoping my husband will get home early enough (people are canceling appointments right and left, which is Not Great Bob) that we can all eat together. This doesn’t mean I will be able to make one dinner for us all, of course, because I want Carla to actually eat something. But I can at least make similar foods (chicken nuggets or fish sticks when we have a saucy chicken or fish dish; raw versions of the veggies we eat) that I know she will eat, and add small portions of whatever my husband and I are eating to her plate. It is very challenging to have a picky child, especially since I am a picky eater myself, and I know how upsetting it can be to try new things. Plus, I know that deciding what to eat and what to refuse is one of the few things that Carla has autonomy over, and I don’t want to rob her of the ability to say no for so many reasons. But I also want her to eat more things than chicken nuggets and frozen peas and plain white rice, FOR THE LOVE OF COD.

Parenting quandary detour over.

There are only five meals on the plan for this week, to give us some wiggle room for last-minute additions or cravings.

Dinners for the Week of January 3-9

Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: You know by now that this is one of my favorite dinners. Plus it has a lot of vegetables, which means it fits in nicely with my “more veg” aspiration. Plus my husband suggested it; whether as a peace offering for not making the sticky toffee pudding or because he genuinely is in the mood, I don’t care because I love it. (My spell checker thinks that “peace” is misspelled in the previous sentence… though not in this one. Why are you messing with me, spell checker? Underlining a word I KNOW how to spell is making me question everything I thought I knew.) (It’s definitely not “piece offering,” right? RIGHT?)

Steak, Pepper, & Sugar Snap Pea Stir Fry: I guess I am in a stir fry mood today? This is a new-to-me recipe and sounds different and yummy and veggie packed. I will probably ignore the steak, but my husband will eat it, and we have a package in the freezer at this very moment. Carla likes steak and (raw) sugar snap peas… I wonder if I can persuade her to eat this? Unlikely but I will try.

Follow Up: I loved this — it was such a nice change from our usual stir fries. My husband said it was too salty, though, and I don’t know how to change that since the sauce contains soy sauce. Carla ate a piece of the steak and a piece of the pepper and voted them too spicy (there is sriracha in the sauce as well), but she tried them! (She also ate a slice of beef tenderloin, a pile of raw sugar snap peas, a few slices of raw red pepper, and a big heap of rice.)

Honey-Garlic Glazed Salmon with Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts: Another aspiration is to get my family to eat more fish. I love fish. Carla used to LOVE salmon. But now she and my husband turn up their noses. Well, perhaps if I slather it in a sweet glaze?

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Steamed Broccoli: We will probably have some couscous alongside this old standby, which, incidentally, is another Husband SuggestedTM Meal.

Baked Tilapia with Coconut Cilantro Sauce with Sautéed Green Beans: Listen, there is NO WAY that Carla will even try this. But it sounds amazing and I think my husband will like it. Especially if I can find cod instead of tilapia.

What are you eating this week?

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Apparently there is a chicken tender shortage????? 

Okay, maybe there is, maybe there isn’t; I asked All Knowing Google and got three headlines of varying levels of certainty:

Article 1: Is a chicken tender shortage underway?

Article 2: US could experience a chicken tender shortage

Article 3: The US is now facing a chicken tender shortage

Time will tell.

Carla, in typical Carla fashion, won’t eat chicken tenders, instead preferring her chicken in nugget form or shaped into dinosaur-adjacent shapelets. But how can the chicken tender shortage not have a domino effect? Well, perhaps this is the ideal time to wean her off of chicken nuggets for good!

And things are looking up, in other parts of the freezer section. I got my hands on some frozen pancakes this week: some of the mini pancakes at Target and some regular Eggo buttermilk pancakes at my normal grocery store. 

I guess sometimes the good lord taketh away and sometimes the good lord giveth.

Carla is now FULLY VACCINATED against Covid 19! And the flu, but that’s less exciting. No less important, though. 

She had a low fever the day after her vaccine, and complained of arm pain and a headache for most of the day. She also seemed a little more subdued than usual. But the next day, she was back to normal, aside from some lingering arm pain. 

I AM SO RELIEVED OMG. 

It’s not like we’re all going to go out and stick our faces into the mouths of strangers or anything (I am picturing those old-timey lion tamers who stick their heads into the jaws of the beast). But I do feel like maybe we can RELAX a little. I mean, we will continue to wear masks, we will continue to social distance. And I can’t imagine that we’ll be attending packed-house concerts or sporting events. I do think I will unclench a little bit? That sounds nice. And maybe we will explore some of the avenues that we’ve considered mostly-closed for the past eighteen months – travel, restaurants, birthday parties, indoor playdates/dinner parties? I suspect we will move very slowly. 

Although…

My husband and I are – possibly – going to eat dinner in An Actual Restaurant for our anniversary this week. We have childcare (Carla will be at a birthday party, full of masked, mostly-vaccinated children she already sees every day at school). We have a reservation. We are both tentatively committed, which is an oxymoron. Tentatively committed to keeping the reservation, not to one another. I mean, one hopes. But despite all these baby steps, we are both VERY NERVOUS at the idea of eating inside a restaurant. Even my husband’s enduring desire for a real steak (as in a steak that I haven’t prepared at home) hasn’t pushed him over the fulcrum of the Should We Eat in a Restaurant teeter totter. 

We have eaten AT restaurants since March 2020. Three, to be exact. Each time, we ate outside. Each time, we were the only people eating outside. Each time, somehow, it rained. Each time, the wait staff seemed totally unperturbed; each time, I assume, the wait staff talked about “the whack jobs at table four” when they were safe and warm and dry inside.

Anyway, we may decide at the last minute to get takeout instead. We shall see. I, for one, am not opposed to eating steak from the cozy if cramped safety of my car, although perhaps we will need to import our own steak knives for the experience. My husband is less enthused at the prospect. But I don’t think anything says “thirteen years of marriage” like scarfing down fancy steakhouse food between the gear shift and the automatic window buttons while your kid is attending a birthday party. 

Let’s come up with some food to eat on the other, less fraught days, shall we?

Dinners for the Week of December 6-December 13

  • Mediterranean Sheet Pan Cod with ZucchiniThis calls for cherry tomatoes, which I may add if I’m feeling generous. It also calls for kalamata olives, which I may subtract because my husband hates them. We shall see.
  • Chicken Tikka MasalaI can’t remember if I’ve tried this recipe before, but it sounds yummy. I will add some sliced bell peppers.
  • Thai Chicken Quinoa BowlsTSomething about this just sounds good right now – the ingredients make it almost summery, maybe? A good change from the fall/winter fare.
  • Ginger Salmon SaladWe have had this once before and I remember it was refreshingly different. I also think it was one of the rare salmon recipes that my husband liked. 
  • Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Mascarpone Polenta: You guys. I am so embarrassed that I STILL haven’t made the short ribs that are hanging out in my freezer. WHAT is wrong with me?!?! (I know exactly what is wrong, and it is that I don’t want to sear the short ribs before putting them in the slow cooker.)
  • Maybe a Restaurant?
  • Takeout or DIY: My family prefer to call “fend for yourselves” nights “scrounging.” But that sounds a little scrappier than what actually goes on. 

What are you looking forward to this week, food-wise or otherwise?

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It snowed last night! Our first Real Snow of the season! Woo hoo! So I’m feeling chatty.

I suppose this is just a regular old Friday randomosity, dressed up in slightly different clothes.

Being a Parent Sometimes Means Forcing Your Kid to Go to School Crying

Hoo boy we had a rough start to the day. Poor Carla woke up on the WRONG side of the bed. And, oh, how I empathize. That feeling of dozens of little angry crabs, skittering all over your skin and clamping their tiny sharp claws into your brain, is so familiar to me, and I have dealt with it hundreds of times over the years and STILL don’t know how to get through it without snapping at my husband and/or feeling wounded by any tiny slight and/or wanting nothing more than to climb back into bed and start over. But for Carla, it’s still a new experience. She just doesn’t GET cranky, and so it’s been a long time since she’s felt this way and she hasn’t yet figured out how to cope.

I tried to be empathetic – validating her feelings, lots of hugs, keeping my own frustration in check (we left the house TWENTY MINUTES LATE) – but matter-of-fact. Being cranky happens, and it feels rotten, and nonetheless we all have to go on with life and do the things we have to do. I tried to suggest some strategies for getting past the yucky feelings. (I tried not to sigh too loudly when she rejected them all.) And then I dropped her off at school, even though she was tearful and upset, and I am hoping hoping hoping that her day only goes up from here.

Okay, despite my anxiety about being That Mom, I sent an email to her teacher just to check on her. (Not sure what I will DO, if her teacher says she is still crying… go get her? That seems like both the Wrong Lesson and the Right Thing to Do.)

Cleaning Before the Cleaner Arrives, Helpful or Ridiculous?

One of the reasons Carla was cranky (I think) is because I gave her a Hard Choice this morning. She was supposed to tidy her bedroom and her bathroom last night, in preparation for the housecleaner. I reminded her twice. I asked her whether she’d done it, and she said yes. But then, well after she was asleep for the night, I had to go into her bathroom for something and discovered that she had NOT tidied the bathroom. The opposite, in fact: sodden Barbies lying facedown on the bath mat, a full Barbie swimming pool in the tub, toy catalog on the counter, hair ties and rocks (yes, rocks) on the floor, pajamas wadded up in the corner. I know that some people who have housecleaners believe that the housecleaner can handle stuff like this. And I’m sure our very capable housecleaner could. But it is my view that time spent tidying – especially tidying away toys and things whose homes you may not be aware of – takes precious time away from the CLEANING. For me, the value of the housecleaning is in the scrubbing of the toilet and the scouring of the bathtub and the mopping of the floor. Some people in our house may disagree but I FIRMLY AGREE with myself on this point. So Carla’s bathroom door has been shut tight and the housecleaner has been instructed to stay out, and Carla will be getting some hands-on experience with what I mean by TIDYING vs CLEANING because she will be doing both.

Okay, so I also gave the microwave a quick swipe (there was a Ham Incident the other day, which I mostly took care of at the time, but exploded ham bits are surprisingly evasive) and wiped down the stove top (I haven’t even MADE anything on the stove lately, WHY was it so FILTHY?) before our housecleaner arrived because I don’t want her to think we are total pigs.

Stepping Out on Your True Love: Will It Rekindle the Fire, or Cause the Relationship to Implode?

The thing I REALLY wanted to discuss with you, before all the morning’s crankiness and associated anxieties derailed me, is that I have had a Startling Revelation. I think I am growing weary of my one true love: tea.

I hope you took that paragraph break to allow the magnitude of this revelation to sink in. Because it has taken me a few weeks to come around to this understanding. Historically, I LOVE tea. Double Bergamot Earl Grey has been my faithful and delicious companion every weekday since I discovered it, with splurge days on the weekends when I drink my fancy Uncle Grey imported from Canada. Before that, I drank regular Earl Grey or English Breakfast. I can’t remember exactly when I started drinking tea, but I know that it has at LEAST been for eight years (one of my fondest memories from Carla’s first year of life is that my husband made me tea every single morning and brought it to me while I pumped), and probably for several years before that.

But these past few weeks, I’ve had waning enthusiasm for my tea. It doesn’t taste quite as good, I find myself dragging when I need to prepare it, I end up gulping it down to get it over with instead of savoring it. It’s just not giving me the joy that a warm morning cuppa should give a person.

I don’t think I can switch to other teas. I don’t really like most teas – the fruity kinds, no thank you. Rooibos and Chai are okay on occasion but not every day. I like green tea, but it doesn’t have the same comfort factor that Earl Grey does. Matcha is wonderful, but it requires so much milk and frothing and so on to make it the way I like it.

So NOW WHAT.

Today, I asked my husband to make a little extra coffee and so I am drinking that. It is… not good. It is too bitter, even with two packets of Sweet’n Low and my normal glug of half-and-half. When I am not drinking it, the inside of my mouth tastes metallic and sour, and I’m sure my breath is a delight. I made sure to eat a high-protein breakfast before I drank it, but I still feel like it’s making me jittery and a little queasy. How do people drink this every day?

I used to drink coffee. When I was eight, my mom brought home these beautiful bowls from France and she would make me café-au-lait for breakfast. When I went to her office after school, I would help myself to coffee and powdered creamer and many, many packets of sugar in the break room. During my first summer job during college, I would live for the few minutes when I could step away from filing and pour scalding coffee into a paper cup and doctor it until it was creamy and sweet. At some point in my life, I was a fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. So I have gone through multiple coffee drinking periods in the course of my life.

But I can’t say I ever really liked coffee. When I left it behind a decade or so ago, I intended never to return. Still, I don’t really want to get back into it, now. It would require too much sugar, for one thing. Too much half-and-half. Too much… amped-up quease. (I feel like the non-word “quease” evokes the feeling much better than the word-word “queasiness.”)

But what else IS there? I need a warm cup of something in the mornings! (PLEASE don’t say warm milk. Hork.)

Maybe I will drink coffee for a few days and then see if I have a newfound appreciation for tea. Or maybe I will find myself sucked into the coffee cult that has thoroughly brainwashed my husband and Lorelai Gilmore and so many others (maybe even you?).

Edited to add: It took me many hours to finish this post; distractions abound! So this is Future Me reporting back to you on today’s coffee sitch: I have still not finished my cup of coffee; my mug is still one-third full and the liquid is cold and my head feels powered by hummingbird wings and my stomach is a-sail on choppy seas. This is not a promising beginning.

A Strange and Unfamiliar Dilemma Arises!

This is not an actual problem.

We ordered our holiday cards on Sunday and they arrived ON WEDNESDAY. People, it is STILL NOVEMBER. This has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. I am absolutely delighted. (We ordered through Mpix.com – it was a great experience, through and through. The cards look great, even if adding a photo to a card and printing it didn’t make the awkward way I am holding my arm in said photo look any less awkward.)

But now I am facing a quandary: when do I send the cards? Part of me wants to send them NOW, get them off my desk (my office has become Holiday Storage Central, and is full of boxes that I can’t bear myself to throw away and gifts for people), and perhaps achieve the ever-elusive status of being someone’s First Holiday Card of the Season. (Our First Holiday Card of the Season usually arrives from one of the few high school friends I continue to talk to as an adult. I am anticipating it any day now.)

But the other part of me is resisting this. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am a firmly Wait Until After Thanksgiving holiday celebrant? Maybe because I don’t want to be first? Perhaps people will toss the card because it’s so early, or perhaps I am uncomfortable with the idea of MY awkwardly posed arm being on someone’s wall or mantel all alone for days or weeks? I don’t know. It seems too early!

Then again, Hanukkah is early this year, and begins the weekend after Thanksgiving. Part of the reason we send holiday cards instead of Christmas cards is because so many of our card recipients are Jewish. It would be nice for the holiday card to arrive DURING the holidays, rather than after them. (Although I doubt that any of our Jewish card recipients care all that much; Hanukkah isn’t really that big a deal, and they are likely inured to the tradition of getting “holiday” cards during Christmastime.)

All this to say: I am sort of leaning toward sending them out on December first. That puts them arriving solidly in December, and hopefully before Hanukkah ends.

You Can Bet I Filled Out the Customer Survey, and I Filled It Out GOOD

Yesterday saw me flitting about from store to store, running errands. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve done something so carefree. I was looking for three specific things: 1. Candles for the menorah, which I did not find. 2. Ideas for a “giant crate filled with crafting supplies,” which was the top item on Carla’s letter to Santa. 3. A tiny, not-terribly-expensive salt and pepper shaker set that I can use when my parents are here; I did not find this, either. I did manage to spend a lot more money than my lack of success would imply.

Oh! Brief deviation from the topic, which I haven’t even GOTTEN to yet: I thought it was so fascinating to see how differently stores are handling the pandemic. Many stores had signs on their entrances, but I don’t think any of them were the same. “Masks required” said one, with a sentence below in smaller print citing CDC recommendations. “Masks recommended for unvaccinated individuals” said another. “Masks optional” said a third, which is similar to the second, but conveys a very different vibe.

One of the stores I visited was Target. I haven’t been in Target in a long while, partly because I haven’t needed anything from Target in a long time and partly because I love, with my whole heart, the option to order my items online and have someone deliver them to my car. CURBSIDE 4EVA.

It was sort of pleasant and nostalgic to wander around Target for awhile. It wasn’t terribly busy, and I could see with my own eyes that they were, in fact, completely out of Carla’s size in fleece-lined leggings. (I don’t know why I keep buying them, because holes sprout in the knees practically immediately.) (I do know why: they are cheap.)

I narrowly avoided buying any of the cute Christmassy appetizer plates they had for $3 apiece. I am beginning to think that was a mistake.

I was not able to resist the miniature office supplies set, which will make its way into Carla’s stocking.

image from target.com

But when I checked out, I reconnected with one of my biggest peeves about Target. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about it before. But my peeve has been so inflamed that I am going to complain about it again.

When you checkout, there is almost NO WAY to see whether you are being charged appropriately for each item. Long, long ago, so long ago that I am willing to admit it may be a figment of my wildest dreams, you could go up to the credit card reader, and it would show you what you were buying in real time, as the checker scanned your items. No more. Now, if you have even a small hope of glimpsing what the computer says you owe, you have to stand back at the conveyor belt – which makes it very awkward to fill your cart as the checker bags your items – and squint at the computer screen facing the checker. Facing the checker, not facing YOU. And the type is so small that you have very little hope of seeing the price of each item anyway. In larger type is the total of your purchase, but that requires instantaneous math, and I am not good at that in the best of times, less so when I am in public.

We all know that Target makes errors. It is OFTEN that an item will scan at a different price than is displayed on the shelf. And the placement of the computer makes it nearly impossible to know that this is happening.

Also, the only way to know the total you are about to pay is to listen carefully to the checker, who has to say it out loud to you. It does not even give a total on the card reader! This is madness!

HARUMPH.

I did get a customer survey in my email later that day, which I took great pleasure in filling out. Not that it will do a lick of good.

Suspected Shipping Snafu Turned Sweet Surprise!

A box from amazon arrived the other day, as is an all-too-frequent occurrence in these days leading up to the holidays. (I am trying to wean myself off of amazon, I AM, but it is difficult.)

The box was addressed to me; I was expecting some fleece-lined leggings I’d ordered for Carla, to replace her hole-y Target ones. So I opened it.

Inside was a smaller box, with a label that said “lidded casserole.”

This was something I had JUST THE DAY BEFORE put on a list of Christmas wishes that I had shared with my husband. My guess what that he had accidentally sent it to me because I am the intended recipient. So I sighed and put it back in the box, resolving to be So! Surprised! when it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day.

But when he came home, he swore he hadn’t ordered one for me.

Turns out it was a thank-you gift from his parents! When they were here, I’d mentioned that I was constantly on the lookout for a medium sized casserole dish… and my mother-in-law remembered and sent me TWO!

What a fun and thoughtful surprise!

That’s the note I’ll end on. Well, and this additional note, from Carla’s teacher, that she arrived to class her cheerful, happy self. PHEW.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, Internet!

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Compare my lovely, carefree Wednesday morning with Carla to this one, during which my voice grew firmer and louder the later we got, and I repeated myself a hundred different times about a hundred different things, and I got in a really great workout of my sighing muscles, and we left the house at the time we were supposed to be AT school and it was only at that very moment of leaving, when Carla had FINALLY tied her shoes, that I noticed she had a hole in one knee of her leggings. (She went to school with the hole.) At one point, Carla said, “Don’t YELL at me, Mommy!” and I wanted to yell, “THIS IS NOT YELLING. WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YELLING YET THROUGH A MASSIVE ACT OF WILL POWER.” Oh well. You can’t win them all. 

The skin of my face has also decided once again to turn on me. You will recall that I made the grave error of experimenting with anti-aging lotions and potions, and, after ONE application of such, my skin hissed at me that I WILL age and if I ever so much as LOOK at a product containing retinol again I will find myself wishing I never even had a face. I returned to the very gentle products I have been using for YEARS without incident, and, eventually, my skin calmed down. But today I awoke with red, raw, itchy cheeks, and the underside of my bottom lip is itchy and so puffy I look as though I’m recovering from a botched lip implant. (Though I can assure you that I will not be experimenting with fillers and Botox, based on the reaction I got from NEUTROGENA PRODUCTS.) I don’t know WHAT the deal is – I have not deviated from my routine, nor have I used any new detergents or pressed my face into any unusual fibers – but man am I glad that I can wear a mask in public to keep my lip from view. 

Mask usage is still robust in my area, but every time I venture into a public space, more and more people are bare-facing it. Devil-may-care that I am, I went to BOTH Target and the grocery store today. Inside! I’d say a good thirty percent of the people in Target were bare faced, including some employees. There were fewer people without masks at the grocery store, but SOME, which was shocking after seeing maybe a scant handful of unmasked customers in the past year. I understand, logically, that it is okay to go without a mask now that I am fully vaccinated. Even if a bunch of unvaccinated people are also going maskless (as we all know they probably are). The science is very clear that I should be FINE. That I am unlikely to contract Covid-19, and that I am unlikely to pass it on to my daughter, who is herself unlikely to contract Covid-19 and, if she does manage to do so, is unlikely to suffer from a severe case. I know all this logically. But it’s very hard to counter an entire year-plus of vigilant mask-wearing, an entire year-plus of purposeful separation from other humans, an entire year-plus of focusing solely on keeping my family safe through the power of masks and distance and isolation with simple logic. 

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