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So it’s January. Crazy, huh? 2016. The year my oldest child graduates from high school (knock on wood). Hard to believe, especially considering that when I was her age, I thought for sure the world would have come to an end before now. Funny how life works.

I believe that when last we spoke—I use the term “spoke” loosely—I had just come from an appointment with the doctor who had bloodied my toe and prescribed me an antibiotic that I had to take for three months to kill a fungal infection in said toe (and wherever else it might lurk). Three months is actually a rather long time. I’m on the third month now. I was supposed to get my liver function checked once a month while I was on this antibiotic. Guess how many times I’ve had it checked. That’s right, zero. I would probably know if my liver were failing, wouldn’t I? I mean, by now I certainly would. If it were failing. Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe on the day I take my last pill, I will just keel over from liver failure. I suppose that’s not the worst way I could go. But I reckon that won’t happen. I really enjoy not having a fungal infection. At least I hope the fungal infection’s gone. My toenail hasn’t really grown back yet, or really grown at all, frankly, but the doctor did say it would take about a year. In the meantime I have a somewhat awkward pedicure. Good thing I do my own pedicuring.

Anyway, that was November. Let me tell you what happened in December. First I got my braces off. No, I’m not kidding. It actually happened. That makes my time in braces a mere 4 years and 10 months, rather than the 576 I was afraid it was going to be. It was a Christmas surprise. I went in for an adjustment and my orthodontist said, “Well, you still have this one millimeter space that hasn’t closed yet. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but I can keep trying, if it’s bothering you.” I said, “Of course a one millimeter space bothers me. How could it not? It’s a whole FREAKING MILLIMETER. What the hell am I paying you for?” Just kidding, I didn’t say that at all. I told him the truth, which was that I wouldn’t know a one millimeter space from a half-millimeter space, and in fact I had not noticed this gaping chasm at all. So in that case, he said, we could go ahead and take the brackets off and make my retainer that very day. America!

I was hoping I’d look different when the braces came off, but it turns out I don’t really. I look pretty much the same. That’s okay. Better than looking worse, I guess.

Well, the second thing that happened in December was I got in a car accident. That’s neither here nor there except that it means we had to get a new minivan. Yes, I totaled another car, but I swear it wasn’t on purpose. Of course, if I’d known what a nice minivan my husband was going to buy… Just kidding. I totally wouldn’t have totaled the car on purpose. Car accidents are horrible. I’m beginning to feel like I just shouldn’t drive anymore. I’m sure my insurance company agrees. On the other hand, if I have to drive—which I do—I don’t mind doing it in a new minivan. (Except for that crippling paranoia I feel every time I go out on the road.) It’s much fancier than our old minivan. For one thing, the windows roll up and down, and all the doors open. Not only do the doors open, but they are automatic doors. I even have one of those fancy key fobs that will open the doors remotely. Of course, I am constantly opening the wrong side of the car because I can never remember which simple diagram represents what, but I figure I’ll get the hang of it eventually.

The bad news is that the check engine light went on about a week and a half ago. The good news is that the car’s still under warranty. The bad news is that the part that has to be replaced is hard to find, so the car’s been in the shop since Monday and will probably stay there for a while. In the meantime, we are making do with Sugar Daddy’s car, which, I have to say, does not seem nearly so fancy anymore next to the new minivan. It does have heated seats, though, which the fancy new minivan does not. SD’s always depriving me of these little things so I don’t get too spoiled. Speaking of spoiled, we are not really making do with just SD’s car, but we are relying heavily on my mother-in-law being willing to drive him to and from work. Proximity has its privileges, that is fo shizzle.

I said “fo shizzle” the other day and Princess Zurg thought it was really lame. Well, duh. Of course it’s lame. I’m 44 years old, obviously I am saying it IRONICALLY. Also, because it’s kind of fun. Because I’m 44 years old and I don’t give a crap anymore about sounding lame.

Or being lame, for that matter. You might say that I have finally embraced lameness as a way of life. I wouldn’t say that I endorse lameness as a way of life, but I probably could fool a lot of people into thinking I do, what with how intimate an embrace lameness and I are currently entangled in. So maybe the “fo shizzle” isn’t ironic. Maybe it’s whatever it has to be.

Currently, I feel like a day has been a success if I didn’t take a nap during it. By that standard, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have all been successes. I think. I don’t remember taking a nap yesterday. If I don’t remember it, it probably didn’t happen. No, I’m sure it didn’t. So, yes. Unmitigated successes, all three days. Can I make it four? Only tomorrow will tell.

I used to feel like a day was a success if I’d a) not taken a nap, b) exercised, c) did enough housework to make myself upset, and d) taken a shower. Showering can seem like such a burden sometimes, although in the end I’m always glad I did it. I have never regretted taking a shower, as far as I can remember. I have oft regretted the shower not taken. Let this be a lesson to you, kids: there is no substitute for personal hygiene. This paragraph has inspired me to slightly raise the bar for a successful day: a) no nap and b) at least one shower. Actually, (b) can compensate for want of (a) in a pinch, as far as I’m concerned. But by this standard, two of the last three days have been double successes.

It occurred to me the other day that I am probably depressed. I’m not sure what to do about it. My depression is sort of like my teeth—it used to be horrible and untreated. Now it is treated, but there’s still this one millimeter space I can’t seem to close no matter what I do. Actually, it’s more like a three or four millimeter space because I do notice it. I notice that I don’t write anymore, and I don’t have aspirations or plans, and I don’t have any close friends. If I wanted to be social, who would I call? If something wonderful happened to me, who would I tell?

I don’t like to complain about these things because it seems pretty douche-like to have a comfortable lifestyle and a minivan I don’t deserve and say that it’s not enough. I’m sure 95 percent of the world would like to be as unhappy as I am. There’s an old Far Side cartoon where two cows are in a sitting room or parlor or whatever; Mr. Cow is reading the newspaper and Mrs. Cow (wearing pearls, as I recall) is holding a martini and she says, “Wendell, I’m not content.” That is me. That has always been me, actually. I used to expect more from myself—or rather, I expected that eventually I would produce more, or contribute more—to my family, to my community, to humanity in general. But I seem to lack a certain essential quality—the quality that causes people to accomplish things.

I’ve tried to look at myself in a more charitable light. My mother, for example, was not a person of great accomplishments—I mean, most people aren’t, when you come right down to it—but you wouldn’t call her life a failure because what really matters in life, I think, is relationships, and she was a people person. I am not a people person. Even when it comes to my kids, whom I love—and who I think love me, most of the time—I feel like I don’t measure up. I mean, I’m not a failure as a mother. I’m not ridiculous enough to think that. Although I might be a failure on some level—I’m afraid I haven’t instilled the value of work in them, and it’s probably too late to make a difference on that front now. My credibility is completely shot. The ladies at my church have a book group, and every year they get together and pick the books they want to read that year, and there are always tons of suggestions in the self-help genre. This is where I differ from most Mormon women, I think. Self-help books don’t inspire me, they just depress me. Really, is there any hope for a woman who is depressed by good advice?

Well, this blog took a turn for the dark at some point, didn’t it? It’s a good thing I don’t have anything to prove. That I have embraced my lameness, as it were, because this post is lame. On the other hand, I did not have to take a nap in the middle of it, so SUCCESS.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

This is another one of those hard questions. It’s like asking me about my regrets. I don’t like to think about my regrets because there’s nothing I can do about my regrets. Regrets make me feel guilty and/or unhappy, and I try to avoid unpleasant emotions whenever possible. Because that is the sort of weakling I am.

I can’t imagine how I should have been raised differently than I was. My parents did all right. They were about the right amount of strict vs. permissive. I think the circumstances under which they were working were fine, too. (I mean, there was indoor plumbing and everything.) I guess I am curious, though, about how I would have turned out if I’d been raised without television.

Actually, our parents tried (briefly) to raise us without television. I mean, my parents had a television, as most folks did by the 1970s, but at some point they were inspired to take the TV away and see what happened. I think maybe our cousins or some friends were TV-free, and my parents thought, “Hey, good idea,” so they decided to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, instead of getting rid of the TV, they just put it out in the garage. And my siblings and I found it and we would plug it in and watch it out there in the cold, huddled up in our blankets. So my parents decided to just bring the TV back inside.

I do have memories of watching TV out in the garage, but I didn’t know until I was much older that this was my parents’ experiment with the TV-free lifestyle. I would mock them for their efforts–if you were serious, why didn’t you just get rid of the TV?–but considering my own experiments with trying to direct my children’s free will, that would be ridiculous. So this is no slight against my parents, and I did turn out non-psychotic, if I do say so myself. But I do wonder occasionally if my desires and aspirations–not to mention my attention span–would have been different had I grown up without TV at all.

It’s not that I watched TV constantly as a kid. I had two siblings very close to my age, so we played together a lot, and unlike a lot of kids, I also enjoyed being by myself. But I did watch quite a bit of television, and the television was almost always on. We didn’t even have cable most of the time I was growing up. We had it for about a year, maybe, when I was 10, but we dropped it when my father lost his job, and we never had it again. We still watched a crapload of TV. I don’t know what would have happened if we’d had the internet in those days. Nothing good, surely.

When my husband and I got married, we lived in an area where we couldn’t get TV reception; you couldn’t watch any TV unless you had cable, and we couldn’t afford cable, so we didn’t watch TV. We had a TV, and a VCR as well, so we could watch movies, which we did most weekends. When Princess Zurg was a toddler, I let her watch Richard Scarry videos and Fantasia. I don’t think we had anything else that was suitable. But by the time Mister Bubby came along, we had a pretty good variety of children’s videos. Back in those days I was very optimistic about limiting the children’s TV time. I started off with a half-hour, but that proved to be too exhausting for me, so I bumped it up to a whole hour. Ninety minutes or two hours, tops, if I was having a hard day. I actually did pretty well most of the time. But it was a daily struggle. Not because the kids demanded TV, but because they demanded me. TV was my respite babysitter.

I would often wonder what caregivers did before there was television, and of course I know what they did–they put the children in play pens and let them cry a lot. I mean, before there was television, housewives had a lot of work to do; they couldn’t be taking all day to bond with their kids and provide them with stimulating activities and also supervise them. I suppose if I had grown up on a farm in another century or something, my character would have been a lot better and I in turn would have done a much better job raising my kids, but it’s too late for that, I guess.

The big problem with television is that it makes people addicted to visual stimulation. So while you’re plunking your kid down in front of the TV because you can’t handle entertaining them all day, you’re just encouraging their habit of being entertained and their need to be entertained. It’s really a horrible, horrible thing, television. If only it weren’t so darn entertaining.

Our family never has had cable, so we’ve never had a constant stream of television programming coming into our house, the way I did when I was growing up. This has given us a little more control over what our kids watch, and it does mean that they watch a little less television than their peers do, but as far as total screen time goes, they still have way too much. In my day (cue Grumpy Old Man voice) we didn’t have video games or the internet, so we just watched TV. Unless there was nothing good on, in which case we did something else. My kids, on the other hand, have way too many choices. If they want to watch a show, they’ve got Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offering hundreds of selections. There’s always something good on, or something good can always be turned on.

But Girlfriend’s the only one who really enjoys watching TV shows. The boys prefer video games and PZ prefers the internet. PZ is on the internet so much, I can hardly use it myself. On the one hand, it’s a problem. On the other hand, it’s one of the few social outlets she has, so who am I to begrudge her? Indeed, the internet is one of the few social outlets I have, so should understand. People often talk about how online life has become a substitute for real life, but what if your real life was non-existent before? I mean, I remember the days before the internet. They were a drag. I don’t blame my mother for watching soap operas. At least that was only two hours a day. (Two and a half hours, I guess, before The Doctors was canceled.)

I’ve gotten a little off track. I meant to talk about how my life would have been different without TV, but I guess I’m afraid to face that alternate universe. Too fraught with regret! That, or years of watching television as a kid and being on the internet as an adult has made it impossible for me to stick to the subject without getting distracted. I guess we’ll never know.

What would you change about the way you were raised?

I don’t know yet. In January 2014 I wrote two posts. Can I break that record for January 2015? I think I can. I know, that’s big talk for someone who only has nine days left in the month, but what can I say? I’m feeling cocky.

Shall we make it more interesting? In all of 2014 I wrote fifteen posts. Can I break that record? Can I double it? Can I triple it? Is there any limit to how much better a blogger I can be in 2015 than I was in 2014? I think not.

Here are some things that have happened so far in 2015:

* I decided to give up my housekeepers in favor of having my kids clean the house. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking one of three things:

1. “Have you adopted new kids?”

2. “What’s the matter with you?”

3. “What took you so long?”

The answer to #1 is no, I still just have the original kids, and no, they haven’t undergone radical personality and temperament changes recently. But I was getting tired of the fortnightly stress of clearing all my surfaces in preparation of having them cleaned professionally. Plus, Sugar Daddy and I have noticed that the quality of the work has gone down over the years. Not that I blame the housekeepers for losing their motivation to make everything sparkly. I lost the will to clean my house just a few short months after we bought it. Why should a total stranger have more incentive than I? Plus, they can probably be forgiven for thinking we wouldn’t notice. There are six of us here and we’re obviously slobs. Sometimes there is ketchup on the wall. Not that the housekeepers have ever tried to wash my walls, but when you see a thing like that, you might think, “Why do I even bother?” I mean, that’s what I think just about every day of my life.

So it got to the point where I figured it wasn’t worth the money or the hassle, and SD hit upon the perfect incentive to get the kids on board with our new plan. If they do all their chores, we’ll take them out to dinner. If they don’t do their chores, he’ll take me out to dinner and they can stay home and eat macaroni and cheese. Now, my kids happen to like macaroni and cheese, especially if it’s out of a box, but what they don’t like is knowing that they could be out eating at a restaurant but they’re not. My kids are such entitled narcissists. It’s about time I used it for my advantage. Unfortunately, I had heretofore been unable to think of something they would want more than to sit on their fat cans playing video games. Money means relatively little to them. They like money, of course, but they don’t need money. They know we’re going to feed and clothe them regardless of what they do. Even if I decided to get all hardass and tell them they’d have to start paying for their own food and clothing, they’d starve and go naked just to spite me. Then CPS would come knocking on my door, just when I’d finally gotten them to leave me alone. But they love food, especially when it’s not cooked by me. SD has promised them that the quality of their dinner will match the quality of their housecleaning efforts, so we’ll see how much fine dining we end up doing.

The first week we went without the housekeepers, I decided to do the cleaning myself, just so I could get a handle on what all the jobs were and figure out what I could realistically expect the children to do. Oh, boy, never again. I’d forgotten how much it sucks to clean the bathtub and shower. I mean, I remembered that it sucked, but I’d forgotten just how much. This was definitely going to be a job for someone not me. I spread the cleaning out over a couple of days, which was actually much less stressful than prepping the house for the housekeepers to do it on the designated day. (That was another annoying thing–they were very unpredictable; they always came on a Wednesday, but it could be at 8:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m., you just never knew.) Vacuuming was also much tiring than I remembered. I mean, I had certainly vacuumed in between housekeeping visits, but only quick jobs, and only downstairs. Vacuuming one’s entire house properly is rather a workout. I suppose it doesn’t help that my vacuum weighs about six hundred pounds. That might be an exaggeration. I’ve never been very good at estimating.

Anyway, I’m getting off the subject. This week was the first week the kids have had their new chores. So far everyone has completed theirs except for Mister Bubby, which is typical. In his defense, he doesn’t get home from school until after 4 p.m. and he had to go to his church group Tuesday evening, and he had jazz band until 5 p.m. Wednesday, and it is finals week. In his non-defense, he had Monday off school and spent the day playing Super Smash Bros., so whatever. And tonight he has a trombone lesson. Oh, well.

That was a long bullet point. The others will be shorter, I’m sure.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the topic is what has happened in 2015 so far.

* I cleaned my kitchen floor today. You might think this should fall under the housekeeping section, but it’s actually something quite spectacular and special. This is one of the things that the housekeepers never did very well. It wasn’t really their fault; they were probably used to mopping floors that actually come clean with mere mopping. Our kitchen floor is the original linoleum–or vinyl, I guess, not linoleum–that went down in 1987, so you can imagine what sort of shape it’s in. Now imagine something worse than that. That’s our floor. It has absolutely no protective coating left, so you have to use a great deal of elbow grease to get dirt and food stains off. If there’s one thing my housekeepers aren’t contracted to do, it’s use elbow grease. At least not on kitchen floors that don’t appear to be worth saving. But whatever. Who am I to complain when I can’t be bothered to do it myself? Except I did do it myself today, after I had already worked up a good sweat vacuuming my entire house (with a 600 lb. vacuum). I had to get down on my hands and knees and use a scrub brush. I’d scrub off the first layer of dirt, mop it away, and then get to work on the second layer of dirt. It was tedious. But the floor is as clean now as it’s bound to get, ever. Do I want to give this job to someone else? Yes, very much so. But let’s be realistic.

Will the kitchen floor get scrubbed again in 2015? It remains to be seen.

* I taught Sunday school to a bunch of teenage boys for a couple weeks. For the past three years SD has been our ward Sunday school president, and last month they made him the stake Sunday school president, so technically he’s not in charge of Sunday school at the ward level, but the new ward Sunday school president was out of town for a couple weeks, so SD was continuing to take responsibility for the ward Sunday school classes, and since they were short a couple of teachers and SD couldn’t take any of the classes himself (as he used to do) because he was gallivanting around the stake teaching other wards’ Sunday schools, he volunteered me as a substitute. That was kind of him. Well, he told me I could say no, but I didn’t, so there I was.

It was actually a very nice group of fifteen-year-old boys. I had never taught that age group before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Don’t worry, I didn’t try to be cool or anything. I’m not a complete idiot. The new Sunday school curriculum is pretty bare bones. It’s supposed to encourage discussion. Unfortunately, this was a rather quiet bunch of fifteen-year-old boys, and I’m a quiet 43-year-old woman. I’m not very good at facilitating discussions under the best of circumstances. But it wasn’t a complete disaster. That was due mostly, I think, to the boys being such good boys. I noticed that this one boy kept turning to the guy next to him and showing him his phone and they were sort of whispering together, or whatever the masculine equivalent of whispering is, and I figured they were just discreetly distracting themselves from a very dull Sunday school lesson. As a Sunday school teacher, all I really ask of my students is that they be discreet while they’re ignoring the lesson, so I wasn’t upset or anything, but then I happened to hear what they were saying, and they were actually talking about the lesson. I won’t lie to you. It kind of freaked me out.

* Also while my husband was off gallivanting about the stake performing Sunday school responsibilities, all of the ward organists got sick or were out of town. Since my husband is one of the ward organists and was not sick or out of town but otherwise indisposed (see: gallivanting, responsibilities thereof) but nevertheless felt obligated to fix this problem, he volunteered me to play piano for sacrament meeting (since I don’t know how to play the organ and indeed have never so much as touched an organ with intent, so a public meeting wouldn’t be the best place for me to start). I don’t ever mind playing the piano. I am competent enough that I don’t embarrass myself, but people are used to having the organ, so I felt very conspicuous. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. Everyone just had to deal with the situation.

The opening hymn was “I Believe in Christ,” which those of you who are Mormons know is the longest hymn ever written and is only bearable when it’s played at a brisk tempo. I prefer to think of it as a joyous tempo, myself. I mean, do you believe in Christ or not? Then let’s get on with it. Those of you who are Mormons also know that most Mormon congregations have never met a hymn they didn’t want to sing at half-speed. Maybe this is true of other churches too, I wouldn’t know. But SD has always insisted that no matter what tempo he and the music director start a song at, the congregation ends up slowing it down; it’s unavoidable. I never had reason to doubt him, but after my experience on Sunday, I knew exactly what he meant. It’s like the lotus-eaters out there. It’s very difficult not to succumb. But I have very strong feelings about the proper tempo of “I Believe in Christ,” so I persevered in my resistance, refused to fall asleep at the keyboard, and finished about 30 seconds before the congregation did. I’m just kidding. I made them work for it, though. Keep up or be left behind, kids! Piano players can get away with crap like that. #StandingForSomething

* I actually haven’t done very much in January, and not much has happened to me. And now I have to take my kids to Grandma’s house for dinner. Gentle readers, adieu.

All the kids are back in school today, and I could not be happier. Just kidding. Of course I could be happier. I could always be happier! If I ever reached the fulness of my happiness potential, the world would probably explode. Nevertheless, I am pleased to have the house back to myself. Unfortunately, I think that also means I have to clean it now.

If I were a better person, I would have made my kids clean it this weekend. But I’m at best an average person; therefore, all I can do is whine about how messy things are.

Maybe I couldn’t possibly be happier. Maybe this is as happy as my average-person self gets.

But this is no time to get bogged down in philosophy.

Today I went to my clogging class for the first time in three weeks. We didn’t meet during spring break, and then after spring break I got sick. Or rather, during spring break I got sick and was not better enough on Monday to dance for an hour and a half. I confess I was not looking forward to going today. I haven’t practiced at all, and I thought it would probably hurt to start again. It didn’t hurt that much. It was driven home to me, yet again, that I really need to practice some more. I’m so bad right now, I am starting to be embarrassed by it.

And I don’t embarrass easily.

It’s fortunate that I don’t embarrass easily because Princess Zurg had a semi-public breakdown this weekend. I say semi-public because we were at the church, but not many other people were there at the time–and not really anybody we knew. If your daughter has a psychotic episode in front of strangers, is it still humiliating? I shouldn’t say “psychotic episode.” That is hyperbole and inaccurate. What shall I call it? A total loss of self-control and rational thought, which included screaming and profanity. I realize church has that effect on a lot of people, but I’m still concerned. It happens at home too, you see. And yes, I realize family life has that effect on some people. Like me, for instance. But I spend weeks and months repressing it and only let it out occasionally. PZ lets it out all the time, and it doesn’t seem to help her at all, so I’d rather she did more repressing. Do you think it’s possible to teach someone how to repress stuff? I have a natural talent for it, so it’s hard for me to explain how it’s done, but surely there are professionals out there who could offer their assistance.

I had a talk with my husband yesterday about several things, but one of the things he brought up was my writing, and it put me in a rather unhappy mood. I was actually already in an unhappy mood because of the PZ situation, but I was repressing it pretty successfully, and then my husband’s innocent inquiry about my writing forced me to confront my fear of failure, which I suspect is a fear that grows more rational every day, and that put me in an unhappier mood. And here I am now, writing on this blog for no reason except to prove to myself that I can. But it isn’t very interesting, is it?

I’m hungry, and I need to do more laundry. Gentle reader, I apologize for how often I talk about the laundry. I know it has to be annoying. But I keep needing to do it, and there’s just nothing else going on in my life right now. Except that PZ’s birthday is coming up, and she wants to have a party but she doesn’t know what she wants to do, specifically, and I certainly have no ideas because I’m not a party-giver. Also, I’m apparently not an idea-haver, or I would be writing a lot better than I currently do. But that’s treading too closely to the matter I’m trying to suppress.

Tomorrow night is a baby shower for a woman in my clogging group. I feel like I should go because I like her, and perhaps I should get out of the house, but I’m afraid I’ll go and not have a good time. I kind of hate baby showers. But I feel obligated to make some effort to be social with people sometimes. I don’t know. I suppose I could go and if it sucks, I could leave. No one would notice or care. And I will have fulfilled my social obligation. So I guess I’ll go. Maybe. We’ll see.

Now I’m really hungry, and that laundry isn’t washing itself.


Madhousewife (to neighbor boy): L, quit kicking my seat.

L: [continues kicking seat as though nothing has been said]

Mad: Seriously, dude, quit kicking my seat or I swear I will stop this car, go back there and tie your legs together.

L: Ha ha! You’re so funny. (to Girlfriend) She’s making a joke, right?

Girlfriend: I don’t know.

L’s sister: I think she might not be.


Mad: L!

L: What?

Mad: Quit kicking my seat.

L: Sorry. Hey, guess what?

Mad: What?

L: Chicken butt!

Mad: Ha ha! Never gets old…


Mad: Don’t kick my seat, L.

L: Sorry. I’m just so used to doing it.

Mad: Well, you need to get used to not doing it.


They used to sing “The Hokey Pokey” every morning. I wish they’d go back to doing that.


Christmas songs I never want to hear again as long as I live

1. “Santa Baby”–any version, but especially Madonna’s

2. “Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer” — It was only funny the first time. And then only because you weren’t used to hearing whimsical songs about grandmothers dying.

3. “Little Drummer Boy” — I know, I know–Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” but that doesn’t count because it isn’t “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s “Peace on Earth” with a soupcon of “Little Drummer Boy.” That’s the thing about “Little Drummer Boy.” It only works as a seasoning, and probably only in this one instance. You wouldn’t pour a cup of allspice down your throat, would you? (If you would, shut up.) Then don’t subject me to a whole song of unadulterated “Little Drummer Boy.”

4. “Twelve Days of Christmas” –No, not even the Muppet version. No version! Except maybe this version, but only after skipping the first two minutes.


Fortunately, people hardly ever sing “Twelve Days of Christmas” anymore because everyone seems to understand how obnoxious it is. Except for those few obnoxious people who didn’t get the memo. For that reason, it needs to stay on the list until it is completely eradicated from the earth.*

* (Except maybe for limited use in warfare.)


Mister Bubby was complaining this morning that elementary school kids have it better because they get to have parties on the last day of school before winter break, and all they’re doing in middle school is reading aloud “A Christmas Carol” in one of his classes. I asked him if he was going to read it in Mr. Magoo’s voice. MB remarked that Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is actually the most faithful of all the adaptations and that it most effectively shows the transformation of Mr. Magoo’s character over time. I tend to agree. I like most adaptations of “A Christmas Carol,” but Mr. Magoo’s is still my favorite. Little Ebeneezer gets me every time.



I actually love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday, despite the fact that it’s also the most stressful. I’m very bad at gifts, you see. I like to give gifts, I want to give gifts, but I have a hard time choosing gifts. You know how some people are really good at giving special, thoughtful gifts? I’m not those people. I like to think it’s not because I’m not thoughtful. I just don’t have any thoughts that translate into gifts. Once in a blue moon I think of something that somebody would really like and I’m actually correct and that’s awesome, but that’s not the rule with me. Most of the time when I try to think of what gift someone would like, I come up with nothing. Which is how I end up giving gift cards so much of the time.

Personally, I like gift cards. Getting them, I mean. Obviously, I love giving them because there’s no thought required. Not that I’m thoughtless, but I like giving them for the same reason I like playing games of chance: there’s no strategy required, so I don’t have to feel bad about getting it wrong. Except I know some people find gift cards impersonal. Well, they are impersonal. But some people are offended by impersonal gifts. Personally, I am not offended by impersonal gifts, even though personal gifts are also nice. I don’t actually have a preference between the two. If my husband got me a gift card for my birthday, I would not be offended, but he might be offended that I was not offended. A gift card would basically boil down to his explicit permission to spend more of his money that I’m already spending without permission (or rather, with implicit permission coexisting with the implicit understanding that I won’t ruin him financially). When you look at it that way, it seems kind of lame, but I wouldn’t mind. What kind of monster am I? I don’t know.

I almost always give my husband a gift card to Jamba Juice for his birthday and for Christmas because he loves Jamba Juice, and it’s not like I can wrap up a week’s worth of smoothies and put them under the tree, is it? Of course, that’s not the only thing I give him. I’m not that much of a monster. But at least I know he’ll use it. But then, he’ll get Jamba Juice even if I don’t give him a gift card. But he’ll feel guilty about it if he gets too many of them. The Jamba Juice that he buys with a gift card is his guilt-free Jamba Juice. I think a card that absolves its holder guilt, even if it’s only the retail variety, is not so impersonal after all. But maybe that’s just me.

But I’ve digressed. But not really because my husband is a good segue to what I meant to talk about here. My husband is a reasonably thoughtful gift giver. I say this mainly because he starts thinking about birthdays and Christmas way before I do. He’ll make me sit down with him and discuss what we ought to give the kids for Christmas, starting in, like, September. (He’s not one of those people who have all their shopping done in July or anything horrible like that. He’s just organized.) I don’t often have something to contribute to these discussions. My most meaningful contributions are “That’s a good idea” and “We should do that.” It’s not that I don’t know my children or what they like. I just can’t think of what they’d like when I really need to. (My husband, on the other hand, thinks very well under stress. I’ve never considered this in light of things like Christmas, but maybe it has a lot to do with why he’s better at it than I am.) Once in a blue moon I have a good idea that isn’t his first. It makes me feel like less of a monster. But it’s a rare feeling.

Now that our children are older, we are moving out of the toy stage of life. Girlfriend is technically still young enough for toys, but she already has a million. We have been trying desperately not to add to the millions of toys that are already in our house. We have been trying desperately not to add to the billions of things we already have in our house, but those efforts have been mostly in vain. Here’s where I have to beg people not to share stories about how they give their kids the gift of working in a soup kitchen every Christmas or buying a cow for someone in Rwanda or whatever. Just don’t even go there. If you do, I swear I will not rinse this ketchup bottle out and recycle it. (That ought to give at least half of you pause.) We don’t have a problem with spending money. We don’t even have a problem with spending money frivolously. (Well, not a very large problem, anyway.) We just don’t want to acquire more crap that we have to thereafter manage. We’ve thought about giving experience or destination gifts, but nothing really comes to mind. Also, not having something to unwrap Christmas morning kind of sucks. I think every kid who isn’t working in a soup kitchen or buying Rwandan cows knows this. Do they even have cows in Rwanda? I’m sure they must, but how much does your average Rwandan need a cow? This is what I don’t know and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it. I don’t know why I chose Rwanda out of thin air. I think I just like the name “Rwanda.”

One of the thoughtful things my husband thought to do this year is to (finally) compile a photo album of baby photos for Girlfriend. Baby photos of her, that is. She is, sadly, the only child (of ours) who doesn’t have one. Even Elvis has one, although his is rather thin and stops at around four months of age. I would have to double check on that, but I’m afraid if I did I would discover it actually stops at eight weeks of age, and I don’t want to know that. My husband thought of it, but I was put in charge of executing it–which was fine, because it gave me the opportunity to do something thoughtful, so even if I didn’t think of it originally, I can sort of get credit for it. So I have been spending the last few weeks desperately searching for baby pictures of Girlfriend. And you know what? It turns out there aren’t many. Not of that first year, anyway. Which has actually been very depressing. I mean, I knew there weren’t s many of her as there were of the older children, but…wow, I really had no idea how scant the photographic evidence of her babyhood is. Thank God I still had it enough together at the advanced age of 35 to take her in for professional portraits every three months that first year, or who would know what she looked like at six months? No one, that’s who. NO ONE. It is making me sad just thinking about it. But what can I do? WELL, NOTHING ANYMORE, THOSE MOMENTS ARE GONE FOREVER CATS IN THE CRADLE AND THE SILVER SPOON ET CETERA.

She will just have to remember for the rest of her life that I was still carrying her around the house when she was eight years old because she didn’t have any younger siblings with whom I could compare her weight. (She’s actually sixty-seven pounds, but it doesn’t seem that way because she’s my baby. Eventually, this relative lightness is going to end. It probably should have ended a couple years ago, but at least I’m not still breastfeeding her.)

One good thing that has come out of this experience is that I’ve learned that Walgreens will develop my 35mm film. I’ve been looking for someone to do that for ages. Well, not continuously or diligently, of course, or I probably would have discovered the Walgreens photo lab a couple years ago, even though I hardly ever go to Walgreens. I will be going to Walgreens a lot more often now, believe you me, simply because I’m so grateful to them for developing my 35mm film less than a mile from my house. I feel like I owe it to them. Even though I no longer have any more 35mm film to develop. (That I know of. Twenty years from now we could find several canisters that house Girlfriend: The Lost Months.) But I will use them for all my photographic print needs from now on. And also for buying things like Tylenol, maybe.

Talking of which, I have to take a shower and go to Walgreens and pick up the prints I had made from the CD I had made of the 35mm film I had developed, only about six exposures of which involved Girlfriend in some way, Actually, only a few more than that involved any people in some way. Apparently my children started doing experimental photography before we officially entered the digital age. That makes me glad I waited until we were firmly entrenched in the upper-middle class before developing these rolls of film, or I might have been more upset about spending all this money to see blurry shots of someone’s arm.

Only three more hours until winter break begins, and I have to spend twenty minutes showering and getting dressed. What a rip-off. (No, I don’t know why it takes me that long. Considering how I end up looking, it should take me no more than seven minutes, tops. But my universe is a mysterious place.)


Actually, I don’t especially mind “Little Drummer Boy” when Grace Jones sings it in Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special, but that’s mainly because I’m so mesmerized by the bizarre visuals of the performance that I don’t notice the audio so much.


I don’t promise to be entertaining, but after the last couple days, I owe you a post in which I talk about stuff that didn’t go wrong.

First of all, everyone was fine with a peanut butter sandwich this morning. That was huge. (Just kidding. It was nice, though.)

I went to the orthodontist, and my upper back teeth are moving forward like they’re supposed to.

Then I went to perhaps the most productive IEP meeting ever in Princess Zurg history. We established a behavior plan and set up minor accommodations without any fuss. No fuss! I had to pinch myself. Just kidding. Well, I probably should have. Then we brought Mary in and went over the changes with her. She was subdued, if not enthusiastic. I wasn’t expecting enthusiasm. Subdued was good. The vice-principal lifted the suspension and she spent the rest of the day at school, in the resource room, and over the course of the day she got to meet briefly with each of her teachers (most of them anyway). Tomorrow she will start attending her regular classes and, God willing, I won’t have to see her for seven hours. No offense to her.

I feel hopeful.

Bonus: I got pulled over by a cop this afternoon, and he let me off with a warning. Then I really did pinch myself!

Plus, I still don’t have cancer. (Haha, I just felt like I needed another item.)

So last night I couldn’t sleep–again. I think I may have drifted off somewhere between 4 and 4:30 a.m. Yes, the Valium is supposed to help with this, but sometimes even Valium isn’t the answer. Whatever. That’s where things begin. I get up around 6:40 a.m. and start making lunches. Sugar Daddy drops PZ off at her friend’s house so they can walk to school together again, and then he goes to work. Since I have a mammogram appointment scheduled for 9 a.m. and I know my only opportunity to shower will be between the time Elvis’s bus arrives circa 8 a.m. and when Mister Bubby’s bus arrives at 8:26 a.m., I am trying to be efficient and I make a sandwich for the still-sleeping Girlfriend without asking her first what kind of sandwich she wants–because she’s asleep. Silly me, I think I’m being considerate. When she wakes up and sees me making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, she runs out to the living room and flings herself on the couch and sobs because, I eventually ascertain, she actually would have preferred cheese. Well, fair enough. There’s still time to make a cheese sandwich and feed three people breakfast and find everyone’s backpack and shoes and make sure they brush their teeth. So I do all these things, and circa 7:40 I put Girlfriend in the car, leaving Elvis explicit instructions to not freak out while I’m gone because I will certainly be back in time for his bus. I have a somewhat…strenuous back-and-forth with GF in the car about whether or not she is feeling grown-up enough to walk into school without me so I can just drop her off at the curb instead of trying to park the car someplace and walk in with her and probably miss Elvis’s bus even though I promised him I wouldn’t. Eventually we are both convinced that she is that grown-up and I drop her off at the curb with plenty of time to spare.

As I’m pulling out of the drop-off line, circa 7:50, my cell phone rings. I notice it’s a school district prefix, and against my better judgment in every sense of the situation, I answer it (even though I’m probably technically breaking a state law). It’s someone from the high school informing me that PZ has had an incident involving another student and will be suspended for the rest of the day. At this time I should remind you that high school starts at 7:40 a.m. It’s 7:50 a.m. This is when things start to get awesome.

School Guy asks me if I can come down to the school right now. I say, “Absolutely not,” because absolutely, I cannot. I cannot come to the school now. I cannot come to the school at all this morning. My husband is usually in the factory in the morning and incommunicado, so I don’t know what I can do except possibly send her grandmother. I promise to send somebody as soon as possible, whenever that is. I get home, where Elvis is starting to freak out a little because it is very close to 8:00 and the bus has not come yet. I leave a message on SD’s voice mail even though I know he will not listen to it. A bus drives by but doesn’t stop. Elvis freaks out a little more. I call my mother-in-law and start to explain my predicament when a call comes in from SD and I still don’t know how to do call waiting on this cell phone so I hang up with my MIL and talk to SD, who hasn’t listened to my voice mail, and I explain the situation to him. Elvis is disturbed because it is certainly after 8:00 now. I need to finish making MB’s lunch. I’m about to call my MIL again to continue explaining the predicament when SD calls back and says he can pick PZ up after all, which is a much better idea, so great. I find potatoes in MB’s backpack. This confuses me, but I let it go and call my MIL back to tell her never mind. Elvis gets on the bus. I find relevant paperwork for MB. I take the quickest shower of my life and escort MB to the bus stop because even though he’s a big boy middle-schooler, he still wants his mom sometimes, and that’s okay.

It would be more okay, of course, if I weren’t absolutely livid about the fact that my daughter lasted all of ten minutes on her second day of school. Because seriously, what the hell, PZ? It’s a good thing that I have to go get another mammogram because I cannot be trusted to speak in a patient and non-shrill manner with school personnel who want to spend oodles of time telling me in explicit detail exactly what my daughter did wrong and how wrong it was and why they have to send her home, even though technically this information could be relayed sufficiently in approximately two minutes. Never mind that. I cannot be trusted to be in the same room with my fourteen-year-old, who has picked a really inconvenient day to be psychotic.

I had a mammogram in August, before vacation, but I have to do follow-up imaging. I’m not worried about it. I fully expect to get cancer someday–it seems to be what women in my maternal ancestral line do–but not for another ten years or so. Still, I have irrational anxiety. I like things to be finished and settled. I don’t like uncertainty. It makes me uncomfortable. So even though I’m not worried, I am still kind of a nervous wreck and it doesn’t help that my daughter is being sent home ten minutes into the school day and I have no idea what the crap her problem is or what I can do about it. I start crying in the car, which is bad because I don’t want to walk into the breast imaging center obviously upset and have people think I’m upset about getting a mammogram when there’s no need to be. Also, when strangers cry in front of you, it is awkward, and I really don’t want to make other people feel awkward. Also, there is no Kleenex in the car. There are some antiseptic wipes, but I don’t use them.

I pull it together. I have a mammogram. The technician takes one image, then switches out one paddle for a different paddle, one that looks like a little tray. Then she messes with my breast and decides she needs a different paddle, one that looks like a tiny tray. I have no comment, but I reckon I’m amused. Anyway. Several images later I go to the waiting room. I read Good Housekeeping because I have no desire to read Sunset or the AARP magazine. I learn about the appropriate way to apply sunscreen. Plus, a helpful travel tip. (Buy an extra glasses case to house jewelry or the ear buds for your iPod.) Another technician comes to see me, says we need more images. I go do more images. I come back to the waiting room. Someone has abandoned a People magazine, which I grab because it is slightly less boring than tips on cleaning your venetian blind cords, but not by much. Apparently Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting a divorce. Casey Anthony has reconciled with her mother and brother, but not her father. I didn’t follow the Casey Anthony trial at all, so this has little emotional impact on me.

Another technician comes to see me and tells me we need an ultrasound. Meanwhile, another woman has stolen my People. Fair enough. I pick up the Elle. Elle is even more boring than Good Housekeeping. It is excruciatingly uninteresting. Someone abandons an Us. I learn that Justin Bieber has a snarky side that is not at all attractive. I’m disappointed. The ultrasound technician comes out. I discover that yes, Virginia, there are men who work as breast-imaging technicians. Not that I’m scandalized. I’ve been around the block, you know, I’ve just never had a breast-imaging technician of the male variety before. I’m 41 years old. Anyway, he seems like a nice guy. Very personable. Which is good, since the last thing I need is some surly dude touching my breast.

Breast ultrasounds take longer than I would have expected. My arm falls asleep. I wonder how long it would take if I had any actual breasts to speak of. I become very well-acquainted with the ceiling. I think it would be a good service if they put reading material up there, but maybe some patients would not find that relaxing. The technician leaves, I make a mental list of all the things I need to buy at the grocery store, try not to think about my daughter or compare myself to my own mother. I try to wake my arm back up. It doesn’t want to. The technician comes back with the radiologist, and they both have another look-see together. Finally the radiologist tells me that I probably have benign fibroid cysts like the one I had biopsied two years ago, but I should get another mammogram in six months to make sure they aren’t missing anything. But she doesn’t think they’re missing anything. I guess that’s as finished and settled as things get.

Now it’s 11:30. I’m hungry because I skipped breakfast, and I really, really need to pee. I call SD to get a PZ debriefing. PZ will be out of school today and tomorrow. Tomorrow we will have a meeting with the full IEP team (wowzers!) and try to figure out what the crap we’re doing. I get the lowdown on what went down with the other student this morning. I’m not going to get into it now. Possibly not ever. I’ve been the parent of a wayward child for a long time, and I thought I had lost my ability to be embarrassed by my children’s behavior, years ago. But I am positively mortified by what PZ has done. Mortified and totally confused and twelve stages beyond at-wit’s-end. I get off the phone and start sobbing again, partially out of relief over not needing another biopsy but also because I am failing. Nothing that matters is any better than it was this morning, and I still have to do the grocery shopping. And I neglected to grab some Kleenex on my way out of the hospital.

The antiseptic wipes still seem like a bad idea.

However, to put things in perspective, it was not a horrible day. I’ve had worse. Also, thanks to my husband, I can’t help but think having a good day = didn’t have to use my AK. So if we’re going to use that standard, well…I don’t know. Let’s just not use that standard. Because overall I’m not a fan of today.

It was the first day of school–the first day of school the first year that all four of my children would be in full-day school–so it ought to have been a beautiful day. Yeah, I know, I was just blogging on Saturday about how I was all paranoid about school starting and worried and everything, but I do that so I can be pleasantly surprised when things turn out fine. I do not expect destiny to start messing with my reverse psychology. That’s just so unfair. Anyway. I didn’t sleep well–which was to be expected–but I got up and I made lunches for people despite the fact that there wasn’t much in the house to work with. (I didn’t feel like shopping this weekend. Shrug.) At 7 a.m. My husband drove Princess Zurg over to her friend’s house so they could walk to school together. (I just realized that sounds like an odd thing to do. I’ll explain later. Maybe.) Then he drove back home so he could wait with Elvis for Elvis’s bus while I took Girlfriend to school. I think at this point Mister Bubby was barely awake because he doesn’t have to get on the bus until 8:30, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I took Girlfriend to school. It was, of course, a madhouse. And not a good sort of madhouse, like you might think of when you think of your gentle Giraffe. It was definitely a bad madhouse. An appalling asylum. I cleverly avoided the parking lot nightmare by leaving the car a couple blocks away and walking in. That was the end of feeling smart about myself because that was around the time I realized that I’d left all her school supplies in a tidy bad by the front door. Of my house. Not a front door that would have been accessible by the time I realized that was where they still were. Anyway, that’s not the end of the world by any stretch. It just seems like the end of the world when there’s the population of a small country in a much tinier elementary school and you find yourself in desperate need of a paper bag to breathe in and out of because THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE AND NOT ENOUGH HALLWAY AND WE FOUGHT OUR WAY INTO THE CLASSROOM ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT WE MISSED THE BRAND-NEW BACKPACK HOOKS IN THE HALLWAY AND WE HAVE TO FIGHT OUR WAY BACK OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND THEN BACK INTO THE CLASSROOM AND EVERYONE’S PUTTING AWAY SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND I DON’T HAVE ANNNNNNYYYYYYY AND I DON’T WANT TO COME BACK HERE EVER AGAIN DID I MENTION THERE ARE 37 FIRST GRADERS IN THIS CLASSROOM????

At that particular moment, it’s fair to say that I was missing some perspective. You really had to be there IN THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA OF BODIES DID I MENTION I’M AN INTROVERT THE HUMANITYYYYYYYY!

I narrowly escaped a panic attack. And the school. Eventually.

You won’t believe this, but I actually drove back home, got the school supplies and went back in. There were much fewer people there by that time. Technically I should have gotten a Visitor badge since the school day had officially started, but I just went to the classroom without one because I didn’t want to bother the secretaries, and also without my Valium I was feeling very transgressive.

Somewhere in the middle of this drama Mister Bubby got on the bus. He even made a new friend. (A neighbor kid who just moved in around the corner. Mister Bubby is charmed that way.)

Around 11 a.m. I was on the phone with the dentist, securing a sweet after-school appointment for Princess Zurg next week, and when I got off the phone there was a voice mail message blinking at me, so I listened to the voice mail and quelle coincidence, it was PZ…wailing that she hated high school and wanted to come home. Well. What does one do with that? Do I call the high school and say, “Hey there, you don’t know me from the man in the moon, but my daughter you might have noticed screaming her head off into one of the phones you have on campus–any way to track her down for me…?” Or do you just let it go and figure there are professionals there who can handle the situation?

I’m sorry to say that I chose Door #2. Well, what I’m really sorry to say is that a half hour later I got another call from an actual school professional describing the situation to me, and I spent the next 40 minutes or so on the phone with him and with her and with him again and her again, and not once did I come up with a solution to anyone’s problems.

I once went to a motivational talk by the authors of a book called “I Don’t Have To Make It All Better.” Let me tell you, those people were lovely, but they were liars. I do have to make it all better. I just can’t. That’s the problem.

My other problem is it’s late and I still have to do my unwinding for the evening, with therapeutic doses of chocolate and totally legitimate prescription drugs. Will I have more to say about this tomorrow? Maybe.

This morning my orthodontist informed me that my lower teeth were now in just the right position, and I would no longer need to wear the orthodontic elastics. (Those are the little rubber bands that connect the upper braces to the lower braces. For those of you who do not have orthodontic experience.) This is good news, but I’ve had the elastics off for…about six hours now, and I have to say, it still feels wrong. Also, I had fluorescent elastics and it was kind of fun to decide which color I was going to wear every day. I will have to get used to my teeth being slightly lower-profile. I suppose it is good practice for when the braces finally come off, which I’m sure will feel much wronger.

The orthodontist also said that it will be four to six months before my upper teeth are in the right position for me to go ahead with my jaw surgery. I have to say, I am looking forward to having the jaw thing corrected. I’m not looking forward to being on a liquid diet for six weeks (yes, I know, not a liquid diet the whole six weeks, but a liquid diet for so long and then an ultra-soft diet, blah blah–“significant texture deprivation” is the operative phrase I’m looking for), but I am looking forward to having my jaw in the right place. I’ve always known my jaw was messed up, I’ve been living with it for years, and I had gotten used to it. But now, not only have I had all my jaw-related problems laid out for me by professionals, but my teeth coming into their proper positions is making those problems all the more noticeable. Particularly the problem of my lower teeth rubbing against the soft tissue behind my upper teeth. That is annoying. Also, I am constantly aware of my overbite. It doesn’t look any worse, but it feels worse. Partly because of the lower teeth-soft tissue problem, but also because without my teeth being tipped out, I’m very aware of the gap and I find myself wanting to correct it by moving my jaw forward, and that makes my jaw sore.

The airway problem (the fact that as a result of my lower jaw being too far back, I don’t have much of one–an airway, that is) is not really any more noticeable than it was before, but that was my primary motive for getting the surgery in the first place, and I’m looking forward to seeing how a larger airway will improve my life. I’m hoping that it does improve my life. I’m hoping that it means I will sleep better and have more energy during the day. Having more energy during the day would improve my self-esteem because I’d get more done. And I could look back and think, “The fact that I got anything done at all during those years of restricted airway-having is nothing short of a miracle!” and my self-esteem would be retroactively improved as well.

I hope I am not setting myself up for disappointment. I’ll be really happy when I’m no longer aware of my overbite. (Happy about that small fact, anyway. I’m sure I’ll find reasons to be unhappy about other things. I don’t want you all to worry about me turning into some kind of Stepford Madhousewife.)


I was on the Facebook this morning and Slate informed me they’d published this “lovely essay about not having children and being proud and happy about that fact.” Usually–in my observation–when people are “proud” of not having children, it’s because they’re environmentalists who believe that not producing more humans to destroy the earth is a more responsible decision than churning out planet-killers. That’s a really obnoxious reason to be proud, but Slate told me this essay was “lovely,” so I thought I’d see what this person’s deal was.

Personally, I always assume that if a person doesn’t have children, it’s because they can’t have children (for whatever reason) or they don’t want to have children (yet or ever). I don’t really care because whether or not they have kids is no skin off my nose. I understand that other people feel more invested in other people’s reproductive lives. I have several friends who are childless/child-free. One of them feels hassled by her parents because they think she just doesn’t want a family enough to do what it takes. Which in her case, I guess, would be in vitro fertilization and single parenthood, but I don’t think that’s quite what they have in mind. Also, I used to be single and childless. I know, I was still young at the time–I got married at 26 and had a baby before I was 27–but I was also Mormon, so that makes a difference. In Mormon culture 26 is like, say, 34 in the normal world. Technically there is still time to avoid dying alone, but you shouldn’t bet on it. I jest only a tiny bit. So I sympathize with childless/child-free (whichever term one prefers) people who feel “judged.” The fact is that you are being judged. Some people are judging you openly, others in secret. Hence, the need to write some manifesto explaining yourself.

The problem is that people who care about the fact you don’t have children–the people who are judging you openly and irritating the crap out of you–aren’t going to moved by any of your reasons for not having children, no matter how good you think they are, because the kind of people who would tell you your business are the kind of people who think they know better than you. So you think they would listen to you because…? They just never thought of why you might not want to have children? Unlikely.

When someone says they don’t want to have children, I assume one or more of the following to be the case:

1. They aren’t prepared to make the financial or emotional sacrifice children require.
2. They don’t enjoy children.
3. They prefer a more flexible lifestyle than is possible with children.
4. They are afraid they won’t be good parents.
5. They just haven’t felt the burning desire to have children.

I used to not want children. My reasons were numbers one through five, but the most important one was 5. If you have a burning desire to have children, reasons 1-4 for not having children are relatively small hurdles. Yes, even the one about not enjoying children. I didn’t particularly enjoy children before I had mine. When you are struck by the burning desire to have children, you always assume that your children are going to be better than other people’s. (Usually you’re right. Ha ha. Well, it’s true, isn’t it?) I liked other people’s children much more after I had my own, and I like them even better now that mine are getting older and the developmental stages that used to annoy me I can now view with detached bemusement. (Especially since I don’t have to take them home with me.)

I didn’t think the aforementioned essay in Slate was all that “lovely.” It wasn’t un-lovely or anything, but I just didn’t find anything particularly compelling about her story. So she doesn’t want kids, never has. Okay. I’m glad she’s at peace with it. She doesn’t exactly dispel any stereotypes, though. She says she can sometimes see the charm of children, but also that children can be annoying. (Newsflash!) She says it’s taken her 32 years to learn how to take care of herself, so she isn’t convinced yet that she can give her life over to taking care of someone else. Frankly, it was easier not to judge her before she explained herself. (32 years to learn how to take care of yourself? Isn’t this what’s wrong with our country?)

Maybe it’s just sad that people feel the need to justify such a personal decision. In my experience, I’ve felt the need to justify decisions I was insecure about, but maybe I’m just projecting here. Maybe it’s been too long since somebody hassled me about a personal decision. Maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to people anymore. Probably because I was tired of feeling hassled by The Man.

Maybe this whole blog is a justification for all of my bad decisions and I’m just not self-aware enough to know it.

Except I AM self-aware now. Does this mean I’m still insecure? Well, I already knew that.

Well, now I understand everything. This woman didn’t write to explain herself to people who care too much. She’s just commiserating with other people who feel hassled about not having kids. Which means this lovely essay wasn’t written for me at all. Which, if I’d thought about it, I could have guessed. I guess I’m just a sucker for the word “lovely.” Well played, Salon. Well played.

Now I have to get spinach out of my braces. Not that I feel the need to explain why I’m ending the post here. I just want you to feel sorry for me.

So in the last episode of “I Am the Giraffe” I was wondering WWQD (What Would Quincy Do) regarding my illness, which was at odds with my desire to practice for my clogging performance on Saturday. Practice or rest. Rest or practice. I decided to rest. I’ve been resting. I have not practiced, except in my head. Practicing in one’s head is important. It can also be useful, provided you don’t make any mistakes in your head. When you keep making the same mistakes over and over in your head, it can affect what your feet do the next time they have the floor, so to speak. Ha ha. That’s almost clever. But not quite. I’m still pretty sick, so I can’t really tell.

My kids are off school today. Mister Bubby is watching Quincy. Elvis and Girlfriend are printing things. With the printer. I haven’t really looked into exactly what. Princess Zurg is at a friend’s house, thank goodness. (If she were here, she’d be using my computer and I wouldn’t be able to write this blog.)

I’m getting ahead of myself. I was resting. I got up Thursday morning (that was yesterday, I think) and made everyone’s lunch and sent them to school, and Girlfriend was mercifully still asleep so that after PZ left I was able to lie down for some nap time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get to sleep until just as Girlfriend was waking up and coming downstairs and asking for breakfast. I made her breakfast and then asked her to please watch some Netflix or something while I got some sleep because by this time I really did have to sleep. You know how it is when you can’t sleep and then you suddenly can? How you suddenly must? That was the state I was in. So she was very cooperative and watched Netflix while I slept. All morning.

Until at some point I woke up long enough to wonder, “What time is it anyway?” knowing that Girlfriend would eventually need to eat lunch and get on the kindergarten bus. So I got up and went into the kitchen to look at the clock, and what do you know, it was 11:40 a.m. In case you’re wondering, the bus comes at 11:44 a.m. So that was exciting! Considering that she had not had lunch and we were both still in our pajamas. So okay. We didn’t make the bus, but I did feed her lunch and we both got dressed and I drove her to school, and we arrived at the exact same time the bus did. Then I drove away feeling like the worst mother in the world because I let Netflix babysit my six-year-old for two-and-a-half hours while I was passed out on the couch and she was almost late for school.

Except she WASN’T late for school. I was SICK and without having set an alarm, I just HAPPENED to wake up just in time to feed her lunch and get her to school RIGHT ON TIME. Which might just make me the BEST mother in the world.

At least not the worst.

So as long as I was up and about, I went to the 7-Eleven and got a Slurpee. That’s how sick I was, because I don’t even like Slurpees. It’s like drinking a popsicle, and I don’t like popsicles. But I knew I needed fluids, and I can’t drink water when I’m sick. At least not lots of it. So I got a Slurpee. I got a sugar-free Slurpee because the only thing I dislike more than Slurpees is consuming empty Slurpee calories. I have nothing against empty calories in theory. My rule is that I have to enjoy them, and if I’m not going to enjoy them, what’s the point? You might say, “But a sugar-free Slurpee is even worse than a regular Slurpee, so what’s the point?” I thought of that too, after I’d already bought the sugar-free Slurpee, but by then it was too late. And I also realized that I find every flavor of Slurpee revolting except for the Coca-Cola Slurpee, but the Coca-Cola Slurpee would have had caffeine in it, and did I really want to have caffeine when I was trying to rest? Not that caffeine has ever particularly compromised my ability to sleep, but what if it did? Then I would feel really stupid, and resent the calories all the more. No, the sugar-free Slurpee was the right decision.

Anyway, it wasn’t actually that bad. I drank almost the entire thing, which is pretty impressive for me and a Slurpee. (I really don’t care for them.) It was mango flavored. You’d think that would be an extra-big red flag, but no, it was really okay. Like a sick-day miracle.

Unfortunately, I was not able to sleep when I got home.

I took a shower, and after my shower I thought I would be able to sleep, but then our sitter dropped by the house and needed money, so I wrote her a check and she finally left, but then I still couldn’t sleep. But then I could, a little bit…almost…and then it was time to go pick the kids up from school, so never mind.

PZ had a field trip for her French class last night. They went to a French bistro downtown. Extra credit if they ordered the escargot. I went with her because it was easier than dropping her off and picking her up again. (Not cheaper, but easier. And you know which I prefer.) Anyway, PZ doesn’t need extra credit for French class, but she ordered escargot anyway because she’s adventurous that way. They served the escargot family style, so there wasn’t much to go around, which I felt was kind of a rip-off considering how much we were paying for dinner, but I understood that they probably didn’t want to prepare too much escargot for middle-school kids who were probably not going to eat any more of it than they absolutely had to. PZ had two snails. She loved them. One kid at our table ate his but did not opt for another. The other two girls at our table who were angling for extra credit took about 20 minutes to decide to take a bite. There was one snail left over, which they graciously let me have. I’d never had escargot before. It was pretty good. I was still glad I’d ordered the asparagus instead.

Eating escargot is really a mind-over-matter thing. They’re pretty small and not nearly as chewy as, say, tripe or even squid. Squid is nasty. After my experience eating raw squid in Japan, I don’t think I will ever touch it again, not even deep-fried. Gah, I can still taste it. Yuck. Escargot, on the other hand–pretty tasty.

I find foie gras a mind-over-matter food also. On the one hand, it’s delicious. On the other hand, it’s liver. It has to be prepared just so or it is impossible not to think about the fact that it is liver. Overstuffed liver that ducks suffered to prepare for you. Now there is guilt in addition to liver. Eat foie gras only at reputable eating establishments.

Tongue is another mind-over-matter food. I’ve had lengua tacos, and they were also delicious, but only so long as I could forget what I was eating. Really, now that I think about it, is this mind-over-matter, or matter-over-mind? I’m so confused.

Speaking of food, my husband and I are going out in honor of our anniversary (observed). At a fancy restaurant this time. (No Denny’s.) I am feeling well enough to taste food (as of last night’s French experience), so it ought to be okay. I am still taking care to rest. Typing doesn’t take too much out of me.

I am still clogging in my head, and there is one combination I can’t seem to get, no matter how hard I think about it. I hope it doesn’t affect my muscle memory.

Tomorrow morning my husband heads to California to help his mother pack up her house. I will be taking the light rail to the waterfront for the clogging performance. I hope I don’t get lost. I don’t think I will. It seems pretty straightforward. I would rather not travel alone. I didn’t used to be so nervous about traveling alone, but I have a thing about downtown Portland. It didn’t scare me when I lived there and just walked everywhere. Not even taking the bus scared me. I was eighteen and fearless, I guess. Actually, I wasn’t fearless at all, but I was young enough to think that whatever fears I had I just needed to get over because it’s not like you can live your whole life being afraid. At 41 I have come to realize that yeah, you pretty much can live your whole life being afraid. Not that you should, but you can. So I don’t treat my fears as things I necessarily need to get rid of. I’ve lived in the Portland suburbs for the last…almost nine years, and I’ve been downtown a hundred times, but I still don’t like going there. I don’t like driving there, more to the point. And I’m not crazy about the train, but taking the train is better than parking, which is half the stress–maybe three-quarters of the stress–of going downtown. So I’m taking the train, and I hope I don’t get lost. Because being lost downtown while sick would really suck.

Pray that it doesn’t rain tomorrow, gentle readers. Not in Portland, anyway. If you’re in some drought-ridden area and could use some precipitation, please feel free to take some of ours. I bequeath it to you.


September 2021

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