Friday, June 24, 2011


We live right in town, so we've sacrificed acreage for location, meaning our back yard is teeny.  But it does have a brick patio and a patch of dirt for the kids to play, plus we live within a stone's throw of about five different public parks and one public pool, so we're not hurting for places to run around.

When we first moved into the house, the back yard was a mess.  All overgrown ground cover and stumpy trees and raggedy looking bushes and weeds and vines and rocks.  My big strapping husband, bless him, spent the better part of late April and early May out back with a pick-axe and shovel, clearing away the debris and pulling out the yucky trees and shit until we had a smooth dirt patch that was ready for sod.  Then he went online and found a sod farm out in the middle of nowhere that sells Kentucky bluegrass sod for 25 cents a square foot, so we were able to sod the entire thing for about $80.  He and I did it on a Saturday and it took us about 45 minutes.

So now we have a nice little yard.  We're still working on getting some chairs and maybe a patio table, plus we need to finish the fence on the side where our douchebag neighbor lives (he started building a fence and never finished it), but it's got a big crabapple tree and we've planted some flowers and herbs and a tomato plant and the kids can play out there and it's all very pleasant.

That tree in the lower left corner is no longer there and all the crap on the right has been cleared out.  And I have no idea why J hung a swing 5 feet off the ground, because no way in hell will either of the children use it.
The other night J and I were sitting outside while Josie played and climbed on the slide and splashed in puddles ("hi, water!") (Zeke was inside futzing around with the iPad).  I was inspecting my tomato plant and was pleasantly surprised by the number of tomatoes that are sprouting, given that I have the brownest thumb on the planet and am an absolutely hopeless gardener.

J asked, "what are you going to make with all the tomatoes?"

"I don't know.  I guess I'll figure it out when they're ripe and I'll see what I feel like."

"You should make that soup."

"Oh, right, I know what you're talking about.  What's it called again?"

"Ceviche.  The one with the fish."

"No, you're thinking of the other soup."  The name escaped me.

"No, I'm not.  I'm thinking of ceviche."

"But you don't really make ceviche with tomatoes.  I mean, you can put tomatoes in it, but it's not the primary ingredient, at least not the recipes I've used.  It's citrus and peppers and onions.  You're thinking of the other one.  The cold soup with tomatoes."

"No, I'm definitely thinking of ceviche."

"Gazpacho!   That's it!  I couldn't think of the name.  You're thinking of gazpacho.  Gazpacho is the one that you make with tomatoes and peppers and stuff.  That's what you were thinking of."

"No, I was actually thinking of ceviche.  *You* were thinking of gazpacho."

Hmph.  He was totally thinking of gazpacho.  Which my pretty tomatoes will be perfect for.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why I love my family

My dad is in Baghdad right now on business.  I think he and my mom are engaged in some business travel one-upmanship, because she's leaving today for Haiti.  It's like they're on some kind of perverse game show where the goal is to visit the shittiest country imaginable.

My dad wrote an email to the family:
Being in the Green Zone is like being in a medium security prison. Very depressing.  We are staying in a private security compound that makes the Bates Motel seem luxurious by comparison.  My room comes complete with body armor and a combat helmet.
Because we are all incorrigible smart-asses, this was the immediate response from Brother Number 1:
From what I have seen on tv the key to surviving prison is the following:

1) Soap on a rope
2) Buddy up with the biggest person there

3) Cigarettes are like cash, if you can control the cigarette market you can control the prison
4) Keep your head down and be safe.

My dad appreciated the advice.  His only lament was that he wasn't sure his body armor matched the outfits he had packed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sugar sugar, oh, honey honey

Remember, like, 2 years ago, when I was pregnant and turned out to have gestational diabetes, much to my surprise and chagrin?  And not only did I have GD, but it turned out I was crazy sensitive to just about everything that my body could possibly convert into glucose with any kind of speed, so I ended up spending the last part of my pregnancy essentially doing the induction phase of the Atkins diet, i.e., no bread, pasta, rice, milk or fruit. 

And then Josie was born and life got crazier and crazier and like an idiot, I never bothered to follow up on the whole diabetes thing to see if it went away once I had given birth.  I just figured that I maintained the diet while she was in utero more for her benefit than for mine, so once she was out in the world, who really cared, right?

I'm so stupid.

Because I've spent the last 2 years trying to work out and do Weight Watchers and get in shape, and while I had some success, I could never quite get over the hump, so to speak, and lose the last 10 pounds of belly fat that were clinging to my middle like the baby orangutan glomming onto its mother for dear life.  And I couldn't figure out why.  I had the discipline.  I had the tools.  But nothing that I had done in the past was working quite as well as it had before.

Then a friend of mine told me about how much success he had had on a "slow carb" diet, which is essentially a low glycemic index diet full of foods that don't cause blood sugars to spike.  And it got me to thinking about whether the body fat that I couldn't get rid of was the result of a diet that, while calorically appropriate, contained things like fruit and rice and milk -- foods that sent my blood sugar levels skyrocketing when I was pregnant.

So I tried the diet and promptly lost 7 or 8 pounds of belly fat in a span of about 3 weeks (just in time for my reunion). 

I had been thinking about getting a physical, because it's been awhile since I had one and I figured I might as well take advantage of my health benefits, which are really good.  So I went on Friday and got checked out.  And on just about every front, I'm in superb health -- my cholesterol is way down since the last time I checked it (I believe as a result of Shakeology), my blood pressure is so low that it's a wonder I'm alive, my weight is good, all is well. 

Except my blood sugar.

Did you know that there's a single blood test that can take a 3-month snapshot of your blood sugar levels?  Apparently it involves delving into the red blood cells at the molecular level or something like that.  I find that astounding.  Anyway, when I told her about my gestational diabetes, she said that it puts me at a higher risk for developing diabetes and that it's definitely something that we needed to look at, so she ordered this test.  And sure enough, while my 3-month levels weren't quite at the diabetic range, they were still pretty high. 

So no sugar, milk, bread, pasta, rice or fruit for me (though I'm allowed to cheat once a week).  It's kind of a drag. 

But at least know I know and can do something about it.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Even though I know that the odds are in favor of it happening eventually, I am in total denial about the fact that one day, my parents will no longer be around.  I talk to my mother every day, often multiple times.  She is unquestionably my best friend.  The thought of something happening to her or to my dad makes me sick to my stomach.  I have a hard time processing the thought.

So it makes it hard to know how to help my husband.  His father is dying.

J came back from Australia having said his good-byes.  He said he was at peace with his dad and that he had said what he needed to say to him.

But really, there's no way it was that easy.  And in the back of his mind, there was a hope, a belief -- however unrealistic -- that maybe there was more time than there really is.

So we started talking about maybe going to Australia for a couple or three years.  J can make crazy money there, and I could get a job doing something, maybe working for an American law firm or something, and we could save money and get out of debt and spend Denis's last years with him.  He could get to know his grandchildren.  He's met Zeke only once and he's never met Josie at all.  It would provide J with some closure.  He could spend some time in his home and have precious time with his father.

But I don't think there's much time left.  Denis had a treatment that was sort of a last ditch effort.  It didn't work.  He can't walk unassisted anymore, the lesions on his brain are getting worse and his condition is deteriorating.  The doctors are going to try one last round of radiation, but if it doesn't work, that's it.

And honestly, I don't think it will.  And I think in his heart of hearts, J doesn't think so either.

If I were a betting woman, I would take odds that he's got maybe a month left.

I don't know what J wants to do if Denis dies.  If he still wants to go to Australia for a few years.  I don't have any particular desire to move again -- I feel like we're finally getting settled, my job is going really well, the kids are happy.  But if he really wants me to, if it's what he needs, I will.

He's just so sad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Nice punch, ya little bastard! Now let's go have cake."

I've always been amazed at the way guys can get in a fight, including one that involves the throwing of punches, and then shake hands and go have a beer minutes later.

Women do not do this.  We can resolve our differences, but it invariably involves tears and recriminations and self righteousness and martyrdom, and that will last for awhile before any resolution is reached. 

It certainly made living in a sorority house a barrel of laughs at least once a month, when all our cycles had synched.

Anyway, with guys, I guess it's just how they're hard-wired from birth.

Yesterday Zeke went to a friend's birthday party at a jumping castle establishment.  So there was much running around and bouncing and general rambunctiousness.

Also at this party was his friend Connor.  Connor is his "best buddy," as Zeke describes him.  They play together at school all the time.  When they greet each other in the mornings, they run towards each other as if they haven't seen each other in years and give each other a big bear hug.  It's hilarious and cute.

They also tend to get in trouble together from time to time.  And sometimes they bitch at each other like an old married couple. 

So yesterday, for whatever reason, Connor was in a mood and was being a bit of a douchebag to Zeke.  Kept pushing him and pushing him and pushing him.  And Connor is bigger than Zeke -- taller and a bit brawnier.

But I guess Zeke finally got to the point where he had had enough.  After being on the receiving end of one push too many, Zeke cocked his extended arm back as far as he could and swung it around in a classic haymaker punch, connecting right at the side of Connor's head.  Connor didn't see it coming and dropped like a ton of bricks.

An older lady who had witnessed the whole thing remarked, "wow, I didn't think the little one had it in him!"

Connor wasn't really hurt, just a bit taken aback.  And he tried to whine about how Zeke had hit him, but everyone had seen that Zeke had essentially been pushed to the breaking point and was just defending himself from being pushed down yet again, so J gave Zeke a half-hearted talking-to about how you're not supposed to hit your friends and left it at that.  And the kids were fine after that -- Connor and Zeke played nicely for the rest of the party and fun was had by all.

This morning when I dropped Zeke off at school, he and Connor ran towards each other and hugged and ran off to play with trucks.  So no hard feelings, I guess.

Typical guys.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Destroying childhood illusions, one at a time

So yesterday I revealed myself to be a Mean Mommy who tells her kids to piss off (not in those words) because they're constantly clammoring for maternal attention.

I can't seem to stop destroying their little worlds.

Zeke is totally into Dora the Explorer, and really likes learning new words in Spanish.  Sometimes he'll ask me how to say something in Spanish, and because my ability to speak Spanish is about on par with what a 3-year-old's vocabulary would be, I can usually accommodate.

Yesterday, he asked me how to say "wheel" in Spanish. 

I racked my brain, but I couldn't remember.  (It's "rueda," for those of you who are curious.)

"Sorry, honey, but I don't know.  I'll have to look it up for you."

He looked shocked.  "But Mama, you know everything."

I chuckled and shook my head.  "No, honey, I really don't.  I know lots of things, and I know how to find the answer to just about any question, but I don't know everything."

"Yes, you do!"

"No, sweetie, I don't.  I'm sorry but it's true."

He looked skeptical but didn't say any more.

A few minutes later he asked, "Mama, what's the Spanish word for 'key'?"

"Llave," I responded.

He nodded, reassured.  Just like that, all was right in his universe again.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The worst four letter word of all

I swear to God, if I hear a sweet little voice say "mama" to me one more time, I may lose what little is left of my mind.

From the time I get the kids up in the morning until I drop them at school, and then from the time I get home from work until we all go to bed, all I ever fucking hear is "mama" (or "mami" if it's coming from Josie).


"Yes, honey."

"Mama, I want..."


"Um.. I... Mama?"

"Yes, dear."

"Mama, can I... can I have..."

"What is it, sweetie?  What do you want?"




Sometimes I am able to resist the urge to scream "WHAT DO YOU WANT???  SPEAK!" at the top of my lungs. 

But not always.

And now Josie is going through a super-clingy phase.  All she wants is to be sitting on my lap, or hugging me, or for me to be carrying her.  Sometimes I can accommodate.  But it's hard to cook dinner while holding a toddler.  I generally need both hands to chop vegetables.

So last night, she stood at my feet, sobbing "Mami!  Maaaamiiii!" while I cooked and said, "sorry, honey, you're going to have to suck it up for a little while."

And then again this morning when I needed to put her down so I could pee.  Or get dressed.  Or eat something.

She's so pitiful.  And it makes me feel like such an asshole to say, "Josie, you need to get out of my face for a minute.  Away, please."

In her class, the kids are taught to say "away" to other kids who are bothering them or trying to take their toys or whatever, so I figured it would be something she could understand.

Well, she understood it, all right.  And promptly crumpled in a heap of tears and misery.

There's an older lady in my office that I was chatting with in the break room one day.  She asked how many kids I have and how old they are, and when I told her, she said, "oh, it must be hard leaving them every day to come to work."

She was a bit taken aback when I responded, "no, not really."

On days like today, that walk down the hall and out the door after I've delivered the children to their respective classrooms is incredibly liberating.  I can literally feel the stress leaving my body.  Because I know it will be at least 9 hours or so before someone starts tugging at my clothes and pleading, "mama!"

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


                                  Rose Castorini: Cosmo, I just want you to know no matter what you do,
                                                                           you're gonna die, just like everybody else.
                                            Cosmo Castorini: Thank you, Rose.
                                                                                                                  ~ Moonstruck

As expected, the reunion was phenomenal.  I had an amazing, if exhausting, time catching up with old friends, having fun, dancing, staying out until 2:30 in the morning.  It was incredible to see people that I knew so well and spent so much time so many years ago, and to learn what they had been doing for 20 years.  They're so successful - doctors, lawyers, hedge fund managers, business owners, parents to beautiful and accomplished children.  It was impressive and a little bit awe-inspiring.
But mostly it was just fun.  It made me so happy.
Of course, being me, I can't get out of my own head and just enjoy myself.  I was all obsessed all weekend (and beyond) with thinking about memories.  The role memories play in making a person who they are.  Whether the loss of certain specific memories with the passage of times diminishes the impact of the experience being remembered.  Whether with the loss of certain memories, you lose parts of yourself.

Friday was a whirlwind.  I dropped the kids at daycare, went to the airport, caught my flight to DC, my dad picked me up, we went to my parents' house, I took one of my mom's cars, drove the 2 1/2 hours to Charlottesville, checked in at Alumni Hall, went to my hotel, checked into my room, changed my clothes and ran up the street to the big Class of '91 welcome dinner.  I immediately ran into a bunch of friends, with whom I ended up spending the bulk of the weekend, and we ate and drank and shmoozed and then went to hear a band and ran into some more people.  We ended up at the Corner at a bar that I have closed down probably a hundred times (at least).  After last call, a bunch of guys that I used to hang out with invited me back to their old fraternity house to drink and catch up some more, but it was already 2:30 in the morning and I was already a little drunk and a lot exhausted, so I went back to my hotel room and crashed.

The next morning, after grabbing some breakfast and hanging out and shooting the shit with some friends, I had some time to kill before meeting a group of sorority sisters for lunch.  So I went for a walk around Grounds.

I walked up past the Rotunda, in front of which my class's dinner had been held the night before. 

If you look closely, at the top of the stairs you can see the tables and chairs from the previous night's dinner.
I walked around the front and then cut in to walk on the Lawn. 

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful scene.  Many people had brought their families with them to the reunion, and there were kids running around and people chatting and picnicking and enjoying the day.  I continued across the Lawn and walked down inside the colonnade on the east side. 

Further down, I doubled back across the Lawn and walked past the amphitheater.

Setting up for that evening's dinner and band party.
I walked down Monroe Hill and then wound my way behind Newcombe Hall and up to the quad bounded by the libraries before heading past the chapel, back toward the Rotunda and down to the Corner again to meet my friends.

What a breathtakingly beautiful building.

As I walked, I was thinking, "I have walked this route hundreds and hundreds of times. Every day, multiple times, back and forth to class, to see friends, to parties."  I was also struck by the incredible beauty of the place -- the architecture, the greenery.  And as much as the place is such a huge part of me, it feels like I was there a million years ago.  Or yesterday.

As I passed the Rotunda, the chapel bells began to play the Good Ol' Song (the tune of Auld Lang Syne).  It was surreal.  Like having pieces of my DNA brought to the surface of my body.

I felt like the reunion, and really, my efforts to hold on to memories generally, was an exercise in rebuilding a wall.  As the years pass, little memory bits, like old pieces of brick or mortar, fall away, and we make concerted efforts to reconnect with old friends at reunions and through Facebook and whatnot as a way of finding those fallen pieces and putting them back in their place.  We try to hold on to those memories so tightly, as if by holding on to them, we can go back in time. Or stop aging.

But then the weekend ends and we go back to our lives.  The grey hairs and wrinkles keep appearing.

Toward the end of Saturday night, after laughing and having a great dinner and dancing to two bands, we headed back across the Lawn on our way to find a bar that was still open.  It was a beautiful warm night, with enough humidity to make the air feel soft and enveloping.

We saw a group of people streaking the Lawn, carrying on a time-honored tradition.  So that was awesome.  And then we saw the Rotunda itself, which was lit up and looking as beautiful as I've ever seen it.  My friend Bob grabbed my camera and told me to pose for a picture, and I was feeling so happy that I just threw my arms in the air and my head back and laughed.

The nametag doesn't really go with the dress.
That was my magical weekend. 

And then it was over. 

Another memory to try to hang on to for dear life.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

As Churchill said, the only thing to do when you're going through hell is to keep going.

It's been a rough couple of week.  Hell, a rough month. 

J got home from Australia (after being detained in secondary security for an hour and a half, once again to be accused of procuring his green card through fraudulent means).  But the jet lag coming back is a million times harder than it is going.  So even with him home, I didn't get much of a reprieve because he was exhausted and drooling on the couch by 6:30 every night.

Then the jet lag passed, but the kids both got sick.  Josie hasn't slept in about 5 nights because of an ear infection, so I've spent my nights lying with her, trying to sooth her and keep her fever under control.

And there's some other stuff going on as well.  Stuff that I don't feel comfortable blogging about right now.  But it's eating at me.

The silver lining is that tomorrow I leave for another reunion.  Twenty years since graduating from UVa. 

I've lost 15 pounds since early March (I switched out P90X for TurboFire-- decided to try something new), so I will show up at the reunion looking the way I want to look.  So that's good.

I will be going alone.  So that's even better.

Gearing up for another weekend of sensory overload - reconnecting with old friends, visiting the old haunts, dancing to the old bands.  Then the wishing that I could hold onto that feeling a little longer before it slips through my fingers.

I could use more than a weekend away.  But it's a start.