Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December 28, 1999

At around 4:00pm on this day six years ago, I was eating a helluva good ham sandwich. I followed it with apple pie and coffee, the single best piece of apple pie and the single best cup of coffee I'd ever tasted.

I know now why they tasted so good, but at the time I simply marvelled at the quality of the hospital food.

My younger daughter, Little Miss, was born at 3:28pm that afternoon. I'd had nothing to eat since the night before. We were at the hospital at seven in the morning, and at that time, food was the last thing on my mind.

Flashes of memory fill in some of the spaces of that day: sitting in the rocking chair, big and tired, dressed in a hospital gown and waiting for the nurses; my husband across the room in the only other chair, asking if I'd like the television on. Sitting up later on the hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and a maternal/fetal monitor, marvelling that I was having contractions just three minutes apart that I could barely feel. Playing cards with my husband and watching "The Price Is Right." By the time TPIR was over and the Young and the Restless had begun, I could feel those contractions. My water never broke on its own, but once the doctor took care of it, the pain came in waves and rushes. It had been twelve and a half years since the last time I'd given birth, and I didn't have a clear memory of what to do.

It was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. I opted for pain killers, but only in intrathecal form, rather than the more popular epidural. It wore off as I hit transition, dragging me into brain stretching pain in a sudden, sharp slash.

"You're not pushing this baby out through your feet, honey!"

The nurse, trying to help me remember just how this was done, reminding me not to push with my heels. She laughed - sympathetic, not cruel - when I asked if she couldn't just reach in and pull the baby out for me.

Lots of noise and rushing and activity and a marvelous, nearly audible whoosh - and then blessed relief and the sound of my baby's full and angry cry.

I learned she was a girl through my husband's tears. I saw her, touched her, gasped for breath with her, and shook as the nurses gently took her to be weighed and washed.

And I was hungry. It was a lusty hunger, a craving for food I'd never felt before. My husband said something to a nurse who said something to someone else, who came back with the snack for me.

I still wonder if I'll ever taste a better cup of coffee.

They put the baby in my arms and she stared at me. I stared back. It was a moment I'd waited years for, breathtaking in its sweetness. Her eyes, the striking midnight blue so many newborns share, took me in with a knowing calmness.

She's in her bed now, safely wrapped in red flannel jammies and snuggled up with three teddy bears and a new birthday doll. She has long blonde hair and spring sky eyes, my little kindergarten daughter who pronounces her age "six" with a distinct and charming lisp.

It's another breathtaking moment these years later than the first, and today's cup of coffee carries the bittersweet aftertaste of the passage of time.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Salad Dressing and Pickles...

I've been exiled to the office from the family room, where I had been happily watching television. My husband and my kindergartener are in there wrapping Christmas presents for me. My daughter has a hard time keeping secrets...she has already divulged that they picked out "two pairs of something" for me. I told her I didn't want any hints, but she was insistent on telling me that much.

I thought I might try enjoying my temporary banishment with a glass of Cabernet, but after the first sip I remembered that my other daughter needs a ride home from work in half an hour, and it'll be me who has to make that run. Best save the Cabernet for afterward.

A check of my message boards revealed very little activity.

A game of Free Cell? Gems? Text Twist? Nah. Not in the mood.

What's left to do but fiddle with my blog? I asked myself if it was possible to blog an entire entry about absolutely nothing of value whatsoever.

Probably. Interesting? Perhaps not.

My in-laws arrive the day after tomorrow. I spent the day yesterday deep cleaning. The master bathroom smelled like white vinegar for hours, but the floor sparkles! Amazing, that - in this day of The Space Age Housewife, vinegar remains the most effective floor cleaner. The eternally wise, efficient and thrifty Betty Crocker would be proud. All I could think of was salad dressing and pickles.

I hear giggling from the family room. Giggling and the Squirrel Nut Zippers' version of "Sleigh Ride."

Salad dressing, pickles, and "Sleigh Ride." And I haven't even had the wine yet!

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Melly Kameekimaka"

My kindergarten daughter is joyfully, loudly singing - in childish mispronunciation - the song "Mele Kalikimaka" from our Bing Crosby Christmas album. It's one of her favorite holiday-time songs, along with "Marshmallow World" as performed by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Generations of family holiday celebrations are embodied now in this one little girl, illuminated by her excited smile, dancing by the Christmas tree in her own family room. I can watch her and listen to her and think of my own childhood Christmases, still living in grainy moving relief on the old home movies, carefully preserved from the old reel tapes onto DVD.

I'm spending more time these days sick with worry over our finances and less enjoying what should be the brightest spots of the season: the cookies we've baked, the delicate process of making lefse, the time-worn but well-loved Christmas specials we watch, and the quiet peace of sitting in a firelit room in the glow of Christmas lights.

I can help worrying. Someone has to.

May it never have to be my glorious, featherlight, carefree girl - the one who sings with such joyous abandon and lights up my heart.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cookies and cats and evergreens, oh my!

Yes, yes, yes. I'm still here. It's just that I'm buried under Russian tea cakes, raspberry thumbprints, three different kinds of nuts and a vat of eggnog the size of Rhode Island.

I have wrapped three thousand two hundred and forty-seven Christmas presents. Okay, not really, but I think I've gone through enough tape for that much. They didn't call me the Scotch Tape Queen when I was growing up for nothing.

My children are running around the house after our cat while Frank and Dean giggle their way through "Marshmallow World" on the stereo.

The cat. Yes, we acquired a cat. Though, as the story goes, you might say he summoned us . A week ago today, my children were playing in the backyard when they discovered a cat in our backyard. It was plenty cold outside, so I let him in. He had a collar but no I.D. tag. The kids and I fell in love with him immediately, as did my husband when he came home. We knew we had to search for his owner, but it planted the seed of an idea in our heads. Two days later, via the Humane Society, we found Boots' owners. His family was happy to have him back, but we were left feeling empty-armed. After delivering Boots to his rightful home, we turned back for the Humane Society right away. There, we met a two-year-old orange tabby, a shy but loveable fellow who looked familiar to me. After reading the information card that indicated he was found just blocks from my house, I realized where I knew him from: he'd followed my children and me nearly all the way home from school some weeks ago. I'd decided if he followed us the whole way, we'd let him in. He disappeared just two doors short of our house.

If you believe in Cat Karma, you might suspect that our new pal, Dino, had sent Boots to our house in order to get us to the Humane Society to find the cat really meant for us.

If you don't believe in Cat Karma, then...well...I guess it's just a sweet little coincidence.


The tree is up. We have tinsel this year! I've never had tinsel before. Tinsel is an enormous pain in the neck to put on the tree, but it looks beautiful. It reflects all the lights, and is especially pretty at night. There's a smaller tree here in my office, looking cheery with its green and red glass ball ornaments and red cluster lights.

This year marks the 40th time my favorite elf ornament, given to me by my grandparents for Christmas, 1966, has been placed upon a tree. He goes on first, taking the place of honor front and center.

Back to the kitchen for me. If you haven't heard from me in a while, come on over and dig me out of the flour, sugar, and dried cherries.

Thumbprint cookie, anyone?

Saturday, October 22, 2005


The Halloween party was last night.

I couldn't wear the costume I'd bought.

When I pulled it out of the package, I could see there was a problem. The top was too big, the bottom was too small, and you could see through everything. Because Mr. Sloane was dressing as a blonde version of Eric Carr of KISS, I thought I'd try to dress like a groupie, circa late 1970s. With pink hair. I definitely wanted to wear the wig.

Using clothes I actually already had around the house, I managed to put together an acceptable little number with shorts and boots. I was gratified when, at the party, two people asked me if I was supposed to be the woman from Alias.

"Uh...yeah. Yeah, that's it," I answered with a wink.

What a party. It looked as though our hosts had spent a week decorating in Late Modern Creepy. There were candles on just about every available surface. Even the food dishes sported plastic spiders on top.

We ate. We drank. We laughed. We stayed out much too late, and that pink-haired chick had just a leeeeetle too much of that cranberry/vodka/lemon was an ideal party.

Next week? Children's parties!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shredded Wheat: It Does A Body Good

So, yum! I'm having a bowl of bite-sized shredded wheat for my afternoon snack. I love shredded wheat. It's one of the best foods ever.

I did three miles' worth of Walk Away The Pounds workouts this morning, plus some weight lifting. I walked to and from the public library with my son's preschool class. I trudged all over Target with my two younger children, searching for Halloween costumes for their father and me to wear to a party tomorrow night (I finally settled on an 80s rocker chick for myself...that'll be a sight to see, I'm sure!). I also took the two young'uns to the grocery store and walked all over, pushing a heavy cart. I've got almost 12,000 steps on my pedometer at 4:30 in the afternoon.

So...yes. I was starving, and a bowl of shredded wheat sounded like just the thing.

Don't worry about me being too good, though, with all the exercise and healthy food I like. Don't worry one little bit.

There's a pumpkin eggnog pie in the oven even as we speak. There'll be time enough later on to be baaaaaaaaad.

You've no idea how bad I can be. ;)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Spam, spam, spammity, spammity, spam...

I was born in Minnesota. So was SPAM! I'm okay with that. A little diced Spam scrambled with some eggs? People like that. I haven't had Spam in...oh...I don't know...twenty years? Twenty-five? But I understand that people like Spam. Some people even collect Spam memorabilia (Spamorabilia? Did I just coin a word? Cool!). I wouldn't go that far. I'm Betty Crocker, not Samantha Spam.

Anyway. Spam. Hormel. Austin, Minnesota. It's all okay with me.

Spam on my blog? NOT OKAY with me. Nothing sucks donkey rocks more than seeing that one, two, three, ten(!) people have commented on a blog entry, only to discover that every last stinkin' self-serving one of them is biologically removed from pond scum only due to the fact that there is no pond here. The Space Age Housewife is not a violent person. I thrive on vintage aprons and favorable comparisons to Donna Stone, not Sylvester Stallone. Spam tests my pacifist nature, though. SOMEONE is gonna wind up Mulligan stew, and it ain't gonna be pretty!

I should be baking pumpkin bread instead of ranting about good-for-nothing blog spammers, but uncapping the steam is a good idea from time to time.

Besides, I just dropped a boat load of money - in the four figures - to prepay for my son's upcoming oral surgery. Ouch.

Maybe I ought to bake after all. At least send out for pizza. I deserve it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

It's October? Already?

Tempus fugit.

Especially this time of year. The first full week of October is over. Almost all the days on my calendar have some event, appointment, or reminder on them. How did THAT happen? Girl scouts and dentists and harvest fairs, photo appointments and fundraisers...thank goodness there's a party pencilled in as well, and I'm not hosting yet.

I love autumn. It's my favorite time of year, when the jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows and harvest wreaths go up, when the leaves crunch underfoot, and the unbearable oppression of late summer heat breaks into the kind of cool day most people would describe as crisp.

It's a gingerbread day today, I think. Under a deceptively sunny, blue sky, the air is cold. A good kind of cold. Somewhere in the neighborhood, someone is mowing his lawn for the last time of the season before the irrigation water is shut off and everyone shuts down their sprinklers for the year. It's somewhat incongruous on this gingerbread day, the distant sound of the lawnmower. It brings back almost wistful memories of spring days and the smell of damp, freshly cut grass. Almost wistful, but not quite, because today is a gingerbread day. And I love autumn.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tastes like crackers...

My three-year-old son asked for a snack this morning. He requested "white milk and Ritz crackers."

"Mmm," he said as he bit into a Ritz. "Tastes like crackers."

"I guess that's a good thing, isn't it?" I answered, trying to stifle a smile.

"Yeah. Mom?"

"What, honey?"

"I love you is a good thing too, right?"

"Right. It is."

"Okay. Because I love you."


That's my sappy moment for today. This same little boy said a few minutes later, when I told him I was going to make a big pot of soup and a pumpkin pie for supper: "Maybe no soup. Maybe just plain pumpkin pie with no syrup."


"Do you want whipped cream on the pumpkin pie."

"No, just plain. No syrup. No soup."

Maybe he'd like it better if it tasted like crackers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I made brownies today...

Brownies cure everything, right? Good for what ails you, right?

Well...maybe not. But Betty Crocker and I have always had a good relationship, and times of trouble tend to send me scurrying to the kitchen to make all manner of comfort food from meatloaf to pumpkin cake to soup to cookies.

Today it was brownies. With almond extract and white chocolate chips stirred in.

I ate one. Okay, two. And a piece of pear pie.

I may have negated my workout this morning, thirty minutes of intense cardio and thirty minutes of strength training. Do I care? A little. Not much. Not today.

Today was a brownie day.

Anyone want one?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

So here's a question...

What do you do when you find that you have a serious ideological break with a person who had previously been a close friend?

What do you do when you believe that difference in ideology has caused your friend to make a choice that you perceive as a rejection of your friendship?

Maybe the friend doesn't see it that way. Maybe the friend believes the relationship can survive this basic difference. Maybe the friend doesn't realize how such a choice hurts you, especially when the choice appears to say in big, flashing neon letters:

It doesn't matter what you think or what your truth is!

Is this a political difference? No. Those, we got through. Our political differences didn't seem to matter.

No, this is personal. There was a choice made that clearly rejected my point of view as invalid.

So then what do you do in such a situation? What do you do when you know that person cannot or will not change that line of thinking? The choice has been made, and it's not going to be unmade.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Memories Are Made Of This

It's amazing how music can trigger such visceral memories. Some songs are so powerful, I can almost physically feel myself jolted into the past, suspended there for a moment's time, reliving a long ago instant as fully as if it were the here and now.

Everyone has songs like these, and I unexpectedly heard one this evening while on my way home from an errand. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I blindly grabbed an unlabeled mix CD my husband made for me, pushing it into the CD player.

Instantly I heard a woman's giggle, then the music.

Dark in the city, night is a wire....

Suddenly, I wasn't a 39-year-old mother driving a minivan out of a shopping center. I was a high school junior, in my bedroom, listening to the radio and getting ready for a date. I could feel the warm spring breeze from the window. I could feel the blue eye pencil sliding along my lids, and I almost detected the faint aroma of Aqua Net. I was there, just as surely as I was sitting in my minivan on Eagle Road. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to find the next song was "On The Loose" by Saga, a song I haven't heard or thought of in years.

So many memories wrapped up in music. I can hear one note of "My Sharona" and be transported back to the eighth grade choir room, the KQRS blasting on the stereo before the teacher showed up. I can see kids running up and down the carpeted risers, all singing more fully and loudly than they ever did during classtime. I can see Kris G. in the middle of it all, Metcalf Junior High School's answer to Farrah Fawcett. And then I remember how much I wanted to look like her, and how awkward I felt next to her.

"You Should Hear How She Talks About You"... it's early June of 1982, and I'm just a few weeks from my 16th birthday. I'm at Valleyfair with my best friend and her boyfriend, and I've met someone. His name is David. He's visiting from Texas. It's 70 degrees out, but he complains about the cold and wonders how I can stand it. We're riding the Ferris wheel together, and he's wearing a blue v-neck velour sweater. He has feathered hair and the most beautiful hazel eyes I've ever seen. I know he's going to kiss me, and he does.

"This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide"... it's the spring of 1983, and my school's hockey team has made the state high school championship game. Far too many of my crowd is crammed into my best friend's boyfriend's 1974 Mustang, speeding down the freeway to the St. Paul Civic Center for the game. It's Saturday, and we feel like the whole world belongs to us. The windows are unrolled, and I'm sitting on a boy's lap in the cramped backseat of the Mustang, laughing as my hair continually whips the side of my face. I have never felt as free as I do in this moment.

I have dozens more memories just like these. They are quietly filed away in my brain's back room, waiting for one note to release them to the forefront, flooding my present and pulling me into a time warp if only for the flash of the instant it takes me to recognize the song.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Mouse In Our House

The Space Age Housewife still seems, in the aftermath of the hurricane disaster, to be a shallow exercise in self-absorption. I'm not sure when I'll be able to resume my sometimes serious, sometimes self-deprecating little glimpses into the workings of my feeble suburban brain.

Still and all, I want to write. Until such time as the Space Age Housewife regains her sense of self, I'm going to post here some of my previous writings in the hopes that someone will enjoy them.

This little vignette was written in February of 2004:


“Noooooooooooooooo! Ew! Ew! Ew! MOM!”

The alarmed screams bring me flying from my office chair to the kitchen, where I come screeching to a halt at the sight of my teenage daughter standing atop a stool near the refrigerator. Behind her, the cheerful local news anchor delivering her story on my portable kitchen television seems incongruous and almost funny.

“What on earth…?” I ask, puzzled by my daughter’s apparent fright.

“It’s…a…MOUSE!” she shrieks in answer, gasping for breath between words.

“A mouse? Are you sure? Maybe you just saw a shadow. Or some dust. Or something.” I step into the kitchen and cautiously peer under the cabinets and the refrigerator.

“No. It’s a mouse! It’s under the stove!”

Trying to instill in my daughter a sense of confidence I do not feel myself, I sidle up to the stove and gingerly kick at it with one foot. Nothing. Feeling braver, I bend down to have a peek under there myself. I am sure my daughter imagined the whole thing. There is no mouse here! Vermin? Disturb the purity of my kitchen? No way. Suddenly, as if to challenge my faulty perception, something scurries past me from the stove and shoots underneath the dishwasher, behind the base of the cabinets. Squealing in disgust, I leap away from the stove and jump on top of the other stool.

“I told you!” my daughter cries in a voice still high-pitched with nervousness. “I told you it was a mouse! Do something!”

Do something? Like what? A preliminary run-through of my options brings me right back to what I an actually doing: perching on a stool with my heart pounding at an abnormally high speed. A glance at the clock tells me it will be at least an hour before my husband will be home.

“Er…what do you want me to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know! You’re the mom here!”

“Yes. Yes I am,” I agree. “And my relationship with mice and their ilk is somewhat marginal. They offend me, I offend them, and therefore we try to stay away from each other. Do you think it’s still under the dishwasher?”

“I didn’t see it come out. It’s just waiting down there to get me!”

At that, my four-year-old wanders into the kitchen.

“Hi, Mom,” she says curiously. “What are you doing on the stool?”

“Um, nothing, honey. Nothing. Go play in the living room. Watch Sponge Bob.”

“I heard it!” my older daughter screeches, nearing hysteria. “It was making a scratching noise!”

“What?” my younger daughter asks again. “What is it?”

“It’s a mouse,” the older one blurts before I can stop her with a frown and a warning shake of my head.

“A MOUSE?” the littler one yells. “Is it a BIG mouse?”

Just then the phone rings. I lean way over from my spot high above the floor and tip the receiver off the hook, dragging it nearer to me by the cord. When I am able to reach it firmly in my hands, I put it up to my ear.

“Hello?” I say, my own voice tinged with the same high pitch as that of my older daughter.

“Hi. What’s going on?” It’s my husband.

“We have a mouse!” I cry into the phone. “Can you come home?”

“What do you mean, we have a mouse?” he asks. What does he mean, what do I mean? What does it sound like I mean? A mouse, man, a MOUSE! In my house!

“I mean, we have a mouse.”

“Where is it now?”

“It ran under the cabinets. Behind the dishwasher.”

“Oh. Well there’s access to the subfloor there. It’s probably outside under the deck by now. Unless it has a nest in the subfloor.”

“A n-n-n-est?” I croak. “Under…my…floor…?”

“For crying out loud, honey. It’s not going to hurt you. I’ll take care of it when I get home. I just called to let you know I have a late appointment.”

“How late?”

“I don’t know. Another hour or two.”

“We’re on top of stools.”


“We’re standing on stools. How long do you think we can do this?”

Without giving him a chance to mull that over, I continue in a rush.

“You have to come home. I can’t put my feet on the floor if a mouse is going to run over them.”

Behind me, I hear a medley of voices as both of my daughters cry out at once:

“Mother! At least you have shoes on!”

“Daddy! There’s a mouse in the house and it’s going to come out AND EAT KAYLA’S FACE!”

“Listen,” my husband goes on. “If you can’t wait for me to get home, call an exterminator. There’s a voucher in the phone book for a free consultation.”

“I don’t want a consultation,” I answer sourly. “I want the mouse gone.”

“I’ll bring some d-Con home with me.”

“What if it goes into the subfloor and dies down there? Won’t it stink up the house?”

It is obvious my husband’s patience is wearing thin.

“Honey, I have to go. I’ll take care of it when I get home. You do not have to stand on stools. It isn’t going to hurt you! It is probably hiding from you.”

He hangs up before I can make any additional protest.

“Well, Mom? What are you going to do?” My daughter, half-standing and half-sitting on her stool, changes the television station from local news to “Jeopardy!”

“Mommy?” my younger daughter asks from her newly acquired seat on top of the dining table. “Is the mouse going to eat us?”

“No, silly, no, no. Mice don’t eat people. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Nothing. Right?

“Then why are you standing on the stool?”

She has me. I’m stumped. If I want her to believe me, and if I don't want her to be terrified of mice and traumatized forever, I am going to have to get down.

Cautiously, I step one toe onto the floor, then slowly ease myself off the stool until I am standing on my own two feet. So far so good.

“There it goes!” shouts my older daughter. “There it goes!”

I turn just in time to see the mouse duck under the door to my pantry.

“All right, that’s it!” I say, snatching my preschooler off the dining table and bounding into the living room to retrieve my young son from his spot in front of Teletubbies.

“Jump!” I holler back at my teenager as I hurriedly pull coats out of the hall closet.

Just in case that mouse does turn out to be of the face-eating variety, I am taking no chances.

We’re going out to supper.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Whatever you do for the least of these...

Today's entry will be short.

I can't bring myself to resume my own self-absorbed silliness just yet, sitting here in my comfortable chair, in my warm and dry home in the high desert, far from the destruction of a hurricane.

No, today I will reflect on that greater world that surrounds me, and not the narrow world in which I live.

I am a Christian. Perhaps you are not, but I am. As such, these are the teachings that stick with me the most today, the most basic of a loving, Christ-like attitude:

Whatever you do for the least of my brethren, you have done for me.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

If you have a dollar to give, please do. If you have a hand to lend, please do.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Please help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

This isn't a time for me to talk about me and my life. This is a time for me to take a break from blogging my own petty concerns about my insulated world and to ask you to take a moment from yours to help those whose lives and homes have been utterly devastated.

If you have already given, thank you.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The baby birds are learning to fly...

It happened.

My little girl went to kindergarten this morning, her face awash in the glow of the kind of excitement that only children know. She seemed to know a whole new world was about to open up to her, and she was facing it with anticipation and innocence.

The whole family walked her to school today: both of her parents, her little brother, and her older sister. She clomped up the sidewalk in her new fashion boots and knee-high socks, her backpack looking oddly big on her little-girl frame. She held hands with her sister, maybe afraid of looking too babyish if she had held mine.

"I hope no one teases her," I said to my husband as we lagged a little behind the kids.

He didn't respond, but his mouth tightened. I knew he was feeling the same.

She's so innocent. So full of exuberance and enthusiasm. At some point, some time, somewhere and somehow, someone will pierce her bubble. It happens to all of them, doesn't it? And all I want to do is stand in front of her and take the pain myself.

I realized, halfway to school, that I was holding my breath.

She was the first student to arrive. She dutifully hung up her backpack, and then she found the seat that had her name on it. Her seat tag was written in bold green-markered letters. She liked the green.

Her teacher is young and sweet, teaching her first year of kindergarten. My little girl liked her right away too.

Sometimes I remember exactly what it was like to be in kindergarten. Some of what I remember is scary and confusing. I know I have to let her grow up and find her own way, but I hope the path is smooth for her. I hope she makes friends. I hope no one teases her. If they do, I hope she stands up for herself. I hope it's all good for her.

I didn't expect to feel this way. I didn't expect to wish I could keep my baby bird shielded just a little longer.

One kid out of school, one just starting, and a little one heading to preschool next week...all of my birds are learning to fly.

I guess I should too.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

When is a house a home?

Most people who know me know that I have had a strong hankering to return to my homeland, Minnesota, for years. When I look at happy family pictures taken in the house my husband and I shared in the suburbs of St. Paul, I almost always get weepy. I loved that house. Loved it. It was a 1964 rambler with full basement in a quaint 1960s neighborhood. During the two years we lived there, we lovingly fixed it up the way we liked it; new carpet and paint, new rails and balusters for the stairs (built by my husband and my father-in-law), and the beautiful built in bar my husband hand-finished.

Yes, it was small, and by now we'd have been cramped for space. But it was also once my ideal house, the first house my husband and I bought together, and the source of much of my nostalgia.

We bought our current house in October of 2000. It's a nice enough house, but it was never quite good enough for me. I thought we'd bought too hastily. We didn't look around enough. We didn't get all the features we should have, and we didn't get enough bedrooms (though at the time we only had two children). In the nearly five years we have been here, we have completely fenced the backyard, built a huge backyard deck, landscaped the backyard with trees and dogwood bushes and lilacs, and added to the plants and trees in the front yard. We have painted the entire main level, and upgraded all the carpet on the main level, stairway, and upstairs hall.

Still, we always look. For a while, we were looking at new subdivisions and new homes at open houses every weekend. Always, we saw something that was better than what we have now, but nothing was ever just right in size, style, or price.

We went out again this afternoon. We found a house that would fit us perfectly. It has the ideal layout, lovely colors, just enough bedrooms and spare rooms, and a dream kitchen. Financially, we could swing it, but it would be a very tight fit.
We must have spent and hour in that house today, talking about where the furniture would go, who would have what room, and what the place would look like decorated for Christmas.

The house isn't in Minnesota, of course, and I wondered out loud what would be the point of moving at all if we weren't going back there.

When we got home, I looked around the front yard at my mums and trees and impatiens and felt the warmth of familiarity. We came inside, and the first words out of my mouth to my husband went something like this:

"What are the advantages of staying here? I like living in the same subdivision as J's school, so she doesn't have to ride the bus. I love our huge backyard with the deck and the dogwoods. I like my kitchen. I like the work we've done. We're settled here, we're used to it, we're comfortable, and we've lived here together longer than anywhere else."

He smiled, and so did I. And I realized for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, that this house, though it's not the original place I chose to raise my children, is indeed a home.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

What's my age again?

What does it say about a woman of my age that I have a strong fondness for Blink 182's "What's My Age Again"? What does it say about me that I listened to it at top volume on my way home from the dentist this afternoon (in my bland suburban minivan, no less)?

The guy in the song is twenty-three. Sometimes I feel twenty-three. I remember what it was like. Haven't I progressed since then (by, oh, say...about sixteen years)? This dilemma confounds me from time to time. I must have talked about it on my birthday entry, but I'm too lazy to go back and read it now. Bottom line: I don't feel like I ought to be my mother's age, and my mother is only 36. Right? Isn't she?

Damn. That makes me OLDER than my mother.

But I still feel - sometimes - like that early twentysomething with a little to look forward to, a lot to prove, and all kinds of dreams that maybe didn't mean as much as they should have.

If you were here, you'd see me pause. Sigh. Think about a glass of wine. Think about going upstairs to get ready for my date with my husband. But maybe I'm not done here.

On the age note, my oldest daughter is eighteen. She's a high school graduate. She's looking for work, planning to start college late, in the spring semester. Her boyfriend leaves a week from Monday for college a six-hour drive from here. I think she's feeling at a bit of a loss, a loose end. I think she wishes she didn't have to think about being a grown up just yet, that she could have that last year in high school back. Her buffer year. One more year with her boyfriend before different paths separate them.

If I'm honest, I'll admit I rather wish for that buffer too. I drove past her high school two days ago on my way home from some errand or other. I was unexpectedly struck with feelings of loss and nostalgia. How did her four years in high school speed by so fast? Shouldn't I have stopped and looked around at her more? Shouldn't she have? It seems just last year she caught the bus for her first day of freshman year, but the whole world has changed since then.

I wouldn't mind one more year of my kid being a kid. One more year of high school before everything changes.

So I'm 23, my mother is 36, my daughter is 18...and what does it mean? What's my age again?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Starbucks. Customer service to aspire to!

My husband had a class team meeting this evening, and they met at a Starbucks. After the meeting was over, he picked up a toffee nut latte to surprise me with.

When he handed me the toffee nut latte, I knew it was going to hit the spot. I love toffee nut lattes. I'm a toffee nut NUT!

I took a healthy sip...and there was no toffee nut. I swirled the cup around, optimistically thinking that perhaps it just hadn't been mixed in. Another sip.

No toffee nut.

I looked at the receipt...decaf, check. Extra shot, check. Nonfat milk, check. Toffee Nut syrup, check. Paid for, but not included in the drink.

Not knowing what on earth I expected them to do, I went ahead and looked up the phone number of that Starbucks location and called there. I spoke with a lovely young woman named Dana, and explained what had happened.

"I'm not sure what I expect you to do, but I just wanted to tell someone there what happened. It was so...." I trailed off, searching for a word.

"Disappointing?" Dana asked.

"Yes, that's it. Disappointing!" (Because I really do love that toffee nut!)

Dana asked me for my name, promising me a free drink next time I was in that store. I happen to have an errand to run tomorrow in that very neighborhood, so maybe I'll be able to take her up on the offer then.

A free drink for a thirty-cent shot of syrup that went missing. Now that, my friends, is outstanding customer service.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Bad Blogger! What vacation?

I was going to blog the entire vacation. No, really. I thought I would.

I didn't.

I meant to, honestly. But I was doing things. Shopping for clothes, tax-free! Taking my children to the pool. Letting them run around in their grandparents' yard. Playing Parcheesi and sifting through recipes with my mother. Helping my daughter make a scrapbook for my husband. Attempting to get my fill of Caribou coffee while it was close at hand.

And sometimes...just sitting and being. Breathing in the damp Minnesota air and savoring every tiny moment of something or nothing with the people and places of my roots. Trying to memorize every line on my mother's face, the colors of my father's beard, and the smell of the cinnamon rolls baking in the morning.

I meant to blog it all, fresh in my mind. I meant to save it that way. But I was too busy saving it in my heart.


We just got back this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day to write it all down.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

So the waiter, he was eye candy...

It was lunch time yesterday, and we were at a restaurant. I was tired - who wouldn't be after only 3½ hours of sleep and a morning spent at Camp Snoopy with a five-year-old and a three-year-old?

It was good to take a load off, but I wasn't really interested in coloring the children's menu, and I didn't want to get into politics with my adult companions, so what else was there to do?

I spent most of lunch drinking Australian Cabernet and discreetly watching the waiter. Well...I think I was discreet anyway; maybe someone should have been keeping a better watch on the Cabernet.

We were at the Rainforest Cafe at MOA...if anyone knows....well, never mind. It wouldn't do to publicly name him, would it? He's the cute one. If you know him, tell him I said so.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Uff Da! Hotdish!


Here I am. My motherland. Place of my birth, my family, my roots, my soul.

After a weekend of driving, we crossed the border onto the vast soil of home this morning. The humidity is nearly as thick as a London Fog, and I love every sticky, damp moment of it.

We spent the evening at my sister's house, having tacos for supper, Canadian beer, and watching the kids play Monster Tennis in the backyard.

Surrounded by family in the cradle of civilization. Nothing better!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

No Smoking

June 30, 1998: While enjoying Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Quest club in Minneapolis, I turned to my sister over a Rolling Rock and said, "I'm not going to smoke after tonight." As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I lit up.

"Okay," she said, obviously doubtful.

I was 32 years old. I'd been smoking since I was seventeen, taking off about ten months in 1986 and 1987 while pregnant with my oldest. It didn't take me long to pick up the habit again after she was born. I smoked for the better part of fifteen years.

I decided I didn't want to anymore.

Before we hit the Quest, we'd been at another downtown bar, where I bought a pack of Marlboro Menthol Lights from a machine. I only had half a pack left, and I knew I'd run out of cigarettes before the night was through.

I was wrong. The cigarette I smoked after making the announcement to my sister was the last one. I never opened that new pack of Marlboros, though the box sat in my glove box for nearly six months.

Seven years smoke free. Feels pretty damn good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Larry The Lounge Lizard

My friend Larry is a babe magnet. I don’t know why.

Larry’s a good-looking guy, certainly. He’s got blonde hair, blue eyes, that devil-may-care expression, and a well-honed physique. He’s a bit of a fashion plate too. On the face of it, he’s got the qualities to attract lots of women. I don’t know, though. Something seems to be missing. Or, to put it more accurately, I am missing something. I am missing whatever it is that causes otherwise mature, intelligent, strong women to fall into a simpering heap at Larry’s feet.

And they do. Fall in a simpering heap, that is.

Larry is divorced. It was a long time coming, but wasn’t finalized until just a few months ago. The court clerk hadn’t even finished blowing on the papers to dry the ink when the deerhounds gathered in packs, foaming and salivating, circling Larry like so much prey.

It didn’t take Larry long to come to the realization that his inner lounge lizard was ready to be released. Thirteen years of marriage landed on the dung heap, and he was now facing instant – and multiple – gratification.

He told me women asked him out wherever he went. They asked him out at the grocery store, the library, his workplace, the coffee shop. He claimed they stopped him on the street to beg his number or offer to buy him a drink. I quite naturally assumed these stories were creative exaggerations, the salve on a wounded man’s ego, but I discovered while out and about with him one weekend that it was all true. True and just a bit bizarre.

We were at a club, my husband and I, with Larry. The women seemed to come from every nook and cubbyhole, oozing from the walls themselves, offering drinks, dances, kisses, and more as Larry just sat back, martini in hand, accepting the adoration.

“It’s the best,” he said with a disarming grin my way. “I don’t have to do anything. They all come to me. The ladies are hungry and the Larry Buffet is open for business.”

He winked at my husband. “Better look out, Harp. I’ll be stealing your wife too.”

My husband raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think so. You’re not really her type.”

Larry smiled. “I wouldn’t steal her from you, buddy. I don’t go after friends’ wives. But I could take any woman here.” He looked around the room at the pulsating bodies in the ever-changing light of the dance floor. “Married or not.”

“Never mind him,” I said, patting my husband’s hand. “The poor boy’s gone crazy. He’s not lucid.”

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the herd descended on Larry again, coming from every quadrant of the joint. Tall ones. Short ones. Thin ones. Heavy ones. Blondes, brunettes, and redheads. Busty ones. Leggy ones. Long hair, short hair. Similar and dissimilar, they lined up for a look or a touch. Larry’s dance card was fully punched. He grooved and gyrated and dripped with sweat, and they still wouldn’t leave him alone.

“I don’t get it.” I shook my head, taking another sip of vodka Collins to see if the answer would magically come to me from the frosty glass.

“Larry The Lounge Lizard,” my husband responded, looking mildly fascinated and repulsed at the same time. “Don’t dance with him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I shot back. “We’ve known Larry for years. I don’t see the attraction. Is it pheromones? His favorite sweater? His chiseled pecs?”

My husband glanced down. “I have moobs,” he said sourly. “Maybe it IS the pecs.”

“Look at him slither,” I said, nodding toward the dance floor and signaling the waitress for another vodka Collins. “Larry The Lounge Lizard indeed, unctuous and oily, greaser of the dance floor, smooth operator, babe magnet.”

“That’s his true value in life.” My husband frowned at his empty beer bottle, looking vaguely frustrated.

“Have another,” I said. “I’m going to.”

I watched Larry The Babe Magnet Lounge Lizard work the room, pushing off the women who grabbed at his favorite sweater while he forced his way back to our table. I still couldn’t figure it out.

Maybe, I thought, it’s just that I’m not babe enough to be caught in the dragnet.

Maybe. Maybe another vodka Collins would do the trick.

I laughed as Larry was dragged once more to his feet and urged to the dance floor. I lifted my glass to my husband and looked at him over the rim as I took a sip.

Moobs or no moobs, I knew who the real babe magnet was at our table. And I was taking him home.

Who stole my muse?

My writers' club has granted an extension for this week's writing project, if I can come up with something at least moderately interesting by midnight.

Where IS that damn muse?

Miss Muse is probably hiding somewhere under the furniture, snacking on pork rinds and drinking the last of the Fat Tire. Why, I oughta....!

Time to get out the Swiffer Duster™ and eradicate the cobwebs. Maybe I'll find Miss Muse if I do.

Have you seen her? Send her home, willya? The creative well done went dry this week.

Procrastinaaaaaaaaation is making me wait...

Anticipation, procrastination...whatever.

We're going on vacation soon, and there's always so much to do. I hammered out so much work yesterday that I'm feeling lazy today.

What? An 80-minute workout this morning isn't enough for one day? I should do more? Look, the laundry has at least been folded. Most of the stuff is packed into suitcases anyway. I cleaned the kitchen. I ran the vacuum. You could eat off the damn floor. I helped the children get dressed. Yes, there are files all over my desk that need attention. Yes, I was supposed to turn in this week's short fiction to my writers' club...oh, about twenty minutes ago. What can I say? Me Muse ran off and hid, she did. If you find her, please drop her into any mailbox and I'll gladly pay the return postage.

What was I saying? Oh, yes. Procrastination. I made a pot of coffee. I want to drink a cup while it's hot. While the children are blessedly occupied coloring pictures for their grandparents (there's something awfully endearing about a five-year-old's rendering of a fireman rescuing a puppy stuck in a tall tree).

And so I will. >sip<

Ahhhhh. That was good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Kids and their radar

Someone. Anyone. Explain this to me.

How, exactly, does a child who "can't hear you" from three feet away seem to know instinctively that you have sat down to relax/eat/unwind or what-have-you from all the way across the house?

For an hour they played quietly in the playroom. They put together puzzles, made parades with their Fisher-Price "dudes," read books, and rewound a Wallace & Gromit cassette seventy-eleven times.

The nanosecond I sat down with a plate of pepper crackers and spicy cheese curds, they were all over me like Velcro Monkeys™.

Monday, June 27, 2005

My son the photographer...

My son is three. He desperately wanted to partake in the birthday photo-taking, so my husband let him take a picture of me.

This is what his 39-year-old mama looks like through a three-year-old photographer's eyes:

Happy Birthday to me....!

It's June 27th once again. Birthday time.

This is my fifth birthday in Idaho. My eighth birthday as a married woman. The tail end of my thirties. Funny how "39" seemed so abstract before, never real.

So here it is. 39.

I don't know if I care much for odd-numbered years. I suppose that's odd itself, but I rather like the even-numbered years...34, 36, 38. I especially liked 36 and 38. While 35 conjured up images of the stale, stifled middle-aged housewife, 36 suddenly seemed hip, young, and sexy. 37? Back to dust-mopping drudge in a gingham apron. 38 - hot! Strong! Doing stuff! (What stuff? I don't know. Just...stuff.) So 39 descended at 6:14 central time this morning and...what? Have I taken the express train back to frumpsville?


I've got to stop fooling myself I'm still youthful, though. I do, after all, have an eighteen-year-old daughter. On the other hand, I also have a five-year-old and a three-year-old. I haven't decided whether they keep me young or prematurely age me.

But it's my birthday. So I'll worry about the rest tomorrow.