Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What to do when you can't afford gas.

There were just two grown men in the middle of my street making a commotion. I thought they might get in a fight or something so I stood at the window and watched. Just as I started to get bored, one of them jumped on the other one's back and they ran down the street in a piggy back. Is that like the ultimate ride-share or what?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The story of us.

It was the first day of our sophomore year at a brand new school. We had geometry together, first period. This is where it all began.

I sat in the front of the class in my hunter green plaid shorts and matching v-neck sweater, clutching my new pencil and nervously looking around, trying to gauge what the coming year would bring. Would this school be different?

Sitting in groups of four around the room were the usual suspects: the jocks in their GHS football jerseys, the nerds at the front of the class with their new pencils, the hicks with their wrangler butts that did not drive me nuts, the stoners who were in class but technically still asleep. Some kids I had known all my life, others were strangers to me. A few people looked interesting but there was no one who could make math class at seven in the morning seem like a good idea. I sighed and thought, Well, I suppose I could just learn geometry.

Then I saw you.

You were wearing jeans, red Doc Marten boots and a black leather jacket with spikes, spikes!, on the shoulders. Your hair was dyed black and cut in an a-line that hung in your eyes. Eyes that, if I wasn't mistaken, were rimmed with eyeliner. You were slumped over the desk in a stoner-like fashion but when the teacher entered the room, you sat up, slung your arm over the back of your chair and took up the space around you like a CEO. While the other guys in class eyed the cheerleaders from across the room, you sat with them. And they doted on you. You were unlike anyone I had ever seen before. I was beyond intrigued.

Of course, that didn’t mean I would ever talk to you or anything. I mean, what would we say to one another? You were all leathery and cool and I was socially awkward and shy. It was obvious we had nothing in common.

At the end of the year, we signed each others’ year books. I wrote, “You’re so unique, don’t ever change!” I even said “call me!” but was too shy to mean it. You wrote, “I hope you had a rockin’ good year. I’ll make your junior year even better!” You meant because you’d be class president but it still made me blush.

The first day of our junior year, you sat behind me in World History. A lot had changed over the summer. I was a cheerleader now. I had been wooed all summer by a very cute skater boy and now had an actual boyfriend sitting next to me in class. I had lost weight since the last day of sophomore year but didn’t realize how much until people pointed it out. I was getting a lot of attention for the first time in my life and had no idea what to do with myself. I wanted to climb under a rock and go back to being invisible.

I was uncomfortable being close to anyone and broke up with the cute skater boy almost immediately after the school year began (talking to someone on the phone was one thing, seeing him in person 5 days a week was quite another). Now in first period World History, you both sat behind me while I died a slow and painful death at the front of the class.

One day, he convinced you to help him write a note to get me back. Soon you were writing me notes on your own. You made me so nervous. Anytime I unfolded a note, I prayed it wouldn’t say something over my head or challenge me to open up. It felt like in 2nd grade when two kids are talking about something naughty and a third kid pretends she knows what they’re talking about and then one of the first two kids says, “Oh yeah, then whisper it in my ear!” and the third kid turns red and dies of embarrassment. I was always that third kid.

I loved the attention though. And it wasn’t just the notes. There was physical attention, too. You know what I’m talking about. Remember? You used to grab me from behind when I was at my locker and…

CARRY ME DOWN THE HALL AND DROP ME INTO THE GARBAGE CAN.

Ooh, baby.

It sounds silly now but was actually quite exciting at the time. I had never done the whole splashy-splashy, flirty-flirty thing and it made my heart race. Plus, it was good to know that although you were very skinny you were strong enough to carry me around. And I liked the way you smelled up close. (Even though now I know patchouli smells like hippies, to me it will always smell like you.)

All fall we went on like this, passing notes and rough-housing inappropriately. Then came the Christmas Ball. We went with other dates, of course, but at the end of the night I went home with you. How did that happen again? I think I must have been scared. Scared that my date might like me like me and want to get to know me or something. Scared that I might like him, too. I was such a mess at the time and couldn’t imagine letting anyone in. But yet, here I was, at your house.

When I left that night, it was snowing. You asked me to call when I got home so you would know I was safe. I remember shivering with cold as I sat at my parents’ kitchen phone in my little black dress twirling the cord around and around and around my bare feet. You hang up first. No, you hang up first...

We spent New Year’s Eve together and I convinced you to take me to the Junior Achievement Dance. We looked so good together. Remember the drunk people in the elevator who thought we were getting married? Not tonight, you said. You always knew. We danced to a couple slow songs and then snuck out early to go to an underground concert. We changed our clothes in the car and I felt like that 2nd grader again. Please don’t make me whisper in your ear…

After the show, you drove me home and walked me to the door. I thought, This is it; he’s going to kiss me and everything is going to change and we might fall in love or I might get scared. I thought I was ready. But you knew that I wasn’t. I think you even patted my back when we hugged, so I’d know for sure where we stood.

You knew I didn’t want to be chased; that I needed to feel in control. You set the scene and let me make the first move. Do you want to watch Dances with Wolves for extra credit in history? You had to know that movie would be boring (I mean, Kevin Costner is the lead role). Did you know it would be that boring? I don’t know why we decided your Sioux name should be Dumb Bear; that was a pretty smart move. My name, Kisses without Appendix, suited me just fine.

We may have been watching the movie for history class but all I remember is the chemistry.

Wow.

The next day at school, you high-fived me. Not like how cool kids sometimes do when they walk past each other in the hall and want to flirt but need to get to Spanish class before the bell rings. No. It was more like a what’s up dude who is obviously just my friend kind of high-five. Like we were playing basketball or something. I had no idea what to think. Was I relieved? Disappointed? Confused? I wondered if we should make out some more to see if that would clarify things.

Then something happened but I still can’t pin-point exactly what. Was it that student council conference when we got in a fight? Your new girlfriend? My going to parties every weekend? You were so disappointed in me. The notes stopped. There was no more rough-housing in the halls. We didn’t even speak to each other in class anymore. Was it the eating disorder? You were really the only one who knew about that. Was that why you were so disappointed in me? I still don’t know.

By the end of the year, we were speaking again but things had changed. Our handwriting in each others’ yearbooks scrolls across entire pages. In yours I wrote things like, “You’re one of the few people who knows the real me. Sorry.” And, “I look up to you because you know what’s important in life and don’t mess around with other things; even though some of those other things can make life more fun.” You wrote, “Maybe if I drank and was into being fake we could be good friends again.” And, “We have had fun and we have fought and we have loved and we have hated. It was all worth it.”

“I still think we’ll end up together someday,” I wrote. “It’s fate.”

“No matter what happens, I still want to sleep with you. Come on, Maggie, let’s get dirty! Let’s do things you have only fantasized about.”

(Dude, I hadn’t even fantasized about them yet!)

Senior year we were still friends but we weren’t as close as before. I was into drinking and being fake and you were into your girlfriend. Then we both got holiday jobs at the mall and something about complimentary gift wrap and Mariah Carey wailing All I want for Christmas is you brought us closer together. I was getting burned out on the choices I was making. Perhaps you were, too? You came over to my house after the mall closed one night. You sent me flowers. You asked me out on a date.

No wonder your girlfriend punched you in the face.

After our fancy Christmas dinner date, you came over. Want to see the stars on my ceiling? How long did we lie there together in the dark, talking and not talking and spanning time? I had never felt so comfortable in my life. If you hadn’t had a girlfriend, I might have rocked your world that night.

On the last day of school, our government teacher made everyone in class say what they were going to do after graduation. You were at the front of the class and didn’t hesitate to raise your hand. “I’m going to marry Maggie.” Oohs and aahs erupted all around me as I turned eight shades of red and died of embarrassment.

How did you always know?

As soon as we graduated, I felt free to crawl back under that rock and didn’t hesitate to do so. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to shut you out. Want to come over and watch True Romance? It wasn’t boring but it didn’t matter. We had waited long enough. It was finally our time.

You made true on your yearbook promises and we connected in a way I had never known. We watched movies all summer and connected and connected and connected. You knew me so well. It was like an out of body experience. I hovered eight feet off the ground with my mouth hanging open in awe like, wow

But you were my first real relationship and I was in way over my head. We went from being really great to being really bad really fast. After just a couple of months together, I started to shut you out. We stopped being friends. I felt like the chase was over and the novelty had worn off. Like you caught me and now, well, maybe you didn’t really want me after all. It didn’t help that I was crazy. It was all too much. You left my house one night without kissing me. I called you back. I think you forgot to break up with me…

I missed you but was so angry. Was it just teen angst and hormones or did I really have something to be angry about? It’s hard to say. We barely spoke anymore. We tried to be friends but didn’t exactly know how. The few times we tried, we slipped right back into our old ways. Want to watch a movie…? I felt like that’s all you wanted from me. I was still so hurt.

We weren’t on the same page. You thought we were going to get back together; I started spending time with one of your friends. I had never seen you so hurt or so angry. I told myself I didn’t care. I think I wanted you to feel how I had felt all those months. Hurt, rejected, angry. I wouldn’t admit it to myself. I said I wanted to move on.

Years went by. We had the same friends. We were in each other’s lives. I was committed to making it work with your friend, committed to prove I was serious girlfriend material. Who was I trying to convince? Probably you. When you played a show, I was always the first one on stage hugging you when it ended. I couldn't let go. I despised all the girls you dated. I was so jealous. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself it was over, in my heart I knew it wasn't.

I chose to go to school in England because of you. It was between England and France. You’re an anglophile; of course I chose England. I wondered what it would be like if you came to visit me. We sent each other e-mails that danced along the edge between just friends and something else. There’s a big closet you can sleep in if you visit. Or you can always share my bed… I still can’t believe you didn’t come.

When I got home and saw you, we both knew something had changed. We went to San Francisco together and drank ourselves silly. We put our faces together and slept side-by-side. We didn’t cross the line. We tried to be respectful. We drove home together, hung-over and tired and wondering What is happening? I couldn’t look at you. Were we really ready?

Not quite. And yet, we were inseparable. My roommates said we drank like frat boys. We were in a gray area and didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t want to feel responsible for our actions. I don’t care, I said, I’m sitting next to you. You always let me make the first move. I kissed you and thought, I can blame the two bottles of wine if he doesn’t feel the same. But you kissed me back. We connected. I looked in your eyes and finally saw everything that had been in front of me all along. You loved me. You had always loved me. I loved you, too. I cried and said, I didn’t know, I didn’t know

The timing was bad. We both hurt people we loved. That wasn’t the way our life together should have started but there was nothing we could do. We could have done things differently but there was more at work than you and me. We were in the hands of fate now. It was just like I predicted when I signed your year book, back when we were kids.

We did everything and nothing together. We took breaks in the middle of the day just so we could go back to bed for a while. We walked around the mall a lot. We should go in one of these jewelry stores and look at rings, we said. Yeah, just for fun. You slipped the ring on my finger and the sales lady asked us if we wanted to buy it. Just because you buy the ring doesn’t mean you have to get married right away, she said. We were giggling like you do in quiet places when it’s inappropriate to laugh. What do you think? We gasped and giggled and shook and shrugged. Then you looked me in the eyes and there was nothing left to say. It was the only ring I ever tried on.

We giggled when you asked my dad for his daughter's hand in marriage, too. Were we immature or just excited? Probably both. It’s kind of a kick in the pants to fall in love and marry your best friend. I sometimes still giggle when I think about it.

Our wedding was beyond touching. You cried, I cried, I think everyone who was there cried. It was the vows. The vows and our love. I don’t think there was a person there who couldn’t feel our love that night. It was palpable. I hope it always is.

As you hold each others’ hands, see the gift that they are. These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love, as he promises to love you all the days of your life. These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his eyes: eyes that are filled completely with overwhelming love and desire for you...

And the rest is history. Isn’t that what everyone says? We got married and the rest is history. We know better than that. Getting married was just the beginning. The beginning of you being a husband and me being a wife. The beginning of our family. It wasn’t an easy transition. We fought and we cried and we wondered if we had made a mistake. But we remembered those vows. We made a promise to love each other forever. You made the promise; I made the promise. We were in this together.

We’ve come so far since then. I can hardly remember what those days were like. Maybe the rest really is history? I’ve never been more in love with you than I am right now. You have lived up to those vows in a way I never thought possible.

Thank you for knowing me and loving me and growing up with me and promising to grow old with me. Thank you for our family. Thank you for slow dancing with me in the kitchen and singing songs to Liam before bed. Thank you for working hard for our family and still coming home to make dinner. Thank you for really laughing when I say something funny. Thanks for always telling me I’m hot, even when I was pregnant (everyone knows there’s nothing hot about that). Thank you for giving Liam exactly what you give to me: pure, unconditional, overflowing love.

Thank you for the last eight years of marriage. Here’s to 80 more! (Wait, do people live that long?) Happy Anniversary, B. I love you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scandalous.

Unlike his father, Liam appears to be a boob man. Or "circle man" as that's what he calls them. "Ooh, Mama, I like your circles." Thanks, son. Thank you very much.

Now who laid an egg?

How can the Olympics be over? I just saw rhythmic gymnastics for the first time today. It was going to be my new favorite event. Thanks a lot NBC.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This morning, I took the bronze.

Even though I would technically classify myself as a morning person, I'm no Miss Sunshine. It doesn't matter what time it is or how long I've slept (and I can sleep really late if I want to), I have to be dragged kicking and screaming from beneath the covers. Once I'm out of bed, I still have to wake up. Moving around helps. So does rubbing my eyes (I swear someone pours sand in my eyes while I sleep). And, of course, coffee.

This morning, as I moved around and rubbed my eyes and made the coffee, Mr. Bird who, if I didn't know for a fact that he was our other cat's son, would definitely be called Devil Spawn, launched into his morning routine from the confines of the laundry room.

First he did that deep, guttural meoorrwww! that cats on their way to the vet sometimes do. Then he climbed up my freshly painted door, hung by his claws and stared at me through the window. Then he dropped to the ground and clawed at the floor while meowing over and over and over again.

He did it later when I had a camera cause he's helpful like that.

When I shuffled and bumped my way over to the laundry room to grab him by the scruff and throw him outside, he ran into the bathroom and hid behind the toilet. The moment I shut the door and went back to making coffee, he started the whole routine again. One more time, from the top!

By my third attempt at opening the laundry room door really, really fast to scare him into running outside, my eyes were starting to function and I no longer ran into things as I walked. While I usually appreciate my morning clarity, today it meant I could now see the cat barf he had spewed all over my laundry room.

I muttered and cursed and cleaned everything up and did my best impression of a concerned pet owner, I guess you can stay behind the toilet if you're *sick*, and finally went back to making coffee and breakfast for my husband.

The timing actually worked out well and I felt a momentary sense of accomplishment as Bill strolled into the kitchen to a piping hot and ready-to-go coffee and toast meal (whole wheat toast with organic peanut butter and banana slices). I was about to take a hard-earned first swig of coffee when he looked down at his breakfast and said, "Hey, this isn't chocolate."

Hey? Like I'm supposed to remember that you mentioned last night that you'd like Nutella on your toast instead of peanut butter. Right. That was before it was 6:30 in the morning and my eyes were full of sand. Don't push me, Mister. There's room in the laundry room for two and I'm sure Mr. Barfy would appreciate the company.

I guess you could say I was a little groggy this morning. We haven't been getting nearly enough beauty sleep lately. It's because of the Olympics. We've got Olympic Fever. Bad. Bill says we're well past fever; what we've got is Olympic Bird Flu.

It's amazing to me that The Games have sucked me in like this. I've never been an athlete (aside from pretending to be a softball player for 9 years) or a big sports fan (when I was a football cheerleader, I had to wait for the crowd to respond to a play before I knew if it was good or bad), yet here I am night after night watching swimming and volleyball and gymnastics and whatever else comes on after dinner.

Last night I watched the men's and women's 4 X 100 track relay. It was tragic. During both races, team USA was in first place when they dropped the baton in the last leg of the relay. Can you imagine anything more heartbreaking? You train your whole life to run as fast as a cheetah and leave the Olympics disqualified because of a stupid baton.

As if that's not bad enough, immediately following the race, the athletes who dropped the baton were interviewed and expected to answer questions like, "What happened?" (Um, we dropped the baton?) and, "Did you practice the baton pass?" (You realize we're at the Olympics, right?).

Then the anchorman guy had the nerve to say the teams "Laid an egg in the Bird's Nest". That's just tacky.

Finally! Something that makes me glad I'm not an Olympian.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Material girls.

**recent Skype conversation between me and my sister**

Me: "So, you know how we always say things like wouldn't it be so cool if we blah, blah, blah someday?

Her: "Yeah. Like the Great Gatsby House?"

"Yeah, totally. Well, I was think-"

"It really would be cool to have that house."

"I know."

"Where we're just like, lying around drinking cocktails on these big couches and a breeze is blowing through the house and there are really flowy curtains and we can hear all our kids like, playing by a lake or something and we're just like, oh no big deal, let's have another cocktail?"

"Totally. But I was thinking about something else that we wanted to do someday."

"Oh, cool."

"Well, you know how we're always like, One concert I definitely want to see before I die is Madonna but then one of us goes, I heard it was like $300 a ticket! Who has that kind of money? and then we're like, It will be really cool someday when we're the kind of people who can do stuff like that?"

"Yeah, I can't wait till we're those kind of people. That will be awesome."

"Well, I was thinking? Maybe we are those kind of people. I mean, if we want to see Madonna, we should go see freaking Madonna. No one is stopping us but us."

"You're totally right! I mean, she's not getting any younger."

I honestly think this might be the best decision we've ever made. I mean, what could be better than a girls weekend in Chicago with my sister and Madonna? Not only that but I get to fly on an airplane all by myself. If there is anything resembling a sippy cup in my carry on you better believe it will be filled with vodka.

My sister and I have done a lot of fun things in our lives but never flown to a big city to spend the weekend alone together shopping for trendy clothes and eating Chicago style pizza and drinking whatever we can get our lips around and SEEING FREAKING MADONNA! Don't even mention the fact that there's been talk about a possible Britney or JT appearance. That's too much awesome for me to process right now.

I love being this kind of person!

Oh, and speaking of awesome...my thoughtful and adoring husband got me my very own big girl camera for our upcoming anniversary!

I pretty much plan to rock this look from now until forever. Love!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The great outdoors.

I love camping. I have always loved camping.

Camping to me was all about eating beanie weenies and s'mores, drinking ice-cold milk from the cooler and sometimes Coca Cola straight from the 2 liter bottle (why not? we're camping!). Kicking the can with my mom and dad and yelling ollie ollie oxen free! even though I never quite knew what it meant. Playing house in the camper with my sister and our dolls and reading Charlotte's Web in the big bed above the truck cabin.

It was using my mom's Noxzema to wash the dirt off my face and feeling the grown-up tingle of really clean skin. It was washing my freshly permed hair for the very first time in a stream with baby shampoo while my parents rolled their eyes at the absurdity of it and wondered, whose kid is this?

Camping was me and my dad riding bikes to the swimming pool where my first attempt at a running dive off the diving board resulted in the belly flop heard round the world.

It was coming up with family photo ops such as the walking sticks as antlers series that I am 89% sure is what stuck my sister with the nickname "Moose" for the rest of her life (if not that, what?).

Camping was the geeky Girl Scout equivalent to a post-adolescent slumber party, laying in a sleeping bag next to my best friends and skimming through Judy Blume's Forever with a flashlight, looking for the parts about sex so we could read them together while gasping and giggling and wondering is that what sex is really like?

Camping was the closest I got to moving out of my parents' house before actually moving out of my parents' house. It meant I could drink beer and smoke cigarettes and have sex and do all the things normal college kids who don't live with their parents can do. (By a campfire, no less!)

Camping was my final hurrah as a west-coaster, sleeping in a tent with my sister, getting drunk around the campfire with my mom and her life-long girlfriends, staggering to the local saloon to watch in horror as several women in their 60s (including my mother) climbed onto the bar to to sing along with the country crooner on the jukebox.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn't come up with anything negative to say about camping. Nothing except, it has been way too long since I've slept in a tent.

Bill is not a big fan of camping. Once we saw a comedian on TV who compared camping to pretending you live in a trailer park. I laughed like you do when you watch comedy and really want the comedian to succeed. Bill laughed like, "Bwwaahhh! A trailer park! That's exactly... awwhahaha... ooh, she nailed it! Nailed it! *chuckling and shaking his head* That's why I hate camping."

It's been my goal for years to get him to see camping from my perspective. To see that just an hour away from home, there is a whole world just waiting to be explored. A world of burnt marshmallows and sleeping bags and quiet, wide open spaces begging to be appreciated.

During our 8 year marriage I have succeeded at getting him into a tent just once. I was seven months pregnant and having fairly regular panic attacks about life post-baby ("I'll never get to go camping now!"). Not wanting to be pinned as the one who ruined my life by knocking me up, Bill agreed to take me camping.

It was everything I had hoped for: friends swapping stories around the campfire, Mark Kozelek singing Modest Mouse covers softy in the background, cuddling up in a tent with my husband and our dog, eating cheese and crackers and anything that could be stuck on a stick and cooked over the fire. I had so much fun that I forgot I was pregnant. My jacket wouldn't button and I looked around like, "Wow, OK guys, no more s'mores for me!"

Forgetting you're pregnant in your third trimester is a really big deal.

Bill must have had a good time too because this weekend, after just minimum amounts of whining and carrying on about how I'll never go camping again, he pulled all of our gear out of the basement, packed up the car and took his family camping.

We decided on Montgomery Bell State Park, just an hour outside of Nashville and the top pick by Music City Moms. As we drove through the campground looking for our perfect home away from home, I was giddy with excitement. There was a nice mix of tents and RVs, lots of kids riding bikes and a playground, activity center and beach nearby. Most of the camp sites backed up to hiking trails and the entire camp ground was surrounded by beautiful shade trees.

After checking out several options, we set up camp at a fairly level spot that was close (but not too close) to the bathrooms and had a few empty spaces on either side. Bill and I quickly set up the tent while Liam discovered the joys of camping. Dirt! Ashes! Rocks! Dirt! Dog Water! More dirt!

Several baby wipes and a memory foam pad in the tent later, Liam and I retreated into the comfiest, coziest den of love I have ever seen. I watched the trees blow over head and tried to nap while Liam colored and read and pulled the pillow out from under my head anytime it looked like I might actually fall asleep ("No, Mama, you're not taking a nap anymore!")

It was perfect.

That is, it was perfect. Then, they showed up.

A white Ford Taurus that had obviously been auctioned off at the Dickson County public vehicle auction sped through the camp ground on a mission. There was no browsing for the perfect spot, no comparing and contrasting, no calculating the distance to the bathroom or from the nearest camper. No hesitation whatsoever.

As Liam and I rolled around in the tent, tickling each other and laughing uncontrollably, Bill motioned with his head and muttered under his breath, "We've got company." Sure enough, despite the many beautiful camp sites in every corner of the campground, the car pulled into the spot right next to us. They were so close to our tent, they greeted us when they got out of the car.

It was like being on a half-empty Southwest flight with a lap child and a row all to yourself when an overweight child-hating man with a hoagie and a head cold sits down in your aisle seat. Sure, you can sigh dramatically, make a big production about not knowing where else to put your diaper bag, and coo passive aggressively to your non-speaking infant I know it's an empty flight, it doesn't make sense to me either, sometimes that's just how people are, but it doesn't work. It never works. You are stuck against the window for the entire flight and no matter how bad you have to pee or want to get up and walk the aisle you will just have to suck it up and accept that some people are selfish and stupid and there's nothing you can do about it.

This is how we felt about our new neighbors.

We adjusted our tent windows and doors to maximum spying positions and set out trying to figure out who the hell these people thought they were. There was a fat woman in a fluorescent orange t-shirt and mirrored sunglasses and a long-haired skinny one in cut off shorts and a bikini top. Was it a mother and her rebellious teen daughter? Could they be sisters? Friends? Lesbian lovers?

They moved quickly and never stopped talking in their mind-numbingly thick country accents. The skinny one set up the tent while the fat one unloaded the trunk of the car. I saw a case of grape soda and a plastic table cloth. They pulled out a hair dryer to inflate their air mattress. We watched and listened with the same sense of sick curiosity that lulls people into watching reality TV.

After a few minutes, the skinny one asked us if we would watch their site so they could go get all the kids. All the kids? We should have said, "Oh we were just leaving," but instead we nodded and tried to look gracious as she shouted, "Y'all are awesome. AWESOME! Hey, they're awesome!"

Once they left, we pretty much forgot all about them. I succeeded in taking a nap and, once again, everything was right in the world.

When they got back with a slew of odd looking children (a fat redhead, a knobby-kneed dark-skinned one, an itty bitty tow-headed one, and probably like 3 or 4 more by the sound of it), we decided to cash in our awesomeness and ask them to watch our site while we checked out the lake.

When we got back, Liam was wet and tired and we knew we had a very small window of opportunity to get food in his belly before he fell asleep.

Yeah, cause a kid who never sleeps anywhere but his own bed will totally fall asleep outside in a tent while Dumb and Dumber get drunk and yell obscenities at their kids while listening to really bad radio and carrying on about the most asinine shit all night long. Right.

"Git yer ass over here!"

"We're mean cuz we're single moms and we gotta be."

"Git away from there! I don't want no pee on my side of the tent."

At one point while we were testing to see if the "cry it out method" would work in a tent, we looked over and saw Miss Bikini Top pole dancing with a tree.

Liam cried and cried. I wanted to cry too. This was not the camping I knew and loved. This was the trailer park camping, the comedian's camping, Bill's camping. I got the joke now, it just wasn't all that funny.

We took turns trying to get Liam to sleep and spying on the neighbors. When it was my turn in the tent, I did my best to be there for Liam without pissing him off. His stubborn streak was on full force and any sort of touching or talking or, God forbid, shushing, was met with an uncontrollable wailing tantrum. I guess he figured if the neighbors could hoot and holler all night long, so could he.

After what felt like forever, Liam finally looked around, wadded Blue Bi (the smaller of his two blankets) into a pillow and stuck the corner of White Bi into his mouth. He got really still and sucked on his blankie for a moment before laying his head down and trying to go to sleep. I laid next to him, wishing I could reach out and rub his back or stroke his hair.

It was like watching him in an ultrasound: the shadow of his little arms and legs struggling to get comfortable, the beauty of his profile in the light of the flickering fire, the longing to hold him even though he was right there in front of me. Waves of love and nostalgia washed over me as I remembered my swimmy little baby stretching and yawning and sucking his toes inside of me.

Eventually, Liam fell asleep and I managed to get out of the tent just in time for camp karaoke. The radio blared the most mediocre music and surprise!, our neighbors knew every word of every song. We survived horrific duets of Creed, Barenaked Ladies, Shania Twain and many, many others. Once in a while a good song would come on and we'd look at each other like, "This could be OK?" Then they'd start in with their rubber band voices and we'd mime suicide while shaking our heads in utter disbelief. They butchered Prince's Purple Rain in a way I didn't think possible. The skinny one even did the talking bit where Prince breaks it down. With feeling.

I could only pretend to enjoy myself for so long. S'mores didn't even sound good to me. I took a final walk to the bathroom, glaring at their camp as I walked past in the dark, then we threw up our hands and called it a night.

I don't know what kind of dream world I was living in earlier in the day when I thought our tent was all comfy and wonderful because when we crawled under the covers to go to sleep, it was immediately obvious that our bed sucked. The memory foam pad was no match for the rocks that jutted out of the Earth under every bony part of our bodies. I was too cold, then I was too hot, then I had to pee. Several times. Then I grabbed a blanket and some beach towels from the car to try to pad our bed a little more and didn't realize until the blanket was in our bed that it was covered with hay and dirt from our last family picnic. We were tired and sore and really, really pissed off.

After hours of tossing and turning and getting up to pee in the dirt and laying perfectly still when Liam woke up and listening to the redneck women carry on and on and on, Bill finally had enough. Motivated by Van Halen wailing, "Right now!" he got dressed and marched next door to reason with the drunken whores. They, of course, had no idea we could hear them.

Not long after we fell asleep, one of their children woke up screaming and the whole mess started up again. Bill packed up camp in record time and we were home eating sausage biscuits by 9:30 am.

On the drive home, we tried to stay awake by laughing about our night in the trailer park. "I hope Liam will remember this night as a warning: go to college!" "Yeah, then he can pay someone eleven bucks a night to pretend he didn't!"

Bill had that smug, I told you so look on his face. "See, babe? Maybe we're just not camping people."

"Nice try. If you think that was our last camping trip you're crazy. No way in hell am I letting that be my last camping trip. I swear I will prove to you that camping is fun."

"And you wonder where Liam gets his stubborn streak."

The truth is, I might not be a camping person. I really enjoy things like comfort and privacy and could easily do without the 8 loads of smoky laundry that accompany even the shortest of camping trips. Not to mention all the packing and unpacking. And the dirt. I don't really like dirt.

Is there anything I actually like about camping?

Absolutely.

As long as there is even the slightest chance I can spend quiet, uninterrupted time with the people I love, I will continue to be a camping person. When I think back on this trip, it will be this moment that I remember. Even now with the bruises and the laundry and the pile of camping stuff on my kitchen table and that awful Creed song still stuck in my head, I can look at that picture and know, without a doubt, that I'm a camping person.

Sorry, babe. It's not over until the fat lady sings I say it is.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Potty talk.

If you've checked out my other blog lately, you'll already know that we are knee deep in the child rearing gauntlet known as potty training. It is an all-encompassing, time-suck of an experience that has me spending way too much time in and around the bathroom.

"So, what are you doing this weekend?"

"Hello? We're potty training? It's like a 24/7 kind of thing. We can't potty train and have a life, you know. It's just not possible!"

All conversations tend toward the subject of potty. I never even said the word potty before this. Now it's all we talk about. "Liam, do you need to go pee? Do you want to sit on your potty? Let's go potty together! Potty, potty, pee pee, potty!"

I knew I was feeling this way but, as it turns out, I might not be the only one in the house who is somewhat obsessed.

Last night Bill pointed out some drawings in Liam's notebook that look a little, well, you be the judge.

That's a nice line, Liam. Oh, it's not just a line? What is it?

Oh, um, OK. I really like that, uh, shape.

Hello! I think that's enough creative expression for today.

I mean, are we crazy or are these pictures totally phallic? I feel like we might be 12 years and a huge surge of testosterone away from living with the kid in Super Bad. This, I'm afraid, is just the beginning.

Congratulations, it's a BOY.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Zen and the art of pest control.

When I sat down at the computer this morning, I almost set my cup of coffee on this:


Could there be a more disgusting way to start the day?

When I first spotted it, I completely froze. I sat two feet from the little bugger with my body jerked unnaturally away and my face contorted into the unmistakable "ew" face. I couldn't move a muscle.

Bill had just left for work and I considered running out the front door and chasing down his car screaming, "Help, help! There's a bug in the house! Come BAAAAAAACK!!!"

But that would mean I'd have to run. Hmm.

Maybe instead I could squash him with the laptop or, at least, place the lap top on him, book it the hell out of there and quarantine the room for the rest of the day? It seemed like a fairly reasonable solution until it occurred to me that, as much as I didn't want to admit it, this ugly man-sized bug might be a roach.

If legend and folk lore held true, roaches were like as old as dinosaurs and could survive anything, no matter what. I pictured him pushing the lap top off his body with one spiky arm and saying (in a Spanish accent for some reason), "Ha! You're a fool to think you could stop me, lady. Don't you know I'm a ROACH?"

Or, ew, even worse? What if I missed him or startled him and he fell to to the ground and scurried somewhere else in the house? Scurrying is completely unsettling to me. I've seen a mouse scurry up Bill's leg before and would be dammed if I was going to put myself in that situation.

But I couldn't just sit there frozen all day. At some point I would have to do something.

Then I remembered that when we had mice, taking pictures of them helped me regroup and chill the F out. Maybe it would be the same with SeƱor Roach? (Why the heck is he Spanish?)

My camera was within reach so I grabbed it and started shooting. Sure enough, the moment I got him in the frame, he stopped being so disgusting. I was shooting him. I was the boss now. If I said stay there and don't even think about scurrying, he would have no choice but to listen.

After I snapped a couple shots, I did the unthinkable: picked up the paper he was on and carried it outside. He was like 2 inches from my hand. One of his ginormous antanae could have touched me at any time. He could have scurried up my arm and into my hair for goodness sake. I, of course, wasn't thinking about these terrifying possibilities at the time. I was just taking deep, calming breaths and walking oh-so-carefully towards the door.

The picture turned out very film noir, wouldn't you say? Shooting in black and white wasn't a creative choice so much as a power, point, click, done sort of thing. I set the camera to black and white the night before when I was taking pictures of Liam on the potty. Black and white seemed a little less paparazzi, a little more you'll appreciate this someday. No?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chasing my pride.

Watching the Olympics has made it abundantly clear that it takes a lot to be an athlete. Unbelievable determination and commitment, immense athletic prowess, event-specific muscle distribution. The ability to pull off a track suit while looking cute, sporty and all-American.

I am, of course, jealous of all these traits but perhaps most practically, that last one. Being able to do a double back handspring would be cool but, let's be honest, a little pointless. How often would that come up in conversation? Probably not a lot. Being able to wear sweats, on the other hand, would change my life completely.

They're like socially acceptable pajamas. You feel like you just rolled out of bed but you look like, well, you kind of look like you just rolled out of bed too but in a way that is totally acceptable for the grocery store.

Now you know why I'm against sweatpants. It's not that I don't like them, it's that I can't pull them off. Trust me, if I could wear sweats and look sporty-chic like Eva Longoria or a fancy suburban mommy, I would wear them every day.

The sporty look has never worked for me. While some girls can pull on a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, and sneakers and look comfy and adorable, I look like a lesbian truck driver. All those free t-shirts you get for running a 5K or going to a hockey game? Forget about it. "Oh, it's casual, just wear jeans and a t-shirt." Right. I'd rather stay home than tackle that fashion faux pas.

Also, and this is really embarrassing, I have a chronic wedgie problem. I don't have a lot of junk in my trunk so there's nothing to stop my underwear from slipping and sliding and ending up in my crack. I know what you're thinking, ever try a g-string? Gimme a break. Of course, I've tried a g-string. But here's the thing: a g-string is not going to change the fact that I don't have enough junk in my truck to keep things in place and athletic fabrics are especially prone to relocation. Do you see what I'm trying to say?

G-string + sporty clothes = lesbian truck driver with a wedgie. A sweat pants wedgie. That's not good for anyone.

As you can imagine, finding clothes to work out in is somewhat of a challenge. Not only do I want to be comfortable and wedgie-free, I also want to feel like myself but in an event-specific, I do this every day, sort of way. If I go to Pilates, I want to look like I'm going to Pilates. If I'm going for a run, I want to look like a runner.

This is why I don't usually golf. I have no idea what to wear.

When I started playing softball in 4th grade I wore my entire uniform to my first practice. Stirrups and everything. I may not have known how to throw, catch or hit but you would never know it by looking at me. (Actually, I looked like a complete fool. Everyone knows you're not supposed to wear a uniform to practice.)

Fake it till you make it, right?

Today was no exception. It was a beautiful day, like Nashville had no idea it's the middle of August. I decided before Liam even woke up that it was a perfect day for a long walk/run to the park. The dog and I could get some exercise, Liam could play at the playground, and we could all enjoy some fresh air.

I would just need to figure out what to wear.

If we were going for a walk, I would have worn something I would be comfortable seeing others in. Something I would wear if we were going to the park or the zoo. But since I was planning to run, I would need to come up with something else. You can't run dressed like you're going to the zoo; it makes you look like you're being chased.

I settled on a racer-back tank, running shorts (OK, sporty black shorts that I rolled up until they were short enough to look like running shorts), ankle socks, running shoes, and a pedometer. My hair was in a high pony and my skin glistened with sunscreen. I definitely looked ready to run.

As soon as Liam finished breakfast, I pulled out the (non-running) stroller, found the dog's leash and took off toward the park.

I started off walking but at a pace quick enough to break a sweat. The dog was trotting along beside me and already starting to pant. Considering she's 12 years old and gets winded licking her butt these days, that's not saying a whole heck of a lot. Still, it felt like we were really starting to move.

As soon as I crossed the street and started down the hill to the park, I picked up the pace and started running. By my third or fourth stride, the dog had already tripped over the stroller twice, my pedometer had somehow managed to come unclipped from my shorts and my underwear were all bunched up where the sun don't shine.

I screeched to a halt and readjusted everything. I got my clothes and the dog and the pedometer back where I wanted them and started down the hill again. A few strides later, I was already a mess. Clearly this was not the running outfit I had hoped for.

I kept on running, aware that the farther I went the more ridiculous I looked. My shorts had come completely unrolled and were riding up where my inner thighs rubbed together, my tank top was creeping dangerously close to uncharted belly shirt territory, and every time my foot hit the pavement, my pony tail slipped further down my increasingly sweaty head.

Despite everything, I started to really enjoy myself about half way down the hill. My stride got longer as I gave up trying to look composed and realized I could lean in to the stroller for support. Cloey was panting and stumbling and running to keep up but I think she was smiling too. I couldn't help but laugh and yell out to Liam, "Can you believe pant gasp how FAST we're running!?"

It didn't take long for me to get totally winded (even though I may look the part, I am not actually a runner). The end of the hill was approaching and I kept telling myself, "Just run to the stop sign, stop running at the stop sign." I was almost there when an older gentleman appeared out of nowhere, walking in the direction I was planning to go. Aw, man! I couldn't stop running now. Not only would it be blatantly obvious that I can only run down hill, I would be stuck having to readjust myself while fielding questions like, "Are you walking that dog or is she walking you?" No, I would have to keep going.

I forged ahead, no longer leaning on the stroller for support but pushing it uphill as I sputtered and panted, clothing askew, elderly dog falling behind like, "Excuse me but I thought we only ran down hill?" I glanced back to see if I'd lost him and when I turned back around there was a very sporty looking family out for a walk. They waved and pointed out the doggie to their little ones while I kept right on running like this was something I did all the time. "Pant, gasp. Must. Keep. Running! Pant, pant, gasp..."

As I rounded the next bend and looked around, I saw we were alone at last. "Whew! Yeah!" I did the tapered off run-to-walk move that the sprinters do and then stopped for a moment to stretch my legs on the stroller basket. I felt athletic. Olympian, even. Liam was completely unimpressed but I didn't care. "Whew! That was a great run, buddy. Yeah! Did you see how fast we were going?"

By the time we got to the playground at the top of the hill, I was completely wiped out. Still, I had promised Liam he could play and couldn't go back on it now. Luckily there were no sporty-chic mommies around to snicker at my "running" attire. As Liam climbed up the stairs and went down the big slide all by himself, I eyed the jungle gym with newfound curiosity. If only I had been dressed for gymnastics.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Here's to everything.

Earlier this week, Bill and I went out for a really big celebration dinner with a couple of friends. REALLY BIG. I mean, like, dress up and spend a lot of money big. Get a babysitter big. Come home late and have fun, drunken sex big.

BIG!

It started out as a celebration for our friend who is kissing a soul-sucking career in real estate goodbye so she can return to grad school for social work, but by the end of the night there wasn't anything we weren't celebrating.

Them: "We got married a couple of months ago!"

Cheers!

Us: "This month is our 8 year anniversary!"

Cheers!

Bill: "I finally got a job and it's going really well!"

Cheers!

Me: "I'm having a good hair day!"

After a while, we started celebrating things we haven't done yet but want to. This was the best part. It felt like we were setting ourselves up to kick ass at whatever we said. I mean, if a whole table of people toasts you for something and then you don't do it, that's just sad.

So, here's to writing and success and making lots of money and finishing my beautiful laundry room.

Cheers!

Oh, and one more thing worth celebrating: This is my 100th post! I've recently been inspired by bloggers who actually make a living blogging and like to think that this milestone is just the beginning...

I think I'll go crack a PBR Light (reason enough to celebrate, really) and toast myself silly.

PS - Sorry I don't have any pictures of my really good hair day. I mean, I do have pictures but they are from the end of the night when I'm drunk and trying to make cleavage by squeezing my elbows together really tight. Even with great hair, it's not a good look for me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Liam 2.5

Liam is two-and-a-half today. Doesn't it look like fun???

His shirt is ironic if you hadn't guessed.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Help wanted.

Our house is a 1920-something Victorian with great bones and tons of charm. It's on a friendly, tree-lined street that has enjoyed lots of renovation over the last four years (like every other house on our street has been taken down to the studs, completely re-done and sold for WAY more than we bought our house for). It's in a funky little neighborhood near downtown that has become the hot spot in Nashville. We really knocked one out of the park when we bought this house.

Wouldn't it be cool if I could take at least some of the credit for it?

The truth is, I never even saw our house until we pulled our U-Haul up to the SOLD sign. I had never even been to our neighborhood before we moved in.

Bill flew to Nashville all by himself to work with a Realtor and find us a house. He has great taste and psychic powers so I knew I had nothing to worry about.

He was not quite so sure. Instead of feeling confident about his choice, he felt scared of my reaction to his choice. Perhaps I've mentioned my control issues? Ahem.

For the first week or so, Bill walked around on eggshells as I got acquainted with our new home. Every time I made an observation, he would defend his decision.

"The floors seem kind of uneven."

"It's an old house. They all have uneven floors."

"This bathroom is so tiny it feels like a boat."

"But the house has two bathrooms. You said you wanted two bathrooms, remember?"

When it came to the yard though, he was as baffled as I was. Since we closed on the house about three weeks before we actually moved in, everything was completely overgrown. Coming from Reno this was a mystery to us. If we had left a yard unsupervised for three weeks, the grass would have died, not grown. This new climate would take some getting used to.

As excited as we were to have actual vegetation growing outside our home, we had no idea what to do with it. Where are we supposed to mow? Is this part of the lawn or a plant? Are these weeds or flowers? Wait. Where the hell are the dogs???

The day after we moved in, I was in the bath when I heard a knock at the door. I had no idea who it could be because we hadn't met anyone yet and didn't know a soul in town. I sat very quietly and tried to make out who Bill was talking to. No luck. A few minutes later, the door slammed shut and a lawn mower cranked to life in the front yard.

I scrambled out of the bath as visions of angry neighbors flashed through my head. Welcome to the neighborhood, your yard looks like crap.

When I stepped out on the porch I saw a girl, maybe 11 years old, mowing our lawn. Bill was beaming as he watched her. "Isn't this great? She used to mow the lawn for the previous owners so she knows what to do. I gave her twenty bucks and she's going to do the front and the back!"

I couldn't believe it. I had never lived any place where kids pushed lawn mowers door-to-door offering to cut your grass. Especially not little girls! It felt very quaint, like we had just landed in Anytown, USA. I longed for a porch swing and an ice cold glass of lemonade.

After half an hour or so, Bill came back inside and burst my bubble. "Richard just asked me for a cigarette."

"Who's Richard?"

"Richard. The kid who just cut our lawn."

"But I thought..."

"I know, me too. I'm kinda bummed. I thought it was cool to pay a girl to mow the lawn but if a boy is going to do it, it might as well be me."

In the days that followed, several more "Richards" came a-knocking. It seems a U-Haul truck and out of state plates are like a homing device for out-of-work handy men looking for some quick cash. It's kind of like putting up a yard sign that says We're new to town and complete SUCKERS!

After a while the knocks at the door became less frequent. As we settled in to our new home, we grew less overwhelmed with it's upkeep and more cynical of helpful kids with stolen lawn mowers. Even so, we still get caught off guard once in a while.

Like today.

We were hanging out with Liam when there was a knock at the door. We both kind of shrugged and I went back to what I was doing (I NEVER answer the door. I don't care if Bill is home with me or not, I just don't do it.). Bill sighed like, "Oh I know, why don't I get the door," and disappeared down the hall. A moment later he came back into the living room.

"There's a guy at the door who will clean our gutters for thirty bucks."

"Sweet. There's cash in my purse."

We might be suckers but I know a good deal when I see one. Our gutters are a mess. They're full of birds nests and tiny trees and are pulling away from the house in several places. Our roof is really steep and even from the tip-top of the ladder it's still almost impossible to get up there. I would easily have paid twice that much.

A few seconds later there was a loud BOOM on the roof and I could hear someone walking around. Evidently, as soon as Bill gave the guy the go-ahead, he scaled our back fence and jumped onto the roof. WITHOUT a ladder. In less than ten minutes, all of the gutters were clean and reattached to the house.

We ended up giving him $40 because we were so impressed with his work and grateful to have the job finished. Well, that and we felt bad for the guy because his wife just died and he needs money to pay for her burial.

Heh. Can you say SUCKERS?

******************************************************

Edited to add:

Bill was just out mowing the lawn (himself, thank you very much) when a guy in a truck stopped out front to offer him a real good deal on some steaks. I wonder if the gutter guy told him about the suckers on 17th Street?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

One good deed deserves another.

I'm having trouble deciding which of my husband's good deeds today was more awesome. Isn't that a great problem to have?

First he did the unthinkable: he MOVED ELECTRICITY. And not just any electricity. Dryer electricity. That's two hundred and twenty volts people. I don't really know what that means but I'm pretty sure that, as far as volts are concerned, two hundred and twenty is a lot.

There wasn't anything wrong with the dryer. No, the dryer and electricity were both working just fine. The only reason he undertook this death defying stunt was because I wanted to move the dryer about four and a half feet to the left and the cord wouldn't reach.

I thought I would just pop into the Home Dept, grab an extension cord and move the dryer myself. It seemed like no problem until I actually went to Home Depot. Did you know there is no such thing as an extension cord for dryers? Yeah.

Instead of giving up on what looked like mission impossible, I asked Bill if he could give me a hand. I thought maybe if I said it real casually like, "Nothing major, I just need a big strong man to help me for a minute," he might not know what he was up against.

Once he found out what actually had to be done, he didn't even bat an eye. He just figured out which of his friends could help him and the two of them dove right in.

Don't you think most husbands would have made their wives give it up and just do the damn laundry already?

I probably should have made him a really special thank-you dinner or something but he already beat me to the punch.

Before he got to work on the dryer, he tossed a bunch of home grown tomatoes, garlic and olive oil into the oven. All afternoon, the house smelled AMAZING. By the time he finished the laundry room, the tomatoes were roasted and ready to be made into the best sauce I have ever tasted. I would drink the stuff if we had any vodka to mix it with.

As if that wasn't enough, he decided to make Eggplant Parmesan from eggplants he grew in our garden. Yes, that's right. He made Eggplant Parmesan from SCRATCH.

It was good. Really good. Like I can't wait to finish this post so I can lose the laptop and replace it with a heaping plate of seconds good.

Yum.

Like me, Bill wasn't raised knowing how to do this kind of stuff. He learned recently, on his own. He learned so he could be a good husband and father. So he could set a good example for his son. So he could get some from his eternally grateful wife.

Done and done.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Expert scmexpert.

Here is a quote from a recent article in Parent's magazine that caught my attention. A parenting expert was asked, "What's one thing you wouldn't say in one of your books?" He replied:
Becoming a parent is like contracting a debilitating disease. Imagine a disease where you couldn't sleep, you couldn't have sex, you couldn't travel, you had aches and pains all the time. Now, this doesn't mean you don't love your kids. In fact, the more you love them, the harder it is. Nobody tells you what the pull of loving your kids will do to you the rest of your life - including your relationship with your spouse. Even if you had a relatively healthy sex life before kids, after the second kid it's just kind of done. There's not always as much love to go around.
I read it and thought, "Aha! I knew it!"

Then I thought, "Geez, I was already struggling with the idea of having a second...thanks a lot."

Finally, I thought, "Screw that guy!"

I mean, sure, that can happen. In fact, I would even go so far as to say it probably does most of the time. BUT...it doesn't have to. It's just like G.I. Joe always said, "Knowing is half the battle." Now that you know how drastically your kids can change your life, won't you do everything in your power to stop it from happening to you?

If we can just remember "person first, wife second, mommy third," we'll be fine. Our husbands and kids will thank us for it. (And we'll maintain our sanity!)

Just say NO to mommy brain!

Liam says, "Expert schmexpert."