Thursday, December 28, 2006


I've been censored.  My post today has been removed.  Sorry people.  I wasn't real keen on the idea but, after a long debate with my husband, I decided to delete it.  Sometimes even I have to make compromises to keep things kosher in the old homestead. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Worst Case Scenario

Getting pseudo-professional
pictures made of your children is one of the most stressful activities imaginable.  I am pretty faithful to the Picture People
because I like the simplicity of their backdrops and the non-cheesiness of
their props. I’ve gotten my son’s
picture taken at JCPenney a few times but  I have not been happy with their props and backdrops.  Why is it that every department store photo
studio provides ugly, cheap carpeted blocks for your kids to sit on?  It is one of the great mysteries of the universe.  Do they think that carpeted blocks are really elegant and attractive?  Or maybe they think carpeted blocks convey an element of realism that a simple chair could never do.  Perhaps the most realistic picture ever taken of my son was of
him sitting on a block of carpet in front of a wooden playground backdrop. I’ve been to many playgrounds and I’ve never
seen one with a randomly placed block of carpeted plywood.

My least favorite part of getting my children’s pictures
taken is the sweating. I sweat
profusely during the entire process. I
turn into a blubbering, red-faced, sweaty mess. It’s really a sight to see. My kids are both in the worse case scenario phase for picture taking. My son, who is four,
simply does not like to have his picture taken. He gets distracted and frustrated and asks constantly, “when are
we going to be done?” My daughter, on
the other hand, is far too young to follow instructions and does not trust
strangers. She wants me to hold her at
all times and she refuses to sit still. Getting them to smile simultaneously long enough to snap a photo is a
small miracle.

I am perfectly content with one good shot of the kids. The Picture People staff, unfortunately, are
not. They are trained to be salesman
and probably work off of some type of commission plan. As a result, they try to work in as many
different props, poses and backdrops as possible. By the time they are ready to call it quits, I am in desperate
need of a drink and my kids are keyed up from being stuck so long in a photo
shoot.  They end up running around the store like wild animals. I’ve gotten some priceless looks from
new Moms taking their new babies in for their first pictures. I always chuckle to myself because I was
once in their shoes, taking my precious sleeping baby to the studio and watching the other Moms, horrified by the behavior of their children. Karma is a bitch.

The least stressful part of picture taking is choosing your pictures.  The Picture People have an ingenious sales pitch. At most portrait studios you look at the
digital images on a computer screen and place your order based on those
images. The Picture People actually
print the pictures so that you walk out of there with your photos in
hand. While this is incredibly convenient, it is unbelievably difficult to
decide against purchasing a picture of your child when you know that it will
get thrown in the trash if you don’t fork out the $18 it costs to bring it home. I usually end up spending no less than $50
when I go there.  Less than 10 percent
of the pictures that I have purchased over the years are hanging on my
walls. Most of them are stored safely
in a drawer for future enjoyment. At least
they are not in a landfill.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post Christmas Stress Syndrome

Top Ten Post-Christmas Stress Syndrome Triggers:

  1. The need for an industrial snow plow just to clear a path through the living room.

  2. The inability to button a pair of pants that fit four days ago.

  3. The impending removal of the Christmas tree, the Christmas lights, and the Christmas chochkies.

  4. My Mother-In-Law’s less than favorable reaction to my unusual but requested (yes, darnit, it was and verified! Too bad I’m the only one that remembers the conversation) gift.

  5. The internal argument about whether or not to write thank-you notes for gifts received. What’s the correct etiquette on that? Do I really want to know?

  6. The Visa bill.

  7. The Western Town that shoots out cannon balls with such force that my daughter actually has a small bruise on her forehead. Yikes.

  8. The four, that’s right, four new pieces of furniture that are packed into my daughter’s teeny, tiny little room.

  9. The referee uniform that I am forced to wear when my kids get into brawls over each other’s new toys.

  10. The leftovers confronting my newly-motivated-to-lose-weight self at every turn screaming, “Eat me or I will go bad. Don’t be wasteful. Just eat me. You can lose weight tomorrow.”

Here’s the good news. My kids are happily playing with their new toys and have left me alone
long enough to write this list. Things
could be worse.  I am, however, about to bite down on a piece of fudge at 10:30 in the morning.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Fallout

Christmas is upon us. I cannot believe how quickly it has come this year. It seems like just yesterday that I was
bitching about the early arrival of Santa Claus at the mall. Now, my kids have sat on his lap five or six
times, we’ve participated in several Christmas activities with friends and
family, and I am officially done with my Christmas shopping, down to the
groceries. Woo hoo! 

The menus are planned, the presents are wrapped, and all we
have left to do is put together toys on Christmas Eve. I stopped by the liquor store today to
ensure that my husband and I had enough spirits to get through this
process. Toys are packaged so
ridiculously these days that you need an arsenal of tools just to get them out
of the packages. We are armed with all varieties
of screwdrivers, an Exacto knife, a seemingly endless supply of batteries, and
several trash bags for the Christmas fallout. Tis the Season! 

I wish you and your families a wonderful Holiday
Season. Here’s to too many toys,
Christmas debt and American overindulgence! It’s second to none.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shock and Awe

I’ve already discussed my feelings about Christmas
letters. Now, what about those pesky
little photo cards that accompany the Christmas letters or, more commonly,
arrive solo? They are an entirely
different story. Once a fairly uncommon
tradition, sending out photo cards is now a right of passage for young
parents. It is also a competition. We may not admit it, but it is.

Every time I get an envelope from someone with children in
the mail, I rip it open to check out the photo card. First, though, I take a minute to check out the exterior. Did Jennifer type or write her
addresses? What font did Alyson
use? Did Joann place a tasteful sticker
on the envelope seam? My printer is on
the fritz so my addresses were hand-written. I also took full advantage of the holiday labels that I received from
The Sierra Club and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in the hopes that I would
reciprocate with a donation to their respective charity. Did I? Nope. Do I feel guilty for using
the labels anyway? A little. Suffice it to say, the exterior of my cards
left something to be desired. I
definitely lost that contest.

The cards that I have received have run the gamut from very
traditional, single photo framed cards to super-creative, multiple image
folding cards. Some of my friends
clearly dropped some major bank designing these greetings but it was all worth
it when I opened the envelope and gazed covetously at the photo within. I even felt the need to scan some of them
and email them to friends. We marveled at
the cleverness and creativity of our counterparts and began making plans for
next year’s card.

Next year’s contest is in the bag. It’s mine to lose. This
year my card was very run-of-the-mill. It featured one photo and was very traditional. No more! I’ve got to compete with my creative friends and prove my worth as a
Mother and master of all things holiday. I’m thinking of asking my husband to build a manger and making elaborate
costumes so that we can recreate the Nativity for our card. That would necessitate having another baby,
though, so it may be out of the question. We could also dress as the cast from “A Christmas Story” and purchase a
leg lamp and some bunny costumes for the kids. That would be pretty classic. The days of the whole family cleverly clad in Santa hats are gone. Now, you have to wow your audience. Shock and awe, baby. Shock and awe.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mary Lou

I paid $3 an hour for random strangers to watch my kid
today. Don’t worry. It was at a
gymnastics center. Gymnasts are, for
the most part, good people right? They
are usually really little and cute. Every gymnast, in my mind, is Mary Lou Retton.  Who doesn’t trust Mary Lou Retton with their
kid? Come on! I dropped my son off at 10:30 and picked him up at 2:15. It was a bargain at $12.00 for the entire
time. They are offering this service
every day this week from 10:00-8:00 and I am thinking that my son might become
a pretty familiar fixture around there.

It was so nice to spend some Q-time with my daughter and
have a pleasant, quiet lunch. I went
with a friend to P.F. Chang’s. We dined on lettuce wraps and pseudo-fancy Chinese cuisine. We had peaceful conversation and did a
little shopping. It was freakin’

My son was very happy to see me when I picked him up. He was sweaty and red-faced and had clearly been playing very hard. I asked him if he would
like to return another day this week and he immediately replied, “yes.” Score! The only downside to the whole thing was the fact that there was no real
system in place for dropping off and picking up your kids. Anyone could have picked up my son. They did not even know who I was. This made me a bit uneasy. My friend, however, knew the staff there
fairly well and assured me that they were good, trustworthy people. That fact, coupled with my Pavlov-esque
gymnast/Mary Lou Retton association, made me feel better about leaving him
there. I smiled just thinking about
Mary Lou picking my son up and putting him on the balance beam. She would praise him for his wobbly walk in
her perky, Mary Lou way and he would beam and blush with pride. It was bound to be a positive
experience. So what if I had to sign a
blanket waiver, right?


Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Free For All

My Christmas shopping is finally done and, much to my
dismay, I have had no trouble finding something else to obsess about: toy storage. The sheer volume of toys that my children will receive is, as in
years past and despite my best efforts to avoid over-buying, absurd and it is
creating a major issue in my limited space.

Christmas is a free for all. I don’t think there is any getting around it. My children have two sets of Grandparents
who like to get the “wow” factor on Christmas morning, aunts and uncles,
great-grandparents, and two parents who want awe-struck kids walking into the
living room, gazing starry eyed at the pile of loot from Santa. We set limits this year: three gifts from Santa and three gifts from
Mom and Dad. We stuck with it too. My husband and I wrapped gifts on Friday
night and, sure enough, there were six for each child. As a shopaholic and habitual over-spender, I
was pleased with my self-control and ability to stay within the confines that
we had originally proposed. Kudos to

There is still, however, the problem of space. Where will all of these toys go? I have done some purging and sold or donated
several of last year’s toys. There
still isn’t enough space. Next year I
will have to remember to budget not only money for presents for Christmas, but also money for storage
containers and home expansion projects. We need another room just to accommodate all of our new stuff.

I’ve told my husband that when our children get older I’d
like to take all of the money that we budget for Christmas gifts and go on some
type of service project vacation in a third world country or even some part of
our own country in which there are people in need. Certainly, the message that this activity will convey will be
much more in line with the spirit of Christmas than arrant commercialism. But, who am I kidding? My kids are going to be rockin’ out to their
new ipods on the plane to Mexico.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Naturally Homely

If good health was a given, would you rather live a shorter
life (around 70) and be effortlessly hot or live a longer life (around 85) and
be, well, not so hot?

This is the theoretical, ever-so-philosophical question
posed by my friend Jacquelyn at lunch today. It definitely got me thinking. She would choose to die young and hot. I think, if health was a given, I would choose a longer life. I realize that this question is completely
absurd but it is the stuff of good conversation and debate and I am always game
for either. 

What the question really boils down to is this: How much value do we place on physical
beauty in our society? Is it worth 15
years of your life? It is, at least in
theory, to Jacquelyn. That’s quite a
statement. What is effortless beauty
worth to me? And, if it is effortless,
doesn’t that render some of its innate value meaningless? Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to
achieve a high ranking on the hotness scale through my own hard work rather
than just coming by it easily through liposuction, gastric bypass, or
sacrificing 15 years of my life in some grand theoretical life wager?

In order to determine my answer I need to clarify some
things with Jacquelyn (this is her question after all). If I choose to live a longer life, can I
make myself hot through exercise, diet and good skin care or am I just doomed
to a naturally homely existence regardless of what steps I take to enhance my
appearance? Can I change my mind when I
hit 65? What constitutes “good
health”? These are the things that I
need to know before I can provide an intelligent answer to this question. It’s a really important one as it is very
realistic and the answer impacts my life a great deal.

Next week’s question:

Would you sacrifice one of your thumbs for a lifetime of
financial freedom? Think about it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dollar Store Mamas

I’ve spent the vast majority of my day obsessing about gifts
for my son’s preschool teachers. The
reason for this obsession is the plural “teachers.” I took my son’s school roster off of the refrigerator this
morning so that I could plan my shopping trip. I was
surprised to discover that there are eight staff members at my son’s
preschool: one director, two
three-year-old teachers, two four-year-old teachers, two teacher assistants,
and one office assistant. My son is in
the three-year-old class and I have exchanged pleasantries with his teacher,
the office assistant, and one teacher assistant. So, who do I buy gifts for?

Do I buy gifts for both three-year-old teachers and the
director? What about the teacher’s
assistants? Do I buy for all of
them? How do I know which of the
assistants helps in my son’s classroom? I’ve tried to question my son about this topic he and claims to know every
single staff member. Apparently, he has
had some type of interaction with each of them. Darn that school and their excellent staff to child ratio! I guess this means that I am stuck
buying/making eight teacher gifts. What
a bum deal that is, and not just for me, for the teachers as well. What that means is that I will have to
stretch my budget as far as it will go and hit the dollar store for some
tasteful gifts that do NOT look like they came from the dollar store (crossing
my fingers that none of my son’s teachers read this blog).

My friend Alyson who, thankfully, does not send her son to
the same school as mine, has handmade not only gifts for each teacher, but also
a personalized gift for every student in her son’s class. What the hell is she thinking? Is she trying to make the rest of us look
bad? I pity Alyson’s counterparts in
her son’s class on the last day of school before the New Year. They will walk out of the school doors clad in festive Christmas attire with heads hanging low, feeling
inadequate and ashamed of their Chinese-made chalkboard “My Favorite
Teacher” ornaments and store-bought-but-packaged-to-look-homemade peanut
brittle. Poor, sad saps. They can just call me when they leave and
we’ll plan some type of elaborate, vengeful scenario designed to make her feel
inadequate and elevate the rest of us Dollar Store Mamas to her Pottery Barn
status. Any ideas? I’m thinking we could burn rubber stamps in
her yard and start a quilting bee behind her back. We could make a beautiful quilt for her son’s teacher’s birthday
present. That would put her hand-painted,
personalized picture frames to shame. Man, I’m
really filled with the Christmas spirit today!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Snot and Vomit

My family is racked with illness this week. Both my daughter and I are on
antibiotics. She has an ear infection
and a sinus infection and I have the latter with a horrendous headache and a
seemingly endless supply of green goo coming from the pit of my sinuses on a
regular basis. I hear the start of a
cough in my son and my husband is just getting over a similar ailment. Our house is one big fun factory right now. Anyone want to come over?

My daughter is especially fun. She is totally opposed to any type of medication. When I administer an oral suspension liquid,
I have to restrain her arms and lay her down while simultaneously holding her
mouth open. She spits and coughs, gags
and sometimes, if I’m lucky, vomits therefore nullifying the previous effort. This exercise in futility, coupled with her crusty
eyes and runny nose, has turned my daughter into a two-and-a-half-foot tall, walking
horror movie. Somehow, amidst the snot
and vomit, she still manages to exude cuteness and I love her even when she’s
spewing amoxicillin-laced vomit all over my crisp, white shirt.

I just picked up some eye drops for her at the
pharmacy. I’m really looking forward to
putting those in. I’m already dreaming
up different ways to restrain and distract her. Poor thing. I’m so glad
that I got our Christmas pictures made last week. I guess, though, that a Christmas picture of my snotty-nosed,
crusty eyed children would go pretty well with the brutally honest Christmas
. Maybe I’ll snap some shots of
them in their Christmas outfits tonight after a hefty serving of
spaghetti. That would certainly make a
great shot.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Family Drama

I’ve been thinking about Christmas letters today. They are usually just an outlet for people
to extol the virtue of their beautiful, successful families. They are rarely an exercise in brutal
honesty. I’ve decided to turn Christmas
letters on their heads and try my hand at a brutally honest one this year. I’m pretty sure this one won’t make the
Christmas cards but it certainly will be entertaining in comparison to the
“official” Hale Christmas letter.

2006 has been quite a year for our family. We toasted the year in style, with Andre
Champagne and a couple of rounds of “Battling Tops,” our burgeoning New Year’s
tradition. Julianne spent the beginning
of the year growing weary of her once-beloved dog. Her prayers were answered when she found a new home for him in
late March. She is still racked with
guilt about this decision but enjoys her dog-less life none-the-less. Sean was not 100% on board with this
decision and it will probably lead to resentment later in their marital

In April, the entire family traveled to Denver to visit
Julianne’s beloved Grandmother. It was
a nice visit but, less than a week later, Julianne spoke to her Grandmother on
the phone and she asked, “When are you going to come and visit me,
Julianne?” Again Julianne finds herself
racked with guilt. The Hale family
spent July in the redneck capital of the world, Pigeon Forge, with Sean’s
family. It was a great trip thanks to a
little bit of Dolly Parton and a whole lot of red wine. In October, our family took a trip with
Julianne’s relatives to Disney World. It was a wonderful vacation and the kids had an amazing time. We will definitely go back once we get out
of debt from this trip. We just got
back from our annual Thanksgiving trip to the Midwest. We came home just in time for some family
drama as our new Grandma (whom I have yet to meet) is in the process of
becoming our new ex-Grandma. Divorce is
never good news but I try to look on the bright side. I no longer have to buy a $50 Christmas present for someone I’ve
never met.

Here’s what everyone has been up to:

Sean is still enjoying his job and thriving. Despite his success, he still drives a
certified piece of crap car that I can hear coming from two miles away. He loves gardening and woodworking and combined
these two passions by building a smurf-sized greenhouse in our backyard. Seriously, a squirrel would be hard-pressed
to fit inside of it comfortably. I made
fun of him incessantly until last week when he came in the back door with a
bowl of fresh, delicious, organic baby spinach for our dinner salad. Yum.

Julianne finally started pursuing her career goal this
year. She decided to take the bull by
the horns and start writing. She
received her first rejection recently and has been paralyzed ever since. She is still enjoying the stay-at-home Mom
gig but would like to start contributing to the family income soon. This temporary paralysis is a bummer and
while she does enjoy blogging on, it doesn’t bring home the

Our son is four years old and in preschool. He loves school and his teacher sings his
praises whenever she gets the chance. Apparently, he is an angel in school. He is a sweet boy at home but he has a temper. Our current projects include learning to eat the food that Mommy
makes for dinner and committing to memory the following house rules: “No hitting. No kicking. No choking. No poking. No yelling. No telling.” We’ve got our work cut out for us.

Our daughter is 19 months old and is as sweet and calm as
any baby we have ever come across. Her
laid back nature nearly sent Julianne to the loony bin as she suffered panic
attacks worrying about her inability (or refusal) to walk. She finally took her first steps at 16.5
months old and has been on the go ever since. She is getting more teeth and we think we see some bling growing on her
head. She seems destined for some diva
behavior and we expect her tiara to come in any day now.

All in all, 2006 has been a good year. Our family is happy and healthy and riddled
with guilt. I guess that makes us no
different than the rest of the world. We thank God for family, friends, red wine and Dolly Parton. We wish you a holiday season filled with joy
and a new year that is heavy on the happiness and light on the guilt. Cheers!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Choking and Poking

“No hitting. No
kicking. No choking. No poking. No yelling. No telling.”

These are the Hale family house rules. The choking and poking portion (rhyming, for
some reason, is a necessity) were a recent addendum. Unfortunately, they were not added arbitrarily. We had a choking incident in our house
recently and it was an ugly one.

Last Saturday night we had some friends over for
dinner. We went all out with a
traditional turkey dinner complete with stuffing, green bean casserole (my
friend Alyson is knocked-up and this is the only vegetable she will eat so I
took it upon myself to nourish her poor, nutritionally-challenged baby), potato casserole and a
delicious dessert that the lovely folks at the Fresh Market prepared with
tender loving care. The night went really
well. We had five kids total and they
were all playing well together. There
were a few minor incidents but nothing to write home about until Camden
(Alyson’s son) had the audacity to ignore a request made by my son. Before I even knew there was a conflict, my
son had his hands around Camden’s neck and was yelling like Fidel Castro and
strangling him right in the middle of the living room for all eyes to see. Ugghhh. What a nightmare. I immediately
removed him from the situation and took him to his room to talk to him. Here’s the conversation that took place:

Me: Choking your
friend is completely unacceptable. DO

Son: Yes.

Me: Why did you do

Son: Because I asked
Camden to please give me the train he was playing with and he didn’t answer me.

Me: Being ignored
does not justify choking. Nothing justifies choking. We do not hit,
kick, choke, poke, tell or yell in this house. EVER. This was when I decided to make an impromptu addendum to the
rules. I’m pretty clever with my poking
and choking rhyme aren’t I?

Son: Yes.

Me: Now you will
march back in there and apologize to Camden for choking him.  Are we clear?

Son: Yes. (Runs into living room) Camden, I’m sorry I choked you.

Shortly after that Alyson and her husband left. I was reeling for days about the incident
and still feel terrible. What in the
world was my son thinking? What caused
him to react that way and, most importantly, where did he learn to
strangle? My husband and I rarely have
verbal disagreements let alone down and dirty fights. I can say, with complete certainty, that my son has never seen my
husband choke me, or vice-versa. The
only explanation that I could come up with was that he either witnessed a
choking incident at school or on T.V. The
latter is definitely the most likely answer as he goes to a Baptist preschool
and his teacher, from what I have seen, has a great deal of control in the
classroom. Jimmy Neutron and Sponge Bob
are the likely teachers of the fine art of strangling. So, in order to prevent future incidents, I
have decided to closely monitor and limit my son’s television viewing.  I am also giving serious thought to enrolling
him in Karate. I’ve heard it provides
an excellent medium for teaching self-control and confidence. Plus, I’ve always wanted a reason to do my
Mr. Miyagi impression.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Festivus Tour of Homes

I am filled with the Christmas spirit today, a nice little cocktail of envy
and self-pity. I went on a tour of
homes last night with some friends. After a robust meal and some drinks we embarked on a journey that would
take us to four different houses in a small area of the city. Each of the homes was decked out in an
absurd amount of Christmas cheer. The
houses were, of course, miraculously clean. Each of the dining room tables was dinner-ready with beautiful holiday
china and crystal surrounding amazing centerpieces.  Every shelf was filled with Christmas chochkies of all
varieties. One house had so many Santa
Claus statues that an attempt to count them would result in the same outcome as
an attempt to count the stars in the sky.

Every path leading to every home was impeccably decorated
with tasteful luminaries and impressive landscaping. Aside from one home that took us on a nostalgic trip back to
1993, complete with elaborate floral wallpaper and puffy window treatments; the
homes were all flawlessly decorated with the ever-unattainable (for me at
least) attention to detail that makes one house stand out from the
rest. Each hostess provided a plethora
of finger food and refreshments. They
were all extremely sweet in a southern Paula Dean kind of way. They drew our attention to the especially
creative Christmas décor and explained to their captivated audience where their
inspiration came from. We all listened
and nodded thinking things like, “Perfume bottles on a Christmas tree? How clever” and “Oh, Santa Claus and Mardi
Gras. I get the connection.” And, at the time, we really did.

The tastefully creative unique decorations displayed by
these women of abundant means made my
Christmas-tree-decorated-only-in-Pez-dispensers and garden-gnome-dressed-in-a-Santa-suit
ideas seem silly and, frankly, a little pathetic. I definitely enjoyed the tour of homes and I did, despite my
cynicism, get a little dose of Christmas spirit. I think, though, that my friends and I should start a tour of
homes for the domestically challenged next year in order to counteract the effects of the real tour of homes. We could call it a “Festivus Tour of Homes,” a tour of homes for the
rest of us.

Monday, December 4, 2006

The Importance of Clean Sheets

Right now my son is taking a nap. He is sleeping on top of his waterproof mattress pad with no
sheet on the bed. His head is resting
on a pillow draped in a newly laundered pillowcase but his body is resting on a
fairly rough mystery material that keeps bed wetters from doing any permanent
damage to the mattress, a must have for any parents of young children. This arrangement is not one that I am proud
of but, nonetheless, it is the current state of affairs in my house. This happens more often than I’d like to

In the middle of the night last night, my son came bounding
up the stairs and woke me up by repeating my name over and over, “Mommy, mommy,
mommy.” I asked him what was
wrong. He said, “I’m wet.” Having lived through this scenario many times
prior, I knew that he was telling the truth and I immediately started peeling
off his pajama bottoms. They were
soaked. His pull-up was, miraculously,
fairly dry. This is the mystery of
boys. How can the underwear remain dry
while the pants get completely soaked? It’s some sort of freakish phenomenon that seems to happen on a fairly
regular basis in the case of my son. I
took his hand and led him down the stairs back to his room. I got another pair of pajama pants out of
the drawer and put them on him. I
grabbed a towel from the linen closet and threw it over the wet spot on the
sheets, tucked my son back in and went back upstairs as quickly as
possible. I managed to do all of these
things in a state of limbo, half asleep, half awake. The second my head hit the pillow I was back in dreamland. 

I had every intention of getting my son’s bedding washed and
put back on before naptime today but it just didn’t happen. His bedding was still in the washer this
afternoon and his nap could no longer wait. Instead of putting some oversized sheets on my son’s bed temporarily, I
threw my extra mattress protector on his bed (yes, it was clean), put him on
top with a quilt to cover up with, read him stories and kissed him
goodnight. He did not think twice about
it and had no problems jumping in bed under these circumstances. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad
thing. Apparently, he is so accustomed
to sleeping on a bed with no sheets that he thinks it is the norm. 

As I write this, I am a little worried that I am alone in
this practice. Will people read this
and think, “I cannot believe that she would allow her son to sleep on
his mattress pad.” Will my In-Laws read
it and call my husband at work to discuss my lack of skills as a Mother? Will my own Mother call me and give me a
little mini-lecture on the art of time management and the importance of clean
sheets? I have my comeback ready. I understand the importance of time
management and clean sheets but the two are not mutually exclusive. How is putting clean sheets on a bed for the
purpose of a two hour nap, risking the possibility of having another
bed-wetting episode and having two wash sheets and a mattress pad
instead of just the latter effective time management? If my son, as a result of his destitute Mother, doesn’t know that
sleeping on a bed without sheets is unusual, then what difference does it make?

Friday, December 1, 2006

The WOW Factor

My friend Jacquelyn just bought her son the Lightning
McQueen Power Wheels for Christmas. It
is really cute and will definitely have the “Wow” factor on Christmas
morning. I was with her when she bought
it and kept picturing her son’s face when he walks into the living room on
Sunday morning and sees that under the tree. He will go nuts, probably performing some type of improvisational song
and dance routine out of sheer joy (the theatrics in the Byrne family tend to
run pretty deep).

I’d love to get my son the same Power Wheels. His favorite movie is “Cars” and he
absolutely loves all of the characters. He does not, however, love Power Wheels. I would classify his feelings towards Power Wheels as
apprehensive at best and sheer terror at worst.

A couple of months ago we were at his friend Katherine’s
house (another Byrne). It was a
beautiful day and we were letting the kids run around outside. It was not long before Katherine pulled her
toddler sized jeep out of the garage as fast as it could go, coming to a
screeching halt in the driveway. Upon
seeing Katherine in the Jeep my son did not, as one would expect, run towards
the automobile and beg to have a turn at the wheel. Instead, he raced towards the door as fast as he could in
fear. He wanted nothing to do with that
Jeep. Katherine figured this out pretty
quickly and would hop into the jeep and start the engine just to see him sprint. It was both
hilarious and sad at the same time. In
the past few months he has made major strides.  He has agreed to ride in the Jeep but only as a
passenger. He lets Katherine do all of
the driving and, surprisingly, doesn’t freak out when she applies the breaks
two feet before she skids to a stop at full speed, barely missing having a head
on collision with a fairly sizable pop-up camper. She’s quite a driver, very capable but very fast.

My son will not be getting a Power Wheels for
Christmas. Until my daughter is old
enough to play the role of his chauffer, it will be a waste of money. I will have to bide my time until next year
when I can groom my daughter to ask Santa Claus for a pimped-out Barbie Power
Wheels. We’ll get a two-seater so they
can both enjoy it.  My husband will be so pleased.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Faux Velvet

We put up our Christmas decorations tonight. My mantle looks beautiful. There are chochkies of every shape and
size. There is a Santa circa 1920 and
every consecutive year thereafter. There are snowmen in every variety
imaginable. Snowmen with legs, snowmen
with scarves, snowmen sitting, snowmen standing, and my personal favorite, a
mommy snowman staring lovingly at a baby snowman. Awe. Perhaps my favorite
piece of Chinese made merchandise gracing my mantle is the Yoda snow
globe. Yoda, clad in a Santa suit,
stands staff in hand looking sagacious while synthetic snow falls on his
shoulders to the tune of “Let it Snow.” It’s a gem.

There are four stockings hanging on the fireplace, one for
myself that was handmade by my Mother when I was a child, one for each of the
kids that my Mother made last year and one for my husband. I wish I could say it was handmade but it
wasn’t unless you consider sweatshop work handmade. It is a pair of red pseudo velvet pants with a white fur lined
butt opening and white pom-poms on the toes. It looks like something out of a Willy Wonka Christmas special. My children’s stockings are hand-embroidered
with their names. They are
beautiful. My husband’s stocking has
his name written in all caps with a sharpie. Rich.

There is no possible way that I can do the pants justice so
I am including a picture with this entry. He refuses to give them up. They
are a part of his childhood and I have the sneaking suspicion that they will be
on my mantle for many, many years to come. I’ve tried moving them to the side of the mantle that is partially
covered by the tree but the damn things need two fasteners and my husband
installed two brass hooks for that very purpose last holiday season on the most
visible side of the fireplace. I’m
thinking of setting a very tall candle on the hearth and letting fate take its
course. Surely that faux velvet is
highly flammable. Any ideas about how
to get rid of this little gem of a family heirloom are welcome.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Replacement Wife

I just got back from an appointment with a
cardiologist. That’s right, folks, a
cardiologist; a specialist that you should not even consider seeing until you
have been issued your AARP card. The
appointment was made when, at a routine check-up, my doctor discovered a heart
murmur. I have been walking around for
the past two weeks absolutely convinced that I have heart cancer, something I
have never even heard of. 

Facing the prospect of a lethal disease has really changed
my outlook. I’ve been relishing every
holiday moment thinking it was probably my last. I have been extra nice to my kids because I want them to remember
me fondly. I’ve been speculating about
the next Mommy that my kids will have. My husband’s family doesn’t waste time when it comes to finding a
replacement wife. Will she be prettier
than me? Will she treat my kids like
her own? Will she have kids of her own
and banish my son and daughter to the basement where they will befriend mice
and mourn the loss of the Mother that they don’t really remember?  The possibilities are endless and I have considered every one, including the one that has my children joining the Hale-Bop Comet Cult.

My appointment went well. I do not have heart cancer. Instead, like 15 percent of the world’s population, I have a mild heart
murmur. I am scheduled for an
echocardiogram tomorrow which will create an image of my heart. This is just a precautionary measure and I
have been told not to worry. As soon as
my kids go down for their nap I plan to peruse WebMD to diagnose myself with
some rare, grave disease. I must have
something to obsess about. Otherwise I
will have to actually lead a semi-productive life.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tryptophan and Red Wine

It is 65 degrees in the Midwest.  I brought only winter clothes so I am sweating profusely and doing my best to control the urge to stand with my face in the freezer whenever the opportunity arises.  Despite my constant sweating, I am enjoying myself.  The DVD player made our trip relatively painless and there are three bottles of red wine sitting atop my Mother-In-Laws kitchen counter.  Just the site of them brings me great comfort.  I have to enjoy my wine outside, though, in the evenings or I will sweat to death.

We had a great Thanksgiving and I was one of the raving lunatics who braved the mall on Black Friday so I have oodles of material stored in the old noggin.  I don't have much time because my In-Laws have dial-up and their Internet Service Provider tends to spontaneously disconnect.  I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and safe travels.  Here's to tryptophan and red wine, the staples of any good Thanksgiving celebration!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Over the River and Through the Woods...

To Grandmother's house we go.  Myself and the family
are off to the Midwest to eat some turkey with the In-Laws.  I bought a
dual screen DVD player for my van today.  It should make for a much more
pleasant trip.  I definitely have mixed emotions about it, though.
Our road trips are generally spent talking incessantly to my son, playing
pretend games and counting the minutes until he falls asleep and the
unremitting verbalization finally ceases. My son is one of those kids who
becomes so mesmerized by television that he enters a semi-comatose state in
which he does not respond to any type of outside stimulation.  It does not have to be "Spongebob" either.  He could
be watching "Hogan Knows Best" and remain unresponsive to even the
most tempting of phrases.

"Sweetie.  Come outside and see your new pony."

"I've got some gummy worms and ice-cream waiting for you in the
kitchen."  No response.

My husband and I can openly discuss what Santa will be bringing my son in
normal voices and, as long as there is a movie playing, he will be totally
oblivious.  I know we will miss out on some quality family time and, for
that reason, we will keep the television off for part of the trip.  Ten
hours is a long time though and two or three movies will insure a more pleasant
ride for everyone involved.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. Another Gray Hair will be on
sabbatical until Tuesday, November 28th. I have no doubt that my trip to the In-Laws will serve as a
working vacation. My supply of material
will, as in years past, be endless.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fiber Nazi

My kids are definitely nutritionally challenged. They are, however, not lacking in
fiber. For some reason I have picked
fiber consumption as my nutritional hot-button issue. I am obsessed with it. My
kids may not eat a single vegetable but I will be damned if they are going to
be irregular. I try to always buy
non-white flour foods. I buy whole-wheat
tortillas, whole wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, and spelt pretzels (when I can
find them). I throw milled flax seed
into any recipe that will not allow its detection and I have even tried making
cakes and cookies out of whole-wheat flour. Unless you like your cakes and cookies to taste like they've been dipped in a sandbox, this is not something that I would recommend.

My obsession with fiber has definitely had an impact. My son does not like white bread and he has
no clue what regular spaghetti tastes like. He thinks spelt pretzels are the norm and relishes his whole-wheat
garlic bread. My daughter eats pasta
like it is going out of style and loves the whole-wheat pizza crust that I
make. There are other benefits as well
but I will spare you those details.

Suffice it to say, I am a self-proclaimed fiber Nazi. I closely monitor my own fiber consumption
and, not surprisingly, this habit has carried over into my children’s
lives. I am always on the lookout for
new, inventive ways to sneak fiber into my children’s diet. I’ve seriously considered introducing my
children to the geriatric version of Tang, Metamucil. My son would probably love it. If only they would come out with a fiber enriched gummy worm, I would be
good to go.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Mary Had a Little Amp

Children's compilations albums are fairly common these days.  They usually consist of current artists that either create a new children's song or put their own spin on a well-known classic.  "Mary Had a Little Amp" is one of these albums.  Released in 2004 by Sony BMG Music Entertainment, "Mary Had a Little Amp" is loaded with artists that have a great deal of Gen-X appeal.  Despite it's unoriginal approach, taken as a whole, the album is actually quite good. 

The first track features Maroon 5 singing the darkly enchanting "Pure Imagination" made famous by Gene Wilder in the original "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  My son doesn't like this track very much yet but I think he will when he gets older.  "The Rainbow Connection," which seems to make an appearance on every single children's compilation CD, is sung with charming simplicity by Natalie Manes of the Dixie Chick.  Our favorite tracks are "The 3 R's" by Jack Johnson (this one can also be heard on the "Curious George" soundtrack) and "Wild, Wild Party in the Loquat Tree" by the Indigo Girls.  Moby, R.E.M., Madonna, Rosanne Cash, and Bonnie Raitt also make an appearance on "Mary Had a Little Amp."

Friday, November 17, 2006

No More Pajamas

My life is an organizational disaster. This, of course, is by my standards
only. Most people would say that my
house is pretty clean and that, judging by everything except my car, I
have it pretty together. They are viewing me through rose-colored glasses. I am on the move from the moment that I wake up until the moment my head
hits the pillow and I still cannot manage to get everything done. I have no job outside of my home and my days
are relatively free from any major commitments. Why then, can I not find time to complete the tasks of my
day-to-day existence?

My days are heavily prioritized. The basic needs of my children come
first. Coming in at a close second are
my basic needs and those of my husband. Next come our time commitments, then my home, and finally my burgeoning
writing career. After I get up, take my
shower, get my kids up and fed, do some laundry, feed the cats, and take my son
to school or playgroup or whatever it is he has scheduled that day; my morning
is shot and I have to start preparing for lunchtime and naps. I also like to budget a little time to
actually play with my children. So, once
they are played with, fed, and asleep, I try to hop on the treadmill for 45 minutes
to get some cardio in.  Then I run downstairs to type my blog entry for the
day. I usually try to switch out the
laundry and pick up the house during this time as well. The kids are customarily awake before I can
get all of this done and, by this time, it is late afternoon and I have to
start preparing dinner. I try to play
with my kids while dinner is cooking and, shortly thereafter, my husband gets
home. We eat, try to have a little
family time, get the kids bathed, read stories and tuck them in. This is all usually accomplished by
9:30. My husband and I try our best not
to neglect each other so we spend a little time hanging out on the couch before
we head up to bed exhausted at around 10:30. The cycle starts all over again when my alarm clock goes off at 6:45 the next morning.

When am I going to find time to write? Should I relive my college years? I could pop some No Doze after dinner and
pull a couple of all-nighters during week. Should I start taking methamphetamines? I hear you can stay awake for days on meth. I have a thing about bad teeth, though, so that is probably not
the best idea. I could put my kids to
bed in the clothes that they are going to wear the next day. This would eliminate pajamas all together
and cut down on the sometimes-painful task of getting my kids dressed. Sure, their clothes might be a little
wrinkled and it might be uncomfortable to sleep in jeans but it would all be
worth it when I got my first published piece, right?

I realize that there are women all over the world who balance their careers and family with ease and grace.  I do not appear to be one of those women.  Striking a balance is a nearly impossible task and I must give props to the moms out there who work full or part-time, manage their homes, and take care of their families.  It is a freakin' monumental task and I have absolutely no idea how you do it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Stick a Fork In Me

I'm done.  My son's birthday party was today.  It went fairly smoothly but I am exhausted.  I ended up just having a very small celebration with a couple of his friends at my house.  I will be spending tonight recovering with some wine and Pinesol.  It's days like today when I miss my dog.  If he was still around, my kitchen floor would be spotless and he would have found a way to defy gravity and clean off my counters and table as well.  Now, I actually have to clean them myself. 

Suffice it to say, I have not had time to come up with anything witty or poignant today.  My brain is in an icing-induced haze and, given my son's all-too-brief nap, I'm in for an interesting night.   At this very moment, he is in his room in time-out.  He's making high-pitched pleas and throwing things at the door.  Anyone want to trade places with me?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chicken Dinos

Yesterday, my son had his favorite entrée, peanut butter
bread, for breakfast and lunch. He
wanted it for dinner but I had to talk him into our only acceptable alternative
protein source: chicken dinos. For those of you unfamiliar with this
product, chicken dinos are battered chicken nuggets in the shape of
dinosaurs. They are, of course, all
natural and very good for my growing boy. 

I feel VERY good about the choices he makes when it comes to
food. For example, the last time my son
had a vegetable was when he was about 18 months old when, out of desperation, I
fed him baby food peas. It was the only
vegetable he would touch. They were
pureed and a lovely shade of green and he ate them up like they were ice
cream. Thankfully, he does like
fruit. He likes strawberries sometimes,
bananas sometimes, apples, grapes, and applesauce. I try to give him at least one of these options at every
meal. I find myself constantly worried
about what goes into his mouth. Are
those processed chicken nuggets going to encourage him to make poor food
choices as an adult? Will the excessive
amounts of peanut butter he consumes cause a problem when he goes off to school
and cannot bring peanut butter because of the prevalence of peanut allergies
among children? Will his lack of
vegetables stunt his growth? Will his
love of milk lead to him hitting puberty at the ripe old age of nine because of
all of the hormones? These are the
questions that plague me. 

If I had my choice, both of my children would eat an all-organic
diet. Their meats and dairy products
would be hormone and antibiotic free. Their vegetables (if there were any) and fruits would be free of
pesticides. If I had the means, they
would certainly eat only the best but being a responsible consumer is cost-prohibitive
for the average American family. How
can I justify spending $4.00 on a half-gallon of milk that will last two days
when I can buy a whole gallon for 25 cents less? How can I possibly afford to spend $7.50 a pound on ground beef
when I can get it for $2.00 at my local Wal-Mart? Am I actually supposed to purchase a whole chicken for $10.00
(they are $3.75 at Wal-Mart), cut it up and make chicken nuggets for my
son? How would I go about shaping them
like T-Rexes and Stegosauruses? Would I
use a cookie cutter? 

Until organic products become more mainstream and, thus,
less expensive or my husband and I happen upon a significant income increase, I
will continue to buy regular meat, dairy products and run of the mill,
non-organic produce (except for spinach and any type of lettuce of
course). That, or my husband’s love of
gardening needs to expand to include livestock. Our neighbors would be so pleased.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Good Christmas Buzz

I have been thinking allot about family traditions
lately. I don’t think that my son
could name anything in particular that we do as a family that would qualify as
a tradition. This is something that I
would like to work on. In an effort to
make myself feel better, I sat down and tried to make a list of potential
family traditions. It seemed silly at
first because the very thought of concocting a family ritual seems to go
against everything that traditions stand for. Family rituals should not be invented. They should come about naturally. I thought about what traditions stood out most about my childhood, the
holidays in particular. The first thing
that popped into my mind was the fact that Christmas morning was the only time,
throughout the entire year, that my childhood dog, Ruffy, was permitted to
enter the formal living room. This may
seem silly and inconsequential to most, but it certainly was neither of those things to
my brother and I. I remember vividly
waking up Christmas morning and immediately ushering Ruffy into the living room
with pomp and circumstance. We looked forward to that
part of Christmas. It was part of what
made the holiday special for our family.

I try to think about what traditions that my fledgling
family has and, thus far, I come up short. We go to the light parade in our town the first Saturday in December
every year. This doesn’t count, though,
because a true family tradition should be free of any geographical
barriers. If we moved, that tradition
would obviously go down the tubes. We
try to go against the grain and have fondue for our Christmas dinner every
year. This is, probably, our best
tradition yet. My parents, my husband
and I sit around the table eating fondue, drinking wine and listening to
Christmas music while the kids play with their new toys and watch holiday
movies. It makes for a very relaxing

I also have a favorite Christmas narrative that I like to
listen to called “Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party” by Canadian radio host, Stuart McLean. It is one of the most hysterical tales of
holiday hilarity that I have ever heard. I highly recommend it as well as “Dave Cooks A Turkey,” another
classic. My husband and I listen to
these as we play Santa Claus and go through the arduous task of removing toys
from their packages. By the end of the
night we have an endless supply of plastic coated wire, absurdly small screws,
and tons of boxes strewn all over the living room floor. We’ve usually got a pretty good buzz going
and have been laughing our asses off at Stuart McLean by that point so we don’t
care. It appears that we do have a few
holiday rituals in place. Unfortunately, all of them seem to involve alcohol and zero
participation from the children. What
does that say about my family? 

Monday, November 13, 2006

Congratulations Spaz!

My cousin Jeannie (known as “Spaz” in the blog comments)
gave birth to twins this morning, a girl and a boy. I have been thinking about her all day. I remember bringing both of my babies home from the hospital and
the weeks that followed. I was sleep-deprived,
overwhelmed, and suffering from hormone induced manic depression (this is a
term I made up, NOT a real disease but I think it is a fairly accurate
description of the emotional state of a new Mother). I have a mini panic attack when I think about bringing two babies
home at once. How will Jeannie
cope? Will she ever sleep? How will her daughter (three and a half)
deal with the two new additions in her life? How will she manage breastfeeding TWO babies? How will she balance the emotional toll of childbirth with the
demands of two babies? The answer, I
know, is a simple one. Jeannie will do
just fine. She will because she has
to. She has a wonderful husband and
amazingly supportive parents who have taken up residence in frigid New England
for the winter to help the family adjust.

I was walking on the treadmill wondering what the best gift
for a new Mother of twins would be and, as if on cue, Oprah introduced a very
interesting guest. Her name was
Pricilla Dunstan and she claimed have the ability to accurately interpret baby
language. Priscilla Dunstan is a Mom from
Australia who has a photographic memory for sound. She has intensely studied the sounds that babies make and created
a fairly simple, supposedly accurate method for translating baby sounds into
actual words. She will release a DVD
entitled, Dunstan Baby Language, on November 28th.

I watched the show filled with skepticism. How could this woman possibly know what
babies are trying to say? Is it
possible that all babies, regardless of where they are born, speak the same
universal language? The very notion
seems completely absurd. I watched
eight Mothers of very young babies tell their stories, through tears, of
frustration dealing with their babies’ constant crying. I watched Ms. Dunstan listen to each baby
and, based upon the sound the particular baby made, tell the mother what the
baby needed. It seemed, unbelievably,
to work.

I am still a skeptic but I am seriously considering giving
the DVDs to Jeannie as her baby gift. If
these DVDs can offer even a small amount of insight into her babies’ needs,
then they will be money well spent. One
thing that I think Ms. Dunstan failed to recognize, however, is how any new
Mother is going to find a block of free time long enough to accommodate the
watching of two DVDs. She really should
consider releasing CDs that use hypnosis to teach women how to understand the
language of babies. That way women can
do what they do best: multitask. They
can catch up on their sleep and learn to better understand their

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Smell of Hypocrisy

Yesterday, I took my son to a friend’s house and she watched
him while I went to a Christmas craft show. While there, my daughter started to get a little fussy and I happened to
notice Santa sitting quietly in his sleigh at the entrance. So, with barely a second thought, I placed
my daughter on Santa’s lap 46 days before Christmas. The smell of hypocrisy is hanging heavy in the air at my

Last night I hosted one of those direct sales home parties
that I have preached against. I had a
blast and got lots of free stuff. My
husband was scheduled to go hang out with some of his friends and their
kids during the party. They were looking for something
to do and decided, with complete support from yours truly, to take them to the
Santa parade at the mall. It was free,
after all, and the kids were bound to have fun. The kids and Dads had a great time. So much for “Bah humbug.”

I had several friends tell me that they were going to rat me
out on the blog so I decided to save the time and do it myself. My name is Julianne Hale and I am a home
party-hosting, Santa-in-early-November-loving hypocrite.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Legally Condemned

My van is always a mess. Right now you’d be hard pressed to find a path to walk from the front
two captains chairs to the middle seats. There are about 2 feet separating the two, probably 6 square feet in
all. Every inch is covered. If not for the spot under the brake and
pedals, I’m not sure that anyone would be able to admire the lovely gray carpet. I take a small bit of pride in the fact that
most of the stuff that is sprinkled haphazardly all over the inside of my
vehicle is not trash. It is a
combination of things: coats, sweatshirts, shoes, toys, raincoats, umbrellas,
diapers, wipes, some hats, some of my son’s school drawings and, of course, a
little bit of trash. These are the
things that accumulate uncontrollably in my day-to-day existence.

My husband is a gem and while his vehicle could probably be
legally condemned based on the decaying mess that lines his interior, he does
take pride in my van. It is, by far,
the nicest vehicle we have ever owned and he understandably wants it to look
nice. So, every two weeks or so he will
take my van to the car wash and clean it out for me. He washes the outside, picks up the trash, organizes everything
else, wipes down the interior, and vacuums the entire thing out. It is such a pleasure to get into my van the
next day. I look it over with pride
thinking that this time I will do what it takes to keep it clean. By the next morning, the personal items have
already started to gather on the floor. I try to bring them in each time but it is such a hassle to get the kids
out of their car seats, into the house and provide them with whatever food or
drink item that they are demanding at the time; that I rarely find the time or
the energy to go through the van and pick it up. 

Why I allow my vehicle to get as dirty
as it does is a mystery to me.  Most days my house is
relatively clean. I would have to be on
my deathbed for the floor to become so littered with clothes and toys that it
was barely visible. When it comes to my home, if a friend is coming over I
clean it obsessively before they arrive. I don’t even make the effort to clear a path in my van when my friends
ride in it. Why? Because every Mother I know has a van or
car that looks like mine. For some
reason, vehicles have some sort of cleanliness “get out of jail free”
card. We are not judged by the interior
of our cars the way we are judged by the interior of our homes.  The
exterior of the car is much more important. I’d rather have a filthy Mercedes than an immaculate Saturn.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Bah Humbug

Santa is coming to our local mall this Thursday night. That’s right, folks. On November 9th, 46 days before
Christmas, Santa will be arriving at the mall amongst a sizable parade and a
great deal of fanfare. This event has
serious ramifications for me. It means
that every time we go to the mall (which is fairly frequent because there is a
nice, free indoor playground that both my children really enjoy) we will see
Santa Claus from now until Christmas. What a nightmare. 

I find myself stunned every year when I hear the
announcement of the date of Santa’s impending arrival. Apparently, the event surrounding the
arrival is quite fun. There is a
parade, some games, a bounce house, and lots of free stuff for the kids to do;
but I refuse to go. I will not support
such an early onslaught of Christmas commercialism. My poor child is already bombarded with commercials, store
displays, and catalogs on a daily basis. His demographic is marketed very aggressively this time of year and
Santa’s arrival at the mall is only a small part of the master plan to bankrupt
us all. Everyday my son comes up with a
new toy that he wants for Christmas or that he wants to buy for his friend
Katherine or his sister (it seems to me that girls are marketed to even more
aggressively than boys). It is exhausting. 

I know I sound like a complete cynic but I am not. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. As an avid supporter and participant in retail therapy, I even enjoy the
commercialism to some degree but I think it is reasonable to postpone Santa’s
arrival until after Thanksgiving. Let’s
get through one holiday before we move on to the next one. So, for those of you who plan on attending
Santa’s arrival at the mall, have fun. I know that your kids will enjoy it. You won’t see me there, though. I’ll be home snidely enjoying my boycott and teaching my kids to say,
“Bah humbug.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Cold Spaghetti

As the holiday season quickly approaches, I find myself
perusing the endless supply of toy catalogs that appear in my mailbox each
week. I search for things that might
appeal to my children feeling, despite my cynicism, a little giddy about
Christmas morning. Christmas has taken
on a whole new meaning since my son became old enough to understand it. There is a great deal of anticipation and
excitement that adds so much to the allure of the holiday season. I cannot wait to see his face on Christmas
morning and all I want to do is make his every wish come true. And then I have a night like tonight that
gives me a skull-shaking bitch slap back to reality.

SpaghettiLong story short, I made spaghetti for
dinner. We sat down and my son looked at his food disapprovingly and
said, “I want something else” in a very demanding voice. I had already prepared myself for this
inevitable scenario and decided that I was up for battle tonight. My son would eat his spaghetti. After all, he always ended up eating it
after being coaxed into the first bite by his Father or myself. He would put the spaghetti in his mouth with
a look of horror that almost immediately changed to surprised pleasure when he
dug his teeth into the pasta. He likes
spaghetti. He just refuses to eat it.

I told him calmly that we would happily provide him with
other food items but that he must eat his spaghetti first. We have coddled him entirely too much where
food is concerned and we usually end up preparing him an entirely different
meal from the one that I cook for the rest of the family. It is absolutely absurd but I created this
monster. I have to deal with the
consequences. My son sat at the table
staring at his food without making any effort to eat while the rest of us ate
and discussed our day.  He asked for a piece of garlic bread (a favorite of his). I told him that I would save a piece for him
but that he must first eat his spaghetti. Now, before you pass judgment, understand that the bowl that my son’s
spaghetti was in was the size of a small ramekin. The spaghetti that I insisted that he eat was the equivalent of
three average-sized adult bites. I was
not asking for much. He was stoic and
resolute and absolutely refused to eat.

I decided to ignore his behavior and put the piece of garlic
bread in a Ziploc baggie. I told him
that I would save it for when he was ready to eat his spaghetti. He decided to take a different approach and
told me that he was not capable of getting bites on his fork and needed
help. This stems from the fact that, on
spaghetti nights, his father tends to use all means necessary to get my son to
eat, including actually spooning the food into his mouth. I disapprove of this wholeheartedly and it
came back to bite us tonight. My son
insisted that he could not be expected to eat the spaghetti when he could not
get any on his fork. I told him that he
was a big boy and that we would not be feeding him. I reminded him that he could eat applesauce with utensils and
that spaghetti was a breeze in comparison. He continued to insist that someone help him get the spaghetti from the
bowl to his mouth. We continued to
refuse. It did not go well.

My son spent a great deal of time in his room tonight. He threw fit after fit, room wrecking,
screaming, jumping, and throwing things. He desperately wanted that garlic bread and I desperately wanted him to
have it but, after nearly two hours, he was not giving in. His bedtime rolled around and I poured him a
glass of whole milk and got him ready for bed. In the end, I lost the battle. My son did not eat his spaghetti.  He lost
his battle too, though. That garlic bread is
sitting in a Ziploc bag on top of the refrigerator calling my name. I’m stressed out and frazzled and dreaming
about how good it will taste with a glass of red wine. Yum.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Temporary Paralysis

I received my first rejection this weekend. It was a very cordial email, telling me that
while they were impressed with the quality and content of the writing, it just
was not the right fit for their publication. Bummer. I know that, for
freelance writers, rejection is par for the course. Most writers have to get rejected upwards of ten to twenty times
before ever getting their work published. I know this. I have read it
countless times, heard personal testimonies, and listened to lectures all about
the rejection faced by writers, especially unpublished ones. I fantasized, however, about being the
one-in-a-million writer who so impresses the editor with her witty, succinct
query letter that she gets an immediate endorsement of her work and a fairly hefty

I convinced myself that I might be that writer and waited
patiently for a response to my first query. I continued to write down all of the article ideas that I had and query
a couple of other editors but I was partially paralyzed by the anticipation I
felt waiting for the first editor to respond. I did not send out nearly enough queries in the interim as a result of
this temporary paralysis. It is gone
now. The realistic part of my brain is
fully functioning and I realize that if I am going to succeed as a writer, I
must be willing to put myself out there. Despite my egotistical fantasies, there are many, many writers out there
with as much or more talent than myself who are working harder to make it in
the business. These are the people who
will prosper as freelance writers. I
need to be one of these people.

I’ve got a plan. I’m
going to try to send out 1-2 queries per week. Now that I have experienced rejection first hand and know that I can
survive it, I am ready to start my one-woman assault team. Let the querying begin…

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies

Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies from the Film "Curious George" is the soundtrack from the adorable G-rated, "Curious George" movie that came out last year.  It features songs by Jack Johnson.  If Curious_george_1
you've never listened to Jack Johnson, I suggest you purchase an album as soon as you can.  He has universal appeal.  His music is mellow, easy to listen to, and usually puts a smile on your face.  I was SO excited when I read that he was doing the soundtrack for Curious George

Released by UMVD Labels in 2006, Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies From the Film "Curious George" is good from start to finish.  Ask anyone what they liked most about the film and they will most likely respond, "the music."  Jack Johnson's mellow grooves made the movie much more watchable for grown-ups.  Our favorite tracks are "Upside Down," "Jungle Gym" and "The 3 R's."  Every song, though, is an absolute pleasure to listen to.  The whole family will sing along to this one.  It would make a great stocking stuffer.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Brain Fart

Last night (Friday) at 10:00 pm, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to type up a blog entry for the day.  My son was out of school (unusual for Friday) and I just got busy and forgot.   I was about ready for bed and did not have the energy to get my creative juices flowing.  Sorry people.  I'm a dufus. 

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Répondez S'il Vous Plaît

I looked up the acronym “RSVP” this morning. It represents the French phrase, “Répondez
S'il Vous Plaît,” which translates simply, “respond please.” Apparently my generation is in need of some
basic French lessons because when we see “RSVP” on an invitation, we tend to
misinterpret it to mean, “do not respond under any circumstances.” 

What is up with this behavior? Are we so entitled that we think that our friends can actually
read our minds? Do we believe that, no
matter what the attendance of a party turns out to be, the host/hostess should
plan on feeding and entertaining every person that he/she invited? Why are we completely incapable of picking
up the phone or sending out a quick email to let the host/hostess know whether
or not we will attend the party? 

It would be completely hypocritical of me to criticize this
behavior and not admit to some personal guilt. I have gotten invitations in the mail before and put them in my
seven-inch-thick stack of “papers to be sorted.” A month rolls by before I come across them again and realize that
I never responded to the invitation for a party that has already taken
place. Remember, I’m the Mom who can’t
remember to bring Indian corn to her son’s school two days after the request
was made. Suffice it to say, I’m not
the most organized or reliable person and it goes without saying that my
interpretation of common French acronyms could use some work.

When the tables are turned, though, and I am the one hosting
the party, I tend to become very self-righteous about the whole process. I am appalled by the lack of responses to my
invitations and think about how inconsiderate my potential party guests
are. How could they leave me
hanging? How much food should I
buy? Should I purchase two or three
bottles of wine? How many chairs do I
need? With all of these home-based
direct marketing companies out there for my demographic, maybe it is time that
someone started a “Basic Manners 101” course and offered it to young
Mothers. With an entire generation of
manners-challenged individuals out there, it could be a very lucrative business.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

How the In-Laws Stole Christmas

My husband’s family is fairly large. There are five grandchildren so far with no
end in sight. Long before the grandkids
ever came along, gift giving in the family got completely out of hand. The last Christmas that we all bought gifts
for each other there was a fairly sizable fire in the living room. We could have roasted marshmallows over the
flaming pile of wrapping paper and bows. The excitement only grew when, just seconds before someone stomped out
the fire, the cat jumped out from under the pile with an ear-splitting
screech. After that Christmas we
decided that it would probably be best to draw names and limit the chaos on
Christmas morning. My husband and I
always get screwed in this process.

A classic case of middle-child syndrome, my husband is the
only child in his family that does not live within a 20-mile radius of his
parents. We moved a couple hours from
his home-town two weeks after we got married and have not looked back since. We both love his family desperately but
neither one of us cares for the Midwest. Every year my husband’s family gets together a couple of weeks before
Thanksgiving and draws names for Christmas gifts. Every year we are absent and every year we get the shaft. This year was no different. My Father In Law just informed me that in
our absence, he took it upon himself to draw for us and I got my new
Grandmother-In-Law (who neither myself or my husband has met) and my husband
got his Mother. The latter is not a
problem but the former presents quite a little quandary.

How am I going to buy a $50-$75 present for an elderly woman
that I have never met? Should I buy her
a nice pair of mauve polyester pants and a sweatshirt with a loose-fitting
waistband and an embroidered picture of birds? Should I get her a recipe book and a nice platter? Should I buy her a gift certificate to
Wal-Mart? How about a nice framed
picture of the step-great-grandchildren that she has yet to meet? In the end, I think the perfect gift would
be a T-shirt that says, “Who are these people and why are they giving me
Christmas gifts?”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I was a very cautious child. After a traumatic incident at a very young age involving an old
wooden roller coaster and my gung-ho Father, I would not ride a roller coaster
until I was fourteen. During our yearly
trips to the beach, my five cousins and brother spent the day at the waterslide
having a ball while I sat at the concrete picnic tables, occasionally taking a
splash in the wading-pool, too scared to even attempt a cruise on the
plastic-coated foam mat until I was well into my teens. I am now a roller-coaster junkie and enjoy a
thrilling waterslide when the opportunity presents itself. I guess becoming an adult released my inner
daredevil. Granted, you will never catch
me on a plane strapped to a parachute, or clad in a wetsuit, jumping into shark-infested
waters, but I will happily jump on a roller coaster that simulates
G-force.  I’m not sure when I conquered my fears but I did. I think it must have been the result of
peer-pressure because all of my courage seemed to appear in my teens.

My son is definitely my
child. He is easily frightened by loud
noises and darkness. He does not enjoy
thrill rides at all and absolutely refuses to do anything that might have the
end result of getting him even the slightest bit wet. My husband and I were pretty nervous about taking him to Disney
World. Would he be willing to ride
anything? Would we be forced to ride
the monorail and “It’s a Small World” over and over again? If so, how could we possibly justify the
$750 we spent on park tickets alone?

We braced ourselves for his debilitating fears as we walked
into the park the first morning. We
decided to start with the slow, easy rides and gradually work our way up. This strategy turned out to be a success. My son rode every ride he possibly could at
his limited height. He rode “Pirates of
the Caribbean,” “Snow White’s Scary Adventures” (a surprisingly dark ride) and “The Haunted Mansion” without even
flinching. The only ride that he even
had an issue with was the kiddy roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom. It went too fast for him and he asked that
we not ride it again. This was not a
problem for me as there was a relatively long line for such a short ride and it
gave me whiplash from all of the jerking and bumps.

My son surprised us all with his bravery and willingness to
try just about anything (as long as it did not get him wet). I guess he is not so much like me after all.
If my parents had taken me to Disney World at age four, I'm pretty sure that they would have spent a great deal of time in the line for the Dumbo

Monday, October 30, 2006

Urban Blight

My oldest child will be four in less than a month and we
have never stayed in a hotel room with him despite the fact that we travel
quite a bit. Now I know why. We left on Sunday morning to drive down to
Orlando for our weeklong foray into Disney-style debauchery. We spent the entire day in the car but, as
all of us are relatively accustomed to long car trips, things went relatively
well. We arrived in Orlando in time for
a late dinner and checked into our hotel room. Our reservations on Disney property did not start until Monday night so
we were forced to spend Sunday night confined to a hotel room together. I was dreading that much more than I was the
11-hour car trip.

We went to dinner with my parents and brother (also
traveling with us) and then went back to our hotel room. The hotel was on International Drive, right
across the street from a ridiculously large miniature golf course. The second my son saw that giant pirate ship
his energy level hit the roof. Kids
seem to have some sort of adrenaline switch that is triggered when they lay
their eyes on expensive tourist traps. He was out of control and the energy spread like wildfire into the veins
of his sister. They were both bouncing
off of the walls and too excited to sit still. We decided to take advantage of the hotel’s pool to wear the kids out so
they would sleep well that night. We
had a busy day in the morning and needed our kids to be well rested. We had a good time in the pool and, as soon
as the kids started showing signs of being tired, we dried them off and put
them in their pajamas. We followed our
evening routine, even adding some stories and an extra glass of milk but, alas,
it was to no avail. The kids were in
plain view of each other and still reeling from all of the urban blight on
International Drive.

At 11:00 pm, the scene in our hotel room was not
pretty. My daughter was standing up in
her Pack N Play, singing an incoherent baby-tune and bouncing up and down. Every once in a while she would stop, smile,
wave and say, “hi.” It was completely
irresistible and, despite my frustration, I was enjoying her serenade. My son was all over the bed, standing,
sitting and rolling around on the polyester comforter. He did not want to sleep by himself and kept
egging his sister on. My husband and I
were at a loss. We decided, finally, to
call in reinforcements. My parents and
brother were staying in the room next to ours so we took my daughter in there
where she proceeded to run around, treating the room like it was a baby
obstacle course, laughing every time she fell or someone looked at her. My husband and I then took turns lying in
the dark hotel room with my son, listening to him complain about the “scratchy
blanket.” An hour or so later he fell
asleep. Twenty minutes later my daughter
followed. Seven seconds later my
husband and I crashed in the second full-size bed, shivering because the
pathetic excuse for a blanket was so thin and worn, not to mention scratchy.

The kids woke up at 7:30 sharp, bright eyed and ready for
their day. We checked out of our hotel
room and drove towards the mouse ears vowing never again to endure the torture
of a night in a hotel room. Next time
we will bring the tent.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Working Vacation

Another Gray Hair will be on hiatus for the next several days.  We are taking a family vacation and I will not be able to update the blog on a regular basis.  We are heading for Disney World.  I've decided that it will be a "working vacation" because there is no doubt that I will come back with an endless supply of material.

The blog should be updated again on Monday, October 30th. 

Thursday, October 19, 2006

No Wisteria Lane

My neighborhood is no Wisteria Lane. It’s much more culturally diverse and lower
income, a little “Sesame Street” mixed with a little “My Name is Earl.” The people to our left do not speak English,
have a chain link fence, and butcher cows in their backyard about twice a
year. The people to our right wear
wife-beaters, smoke and (I’m fairly certain of this) hang out naked in their
above ground swimming pool after hours. No one has children anywhere near the ages of my kids and, while they
are all very cordial, most of our neighbors keep to themselves.

I love my house though. It’s old and has a great deal of character. Plus, it is the house that I brought both of my children home to
and the first property that my husband and I ever owned. I do, however, wish that we lived in a more
family-friendly neighborhood. I’d love
a sidewalk and a neighbor or two that I could talk to as I walked down the street,
feeling completely safe and at ease letting my kids walk with me. I feel certain that I will have this some time
in the near future but it will be a little while.

This Halloween we will be going to a friend’s house to trick
or treat. The first two Halloweens we
were in this house, we bought a big bag of candy, turned our porch light on and
waited for the trick or treaters. They
never came and we were left stuck with a bag of candy that we had no business
keeping around the house and a painstakingly carved pumpkin that no-one had the
opportunity to admire. It was a
difficult lesson to learn but, after two years of no-shows, I have finally
accepted my Halloween fate. My family
and I will spend our Halloween in the family-friendly neighborhood of our
friends. We will walk the sidewalks and
pretend that we live there, amongst the picket fences and polo shirts. We will look at the tastefully landscaped
backyards and marvel at the lack of cow carcasses and wife-beater clad
smokers. Our kids will have a blast
because they will be with their friends and completely oblivious to the fact
that trick or treating in their own neighborhood is not a viable option.

If all goes well, we will be living in a Halloween-friendly
neighborhood by the time our kids are old enough to care. We sure will miss the cow carcasses
though. Halloween won’t be the same
without catching a glimpse of a dead cow hanging from a tree branch in our
neighbor’s backyard.