Friday, April 27, 2007

Diva Intervention Plan

My daughter  lives in the
sandbox. She’d sleep there if we’d let
her and she seems to actually enjoy the taste of semi-wet play sand. She often uses it as a dippin' sauce for her chicken nuggets.  This past weekend I was changing my daughter’s clothes because, as usual, she managed to cover her outfit and body in sand.  I opened her closet to get a comfy knit summer dress out and,
as I was pulling it Diva_2
off of the hanger, she started to shake her head from side
to side and say, “No” continually. She pointed to something specific in the closet and said “Ugh” in a demanding
tone. “Ugh” can be loosely translated to mean, “give me that” in Tatum-speak. She did not want to wear the dress that I
had picked out and had picked out what she believed was the appropriate alternative. She has yet to reach her second birthday and
she already has opinions about what she wears.

Through trial and error I found the dress she wanted, a pink
woven cotton dress that was more appropriate for church or a party than for
outdoor play. She wanted it though and it was not a battle I was willing to fight. She walked out of her room and went to show her dress to my In-Laws
(they were visiting for the weekend). Clearly fishing for compliments, she batted her eyelashes and did
a little strut. She did her best
Melinda Doolittle unassumingly bashful impression when the compliments came but it was clear
she expected them. She knows how cute
she is and she seems to be a master at laying on the charm. My daughter is, at the tender age of almost
two, a card-carrying diva. Before I
know it she’ll be demanding Evian-only baths and Non-Fat Grande Caramel
Machiatos with her Honey Nut Cheerios. I
need a diva intervention plan.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shopping Cart Rage

I went to Wal-Mart today to make an impulse purchase and was
stunned to learn the impact of one faulty wheel on my mental health. The cart that I was provided with was one of
the few that was dry (it was a rainy day) but it had a flaw. Either from too much wear or some type of Jackass-esque
incident, one of the front wheels did not touch the ground and the other one
steered sharply to the right. Managing
both children and using a great deal of force just to keep the cart in a
straight line was enough to make my blood pressure skyrocket.

I was probably five feet from the cart pick-up area when I
discovered my cart’s malfunction but instead of taking it back for a better
model, I decided to deal with it and maintain my current level of anger. Taking it back would mean moving my daughter
and son from one cart to another as well as two raincoats and an umbrella. This would inevitably lead to a series of

“Mommy, why did we change carts? Why do you hate that other cart? Why are you so mad? Why are you
yelling at me? Why is your face so
red? Who’s going to fix that other
cart? Can I have a sticker?”

It simply wasn’t worth it. I made my way to the electronics section, all the while fantasizing
about the methods I could use to annihilate that cart. There are surprisingly few, given the sturdy
metal frame. As I was leaving the
parking lot, still fuming about the shopping cart, I realized how ridiculous I
was being. It was the grocery store
version of road rage. Those evil elderly Wal-Mart greeters have a secret
vendetta against me. I’m pretty sure
that this isn’t true but it’s what I decided to believe for the ten minutes I
was in the store.  My name is Julianne
Hale and I am an egomaniacal victim of shopping cart rage. What are the chances there is a support group for that?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Minor Adjustments

“My pee-pee is sticking up! Wait! My pee-pee is sticking

This is what I hear seventy percent of the time when I strap
my son into his car seat. Something
about getting into his car seat causes his stuff to get all twisted around and
require adjustment. I have yet to come
across another child who this happens to regularly. Obviously my lack of a pee pee makes it difficult to relate to this predicament. I simply don’t understand what’s going
on down there and why, by some strange twist (no pun intended) of fate, his car
seat causes genital distress. Maybe
it’s the brand of seat. I should
contact Britax and inquire whether anyone has returned the Marathon based on
its impact on the male anatomy. I might
be due a refund.

My husband is much more sympathetic about this phenomenon. I’ve asked him to explain to me what is
happening and he just says, “Leave him alone. He needs to adjust.” OK. That does not help me at all. What does he mean by “adjust”? That seems like a fairly vague term to me. Why does the position of my son’s pee-pee
require such urgent attention? Clearly
I am missing something and I don’t think I’ll ever quite get it.

My current goal is to get him to stop screaming
about his pee-pee every time we get in the car. It creates quite a scene as I am leaving the park or the store and
my four-year-old son starts screaming at the top of his lungs about his privates. We’ve gotten some perplexed
and disapproving looks from passersby. I want to say to them, “Oh, he just needs to adjust his junk every time
we get into the car. It’s no big
deal.” This doesn’t sound too good when
I say it out loud. I imagine most women
would have the same reaction that I do and most men would give a knowing,
sympathetic look. “Adjusting” is
something they can all relate to. We’re
teaching my son that term right now. Hopefully we will make the transition from, “My pee-pee is sticking up!”
to, “I need to adjust,” very soon. He
seems to have an innate understanding of the term. Go figure.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Crocodile Tears

My daughter has separation anxiety. She has a sixth sense about nurseries even
if she’s never been there. She starts
crying immediately and it is not a normal, run-of-the-mill cry. It’s an out and out sob, complete with
little gasps for air every couple of seconds and crocodile tears. I still consider her my baby and seeing her
like that is very difficult for me. I
have been putting the whole thing off because I just don’t want to deal with it
but the time has come. I’ve got to get
her acclimated to a nursery setting.

We recently joined our local YMCA to take advantage of
swimming lessons and the outdoor pool this summer. I would also like to put that money to work and use the
membership to workout in peace. I
usually get my exercise in the comfort of my home on my treadmill. It is anything but peaceful and has to be
strategically planned around naptimes. This has become increasingly difficult as my son is less apt to nap
these days. Forty-five minutes of
uninterrupted time on the elliptical machine in the gym would be like a
mini-vacation for me. I could rock out
to some tunes and work up a good sweat. It sounds like pure bliss.

I face a significant dilemma though. Do I get dressed, get the kids dressed,
drive the ten miles to the gym, put the kids in the nursery, hop on the machine
and get 8 minutes of a work-out in before the nursery staff comes and gets me
because my daughter will not stop crying? This sure does seem like a great deal of effort for 8 minutes of a
workout. What are my alternatives?  My son has swimming lessons on Tuesday and
Thursday mornings and I have to observe in case he has to go to the
bathroom. Yes, my location is dictated
by my son’s bladder during the 30 minutes of his swimming lessons. The viewing area for the pool is right
outside the nursery so it was the perfect opportunity to put my daughter in the
nursery for a trial run.

I dropped my son off at his lesson and walked over to the
nursery. My daughter started crying
before I even had the chance to sign her name on the sign-in sheet. I walked through the dutch door and entered the room that the two and under crowd is kept in.  I
put her down and tried to distract her with some toys. This did not work so I decided to break out
the big guns. I pulled out her
pacifier, her blanket and some fruit snacks. The staffer suggested that I put her in the high chair and I followed her advice.  I opened the fruit snacks, handed her her paci and bolted out of
there while she shrieked. I went out to
the glass window that leads to the pool and watched my son and waited. I expected a staffer to come out within ten
minutes. I waited and waited. Nothing. Surely she wasn’t OK? This was a
battle I fully expected to fight for at least a week. I was stunned. My son’s
lesson ended and I took him to the locker room, got him changed and he and I
caught the tail end of a “Wee Gym” class together. It was great.

After about 45 minutes total I went back into the
nursery. I found my daughter still
sitting in the high chair, blankie in hand and paci in mouth. She wasn’t crying and she seemed unscathed. She wasn’t having much fun but she wasn’t
miserable either. It was a
victory. Eventually, I would like her
to enjoy her time in the nursery and play with the other kids but for now I’ll
take what I can get. If getting 45
minutes of peaceful workout time means pacifying my child in a high chair with
gummies, then so be it. We’ll work on
the details later.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Porter's Salve: An Epilogue

Recent events have compelled me to write an epilogue to the
Porter’s Salve story
. What follows is
heresy. My husband spoke to his parents
on Sunday evening. As usual, he asked
about his Grandpa. My father-in-law
(known as Papa Dale on this blog) relayed a story to him that begged for a blog

My husband’s Grandpa has the innate ability to fix and sell
anything. He can find a lawnmower or a
snow blower at a yard sale or on the side of the road, fix it up and sell it to
someone for a couple hundred dollars. It really is a shame that he did not go into some type of sales
professionally. I’m pretty sure he
would have been a very rich man. Grandpa is over 80 and retired now so he divides his time between
gardening, fixing up his mowers and helping other people with their
lawnmowers. Last week, he found himself
working on a friend’s mower. He was
seated in the garage with the mower on its side, working on the motor. You know where this is going, don’t
you? He turned on the mower to check if
it was working and managed to sever (or nearly sever—my husband wasn’t clear on
this—I’m assuming the latter) three of his fingers. Never one to trust someone in the medical profession, my
Grandpa-In-Law went home and did what any rational human being raised in Kentucky
would do. He doused his wounds in
Porter’s Salve. Yep, that’s right,
folks. My sarcastic comment about my
husband’s family using Porter’s Salve to extract a bullet to the chest wasn’t
that far from the truth.

I’m sad to report that the Porter Salve did not, as was the
hope, successfully reattach his fingers. Grandpa-In-Law was forced to visit the doctor yesterday for some
licensed medical care. We haven’t
received a full report yet but maybe Papa Dale will fill us in. We’re hoping for a speedy recovery for
Grandpa and full use of all ten fingers.

Lesson for the day: Drawin’ salve works wonders for splinters but should not be used to
reattach appendages.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Save Those Pennies

My husband and I are uncertain about whether we want to have
another child. He is one of three and I
have romantic notions about having three grown children that I find very
appealing. I have some health concerns,
though, and I’m just not sure that I can handle a third so we are weighing our
options. Weighing our options has
brought the subject of birth control to the forefront of my mind lately. Obviously, a vasectomy is out of the
question. We aren’t ready for a
permanent solution. 

I recently discovered the IUD. It has been around for years and is immensely safer and less
controversial than it was in the seventies. There are two kinds, one that emits low levels of hormones and one that
is made of plastic wrapped in a thin copper wire. The latter is hormone-free and the procedure to insert it is
relatively pain-free and non-invasive. It is certainly a reliable, safe option that we should explore. 

I ran this possibility by my husband on a car ride
recently. He had never even heard of an
IUD and had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I told him that it had copper on it and
something about the copper created an environment in which fertilization was
nearly impossible. He was silent for a
minute and then said, “Where do they put this thing?"

I responded, “Well, it’s called an Intrauterine Device so
you figure it out.”

“Hmmm… do they have to put it in surgically?”

“Nope. It’s a simple

“How much does it cost?”

“Between $400-600.”

“Why don’t I just shove a penny up there. We’d save a lot of money and copper is

“Excuse me?”

“Of course it would have to be made before 1981. Anything after that date is an alloy and it
doesn’t necessarily contain copper.”

Isn’t my husband dreamy? At his request, would you please save your pre-1981 pennies for us? My husband has our retirement tied up in
baseball cards and our reproductive fate in a glass jar beside our bed. Who says chivalry is dead?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Sweet Melodies of Sanjaya Malakar

My daughter’s birthday is less than a month away. She will be two. I’m still in shock. I know it is a cliché but time passes at
lightning speed. Babies are gone before
you even realize how much you adore having a baby around and demanding toddlers
take their place. They start to talk
and argue and you long for the days when they would stare up at you from the
nook in your arm and smile with sheer delight at the sight of your face. Things change. Fast.

My current dilemma is a very important one. It has to do with my daughter’s cake. What kind of cake am I going to order? She’s not really a TV watcher so she’s not
into any particular characters. On our
trip to Disney World last fall she screamed and clawed at my shoulders like a
cat trying avoid water every time Mickey or any of his pals would come within
20 feet of her so the Disney gang is out of the question. When my son turned two he was really into
Dora the Explorer. It was obvious that
she was his favorite character and that made the cake choice easy. My daughter is a little more of a
challenge. She is into yelling, eating sand and swinging. How does that
translate into a cake?

I like to torture my husband about this cake business. He loathes all celebrity culture and thinks
our society’s obsession with Paris Hilton is going to be the downfall of
humanity. It is for this reason that I
regularly quiz my daughter about what she wants on her cake in his presence. Here’s how our conversation goes:

Me: Tatum, do you
want Lindsay Lohan on your cake?

Daughter: Nods and

Me: How about
Brittney Spears?

Daughter: Nods and

Me: Do you want
her with hair or without?

Daughter: Nods and

Me: How about the
Girls Next Door (Hugh Heffner’s girlfriends and a really trashy reality show that
I love to watch in secret)?

Daughter: Nods and

My husband hates this. I try to quiz my daughter while we are in the car so that he cannot
escape. It’s a source of endless
entertainment for me.

Right now I’m leaning towards an American Idol cake. Every Monday night my daughter watches
American Idol with us and dances like crazy, in the nude, to every
performance. In some sort of a
Pavlovian reaction, she immediately starts undressing when she hears Ryan
Seacrest’s voice and insists on being completely naked for the duration of the
show. Watching her rock out to the
sweet melodies of Sanjaya Malakar in the nude is, by a landslide, my favorite
part of the week. Would a cake with a
headshot of Sanjaya on it be inappropriate for a two-year-old’s birthday

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last Frost Date

My husband is a gardener. It is probably his favorite pastime, so much so that when the weather
started to get warm here in East Tennessee, he couldn’t help but get out there
and dig in the dirt. Despite my lame
but practical last frost date warnings, he tilled the ground and planted the
tomato, pepper, green bean, and melon seeds before the first of April. I’m a stickler for the last frost date rule
and, in our region, it’s mid-April. I’m
in charge of the front of the house, the non-vegetable-bearing area, and it
will not be planted until the end of April. I don’t take chances. My husband
did and he paid the price. Unfortunately so did I.

With the knowledge of the impending low temperatures, my
husband prepared to winterize the garden last Thursday. He took the kids outside and let them
help. They gathered sticks from around
the yard and put them in the ground. I
was still sick at this time so I stayed inside, snoozing contentedly on the
couch. I might have at least taken a
peek out the backdoor if I had any idea what my husband’s garden winterization
plan was.

Protecting plants from frost is not usually a pretty
business and I didn’t expect our backyard to be any exception. There are usually a couple white or yellow
sheets involved and a tarp or two. Armed with his extreme thriftiness and exhausting ingenuity, my husband
decided to raid the six or seven Rubbermaid containers marked “Goodwill” in our
shed. He covered sections of the garden
in sheets from the seventies, one of them a pastel gingham print that every
little girl of the seventies had on her bed. Over each of the pepper plants was draped a T-shirt, laid carefully atop
two strategically placed stakes in the ground. Taken as a whole, especially considering the sheer size of our garden,
this was enough to make the punch line of a joke on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour
but the tomato plants, well, they were the icing on the cake. Each tomato plant was inside a wire cage and
there were five of them. Each cage was
dressed in two T-shirts, one on the top part of the cage and one on the
bottom. Atop each cage, in the neck
hole of the top T-shirt, sat a pair of boxer shorts that my husband wore 12
years ago or a button-down shirt from 1995. The tomato plants looked like stubby totem poles with empty limp
armholes hanging down the sides. Each
T-shirt was a reminder of some event or time period from our youth. There was the Grateful Dead Tour T-shirt
from 1993, the 4-H Memorial Camp Staff shirt from 1996, and the ocean scene
shirt from my Green Peace days of the early nineties. Ah, sweet youth and randomly T-shirt-clad winterized tomato
plants. It’s my life, for better or for
worse. I’m including a couple of
pictures because words cannot do the garden justice. Enjoy.



Friday, April 6, 2007

Mikey Likes It! He Really Likes It!

A miracle happened today in my small Tennessee town. My son tried a new food. Actually it was a new condiment but a
miracle is a miracle. I have been
pretty sick this week and, as a result, some friends offered to take my
children off my hands for the day. I
can’t express my gratitude for them for offering and, just as any normal
neurotic person would do, I worried about who to choose. If I choose Holly, will Melinda and Angie
get their feelings be hurt? It was a
crisis of the highest order in my small, obviously distorted world. In the end I chose Melinda because she
offered first and she offered twice.

This, apparently, was a very good decision as she managed to
get my son to do two things that are way out of his comfort zone: try a new
food (honey mustard) and eat the crust off a sandwich. If you thought I was going to say ride a
rollercoaster or try sushi, you don’t know my son. It’s all about baby steps in our family. When getting water poured on your head in
the bath is a huge, painful ordeal, eating the crust off of a sandwich is a
victory. Such is life in the Hale

How did Melinda do it? I’ve always thought she was a clever, resourceful Mom. Whenever we have been together and I’ve
asked her advice about something that relates to parenting, she gives unusual,
creative answers that I would otherwise not have considered. In this case, she ordered him some chicken
nuggets when they were out and they came with honey mustard. He responded the way he always does. He gave a look of disgust, picked up the
honey mustard and said, “I don’t like this.” She asked him if he’d ever tried it. He told her no. She told him
how important it was that he try new things and asked if he would try it if it
were a new flavor of ice cream. He said
he would.

She said, “How do you know that this will not taste as good
as the new flavor of ice-cream?”

simple, yet genius, question sold my son. He tried the honey mustard and, predictably, did not like it. This does not, however, take away from the
fact that he did try it. He’s like
Mikey in the Life Cereal ads of old. Remember, “Mikey likes it! He
really likes it!”? That’s how I feel
about my son. It is so rare that he
tries anything new that him actually liking something new is the equivalent of
a medium-sized lotto win. So, today’s accomplishment was kind of like finding
$20 in a parking lot. It sure feels
good and you want to tell your friends about it but it doesn’t buy much. One thing is for sure; it beats pocketing a
penny that has traveled the length of a three-year-old’s digestive system. I’ll take it, if for that reason alone. So, thanks Melinda. You performed some sort of voodoo magic on
my son today and turned him into a fairly intrepid kid. Kudos to you!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I Thought it Was Chicken

I've been slacking on the blog this week but I have a good excuse.  I've been really sick and pretty much bed-ridden.  I'm finally feeling a little better.  The creative juices, however, are not exactly flowing today.  So, in lieu of an original story, I've decided to steal one from a friend.  Here's a breakdown of the conversation that took place between Jacquelyn and her son Patrick (3) yesterday:

Patrick:  My tummy hurts Mommy.

Jacquelyn:  Where does it hurt? Do you need to go potty?

Patrick:  No.  I ate money.

Jacquelyn:  What?  Why?

Patrick:  Because I thought it was chicken.

It turns out that little Patrick had swallowed a penny, thinking it was a piece of chicken.  It was an honest mistake.  I'm happy to report that the penny has made its way safely through Patch's digestive system, out of his body and back into Jacquelyn's pocket (no, I'm not kidding) proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the girl will do anything to save a penny.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Martyr Scale

My father's family has the unique distinction of having named all of
their children with “J” names. My Dad and
his two sisters are both “J’s.” The two
sisters married “J’s” and they all named their children “J” names. My poor Mother is the only outsider. Here’s a breakdown of our names:






Susanne (the rebel of the group)








It seems that the Duggars have followed suit with my family,
naming each of their 16 children a “J” name. In case you are unfamiliar with this Arkansas family, they are
pseudo-celebrities as a result of an endless stream of TLC television specials with subtle
titles such as, 15 and One on the Way, 16 Children and Moving In, 16 Kids on the Move, 16 Brides for
16 Brothers
, and 16 Kids Organize a Fast to Protest Overpopulation
(OK, so maybe the last two are wishful thinking).

As a result of their unique distinction as one of the (if
not THE) largest biological family in this country, the Duggars have received a
great deal of help, both financial and otherwise, from the community and the
media. For some reason this makes me
angry. Why is it that when people
choose to have an exorbitant amount of children they are considered martyrs and
given generous gifts by the community and praise and adulation from the
media? Remember when the Dilley
Sixtuplets were born? There was an
outpouring of support from celebrities and the community. Why is that? Why do excessive numbers of biological children compel people to
donate and give? You don’t hear about the
family that adopts seven special-needs children getting a $10,000 check from
Sharon Stone or the mom that fosters six high-risk teenagers in a low-income
area getting a home makeover from Ashley Furniture. Why do biological choices trump adoptive/foster choices in the
minds of philanthropic Americans? It
seems bass ackwards to me. I don’t
begrudge the Dilleys or the Duggars for their choices. I just think they are gluttons for
punishment and that their standing is pretty low on the martyr scale.