Torn about Irene

Overflowed banks at the base of the waterfall at Silver Lake Park in Dover, Delaware

I know I’m crazy, but 36 hours post-hurricane Irene, I find myself wanting more.

I am such a sucker for a good storm. It’s exciting, suspenseful. It’s dark and a little dangerous—the ultimate change of scenery. It’s a spike on the chart of the everyday. It’s an adventure…without the hassle of leaving home.

As I look around, though, there’s a lot that I don’t want: day 2 of no electricity (like my parents and in-laws), my home under 4 feet of water (like the Trenton train station), and restrictions against going outside for fear of electrocution caused by downed live electric wires (like in Hoboken). And how would you like the possibility of the state giving the order to release the water from behind an overly taxed dam such that it submerges your town (as had been considered for one flood-related engineering emergency in Vermont)? If that’s not the ultimate in your tax dollars at work, I don’t know what is.

As I reflect on the fact that I am unscathed and wishing that the weekend’s events had been a bit more dramatic, I have to say, I’m curious. I wonder whether I should have revised the prayers I said early Friday afternoon to be more inclusive. Before the storm came, I rode my bicycle through my neighborhood and prayed for preservation of the homes. I rode past the middle school and prayed for safety of the students and their families. I rode through the park and prayed specifically for the trees to stay standing. I prayed for my family’s bungalow in Seaside Park, NJ that it wouldn’t end up free-floating in the Atlantic, a lifetime of summer memories and our vintage Archie comics floating out along with it.

Ultimately, I got everything I asked for (and for that, I am thankful, of course). Should I have prayed for more areas, I wonder, with more specificity? Should I have made a virtual circle of the whole east coast as I circled the neighborhoods on my bike? Should I have put my hand on the electric meter and prayed for the integrity of the middle states grid? Should I have prayed that the trees of Silver Lake Park be standing, but not in 6 feet of water, as they were on Sunday morning?

I don’t know. What I do know is that the sun is shining now, and the aftermath of the storm is not something that is affecting me directly. It’s a good thing. I wonder if the post-Irene feeling that I have is like the one athletes get when they make it to the semis but get knocked out on the eve of the finals. Not having to fight the big guys is disappointing, but I’ll tell you what—it’s also a relief.


Rock on, Momma

Just drove home from school at 8 am on the return trip from an emergency flute drop off. Tears—none. Band director blow-up the day before the concert—narrowly averted. Points scored with my fifth grader—infinite.

And, as I ease back into the self-satisfied comfort of my minivan, what should come on my Time Life collection of the ’70s CD? My new parenting anthem, that’s what:

“…it’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise—I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose!”

Thank you, Queen. Most triumphant…even for a 42-year-old mother of two who hasn’t quite taken a shower yet.

We (parents, that is) truly are the champions, aren’t we?

What I’ve Read and What I’m (possibly) Reading Next

I just put five books on hold with the Dover Public Library.

Am I nuts?

One minor lull in the work schedule and I think that it’s going to be read, read, read all the time. Like it’s my hobby. Like I do it for fun. Like I wouldn’t rather be lazy and watch TV. Like what I read last wasn’t Anthony Bourdain’s latest memoir, Medium Raw, in which I skipped over the section about his favorite international meals because I didn’t want to expand my brain in any way whatsoever.

Admittedly, I was coming off of a bit of a mental workout, with two brain books back to back. I’ve been thinking about the brain so much that my amygdala hurts.

Brain book number one was the memoir/self-help book My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, suggested by me for my book club. My take on it: the author’s account of her stroke was at the same time chilling and informative, but I think her takeaway that we can all cultivate peace by retraining our thought patterns is idealistic (and easy for her to say, considering that the stroke brought her back to un-embittered square one).

Brain book number two was the phobia memoir/scientific exploration I Wish I Could Be There, by composer Allen Shawn (brother of the lisping actor/playwright Wallace Shawn of such films as The Princess Bride and My Dinner with Andre–admittedly the sibling connection being the book’s main draw for shallow me). My take on it: while I have never had to turn my car around because of severe travel-related panic attack symptoms, I have experienced said symptoms in other situations, and I am glad to know that I am not (a) the only one, (b) crazy, and (c) curable by means of Jill Bolte Taylor’s “Whistle a happy tune” philosophy of life.

So, next on the hit parade (if whatever my new book club selection doesn’t take up all my time) are:

1. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
2. The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman
3. The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore
4. True Grit, by Charles Portis
5. Twin, a Memoir, by Allen Shawn

Not a brain in sight. Nice.

Small comfort


I finally thought I had a handle on this sleep thing.

I was wrong.

After resculpting my life so that I limit caffeine, exercise often, worry less, and try to go to bed at about the same time every night, I’m now finding my sleep, daily comfort, and general sanity interrupted by just about everything—the children’s go to bed music, the dishwasher, the dog, the shifting sheets, the too flat pillows, the nighttime chill of autumn, the overheated effect of wearing socks to bed, and the ill-timed and unceasing surprise beeping of electronic gadgetry midway through the night.

All that, plus my hairdresser didn’t give me a short enough trim last time I saw her. Now everything in my life just seems all wrong.

Concurring with my sleep angst, my husband (he’s usually the one who escorts the dog outside at 3 a.m.) suggested a bed makeover. “Yes!” I thought. “As for so many ills of life, the solution is shopping! New sheets! New comforter! New bed skirt! Hooray!”

What I didn’t realize is how many comforter sets are dark, geometric, and look like they’re from Tony Danza’s “Who’s the Boss?” bedroom. Holy 1980’s—yuck.

In the end, I settled on an all white, puffy, fluffy, comforter set (even with pillow shams—I have arrived!). It was a run-off between that and a tasteful green ensemble which, once on my bed, looked like the kind of thing a toad would slip into after a particularly warty evening; the princess and the pea green bed—ewww. Still, while everything is now on and looks great, I have another note for next time: when stripping (or in my case, gutting) one’s bed down to that very icky, shiny, lingerie blue mattress surface, especially when alone, be sure to allow half an hour of work time and to utilize sweat-wicking sportswear.

Perhaps all that work will be enough to make me sleep through the night tonight. We’ll see.


What’s on the menu? Nothing with a face

veggie dogMany of you already know that my 11-year-old son, Jake, went vegetarian about 10 months ago. His decision was precipitated by the compassion he felt for a beheaded pig we happened upon during an outdoor cooking demonstration on our Colonial Williamsburg vacation last Christmas. Looking back, I can't blame him.

Feeding a vegetarian kid isn’t difficult, in theory. Feeding a vegetarian kid who doesn’t love vegetables, that’s the hard part. Making sure that every meal isn’t some jumbled reworking of black bean vegetarian enchiladas, that’s next to impossible.

That aside, the real challenge for me is working in the meat that the rest of us enjoy without relegating Jake to PB&J five times a week. What every parent really wants is to make one dinner, not one dinner for every member of the family, right? And Jake doesn’t mind if the rest of us eat meat—he just doesn’t want to gag any down himself.

Then Monday, a breakthrough. My sleepless night (see my 10/19 post) gave me some menu planning time, during which I realized that I can use vegetarian main dishes as side dishes on the nights that I’m making a roast or serving burgers. This strategy may have been obvious to everybody else out there, but I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake. And, considering that Monday was the first time I’d done any intentional grocery shopping since…well, I can’t remember when…it was a great opportunity to turn over a new leaf.

Here’s what I’m planning on cooking this week (recipes can be found in the cookbook, Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin):

Stuffed Baked Potatoes with Spinach and Feta Cheese (Sounds good with pork roast!)

Baked Orzo, Broccoli, & cheese (Chicken breast as well!)

Bow Ties with Green Beans in Tomato-wine sauce (1/4 tsp red pepper flakes goes in this sauce—tangy!)

Caramelized onion, walnut, and goat cheese pizza w/beer crust (Only for grown-ups tastes? We’ll see. )

Havarti & Sprout sandwiches (Had this on Monday night with pickles and cheetos—HOME RUN!!!!)

Classic Vegetarian Split Pea Soup & Shepherd’s Pie too (Classics—how can we go wrong?)

I’m two days in to my new cooking plan, and so far, so good. I think today will be baked orzo day, with chicken for the carniv’s among us. It’s just crazy enough to work, so keep your fingers crossed!

Less sleep, more often


You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I’ve been up awake since 3:45 this morning. Combine an overstimulating weekend with no exercise, a too early bedtime, and a kid dumping the dog on my bed in the middle of the night, and it’s like a no-sleep potion designed especially with me in mind.

It’s OK, though. I’m usually good on the first day after an iffy night. I’m giddy, I’m kidding around, I’m making my shots at tennis, I’m shopping at three stores in one morning and not even breaking a sweat. This sleep-deprived, get-it-done version of me is the one that makes my husband say, “Mom should get less sleep more often!” Two days from now, though? I’m wondering whether make-up and clever tailoring will conceal my freshly sprouted horns and tail.

My own sleep situation is making me think better of my children, whose less than ideal behavior I often label as “willful disobedience” even though it’s probably caused by something more like “radical exhaustion.” Let’s add up the facts: I didn’t want to get up on Saturday morning, and 11-year-old Jake didn’t either, but he didn’t just get up—he got up and played a regulation-length soccer game in a 40 degree nor’easter at eight-freaking-thirty in the morning! Add to that a junior cotillion ice breaker on Saturday afternoon, a sit up and be charming social engagement with family friends in the evening, church on Sunday morning, and a 2-hour classical music concert on Sunday afternoon, and you tell me how we’re doing on the exhaust-o-meter.

Babies, thankfully, rub their eyes when they’re tired. They nuzzle a parent’s neck. They get cranky and cry. Older kids, I have a feeling, just keep going wherever their parents tell them to, complaining or not, until they hit a steel-reinforced brick wall that will grow poison tipped spikes if watered with enough caffeine, sugar, and sit-still time.

So today I’ll give my kids a break. Not an “I’ll let you do whatever you want no matter how you behave” kind of break. More like an “I’m going to chuckle at your otherwise irritating antics like you’re trying to be funny and get you to bed at a reasonable hour so you can sleep it the heck off” kind of break.

Come to think of it, maybe I should take a dose of that medicine myself.

The inevitable


Temperature: 100.3 degrees.

Symptoms: coughing, sneezing, headache, fatigue.

General mood: surprisingly pleasant, openly affectionate, remarkably agreeable, and awfully quiet.

Yes, we’ve got our first sick kid of the season here at home, and it couldn’t have come more out of nowhere. It happened on a Sunday morning right after a hairy canary Friday night and Saturday day, wherein we’d somehow managed to squeeze in school, a girl scout meeting, a girl scout ceremony, a homecoming parade, a kids fun event at church, a soccer game, a playdate, a birthday party, and a visit to the local corn maze.

That’s enough to make anybody sick.

To be honest, I practically couldn’t sleep after I looked at the ink-barfed calendar that I’d loaded up the day before (who schedules ANY mandatory children’s activity 2 days after Christmas?!?!?!!). The craziness of these kids’ schedules would drive a celebrity right to the front page of a supermarket tabloid. Think Mariah Carey completely disoriented on Total Request Live. Or a freshly shaven Britney Spears. Thankfully I do not have broad enough media exposure to embarrass myself royally with a “they’ve gotta go where?!?!” nervous breakdown in the middle of a sea of paparazzi.

But back to the sickie.

Neither of my children has run a good fever in a long time, and, besides being a natural braking mechanism for our schedules of insanity, I’ve found that sickness just brings out the sweet in them. The “I love you” eyes. The cozy cuddling. The “It’s OK, Mom” expressions. They’ll downright melt you.

So here I am…hating the germs but loving the sneezer. I mean, I’d love him anyway, but the sweet symptoms make liking him pretty much effortless. And if you’re looking for a silver lining in this anti-bacterial world of ours, man, that’s it–right there.

Open Question

time outOpen question: Is it ever OK to punish a kid on her birthday?

Suppose you discover first thing on the big birthday morning that she lied about putting away all her clothes (like you asked her to) the night before. Suppose that even after you ask her again to put away the clothes she just shlumps them into a gigantic pile with all of the other shlumped, not put-away clothes. Suppose that visitors come to drop off birthday gifts and you have to remind her to say “thank you” after which she disappears to the room where the TV and video games are waiting on standby. Suppose that…well, you get the idea.

You don’t want to ruin the birthday for her, but you certainly don’t want her to ruin the birthday for you.

What’s a parent to do? Ideas?

One Last Day…

number 1…as in, today is the one and only day left in the Capital School District’s 2008-2009 academic year! Hip hip hooray!!!!

I resolve now to have a mentally healthy summer. I will end playdates before the children (and I) go off the deep end. I will hold onto my schedule gently but firmly. I will strike a good balance between fun and structure (too much of either is never a good thing).

I will water my plants every day. I will keep my pantry straight. I will set up a drying rack outside so that they bathing suits are never too wet for too long.

I will stock up on healthy snacks. I will turn off the engine when I’m stopped in the drive-thru.

I will buy less, socialize more, and try hard to stay in touch.

You wouldn’t think it would be this hard, would you?

Thankful for Being So Close…

number 2…as in 2 days left of school–thank goodness!!

I’m thankful too (so thankful!) for all of the professionals who have committed their lives to teaching and nurturing my children. I’m thankful for classroom teachers Ms. Murrian, Ms. Lessard, Mrs. Tierson, and Ms. Hall-Zeno, as well as good old Mrs. Montano, who took Hayley into her classroom after school every day after the shuttle bus dropped her off. I’m thankful that we made the transition to two new schools without much of a hitch (though I still miss you, Fairview Elementary!). I’m thankful that God provides new friends at every turn. I’m thankful that our school institutions do not tolerate bullying, and that even bullies can turn themselves around.

As thankful as I am for all that has gone on in this school year, though, I’m thankful that it’s almost over!

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