On the Eighth Day

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

And God awakened on the eighth day, and looked upon his creation, and God said, “Behold, it is good, but the man and woman should awaken in the morning with a delicious, energizing beverage.”

So God created coffee in the image of deliciousness; Arabica and Robusta created he them.

And the Lord God commanded the man and woman saying, “Drink coffee, and be energized, and enjoy the earth and all of its fruit, especially the beverage made from the roasted bean of the coffee plant.”

And the evening and the morning were the eighth day.

That’s probably how it went, and even if it didn’t, there’s no doubt that coffee is a divine creation.

You know what my coffee is missing, though? A cigarette to accompany it.

If coffee is from God, cigarettes are from the devil.

Damn, but I miss smoking. Miss it hard. If I was one of those people who could smoke just 2-3 cigarettes a day, I would totally do that.

I’m definitely not that kind of person. I’m a smoke-all-day, every-chance-you-get, ruin-your-health-as-fast-as-you-can smoker. I would write an ode to cigarettes here, but I have a feeling that wallowing in fabulous memories of The Cigarette Years would not be helpful in my quest to remain a non-smoker.

I got hooked on cigarettes immediately after I tried smoking. I loved the smooth feel of a brand-new pack of smokes; the removing of one slender, lovely-smelling cigarette from that pack; the snick of my disposable lighter; the tiny sizzle when I took that first drag.

Inhale, pause, exhale.

Sigh.

When I was a (very) young adult, my friends (everyone wave hello to Kim and Courtney!) said I smoked like a non-smoker, which I suppose means I looked . . . awkward, perhaps? Yeah, like I cared. I just wanted to suck on those damn things all day long.

When I was 22, I quit smoking for, I dunno, maybe the 15th time. No way to know if it would have taken but I got pregnant with Jacob and was so sick that virtually all smells made me puke, so that was it. I quit smoking and stayed quit for over 5 years.

Yes, after 5 years smoke-free, I had a fight with my sister and, in a moment of defeatism, bought a pack of cigarettes.

The first cigarette? D I V I N E

There I was, huddled in my backyard, freezing, thinking, “Why did I ever quit this? Oh, my God, this is awesome.”

It took maybe a week before I remembered why I quit: I smelled like shit, I felt like shit, and my bank account seemed to have sprung a leak. Also? Going outside every hour or more in the middle of winter is, how shall we say, unpleasant.

So I quit smoking again.

And a few months later, I started.

And then I quit.

And a few years later, I started.

My best estimate is that I’ve been a non-smoker for 85% of my adult life. I don’t want to be a smoker; much as I enjoy a cigarette (and I do; I really, really do) I can’t afford it, either physically or financially.

It pisses me off that even though I haven’t smoked in several years (or so; I stopped keeping track a dozen quits ago) and I still crave it.

Damn.

I’m going to make myself a cup of coffee and I’m going to enjoy it sans cigarette.

Nobody said I have to like it.

I need a cigarette craving exorcism, I think.

Cursing and Swearing: The Carter Method

All week last week, Carter was home sick with some kind of respiratory nastiness.

The lovely thing about asthma is, as unpleasant as a cold is for anyone, for him it’s compounded. Not only does he get sicker, but he has to get on his nebulizer every four hours around the clock. Also? Steroids.

The steroids are not nearly as unpleasant for him as they are for us. Say it with me: Crabby McCrabberson. Holy crap, but that kid can be such a bitch.

A generous bitch, though, because he was kind enough to share his virus with me. If I could just teach this kid to cover his mouth when he coughs, I’d probably be 50% healthier. My hands are all sad and red from washing them so much last week, trying to avoid getting sick, but that isn’t a lot of help if the kid is going to walk up to me and cough right in my damn face!

Where was I? Oh, yes, Carter was crabby. Seriously, painfully crabby.

Steroids + mood disorder = brain melting unpleasantness.

Not like the kid is a happy-go-lucky sort under the best of circumstances, so when we give him medicine that makes almost any person grouchy, Carter goes right over the top and speaks almost entirely in swear words.

We’re very proud.

It occurs to me that some of you might not know how to curse like a champion, which is really a shame, so here, in collaboration with Carter, I offer you a brief but thorough tutorial.

  1. Forget about parts of speech. Who says ass can’t be an adjective? Mix it up and be creative! That stupid fucker dog is an ass bastard bitch ass!
  2. Don’t be afraid to make up new curse words if none of the standard ones is working for you. Carter is especially fond of freak and freaker, booker, booger, and nut, but feel free to create your own. This bitch ass freaker nut cold better go away soon or I’ll have to kill it!
  3. If you run out of curse words and you’re stumped for new ones, invent some words. Don’t let standard English hold you back. If you can’t even think of a sound to make, just spit.
  4. Keep going! Your swears will have more impact the more words (real and made up) you use. Remember, we’re concerned here with impact; shock value, if you will. Making sense is not a factor, and repetition is recommended. I hate that stupid fucker bitch ass nut freaker dumb ass dog fucker fuck asshole!
  5. Volume! If someone says fuck in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it matter? You want as many people to hear you as possible. Bonus points if you can make people gasp, say tsk tsk tsk, or shake their heads in admonishment. Triple bonus score if a stranger actually scolds you, so really dig in and curse from your belly.
  6. Punctuation matters. Your cursing has more impact if it’s accompanied by a slammed door, feet stomping up or down the stairs, or a few kicks to the wall.

That’s really all you need to know, but remember, practice makes perfect!

Just a few cautions. First, sweet old Grammy might be a little less sweet (might, in fact, suddenly turn very scary) if she gets an earful of cursitude, so maybe reign it in for her. Ditto the school principal. Also, while your parents might get very tired of getting you to tone down your language, they probably won’t let go of their “don’t hit, kick, punch, or otherwise hurt any people or pets” rules. Keep this in mind when you’re working on your punctuation repertoire.

We’ve petitioned the International Olympic Committee and hope that Cursing and Swearing will be an official sport by 2016, so get to practicing! I’d hate to see any of you left behind, and we do expect The Carter Method to take center stage at the games.

Did I mention that we’re very proud?

So very proud.

Sigh.

Loot

My rampage of over-thorough household organization continues, and finally, the kitchen is finished. During my quest to quell every last whisk’s desire for anarchy and every saucepan’s tendency toward insubordination, I found this:

So me? I was all excited, like so: Ooooh, I can make something! It will be vegetables that have never been frozen and they will be healthy! I will get an award from Better Than the Average Mother Magazine for feeding my family exceptionally wonderful, expertly chopped vegetables!

I may have a tendency to give myself a little too much credit for some very ordinary things.

Ahem.

This chopping thing was bestowed upon me months ago by my grandma, who handed it to me and said, “I want you to have this so don’t forget it when you leave.” She’s sentimental like that.

I had my veggies all washed and peeled and ready to go when I opened the box, which is where I found this:

First? This thing is for shit when it comes to dicing carrots. Second? It smells like Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby stayed up all night drinking each other under the table, then barfed under the sofa cushions.

I had to cut up all those vegetables with a knife. It was like the olden days or something and required three band-aids and half a tube of antibiotic ointment.

When I finally finished the kitchen, I moved on to my office. Today was Clean the File Drawers Day. Someday, when I am Queen and Ultimate Ruler of the Universe, I will declare Clean the File Drawers Day an international holiday because we all deserve a day off to grieve when we review our tax records and discover that our real household income hasn’t improved appreciably in the past decade.

But there were some happy discoveries, too. The sweetest one was this, a note from Abbie when she was five years old:

I’m all melty on the inside over this. “Dear Mom you r bdfl.” Or, for those not adept at translating inventive spelling, “Dear Mom, you are beautiful.”

Oh, the bittersweetness of that!

And finally, this little gem, courtesy of my great uncle Don* by way of my grandma who never met a piece of paper that wasn’t worth saving. First, the picture, which appeared in the Newton Kansan in 1978:

Don (or Detective Harrold, as he was known back in the day) is inventorying some of the loot that police had recently recovered following several residential break-ins.

First, we all need to take a moment to observe and admire Don’s stylin’ threads.

Second, I’m digging all those stolen electronics, none of which can even be found in thrift stores anymore. I kind of miss owning things with dials.

Also, what kind of thief steals luggage?

And finally, there is a snippet under the picture that offers a list of all that was stolen and subsequently recovered:

  • a stereo component system and speakers
  • two television sets
  • a desk lamp
  • a calculator
  • tape measures
  • tools
  • electric drills
  • cigarettes
  • candy
  • gum
  • pastries
  • lunch meat

To which I can say nothing but WTF? They stole lunch meat but not bread?

*Don reads NPS. Please wave hello to him before you leave!

Super Secret Phone Wizardry

I hate buying groceries.

I know. You’re probably surprised.

Heh.

Alas, it eventually has to be done. By yesterday, my pantry looked like this:

That isn’t the pantry of a family that is in any danger of going hungry, but Brian told me that if I tried to feed him one more bowl of beans and rice, he was going to consider roasting one of the dogs. The refrigerator was just as empty, but my recent cleaning frenzy hasn’t reached the refrigerator yet so you’ll have to go without the visual aid. Nobody wants to look at pictures of sticky, jam-stained appliances.

So, time to buy groceries, which I hate to do. In order to make the agony of shopping happen as infrequently as possible, I do it thusly:

  • I make a menu of a dozen or so dinners and put all the necessary ingredients on the list.
  • I add all the staples we need to the list – peanut butter, toilet paper, milk, etc.
  • I go to the store and gather everything on my list.
  • I go up and down every aisle and put everything I see that is a) not deadly and b) the locusts who live in my house will eat. I gather yogurt, crackers, fruit, pretzels, and everything else I see until the cart is so heavy I can barely push it and/or until it’s so full that stuff is leaping off the top.
  • I crown it all with half-a-dozen loaves of bread and head to the checkout stand.

This morning, I was finally finished loading my cart and ready to pay, and whaddya know? My card was declined.

What the hell? I checked my account balances before I left the house and there should have been plenty of money, and of course, there were half-a-dozen cranky shoppers in line behind me.

Modern technology to the rescue. I told the checker to cancel my transaction and said, “I’ll just stand right over here and figure out what’s going on.”

She looked at me like I had a giant booger on my face and called a manager while I got out my phone.

The customer service manager, when she arrived, wasted no time making sure I knew that she was a bad ass and that I was in her territory. “I’ll have your cart over at customer service when you come back.”

“No, wait. I’m not going anywhere,” I said. “I can fix this. It’ll only take a minute.”

“Ma’am? I will have your cart at customer service.” Apparently she was not only a bad ass, but I’m also hard of hearing because she said this part quite loudly.

Turns out, I can be kind of loud and snotty, too. Who knew?* “Don’t move this cart. I’ll pay for these groceries in just a minute.”

People? She stood there and stared at me while I used my phone to transfer money. Just stared right at me.

What did she think I was going to do? Get my fat, middle-aged self in gear and take off running with my 9,000 pound grocery cart?

Then I started imagining that I had traveled back in time and she was a cave woman and I was using a Bic lighter, but instead of oohing and aahing, she opted to stare and assume I had big plans to burn down the world.

At which point I developed the church giggles, causing the manager to look not only cranky, but like she just stepped in a giant steaming pile is dog poop.

That was a proud moment.

I finished transferring money and said to the cashier, “I can pay now.”

The manager sniffed, “We’ll see.”

Clearly, I was doing some magic, secret, fraudulent something there with my phone. I got away with my criminal behavior today, but I’m pretty sure she’ll have her eye on me next time!

Big surprise, though: my wizardry or magic or whatever I was doing with my phone worked and I managed to pay for my groceries.

I drove home, amazed at how awesomely cool modern technology is (Remember when, if you needed money, you had to go to a bank?) and wondering when we’ll develop something that can remove the paranoid unpleasantness from the personalities of people who have an excess of those qualities.

*Besides everybody, I mean.

Overcorrection

Jacob is taking drivers’ education.

Oh, you’re sweet. Yes, I was very young when he was born.

Jacob is doing great with the whole learn-to-move-3,000-pounds-of-metal-down-the-road thing. I, on the other hand, had a hard time.

Let’s look first at what I had to work with.

In my case, the family truckster was 1980 Volkswagen Vanagon. Affectionately nicknamed The Brady Bunch Getaway Mobile, this thing had no amenities, no luxuries, nothing. It was a shoebox on wheels with a sewing machine engine to propel it forward in space. When we were traveling and got bogged down on a hill (read: slowed until a 4-year-old on a tricycle could have passed us), Dad would holler at my sister and me to get back there and whip the hamsters.

But I begged to drive it. Why? Because this:

was the only other option. Sorry for the lousy picture, but that’s the one, the real truck in which I learned to drive, a 1965 Ford F100 small bed. The people who own it now didn’t answer the door when I knocked and I thought it might be a bit rude (read: I go to jail for no photo) to stand in the yard taking pictures.

That’s Old Blue, so named because it was old, and also blue. We’re a very creative family that way. My dad told me that if I could drive that truck, I would be able to drive anything.

On that point, he was correct. You could put me behind the controls of a locomotive and I wouldn’t be intimidated.

Trains have a steering wheels and clutch, brake, and gas pedals, right? Good.

The first thing my dad (who handled all the driving instruction; my mom sat in the backseat and gasped herself dizzy) taught me to do was start the car. Simple enough. On Sunday mornings I would rush to be ready to go first, then ask my dad for the keys and run out to the driveway to start the van.

That was how I managed to destroy one of the garage doors. I smashed right into it with one of those giant vehicles. My folks bought a new garage door, hung it up, and painted it to match the other one.

I waited almost 24 hours before I smashed the other garage door.

There was much sighing and shaking of parental heads, but they ordered another garage door, hung it up, and painted it.

I waited over a week after the second new door was installed before I smashed the first new garage door. Again with the sighing and shaking of parental heads, but that time my dad went into the garage with a mallet and pounded out the smashed parts the best he could.

At which point I stopped driving into the garage doors.

My parents decided to hand some of my driverly education over to the professionals and signed me up for drivers’ education, which involved some classroom time, several sessions on the driving range, and several hours of street driving.

Our driving range looked like this:

I fear I have made you jealous with my mad drawing skillz. Buck up, little artist!

See that little row of boxes? Those are the cars. They were all automatic except one, and I had to drive that one because both of our vehicles had standard transmissions.

Every car had a speaker in it, and the teacher and his assistants in the control tower could talk to us, the drivers. Our first task was to drive forward to the dashed line. In spite of my hands sweating half a quart per minute, I successful completed that skill. One minute, I was in front of the little practice road, and the next minute I was idling in front of an orange cone 20 yards away!

Hooray! Success!

Oh. It seemed we weren’t finished.

The next task was to drive from the dashed line back to where we started. Backwards.  I looked over my right shoulder. I looked over my left shoulder. I let up on the clutch a little bit…a tiny bit more…just a bit more…and the car moved a few inches.

Oops! I wasn’t going in a straight line. I slammed on the brakes, corrected my direction, and worked the clutch and the accelerator again.

Oops! I was going in the other wrong direction. Worse? All the other cars were back where they started.

No time to start over! Everyone was staring! Quick; correct the steering! No, wait, the car is about to stall! Give it some gas!

When the cloud of dust started to settle and my dizziness was subsiding (and, I assume, the other driving students had begun to catch their breath), one of the instructor’s assistants came to get in the car with me. That assistant rode in my car the rest of the hour and I still managed to rear end another car and take out half-a-dozen orange cones.

None of this should have surprised anyone. I was always the kid who, when I got into a bumper car at the fair, immediately got stuck in a corner and never managed to get out before the time was up.

All early indications to the contrary, I did eventually learn to drive, and drive well. Since that little fender-bump on the driving range, I’ve never been in an accident that was my fault.

Of course, that might be because I drive like a little old lady. Do you know who first told me I drove like a little old lady?

My grandma.

Sigh.

Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I’m smart enough not to eat my own head.

Jacob is doing great. He would never spin out on the driving range. Or eat his own head.

Hooray! Success!

Tattle Tale

I took Brian to the doctor today.

Why? “I want you to keep me company,” says he, “and besides, I never remember what they tell me.”

Indeed, his memory is poor. Otherwise? He would know that I cannot resist my impulses to taunt, mock, tattle, tease, and in general be a giant pain-in-the-ass.

Seriously, he makes this shit way too easy.

We were sitting in the exam room discussing my hypochondriac husband’s various (and almost certainly fatal) ailments and making fart jokes (because in addition to being a hypochondriac Brian is also a twelve year old boy) when the resident walked in.

Oh, hello, beautiful!

And then? The resident opened his mouth and started to speak.

Oh, beautiful man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes and a smooth European accent that is making me want to slide out of the chair and onto the floor like butter that’s melting all over your….

Ahem.

What?

Yeah, seriously. A young Dr. Luka Kovac.

Then? Brian and Luka entered into a long and extremely explicit discussion about my husband’s bowel habits, so that was unpleasant. Luka started asking about Brian’s history; his conditions, surgeries, the usual stuff.

Luka: Do you have heartburn?*

Brian: No.

Me: You do! He has a hiatal hernia, a pretty serious one and he’s supposed to take a triple dose of Prilosec everyday but he hasn’t taken it in a couple of years.

Brian: Because I don’t have heartburn!

Me: You mean like last night? When you were complaining and coughing and asking me if we had any Tums?

Brian: Oh.

Luka: So you do have heartburn.

Brian: Hardly ever.

Me: (Theatrically.) Sigh.

Luka: Any respiratory issues?

Brian: I have asthma. I haven’t had any problems lately, though.

Luka: Anything else?

Brian: No.

Me: You have sleep apnea!

Brian: Not anymore!

Your husband who snores so loud he rattles the windows won't wear his CPAP? Tell him he won't be sleeping in the marital bed unless he does. Works like a charm.

Me: You do, too! Why am I sleeping next to a Storm Trooper if you don’t have sleep apnea anymore? (To Luka, softly, with just a hint of come hither in my voice.) He uses CPAP.

Luka: Every night?

Me: Every night that he sleeps in the bed with me.

Brian: (Rolling his eyes loudly.) Yes, every night.

People? I try. I try so damn hard, but the smart ass part of me? Dominant.

On a related note, some doctors are absolutely humorless and don’t care much for me, which is fine because it’s mutual.

Luka was examining Brian’s belly, hunting for the hernia that was supposed to be the reason for our visit and asked, “You’re sure you had hernia surgery before? I can’t find a scar. Did they do it laparoscopically?”

I was watching this examination thinking, “I have a pain. Yes, something is pulling! Or tugging! Or…vaguely uncomfortable. Yes! I should probably ask for an examination!”

Brian: No, it was open.

Luka: I don’t see a scar. I can’t see anything over here.

Me: Look on the other side.

Brian: No, it was on the left side.

Me: Seriously. Look on the other side.

Brian: We hadn’t even met when I had that surgery! How would you know?

Luka: Here it is. It was on your right.

Me: Hah!

Brian: Shut up!

Luka: I’ll be right back.

And he did come back, this time with the supervising physician, Dr. C, who told Brian to stand up and drop his drawers. Luka and Dr. C got down nice and low for this part of the examination.

Head-to-head, as it were.

Dr. C: Turn your head and cough.

Brian: Cough cough (dissolving into giggles trying to control it try harder a little harder do not giggle oh my God why is my wife making those ridiculous faces I’ll never control the urge to bust out laughing are they really both down there investigating things that closely what the hell could they possibly be doing why aren’t they finished yet?!?)

Dr. C: You can pull up your pants. Have you been tested for [medical condition] or this other [medical condition] or even [this extremely ominous sounding medical condition]?

Brian: No, none of that.

Dr. C: I’m going to send you for some tests and then I’ll refer you to some other specialists. This isn’t surgical; you don’t have a hernia. Has anyone ever tested your adrenal function? You have some symptoms of over-active adrenals.

Brian: No.

Me: That could make a person crabby, right? I mean, too much cortisol, that could make someone a total bitch!

Dr. C: Yes, it definitely could.

Me: I think he has that. (Promptly slap hand over mouth to hold in the follow-up smart ass remarks.)

When Dr. C and Luka left the room, Luka waved at me. There was longing in his eyes, the tiniest hint of an invitation, a look that said, “We’ve shared something special here today. Something I will remember with fondest affection for the heat and passion that could have been.”

I told Brian about the look in Luka’s eyes and he said, “Yes, I saw that. [Again with the loud eye rolling; what is wrong with him?] I was thinking about kicking his ass to defend your honor but then I noticed you had drooled all over yourself.”

Yeah, well.

Me: You know I only love you, right? That you’re the only person I want to climb on, right?

Brian: Yeah, I know. The accent on a West Virginia boy just isn’t the same, is it?

Me: (Theatrically.) Sigh.

Now? Brian has to have an abdominal CT, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, have half a gallon of blood drawn for testing, and I don’t even remember what else. Getting into the elevator, I was all happy. Hah! I told on him and now he has to go for lots of unpleasant tests!

Me: Hah! And you wanted me to come with you. Now you have to get cameras stuck into all your holes, so HAH!

Brian: You know I have to be sedated for some of those, right? And that someone has to drive me, right? That you have to drive me?

Crap.

Random Pee-er

Pssst…come close…a little closer. That’s good. Now listen carefully because I’m going to whisper this next part; you know how I hate to tempt the universe.

Things are good here. Like, freaky good. Awesome, even. All is quiet and lovely and about as peaceful as things have been in a year and a half.

With things fairly quiet, we’re paying attention to some of the things that we don’t usually.

The human brain is wired to pay attention to the most salient stimuli. When I was in labor with Jacob and the contractions were rolling over me with almost no break in between, I didn’t even feel the nurse who was digging around in my arm, trying to place an IV. After he was born and I noticed the HUGE bruises on my arm, I asked, “What happened there?”

So when we’re busy keeping Carter from collapsing into a wormhole built of his own anxiety or fending off his violent attacks, the fact that he sleeps in our room is not something we even notice all that much.

Now? We notice.

Now that we’re not stressed right up to our eyeballs, we would like a little more freedom to do things that adults sometimes do in private. The fact that the boy is asleep on the futon just a few feet from our bed is making that difficult.

Trouble is, his illness is cyclical and a dozen times (probably more, but who can remember?), we’ve done the necessary work to help him sleep comfortably in his own room.

And just as many times, as he cycles out of stability and back to acute anxiety or the insomnia that comes with mania, he ends up back in our bedroom. Getting him back out? Challenging.

Complicating things these days is that something in his med cocktail is causing an abundance of sleepwalking. Confused, bizarre sleepwalking.

When he sleepwalks? Carter is a random pee-er. In recent weeks, he has peed on my shoes; in the cabinet under the sink; in a laundry basket; on the full-length mirror in the bathroom (so close!); and, memorably, in the little refrigerator that’s in one of our bedroom closets.*

He gets up, stumbling like a tiny, red-headed version of Frankenstein’s monster, looking for a toilet. Seeing as how he’s asleep? Finding the toilet isn’t easy.

We keep moving it around, of course, because that’s just good fun right there.

All this middle of the night stumbling can be fun sometimes, too. I find Carter asleep, sitting up on the futon in our room. When I try to lay him down, he shrieks at me like I poked him with tongs, swinging and fighting until I decide to let him sleep any old place he wants.

Perhaps he should sleep in the bathtub? Easy to clean up the pee from in there.

And sometimes, when I try to move him from a cold, uncomfortable, or unsafe sleeping place, I interrupt a dream and there is much screaming, like so: NO! DON’T LET THE UGLY CROCODILES EAT MY ELBOWS! I DON’T WANT TO SEE THEIR UGLY EYES AND FEET!

And of course I never let the crocodiles (ugly or otherwise) eat his elbows because what kind of mother would I be if I let such a thing happen?

Sheesh.

So the boy is stumbling around the house, peeing on things, and where does he always end up? Our room.

Again.

I would be more eager (maybe even a little excited) about moving him to his room if we hadn’t already run this drill so many times.

Only the promise of privacy for aforementioned adult activities gives me the least little bit of motivation.

So now? I’m going to put the futon away.

Again.

And I’m going to help him clean his room and arrange everything just the way he likes it.

Again.

And we will hope and pray that he’s stable enough to sleep in there for longer than a few weeks this time.

Again.

Also? I’m locking my closet because nobody wants to wear pee shoes.

*That little fridge is leftover from the years when Carter was underweight and constantly on the brink of needing a surgical feeding tube. If he woke at 3 am and wanted yogurt? We weren’t about to deny him but it was way nice not to have to go downstairs to get it.

My Very First Recipe and Cooking Post!

Brian was watching Roseanne last night while I sat next to him, writing a grocery list. One of the kids on the show was yelling about needing something for a bake sale and Dan (He was the dad, for those of you who were living under a rock or wearing diapers in the 80s.) pulled a couple of things out of the refrigerator and said, “Here’s half a meatloaf and some frosting. See what you can do with that.”

Brian smirked and said, “That’s pretty bad. Even you wouldn’t go that far.”

For which I thanked him.

And punched him.

Because I once had a potluck to go to but I wasn’t prepared (of course) so I stuck my head in the pantry when it was time to leave for said potluck and came out with half a box of stale Fig Newtons.

Yes, I took them.

Yes, I pretended I had no idea who had done something so tacky.

Yes, I planned ahead next time. I left myself enough time to stop at the bread store.

Me and the kitchen? Not so much friends.

If this surprises you? Welcome to No Points for Style! You must be new here. Please, make yourself comfortable! Just move over that heap of laundry so you’ll have someplace to sit. Comfortable now? Good!

I make three different dinners. I used to make four, but then Carter turned out to be allergic to soy and all the tofu dinners had to go.

Nobody was disappointed about that but me.

Around here, we’ve got your spaghetti dinners, our burrito dinners, and our beans-and-rice dinners.

Variety? I have learned to be creative without creating extra work. That’s the key.

For the spaghetti? We’ve got our various noodles, the twisty ones and the long skinny ones, the tube ones and the flat ones. We’ve got the various meats: diced chicken or ground beef. And finally, the veggies: zucchini (yellow or green), mushrooms, and, well, that’s all I use. No extra work, remember?

Burrito dinners? Easy; roll it up and call it a burrito or make it flat, in a pan, and call it a quesadilla. Or make it flat in a pan with a corn tortilla and call it a tostada.

And finally, the lowly meal of beans and rice. Of course, there are lots of kinds of beans, and there are different kinds of rice, but here? It’s essential to work the sauce angle. Green chili salsa is da’ bomb (I don’t eat food that hurts but even I can tolerate a little green chili salsa.), and black bean sauce is fabulous, even if the beans are red.

And when I’m really, truly, hopelessly slackerific? We go to Dion’s*, our emergency auxiliary backup kitchen.

And you thought this was going to be an actual cooking post.

Yeah, right!

*Most of you have never even heard of Dion’s pizza, much less eaten it. That’s very sad.

Nether Regions

Nether regions are what most people would call private parts, except that we think calling them private parts is stupid. They are nether: south of the belly button.

“Carter, don’t forget to wash your nethers before you get out of the bath!”

“My nethers are all itchy. I hope I’m not getting a yeast infection.”

You get the picture.

Nether regions require an excessive amount of maintenance, don’t you think? Or maybe not; considering their many and varied functions, perhaps it’s appropriate.

For us women, of course, there is the annual visit to the doctor to be sure our nethers are not moving in a cancerly direction. Is there anything we all do that is more universally despised? The women in my family refer to it as assuming the dead cockroach position.

Stupid legs in the air, stupid feet in the stupid stirrups in some stupid white room that is always too stupid cold. Pretty hard to think of a more undignified, more vulnerable position than that.

One time, my doctor asked me if it was OK with me if an intern did my pelvic exam and, being a person in favor of doctors learning to do doctorly things, I said yes. So this guy, maybe 25 or so years old, was trying really, really hard to be professional, but I could see that he was terrified right out of his ever-loving mind. Trembling. White. But trying. And the doctor started talking to him – teaching – and the intern turned to look at him, but what? What was he to do?

Should he leave his fingers in there? Or remove them?

He couldn’t decide. He opted to leave them.

While he turned his head to listen to the doctor.

A minute or two into their conversation, I had to speak up. “Excuse me?” I said. They both turned to look at me.

I looked at the intern and said, as gently as possible, “That isn’t a thumb rest.”

Of course, he yanked his hand outta my nethers in a hurry and I would have spared him the embarrassment if I could have, but I guarantee he has never made that mistake again.

I wonder how many women owe me a thank you for that?

Men’s nethers require far less maintenance than women’s, in general, but if they run into some kind of trouble, there is, of course, an equally demoralizing position to be assumed. Oh, yes.

(Swiping some of this next bit from another blog. No, not plagiarizing; I actually wrote every word, but in the comments section of someone else’s site. So you might have read it before. I’m lazy like that today. Also? Some people might have missed it and that ain’t right.)

Five years ago, Brian had this weird job. Said job is not germane to the discussion except that it involved a great deal of driving. HUGE quantities of driving, and for a man of a certain age (and also of a certain girth) this may lead to a great many hemorrhoids. Which it did. Duh. Shit like that is ALWAYS happening to Brian. He is Murphy’s Law personified.

He told me that he was having trouble with hemorrhoids and acting all sad and disturbed about it, which I mostly ignored because a) he’s a big baby about any and all discomfort and b) what the hell was I gonna do for him? I bought him the hemorrhoid medicine and kept plying him with ibuprofen. What else was there to do?

He went to see our doctor and I was all eye-roll-happy about it because really, how silly, but he came home and said he had to have it surgically drained. Fine, whatever, they can’t do it for like 5 days. I was living my life and he was following me around like some kicked puppy, telling me how insensitive I am and he is in SO much pain, blah blah blah.

The next day, I finally troubled myself to actually pay attention, and I realized he was as pale as a sad, whining ghost. He held out his sharpest pocket knife and said, “Please poke a hole in it! I can’t stand it. Just poke one tiny hole!”

At which point I nearly died laughing because there was nothing about performing minor surgical procedures – at home, with a pocket knife – in our marriage vows.

But I consented because I am just that awesome.

While I put the kids to bed, he sterilized the knife and attended to matters of personal hygiene and that was when I should have shoved one of Carter’s diapers in my pants. I went into the bedroom and he was kneeling on the edge of the bed with his face resting on a pillow and saying, “Hurry up! Do it!”

It didn’t seem to me that “hurry” and “knife” and “anus” were the best possible combination, so I was taking my time, making sure the knife was super sharp and checking out this truly impressive hemorrhoid (at least I think it was impressive; it’s actually the only one I’ve ever seen) and he starts yelling at me, “DO IT! DO IT! JUST POKE IT!” I was laughing so hard I was basically doubled over and terrified that I would make a mangled sliced-up mess of his anus, but with all the yelling I finally got down to business.

So I poked it and it bled and Brian made an orgasm sound which makes the anus poking event officially the weirdest “sex” I have ever had.

Pretty sure I’m among history’s most loving and long-suffering wives. Pretty damn sure.

He still had to have the hemorrhoid surgically drained by someone with a) better credentials and b) more appropriate tools, because all I did was poke a little hole. Give me a little credit! I do know my limits.

OK, OK, so I don’t know my limits at all, but I do try to keep my surgical activities to a minimum.

So off he went to the doctor to have it surgically drained, but the didn’t have the special table that I guess they use for anal procedures, so the doctor improvised.

Anal procedures. There is a special table for anal procedures.

They had Brian assume the same position that he had at home, which I thought was plenty good enough, but the doctor wanted better visualization. So he took one long strip of tape and taped Brian’s right ass cheek to the table. Repeat for the left side.

So are you visualizing this? Face down, ass in the air and taped open, and the whole time he was laying there thinking to himself, “Do not fart. Do not fart. Do not fart.”

After? He felt much, much better.

But…

A giant hemorrhoid that has been recently drained will tend to leak, and what were we to do? We brainstormed for awhile (paper towels? coffee filters?), and then I had a genius idea: stick a tampon in his crack, of course!

It worked great, but tell every man you know: if you have a tampon in your crack to catch draining hemorrhoid blood, even if you are a die-hard boxer man, wear BRIEFS. If you are wearing boxers and shorts and you happen to be of the man-shape that is all belly, no butt, there is a chance that bloody tampon will fall out onto the floor.

In public.

At a street festival.

Fair warning.

In the Olden Days

When I was a little girl, I loved to ask my mom, “What was it like when you were a little girl in the olden days?”

And I was sort of kidding because I did, in fact, know that the 1950s were not the olden days, but I did love to hear how life was different for her than for me.

But the differences? Minuscule. My mom was born in 1948. I was born in 1971. Life for the average family didn’t change much in the years between her childhood and mine.

There was television, of course. My mom’s family didn’t get a TV set until my mom was in junior high school. We had a black and white set in my earliest memories and got our first color set in 1977. My mom always wore a dress or a skirt and blouse to school; we were allowed to wear pants (but not shorts).

Aaand that’s about it. I mean, really, why was I so interested? I’m sure my fascination with Little House on the Prairie played a part, though I was well aware that my mom was much younger than Ma Ingalls. Who knows? I was curious; I hoped there would be vast differences.

I was in middle school when life started to change, though it didn’t seem especially dramatic at the time. But much as they didn’t seem dramatic, they were, and the world my kids are growing up in is drastically different than the one that I would have recognized as an 8 or 12 year old child.

My dad bought a calculator; we got a microwave oven; there was a new gadget that could answer the phone when we weren’t home; there was a phone that didn’t need a cord.

How bizarre is it that some of those things are now, themselves, obsolete?

And so it went. One new something, then another new something, and then? In 1983, my dad brought home a computer.

Not that it was especially exciting. It was a Kaypro 10, a gigantic beast of a machine that boasted a 10 megabyte hard drive. Yes, 10 MEGAbytes.

I know, right? I have half-a-dozen devices around here with hundreds or thousands of times more capacity than that huge machine had, all of them the size of a deck of cards or smaller.

Also? That machine had one disc drive for 5 1/4 inch floppy discs. Those old floppy discs usually had a 360 kilobyte capacity.

Which leaves me to wonder: why bother? The machine was huge but was little more than a juiced-up calculator/typewriter hybrid.

So get this: pathetic as that tiny 10 megabyte hard drive sounds? It was one of the first computers to ship with a hard drive at all. The next computer we had was an Apple IIe, which had no hard drive. The operating system was on every program disc.

No shit.

The Apple was a major upgrade, though, having (as it did, wonderfully) two floppy disc drives and…

Whoa. I was about to geek out and tell you about the IIe compared to the Macintosh we got in 1984. Let’s just skip that because I’m not a real geek.

Oh, and the printer. Don’t forget about the printer, loud as a typewriter but super-fast (Heh; it’s all relative, isn’t it? I doubt a dot matrix printer would seem fast now.), and with all those lovely strips of paper to peel off the sides when the printing was finished.

My kids love stories about that Kaypro 10. How archaic! How olden-timey! How ridiculous! Because really, they are mocking me. Their faces say, “How foolish of you! Why were you duped into believing that something so silly was innovative and exciting? Why didn’t you just hold out for the good stuff? The iPods and the cell phones?”

They also cannot comprehend not knowing a thing, but wanting to know that thing, and waiting to find out about that thing until they could learn about it from a book in a library. “But what if you really wanted to know and wondering was making your brain all itchy? What did you do? There must have been some way to make the computer find out for you, right?” they ask. Then it is my turn to make a mocking, how foolish of you face.

Imagine it: computers that could not talk to other computers; computers that only knew what they knew and nothing else, unless you used magical indecipherable coding language and told them something else. They can’t imagine it because they don’t see the point.

I considered telling them about web 2.0, and how it didn’t used to be this way, how the internet used to be more like TV or books and less like…what it is now.

I fear I will strain their eye-rolling muscles with that, so I’ve skipped it for now. They can’t conceive of the internet when it was all pages to advertise Tide and paid-subscription sites for newspapers. I assume they’ll take a class in college where they will study the bad-old days of web 1.0.

I assume, too, that they will laugh until they pee.

One time, I tried to tell them about card catalogs. It was like I was describing the time we lived in that cave next to a family of wooly mammoth. “Wouldn’t the cards get lost all the time?” they want to know. “The librarian couldn’t have typed all those cards, right? Because that would be ridiculous,” and we went round-and-round for 20 minutes and they refused to believe me.

Until I showed them a picture of a real card catalog by using Google image search, because of course Google knows these things and ordinary old (emphasis on old) moms do not.

They are unconvinced when I tell them that we didn’t know that electric typewriters (so wonderful, compared to the manual on which I learned), Walkmen, and cordless phones weren’t the greatest things that technological innovations could ever give us.

My Walkman really did seem like the greatest thing ever. The annual family vacation got infinitely more tolerable after my Walkman came on the scene.

I’m suddenly compelled to sing songs from the soundtrack to the movie Footloose.

My children? Suddenly compelled to come to my office door and roll their eyes loudly.

Yes, loudly. If you do not yet have children of an eye-rolling age, just trust me: it can be done loudly.

Carter is the funniest, though (and also kind of my favorite because he does not yet roll his eyes). The older kids at least remember VHS. Spencer gave Carter an old VCR and a stack of VHS tapes, but Carter can’t get the hang of calling them “tapes.” He calls them “the big square movie discs.” He also can’t get the hang of rewinding them; he’s never had to do such a thing before and the whole concept just escapes him. “Where’s the menu, Mom?” he hollers, jabbing buttons on the remote control. “I can’t start the movie without the menu! Here, you push the menu button. It won’t work for me!”

As bad as the card catalog conversation was, the “we didn’t always have remote controls” was worse.

When I told them that, during my entire childhood, we only had 4 (5 after we got Fox on UHF) TV channels from which to choose? They looked at me like I had an extra face on the front of my head.

Last time Carter and I went to a thrift store, he discovered a display of vinyl record albums. He asked me what they were and I said, “Those are record albums. It’s how we listened to music when I was a little girl.”

“Oh!” says my boy, “so they’re olden-days CDs!”

And yes, of course they are. He understands the albums better than cassettes. I showed him the little recorder I used in college, how you could rewind, fast-forward, play, and record. He pulled the cassette out, tugged on the tape, and destroyed the thing like some kind of alien that insists on eating rocks and smelling everyone’s ears.

Hello? Am I alone, or were we listening to tapes and watching movies on VHS not all that long ago?

Things have changed and continue to change. That doesn’t surprise me. What shocks me is the rate at which things are changing. When I was a kid and I wanted to talk on the phone? I went to the desk in the family room, sat in the chair next to the desk, and dialed. Not “dialed” in the sense that I pushed some buttons and called it dialing, but actually spun a dial around in a circle, YANK went the little metal piece, chucka chucka chucka it went back to start.  Then, I was tethered to the desk for the duration of the conversation.

I remember exactly what dialing the phone felt and sounded like. I loved dialing the phone and was a little sad when everyone started switching to phones with buttons.

Now? My kids use very different phones, in very different ways, in a decidedly un-tethered fashion. They don’t even have to talk!

Also, I’m here to tell you that the jokes on the internet and TV about adolescent girls and their lightning-fast texting fingers? No exaggeration whatsoever. I wish there was a way to test Abbie’s WPM rate on her phone. It’s unreal.

I don’t mind that things are changing. Most of the changes, I like it all very much. It would be nice, though, if my kids didn’t act like I’m a complete idiot when I tell them how things used to be.

That, of course, is not new at all. Kids of a certain age think their parents are fools.

Some things will never change.

ETA: My dad* tells me we never owned an Apple IIe; we went straight from the Kaypro to a Macintosh 575 all-in-one. So now I am corrected, as are you. Everyone wave hi to Wendell!

*My dad? A real geek, not the fake kind like me. We’re very proud.**

**OK, facetiousness aside, we are very proud, except that he only uses Apple machines. This makes him, as a computer expert, pretty much useless to me because there is no way I can afford to buy Apple computers. (That was two links from this, my very influential blog. I’ll probably find a Macbook Air and an iPad in my mailbox tomorrow, right? Because I would totally break my no-product-review rule for that shit. Look, two more links! Apple people? I prefer black devices to white. But I’ll leave it up to you.)