What I Am: Looking for Book Suggestions

Since October starts tomorrow, I decided I’d like to read some scary books. I like a good spooky/scary story — Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, after all.

I can go into October reading what I am reading now, which is Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. It is its own kind of scary, trust me. (And don’t order fish on Mondays.)

I just put I Am Legend by Richard Matheson on my request list at the library. I am very much looking forward to reading that.

It’s the perfect time of year for some ghost stories! What would you suggest?

Talk, Talk

I had the longest conversation I’ve ever had with Kate recently. It wasn’t ground-breaking stuff, but it was an actual conversation, give-and-take. Her big sister isn’t even that great at the give-and-take stuff.

She was asking me questions, waiting for answers, and responding to the answers. Which sounds suspiciously like “listening” to me.

That can’t be right.

We talked about where Flora was (downstairs). We talked about what we were going to do after Aiysha changed her diaper (go get Flora and go to the farmers market). She pointed out the colors of things on the wall to me (“It’s a red apple. It’s a blue bird.”)

Shortly after Kate got her ear tubes in April — say, about two weeks later — her language took off. She had always been developmentally appropriate, but it went from two or three word sentences to five, six, seven words. From observations to questions, then checking on the answers to the questions. She started using language to make sense of things and comply with us (“First you get your diaper changed. Then we go outside to play.” “First you eat some peas. Then you can have a treat.”)

The world, it seems, started to make a different kind of sense to her. And it continues. She asks questions: “Where is Flora?’ “What are we doing after ‘yisha changes my diaper?” And after that? And after that? She pays attention. “Flora’s downstairs,” she’ll tell me. “It’s time to go to the farmers market.”

She seems to be actively seeking information now — she seems to realize how that works. And not in the rapid-fire way of her sister, who can’t let you get a word in — Flora just fires questions and requests at me; sometimes I’m not even sure what I’m answering. (This is not a critique of my older daughter. They are just wildly different girls. Which is just the way it is. I can extol Flora elsewhere.)

Of course, this will have its downsides too. Her first question this morning, for example, was, “Will you buy me Pet Shops?”

Weekend Score: Girls, 2; Sleep, 0

While we had a lovely visit with my friend J in podunk Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, I came to Monday morning utterly exhausted.

The girls decided that 5:30 in the morning was a perfectly reasonable time to start on Saturday. Having consumed three glasses of red wine in quick succession the night before, and getting to bed around midnight, my sour stomach and I felt much differently.

I managed to survive until about 9 a.m., when J graciously brought me Tylenol and ginger ale from the convenience store, and then took the children for a walk. After about 45 minutes of utter stillness with my eyes closed, the Tylenol did its work, and I managed to shower and get dressed.

Kate decided to try for consciousness Sunday morning at 5:30, too, but I brought her into bed with me, and we managed to doze off again until the more decent hour of 7 a.m. Red wine had been wisely avoided on Saturday night, although I did have a tasty Dogfish Head IPA, so I did not have to relive that pain.

The weather was less than optimal, but we managed to keep the girls entertained over two days with new-to-them toys, walks when it wasn’t raining, a playground nearby, play-doh, and an indoor play area complete with the Germ-Laden Ball Pit of Doom (pictures to come). Mealtimes and evenings were low-key, and included crockpot mac ‘n’ cheese (need recipe, J) and a chick-flick on Oxygen (The Notebook; mraw to Ryan Gosling, but pretty hokey none-the-less), a prerequisite for girl time.

Driving with the girls was stressful, as per usual, and Flora saved her very worst behavior for the final 30 minutes of the drive home. I mean, child, we are 30 minutes away from the front door. Chillax, as they say in the ‘hood.

After fighting the fruit flies with vinegar-, wine-, and apple core-loaded traps, Dan braved Wal-Mart on Sunday night to get real fly traps. They seem to be working thus far (the organic traps worked, too, but not in nearly the same numbers as the store-bought traps). I will be undertaking a serious sanitizing of the kitchen in the coming weeks. Oh joy.

So, yeah, I’m tired. Suggestions for pick-me-ups are more than welcome. I’m staring down a daunting week, and I could use some positivity. Thanks.

Snippet: Attitude, Attitude

As reported by one of Flora’s daycare ladies:

Flora was drawing a picture of people. One of the other children said, “That’s Flora’s mom with a big belly.”

Flora responded, “My mom doesn’t have a big belly!”

The DCL weighed in, “That’s right, Flora’s mom is tiny.”

Flora, to DCL, in a voice dripping with scorn, “My mother isn’t tiny. She’s thin.”

I really have to work on her tone with adults.

G20 for Under 5

Flora: “Look, mommy! Police cars everywhere.”

We live by the airport, and there are indeed police cars everywhere.

Me: “Yes. There are very important people in Pittsburgh the next two days, so they have lots of police around to protect them.

[after a pause]
Me: “Do you know who the President of the United States is?”

Flora: “No.”

“Okay. The President is in charge of the United States.”

“What’s his name?”

“His name is Barack –”


“Ba-rack –”


“Ba, Ba, Barack Obama. Can you say that?”

“Oh, I thought you said Gock.”

“No, honey. Barack Obama.”

“Ba-rock Obama.”

“Very good.”

“Look, more police cars.”

“Yes there are a lot of police cars.”

“Where is the police station?”

Pointing, “Over that way.”

“Let’s go see more police cars!”

“No, honey, look. We just saw four. And there’s five, six, seven… and eight.”

“Eight police cars! Let’s go see 100 police cars.”

“We would have to go downtown for that. And there’s no way.”

This is Why I Drink*

[The events of yesterday, after work]:

I am really looking forward to getting home and hanging out with my girls. Since it isn’t a bath night (I bathe them every other day), I am thinking some arts & crafts or play-doh are in order.

The girls run immediately next door when they get out of my car. No car is not in the driveway, so they know Bella is not home, but they can still get a treat off Nanny and give kisses to Tadone.

The drama starts when Nanny only has one mint. And Kate gets it. Flora is heartbroken, devastated even.

We soothe the pain with a gift of peanut butter crackers. Then, we head home to change Kate’s poopy diaper and have dinner.

Flora proceeds to eat all the peanut butter out of the crackers, throwing the orange crackers into the sink. I steam green beans and get out some leftovers for dinner. Flora decides on lentil soup, easy peasy dinner pie (that she had helped to make Monday), and green beans.

Kate does not want dinner. She doesn’t even want a cheese stick (what we call string cheese in my house), which is nearly unheard of. That must have been one filling mint she got from Nanny.

Flora has an interesting way of eating green beans. She splits them down the middle, takes out all the seeds, and eats everything separately. She always exclaims over the size of the beans. “Oh, that’s a big one!” “Oh, mommy, look at the bitty baby bean!”

As Flora is rhapsodizing over her green beans, Kate is deciding that she wants gum. I tell her she can’t have gum until she eats dinner. Kate informs me that she doesn’t want dinner. She then goes over to the B.S. drawer (every house has a least one) in the kitchen for the gum.

I remove all the gum, and put it out of her reach.

Kate melts down. And hits me.

Two-minute time out for Kate. In her room.

Flora tells me how happy she is I put Kate in their room. “I don’t want to hear any crying,” she says.

Um, yeah.

Two minutes up, I get a calmer Kate from her room. She has pooped again.

There is a knock on my door.

As our unexpected visitor is leaving, about 10 minutes later, she accidently shuts Flora’s pinky finger in the front door. Flora screams like she’s being attacked by a hive of yellow jackets. Our visitor is apologetic; Flora is apoplectic; Kate starts wailing in sympathy with her big sister.

At this point in the evening, no one has finished her dinner (myself included); Kate is on her second poopy diaper and has had a mint and a juice box; and now I am wondering if I am going to have to take Flora to the ER for an X-ray.

After 10 minutes of ice, Flora doesn’t want to bend her finger. After I mention the ER and call our pediatrician, she decides she can bend it just fine after all. “It still hurts,” she whimpers. “Does it hurt a little or a lot?” I ask gently holding the swollen digit. “A little,” she decides. “Can I have a band-aid?” She’s not bleeding, but whatever.

To add to the fun, my house (particularly my kitchen and my bathroom) have been overrun by fruit flies. They are freakin’ everywhere, and I do not know where they came from or how to get rid of them. I know my house will not pass a white glove inspection, but we’re not slovenly.

I have repeatedly wiped down floors and counters. All my food is in the refrigerator — even the garlic. I have banished the garbage cans to outside of the backdoor, which isn’t exactly convenient. I have sprayed with Lysol, and poured bleach down the drains. And still they swarm. They are making me insane. Not exaggerating.

Plus, they strike dread into Kate’s heart like nothing I could ever do or say.

No one gets to play with play-doh. No arts and crafts are done. After icing and bandaging Flora’s finger, and getting Kate to consume most of a banana, I spend the rest of the evening trying to kill the fruit flies in the kitchen. Kate poops one more time for good measure, right at bed time, and doesn’t want her sore bum touched. After bedtime, I fold some laundry, watch a Mad Men episode, put some clothes aside for our trip out of town this weekend.

I am exhausted at 9:30 p.m. Is it any wonder?

*Hyperbole alert.

Someday, We’ll Be Dog People

Dan calls me and says, “I want a puppy.”

This is unprecedented. It’s usually Flora telling me she wants a puppy, at the dinner table, as a means of distracting me from the reality that she is not, in fact, sitting the correct way in her seat.

One part of my mind immediately jumps to the worst-case scenario: that he already has a puppy in his possession and is just trying to figure out how I am going to feel about it. (See, it’s not just cars on fire and worse: My husband mentions a puppy, and I’m already thinking, “We can’t get a puppy. We’re going out of town this weekend.” Yay, my brain.)

My response is, “I know. I want a puppy, too. But I don’t think we’re ready.”

“I want a puppy,” he says again.

“Well, who’s going to feed and train the puppy? Who’s going to get up with a puppy at 2 in the morning?”

“I’m not going to be the one doing that all the time.”

Wrong answer. Thank you for playing.

Look, I do want a dog — a puppy I’m a little less sure of. But I do want a pet. I grew up with dogs, and I always intended to have one. I’ve volunteered at Animal Friends (and I hope to be able to do it again someday). I’ve researched good family dogs (in the case that we don’t go with a rescue dog).

But we need a few things to happen before we get a dog, let alone a puppy:

1. The girls have to be older. They have to be able to take responsibility for a pet: feeding it, grooming it, and, most importantly, cleaning up after it. Walking it is going to be something of a family activity, especially if we get a labrador-type of dog. Which is what we are leaning toward. I am thinking Flora has to be 7 or 8 before we bring a dog onboard.

2. We have to be able to afford a dog. I know that pet food may fit in our budget right now, but vet bills definitely do not.

3. We have to have the time to give a dog, especially (again) a lab or a border collie. Given Dan’s current work schedule and the girls’ ages, a dog would be almost wholly my responsibility. And I’m just not ready for that right now.

4. I am willing to consider other pets, although not a) cats. I’m allergic. Plus, see “cleaning up after it”. I don’t do litter boxes.

b) Fish? Okay, although repeated viewings of Finding Nemo may make this inadvisable.

c) A hamster? Meh. I had hamsters as a girl, and first, they aren’t the sturdiest of pets; second, they don’t have a long life-span; and third, again with the cleaning. Ever clean out a hamster cage? Not as bad as a litter box. But Flora’s attention span isn’t enough to get her through helping me make mac’n’cheese. So “helping” me clean a hamster’s cage is a dicey proposition at best.

d) What are other pet options — low maintenance pet options, if any?

Given all of this, I probably should not be looking at sites like this. Because I want one too, right now. The cuteness trumps all.

Change of Policy

I debated with myself for awhile about starting to use real names on this blog.

In the end, as you can see, I decided to go ahead and do it. First of all, most of you readers know me and know my kids’ names IRL already. So what was the point of nicknames, anyway?

Secondly, my children are not really those nicknames any longer. They have outgrown them.

I used Gabriel’s real name from the start, of course. Gabriel was not a name that we had picked out for a boy — I honestly forget what we had picked out — but once we were facing his delivery, we knew we needed another name. Gabriel, if you didn’t know, means “God is my strength.”

Monkey was Flora’s nickname when she was a toddler — actually, her full nickname (one of several, of course) was Monkeyhead for how hyped up she would get over things and the way she would jump around. Nowadays I tend to call her Flora-bean, Drama Queen, or Young Lady. (She replies to this last, rather indignantly, “I’m not a Young Lady.” Truer words were never spoken, dear. Now pull your dress down.)

And Bun, that is, Kate… well she hasn’t been Bun for a year or more. She’s my Wild Child, in no uncertain terms.

Dan — DearDR — wanted me to keep the nicknames because he liked them. And I like them, too, but I was tired of editing for nicknames.

Almost My Worst Nightmare

First the Steelers lost.

Then Kate ran out into the street.

We had watched the game at our friends’ house on the South Side with a bunch of other people. They live on the corner of 12th and Sarah. We had taken turns walking the kids over to the park across the street.

After the game, we gathered our things and made ready to leave. Two of the guys were standing on the sidewalk chatting, and I walked out the front door with Kate.

We walked down the stairs, and as I started saying goodbye, she went bounding, between two parked cars.

All three of us adults yelled her name, and I know I was running toward her. She wasn’t that far away in terms of distance. Two feet? Three feet? But way too far away to stop her running into the street. The large truck, which had been turning the corner, braked. I don’t know how close he actually was to Kate in reality. Too close.

Kate was coming back toward the sidewalk when I scooped her up. I don’t think I have ever held her that tightly. She was holding me tight, too.

I wish I could tell you what I was feeling, holding my trembling daughter in my arms. The terror and the adrenaline rushing through me still; the relief there, but not close enough yet to be real. I was shaking. I was angry, too, but more than anything I was thinking, “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod. whatif…”

Kate was lucky that driver was paying attention.

I wish I could stop reliving the moment. But I just can’t right now. And I wish I could also stop constructing other scenarios. Scenarios where Kate is not running back, where the driver is not alert enough — or just going too fast — to stop in time.

Have you ever seen the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? It came out in 1998, and it was a little indie flick. It tells the story of a woman whose life progresses along two tracks when she misses (or catches) a subway train home. The sliding doors of the title are the doors of the train. When she catches the train, she gets home early and discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her; that life progresses from that moment. When she misses the train, her life goes along as it had been going along.

My body and most of the rest of me is on one track — the good track, where the driver stops and I scoop up my terrified child, terrified myself. My mind keeps trying to go down that second track. Keeps thinking of sirens and hospitals and the worse loss a parent can face. And I’m trying to stop it, I really am. I think that’s part of why I’m writing about it now. Because I can write about it. Do you see?

As Dan said on the ride home, “The worst thing to happen today is that the Steelers lost.” I need to try to stay on that track. I’m trying. I am.