Monthly Archives: November 2015

With Apologies …

… to the original author. And anyone who has ever loved any poem, really.

Surveying the House on Thanksgiving Eve

Whose mess this is, I surely know,
My maid is nonexistent though;
So as I slog through hip-deep junk,
I dream of far-off Borneo

With beaches flat and sun so bright …
No way I can afford the flight!
As peels fall from the spuds and fruit,
I know I still must stand and fight.

They’re not polite, the thoughts I think,
As dishes fill the kitchen sink.
Thanksgiving dawns tomorrow yet
The night will pass by in a blink.

Slumber calls me, sweet and deep,
But I have floors that I must sweep,
And pies to bake before I sleep,
And pies to bake before I sleep.

It would be entirely fair to point out that the pies would get baked faster if I wasn’t wasting time making Robert Frost wish he could die all over again. But a girl’s got to have a little fun.

Passing on Pumpkin

Pumpkin pie came up the other day, which probably isn’t hard to imagine given the time of year, and I confessed that I don’t care much for pumpkin pie. I don’t hate it. But it’s not something I reach for if there are multiple choices.


I know, it’s un-American or something. But I realized that it’s not actually the pie I don’t care for. It’s the association.

My most vivid memory of pumpkin pie is from about seven years ago, when Levi was just a few months old. I always loved my babies, but … I did not so much love the baby stage. I don’t do well with constantly interrupted sleep, or the bottomless pit of constant need that is a child’s infancy. (Mothers of multiples: RESPECT.) I spent most of the first six months of both boys’ lives feeling not entirely sane. There was a lot of weeping. Sometimes I could even come up with a reason for it.

And so one evening Paul came home from work to find me sitting at the kitchen table, holding an unhappy infant in one arm and eating his mother’s pumpkin pie straight from the pan with the other. “Did … you eat supper?” he asked, very carefully.

“No. <sob> I just … I can’t figure out what to cook. <sob> And I was so hungry. But I can’t figure anything out and I don’t think I’m cut out to b-b-b-be a m-m-mother!!!!”

The worst part about this is that Paul probably isn’t going to remember this story because while the pumpkin pie bit was unique, the spiral into despair (especially at right about supper time) was, well, not.

Seven years later, I find this pretty funny, and the teenager I shared it with laughed at the idea that pumpkin pie could taste of tears and exhaustion. (She also promptly vowed never to have children. Oops?) But it was not funny at the time. Not even a little. Paul didn’t laugh, either, and we know this because he is still alive.

So this is for the mamas of babies who are tired and can’t figure out what to cook for dinner and want to crawl under the table and cry, or maybe just check into the hospital for a week of nice sedated rest.

It gets better. None of it is funny now, but a lot of it will be later. You will still hate deciding what to make for dinner, but they’ll put on their own pants and shoes most of the time. You will make it. And – this is very important, so pay attention – you are doing fine. You are. I know it looks like everybody else knows what they’re doing and you are the only one floundering, but we are all faking it. I swear this is true.

And pie doesn’t make everything better, but it is way better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Have some pie. Anything but pumpkin.

Send Help

What is this mess, you ask?


Well. It’s chicken and biscuits. Except I forgot to put the chicken in. It was not particularly popular.  But they were hungry.

I moved on instead of dwelling on it. Made a pie for a benefit tomorrow. I decided I could relax a little and talk to my sister while I waited on it.

So she got up to leave and I opened the oven door to check on it. But there was no pie. It was still on the counter.

I think maybe I need a full-time minder. At least, as my sister pointed out, I didn’t burn the pie.

The night is young, though. Bet I can.

Gold Coins

Another tooth, another ludicrous request.  The Tooth Fairy nearly got busted this time. I swear Elias is the lightest sleeper in the world. We might have to start using an alternate location, because I don’t think under the pillow is going to cut it.

At Last

The boys missed their bedtime by quite a bit tonight. This was only a little bit because they were being their usual obstructionist selves and mostly because there was a tooth-losin’ party up in here tonight!

Elias has been waiting for this moment ever so long. Since Levi lost his first one, I think. He’s been talking about it so tenaciously that I wasn’t even paying attention over the past few days when he said he had a loose one.

It was real this time, though. I couldn’t get a great shot, but the tooth is still attached in the picture below. It was so loose it would go out at a 90-degree angle.

He cried for about ten seconds until he thought about the free money. Then he had Levi help him write this note.

I notice the demands are a great deal more modest when the note is composed on someone else’s behalf. I can’t remember exactly, but I think Levi’s last request was for at least $1000.

Everybody has a dream.

A Little More than You Think

I went to the gym this morning to pump some iron.

Sorry, I had to pause for laughter there. It sounds so ridiculous coming from my mouth. But I did in fact go and lift weights this morning. I’ve been working on some basic barbell lifts like back squats and deadlifts, and I’ve been increasing the weight on all of them a little at a time. But my deadlift had kind of stalled.

My nephew (who is my trainer in the sense that he checked my form to make sure I wasn’t doing anything crashingly stupid/likely injurious and sometimes answers questions by text, but is not my trainer in the sense that I pay him exactly zero dollars for his services) started me at 135, because we weren’t sure and you have to start somewhere. I’d gotten to 165 and was a little stuck. I wasn’t doing enough repetitions at that weight to believe I should add any weight.

This morning when I got there, it was mostly deserted (9:30 in the morning is a great time to go to the gym if you can swing it), and this was on the floor, loaded up to 225.

I’m pretty sure gym etiquette requires that you put your weights away when you’re done, not that I’m a fitness expert, but in this case I really didn’t mind. Because I looked at it and thought, “I wonder if I can pick that up? I bet I can.”

So I did.

Just like that, my deadlift stall went away. I can’t do sets at 225 yet, but it turns out I can do them at 185. My plateau seems to have been entirely mental. As I was finishing up, three regulars came in, and one of them asked me how my deadlift was coming. I told him about my morning, and he said, “Yep. You can always lift a little more than you think.”

I was walking after that to cool down, and thinking about what he said. And I think it doesn’t just apply to deadlifting. I’ve been faced with situations in life that I was really, definitely, positively sure I couldn’t handle. Sometimes I’ve had to get help. But one way or another, handle them I did. (Evidence: I’m still here.)

I’m certain that another heavy weight is coming at some point in my life. When it comes, I hope I will come back to these two things:

  • Remember, you can always lift a little more than you think.
  • Stop saying “I can’t lift that much yet.” Start asking, “I wonder if I can pick that up?”

I know it won’t make it easy. But it might just make it possible.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign …

Long ago when the world was new and I was a flighty young thing with no one depending on me for anything, Annie’s little brother got married. Annie had been my roommate in college, and we spent a lot of time thinking up nicknames like Cute Sweater Boy and Toothbrush Guy and trying to sneak out of her parents’ house at hours that would now make me either weep or laugh hysterically. We were (technically) adults, so the sneaking was less about permission and more about not waking anyone else up at the hour we thought was an acceptable start to the evening. (For future reference, I am a terrible sneaker. I kicked a brown paper bag, which doesn’t sound that bad, but it makes more noise than you’d think. Then there was a lot of giggling, which didn’t help.)

So it’s fair to say that Annie and I have a history of hijinks, though in fairness, our hijinks have always been pretty low-key, if low-key hijinks are not a logical impossibility. Still, her mother has, since we were 18, considered me the responsible one. One time Annie told me that if she told her mother the two of us were going to rob a bank, she’d say, “Oh. Well, I guess if Carol’s going. Do you need any masks or guns or anything?”

Which is a wild exaggeration. Probably.

So when Annie’s brother got married, I was invited to stay at the groom’s parents’ house for the weekend. The morning of the wedding, Annie’s mom put me in charge, half seriously and half tongue in cheek. I was to make sure we got to the ceremony on time. I was not to let anyone get lost on the way to the reception. And I was to drive the both of us home safely.

“Yes, Mama M.” I said. “No problem. I will do all these things.”

And I did the first two things, and we had a lovely time and there was a lot of laughing and hooting and dancing, and then it was very late and our feet hurt and it was time to go home. And there was still no problem.

Except perhaps one.

Did I mention that this was a long time ago? Well, it was. It was long before the days of GPS on your phone and voice prompts and hands-free calling. And I realized that we had followed Annie’s dad from the house to the church, and then followed Annie’s uncle from the church to the reception, and I had no earthly idea which direction home was. And Annie was no good to me.

There’s a tradition at wedding receptions known as The Family Shot. I think it’s only a tradition at their family wedding receptions, but it’s tradition nonetheless. And … it doesn’t happen just once at a reception. As a result, Annie, who once navigated me out of a scary neighborhood in Detroit when I took a wrong turn trying to cross into Canada and never even turned a hair, had been rendered useless in the direction department.

But really, how hard can it be, right? I knew if I found Route 8 I’d be fine. So I went off into the night, mostly ignoring Annie, who was talking amiable nonsense in the passenger seat. It wasn’t long before I was feeling pretty lost and pretty nervous about ever figuring out where I was headed. Directions are not my best thing. (I love Google Maps. Love.)

BUT THEN. Then I saw a road up ahead that had one lane closed off, and I was happy. So happy. Because when we’d been following Annie’s dad, we’d gone on a road that looked just like that, and I was suddenly sure everything was going to be fine. I turned down the road, and nosed along. And it was a lot bumpier than I’d remembered, and I was starting to worry a little, but then another car turned onto the road behind me, and I breathed a sign of relief, because surely if another car was coming down this stretch of road, I was golden. Yes? Surely yes. So the car followed me – slowly – until we cleared the bumpy part of the road.

And then … the light bar went on.


This is probably a good time to mention that when I’d arrived late Friday, Annie was in a bit of a rage. She’d gotten a speeding ticket some time before, paid the fine, and forgotten about it. And that day at 5:00, she’d checked her mail on the way out the door and received a notice that there was a bench warrant for her arrest. There was no record that she’d paid her ticket, or appeared in court, and that’s what happens, I guess? This was later revealed to be a paperwork glitch, and it all came out in the wash, but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that kind of thing at past 5:00 on a Friday evening. I couldn’t even blame her for raging.

So I looked at my happy, chatty, pickled friend who thought it was pretty funny that I was being pulled over, and who had a warrant out for her arrest and I said, “SHUT. UP. Do not speak. Not one word. Do you understand? Shut up.”

And, for a wonder, she did. I’m not even sure she looked up from her lap during the entire encounter.

And an encounter it was. It started by the cop doing that thing with the flashlight that totally blinds you. Hardened criminal that I am, I squawked and put my hands up in my face. Then things went something like this.

Nice Young Policeman: Can you step out of the car, please, ma’am?
Me: Yes! Yes, of course, sir!
NYP: Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?
Me: Umm, no? Not really?
NYP: <eyes drift to my feet, which are bare>
Me, weakly: I, um, had heels on. My feet were hurting.
NYP: Did you know you were driving on a closed road?
Me: NO! No, sir!
NYP, incredulous: Did you not see the HUGE ORANGE SIGNS?!?
Me: <long pause> Well, I mean, I did, but isn’t it just the one side of the road that’s closed? Because we went on a road like that on the way when we were following Annie’s dad, and I thought it was the same road. But I guess … this isn’t the same road.
NYP, blinking: No, I guess not. Where are you going tonight?
Me, pointing: To her parents’ house. We were at her brother’s wedding.
NYP: Ahhhhhhhhh. Have you been drinking in the past few hours?
Me: NO SIR!!! (Absolute truth, in case you were starting to wonder yourself. This is me, stone cold sober. Yay?)
NYP: No?
Me: NO.

He had me walk a little bit and do something else, though not a full field sobriety test, before I could see the thought forming that I was undoubtedly stupid but not at all drunk, and he asked for my license and registration.

It took me a while to find my license because we had loaded up my car with a bunch of centerpieces and other stuff from the reception – I was headed for the parents’ house, remember – and I had thrown my purse in the backseat somewhere among all of that.

The other thing I haven’t mentioned yet that posed a potential complication was that the venue for the reception was one that allowed you to provide your own alcohol. Which they had done. And all the leftovers had been loaded into my trunk to go back home. We had, in fact, done this on purpose, because the other car headed to that house was a hatchback and didn’t have a proper trunk, so it probably wasn’t legal to haul the alcohol in that one. And I love to be helpful. So not only was I a weird, barefoot, lost, tired girl with sore feet and a nest of fake flowers in the backseat, but I had enough booze to choke an elephant in my trunk. (In years since, I’ve checked with friends in law enforcement, who verified that yes, it is legal to haul leftover booze in the trunk, but no, it would not have been helpful in this situation. NOT. HELPFUL. At all.)

Mercifully, I did not have to open the trunk. God protects children and fools, they say.

The Nice Young Policeman ran my license and registration and continued to ignore my fugitive passenger, who continued her shutting up with remarkable dedication. He came back up to the car window (I’d been allowed to sit down again). He had apparently decided it was too much trouble to cite me for idiocy and said, “Here you go, ma’am. Drive safely. And not on closed roads.”

“Oh, thank you, officer,” I said, meaning it with every cell of my being. “But …”

He’d been turning away, but looked back at me. “Yes?”

“Can you tell me how to get to Route 8?”

Annie started talking again as soon as I rolled the windows up and pulled away, and we were home shortly after. Her parents were asleep, so we didn’t tell them about our adventures until they were feeding us breakfast late the next morning. Her poor father started by closing his eyes in a pained way and ended with his face down in both hands. Even Annie’s mother’s faith in me may have been shaken a little.

I’m not sure this story has a moral, but if it does, I think it’s this: Obey road signs.

If nothing else, it will keep you from being on the receiving end of that exasperated, pitying look the Nice Young Policeman gave me as he directed me to Route 8. Turns out it was straight ahead of me, about a quarter mile up the road.