How I Am Frittering Away My Intellect

1) Reading books far beneath my intellectual level, such as “Good Night, Moon” and “Home for a Bunny”.

2) Handling the majority of the physical labor in my household, including wiping bottoms and flushing toilets.

3) Mothering more than one child, thus ensuring a life of indentured servitude.

4) Spending my days involved in mind-numbing childcare.

5) Watching late-night television, specifically David Letterman, in addition to an assortment of reality shows.

My intellect is so compromised that I can’t even think of the additional ways I’m harming it.

* * *

Today it snowed an inch and my boys had a twenty-minute snowball fight. My daughter tentatively stood on the patio and said, “I don’t want the boys to hit me with a snowball!” and I assured her they would not. After all, she is a girl and I still believe boys should defer to girls, but I’m old-fashioned like that.

The snow has fallen again tonight in the dark, so it’s a veritable Winter Wonderland outside. But there’s no more time for musings . . . Oprah will be on David Letterman momentarily.

Oh, and because you’re wondering, I’ll tell you. My kitchen table now boasts a festive candlelit Spode church. But the Advent calendar is still buried in the storage room, along with the Christmas tree.

Okay, okay, time to watch the Oprah/Dave reunion. I can feel my brain cells withering away, because as a stay-at-home parent, isn’t that inevitable?

How I Am Frittering Away My Intellect


On my kitchen table sits a wooden bowl full of festive autumn gourds and lumpy decorative vegetables. An orange ceramic Halloweenish container adorns a canister. Our late-shedding deciduous tree in the back yard is dropping leaves. My Thanksgiving recipes are still taped to the kitchen cabinets, as is my Thanksgiving timeline for cooking. The giant electric roasting pan is in the other room, too, awaiting storage.

But I’m not entirely unprepared for Christmas. For instance, my Christmas china (Spode, Christmas Tree pattern, in case you feel like sending a gift) is on display. (Nevermind that it’s on display in the hutch year-round.) And I do have those wrapped Christmas gifts stashed under my bed. The Spode tea kettle that I never managed to get put away last year after Christmas is finally appropriate sitting on my stove. It looked kind of weird in July, but now it looks just right.

I’m in a slump, but at least my tea kettle has the Christmas Spirit.


How Cellophane Made Me See Clearly

You know how people think their little one is The Cutest and The Smartest Child Ever? I have never been under that delusion. And that is yet another reason why I wonder if perhaps something is wrong with me.

I suppose it all goes back to my early days as an elementary school student. I thought I was The Smartest Girl in the school because I was a mighty fine student. I loved learning. I loved writing. I loved all things academic. I loved spelling and I especially loved Fridays in fifth grade when we’d have math games at the blackboard. I always won. I was very smart, indeed. (And humble.)

Then, the world collapsed and my parents divorced and I realized I was fat (though at a completely normal weight and normal size). And then *cue ominous music* sixth grade happened.

I easily won my classroom spelling bee and went on to the all-school spelling bee. I intended to win, as I was The Best Speller. Or so I thought. Then I encountered the word, “cellophane,” and I fell apart. Cellophane? I was out. Back in my homeroom, I found a small folded paper . . . I unfolded it and found “C-E-L-L-O-P-H-A-N-E” pencilled in block letters.*

That was the beginning of my personal realization. I was not the Smartest Girl in the School. I was definitely not the Cutest Girl in the School. I was just another kid, an tall girl with brown eyes and dishwater blond hair who couldn’t spell “cellophane.”

My quest for perfection was not yet over, though. I intended to graduate with a 4.00 grade point average. And then came that fateful class in high school in which I received a B+. Stupid, stupid, alcoholic choir teacher. Not that I’m still bitter, but that woman gave me a B+ for the semester grade, even though I had excellent attendance, participation and an A for my first quarter grade. I received a B for the second quarter because I missed a choir contest–which I explained to her in advance that I’d have to miss due to a prior commitment. She gave me extra credit so I could make up the deficit. She implied that the extra credit would make up for the missed contest.

And then she ruined my grade point average. The grown-up Mel would have protested, but the teenage Mel accepted the unjust grade with dismay. If only I knew then what I know now.

So, where am I going with this long-winded dissertation? Well.

All I have to do is look around and I see people who are smarter than me, more talented than me, cuter than me, skinnier than me, and who understand poetry and politics. And I dearly love my children, but I see them clearly. I know they are not the cutest, smartest, cleverest children ever.

I am objective, unlike my sister-in-law who believes that her grandson is the best kid in the universe. He’s a brat and his kindergarten teacher will tell you so. He got in trouble for stripping naked in the school bathroom and his grandma, my sister-in-law, thinks that this is somehow the teacher’s fault. Poor poor child, it’s not his fault that he’s a hellion who is always in trouble. Whatever.

Maybe I’m just a little crabby tonight. As you can see, I have no illusion that I’m correct . . . but I am definitely sure that I am irritable and unlikely to win Miss Congeniality. And my kids? They are terrific, but so are a lot of other kids . . . and mine aren’t spoiled rotten brats who think they deserve to be treated like royalty.

*I never did find out who put that little slip of paper in my desk.

How Cellophane Made Me See Clearly

Grumpy + Margin Deficit + OCD = Bad Start

There are three things you ought to know about me:

1) I am not a morning person. As my husband likes to joke, “Do you wake up grumpy in the morning? No, I let her sleep.”
2) I give myself a very small margin of time in the mornings. Why waste time being alert when you can be snuggled under the covers on a dismal morning?
3) I refuse to get out of bed until the clock shows a multiple of five. For instance, I will not get up at 6:44 a.m. Instead, I will wait with one eye open and the rest of myself fast asleep until 6:45 a.m. And then, if I accidentally sleep until 6:46 a.m., I must wait until 6:50 a.m. (Obsessive? Compulsive? Or just crazy?)

This morning, these three truths converged and the doorbell rang while I was still showering. When I emerged a few moments later, my husband–strangely awake and dressed in sweatpants–informed me that my daycare child had already arrived.

I said, “What?!? It’s not 7:15!”

And he said, “Yeah, he said he left early this morning in case the roads were bad.”

And I said, “Well. You should have told him to sit in the car until 7:15.” Because I am just that merciful and accomodating first thing in the morning.

It was only 7:12 a.m. when I stepped outside of the bathroom, more than enough time to get dressed and half-heartedly dry my hair.

When I say 7:15, I mean 7:15. That’s something else you might want to know about me. I’m kind of particular about things like that.

p.s. We have cold rain this morning and it’s pretty hard to make a snowmen out of cold rain. Update!!

Grumpy + Margin Deficit + OCD = Bad Start

Weather Alert!

An inch of snow might fall tonight and that’s the lead story on the local news.

You have to love the Pacific Northwest!

Update: 10:35 a.m. The rain has turned to big gloppy flakes of wet snow. The children are entranced and stand outside in this miserable weather soggy winter wonderland. I took photographs, documenting our first snow fall of the season.

I suppose Seattle will now officially shut down for the day.

Weather Alert!

Brain Floaters

Only snippets float around in my brain, kind of like those floaters you get in your eye which are extremely distracting during a boring lecture on the pentateuch at 7:30 a.m.

For instance, I thought just a second ago about how I used to put myself to sleep with visions of a plump-cheeked baby back when we used to be childless. I never once envisioned a twelve year old. Nor does the same image put me to sleep anymore.
I acknowledged to myself over the past few days how furious I am with my mother and her icky new boyfriend. I mean, maybe he’s not even icky, but the fact is, since she started “seeing” him–whoever he is, as far as I know, no police check has been done–she doesn’t call. She hasn’t stopped by (we live in the same town). Is it too much to hope for an attentive grandmother when one was raised with an absent mother?

The answer to that is yes. Obviously.
I vowed to myself to eat only vegetables and fruit tomorrow. Will I ever actually feel hungry again?
In what universe do women wear pointy high heels with jeans? I mean, besides Oprah-land?
I’m so not ready for another week of childcare, school-at-home and preschoolers.
Nick and Jessica broke up? What? Doesn’t anybody stay together anymore?
I feel silly for looking forward to Oprah’s appearance on David Letterman next week. But I feel completely justified in looking forward to the new season of “24.”
Today, I read about googlewhacking. I’m afraid I now have another way to procrastinate and avoid my housework. Great. Just what I needed. As if Hawaii and Tahiti aren’t distracting enough.

Brain Floaters

From Real to Fake

We have a fake Christmas tree and I’m only a little not ashamed to admit it. This is practically sacrilege here in the Pacific Northwest, the Evergreen State, the home of lots of trees and at Christmas-time, lots of lots of trees. Oh, sure, there are photographs of the childhood me posing in front of an shiny silver tree which had its own cool color-changing spotlight, but when my family moved from the Midwest to the Northwest, all that fakery ended.

From that moment on, no more imitation trees. In fact, after my dad married his second wife, we took things a step farther and had living trees, their roots wrapped in burlap, in our living room. (We planted them after Christmas.) Some of my relatives had fake trees and I thought that was weird and wrong. (One of my great-aunts kept her fake tree up until February, which is beyond weird and wrong.)

When we moved to Michigan, our twins were 19 months old. Since we moved right before Thanksgiving, we decided not to have a tree at all. We reasoned that the boys would never remember and the daunting task of protecting a Christmas tree from lively almost-two-year olds was too much. But by the time they were three, we not only had a tree, but we did the fairytale family outing to a Christmas tree farm. We tromped through deep snow, pulling the children along by their arms, until at last, we found an acceptable tree.

Felling said tree was not a joyous holiday event. The saw the farm gave us was faulty or we were uncoordinated, but the task frustrated us and sucked the holiday joy right out of the experience.

That tree left sharp needles in our carpet which poked into our tender feet when we least expected it–even months later. And for whatever reason, I ended up being the person prone under the tree, wiggling and screwing the pitchy wood into the rickety tree stand. Snow melted and dripped into my eyes.

The next Christmas season found me great with child and I and my pregnant belly insisted that we get a fake tree. I couldn’t stomach the thought of struggling with a real live Christmas tree. So we abandoned our smug family ideas and kissed the picture-worthy cutting down of tree outing goodbye and joined the fake tree club.

My husband purchased a fake tree at Sears for a hundred bucks. We’ve been using it ever since, so I figure that the current cost of that tree is about $12.50 a year. Do I miss the smell of an evergreen tree in the house? Sure. That’s where Yankee Candles come in handy. Do I miss stepping on pine needles? No. Do I miss trying to keep a tree from becoming a flaming fire hazard? No.

Am I deeply ashamed to feature a fake tree in my home? Well, let’s just say I am shallowly ashamed of my fake tree. At least it’s a fake pretending to be real, unlike the silvery fake of my earliest days.

From Real to Fake