Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hundred acre house

Carolyn has a very active imagination. In one of her games, she has given everyone in the family a role from Winnie the Pooh.

She, of course, is Pooh bear. Penelope is Piglet. Steve is Tigger. Fife is Eeyore and I , sadly, am Rabbit. I say sadly because she matched our personalities pretty accurately and Rabbit's a real pill. Just yesterday, I asked her what Tigger was doing.

"He's working," she said. "He's bouncing somewhere."

Carolyn plays this game so much, we start to think of ourselves in these terms. A couple of weeks ago, when Pooh bear was rising pre-6, I had a little dream. In my dream, I was shooting off an e-mail.

"Dear Tigger. Pooh's up. I hope he wakes you up but I think it'll probably be me. Love, Rabbit."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Awesome gifts

Thanks, everybody, for the awesome gifts. Carolyn loves her Dora outfit, her cats and Elmo. Penelope loves picking up everything on the living room floor and looking at it closely.

Sandy, that picture frame with the photographs was SO awesome. It was amazingly thoughtful. And just so you know, when I moved here, I apparently only packed one of every sock and have not bought socks since so I've been wearing mismatched socks. I thought matching socks were a luxury I just couldn't afford. So thank you for that.

And while gift cards are impossible to appreciate visually, know that I will have the BEST time organizing all this new stuff with the shelves I'm going to buy!

And to everybody, we miss you and wish you all the merriest of Christmas days. Now, off for some Chinese food.

Stocking stuffers

Here are the girls getting their stocking stuffers. Steve tells me it's bad etiquette to stuff stockings with shaving cream and lip balm, but I told him to take up his beef with Santa.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My virtual holidays

Since our family is enjoying it's first, nontraveling, nonworking Christmas in the history of our lives together (pre-dating even), we know we've been placed on "The List" of at least two grandmothers. In a gesture of goodwill, I will try to create a virtual Christmas that will be placed on my blog throughout the day.

In order to be an active participant, I ask that you comment on a couple of entries. It's just like being here, only without that mid-day trapped feeling.

In the meantime, watch a little video I made a few days ago at the park. It's so fun now that Penelope can do more stuff.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Did I mention...

... I could use a new diaper bag? Hmmm. No? Well, I mentioning it now, as a precursor for what I'm about to do.

You see, my diaper bag, a lovely, very expensive Petunia Pickle Bottom, is at the end of the road. She's been a great bag, it's just she's coming apart. I've put her on extended leave in place of a lovely demin bag, which is coated in a fine layer of Goldfish crackers. It work OK, but there are no compartments for diapers, sippy cups, makeup, cell phone, camera, extra clothes, toys, wallet, keys, notebook, appointment book, WD 40, snacks, etc. You get the point.

So BeBeReviews will put me in a sweepstakes for a very nice diaper bag if I mention their Daily Scoop, which has daily (hence the clever name) site with coupons, free shipping alerts, recalls and all sorts of helpful stuff.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

We wish you a merry...

We celebrated the first annual, "Gardner Christmas Party."

A few years ago, Steve would have been invited to four... count them, four... Christmas parties. Cutbacks, boss changes and a disease I like to call Scroogitis meant we were invited to one dinner (where we couldn't get a babysitter) and that's it. That means no getting gussied up for a bunch of strangers.

Instead, we had our own party.

First, there was wine and beer. Next, Christmas cookies. And finally, a dinner consisting of nothing but appetizers.

It start out great. There was mingling (So Penelope. What's up with you these days? You're walking I see). There was a little drinking, although I have to say Carolyn and Penny have a little problem holding their juice. And then, there was a naked baby running down the hall.

But all parties have their problems. Carolyn, who woke up at 5 and didn't nap, just couldn't hang. At one point, we wondered why she had been in her room for so long. Steve went in to find she had put herself to bed, without dinner, around 5 o'clock.

There's always one. Right. Right. You know what I mean.

All in all, the first Gardner Christmas Party was a success. We got all the departments together. There was laughter and good food. Nobody photocopied their butt.

And we'll all be able to face Monday morning with a good conscience.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

So Sad : ( So Happy : )

I just love these pictures of Penelope.

Ah shucks Pen. Don't be so sad.

That's better!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What have I got to be angry about?

In the grand scheme — Nothing. That is, my family is not plagued by war. I don't have constant fears of disease or hunger. If I really wanted, I could have a pizza with everything at my house in 30 minutes, no questions asked.

But I'm still fuming. I'm mad that the T Mobile lady made me cry when I was canceling my service today. I'm mad that we can't sell our car. I'm mad that, apparently, the paper is holding pay for freelancers until the next pay period, which is after Christmas.

Seriously, how mad am I at that!

And it comes down to this: a few blogs ago I said I love "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" because I love Peanuts. But it's more than that.

I am Charlie Brown.

"I just don't understand Christmas, I guess," Charlie laments. "I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

Hear, hear Chuck.

"Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."

Sunday, December 10, 2006


The fam and I went to this Christmas thing last night and Carolyn got her picture taken with Santa Claus. There was a really long line and about 10 minutes into waiting, Santa got up, moseyed downstairs and walked outside. Another mom and I were speculating on Santa's whereabouts (he was hot, he needed a smoke) when Steve and Penelope came up to us.

"Where do you think Santa went?" I asked.

I heard this: "We went to shake the dew off the North Pole." After my new friend stopped speaking to me, I told Steve that joke was not only not funny, it was pretty creepy.

Steve swears he said, "He went to shake the dew off at the North Pole." Oh. That's much better.

My friend slowly started making conversation again, until, near the end of the line, I caught Steve's eye and made a overt gesture (Steve said) that would have been inappropriate at a Paris Hilton party truck stop. I swear I was pointing up, you know, toward the North Pole.

Anyhow, the picture of Carolyn and Santa (a Polaroid, so I can't post it here) was really terrific. We left as friendless as we came. Maybe more so.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy freakin' holidays

Every year around this time I start remembering this one simple fact: I don't care much for Christmas.

Everybody is distracted. The weather is crappy. You feel as if you should be buying more even though you really don't need to buy anything but, everyday, the newspaper is full of ads promising huge discounts if you arrive at 7 a.m. and you think, "Maybe I should stock up," or even less Christmasy, "I could really use a wet-dry vac," even though you haven't bought for all your cousins yet but it's so much easier to buy for yourself.

It's all very stressful.

But there are three parts of the holiday I really enjoy — Christmas music, "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas," and Christmas cards. The music I love because, especially for religious tunes, the lyrics are so beautiful. Charlie Brown because I just love Charlie Brown and all things Peanuts. And Christmas cards because I love that we have a chance every year to write all the people we care about.

But the thing is, most people today don't do Christmas cards properly. If you're going to waste all that paper sending cards, write something nice. Sure, it's great to see what your kids look like, but doesn't that seem a little narcissistic (not at all like blogging) to send a bunch of pictures of your family direct from Wal-Mart, the holiday greeting pre-printed.

Just e-mail them. It's the same thing only it saves me from choosing whether to stick little Dick and Jane in a dusty box or toss them. Really, there are no winners.

And don't give me the "I'm so busy" line. Banks, not families, send preprinted cards. Spend, like, one hour less at Kohl's each week and tell your friends you miss them.

And FYI, I've received three cards so far. Steve's aunt Judy, my aunt Chris and my mother-in-law. Each of them followed proper holiday card etiquette.

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mommy, mommy, mama, mama, mom, mom, ma...

And so it's happened.

Carolyn (shown below),

Has become a mommy's girl.

This morning, during a crying fit from Carolyn who refused to let Steve help her unzip a boot or read a story or talk to her, she got sent to her room. Steve went to get her and Carolyn screamed, "I want mommy."

"What about daddy?" Steve asked.

"You can have Penelope," Carolyn told him.

Whew. At least that part of a divorce is settled.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Guilt! It's my superpower

Nothing feels as empty as winter stay-at-home mothering. Especially for the carless.

As Steve was leaving for work, I was telling him about how I feel like a big-old lazy bones. I should be taking the kids out, exposing them to humans, buying stuff, seeing Santa and other suburban-esque tasks. Instead, I'm homebound today because of frigid temps and impassable sidewalks.

"I'm a failure."

I didn't exactly say that, but it was the general tone. Anyhow, Steve pointed out I just lost two weeks of house guests, hosted Thanksgiving, wrote two stories for my freelance gig, lived through a major winter storm (other than house guests) and kept everyone in cookies and cakes. And today, he also pointed out, I would be doing laundry, baking, cleaning the bathroom and playing with the girls.

When he put it that way, I felt better for a minute. But then I put on Elmo and thought, "Nope. Still a failure. Might as well blog about it."

And I did!

Hectic holidays

The Gardner family just finished two weeks worth of grandparent visits. Whew (said dramatically, wiping symbolic sweat from forehead)! It was really nice to have Carolyn and Penelope spend time with the grandparents, but now back to business.

Last night: Christmas tree. Today: Sock puppets. It's a sweatshop around here.

Penny had her 1 year appointment last week. She is nearly 26 pounds and 32 inches, both at 100 percent for her age. Her head circumference is over 100 percent. My doctor said her son also had a huge head and an ego to match.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Birthday baby!

Penelope is 1!

We had a great morning, opening presents and eating cake. Mom was here to make sure the girls were sufficiently spoiled. Now we all need naps.

For Carolyn, I started taking pictures of her at 1 with a grown up dress. I plan to take a picture every year so she could see how she grew into the dress. I did the same for Penelope today. For her, I chose my wedding dress. Here's the most beautiful baby is the world:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday treat

Still digesting the turkey day feast, I got up at 4 a.m. to buy an $80 digital camera and a bunch of Christmas gifts. So if you get something weird for Christmas, just know I probably paid $10 or less and think about how it's the thought that counts and all that.

Anyhow, we're back in videos. Here's Penelope training for her first marathon.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Go Blue

Today was a big day.

Michigan played Ohio State, number 2 v. number 1, to a much anticipated, much hyped event. Never before had this rivalry met with such status at stake. Famed U of M coach Bo Schembechler's death could be matched by no other as a prelude to the enormity of the event.

Alas, the game did not end well for poor Michigan.

But even as the Wolverines struggled to regain the lead, Penelope took an important step. Today, of all day, she learned to walk.

Cheers could be heard throughout our house for most of the afternoon, for one reason or another.

But take heart Michigan fans, Penelope was born on the day of a very important match-up between the Steelers and the Colts. Steve was heartbroken when his second daughter's birth preceded an enormous loss by just a few hours.

But the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl. Which means what?

It seems to mean Penelope's accomplishments are measured by the success or failure of sports teams. And what does that mean?

Maybe it says we watch too much football.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Helping out a friend

My other blog is getting lonely. Go visit it.

Carolyn figured out how to use the iPod. The other day, she was spinning around the kitchen wearing headphones singing, "Dededededed, Yeah!" I presume she was dancing to Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison" or maybe his "Cocaine Blues."

Oh, and she wasn't wearing any pants.

It always makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy when I see how much like me she's becoming.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Whole Mom

A new edition of The Whole Mom is out. Check it out here and read my column here.

Baby steps

Penelope is just days away from walking. I'd show you video, but I have no camera and refuse to buy any big-ticket items until Black Friday when I can save 50 percent by getting up at 3 a.m.

Hey. I've been up at 3 a.m. for substantially less noble reasons.

The other night, Carolyn and Penny were playing, hard core. Carolyn was chasing Penny around with a Quaker Oats box filled with popcorn. Discount morocha.

So with the squealing and the screaming and the running and the crawling and the screaming, Steve asked me if this was "the pitter-patter of little feet."

Yes. I believe it is.

He smiled. "I didn't think it'd be this loud."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Act your age

I had a great time in Chicago this weekend. It was a little crazy but I feel like I got a lot of staying-at-home stress out of my system.

And it makes coming home a great thing.

And even though I went out with a group of 30-something kids, I'm a much older 30-something and need to set some ground rules.

A 20-something greasy snack: gyros/ A 30-something greasy snack: iceberg lettuce with lots of Italian dressing.

A 20-something night out: clubbing/ A 30-something night out: dinner and a show.

A 20-something drink: Bud Light in a giant plastic mug and a shot of tequila/ A 30-something drink: something other than Bud Light.

A 20-something sleeping arrangement: the floor of an condo owned by a couple you hardly know/ A 30-something sleeping arrangement: a bed.

These are just a few of the rules I didn't quite understand when I ventured out this weekend. But at the rate I'm going, I'll only make it out once more before I have to learn a whole new set of rules.

The 40-something list.

Friday, November 10, 2006

It takes commitment

Department store shopping.

To get the very best deal, you have to be loyal. That explains the dozens of women I saw at Kohl's today, loading up on bath towels and Fiestaware. They were all using their 20 percent coupon sent to them for having a Kohl's card.

Now, I'm not much of a shopper. But I've found myself in a difficult position of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner with only four butter knives. So I've been shopping around, looking for the best deal.

What I've discovered is shopping is a lot like getting drunk. You kind of walk around in a daze as 15 minutes turns into three hours and all of a sudden you're sure you need glazed, iron pot because it's on clearance and that lady who walked by a couple of minutes ago had her grubby little eye on it. You'll be sorry in the morning, but tonight, under the florescent lights of TJ Maxx, it seems like the right thing to do.

Turns out drinking is cheaper.

So I'm not about to give it all up for a little love from Kohl's. And when I took my $10 off coupon to the cashier (no spending limit!) and paid $2.88 for two potholders and a basting brush, she knew my kind. She didn't even ask if I wanted to use my Kohl's card.

Just another rogue cheapskate looking for a bargain.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I love summer

Especially in November, although November Rain is pretty sweet. It's almost 70 degrees here today. You just know all those parents at the playground were skipping chores; but who cares! It might be the last summer-like day of the year.

My friend Dana sent me one of those survey e-mails. Since I just burdened my friends with one of those a few days ago, I'll post it here. Besides, we all secretly know it's more fun to answer them than it is to read them.

If you want me to know more about you, e-mail me your answers at

1. FULL NAME? Christine Carol Gardner
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? My dad's sister-in-law and my mom's twin. Funny story, my parents intended my middle name to be Carolyn, but my mom was so drugged up after the birth she fell asleep in the middle. Hence, Carol. At least that's how I remember the story.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? It's been awhile, which is impressive because I'm a crier.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? I like Italian subs, so whatever that blend is.
6. KIDS? Two daughters.
8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? I have two blogs, a column and a freelance magazine job that occasionally allows me to write about my family. I'd say that's a pretty impressive journal.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I don't like cereal, but I occasionally eat a handful of Cheerios.
16. SHOE SIZE? 9
17. RED OR PINK? Red
19. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Mom and dad, not dead, just far away.
20. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? I hope to read hundreds of surveys in the next two days. Hundreds.
22. LAST THING YOU ATE? White rice with soy sauce.
23. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The refrigerator hum, Carolyn not napping
24. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? White, because nobody ever uses white and I would last longer than, say, green.
25. FAVORITE SMELL? Coffee brewing, Cereal City, the beach
26. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Steve, yesterday afternoon.
29. FAVORITE DRINK? Red wine
30. FAVORITE SPORT? Football
31. EYE COLOR? Blue
32. HAT SIZE? I don't know, but I have a big head.
34. FAVORITE FOOD? Tacos, which, I found a place here that makes pork tacos like Nina's with soft corn, cilantro and onions. Hooray.
35. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? I prefer sad ending. Weird I know. And I don't like scary.
38. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer, but I love winter too.
39. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs (it's probably a passing kid thing)
40. FAVORITE DESSERT? Homemade cookies
41. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Everybody. I expect hundreds of responses.
42. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? You better respond!!! And I don't want to hear, "I'm soooo busy." Everybody is busy.
43.WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? My friend wrote a chick lit book and I'm reading that.
46. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Carolyn singing to herself, Penelope when she's not screaming (and recently, she's always screaming), the beach
50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Sept. 3, 1973, Royal Oak Michigan.
51.WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Dana. She's an editor at the Battle Creek Enquirer

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


* Major note. This post is not for those who gross out easily.

You never want to walk into a room and see your baby daughter eating her own poop. Agggggh. So gross.

It's really bad. Really really bad. And that's taking into account that I shrug off some things (i.e. playing in the toilet, eating dog food, putting their faces up to the clear plastic at a McDonald's playland) that would have jump started the gag reflex just a few years ago. And I worked at a nursing home for many years cleaning up those kinds of messes on old people.

Still. Yuck.

The joys of motherhood.

Carolyn still holds the "Oh my god that is so disgusting" award. When she was about a year and a half, and we still had our cat Duke (we miss you buddy) who used to kill things to earn our respect and love, or so he thought, Carolyn came inches from stuffing a dead mouse into her mouth. Even now I get shivers thinking about that one, and I grew up at a racetrack where my dad killed rats with pitchforks.

On my bright side, I'm going to Chicago for a night sans husband and children. Steve is the best husband, EVER. And he thinks I'm coming home. Silly husband.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sophie's Choice

I must have subconsciously heard about William Styron's death earlier this week because I found myself thinking about his book, in movie form, "Sophie's Choice" last night.

I'm pretty sure I saw that movie in the last few years. At least since having Carolyn. It struck me as an awful thing to have happen, but not unbearable.

Not until I had two children.

What would I do if a tree fell on my house and I had time to only rescue one? What if a bear attacked and I could only carry one to safety? What if I was boarding a train and some jerk-off made me leave one behind for certain death?

I almost think it would be better to risk both than chose one. But what do I know? These are not choices people are asked to make, at least not in Normal.

Now, what I really have to decide is this: If I'm forced to take one of my children grocery shopping with me, which one will it be? Not Sophie's Choice, but a real pickle nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Trick or treating was a success!

Carolyn had a great time. We met some kids (older kids) who live around the block and they showed her the ropes. She only went to about a dozen houses, which is good because we were light on fellow trick or treaters and have more candy in the house than we a) need, b) want and c) should be eating this close to the holiday season.

We ended up wearing the cute pink puppy outfit, which I'm sad to say was not photographed because our camera finally had enough and decided to go into the light. It was a good camera. A kind camera. A much loved, much used camera.

You will be missed.

Energy jerks update

Steve is really good at yelling at people.

Yelling is not the correct term, but he doesn't let people get away with stuff. I always get really flustered when they say things like, "I can't remove that charge." Today, he fixed our energy woes. I hadn't mentioned it, but AmerenIP, our electric company, was going to charge us $150 deposit after they turned off our electricity.

We were all ready to report them to the energy commission, but Steve called and they removed all the fees in five minutes.

He rocks!

Carolyn went downtown trick or treating with her dad last night, and was severely traumatized. She was totally freaked out by a Darth Vader costume and returned home with a mere three pieces of candy.

When she got home, she kept saying things like, "I'm scared" and "Ooh. Scary" over and over again.

I'm trying to talk her into tonight's festivities, but I'm 50/50 on whether Carolyn will enjoy it or not. Suddenly, she's scared of the dark.

Winter's going to be a real treat.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Eve

It's a big day around here. Downtown Normal is having a little trick or treat night so I got Carolyn all dressed up for the event.

Yes, yes. I know what you're thinking. That's last year's Halloween costume.

Oh, you couldn't be more wrong. Last year, she was a cheetah. This year, she's a kitty cat.

I bought a fuzzy, pink dog costume this year (one of those zip and go numbers) but was so disappointed by my lack of creativity, I regressed in much the same way Carolyn does with potty training. I just can't believe that at 8 months pregnant, working a full time job in a place that would never be described as soothing and running after a toddler, I was able to come up with a much better costume than in my current lackadaisical state.

Next year, Penelope stars as a leopard, although I'm not sure what Carolyn will do without her costume.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Falling down

Well, it's happened again.

I've wasted a perfectly good summer thinking about fall. And now it's here, and it's everything I remember with the crisp air and smell of decomposing leaves, which I find extremely pleasant, but it also means a billion leaves covering every inch of our yard.

Here's Penelope, enjoying the leaf pile.

Just recently, Penny has shown some interesting in moving to just one nap a day. That would totally rock, if at the same time Caroyn hadn't decided she doesn't need to nap.

I guess that's why god created coffee, and valium.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The REAL Penn State




Who the hell are we again??

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My utility curse continues

You know it’s going to be a crappy day when the electric company, first thing in the morning, shuts off your power.

Should have paid your bill, one might say. Well, it was paid. It was cashed. I even called two weeks ago after receiving a “shut off” notice to find out why I was delinquent 10 days after they took the money from my checking account.

But they said the account information was incorrect, and our fault even though I called to fix the problem two weeks ago, and so we started off the day paying $75 to have the power turned back on.

In case you’re not keeping track, here’s my “LIST.”

#5 Mike Simpko (thanks Joe), a slum lord from Alexandria, Va., who stole more than $1,000 from us in 2001, something I’ve never quite gotten over. I hope I spelled his name right. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to write that $%$%$ a check.

#4 Semco Energy

#3 College students

#2 Sara Vowel

#1 AmerenIP (see above)

The girls and I headed over to the grocery and book stores to retreat from our hellish, angry morning. Once there, Carolyn, who had been doing so well, had an accident. I wiped up the seat, changed her in the bathroom and we resumed shopping. I was just shocked I had a spare pair of pants with me. Amazing!

Next, I gave her a book to read while I flipped through a couple of magazines. Turns out, the book had a bunch of stickers that Carolyn stuck all over the cart. I had to buy the crappy Dora book, at an outrageous $5.99. It would have been cheaper to buy the magazines.

Well, I have some angry letter writing to do. Better get started before I’m served with court papers or probed by aliens.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Feeling bad, 101

I think I've given people the impression that Carolyn is always beating up Penelope. This simply is not true.

For one, nobody wants to read how many hugs they give each other every day. That would be boring to read and boring to write. It's so much more fun to poke at our imperfections, don't ya think?

And for two, (Steve says I never have a two, so I'll show him) Carolyn loves Penelope, very, very much. She wants to help her walk. She wants to wake her up first thing in the morning. She wants to make sure I don't forget Penelope's juice.

It's just that sometimes, Carolyn gets frustrated. She might be playing a very elaborate pretend game with her toys when Penelope, acting as a diapered Godzilla, attacks the village. Penelope can be pulling out clumps of Carolyn's hair. Carolyn, who looks a lot older than she is and sometimes is treated as such, could be having a wonderful 2 moment.

And so sometimes Carolyn strikes out in a diva-bitch manner. Give her a break. She still hasn't perfected sentences.

And just think about how tough Penny will be. Carolyn doesn't have enough time on Penelope to get too mean before it comes back to haunt her.

Take it from me, parents just don't understand

I truly believe parents are nuts.

I think today’s parents are thinking way, way, way too much about giving their child a competitive edge.

Seriously, when I was in school, and one of the youngest with a Sept. 3 birthday, my best friend, Martha, was about 9 months older than me and 8 inches shorter.

Being tiny was awesome for her. Everybody always thought she was cute as a button.

And I had a high school friend with a November birthday who was confident, smart and popular. Did I mention tall?

Being tall was awesome for her.

Seriously, parents are nuts.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Snakes and bunnies

I finally got Carolyn to a store to see some snakes. We've been reading Lynne Jonnell's "I Need a Snake," which is a totally awesome book about a little boy's fascination with, yep, you guessed it, snakes.

So anyway, pet store! It's a promise that bought 30 minutes of carefree grocery shopping.

After the blissful Kroger experience, we walked around the pet store looking at fish, lizards, birds, ferrets, mice, bunnies and, yes, even snakes. When we're leaving, I asked Carolyn what animal she liked best.


Oh Carolyn. You're such a girl.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Good parenting feels so bad

Punishing Carolyn sucks. If I yell, sometimes it just makes things worse, especially if I use that voice usually reserved for yelling at Fife (my fat beagle) to come. It’s screeching and would sound irrational even if I were shouting quantum theory. I’m not sure quantum theory is a real thing, but you get the drift.

So sometimes, especially when I’m very angry at Carolyn (usually for trying to gouge out Penelope’s eyes), I quietly take away whatever toy she’s playing with, pick up Penelope and leave the room, and leave Carolyn behind. I don’t even shut the door.

The other night I did this when Carolyn was playing with what I’ll call “box of crap,” or some random, cheap toys in a shoebox. She pushed Penelope down by the forehead and held her head to the floor. So I gathered up the crap, uh toys, put them in the closet, took Penelope and left.

For about two minutes, Carolyn sat there plotting her next move. At last she tried some other toys, like the ball popper, until it was too much. She started to bawl.

I went in there to explain that she shouldn’t push Penny, it isn’t nice. I gave her back the box and she picked out one toy and said, “share.”

That was just too much. I told her I know her sister can be a pain, constantly grabbing at her stuff, but if she’s angry she should tell me to take her away.

Carolyn put down the toy. Then she said, “Mommy, TAKE Penny.”

Could it be that I’m getting through?

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm baaaack

Now that's better. My computer is fixed and I'm no longer looking up html while praying the computer doesn't crash from having two screens open.

I'll bet that sentence would've sounded weird 10 years ago. Crash? Screens? What's this html you speak of?

Anyhow, here are some pictures, as promised. One is proof Penelope takes after mom, the other is from Steve's Birthday Party yesterday. Gotta love Flickr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Day 43, and counting

Same story, another day. Still no computer, although Apple said they have 500 of this part coming Monday and only two, presumably one that is me, are holding for said part. Good news!

I've felt a real motivation lately to be a good parent. I met with the owner of the Gingerbread House, a fancy-shmancy toy store, about Christmas gifts for children. It was like going to a (insert occupation here) writing conference and getting all keyed up to go back and (insert craft here) write. Instead, it was about child rearing.

She talked a lot about independent play and open-ended toys that let kids use their imaginations. While I sipped coffee with her for TWO WHOLE HOURS, I did a mental inventory of Carolyn's toys. Pretty good, on the whole, I decided. But even the Little People, which I think are great toys that Carolyn pretends with often, are holding specific items, or wearing very specific clothes that make total creativity hard. Don't get me started on the songs and moving parts.

I even read an article this week, which came out the same day I met with the toy store owner, that said children are lacking free play these days. Too many dance classes and soccer games. I totally buy into that.

And enough of the soap box.

Today, Carolyn, Penny and I walked over to the close playground, which is at the Normal Community Center. They have a daycare there and the kids sometimes come out to play, which just so happened today.

It was 4-year-olds. Carolyn even knew one little girl, whose great-grandmother lives next door.

One little girl came up and asked me if my daughter could be in their class. I said she was still too young.

"She's only 2," I said.

"Well," the little girl answered, "maybe when she's 4."

"That's a good idea," I said. "But when she's 4, you'll be 6. Then you'll be in first grade."

"Maybe," the girl said. "But I was 3 for a really long time, so I might still be 4."

Those kids, they say the darndest things.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Today, Carolyn had her first professional haircut.

Oh, the pain. The pain of it all. Actually, it wasn't bad. It was just a trim and she sat in the chair like she'd been waiting all her life to visit a beauty parlor. Next step: wax.

What's really on my mind these days in family life. And not just the, "how in the hell does anybody find time to vacuum" kind of thought process. I'm thinking about family habits. How they drive. How they shop. How they exist.

For more on this incredibly not-funny topic, visit my other blog. Otherwise, just know this blog will soon be inundated with pics of the girls as we've cleared Apple to make the necessary repairs after they dropped the price — by half. They must be feeling bad about the Steve Jobs thing..

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dirty girls

Tonight, as Penny was kind of whining at dinner, I said, "Hey Penelope. Do you want to take a bath?" Actually, I was trying to figure out how much of what I say she understands.

So Carolyn, queen of the baths, says: Bath? How about me? I want to take a bath. Bath? You said "bath," right?

And then she says...

"I'm stinky too."

Sure Carolyn. You can take a bath. I wouldn't want you to walk around being stinky.

And just because I can't blog without saying so, my computer is still sick. Now, it's absurdly expensively sick. Maybe dying. Poor sick, expensive computer. Alas, poor Mac! I knew him Horatio.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'll stop complaining when it's fixed

So our technological inadequacies are at an all time high at this point, but there's hope on the horizon. The details are unimportant. All you need to know is that I am a very, very angry person.

Here's one for "Yes. We are horrible parents" file. Our dear, and very together Battle Creek friends, the Greenes, brought their very little son, Isaac, for a short visit this weekend. While tending to his every need they witnessed Carolyn try (repeatedly) to kill her sister: Penelope claw at little Isaac's forehead, leaving a nasty little scar: Carolyn bang on her bedroom door for an hour in protest of sleep: Penelope hit her upper lip in a fall and bleed for four, yes four, hours all over my new white shirt I miraculously got red wine stains out of not a week earlier: and a diaper rash that appeared inexplicately on Penelope and disappeared just as quickly the very next day.

Our mad house es su mad house.

The bloody Penelope thing reminded me of a time when Carolyn smacked her face against the floor of a store and bled as if all six of her teeth had been punched out. This very traumatic episode followed a less severe injury the month before when her face scraped up against a concrete sidewalk. That scratch looked bad for at least a week, while the profuse bleeding ended quickly with the slightly fattened lip shrinking the next day.

But at the time, I screamed at Steve to get her to the emergency room, which thankfully we decided against.

These little traumas have numbed us slightly to childhood injury. They've also lessened our fears of germs, rate of growth, eating habits, developmental milestones, other children and the long term effects of too much Caillou. But still, looking at perfect, tiny Isaac, you can't help but feel a tiny bit guilty as both our kids run around the living room in diapers while we nurse hangovers, especially in light of the showered, perky Greenes. I mentioned our kids weren't wearing pants, right?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I need the computer and he needs me

So. I'm still going without. Well, not without completely. I pulled my dusty, reliable iMac out of the box with all of its 9.0 glory and am making due. It's just not very easy, what in today's world of X.

Anyway, I felt bad that I haven't blogged in so long. I'm probably going to be giving up one of my blogs after I get my laptop back, but that's neither here nor there.

What's new? Well, Penelope is totally crawling and cruising and all that fun stuff. She had an ear infection and broke out in an all-body rash five days after taking the antibotic. My kids have rashes. What can I say.

Carolyn's her typical funny self. She likes to pretend she's a baby, which I'm sure is a deep-seeded cry for help. She's recently started telling Penelope "Nanananana-No." She sings little high-pitched songs to herself and wanders around the house, much like Ophelia must have done before she drowned herself.

I turned 33 and got a Kitchen Aid mixer for my birthday. Now, I bake bread. Yum. Steve is going to a conference next week. Boo.

There's more, but no time before this computer crashes. Again.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Begin Internet withdraw: NOW

My experience without a car will be featured on this weekend's edition of Weekend America. My computer is on the fritz so I'll be offline for a few days, providing a bit of a Labor Day break.

Carolyn and Penelope will finally have their mommy back.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The trouble with Normal

That's what they called it. Although I'm pretty sure I e-mailed the three or four people who read this blog on a regular basis, I thought I'd link to my Grist story.

I've been a bundle of nerves since it came out. Steve said I'm suffering from PPD (Post Publishing Depression).

I might have more to come. Another national outlet has taken notice.

Agh... I think I'm going to throw up.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We've got a jumper

Steve and I took the girls to Tulsa for a little trip. Grandparents have a pool. Carolyn loves said pool.

But... Sometimes love just isn't enough. Sometimes, you also need swimming lessons.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Check out this Web site

Check out The Whole Mom, "a web publication and a community that supports mothers in all aspects of their identities," and a place to read a fabulous column by yours truly.

It rocks!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mini and Me

This is really hard for me to write.

I, Chris Gardner, rented a minivan.

Yes, I know I complain a lot (OK, a lot, a lot) about the minivan culture and how this particular vehicle has caused our downward slide as a society. And yes, I know I often condemn housewives for being chained to this most evil of transportation modes (excluding, of course, SUVs).

But the family and I, including Fife, are driving to Tulsa and there just wasn't enough room. We'd fly, but it's too expensive (not to mention I am NOT tasting my own breast milk to get on a plane). We'd take Amtrak, but you all know how that ends.

Here's what I learned today about the minivan.

1. I have never been inside a minivan, ever, at least not that I ever remember. They are very spacious.

2. Today's world is designed for this vehicle. I went to the drive-up ATM and to a fast food restaurant for dinner (yes, I'm aware I'm headed to hypocrite hell) and it was a ton easier at both places to complete my transaction. These conveniences are made for minivan owners, as if they don't already have it all.

3. I feel like a complete jackass driving around town. I imagine others looking up at my throne on high, thinking, "That lady is a total jackass." Well, that's what I do when I see minivan drivers.

So off to Tulsa we go and I have to wonder, what would be better for the environment — two really gas-efficient cars or one minivan?

Really, which do you think?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My yoga teacher is back

I so totally love her. She's been at some yoga conference where she reflected on her purpose in life for like 19 days. She told someone, "By the end I had so much to think about and so little to say."

She says things like that all the time, without pretense. Going to yoga is like going to therepy, getting a massage and having a super-hard workout, all at the same time.

And, knock on wood, Carolyn has been much better about running full speed to a busy street before stopping on the curb. And Penelope likes pizza. And Steve is going to a conference in Montana.

Oh, and Scrubs is coming to syndication.

Life is good.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Time to get a kid leash

That's right. Carolyn's getting a leash. I'm sure it will be very nice, and not at all frowned upon by the mothering community. After all, it's a caring, compassionate group of people.

You see, Carolyn has been "off" the stroller now for like a year. As a very judgemental person, I find most parents push their children around in strollers for far too long. And I get real judgey when I see a 4-year-old getting pushed around in a stroller, especially a fat kid. Take the time to teach them walking rules and let em walk, I say.

Well, that was until about three days ago when Carolyn learned running away from us is really, really fun. She has been stopping at corners and holding hands to cross streets for almost a year, but no more.

Today at farmer's market, she took off and came inches, and I do mean inches, from running in front of a car driving at least 30 miles per hour. Even writing this now puts me on the verge of tears and gives me a sick feeling in the stomach. Just inches.

So I'm swinging, in various degrees, between feeling like the worst parent in the world and feeling like being a pedestrian in a car-centric world is sadly impossible. Probably both, in varying degrees, is true.

This is why I need a kid leash. I can't expect Carolyn at 2 and a half to go back to using a stroller, and she totally can't be trusted, even though she sat quietly next to me at the bus stop for about 20 minutes after giving some poor woman just driving down the street a freakin' heart attack, sensing something really awful just happened. But it doesn't matter because my whole life can't come down to a few inches.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

While you were not sleeping

Carolyn, who has been sleeping through the night since she was like three months, decided the last couple of days that she no longer cares for her nap. This is one vestige of toddlerhood I refuse to let her abandon.

For one, she sleeps between two and three hours in the afternoon, always through One Life to Live and sometimes all the way through Passions. I can see her cutting back, but giving it up outright. Uh, NO.

And secondly, she loves her nap. Even now, as I hear her clawing at her bedroom door in a half-hearted effort to garner attention from her mind-wandering mommy, it's really nothing new. Just a kid fighting bedtime.

But naps were different for Carolyn. She'd ask to take them. She'd say, "Brush your teeth" as signal for "I'm ready for bed, airhead mom."

The other day, when she refused to nap, I took every single toy out of her room. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I said, "If you don't go to sleep, no juice. No video. No toys. No playground. Is that what you want?"


"Won't you ple-e-e-ease take a nap," I pleaded.


"How about a little sip of tequila? Maybe just a half glass. Here, I'll put a lime in it."

"Mommy's drink. No nap. Watch Frosty?"

Sure. Watch Frosty. Have some juice. Run in traffic. I'll just sip on this tequila drink until you're 4. Surely Penelope will be a much better 2-year-old.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Two tiny little things

Actually, four things. Teeth. Penny has her four top teeth all coming in at once. Please send nice thoughts her way, and mine if you can spare it. She's coping nicely.

And, the Washington Post has dedicated an entire section for Sunday about being green. Although, it seems a little too trendy, something Grist recently debated blogger style, I still like to see it on the radar.

Friday, August 04, 2006

You win this round Semco Energy

I realize I'm heading down a dangerous, crazy-old-person-marking-the-newspaper-up-with-a-red-pen path here, but I feel very strongly that I am in the right and I never, ever feel that way.

But today, when I was so sure I was right, I sent a letter to the editor (please stop shaking your head) to the paper I used to work for. They can't publish it, citing a policy of not running letters about disputes between customers and companies. I say it's not a dispute. Semco Energy and I agree on two key points — I'll pay them the $11 they want, and I'm not happy about it.

Well, rules are rules. Here's the letter. I knew I created this blog for a reason.

I sold my Battle Creek home at the end of June and tied up all my utility bills, or so I thought. I was charged $11 from Semco for a “customer service” fee for three days of service, June 27 to 29. It seems that even though they didn’t check my meter, and even though I didn’t use any gas, everybody gets this charge.(note* If I had cancelled service on the 26th, which, for whatever reason, is the last day of my cycle, I would not have received this charge.) I called to say I thought this was unreasonable and the very polite lady said there was nothing she could do. Oh course there is, Semco. You could do the right thing. I realize this company is blamed for many problems beyond its control, but throwing its giant corporate arms into the air in an “Oh well” gesture might be part of its public image problem. Semco can have the $11, but I have a good memory and one day might come across a choice between Semco and another company and there will be nothing I can do.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I just don't think it's right, when...

you've been without a car for a month and unable to get to the gym because the buses don't run out that far, especially for an 8:30 a.m. yoga class,

because you would have had to catch the 6:45 a.m. bus with the girls, transfer, all while pushing the everybody-on-this-bus-hates-you stroller, and then walk two miles in temperatures the weather people have deemed, "dangerous heat"

that when you return with the sole purpose of listening to the melodic insights of this one particular yoga teacher, because you're pretty sure she's the only person on the planet who can sweep the clutter from upstairs so you can begin writing a massive story for a national online mag, which is probably read by Al Gore's people,

there's some other, decidedly less cerebral, workout-girl yoga teacher instead.

This girl didn't care about my clutter. She didn't let me decide my goal for the morning. She didn't have any lessons for me.

All she cared about was my stupid core. I don't need to work on my core, lady, I need to work on cleaning up a little clutter.

And with a 30-second "deep relaxation" ending, all I learned today is that life is disappoointing.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


That's right. Excessive heat, at least by today's standards with central air and all, kept us pretty much locked up tight in the house today. I went to farmer's market in the morning, but that was about it.

Penelope had a tiny fever when she got up this morning. I hadn't wanted to say so before, for fear of jinxing myself, but it's the very first time she's been sick. Ever. Eight months and not a sniffle, or a cough, or a low grade fever.

Pretty amazing. Must be my great parenting (see below).

Speaking of great parenting, here's my great-parenting move of the day. Carolyn doesn't really like to eat her crust anymore. Today after she left portions of her ham and cheese lunch behind, I saved them and gave them to Penny for dinner.

Yes, I am that cheap. But hey, who's to say it's not all about the recycling.

This was the first day, maybe since we first moved into this house, that neither girl went out. Yes, I'm almost positive that's right. So we actually had a lot of fun playing with all those poor neglected toys.

And...big and.... being couped up all day really sent home the potty-training message home to Carolyn. Jinx. Anyway, she used the potty all day long, went in the backyard a couple of times with shorts, and never once had an accident.

She even asked for the potty once today (I had left it downstairs, instead of keeping it in the living room like usual. I know. Classy) so I went and got it and she POOPED! In the potty! Awesome. I just hope it sticks — the potty training, not the poop.

Penelope is really crawling. Not like, "I kind of get this," but full-fledged here-to-there-in-no-time crawling. Steve and I were thinking back about Carolyn and believe Penelope is crawling a full month ahead of her sister, not that it means anything. Just observing. And quietly judging.

Carolyn today was ordering her sister to crawl through this tunnel. This is what I hear. "Go here. Penelope. Penelope. Go here. Come on Penelope. Go here."

We got her through, eventually.

Monday, July 24, 2006

One more post

Here's one of Carolyn. Pretty soon, I'll be able to get both girls together — fighting over toys. That's exciting, huh!

Yesterday, a 4-year-old boy at the park was oohing and ahhing over Penelope. Carolyn kept saying "boy play" but he wanted no part of her. He even said once, "stop looking at me."

Man was Carolyn steamed.

Stupid boys. Who knew they started causing problems so early?

Well. Here's Carolyn.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Crawling baby

This poor neglected blog. It's like I just don't care about it anymore.

Not true. I care a lot. Just because I don't send flowers doesn't mean I don't love you.

So here's a video of Penny at the park today and a picture of Carolyn.

If you care about what I'm doing, check out my other blog. Other than that, there's nothing new to report.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Carolyn's vernacular

You know who's fun?


Sure, she says "no" roughly 3.2 million times a day and takes toys away from Penny she hasn't touched in more than a year, but she really is fun.

I definitely am loving her new language skills. Here are a few examples of my recent favorite phrases.

Last night, I got Chinese food, including sweet and sour pork, which was basically deep-fried pork with a bright red, sweet!, dipping sauce. Carolyn, who rarely eats meat, was diggin' it. After a few minutes, she looked at me and said, "That's delicious!"

Tonight, I read a 50-page Winnie the Pooh book to Carolyn for bedtime. She patiently listened, even though I'm not sure how much she understood. At the end of the book she said, "That was a great story!"

Today, she was taking stickers of flowers and putting them on my legs. After doing this for a minute, she looked at the flowers and said, "That's beautiful!"

I think I see a trend of emphatic observations.

And just so nobody thinks I left Penny out, which I never do because she's such a snuggle bunny, our Penelope is just days away from crawling. I'll be kind of glad when she starts because it's so frustrating for her. She wants to move forward and instead moves backward.

We can all probably relate to that, huh? Frustrating, isn't it?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What to do?

So, it's 90 degrees out.

Too hot for the playground, or to even walk to the pool, or perhaps the pool itself.

Too hot to walk downtown.

It's too Sunday for the buses to run (I guess people don't need to go anywhere on Sunday, hmm).

So what's a mom,who hates staying inside with her kids all day long, to do?

Watch videos. Color. Play tea party. Maybe drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

All viable options.

Here's a great name for my no-driving article, "How I saved the planet while ruining my life." Thanks Steve. I'm so lucky I married a headline writer.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I don't want to jinx it, but....

I think Carolyn is on her way to pottyland.

That's right. The Gardner sweetheart has been using the potty, on her own, and totally loving it. Turns out, they're ready when they're ready, just like the books say.

The key for Carolyn is she has to do it herself. You can't ask her. You can't bribe her. You can't plead with her. She makes up her mind she has to go and off she goes.

Still, it only works when she's naked and only for two days, so we'll see.

But we're just so excited. Yes, our lives really are that unexciting, but who cares. Carolyn's going potty.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Signs a babysitter is way overdue

Yesterday, I let Carolyn use watercolor paints for the first time. I hung this one on the refridgerator. Isn't it good?

Well, Steve painted it. I'm now hanging Steve's artwork on the fridge. I might already be too far gone.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Too tired for anything but blogging

Penelope has really let us have it. She's decided if I'll get up with her once every night, why not twice. Why not three, or four times.

Since Steve and I have found ourselves incredibly busy all of a sudden, we just don't have time for the midnight games of a smarty-pants baby. Tough love is what's called for.

Anyway, I'm too tired to think, much less type this, so that's all for now. Here's a picture of the girls, for those of you who check in to see how they're doing. Also, here's a link to my new blog, The Slow and the Curious, where I give up driving for the month of July. I'm writing a feature story about the experiment for Grist.

Pretty exciting, if that was an emotion I could still experience. Alas, maybe tomorrow morning after coffee.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It scared the bajeezus out of me

So Carolyn and I are hanging out at the dining room table last night when...


Holy crap. The backyard is sparking and I think, "Oh my God. The tree was hit by lightening and is going to fall on top of the house.

In a confused state of hysteria, I grab Carolyn and run into the basement. I try to flip on the lights, which of course are out, and I stand there, listening for the thump of the huge tree in our backyard hitting our roof.

Carolyn: "It's dark."

Yeah, OK. Stay here, I tell her.

I run upstairs and hear Carolyn again, "It's dark."

I can't leave her in a pitch dark basement by herself. I wouldn't want to be down there by myself.

So I bring her upstairs and see a neighbor looking up at the tree, but he's not panicking so I think it's probably OK.

I see a bunch of stuff by our neighbor's tree and realize it was them, not us, who were ambushed by the storm.

At this point, it's pouring. The fire department comes and we watch from the doorway, but not too close.

Turns out, Ron and Rita's house was hit. The bolt traveled down their tree, through its roots, up their gutter and into their fuse box. The wood seat on their swing was blown to bits by the bolt, with most of it landing in our yard.

I was totally freaked out. Carolyn? She only cried when the firemen left. Penny slept through the whole thing.

It took me about two and a half hours to finally calm down, aka sleep. My heightened fears caused me to become afraid of stupid things, like Ron coming to my door to see if my electricity had returned, or my going into the dark and spooky basement to get candles. What did I think; the ghosts would finally make themselves known during a scary thunderstorm?

That was plenty of excitement for us. Who needs fireworks?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Video killed the still camera star

Penelope is doing stuff now, making it more fun to take movies of her. Here's my new favorite thing she's doing, blah, blah, blah. Things are pretty busy right now, so I won't be posting every day, but hopefully enough to keep all three of you entertained.

Oh wait. I just got the report back.

I hope it's enough to keep you, mom, entertained.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


I really want to thank Julie Greene for having her first baby on the same day we sold our first house. Now we'll always remember the exact date.

Who am I kidding? I don't even remember what day I got married. It's sometime in May.

What's in a day?

I had the most amazing day ever.

I think maybe I should have played the lottery. Here’s the rundown.

We woke up in the morning, knowing this would be the day we finally sold our house. Hooray. Let’s go garage sale shopping for a bed frame since ours broke and we’re sleeping on a floor mattress like a couple of college hooligans. After a fruitless search, we found a great kid sale and I realized I had lost my wallet. Uhhhh. I bought five books and a toy car for $3. Great stuff.

Minutes later, we got a call that the Greenes have their long-awaited son, Isaac Ray. Such awesome news. Congrats Greene family.

So we go home and Steve leaves for work while I retrace my step looking for my wallet (no luck) and clean my car from top to bottom in the same search, again without success.

Honestly, this story gets better.

So then I get an e-mail from Grist about this idea I have to give up my car for a month and write about it. The editor says great. How ‘bout July.

Seriously? Grist? That is better than any writing assignment I could have hoped for. Sure I’ll start, and do you one better, I’ll start tomorrow.

So for the rest of this month, I’m car free. I’ll be blogging about the experience and taking the bus and freaking out because I’m not sure how I’ll buy toilet paper. What a rush!

So I took Carolyn to the sprinkler park, where I learned we had closed on our house.

When I got home, during dinner, the dry cleaners called to say they had my wallet. AND, I got an e-mal that this vacation place I’m looking into for the fall is $25 a night cheaper than I thought.

Get out of here. What else could go right.

Well… Steve brought home cheap champagne (which is actually sparkling wine for any of you wine snob people who like to talk about this region in France and how the grape has to be grown there and blah, blah, blah) and Jimmy John subs.

See, best day ever.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thinking outside the box that is this house

Seriously, I am the laziest women in the world.

That is so not true, but that's how I feel. Today, for the second day in a row, we didn't go on a marathon walk, out for a big adventure or on a series of errands, each more thrilling than the next. Instead, we stayed inside.

The guilt this is causing me is inexplicable. It's not like we sat around playing on the computer and watching soap operas (OK, we did a little of that), but I vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, got dinner prepped and did laundry. And nobody cares what I do. The girls don't care. Steve doesn't care. The girl from the gym, the guy down the street, the gas station clerk, the minivan driving moms, the list goes on. They don't care.

So why do I?

It's a little secret I have. It's actually easier to be out than to be at home. There's always stuff do get done at home. The girls need more entertainment. I have things to do there.

Outside, on walks or at the park, the only thing to do is walk.

Just a bit ago, Carolyn took a toy from Penny that I made her give back (it's part of the fun "mine" stage) and Carolyn, out of frustration, tried to gouge out Penny's eyes.

This would never have happened out. If Penny had been rendered blind, it would have been my fault for staying inside today.

If that isn't the quintessential Catholic guilt, I'm not sure what it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's what's for dinner

Liver and onions.

Last night, I was telling Steve my mom used to make this about once a week. I can't think of a dish I hate more (sorry mom) with all its livery nastiness.

And then Steve tells me, it's what his family used to feed their dog.

Hmmm. I'm not sure if I was severely neglected or his family dog was severely spoiled. I'll let you decide.

Anybody else remember this dish, drenched in yellow mustard?

Monday, June 26, 2006

I've lost that working feeling

So it's happened. I've become all housewife.

Today, I found myself procrastinating (former entry said procreating. How Freudian is that?)any effort to work on my new projects, my resume, and YES, even my blog, by washing windows. I also cleaned the stove, did laundry including curtains which are hanging on the line, got the kids ready, washed the screens and a bunch of other stuff to keep from working on this computer.

It's been such a fast transition I honestly didn't see it coming. I thought my life as a super housewife was only temporary, but I guess that was just a little lie I told myself to keep from quietly running away in the middle of the night.

"Where are you going?" Steve might ask.

"Out for a pack of smokes."

"OK. But you don't smoke."

"Oh. They're for the kids."

Off to north I'd run, mourning my lost family, who quickly replaced me with a less neurotic mom.

I’d move to the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan, for you non-Great Lakes State folks) and buy a tiny cabin on the edge of some immense forest. There, I'd chop my own wood, kill my own chickens and drink whiskey every night to help me forget. Never again would I leave the UP and I'd spend my days sadly shoveling snow and reading romance novels.

It seems my fantasies are sadder than my real life. I guess I'll just stick with it. Besides, who other than me in this family would ever clean the windows?

On a happier, and less creepy, note, it seems the sale of our house is on the horizon. It also appears that I don't have to attend the signing, so I won't. It's both happy and sad, because I was looking for an excuse to break up the monotony of our lives, but going for no reason seems, at the least silly, and at the most mind-numbingly exhausting, not to mention expensive. So I'll stay in Normal and keep busy by walking here and there, and nowhere in particular.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I love new jammies

My mom sent the girls new pajamas today. We got them early but opened the package at bedtime so they could put them on as soon as we opened it.

I love new clothes. I am an excellent cook but a horrible laundress. I have stains on every item of clothing I own, so you can only imagine what the girls, who have always eaten with reckless abandon and played nearly that ferociously, have to wear out in public.

Stains, for us, are just a way of life.

Pajamas are the worst because we eat breakfast in them and grape jelly is forever. And jammies are so nice and soft and cottony when they're new.

Here are two pictures. Carolyn wasn't being very photogenic, but Penny sure was. Check out that smile.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Maybe I should shake things up a little

Seriously, I want to know how this girl got my life.

She and her husband and her kid lives in D.C. (probably in a crappy studio a half block from a decent takeout restaurant) with her fun friends, her drunken adventures and her position as tsar of the mom blogs. The day she writes about her son's addiction to Elmo, I'm writing about my hatred for Caillou. She's funny, but let's face it, she's no Iwan. Nobody can out self-deprecate me. Nobody.

Maybe she's super hot. Or more likely, she's not afraid of other people.

Whatever. These days aren't so bad really. I just got a ton of freelance assignments from the local magazines, including TC Style, which is glossy and super pretty and will feature my snapshot and bio. I'm up for suggestions on how to describe myself because I'm pretty sure the readers of this magazine aren't interested in my blog, my stroller or the parks within one square mile of my house, the only things I devote any time to.

The day I got the assignment, I also got a bill for car repairs for the exact amount I’ll make.

But really, who needs a new haircut when you don’t even get out of your pajamas until, um, 12:55.

I knew there was a reason I’m not blog queen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer fun

Today is the first day of summer.

Hooray. There’s all kinds of fun stuff to do in the summer.

Take today, for instance. It’s been jam packed and it’s only 1 p.m.

My summer started out at the gym for yoga class. Only my awesome, kick ass, amazing yoga instructor was out, replaced by kick-boxing energy girl who could only teach pilates.

Oh…My….. God…. Every muscle in my body is shaking with fatigue. This is completely true, and hard to believe, but I’m having trouble typing this. I’ll be lucky if I can walk tomorrow.

Oh yoga girl. Come back soon.

Next, the girls and I went downtown for the Bloomington concert series. We brought sandwiches and met Steve down there. Carolyn loves live music. Bless her, she’s not the most coordinated of people, and dancing often results in a car wreck of sorts, but she gives it her all.

There was an incredibly awful group down there today. Three old people and a midi machine.

They “allowed” the kids to come down and sing “Take me out to the ballgame” and then sent them back to their parents to “behave.” I hate to tell him, but none of the three or four dozen moms was there to listen to his crappy music. They were there to let the kids run around, eat lunch and talk to other moms.

Nothing worse for a band then people having a good time. How dare they.

We could only stay about 45 minutes because these lunchtime things always happen smack in the middle of nap time. And Carolyn’s nap isn’t something I’m willing to sacrifice. But I was forced to listen to her scream “downtown” for the entire ride home, which is something I could have done without.

I think I told her we’d go downtown (Normal this time) after her nap. I just hope my wobbly legs will take me that far.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My colorful kids

Here are the colors of my summer. No, Penelope did not eat a rare steak or get turned into a vampire. That lovely color comes from beets, which have a sweetness few veggies possess. But that color probably keeps them out of commercial production.

That and most adults I know hate beets. It must remind them of communism or something.

And then we have Carolyn, master painter. I took a wardrobe box from our move, painted it white and now it's her first major artist expression. She'll stay inside that silly box for almost an hour coloring with markers. I have to remember to buy some of the washable variety.

Red marker. Pretty on paper. Not pretty on face and arms and legs and belly.


This video is strictly grandma material. It'll bore the pants off most casual iwanagain readers.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Today is hot, hot, hot

Ever wonder what a hungry 2-year-old looks like after a one-mile walk in 90 degree heat? Well, here you go:

Today we walked to Fell Park after Penny slept too late to go to the gym. There was some sort of crazy play group there. Every mother must have had no less than four children. I wouldn't know the specifics because they didn't talk to me. Here's my best guesses of why:

1) They're all married to the same Mormon man and didn't like the looks of their new competition.

2) I walked to the park so they thought I was endangering the lives of my children by not taking the minivan.

3) I was just too darn groovy for them.

I know. You're thinking, "Hey Chris, former newspaper reporter who talked to strangers for a living, why not use those recently latent skills and spark up your own conversation?"

Good question. But, as you might know, I'm horrible at coming up with things to talk about with other housewives. (How's this for an opener; Hey, did you see the story on the front page of today's paper about the stalker cop? His lawyer swears he's not a serial rapist.) And this group, six mothers with 25 kids, was just the smallest bit intimidating.

Anyhow, I think we'll stay home today. I filled the kiddie pool, the hammock's hung and we've got enough food for one more dinner.

Ooh, gotta go. My shows are on.

Sister, sister

People are always asking me how Penny is different from Carolyn. Maybe I have the shortest long-term memory in history, but they're not different at all. They are both really laid back, both smiley, both great eaters. And, their physical development is nearly identical.

I bring this up because I was musing the other day about which one would be the beauty queen. Which the scientist. Which the athlete. Steve pointed out that only TV sisters were exact opposites.

I thought about this and it's true. Real life siblings are generally more similar than they are different, especially when they're very close in age. I thought of a bunch of people I know, and famous people, and this seems to hold true most of the time.

Who knew?

Here's one difference (see below) — Carolyn is way taller than Penelope. Oh, and Penelope has some weird 80s thing going on with her hair.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Catch ya on the flip side BC

Well Battle Creek. This is it. We are no longer affiliated.

The house has been sold. The woman buying it wants it quickly (fine by me) so she has requested no inspection and we can close in about two weeks.

Sort of sad really, in an extremely relieving kind of way. And what a relief (whew. wiping brow dramatically). I thought for sure I’d have to become a slum lord, and I’m just no good at screwing people out of money and happiness.

Speaking of not screwing people, here’s the awesomest Web site I’ve seen in a long, long time. Pandora lets you put in your favorite band or song in the system and plays music it thinks you might like. You can give any song a thumbs up or down to improve the selection. It’s like a commercial-free radio station that always plays the music you like. And bonus -— it’s totally free.

I just hook it up to my speakers and jam the day away. If mama ain't jammin', ain't nobody jammin'.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Good news

So a few posts ago, I say this family needs something great to happen. And so it came to pass....


All told, we still lose our shirts on the deal and have to forgo any gifts or vacations for the next five years, but no more house.

And when I see it written like that, I can't help but be thrilled.

I also got an e-mail today from the Newcomers Group, the one I told the recruiting director I'd join and later decided not to join, but never e-mailed her to let her know, as is my style. So now I'm faced with whether to ignore the e-mail, and risk the awkward encounter that's sure to follow at some playground, someday. Or, I could e-mail back and tell her thanks, but I just got a book deal and I don't have time for your silly group. Or, I join, because I don't have any friends, any prospect of friends or any skills to acquire friends and this is probably my only shot until I one day get a job.

It's all so complicated, I think I'll just not think about it right now.

Instead, I think about my fake book deal and how my interview on the Today Show will go.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nothing cheers up a baby like 19th century poetry

It seems as though Penelope has developed separation anxiety. Oh woe is me. That means the gym, my favorite place to go for an hour of girl-free television time, will be a little limited, due to Penny’s screams in the daycare area.

I’m trying to get Penny to really understand the first lines of the Ella Wheeler Wilcox poem, “Solitude.”

Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and….

(the world continues laughing, so you weep louder to get a little attention and the world stops laughing long enough to turn its gaze to you, see you weeping and resume laughing, only this time at you, so you drop your head and lower your cries to a mere whimper until the world goes back to laughing at its own thing and you realize it’s true —)

… you weep alone.

A good lesson for everyone, not just babies.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Waiting to exhale, and maybe sleep

Man, do I feel blah.

Not to complain, or to complain too much, but these girls have given me a full week of love. A full week in that they conferred, in what I’ll assume was a secret, possibly illegal, meeting, and decided it was best if one of them was awake with me at all times.

Now, this gesture was probably done out of love, but it has left little time for sleeping. My time away from the girls this week consisted of a trip to the grocery store. And while I appreciate buying pork loin without worrying that Carolyn will take a giant bite from it while I’m not looking, it’s certainly not cocktails with the girls, or shoe shopping, or a day at the beach.

How I would love a day at the beach.

What this family needs is a plan of action. Something to look forward to, besides 8 p.m. when both girls are in bed. Maybe a trip or a project or something.

Some news to brighten our Normal lives.

Maybe it’s a surprise that’s coming next week. Hmmm. Cross your fingers for sweepstakes winner, or even better, an offer on our house.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Back to the empty potty training drawing board

I'll keep this pretty short because I'm in a very foul mood. Not your fault, faithful reader, but I lash out when I'm grumpy.

Here's one for the "Holy Shit" category, literally. I took Carolyn to the water park this afternoon. Only 10 minutes into fun, fun, fun playtime, she take a big poop in her bathing suit. (Do you ever notice you call it a bathing suit or swimsuit, but you never call it a swimming suit, which is what it is. Hmmmm.)

I thought we were way beyond a big poop in front of a bunch of kids at a park. Even last summer I never put her in diapers when she wore her swimsuit and she never did this. Never.

I guess we're not as close as we think we are.

I can only hope it came on so quickly, and she was having so much fun from our new favorite park, that it just happened.

Well, at least we weren't at the pool. That would have been so much worse.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Oh cruel mom

Look what she did to me??!! My beautiful, crazy hair, tied into unnatural pigtails.

Really, she just couldn't help herself.

And by the way, hips are fine. Carolyn and Penelope Gardner, Olympic beach volleyball champs, all thanks to mom and dad and never giving up on the inconvienent brace. So what if we didn't have a bath before we were 5 months old, we're all fixed now.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The mad rantings of a crazy women

When life throws me lemons, I cut them open, eat their sour middles, grimace at their almost unbearable puckerage and lay in bed for hours obsessing about how I didn’t make lemonade, but really, I was out of sugar.

I don’t take rejection well. And truth be told, I haven’t had a lot of it to contend with, thank God. This freelance career move might not have been the best for my sanity.

The thing is, and I won’t mince words here, I like to write and I often like what I write. Even as I write these words I’m thinking, “God! What an egomaniac.” I’m also thinking, “Hey. Can’t the girl feel proud of something without you jumping down her throat.”

I think I might have come upon my problem. I’m crazy.

In the last couple of days, I’ve had some success and some minor, and I’m talking minuscule, disappointments. I feel like every nerve ending in my body just had a Starbucks espresso. And I have to wonder, am I cut out for this? A lifetime of uncertainty and, at times, certain rejection.

I think I’ll have a hot bath, a crossword puzzle and sleep on it. After all, writing is the only thing I’m qualified to do, so I might as well do it.

After all, I can make lemonade whenever. I can only write until arthritis kicks in.

For all of you here to hear about the girls, which is probably all of you, Penny had her 6-month checkup and is doing great. She’s still at over the 100th percentile in weight and height. Steve and I get all worked up at thoughts of pro-athlete sisters. Steve loves to imagine how the girls will tower over me. How funny will he think it is when they tower over him?

Tomorrow, Penny gets her hips X-rayed to see if the brace fixed the dysplacia. More updates to follow.

Also, and this is kind of funny, Penny hardly cried at all over her shots today. And she hardly cried at 2 months, although she bawled at 4 months. The difference? Steve was there at 4 months. Turns out, he’s so torn up over the girls’ pain that his stress gets projected to them. Just my theory, although I'm hardly ever wrong.

I think it’s awesome he cares that much. What’s more worrisome is my lack of empathy. One more for the “Bad Mommy” file.

I'll just suck on these lemons until I fall asleep.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Potty training as an in-exact science

Carolyn is getting a little better about the potty training every day. It's so dumb, but I find myself incredibly excited by the whole process. Well, maybe not the whole process.

So this morning, the fam, including Fife, take a walk to the closest park. Maybe three out of four times, there's nobody there. Today, there are two kids not too far from Carolyn's age are playing there. We're playing and having a great old time.

The kids' grandma, who must have noticed the lack of bulge in the backside, asks me, "Is she potty trained?" I hear a little awe, or maybe its skepticism, in her voice.

Well, I say, she's getting there and we had a great morning. And this was so true.

But not 30 seconds after bragging about my super child, Carolyn squats down and pees. Aggg. Not such a great morning after all, grandma observes.

Uh. Hmmm. What's the etiquette on pee-soaked playground rocks? It's probably not to flee quickly and quietly, the way we did.

Thing is, Carolyn sees Fife pee outside all the time and that's totally cool. When she does it, she gives herself a little standing ovation.

Well, back to the drawing board. And I had already figured out a way to blow the $10 a week I spend on her diapers. I guess I'll just buy shoes next year.

Here's what we'll be doing this summer

A few days ago my neighbor told me that a couple of the area's public parks have water play areas. Our family decided to check out the Tipton Trails park yesterday and, I am not exaggerating, it was the most fun Carolyn has ever had. Ever.

Some of you might remember some video footage or Carolyn in Chicago last year at a water play area. She kind of stood there. Kind of smiled. Kind of looked confused.

Well boy, she's 2 and thing have changed. There's nothing uncertain about her relationship with water. Love. She was standing there shivering, lips blue, pleading with us to not leave. It might be stronger than her feelings (which I hope to be temporary) for Caillou.

And great for Steve and I and our padlocked wallets, it's totally free!

Only downside? Well. These newfangled subdivision parks with their fancy contraptions are brand-spankin' new, so there isn't a tree within three miles that taller than three feet.

Our most recent favorite thing is to walk to Fell Park, which is about a half mile into an older neighborhood. It's completely shaded during the walk, there are nice big trees to sit under for our newest sitter-upper, Penny....

...and the playground is 100 percent 2-year-old friendly.

But no water. Oh well. That can be remedied with a super-soaker water gun, two juice boxes and the hottest of days when my non-sunburned children have fun with just mom.

Who am I kidding. It's love and there's nothing I can do about it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday blues

My friend Dana sent me a bunch of great pictures from the Greene's baby shower. Since my self-deprecation is reading more sad than funny today, I'll stick with the family photo.

Maybe something hilarious will happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who are you, Caillou?

Caillou has done it again. Just when I've made peace with the constant whining, the lazily drawn cartoon cells and the creepy kid dancers, I find myself in the "I hate Caillou" camp once again.

For anybody not familiar with this little PBS mainstay, Caillou is 4 years old. He is bald. He has a mommy, a daddy and a little sister, Rosie. He is Canadian and his name is apparently French.

So here's my problem. Caillou in books and videos looks a certain way, as does the rest of his family and toys. Here's what Caillou and Rosie look like...

I'm at the library a couple of days ago and I catch site of the first Caillou book I've seen there. It's about Caillou going to a fancy restaurant with his parents while Rosie stays with a babysitter.

I know. Who would take a 4-year-old to a fancy restaurant when you have a babysister!!??

Anyway, the characters look completely different.

It looks like daddy might have gotten a new mommy (wink, wink). And it came out last year.

Here's what I think happened. I think there is a French Caillou and an American, or at least Canadian, Caillou. The book was translated, which explains why it doesn't make any sense, and there are plenty of other examples of this other Caillou online. Here's what the bizzaro Caillou and Rosie look like....

This pretend kid is a big part of my life. I'd like to know who I'm dealing with.

Every night before Carolyn goes to bed, I ask her what she wants to do tomorrow. Without fail, this is her answer:

Watch Caillou?

The very least Caillou makers could do is pick an artist. Any artist is fine. And while you're at it, color around the edges of your cartoons. It's just shoddy workmanship.

And if you can't tell the difference between the two sets of siblings, just go ahead and have a kid, wait 18 months and you'll so understand what I'm talking about.

Don't get me started on baby Caillou.

Pay to relax the day away

Today, I went to my first yoga class since the girls were born. All I could think about was the standup routine by Ellen DeGeneres, who said people who took yoga were paying for silence. Busy, busy, busy, she said of we Americans. She said people are searching for places to just stop.

I was in yoga the other day. I was in full lotus position. My chakras were all aligned. My mind is cleared of all clatter and I'm looking out of my third eye and everything that I'm supposed to be doing. It's amazing what comes up, when you sit in that silence. 'Mama keeps whites bright like the sunlight, Mama's got the magic of Clorox 2.’

There you have it. Mommies paying to nap. Although, this yoga class got pretty intense in the middle and my arms, which I thought were pretty strong from carting the girls around, were shaking during the fourth dog pose. They’re still a little shaky and I suspect will be sore tomorrow.

Since our Battle Creek summer home, which is still for sale and only a half mile from a beach, has been weighing heavily on the pocketbook, Steve and I are in major cash-saving mode. I put up a clothes line outside to cut on energy costs, and make our sheets smell sunshine fresh. We agreed -— no skivvies. Carolyn’s making adequate progress on potty training but still fights me to sit on it. I tried explaining how much diapers cost, but she thinks money… well, she really doesn’t think about money. And I made a coffee cake to help satisfy my recently activated sweet tooth, cutting down on trips to the ice cream shop.

We stayed home for the entire Memorial Day weekend and it was really nice. Cheap and nice. We hung out in the backyard, grilled hotdogs and played in Carolyn’s kiddy pool.

Ah summer. Thanks for coming.