Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Clean Slate

So I guess this is it, 2008. You've been a good year. Because I felt so accomplished and healthy this year, and because I need things to think about while I run, I've been mentally putting together a list of resolutions for some time now.

It's kind of weird, because I feel like I accomplished so much last year (published in Nick Jr., started running, stopped drinking coffee, went to the dentist after almost 10 years and finally put that nasty cigarette issue to rest) without any reasons, I'm unsure of the need to list out my hopes, other than I really like to make lists.

But this was back in the glory days of 60-degree temps when I was feeling strong and oh-so confident. Winter returned and I once again contemplated how somebody as silly and depressing as me ended up with such a sweet gig. But the sun will return and I'm just hoping my can-do attitude comes along with it.

Thankfully, my memory has retained at least a few of these to-do tidbits, which I will post here as a reminder of what I still need to accomplish. Happy 2009!

1. Run a half marathon (hopefully two!)
2. Get confirmed into the Catholic church
3. At least get the ball rolling on getting my marriage blessed and girls baptized.
4. Get registered as a certified nursing assistant (for application to nursing school next year)
5. Take a statistics class this summer (same reason as above)
6. Blog at least three times a week.
7. Send a query to a national mag at least once a month.
8. Say one Hail Mary for every mean thought I have about somebody.
9. Let the girls help with one dinner each week.
10. Have a garage sale and clean out the basement storage room.
11. Finally take off that last pesky 10 pounds, win bet with Steve and get anything I want.
12. Plant a garden with the girls.
13. I will try to be nicer, mostly to my family. This is kind of vague, but I think my family deserves this effort.
14. Not be so superstitious of the number 13 that I will not end list of resolutions on 13 for fear of bad luck in 2009.
15. Drink one glass of milk everyday.
16. Make an honest attempt to read the newspaper's A section every day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Klutzy kid

I always thought Carolyn would be the first kid to break a bone. She's so daring and unafraid that I thought for sure she'd land me in the emergency room one day.

Well, I didn't take tripping into consideration. And not the groovy kind, but just your run-of-the-mill falling on the sidewalk. I guess I did the same thing when I was three, a precursor to my lifelong nickname (by my Aunt Sandy, anyway) of Klutzy Chrissy. I guess it does have a nice ring to it.

Anyway, that's exactly what Penny did a couple of days ago. Shortly afterward, and onto the next morning, she refused to walk. An all-day affair at two doctors told us that she had broken her tibia (leg bone), that the break was minute and that she was not in any kind of pain, evident by her sunny disposition.

And it's really been sort of easy, as broken bones go. Penny, who has been sick or injured often this year, knows exactly how to ask for something. "Take me downstairs. Take me to the bathroom. Pick me up." are all phrases which Penny is quite able, and willing to use. In anything, she's more easy going when she's sick or hurt then when she's feeling great.

As for my vision of Carolyn's injury, it would have been much harder going. For one, she plays more like boys play then Penny, so the break would likely have been worse. Just ask a mom with boys. Also, she would not be content hanging around the house, waiting for her leg to heal. That would have drove her bonkers.

The only down side (other than having a child who can't walk) is that we have canceled an upcoming trip to Michigan. It's really been a month of broken for our little household. The car. The pipes. The tree. The electrical system. The sump pump. My voice. I don't think it would be wise to take Penny to the farm where getting around would be very difficult for her. But I'm also a little weary of future breaks on a very long car ride into possible ice and snow.

I think we should just be thankful nothing's broken badly and hope that's the case in the coming days. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carolyn's world

My kids have never been to Chuck E Cheese. It's not that I'm against high-price, crappy pizza or anything, but it always seems like sort of an (expensive/annoying/aggrevating) ordeal. It's also one of those things I put off as long as possible, because I know the day it enters my house, it's not going away.

That holds true for American Girl, Hannah Montana (a name Carolyn knows, even if she doesn't know what a "Hannah Montana" is) and Wal-Mart. You know, all the things I don't like.

But, like I said about our dear young friend Miss Miley, Carolyn picks up bits and pieces of the forbidden all the time. And PBS, which doesn't have commercials but does have "sponsors," makes regular references to Chuck E Cheese. The other day, Carolyn asked me if we could go there. I asked her why.

"It's where a kid can be a kid," she correctly mimics from 4 + years of Caillou sponsorships.

Advertisers are pure evil.

But she gets it everywhere. She remembers once Steve said, after having read a news story about it, that people get into more fights at Chuck E. Cheese than any other restaurant. Apparently, beer, video games and a "tell your kid to get off that game so my kid can play" mentality spell disaster.

It's a place for kids and fights. I'm starting to wonder if maybe we're missing out.

And it's not just pizza restaurant banter we have to worry about. Steve wanted to catch up on the Gaza attacks last night, and I reminded him it wasn't something we should be watching in front of Carolyn. Steve couldn't understand my reluctance to expose her to bombing footage. Just go ahead, he said, and explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But then I'd have to go ahead and explain silly little terms like "missile fire," "full-scale invasion" and "decades of Israeli-Palestinian fighting," just to get started with an Associated Press story. I'd probably need a scholar with me if I decided to read her any account from the New York Times.

"Mommy, what's a militant?" Forget it. Hannah Montana marathon anyone?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Best Christmas in the world

Merry Christmas everybody.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve cheer

So the girls are anxiously awaiting the arrival of tomorrow morning. It's been another wint-wintery day here in Central Illinois, with icy sidewalks and chilly temps. And, surprise, I spent last night and all of today greeted by my favorite — the Christmas cold.

But, when you've got two kids sitting under the tree, shaking gifts and giggling with glee, it's hard to be too bah-humbug. So we've been mostly just hanging out today, doing puzzles, watching Christmas shows and not getting dressed.

Happy Christmas Eve. I hope everybody is doing at least as well as we are, which is pretty great.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Frosty's horror

Just to note, I am very, very bored. Very cold temperatures make venturing out to do anything more than deliver Christmas cookies to neighbors just silly. Thank goodness I have a play date for tomorrow with my very nice (and much underseen) mommy neighbor.

I say "I have a play date," but actually it's Carolyn and Penny. It's their play date. Theirs.

And thank goodness for some niceness. The new swim team moms all know each other and it's been really hard to infiltrate the often mundane conversation. Sure some people are really good at this, with their self-confidence and whatnots, but not everybody knows how to make small talk about the day-to-day life of a stay-at-home mom while watching their 4-year-old flail about in the water.

Anyway, we're watching "Frosty the Snowman." I kind of love this cartoon. It's very sweet and has some great catchlines, like when the evil professor Hinkle hitches a ride to a train to get Frosty's magical hat back and he chants, "Think nasty. Think nasty. Think nasty."

But my favorite part is how Frosty gets trapped in a greenhouse. When he's discovered by Santa, the beloved Karen sobbing into a frozen puddle, I have to wonder what those fleeting moments of life were like for poor Frosty. Was he all melty and deformed, flailing about in some maniacal near-death fit while Karen — who is 6 years old, tops — helplessly watches by his side.

Every time I watch it, I want to scream at the television, "Frosty. Don't go in there. It's a trap. For the love of God, let Karen go in by herself. Noooooo."

Anyway, they made good shows back in the day.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Maybe I'm just more in tune with the awful weather now that I rely on reasonably ice-free streets to do my much-loved running. Maybe that's why it seems so horrible.

But really, nobody could think that this was a pretty sight.

We had a doozy of an ice storm last night. In the middle of the night, a giant limb fell on our wires and Steve (rockstar!) went out in the freezing rain and managed to get it down. We never (knocking on wood here) lost power or cable, two things that managed to keep me relatively sane today.

It just seems like we've had a lot of tough luck this week. Our car heater broke. We needed to call an electrician, again. Our backyard is a limb graveyard. The storm froze our sump pump pipes causing flooding in the basement. We had a drain clog that smelled as if our previous owners planted a dozen rotten hard-boiled eggs in the pipes, you know, just for fun.

This is really all true. I tried to be all "let's make the best of this winter wonderland" by going for a walk this afternoon, but it was short-lived because neither Penny nor Fife could figure out how to maneuver on the icy sidewalks. But, as always, Penny looks fantastic.

This blog will have no punchline, as my alcoholic jokes are probably getting old. On a positive note, I'm listening to an all-Christmas Pandora station and this is the song I'm listening to:

" 'Don't forget to call collect on Christmas.' Those were the last words I heard my mother say. 'While I'm sitting all alone, I'll be waiting by the phone. Son I want to hear your voice on Christmas day.' "

And some people don't love this season. Go figure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Again with the Christmas cheer

I'm trying. Honest I am. We listened to an all-Christmas music station on Pandora yesterday. I turn on the Christmas tree lights every morning. I hold the door for people and let them merge into my lane.

I want to be filled with the holiday spirit.

But it's not easy. For instance, we're having electrical problems so my oven doesn't work. The car's heater stopped working today at the same instant I screamed "I'll take every one of those presents under the tree back to the store if you don't stop crying because you can't eat a banana in the car." I'm mentally preparing to tell Carolyn's swim coaches that I want her back in swimming lessons because since she started swim team, well, she's forgotten how to swim. Steve tells me it's not my fault Carolyn's 4 years old, but I can't help but think that it is.

I am broken and blue. Ho-ho-ho...

So I just cleaned out the garage in single-digit degree weather because it's snowing really bad, and without a car heater, it's impossible to get the snow off the car. This little project has helped me face reality — I hung the bikes from their very high ceiling hooks (this is not something I do often because it forces me to chant "Be stronger, be taller, be stronger" as I hoist these very heavy bikes above my head) and folded the Burley in the realization that winter is here, and I am once again contemplating how I'll make it until spring.

Ho-ho-ho... Maybe a pot of chili and a six-pack of Czech beer will help. After all, nothing's more fun than a weepy drunk with a belly full of chili. Nothing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ho-Ho-Ho—Not horrible

We went to our annual Santa visit yesterday. Both girls were great, in that neither of them cried as was the case in years past, but they still froze under the pressure and ended up asking for kind of silly stuff and not at all like we practiced.

For instance, Carolyn wants boots. Par-Tay. Nothing like a package of boots to really make a child's special Christmas dreams come true. I hope she like purple, because I've got an inside scoop that's the color she's gettin'.

But it didn't seem as busy this year, and the girls were way more impressed by the balloon-making clown than the BigGuyInTheRedSuit so whatever. We all had lots of fun.

God's funny

I decided, for the first time, to skip my Catholic class today. Despite 12 years of Catholic school, and even serving some time as an alter server, I was never confirmed so I must undergo (endure) a year of classes to re-become Catholic.

I wanted to do this for a number of reasons. Also for a number of reasons, I find the particular church I'm attending not to my liking. So I don't look forward to these classes, but rather, I go to kind of "get through" this phase of a greater plan.

So I skipped. It happens, right! And instead, I decided to take advantage of this 44 degree temperature (nice, relatively, even with 30 mph winds) to go for a run. So who do I meet on the trail?

The deacon from my church, who is now witness to my skipping class. Only one of a handful of people out running this morning. Perfect. This is a new level of guilt I'm feeling today.

Hey... Maybe I really am Catholic!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Exhale, sigh

I felt a huge shift in tempo at our house today. Carolyn had her last day of preschool yesterday, so we've officially entered Christmas break. That's a full week ahead of the public school kids.

I'm so relieved. With Carolyn's new swim team schedule, it's been a little crazy. I get her to school at 12:15, rush home to get Penny down for nap, wake Penny up starting at 2 p.m., leave the house at 2:30 to get Carolyn from school at 2:45, race home to get dressed for swim practice and walk back up to the pool where we are always running late for 3:30 swim team.

Then I sit there for an hour, biting my nails while Carolyn barely manages to doggy paddle her way across the pool. It's not that bad, but she is obviously way behind the other kids and I'm totally stressed the whole time. Not just that, but swim team moms are sort of a little clique, so now I feel like I'm back in high school, but instead of being judged solely on my huge feathered hair and pegged khakis, I'm being judged on my parenting.

This is the worst kind of feeling. It's not that they're not nice, because they really are, but feeling like a 13-year-old loser is not conducive to good parenting. Poor Carolyn and Penny with their awkward, shoulder-slumped mama.

So we leave the pool after getting all dried off, coats on, hats snuggly fitted around wet head and walk home in the dark. Then it's shower time for Carolyn.

Now it's after 5 and I haven't even started dinner. Is this life with older kids, because it's really hard and I feel really out of place.

Which is why Christmas break feels like a huge vacation, just at the right time. Maybe I should wear a huge "World's Best Mom" T-shirt when I get back, just so the other moms know how awesome I really am.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another Charlie Brown Christmas

As I lament on this space every year, I try really hard to like Christmas. It's just, I don't.

The girls and I, at this moment, are watching the first of many viewings of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," perhaps the best expression of exactly how I feel about the holiday.
Charlie Brown: I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. 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.
Anyway, I was all ready to talk about how I feel uninspired to write Christmas cards nobody will read, bake Christmas cookies nobody really needs and fill my house with toys the kids will hardly even notice among the piles of toys they already own. It's too icy outside to run. It takes us 30 minutes of dressing in winter gear each day to leave the house, something we do several times each day. The stores are filled with people trying to outspend each other.

I felt full of woe.

Then I learned the last newspaper I worked for was laying off half the staff. HALF. An announcement they made, of course, right before Christmas.

So I decided to look around. I live in a house I really like, in a place I've learned to look at as my home. My girls are growing and full of joy. I love my husband. I have freelance work and lots of bread to bake.

What a life! I never thought I'd amount to much more than a heroin addict (which seems to be an ongoing theme in my I Hate Christmas blog), so this is a life I couldn't have dreamed of having. And if one month of the year crams commercialism and holiday cheer down our throats like a well-meaning pixie cup of poisoned grape soda, then that's fine by me.

And there's always Christmas music and Charlie Brown to get me through. I'm watching the part where Linus quotes "And on Earth peace. Good will toward men" and I'm seriously all choked up.

But if that doesn't work, there always lots of beer and wine!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Aimee Mann

When Carolyn was little, we would play a CD for her at bedtime. We didn't have any good nighttime kid music, so for about a year she listened to the "Magnolia" soundtrack. For those of you who don't know, it's basically a collection of Aimee Mann songs, with a few Supertramp tunes thrown in for good measure.

It's actually a pretty good CD.

But she hasn't listened to music at bedtime for about a year, which is why I was so surprised when she asked me this rather existential question yesterday.

"Mommy. Is one the loneliest number?