Friday, July 11, 2014

An Imaginary Daughter is Born

Having an imaginary child is one of the better decisions of my life. Around the time that I conceived her, my husband and I were trying to decide whether to have a third child or not. And since both my kids and my eggs were getting older, a decision needed to be made. We'd had our first two in our twenties, neck-deep in full-time work, graduate school, and not much money to our name. I had a bit of a romantic fantasy about having a third child under better circumstances like steady jobs and more square footage. I'd walk past the little girls' clothing section in stores and get a pang in my ovaries. Was this a sign?

One afternoon we were attending my older son's middle school basketball game. I sat near my friend Marianne whose son was playing for the other team. We were newish friends at this point, but I enjoyed her quick laugh and her straight-shooting manner. While we were visiting and cheering on our middle schoolers, Marianne was deftly wrangling her two little boys, ages 3 and 2. One dropped his sippy cup under the bleachers, the other was demanding more goldfish crackers. At one point, both of them were writhing on the gym floor, unhappy with each other, life in general, and overdue for a nap. I believe one of the sippy cups had been thrown at the other's head. They were so adorable.

"They're so adorable," I said to her. Or maybe my ovaries said to her.
"What?" she asked, confused.
"They're just so cute," I said. Then, to explain myself, "We're trying to decide if we want another one."

Suddenly Marianne was transformed. Her previously frazzled and semi-distracted state transformed into the stillness and clarity of an oracle. She looked me square in the eye.

"Don't. Do. It." she said.
I laughed.
"I'm completely serious," she said, "don't do it. I'm on the other side now. I've been you, and I'm telling you, you have no idea how good you've got it."
My smile faded. She was serious.
"Listen," she said, "I love the little guys and I'd never trade them, but if you're really on the fence, I'm here to remind you that you've done the hard work, the diapers, the sleepless nights, the car seats. Do you really want to go back?"

It was a good question, and I thought about it a lot over weeks and months after that. If I was honest with myself, the third child idea was more about getting all the things out of child-rearing that I didn't get the first two times around, namely a girl and the means to dress her well. Ultimately, I decided those weren't good reasons to have another baby. Plus, I had grown quite accustomed to sleeping through the night. It was kinda my thang.

So I got knocked up on Pinterest instead. I created a Pinterest board titled, "My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter" and began curating the Third Child and the Third Child Life I'd wanted. I named her Quinoa. I dressed her well. And I found that it completely satiated the thirst I'd had inside.

As it turns out, imaginary children:

  • do not interrupt sleep
  • require no diaper changes
  • do not emit strange noises, smells or fluids
  • have no food allergies
  • can be overindulged without regret
  • can be left unattended for hours, days, and even weeks at a time
  • never spill grape juice on your silk dress
  • never repeat your favorite four-letter words in front of the grandparents
I was really onto something. And then, quite literally overnight, the world was on to me. In June 2013, my Pinterest board went viral. Quinoa suddenly had countless new friends all over the world. Within a few months, I had a book deal, a lifelong dream come true. And nine months after that, I held the book in my arms for the first time. I looked it over with the same wonder that I had my newborn sons. Instead of counting toes, I counted pages. They were all there. I smelled it. And just like that intoxicating newborn scent, the industrial perfume of the paper made me want to do it again and again.

If I'd had another real child, I have no doubt that I'd be enjoying him or her, doing my best to live out that romanticized version I'd had in my head, but I'm glad I took the road less traveled this time. In the end, my imaginary daughter has required just as much work as my two sons. And like raising my sons, the process of bringing her to life (in book form) has taught me an awful lot about myself. What is it the Rolling Stones said? You can't always get what you want, but sometimes, well, you might get what you need.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Do You Use Grammarly?

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because the only person I ever want to plagiarize is myself. Because sometimes I have to teach myself a lesson. Because if I don't, who will?

You can quote me on that. But you can't pretend you wrote it yourself.

Seriously, you should use Grammarly too. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Big Announcement: I'm Having a Book!

This is happening. An unbelievable summer of Internet frenzy has led to a lifelong dream of mine: to write a book and find it on a bookstore shelf. Last week I signed a book deal with Running Press (the geniuses who brought you Suri's Burn Book and Feminist Ryan Gosling). My book, featuring my imaginary daughter Quinoa, will be published in spring 2014. (Can't believe I just typed that.)

I would like to thank everybody who wrote, tweeted, posted and shared MIWDTD with their own audience, even if it was an audience of one, as well as my friends, my family and my agent who helped me bring this dream to life. This would not be happening without you, so thank you!

Guys, it's going to be amazing. Quinoa demands it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles

The kids are suspicious of my cookies. Christian passed them by yesterday, an entire glorious rack of them.

"Aren't you going to have a cookie?" I asked.
"That depends," he said, "did you put something extra in them to mess them up?"

The answer was yes, that I added corn flakes. And also, yes, that it messed them up. I thought it would give them a refreshing crunch. It actually gave them a pesky chew, like when you accidentally get a piece of wax paper in your bite of saltwater taffy. Oops. Some risks in life don't pay off.

Normally I add toasted coconut, which the kids also consider to be the ruin of a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie. The toasted coconut is my favorite, which means that I get plenty of opportunity to enjoy my cookies before the kids finally break down and begrudgingly eat them.

Last week I made peanut butter thumbprint cookies with adorable little dollops of raspberry jam in the middle. Christian reluctantly tried one, but not another. I asked if he liked them and he replied, "They're good; they're just not really my thing." When Max got home, he eyed them for a minute and opted for a tall glass of carrot orange juice instead.

"You guys are weird," I said. "My mom never made cookies. She made 'green drinks' with alfalfa."

The times that I make their favorite pure, unadulterated chocolate chip cookies for them? Well, you should see all the positive reinforcement. It's like a ticker tape parade in Compliment City, all in my honor. There are audible moans and groans of pure cookie ecstasy. Sometimes hugs. And while I'm no more extraordinary than any other lab rat, I become suspicious of positive reinforcement when it comes to catering to my children's whims. I believe in fulfilling their needs, but only 18.2% of their wants.

You like these plain chocolate chip cookies? Why don't I add some walnuts next time?

On the bright side, my kids are going to grow up believing a woman can bake whatever cookies she wants. (Just as I was raised believing my mother would die before feeding us a bologna sandwich.) Long after I am dead and gone, they will reminisce to their own children that dear old mom sure baked a lot of cookies we didn't like. And they will be better men for it.

In the mean time, anybody want some gross cookies?

Monday, April 8, 2013

25 Things Before I Have To Go

  1. The windows are open, the breeze is blowing, and I finally believe that spring might be coming.
  2. Lucy does this thing to communicate with me where she shakes her whole body like she has the shivers, rattling her little tags and letting me subtly know that she needs something. I wish I loved her more than I do. It makes me feel bad about myself.
  3. I'm learning that growing up is a process that never ends. Still growing here, and hopefully up.
  4. I have absolutely no patience when it comes to painting my toenails. I glob it all on, and a few days later, when the excess has washed and worn off the surrounding skin, they look half decent.
  5. I like small bowls filled with candy. 
  6. Dinner tonight is orange chicken, courtesy of Costco's freezer section. Ryan is out of town, and I seem to have motivation for cooking when he is gone. It's because I associate preparing food with showing love. 
  7. I still can't believe I ran a half marathon. I've yet to revel in that accomplishment and I don't know why. I had very similar feelings with my college graduation.
  8. I'm terribly, terribly afraid of becoming a serious person. I only want to be 25% serious, maximum, at any time. But lately I find myself thinking serious thought. Oh help.
  9. On Thursday, Ryan and I will have been married sixteen years. Sweet sixteen, indeed.
  10. I am interested in the idea of having a lot less stuff. 
  11. My social media of choice these days is Instagram. (tbeve00) 
  12. Max just came in looking for squirt guns with his friends. Welcome, sunshine!
  13. I'm dying to smell freshly cut grass.
  14. I need to reschedule my hair appointment, but keep forgetting. Maybe writing it down here will help?
  15. Writing feels rusty. Like stiff muscles.
  16. My parents are on the other side of the planet. And I can sort of feel it.
  17. We took a road trip to South Carolina for our spring break. I came back with a new nickname for Ryan: Boss. I keep forgetting to use it, but it makes me giggle.
  18. If you want to hear a story that delights and haunts me at the same time, watch this.
  19. I buy ice cream, but I rarely eat it. I like knowing it's there in the freezer. 
  20. I have fallen in love with reading again, which I think is why I have struggled writing. When I was writing more frequently, I was hardly reading at all. Is this a cycle?
  21. I've been teaching Christian how to drive. The drivers here are terrible and I'm determined to give him a long, thorough education. You're welcome, Society.
  22. Neon yellow pants are my new favorite.
  23. I'm not a person who requires a lot of friends. The handful I have are amazing people.
  24. The fridge in the garage is not going to clean itself. But I'm going to give it another day or two, just to be sure.
  25. Phew.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Don't Talk About Her Much Because She's So Modest

Do you remember my imaginary well-dressed toddler daughter, Quinoa? 
She's been very busy lately on Pinterest
(She actually invented Pinterest in a Mommy & Me computer class so that I could catalog my favorite photos of her. What a sweetie!)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bedtime Chats and Mental Health

"Can we talk?"

Max asks this frequently at bedtime, after I've tucked him in and started for the door. My kids have always become pensive, philosophical, and talkative in the minutes before going to sleep. It's mostly sincere, but also a delay tactic. I'm no dummy.

Last night we talked about the four presidents on Mount Rushmore, the Civil War, racism, and the system of checks and balances in our government. You know, regular nine-year-old stuff. Speaking of, try explaining racism to a kid sometime. It's embarrassing to explain such a concept to an innocent child. It makes no sense to kids because it makes no sense, period.

Mornings are the opposite of bedtime with Max. He is sluggish and slow. Nearly every morning for weeks, he has asked if there's a possibility of a snow delay. Or a chance he might be able to stay home. Please, oh please? I'm nice, but not sympathetic. When he says he doesn't want to go to school, I tell him that part of life is doing things we don't necessarily want to do but should. Welcome to growing up.

Monday, however, I had a change of heart. I spent a couple minutes prodding him out of bed, and then stopped. I told him that he gets one day a school year to stay home and he could choose today if he wanted. But (and it's a big but) that meant no more complaining on future mornings. He thought about it for a few minutes, considering the pros and cons, and finally decided that, yes, today he would cash in. I met him in the kitchen later when he began explaining that it was good that he stayed home because he had a bit of a stuffy nose and sore throat and maybe a cough too.

"No, no, no," I said, "we're not going to pretend that you're sick and need to stay home. Sometimes you just need a day off. We all do. It's called a Mental Health Day."

He was a little skeptical, but seemed to understand.

He spent his Mental Health Day eating crepes for breakfast, lounging around with the iPad, reading a little, lunching at McDonald's and learning how to play solitaire. Not too different from an adult day off, actually. Tuesday morning he got out of bed without question. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday too. My plan worked.

Although, this week Max has referenced his Mental Health Day a few times, as in, "I wrote those valentines for you guys on my Mental Health Day." Or, "I think I watched that show on my Mental Health Day." Is he talking about Mental Health Day a lot? At school? With his friends? 

Hey, did you hear about Max? He had a "Mental Health Day." I heard he was on the verge of a breakdown.

I hope this doesn't come back to bite me in the butt. Perhaps one of our bedtime chats will be about how people misunderstand mental health.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No Promises

Over the summer, I took up running. (Please don't roll your eyes and close your laptop. I'm not going to become an obnoxious running blogger.) It was during the summer Olympics and something inside of both Ryan and myself nudged us to attempt more than our daily walk. The human body can do amazing things, as evidenced by the high-flying gymnasts and torpedo-like swimmers we watched dutifully from the couch each night. There was a lot of evidence to suggest that our 35 year-old bodies could do more than we'd been asking of them.

First, we considered learning a series of back-flipping, triple-twisting acrobatics in our backyard, but found that our health insurance does not cover mid-life gymnastics injuries.

So we started running for 30 seconds.

And we pretty much thought we would die.

But we didn't.

We worked our way up to 3 miles, and while we were quite proud of ourselves, we pretty much thought we would die the few times we attempted 3.2 or even 3.5 miles. We stuck at 3 difficult miles every day, figuring we had met our limit. Every run was hard, but ultimately fulfilling in that I-guess-this-is-an-accomplishment-considering-where-we-started way.

Months later our friend Marianne asked us to do a half marathon with her in March, and we trepidatiously agreed to try it and begin training. When I looked at the training schedule climbing slowly up to 8, 9, 10 miles and beyond, I felt panic down in my toes. I couldn't imagine this future version of myself who would be able to do this. I questioned her existence as much as I had once questioned Santa's.

Here's the crazy thing: I really love the long runs. And though it makes very little sense, the 3-mile runs are still tougher for me than the 8's, 9's, and even the 10-mile run I had on Saturday. Here's another crazy thing: it's possible that I could have stuck at 3 miserable miles forever, if I hadn't taken that scary leap into something bigger.

Of course, all of this running has made me think about writing. My writing. For many, many reasons (some consciously explored, some probably unconsciously hidden), I sort of shut down my writing shop. Here on the blog. In the novel I started many moons ago. Pretty much everywhere except for the paid work I do copywriting.

I tried to explore the possibility that maybe I don't need to constantly feel the push to accomplish something bigger.  Maybe I should just be content with my little copywriting jobs and the life around me. Maybe I'm not good enough or smart enough to do anything bigger than that, and maybe that's perfectly okay.

I've tried to adopt that way of thinking, but could never really get past temporary foster status. It might be time to let that idea go to another home. I can't get over this nagging suspicion that I'd been stuck at 3 miserable miles without realizing it.

"No promises," I'd said to Marianne when I agreed to start training. Let's see what I can do. She told me I would surprise myself.

No promises I say today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Banter at Bedtime

Me: How's it going, old man?

Max: Bye, older lady.

Me: Where are you going, short person?

Max: Haha, very funny. You're smaller than Christian.

Me: Yeah, but I can still sit on him. And I can sit on you, too.

Max: Yeah, but you're just a midget.

Me: Too bad for you, since you have the same DNA.

Max: DNA? Who cares about DNA?

Me: Let's move on to another subject. What would you like to talk about?

Max: Something you don't want to talk about.

Me: Like politics?

Max: Maybe something different.

Me: Let's talk about unicorns. How many unicorns do you think it takes to make one unicorn burger?

Max: See you later.

Me: What? Did I upset you? Does the thought of a big, juicy unicorn patty make you cry?

Max: Wait, I need to go to the bathroom. For about, like, forever.

Me: Hmmm. Must have had beans for dinner.

(Several minutes later)

Me: Were you rapping in the bathroom?

Max: No! Maybe. Yeah, I did.

Me: That seems like a fun bathroom activity. What are your plans this weekend?

Max: Sleep, uhhhhhh, and other stuff.

Me: Sounds fun. I'm ready to go to sleep right now. How about you? You could get started on your weekend.

Max: Great! I'll do it a couple hours after you do.

Me: I may be funny, but I'm not stupid. Go to bed, you short little old man.

Max: Oh yeah? I think I can do more math problems than you.

Me: What's one little boy plus one bedtime?

Max: Equals Mom sleeping and little boy partying.

Me: Wrong. It equals 73.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter

Friends, I'd like to introduce you to someone very special--my imaginary well-dressed toddler daughter. Her name is Quinoa, and I found her on Pinterest, begging me to give her an imaginary home filled with designer clothing and incredible lighting. She's a lovely, lovely human being. Would you like to see what she's been up to lately?

She rides around town on her mini Vespa scooter, but she always stops for pedestrians.

She loves to dress up for church in Chanel and roller skates, because she absolutely adores a juxtaposition.

One of her favorite activities is twirling, and nobody does it better than Quinoa.

Please don't confuse twirling with spinning; they are very different activities (though she is equally talented at both).

Every night, she lays out her impeccable outfit for the next day...

...then prays for all the children of the world, that they might be as happy, healthy, and well-dressed as she.

Did I mention that she's thoughtful and well-spoken? She attended the funeral of a classmate's hamster and gave a touching eulogy.

Where does she shop, you ask? Where doesn't she shop? is the answer!

You want to watch Indiana Jones with her? She's got an outfit for that.

Sometimes she lets me dress her up as a Von Trapp child and we sing about raindrops on roses and all of our favorite things.

She loves to put on a show. Here she is doing a tribute to Whitney Houston. It was amazing. The children really are our future.

She sure loves our country, right down to the toes of her red designer boots. In fact, she can recite the Pledge of Allegiance in seventeen languages.

Even when she's not trying, she manages to look super cool, just like a Hollywood starlet running to Target for some tampons.

She's adorable at all times, even when a large spider is crawling toward her on the floor.

You should see her dance. She's got the moves like Jagger, and the charm of Gene Kelley, all wrapped up in a size 4T.

Before you accuse her of being shallow and obsessed with her looks, you should know that she's a human-rights activist, president of seven book clubs, and is weeks away from a degree in Marine Biology.

Oh yes, my little Quinoa is the kind of imaginary daughter every mother dreams of. I consider myself very, very lucky to have her in my life. Wouldn't you?

(You can keep up with Quinoa on Pinterest.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thought for the day

The longer I live, the more I am rendered speechless. I'm expecting to be a mute by age 40.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Care To Help a Leper?

I have leprosy. It's a mild case, but I thought I should let you know. There is a small, scaly stripe of skin on my left eyelid that hurts. Leprosy is painful, in case you didn't know. It's serious mild pain I'm experiencing. Each morning, I shed another layer of flakey, pie-crust-like skin. One step closer to death.

I've been administering hydrocortisone cream to it for three days, even though the tube distinctly says, "DO NOT USE ON EYES." I suspect this is because the makers of the medication are anti-leper, and prefer that we suffer. It's an age-old bigotry that I'm fighting, as well as a dermatological disease. (See: The Bible.) So far the leprosy is limited to my eyelid, but things can get serious fast. I could wake up tomorrow without a leg.

I think I caught leprosy because I'm also suffering from hypothermia. It's that hypothermic time of year around here, and everybody knows that hypothermia often leads to leprosy (and dressing in ugly fleece clothing). We keep the thermostat at Effing Cold* during the day to save money. And since I'm the only one home during the day, I dress like an eskimo and pray for global warming.

The bad news is, the hydrocortisone and fleece sweatpants aren't working. (But the praying does make me feel better temporarily.)

If you are wondering how to help me, please send cash. Insurance, as you might guess, does not cover leprosy. (Anti-leperism runs deep in the insurance industry.) Only cash will help me now. Its cool, soothing, papery texture will be administered to my eyelid in the form of a makeshift patch worn for five minutes per bill, after which a new bill must be administered. For some reason, twenties and fifties seem to work best.

Thank you for your time and your concern. And your money.


(*I am not a fan or user of the F-word, but I find the term "effing" hilarious. So sue me. After you send me cash.) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Confession

I bought Ryan some cologne that I loved so much that I started wearing it myself everyday until one day he said, "This cologne is running out really fast. Even when I don't wear it."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Heavy, Heavy Hang Over My Poor Head

Remember when we used to say that at birthday parties? "Heavy, heavy hang over thy poor head." And then we'd smack the birthday kid in the head with our gift and say, "What do you wish me with a bump on the head?"

Where do these strange traditions come from?

But I digress. There is heaviness hanging over my poor head and not in the form of gift wrap. I am going to stop challenging the Universe with thoughts like, "This year can't get any worse." I'm beginning to fear it's like tossing the Universe a soft ball, and the Universe can't resist proving you wrong.

This has been a monumentally difficult year and on Friday it got exponentially worse. (That's right, I'm pulling out the five-syllable guns for this one.) As one dear friend of ours is fighting the good fight against cancer, another of our dear friends was snuck up from behind by it, sniper-style, with what looks like a fatal blow to the pancreas. And the ripple effect of that blow has brought us to our knees. In a year filled with heartache, frustration, worry and angst, there's nothing quite like the looming death of a loved one to be the proverbial cherry bomb on top and change your perspective on just about everything. And I mean everything. The problems and stresses of Thursday seemed embarrassingly manageable by Friday afternoon. I can't even feel bad about my lack of employment in good conscience anymore.

I feel especially drawn to my kids right now. I want to soak them up and hope that their resilience rubs off on me, just like their scent of must and grass stains. They take terrible news in great stride. They care, they love our friend as we do, and yet they keep moving along finding joy in the same places they always have--candy, corny TV shows, friends, and pizza. They don't try to resist the news, spinning the wheels of "whys" and "what ifs" as if they will turn back time and give us a chance to undo what is already done. Is it because they are still operating in a world protected by the umbrella of our love and security? Because the structure of their world--mom, dad, house, food--is still in place? Or is it because they understand more than we do that there is very little in this life that we can control, and it's only as we get older tinkering with checkbooks, thermostats, and career paths that we mistakenly believe we are in charge?

My first reaction on Friday was to cry. My second was a fleeting determination to stop loving people because it often includes instances of pain. My third was to try to approach this situation with acceptance. My fourth was to bake.

And the baking, as it turns out, was the most productive thing to do. Our friend seems to have developed a healthy sweet tooth in spite of his physical decline. Apparently a cookie can provide temporary joy in this temporary life. Apparently when there seems to be nothing to do to help, a small act of kindness is something.

The kids probably could have told me that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Housefuls


These four have had a lot of fun over the years. A lot. We're excellent multi-taskers. We can talk, laugh,  eat, cry, validate each other, and make inappropriate jokes all at the same time.

We spent the weekend together at our place with all of our kids (for a grand total of nine) and today the house feels strangely empty without them here. Usually when they come to visit, they accidentally leave an article of clothing. I was really jonesing for Becky to accidentally leave that gorgeous orange coat, but I can't find it anywhere.

We had a great time riding roller coasters, eating deep fried everything, watching movies, roasting marshmallows, and staying up too late. In other words, we had lots of fun. Lots of multi-tasking fun.

When I was young, I thought I'd have a bunch of kids just like my mom. Turns out, I only had two kids but a bunch of visitors, which means that I have a bustling houseful of people...on occasion. It suits me well, I think. It's a nice balance.

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