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    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Monkey's Diet Solution

    Monkey has never been very interested in food, and he’s convinced the rest of the world should share his view that mealtimes are unnecessary.

    I remember when he was a toddler, I’d follow him around with a handful of Cheerios, sliding one in his mouth whenever I got the chance. Plenty of people told me, “He’ll eat when he wants to. He won’t starve.” But I wasn’t sure he ever would want to eat, so I force-fed or rather, distract-fed him.

    Now that Monkey is six (almost seven), his life revolves around video games. We make him earn his video time and take “brain breaks” as we call them, but, if given his way, he’d happily climb into one of those chairs the blobs ride on in Walle and link himself permanently to a screen. Of course, being Monkey, he’d be the only skinny lump on a hovercraft.

    I said that we make him earn his time, which is a challenge. Usually, by the end of the day, I’m so worn down from battle that I let him play his games right up until dinner time. It’s not easy to get him to come eat, but when we finally get him away from his beloved Lego Star Wars, he gets to the table and realizes that Daddy is home.

    He eats two bites of his meal and then the harassment begins. He begs Kory to come play with him. Now my husband, like most normal people, is interested in food and eats an average amount for a tired guy who worked all day and probably mountain biked at lunch. This is not acceptable to Monkey.

    After his first attempts to get Daddy away from the table and into the living room—where they can sit before the TV like odd statues with flickering eyes—fall on deaf ears, Monkey starts to get frantic.

    If Kory should have a second helping, Monkey goes off the deep end. “NO, Daddy, NO! Don’t eat more! Don’t take another bite! Pleeease, Daddy, please. Don’t eat that!” This goes on until Kory either finishes or cracks. Monkey is pretty persuasive.

    So here’s my idea: I think we’ll start making CDs for frustrated dieters. If you send us $25, we’ll customize a CD for you with Monkey hollering at you not to eat. Just pop it in your CD player at mealtimes and see how far you can get into your dinner before the screaming six-year-old makes you lose your appetite.

    I really think I’m on to something here. And just in case you have any ethical problems with my plan, we’ll promise to put all the money in his college fund, that is, if he has any brain cells left to take with him to college.

    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    My Puke Story

    Recently I visited the home of a very sweet and fun lady who is also chronically ill. She was having a bad day and worried that she might throw up in front of me. I told her not to sweat it because I have one of the best, meaning most embarrassing, puke stories ever.

    And so, without further ado, my puke story. Because humiliation--much like stupidity and misery--is meant to be shared.

    Last summer, we hosted an incredible young man for a week. He was here for the same (now annual) young writers’ retreat that I blogged about a few weeks ago. The night Jacob arrived, I started feeling a little icky. The next morning I woke up with tonsils so swollen I could barely talk or eat. Strep! I have an extensive history with Strep, so I’m pretty good at recognizing it.

    I went in to see the nurse who actually recoiled when she saw my Strep bugs growing in the doohickey they use to test the skin they’ve scraped off your throat with the barf stick. (Aren’t you impressed with my knowledge of medical terms?) I got a shot. You know where. And then the nurse practitioner offered to give me a prescription for a narcotic pain-killer. I did the Rambo-Mom thing and told him, “No. I’ll be fine.” But it sounded like, “Nn, Ul b fund.” He asked if it felt like I was swallowing nails. I nodded.

    So I came home with a safe little syrup that only had half the power of Vicadin. I took the smallest recommended dose, one teaspoon, and lay down on the couch. Nothing. No relief. No wooziness.

    Fast forward four hours. I’d promised my friend, Dianna, who organized the writing event, that I would participate in a special critique night with the teens. I didn’t want to let her down, so I took a teaspoon and a half of the narcotic, choked down some soup, and got in the van with my mom driving, and Jacob, our Southern gentleman house guest, riding in the back seat.

    By the time we arrived at our host’s home, I was dizzy, nauseated, and shaking. I managed to get downstairs to the quiet basement, where I proceeded to hallucinate every time I closed my eyes for the next three or so hours. The odd thing was, I knew I was hallucinating, so it wasn’t scary, just mildly entertaining. I missed the entire meeting, but when it was time to go home, I was starting to feel better.

    I got back in the van, ready to be home and in bed, but as we drove, my cold sweats returned and my stomach roiled. By the time Mom pulled the van into the driveway, it was clear I’d have to run for it. In retrospect, I should have just found a dark corner of the yard or maybe headed for the pond. (Wouldn’t that have made DH happy?)

    I scrambled up the steps, hand clamped over my mouth, but the bathroom was just too far away. You know how when you put your finger over the garden hose, it creates pressure and the water comes out with the force of a fire hydrant? It’s the same with barf. I managed to spray the walls from my foyer, down the hall, and into the bathroom. Yuk!

    When I emerged from the bathroom, I found my mother and our house guest, cleaning the walls. I was mortified! I’d met this guy all of a day ago, and here he was scrubbing vomit from my walls. I feebly protested Jacob’s assistance, and he said in his adorable, Southern drawl, “Aw, this is nothing ma’am. Last week I learned how to artificially inseminate cows.” Later my mom told me they had to get out a step stool because neither of them could reach as high as my missile-launcher-mouth could.

    You may ask why I would willingly share this with everybody. The answer is that moments like these, while miserable at the time, are meant to keep us humble and maybe ease another’s discomfort later on. Otherwise, those embarrassing moments are useless, and who wants to endure humiliation like that for nothing?

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    The Lego Slave

    Okay, so we all know that another word for ‘mother’ is ‘slave.’ This all-encompassing servant hood starts seconds after birth, and as far as I can tell, continues indefinitely. I’ve almost given up on ever being free and have transferred my energies to trying to make my task masters slightly more polite about their demands.

    This is sort of weird, though. A typical demand goes like this: “MOM! Get me milk!” To which I respond in a calm and almost sing-song voice, “Mommy, will you get me some milk please?” See, I’m modeling how I want them to ask. But more often than not, the response I get is just “Please.’ Hey, it’s a step in the right direction. I’m also constantly finding myself saying “Yes, ma’am” to myself. Wow! I have such good manners.

    Anyway, recently I’ve attempted to train the lords of the house to walk with their indentured slave into stores, church, and the Y instead of running ahead of me. Naturally, bribery was part of the equation. Hey folks, it works! I kept two baggies and a box of tokens in the car with me, and each time the princes walked with me and held my hand all the way into the building, they earned a token. When they earned twenty, they got a Lego set.

    Today was Lego day, so we went to Target, and they each got to pick a set. We’ve graduated to big boy Legos which, as you know, opens up all kinds of possibilities, particularly for the Star Wars obsessed.

    After a busy day of running errands, we came home with Legos (and without chocolate syrup. Darn, I forgot!) All I wanted was to lay on the couch and contemplate why shopping and driving doesn’t count as an exercise routine, but the two masters had different plans. "Mommy the Lego Slave! "

    I put together a semi truck, a race car, and an impossibly complicated Star Wars spaceship complete with a laser shooting mechanism that nearly brought me to tears. As I’m writing, Chunky just brought me said ship which naturally fell apart again. Luckily, Dad is finally home and, as an engineer, actually studied this stinking spaceship design in college. “You’re turn, Honey.”

    So Legos are a blessing and a curse. They get results in the behavior department, but put a crick in my neck and make my fingers hurt. I think the slave needs some time off for a manicure.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    The Week in Review

    Well, the week started out strong. You see, for the first time in six years, I actually got paid. And I’m not talking about the change I found in the dryer. In a delightful and highly unexpected move, Random House actually mailed the first part of our advance promptly after Mom and I signed our contract. I put a chunk of my earnings on Bubba, and he showed improvement immediately. It’s not fair really. I tried rubbing cash on my hips—nothing.

    At least Bubba reciprocated by accompanying me to Pilates on Monday. I was quite graceful as you can imagine, but poor Bubba looked like a drunk harbor seal. We were both sore for days after. Pilates is not for the faint-hearted. Mom keeps asking me what Pilates is exactly, and I tell her it’s basically intense, excruciating stretching.

    I managed to stick to my low carb ideals until Wednesday, when I attempted to make and eat an egg salad sandwich on a low carb tortilla. This disastrous endeavor prompted me to ransack the fridge for leftover Chinese. From there, it only got worse. Ice cream, Mexican food, fried mozzarella sticks—and that was just lunch yesterday!

    Bubba and I tried to make up for our indiscretions today with 30 minutes on the elliptical. Since my ear buds are always falling out, Bubba tried to entertain me by singing the tunes on my MP3 player. I think my favorite was his rendition of “The Burn” by Matchbox Twenty. Followed, of course, by R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.”

    So, no progress this week, but there’s hope for next week. At least that’s what Bubba says, but I’m definitely feeling the need for a shopping spree.

    In other news, Blue Cross Blue Shield will be getting an unusual claim in the near future. On Thursday, I discovered the weirdest bruises on Chunky's legs. I rushed him in to see the doctor. Our very wise (and thankfully very patient) family doctor said, "Hmm, let me just try one thing." Then he proceeded to wipe off Chunky's bruises with an alcohol swab. Turns out the dye in his black athletic shorts rubbed off on his legs when he sweat. I don't know why this never occurred to me since I've already seen the results of dye in food. Anybody else out there freak out the day after your child had their first neon blue frosted cupcake? Yeah, that color doesn't naturally occur in nature or in a diaper, and that's all I'm saying about that. Anyway, like Megan Dimaria says, "No sense being dumb if you don't show it!"

    Thus ends the week, with little accomplished but hopefully something learned.

    Sunday, July 6, 2008

    Bubba and I are Fat

    Recently my husband informed me that we’d reached the credit limit on our Capital One card—no small accomplishment since they’ve been raising our limit every time we got anywhere near it for the past year or so. Now, I really do understand financial concepts like not spending more than you earn, and living below your means, and debt equals bad, saving equals good. But I must confess, sometimes those sums of money that appear in our bank account and then disappear seem a little abstract, you know? They’re just numbers on my computer screen, and they basically shift from column to column. It’s all rather boring. But I think my husband might like it if I found a way to make it more real and thus actually start to care about which column the numbers are in.

    And so, I have decided to think of our Capital One debt not as a large sum of money, but rather as a massive, rather gelatinous person. Sort of a mix between Jaba the Hut and Harry Potter’s Uncle Vernon. I’ve named him Bubba. See, we all know that women are relational. I figure, if I imagine the debt as some poor individual desperately in need of someone who cares enough about him to come over to the house he’s stuck in and do a Sweatin’ to the Oldies tape with him, then I might actually get the results my husband desires. Namely, a skinnier, healthier Bubba.

    There’s another bonus to having my new friend, Bubba, in my life. See, I’ve been needing an accountability partner for my own exercise routine. I figure Bubba can help me out since I’m helping him out. The little platinum version of him can go with me to the Y, and while I’m pumping away on the elliptical, he can cheer me on. And when he and I are tempted to charge a mocha frap or a supreme gordita, we’ll be stronger together. It’s not good for Bubba, and it’s not good for me. Yes, Bubba and I are fat, but now that we’ve found each other, there’s hope. In this crazy, mixed-up, carb-laden world, Bubba and I reached out, joined our pudgy fingers and vowed, “No more!” Cue Inspirational music. “No more.”

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    Teens in Capes

    Recently my house was overrun by teens in capes. Well, they weren’t all wearing their capes at the same time, but I’m pretty sure all thirty-three of them had capes. You’re thinking there’s a logical explanation aren’t you? Let’s just throw out some possibilities, and you can guess which one is true.

    a. Our house was the epicenter of a mock catastrophe thereby attracting all of the world’s superheroes-in-training.
    b. There was a huge mistake in venue for a small Star Wars convention.
    c. I’ve started a ministry to youths suffering from vampire delusions.
    d. Our family had the pleasure of hosting some very creative teenagers in town for a writing retreat.

    If you guessed number one, you’re obviously aware of my boys’ ability to back up a toilet. If you guessed number two, you might have heard about Monkey’s obsession with Lego Star Wars. If you guessed number three, you might have read some sample chapters from my current work in progress, Brandy and the Vine. If you guessed number four, you’re right, but definitely not much of a risk-taker when it comes to test taking.

    I’ve never had that many people in my house (five of them stayed with us for about a week), and I’ve certainly never fed that many people before. It was an adventure. (In case you’re wondering, chili, hot dogs, cheese dip and chips were on the menu) My boys loved having lots of big people around to pester, and my mom was treated like a queen by some of her favorite fans. But my poor husband sort of wandered from room to room with a bewildered look on his face, as though he’d come home to find an alternate universe existing in his own house.

    You see, to me this is pretty normal. I grew up with kids like these because my brother tended to attract intellectual oddballs. I mean that in the nicest way. Aside from being incredibly smart, polite, and well-bred individuals, these teens march to their own drummer, or maybe zitherist. They write stunning prose, they compose and perform their own music and plays, they draw, they read voraciously, and yes, they make and wear capes.

    I know they get weird looks from people. Maybe it bothers them. Maybe it doesn’t. But either way, they choose to stick to their creative pursuits, and you can bet their determination will pay off.

    And did it bother me that while they were here my boys took to wearing bed sheets? Not at bit. After all, in my book, as long as they’re wearing something, we’re doing pretty well. And I wouldn’t mind a bit if they grew up to have half the talent and kindness of those caped crusaders.

    Viva La Weirdos!