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    Friday, August 26, 2011

    The Boys' Table

    On Tuesday Monkey had four baby teeth pulled. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize this would have a significant impact on his diet. Maybe because at the beginning of this week I could only spare brain cells for my novel, WHICH IS DONE!

    Anyway, back to Monkey. Except for the back molar on each side, he has no grinding teeth in his upper mouth. The following is a list of foods he will eat, in these, the most trying days of his existence so far:

    1. mashed potatoes
    2. pudding
    3. applesauce
    4. jello
    5. ice cream

    He was inconsolable Tuesday night, knowing he’d have to go to school the next day, until I promised to meet him for lunch and bring the required five food groups.

    That is how I ended up sitting at "the boys’ table” in the school cafeteria. On bean burrito day.

    There are things women should not have to endure. Bean burrito day with fourth grade boys tops the list. Right up there with being allergic to chocolate and being weighed in front of a panel that includes Angelina Jolie, your high school boyfriend, and your mother-in-law.

    As the boys crashed into their seats, lunch trays wobbling in their hands, I noticed bigger than usual grins on their faces. Whispers, punctuated by highly descriptive words, spread from one end of the table to the other. Then delighted laughter erupted as one buzz-cut boy took his seat. But soon after his arrival the other boys pulled their shirts up over their noses. The fact that they continued eating in this position is a tribute to male ingenuity. And Tide with Bleach.

    I must’ve looked worried. Or horrified. One boy surfaced from his shirt and told me matter-of-factly, “He has a tendency to let really stinky ones.”

    I immediately felt for Buzz Kid's mom. I mean, when your son can intimidate a table full of accomplished farters?—that’s serious.

    Needless to say, I gave up trying to eat the salad I’d brought and all but spoon-fed Monkey in my haste to get the pinto outta there.

    That night I related my experience at the boys’ table. Monkey informed me that the kid who gave me the skinny on the stinky was the General of the Boys, having been elected to this enviable position by his peers.

    Apparently his duties can be summed up in two words: Torture Girls.

    Naturally this led to a discussion of peer pressure and whether or not it's right to torture girls just because your friends do. (If you are unclear on this subject, you are probably reading the wrong blog.) Finally, Grandma asked Monkey, “If the general jumped off a cliff, what would you do?”

    Monkey looked at her and said, “Get a new general.”

    I’m hoping the positions of General of the Boys and Chief Officer of Flatulence never become available. In Monkey’s case, neither campaign has home support.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011


    I started this summer off with about twenty thousand words left to write on my novel. If you’re not a writer, then to give you a clue, one chapter (for me) is around three thousand words. So I needed approximately six chapters in order to make my final wordcount goal. Right now, if you’re NOT a writer, you’re thinking, “Something’s wrong with her math.”

    Anyway, I usually average about a chapter a week. But, it being summer, and me being on the brink of hurling myself into a kiddie pool filled with Ho Hos all day every day, I only managed to get around ten thousand words out.

    The kids went back to school on Monday.

    Let us now pause to give thanks. And snarf a Ho Ho from the stash we kept in case of emergencies.

    So. On Monday. I wrote. FIVE THOUSAND WORDS!

    I was pretty excited. I mean, compared to my summer average of one and a half sentences per day, FIVE THOUSAND is pretty good, am I right?

    What’s even better is that this is the climax, the most exciting part of the book. Action. Danger. Suspense. Wuv! Truw Wuv! Aside from a brief detour where I had to rethink a Stupid Heroine Moment—“Oh, maybe I should run to safety instead of investigating the scary noise”—the words were flowing.

    My critique group meets on Tuesdays, so Monday night—feeling a little giddy and punch-drunk from my writing spree—I sent them an email promising that my chapter would contain a . . . wait for it . . . SHIRTLESS CONFESSION TO MURDER.

    How much better could it get, right? Hunky guy, sans shirt, drops a bomb on unsuspecting, love-blind heroine.


    I even told my husband about the exciting SHIRTLESS CONFESSION TO MURDER. He immediately assumed his best East German accent and confessed to murder while demanding that I “watch his pecs dance.”

    Men! They just can’t take these things seriously.

    At least my critique group responded more appropriately.

    “Is it hot in here?”

    Nearing the end of a book is intoxicating. No, this isn’t my first novel. But this one was a doozy—the equivalent of giving birth to a 10-pound baby after thirty-six hours of labor. And two years of pregnancy.

    The nice thing about birthing books is that it’s common practice—even recommended—that you put them on a shelf for a week, maybe longer, and take a breather after typing “The End.”

    I expect to be breathing, relaxing, having a mani-pedi, and chowing on Ho Hos (of course) about this time next week.

    I’ll send you a birth announcement. And maybe a picture of my sweaty, bloated, happy face.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Heartbreak! With Unicorns and Aliens

    My baby’s in love. Again.

    No, I’m not talking about almost 10-year-old Monkey. He still thinks girls are water gun targets.

    It’s Chunky who’s met the girl of his dreams. For the third time. We knew we were in trouble when he came home from preschool declaring he was going to marry one of his classmates. He spent the rest of that year telling me how things would change when he and Chante married and moved into our house. And painted it green.

    But time moves on. Girlfriends throw temper tantrums and move to China. You mature. Your tastes change. And kindergarten hits! There you meet a tall blonde with glasses who gives you hugs when you fall off the monkey bars and sits at the peanut-free table with you even though she isn’t allergic.

    Chunky was devoted to his precious Kari all through kindergarten AND first grade. They even got married during one of their playdates. Kari told him firmly that they would be skipping the kissing part of the ceremony. Chunky married her anyway.

    But, alas, it seems elementary school relationships are as changeable as the cafeteria menu.

    A couple of weeks ago, Chunky came home from science camp and informed us he’d met someone new.

    “What’s her name?” I asked.

    “I don’t know. But she has blonde hair and she likes me too.”

    “Maybe you should introduce yourself,” I suggested.

    By the next day he knew all he needed to know. I asked him about his new friend and he said, “Her name is Catherine, and she’s a unicorn underneath her skin.”

    Oh dear, I thought. If he marries someone as creative as he is, they’ll starve.

    Things got a little bit worse from there. I said something to the affect of, “Oh, she likes to play pretend like you?”

    “No, Mom. She really IS a unicorn. AND she’s seen a dead alien. It washed up on the beach.”

    Houston, we have a problem.

    My voice went to that hanging-on-by-a-Hershey-bar pitch. “The beach? Here in Colorado, honey? Because we don’t have a beach.”

    This fact was apparently irrelevant. Catherine has seen a dead alien. Phinneas and Ferb, eat your hearts out!

    The two exchanged phone numbers. Chunky promptly lost hers. So on the last day of camp I introduced myself to her parents and we talked playdates. I’m no better than my son it turns out. I gave them my contact info but failed to get theirs.

    And Catherine hasn’t called.

    Every day my freckled-nosed 7-year-old says with his sad little voice, “When is Catherine going to call? I WISH I hadn’t lost her number! I miss Catherine!”


    My poor baby! Why must girls be so cruel? Especially the really cool, popular ones. You know, the undercover unicorns who think they’re all that because they hang with washed-up extra-terrestrials. Sheesh! Some things never change.

    I have a feeling Chunky’s teen years are going to be very hard. On me.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Cooking with Love and Gas

    It might behoove me to learn a little more about the devices installed in my home that are supposed to keep my family alive.

    See, the other day I was cooking chicken. Let me just say right now that cooking meat is not my thing. I don’t really care to eat meat myself, but for some reason my family likes it—still—even after eating my charred attempts throughout the years.

    I fail no matter what cooking method I use, but the other day I was using a particularly troublesome stovetop grill doohickey. My mom picked up this gadget in one of her optimistic attempts to help me not ruin dinner. Theoretically, it combines grilling with the healthful benefits of steam cooking. You add liquid (we’ll talk about what constitutes liquid in a minute) to the metal ring that circles your stove top burner. Then, you place a metal plate on top of the ring, and you’re ready to half-steam, half-fry your food.

    Naturally I’ve lost the directions to this device, which is why I have to call it a device when it probably has a catchy name like Food Blackener or The Inferno. But I did remember the crucial step of adding liquid to the ring. I remembered you could add water, broth, or even juice for added flavor.

    Since I was making Italian chicken, I thought I’d use the Marsala wine I’d had in the garage fridge for ages. Wine is liquid, right? Well, it pours anyway.

    I had the chicken sizzling and the water for the pasta boiling when a high-pitched screech blistered my eardrums. Being an idiot, I started for the smoke alarm, realized I couldn’t reach it, turned around and grabbed a kitchen chair, then dragged it across the floor and stood on it. I yanked the battery out of the alarm while yelling at it to “Shut up!” It didn’t.

    The boys were now circling me, Chunky crying, “It hurts my ears!” I got down and grabbed a paper bag to fan the malfunctioning smoke detector and told Chunky to find my cell phone so we could call Dad.

    I climbed back on the chair with my paper bag and phone and dialed my husband’s number while frantically waving the bag at the alarm. I can only imagine what he heard when he answered.

    Kory: Hello?



    Kory: You don’t say.



    At this point, for reasons unknown, the smoke alarm stopped beeping.

    Kory: What are you doing?

    Me: Cooking dinner.(Duh!) When will you be home?

    Kory: 15 minutes.

    I hung up and went to burning the chicken, but no sooner had I returned to my domestic duty when the blankety blank thing went off again. This time I decided to try a different approach. On a different device. For grins, I unplugged the carbon monoxide detector which promptly changed sounds from a horrendous screech to an equally piercing series of beeps. It also started flashing codes at me. So while yelling at my crying children to open the windows (did I mention it was raining?), I ran upstairs and grabbed the other carbon monoxide detector which was also going off, wrapped them both up in a sleeping bag, and chucked the whole thing into the garage.

    While all this was going on Monkey doubled over and complained that it hurt to breathe. We searched for his inhaler, and I made him stand by the door where the rain now pelted into the kitchen. But the fresh air and Albuterol quickly counteracted my poisonous food preparation.

    Ah. No more beeping. Child breathing. I finished burning dinner.

    Kory came home to a quiet house and a disgusting meal.

    But before we sat down, he retrieved the carbon monoxide detectors and read the instructions on the side. (There are instructions on the side!) Then he started quizzing me on what the beep sounded like.

    Me: Awful! Horrible! My brain was bleeding!

    Kory: Was it a continuous beep or a series of beeps?

    Me: I don’t know! It just wouldn’t stop!

    Kory: And that didn’t concern you?

    Me: OF COURSE it concerned me!

    By now we were both wondering if we shouldn’t get out of the house all together. I finally determined that the beep was continual, and Kory went to look it up online. I called after him, “It displayed some kind of code. 228, I think.”

    A few minutes later, he said, “I couldn’t find 228, but did it maybe say GAS?”

    Me: Um, yeah, it said GAS too.

    Kory: It was detecting explosive gas. What were you cooking with?

    Me: Wine.

    Now, people cook with wine all the time. In fact, there are sites you can go to that will tell you HOW to cook with wine, such as the very helpful What's Cooking America which told me this:

    All wines contain at least some small amount of sulfites. They are a natural result of the same fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. …

    When cooking with wine containing sulfites, you do not concentrate them as you would flavor, but rather they evaporate like alcohol. The sulfite goes through a conversion in the liquid of the wine to produce sulfur dioxide. This is actually the compound that prevents the oxidation. It also is a gas, and when subjected to heat, it dissipates into the air.

    Well, ok, now I know. I still don’t know why it set off the carbon monoxide detector. Maybe I used too much wine. Maybe it was too old. Maybe the carbon monoxide detector, like all the other members of my family, just doesn’t like the way I cook meat.

    One thing’s for sure, I found a good tactic to get out of cooking. Now if I could only find a way to subsidize our restaurant budget.