December 17, 2010

Customer Service

This post has nothing to do with my kids, my friends, food, or even knitting (because sometimes I blog about knitting). Just so you know that going in.

Today I got a bill for $45 from Sirius/XM, the satellite radio people. A one-year subscription to satellite radio and a kick-ass overhead entertainment system came as freebies with my just-this-side-of-crappy minivan. Both were things I didn't need, but they do add some value, mostly in that my kids don't try to kill each other in the car when their brains are full of mush. Case in point: Radio Disney, which is a lifesaver on long car rides when I forget to let the kids bring their various electronic devices. In our area, you can't get Radio Disney on an actual radio unless that radio is satellite-friendly. Mine is. Big win.

The other thing I like about satellite radio is that I can find a station - in fact, many stations - that play music in the mornings. Which means there are no horrid deejays screeching at me and trying to be funny, something most commercial radio stations consider to be an asset. I do not. I don't like mornings. I particularly don't like loud mornings that try too hard. My satellite radio understands.

But I don't like paying for it. I mean, this is not a thing I need. If I don't want people hollering at me, I can just shut the darn thing off and play a CD.

So I got this bill from Sirius/XM for $45 for three months of service. I get a similar bill every, oh, let's just say it's every three months. It's not, really, but let's say it is. And when I get said bill, that $45 reminds me that I'm a single mom on a budget, and satellite radio is not something I need. So I call to cancel.

And then they tell me I can get five months for $15. Would I like to renew?

Well, sure. I can give up one cinammon dolce latte a month for Radio Disney and a quiet morning commute.

Five months later, like clockwork, I get a bill from Sirius/XM for $45 for three months of service, reminding me once again that I'm a single mom on a budget and satellite radio is not something I need. So I call to cancel. And then they tell me I can get five months for $15, and would I like to renew?

Uh ... sure?

The thing is, I'd just pay the damn bill if they'd charge a reasonable price in the first place.

They are almost as bad as Verizon, who gives me my phone and internet. Blazing fast speed and a dial tone every time I pick up the phone. I like that.

What I don't like is the following conversation, which I have had with them five times - yes, five times - in the past six months.

Verizon Rep: Hi, Rosemary! I'm calling to offer you Verizon FIOS for the low low price of something much lower than you're paying now.

Me: Wow, that's a great offer. I'll take it!

Verizon Rep: Uh ... wait. Our records show that you already have FIOS.

Me: Why yes. Yes, I do. I've had FIOS for more than five years now. But that prices is fabulous! Thanks for offering it to me. I'll take it.

Verizon Rep: Yeah, see, we can't do that. Because you already have FIOS. And we want to reward your loyalty over these past five years by charging you far, far more than we charge anyone else.

Me: Gee, how thoughtful! Thanks a ton for screwing me over and then calling to let me know all about it. Much appreciated.

Verizon Rep: Glad I could help. Have a great day!

For the record, I generally like Verizon, or I'd have switched a long time ago. Just as I like Sirius/XM. But seriously (ha ha - SIRIUSly, get it?) ... that business model, it's not exactly customer-friendly.

Now, here's one that is. This is my experience with the fine, fine folks at DirecTV. See, they don't know this, but they caused the first big fight of my marriage. My then newly wedded husband wanted a satellite dish so he could watch lots and lots and lots of sports. Back then, though, you had to buy the dish. And the box. And the remote. And when you added all that up with installation and the first few months of service, it came to roughly $1,000. If I think $45 is too much to pay for three months of radio, you can imagine how I felt about paying $1,000 for TV.

Well, I lost the fight, and we got DirecTV, which I inherited along with the house when the ex and I separated. Thing is, I'm a single mom on a budget, and I could not afford the $140 or so a month we'd been paying for the privilege of watching television. So I called DirecTV.

Me: Hi, DirecTV. I'm now a single mom on a budget and I need to cancel my service.

DirecTV: Ma'am, I see you've been a customer since the dawn of time. We value your loyalty. How about we shave this and trim that, and maybe refund you a bit of this, and while I'm at it, how about I send you a free remote to replace the one you accidentally put out with the recycling?

I now pay $32 a month for (very basic) satellite TV and a DVR, which means I can put my kids to bed and still watch Burn Notice in its entirety. Now, if only DirecTV could give me Radio Disney in the car, we'd have something.

December 9, 2010

Sometimes You Get Anchovies

It is well established on this blog that the perfect food is ice cream. That stuff is creamy crack in a carton, which is why I no longer keep it in the house unless someone else buys it. Someone who, I must admit, looks exactly like my evil, ice cream-addicted twin.

But there are other foods that run a close second to ice cream, and not all of them are chocolate. In fact, one of those red-ribbon foods may just be the anti-chocolate. Because it's not a dessert. It's a fish. The anchovy. No sugar. Almost no saturated fat. Just salty, protein-filled goodness.

And no one else likes them.

At least that was my impression given how frequently my pleas to order even half an anchovy pizza have fallen on deaf ears. These people, they don't know what they're missing. Anchovies do something amazing to a pizza. They give all that fatty warmth and comfort a bit of a salty edge that makes all the sweetness in the sauce and the cheese not quite so cloying. If you add a veggie or two, it even feels healthy.

Anchovies are awesome. Even if I have to eat them alone.

Except that I don't anymore. Because my San Francisco sweetie - remember him? He likes them, too. We recently had a spot of time together babysitting for a few junior family members, and we ordered a pizza. You'll never guess what was on it. With no prodding, no poking, just a little, "Hey, what would you think of ...?" and an immediate, "Absolutely!"

And then we had them again, not a week later, at a tapas place, wrapped around a little bamboo skewer with a fat, green olive and a tiny, marinated pepper that together made the perfect bite.

He likes them. He really likes them.

And I had no idea. Which is funny. Because I've known this man for two full decades. We've had coq au vin au chocolat and cauliflower goat cheese gratin. Green curry and noodles of the drunks. Coconut cake and fried green tomatoes. Vichysoisse and tapenade. And once, during a blizzard, a heart-warming Irish stew.

And yet, we'd never shared a pizza.

Now we have. And now I know something new about him. I know he likes the salt and the tang and the difference of anchovies. Which is one of the coolest things about dating one of your dearest friends. Sometimes, you get anchovies. And you didn't even know they were there.

November 24, 2010

My Blind Side

Sorry for the long bloggy break. Lice, as it turns out, are massively time consuming. I've done approximately 67,000 loads of laundry, bought 9 new pillows and spent at least 40 hours of my spare time (yeah, right, like I have spare time) picking nits and combing insecticide onto the scalps of my children and myself. I think we won, at least I hope so. I really hope so. But to be honest, once you've had lice, you are wary to a point of paranoia seen only in victims of PTSD. Because that's exactly what you are.

And now, all of a sudden, it's Thanksgiving. I'm not sure how that happened. But today at 6:00 p.m. my ex showed up and drove my crying kids off into the sunset. Well, okay, just my diva was crying. The boys were head down over their respective DSes.

I still miss them. A lot.

I miss them because it's Thanksgiving, which is about family even more than it's about turkey. And the pre-turkey turkey fest we had last Saturday, wonderful though it was, really wasn't the same.

And I miss them because even though I took three extra days off this week, I spent so much time catching up on work and laundry and vacuuming that we didn't get one single moment of quality time. Not one. Unless nitpicking counts. (Trust me, it doesn't.)

And I miss them because this is my first big holiday without them.

Of course, Netflix picked today to send me The Blind Side. No mother who just sent her kids off to spend a major holiday without her has any business watching a film about a boy who really, truly needs a mommy.

Because, at least in my case, I think it's the mommy who really, truly needs her kids.

November 18, 2010

Lice, the Universe and Everything

There is a certain, very specific brand of ooginess that washes over you when you're brushing your hair and notice that the little gray speck that just floated down to your shoulder, and which you thought might be a dandruff flake or bit of dust, is moving. All on its own. In fact, the damn thing has legs. Six teeny tiny oogy little legs.

We have lice. And that speck was a nymph.

I squished it. And I flushed it. And then I dragged my itchy, scratchy kids upstairs and bathed them in pyrethrum.

Did you know that stuff is made from chrysanthemums?

You learn a lot when you start a war on blood-sucking parasites. To wit:
  • My diva has the patience of a saint. As long as I put the Wizards of Waverly Place on an endless loop, she will sit still for up to three hours at a pop while I comb and pick and pull individual hairs out of her head by the root. She's my hero.
  • Redheads have less hair. Little known fact. (Ignore the picture on the link. It's really kinda gross.)
  • ADHD really does mean you cannot sit still. Even with the aid of a Nintendo DS primed with relatively new birthday games. Given that my kids get only 30 minutes of screen time a day and that nitpicking screen time is a full-on freebie, that's saying something.
  • My kids have waaaaay too many stuffed animals. All 8 million of them are now bagged, thanks to my au pair, and waiting for any little lice babies to die a sad and lonely death. Many of them will not be coming back. I mean the stuffed animals. And, of course, the dead lice babies, too.
  • Reading glasses also make good nitpicking glasses and are a vital part of the home war arsenal.
  • So is a flea comb. If you pick one up, buy one labeled for dogs. They're cheaper - and not a whit different - than the ones labeled for cats.
  • Cats can't get lice. Maybe that's why they need pricey flea combs.
  • Apparently, neither can au pairs.
  • Moms can, though. Yay for that. And yay for my au pair. This would be another one of those times that I wonder what the hell I'd do without her. Because it's not like I can pick nits from my own head.
Oh, and now I'm feeling all oogy again just talking about it.

Hey, the good news? At least we don't have the swine flu.

November 6, 2010

Killer Chocolate

It's a well-established fact that I am not so good with the waking up. Mostly I muddle vaguely through the a.m. hours until that little hand hits the 12 and my brain jumps to life with a "Hey! There's a post before that meridian. I am so in!"

This morning was no exception.

Because I am now officially middle aged, I've had plenty of time to learn this about myself. As a result, I'm usually smart enough to pass off  breakfast-making duties to my amazing au pair, who can give me lots of a.m. support now that all my kids are at school during the day. Yay, Kindergarten. She's mostly a morning person, and since breakfast usually involves such dangerous items as hot stoves and sharp knives, we're both a lot happier when she cooks and I sit at the table like a zombie mainlining coffee, staring at my ridiculously animated children and wondering how on earth I gave birth to three morning people.

I still don't get that.

Today, however, the middle schooler was home for the day, so I was forced to take morning on all by myself. No snooze button, no coffee, and I had to cook things so that my children could eat. In an effort to keep the damage to a minimum, I stuck to the breakfast of champions. Eggos and toasted frozen homemade chocolate chip pancakes. (With cheese and bananas, because even a crappy, mostly pre-packaged meal is a balanced meal in my house.)

Easy, right? Push a button. Wait. Out pops an Eggo. The crowd roars.

Not so much. Because the chocolate chips attacked me. I went to pull a nice, warm pancake from the nice, warm toaster, got two fingers full of melted chocolate ... and wound up with blistering burns on my fingertips.

From chocolate.

You know the world's gone mad when the chocolate is out to get you.

What it's done to my thighs is bad enough.

November 3, 2010

The Art of Dadness

Oh, I'm such a bad blogger. I've got two posts sitting in draft and October has just been so freaking crazy that I haven't had time to finish them up properly. And trust me, they are totally unreadable without a fair bit of editing. Not to mention quite dated by now.

But here's something I can blog about quickly.

My handsome redhead has recently become obsessed with being a dad. It's his thing. He wears pants with belts and button-down oxfords and takes great pleasure when folks notice and tell him he looks dad-like. He also spends a lot of time asking about the hows and whys of dadness. To wit, the following conversation, which took place in whispers when he was meant to be falling asleep.

"Mom, when I'm a dad, will you be old?"

"Yes." Since I'm nearly there now.

"So, when you're old, will I be a dad?"

"I think you get to decide when to be a dad."

"No. I don't get to decide that."

"Oh? Who does?"

"I think my birthday decides that."

"Okay. So how old do you have to be to be a dad?"

"Eighty-six."

Nodding. "Okay."

"How far away is that?"

"About 81 years."

"How many days is that?"

"Oh, sweetie, that's more math than I can do in my head."

"So it's really far away."

"Yes. But, you know, your dad became a dad for the first time when he was only 32. And your Opa, he was 27 when he became a dad."

"Okay. Then I think I'll be ... 31. Can I be a dad when I'm 31?"

"Yes, sweetie. You can."

And he's gonna be a damn fine dad, too.

October 19, 2010

Growing Up Peabo

It's official. I am now mom to a 12-year-old. Which means my gamer, my Aspie, my first-born, is now an honest-to-goodness tween.

This is how I know.

He's dating. He met a girl and thought she was cute. He brought her a flower and told her he liked her. He asked me if he could ask her out, and when he did, this girl displayed remarkably good judgment and said yes. We all went on their date together (because that kid's not dating for real until he's at least 16). And, when we took her home, her mom invited us all on a second date.

I think that means I'm dating her mom now.

He doesn't cuss. Although he certainly knows how. He proved that to me by listing pretty much every cuss word ever invented, matter-of-factly, while we were wandering down the bread aisle in the grocery store. He surprised a whole lot of shoppers. But he's never once uttered a single bad word in front of his brother or sister. Which shows remarkable restraint and - dare I say it? - maturity.

He asked me how people have sex. How. That's a practical, logistical question, which is far scarier than the amorphous "where do babies come from" you prepare yourself for. He immediately distracted himself in the way that only kids with ADHD can ("I don't have ADH ... hey, is that a dust mote?"). But I need to answer. At least, I think I do.

He's warm-hearted and generous and responsible. He's the only one in the house who remembers what day the garbage truck comes. He can even change his own sheets, though he needs to be reminded to do it.

He helps me. He helps his siblings. He's brilliant with little kids. And, when he figures out someone is sad or hurting (which is often easier said than done), he's the king of empathy and kindness and hugs.

He's growing up.

Except that when I look at him, all I see is the squirmy, slimy bundle I gave birth to. The baby who laughed like an old man whenever I sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the dog. The little professor who would play hide-and-seek only if we skip-counted by 3s, who could read before he was three, and who, for a whole year, made everyone call him "Peabo."

At least Peabo is still shorter than I am. And he still believes in Santa Claus. At least, he pretends he does. And, since I'm busily pretending he's Peter Pan, that's good enough for me.

* I drafted this on October 19, so I'm publishing it effective that date ... even though it's not actually October 19 anymore. It's November.

Happy belated birthday, kiddo.

October 15, 2010

Oh, the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise!

I follow several blogs by moms who have kids who on the autism spectrum. It's a great community, a supportive one, and I learn a lot from these women. I'm glad they're out there.

Many kids on the spectrum also suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. One of the blogs I follow, Hartley's Life With 3 Boys, is raising awareness and funds for SPD by spotlighting 30 families in 30 days on her blog. Her efforts will benefit the SPD Foundation, a leader in SPD awareness, education and research. It's interesting reading, often deeply touching, and often hitting very close to home.

My Aspie - and this is probably where I should come up with names for my kids, because his label doesn't define him - well, he does have some sensory issues. Mostly, he is hyposensitive to touch. I remember once, when I was chaperoning a field trip, a rather aggressive kid got off on this hand-slapping game. The goal was to slap another kid's hand until he couldn't take it anymore and finally gave up. My kid? He never gave up. By the time I saw what was going on, my son's hand was screaming red. Anyone else would have been hurting.

Not him.

His need for stimulation affected him a lot when he was little. He chewed anything and everything. He ate his pencils down from the erasers to the nubs. I've been pulling out the clothes he wore at this age to hand down to his little brother - only I can't hand them down. The collars and sleeves are chewed to rags.

His first IEP included therapy for sensory issues. But because SPD wasn't among his official diagnoses when we moved to this state five years ago, that part of his IEP was tossed, and I was never able to get it reinstated.

I'm okay with that, though. He'd started refusing the therapies. The weighted vest embarrassed him, as did the chew tubes and the wiggle seat. And, over time, he's learned to manage many of his sensory issues.

Not so much his mother. Only, for me, it's noise.

Every. Little. Noise.

Big noises, they make me jump. But it's the little noises that truly make me insane. The clicking of a pen. The ticking of a clock. The keening of a fork scraping along a plate. I had to get rid of the TV in my bedroom because the constant hum of the DVR kept me up all night. And I buy popcorn at the movies - every single time - to drown out the inevitable sounds of snacking around me.

And those family dinners I love? Torturous. And that's with my own kids, who have spent the past year listening to me say, "Chew with your mouth closed," and "Don't bite your spoon," and "Stop slurping! That cup is empty, dammit!"

Only I don't actually say the "dammit."

Just imagine how bad it is when we've got other kids over, kids whose moms don't have weird noise issues. Because my kids' manners, after a year of hardcore family dinners? Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.

And still not enough for me.

While my son is learning to manage his issues as he ages, I'm just getting worse. I don't know if it's the insomnia or if mid-life wrecks your ears as much as your eyesight. But by the end of the week, when I've got the heavy duty Friday tireds, my kids are lucky if I feed them at all. I just can't stomach all the chewing. (Stomach. Chewing. Get it? Ha ha.)

And that's the real origin of our Friday night movie nights. Friday nights, I lay a blanket on the floor, let the kids pick a movie, and set up a picnic in front of the TV. The background noise and the fact that I'm sitting on the sofa on the other side of the room make all that chewing manageable. And it's the one night each week that my kids don't have to listen to me complain.

I love Fridays.

October 10, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

As I've mentioned before - to the point where this is now tatooed on my forehead in bright red ink - I never leave my house. Single mom. Three kids. I live at home. I work at home.

I don't get out much.

All that time in my house has made me pasty white and about as fit as a marshmallow. So when my au pair was sick the other day and it was time to walk to school and pick up the two younger kids, I said a very sympathetic, "Oh, honey, you go rest. I'll get the kids." Then I grabbed the keys and dashed out the door before she could change her mind.

My kids were overjoyed. They ran out of school and threw their arms around me as if I'd just returned from Mars.

My redhead was particularly thrilled. Because he had news. He pulled my head down and pretended to whisper.

"Mom!" he said. "That's her! That's her!" Only he used her name, because he's smart like that.

It turns out that this little girl is in his class. And she has a pet crocodile. She brought it in to school and now my little guy has a HUGE crush on her, because what reasonable boy would not have a crush on a girl with a pet crocodile. Not to mention she's a cutie.

So he tried to follow her home after school. Sat down on the curb, refused to budge, and said, "Mom! Wait! I want to see where she lives."

Now her dad, who's my neighbor and seems a friendly enough fellow, thinks I'm raising a stalker. Which, very possibly, I am.

Wait till I tell him I'm letting my nearly-12-year-old date.

Probably I should leave my house more, if only so the neighbors don't fear me.

October 2, 2010

Pseudonymity

In the interest of openness and fair play, and for the new readers who aren't finding me through my Facebook page (which still surprises me, but thank you), I want to let all y'all know: My name's not Rosemary. My name is something totally different. And, apparently, it is totally distinctive in a beautifully ethnic kind of way, which I know because I Googled myself and there's only like two of me out there, and most of the me's out there really are me.

If you followed that.

Because I'm one of only two of me, I'm easy to find. I don't want to be easy to find. I've got three gorgeous and vulnerable kids who deserve their mom's best efforts to keep them safe and whole and see them through to adulthood.

So I use a pseudonym. I don't refer to my kids by name, not even by made-up name. And I don't (generally) talk about where we live.

The Rosemary bit came from my blog name. And that's a bit of a story. I meant to call my blog "Elbows Off the Table," and that is, in fact, the title. I chose it because that's the phrase I heard at the dinner table over and over and over again growing up. That, and "Put your napkin in your lapkin," which I thought would be a silly title for a blog. Either would have made sense, though, because the original idea of this blog was to write about family life through food. Kind of like M. F. K. Fisher for the blogger mom set. But "Elbows" was taken in the Bloggerverse, so I created a subtitle and used the end of it as my URL. Family life through rosemary-colored glasses. Rosemary. Herb. Food. Get it? Yes, folks, I am just that clever.

Except that this blog has become much more than life through food. It is about food, but only sometimes. Mostly it's about family. It's about my beautiful children. It's about Asperger's Syndrome and how we manage that particular difference together. It's about the challenges of being a single parent. It's about me and my friends, who make up a kind of family of our own. And it's about the stuff that ties my family together, across the generations: stuff like knitting, which I learned at my grandmother's knee, and my mother's lemon Jell-o cake, and the fact that I'm afraid to fly. Which is relevant because important parts of my family live very far away.

And, always, it's about finding the bright side. Those rosemary-colored glasses are my way of looking at the world.

So now I'm Rosemary. Because, as it happens, I'm a rose-colored girl.

September 28, 2010

Oh, What a Night

Okay, I give. It's after 1:00 a.m. and it's just been a freaky, surreal kind of evening. And it's Monday. Just Monday.

This morning, my au pair was sick. So I told her to sleep in, and I took the kids to school. Which meant I worked late. Which meant dinner was late. Which is kinda where this started.

I came down from work to find my amazing and, mind you, still sick au pair playing Monopoly with my younger kids, and my Aspie waiting on a phone call from his girlfriend. (Yes, he has a girlfriend. Which is really his business until he says otherwise, so no, I'm not blogging about it. And no, we haven't gotten to the surreal bit.)

So I made dinner. I made a simple, easy dinner of hamburgers (with lots of yummies mixed into the meat) and steamed green beans and Wacky Mac. This is a favorite meal of all the kids generally, and my Aspie in particular, because he loves protein and he loves bread and isn't that the very definition of a burger?

Except that when we all went to sit down at the table, he started screaming. And it wasn't a tantrum. He was in pain. His tummy hurt. His head hurt. His everything hurt. And it must have hurt a lot. Because this kid is hyposensitive to pain, and while he may over-react a bit when he knows he's been injured - as in "Hey I can't feel that but it's bleeding so it must hurt like hell and, by the way, OW!!!" - that internal pain stuff? The stuff he can't see? It's got to be pretty bad for him to notice.

Plus all the color had suddenly drained from his face. 

So I spent dinner in the bathroom holding my poor guy's head over the toilet. And hey, y'all, this is my first post about vomit since last November. Ten months without vomit? That's a blog record, you know.

I got my Aspie up to bed, came back to the table and found my au pair falling asleep in her food. So I sent her to bed, too. The poor thing. Because she's been sick since last Thursday and just isn't getting better.

That's not the surreal part, either. I'm used to the sick and yuckies. It's fall, school's in. This is par for the course.

The surreal part came at midnight, when I was decompressing and avoiding the dishes, because that's what I do at midnight. And I was cleaning the bathroom, because, well, you know. Vomit.

And that's when somebody knocked at my door.

After midnight.

There was knocking after midnight.

I am a single mom alone in a house with a sick 19-year-old au pair and three young children. I did what any normal woman would do in the circumstances. I freaked the heck out. I jumped up like a crazy woman, heart pounding, and looked for a weapon (because, you know those criminals, they always knock so politely). I turned on about 87 lights. That's in addition to the 13 lights I already had on.

And that, as it turns out, is why the fella knocked in the first place. He was a police officer, trying to find the owner of a Jeep parked in the middle of the street with its lights on, and figuring the owner would be in the only house on the block where people were actually awake.

Apparently not.

From now on I'm going to enjoy my post-vomit insomnia in the dark.

P.S. On the vomiting ... I'm kinda worried it's my kid's meds. He didn't eat all day today, and that might just be an upset tummy. But he's on risperdal and ritalin, and while he's been on that combo for more than a year now, the risperdal sometimes causes heat stroke with vomiting. It's not hot right now ... but the ritalin means sometimes he doesn't eat, and today he skipped his lunch and his after-school snack, and dinner was delayed, and that poor kid got sick anyway with nothing in his tummy. For the second time in two weeks. Given that he just went back on the ritalin with the start of school, it's got me wondering about the meds. So if anyone reading has any thoughts, well, I'd love to hear.

September 17, 2010

Lucky Me

Tuesday morning was a school holiday in this part of the world because it was the day of our primary elections. (Please hold while I blush ... Yes, I should have voted, but it's the primaries, people. And besides, I forgot.)

Usually my morning starts with my eager nearly-12-year-old bursting into my room to request a new app for his iPod Touch, which he won on a $2 investment in a Stacker game at the bowling alley on a school field trip. Last $2 I ever give that kid. Though I will say, he's learned the hard way that if he wakes me up by shoving his iPod two inches from my nose and demanding downloadable stuff, the answer is a monolithic, 24-hour, applies to all things in the universe variety of NO.

That's not a good no.

Tuesday morning, though, was quiet. Kids on holiday, still in their pajamas. Au pair up and at 'em and feeding them breakfast. Me, stumbling down the stairs, fumbling for coffee, and snarling out the occasional, deeply insincere "Good morning."

I am not a morning person.

I crawled into the dining room to join my kids for breakfast and plopped myself into a chair. My Aspie grinned and said, "Mom! Aren't you lucky? I didn't wake you up!"

My five year old piped up. "And isn't she lucky I did??"

Yes, dear. I'm lucky. I'm very, very lucky.

I'm lucky because he did wake me up. Just as he does every morning, by curling up beside me and sticking his finger in my bellybutton. Do I miss the extra sleep? Oh, you betcha. Still lucky, though.

I'm lucky because his finger is just the right size that when he sticks it in my bellybutton it creates a little bit of suction and makes a funny popping feeling when he pulls it out. Not sure what that says about my tummy, though I'm certain I don't want to know.

I'm lucky that he's invented 53 different ways to hug me. My favorite is the 10-hug, where he hugs me 10 times without stopping. His favorite is the tackle hug. (That one's self-explanatory.)

I'm lucky that his sister lets me brush her hair, which she didn't used to do, and only does now because I totally guilted her into it.

I'm lucky that my kids respond well to guilt.

I'm lucky, too, that they all eat their cauliflower. And I didn't once use guilt. Nope, I bribed them. The use of bribes is much better parenting.

And I'm lucky to have my au pair, because she makes me coffee and has her mom send her stroopwafels and then shares them with me, and because she's just that amazing.

I'm also lucky that my Aspie is so brilliant at Stacker. Because the music settles him and lets him shut out the world when he needs to. Because the whole appverse is amazing. And because now he can listen to Weird Al Yankovich all he wants, and I don't hear a thing.

He's been trying to win his sister her own iPod. He's been just one row off pretty much every single time he's played. Trust me, he will win again.

So will I. Hard to lose with this much luck floating around.

September 8, 2010

Knitting in the Margins

This is the time of year when I start to fantasize about yarn. It's an illness I think. And it's not like I'm a great knitter. I'm not. I'm a knitter who spends most of her time making a living, running three kids to soccer, cooking, cleaning, doing yard work, cleaning up cat vomit and, from time to time, blogging. The knitting fits into the margins. And the stuff you do in the margins is not the stuff you get good at.

But I like yarn. I like the feel of needles sliding back and forth, and the joy of having something to show for it. And I like the fact that knitting keeps me focused during conference calls. I have a lot of conference calls. And I like making things. Time is hands-down my most precious commodity. If I take the time to make you something, well, let's just say I must really, really like you.

There's something about this time of year, too. The kids are back at school. The temps have finally dropped out of the 90s. We can open the windows back up, breathe a little, and know that summer is over.

Which means it's time to think about Christmas.

No, really. It is. For those of us who dream of a handmade Christmas and lots of little gifts of time, it is.

Not that I should be doing anything of the kind. I still haven't finished last year's Christmas gifts. There's a plastic baggie next to my rocking chair, stuffed with a bright blue crocheted scarf and three out of four hot pink crocheted flowers. They are waiting for the fourth flower and a little stitching to finish them off. They didn't quite make it under last year's tree.

On the rocking chair is the nearly finished afghan I started knitting for my parents for Christmas 2008. I tried to give it to them last summer, when my dad turned 70 and their marriage turned 30. They saw it. They oohed. They aahed. They noticed the needles still in it. They gave it back.

And now it's all comfy, cozy and still needled up on my rocking chair.

In the chest of drawers next to my bed, I have a needlepoint canvas in the shape of a stocking, with the distinctive and half-finished half-circle of a piney Christmas wreath laid against a cream-colored background. I designed it myself for my daughter, for her first Christmas. I started it before she was born.

She's 8 now. And this year marks her ninth Christmas.

Oops.

That stocking is sitting on top of a stack of orange and magenta cotton I bought to knit her a sweater. It's a little tiny stack of yarn. But then, it was supposed to be a little tiny sweater. She was going to wear it home from the hospital when she was born.

She didn't, of course. It's kinda hard to wear unknit cotton yarn. 

But I dream. I dream of knitting. I dream because it's Christmas. Or close to it. Well, closer.

I want to make one of these. Because I think my five-year-old frog squisher deserves one. And for my daughter, this one. Because she misses our dog.

I hope the kids still like them when they're 20. Because that's about when these will be finished.

September 4, 2010

Gullible Much?

The night I wrote my last post, about how my Kindergartener didn't know where the bathrooms were at school but his good friend Invisible Man did and just wasn't telling, I did what any good mother would do. I fired an email off to the teacher and said, "Hey, somewhere along the line, my little guy missed the whole bathroom talk. Can you give him a refresh?"

That proved to be unnecessary.

The next morning, over breakfast, I tried to coach the redhead to ask his teacher to show him the bathrooms. Then my amazing au pair chimed in, reminding him that he'd been to the bathrooms in school with her, many many times ... and that's when I caught it. The little glimmer in his baby blues, the nearly smirk that flashed across his face ...

He was joking.

The teacher confirmed it later that day. She asked him where the bathroom was, and he pointed right to it. My kid knows exactly where to go. The whole thing was an elaborate hoax designed to pull the wool over his mother's eyes.

He got me. Yes, he got me, and it cracked him up.

I'm gullible. I admit it. But this, I think, is more than that. This is a bone-deep gullibility born of nearly 12 years parenting an Aspie. I mean, I can tell when my kids are lying. Every mom has a built-in radar for truth. I know when they haven't brushed their teeth or washed their hands, when they skipped out early on the homework or watched a show I don't allow. That's easy.

This is different. This is humor. It's not really lying - it's fibbing, with purpose.

And that, it seems, flies right over my head.

My oldest can't tell jokes. He doesn't get them. Too much nuance and non-verbal involved in the whole joke thing. He's smart as hell, has a laugh that lights up a room and appreciates a good pratfall when he sees one. But he's got a literal brain. He hears what he hears one way, straight up. Puns and pranks and verbal sleight of hand are just not in his vocabulary.

Which means they're not in mine. At least, not in my parenting vocabulary.

Then along comes my five year old. He's been making jokes since before he could talk. He's the kid who, when he was learning to walk, would weave like a drunkard through the living room going, "Whoooooaaaa! Whoooooaaaaa!" and then fall down - on purpose - because it would get a laugh from every adult in the room.

He knew exactly what he was doing. Because my redhead not only has a sense of humor, but it's wicked and it's clever and he makes regular use of it.

I have no earthly idea what to do with that. Except be proud of him. The kid's got mad skills. And wait for the next time. Because he's going to get me again.

September 3, 2010

The Invisible Man

My redhead has a new friend. His name is The Invisible Man, and he comes everywhere with us. Usually he sits in the back seat of my minivan between the redhead and his big brother. They strap him in with a seat belt because he can't buckle his own. He's engaged to be married to Junia, my diva's long-time imaginary friend. Which tells you a little something about The Invisible Man that you may not have figured out yet.

He's not real.

He does, however, go to school. It seems he wants to learn to read.

This afternoon, as my redhead and I tickled our way through his big brother's soccer practice, my redhead announced, "I think I might have peed my pants a little."

I was surprised. "Didn't you go to the bathroom at school?"

"No. They don't have bathrooms at school."

"I'm sure they do, peanut. Every school has bathrooms."

"Not mine."

"Are you sure?"

He put his puzzled face on. "Maybe I don't know where it is."

"Did you ask your teacher?"

"No. 'Cause The Invisible Man knows where it is."

"Oh." Time for my own puzzled face.

"But he's not telling. It's a secret."

Ah. Well that makes more sense, then.

I think it's time to send a discreet note to the teacher. Because it's really not fair if she's only showing the imaginary people where the bathrooms are.

August 29, 2010

My Car's Going on Vacation

It could happen only on Facebook.

Three days ago, a long-time, well-loved friend from college posted something along the lines of, "Hey! Anyone got a minivan I can borrow?"

Today, she borrowed mine.

A little crazy, right? I mean, who lends out their car. Their only car. To someone they haven't seen in three, maybe four years. For a multi-state joy ride.

Yeah, that would be me.

Bear with me for a minute. There's a point, but it'll take us a few paragraphs to get there.

See, I learned a ton of things from my marriage. You spend a lot of time, in the after, thinking about how you got where you were, the choices you made, the things about you that contributed to the demise of all that hope and bliss. Because it takes two. Just as a marriage takes two, so does a divorce. So does any part of any relationship, really.

Then you look at your other relationships, too, so you can fit those choices into patterns. Because if there's a part of you running around killing your relationships, you want to know what it is, right? So you can make it stop, find fulfillment, a lifetime of joy, blah blah blah.

I remember one fellow, many years ago (well it would have to be, wouldn't it? I mean, I was married, like, forEVer). We broke up. I mean, he broke up with me. Not politic, but true.

I was pushing him for the why's, and he said, "Well, you're too happy. And you give too much."

Why, yes. Yes, those do sound like reasons to end a relationship.

That wasn't all he said, of course. And, in truth, they are perfectly good reasons. I mean, seriously, do you want to live with Rachael Ray? Love her to pieces - I know a kindred spirit when I see one - but perpetual pep can be a bit challenging in a life partner. You need someone who sees the ups and downs, who sails them right alongside you. And the giving thing ... well. If you're the right kind of person, it creates an obligation that's hard to live up to. If you're the wrong kind of person, it's an advantage, an invitation to just keep taking. And either way, you're both kind of screwed.

The thing is, these flaws are fundamental to who I am. It's really hard to take the happy out of yourself. To make yourself stop giving. I've never figured out quite how to do it. And I've learned that I don't want to.

So I lent my friend my car. For a week. She's driving it to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. She invited me to go, too, long before she invited my car. But my kids started school last week, and we can't take the time off. I'm sending my car in my place. It'll spend a week enjoying the sand, the sun and the sound of the surf, and the entertaining company of my friend. And I will get to drive her little hybrid, with its built-in navigation system - a nav system that I believe, in my heart of hearts, will magically make me on time to things.

Hah.

Have fun, little car. Bring my friend and her family back safely.

August 28, 2010

First Days

My kids started school this week. One kid at a time. Which means we had three - yes, that's THREE - first days of school. Three days where mom woke up at the crack of dawn and lovingly prepared a breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes with bananas and sausage. Three days of snapping pictures and stuffing backpacks to the gills with school supplies. Three days of nerves and joy and the general angst that comes from changing your whole schedule around from one day to the next.

And the next.

And the next.

Monday was my diva's first day of third grade. It was also the day my new Kindergartner went in to meet his new teacher and see his new classroom. The ex came too, which tickled the kids pinker than my daughter's hot pink polka-dotted leggings. The whole group of us walked to school together.

She had a great day.

I, apparently, did not. I walked right past all the "here's what to do for the first day" papers in the Kindergarten classroom. All of them. Which was a problem.

But not till Wednesday.

Tuesday was all about my Aspie. He's in 7th grade. And that scares me. Because I remember 7th grade. I remember getting thrown up on by the girl on the riser behind me in the spring chorus concert. I remember roller skating and school dances and "going with" a cute, slightly geeky, very tall boy named Jeremy for about a week. I think I dumped him, but it's hard to say because I also can't remember having an actual conversation with the guy. It was all about the intermediaries in 7th grade.

(Note: cute, geeky and tall remains my type to this day. )

So, heck yeah, 7th grade scares me. Puberty and tweendom and all that. But what I'm not scared about this year, for the first time since my Aspie hit Kindergarten, is school. School is good. School is great. My Aspie is in a place where he is cared for and supported and loved. Where he's learning and active and making friends. The transition from summer is still rough, and he's been a bit of a tired, tantrummy mess most days this week. But he'll adjust. And that's the minor miracle. He will adjust.

And then came Wednesday. The day I sent my baby off to Kindergarten with his new red backpack and his name tag, and no stuffed animal for show and tell. Because I totally missed the paper.

Oops.

He was fine with it, though, when I told him. He's that kind of kid.

I stood back and watched him, standing in line in front of his new teacher, waiting for the kids from the last bus to arrive. He was pensive and nervous and looked so very young. And then, just before the teacher led her line of students off into the bowels of the school, he turned to me, shot me an impish grin ... and stuck his tongue out at me.

I burst into tears.

How did my kids get so grown up?

Damn. I think I blinked again.

August 21, 2010

Mind Your Money, Honey

Once you're out of limbo - that odd and occasionally cathartic period between separation and divorce, which in my case lasted an excruciating 469 days - well, you're supposed to be done. Divorced and fairly angst-free. You indulge in occasional conversations with the ex that run along the lines of, "Hey, can we trade weekends this month," and "Dude, sorry I forgot to pack pants for the five-year-old." But that's it. Free and clear and living your own life, footloose and ex-free.

Except it doesn't work that way.

And it's not even about the kids. Because once you get into a routine, you can handle the kids. Most of the time.

No, it's about the money.

You'd think it would be easy. Shared marital assets? Sell them and split the proceeds. Or divvy them up fair and square. Shared debt? You can't sell it. So you do your best to divvy. You each take responsibility for your own bits and pieces and write it all down on paper, neatly notarized and approved by the judge.

Except the banks disagree. Once you co-sign something that isn't a mortgage and therefore can't be settled and sold, you are apparently co-signed for life. Or at least for the life of the loan. Which means that even if your divorce decree states: "Do you, Mr. Ex-Husband, take this debt, to love, honor and cherish till death do you part?" and he completely agrees that yes, he will take that debt, the bank says, "Uh, no way man. That debt's still married to your ex-wife."

Your debt ties you to your ex as much as your children do. You brought it into the world together, so you share responsibility for it until it's fully grown and able to live on its own. Until then, it gets to eat you out of house and home and keep you from getting the great, low-rate refi you so richly deserve.

I just hope I don't have to send the damn thing to college.

Lesson learned: Mind your money, honey.

August 17, 2010

Woody Monkey

Once upon a time, there was a little boy with sparkling blue eyes and festive red hair. He was smart and funny and generally easygoing. But he didn't much like sleeping.

His mommy liked sleeping. She liked it a lot. But if he was up, she was up, too. By the time of our story, she'd been awake for nearly five years. She loved him. Dearly. But most of the time, she couldn't remember his name.

One night, when his mommy was away for the evening and a friend stayed over to take care of him, a minor miracle happened. The redhead slept. In his own bed. All night long. And all by himself.

Then he promised his mommy he'd do it again. All he wanted was a Build-A-Bear.

Before he even finished that thought, his mommy shouted "DEAL!" She went clickety-clack on the computer and churned out a fully-illustrated, 30-day chart, with pictures of Build-A-Bears dancing in the margins.

He had a good night, and he got a circle for his chart. Then he had a few bad nights. Then another good one, and another circle. The first few days were slow going. But he made it to 7, then 10, then 12. Before he knew it, he had 20 big round circles on his chart. And, seeing that he had only 10 nights left, he bit the bullet and slept on his own, in his own bed, straight through until he was done.

The day before his fifth birthday, this beautiful, sparkling boy earned circle number 30, with 30 nights of fully independent, uninterrupted, I'm-a-big-kid-now sleep.

And now the boy has a new best friend. His name is Woody Monkey. Apparently Build-A-Bear makes monkeys, too, and they let you dress them up in very cool outfits, some of which look astonishingly like those worn by the lead characters in your average five-year-old's favorite film.

I am happy to report that my great, big, heading-off-to-Kindergartner has slept in his own bed every night since his birthday. We're going on two weeks now.

So, if I promise myself a Build-a-Bear, do you think I'll start sleeping, too?

August 10, 2010

The Sea of Fabulosity

As many of you know, my fella recently moved to the other coast. I could call it the "wrong" coast, the presumption being that the coast I'm sitting on is the "right" one. But ... um ...

Yeah, that's really tempting. Wrong, but tempting.

He's been there for a couple of weeks now. I know this because his status on Facebook the other day said, "Week 2," and not because I'm keeping track or anything. Because I so totally would not do that.

And in fact, if you look carefully, you'll notice a quiet, bloggy gap right about the time he moved. That's because I went with him. Not to stay, of course. Just to help.

I'd say I ignored the mom guilt, packed my kids into a shipping crate, stamped my parents' address on the side and shipped 'em off for a week, just so I could go to San Francisco. But we all know that's not possible. Mom guilt doesn't allow for shipping crates. Plus, my kids would do each other serious injury if I left them alone together for that long without their electronics.

But I've got fabulous friends. Deeply, lovingly fabulous friends who get both mom guilt and the importance of giving a newly long-distance relationship the proper send-off.

So when my fella got word of his move, my friends listened and commiserated. They mixed gin and tonics and fed me Thai food and let me talk. Pretty much endlessly.

They quietly arranged a handful of playdates and sleepovers (even when their own kids weren't around), so my fella and I could enjoy a few last evenings together.

And they invited my kids to the beach. For four days. With my amazing au pair.

Even the ex helped. He took the kids on vacation, then brought them from his vacation directly to theirs.

And so my fella and I had a week together in San Francisco. We had friends there, too. Friends who put us up and treated us like royalty. Friends who gave us list after list of things to do so we wouldn't spend our days all mopey and maudlin. We ate pretty food, saw pretty art and pretty trees, and walked the pretty, hilly streets.

We also bought a big down comforter. It is yummy and warm and, well, comforting. Basically, it's a hug in the form of a household good. Because if I can't be there to hug the man in person, he should at least have a hugalicious comforter to take my place.

We said good-bye. I flew away. And then another friend picked me up at the airport. She put up with my overtired, drugged and mopey self, put me to bed and let me sleep. For a very long time. And then she drove me home. Which was really far away.

This is how fabulous my friends are.

Now, mind you, I have many fabulous friends. What happened here, it's just a snippet of fabulousness in a great big sea of fabulosity. But it was a very well-timed sort of fabulous. And the kind you can't repay. So you say the biggest possible "thank you" you can muster, and then you bake a cake or two. For the kids. Because, as it happens, sugar and chocolate compensate beautifully for mom guilt.

(Well, I'll be damned. I think that last sentence just summed up the whole premise of this blog.)

August 1, 2010

Glow-in-the-Dark Days

There are a lot of sucky things about divorce. But the one that sneaks up on you, the one you don't expect, is that the awkward and uncomfortable of the whole thing colors your memories. Even the good ones. This means that your biggest, brightest, glow-in-the-dark days can get sort of gray and irritating.

I have three spectacular glow-in-the-dark days. There may be more, but these are the ones I'd lay down my life to keep shining.

I'll bet you know what they are.

The third of them happened just over five years ago. I woke up that morning calm, relaxed, and uncomfortable in a house full of boxes and the scent of fresh paint. It was 5:30 a.m. The sun was rising. It was peaceful and quiet, and I was roughly the size of a sperm whale with cankles that could sink the Titanic.

Six hours later, my redhead was born.

And no, it wasn't all peace and joy. I blew two IVs. I chewed out the nurse when some goober started delivering lunch on the floor, like 10 rooms away. You've heard of supertasters, right? When I'm in labor, I'm a supersmeller. And that lunch smell that no one else noticed, it made me want to hurl.

I also distinctly remember about 30 seconds of absolute panic when I realized that the ginormous child my midwife's assistant had told me was at least 11 pounds was actually coming out, like now, and I'd decided not to get an epidural and WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, at which point my midwife did the mental equivalent of a face slap. Meaning, she shouted at me. Yes, at me, a woman in labor. Who does that? But it worked, and my redhead was in my arms, wet and squirmy and bright red all over, not 10 minutes later.

The rest of it, though - all of it - that was peace and joy. It was my daughter in her gymnastics leotard with sparkly clips in her hair because that's what she wanted that day. It was my son, going with the flow and heading off cheerfully with his grandparents (which is a bigger deal than you might think, given his attachment to routine). It was my kids holding their baby brother, and my now ex holding me while my redhead eased his way into the world.

And I don't want that to be bitter, or even bittersweet. I want the birth of my third child, and the births of all of my children, to glow.



To hell with the sucky part. I'm keeping this one.

Happy birthday, peanut.

July 20, 2010

Call Me Carrie

A blogger acquaintance of mine who may or may not know I read her stuff, but I do read it because it's interesting, funny and insightful ... well, she posted a link to a groovy little app-like thing called I Write Like. You input your stuff, and it churns out a famous writer whose work yours vaguely resembles.

Apparently, this is me:


I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I think it might be the zombies.

July 13, 2010

Peanuts Happen

When I talk to my kids, I often use nicknames. There’s “sweetie” and "kiddo" and all the typical mom stuff, which I use mostly because I can’t remember their names. But they also have one nickname each that’s just for them. Almost like a name, except easier to remember.

My Aspie, he gets to be my pumpkin because he was born in October.

My diva used to be my sweet pea, until she realized she was really a princess and started behaving like one, and that’s what she’s been ever since.

And my little guy, who is much bigger than your typical nearly-five-year-old, he’s my peanut. Not because he’s little. He’s never been little, not even at birth. Nine pounds, nine ounces of baby, that one. I call him my peanut because he’s the only one of my three who got an ultrasound in utero during that phase when your soon-to-be baby still looks like a peanut.

It stuck.

Last night I was on the phone with my sister having a very deep conversation, because there’s a whole lot of deep going on. And I was eating a big bowl of ice cream, because my fella is moving to San Francisco and that means I get to eat ice cream. Suddenly I was interrupted by the pitter patter of little feet on the stairs. I jumped up to put my ice cream in the freezer before the little feet found me, because it was on the verge of melting anyway, and came back to find my little guy on the sofa.

At which point I interrupted my sister to say, “Hey, peanut. Why are you awake?” (Clearly, that was not directed toward her.)

I got a raspy croak in response, which generally means, “I have to pee, mom, but there’s zombies in the bathroom, and really I’d rather be sleeping.”

So I made my excuses to my sister, and when I apologized for the interruption she said, “That’s okay. Peanuts happen.”

Which I thought was funny.

Now you get to think so, too.

July 10, 2010

A Whole Lotta Frittata

Do you all remember my pan? My sturdy, strong, beautifully seasoned cast iron frying pan? The pan with all that meaning and history. The pan I burned to bits about this time last year.

Yeah, that one.

I saved it. I scrubbed and I scraped and I seasoned, and then I seasoned again. I cooked a mountain of bacon (and created a true baconophile in my Aspie).

And I saved it.

Now it is making frittatas. Perfect, evenly cooked, gorgeously browned frittatas.

A few weeks ago, the family of my amazing au pair came to visit us from her home country of Belgium. We spent a lot of time with them while they were here. We had them over for dinner one night (check the Fast, Fake-Baked Ziti recipe on the right – it’s my go-to dinner for events like this because everyone, and I mean everyone, loves it). We went sightseeing with them. And we meant to go to the zoo with them. Except that it was insanely hot, the air quality was bad, and my heat-strokey Aspie and my formerly asthmatic diva would have melted.

So I kept them air conditioned, and we invited our extended Belgian family over for brunch the next day instead.

I didn’t have time to shop, so I just used what I had. Two-thirds of a loaf of Italian bread and a handful of eggs, a drop of vanilla and some cinnamon made a nice little French toast.

I tossed a fruit salad. I brewed some iced tea.

And I made a frittata. A clove of garlic, half an onion. A handful of baby tomatoes, seeded and diced. Six little balls of fresh mozzarella, quartered. Several pretty green basil leaves. And, when it was ready for the broiler, a handful of freshly grated asiago sprinkled over the top.

Um, yeah, so I keep a fairly well-stocked kitchen.

My little frittata was yummy. So yummy that I made the same thing the next day for a house guest who had never had breakfast in bed. Everyone deserves breakfast in bed, dontcha think?

Look. Pictures.
































That pan is a wonder. Not only did it cook up a stunningly gorgeous and tasty concoction of eggy goodness, practically by itself (yes, my pan is that good). But it didn’t stick. Not even a little bit. Clean-up was easy-peasy.

I love that pan.

Go get your own pan, season the hell out of it, then make a frittata. It will make you happy.

Rosemary’s Caprese Frittata
  • 1 8” cast iron fry pan
  • 6 eggs
  • A dollop of milk (presuming milk can dollop)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 4 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 12 or so leaves of fresh basil, torn
  • 6 balls of the little bitty mozzarella (if you know what they’re called, feel free to comment!)
  • ¼ - ½ cup grated asiago or parmesan

In a mixing bowl, whip eggs and milk until frothy. Turn on the broiler. Heat your cast iron over medium heat. Add the butter. When the butter melts, sauté the garlic and onions until translucent. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook for a minute or two longer to bring out their flavor. Even out the ingredients across the pan, then pour the eggs over the top. Drop in the quartered mozzarella balls. Leave that pan alone until the eggs have generally set (the top of the frittata will still be very wet), then sprinkle the asiago over the top and put the whole thing under the broiler immediately. Let it brown. Cut in the pan and serve in tidy little wedges. Or messy ones, if that’s your druther.

Do not serve with ketchup. That would be sacrilege.

June 30, 2010

Wait, Is It Really July? Well, Almost ...

I came here today intending to blog about frittatas. That's right. Frittatas, and all their eggy goodness.

This post, sadly, is not about frittatas.

On the way to my blog, I got distracted by my friend the Diva. She posted her mid-year resolutions.

I like that idea. See, I did do the New Year's resolution thing. I kept them simple. And I did not make them public, because my resolution track record pretty much sucks.

For reference, here they are: my 2010 New Year's Resolutions, nearly seven months late.
  • Read
  • Sleep
  • Move
See? Simple. And I am reading more. But that's mostly because I'm sleeping and moving less. Funny how that one worked out.

So I like the idea of a whole new set of resolutions, a set of mid-year, hey-what-the-heck-is-it-really-July resolutions, that I might possibly be able to accomplish.

Here they are.
  • Finish the half gallon of Breyer's rocky road ice cream currently melting in my lap. Very doable, particularly as a half gallon container now holds a mere 1.5 quarts. (When exactly did that happen?)
  • Learn to say "yes." Ironic, since I spent my year plus in limbo learning how to say "no." Now I'm really good at no and realizing that I need a few more yesses in my life. I'm not talking about "Yes, I'll manage the whole soccer league," or "Yes, I'll make 84 cupcakes for tomorrow's bake sale." I'm talking about "Yes, sweetie, I'd love to play Polly Pockets with you," and "Of course you can have a hug," and "Sure I can read Wacky Wednesday 18 more times today." These are important yesses.
  • Find a sugar daddy who wants to buy me a brand new and completely bug-free house and send all three of my super-smart kids to college. (But only if I can keep dating my San Francisco-bound sweetie.)
  • Set a new family record by blowing up six - yes, I said six - bottles of Diet Coke with Mentos. This is hands-down my kids' favorite activity of the summer. Yeah, I know, six isn't really that many - particularly when compared with this YouTube classic - but since the kids usually get just the one bottle apiece, six is a big, big deal.
  • Write that frittata post. I even took pictures folks. Yes, pictures.
Stay tuned ...

June 24, 2010

Squish

You may recall my redhead being completely incapacitated by his fear of zombies and poison frogs.

(This is where I'd insert a reference to the Litany Against Fear from Dune, 'cause yes, I'm that geeky. I just can't figure out a way to do it gracefully.)

Anyway ... I convinced the little guy that neither zombies nor poison dart frogs could drive, and since they live too far away to walk, that took care of the worst of it. But he was still afraid. He slept with his magic, force-field wielding baby blanket every night, and he covered his ears and hollered whenever a sibling said the "z" word or the "f" word (the other "f" word -you know, four letters, ends in "g"). It was bad enough that I banned any discussion of zombies. Period.

This week, that all changed.

That's because this week, the kids and I are on vacation. Amongst our other adventures, we spent a day at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Way cool place, chock full of dolphins and jellyfish and a bunch of other fascinating sea creatures.

Oddly enough, they've also got a whole mess of poison dart frogs. Not so much with the aquatic, really. But, as it happens, very handy to have around. Because - guess what? Those frogs are tiny. Little bitty teeny tiny things. About the size of my little guy's thumb.

And eminently squishable.

I took a risk and introduced my fearful redhead to every single variety of poison dart frog in the place. I showed him their teeny tiny selves. He took one look at those terrifying beasts ... and he giggled. He actually giggled. Then he told me he would punch them all in the face and squish them.

Good-bye poison dart frogs.

Yes, I know they're endangered. I don't care. My kid believes he can squish them at will, and that is a good, good thing. And no, I did not bother to tell him that one of these puppies has enough venom to kill 10 adult humans. There are some things he does not need to know.

On the way home, we had this conversation.

"You know how I said I was afraid of poison frogs?"

"Yep."

"That was a joke. I was joking about the zombies, too," he added. "Because, you know, they're not even real."

Take that, fear. You've been squished.

June 20, 2010

It's All Fun & Games Until Someone Falls Asleep

Every so often, my kids and I engage in a game they call "Mommy Monster." I lie on the sofa in wait until some unsuspecting child walks by, and then I reach out and grab them and tickle them mercilessly until all three kids jump on me in a giggly, squealing, squirmy mass.

Today, I wound up underneath just such a pile of happily loud and wiggly kids.

And I fell asleep.

I woke up the instant one of the kids jumped off me and set off all those internal mommy alarms that blare when a child of mine is not readily present and accounted for.

But I'm still annoyed. They had all that fun without me.

Damn but I'm tired.

Stupid insomnia. I hate you.

P.S. I know I've got a pronoun/antecedent agreement issue in the first paragraph, but I'm too tired to figure out how to fix it.

June 14, 2010

One Good Right Turn

So, you know the question I dodged the other day? The one about whether or not I've got a boyfriend?

I do. But shhh, don't tell the kids.

He's a great guy. He's smart and funny and his hugs are better than Xanax. He asks intelligent questions about knitting and understands why cupcakes matter. He accepts that chronic lateness is a part of my character and knows that a conversation with me will generally involve a series of right turns and an occasional big old twisty circle. He always walks on my right side because I carry my purse on my left, and he points when he gives me directions because I don't get the whole left/right thing anyway (he learned that one the hard way).

He likes good food and interesting people and keeps passing me books I can't put down so that I'll have something fun to read when I'm wide awake at 2:00 a.m. He's allergic to mussels and mixes a mean dark and stormy, and you wouldn't believe what he can do with a cosmopolitan. He loves his family. And he once spent a whole day in the kitchen making a mole from scratch. I wasn't there for that, but gee it's fun to hear him talk about it.

We've been friends for 21 years.

I like him. I like spending time with him, just talking with him or being quiet with him. I like the sound of his voice, the strength in his hands, and the way he brightens when he's with me. He makes me brighten, too. His apartment is the only place in a 100-mile radius where I can get a good night's sleep because there I feel safe and relaxed and cared for.

Next month, he's moving to California.

I'm going to miss him.

June 13, 2010

Sex and the Single Aspie

I have this cousin who is One Smart Cookie, and who is also, for various reasons, interested in the subject of Asperger's Syndrome. We haven't talked about it much, but given that we're friends on Facebook, he sees my posts, and I see his.

He posted something today that, well, it was interesting. I'm not ready to share it with my own general public on Facebook. But I am very comfortable sharing it here, where I can give it some context.

The article, "Asperger's Syndrome Sex: Love's Outer Limits," was posted on CarnalNation.com. It's part one of a multi-part series.

And it's fascinating.

I can't speak for the other moms of tween Aspies. Mine is in middle school. He's learning about hygiene and puberty and how his body will change. And he's thinking about girls. He's asking about first kisses and why unmarried teens have babies and whether I have a boyfriend. (And no, those last two are not related topics.)

Sex and relationships are part and parcel of growing up, no less for him than for other kids his age. A lot of his coming of age will and should be private - i.e., not bloggable. But as his mom, I do have some thinking to do about how to talk to him about this stuff. And that thinking should be okay to share.

I don't know about other parents, but I want my kids - all three of them - to have healthy and fulfilling relationships. I don't care whether my kids are gay or straight or ambiguous, but I do care that they find a way to connect, a way to be loved, a way to get hugs and kisses and the fulfillment that comes from a loving physical relationship. I want them to be respected and respectful. To know themselves, their hearts and their bodies. To know what they need and be comfortable saying so. To know when to say no, and when to say yes. To make good and responsible choices.

And I've wondered how all of that might be different for my Aspie. Because it will be. Any interpersonal relationship works differently for him.

And it hurts me when I think that my Aspie, who already struggles so much to make friends, may struggle so much more to find love.

This article gives me a beginning, a place to start from when talking to him about this stuff. And I'm thinking I may forward it to the guidance counselor at his school, where there are eight other tweenage boys starting the same journey.

For the record? I had my first kiss at seven (apparently, so did my daughter ... the things you learn over breakfast!). And I successfully dodged the boyfriend question. The subject of teen pregnancy came up after the season finale of Glee. I told him that unmarried teens like Puck and Quinn have babies when they make poor choices. My older two then asked me what those poor choices were, and I said something like "it's called 'having sex'," and both of them promptly changed the subject. For which, I am thanking my lucky stars. And thinking madly about how to answer it when the subject comes up again.

June 12, 2010

Veggie Girl Conquers the World

It's official. My little diva is no longer a vegetarian.

"I'm just not cut out for it," she sighed. And then she burst into tears.

She got lots of verbal hugs (we were at the table - a real hug was a bit of a challenge). She felt defeated. But she shouldn't have.

In trying to be a vegetarian, even for a little while, my diva became much more aware of what she eats. She learned how to make healthy choices. She added countless new foods to her diet, including such rarities as tofu and brussels sprouts.

And she ate her veggies. Every single night.

But her vegetarian experiment didn't just affect her. It affected every single one of us.

Because now she's not the only one eating her veggies. Her brothers eat them too. Not huge servings. Not every bite. But they eat them. They eat broccoli and green beans, cauliflower and corn on the cob, carrots and cucumbers. And, of course, the aforementioned brussels sprouts.

Yes, that means I have three children who eat brussels sprouts. I am a blessed woman.

And they try things. I put something new on the table now, and not a one of 'em runs away screaming. (And yes, that did happen. We do have an Aspie in the house, after all.) In the last week, I've made shrimp with garlic, roasted pork tenderloin, and orange mashed potatoes (I added a sweet potato to to my Idahoes). They tried everything. Without complaining. Although sometimes with ketchup.

By the time I finished telling her all that, Veggie Girl was beaming. Because she did this. She ate her veggies and showed her brothers how it's done.

I love a girl who knows her own mind.

June 6, 2010

Lemon Jell-O Cake, or Why I Love My Sister

I like cake.

You're shocked, I'm sure. Because I've only blogged about cakes and cupcakes like 83,000 times. (And yes, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.)

My aunt makes a cake she calls Better Than Sex Cake. And there was a time when I might have agreed with her. You should make this cake. It may not be better than sex, but it is better than a great many other truly wonderful things. Including chocolate. I kid you not.

Good as this cake is, however - and it is extremely good - it is not the best cake ever.

The best cake ever is the stuff of memories. It's the cake my mom made for my birthday every single year growing up. It's baked in a Bundt pan, coated in a simple powdered sugar glaze, moist, with a blaze of lemony flavor that just zings through your mouth. We call it the Lemon Jell-O Cake.

I have not had that cake in nearly 30 years.

My mom's been ill for a very, very long time. When all that first happened, her brother kindly stored her things in his basement. There was a flood, though, and much was destroyed. Baby clothes she'd made by hand for me and my sister. Her original artwork. Mirrored pillows and other items from her travels to India.

And books. Many books. Including her cookbooks, and the recipe for the best cake ever along with them.

I spent years searching the interwebz for that Lemon Jello-O Cake. I never found it. I found cakes that stole the name, easy cakes, light and lemony. But not one was right.

And then, my sister's birthday came. I was pondering how best to help her celebrate and decided to get her thoughts on her cake. I gave her a couple of options. First up, the tiramisu cupcakes I wound up making (awesome!). The other was Martha Stewart's lemon curd cupcakes, for the lemony memories.

Which is when she told me about her wonderful gift. She'd rescued my mom's old, water-logged Fannie Farmer Cookbook from the flood. And inside it, hand-written and just a little smeared, was my mom's Lemon Jell-O Cake recipe. (Which is apparently Paulette's recipe, only we don't know who Paulette is.)

My sister read it to me over the phone, because she is just that awesome.

I made it last weekend. It is every single bit as good as I remembered. And given how much flavor hindsight and nostalgia add, that's saying something. Still not better than sex, but definitely getting closer.

Enjoy. And remember to send a great big thank you to my sister.

Paulette's Lemon Jell-O Cake
1 package Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix
1 3 oz package lemon Jell-O
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup apricot nectar (my store didn't have it, so I used pear nectar instead - still yummy!)
2 tbs lemon extract

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a buttered and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes minimum, usually longer.  (45 minutes did it for me, but my oven is dead-on accurate.)

Glaze
 2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, please!)

Mix and let stand. Pour over cake when it comes out of the oven. (I poured it along the inner and outer edges of the pan ... oh stars, but what that does to this cake ... you'll just have to find out for yourself.) Leave in the pan until it cools. Eat it.

Giving credit where credit is due: my mom once told me that this recipe came off a box of Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix. I've been all over their site, though, and couldn't find the recipe. I did find a similar recipe here.

May 27, 2010

Mr. Green Beans

At my dinner table this week ...

I roasted a chicken. I made macaroni and cheese, the homemade kind, from a friend's recipe. I steamed green beans. I washed some grapes and sliced up a bunch of Italian bread. I put it all on the table.

My kids passed the chicken. They passed the macaroni and cheese. They passed the grapes and the bread. They passed the green beans.

Veggie Girl filled her plate up with green beans, because they are green and they are yummy and she truly loves her vegetables. Except for zucchini.

My Aspie took six beans. Yes, six. He counted them. He ate them. And then he asked for more protein, please.

My redhead took three. Reluctantly.

I told him he couldn't have more mac and cheese until he ate a green bean. So he ate one. All of it. Without ketchup. And then he ate another. And then the third.

And then he reached for the serving bowl and finished every single green bean left on the table.

He told my amazing, veggie-eating au pair that he is now big and strong and smart because he eats green beans. And last night he asked - yes, he asked - if we couldn't please have green beans for dinner.

Hang onto your hats, folks. There's a newly minted veggie lover in the house!

May 23, 2010

Small Miracles

Apparently, the Earth's orbit has shifted. The planets aligned. Hell froze over.

My redhead slept through the night. Again.

This is huge. HUGE. Because it's never ever happened before.

And even better, he wants it to happen again. Seriously. He said so himself. I was putting him to bed, and he said, "Mom, you can sleep with me one more time, and then I'm going to do it by myself so you can get me a Build-A-Bear."

That "sleeping with me" stuff means two things. It means at night, when he's falling asleep, because he likes to have me nearby. Not always right next to him, but always nearby. And given the turmoil of the divorce, I haven't pushed it. I've stayed. Because divorced kids need to know they are loved, they are safe, and their grown-ups will be there. No matter what.

And the other thing it means is his 4 a.m. wanderings into my room, when I'm so totally zonked out nothing short of a screaming smoke detector could wake me. He climbs into my bed, glues himself to my side, and sleeps the rest of his night.

Now he's going to do it by himself. Falling asleep. Staying asleep. All on his own.

And all it's going to cost me is a Build-A-Bear.

I'm in. I am so in. Because, after nearly five years of non-stop sleep deprivation, I'd give anything. Anything. A year's supply of M&Ms, every Lego kit ever made, a ride on the space shuttle.

Thirty days of solid sleep, and that kid is going shopping.

I'm lucky all he wants is a bear.

May 22, 2010

Sleeping Through

Last night, my closing-on-five-year-old slept through the night for the first time in his whole entire life.

I wish I were kidding about that. But I'm not. As a newborn, this kid was ginormous and growing faster than anyone should at that age. He simply could not get through the night without nursing. Then he got older, and apparently he stayed hungry. Or thirsty. Or he had night terrors. Or the wind blew. And he woke up. He woke up, and he came looking for me.

This puzzles me. I've raised two kids who have been champion sleepers practically since birth. In their own beds and everything.

Not this guy.
 
Eventually, after a year or two of disrupted sleep, I simply gave up. I stopped sleeping and started waiting for him to come find me. See, if he caught me sleeping, I'd wind up with an overnight companion who believes that sleep happens best when he is glued to my side and holding firmly to my belly button. And that's just weird. So I stayed awake in order to put him back in his own bed and keep him out of mine.

Now he waits me out. He's figured out that I get so little sleep I'll eventually crash like a meteorite, and if he waits until 4 or 5 a.m., he'll win. Thanks to the sleeplessness that is single motherhood, he wins every single night.

Only last night, he didn't. Last night, he slept. In his own bed. All night long.

That's because last night, I wasn't at home. Last night, a really truly wonderful and amazing friend stayed at my house with my kids. My redhead knew I wouldn't be there when he came looking for me. So he didn't come.

Tonight I asked him why. I was tucking him in, and I said, "Hey, I'm really proud of you for staying in your bed all night last night. I'll bet you can do that again tonight."

"No. I can't."

"Why not?"

Which is when he looks up at me with these great, big, lost puppy dog eyes and says, "Because I love you, mom."

Well, crap. I couldn't argue with that one if I tried.

May 16, 2010

Veggie Girl Versus the Insect

A few nights ago, I'm putting the kids to bed, helping with tooth brushings and face washings and pajama wearings. And there, in the bathroom, up near the lights, was a great big giant bug.

Ew.

The redhead and the diva were clearly freaked. So I did what any good mom would do ... and no, that does not mean I ran screaming from the room, because really, what kind of lesson would that teach them?

Nope. I calmly pulled a few sheets off the roll, folded them over once or twice, climbed up on the counter and squashed the hell out of that bug.

Immediately I heard a shocked gasp from behind me. It was the diva.

"Mom!" she gasped in horror. "You killed nature!"

And then she stormed out of the room.

My little chicken-eating vegetarian wants to save the world. Even the bugs. I must be doing something right.

May 9, 2010

Ice Cream for Breakfast

Today was the very best kind of day.

A year ago - and this is where blogging is just a little surreal, because you do get to look back a full year and see where you were - but a year ago, I was in a very different place. A year ago, I dropped a pitcher of iced tea on the floor, burst into tears, and put my cranky kids to bed.

Today I had ice cream for breakfast.

Today I had eager kids bouncing on my bed, and an amazing au pair who woke up early and helped them mix and scramble and toast and scoop. They gave me ice cream for breakfast, with four spoons and a heaping helping of Belgian chocolate sprinkles (I am so planning a trip to Belgium, 'cause those folks really do have their priorities straight when it comes to food).

Today I had my family around me, with two mothers in the house and a birthday to celebrate, and plenty of yummy goodness. That includes some incredible cupcakes - and yes, I made them, but it's not really bragging because they are not really my cupcakes. These cupcakes belong to Martha. THE Martha. They are Martha Stewart's tiramisu cupcakes, and they are easily worth whatever you have to pay for real vanilla beans to make them happy.

What's funny is, that bad day, a year ago? That's the day I realized I was happy. And yes, I know that seems a bit contrary. But it's true. I knew I was happy because that one bad day didn't knock me down. It didn't send me diving for the covers. That one bad day was followed by one good day. And then another. And another.

And that's what makes happy. A string of good days, with a bad day plopped in there from time to time to remind you of what you've got.

Crap happens. It happens a lot. And then you have ice cream for breakfast.

Happy Mother's Day, folks. Gosh but this mom thing is fun!

The Great Potty Caper

Ever since our One Step Back, the redhead has had a bit of trouble with ... uh, shall we say preschool incontinence? That first day, my poor little guy went through five - yes, five - pairs of pants. He just doesn't make it on time anymore, and I'm not sure why. He could be regressing. Or maybe he just really hates washing his hands.

We've tried all kinds of incentives and bribes, the latest being an M&M for every successful, dry trip to the loo. None has really worked. Though, thankfully, our failures have generally been at home. Quiet. Discreet. Stash of clean clothes in a dresser upstairs.

Until yesterday.

Last night my folks were here (YAY!). They live on the other coast, so we see them maybe once a year. I had the kids out for a very late dinner at Wendy's. And no, I don't do fast food that often, but when in the excitement of seeing the grandparents and possibly swimming in the hotel pool you totally forget what time it is, then realize it's nearly 8:00 p.m. and your kids haven't eaten yet, fast food is the result.

We'd made it through the chicken nuggets and on to the ice cream when suddenly the redhead starts saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"Why are you sorry, peanut?"

"'Cause I pee on everything."

Oops.

I rushed him to the bathroom. Too late. He was soaked. And because he's been potty trained for nearly three years now, I was there without a stitch of extra clothing, trapped in an eco-friendly restroom with not a paper towel in sight.

Seriously. No towels. And you can't dry pants with toilet paper.

So I did the only thing a mom could do. I held him up, pants and all, under the air dryer. Baked him till he was done on one side, then flipped him over.

Worked, too. He marched out of that restroom, dry and warm, and finished his ice cream. He even washed his hands.

Fingers crossed that delivered a lesson, though. Because I'm running out of M&Ms.

May 2, 2010

Eight Years

You ever think of your life in eight-year chunks?

It's an odd thing to do. Most of the time you're thinking two years ahead. Or five years. Or 10.

But eight years. Enough time to be interesting, right? But not so dramatic as a whole decade.

And really it's not that long.

You know how I know?

Eight years ago, I had a three-year-old son starting preschool. I had a 12-week-old daughter who had just started sleeping through the night. The redhead was not even a twinkle in my eye. And the ex and I had just quit our marriage counselor, against her advice (gee, wonder how that went).

I blinked. That's all I did. I blinked, and eight years went flying by.

In eight more years, that three year old will be 19, finishing his second year of college and waiting, patiently and with all due respect for the law, through the 17 months between him and legal beer. That 12-week-old will be driving and dating, and I'm honestly not sure which of those is more startling. And my twinkle will be 12, almost 13, and driving the girls to distraction in middle school.

They're growing up on me, you know. And eight years, it's just a blink away.

Guess there's a lesson in there somewhere: Don't blink.

April 29, 2010

One Step Back

You know that saying, "two steps forward, one step back"? Well, I shoulda known this was coming. I mean we've taken a lot of great steps forward in managing this whole single-parent family life thing. Which means we were overdue for a step back.

So we took one.

Yesterday, I woke up with all three kids in my bed. My Aspie was restless. My diva had nightmares. My little guy - well, he climbs in every night, 'cause he knows I'm too tired to move him back to his own bed. But yesterday morning he just wouldn't leave.

And the three of them, they were a mess. Lots of needling and bickering and that really annoying, two-syllable "Mo-om!" Kids grabbing at me and crying a blue streak at the slightest hint of separation. My little guy, a potty user for half his life now - well, he missed. And I caught my diva with her thumb firmly in her mouth. She hasn't sucked her thumb in months.

Big step back.

And here's why.

If you've been around the past few weeks, you know my Aspie just started a new school. Great new school. Actual friends - seriously, he's got friends, and they are just like him, and they are awesome. But it's a transition. Transitions are rough. The school is still learning him, he is still learning them, we're all still learning each other.

This week, we learned a lot.

Late in what was a very good day at school, the staff sat down with the kids and shared the news that a student at my son's old school had died. The boys talked. They seemed okay. And everyone went home.

My Aspie was not okay.

He's also not so good at identifying and articulating his emotions. He was confused and coping. So he tantrummed. He screamed and he cried. He got disrespectful and disobedient and a whole slew of other nasty dis-es. I wasn't there for most of them, because it was Not My Night. The kids were, mostly, with their dad. Not that I helped while I was there - kid management has always been a source of - well, let's just call it debate - between me and the ex. But I do know there was a fair amount of angry all around, and a lot of dad-style discipline, which tends to be rather, uh, louder than the mom stuff.

It was not a good night. So we took a step back.

But you know what's cool? And maybe it's the rose-colored glasses talking. But all this, it's an aberration. It's not normal. And it used to be. It used to be normal. It used to be every day with the nightmares and the thumbsucking and the clinging to mommy. A year ago, this was our life.

It's not anymore.

Today our world went right back to the new normal. I woke up with only one kid in my bed, and he dashed off as soon as he heard his favorite brother playing on his DS downstairs. The kids spent the morning laughing and hugging and left the house smiling. No missed potties. Not a single sucked thumb.

And so, we step forward again. Because these days, forward is where we live.

April 25, 2010

Prime Numbers

This week, I celebrated my birthday.

This is, believe it or not, a good thing. It's a good thing because I am oddly superstitious about prime-number ages, and before last Monday I was stuck at 43.

I'm not 43 anymore. I get to be 44 now. For a whole year, I get not one but two beautifully even digits and a whole slew of deeply gorgeous factors. I like factors. Factors mean no more primes.

Yes, I know this is vaguely math geeky. Sue me.

The bad thing about my birthday is that I spent several hours of it on an airplane. I hate airplanes. Because, while I may be a semi-credible math geek, I don't believe in physics, and I don't buy that there is an actual science that makes flight possible. Don't bother trying to convince me otherwise; smarter folks than you have failed. And yes, that includes my dad (who is a terrible flyer despite his very firm belief in physics).

But worse, getting on that plane meant I spent most of my birthday on the front end of a four-day business trip that took me away from my kids.

Now, there are some prime numbers I like. I like the number three, for example, because I have three bright, fabulous, amazingly wonderful kids. So three is good.

And I like the number 11. My Aspie is 11. That's not why I like it, though. I like it because it's got double digits and it looks like it should have factors. Yes, I know it doesn't. Still, as primes go, that's one of the coolest. (The other cool prime is two. An even prime? How awesome is that!)

And I like the number seven. I didn't used to like it. See, I was seven when my parents got divorced. Who knows, that may even be where my weird anti-prime age thing started.

But my amazing au pair has changed my mind. Because my amazing au pair is our seventh au pair. And while we've had several truly terrific au pairs (and one or two we don't talk about so much) ... well, this au pair, she really is amazing.

On my birthday, she let my three early birds wake her up at 6:45 a.m. She's 19 (oh, look, another prime!), and at 19, 6:45 a.m. is ridiculously early. But she's amazing, right? So she got up at that insane hour and helped the kids make breakfast and decorate a pretty tray and bring it all up to my room. I got to do nothing but wake up to my redhead's charming face planted squarely over mine, shouting "Mom! Don't. Get. Out. Of. BED!"

I didn't. I stayed in bed and enjoyed a homemade card from the diva, big hugs from everyone, a yummy Belgian bread pudding, scrambled eggs, and a tall glass of orange juice.

Although, I didn't get to enjoy the orange juice. At least, I didn't get to drink it. Because somehow it wound up in my lap. And all over my bedsheets. And my blanket. And my quilt.

You'd think a non-morning person like myself would have lost it, getting an orange juice shower that early in the day. Nope. Not me. I laughed and gave a big hug to my redhead, whose feet had done the damage. 'Cause all those prime numbers had put a great big smile on my face that even airplanes and orange juice could not erase. Thank you, prime numbers.

We'll see how I feel when 47 comes along.