Saturday, July 31, 2010

My kids are currently losing their marbles

Because UNCLE! BEN! is MOVING! here TODAY!

That's right. My little brother is moving to our town and is going to live less than a mile away from us, across from a park we often walk to, in fact. We went shopping today and bought him a couch because despite our plans to give him our couch, we never found one we liked enough to buy for ourselves. Ben, though, found a sweet couch today that makes into a queen size bed (perfect for when our other little brother comes to town), has storage compartments under the armrest cushions (perfect for remote control storage), and is able to be picked up tomorrow, meaning he can move it right into his new place, along with the queen size bed he scored. We went to Target where he stocked up on things like a Brita pitcher, a vacuum cleaner, and bathroom decor, meaning he's really only missing a TV, coffee table, bookshelf, and dresser. And as much as I would love to help him buy those things, tomorrow is supposed to be the first decent pool day we've had in a week. So. Yeah. My Ben will have an awesome time, I am sure, hauling shit from car and U-Haul to apartment-- I wouldn't want to interfere.

Hope to post some pictures of the pad tomorrow (I'd say bachelor pad, but it's not because he has an awesome girlfriend who will hopefully be here tomorrow, too)

Some sleeping hijinks lately:


Yesterday was cloudy and gray and too cold for the pool. We played at the park for awhile after my morning workout, and Harry and Jack were warm enough from running around but I was chilly watching them from my spot on the concrete.

I fantasized about cold nights and Uggs with jean skirts and hoodies for about 3 seconds, and then I started thinking of the snow and slush and Winter with a capital W. Ugh.

(I am totally being a dram queen, BTW, because it was like 72 yesterday, far from freezing.

Jamie gave Jack this Classic Pooh (a bear whose name is ACTUALLY Pooh-- perfect), and he carries it everywhere, which is both adorable and sad.
Look at his buried toes-- the kid cannot keep his shoes on at a playground-- he loves tires, rocks, woodchips, dirt between his crowded little toes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday night fiction meme

Tonight, I am following Corinne's lead and linking up to The Red Dress Club's friday fiction meme.

Here's the prompt:
For this Friday, write a short piece of fiction about seeing an ex in the grocery store from the first person point-of-view. Instead of writing from the female perspective, we want you to write from the male perspective.

Road Well Traveled

When I see her in front of me in the cereal aisle, I feel like a dirty old man for reading the writing on her sweats. Pink, they say, of course, like the asses all of the undergraduates in my English classes, girls who have rolled from their warm beds to the cold tables in my room with their bright bra straps showing in the wide v-necks of their white t-shirts. Sometimes when I am scanning the room for a face to call on, I wonder where they find these t-shirts that cling so well and are so thin I can see the softness of their skin and the ridges of the elastic in the waistbands of their sweat pants. You know, so I can buy one for my wife.

Like my rumpled students, the woman in front of me in the cereal aisle has her long, brown hair piled high on her head in a blob, tendrils escaping to slide down her neck and tickle her ears. She's wearing dark Ugg boots, too, and the three inches of leg showing between her pants and the cuffed sheepskin is tan like the backs of her arms. From behind, panty-lineless with a thin strip of green bra stretched tight beneath her t-shirt, I think she's about 18, and I feel like an asshole.

She stops to contemplate a row of Kashi boxes, and I swerve to avoid running the wheels of my cart over her heels. I glimpse her profile before I whirl to stare at the oatmeal on the opposite side of the aisle. I notice large sunglasses perched on top of her head, a bangless forehead with tissue-paper wrinkles, and creases around her mouth. In the baby seat of her cart is a bottle of red wine, a bottle I inspected at the beginning of my trip and rejected in favor of a $9.99 cabernet because I only have $60 in my wallet, and the only thing on my list more expensive than organic chicken is the quantity of organic peaches my wife has requested, and if I get regular peaches or factory-farmed chicken or milk that is, say, not organic but RBST-free, and spring for the better wine, my wife will purse her lips at me when she unloads the bags. And if this were the only consequence-- a moue-- then I would buy the wine, but I will get emails all week with links to stories about children with behavioral disorders and early onset puberty caused by pesticides and antibiotics and poorly treated livestock.

The woman in the t-shirt so thin I can make out the hollow of her navel when I glance over my shoulder and see her plunking her cereal next to the brie and 3 granny smith apples in the basket of her cart must be at least 21, I revise. I remember the wrinkles around her mouth. 25 then, I adjust, maybe 27. But she's tan, so probably 25. In any case, I am a 35 year-old lech shopping for a family of five , and nothing on the list organized by the geography of my kitchen cabinets, fridge, and freezer that my wife emailed me just before the end of my graduate seminar, and email that made my BlackBerry buzz on the table and shook my students out of their Foucault-induced stupor, lurks in this aisle-- I was cutting through on my way to snag frozen bagels and some $5 cage-free eggs.

I throw a cylinder of oats in my cart just for the hell of it and treat myself to one last look at the Kashi woman who is using lipliner to scribble through words scrawled on the back of a receipt. I notice the way she chews on her bottom lip in concentration, her teeth white against a thick layer of plum gloss that bleeds into the lines around her mouth, and the gesture makes me nostalgic. She looks like a woman who used to arrange her lips around the thin barrel of a cigarette, at least 20 times a day. Only smokers and perpetual frowners get wrinkles like that, and this woman with her tousled hair and toes bare inside her fur-lined shoes and cart full of food for one doesn't look like she has anything to frown about.

Under the florescent lights of aisle 11, I want to be in my freshman dorm room with its filthy beige linoleum tile floors and its stained eggshell cement-block walls. I had a futon, a roommate in the marching band who was gone almost every weekend, and a space on a smoking floor. I miss the Natty Light cans full of backwash and ash that lined the wall under the window. I miss falling into sheets my mother washed once a semester whether they needed it or not, sometimes alone, but more often not. I miss being delighted at $1 rail nights and ecstatic for $2 you-call-its.

No one called me Daddy. No one called me Dr. Miller. No one called me by my full name, even though they know me better than anyone in the whole world and if every other fucking person on the planet calls me Nick, why do they-- why does she-- always call me Nicholas in a voice that falls on the third syllable like she's disappointed because she is disappointed. Always. No matter how closely I follow the list. Sometimes the only way I can shuffle down another aisle is to park myself behind a great ass or to imagine how disappointed she'll really be the day I wad her list into a tiny ball and throw it in her lemon-sucking face. Metaphorically.


At first, I think I am having a stroke in the cereal aisle and that my last view of earth will be a row of brown Honey Nut Cheerios boxes and the dirty wheels of my cart as my potbellied body splats on the black and white floor. My name floats around my head in a throaty cloud.

"Nick Miller? No way!"

It is the Kashi woman in the teenager's sweat pants, and she is smiling at me, and if her nipples have anything to say about it, she looks happy to see me.

I don't respond, and she frowns a little, sticking out her sit-com star teeth to chew on that plum lip again, and the gesture makes me step back toward the oatmeal, grazing the shelf with my khaki-covered ass. If the two of us had met 2 years ago, say, in this very aisle, standing this very distance apart, I could have taken at least two steps back before rubbing the merchandise, but girls are not the only ones who eat their feelings, and I feel trapped. Publish or perish is academia's Sophie's choice, and some days I am one pound of organic peaches away from choosing the latter.

This woman in front of me who will go home and drink expensive wine and nibble soft cheese, I know her. Knew her. It was our second semester in college, and we knew everything about the world and about each other and about how to get the most out of our parents' money. She left her ash in my Natty Light cans, and we spent spring break on South Padre Island, and I remember she was sweet to my band geek roommate, and she always called Absolut for her $2.

I want to ask her if she's an urban planner like she'd urbanely planned to be or if she still likes U2 and pizza with mushrooms, if she bought herself the heavy diamond studs in her ears, if she always dresses like a sophomore English student, if she's read my book.

But then what? We're FaceBook friends, and she tells me how cute my daughters are?

Two paths diverge, I tell myself. My BlackBerry is buzzing in my front left pocket. My list is long.

"Nick?" she asks, her earlier conviction gone.

If I walk away, I think, she won't confuse my bloated self for the kid she used to know. This fat old tweed-covered man here. He couldn't be that kid, she'll think.

He shouldn't be, anyway.

Play bawl

Jack would like nothing more than to play tee ball like Harry. He always warms up with Ben before the game

and then returns to his spot as a reluctant observer while the big kids take the field.

Harry was playing so well the other night. He got a huge hit, and he sort of remembered to run the bases in the right order.

He kind of paid attention when he played third base-ish, and he hustled after a few balls.

The other moms and I were talking about fall activities, and I was almost all set to sign Harry up for the fall tee ball league with a few of his current teammates when he started crying at first base and ran off the field demanding water. He chugged some and went back to his team. All seemed sort of well, so I turned my attention back to chatting.

Next thing I knew, Ben was all pissy with me for not paying attention, and Harry was having a sobbing, gasping, flailing fit over batting order.

So. Yeah. Maybe not so much of the fall tee ball. Just soccer, swim, and ballet, I guess.

(And don't worry-- Jack finally gets to play ball in a multi-sports class for babies (toddlers) while Harry is at soccer. I am sparing him the indoor swim lessons because he hates them, and he can't do ballet until he's 3. But still. Ball class. Finally.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ruh-roh. Jamie's leaving!

Jack has officially turned into Scooby Do, don't let this picture of him in a Buzz suit with a beer gut fool you.

Yesterday, he and Harry showed Jamie the hidden going-away present we got her, and when they told me that they spilled the beans, I was all, "Oh crap you guys. That's not cool," and Jack said "I rorry." Then I asked him if he knew what my name was besides Mommy, and he said "Rarah." Cracked. Me. Up.

I love this next picture because he is so bossy these days, telling us to follow him "Mommy here!" or "Daddy there!," or "Me up!" or most often "Me Harry too!" I also like how strawberry his hair looks and how messy it is in the back, a sign he needs another traumatic hair cut, I guess.

I helped Harry put this costume on beause it Velcros in the back, but sometimes he dons easier-to-fasten costumes by himself and I come into a room and happen upon him in super hero gear and a mask and am alarmed Today, I was ready.

Shortly after jack clambered onto the bed (his bed, mind you) Harry freaked out and tried to throw him to the ground for daring to trespass (on his own bed), and we were all done taking pictures.

Both boys have had a hard time keeping their shit together lately because Jamie is leaving for grad school, um, TODAY, and they are not sure how to handle it. I scoured the Internet and could not find a single freaking book about a kid whose beloved nanny moves away (which is dumber than dumb because surely this has happened a million times to a million other sad kids). Jack has been especially awful (and he can't tell us about his feelings as well as Harry can-- even if Harry is the kind of denial and will look up from whatever totally jerky thing he is doing to yell apropos of god knows what is going on in his little head "I am going to be FINE when Jamie leaves. Just FINE!), and I finally told him that Ben and I aren't going anywhere, that we're his mom and dad forever, and he stopped tearing the legs off of super heroes and hugged me and clapped his fat hands and said "Yay!"

It makes sense that he'd worry about us leaving, too, considering Jamie has been taking care of him like a third parent since he was born. Poor kid. Thank goodness for Skype. And winter break.

Really, we're all very sad, and I am dealing with it by being a bigger bitch than usual and buying shit. Like cupcakes. Did you know there's a cupcakery right by my office? Well, there is. Soon, I will have to buy other things. Like new pants to accommodate my cupcaked ass.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


A knock-knock joke Jack told my brother Ben:

J: Knock-knock
B: Who's there?
J: Poop
B: Poop who?
J: Pee pee

Tonight at tee-ball, one of the dads asked me about our trip to the Cubs game, and I told him about Jack getting his leg stuck in the chair and screaming "Doctor! Doctor!" for the next 2 batters. Jack was embarrassed to hear himself talked about and handled that emotion by screaming "Poopy! Poopy! Pee pee! Poopy!"

Trader Joe's has been out of Joe-Joes for 2 weeks now (Joe-Joes are TJ's HFCS-free Oreo knock offs that are actually way, way, way better than actual Oreos), and they FINALLY had some on MOnday, but only the ones with chocolate frosting in the middle. Jack had one at lunch, and when he opened it and saw brown frosting, he cackled and screamed (wait for it) "Poop cookie! Poop cookie yummy!"

So. Yeah. That's where he is lately.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


This week we went to Chicago for a quick getaway to see a Cubs game-- Harry and Jack's first trip to Wrigley.
I think Ben has been waiting forever to get a picture like this:

Harry, though, was really bothered that he had no Cubs shirt to wear, even though we assured him he could buy one-- and a hat-- the minute we got to the stadium. Phew! He and Jack were joyfully Cubbed out

I took this picture to show you that we bought a seat for my diaper bag and to hold all the crap we were sure to buy at the game. It came in really handy, and we used our 5th seat as a buffer between us and OTHERS. The people sitting next to my bag should have been happy because a bag didn't have loud cell phone conversations, get drunk and spill its beer, or get up 50 bajillion times to use the bathroom. But they were super pissed off because they had friends at the game who had seats elsewhere and wanted to sit in my bag's seat. The woman in the group next to us even PUT HER HANDS on my bag and started to move it. "That's our seat!" I yelled at her a little too harshly. "Do you want to see the ticket?" They gave us dirty looks until we left after the 7th inning stretch-- leaving 5 vacant seats in the back row right by a beer cart. So we were actually the best stadium neighbors ever. Except for the snow cone incident. And the water bottle debacle. And a minor crayon problem.

Our seats were prefect. Ben picked the terrace reserve because it was close to the field (and in foul ball territory, which always excites him) and in the shade, which was great for our little pasties and ensured we'd stay cool despite the mid-90 temperatures. The back row was also ideal because we could just climb out of our seats the 50 million times we got up. Good seat picking, Ben! (My bag loved it especially. I mean, seriously, have you seen the floor of a baseball stadium? It's no place for a bag, that's for sure).

Family pics on the way out

We accidentally burned the shit out of Jack putting him on this Ernie Bans pic for a photo. So we settled for a pic in front of the statue.

A super nice Cubs employee offered to take one of all of us

Jack took a selfie on the way back from pizza with Ben's grandma

Who gave the boys a bag of dinosaurs and let them frolic in her yard.

Our hotel was a bone of contention. Ben wanted to stay in a Marriott suites hotel by the airport because we do better in a suite with our kids. I wanted to stay on Michigan Avenue because that's way more fun and festive and has an awesome view. We were not able to use our points (weird blackout) for a suite at a downtown hotel, so staying in the city meant we would all be in one room. We had never all stayed in one room before, but my desire for an awesome view won out over Ben's common sense.

The city looks pretty from the 26th floor, huh?

While it was cool to be in a pool 9 floors up, this particular pool was gross and cold and dim. And the hot tub was under construction, destroying any ambiance the room might have had.

After the WORST NIGHT OF SLEEP since our kids were newborns, we fought for a couple hours, drank some bunny crackers

and headed out to explore the city, which was really fun and lovely.

We met up with Amy and her two oldest kids to hit the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier, which the kids all loved (even if they did all cry in the Block party exhibit, which featured an ice cream pushcart that was the most desired object in the room and the cause of our 4 tantrums and probably 8 more from other kids during the 20 minutes we played in there)

Harry and Amy's Jack fought some fires

Harry took his job very seriously

Notice the dirty look the kid in the orange shirt is giving Jack

Ha! Clearly he was jealous because by the next snap, he had donned a cone himself

Even when he is the only one in the pic, Jack chooses the supporting role.

The kids payed the most happily in the water room, but I was too busy sitting on a bench and talking to take any pictures except this one.

The dinosaur dig room was also a huge hit, and we made them all pose for some pics

Harry did not think this was a cool as I did, but he humored me.

Then we ate lunch (a lovely, well balanced organic picnic for Amy's kids and a giant fried bag of fried for ours) and jumped in the car.

Where both kids slept for 3 and a half hours (the traffic was terrible!), and we came home to tornado siren wailing, and both kids stayed up until almost midnight.

The end.