Monday, December 29, 2008

Extreme Makeover: Basement Edition

My basement looked like a second hand shop and a Toys R Us had not one love child, but septuplet love children, all of whom got a nasty stomach virus and threw up.

The floor was covered with old toys and an eclectic variety of shoe sizes and styles, many of them singletons. The couches sported armrests four shades darker than the cushions. Dirty socks stood up in the corners and crawled down into the crotch of the loveseat. Legos and plastic Polly Pocket accessories decorated every surface. Tangled cords from an assortment of electronic game systems snaked around the legs of hand-me-down office furniture.

People had been known to venture into the basement and disappear for three days. Some would manage to claw their way out of the clutter like jungle adventurers just barely escaping from a pit of quicksand.

It was really becoming a liability issue.

My friend Dr. Paradigm Shift, a therapist who frequently shifts my paradigms, is also a card-carrying Neatie. She has such high-level organizing and de-cluttering skills that she could turn a Bolivian rain-forest into a PGA golf course in two days flat.

This dedicated warrior against the Evil Powers of Clutter selflessly volunteered to sacrifice an entire free day to attack the federal disaster zone known as my basement and turn it into a functional, habitable zone of leisure. When we walked downstairs, I could feel the basement laughing at me.

"Bwah-hah-hah," it was saying. "You will NEVER NEVER overcome my Powers of Messifying! I am the EMPEROR of CHAOS and DISARRAY!"

"Dr. Shift," I said. "Look at it. We're never going to get this done. Let's just go out for breakfast instead."

"It's not that bad," Dr. PS said seriously. "We can probably get this done before lunch." I just looked at her, because I had never known her to be so out of touch with reality. She's a therapist, for crying out loud.

"Dr. PS," I said gently, "I don't think you're really looking at it. There are about 12,000 different toys, games, puzzles and articles of clothing covering every available surface. You can't tell, but there's a ping-pong table over here"--I pointed to a four-foot high rectangle covered with cartons, board game boxes filled with everything but board game pieces, dress-up clothes and loose crayons and markers. "You're sweet and generous to want to help, but we're doomed! Let's just go shopping," I said.

"No, no, no," she insisted. "This isn't bad at all. Come on. Let's get the bins and get started." She grabbed a snow shovel and commenced filling a 60-gallon tub with Imaginext pirates. Meanwhile, I walked the perimeter, picking up one roller blade or elbow pad at a time and depositing it into the designated roller-blade-and-accessories-container. Dr. Shift and I had different styles of attacking the Wilderness of Massive Craploads of Crap. Apparently.

And then, before my very eyes, a miracle began to happen. Surfaces started to appear. Cleared spaces began materialize. It was like the basement was having an asthma attack, and then it sucked in on its inhaler, and started being able to breathe freely again.

In just under two hours, Dr. Paradigm Shift delivered an Extreme Makeover: Basement Edition. The ping-pong table appeared as the piles diminished; we folded it up and pushed it against the wall. The berber showed its woolly pile; the love seats invited us to enjoy their awning-striped comfort--free of puzzle-piece-pokeage and electronic-game-cord-trippage.

The toys and games were binned and shelved. The empty Sprite cans found the trash, while assorted crusty silverware and a two full loads of whites and lights were relocated to await their natural fate.

We had filled several bags with broken toys and junk, which we carried out to the garbage, and we had packed a dozen more boxes and bags with gently used toys and clothes. Dr. Shift went the extra mile for me, helping me pile everything into the minivan and drive it to the Salvation Army drop-off trailer.

Now, one month later, my extremely made-over basement remains cleared and habitable, a recreation mecca. It's a miracle on Moody Street.

Thanks, Dr. Shift. You are not only a shifter of paradigms, but you are a bringer of serenity through neatness.

99 Random Things

I hope to come up with something profound for my End of the Year post (I know my Green Room readers have high expectations), but for the moment I'm just going to borrow this list of 99 things from Elbee at Sew Little Time. Play along: bold what you've done in your comment, or on your blog (but don't forget to link back to The Green Room so I can check out your list!).

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii and danced on a lava cliff with the roar of the Pacific below.
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity (what is more than you can afford?)
7. Been to Disneyland/Disneyworld
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis - I remember doing this as a child, but today I'd be too scared to try it. Those suckers look menacing.
10. Sang a solo as a child in the church choir
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child - not officially, but sometimes there are so many extra kids in my house for so long, that I might as well make it official.
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you weren't ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors--England, but not Holland or Germany
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant -It was McDonald's and it was a homeless guy outside, same as Elbee
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance with the siren wailing, no less, when M. Peevie was threatening to be born 15 weeks early.
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies--but I'm going to help M. Peevie starting next week! Leave a comment and let me know what kind and how many you want!
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason from the awesome and sweet Mr. Peevie
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book - this is on my to-do list
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper - here's the proof
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year's Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury - an experience that I totally loved.
91. Met someone famous - Oprah, Robert Ludlum, John R. W. Stott
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Play along!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tiara of Awesomeness

I've been hanging out with the G.E.M.s (Great Edison Moms of kids in C. Peevie's class) since C. Peevie started kindergarten more than eight years ago. We came together with one thing in common: we all had a bright child in a small gifted public school.

Other than that, we were diverse in terms of our race, ethnicity, religion, income, education, zip code, marital status, age, number of kids, and occupation. We are black, white, Chinese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Filipino, Christian, Jewish, non-religious, married, divorced, single, high-school-educated, college-educated, north-siders, south-siders, Sox fans, Cubs fans, 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, vegetarians, omnivores, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs, office workers, computer geeks, stay-at-home moms, nurses, and HR professionals with one kid, two kids, three kids, and more kids.

One mom, Professor Dred, was telling another how she got to know the group of moms over the years. "It took about three years before they realized that I'm just like them," said her insecure black self.

"No, Professor Dred," my know-it-all white self objected, "No way. I think you were always just another mom of an Edison kid to the rest of us."

"Oh, OK," she said, "Then maybe it took me three years to believe that you realized that I'm just like you." She went on to tell anecdotes about other Edison moms taking her daughter into their homes for an impromptu overnight stay because of inclement weather or personal circumstances; and I remembered that when I met her for the first time, she offered me a set of early readers for C. Peevie that her off-the-charts-smart daughter was long-since finished with.

We all love to laugh--oh, and we're all smart and good-looking, too. And some of us are crazy. One year K-Squared snagged a bunch of hot pink polyester bowling shirts at a flea market and brought them to our gathering. But how to decide who got one? The only fair way, we decided, was to have a Hot Pink Mama Contest. The only way to earn a shirt was to make whoopie in a Chicago Park District park. Not in the field house. Not in a car in the parking lot. In the park.

A shocking number of G.E.M.s have hot pink bowling shirts hanging in their closets. I am not at liberty to name names, because what happens in G.E.M.ville stays in G.E.M.ville.

We celebrate with an annual white elephant gift exchange: popular items this year included the Blagojevich affidavit (all 78 pages, which was handed around the room so that everyone could read her favorite quotes out loud), an out-dated-but-still-classic-looking desk globe, and a granite-weight crucifix candle the color of a toilet bowl stain.

No one tried to steal the crucifix candle--my own contribution to the gathering. I guess nobody in that group loves The Lord very much. Then again, perhaps they love him too much to love a really, really ugly wax representation of him.

One of our G.E.M.s, Madame Butterfly, brought a set of authentic lacquered Chinese chopsticks with a matching case, which all of us coveted. "Madame B.," I told her in a loud Archie Bunker voice, "You are apparently unclear on the concept of the American white elephant tradition. You are supposed to bring something lame from your house that you won't ever use--not a family heirloom!"

"Next time," Madame B. told me, "I'll bring a pair of used takeout chopsticks and a handful of dented beer caps." Now she's got it.

I am grateful for these G.E.M.s, grateful to be surrounded by women who bring hilarity, sensitivity, compassion, intelligence, kindness, and helpfulness into my life. Each one is a rare gem, and together, they are a tiara of pure awesomeness.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Jolly Cherub


My kids really, really want to believe in Santa.

Remember back in the spring, when M. Peevie confronted me about the whole Santa myth? She wanted it straight up, and I gave it to her. She was disappointed, but she dealt with it.

Recently her second-grade teacher asked me if she still believed in Santa. "I think so," I said. "She asked me straight up in April if Mr. Peevie and I pretended to be Santa, and I told her the truth." She asked me to ask her not to talk about it in front of the other kids, since many of them still pinned their Christmas hopes on the jolly cherub.

As it turns out, Mrs. MiPi needn't have worried. Apparently children have a belief mechanism that is able to withstand a full frontal rational assault; and in fact, their belief can be restored once lost, with sufficient peer pressure.

One day A. Peevie and M. Peevie were talking about Santa, and MP (age eight) had told AP (age 11) that she did not believe in Santa. "Why would M. Peevie say that, Mommy?" A. Peevie said with wonder and not a little derision in his voice. "Why would she say that Santa's not real?"

"I don't know, A.," I said. "Maybe that's what she believes."

"Do you believe in Santa?" he asked me. Here we go, I thought.

"What do you think, A?" I evaded. "Do you believe?"

"Yes, I do," he said emphatically. "I DO believe!" End of discussion. Unlike M. Peevie eight months earlier, A. Peevie chose not to notice that I did not answer his question directly.

And M. Peevie changed her mind: "I believe, too!" she said earnestly.

This afternoon, A. Peevie asked me, "Mom, are you and Daddy getting C. Peevie a DS for Christmas? Because I want to get him a game for it." I told him we weren't, and then he asked, "Well, do you think Santa will bring him one?"

We let the kids open one present tonight. M. Peevie's present was the only one marked "From Santa"--and A. Peevie wondered out loud how it could already be here. Again with the dissimulation: "I don't know, A.P. What do you think?" He managed to satisfy himself again: "Well, maybe he dropped a couple of presents off earlier tonight, but he's coming back with the rest."

Later, we were lying across my bed, tracking Santa's progress on the NORAD* Santa Tracker. I had recently been wrapping presents, including the ones the kids had just opened. The gold foil wrapping paper roll was lying on the bed, and A. Peevie grabbed it triumphantly and waved it around.

"Look!" he said. "This is the same paper that M. Peevie's gift was wrapped in! You are totally busted!"

"Yes," I said. "And?"

"And that means you must be Santa!" He chuckled to himself, and repeated, "Busted! Busted!" while we watched Santa's progress on the satellite tracker.

"Not necessarily, A. Peevie," said Mr. Peevie craftily. "They make thousands of rolls of wrapping paper exactly like that!"

"But this one's here, in our house!" A.P. said. "I'll bet you wrapped that present yourself."

And yet, and yet: he still wanted to believe.

The NORAD team posts videos of Santa sightings on the tracking map; we clicked on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
"After heading south to the south Atlantic Ocean, Santa has entered South America and is delivering presents throughout Brazil, the continent's largest country. Santa is just about halfway through his journey, and NORAD is keeping its satellites fixed on Rudolph's bright red nose. NORAD fighters will be taking off soon to escort Santa as he nears North America. For NORAD tracks Santa, I'm Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Roberto Garza."

"Mom, why does Santa need fighter jets to escort him to North America," A. Peevie asked sincerely. And as we watched more Santa sighting videos, the Santa close-ups were not particularly convincing: "Hey, that's not really Santa, is it?" he asked. A part of him still wanted to believe, but he was collecting a lot of conflicting information.

Does my bright, imaginative 11-year-old still believe in Santa? It appears that he's not quite ready to give it up--and that's just fine with me. This blog would be remiss if it did not cite the famous New York Sun editorial from 1897 entitled Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
(Click the link to read the whole editorial, plus some interesting background.)
*North American Aerospace Defense Command, the bi-national U.S./Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of North America. NORAD provides warning of impending missile and air attack, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack.
UPDATE, Dec. 27: Today A. Peevie reminded me of our conversation on Christmas Eve about the wrapping paper, and how he totally busted me. "What does that mean, A. Peevie?" I asked him. "What does that leave you thinking about Santa?"

"It means," he said slowly, "that I ALMOST gave up on him. But I didn't give up. I still believe."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bonding Over Farts. Yes, Farts.

My mom will not appreciate this post because she thinks the word "fart" is vulgar. I, on the other hand, think the word is indispensable. Especially in this story.

This morning Mr. Peevie and I were lying in bed cozily, talking about bodily functions.

"What time did you wake up?" I asked.

"Five-twenty," said the unfortunate Mr. Peevie. "I got up to go fart and pee."

"You actually got out of bed in order to go somewhere else to fart?" I asked. I was impressed with his sense of duty and consideration. I really hit the jackpot, marrying this dude. Little did I know.

"Well, since I had to pee anyway, I waited to fart until I got to the bathroom," said Captain Consideration.

"Nice," I said. "Thanks. Although, did you know that you frequently fart in your sleep?"

"I do?" said Mr. Peevie. "No, I was not aware of that."

"Well, it's true," I said. "I'll be sitting there watching TV, and you'll be farting away in your sleep."


"Do I fart in my sleep?" I asked?

"No," said the man I love, "you have way better manners when you're asleep than when you're awake."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Apocalypse Hilarity

We were driving, driving, driving. The dentist. The coumadin clinic. The pharmacy. The store. The kids were chattering and bickering and singing. And then we had a story moment, one of those perfect moments of bonding and hilarity that will live on in our family lore, being told and re-told, and the punch line will be repeated ad nauseum--except we will never get sick of it.

A. Peevie was telling a story about his friend BiF. Apparently BiF has been doing some serious thinking about eschatology, because he confidently told his fifth-grade pals that they didn't need to worry about the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming.

"I don't think the ozone layer will break before the apocalypse," he said optimistically. That's good news, right? I think? Except for that whole apocalypse thing. But then I was thinking, what does this little boy really know about end of the world? And why does he know about it? So I asked.

"A. Peevie," I asked, "What do you think BiF means by 'apocalypse'? Does he even know what it means?"

There was a pause, while A. Peevie thought this over. He's never one to answer quickly, unless it's a question about Pokemon. And suddenly the answer came from a different source.

"It's the end of the world as we know it," M. Peevie started singing, "It is the end of the world as we know it!"

C. Peevie and I looked at each other and roared. Then we joined in, at the top of our lungs, "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, AND I FEEL FINE!"

Where would my angelic eight-year-old learn this R.E.M. classic from the 80's? And where did she learn how to slip it so appropriately into a conversation about the apocalypse? One possible source is the movie Chicken Little (appropriately enough), which includes this song in its soundtrack.

But still: what perfect timing. The girl has a future in stand-up. Or something.

And now I can't get that song out of my head.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It all started on Wednesday. I got a call from the school secretary telling me that A. Peevie was having trouble breathing. "I can't catch my breath, Mommy," he said when she put him on the phone. "It's hard for me to get air into my lungs." Well, that didn't sound good, so I called the doctor on the way to school, and she said to bring him in.

"I can tell even without the stethoscope that he's wheezing," she said. "It's bronchial spasms." Asthma. She prescribed an inhaler and a steroid to help clear him up, and we went on our way, with yet another diagnosis. This kid collects diagnoses like they're baseball cards.

The next day A. Peevie inhaled his albuterol at 8 a.m., and didn't need it again until more than 12 hours later. Then around 10 p.m. he started asking for another puff.

"You can't have your medicine again until midnight," I told him. I could tell he was tired, and I urged him to try to go to sleep.

"No, mom, I really need to take the medicine again," A. Peevie insisted. "It's hard for me to get a whole breath into my lungs." To demonstrate, he tipped his head down and dramatically sucked air, inflating himself upright like an air mattress. I wasn't convinced--not that I thought he was lying or exaggerating, but that perhaps his anxiety was making it worse than it really was.

"A.," I said, "I can't give you your medicine. We have to wait four hours. You have two hours to go. If you really need it sooner, I have to call the doctor first."

"Call the doctor," he instructed. "I need the medicine." Sheesh. Kids these days. A little airway constriction and they're all "Oh, call the doctor! I need medicine! I can't breathe!" Babies.

So I called the doctor, and she said we had to go to the ER. "I really don't think he's that bad off," I said, trying to talk her into a different course of treatment. "Can't I just give him another dose and see how he does?"

No, she said. If he really needs the inhaler again so soon after taking his last dose, then he needs to be checked out at the ER. A. Peevie burst into tears when he heard this news. He cried as he put his pants on, he cried as he hugged his daddy goodbye, like it was the last time he was going to see him.

"Do you want to just try to go to sleep, A.?" I said, making one last ditch effort to avoid a late-night trip to the hospital.

"No," he said, hiccupping--and now, with the crying, even I could tell his breathing was a bit more labored. "I need my medicine."

So Aidan packed his Gameboy DS and drawing materials into his briefcase (adorable!) and off we went to visit the ER docs at Lutheran General Hospital. Again. We've been there so often that I recognized the attending ER physician. He recognized us, too. "You've been here before, haven't you?" he asked when he saw us.

"Um, yeah," I said. "Nine or ten times."

We went through A. Peevie's complicated medical history with the resident, Dr. Dave, who looked like he was about 14 years old. I was impressed when he appeared to be familiar with the cardiac diagnoses and surgeries as I ticked them off. A. Peevie's medical history is complex and rare enough that often the interviewer asks for clarifications and definitions. Then they usually ask me if I'm in the medical field myself, because of the way I sling around the polysyllabic medical terminology. (I secretly love this--although I guess it's not a secret anymore.) I'm not, I say, but being A. Peevie's mom has certainly given me an education that I would not otherwise have had. Thanks, A.!

To make a long, anticlimactic story short, three hours, one chest X-ray, and lots of stethoscoping later, we headed home. No nebulizer treatment. No treatment at all. And the breathing? Miraculously improved.

Sometimes anticlimactic is the best way for a story to end.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Christmas Story

We decorated the Christmas tree Friday night, and set up about 50 Santas, tiny nativity scenes, candles, and assorted other holiday-themed decorations around our relatively tiny living room. It's cluttered and Christmasy, and looks especially sweet when the tree lights and candles twinkle in the dark.

I put a final sparkly ornament on the tree, and turned around. M. Peevie was bowed down on her knees in front of the tree in prayer, her head resting on her folded hands. I watched her for a moment, and then inquired, "Um, M. Peevie?"

"Yes, Mommy," she answered, her head still bowed.

"You're not actually worshipping the Christmas tree, are you?" I asked.

"No, of course not," she said. "The tree and the decorations make me think of Jesus being born. That's what I'm praying about."

Ahh. All-righty, then.

When we finished decorating, all the kids had different ideas about what we should do next.

"Let's all go downstairs and play Mario Party of Five!" said A. Peevie. "It would be a fun family thing for us to do together."

"I'm gonna go over and play at T-Dawg's house," said the teenager, anxious as always to zoom out the door.

"I know, I know!" said M. Peevie. "Let's sit around the tree and read verses about the Christmas story from the Bible!"

I thought it was a great idea, but everyone else just looked at her, wondering what planet she was from; and then they each reiterated their own preference. "I'm outta here," said C. Peevie, heading for the door.

"It would be more fun to play Mario Party," said A. Peevie, heading to the basement.

"FINE," M. Peevie said peevishly, "If you DON'T want to WORSHIP the LORD!"

That's my girl. If you can't teach 'em, shame 'em.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Resign, Already

Scandal and speculation continue to roil the Illinois political scene in the wake of Governor Blagojevich's arrest and the release of a 76-page affidavit detailing shocking charges of blatant corruption.

The last line of the 12-page Department of Justice press release announcing the arrest reminds us that "The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Good luck finding 12 people in Illinois who can meet that requirement.

The top issue of concern for our state at this moment is the filling of the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama on November 16. Technically, the governor is still the governor, and still has the power to appoint someone to fill that seat. He would not try to pull that fast one, would he? I don't know; if he really is a sociopath like some people say, then he'd be able to rationalize anything.

Yesterday, Jesse Jackson Jr. adamantly denied any knowledge of Blagojevich's "pay to play" shenanigans. He wanted--and still wants--the Senate job, he says; but he didn't pursue it in an unethical way.

I can't find a transcript of Jackson's speech yesterday--but I think I heard him say that if Blago offered him the appointment even now, he would take it. I could be wrong. I hope I am--because no one, not even Mother Teresa, should accept an appointment from our disgraced governor at this point. Well, she wasn't an Illinois resident, and she's dead, but even if she were, and wasn't, she shouldn't. If you know what I mean.

(Make your voice heard about the next Illinois senator by voting in the poll to the right!)

"At the end of the day, the top priority for our office is to serve the people," the governor said yesterday. The best way for Governor Blago to serve the people of Illinois is to resign. He should fight the charges if he wants, and continue to maintain his innocence--but his resignation would allow our state to move forward. Even if we lived on the Planet Oh Yeah, Sure and he were innocent, he could not possibly argue that it is in the best interest of the State of Illinois for him to remain as governor with all of this scandal and suspicion swirling around him.

Here, I'll even write his resignation statement for him:
I am not a crook. I did not break the law. I did not compromise the integrity of the process of appointing a Senator. The charges are based on parts of conversations taken out of context. I am committed to the well-being and welfare of this great State, and I would never put self-interest ahead of the public good.

However, in order to allow our state government to function as effectively as possible in these economically challenging times, and in order to restore the people's confidence in the government and leadership of this state, I am stepping down from the office of governor. This is in no way an admission of guilt, but rather a clear indication that I am willing to set aside my own self-interest for the public good.
Yeah, I don't think it's going to happen, either.

Oh, and BTW, a lot of folks are getting hot about all the F-bombs the governor dropped in those taped conversations. That doesn't bother me. Sometimes you just gotta blow off some steam in the privacy of your own home, away from the kids, by tossing off a few "swears", as my kids call them. I totally get that.

But the content of those taped conversations? I'd say the governor has got a lot of 'splainin' to do.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Landfill, Part Two

In case you missed it, you can find Landfill, Part One here.

The next day, M. Peevie and I set to work cleaning up the landfill that had somehow accumulated in her loft bed. We got some empty bins from the basement, set up a trash can nearby, and started sorting and tossing. Mostly sorting, because every time I tried to toss something into the trash, M. Peevie would retrieve it and tell me why it had particular sentimental value to her.

"I have to keep these pages from the Target catalog, Mom," she told me seriously. "I need to show Daddy what I want for Christmas."

I tried to throw out a crumpled, blank piece of notebook paper, but M.P. objected. "Mom, I might need that for drawing," she said. Because we don't have 30 reams of notebook paper elsewhere in the house.

"How about this giant wad of toilet paper?" I asked her. "Can we throw this out?"

She looked at me and knit her eyebrows together in concern for my mortal soul. "That would be wasteful," she said. "I have it in my bed in case I need to blow my nose."

"A thousand times?" I wanted to ask, but instead I just set it aside for secret disposal later on. Used wrapping paper, bits of ribbon and string, a lipgloss with no lid, the stretchy strap from a pair of swim goggles, mittens, a plastic stadium seat cushion, marbles, and assorted office supplies all eventually reached their appropriate bin; and for some reason I kept thinking about homeless people and shopping carts.

While we cleaned and sorted, we talked. "So what's this all about, M. Peevie?" I asked her. "Why are you hoarding all this stuff in your bed?"

"I don't know," she said sadly, and then she added, "Well, I do know, but you didn't believe me when I told you." Um, ouch. Bad, bad mommy.

"Uh, yeah, about that," I said. "Tell me again why you like to keep tons of stuff in your bed, and this time I'll listen, and I promise I won't get mad."

"It's because I feel safer when I'm near my things," she said. "I don't feel safe when you're not with me." This time, instead of invalidating her feelings and rejecting her reasoning, I listened, and asked her a few questions. In the end, we agreed that she'd keep four or five stuffed animals in her bed, but that everything else would be put back into its place before bedtime.

That night when I went in to say goodnight, M. Peevie was sitting up in her loft like a princess, leaning against her blanket-covered lump of stuffed animals. "Hey, M.," I said, "I'm glad we had our little talk this morning. I'm glad we were able to figure out..." I paused because I noticed that the bed tumor seemed bigger than five stuffed animals, and also M. Peevie seemed to be suspiciously nonchalant as she struck a protective pose in front of it.

"M.P.," I said. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

Her eyes got all big and innocent--like that's not a total giveaway. "No, mom," she said.

"M., I'd like to see what animals you have under the blanket," I said firmly. She started to cry. I pulled back the blanket to find ANOTHER HUGE PILE OF CRAP. I am not even kidding. Apparently, I need to get the psychiatrist on speed dial.

The story hasn't ended yet. I did a slightly better job of parenting in that frustrating moment than I had the night before, and we talked as we dumped the landfill over the bed rails. "M. Peevie," I said, "I have to tell you: I have no idea what's going on here or how to help you. But we are going to keep on working on this until we figure it out. I promise that I'm not going to scream at you about it any more. Can you promise me that you'll try to do better at not piling crap in your bed?"

She agreed. Since then, every night she swears there's nothing in her bed that doesn't belong, and every night I check and find a pile of crap. The piles are getting smaller and smaller. Last night it was just a couple of books, some scraps of paper, a medieval princess toy, some pennies, and a few other miscellaneous items.

"Am I doing better, Mommy?" she asked me plaintively.

My amateur psychological analysis tells me that her fear and obsession are indications that she's not getting what she needs from me in terms of comfort and security. I might need some parenting help with this one, but for the moment, I'm going to try more listening and cuddling before bedtime.

Which totally sucks, because that is seriously going to cut into my TV watching and wine drinking time. Sigh. I can sacrifice David Boreanaz and the Prison Break guys for the sake of better parenting, I suppose--but this whole landfill-in-the-bed scenario better be resolved before January 11, 2009.

I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Apparently, my beautiful, brilliant, and talented daughter has inherited my genetic disposition toward slovenliness--and she has taken it to an all new level.

As a baby, this girl would not allow any toy, blanket, or even the tiniest stuffed animal in her bed. We'd put her down in her crib, and she'd toss everything out before laying down and promptly going to sleep. This need for a pristine sleep environment continued for years, even after she switched to a big girl loft bed. It was kind of endearing.

But lately, she started to keep a giant Pooh bear plus a couple of other smaller stuffed animals near her at night. She'd cover them up with a blanket, and sometimes she'd go to sleep on top of the lump. Gradually, a few more animals joined them, and the bed tumor grew. It became less endearing.

Meanwhile, I had been making a gradual attempt to organize and de-clutter the kids' bedrooms. I sorted through drawers, filling bags with too-small pants to give away or too-stretched out tops to toss in the trash. I picked up tiny Polly Pocket shoes and Zip-Locked™ them with Polly Pocket outfits and Polly Pocket purses. I filled up two bins with current-age-appropriate books, and packed up a bag full of If You Give A Mouse a Muffin-type books for Salvation Army. I was feeling good about M. Peevie's room: it was more neat and organized than it had been in months, and possibly years.

Then we had a set-back. I was alarmed to notice that the lump had metastacized to the point that there was only a sliver of bed available for M. Peevie to sleep on. The situation required drastic and immediate measures.

"M. Peevie," I said, getting out my stern voice and reaching for the blanket. "We have got to make this bed lump smaller, or pretty soon there won't even be room for you in your bed. What the heck is under here, anyway?"

"No, mom!" M. Peevie said with a tiny bit of hysteria in her voice, "Don't take away the blanket! I like having my things in bed with me. It helps me feel safe."

"It must be done, darling," I said grimly, and as M. Peevie screamed, "Nooooooo!", I pulled the blanket away from the HUGE PILE OF RANDOM CRAP that filled her bed. My jaw hit the floor in astonishment.

"M.P.," I hollered, "What is going on here?"

She started bawling. "I'm sorry!" she wailed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

I began to grab stuff and toss it onto the floor. It wasn't just stuffed animals and dolls under the blanket. It was like Pod and Homily and little Arrietty and all their cousins had moved in: scraps of notebook paper, markers, paper clips, torn-out pages from catalogs, a giant wad of (unused) toilet paper, doll clothes, Woody's cowboy hat, an entire collection of Junie B. Jones books, a three-foot long tree branch, socks, a jacket, and enough other random shit to fill two 30-gallon plastic bins.

"Stop crying!" I yelled, putting my excellent parenting skills to work. "Just get all this crap out of this bed RIGHT NOW!"

M. Peevie climbed up into the loft and started tossing things out one by one, still sobbing, her eyes getting redder and puffier by the second.

"Why did you put all this crap in your bed, M.?" I asked, in a Guantanamo kind of way. "What were you thinking?"

"It helps me feel safe," she said between sobs.

"No, it doesn't," I said harshly . "No way. That's not it. I'm so angry at you, M. P.! I spent hours cleaning and organizing your room, and now you've turned your bed into a giant dump!"

Again with the primo parenting skills. M. Peevie just cried harder, picked up a Chinese restaurant menu, and tossed it over the edge of the bed. I watched it flutter to the floor, and decided that I needed a parental time-out. Mr. Peevie took over and I took my angry, lame-parenting self out of there before I did more damage.

After about 30 minutes, I went back in. M. Peevie looked at me sadly from red, puffy eyes, and I gingerly stepped through the landfill that covered her carpet to stand next to her bed. "I'm sorry, Mommy," she said. "I'm sorry I'm so bad."

Geez. Shoot me through the heart, already.

"M. Peevie, you are not bad," I started. "I'm the one that behaved badly. I raised my voice and spoke very harshly to you. I'm very sorry." I told her that we'd take some time the next day to clean up the mess and to talk about the problem.

"We'll figure it out together," I told her. "We'll talk about it, and we'll clean up the mess and we'll figure out how to help you not do it again, OK?"

"OK, Mommy," she said. She held up her arms for a hug, and I gave thanks that this child, like most children, was so resilient and forgiving.

Tune in tomorrow for Landfill, Part Two.