Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Backing the Bid. I Think.

I know that loyal Green Room followers (we're up to 16 now!) are eagerly waiting for this blog to weigh in on Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. No time like the present, because the announcement comes in a little over a day.

At first, I was completely gung-ho in favor of Chicago's bid to host the Olympics. I mean, how great would it be to have The Olympics HERE, in our own backyard? Think of the glory! Think of the excitement! Think of the infrastructure improvements and business opportunities!

Then I started reading more about the bid, from both opponents and supporters. Now I'm all confused and undecided.

This recent opinion piece in the Tribune from Edward Snyder, Dean of the University of Chicago School of Business, superficially suggests that the Games will "result in lasting value for generations to come." Setting aside the barren cliches and repetitive phraseology (the more degrees a person has, the more his writing suffers!), Snyder asks one relevant question--will investing in the Olympics "create lasting value" for the city?--but does not supply adequate proofs for his affirmative answer. persuasively argues that Chicago is a great place for the Olympics in terms of venues, convenience, beauty, and accessibility. But the real question is, will hosting the Olympics hurt Chicago financially in the long run, or help it--and there is substantial disagreement on this point. The 2016 Committee, of course, asserts that the proposed operating budget is realistically in the black.

The Civic Federation's analysis found that the Chicago 2016 proposed operating budget "provides adequate protection for taxpayers" at the same time that it recommends strategies for managing the real financial risks. The International Olympic Committee called Chicago's financial plan "ambitious but believable" with "an extensive sponsorship program."

Our city council voted unanimously earlier this month in favor of a "full governmental financial guarantee" for the city's $4.8 billion bid. I don't know whether the alder-creatures' full support makes me feel more secure about the financial risks of the bid, or more nervous. After all, these are the people who put the parking meter fiasco in motion.

On the opposite side of the bid, we have Chicagoans for Rio 2016, a satirical look at some real reasons to take a pause about backing the bid. CfR2016 even offers an online store selling shirts, bags, mugs and magnets emblazoned with the Chicagoans for Rio logo, featuring a runner dropping the Olympic torch. We love satire here at the Green Room.

Plus, my Edison friend Matt Farmer has been a one-man media blitz, posting his opposition more than once on Huffington Post and even tunefully opposing the bid with a YouTube satirical melody.

No Games Chicago attempts to make the case that we face an either/or choice between creating better hospitals, housing, schools and trains versus hosting the Olympics. I really don't get this argument. Are the nabobs saying that if we don't get the Olympics, the city will spend more on those items? Are they saying that if we get the Olympics, they will suck money away from schools and housing?

Some think that the Olympics will have the opposite effect: The Chicago Tribune recently suggested that "the games represent what could be [Mayor Daley's] best chance of overcoming the financial troubles that have made his job increasingly difficult." As in Snyder's piece quoted earlier, however, the reporter doesn't back it up.

As I said, I'm conflicted. I really, really want to be on board, to welcome the world to Chicago in 2016. I just don't know.

How's that for fence-sitting? And what do you think?

UPDATE: I'm sure you've heard by now that Chicago lost in the first round of IOC voting. I felt like I got kicked in the gut. My heart wanted the Olympics here, even though my head said it would probably end badly for Chicago taxpayers and (many) residents.

Now I'm just pissed off at the people who are using this as yet another opportunity for Obama-bashing. But I guess that's a blopic for another day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Indian MIL Savory Ground Turkey

Tonight I baked a delicious, zesty Glazed Lemon Bread from one of my favorite cooking sites. It came out of the pan at 9:30, and by 9:35 it was half gone.

And then I shared it with my family.

The recipe calls for a bit of cardamom, which I happen to have on hand because I have a couple of Indian recipes from my friend K-Rolly that my family enjoys. The first time I tried to buy cardamom at our local independent grocery store, they didn't have any on the shelves. When I asked the store owner about it, he told me, "Our inventory shows we have some, but if it's not on the shelf, it probably got stolen. It's a high-theft item." Who knew. Apparently cardamom is popular among shoplifters because it's very expensive--about $13 for 1.75 ounces.

Anyway, my friends have enjoyed my Indian food leftovers enough to ask for the recipe and make it themselves, so I thought I'd share it with the Internet. You're welcome.

Here's the recipe, slightly revised and cleverly re-named in honor of the woman who taught K-Rolly how to make it:

Indian Mother-in-Law Savory Ground Turkey

Tip: use fresh ginger and garlic for enhanced flavor.


2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1" ginger, peeled and diced tiny
2 medium potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2" dice
5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced tiny or crushed
1 - 1.25 lbs. ground turkey
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 c. frozen peas


1. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in non-stick frying pan or wok on high heat.
2. Add onion, pepper, tomato, and ginger. Cook until onion is clear, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add potatoes and cook another 10 minutes.
4. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Remove everything from pan and set aside.
5. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in pan on high heat.
6. Add ground turkey and salt; cook 10 minutes on medium heat until turkey is no longer pink.
7. Add vegetables mixture back in to pan. Add spices (clove, cinnamon and cardamom); cook another 10 minutes.
8. Add peas and cook until most moisture is gone and peas are cooked, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve over rice. Serves 6-8.

Nutritional Information: Well, let's see. This recipe is mostly vegetables, uses a low-fat protein source, and calls for only 2 Tbsp of oil and 1 tsp of salt, so I'm going to say it scores a 9 on the E. Peevie NutritionMeter. You can up it to 10 if you serve it over brown rice.

Of course, the NutritionMeter is completely fictitious, so you can up it to 10 even if you serve it over M&Ms.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Feel Safe Here

Last week, as we pulled into the parking lot of the hospital where A. Peevie sees many of his "-ologists," I was surprised to hear him say fondly, "I like this place."

"Really, A.?" I asked. "That's great. How come?"

"Because all the people here are really nice," he said. Well, that's an advertisement waiting to happen for Lutheran General Children's Hospital.

"Also," he continued, "I feel safe here."

OK, first of all, how great is it that this child understands his own feelings and articulates them so...well, so articulately?

And secondly, isn't the irony almost too much? That he feels safe at the hospital?

This is a boy who thinks about health and safety concerns more than the average 11-year-old. He went through a phase a few years ago when he talked about death and dying constantly. "Will you still think about me when I'm dead?" he'd ask. Or I'd put him back to bed for the eleventy-seventh time, and tell him to go to sleep, and he'd say, "I don't want to go to sleep, Mom. I'm afraid I won't wake up in the morning."

Like that didn't break my achy heart.

He made me a mother's day card this year that referenced health issues 6 times in 19 sentences. He said things like
"You love get me food. You give me medicine and make sure I take my meds...When I am sick you get me Motrin or Tylenol. When my forehead is warm you take my temperature. When I have trouble breathing you take me to the hospital...When C. Peevie or M. Peevie are being mean, you yell at them and help me get away from them. (Yaaay!!!)"
Maybe when you've been through what he's been through, you pay more attention to feelings of safety, and you don't take it for granted that someone will take your temperature when your forehead is warm. His medical chart is about 19 inches thick with the details of two open-heart surgeries, one closed-heart surgery, two cardiac ablation procedures, half a dozen additional cardiac catheterizations, and multiple hospitalizations for pneumonia, RSV, influenza A, and once for an infected gland.

(I posted the story of A. Peevie's rough start here, in case you missed it the first time around.)

Anyway, we saw Dr. O, an electro-physiologist who specifically handles the rhythm issues of A. Peevie's heart. We got a good report, and A. Peevie had a fun tickle-fest with the playful million-dollar specialist. I was glad to walk away with no changes other than an additional prescription.

I want this boy to feel safe all the time. I think a child should feel safe, and one of the most important jobs of a parent is to help her child be and feel safe. I'm happy that he feels safe at the hospital; but I'm sad that he's had the kind of life experience that has put him in a place where the hospital is the place where he feels safe enough to actually notice and comment on feeling safe.

The boy also makes me think hard about health care in the United States. Without changes in our system, he will be out of luck when it comes to health care. He has so many pre-existing conditions, long-term medications, and high-risk medical concerns that the only way he'll get health care coverage is if he marries a cardiologist or ends up working for a large company that's required to provide health insurance to all of its employees.

It's not right that someone like him, through no fault of his own, will be at high risk for bankruptcy-by-healthcare-bills if somebody doesn't do something.

I saw a bumper sticker today on a big, gas-sucking SUV that read, "Defeat ObamaCare." What I want to know is, what do they have to say to A. Peevie about his healthcare options once he is no longer a dependent of Mr. Peevie and his excellent healthcare benefits?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

27 Socks and a Headless Stag Beetle

Today, under A. Peevie's bed, I found:

27 socks
8 shirts
4 pairs of pants
19 stuffed animals, including 4 manatees, assorted sizes
1 full box of colored pencils
3 army guys
7 pens and pencils
7 drawings
2 plastic cups
3 candy wrappers
1 spoon
small change
a colored easter egg with the shell mostly intact except for a ragged-edged, dime-sized hole through which you can see the petrified yolk.

It's kind of like what I found IN another kid's bed not too long ago.

In related news, when I took A. Peevie to see HeartDoc last week, they had a conversation that went like this:

A. Peevie: Wanna see what I have in my pocket?

HeartDoc: Sure.

AP: (shoving his hand deep into his sweatpants pocket and trying to extricate something delicately) Just a minute...just a minute...Here!

HD: (Looking at a decapitated stag beetle) Wow! Cool!

AP: It's a stag beetle.

HD's nurse: Ack! Get it away from me!

HD: Where is its head?

AP: Oh, hold on a sec. (Shoves his hand into his pants pocket again.) Here it is!

HD's nurse: Ack! Ack!

HD: Wow, look at those horns. Where'dja get it?

AP: On the playground during recess. My friend BiF found three of them, and he gave me one.

HD: Nice friend.

The deceased, headless stag beetle currently resides in our living room, in a place of honor on the speaker. Until the next time I remember it's there, and THROW IT OUT.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Missing C. Peevie('s Help Around the House)

C. Peevie has been indisposed of late due to the inconvenient breaking of his tibia. And by inconvenient, I mean inconvenient to me.

Mr. Peevie and I believe that one great reason for having kids is that you can then put them to work around the house. Really, all they're doing is jobs that, for the most part, would not exist if they had not complicated the family by being born. That's kind of circular reasoning, isn't it? Oh well.

C. Peevie and his friends have discussed who does what chores at home, and it seems that C's friends are truly amazed at the frequency, variety and quantity of chores that he is responsible for. Mr. Peevie and I, on the other hand, are frequently amazed at how easy C. Peevie's friends reportedly get off in the chore department.

Before the whole broken leg fiasco, C. Peevie was enjoying his last month of freedom before school started up again after Labor Day. He'd hang out with friends, watch TV, play video games, and yes, he'd do chores for me.

One morning he had gone out with his peeps for a couple of hours, and then showed up back home just before lunch time. "I came home because I knew you'd want me to do some jobs around the house," said Captain Responsible. I was amazed and grateful.

"I told K-Lite and Lil' Biscuit that I had to come home and do chores," he continued, "and they couldn't believe it."

Why couldn't they believe it? I asked him.

"Because they can't believe how many chores I do," he said. "Lil' Biscuit says he only does chores on Saturdays, and K-Lite said he only does chores when there are things that need to be done." I don't know about K-Lite's only-child-single-mom household, but there are ALWAYS things to be done in our zoo of a household.

Here's the list of jobs that C. Peevie does at various times when he doesn't have a giant black cast up to his thigh:

Empty dishwasher
Load dishwasher
Wash dishes
Put away clean dishes in drainer
Take dirty laundry to basement
Sort laundry
Bring clean laundry up from dryer
Put own laundry away

(the more I typed the word "laundry" the weirder it looked to me.)

Clean up living room
Clean up dining room
Clean bedroom
Mow lawn
Collect trash/all rooms
Empty kitchen trash daily
Sweep kitchen floor
Clear and clean kitchen table after meals

Of course, he doesn't do all of these jobs every day; but he does do jobs every day. When he doesn't have a broken leg. He does jobs to support the running of the household because he derives benefits from the running of the household. It just makes sense to me.

A. Peevie and M. Peevie do chores, too, but obviously, since they are 11 and 8, respectively, they do fewer chores, less often. I'm just now starting to shift some of C. Peevie's chores, like emptying the kitchen trash, emptying the dishwasher, and taking the laundry downstairs, to A. and M.

So what do you think? What's your philosophy on getting kids to help around the house? Are you going to call the Department of Labor and report us for violating child labor laws? Or are you even tougher than we are?

Maybe you can suggest some jobs that C. Peevie can do for me while he's in a giant black cast up to his thigh?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Barely Coping

This broken leg thing brings way more pain, trouble and inconvenience than you might imagine.

Poor C. Peevie. When he arrived home on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, he moved awkwardly and painfully. His temporary cast seemed bulky, but provided only a minimum of stability and protection. Even a slight bump of the pillow under his leg made him cry out.

The parents-on-call in Door County for that first night after The Break managed C. Peevie's pain medications assiduously and conservatively. HarMom checked on him frequently, timed his doses down to the millisecond, and doled out a single Vicodin every six hours. The narcotic would take the edge off for few hours, but the last two hours would bring increasing discomfort and pain.

"I think it's good for him to try to manage some of the pain without medication, don't you?" she asked. Actually, I don't. She was more concerned about the dangers of addiction than about pain. I'm the opposite, probably because I'm so pain averse myself that I request nitrous oxide at the dentist. For cleanings.

So when C. Peevie started showing signs of pain, and then more signs, and then overtly complaining, I made the executive decision to increase his dose and his frequency, to one-and-a-half VicoLalas every five hours. "Stay ahead of the pain" is my motto.

Even with the increased dose, though, we'd spend hours every day before and after each dose managing his pain and discomfort. The nights were the worst.

Instead of starting high school on September 8, C. Peevie went to the orthopedic surgeon. We were so glad he didn't need surgery, but Dr. Ortho said the swelling would not allow him to put on a permanent cast yet. He prescribed a wheelchair for safer mobility, and I spent the next two days making phone calls and researching medical equipment companies online. Once the wheelchair arrived, C. Peevie spent hours doing wheelies, crashing into furniture and walls, and getting in the way.

Pain levels fluctuated over the next week. By Thursday and Friday, C. Peevie was managing his pain with OTC helpers; but over the weekend, pain returned with a vengeance and he was back on the VicoDuh. Between the pain of the break, the mysterious pain in his heel and Achilles tendon, and his fidgety, can't-find-a-comfortable-position-on-the-couch vexation, the two of us were getting an intermittent total of four hours of sleep per night.

Still not able to go to school, during the day C. Peevie watched Frasier DVDs incessantly, played video games, and re-read Harry Potter for the zillionth time. Every time he needed to pee, I'd lift his leg off the mound of pillows supporting it and place it gently on the ground. I'd help him up from the couch and hover while he crutched himself to the bathroom.

"You don't need to help him so much," instructed my friend Dr. Vespa, a physical therapist. She taught him how to get up, sit down, and maneuver himself on crutches. "He can do it. His balance is better than yours or mine," she assured me. So I backed off a little, grateful for the reprieve, but still anxious that he'd topple over.

On Sunday at ridiculous o'clock a.m., I was waiting for him to finish in the bathroom, when I heard a slide-crash-thud. "Mom!" he called out with fear and desperation in his voice, but I was already there. He had somehow fallen while standing in front of the sink, and was half-kneeling, half-lying on the floor, with his broken leg stuck out in front and his good leg--if it was still good-- scrunched underneath him.

"Get me up!" he said urgently. "Get me up, Mom!" I lifted him up from under the arms and sat him down on the toilet seat.

"Sit!" I said. "Just stay there. I'll go get the wheelchair." I wheeled him back to the couch and laid him down. Scared and suffering, he shook and whimpered for half an hour afterward. So did I. He had no idea why he fell.

The whole process of coping with a kid with a broken tibia is exhausting and stressful. I was telling my therapist that I feel like I'm crashing: I complain all the time, and overnight I went from feeling like I was getting healthier and stronger and happier to feeling like I was just hanging on by a piece of used dental floss.

"This is a family crisis," he said simply. "You are dealing with a crisis."

This simple explanation brought enlightenment and ironically, relief. A crisis? I wondered. It never occurred to me that this was a crisis, because it does not involve life and death. But it makes sense; everything has been affected, inconvenienced, complicated. Hearing the word "crisis" caused a paradigm shift that allowed me to give myself a break. In a period of crisis, it's OK if all I can do is barely keep my head above water.

And that's what I'm doing: Ordering lots of carry-out. Doing just enough laundry to avoid having to turn my underwear inside out. Washing just enough dishes to avoid food poisoning. Taking just enough showers to avoid smelling like butt.

Most of the time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Separated at Birth

Mr. Peevie and I were both futzing around in the bathroom the other day, and I was looking at my astonishingly attractive reflection in the mirror.

"I think I look a lot like the Cowardly Lion," I said. "Do you think so?"

The correct answer, as you might guess, would be an immediate negative: "No, honey, of course not. You're beautiful." But my lawfully wedded husband, my constant friend, my faithful partner, who has too much integrity for his own good, did not take the safe route.

"Hold on a sec," he said, "Let me get my glasses."

Oh, I held on a sec, all right. And another, and another.

"You have to get your glasses in order to tell whether I look like the Cowardly Lion or not?" I asked, not quite believing that our marriage had survived 25+ years.

"Well, I can't see a thing!" he said, digging himself in deeper.

"Think about it, dear," I said, patiently-but-with-an-edge. "I'm asking you if I look like the Cowardly Lion. The COWARDLY LION."

"Oh," he said, penitently. "No
, of course not." Good boy.

"But wait!" I said, changing the rules, as I am allowed to do, thus keeping Mr. Peevie off-balance and on the defensive (an excellent marital tactic for you newlyweds out there), "look at this!" I put on my best Cowardly Lion face. "Now look!" He looked.

"OH!" he exclaimed. "OH! HAHAHAHA!"

"See?" I said, "I DO look like the Cowardly Lion!"

At this point, Mr. Peevie was so confused that he walked out of the bathroom and mixed himself a dirty martini.

But what do you think? Vote in the comments.
Does it look like the Cowardly Lion and I were separated at birth?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Health Care Hyperbole

This article in Slate (hat tip to Mr. Peevie) has more than just a super catchy title.

It starts with an eye-raising quote from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky): "Nothing makes me more angry than the suggestion that America does not already have the finest health care in the world." Really, Senator McConnell? Nothing makes you more angry? Not pedophilia? Not war crimes? Not the completely unmerited cancellation of Firefly?

When the first word out of your mouth is extreme hyperbole, it makes the rest of your sentence even more suspect. What independent source agrees with you that American has "the finest health care in the world"?

Certainly not the World Health Organization (WHO), which in its 2000 World Health Report ranked the U.S. 37th, far below France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Japan; just below Costa Rica; and just above Slovenia and Cuba. (You can find the full text of the report here.)

Also, the Commonwealth Fund reported that without reform, insurance premium increases will price middle-income families out of insurance altogether.

The question, as Charlie Rose put it, is "whether or not there needs to be a public option; whether there needs to be government-run insurance as one of the options to get more people insured."

The answer that President Obama gave was that "there is a range of options that will be available; private insurers will participate." You will be able to compare the plans, and "as one option among multiple options should be a public option where we set up an insurer that isn't profit-driven, that can keep administrative costs low, and that can serve as competition to the private insurers."

On the one hand, people fear the public option plan because they anticipate rationed care and too much government intervention and bureaucracy. On the other hand, the private insurers are predicting that they will lose customers who will willingly choose the public option over their existing private plan because it will be less expensive.

How can both of these complaints be true?

Friday, September 11, 2009

How Do You Love an A**Hole?

I have a problem.

My problem is trying to figure out how to love an asshole. The particular asshole I have in mind (let's call him Mr. A.) is rude, arrogant, and disturbingly un-self-aware. I keep wondering if there's a psychological diagnosis that fits him--but I think maybe he's just a mean jerk.

His verbal weapon of choice is sarcasm, and he apparently has not learned that though occasionally funny, sarcasm is often harsh and hurtful. Mr. A. slings sarcastic barbs around like a porcupine slings quills into anything that threatens it. It's impossible to have a civil difference of opinion with this dude--he feels threatened by disagreement, and inevitably responds with condescension, disparagement or sneering.

I cannot totally avoid interaction with Mr. A, so that means I must figure out how to love him. Probably the first thing I could do is stop calling him an asshole. But even that's hard, because, let's face it, that's what he is sometimes.

We all come across people like this in our lives. Sometimes we're even related to them. Or we live next door to them. Or we have them as bosses, co-workers, or God forbid, they go to the same church that we do.

I do know, intellectually, what Jesus calls me to do with regard to this person. Jesus says I'm supposed to love him. "Love your enemies," Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount. "Do good to those who hate you." I'd define
enemy fairly loosely here, but even Merriam-Webster agrees that it's someone who "is antagonistic to another; especially, one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent."

The answer to the question How do you love an asshole? begins and ends at the Sermon on the Mount--but it begins before Jesus tell us to love our enemies. It begins with the first and primary element of the character of a believer: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Poor in spirit: acknowledging that I am spiritually bankrupt. I have nothing to offer to God, "nothing with which to buy the favour of heaven," as John Stott said. None of us is poor in spirit without God's spirit causing us to be poor in spirit. None of us, on our own, admits to, or even sees, our own spiritual bankruptcy.

But when we do see it and acknowledge that we have no goodness to offer on our own that is not corrupted by Self, then
beatitude-wise, my next correlated characteristic is that I mourn over my own sinfulness that separates me from God. "Blessed are those who mourn," Jesus said, "for they shall be comforted."

"The cross is the differential of the Christian religion," said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Looking at the cross means that I am constantly aware of my own inability to save myself with my own goodness, that I can't be good enough. Looking at the cross means that I'm remembering that Someone paid the highest possible price to redeem me, to pull me out of the pit of Self and Sin.

When I'm mourning over my own sin, I'm less focused on the sins of others. I can look at the asshole, and remind myself that I am an asshole, too, in the grand scheme of things. I know my own self, and my own capacity for selfishness, for self-righteousness, for self-protection and pride. I might not be mean (most of the time), but I am guilty in many other ways, and Jesus took the Way of the Cross just as much for me as he did for that asshole.

The cross is the differential: it changes how I see myself, and how I see other people.

And that is how you love an asshole.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's That Smell?

I called A. Peevie into the kitchen to eat his breakfast the other day. He walked in, and crinkled up his nose.

"What's that smell?" he said, turning on his heel and walking back out. "It stinks in there." It could be any number of things. My kitchen has fallen into an even worse state of messitude in the last few days. I blame it on C. Peevie's broken leg, and all the extra running around, phone calling, ice-pack getting, wheelchair researching, and doctor visiting it entails. Of course, A. Peevie has been known to complain bitterly about the fragrance of gardenia truffle and coral hibiscis, so I don't always trust his sensory perceptions.

M. Peevie walked into the kitchen after A. Peevie had left.

"M. Peevie," I said, "Do you think it stinks in here?" She lifted her adorable button nose into the air and sniffed.

"No, Mom," she said, "I think it smells like cinnamon and honey!" The source of the cinnamon smell was the ubiquitous cinnamon toast that A. Peevie has been eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past six months. The honey? M. Peevie's fertile imagination, I suppose.

"A. Peevie, get out here and eat your cinnamon toast!" I hollered. Two steps into the kitchen, he complained again about the smell.

"What does it smell like?" I asked him.

"Butt," he answered helpfully. Well, great. My kitchen smells like butt. Or cinnamon and honey, depending on who you ask.

I had gotten up earlier than usual to attend to C. Peevie and his needs, plus get breakfasts and lunches for the other two Peevies. I was rushing around, locating lunchboxes, searching for shoes (I don't know how my kids always manage to lose ONE SHOE, but it happens so frequently, I think it must be a symptom of an actual diagnosable illness), helping C. Peevie crutch his way to the bathroom, adjusting his leg-elevating pillows, and getting icepacks. I had not even combed my own hair.

At one point I walked past A. Peevie in the living room (or "frunchroom," as they say here in Chicago), where he had brought his cinnamon toast; and he looked at me with a vertical line between his eyebrows.

"Hmmm," he said. "Mom, I think it might be you."

"What's me?" I asked

"You're what smells like butt!" he said happily. This was hilarious news to C. Peevie, who laughed raucously from his semi-permanent position on the couch.

"Really?" I said. "Geez, I don't want to go out into the world smelling like butt." I lifted my arms and smelled my pits. I wouldn't call it eau de butt, exactly, but there was definitely an aroma that would not win any popularity contests.

"Do I have time to take a shower before we leave for school?" I asked myself rhetorically, as I ran up the stairs.

I don't necessarily like being told I smell like butt, but it's better than the alternative of having friends and colleagues and total strangers notice that I smell like butt and talking smack about me behind my back. Now you can all rest assured that A. Peevie is on the job, making sure that I go out in public smelling like a respectable human being.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Stupidity abounds.

The president is broadcasting a nationally televised speech on Tuesday to school children in Arlington, VA, urging children "to set goals, work hard, and stay in school." The White House is hoping that schools around the country will show the speech, and the Department of Education has prepared a "menu of classroom activities" to encourage student engagement.

That's not the stupid part. The stupid part comes in with the reactionaries getting their shorts in a bunch because they fear the president will be indoctrinating their children into socialism and recruiting them to liberal thinking.

"As the father of four children," Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer said, "I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." It is an "infuriating...invasive abuse of power."

Seriously, Mr. Greer? What part of "stay in school" and "set goals" is socialistic, I wonder?

It's remarks like that one from Republican leadership that makes me think that the party is going off its rocker. I also heard a commenter on WGN Radio (can't find a link) suggest that Obama addressing schoolchildren reminded him of how Fidel Castro indoctrinated school children when he first took power in Cuba. I guess he's forgetting that the first President Bush did the same thing in 1991; and Ronald Reagan broadcast a Q&A with high school students in 1986, according to, a political fact-checking website.

I think if President Obama said he was planning to buy his daughter a teddy bear, the Far Right would somehow connect it with socialism. If he said he was naming his new dog Clifford, they'd say, "Oooo, Clifford--the big RED dog! He's a communist!" If he said he liked to read the book before seeing the movie, they'd say, "AHA! He discriminates against film-makers!"

People like Mr. Greer should realize that it does not help their cause to make much ado about nothing. Disagree about the health care bill; argue about how to handle the war in the Middle East; criticize him for his handling of the economy with the stimulus package. But going on the attack because the President wants to encourage kids to do well in school?

It's just stupid and desperate.

UPDATE: Here is the text of the speech that President Obama will be giving tomorrow. Go ahead. Try and find something in there about socialism or promoting liberal values.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Not the Call You Want to Get

I just got a call from my friend Mrs. D'Onofrio in Door County. It was not the call you want to receive when you have sent your kid off with a sleeping bag and a pat on the back and your last words to him were, "Please come back all in one piece!"

"We're taking C. Peevie to the ER," Mrs. D'Onofrio said. "He hurt his leg, and we're taking him for an X-ray just to be safe." There was lots of commotion and talking in the background.

"Really? Do you really think he needs to go to the ER?" I asked, thinking someone was possibly over-reacting.

Mrs. D turned away from the phone and asked someone in the background, "Does he really need to go to the ER?" I heard the answer, and then Mrs. D repeated it for me: "Yes. We need to get an X-ray." Keep me posted, I told her.

Next, I heard from the nurses in the ER at Door County Memorial Hospital, calling to confirm my permission to treat C. Peevie, and to make sure he wasn't allergic to whatever it is that gives hospitals their hospitally smell. Is he in a lot of pain?" I asked. He was deep breathing to control his pain, they said, and they'd give him some good meds soon. I did some deep breathing of my own.

Next I heard from the Nurse on the Case. "What medicines is he taking, Mrs. Peevie?" Nurse On the Case asked.

"None," I replied.

"C. Peevie said he takes allergy meds," Nurse OC said.

"Well, he's delirious," I said. "I have a prescription for him, but I haven't even filled it yet." We went back and forth a couple of times, and finally she understood that I was not withholding critical medical information.

Then I got a call from C. Peevie himself. "Mom," he said with barely any air behind his scratchy, deepening, adolescent voice, "Mom, I'm sorry."

I practically burst into tears. "Honey, what are you sorry for? You don't need to be sorry!"

"I'm...sorry," he said again, "I'm...just...sorry."

"C. Peevie, are you in a lot of pain?" I asked.

"No, mom," he barely croaked out--he, who never speaks at a volume below medium shout. "It doesn't hurt that much." I could tell he wanted it to be true.

At one point I got a call from the moms back at the shack, waiting for news. They filled me in on how the accident happened: the kids were using homemade ramps to play Tony Hawk and Trick Cycle Dudes. C. Peevie went up, came down, landed wrong, and didn't get up.

"It's not that he landed hard," Will'sMom said, "It's that he landed wrong. And then he didn't get up."

Finally, I got a call from the Doctor on the Case. "Well, it's a fracture," she said. His tibia was broken and the two pieces of bone were mis-aligned. They would need to line up the bone and put on a temporary cast.

"We'll give him some demerol before we do it," she said. Ah, demerol. Demerol would totally be the gorilla on my back if I were a medical professional with access to the good shit. I had some once, long ago, during a medical emergency, and to this day it is one of my fondest memories.

He'd need to see an orthopedic surgeon and have a permanent cast put on, the doc said. "What about school?" I asked. "It starts on Tuesday."

"No school until he sees the ortho and gets his cast," she said. I wonder how likely it is that we'll be able to get that done on a holiday weekend? I'm guessing, not so much likely--and this is before ObamaCare ruins health care for everyone. (You know I'm being sardonic, right?)

I kept wanting to cry all evening. I'm not really a worrier--I knew he was being well cared for, and that the moms and dads at Mrs. D'Onofrio's farm would ensure that he got everything he needed. But I wanted to be with him. I wanted to hold his hand when they straightened his leg. I wanted to push his hair off his face and kiss his cheek. I wanted to watch him experience his first narcotic high.

Finally, I got another call from Mrs. D'Onofrio. "It's a good thing it wasn't my son who broke his leg," she said, "because I would have killed him." Well, she can talk all blustery and stuff, but I know she's suffering because she feels responsible that C. Peevie got injured on her watch.

"Mrs. D.," I reassured her, "It was an accident. Accidents happen. He'll be fine."

"No," she said, "An accident is when you trip over a bump in the rug. This was not an accident, this was a broken leg waiting to happen because these kids insist on doing daredevil stunts like Evel Knievel." Problem is, we all knew they were doing it, and we didn't tell them to stop. It's what kids do!

It's what I did when I was a kid; and sometimes, someone gets hurt. If we forbade every activity that might involve someone getting hurt, we'd have to have our kids sitting naked on the floor in the middle of an empty room, instead of playing and exploring and riding and, occasionally, Evel Knieveling.

That's what I think, anyway. Of course you may not want to listen to me. I've had two kids with broken bones so far this year--although I'm just now realizing that I never blogged about M. Peevie's broken arm back in, what was it, May?

Bad mommy-blogger! Bad mommy-blogger!

But I digress. C. Peevie will be getting a ride home tomorrow, cutting his last pre-high school fling short by two days. I guess he'll be sleeping on the couch for the next six weeks, since I can't imagine him being able to climb up into his bunk bed with a broken leg.

And how the heck will he get to school with a heavy backpack and crutches, on the bus and the train and the walk across the Loop?

Is it too late for him to transfer?

Garden Variety

In spite of our weird, rainy, cold summer, my garden is producing prodigiously.

Every day I pick a dozen or two sweet, ripe grape tomatoes from a single plant. This plant is so eager to thrive that it crawled up the side of the garage, pushed its way through the slightly open garage windows and started producing tomatoes inside the garage.

I don't know what variety my larger tomato plant is, but a couple of the fruits are the size of small pumpkins. I'm trying to figure out how long to let the larger tomatoes ripen before I take them off to give the green ones a chance to start their ripening process.

The Farmer's Almanac suggest that the first frost generally occurs around October 26 here in Chicago, but it also warns that the dates it provides are averages. There's a 50 percent chance that frost will occur earlier, the almanac warns, and with the cold summer we had, I'm betting it will.

I found a useful wiki article on how to ripen the tomatoes that have fallen off the vine before they are quite ripe enough, as well as the green tomatoes inevitably left behind like Tim LaHaye protagonists. I'll also be interested in your green tomato recipes, if you've got any good ones.

My salsa pepper plant has thus far produced about 20 large (6"-9"), firm, shiny green peppers that are perfect for salsa, vegetable salads, guacamole, and other uses. I froze a bunch, and gave away a bunch, and of course, I cooked with a bunch.

And remember the jungle next door? The guy doesn't just have steroidal grape vines and out-of-control weeds; he's also got watermelon vines as thick as garden hoses creeping across the yard, complete with huge yellow flowers and one little watermelon the size of a large lemon.

Somebody, probably one of my children, spit a watermelon seed over there last summer, and now JungleDude has inadvertently become a watermelon farmer. My kids and I are now kind of hoping that he postpones getting a yard service, so we can watch the baby watermelon grow.

You know what they say: When life gives you lemons, make watermelons.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mean Girls and Life Lessons

Earlier this week when I picked the kids up from school, after their first cross country practice ever, M. Peevie's shoulders slumped and her feet dragged as she walked across the parking lot. I took her backpack, light with third-grade homework; and put my arm around her.

"You look tired and sad, M. Peevie," I said. "How did cross country practice go?"

"Terrible," she said, frowning. "I came in last every time."

"Aw, honey, I'm sorry," I said. "That must have been disappointing."

"And then MeanGirl said I was fat," M. Peevie continued, "And she told me I was slow, and I would never win a race."

"I will kick her third-grade ass!" I admirably refrained from saying. "Where is she? Let me at her!"

And then my baby angel peanut butter cup opened up a bit more about the MeanGirl encounter. "I'm really confused, though, Mom," she said. "First, MeanGirl said those mean things to me, and then later, when I was helping her with her shoe, she said I was a life saver! I don't know whether she's my friend or not!"

"Wait a minute, M. Peevie," I said. "First, MeanGirl said those mean things to you, and then later, you helped her with her shoe?"

"Yes," said my hero, "she had a bad knot, and I sat down and helped her get it out, and she told me I was a life saver." Oh, baby girl. You showed kindness to someone who treated you badly. You are living the Sermon on the Mount, and you are only eight. You convict me.

And then I kind of ruined the moment by attempting to convert it into a Life Lesson.

"You know, honey," I started, "sometimes kids say mean things because they..."

"I know, Mom," M. Peevie interrupted, rolling her eyes. "Because they are sad. Or to make themselves feel better. Or they're just having a bad day. I don't want to talk about it."

Well, then. Apparently those similar conversations over the past eight years have fallen on fertile soil.

I tried again a little later, because I want my girl to have the tools she needs to deal with MeanGirl today, not to mention tomorrow's mean girls. And mean boys. And mean grown-ups.

"M. Peevie," I said, "What did you say when MeanGirl said those mean things to you?"

"I didn't say anything, Mom," she said, "I just walked away." That's not a bad choice sometimes. Sometimes, you just have to walk away. I tell all three kids that all the time. You don't always need to reach detente. But it's good to have more than one arrow in your conflict resolution quiver, so I pursued the teachable moment.

"What do you think you could say if she says something mean to you tomorrow?" I asked.

Huge, irritated sigh. "I don't know, Mom," she said, going all teenager on me. "I really don't want to talk about it."

"Well, M. Peevie," I pushed, "I just want to make sure you know that it might be helpful for you to tell her, 'Hey, that hurts my feelings!'"

"Yeeeesss, Mom, I know," said Miss Please Stop Wasting My Time. "Can we be done now?" I dropped it.

I mentioned M. Peevie's MeanGirl situation, without naming her name or her gender, after track practice today. All three of the moms sitting on the bench with me immediately asked me if it was their kid who had been mean to M. Peevie, and I reassured them truthfully that it was not.

"Maybe you should talk to the mom," GirlScoutMom said. "I'd certainly want to know if it were my kid." I would, I told her, if M. Peevie had been unable to solve the problem on her own--but, I explained, she didn't even want to talk about it yet. I don't want to go jumping in to solve her problems when she's not even willing to talk to me about it and try to solve the problem by talking to MeanGirl herself.

It's troubling to me, but M. Peevie has moved right on with her life. Today she reported no incidents, and she also unabashedly reported that she did not run at all during cross country practice because her tailbone hurts from a recent fall.

"You didn't run at all during cross country practice?" I asked, slightly incredulous. "How did you manage that?"

"I walked the monster lap," she said, "but my tailbone still hurts, so I just sat on the sidelines for the rest of practice." OK, A) this is the first time I'm hearing about a tailbone injury and B) that's one way to avoid losing a race and C) could she be any more of a princess?

But she's my princess. And I think I might know where she gets her princess qualities from. Ahem.