So the Fish Said...

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem, I whisper with my lips close to your ear.

- Walt Whitman

Meet the Fish

I want to get a pet duck and keep it in the bathtub.
I am addicted to chap stick and altoids.
I am freakishly flexible.

World's Most Beautiful Child


World's Most Handsome Child


Other Important Things

Clive Owen

Clive Owen
Pretend Celebrity Boyfriend

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A life at home with the kids moves so very, very slowly and so neck-breakingly fast. This is one of those times I wish would move much more slowly. The combination of almost-three-and-a-half and ten months old is a magical, charmed moment when both children are so sweetly lovely, so giggly and fun, so unwittingly hilarious that I would like to stop right here for a good long time and pour both of my children out on the floor and roll around in them for a while.

My resolution this year is to worry less about whether the floors are clean or my ass is flabby or the children need their nails cut and just revel a bit more in the blissful moments when they come along. I'm much more an obsessor than a reveler, so we'll see how it goes.

Money Can Indeed Buy Happiness

We tried so hard not to overwhelm the children with Christmas this year. Well, Owen is generally clueless, so that was pretty easy, but we wanted Mia to be able to enjoy it without going into total overload. And so we were so careful, bought her so little, decided against many things she would have really loved, and she still had 15 presents to open on Christmas morning. It actually took most of the day to open her presents, because she would tear into a few and then decide she needed a break to watch her new copy of Tinkerbell or admire her new collection of fairies, or even better play with one of the four hammers her brother received as gifts.

But all that aside, the absolute hit of Christmas, the one thing she has dedicated more hours to than any other in the intervening days, the best gift that any three year old has ever received anywhere in the history of time is the 26 cent goldfish that Santa dropped off. She's been named Dorothy, and Mia checks in with her frequently to tell her about her day and to make plans for what they should to later. Play (Mia) and swim (Dorothy).

Dorothy is better than her new computer, better than her new princesses, better than Owen's new choo-choo push/ride toy. Dorothy is even more exciting than the trip we took downtown on Saturday to see the Nutcracker, where it snowed inside and the toys came to life. (And since it took me 40 minutes to go from Pennsylvania and E to 15th and Constitution, I am inclined to agree on that point.)

Christmas was wonderful. The kids are amazing, Chris is home, and we are just enjoying being together and playing and doing the silly things we like to do. But it is all the more wonderful to realize that my kid could have received nothing more than that 26 cent fish and still have been blissfully happy. I hope she holds onto that power forever.

Cooking with Children

NM asked: I am interested in how/when you manage the cooking with two kids.

I actually just wrote a little about this over here. If you don't feel like clicking over, it basically says that I allow the children to destroy my kitchen in various ways if it means I can get dinner on the table.

When I am lucky, Chris gets home around 5:00 and takes both of the kids off my hands for half an hour while I make dinner. When I am less lucky, he comes home at 5:00 and takes Mia off my hands and leaves me to deal with Owen, which is fine except that Mia can be sent to amuse herself for 20 minutes of given a bowl of flour to stir and Owen can't. When I am even less lucky, as I am a couple of times a week, Chris gets home at 6:00, which is dinner time, so I get to make dinner while minding the kids. This usually means that Owen plays on the floor for a while and then gets strapped to my back in the Ergo, and Mia asks every four seconds if I can come play with her now and finally storms off to her own kitchen to make dinner herself, which sure shows me.

I've also developed a large repertoire of five minute dinners. Here's one of my favorites for your dining pleasure:

Beth's Yummy Nugget Salad

One bag of salad (sure, you could just get lettuce and chop, but that will eat into your allocated five minutes)
One box of Morningstar Farms Chik'n Nuggets (I suppose you could use actual chicken nuggets, but you know what they put in those things, right? Chicken! Gross.) (You could probably also use a package of that pre-cooked meat they have now, but that skeeves me out even more than frozen chicken.)
Your preferred salad dressing

Optional Ingredients:
A handful of shredded cheese (again, buy it that way because the children are jumping off the back of the couch and you don't have time to be shredding no cheese)
A cucumber, cut however you like it
An avocado, sliced
Some Craisins
Whatever else you like in salad

Open bag of salad. Put on plates. If you are married to a food phobic, like I am, splash salad leaves with water so it looks like you washed it.

Nuke nuggets according to package directions. Cut into small pieces. Dump on top of salad.

Add dressing and whatever other fancy stuff you have. (If you had to use a knife to prepare it, that makes it fancy.)


I usually do some sort of starchy side dish with this. My choice is cous cous, since it takes five minutes to make. Chris prefers rice pilaf, but that takes 14 minutes and so I usually save it for special occasions.

I started making and eating this when I was in my first trimester with Owen and it was the only meal I could actually enjoy eating, rather than just forcing myself to chew and swallow. Trust me, it is tasty and fast and you should try it.

Now Remembering You Better Than you have Ever Been Remembered Before

I fixed my website! It remembers you now! You are all so thrilled you can barely speak! You want to comment immediately to check it out! It is an honest to god Christmas miracle and I am so incredibly pleased with myself that I intend to be totally insufferable for a solid week!

Hey, as long as you are joining in the excitement by leaving a comment, let me know what you feed a 10 month old baby. Mia never ate anything except pureed avocado, applesauce and cheerios, so it wasn't an issue. Owen wants to eat everything and I am running out of ideas for what he can manage. Sure, he has 7 teeth, but he has yet to discover that they have any utility for eating. (We don't do meat, so think outside that particular box.)

Owen Wednesday #38: What's for Dinner Edition

Avocado, yogurt, and a side of toes.


As parents of a three year old, Chris and I often honor the time-honored tradition of spelling things that we want to discuss in front of Mia without her knowing what we are talking about. The first problem with this is that the child is learning to spell. The second problem is that it leads to questions like "Mommy, what's p-o-r-n?"

On your marks, get set...

STOP! NO MORE! Please? You are going to make me feel guilty and then I will have to order more cards just to send to you. Again, since I already did that once.

I finally got around to ordering Christmas cards last night, and thanks to the power of bulk purchasing it was several dollars cheaper to order one box more than I needed. Rather than throw them away or send them off to people like my 102 year old great-aunt who would have no idea who I was, I am going to send them to you people.

First ten people to email their snail mail address to any one of my 14 valid email addresses will get a super duper Cactus-Fish Clan Christmas card featuring both of my adorable children wearing Santa hats. (If you don't know all 14 of my email addresses off the top of your head, you can use beth at so the fish said dot com.)(Turn that into an actual email address of course, you know how.)

Please do not post your address in my comments, because then wouldn't you feel silly? I'll try to update once I get ten names, but please forgive me if I am late and run out of cards before I get to you. If I only get two names, you each get five cards apiece.


(Thanks for playing, I am no longer accepting applications.)

Owen, Month Ten


You have been ten months old for a few days now, and I've been having trouble finding the time to write this letter because you never sit still and I spend all of my time chasing you around the house pulling power cords out of your mouth. You crawl like a maniac, pull up on anything that is remotely stable, and are cruising at a sprint. You have started to do that thing while cruising where you look at where you want to go next and carefully consider if you can cover the gap on two legs. So far, you always drop down and crawl over, but I don't think it will be too much longer before you take the plunge and start walking. I'm not afraid though, you are already so mobile that walking can't really make it any worse. You even learned to climb the stairs last weekend and love to do it most when Mia is already at the top calling to you and cheering you on.

The great joy of my life right now is that any time I leave you for even a few minutes and then come back, you see me and break into this amazing, beautiful grin and crawl to me as fast as you can. I love to see you so happy, and I love to see that I make you so happy. Also, it is a nice change from your usual evil grin, which Daddy thinks you copied from Mia. I think it is of your own invention, and you wear it anytime you know you are doing something funny or naughty. And oh, you are naughty. When we tell you know you just laugh and do it again. When I tell you know and move you away you laugh and head straight back for whatever it was that got you in trouble.

You love to give high fives and fist bumps, to clap and to wave. You refuse to play "so big" but are the king of the peek a boo marathon. Your goal in life is to insure that no object ever rests on top of any other object. You love anything that makes noise, love to play maracas and the piano, and talk non-stop all day long. I think you may even understand that mama means Mama, since that is what you almost always say when you are following me around wanting to be picked up.

You refuse to be contained - no stroller, no highchair, no Ergo. You will tolerate each only briefly and as long as it suits your purpose, and then you are done and dedicate yourself to rupturing eardrums until you are released. You are a man on the move.

You love crackers. Oh how you love crackers. Crackers and a sippy cup of water and you are a happy, happy baby. You especially love to have crackers and water standing at the little table in the kitchen. You are desperate to be allowed to eat real people food and get angry when I give you mushy pears and super thin apple slices instead of pizza and beer.

Stinky Pete, we have started talking about your birthday, and I can't believe we are so close. It seems both that you just got here and that you have always been here. I am enjoying watching you grow and learn, but am already dreading the time when you will not want to spend so much of your time perched on my hip. Please stay up there just a bit longer, it makes it easier to kiss your fat little neck.


Keep flying, fairy boy

Just another evening at the Fish-Cactus house.

As if

You people crack me up. Really, you are fuh-ny. But ok fine, here is my quote unquote skin care secret. Follow these easy steps and you too can look like something the cat coughed up.

1. Don't sleep for four years. (Seriously - pregnant, up every night for 21 months with Mia, pregnant again the very minute she starts sleeping through the night, up every night for 10 months and counting with Owen.)

2. Wash your face maybe three times in every five days.

3. Buy a fancy expensive night cream. Don't sweat the price because it will last you forever when you never remember to use it.

4. Stop washing your hair, the grease makes your face look good by comparison.

5. Be cursed with a baby face that you will finally start appreciating once you hit 32 or so.

6. Wear sunscreen every single day starting when you are 16.

You can thank me later.


It had occurred to me that Owen might go slap out of his mind when confronted with Santa Claus, but it had not occurred to me that the proposed solution would be for me to sit on Santa's lap holding Owen. Had it, I would have made sure to go on a day when I had at least washed my hair sometime in the past week.

At least Mia looks cute.


Cobwebs asked: "What are your hobbies?"

Hobbies? Sweet lord. I have a three year old and a baby, both of whom prefer not to sleep, thank you very much. I change clothes, brush hair, wash faces, change diapers, wipe butts, brush teeth, etc. all day long. I prepare, serve, and clean up ten meals a day. I do at least eight loads of laundry a week, usually while carrying the baby. I load and unload the dishwasher at least once a day, usually while carrying the baby. I clean the house, pay the bills, nag my husband and have two (soon to be three) paying jobs. If I am very lucky I get two hours a day without a child attached to my hip. I'm supposed to have hobbies? Are you sure? Does showering count, because I try to do that at least a couple of times a week. Oh also, I maintain a constant level of total freaking hotness. Obviously.

So actually, I hate this question. I have always hated this question. Relaying my hobbies makes me feel like a loser. But let's do it, shall we? Let's see, I have this website thing that I write, but I don't usually tell people about that. I like to exercise - no really, I do, I would love to be able to run every single day - but since Owen stopped napping I haven't been able to figure out a time I can actually do it, so that doesn't happen. I guess the answer is the same as it has always been. I like to read. I hate saying that reading is my hobby though, because it makes me feel like some kind of socially-inept nerd, and since I am a socially-inept nerd it cuts too close to home.

There you have it. I blog, I think about running, and I read. Oh, and I watch stupid tv while doing two out of three of those. I tried to take up knitting for a while, but I sucked and it was too hard to do while typing.

So what are your hobbies anyway? Go ahead, make me feel bad about myself, I don't mind.


Mia, age three, born and raised in the South, has begun speaking with a British accent. She has fallen in love with Angelina Ballerina, and at first the Angelina voice was pretty cute but now it is annoying as all hell. Not the overall accent so much as the fact that whining with a British accent is twenty times more annoying than whining with an American accent. I believe I may have discovered the underlying cause of the collapse of the British Empire.

Yesterday, as we were grooving along at the local library storytime, Mia, exhibiting skillful sleight of hand far beyond her years, pulled two breast pads out from under her dress, stuck them on top of her head, and kept right on dancing. The moral of this story is that if you allow your preschooler to play with your old and unused box of breast pads you should definitely confiscate the evidence before leaving the house.

Finally, I spent a large portion of yesterday afternoon trying to reassemble a shattered night light light bulb to insure that I had all the bits and none were hiding in the depths of Mia's carpet. I was unsuccessful as I later discovered a large-ish chunk seconds before Owen was successful in his attempts to capture and eat it, which would certainly have ruined our evening. Children would be much easier to raise if they didn't devote so much of their substantial energies to trying to do themselves a mischief.

That is all.

On Books (Reprise)

Adi asked: I know that this may be far fetched but what books(not childrens have you read lately and any recommendations.

Well let's see - I haven't read all that much since March when I posted every book I have read since 2001, but here are the updates:

The Delivery Man by Joe McGinniss Jr.
The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Rant by Chuch Palahniuk
How Evan Broke his Head and Other Secrets by Garth Stein
The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
I Was Told There's be Cake by Sloane Crosley
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Haunted by Chuch Palahniuk
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Exit A by Anthony Swofford
Richistan by Robert Frank
Traveler by Ron McLarty
Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
The Psycho Ex Game by Merrill Markoe and Andy Prieboy
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
Hotel World by Ali Smith
One Mississippi by Mark Childress
Prodigy by Dave Kalstein
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
Just After Sunset by Stephen King
The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp (In progress)

As for the ones I recommend that you read?

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
Great book, I won't even try to describe it, just read it.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Has a lot of holes (oh my, oh yes) but very entertaining and a good read. May help if you share my obsession totally normal levels of interest in serial killers.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
I wish this book had been eight times longer. Maybe eighty times longer, and how often can you say that? Interesting, though provoking, made me want to call the author and say no, wait, you can't just leave me like that, I have all these questions.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
If you were one of the many of us who spent 2001 and 2002 hiding in your cubicle hoping you would not be the next one getting laid off, this book will be very familiar. Hey! I guess it is highly relevant again right now! See how out of touch I am with not working for three years? A nice break from the usual linear story arc, and another book where you come to the end and turn the page hoping for just a little bit more.

The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp
Ok, I'm actually not very far into this one yet, but if you read it and mention it on your blog there is a good chance that you'll get a comment from the author, and that's gotta be fun, right? Also, it's pretty funny, and I have no sense of humor, so if I think something is funny it must mean it's pretty damned funny or else I wouldn't notice.

Random Mommy Stuff

Mia said "napkin" yesterday. Just "napkin," instead of "napink." And then she said "popsicle" instead of "popiscle." At least we still have "lellow."

And this morning, when Mia and Chris were heading out somewhere, I asked Owen if he wanted to wave. And he started waving.


Oh whatever

When it was my birthday, I sent Chris a link to what I wanted. Weeks in advance, mind you. All he had to do was type in our credit card and wait for it to arrive. Actually, I waited for it to arrive since I collected the package from the porch and said ah-ha, Chris followed my instructions.

For his birthday, which is today, Chris refused to suggest a single gift for himself, as usual. So I got him some stuff off his Amazon wish list, as usual. And then I come to find out this morning that he has already bought at least one of those items for himself. As usual.

I'm thinking no more gifts for him - that'll learn him.

Oh right, Happy Birthday to my husband, who has many wonderful qualities despite being annoying as all hell.

The Piano

Don't worry, this post will not contain any pictures of Harvey Keitel's penis.

Several people have asked about the piano featured in this week's Owen Wednesday. And while I do intend to answer all the questions you posed here to help me out of this rut, most of them involve talking in some sort of theoretically meaningful way about myself, which I am not in the mood to do lately, which makes for lousy blogging, hence the rut, so instead I will tell you about my piano.

The piano was originally purchased by my maternal grandparents as a way to honor the time-honored tradition of inflicting pain and woe upon their two children via forcing them to participate in piano lessons. My mother retaliated by actually learning how to play the piano. When I was a kid, she would occasionally sit at the piano and play through whatever sheet music was at hand, sometimes classical but more often the popular pop music of the time. I always loved it when my mom played the piano. I have a very clear memory of running downstairs one day while she was playing and asking if she would play tomorrow. Mom got sort of annoyed at me, feeling I suppose that it was her house and she could play the piano whenever she damned well pleased. However, what I wanted was for her to play the song "Tomorrow" from Annie, which she did and peace was restored to the family. I'm trying to remember the last time I heard my mom play the piano, and I think it was when I was around ten or so, although I don't know why she stopped. (Hey Mom, why did you stop?)

Several years ago, my parents undertook a major renovation to their house (they still live in the house where I grew up). This renovation involved removing most of the walls on the main floor, leaving nowhere for the piano, and they began looking for a nice farm out in the country where it could spend its golden years. My brother was faster out of the gate in declining to take the piano, so it arrived at my house one day and was ensconced in the basement. (This was at our old house, which had a walk-out, and I could do an entire post about watching the piano delivery guys try to roll the thing down the incredibly steep mud pit that was our backyard without breaking it our themselves.)

I took piano lessons as a kid, first from an old guy who came to the house and had a rather frightening mustache and then from a woman who was married to a guy on the Washington Redskins. I never got very good at it, likely because I didn't like to practice. When I was younger I always had to practice for half an hour right after dinner and I had a kitchen timer on the piano to tell me when I was done. I would set it for 30 minutes, play a song, and then reset it to shave a minute or two off the time remaining. I think I got away with it at first, but then I got greedy and my parents began to remind me that they were in fact able to tell time and that unless there was a time warp between the kitchen and the living room seven minutes of playing did not equal half an hour of practice. When I was older, I would just say that I practiced after school before my mom got home, but I never did.

So while technically I can play the piano, in that I read music and know how the keyboard corresponds to notation, it is no real surprise that I can't play the piano. When we first got the piano I tried to teach myself again and went down dutifully after dinner every night to work my way through a lesson book, but it was cold in the basement and then Mia was born and so now I sometimes play the five or six songs I know by heart or play songs from one of Mia's children's songbooks, but I don't play the piano. Chris actually plays pretty well. He is one of those people who can just sit down and hit keys at random and it sounds good, while when I do that it sounds like cats are fighting on the keyboard. He also plays by ear, but since he doesn't read music he also doesn't play the piano. (How can someone who is so invested in music not read music? I don't understand it. I have offered to teach him many times over the past 16 years and he won't do it. This may be the single largest disagreement in our entire relationship - he thinks he doesn't need to know how, I think he does.)

The piano is a spinet. When we moved, I chose which movers to hire strictly on the basis of which estimator correctly identified it as a spinet rather than an upright. It must be approaching sixty years old. It is missing two of the knobs that open and close the cover and the stain at the feet is badly chipped. It holds its tune like you wouldn't believe. In fact, it hasn't been tuned since we moved and should by all rights be a discordant mess, but instead it sounds pretty good. The last time it was tuned, the piano tuner disconnected the internal humidifier, which made me sad. Watering the piano was one of my favorite chores as a child.

Both of my kids adore the piano. It has always been in Mia's playroom and she has spent many happy hours banging away on it, and Owen seems especially drawn to it (as he is to anything that makes noise). I like having a memento of my childhood and my mother's childhood ensconced in the playroom, and I am looking forward to forcing my children to learn to play it.

Now, tell me about your piano/cello/flute/trumpet/recorder/maracas.

Time to pitch in

Ok people, I'm boring myself over here. And really, do you want to read more about how my kids are always sick and I never sleep? No, no you do not. So it is time for all of you to start pulling your weight - you pick the topics, I'll do the blogging. What do you want to hear about? Anybody have any questions? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

In exchange for your assistance, I'll offer a handy piece of advice. Never clean your house before hosting a playdate for eight children three and under. Exercise in futility right there I tell ya'.

Owen Wednesday #37: Duet Edition


Wow, three is a pain in the ass. But then, there are also some really amazing things about three. Here are a few, mostly to preserve my sanity.

Mia at three understands that there are rules and then there are RULES. Don't take toys from your brother is a rule, and rules are made to be broken. Don't run out into the street is a RULE and we do not fuck with the RULES.

Mia at three spends long stretches of time telling me how much she loves me, that she wants to live with me forever, that I am her favorite person in the whole world.

Mia at three will almost always accept her father as a viable, and often even preferred, alternative to All Mommy All the Time.

Mia at three can entertain herself for long stretches, and frequently devotes that time to drawing a beautiful picture for Mommy.

Mia at three is funny. And not laughing at her funny, but laughing with her. Well ok, we laugh at her a lot, but more and more often she gets the joke, and more and more often it is on purpose.

Mia at three remembers things. Days ago, months, a year, she will scrounge up the most random memories at the strangest times. Life is a constant non sequitur and every conversation is an adventure.

Mia at three understands things. I recently passed some time in line at the American History Museum explaining the American Revolution. I figured I was talking to myself, but she got it. She wants to know more.

And right now, she's in bed saying the Pledge of Allegiance to herself. You really can't beat three.