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

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World's Most Handsome Child

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Other Important Things

Clive Owen

Clive Owen
Pretend Celebrity Boyfriend


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We have Winners!

I didn't forget that I have two books to give away, and I also didn't forget that I have an embarrassing nickname to confess, but let's take things one at a time here.

On Saturday, I had this fabulous idea for how to pick the winners. I would just drive three hours across four states to the bookstore where Marshall was appearing on Sunday and have him pick the winners and video tape (hey, what do you call video taping when you are using a digital camera to do it) and post that and gee, what fun! Ok, so really I had been planning to go finally meet Marshall in person for two months, but figured I may as well kill two birds with one stone.

But on Saturday I was busy with the kids all day, so didn't get it set up. And then on Saturday night I had to get together clothes and diapers and food and toys and medicines and sunscreen and hats and shoes and everything else the kids might possibly need to spend nine hours with my in-laws, so I didn't set it up. And then on Sunday morning I got up at 6:00 with Owen after getting four entire non-consecutive hours of sleep and got him fed and cleaned up and dressed. And then Mia got up so I made her breakfast and got her cleaned up and brought her clothes downstairs. And then Chris got up and took a shower and had breakfast and then I finally headed off to get ready. And admittedly, it took me a while to get ready, what with showering and drying my hair and realizing that my lardass couldn't wear those pants, at least not with that underwear, so that by the time I made it back downstairs it was almost time to go. Except that Mia was still only wearing underwear. Because it seems that after I have done absolutely everything to get us ready for this trip, including stocking his car with some of his favorite snacks, and have let him sleep in, and have stayed up late the night before for reasons we needn't discuss here but which you may assume were to his benefit, it was still too much to ask for Chris to get one of the children dressed in the clothes that I had washed, folded, chosen, brought downstairs, and left in plain view. So I didn't have time to set it up on Sunday morning either.

(Obviously, I have nothing but feelings of pure love and respect for my husband, but I suppose I would be unable to stop any of you who might feel compelled to point out how selfish and rude he can be, on occasion. Free country and all that, you know.)

So we went to meet Marshall:

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And then Mia got to pick the winners. Which used to really excite her, but now she's done it so many times that it is greeted with more ennui than enthusiasm. I'll have to figure out how to have Owen do the next one. Maybe whatever name he eats is the winner?


Untitled from PlaygroupDropout on Vimeo.

So congratulations to Emily (who gets the slightly-mangled copy) (and who also designed this site, isn't she awesome?) and Meredith (who gets the nice new copy signed by Marshall Karp). Congratulations, ladies! Please send me your addys so I can send your fabulous prizes.

Not quite what I meant to say

Mia had a running wipe-out this morning and was complaining of hurt toes. I was trying to make sure nothing was broken and asked her to "make a fist with her toes." She strenuously declined to do so. A few minutes later, when she had calmed down a bit she decided to give it a try. We had this conversation:

Mia: Look, Mommy! I made a fist with my toes!
Me: Wow, Bean, great fisting!

Ahem.

At least I have a new answer to "What was your most embarrassing moment?"

It all started innocently enough...

I took the kids to the grocery store yesterday (bananas, veggie sausage, napkins). As we were walking across the front of the store (think bananas to frozen veggie sausage), we passed a woman who was walking from the front of the store to the back (think bananas to the deli counter). She paused to smile and coo a bit at my kids, told them how cute they were, we smiled at each other and then all went our own separate ways.

A few minutes later, I found myself walking across the back of the store, and noticed the same woman standing in line at the pharmacy. And then I noticed that she had toilet paper sticking out of the top of her pants in the back. It wasn't even subtle. Oh no - she had a considerable amount of toilet paper sticking out of her pants. It was in two places, really, on both sides, and looked to me like maybe she had used a public bathroom and covered the seat with paper and then somehow forgotten about it and swooped the whole deal up into her pants. I admit that I kept right on going. I hate telling people something like that, because it is embarrassing for them and embarrassing for me and so I tend to just leave the job to someone with better-developed social graces (which is nearly everybody, I am the embodiment of awkward).

But as I got two and then three and then four steps past this woman, my conscience got the better of me. I mean, we had passed a pleasant moment in front of the cookies and crackers aisle not five minutes before. She had acted kindly toward my children. And she had this problem that could happen to anyone, and was I really not going to tell her about it? That seemed like, I don't know, a violation of the Social Contract or something. I decided something had to be done, and I had to be the one to do it.

So I backed up with my grocery cart with the big plastic red car on the front and sidled over to this woman and said rather quietly in her ear "Excuse me, Ma'am, but you seem to have a bit of toilet paper stuck in your pants." And she said "My goodness" and reached around to try to grab it and I was trying to direct her and - well, you know how things can sometimes get confusing behind your back? She just wasn't getting the job done. So I decided that I would have to help her. And at this point I was fairly well horrified at myself, because was I really about to touch someone else's toilet paper which had been put to I knew not what original purpose? Why yes, it seemed that I was. So I told myself that being the good person sometimes meant squicking yourself right the hell out and that it was nothing that copious amounts of soap and hand sanitizer couldn't cure.

So I grabbed both visible ends of the toilet paper and pulled. And it didn't come out. I remembered my t.p. on the seat theory and figured she could have quite a bit of the stuff down there, so I pulled harder. And then I came to realize, all too, entirely too, egregiously too slowly, that it wasn't toilet paper after all. It was her adult diaper.

And I... well.. my god. What do you say to a woman who was innocently minding her own business when you decided to walk over and give her a Depends wedgie? I stammered something along the lines of "baah weeb gittlert maop" and ran away as fast as I could. Which wasn't very fast since I had that land yacht of an impossible to steer plastic car cart and I couldn't very well just abandon the children there by the diabetic supplies, now could I?

So I got away, escaped over to dairy. And then I crawled in behind the orange juice and died. Very sad, really, I know how much you will miss me.

Much Better than "Call Beth an Ignorant Slut Day"

It seems that yesterday was International Say Nice Things About Beth Day. And you missed it! But that is ok, I will give you a special dispensation and you may say nice things about me today instead and we will just pretend that you didn't totally blow the deadline. I know you've been busy lately. I forgive you.

Anyway, first I got three emails saying nice things about my blog, which happens occasionally and always makes me think that someone has gotten the wrong address. Then, Marshall (you do remember Marshall, right) wrote this post. (Although, I just re-read it, and it seems he is just calling me a bitch rather than saying nice things about me. He totally fails Say Nice Things About Beth Day.)

So it was nice, you know, except it would have been better if I had known in advance so I could have done my hair or something. Or at least put on a clean shirt.

Now, I am 31 comments shy of Chris's mark of 89 comments on my giveaway post from yesterday. I really want to beat him, and I don't quite know why. Possibly it has something to do with him leaving me to be a single parent for two weeks. Which sure, he's working his ass off and I appreciate the whole single-handedly supporting this family thing, but possibly I am still feeling a little spiteful about never seeing him at all and having to manage children who are all pissed off at the absence of their father.

So I want to win. And as an incentive, I've decided that if I do win this (totally in my own head) contest, I will, in exchange, tell you the nickname I called Chris for many, many years at the beginning of our relationship. This is a double-whammy of embarrassment, because 1) he actually allowed me to call him this name, and 2) I was not 12. It may have been somewhat appropriate at 12. But probably not.

(Comments are still moderated. It will be ok, we can get through this together.)

Flipping Out

The Scavenger Hunt for the signed book is over as of 11:30AM Eastern on Friday, April 24, because I am sick of moderating comments. You can still enter for the unsigned book.

(Hey! There are prizes at the end! Just didn't want you to miss it! I seem to be very excited! Sorry about that!)

The Pitch

I am not subtle. Nor coy. Nor any good at all at gentle implication or any other nicety of indirect communication. I've mostly given up even trying, but do occasionally give it a go and always fall well short. I am an open book, and when I want something it is desperately obvious and therefore it is best if I just come right out and say what it is I want.

I want you to buy Flipping Out by Marshall Karp. If you want a summary or a real review, you can check out the many five star reviews at Amazon, or the rave from Publishers Weekly, or the synopsis that Mr. Lady posted last week, which is one of my favorites so far. I'm not good at any of that stuff either.

But here's why I think you should buy the book. First, it is incredibly funny. And I have no sense of humor, so for me to think something is funny it has to be pretty damned funny. This book made me laugh out loud, which almost never happens.

Second, the characters are amazing. When you finish this book, you will be depressed that you cannot invite Mike and Terry and Diana and Marilyn and Big Jim and Angel and most of the rest of them (but not the serial killer, obviously) over for dinner and too many beers. You will be sort of in love with all of them, and the realization that they do not actually exist will be hard to cope with for a while there. (You will be okay though once you remember there are two more books that you haven't read yet.)

The third reason you should buy this book is that the author, Marshall Karp, is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. I work for Marshall (some research, some administrative stuff, some riding his ass, and oh yes, I'm managing his blog tour), and not only has he ruined me for all future employment because he is the best boss you could ever hope to have, but he has become a very good friend to my family. Chris already covered that part, though.

The fourth reason you should buy this book is that once you read it, you can email Marshall about it, and he will be thrilled to hear from you. And if you tell him you liked his book, he'll be over the moon. And if you tell him you hated his book, he'll be crushed, but if you tell him why he'll really pay attention and use it when he writes the next one. And no matter what you say, he'll probably write you back and then you will be discussing a book with the author and that is pretty cool, right? (Although I have to warn you, he's funny, enough so that you may pee yourself a little. Fair notice.)

Really good book written by a really good guy. Hard to go wrong there, really.

The Prizes

And now, prizes! There are two, enter for the second prize and you are automatically entered for the first prize.

Prize the First - This is the easy one. I'm going to give away my own copy of Flipping Out. There's nothing special about it. I bought it from Amazon, it's slightly dog-eared,and there may be peanut butter on a couple of the pages. So nothing fancy, but hey, its free! All you have to do to be entered to win is to leave a comment on this post. (If you need a topic, tell me the last book you read.)

Prize the Second - This one takes a little more effort. I have a brand-new, pristine copy of Flipping Out that is signed by the author. To be entered to win, you have to go on a little scavenger hunt and answer at least one of the questions below. You only need to answer one question to win, but the more correct answers you get, the more entries you will get in the drawing to win the signed book. All answers can be found at Marshall's site, and are in the excerpts from Flipping Out, except for the final bonus question which is from his blog.

Leave your answers in the comments. "But wait" you say. "Won't other people just copy my answers?" Ah, no. Because after some serious contemplation of this problem, I arrived (in the shower, of course) at the perfect solution. All comments on this post are moderated, and none of the answers to the scavenger hunt will be published until the contest closes. Am quite brilliant, really.

I will even tell you that the answer to the first question is right here. Now try it, it will be fun.

  1. How much money did Terry Biggs win in the poker game?
  2. Where did Jo and Reggie Drabyak meet?
  3. Who is Lomax and Biggs's favorite crime scene investigator?
  4. What is Mike Lomax's contractor's name?
  5. What is Reggie Drabyak wearing the second time Lomax and Biggs see him?
  6. And the final, super-special bonus question: How many times does the f-word appear in Marshall's first book, The Rabbit Factory?

The Final Plea

So, buy the book, or check it out from your local library. And leave me a comment to win a free copy. Oh, and Chris got 89 comments when he did this, and I would so love to beat him (am competitive, so sue me). Please? Like, Girl Power, or something?

The Quick Reminder

Comments on this post are moderated, so no reason to hit submit 12 times.

Mia Wanted to Surprise Daddy

Hey, remember when I was all braggy brag brag about how I am now a person who can just whip up Spontaneous Muffins with ingredients I have in my kitchen? It seems that my talent does not apply to Spontaneous Sponge Cake.

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It also seems that all-purpose flour and self-rising flour are not interchangeable.

(I made it with expired eggs too, as long as I'm confessing my kitchen failures.)

Beth's Five Minute Meals, Edition Two

Ok, so this is really a 15 minute meal, but it is five minutes of work and ten minutes of waiting for pasta to cook.

Ingredients:

- Your favorite box o' mac and cheese (I like Amy's organic)
- Your favorite frozen meat or meat-like product, preferably in nugget form (I like Morningstar Farms "Chicken" Nuggets)
- Your favorite frozen vegetable (I like peas, but corn, zucchini, carrots and broccoli would also work)


Very Complicated Instructions:

- Cook up the mac according to the instructions on the box. Mix up the cheez sauce (this is an excellent job for a three year old).
- Nuke the veggies. You know, until they aren't frozen anymore.
- Nuke the meat or meat-like nugget product. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Throw it all together and slop into bowls.

The beauty of this meal is that everyone can choose what they like. So Mia has just mac and cheese, Owen and I have everything, and Chris orders a pizza. Serve with apple slices left over from lunch.

Lawnmower Girl

I cut the grass this weekend. And I was thinking while I did it about how I had never cut the grass before, but I realize that isn't true. I've used a push mower and I once cut the grass at our old house with a weed wacker. It was a small yard, and yes, it looked like hell when I was done. But today was my first time ever using an actual lawn mower. Because I'm a giiiiiiirrrrrllllll.

I don't go in for typical gender roles. Sure, I do most of the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning, but I also replace light fixtures and rewire switches and shovel the driveway (occasionally while eight months pregnant) and buy new tires and whatever else. But there are two things that are Man Jobs - plumbing, and cutting the grass. Leaky toilet? Not my problem. Need to replace a faucet? I'll happily point you toward the monkey wrench. Grass seventeen inches long? Hey, isn't this why I got married?

But Chris has been working stupid hours lately and the children were starting to wonder about the identity of this strange man who occasionally showed up just in time to kiss them goodnight, so I told him that I would cut the grass while he spent some time with the kids. And you know? Our yard is stupid big. And the front is stupid hilly. And hauling the lawn mower around the stupid big, stupid hilly yard is hard because I am a giiiiirrrrrlllll. And I can definitely see how it would suck when it is 95 degrees and 80 percent humidity and swarming with mosquitoes - that is definitely not a job for a giiiiiiirrrrrrllllll.

But there is also a certain poetry in cutting the grass. (Literally, I wrote one. Don't worry, I won't make you read it.) I didn't really mind spending a couple of hours on a nice Spring day wandering aimlessly around the back yard with Ira Glass whispering sweet nothings into my ears. I might even volunteer to do it again. But not in August, that there is man work.

Also, I'm curious. Does your life break down more or less by Stereotypical Gender Roles, or not? Where do you draw the "but I'm a giiiiiiiirrrrrrrrlllllll" line?

Helpful Tip

When you start hearing strange noises coming from the direction of the out-of-sight toddler and you think he is probably in the totally toddler-proof playroom, you would do well to check it out anyway. Otherwise you may discover that your older child has left the bathroom door open and your cell phone has just gone for a swim in the toilet.

Hey, I've been wanting an iPhone anyway.

Canon

Owen his this cheap plastic star thing that plays music and flashes colored lights onto the ceiling of his room. We bought it months ago in a desperate ploy to find anything that would extend the time he spent in his crib. It didn't work, of course, but he loves the toy. Nearly every time he is in his room he toddles over to it and pushes the button to turn it on.

One day last week, I was having an especially desperate time trying to get Owen to take a much-needed nap, so I turned on the star and then sat in the glider holding my screaming, squirming, flopping, royally pissed off child pinned to my chest and rocked and rocked and rocked until he finally gave in and went to sleep. As I sat there, biding my time, trying to guess the perfect moment to make the attempt at moving him to his crib, I noticed that the star was playing Pachelbel's Canon.

That wasn't unusual - it was on the classical music setting and there are only two pieces of classical music so Pachelbel's Canon repeats every four minutes or so every time Owen turns the thing on. But I'd never really listened to it. So I did, and it was awful. It was a beautiful, sometimes possibly even transcendent piece of music rendered through a cheap Chinese plastic speaker from an even cheaper recording. It was too slow, plodding, graceless, tinny, everything you would expect, considering the source.

I sat there rocking and thinking how something so magnificent can be made so plain. How if that was your only exposure to Pachelbel's Canon, you would think it just another piece of mediocrity and never guess the power and beauty it is capable of expressing. And I thought how it was something like parenting. How if your only exposure to parenting was the night you only got six non-consecutive minutes of sleep or the day you changed 14 poopy diapers or that interminable afternoon where you played 43 straight games of Candyland with someone who regularly cheats, you would think it was just another bit of drudgery. And oh, it can be drudgery, it can be tedious and mediocre and boring, but it can also be powerful and beautiful and transcendent, and it is the memory of when it is nearly perfect that you cling to when you are working through the cheap Chinese plastic days.

And then I realized that I had just compared my life to a $15 toy I bought at Target, and decided that Owen wasn't the only one who needed a nap.

Owen, Month 14

Sweet Owen,

You are fourteen months old and officially, with no room for equivocation, a toddler. About a week ago you decided that this walking thing was pretty cool after all and since then you have been 90% a walker, crawling only when you fall or when whatever you are chasing requires more speed that you can muster on two legs. And you have moved so quickly from a straight-legged zombie strut to bending your knees and doing all sorts of fancy tricks, like walking around in endless circles or doing an abrupt about-face and heading off in the other direction, just because you can. Sometimes, you just roam the house laughing and hooting, so thrilled with your new talent that you can't contain your joy.

The other thing you learned how to do this month was talk. Oh boy, do you talk. You say hi, Mia, Dada, Mama (finally!), banana, apple, duck, bye bye, all done, baby, diaper, yes, no, here (as in here, take this, I'm done with it), that (as in what is that or, much more often, give me that), cheese, elmo, bread and bed. Oh, and bellybutton. That's 20 words, which is quite a lot for a 14 month old child. And it doesn't even count the animal noises you make and correctly associate with the appropriate animal. They are moo, baa, quack, meow, neigh, and bawk bawk bawk. You, my child, are a chatterbox.

You are still an eater, happily chowing down on nearly anything, especially if Mia eats if first. You get highly offended if I cut anything to make it appropriate for a child your age. It is big pieces only, because that is how everyone else does it and you refuse to be left out. Your current obsession is raisins, although you got your first shot at peanuts today and I suspect they may overtake raisins in your affections. You still love balls and we still refer to the vacuum cleaner as your girlfriend (and you have been love for the new dustbuster too).

You have 13 teeth and three more on the way, and then we are declaring a moratorium on teeth. We are all over it. You can't get much relief, but every once in a while you find something that you can jam into just the right place to relieve whatever is most bothering you at the moment and then spend the rest of the day tooling around with that in your mouth. Lately your teether of choice is Mia's Cinderella toothbrush. You also love to put on her Tinkerbell sunglasses and walk around the house marveling at how different things look. Add that to the large flower bracelet you insist on wearing and the fact that the only stroller you will stay in for more than three minutes is the pink umbrella stroller, and you are sometimes quite a sight to see. But it all makes you happy, so be it.

You are a bit of a mama's boy, happiest when viewing the world from the safety of my hip or able to scurry back up to your perch quickly. But if you have an audience, all of that changes. With a crowd to entertain, you are a wild child, showcasing all of your best tricks by climbing over and into anything you can reach and getting your hands on things I would have sworn were far out of your reach. You talk and chortle and sing and flirt and make the whole world fall in love with you.

You love to be able to do big kid things, like walk from the car into the house instead of being carried or run around the playground instead of sitting in the stroller or the Ergo. You love to sit in real chairs and to try to put on your own clothes and shoes and diapers. You love to hold a crayon so much that you almost forget to eat it. You get so excited any time you see a dog that I worry I will have to remind you to breathe. You love to stand at the front door and watch the world go by. When the garage door starts to open every afternoon, you scream and laugh and take off as fast as you can for the kitchen to wait for Daddy to come in and scoop you up so you can give him a big, toothy, open-mouthed kiss and pull the stays out of his shirt collar.

Oh sweet Owen, you are a challenge. A high-maintenance, demanding, curious, daredevil, vociferously vocal child. You fit right in, my darling, and are a blessing and a joy in all ways.

Love,
Mama

Quick, before the baby starts screaming

This one isn't from today, but I love it. They were waiting for Daddy.

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And then, our very eggy Sunday.

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Can you tell I'm wearing maternity tights? I mean, it isn't like I had to. Well, ok, I had to, but only because my only pair of non-maternity tights are eight years old and I got dressed and then was running around getting the children ready and the next thing I knew my tights were around my ankles. I totally made it work, you understand, but I decided the world at large wasn't quite ready for my innovative look, so maternity tights it was.

Also, do you like how I forced myself to buy the dress in pink instead of black and then just wore it with a black cardigan and black tights? I'm hopeless.

Also also, how in the heck do you take a family picture with two young children and get everybody looking in the same direction? Physically impossible, yes? Yes.

My Very Own Milestone

I went to the doctor today (minor issue, it's (almost certainly) nothing, thanks for asking), and got the "As you get older, it gets harder for your body to..." speech. I'm 34! Granted, it has been quite a while since my doctor's official pronouncement on the state of my health was "You're 25 and hard to kill," but I didn't realize that I had plunged headlong into "As you get older" territory.

I have to admit, it kind of sucks.

Extreme Napping

Owen has just started walking like he means it - bending his knees and choosing it over crawling and everything, although he does still look like a zombie on the hunt for fresh brains. That plus the simultaneous arrival of all four eyeteeth (and you think four molars are bad, try four eyeteeth) have conspired to make him even more of a little mama's boy than usual, such that tucking him gently into his crib for a much needed nap just ain't going to happen. Yesterday I spent an hour trying to get him down, finally gave up and threw him in the Ergo so I could make muffins with Mia, and later noticed he had stopped yanking out hanks of my hair and chewing on my shoulder blades. Boy was zonked.

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Damn that mirror is dirty. Someone really ought to get on that. All was well, until he decided to go for the gusto.

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Looks comfy, doesn't it.

Oh, my face? You noticed that was missing? You don't need to see it anyway. My husband posts plenty of unflattering pictures of me (let's just stick with the idea that they are unflattering rather than realistic, shall we?) and then someone was recently surprised to see a picture of me looking halfway decent and basically told me I usually look like hell. And I'm nothing if not overly sensitive to criticism, so there you have it.

Speaking of muffins (we were, I swear, read back), when I was childless I always sort of fantasized about being the kind of person who could notice that the bananas were getting mushy and just whip up a batch of muffins to use them up. But invariably, I didn't have eggs or flour or the time to whip up anything. And now, I am that person. Old bananas? Muffins! A freezer full of homemade pureed peaches that I made when Owen was having the sort of issues that peaches have been known to address and which he never ate any of because then he started living on grapes and raisins and the problem solved itself? Muffins! The only hitch now is that nobody in this house eats muffins. Anybody want some muffins?

And finally, one more entry in the How I Torture My Children Files, Owen vs. the Easter Bunny, Round 2.

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Round on the sides and hi in the middle

This weekend, we drove 700 miles in 36 hours for this:

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Two kids, one great-grandmother, totally worth it. Also, remind me to tell you about the Fairfield Inn in Zanesville, Ohio, which has magic baby sleep powers.

Storytime with Mia

Blame me (and Owen, on my lap for half of this) for the crappy camera work and Chris for the background noise. But Mia really wanted to read you a story.


Untitled from PlaygroupDropout on Vimeo.