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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Things I Need to Know

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the way the internet keeps me from ever having to think for myself? I need you people to tell me:

  • How much would you pay a Junior High-aged Mother's Helper to entertain one child at a time while you did an activity with the other child?

  • Do your dry kidney beans turn beige when you soak and cook them? Beige beans and rice just doesn't seem as appetizing as red beans and rice. Do you think some red food coloring would help?

  • Can you freeze homemade salsa? I mean obviously, of course you can, but will it still be edible later? Can you give me your recipe?

  • Does anybody want to know in great and tedious detail about my new Real Cooking (Mostly) from Scratch kick? It is sure to last two weeks tops, so saying yes isn't a major commitment.

  • How long do you think it will take me to chop down, bundle, and haul to the curb four trees from my backyard working at it 15 minutes a day?

  • Why is is that every time Owen has a cold and then spikes a fever and I take him to the pediatrician I get the "Oh, colds do that, and you can't have antibiotics" lecture? I mean for one thing, I never even asked for antibiotics, and for another, bite me. And then every time Owen has a cold and then spikes a fever and I decide to spare myself the lecture I end up at the urgent care at 9:00 at night with a baby with a 104 degree fever and double ear infections? Ok, so that has only happened the once (last night), but it pisses me off. Could we get some unique symptoms over here, please?

  • On a related note, did you happen to see a woman standing in the middle of Rite Aid last night with a very sick and very tired baby strapped to her chest pumping him full of Amoxicillin? Yeah, that was me.

And since I can't seem to post lately, three of my favorite moments from the past week.

  • Looking into the backseat on our way to Baltimore to see that the children were holding hands.

  • Taking Mia to the playground where she found a group of older girls swinging and singing some song about black socks. Mia, desperate to join in, got on the swing next to them and started singing "Skip to My Lou." Way to go kid. I am 100% in favor of always singing your own song.

  • I saw a man jogging today in sneakers, dress pants, and a button down shirt. I wanted to pull over and hug him.

Everybody loves buttcrack

Mia's school had a little end of year program this week - some singing, some dancing, lots of totally adorable children running around and hugging each other eight times each and making deeply serious pronouncements about how much they would miss each other and issuing strict orders to have a good summer. It was adorable.

Now, whenever you are in a room with 100 three, four and five year olds, you expect to see rather a lot of buttcrack. Those non-existent preschooler butts just aren't up to the job of keeping their pants north of the equator, and the kids don't help matters with their haphazard pants-pulling-up abilities. But oh man, I have never seen so much buttcrack in all my life as I saw at preschool this week. And it wasn't the kids, it was the moms.

I know, trust me I know, how hard it is to wrangle a couple of kids while keeping your low-cut jeans in a somewhat appropriate position. And since I have the longest torso known to man, I have the added challenge of usually not being able to rely on the length of my shirt to cover any trouseral runs for the border. That is why I wear belts. It is also why I wear low-cut underwear with my low-cut jeans. I could tell you the color and cut of underwear that at least one quarter of the moms were wearing at preschool this week, and I got to the point of considering that a blessing because if I was looking at underwear at least there was a better chance that I wasn't looking at butt.

I think we need to launch a public service campaign to encourage people to keep their butts to themselves. All I need now is a slogan. Anyone? Anyone?

Urgent Question

I got gifts (ok, I got Target gift cards) for both of Mia's teachers and the preschool music teacher, since music was the highlight of Mia's life this year. But do I have to give a gift to the preschool director? She was very kind to Mia and very patient with me while we worked through (most of) the screaming crying fits about going to school. And if I get a gift for the director, I must have to get a gift for the assistant director too, right? And if I get gifts (more Target gift cards, obviously) do they have to be the same amount I got for the teachers ($25), or can they be less based on these people having less interaction with my child?

It isn't the children that need to come with manuals, it is all the rest of it.

Groupthink Gardening

Number One:

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Number Two:

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For each plant pictured, please select the appropriate response:

  1. Those are weeds, dumbshit. Pull them.
  2. Those are weeds, but not horrible, ugly, take over the yard overnight weeds. You should pull them, but work on that stupid mint whatever and the fucking creeper that keeps coming over the fence from the woods first.
  3. Those are weeds, but they look nice enough. Leave them
  4. Those are beautiful, highly-prized, well-cultivated plants for which I am about to tell you the full Latin names. Don't you dare touch them, and I don't even want to know how many you yanked out last summer.
  5. Those aren't weeds, but they sure are ugly. Pull them and put in an azalea or something.
  6. Damn, your ass looks good today. You must have lost at least six pounds in the last two weeks, and I, for one, would like to take this opportunity to heartily congratulate you and offer you some of my special secret stash of calorie-free brownies and wine.

Owen, Month 15

Sweet Owen,

This month, you learned how to climb onto the kitchen chairs without a stool, which means you can also climb onto the kitchen table, or push a chair over to the counter and climb onto the counter, or even, on one memorable occasion, stand on the counter and make a valiant and nearly successful attempt to climb to the top of the fridge. You can climb onto the bathroom vanities and one day I found you standing on top of the play kitchen with a cell phone in each hand jabbering up a storm about who knows what. When playing outside, you like to climb over the picnic table again and again. You also like to grab one of the many stools we have around the house, which are meant to allow Mia to do things like wash her hands, and wander around the house clutching it to your belly and giggling about all the contraband it puts firmly within reach. We have renamed you Monkey Boy.

You weigh 25.1 pounds (50th percentile) and are 32.5 inches tall (90th percentile). You have around 30 spoken words that I can understand and of those 10 or so are mostly understandable to the general public. You love to bounce balls, vacuum, sweep, splash in puddles, play in the sink, brush your teeth and hair and everyone else's teeth and hair, smell flowers, ride the tricycle, take walks, do anything at all outside for as long as possible even if (or maybe especially if) it is pouring rain, and pet caterpillars.

You throw a mean tantrum, little man, and do so whenever thwarted. You are infuriated by my failure to understand every last one of your whims and desires, and my frequent reminders that you don't actually speak English and I am therefore at a disadvantage do not win any leniency. You are constantly amused by Mia's tantrums though, and sometimes I think you smack her or grab whatever she is holding just so she will scream at you and make you giggle.

We decided to wean you this month. Ok, so I decided, but you seem to not have noticed at all, so I think it was a mutual decision. We also started a little sleep training, which means that instead of Mommy rocking you to sleep and then crawling into your crib with you to make sure you were settled, you now get a story and a song and then are plopped into your crib and Mommy sits on the floor next to you and rubs your foot until you go to sleep. It's small progress, perhaps, but progress all the same. And you are sleeping so much better as a result. Most nights you wake up once around 1:00 or 2:00 and are easily soothed back to sleep until 5:00 when you get to come to bed with Mommy and sleep another hour or so. I am glad that we are both sleeping a little better, but I desperately hope that you do not give up that 5:00 waking for a long while because I love getting to cuddle with you in the mornings.

You realized this month that Mia gets to pick a treat, usually a piece of candy, if she has a good dinner. In the interest of fairness, you now demand a treat of your own whenever you see Mia getting one, and so many nights you are presented with a single M&M, which is the great prize or your life. You grab it and run off to the living room chortling where you admire it for a few moments before cramming it into your mouth. You spend so much time giggling and smiling that half the chocolate comes back out on a river of drool, but it still makes you happy.

Sweet Owen, I am really starting to see your personality come out now, you are coming into your own. You are a very sweet, loving, gentle little boy, and mischievous, brazen and fearless. I am so looking forward to these coming months, to learning more about you and seeing who you will turn out to be.

Love,
Mama

Unburdened

Last night, Chris got home from work a little early, and I bade my little family a fond farewell and went out to get a pedicure. Which was lovely. And then I went out for sushi with my friend Laura. Which was lovely. And as we were walking into the restaurant, Laura asked me a casual question that led to me telling her the Big Secret of my life. The story I've never told anyone, because it was too painful, too embarrassing, too humiliating. That I had locked up so tightly I couldn't, at first, figure out how to even begin to tell it. And it was scary. But then it was fine. Because it turns out that it is an old story, and no longer has any power over me. That it is no longer painful or embarrassing, but rather rueful and silly. And then I complained about my husband for a while (rather too much, probably, but it has to be done occasionally, and I had already dumped my Big Secret on Laura, so why not keep going?) and when I got home the kids were fed and bathed and asleep.

And how do I forget every time how important it is to step out of my life for a while sometimes? To unburden myself of my children and my husband and my work and my house and the small and large dramas of my life and have some fun. I must be a goldfish, because that little plastic castle is a surprise every damned time. (Anyone? Anyone?)

On an unrelated note, I am an artiste! Mia frequently asks me to draw strange things, like a dinosaur with a lunchbox or a bunny eating lo mein or Daddy building a rocket to fly to the moon, and last week she asked me to draw "Mr. Scott." This is Mr. Scott.

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(I know this isn't Mr. Scott, but that's what Mia calls him.)

And this is my version, beautifully colored by Mia.

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You are so impressed!

Repentant

I had this whole post written for today about this horrible woman I met when Mia was a baby who was incredibly cruel to me for no reason. She objected, I guess, to my decision not to let Mia cry herself to sleep while she bragged about how she had left her teething daughter (the same age as Mia) to scream in her crib for three hours, and she used that as a jumping-off point to ridicule and mock me. And seriously, this is a woman I met at the pool, barely even an acquaintance, she had no business saying a word to me about anything.

And I told how I recently ran into this woman and about the delicious sense of schadenfreude I experienced when I saw her current situation (which I described in some detail). And I admitted what a bad person I was to take such joy in someone else's misfortune, but hey, I thought, she hurt my feelings a couple of years ago, so I'm entitled.

Except that I'm not. I mean, I think I am entitled to giggle a bit gleefully to myself about a bit of perceived comeuppance, but I'm not entitled to crow about it to the rest of the world. Hey, look at me, I must be maturing or something.

Dinner, It's What's for Dinner

I cook dinner 5-6 times per week. The other days, we order pizza or take out. I'd like that to be closer to I cook dinner 6-7 times per week, but it is what it is. Cooking dinner sometimes means throwing the frozen veggie burgers in the oven and the frozen corn in the microwave, and sometimes means cooking whatever it is entirely from scratch. I'd like to do more actual cooking than warming and calling it cooking, but I have two little kids, a couple of jobs, and four bathrooms to clean. Once again, it is what it is.

We sit down together to eat every night, unless Chris isn't getting home until after bedtime, in which case the kids and I sit down together. That usually means half an hour of ordering Mia back into her chair and bribing Owen with whatever is at hand to keep him in his high chair long enough for me to eat. And it always means me getting up at least five times to fetch further items for the children. So while a couple of is tend to do very little sitting, I still think it counts as sitting down to dinner.

How do you do dinner?

Beach Daze

Mia's school is doing "Beach Day" this month, where the children are encouraged to come to school in their bathing suits. Someone is sure to tell me I'm over-analyzing, but I can't figure out how to make this appropriate.

I think bikinis are inappropriate for three year olds. (Just my opinion, let's not fight.) Mia wears one-piece bathing suits, which has the added benefit of me not spending the entire time hauling the bottom of her suit up because my child is skinny and buttless. Mia cannot possibly wear a one-piece bathing suit to school, because at some point she is going to have to pee and getting into and out of a bathing suit takes serious intervention.

I went looking for a tankini, no luck. I did buy a cover-up, which was one of the suggested "costumes" from the school, and also found a *gasp* bikini that has a more boy-short cut bottom, a bikini top, and then a short-sleeved swim shirt to match. But I'm torn. If I let her wear the bikini with the swim shirt to school, she's going to want to wear the bikini to the pool and beach this summer, but I'm not going to let her. I was thinking I could put her in a tank top and shorts and the cover-up, but what if part of Beach Day is running through the sprinkler, or something, and she's the only kid without a bathing suit.

I was mostly prepared to deal with the big stuff when I had these kids, but I never realized I would be spending two weeks agonizing over Beach Day.

What would your three year old girl wear to preschool Beach Day? Have I missed the perfect option?

Never look at your own stomach while you are driving. Unless you are 25 and/or childless

Hey! Do you guys want to hear all about my new diet in total and excruciating detail! Ok then, moving along.

No wait, we're not moving along. I'm hungry, and I can either sit here and tell you about it or go into the kitchen and snarf the rest of the children's Easter Candy. Guess which one I pick? Yup, settle in people.

Anyway, it's Day 4 of my Hey, I Finally Weaned the Baby/I'm Going to the Beach in Two Months/Oh My God I Happened to Look Down While I Was Driving and Vowed to Never Eat Again Diet, and I haven't gone on a shooting spree yet, so looking good. Except that you already know I am some sort of gun-hating hippie who would like to collect all the guns the whole world over and melt them down and turn them into public art installations and playgrounds, so by "I haven't gone on a shooting spree" I mean "my husband is still speaking to me."

And! I think some guy maybe almost checked me out a little bit at the grocery store today! Which I am officially Opposed to On Principle, but which can also be something of a confidence booster on Day 4 of your new Lifetime Healthy Eating Plan ha ha right stupid fucking diet where the hell did I hide the pudding cups? Oh, and they guy was TOTALLY old too, I mean, probably FIFTY, at least, so does that even count???

Sorry, I crack myself up sometimes. I had a conversation with Sarah a while ago about how hitting the mid-thirties makes forty seem like this totally reasonable and still entirely young age instead of, you know, FORTY. And I find that I am starting to feel the same way about fifty. I mean, I'm quite happy that fifty is still a long way away, but it doesn't seem as ominous as it did ten years ago. Pretty soon, I'll be going man, eighty sounds like a blast, doesn't it?

And wait, weren't we discussing my smokin' fat ass? Why yes, yes I believe we were. And I really did have a point here, or rather, a question. I've never done much dieting, what with being young and genetically lucky in the metabolism department and then pregnant and then nursing and then whoops, pregnant again and whatnot, so I'm a little inexperienced.

How much would you expect to lose in two months of dieting? I mean, everyone is different, of course, and there really is no predicting, but if you personally were on a low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie, Not Starvation But Certainly Rather Hungry diet with moderate daily exercise, what would your goal beach weight be two months hence?

I Never Wanted to be a Cheerleader

My child has Ongoing Poop Issues. (Oh? You thought that since I hadn't mentioned lately they were Resolved Poop Issues? Sadly, no, they are very much ongoing.) You don't want to hear about it anymore than I want to talk about it. I just mention to explain why I spent a large bit of my afternoon sitting on the bathroom floor with a screaming baby on one hip "calling the poop." As in, "Here, Poop! Come on, poop! Here, Poopy Poopy Poopy! You can do it, Poop! Hooray for Poop!"

The utter loss of dignity that comes with motherhood is actually rather refreshing, once you get used to it.

On a completely un-poop-related note, I'm making falafel and tabbouli tomorrow, neither of which I have ever attempted. If anybody has any helpful tips I'd be happy to have them. Provided they are the kind of tips that require only things I already have in my house.

(What? You have a problem with a joint poop/food entry? You must not have young children.)

Home, Boys, Bag Lady

Just an average afternoon around the Cactus-Fish house.

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Cribless

A week ago, I started trying to teach Owen how to fall asleep in his crib.

Ok, that isn't quite true, Owen nearly always falls asleep in his crib. I am trying to teach him how to do it without Mama being in there with him. Why yes, I have been as a matter of routine climbing into Owen's crib with him, staying there until he falls asleep, and then heaving myself back over the rail as quietly as possible. And when he wakes up, as he does often, I just climb back in. Lather, rinse, repeat until I give up and bring him to bed with me, where he wakes me up every 90 minutes all night long if I'm lucky.

And I know, ok, I KNOW. This is a ridiculous parenting strategy. And if any of you haven't gotten three consecutive hours of sleep in the past fifteen months, and I mean not even once, then you go right ahead and mock me and judge me. But if you have had three consecutive hours of sleep at any point in the past fifteen months, then you will have to just mock and judge me silently in your own head. Because I am tired. I am so, so tired, and climbing into his crib works and then I get to go to sleep. Briefly.

But it finally dawned on me that maybe this short-term solution was not the best way to meet my long-term goals. (Duh, right? But please see above re: I never sleep at all ever for more than a year now.) So I haven't been in that crib in a week. Well, ok, once I did, to get him back to sleep when he woke up 30 minutes into a nap that needed to be much longer, but otherwise, no. I started putting him in his crib and standing next to it on a stool so that I could get my entire upper body down to his level and basically lie on top of him while he fell asleep. And then I put him down and stayed there rubbing his back. And then I rubbed his back and head through the crib bars, and then his foot, and now he will go to sleep as long as I am there holding his hand.

And twice he has slept nine hours straight, and once he slept eight hours straight, and that is more than double his usual longest stretch, so I suppose we are making some progress here somewhere. And I take back everything I ever said about sleep training. (Except not really.)

Then, three days ago, I weaned him. I don't think he even noticed, which I suppose means it was past time to do it. Mama's Dairy Bar is officially closed. And while weaning Mia caused me to randomly dissolve into tears for about a week, all you're getting out of me this time is a heart-felt Hallelujah. (Tinged ever so slightly at the corners with a mild shade of regret, of course.)