Stove up

Our new stove is apparently trying to bring about our financial ruin while attempting to kill or disfigure people. Our previous stove was an asshole, too. It was an under-achiever most of its life, never succeeding at the task it was born to do. I’m pretty sure there’s no situation in which it should take a minimum of 45 minutes to bring a pot of water to a boil, unless you are using a Bic lighter as a heat source.

Our old stove was electric, which I’ve always hated, so we opted for a gas stove this time around. That meant we needed to have a gas line run to our kitchen. People who had done this before told me that it cost them between $200 and $300 for this service since they already had a gas line somewhere else in their house (as do we). So you can imagine the heart attack I nearly had when the first guy to come out and give us an estimate told us it would be $1,000. The next guy quoted us $800. I have no idea what the third guy’s estimate was. He spent about 30 minutes longer here than the other guys, took a bunch of pictures, drew a couple of sketches, and coughed uncontrollably for several minutes at a time. He was about 150 years old and his lungs sounded like they were filled with gravel, and I worried the entire time he was here that he might simply fall over dead. We never heard from him again, which is concerning.

After forking over an insane amount of money for the stove (apparently the “major” in major appliance refers to the hit your bank account will take) and the $800 just to be able to have the stove live here, we realized that our above-the-stove microwave was going to look like crap with the new stove. The colors were different (the microwave was white; the new stove stainless steel), plus the old microwave would look very dated next to the sexy young stove. So we forked over another wad of cash for a new microwave. Then more money was forked over to have them both installed. Somewhere during all of this, it was brought to our attention that an electrical doohickey of some sort was not up to code, so we had to fork over more cash to an electrician so our house wouldn’t burn down.

But it didn’t end there. The outlet the stove plugs into worked just fine for the previous stove, but it’s not compatible with the current one. So there’s now a thick, gray cord with a huge, non-removable safety warning tag stretched across my counter so it can reach an outlet it will play nicely with. Of course, this problem wasn’t detected until after the electrician had come and gone. Which is probably a good thing, because he’s going to have to come back anyway. There’s a smoke detector not far from the stove, and now that there’s an open-flame situation happening in my kitchen, it starts singing the song of its people every time I turn on a burner. The smoke detectors in our house are all linked, so that if one goes off, all the others do, too. So when I try to cook dinner, an entire chorus of smoke detectors starts to perform a concert. To prevent that, my husband had to remove the prima donna from the kitchen, leaving a hole in the ceiling with a lovely tangle of wires dangling out of it. It complements the cord on the counter quite nicely.

But the stove isn’t content with just bleeding us dry financially. It seems out for actual blood. I guess I’m not yet used to cooking under normal heat conditions because last week I heated up a skillet of olive oil and butter and was placing some scallops in to sear when one of them literally leapt out of the pan, splattering my wrist and forearm with hot grease.

But I can finally make pasta in less than an hour. That’s something, I guess.



Range of emotions



On the up & up

If you’ve ever bought an up & up product (Target’s store brand), you’ve probably noticed that they feature brief, cute, and sometimes clever descriptions on the packages. For instance, their nail polish remover says, “Delete & Repeat” on the bottle, and their dishwasher tabs say, “Dynamic Dissolvers” on the box. I’ve always wondered about those phrases. Is there just one person who writes them, someone who sits in a cubicle all day and cranks them out? Or is there a team, kind of like the creative department on Mad Men?  And how does a person get a job doing this?

I recently discovered that not all up & up products contain these little descriptors. For the most part, it seems like it’s their more, uh, personal products don’t have them. I think I am just the person to provide that service for Target.

Tampons: Monthly Mirth or Go with the Flow

Powder Laxative: Smooth Move

Lice Shampoo: Lice, Lice, Baby

Nicotine Patches: Stick It to Kick It or Cigarette Segue

Acne Treatment: Zit Zapper or Pizza Face Preventer

Vaginal Anti-Itch Cream: Hoo-ha Ahhhhh!

Anti-Diarrheal Tablets: The Runs Aren’t Fun or The Trots Aren’t Hot

Gas Relief Tablets: Mute Your Poot or Flatulence Fix

Adult Diapers: Pants Protector or Incognito Incontinence

I feel certain that Target will be calling me with a job offer any day now.


Ain’t no cure for the summertime blues

There’s only one more day until summer vacation starts and I go from being “Morning, Late Afternoon, and Evening Mom” to “All Damned Day Mom.” If my kids had their way, they would sit in the air conditioning and watch YouTube or play Minecraft for 12 hours a day, but that would probably make me a bad parent. Other than morning swim lessons for the month of June, a couple of weekend trips, a weeklong day camp in July, and Summer Bridge workbooks, I have no idea what to do with these people.

Just as with any sort of important question I may have (“Should I get bangs?” “Should I be concerned about this mole?”), I consulted the almighty Google. The suggestion I got over and over was that I need to create a schedule. Some moms had a theme for each day, like “Water Wednesdays” and “Make-It Mondays,” while others took a more detailed approach and scheduled every moment of the day. After much thought, here’s the schedule I came up with:

  1. Go to library.

I read about moms who created a summer bucket list for their kids, which consisted of an actual bucket their kids decorated and filled with slips of paper containing things they would like to do. If I let my kids do this, here’s the sort of thing they would come up with:

–          Go shopping at Justice

–          Buy more LEGOs

–          Eat candy

–          Watch Scooby-Doo non-stop for three straight days

–          Eat at a restaurant

–          Order American Girl dolls

–          Eat cookies

–          Get a dog

–          Eat ice cream

I don’t think I can trust them to know what is best for themselves. Really, there should just be one slip of paper in the bucket that says, “Lie on couch and complain of boredom” because that’s exactly what they’ll end up doing.

We’ve survived summers before, of course, but to tell you the truth, I don’t recall what we’ve done in the past. I’m guessing it was so traumatic that I’ve just blocked it all out.

I’m not made of money, and I’ve got kids of different genders who are at different points in their lives (one is ten, one is six), which further complicates things. So, I’m asking you, dear readers who are staring down the barrel of summer, what do you do with your kids?

heaven on earth

This will not be me

Gut reaction

For most of my adult life people—some I am acquainted with and some who are complete strangers—have occasionally asked me if I was pregnant when I haven’t been. Actually, they didn’t really ask; they just assumed. And believe me, when you assume, you really do make an ass out of everyone involved.

Once at my daughter’s pre-school fall festival, a mom came up to me, pointed to my stomach, and exclaimed, “Looks like someone has been busy!” I wanted to say, “Busy eating cupcakes!” but instead I just pretended I didn’t understand what she meant, silently fuming at her presumptuousness and her inquiry into my sex life (we were at a pre-school event for chrissakes!). A few years later when my son was in pre-school another mom (who never uttered a single word to me, not even “hi,” before or since) asked me when I was due. I pretended I didn’t hear her and walked away. Back when I was working at a college a co-worker I barely knew said to me in front of a group of other co-workers and students, “You’re expecting!” It wasn’t a question, more like a statement of fact. When I said that I wasn’t, she tried to argue with me. Another co-worker I barely knew at that same college once poked my stomach repeatedly and started making all manner of happy sounds. This was at a baby shower for another co-worker, who was actually pregnant. (Note to self: Avoid pre-schools and colleges). A cashier at Whole Foods whom I saw every single week when I did my grocery shopping once declared, “You look like you’re going to pop that baby out any day now!” I could go on, but you get the idea.

I’ll admit it–I do look pregnant. I know that and I don’t need other women (and it’s always women) to draw attention to this fact. If you are curious about what’s going on in my uterus, you could just sit back and wait and all would be revealed in due time (no pun intended). I’ve always had a pot belly, even when I was a scrawny teenager begging my mom to order me some weight gain powder I’d seen in a magazine. Even though my gut is much bigger now, thanks to two real pregnancies, lots of red wine, and lack of exercise, my belly has always been out of proportion with the rest of my body. Basically, I have the female equivalent of a dicky-doo.

Yesterday morning I put on a shirt that felt a little tight and wondered if it would generate pregnancy speculation. Then it occurred to me that it’s been a long time since this has happened. As I walked my son to school, I was feeling pretty good about that, thinking that I must be looking pretty fine these days. But then the hard truth dawned on me: No one thinks I’m pregnant because I look too damned old to be pregnant. So now I don’t know which is worse–looking pregnant, looking fat, or looking old.

I'm not fat

Maybe I should get this shirt

Pull up a chair

The Bloggess recently posted this conversation she had with her husband about wanting a wheelbarrow, not for yard work but for relaxation purposes. If you haven’t read it yet, head over there and check it out. Just come back here, okay? I’ll wait for you.

So here’s the thing: When I was a kid, my family totally had a wheelbarrow in our living room for a brief time. I don’t remember exactly how that came to be, but there it was: a brand-spanking new, school bus yellow wheelbarrow in the center of the room. It made a great place to watch TV, sort of like a recliner with a wheel and handles, a Barcabarrow, if you will. Someone even tossed a couple of throw pillows in there at some point—blue ones with bonnet-clad white geese on them (so very 1980s). The wheelbarrow created a great focal point for that room, what with its wood paneled walls, aforementioned geese décor, and view of the ginormous satellite TV dish through the sliding patio doors. Kind of like if Better Homes and Gardens did a special “Mobile Home Chic” issue. But then just as quickly as it arrived, the wheelbarrow was gone, taken away (by my dad, I assume) to answer its higher calling in the garden.

Many years later, my brother and I, now adults, were in a video rental store. For some reason he thought of the wheelbarrow-as-chaise-lounge, and said, “Hey! Remember when we used to fight over who was going to sit in the wheelbarrow and watch TV?” People all around froze with their DVD boxes suspended in mid-air and looked to see what kind of people would be having this conversation. I like to think that they all went home, popped their DVDs in, and said to their significant other as they reached for the popcorn, “You won’t believe what I heard someone at the video store say today.”

Yellow wheelbarrow

Wheelbarrow or La-Z-Boy?  You decide.

These are a few of my favorite things

Sometimes it’s nice to take stock of the little things in your life that bring you joy. Here’s what has me smiling lately:

Kumato You say tomato, I say Kumato. “What the hell are you talking about?” is probably what you are actually saying. Allow me to explain. It doesn’t get much better than a homegrown tomato in the summertime (someone even wrote a song about it), but when it’s January and you want a BLT fix, you’re kind of SOL. Unless you want to buy one of those hard, white, tasteless things that pass for tomatoes in the supermarket. Until now, that is. A Kumato is a brownish-greenish tomato, and, as tomatoes go, it is a homely little thing. When I gave a few to my parents, they discussed throwing them in the trash and not telling me. They didn’t think something so pitiful looking could taste good. But once they tried it, they were believers, too. Does it taste like a straight-from-the-garden Beefsteak? No, but when you want a tomato and can’t wait until July, it’s a mighty fine replacement.



Not a pretty girl


LEGO Brick Separator Some of you might remember my feelings about LEGOs. Well, folks, I am here to tell you that this little tool has changed my life. It separates teeny tiny bricks with the greatest of ease and has reduced the number of broken nails and the amount of cursing around here. Sadly, however, it cannot prevent the pain of stepping on a LEGO in bare feet.

lego brick separator

Breaking up is easy to do


Emergen-C These little packets turn a glass of water into a vitamin-infused, subtly flavored treat. It’s a great way to increase your intake of water. In fact, this is about the only way my son will drink water. It’s a great alternative to crap-filled products like Mio. Pro Tip: Buy it at Whole Foods. They have the best price, a huge selection of flavors, and individual packets for sale (so you can try a lot of different kinds and see what you like).


Emergen C

Operator, this is an Emergen-C


Tom and Lorenzo Their reviews of Mad Men—especially their Mad Style posts—are genius. Every week I am amazed at their commentary. It’s really enriched my whole Mad Men viewing experience, and I can’t imagine watching MM now without TLO. Check it out here.


Smiling Betty

Even Betty approves


Now I want to hear about your favorite things!





I am Betty Draper

(A spoiler warning if you haven’t seen the most recent episode of Mad Men and a trigger warning if you’re a Betty hater)

Sunday’s Mad Men saw Betty going on a field trip to a farm with Bobby. Things were going swimmingly—Bobby was happy to have his pretty mama there, Betty drank some straight-from-the-utter milk and shared some snarkiness with another mom—until Bobby and Betty sat down for a picnic lunch. While Betty was away washing her hands before eating (interestingly, she didn’t see the need for Bobby to wash his hands, and we all know how gross kids are), Bobby traded Betty’s sandwich to another kid for some gum drops. When Betty finds out, she is PISSED. Aside from some hints at disordered eating (Bobby assumed that Betty wouldn’t eat, I guess because she rarely does, and Betty makes Bobby eat the candy that he clearly now feels bad about having procured), the real focus was on how pouty and immature Betty was about the whole thing. Bobby ruined a perfectly good field trip! How dare he!

While Betty’s reaction was just awful, I sort of feel for her a bit on this one. She’s been riding on a school bus and smelling livestock and drinking milk out of a bucket and stepping over cow patties while wearing heels and dealing with a bunch of kids all morning. All she wanted was a damned sandwich. She was hangry, for God’s sake. Being the responsible adult is hard sometimes, especially when your kids do something like, say, give away your lunch. When my ten-year-old screams at me when I tell her to clean her room that I’m an evil demon, it would be so gratifying to yell back, “I know you are, but what I am?” When my six-year-old whines yet again that he doesn’t like what I’ve packed in his lunchbox, it would be great to just stick my tongue out at him.

I’m ashamed to admit that on occasion I have sunk to Betty’s level and gotten pissed and pouted like a spoiled brat because of something my kids have done, and as in Betty’s case, it’s often happened when we are doing something special. I think the expectations are so much higher during those times—This is supposed to be fun, dammit!–and, when one of the kids does something irksome, it can feel like they have ruined everything. Afterwards, I’ve seen the same sense of shock, sadness, and guilt on my kids’ faces as Bobby had on his. I’ve felt the same sense of having fucked up royally that Betty feels later in the episode.

I don’t think I’m quite as terrible a parent as Betty is. I mean I’ve never dragged my daughter by the hair and locked her in a closet or told my son when he complained of being bored that “only boring people are bored” and that he should just go bang his head against a wall. But there are moments when one of my kids pushes just the right button or catches me at just the wrong time and boom! I go into full-on petty Betty mode. Seeing that play out on a TV screen was kind of jarring for me and made me realize how horrible those instances are for my kids. I need to do better by them. Just as long as they don’t mess with my lunch.

Betty Draper

Whoa, mean Betty, bam-ba-lam!