Archives for category: the facts

Who wants a Friday phone-it-in post? I do! I do!

Thanks to Ginger I get to have credit for posting while still doing very little work. This is an excellent system and I approve. Also, holiday spirit, yada yada.

Presenting the holiday meme:

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg nog at Christmas, hot chocolate the rest of the year.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa wraps, in his own paper. Until a couple years ago I didn’t know Santa didn’t wrap sometimes. I think that variety of Santa is a bit lazy, frankly.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White. Colored lights make the ornaments look weird.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No.

5. Tacky holiday sweaters: yea or nay?
Nay. I do wear red sweaters but for some reason I do that a lot anyway.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Food other people make that I eat. Food that I make that I eat. Food that I eat. Food.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? The family fight around whether the tree was straight which always ended up with it falling on my swearing father’s head. What? We are that kind of family. I treasure that memory so much that Michael and I recreate it each year.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I read too many Nancy Drew novels and tried to make my mother submit a handwriting sample so I could do a full graphological analysis. So she just told me. Right after she stopped laughing. I think I was 9ish.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
I think we did sometimes? We were pretty inconsistent on Christmas traditions. But it’s something I’d like my kids to do. I think it’s fun.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With a lot of really tacky ornaments we’ve collected/made over the years plus some ancient lights plus the world’s most bizarre paper star on top (I’ll post a picture this year). Last year I knit a red wool garland that was pretty awesome. Basically it’s like a summer camp’s arts and crafts session threw up on a tree. It’s great! [Aside: I’m thinking of entering the lifestyle blog market. What do you think?]

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
I don’t mind it really, especially if I don’t have to drive in it. At least until March or so which is when I’m over it, done, go away snow. (Please note that some years the snow doesn’t go away until May.)

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, though not with any fancy moves.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Uhhh…not really. I remember getting a ten-speed bike one year. That was exciting. (This is also why I try not to sweat over getting the perfect gift for my kids. Few people seem to remember this.)

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
You know, I think this gets lost in a lot of places, but we are so far north that I really feel in tune with the celebration of warmth and light that surrounds this time of year. When it is dark and cold by 3:30, I will take a crackling fire and some twinkly lights, yes, please.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Pumpkin pie. Hands down.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Swearing aside, I really like decorating the tree.

17. What tops your tree?
As mentioned above, a truly ridiculous paper star with glitter paint and a picture of baby Annabel on it. I’m not kidding. We may change that this year. But probably not.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
This is one of those trick questions designed to reveal my true self, isn’t it? Forget it. I am committed to remaining an enigma.

19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum?
*gag*

20. Favorite Christmas show?
The Grinch. Naturally.

21. Saddest Christmas Song?
Saddest? As in the lyrics are the saddest or it makes me the saddest to hear it? I’m going with the latter: The Little Drummer Boy. That song is looooaaathesome, pa rum pum pum pum.

22. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Silent Night. Or Carol of the Bells, which I always find enchanting.

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I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

SAD is a rather cutesy little acronym and I don’t have a lot of use for it other than accepting that it’s easier to say than “Seasonal Affective Disorder.”  When you say “Seasonal Affective Disorder” as often as I say “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” especially in this post, you appreciate the chance to shorten “Seasonal Affective Disorder” up a bit, no matter how stupid the acronym is.   I think I particularly dislike “SAD” because SAD doesn’t actually make me sad.  I’m not sad this time of year.  I am, however, extremely tired.  Exhausted, even.  Worn down so far on all edges until I feel considerably less like myself and more like a shapeless blob.

I have given it serious consideration and I honestly believe that if it were not for the motivating factors of children, a husband, paid work, the general desire for a healthy-ish lifestyle, and an overwhelming sense of guilt about non-productivity, I could easily and happily spend 20 hours of my day sleeping during the months of SAD.  The four hours of wakefulness would be spent eating doughnuts.

That’s pretty much my fantasy life for the months of November through, oh, let’s say early March.  March has its own problems, but at least I don’t generally want to sleep through it.  I probably still want doughnuts in March, though.  That’s kind of a given.

Of course, I can’t sleep and eat doughnuts all day, every day like my SAD-affected cavewoman brain would like me to do–and I think we can all agree that’s a tragedy.  Sometimes my cavewoman brain gets so frustrated with this tragic reality that it pushes me out of sleep-and-doughnuts over to the other extreme: Energetically Cranky Cherie.  Energetically Cranky Cherie is much like Malibu Barbie only with less pink and Malibu and more sweatpants and swearing.  It’s hard to say which is more fun for those around me to deal with, the sleepiness or the crankiness, but I guess the positive spin is that I can mix it up a bit?  Maybe?  Keep them on their toes?

I’ve always had SAD to some degree, I expect, but I must say that the hormonal shake-up of having children took it to a whole new depth.  Or maybe it’s age.  Or maybe it’s just that my life these days is pretty nonstop and thus my resources are used up quicker.  Or maybe this is like the inverse of the uphill-to-school-both-ways days of yore, in that the memory of last year’s pain has dulled enough that whatever I’m suffering through right now seems so much worse than it could possibly have been last year.

Who knows.  But this year is rough.  This year is really, really rough.

I’ve tried a variety of solutions through the years and this time I’m trying to white knuckle my way through by eating healthy and attempting to get exercise.  I’ve cut way back on sugar. I go for walks, almost daily.  I do yoga. I’ve started drinking green smoothies, strange concoctions with fruit and kale in them.  I’m about to crumble under the weight of all this virtue and I can’t say that I’ve noticed a lick of difference.

There’ s no real need to write this.  I don’t really need advice.  I don’t really need sympathy.  I don’t even need commiseration.  I just kind of wanted to put it out there and say: you know what’s unfair?  Do you know what is utterly and completely unfair?

The fact that I can’t sleep and eat doughnuts all day.

It’s just so very, very, very SAD.

(And, yes, I totally hate that I did that. I’m sorry but I couldn’t think of another way to end it. Let’s blame the disease, shall we?)

I’m doing that thing again where I write about what happened last weekend, this weekend. To be fair, last weekend was quite busy, so I didn’t really have time to write about it while I was living it. And while I may have been able to find some time this week, the truth is that I spent the majority of the week being unexplainably cranky.  Even if I had written something, it would have read something like this, “I don’t even remember what I did last weekend, because today is enshrouding me in an endless cocoon of misery.”

I’m pretty sure this is not how I meant to tell this story.  Let’s start over.

Last weekend, I ran a 5K.

Wait. That’s not how I want to tell it either.  Let’s start over again.

My sister is a runner.  A serious runner.  A multiple-marathon-finisher runner.  I know this is true, because I’ve gone to watch her run quite a few of these marathons.  She is an excellent marathon runner. I am an excellent marathon watcher.  It all works out rather well.

I love watching marathons.  I like watching the elite runners, the ones who have a body fat percentage of .03% and who haven’t ingested anything other than brown rice and broiled chicken breast in 13 years. I like watching the 83-year old lady, tottering along at the end of the pack, humming to herself as she goes. And I like watching everyone who comes in between.  What’s amazing about watching a marathon is that you get to see people of all shapes, sizes and ages accomplishing a tremendous athletic feat. Somewhere in the middle of watching all those people go by, the truth of it always hits me: anyone can be a runner.

Except me. I am not a runner.  I am a watcher of runners.

This past May we went to visit my sister on Memorial Day weekend, as we usually do, because it is her usual race weekend.  She wasn’t running a marathon this time, due to a lack of time to train, and instead was running a half-marathon as part of a two-person relay.  I watched her and all those other folks do their wondrous thing and then, afterwards, I did the stupidest thing I’ve done in years.  I guess I was still under the inspirational haze of watching all those various sized, shaped, and aged folk achieve their great achievement, or perhaps I was drunk, but what I did was this: I looked her in eye and I said, “Hey, maybe I should start running and then I’ll do the relay with you next year.”

And her face lit up and she said, “That would be GREAT.”

Oh, dear. Oh, whoops.

I went back home and thought about my folly.  And I guess I was still drunk lo those many days later, because it still seemed like it wouldn’t be a bad idea.  I’d been meaning to get back into regular exercise anyway.  Maybe this would be a good way to get moving again.  Perhaps I should start smaller, though, right?  Perhaps I should see if there were any nearby 5Ks coming up in the late summer.  That would be a good way to test my running ability.  So I checked and, guess what?  There was a 5K right in my very town in mid-September.  This was all still seeming like a reasonable plan.

So I did the second stupidest thing I’ve done in years.

I went on Facebook and I posted, “Who wants to run a 5K with me on September 17th?”

About four friends, who clearly secretly hate me, jumped on the idea.  Now I had to do it.

That’s why, starting in June, I went running three evenings a week after putting the kids to bed.  I went running on cool nights, hot nights, and perfect nights. I ran in the rain and I ran in the sun.  When I started, way back when, it was light until nearly nine and the mosquitoes were so thick that they bounced of my forehead.  By the time September rolled around, I was wearing only white and affixing blinky lights to  me so I wouldn’t get hit by a car while bats danced above me.  I ran my way through just about every album on Michael’s iTouch in my search for good running music.  I ran without music, in case that worked better.  I ran and I ran and I ran.  Minute after minute, hour after hour, night after night, mile after wretched mile.

I hated every second of it.

At first, my mantra was, “You can do this. You can do this. You can do this.”  After a bit, positive reinforcement gave way to drill sergeant, “Don’t quit. Don’t quit. Don’t quit.” And that eventually gave way to grumpy resignation, “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.”

I kept thinking that it would, eventually, get easier.   That my lungs would stop feeling like they were trying to leap out of my body and that my legs would feel less like 40 pound weights and more like springboards.  It never happened.  I finally built up my distance to three miles and decided to start timing myself, trying to increase my speed. I somehow, against all odds,  got slower each time.  One day when I was having a particularly rough time I walked more than usual.  And yet, when I stopped the timer, I had somehow completed the loop faster than ever before. It appears that I walk faster than I run.  That pretty much destroyed the remaining shreds of my good attitude.

I started complaining mightily to anyone who would listen and many who were just being polite.  I swore that I wasn’t going to run another step after the race was over.  I cursed every step of my three-mile loop.  I began demanding that Michael tell me how proud he was of me, because nothing screams “triumphant athlete” quite as much as browbeating one’s spouse into praising one repeatedly.

After all of that, the day of the race was a bit anticlimactic.  Michael, the kids, and my mother came into town to watch.  I ran the race with the one friend who could make it after all.  I walked a particularly vicious uphill section.  Okay, fine, two uphill sections.  Possibly three.  It’s all kind of a blur.  I didn’t make my  very, very slow goal time. I was beaten by the young (age 8!) and old (age 67!).  I finished.  I checked it off the list.

I didn’t run at all this week.

I think I’m starting to like myself again.  The evening has become something enjoy, rather than dread.  Most importantly, I feel pretty confident in my role as a watcher of runners.  I am really, really good at watching the runners.

There’s only one problem, of course.

Does anyone want to run a half-marathon on Memorial Day weekend next year? I know a really awesome partner.

Come on. Do it. I’ll even throw you an extra packet of goo.

The following is a list of things that I used to think my mother was falsely accusing me of but that now, as a mother of two children, I realize I was actually doing:

  1. Walking through the dirt pile.
  2. Waiting until she was on the phone to need something.
  3. Talking far louder than justified.
  4. Whining.
  5. Being sassy.
  6. Dropping my fork on purpose.
  7. Antagonizing my sibling.
  8. Listening for when she might be trying to quietly get a snack for herself and then rushing to the kitchen to beg for some.
  9. Claiming to be full. Until five minutes after dinner dishes are cleared. Then–ahaha! Can you believe it?–being hungry again.
  10. Refusing to sleep when obviously tired.
  11. Moving items from place to place in the house just to drive her batty.
  12. Digging every toy out of the toy box.
  13. Lying about doing any of the above.

Annabel is going through a phase where she asks constantly who “made” something for her.  This isn’t as odd as it sounds.  With one grandmother who knits and another who sews, a father who used to be a potter and who can turn scrap wood into a table, a mother who spends an awful lot of time baking and doing crappy crafts, and lots of other handy aunts, uncles, and friends, the proportion of “made” things to “bought” things in her life is actually pretty high.  And sometimes she just likes to identify some of these things.

The other morning she launched into a round of “Who made?”   She held up the bowl she was using.

“Who made this for me?”

“Daddy did.”

Suitably impressed, she held up her arm to show her sweater.

“Who made this for me?”

“Grammy did.”

She looked around the room and pointed to the table.

“Who made this?”

“Dad made that, too.”

She glanced down at the floor.

“And who made this?”

“The floor?”

“Yeah. Who made it?”

“Your dad and I did, actually.”

“You made it? You and Dad?”

“Yes. Yes, we did.

And I was suddenly very proud.

If you came over here from the houseblog, you know that we built the house we live in from the ground up.  Some days we think this was the stupidest decision we’ve ever made.  Some days we think it was the smartest.  Most days we forget that not everyone has plywood countertops, exposed wiring, and a 2 x 4 bannister and we don’t think about the decision at all.  As anyone who has built a house around themselves or undergone extensive house renovations would agree, after a while you stop seeing a building project and just see your house.

It’s because of this sanity-preserving selective blindness that I feel like I need to explain a bit about the house on this blog.  I feel like I need to give a little tour of what I live in, because when someone sees a picture of my house here and there’s exposed cement board behind the woodstove and windows without trim, I want them to know that I know.  Okay?  I know.  It’s weird and it’s odd and it’s ugly and it will get better but for right now: this is my house.

It’s a crappy house.

And it’s an awesome house.

It’s crappy and awesome simultaneously.

It’s crapsome.

Or possibly aweppy.

But it’s ours.

And we made it for her.

And him.

And us.

So before I launch into posts that detail everything that is wrong or odd or unfinished about our house (and there is so, so much), first I need to let you know that, yes, our house is crapsome.

But we made it.

And we’re kind of proud of that.


The peak of the dormer in what is now Annabel’s room. I spent a lot of time at the top of a ladder putting those rafters up. (Don’t worry. She has a roof now.)

I live approximately 10 miles from my mother.

That seems like a reasonable distance.  That seems like a good hey-can-you-watch-the-kids-but-don’t-forget-to-call-before-you-drop-by distance.

It’s not a reasonable distance.  Because it’s not an easy 10 miles.

Here’s what I imagine a 10-mile trip to Grammy’s house looks like for normal people:

1) Strap kids in car.
2) Drive for 15-20 minutes.
3) Get out of car.
4) Greet Grammy.

Here’s how our trip to Grammy’s goes:

1) Pack supplies, including extra clothing and diapers just in case of stranding.
2) Strap kids in car.
3) Drive for 15-20 minutes.
4) Get out of car.
5) Walk down slippery, icy, nearly perpendicular ramp to dock while carrying baby and fighting with three-year old about whether hand-holding is necessary (it is).
6) Climb on board boat, panicking that said three-year old will fall down between the boat and dock.
7) Take a 20-30 minute ferry ride.
8 ) Climb back off boat. Repeat panic,
9) Climb up slippery, icy, wet steps to dock.
10) Get in a pick-up of questionable quality.
11) Drive up the hill to Grammy’s house.
12) Greet Grammy.

After a visit of about 4 hours, redress, repack, and repeat everyone and everything, with an extra dose of ferry anxiety just for kicks.

Why do I do this?  Especially in the winter, when we can’t even walk down to the rocky beach and while away the day throwing rocks and beachcombing?  What’s the purpose?

Hard to say, really.  Probably I do it because so many of my childhood memories are of that ferry, that dock, that ramp.  My mother lives in what was my grandparent’s house.  I spent a lot of time playing in that house, sliding down that cellar door, sleeping in the little front room that is now my mother’s office.  I love that house.  I want my kids to know that house.  And I want my kids to know that ferry with its rickety stairs and quirky captains.  I want my kids to know this island.   I don’t spend enough time out there.  I have absolutely no claim to this place.  But it’s my island.  It’s a critical, vital, instrumental part of who I am.  And I want to graft this island, this ferry, and this house into their DNA like it is in mine.

I guess that’s why.

Plus, where else am I going to be able to let my kid wander down the middle of an empty road with absolute abandon knowing that the only thing she is in danger of is tripping over a stray pothole?

That’s worth the unreasonable ten miles alone.

Hey, guess what!  I’m still in Florida!

I’m not supposed to still be in Florida, of course.  I’m supposed to have been home since Sunday and by now I should have dug my way out from under my work e-mail and become a productive member of society once more.  But there was this little snowstorm…maybe you’ve heard something about it?  They got a few inches here or there?  Anyway, this snowstorm laughed heartily in the face of our travel plans and spit us back out into Florida not once, but twice.  At this point we are supposed to be headed north on Wednesday evening, but much of that depends on LaGuardia airport figuring out where it keeps its plows.

I know I’m supposed to be thrilled about this extra vacation time.  At least that’s the impression I get from the Maine contingent.  Every time I hear from someone up there I’m all, “I kind of miss my bed” and they reply “Snow!” “But my work is piling up,” I say. “SNOW!” they yell.  “But I’ve been sleeping in the same room as my kids for two weeks now,” I counter, sure this will garner sympathy.  And they simply bellow, “SNNOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!” and throw the phone. So I know I’m supposed to view this as a great boon, but man.  All this family time is wearing.  Plus, we’ve totally become the Houseguests That Won’t Leave and nobody likes that.

It’s not that it’s been a bad vacation.  The first part of it was excellent.  Good food, good people, good fun.  We had cafe con leches and fried fish sandwiches.  We went to the beach and played in the sand.  We went on a holiday lights tour on a bicycle built for three.

I mean, come on.  Look at us! That’s some fun right there!

But then it all kind of fell apart.  First Annabel got sick on Christmas Eve and crawled her way through Christmas with a fever of 102.  Then the sickness meant that no one in the family slept for more than an hour at a time for two or three nights in a row.  Then the flight was canceled, so we imposed ourselves upon my brother- and sister-in-law for an extra three days.  Then I got sick.  Then every outing we attempted was met with a meltdown from one or both children.  Then the baby got sick.  And here we are, spreading germs, misery, and drama wherever we land.

The first morning we were in Florida I looked down while putting on my sandals and noticed I had forgotten to paint my toenails.  I usually do forget this minor detail when we come down, since it’s not really important to me during wintertime in Maine.  At the time, I remember thinking that this little thing was an excellent example of why, exactly, I am not a Florida girl.  A Florida girl does not forget to paint her toenails.  Of this I am sure.  I don’t even think about mine.  I like it Florida, but I don’t really belong.

It appears that Florida agrees.  Florida is spitting me out like an unripe grapefruit.

And at this point, I’m okay with that.

It’s time to go home.  I’m ready for some SNOOOWWWWW.