Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A new type of school anxiety dream

Almost everyone seems to have had anxiety dreams about school. There's a test and you haven't studied for it—indeed, you've never even been to class, and you haven't bought the books, either. You can't find your locker, or you can find your locker but you can't remember the combination.

Professors have their own versions of the school-anxiety dream: There's a classroom of students waiting to take a test, but the professor hasn't written the exam yet. Or the professor has no pants on, or is about to lecture on a topic he or she knows nothing about.

Well, this morning I awoke in a nervous state as a result of a new twist on the school-anxiety dream: I dreamed that Ben was enrolled in two schools at the same time, but he hadn't ever gone to one of them. How would he pass kindergarten at a school he'd never attended?? Oh, the maternal angst I felt! School anxiety by proxy.

Next thing you know, I'll start having those "unsuitable toilet" dreams on Ben's behalf, too.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cure for the crankies

Boy, have I been cranky today. I think it's because the weather's heating up, and I have an unofficial motto: Heat and humidity are my two most formidable enemies. Or maybe it's a quasi-period/PMS thing. Or innate ill temper. How cranky am I? I picked a fight with Mr. Tangerine about the proper way to slice a pineapple and stomped out of the kitchen. (In the interest of thoroughness, it should be noted that he ended up cutting off the skin just like I said to.)

Lunch today was grilled turkey dogs and grilled pineapple slices (basted with a blend of butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and a hint of ground ginger). Upping the Polynesian vibe, the hot dogs were served on Hawaiian rolls. I opted to accompany my meal with a glass of Riesling, and you know what? I'm feeling much less cranky, and I haven't even finished the glass yet.

Tertia and Her Feral Lowness are right. Wine is a lovely habit. It adds a soupçon of uncrankiness to the harried mother's day.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Me Meme

Memes...the last refuge of the uninspired blogger. Yoinked from Mignon.

This one's a sentence completion task.

I am a rock? Sam? I said? Who is Darkman?

I want the life that I have.

I wish chronic and serious illnesses didn't exist.

I hate broccoli.

I miss my oldest and dearest friends. I hardly ever see them, and should make more of an effort to get together. Although that's logistically difficult with the one in Europe (hi, Robin!).

I fear centipedes. And millipedes. Really, I loathe them, but I already put broccoli in the hate line. I also kind of fear cats—don't trust them, don't like their pointy teeth and claws.

I hear there will be a lot of new drama series on TV this fall. No actually, I don't hear well at all.

I wonder what the course of my own particular chronic illness will be. And I wonder what my son will be like when he's grown. I wonder what the hell global warming will have wrought by that time.

I regret almost nothing.

I am not your mother! This is what I used to to say to Mr. Tangerine, when he'd leave his dirty laundry wherever he was standing when he took his clothes off. You know what he, and now Ben, has sometimes done? Remove the pants and underwear as a unit, stepping out of them, leaving them standing there vacant. It looks like his body and soul done been raptured up to heaven, leaving his earthly possessions behind. Kind of a Wicked Witch melting thing. I've largely given up the battle, given that I'm the one who stays home and has the time to tend to laundry, while Mr. Tangerine is off earning his keep by putting in long hours at the office. Life is too short to fight about sleeves still rolled up on shirts in the laundry heap.

I dance in the privacy of my house, or when drunk at wedding receptions (but it's been a long time since I got drunk). I do like to dance with my little boy.

I sing absymally. But I do like to sing for my little boy.

I cry more easily when premenstrual, but there's no fixed schedule for my cycle, so it's always a mystery when weepiness hits.

I am not always the smartest person in the room. (That phrase has been ruined by that Enron documentary, hasn't it?)

I make excuses. Whatever I do wrong, I can always come up with a way that someone else could be to blame.

I write two blogs, but I don't quite have the energy for both. This one suffers as a result, but I'm trying to do better because I love the commenter community here.

I confuse Mr. Tangerine.

I need caffeine. Diet Coke, in particular.

I should be more patient.

I start arguments when I'm feeling ornery.

I finish crossword puzzles quickly.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How to be as chic as a Frenchwoman

Don't wear makeup. As reported in Elaine Sciolino's NYT article, the standard American look involves noticeable makeup; Michèle Fitoussi, a French social commentator and Elle magazine columnist, describes this look as "vulgaire." Mais oui! What's all the rage in France these days is "le bare face," "le no makeup."

To Frenchwomen, a woman who sports the made-up look is trying too hard, hopes to attract men, or is just plain old. Quelle horreur! There's a classic quotation from Yves Saint Laurent in the article: "The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy."

Between my minimal use of makeup and having just one child, I feel very European. Now, those of us who don't wear makeup seldom take an interest in following trends in cosmetics, but I can absolutely get on board with "le bare face." Who's with me?

The article mentioned mirrored sunglasses as part of a California look mocked in Elle. This reminds me of a foursome of young women I saw at the bus stop last weekend. (If only I'd had my camera!) One was sporting a pair of giant Dior sunglasses with a big, shiny "D" at each temple. Two were wearing nearly identical shades, but with a big, shiny "C." The fourth had on sunglasses with a strikingly similar design. Mind you, this was no Beverly Hills bus stop. These were casually dressed girls in the Midwest, looking patently ridiculous with their combined $1,000+ of oversized shades.

Usually I have to go a little farther south, to the Lincoln Park neighborhood, to find clusters of people slavishly following the same trend. Last spring, I spotted three young women wearing short, pastel-colored trenchcoats. Gee, you girls go shopping together? Sometimes, the trendmonkeys are young men. Three guys walking to the Cubs game, wearing similar sandals, shorts all of the same length, and the same type of shirt. It's as if they'll be drummed out of their social circle if they don't wear the uniform.

I used to make fun of the young couples you'd see at amusement parks wearing matching personalized t-shirts. But you know what? At least they're not wearing exactly what all their friends are wearing. They're motivated by affection, not adherence to, say, the Abercrombie aesthetic or the Coco Chanel code.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I love Jon Stewart

Wordplay opens nationwide on June 30 (NY, June 16; LA, June 23). Who's excited?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My snarky husband

You know what's fun? Toying with the strangers who call the house.

Years ago, I answered the phone, and this guy had called the wrong number. He was kinda drunk, so it was easy to mess with his head. "You sound funny. Do you have a cold?" he asked me, thinking I was his friend. "No," I replied. "What are you doing tonight?" he asked. "Oh, not much. Watching some TV." We must've chatted for a good five minutes before his Hackles of Suspicion were finally raised and I could stifle my laughter no longer. Yeah, he felt pretty dumb after that. Just doing my part to reduce the scourge of alcohol abuse in this fine land.

Because of Mr. Tangerine's name, we've gotten junk mail, telemarketing calls, and market-research solicitations—in Spanish. Mind you, we don't know much more Spanish than Ben does, and he's in kindergarten. Ocho! Naranja! De nada! Los brazos y la cabeza! (That last one I know from the signs inside the CTA buses.) It's disappointing sometimes. You're bored, you get a call from a survey person, and you think to yourself, "Sure, I've got 10 minutes to kill, and I'm not shy about speaking my mind. I'd love to share my opinions on pickup trucks." But then it turns out that the market research is targeted only at Hispanics, and that's not our demographic.

A few minutes ago, the phone rang, jangling me out of my reveries. Mr. Tangerine and I each had a phone handset within reach, and we each looked at the caller-ID screen. INTERSEARCH CORP? I put my phone down, but Mr. Tangerine was feeling more mischievous. "Buenas noches," he answered. "Hello. Do you speak Spanish?" asked the woman. (WTF? Were you not listening when the man answered the phone, lady?) "No," he replied. "Okay, thank you." Click. She didn't even have the decency to sound amused. But that's okay. We were plenty amused on her behalf.

Anyone else like to play games with strangers who call?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

"It's the plumber. I've come to fix the tub."

This one's especially for PK, who harbors thoughts of handsome movers, and for Lisa, who remodeled her basement and was not treated to a single hot contractor in the process. My bathtub drain has been emptying slowly, and the handsome plumber returned. While the record must show that I deplore his practice of wearing his cap backwards, light brown coveralls aren't the most fetching outfit, and I'm not a fan of gold chains on men, there are two things in the plumber's favor:

• His beautiful clear blue eyes with long lashes.

• The way he took pains to rinse the drain spatters off the tub and surrounding tile. Such attention to detail! Such thoughfulness! Cleaning up so the woman in the room won't have to! Be still, my heart. Usually, a plumber leaves my bathroom a godawful mess, but this guy? A minute with cleaning spray and a single paper towel should suffice.

You can argue about which is hotter—a beautiful young man or a man who cleans up without being asked. But with The Handsome Plumber, I didn't have to choose.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

In memoriam: Jessica

As many people in this corner of the blogosphere know, a lovely woman named Jessica, who wrote the excellent blog Cancer, baby, has lost her battle with recurrent ovarian cancer. She was only 33, and the world's a dimmer place without this gifted writer. Jessica's muses were her wry wit, her righteous anger, her keen intellect, her poetic talent. She didn't write many posts, but when she did, they meant something. Here's a sampling of her best work:

Reflections on a Yellow Jersey: A thoughtful analysis and critique of the common media tropes of survivor worship and the claims that anyone can beat cancer if they have enough optimism and will power. Plenty of people with hope and determination lose their lives to cancer, and the conventional wisdom would have us believe that these people just didn't try hard enough. (Baloney.) The New York Times actually invited Jessica to publish this as an op-ed, I believe, but at the time she wished to preserve her medical privacy (her recurrence was not public knowledge at her workplace). Although this didn't make it into print, it's must reading for all of us.

In Which I Gear Up for the 2005 Awards Season: Another outraged yet wry response to a media portrayal of cancer; in this case, the implication that "smart" people manage to detect the disease early. Ovarian cancer, of course, eludes early detection in a most nefarious fashion, no matter how smart the patient is, no matter how well she advocates for herself.

Mixed Metaphors: An acerbically funny excoriation of the use and abuse of cancer metaphors.

Some cancer waiting-room humor.

Funny stuff about what you do with your underwear when you take it off in the examination room.

They Won't Leave Me Alone: A conversation between Jessica and her reproductive organs, which had taken up residence in jars in the pathology lab.

The "mood oglers" piece: In which Jessica flays strange men who feel compelled to say things like, "Cheer up—it can't be that bad" or "Come now, why aren't you smiling?"

Dichotomies: A heartbreaking reflection on the difficulty of being happy for someone when they attain what has eluded you. Jessica very much wanted to be a mother, but ceded her reproductive organs in her first cancer surgery, and then experienced a recurrence just when her adoption application was moving forward. Many infertile women have a tough time hearing the news that someone else is pregnant; Jessica explores the issue on a personal level.

In Sickness and in Health: A tribute to Jessica's loving husband and his tireless efforts to help her. If love alone could have saved Jessica, her husband's love would have done it. I'm so sorry for the depth of his loss.

Elsewhere in the archives, there's also poetry—of the moving variety and the biting, multi-verse limerick variety—and assorted updates, musings, venting, and so on. Jessica was a wonderful writer, so I'm sure you'll appreciate what you read in her archives.

If you want to memorialize Jessica with a donation, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition is a group she approved of. I keep this link above my blogroll, but it never seems to show up as my readers' "out-click." I hope some of you (nudge, nudge—this means you) will make a contribution in Jessica's honor. Thank you.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there.

• To the moms with healthy kids who were once in the NICU.

• To the people who have troubled relationships with their own mothers, or who have lost their mothers.

• To the women who'd love to have children, but are single or in a lesbian relationship, because it's so much harder for them to become mothers.

• To the women who are struggling with infertility, or who have given up on the dream of bearing a biological child.

• To the women who have lost children or suffered pregnancy losses.

• To the singled and divorced moms, who shoulder a larger burden.

• To the mothers raising kids with special needs.

• To all the moms who don't fit in any of these categories, but have still found mothering to be the hardest job they've ever had.

I'm writing this post in bed, where I just ate a Mother's Day breakfast (a mozzarella omelet and buttered toast) that Ben helped prepare—although my sweet little bunny wanted to cuddle rather than help Daddy in the kitchen. Happy stomach, happy heart—happy mother.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ten weird things

All righty, Mona tagged me for this meme. I had trouble thinking of things that are weird about me, so I turned to Mr. Tangerine for help. Boy, did he have a lot of ideas!

1. I have a photographic memory, more or less—not as much as the people listed here, but more than most people I know. I’ll bet everyone else who’s really fast at solving crossword puzzles has some degree of eidetic memory.

2. One of the staples of my diet is the peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwich. I probably eat this sandwich about three times a week, often more.

3. My cervix fakes left but goes right (or is it the other way around?). This made the HSG test a bloody and painful mess, since that was done before a doctor described the misleading pathway. The HSG was eventually followed by eight intrauterine insems, most of which were acutely uncomfortable as assorted nurses and doctors attempted to navigate my tricky cervix. The last few went a little more smoothly when I could advise the clinician about the fakes-left thing. I thought about getting the Essure procedure done, but there’s a follow-up HSG to make sure the coils are in place. No, thanks.

4. When I was a kid and, um, an adult (but not much any more), I tended to count my steps if I was walking alone somewhere. It’s not an OCD thing—I think it was more to pass the time. Hey, in junior high, I used to pass the time while walking down the hall between classes by reading a book. I was klutzy, so it’s a mystery how I navigated the hallways and stairs with my face buried in a book.

5. When I was a kid, I tended to sniff things like money, books, and magazines. It must be a hereditary trait because Ben tends to smell things, too. And okay, I admit I still take a whiff of books and magazines. Don’t you? (Addendum: I drafted this last night. This afternoon, Ben sniffed some Legos. It was a little kit to make a Lego car, and the tires reeked.)

6. Mr. Tangerine insisted that I say I’m a closet exhibitionist.

7. I experience hypnagogic hallucinations. It only happens about once a year now, but it used to be more frequent. What happens is, I’ve recently drifted off to sleep, and become absolutely convinced I see spiders on the ceiling, on the wall above the bed, or on the covers. I sit up and begin shouting, “Spiders! Turn on the light! Turn on the light! Spiders!” I look around frantically, flipping the covers in a fruitless search for spiders. Mr. Tangerine’s job is to turn on the light, point out the lack of spiders, turn off the light, and lie there awake after I fall quickly back to sleep.

8. I won’t drink red wine. For a long time, I credited that to my (alcoholic) dad’s preference for red wine and to my fear of migraines. More recently, I heard that red wine’s one of the things supertasters (whose extra tastebuds are extra-sensitive to propylthiouracil) can’t abide. Aha!

9. Vanilla ice cream tastes horribly bitter to me. Can’t eat it. I used to find it sweet, but in the last five years or so (possibly since I was pregnant with Ben?), it’s become inedible. Even licking a dab of melted vanilla ice cream off my fingertip is strikingly unpleasant.

10. I don’t drink coffee or eat tiramisu. Coffee tastes unbearably bitter and burnt to me. Oddly enough, I like unsweetened tea despite the bitterness. Sweetened iced tea? Blech.

(Yeah, I know it’s cheating to squeeze three items out of the supertaster bit. It was either that or stop at number 8.)

Monday, May 08, 2006


(Groovy etymology for that word, by the way.)

My mom did end up babysitting on Thursday so Mr. Tangerine and I could go out to dinner for our 15th. We walked to an Italian joint and had rather disappointing food. Also, the dinner menu was riddled with typos. Not ridiculously so—it's not as if they're selling mescaline salad like some places claim to do—but if you're the proprietor of an Italian restaurant that's been in business for over a decade, wouldn't you know how to spell tortellini? (Hint: It's not "tortalloni.") Then we hit the grocery store after dinner (so romantic!) and took a cab home.

Friday morning was Ben's show at school. The salute to Hollywood was a raging success, and I'm certain that we were not biased in pronouncing Ben's class's performance to be the best one. He looked fantastic as a junior cowboy—very Brokeback Kindergarten. Several people even thought the tall girl he was partnered with for the dance was a boy, further enhancing the Brokeback vibe. Ben had a grand time, and said he wished they could put on a show every day. Sure, there were probably about 1,000 watching him, but that didn't faze him. Not a shy boy.

Saturday morning, my cousin and I embarked on the ovarian cancer walkathon. (The donation site is still up if you wanted to chip in but were afraid you'd missed your chance. And vielen Dank to those of you who donated! The money is sorely needed, as breast cancer beats ovarian cancer by a mile in the race for funds.) Now, last year, the walk route was 3 miles if you walked two laps of the route, so we just did 1.5 miles last year (one of us had asthma acting up). We fully planned to do the same this year, and wouldn't you know it? The event organizers changed the route so that there was no opting out at the halfway point. We were suckered into doing 3! After the walk, we had lunch (Italian again, but much more satisfying than my anniversary dinner. Can you say "Godiva chocolate cake"? Can you stop salivating now? You can't? I know! It's good cake!)

Saturday afternoon, my cousin and I betook ourselves to an outlet mall. Yes, to walk some more! But for a good cause, again. I found three skirts, three tops, and two pairs of undies. Skirts with an elastic waist = the epitome of summertime comfort.

Today, the la famille Tangerine went bowling. And not no blue-collar bowling alley, nope. We went to an upscale "bowling lounge." One part bowling alley (I started typing "boweling alley"—what sort of facility do you think that would be?), one part pool hall, one part sports bar with many TVs, and two parts loungey bar with couches and whatnot. Ben bowled with the bumpers up to prevent gutter balls, while his parents faced the risk of rolling the ball directly into the gutters. We bowled three games, and I scored roughly 90, 60, and 80. That 60 was quite sad. (In my defense, I hadn't bowled in nearly a decade.) Afterwards, we visited the Lego Store to cash in some of Ben's birthday money. Dammit, now we have to build that giant police station. At least it's not one of the Star Wars things, like the Death Star with more than 3,000 pieces (ages 16 and up!).

Speaking of Star Wars, Ben and his dad have been playing this Lego Star Wars video game together. Ben's never seen any of the movies, but he's becoming moderately well-versed in the characters. Do you know how disheartening it is to hear him discuss the pros and cons of Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Jar Jar Binks? Oy vey. I know kids are prone to such obsessions, but why can't my kid be obsessed with...reading? Or crossword puzzles? Star Wars and Legos...sigh.

Commenting assignment: Tell me a lie about your experience with mescaline, bowling, and/or Godiva chocolate, dear readers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A decade and a half

You know the old song lyric, "I love you a bushel and a peck"? Let's change that to "I love you a decade and a half." That's right, folks: The Tangerines celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary tomorrow. We've done no shopping, made no plans, bought nary a greeting card. Because who cares, really? We're not into the traditional trappings so much. Heck, we spent our first married Christmas not with our families, but on a belated honeymoon. (Snorkeling off St. Croix and getting sunburned on Christmas day, in fact.) Now, for our 10th anniversary, I wanted a Tiffany anniversary band, and that's exactly what I got. This year? I figure if Mr. Tangerine ever gets around to choosing a pair of speakers for my computer (not that I need the speakers—but it bothers him that the Mac's wee built-in speaker's sound quality sucks), that'll be good enough. And one of these months, we'll actually order the plasma TV he wants—for his birthday present two months ago, I dropped my objection to having such a monstrosity in the house. It's the thought that counts, right? We are beyond needing trinkets to demonstrate our love for one another.

Ben's big kindergarten show* takes place on Friday morning. My mom's spending the night tomorrow night so's not to have to drive in rush hour to make the 9 a.m. showtime. Hey! Maybe she can babysit so the Tangerines can have an anniversary date. She can put Ben to bed, fire up the TiVo to watch the House two-parter (Omar Epps is clearly being positioned for an Emmy "for your consideration" campaign. He laughs! He cries! Give this fella an award!), and wait for us to return home from a hot date.

Although...we just had a pre-anniversary date last Friday, when my oldest and dearest friend and her partner babysat. The Tangerines ate tapas; Mr. Tangerine had two mojitos and I drank two glasses of white sangria (which I suspect was adulterated with flavorless turpentine, on account of the migraine that took up residence inside my head and lingered for days). So we're not hankering for another date just yet.

I used to insist that Mr. Tangerine get me a card for all the standard Hallmark occasions, but these days, I don't much care about the cards. He's a good man, a good husband, a good father. And he puts out. So, who could ask for more?

What's your favorite birthday/anniversary/Valentine's Day memory involving no gifts?

*The kids in Ben's** homeroom will be dressed like cowboys and cowgirls as they sing "There's No Business Like Show Business." Did Ethel Merman ever wear cowboy boots? And where the hell am I going to track down a kid's cowboy hat tomorrow?

**Ben has pinkeye, by the way. We're giving him antibiotic eyedrops, the generic name of which is my all-time favorite medication name because it's so fun to say: moxifloxacin. It's got moxie! And sounds like Flopsy and Mopsy, without Peter Cottontail.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Join the battle against ovarian cancer

This Saturday morning, I'll be participating in the Walk for the Whisper to raise money for ovarian cancer awareness and research.

I have an aunt with advanced ovarian cancer. She had a heightened index of suspicion for ovarian cancer, since her own mother had died of the disease in the 1960s. She had regular medical examinations, hoping to detect the cancer early if it struck. The state of the art for ovarian cancer screening, however, is terrible. Because there is no reliable way to detect ovarian cancer early (when it is more treatable), many cases have already reached an advanced stage before diagnosis. This was the case for my aunt. She's been battling the disease, and coping with the side effects of treatment, for over two years now, and unfortunately, remission seems unlikely.

My aunt's daughter—my cousin—faces an increased risk of ovarian cancer because of her family history of the disease. Even preventive removal of the ovaries doesn't eliminate the cancer risk, so regular screening and vigilant attention to vague symptoms will remain important for my cousin.

What's also important is an increase in funding for research—to find ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat ovarian cancer—and for awareness—the symptoms tend to be vague, and they don't seem obviously related to the reproductive organs:

· Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
· Vague, but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
· Frequency and/or urgency of urination in absence of an infection
· Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
· Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness
· Ongoing unusual fatigue
· Unexplained changes in bowel habits

If you're a woman, you have symptoms like these that persist for longer than 4 to 6 weeks, and the symptoms don't resolve with normal interventions (e.g., laxatives, diet change, rest), see your physician for a thorough rectovaginal exam so he or she can assess your ovaries.

If you can afford it, please donate here (fill in a donation amount and click "continue") to sponsor me in the Walk for the Whisper. I'm hoping to raise at least $250 in the next few days. Donate for yourself, for your wife, for your sister, for your daughter, for your friends. Thank you.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A little gross-out humor to usher in the week

If you're like me and the Feral Mom, you will savor every disgusting word of the "Steve, Don't Eat It" archives. I know I linked to this sometime last year, but Mr. Tangerine and I were talking about "making out with a hobo's ass" (the concept derives from Steve's account of eating natto, or fermented soybeans), so I had to seek this out again. And it turns out Steve the Adventurous Taster has added canned silkworm pupas to his repertoire since the last time I read his site. He documents his examination and ingestion of Potted Meat Food Product, pickled pork rinds, huitlacoche (fungus-infected corn), and assorted other indelicacies.

If you are of a dainty constitution, (a) I'm not sure why you're reading a low-class site like mine anyway, and (b) I must advise you in the strongest possible terms, do not click the link above.