Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I was sitting on the floor sorting laundry yesterday afternoon when I heard a small rustling sound behind me.  I turned quickly to find Coco inches from my face.  Her eyes were wide.  She stared at me for a second, then said in a low whisper, "I'm going to be sad when you die."  Then she walked away. 

Today on Creepy Things Your Kids Do!

she's terrifying

I had a dentist appointment a couple days ago.  It was just a cleaning but they told me I must return soon to have a crown placed on a particularly unhappy tooth.  It was not welcome news -- my last crowning didn't go so well.

I said I understood the importance of crowns, of course, and would be happy to come back at a most convenient time to have another crown installed by their extremely capable hands but the only problem was, you see, when I do I'm going to freak the hell out.

I told both the dentist and the dental hygienist, both lovely women who listened to me carefully with nodding heads, that pretty much everything they do to me in the dental chair these days is triggering my fight-or-flight response.  And honestly, truly -- and I really mean this -- I do not want to fight them.  But I will.

The dental hygienist began chuckling and said, "Uh-oh, there's going to be a red flag on your file with a large note that says, "CAREFUL, SHE'S A BITER!!"  The dentist and the dental hygienist started waving their arms around and laughing at that -- "A BITER!  A BITER!  OH NO, A BITER!"

I was like, "What?  No no, ladies, I'm not going to bite you.  My arms are just going to fly up all synchronized-like and clock you both in the jaw at the exact same time, gangster style.  Then I'm going to run down the hall and out the front door wearing my bulky black dental work sunglasses and my teeny little dental work bib.  I'm going to fight AND flight.

They're not gonna see that coming.

They promised they would work with my newfound dental anxiety but I'm not convinced.  The dental hygienist walked me to the front desk and told the receptionist, "MJ here needs to schedule a crown as her temperament allows."  Then she patted my shoulder.

Our new refrigerator is pretty great except it started leaking all over the floor five minutes after the water line was hooked up to the ice maker.  We joked our fridge had an incontinence problem.  The thought did not make us too keen on drinking the water dispensed from the door.

The fridge repairman's scheduler made a mistake so the repairman showed up for our appointment four hours early, which would have been fine except I wasn't home.  And our cleaning lady was.

I received a frantic call from the cleaning lady, quite freaked out by a man trying to enter our home, claiming to be a repairman and insisting he had an appointment.  She was like, "No, you don't!" and he was like, "Yes, I do!"

By the time I got home, it was a tense stand-off indeed.  I'm pleased to report our cleaning lady did not assault the man with a Swiffer, though she held one at the ready.  I brokered the truce.  The fridge guy spent two minutes fixing the fridge and left, but the cleaning lady probably needed several drinks and a doobie to finally calm down.

I sent Lucien to school without breakfast for the first time ever this week.  It was a rushed morning and Lucien refused to eat the oatmeal Alex placed in front of him.  Loosh said, "I don't want oatmeal, I want cereal" and Alex said, "There's not enough cereal for both you and Coco" and we all knew as soon as Lucien started eating cereal, Coco was going to demand cereal too and we were not up for that fight.  The oatmeal was plentiful, and it was good.

I stepped in and said, "Lucien, we're serving oatmeal for breakfast.  If you don't eat it, you don't eat it, but that's all you're getting."  As soon as I said it, I thought to myself, "Hmm...that could have been handled better, hardass"  because I knew what was coming.  I have a very stubborn son, you see.

As I feared, Lucien sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and said, "Fine, I guess I'm not eating breakfast then" and I said "Fine" but what I really meant was "Shit."

It was ye olde power struggle.  Dreadful things.  But as a parent, once you've entered into a power struggle, it's a bad idea to back down.  You must be strong and not let the little punk smell your insecurity.  So I held firm.  We drove to school in silence and then OH MY GOD, he ran off into school without breakfast.

I texted Seattle Mom my failings and she sympathized -- many a parent has been made humble by ye olde power struggle.  She suggested I go visit The Loosh at lunch, which I did, and when I saw his face light up when I walked into the cafeteria, and saw him beaming when all his little friends clustered around me, and felt him grab my hand, I knew we were going to make it through No Breakfastgate 2013.

Our blissful mother and child reunion was interrupted by a call from the cleaning lady yelling about some guy trying to break into our house.  

Christmas is coming and I'm very excited.  It's my favorite time of year.  It's the only time of year I feel like baking, which can be quite alarming to my family members.  They sometimes walk into the kitchen slowly and ask with tense voices, "Hey....what are you doing over there?"

I feel energized by Christmas this year so agreed to lead the Christmas community service project at Coco's preschool.  It was a great project but took up a lot of time as well as space in my dining room.  Then I volunteered to collect money from all the parents in the class and buy all the teachers' gifts. I spent many a morning chasing a parent down in the preschool parking lot, begging them to give me money or sign a card and narrowly avoiding the squealing tires as they peeled away and yelled out the window, "Can't! Late for work!"

The teachers may wonder why half the parents in the class have the exact same handwriting.  I tried to disguise my forgeries by using different colored inks.

This was Lucien's recent karate homework on the theme of "patience."

Maybe I should think of cake when I'm in the dentist's chair.

She's a biter!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bright Ideas

I'm going to put off my oppressive holiday to-do list a while longer.  I'm hoping if I ignore it long enough, it will either 1) go away or 2) get bored and start doing itself.

We've got a new refrigerator.  The old one worked fine but it was small and ugly and when we first moved in we found an entire rotten chicken inside, a present from the previous owner.  It's been difficult to shake the image of that chicken.

A great appliance sale led to Bright Idea #1 -- buy a new fridge.

The new fridge delivery didn't go very well because I wasn't home when the delivery people arrived.  (Who comes at the beginning of a four-hour delivery window?  Nobody, refrigerator people, nobody.)  I was dropping Coco at school when the men called to say they were standing outside my house and a large refrigerator was sunning itself on my front lawn.

When I'm in a hurry on the road, everyone in Seattle seems out for a leisurely drive and all pedestrians seem hellbent on moseying.  I'm not generally a road rager but I may have laid on the horn once or twice.  My apologies -- it was full-on fridge panic.

I hadn't yet had time to empty the old refrigerator so I yelled "Hang on, I need a minute to empty this thing" as I ran into the house. OH, how they loved me then.

Nobody needs one million yogurts but that doesn't stop us from having them.  I began stacking the Danons and Fages in a pyramid formation on the floor and tossing bags of frozen peas and meatballs into the hallway.  I broke a sweat, which I hoped would endear me to the delivery men -- oh look, she's working so hard! -- but they had stone cold hearts.

It didn't help things when I yelled at my poor little schnauzer, "Why you always gotta be under my feet, dog?" as I dashed around the kitchen.  The delivery guys were evidently dog people because they couldn't even look me in the eye after that.

All's well that ends well.  The fridge is here and those guys aren't looking at me like that anymore.

Our new fridge is the obligatory stainless steel, a finish I don't particularly like but is still better than all the other options.  Why has no one come up with an attractive alternative to this awful fingerprint-riddled, non-magnetic surface?

It's a serious problem because Al and I are magnet collectors.  Check out this corkscrew beauty from the Czech Republic.  It fell off the fridge a year ago and the dude's head broke off. 

Our magnets needed a rad new home.  Then came Bright Idea #2 -- paint a wall with magnetic paint. 

The magnetic paint can said I needed three coats of magnetic paint to make my wall surface magnetic.  I dug in with gusto but the "what a fun idea" became "what in the bloody hell is this demon substance" pretty quickly.

Magnetic paint is awful stuff.  It's thick and has to be stirred constantly to prevent the important magnetic bits from congealing into a sludgy mess at the bottom of the can.  It smells awful and good lord, it spatters.

After three coats of paint, my magnets fell pathetically to the floor.  I gritted my teeth and began applying more coats of magnetic paint.  I couldn't admit defeat.  I wasn't going to come this far for nothing, time to double down.

Magnetic paint stains your hands, an issue that concerned me since the next day was Thanksgiving.  Our friends on The Street of Dreams hosted the Thanksgiving gathering this year.  I imagined walking into the party carrying my dish of bubbly hot Midwestern Cheesy Potatoes (with a crunchy Corn Flake topping no less), then everybody noticing my dark gray fingers as I served them up at the table and deciding they didn't need potatoes on their Thanksgiving plates this year.

Six coats of magnetic paint later, I was done.  I had nothing left to give.  The wall is now to the point where some of our lighter magnets kind of stay on.  Until they fall off. 

I covered the whole wall in chalkboard paint, too, so at least that part's cool.

Bright Idea #3 was an awesome new piece of furniture for our entryway.  I looked for this piece of furniture for a long time.  When I found it online, I danced joyfully around the house with my tape measure because I knew it was going to fit perfectly.

I was too right.  The deliverymen refused to put the hutch part on top of the base part because "It may fit perfectly, ma'am, but it's a little too perfect for us."  They were concerned about damage to our ceiling or floor, for which they would be liable.  They left it in two pieces in the middle of our entryway.  Alex gave me one of those narrow-eyed looks when he came home from work so I told him to stop looking at me like that and muster his can-do attitude, ASAP.

Seattle Mom and German Seattle Dad agreed to come over and help us with our furniture problem.  Al and I had a decent plan of attack, a careful plan that if executed properly should involve minimal damage to house surfaces.  But for some reason, in the heat of the moment, the four of us forgot the plan and just suddenly picked the thing up, lunged around a bit and shoved it on top of the base.

We did hella damage to our ceiling.

Bright Idea #4 was actually Al's bright idea.  He wanted to take the kids on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad Santa Ride.  It sounded great in theory -- a choo-choo trip through the foothills of Mount Rainer, a visit with Santa on the train, hot chocolate, fuzzy blankets, popcorn -- it was a goddamn Norman Rockwell painting.

In reality, the Santa Train was a hot mess.  The inside of the train was as cold as the outside of the train. The water lines froze so there were no working bathrooms. Alex stood in line in the snack car for half an hour to pay a lot of money for lukewarm coffees.  There were many screaming babies.  And every time the train car lurched, all the people walking through the train car fell down. 

Chaos reigned on the Santa train.

The kids finally got to chat with Santa and afterwards he handed them some cheap plastic toys.  Coco got this generic Barbie.  She spent the rest of the trip making Fake Barbie do grotesquely terrible things.

Until it all went wrong --

By the end of our magical Santa Choo-Choo experience, Alex and I were dumbfounded and slap happy.  We could only laugh and laugh.  The kids kept asking, "What are you guys laughing about?" which made us laugh harder, which annoyed the kids, which made us laugh harder.  Then Santa came through and sat on Alex's lap.  We just have no idea.

 What happens on the Santa Choo-Choo stays on the Santa Choo-Choo.

We talked about it and have decided to lay off having ideas for awhile.  They're exhausting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


This is our new parakeet, Stella.  When we first placed her in her cage, Stella flapped around desperately searching for a place to hide where the scary leering people couldn't see her anymore.

Nailed it

That was a little over a week ago.  Stella eventually crawled out from under her seed dish but spent most of her first week lying low and evaluating her new situation.

 If I walked too close to the cage, she panicked and became a pretty blur. 

When I walked away, she simmered down but remained on high alert.

After one week, we've reached the point where she no longer suffers a hysterical flapping panic attack when I reach in to change her water.  We're getting somewhere.

A couple days ago, Stella thought she might possibly be comfortable enough in her new home to chirp.

Which made all of us very excited and caused a family stampede into the kitchen --

Stella did not like the sudden overwhelming attention --

And since then has made herself very small.

I put a mirror in her cage so now Stella thinks she has company.

 Parakeets aren't the brightest bulbs in the animal world

I come from a parakeet family.  There was always a parakeet flapping around somewhere in my childhood home.  My favorite, named Magoo, loved to eat cereal.  He dive-bombed my dad's cereal bowl every morning, usually skimming the surface and stealing a flake in the process but occasionally missing and landing right in the middle of the bowl.  He had a need, and the need was Wheaties.

Magoo was trained to sit on our fingers and could talk.  He was eventually killed by our dog but that's not a memory I care to relive.

My mom had parakeets before she had children.  She had a parakeet back when she and my dad were dating.  Dad poked at that parakeet so many times, it became a very angry parakeet and began attacking any hand that entered the cage, including my mom's.  It's still a point of contention in their relationship.

Years later, when she was pregnant with my sister, my mom's parakeet got profoundly sick.  The bird lost all its feathers during the course of its illness and became a naked, shivering, blinking, miserable presence in Mom's everyday life.  Mom, pregnant and hormonally challenged, couldn't take it anymore.

She took the bird to the vet but was unable to say she wanted it put down.  She hemmed and hawed and beat around the parakeet-killing bush until the lady behind the desk said, loud enough for the entire waiting room to hear, "OH, SO YOU WANT US TO KILL YOUR BIRD?"

Heads swiveled.  Mom whispered "yes" and ran.  The lady behind the counter called after her, "YOU WANNA KEEP THE CAGE AFTERWARDS OR WHAT?" but Mom said "KEEP IT" as she pushed out the office door with her belly. 

All this to say parakeets are in my DNA.  And by saying that, maybe I can convince myself it's OK to add yet another pet to our burgeoning galley of pets which now includes a praying mantis, an ant farm, about fifty aquatic snails, a schnauzer, the mouse living under our refrigerator, and a bunch of crickets which really shouldn't count since they're only here to be Mantisy's dinner.  But still, I gotta feed those little f*ckers. 

It takes some time to train a bird to love you but we'll get there.  I look forward to the day she does this --

Wheatie bomb!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Oh the wonderful things we'll make you do

Lucien flipped someone the bird in math class last week.  He pried his middle finger up out of his clenched fist and said, "I'm going to show you my middle finger now."

He got in trouble and I got a call from the teacher.  She said he didn't seem to know exactly what it meant to flip the bird but he knew it wasn't nice.  I explained the subtle yet loaded sociological meaning of the middle finger to him later that evening and he said, "OK, I'll only use it when I get real mad."

I went out with a friend, Seattle Twin Mom, Saturday night and mentioned the middle finger story.  She told me when she was about Lucien's age, her brother (who is six years older) told her showing your middle finger meant "Have a nice day."  So there sweet little Seattle Twin Mom went, flipping the bird all over her small hometown.  Her mom got a few phone calls from concerned citizens wondering why that cute little girl down the street suddenly turned into a real a**hole.

Alex and I try hard to do fun things with the kids on the weekends.  The kids don't always enjoy our "fun" ideas but they are still dependent and small and semi-portable so don't have much choice in the matter. 

Alex took the kids to a Japanese restaurant for lunch recently, one of those places where food circles the room on a conveyor belt and you have to grab your lunch as it passes by your table.  Lucien and Coco initially thought food whizzing by on a conveyor belt was awesome.  Their enthusiasm fizzled when they realized those containers of mackerel bits and octopus were lunch.

At first she was merely suspicious

 But then the sushi made her sad

So much for Japanese.  Let's try Vietnamese.  We've got a great Vietnamese place down the street from our house so we attempted more food horizon broadening.

We knew it was a failed experiment when Coco started eating plain lettuce

There's one food the kids will never turn down -- crappy U.S. macarons.

I'm not a food snob in general (raised on wiener bean casserole, after all) but there's something about the French macaron that's sacred and holds a very special place in my heart.  I have yet to find a macaron in the U.S. that truly captures what's happening over there in Paris.  Whenever a new French bakery-type place is recommended to me -- seriously, their macarons are the real deal! -- I take a bite and realize it is merely another pale ghostly imitation of the real deal. 


The highlight of our most recent macaron attempt was when Lucien pointed to the counter and said, "Look, they have Macklemores!"  It couldn't have been a better fusion of our son's Paris and Seattle lives.

(For those wondering what the hell that meant, Macklemore is a rapper from Seattle)

There's just something off with the texture

There was a Life Sciences exposition at the Pacific Science Center over the weekend.  Lucien is a science-loving kid so we knew he would love it.

Except he didn't.  The brain table, which had real human brains cut in half and reeking of formaldehyde, made him knead his hands nervously and ask to go home. Guess we should stick to bugs and leave people out of it.

The kids are going to start refusing to leave the house with us

It was the most glorious Fall day on Sunday so we pulled out the scooters and went on a nice long walk through our fine city.   We didn't fully take into account Seattle's topography when planning our route.  There are lots of hills up in here.

We realized we weren't going to make it home easily when we saw Lucien, two blocks behind us and trying to scoot up a large San Francisco-style hill, yelling around about hating his scooter a whole, whole lot.  We eventually grabbed both of them by their jackets and began pushing/pulling them home. This would have been manageable except I wore slippery-soled boots.  I would slip while pulling on a kid, lose my grip on the kid, and the kid would start rolling backwards screaming before leaping off his scooter into some bushes.

It's family fun, kids.

Al and I left the kids with a sitter later that afternoon to go watch the Seahawks game at a rowdy Capitol Hill bar.  It was nice to get out together.  The kids were also thrilled because we were far away and no longer inflicting our ideas upon them.

I was reading a local news blog lately.  There was a story about some recent robberies in the C.D., one in particular in which a police helicopter located the burglary suspect hiding on someone's roof.   The following was written in the comments.

"...If it was a random 9pm burglary – then that is a freaky deal. We should all be up in arms and patroling the streets with pick handles.  We really need more detail on this kind of stuff. It makes a huge difference in the perception of risk. If it’s just thug on thug crime – I’m going to be leary of thugs. But if they be bustin into just anybody's house I’m gonna be all hillbilly."

What does it mean to get all hillbilly?  I'm picturing a lot of straw chewing and wearing of tank tops.  Is the idea to confuse burglars until they forget where they are, become disoriented and wander out of the C.D.?  I guess it's worth a try -- yee-haw, y'all.

Hillbilly is a decent idea but an even better way to fight crime is karate.  Lucien's pretty good at karate but Coco has a ferocity about her never before seen in a four-year-old karate novice.  Sure, sometimes she turns a somersault for no dang reason in the middle of the mat but other than that, she gets mean out there.

Hang in there, kids,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Worms, bloody brains, and singing bacon

I love throwing Halloween parties.  Halloween is a holiday that doesn't take itself seriously.  The menu planning, the decorating, the wardrobe consideration -- all are more fun for Halloween because they're based on what's weirder/funnier/grosser and deliberated while eating handfuls of mini Snickers.

Indeed, I love throwing Halloween parties right up until the hour before the party begins.  At that point I hate throwing Halloween parties.  No matter how seamless party preparations have been up until then, the hour before is when everything suddenly goes inexplicably wrong.

That's when the sound system crashes, annihilating the carefully constructed Halloween playlist, and the mixologist friend who was in charge of making the rosemary-infused Aperol punch cancels so I have to learn how to make it myself in five minutes-- and there's math involved because ounces and milliliters are different -- and I burn the last batch of my mummy wieners, and I realize we're hopelessly short on ice, and my "blood spattered popcorn" becomes "dirt spattered popcorn" when I drop half of it on the floor.

My Halloween costume was inspirational...

"We CAN throw a party," says Rosie

...but it didn't stop me from muttering "I'm never doing this again" while scooping handfuls of popcorn off the floor into my mouth and yelling at Alex to get up on a chair in the middle of the room.  Plan B for the missing music was him singing the playlist into a toy microphone.

A piece of bacon singing "Thriller."  Best party ever.

The sound system got its sh*t together and started working after the first people arrived.

As soon as our friends started showing up, all party-throwing angst disappeared. 

I could never regret you, Green Fairy.

Or you, Government Shutdown. 

You're worth it, Early-Onset Dementia

A sign of a successful Halloween menu is when guests not only won't eat the food, they won't stand within several feet of the table.

they don't want the worms

or the kitty litter

or the bloody brain

My sister -- I'll call her Raba -- recently moved to Seattle!  She moved here to be with her girlfriend, Zee.  They've since gotten engaged and we're all very excited.  I love those all-girl weddings.

 Yep, Raba and Zee are vampires. Get over it already!

Raba and I have always been told we look alike. One friend at the Halloween party talked at length to Raba not realizing she was my sister.  At one point he interrupted her to say, "It's so, so weird but you and MJ could honestly be twins." 

He eventually found out we were sisters.  I think he was relieved by the DNA explanation but also a little disappointed -- because for just a moment, the world was a mystical and wondrous place.

It ended up being a late night involving dancing by the drunker guests.  In a profound moment of reconciliation, Contractor God showed up (he's alive!) and danced solo to "Rump Shaker." I decided to forgive him for abandoning our house project.  It's hard to stay mad at a middle-aged man twerking in your living room under a blacklight.

All I wanna do is zooma zoom zoom zoom and a boom boom.

Have some pumpkin vomit 

Halloween isn't just for adults. We shared it with the kids, too.  On Halloween we joined our circle of C.D. friends at the neighborhood cinema to watch Halloween cartoons, eat some dinner and drink some beers.

That's Snow White and Zombie Doctor mesmerized by Frankenweenie.

Then we all descended upon the neighborhood.  Trick or treat chaos ensued.

Here in the C.D. we cross streets in groups of 50 

And take group photos in front of corner stores 

Hey, that's a pretty good deal on those packs of Newports...

Bummer Halloween is over.  But in happy holiday news, I've already found Alex's Christmas present --

or maybe I'll go with this --

Either way, I'm wrapping that guy in something.

And lastly, this just happened to Oscar the schnauzer --

He had surgery on his eye and is now the most despondent animal on the planet.  Not only is he pain-medicated to the hilt, he can't navigate doorways with his cone.  He often catches the side of the cone on the door frame.  He then stands there frozen, confused, groggily swaying, and makes quiet whining sounds until I come get him.  Oscar's Halloween costume was misery this year.

See you next time, goofy holiday,