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March 2008

Fly That Freak Flag

The title comes from a quote that I love from The Family Stone. Some people have trouble being comfortable in their own skin, and we all at least have moments when we feel that way. That day you get on the scale and are a bit horrified at the number by your feet. The morning you have to wake up and go to work with a huge zit on the tip of your nose. When you first have braces put on and people can't understand a word you're saying. The day you get to be the person with runs in your pantyhose and toilet paper stuck to your foot. And then, let's not leave out adolescence, because I know I spent at least three years feeling this way every day of my life. Trying to wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, make the right friends, prove to everyone that I was cool. Those were the worst years of my life. But then around fifteen, I had this epiphany moment, when some cool kid I didn't really like was telling me off for talking gossip about her - and I realized I didn't really like or care about her, and more importantly, I didn't really like this person I was trying to be. So I stopped trying, and almost in the blink of an eye, the awkwardness, the misery of adolescence went away for me. Not that I didn't still have people trying to make me feel like a dork, I just didn't care anymore. I had accepted myself for who I was, embraced my dorkiness and come to a sort of peace with myself. It wasn't always quite that simple, sometimes things still got under my skin, but by and large, it was really just that easy.

I have this little scar under my left breast. It's not something that's very noticeable, even in a two-piece bathing suit, but it's there. Polly noticed it when we were about sixteen or so and asked me what it was. I laughed because explaining this to people is not something I do very often, and it's always interesting to watch a person's reaction to it.

"It's a third, undeveloped nipple," I told her.

She looked at me like I had three heads instead of three nipples. It doesn't look like a nipple at all. It just looks like a little scar. She didn't believe me at first, but she eventually came to the conclusion that I wasn't putting her on.

"I wouldn't tell many people that if I were you," was her response.

I guess that there are people out there that would lie about something like that, but I'm not one of them. I'm not bothered by the fact that I have a little birth defect, so what? I got off rather easy if you ask me. A third nipple and a large mole near my right elbow. It could be a lot worse.

Blackstone didn't have much of a reaction when he found out (I didn't take Polly's advice and lie about it). He just sort of raised his eyebrows in surprise and then seemed amused. A few weeks later his uncle made some comment to him about, "Back in the day when women had three nipples." I thought he was going to bust a gut laughing when he told me about it.

Blackstone has his own unusual scar, much larger and more noticeable than mine, on the side of his stomach. He likes to tease little kids and tell them it's from a big leach. It is sort of shaped like a big leach. In reality, he inflicted the scar all by himself, during Hurricane Gloria. Being the brilliant teenage boy that guys tend to be in their teens, he decided to take his anger out on the storm door which he thought was plastic, but was actually made of glass. He punched a hole in the glass and a large shard came down and stabbed him in his side. The guy is truly lucky he didn't kill himself. By some miracle, he just needed stitches and managed to get away with just a terrible scar. His guardian angel must be completely in tatters after the way he's kept him hopping all these years.

I really think my third nipple pales in comparison to his big "leach scar".  So we both have a few imperfections, it's what we find most endearing about each other. They're the stories we tell at barbecues, the things we tease each other about when we're alone. They are the imperfections that are part of who we are, that have helped shape the people we have become. Besides, hasn't anyone ever told you, real women have three nipples . . . and acne and cellulite and dry skin and warts and . . .

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If it ain't broke . . .

I am not one to follow the crowd or fall for a bunch of hype. I am, by nature, very skeptical. So when someone tells me to try some fantastic new product, even if it's someone I know and trust, I'm dubious. If I already have some equivalent product that I like, I probably won't go out and buy something else. So when Polly posted about how wonderful Bare Minerals was, I listened with interest, but I had no intention of trying it myself. I've only switched make-ups about three times I can recall in my life - and when I say make-up I mean powder, foundation or lotion - because I'll use just about any eyeshadow, lipstick or mascara. But my oily skin is severely temperamental, so when I find something that works, I hold on for dear life, and it takes nothing short of being hit over the head to get my to try something new.

In high school, I used Cover Girl for sensitive skin, which I really couldn't give a fair estimate for how well it actually worked at this point. My skin was a mess, but then I was a hormonal teenager. In college, I switched to Ultima II Glowtion, which I loved and used for years. My sister eventually got me to switch by buying me Aveda Tinted Moisturizer for Christmas or Mother's Day or something. I gave it a shot and loved it, so I've been using that for years now. I like Physician's Formula powders and blush. Also been using that for years. And CVS sells a Severe Acne Treatment in orange bottles, it comes in a 4-pack with facial wash, toner, acne treatment and retinol cream. I gave that a shot a couple of years ago when my products from the dermatologist were not cutting it for me, and found it worked wonders. I also like Neutrogena's Acne peel for red marks, and Aveda's moisturizing mask. Cheaper and more effective than my visits to the dermatologist and variety of prescription meds I've used.

I'm running out of my Aveda Moisturizer, and my sister is my beauty product connection because she can get me discounts, so I asked her to get me some more. She asked if I wanted to try Bare Minerals. She'd been using it and loved it and had some that didn't work with her skin tone that she would give to me to try. So, I gave it a shot . . .  and broke out like a fifteen-year-old with PMS. I gave it three days and every day my skin got worse. At that point I couldn't take it any more and gave it back to her and asked for my regular moisturizer. So, Bare Minerals may work wonders for some women, but it certainly wasn't the answer for me.

But if anyone has any hair dryer suggestions? My temperature button got stuck on cool last week and I'm using my ancient back-up that makes even my pin-straight, greasy hair, frizzy. The one that broke was a Revlon Ion something. It was alright.

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Conversation in Bed with My Kids

TROUBLE: We're going to color Easter Eggs today!

LT: Shut Up!

ME: Don't say that, it's not nice.

TROUBLE: But mom, he meant in the good way, because he's excited.

ME: I still don't want you saying that.

ME (silently): I can't believe my four-year-old is already giving me Clueless flashbacks, and my six-year-old is explaining the context of Shut Up! like my generation didn't invent it.

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Love in the Time of Cholera

If you loved the English Patient, or are a big fan of Dickens, then Love in the Time of Cholera may be a book for you. For me, this is the kind of book I can appreciate, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to say I liked it. But even if you fall into this category, you might find the book offensive, because the content is more than a bit racy. The prose are beautiful, the description elaborate (hence the reference to Dickens, whose elaborate prose were at least partly monetarily induced since he was paid by the word), but the novel moves at the speed of molasses. I've never read a book that's content was so thoroughly mired in sex that put me to sleep quite so quickly. In our book club, we normally give ourselves about a month to read a book. This time we spent six weeks and I was the only one who finished it, and by finished it, I mean thirty minutes before the meeting.

The book does spark some interesting concepts. It made me truly appreciate being a woman in modern day America, where I can live as a free woman without having to be widowed. The novel follows the romance of Florentino and Fermina through their innocent adolescent courting, love letters, Fermina's rejection of Florentino and marriage to another man, Florentino's string of affairs with over  600 other women, the death of Fermina's husband, and their ultimate reunion in their seventies. It provides an interesting perspective on love, marriage and sex. Though, honestly, if love is what Fermina has with her husband or with Florentino, I find that terribly depressing. Perhaps it's her own fault though, because the woman seems intent on living her life in misery. Though maybe I should be looking at her in more historical terms and see her as the woman trapped in a patriarchal society where she has little control over her own destiny.

Fermina spends most of her married life angry and frustrated with her husband, Dr. Urbino. She is unsure of whether she loves him during her marriage, and also once he is dead. The novel begs the question of what is more important in a marriage, love or security, and if a marriage that provides security is not a marriage of love? But ultimately her faithful and devoted husband who adores her in his own way even if he does take her for granted, gives into temptation and has an affair with one of his patients. She, in her direct but subtle way, confronts him, and he ends the affair immediately. Even his affair is depressing. He's so consumed by guilt and hiding his actions, that his sexual encounters are focused on being accomplished in five minutes and he's so distressed about it that neither he nor his partner enjoys it. Yet, he's also unable to end it of his own accord.

I found Florentino a truly unlikable character. Some readers may pity him for pining away for Fermina all these years and using woman after woman to try to fill a void in his heart, but I have no pity for such a sexual pariah. Broken heart or no, his actions cannot be excused in my book. And while I know societal standards were different decades ago, and that we have statutory rape laws that didn't exist in his day, I can only look at him as the modern day woman I am, regretting he wasn't castrated by the novel's end. His encounters with the countless widows and prostitutes I do not have a problem with. But the married woman whose husband slits her throat after he discovers of her affair, that didn't seem right. The way he raped his maid, got her pregnant and then paid her off to blame it on someone else, also rather deplorable. The way he seduced the young adolescent girl in his care while he was in his sixties, carrying on with her for several years, then suddenly and without explanation, breaking it off and sending the girl into a spiraling depression that ends with her suicide, yeah the guy's a scum bag. A truly unlikely and unlikable romantic hero, spouting his poetry, undying love, and even professing his lifelong virginity to Fermina in the end.

I mentioned to Blackstone that it looked like none of us we're going to finish reading this book. He said, "Oh, you mean the one with the woman who needs to suck on a binky to get off?"

Yeah, that would be Love in the Time of Cholera.

If you have time to burn, are looking for a novel to put you to sleep at night, or want to expand your knowledge of sexually deviant behavior, this may be just the book you're looking for.

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The Joy of Children

I love my boys, but they run me absolutely ragged. Children require you to have more patience than Mother Theresa and have a god-given talent for getting on your last nerve. And they will wear that last nerve down to a raw nub, until you understand those inclinations parents have to beat their children. My sister, after spending the day with my boys, once said to me, "If I were you, I'd kill myself." I have those days it seems like a fantastic idea to put myself out of my misery, there's no doubt about that. But mostly, I love my kids and I would not want to imagine my life without them. Except for those days that I fervently wish I'd been sterile, or stuck to my guns and insisted to my husband that we would not have any kids.

Last Saturday, Blackstone's birthday, was a miserable day. It rained in torrential downpours all day, was cold, the basement flooded, and I had to spend the day running errands soaked through. After I ran around buying my niece a shower gift, my husband a cake, plenty of soda and ice cream for LT's party, and booze in an amount that unfortunately was not enough to drown myself in, I came home to unload the car and re-load it with the baby furniture and supplies we have left to deliver to my niece the next day. When the pizza arrived right on time, just before family did, I went to get money only to discover I couldn't find my wallet. I searched the car as well as I could, seeing it was packed full, but no wallet. Blackstone paid for the pizza by phoning in a credit card, and I called the liquor store, the last stop I made before getting home. They didn't have a wallet. My sister drove me back to the liquor store so I could search the parking lot, in the dark and in the rain. No wallet. We got drenched trying to search the car again. No wallet. We go in the house, and my sister asks the kids if they went in mommy's purse or know where my wallet is. Trouble says no. LT says, "Just the wallet." He took my wallet and put it on Blackstone's desk in his office. Why? I have no idea. Because he's four I guess.

It was also brought to our attention on this lovely day that Trouble had been eating the candy we're supposed to be selling as part of a fund raiser. Twelve candy bars were missing. He probably shared some of them with his brother, but still, TWELVE CANDY BARS! Good lord, you'd think the kid would be sweating chocolate out his pores. He spent the night wailing unconsolably because he was punished by not being allowed spend the night at his auntie's like his brother. You'd think we beat the boy with a stick. He cried and screamed himself right into an asthma attack. Absolutely fanstasic end to a stellar day, I tell you. Then he put his coat on and told us he was leaving. Going to live with his friend Andrew, the one he used to complain beat him up all the time, but apparently is his friend again now. Then he came back in the house to ask for a ride to Andrew's house because it's dark and he doesn't know how to get there, and was extremely irritated we wouldn't drive him. Finally, he cracked and sat with us on the couch, questioning us repeatedly about how much we'd miss him if he left. Aren't children adorable?

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Happy Birthday, Honey

Now, some of you may be surprised to see me wishing my husband a happy birthday on my blog, seeing that he never comments or shows any trace that he's been here. But he does read it, even though at times he's weeks behind and he continually insists he doesn't have the time to comment on it. So even though he may not see this until several weeks from now and probably won't show any signs here that he's seen it, happy birthday anyway my dear. I love you more than words.

You may be even more surprised at some of the things I write here that he puts up with, only occasionally questioning me for my more brazen posts. But Blackstone has long been accostomed to my exhibitionist tendencies, even if blogging is a new way of expressing them. I dare say he finds these qualities rather endearing and entertaining. I probably couldn't live with a man who didn't. He has been a part of my life for so long, that it can be difficult for me to remember a life without him in it. I do know I was a much more jaded, negative and harder person before I met him. I didn't believe in love, never wanted to be married and had no interest in being a mother. He is the only man I've ever had any real feelings for, and our relationship has been largely without drama, jealousy or anger. While I do not believe in soul mates or true love, he can actually make me want to believe in foolish romantic notions that I'm way too smart and logical to embrace.

So what big plans do I have for my better half? Uh, there may be a cake. At least my sister offered to bring a cake over, so there may be cake. But seeing LT's birthday is so close, we often skip even the cake. I did get him a present, but for the sake of modesty, I won't tell you what it is.

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Smarty Pants

Little Trouble and I have been having this on-going battle of wills - I want him to learn his colors and he adamantly refuses. We only really became aware that he didn't know his colors when he started pre-school this past September. We read stories every night, he watches the pre-school age shows that teach these things, we point out colors to him when it occurs to us - Trouble picked them up no problem, we expected he would too. But he didn't. So I started pushing the issue. We quizzed colors when reading, asked him colors throughout the day, on the way to pre-school every day I asked him what color the door was. And every day for two months he got it wrong. So I dropped it. He wasn't ready, or wasn't willing to be ready, or was color blind. You'd think after two months he'd remember what color the damn door was, even if he couldn't see it. I realized I wasn't helping, we were involved in a battle of wills, and learning his colors just wasn't that damn important. We'd still point out colors now and then, occasionally ask him if something was one color or another, but mostly we just stopped.

LT's been adjusting well to pre-school, which is weird for me since Trouble required no adjustment what-so-ever. So having the child that was clinging to my leg and begging me not to leave was a new experience for me. He only does that occasionally, but I still have to walk him in, help him put his coat and backpack away, get his ticket and get him settled in activity before I can leave. He's made friends, and while it takes him some time each day to get acclimated, he's doing well. Surprisingly, he's just started writing his name on his own, which is impressive to me. He's just turning four and since he's resisted learning his colors, I rather expected resistance with learning letters and writing too. Trouble was a solid five by the time he was writing his name. Letters were just not his thing. And it was an absolute battle to get him to learn them and practice writing. Reading and writing is still not easy for him, he gets extra help from the reading teacher at school, and we practice at home. But he's not so resistant anymore and he's getting better all the time.

Between LT's attitude in learning colors, and our struggle with Trouble to learn letters, I didn't expect LT to be writing his name this soon, but he is. And he will point out the letters in his name while we're reading, or out of the blue on a sign, and he can spell his name if you ask him. This has all come about in the last few weeks, and he's had me pretty floored. Which has made it all the more frustrating to me that he can't tell you the color of an object if you ask him, but I'm still not pushing that issue. We continue to work it subtly. Yesterday morning we walked up to the door of the pre-school and LT said to me, "The door is red." I just about fell to the ground in shock. All the months of wondering what the problem is, analyzing if we're pushing too hard or not pushing hard enough, considering having his eyes tested, and it doesn't matter at all. Because he was going to be ready when he decided he would be ready, and this particular morning when spring is right around the corner, his birthday is next week, and the world seems full of change and possibility - for some reason he has decided this is the day to tell me he's ready. Such a small, inocuous statement that was so full of meaning and a true sign that he is learning and growing up. I was so overwhelmed, I just stood there for a moment, wanting to laugh, cry and scream all at the same time. "Yes, the god damn door is red! And I'd given up all hope of ever hearing you say it."

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March

February has been a rough month. No doubt about it. Last week in particular, drained me to the core. But my mom's surgery went well, my sinus infection has mostly cleared up, I spent six hours doing Calculus homework this weekend since I failed the first exam. One problem I managed to type into the calculator incorrectly, absolutely genius, and another I managed to do completely backwards. Inverted the variables, used x-squared plus one instead of one plus-squared when evaluating the anti-derivative of the arctangent. Basically, I'm irritated with myself, because I should have done better. I made some stupid mistakes, and I can't afford to make stupid mistakes in this class.

But today is a new week and a new month, and I'm going to shake it off if it kills me. We've got lots of celebration this month. Blackstone's birthday is on Saturday, which will not stop me from going to tutoring that morning. Our niece's baby shower is on Sunday, she's having a boy and is due in April. LT's birthday is the 11th, his party's on the 15th. Our baby boy is turning four! The 16th is the St. Pat's parade which Trouble will be marching in with the Cub Scouts. We usually do the whole boiled dinner thing too. I'm debating. We've almost finished taking the wall paper down in the living room and dining room, which means we have bare plaster walls complete with holes that need filling. Chances are it will not be done in two weeks, so it'd be a little weird to have company. Unless you just figure we've gone real rustic Ireland this year, you know, the complete hovel look. And then there's Easter the following Sunday, which will also be at our house. Perhaps we should just give up sleeping for a few weekends and get the walls patched, prepped and painted.

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