And Then I Stepped in Gum . . .

Saturday, August 28, 2004


I was just going to post a response comment, but somehow it got as long as a blog entry. I can't imagine how that happened. It's not like I tend to go on and on and on .... anyway.

OK, first comment from Theresa -- Ross School is the private school Dave used to teach at, and the founder has a thing about Asian art and surrounding students with it (plus she had the money to do it right). There should be some pictures on the site that will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Click on the picture of "the duomo" (a round media-hooked-up room with tiled leather seating) in the "Introduction" section of the home page and you'll see some pictures of the high school. Dave has also become obsessed with products by Ikea and Hold Everything, as a result of his Ross experience.

[Digression: In front of the high school building at Ross, there is a 14-foot replica of Nike (winged goddess of victory). One of the funniest stories about Ross I ever heard (and there were quite a few) was that one of the students was giving a PowerPoint presentation of a school trip to France, and one of his pictures was of the actual Nike statue. The picture was captioned, "We have one of these."]

Second, well, marriage counseling by blog is unique, but it might be easier if we just, you know, talked to each other.

Third, there are a couple of pictures up on the wall (because Dave got tired of bare walls a couple of weeks ago), but I was mostly trying to clear off my new office furniture because Levenger claims the wood will darken over two weeks and I don't want a picture-shaped spot on it. However, a hammer has since been found, and I have not yet gotten around to hanging that picture. Instead, I've been obsessed with a strange decoupage urge (I'm attempting to cover an ugly literature sorter with pretty purple and green paper fragments). What am I, nuts? Like I need another hobby.

Fourth, well, if I *remembered* anything about how great he was in bed . . . ;) (Yeah, I think it was pretty good.)

Finally, Sister Sunshine, I'm curious about how you got to my blog. Do you mind sharing? Anyone else out there that I don't know about? Does anybody link to my blog?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Things I Admire and/or Love About My Husband

You're not going to believe me, but I really didn't intend to start a fight with my last post. Really, truly. And I wasn't feeling nearly as pissy as it probably came off sounding. So to make up for it, I am posting a completely unsolicited, unexpected list of things that I admire and/or love about Dave.

Here goes, in no particular order:

* He's incredibly intelligent, and a little bit nerdy, but not in an obnoxious antisocial geek sort of way.

* He's an excellent teacher, and can get obscure points (about many things, but especially about physics and astronomy) across in ways that anyone can understand.

* He spends way too much time thinking about how to do things in a goofy yet brilliantly imaginative way. For example, I just went into our son's bedroom, and he has taken those little plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and put them on the wall in the shape of the constellation Orion. (Most people would have gone for the Big Dipper, but that's not nearly complex enough for Dave.) He has also put up little cardboard representations of the planets, not just in the correct order, but with appropriate spatial relationships (extra space between Mars and Jupiter, etc.). Another example from a couple of years ago was the cardboard box that he turned into a tiger cage for Katie's Little Tiger (stuffed toy). It was the most elaborate cardboard box I'd ever seen, complete with hinged door, "beware of tiger" signs, and Latin name plaque.

* He has a great sense of humor, and we enjoy being catty about other things/people with each other -- we can make each other laugh.

* He's really good about not procrastinating on work-type things, except for grading papers.

* When he takes the kids out in the back yard, he actually plays with them -- soccer, baseball, etc. -- which is better than I do.

* He is ever-optimistic in his as-yet-unsatisfied quest for the perfect Maryland-style crab cake outside of Maryland.

* He comes home from work and is willing to take over the kids when I've had enough of them, even though he doesn't get much of a break to switch gears, and he's appreciative of the fact that it's hard to be the one who stays home.

* He still thinks Letterman's funny after all these years.

* He is a musical genius. He doesn't get his guitar out at home all that often these days, but when he does, he plays beautifully. He can pick up almost any instrument and do something with it that sounds intentional. And he really enjoys it.

* He aspires to decorate our home in a Ross School, Asian-influenced style and actually believes it can be done, despite the giant plastic toys scattered throughout every single room.

* He gives great, extravagant, thoughtful presents on gift-giving occasions that I would never buy myself. He spends more on jewelry (not gemstone-type, but other types) than I ever would, but everything he's given me has become one of my favorite pieces.

* In grad school, he used to write notes and put them on my car whenever he saw it parked on campus when he was walking around. The thought of those notes still gives me warm fuzzies.

* He takes on more domestic tasks than many other men I know, from bathing the children to dishes to laundry (his, but still).

* When he dresses up, he looks like a gay Mafia accountant.

* While not particularly demonstrative, he shows his love for me and for the kids by hanging in there every day and just being there. I appreciate that with two young kids, things are a little tough right now, but he doesn't complain and does what he can to help things run smoothly.

So is that better, honey?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Me Jane, You Tarzan

All right, I'm sure he wasn't trying to start something with his little comment, but I've been thinking about male/female roles in the household (plus I've just spent 15 minutes searching the house for a hammer so I can hang a @#*&*@ picture) and he touched a nerve. So pardon me if I rant just a little bit.

I know that in these "enlightened" times, men can do anything that women can do and women can do anything that men can do. But around here, often those things that are "traditionally" men's or women's roles just don't get done. And when they do get done by the traditionally gendered actor, they get resented by that person who thinks that they're just having to do it because of gender roles.

Here are some of the things that I do that I feel like I have to do just because I'm female:

* Clothe the children (and by this I mean buy all of the clothes for the children and pick out what they're going to wear on any given day). Dave will complain that if he chooses the kids' clothes, I will complain, and while this may be so, it's not like he's tested it all that often over the past 5 years.

*Notice when things need to be cleaned (note that I didn't necessarily say I had to clean them, although if I want them cleaned, I usually do, unless I give directions to Dave to do so).

* Laundry for myself and for the kids (related to point number 1, above).

* Arrange the feeding of everyone except Dave, and sometimes him, too. At this stage in our lives, we rarely eat dinner together, and frequently Dave will prepare dinner for the children, but I'm the one who has to point out that they need dinner, if it's not a part of the bath-dinner-bed routine. And then I also have to strongly suggest the addition of a fruit or vegetable to their dinner, as he would be just as happy to give them just chicken nuggets and milk.

*Corollary to the point above, it has become my job to pack Katie's lunch everyday. This despite the fact that what she eats doesn't vary, and Dave knows what it is.

* Water the lawn (and, as in point 2 above, notice that it needs watering).

* Decorating -- painting, curtains, bedding design, etc. All my department.

* Clean out the refrigerator and play the "What's That Smell?" game.

* Make doctor's appointments for everybody, and keep track of when they're supposed to go.

And here are the "male" things Dave has to do that I think he often resents:

* Hang things -- pictures, curtain rods, etc. Anything involving tools, I sort of expect him to do.

* Carry heavy things up and down the stairs (no longer an issue, as we don't have stairs anymore).

* Mow the lawn (when I notice it and nag him about doing it).

* Take out the trash.

I can't think of any more at the moment, though I'm sure he can.

Now, we do cross roles or split the difference on a number of regular chores. I do all the bills and the money stuff; he bathes the children every other night. We both do the dishes about equally, which is certainly not as it was in my parents' house. He irons his own clothes (actually, that, my dad did do). He washes his own clothes. He feeds and waters the cats (usually). I put together all the furniture (because I like to do it). We both transport Katie to or from school one way.

And I will give him credit that he will almost always do things I ask him to, even if it is sometimes unwilling. But sometimes it gets hard being the one who has to think of things that have to be done. I've tried very hard to get out of the "the dad is the one who fixes and builds things" mindset, which is hard because my dad was and still is one of those dads. I came to the realization last year that to stop nagging Dave about getting around to finishing installing can lights in the basement and pay an electrician $300 to get it done was well worth the money. And I understand that he doesn't want to build a swingset in the backyard, and will cheerfully fork over the assembly fee to save him that chore.

But forgive me if I bristle a tiny bit over the resentment implied in his statement that somehow, putting things in the attic is his chore, especially since I had no idea he was doing that task until I heard mysterious bumping and thumping over my head last night. It doesn't yet seem to me like a task that needs to be done, given that there are still a number of boxes unopened inside the house. Obviously, he feels differently.

I swear, someday I'm going to come up with a rotating chore list so we can all share our resentment equally. Either that or start hiring people to do all of our crappy jobs for us!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Today's the First Day of the Rest of Your Life . . .

Apologies to my "loyal readers," many of whom are also on the March Moms list, for this repeat.
Katie's first day at St. Paul's was today. On Monday, we had a parents-meet-the-teacher session for an hour (no kids, which is pretty obnoxious for parents of young kids, but whatever). On Tuesday we could bring the kids from 11 to 12:30 to drop off their school supplies. There was really no need for us to do this, as the teacher had already labeled and sorted everything, but it was a good introduction to the classroom for Katie and we got to chat with some of the mothers and other kids. I was actually kind of shocked at how much younger Katie *looked* than all the other kids (if you remember, she's in a transitional kindergarten class, in which 12 of the 14 students are repeating kindergarten before going on to 1st, so she's a year younger than almost everyone). I didn't think it would be that noticeable, but especially with the boys, it is. Katie was a little clingy, but she gets funny about that -- it's almost like an act she thinks she has to put on. But she and Ian enjoyed playing with the bins full of manipulatives (shells, buttons, blocks, little rubber cars, keys, all kinds of stuff) the teacher has out.

This morning, we were greeted at 6:15 with a cheery "Good morning!" from Katie. Her alarm had gone off, as planned, and she had apparently slept pretty well (I, on the other hand, was plagued by anxiety dreams about things like forgetting to take her picture on the first day of school). We got her dressed in her uniform (which is actually cuter than I thought it would be, especially with matching headband and saddle shoes -- pictures at, user name JennDM, password blank, album -- funnily enough -- "First Day of School"), packed up her My Little Pony backpack and Hello Kitty lunchbox, and Dave took her off on his way to work. It went extremely smoothly.

This week, they'll be going half-days, so they go from 7:45 to 11:45. Pickup was a bit of a pain -- no buses (private school), and they escort each kid to the cars, so we were in line for almost 45 minutes, inching our way to the pickup point. I was glad I brought my Family Fun magazine to skim while waiting. I'm going to try to go a little earlier tomorrow, but I expect things will start going better soon -- so they say, anyway. Carpool's an option, but with two carseats in the car and a sedan, I don't know how we could reciprocate. Something to look into and another reason to start jumping on the minivan trend.

After we got her, we went and picked up Dave (he works about 5 minutes away) and took Katie to Applebee's to celebrate the first day (yes, I know, food as a reward :). The district manager happened to be there, and he commented on her cute uniform, and I told him why we were there. He insisted on buying Katie dessert to celebrate, which was really sweet. He called her by her name, too, which mystified her until I pointed out that she was wearing a name tag. :)

She had a really good day, and came out smiling. I'm so glad to get her back with kids her own age -- I think she really needs it. And it was awfully quiet around the house. Ian was really whiny this morning too; I think he missed her. Well, he'll have his own thing soon too -- we signed him up for La Petite Academy 3 days a week starting after Labor Day, and I think he'll enjoy the kid contact as well.

Whew! It feels like a big milestone has been passed, and I'm thrilled with how well it went. Katie's favorite thing was that I bought her a little notebook with a picture of a horse on the cover, and I wrote her a note telling her we loved her and were proud of her, and then I tucked it in her lunchbox for her to find at snack time. She loved it, and has requested notes every day.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Mother's Curse, Updated

Dockstader family lore has it that when I was a toddler, I insisted on having my grapes peeled. Every last one of them. If a succulent green globe passed my precious little lips with just a shred of skin on it, I would munch on it and hand the soggy portion of skin back to my parents. And my parents indulged me, because they were first-time parents. (And because they loved me, I presume.)

Fast forward to today. I had a craving: I wanted a boba (bubble) tea, and I wanted it bad. About a year and a half ago, I heard about this strange concoction of sweetened tea, milk, and large tapioca pearls and went in search of it in New York's Chinatown. I have to admit I didn't really like my first experience with it.

But then a couple of weeks ago, in a strange confluence of events, I heard a story about the boba tea trend in Northern California on NPR's Morning Edition, heard a bit about it on the food show that followed it, and then drove past the Green Leaf Cafe, which advertised on their sign boba tea, of all things. Who knew one could find such a cutting-edge item in the suburbs of West Mobile? Of course, I had to stop. I ordered a Thai-flavored one, and found I actually liked it a lot (it helps that the chewy tapioca pearls were described during one of the radio stories as having the texture of gummy bears, rather than big globs of snot, which was the characterization given it by a story I read about it prior to my first experience).

So today I wanted another one, and I managed to fit it into my errand-running. I entered the cafe with Katie and Ian -- Katie complaining that she was "sooooo thirsty," her tongue hanging out and a look on her face like she'd just crossed the Sahara. I looked at the menu, and offered her milk. Nope, no dice. Okay, they had "smoothies," a favorite treat. Surprisingly, she ordered coconut, but she'd liked my pina colada shaved ice the other day, so I figured Miss Picky would like it well enough. It was $4 -- a bit pricey, but I was splurging on myself anyway with the boba tea.

So the woman behind the counter gets to work making our drinks. (Side note: How long will I have lived down here before I'm not completely shocked when a person of full Asian descent speaks to me with a perfect Southern drawl?) Katie is all the while expressing her impatience, because she's sooooo thirsty. She's enthralled by the production of the drink, which is actually pretty cool -- the plastic cup is topped off with a "lid" that's a piece of plastic sealed by a fancy little machine, and the plastic features Pokemon and Hello Kitty characters. To get to the drink, you poke the boba tea straw through the plastic.

Then comes the tragedy. Apparently, I have failed to decipher the code used on the menu, and "smoothie" is used in place of "icy slushy drink that also has giant black tapioca pearls in it." Had I known, I wouldn't have ordered it, or I would have asked if the pearls could have been left out of it. I definitely wouldn't have expected Katie to eat them without a huge giant fuss.

So here's where The Mother's Curse comes in. You know, the one mothers utter whenever their children are at their most demanding and frustrating:

"I hope someday you have children JUST LIKE YOU!"

Katie insists that there's no way she can stomach the tapioca pearls, even after I bring up the gummy bear comparison. And I'm not going to waste a $4 drink. So I, loving mother that I am, go to the counter to ask for another cup and a spoon, and I cut into the plastic lid and begin to remove the offending tapioca pearls -- one by one, fishing them out with the spoon and transferring them to the empty cup.

Do you know how many #*$&@*#&! tapioca pearls there are in one of those drinks?

The process takes almost 10 minutes, all during which Katie is complaining that she's going to explode, she's so thirsty. I'm taking so long, she whines. I finally finish and give her back the denuded smoothie. I clean up the drippy mess in front of me. I wrest my tea back from Ian, who's trying to claim it as his own, and persuade him that his juice-filled sippy cup is truly the better option. And I finally get to start drinking/chewing my own tea. It is perfect -- just what I wanted.

Then, from the other side of the table: "I'm not thirsty anymore. You took so long that all my thirstiness just sort of went out of me."

Mom, whatever I did over the past thirty years, I'm so, so sorry. PLEASE lighten up on the curse now. I've learned my lesson. Really. Please?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Over and Over and Over and Over...

One of the worst things about having (admittedly, self-diagnosed) obsessive-compulsive tendencies is the inability to let things go. If something happens that bothers me, it plays itself out over and over in my head -- my brain is like a terrier playing tug-of-war with that particular event. If I make some kind of gaffe, like putting my foot in my mouth or misreading a social cue (for example, going for a hug and an air kiss when someone's sticking their hand out to shake mine), I can't stop thinking about it and feeling embarrassed anew. If someone says something that pisses me off, the phrase repeats itself in my head while my mind teases out what my response should be or should have been. Sometimes sitting down and writing an e-mail response or hashing it out with Dave or my mom can help; sometimes that makes the fight-or-flight response persist. It can't be good for me.

You'd think that there would be an upside to being obsessive. I mean, wouldn't it be great if I were obsessive about keeping my house clean, or getting to the gym every day, or getting all my work done ahead of time? Unfortunately, I haven't figured out the key to choosing one's obsessions and channeling them into some socially acceptable outlet. Instead, I'm obsessive about playing silly computer games and procrastinating and reading when I'm supposed to be sleeping. Thank goodness I've never had to deal with harmful obsessions. Just think what could happen if I ever decided to do something a little pricier than the nickel slots in Vegas. But that wouldn't happen, because I'm obsessive about money, too. So maybe there are some tiny upsides.

Not sure what the point of this post is, except to exorcise some current obsession in a mildly obscure way. I'll see if it helps any.

Friday, August 13, 2004


Ian, sticking his finger in his mouth: "Owwwwww-uh."

It's interesting that by the 2-year molars, they can tell you that their teeth hurt. It doesn't lessen the crabbiness any, but at least you know why your formerly adorable toddler has suddenly turned into an infinite whine machine.

He's napping now. Thank goodness.

(BTW, Katie, who's reading over my shoulder, doesn't think this is interesting.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Oh, joy! Weather!

Today is one of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever seen. And that's not even the hurricane, which is due on Thursday morning. We (Katie, Ian, and I) went out to see a cabinetmaker today, but he wasn't there, and we got soaked crossing the "parking lot" (read: river with gravel under it) to get to the "showroom" (read: auxiliary to giant shed with cabinet doors in it and samples of countertops). Ian loved it in his giant new tennis shoes; Katie and I were a little less happy, she in her flipflops (I warned her) and me in flats (I should have known better).

Anyway, now it's thundering like mad, and it's just started pouring rain, and I still want to get out of here and do some running around. Guess I'll have to break down and wear a -- shudder! raincoat.

People keep telling Katie to be careful walking around with an umbrella when it's lightning. Is this really a problem when you're 42 inches tall?

Can't wait to see what Tropical Storm Bonnie has in store for us...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Ian Has a Joke

In addition to being a smart aleck, Ian is on his way to being a comedian. He still has very few things that I would call actual words, but he's using them in sentences, with one of his first sentences being (of course) "I-na nuh," or "I wanna nurse." This is often said in a pleading tone after he climbs up on my lap, and is frequently accompanied with a soft patting on my chest.

A couple of days ago, he climbed into Dave's lap, patted his chest, and said "I-na nuh." "You want to nurse?" Dave replied. "You can't nurse from Daddy." Hysterical laughter from Ian. And again, "I-na nuh." Dave responded similarly; hysterical laughter again.

Since then, Ian's done this routine a couple of times a day, and he cracks himself up. Baby humor -- gotta love it.