Thursday, November 23, 2006

God Bless America...

Is it bad...

...that my son can drag a chair over to the pantry, climb up on said chair, shave years off my life as he balances on his tippy tippy toes, just to reach a box of vanilla wafers?

We won't even get into the fact that he remains precariously positioned on the chair while he shoves handfuls of those heavenly little cookies into his mouth. Or the fact that after he's gotten nilla-wafery goodness all over his face, I can't resist scooping him up and kissing the crumbs off of him.

The trick with self-promotion, part 2.

Last week, in extreme ire, I put up a post about a rude and mostly illiterate email I received. I had posted excerpts of the note with running commentary and then, after my initial anger and amusement wore off, deleted it from this blog. Suffice it to say that I felt that if her email wasn't worth replying to, it wasn't worth posting here either.

But since I've now received a follow-up email, I feel that I should say the following.

When trying to convince another person of your wit, your wisdom, your grand experience and, of course, your thorough research abilities, you may want to do the following:
  • Research spell check. Wisdom does not have an e in it. The word extremely has three.
  • When every sentence ends with 4 or more exclamation points, the point you are trying to emphasize gets lost among the rest of the idiocy. Tip: next time, dot your i's and j's with hearts and maybe you'll be taken more seriously.
  • Consider, perhaps, that some random dude's MySpace page (that blinks and plays an old SlipKnot song over and over again) may not have the most up-to-date information on matters of religion. Just a thought.
  • I'm not sure what the "two-faced week-minded" are but somehow I doubt you are commenting on that person's time management skills.
  • Bringing up how smart your husband is doesn't help matters. I've never met him but he married you. That tells me quite a bit right there.
  • And finally, if you write someone a nasty email and they don't respond, just believe that you had the last word and move on. Writing a second time to make sure they got it (after you sent it with a read receipt) with additional misspelled, grammatically incorrect and just plain daft comments just makes you look kind of -- dare I say it -- dumb and pathetic. Note: Pathetic has two t's and no k's.

Hopefully, we've all learned something here.

What am I forgetting?

It is a well understood law of the universe that when packing a bag for an infant, you will always leave one crucial item behind. And of course, you will not realize you did so until your child is screaming and that one little thing holds the key to salvation.

To be honest, though I still have a hunchback from carrying an overstuffed diaper bag back in those baby days, I find it much more difficult to pack for a toddler. How many diapers will he really need? What kind of clothes are weather appropriate (and don't make it too easy for him to slip into nudie time)? What toys are must haves? What, if anything, will help the Munchkin potentially sleep on the plane? And the answer is, I don't know. And not only are the choices more numerous these days but they are much heavier. Oh well. Maybe if I start carrying the diaper bag on my other side, I'll even out the hump or just grow another set of boos on my back. It will be my own little experiment.

But I haven't even gotten into the next step. Figuring out what I can actually take on the plane. That's a whole 'nother entry in itself. Which reminds me, I need to send out another fuck you to that TSA agent who so cruelly tossed out my son's entire sippy cup in the name of security but let the fat cat first classer on with his mocha latte the last time we flew.

We fly out later this afternoon to spend Thanksgiving with some dear friends. Here's to a non-eventful flight where I don't forget anything too important.

Like Munchkin's raisins. Or my socks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving for every wrong move.

On the day before the turkey and mashed potato (the greatest food in the universe) engorgement, I let the immortal words of Poi Dog Pondering speak to that for which I'm most thankful.

Somehow I find myself far out of line
from the ones I had drawn.
Wasn't the best of paths,
you could attest to that,
but I'm keeping on.
Would our paths cross
if every great loss had turned out our gain?
Would our paths cross
if the pain it had cost us was paid in vain?
There was no pot of gold,
hardly a rainbow lighting my way.
But I will be true to the red, black and blues
that colored those days.
I owe my soul to each fork in the road,
each misleading sign.
'Cause even in solitude,
no bitter attitude can dissolve my sweetest find.

Thanksgiving for every wrong move that made it right.

CPT Dick, you are a serious pain in my ass. But I'm so thankful to you for bringing me along on this strange and wonderful path.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Karma, baby!

Yesterday, somehow, somewhere, the estimated percentage of American adults with genital herpes came up in casual conversation. I'm guessing it was either mentioned on Oprah or there's an outbreak among some of the soldiers. But once the astounding 50-70% estimate was uttered aloud, one of CPT Dick's colleagues said authoritatively, "That's because women are much sluttier today than they used to be."

I thought about letting loose and asking about what men are today or how exactly he knows that behaviors have changed so much but then thought better of it. This man just had a baby daughter. Karma -- and a whole lot of hands-on training during his daughter's teenage years -- will teach him better than I ever could.

Chicken Soup for the Droll

Earlier, I was speaking on the phone to an old friend. She's another military wife, stationed way too far away from me, and absolutely rocks the Casbah. While we were talking, after we got past talking about the kids, I complained that I received that stupid "Recipe for a Military Wife" forward AGAIN. I then went on to say that if I received it one more time I was certain that my head would explode. She laughed and then went on to teach me a lesson.

FRIEND: Why? What's wrong with it?

NE: Those forwards are stupid. They are just oversimplified and cute beyond bearing. They don't really say anything about being a military wife at all. And frankly, they are way too "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

FRIEND: And what's wrong with that? I like Chicken Soup for the Soul.

NE: Oh, I have no time for Chicken Soup for the Soul. Everything in those books has a Pollyanna veneer on it. It's so fake. Everything has a silver lining and a happy ending and that's just not the way life works.

FRIEND: But maybe sometimes we need to believe that it can work like that.

Touché, girl. Touché.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Forward THIS!

Because of my role in the FRG, I'm on a lot of mailing lists as well as a few web forums. For the most part, I'm there as a lurker -- to hear and answer rumors before they get too out of hand. But these groups do actually provide a lot of good information for the military spouse.

But what they also provide are email forwards. Lots and lots of email forwards. I got over my need to forward every funny thing sent my way, oh, back in 1996. But quite a few of my military wife peers are not on the same page as I am when it comes to clicking the forward button. And so, on a daily basis, I receive at least a dozen email forwards: several urban myths can be easily invalidated by a quick trip to Snopes, a few supposedly real missives from downrange that prove the media's liberal bias, and then -- the absolute worst of the bunch -- the Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul style military wife poems. I cringe every time I get one.

Today, I received the infamous "Recipe for a Military Wife" (which has been passed around the WWW as long as the WWW has existed and has hit my inbox at least 400 times). I also received an e-petition to continue the incarceration of two boys who were released years ago, a sham email about how to send money to soldiers downrange and something about heroin needles in McDonald's ball pits. But it was the poem that really chapped my ass. Here it is in all its glory:

1 1/2 cups Patience
1 lb. Adaptability
3/4 cup Tolerance
1 tsp. Courage
A Dash of Adventure

Instructions: Combine above ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons elbow grease. Let sit alone for one year. Marinate frequently with salty tears. Pour off excess fat. Sprinkle lightly with money. Knead dough until payday. Season with international spices. Bake 20 years or until done.

This is dedicated to military wives everywhere, who have waved good-bye more often than not, who have heated up more dinners than most wives cook, who have missed more anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases and Valentine's Days than they should have, and most important of all have welcomed their husbands home GLADLY.

(I'll just state for the record now that I fixed all the typos [9] before I copied it here. I'm anal like that).

Why do these ladies feel the need to forward this? Ladies, listen up. That compulsion to forward this kind of crap? It must be stopped! For the love of God, think before you click send and inflict this torture on yet another of your sisters.

But you know, email ettiquette aside, the thing that bothers me the most is that so many military wives really do dig these poems. They like sending them and they like receiving them, even if they have gotten them 100 times before. Why is that? Do they really think that these words encapsulate all that they are and all that they do as military wives? They are so much more than this, so much more than just a glib poem or a faded reflection of their husbands. I wish they knew that.

Maybe I should forward an email to all of them as a reminder.

I wipe ass, therefore I am.

It's funny how motherhood can change the way you view yourself. Sometimes I have to wonder if it's still me in here or if she wisely escaped out the back door once she heard that an epidural wasn't an option. I really can't tell. Did I lose my identity or just gain a new one?

Back in college, I remember long, philosophical discussions about nothing while we drank Schlitz or Natty Light. And I'm being literal. We talked about "nothing." If nothing was really nothing, than why would it have a name? Was nothing more like the mathematical concept of zero? Or perhaps nothing was just a vacuum. Yeah, we were that stupid and fancied ourselves that smart. I blame the preservatives in that shitty malt liquor and an overpriced private university education.

But philosophy hits home once again as I ponder, "Who am I?" Once I married, I slowly morphed from NE to Mrs. Dick. Then when I had my son, I became Munchkin's Mommy. And that is now how I'm referred to by just about everyone. Who NE was or who she may still be pales in comparison to these other identities I've collected. My whole life is wrapped up in my son. Feeding, entertaining, wiping, pleading, laughing. And what's left over most often goes to CPT Dick. And though my life is more fulfilling than I ever thought it would be, I do wonder if this is all there is. If this is all that life holds for me now. And if it is, is that really such a bad thing?

But sometimes I wonder what happened to the girl who got straight A's, who made out with the lead guitarist of her favorite band on at least three occasions, who fell out on an airplane while skydiving, who got all those tattoos, who could dance the night away no matter what music played, who was going to take over the world. That girl who thought she was so fucking invincible. Is she still in here somewhere waiting for the right time to reappear? Or is it time to accept that she's gone and let the mourning process take its course? Find ways for this new me to bloom?

I don't know. But I'm guessing Descartes never bothered himself with this shit.

Giving Americans the Shaft...ooops, I mean Draft.

New York Representative (and Korea vet) Charles Rangel thinks we should bring back the draft. I'm not sure why this is news, exactly. He's tried to do this a time or two before. And let me state, for the record, that it is a bad idea.

A few months ago, there was a fair amount of hoopla over John Kerry's quote about the uneducated ending up in Iraq. Let's just ignore, for a moment, that the quote was taken completely out of context and was a slight not on our troops but on President Bush's handling of the war. Let's pretend, just for the sake of argument (and to make Karl Rove smile) that Kerry meant his comment exactly how the GOP spun it: that if you don't get an education, you'll end up in the military and then, of course, in Iraq. If you noticed, though President Bush and a bunch of politicians all got their panties in a wad over the comment, there wasn't much of a reaction from the troops themselves. And that is because there is more than a grain of truth to that statement.

Though you have folks who are called to the military in a similar way that some are called to the priesthood -- men and women like CPT Dick, who are well-educated, but who are compelled to serve -- you also have a lot of people who end up in the military because they have nowhere else to go. Just in the few years that I've been a military wife, I've met soldiers who are in because they were given a choice between enlistment and jail, because the plant closed down and there were no other jobs except McDonald's for a 50 mile radius, because a family member took sick and they believed their enlistment bonus could help save them, because they wanted to go to college but just couldn't find the money. There are so many reasons that people join the military and I would argue that the majority of them do not involve a strong calling to serve one's country. But despite that lack of calling, most who join up manage to step in time and find a place in the military. And quite often, they are often better soldiers because it was not something they thought they would ever do.

But for some, combat boots will just never fit right. And they just wreck it for the rest of the soldiers.

They don't want to be there. They don't want to do their job. And they don't give a rat's ass about service, the betterment of themselves or their fellow man. They just want to get over any way they can. They play the victim and in doing so, they put their fellow troopers at risk. It's a problem.

Re-instating the draft will only exacerbate the problem. You'll just have more people who don't want to be there -- and who are even more bitter about it because they had other options and opportunities that they had to leave behind. And because of that bitterness, they will, like the others who never find their place, slack off and make the military weaker.

Rangel says that he thinks Congress would think twice about wars if kids from their neighborhoods had to serve. Obviously, Rangel doesn't remember how that actually worked in Vietnam and how it would work again now.

Leave the draft alone and start thinking about how the government can inspire Americans once again to take up service.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What he missed - November 2006.

Do you know Dooce? It is a fabulous blog authored by Heather B. Armstrong. One of the highlights for me is the newsletter, a chronicle/love letter to the author's daughter. These newsletters are both poignant and pee-in-your-pants-funny. I think anyone who is a parent can relate to Heather's adventures in Mommyhood. But a small disclaimer: they are not for the faint of heart. I'm a cast-iron bitch and I've found myself tearing up a time or two during the reading of them.

Taking a page from Dooce's blog, I've decided to start my own newsletter of a sort. Not a month to month one like Heather's (I'm not that much of a copycat, plus I just don't have her energy) but a letter to my husband that documents what Munchkin adventures he missed while away. This will be the first one.


Dear CPT Dick,

This was a small absence, only three weeks with the gift of a weekend here at home, but you still missed some great stuff. The Munchkin continues to be adorable but his nudist tendencies are increasing. Whereas before his pants would fall down just because his little old man butt was too small to keep them up, he has now figured out how to pull them down himself. As such, our daily battle to get dressed has been taken to a whole new level. I pull his pants up only to have him pull them down. And we continue this dance of power until I manage to roll down the waistband in such a way that he can't figure out how to pull them down (and I fear that I am cutting off all circulation to his lower extremities). It's exhausting. He's also started taking his pants off at school. Just nonchalantly stepping out of them on his way to the swings or the slide. And of course, they don't stay on long here at home either with Munchkin generally opting to take them off when company comes to call. What can I say? Our son is an exhibitionist.

Last night, we hit a major milestone. It was *officially* the thousandth reading of "A Monster at the End of This Book." You may think I exaggerate but I do not. I've been counting. I've read that book so many times now that I can say it in my sleep. I've read it so many times that I just keep reciting the lines even when the Munchkin gets impatient and pages ahead to the climactic ending. Note: We really need to get some new books. I feel like Drew Barrymore's family in "50 First Dates" after each viewing of "The Sixth Sense."

But when we do get those books, we need to make sure that they have Sesame Street characters in them. Because even though we don't have television and we've tried so hard to monitor what Munchkin watches, he shows a decided preference for any muppet. He stares intently at any book, DVD cover, or toy representing his Sesame Street crew. Hell, he'll even sit still while I change his diaper now provided I give him a Pampers diaper to examine first. This, my dear, is why I insist on going to the grocery store alone. I fear that if I bring him with me now, the only food I will end up buying will be co-branded with the Jim Henson company. And man can not live on Grover granola bars and Cookie Monster cereal alone. At least, I don't think he can. In any case, I don't want to find out.

This week Munchkin also took his first trip to the toy store as a non-sleeping infant. I could actually see the sugar plums dancing in his head as he took in all the cars, blocks and balls. I had him safely strapped into a shopping cart, even though I was there for just a small item, to avoid any possible mutiny. But it was absolutely amazing to watch him as we rolled through. I wonder if that brightly colored toy wonderland is the stuff of which his dreams are made. And then I have to wonder how long it will be before the dreams switch to scantily clad girls because our son, CPT Dick, is growing up so damn fast. I don't know when he became a little boy exactly but I do know that each day there are fewer and fewer reminders of the baby he once was. And even though I didn't exactly dig the baby stage, I find myself missing him sweet and needy and so cuddlicious. And yes, I'll admit it, immobile.

As an extra reminder never to leave the boy alone in the bath, he learned to turn on the faucet while you were away. Apparently, he finds this control (and the potential to fatally scald himself) hilarious. I'm desperately searching for some kind of baby-proofing device that can (a) work with our wonky faucet and (b) that I can figure out how to install. So far, I've only come up with duct tape and, as we already know, that is no deterrent for our little Einstein.

Munchkin is still addicted to DVD watching. He continually brings me DVDs (Sesame Street, what else?) to put in the player and when I tell him, "No, we're not watching any TV, sweetie", he breaks the cases open seagull-style on the floor. He can open the entertainment center door, press the eject button and place the DVD in the player itself, but like most of our guests, he can't figure out how the hell we wired up the TV to the DVD player and is quite frustrated when it won't play. But when it does play, he will sit still for half an hour, sometimes longer, and just watch those muppets. When he does get up, it is to dance his little white man's overbite to the songs that I now have memorized and find myself singing in the shower. I'm not sure whether this obsession with Sesame Street, and the things that he's learned to further it, are a sign that we are good or bad parents. Time will tell, I suppose.

And to close, yes, you won the contest. He said "Dada" first (but as I tried to show you in the development books, that sound is easier for babies to make). But now he says "Mama" and means it. Despite the fact that he is still waking up at the crack of dawn, he now wakes up calmly, calling "Mama?" louder and louder until I come to get him. And when I lift him out of his crib, he smiles so big and hugs me with both arms. It makes waking up at 5:30am not only bearable but beautiful. And for a moment, just a moment, in that pre-dawn light I can pretend that my Munchkin hasn't already morphed from a baby into a little boy.

Come home soon, CPT Dick. He's going to be all grown up before you know it.


Things I did (and did not do) this week.

CPT Dick will return from his field problem today. When I last spoke with him, he was in a foul mood. When I suggested that he park his 'tude before walking in the door tonight, he said, "You don't know how bad this sucks. What have you done all week?"

And instead of starting an argument, I decided to chronicle what I did, indeed, accomplish this week in my husband's absence. You see, I've decided that men are just innately wired to believe that women who stay/work at home eat bon bons and nap while their children run amok. And that's understandable, I suppose, as that's just what CPT Dick does when he's home and in charge of the boy. So for the record:
  • I cleaned the house. And I mean, cleaned it. I mopped floors, decontaminated the bathrooms, filed, tidied, swiffered, dusted and scrubbed. (DISCLAIMER: This might not be obvious to the casual observer since I live with Munchkin the Destructor who, like his Daddy, considers a clean room to be a challenge).
  • I finished two articles, lined up another one, sold an essay and started writing down some ideas for new essays.
  • Ran 13 miles (divided up into 3 separate runs).
  • Documented my angst here.
  • Laundry, laundry and more laundry.
  • Hosted the Developmental Nazis.
  • Finished Christopher Priest's "The Prestige," which was pretty good.
  • Attended three mandatory fun events to represent my wayward husband.
  • Started (and finished) my Christmas shopping.
  • And most importantly, I played with my son and saved him countless times from mortal peril. And there was *a lot* of cuddling, too. Can't forget that part.

And what I did not have to do this week:

  • Run to the store in the middle of the night because my husband finished the the Munchkin's whole milk, ignoring the skim milk that he insisted I buy standing right next to it.
  • Chisel dried batter from the kitchen cabinet doors because CPT Dick decided that some midnight brownies were in order.
  • Find empty boxes of vanilla wafers in the pantry. (Can anyone explain this baffling behavior? When the boxes are full, CPT Dick refuses to put them away. But when they are empty, back in the pantry they go! And it's not like it's closer than the trash can. Totally flummoxes me).
  • Wake up in the middle of the night and repeatedly punch my husband until he rolls over and I can get some covers back.
  • Smell CPT Dick's nasty ass running shoes. I'm not sure if he let a cat piss on them or his feet create non-regulated toxic waste when he runs, but you can smell those suckers two floors away.

But despite all that, it will be nice to see him tonight.

Until, at least, he throws all his nasty battle rattle on the foyer floor and I'm left wondering how the hell he got so dirty during a computer-based training exercise.