Friday, December 31, 2004

The Disaster That Is My Hair

For the first time in my life, I may be seeking the help of a professional hair colorist. My hair is orange and red and all shades of unnatural in between all over, and, well, it just ain't pretty, kids.

Jack and Mary Liz's mom called it "sassy" this morning and said she liked it; I suspect this may have been both out of pity and the fact that she couldn't see the full horror thanks to the fact that the morning light was still quite dim. It looks kind of punk rock, and I? Am not punk rock.

Here's hoping for a nice shade of brunette shortly after the New Year dawns. For tonight we'll just have to pretend it's my fun New Year's Eve experiment and that it's cute and...sassy.

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody!

Taking "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" To Levels Previously Unreached

I've been wanting to color my hair darker for quite some time; my eyebrows and my hair have never matched, and I thought it might be a good idea to try it. So we three traipsed into Target today to choose a new color. I selected one called Chocolate Mousse because A) it looked close to my eyebrow color, B) the color I really wanted was out of stock, and I wanted a quick haircolor fix, and C) I really love chocolate mousse as a food, so I figured it was a good fit for me. After the family dinner, I rushed home to slather the dye on my hair and let it work its magic while I did some other tasks. I was blissful, unconcerned. I traipsed around the house like a happy cat, anticipating my exciting new look.

My first indication that something was amiss was that, as I began to rinse, the color of the rinse water made it look as though I had murdered someone in the tub, not as if I were rinsing chocolate mousse from my hair, as the name of the color might imply. The second indication was, well, the way the hair looked once all that blood red dye was rinsed out. It was practically glow-in-the-dark. ACK!

So I did what any semi-unreasonable home hair experimenter would do in this situation: I went ahead and applied the highlighting paste included in the kit. If my hair was going to look trashy, it was going to look professionally trashy, by golly! I waited the allotted time, I rinsed, I considered my options. There was only one thing I could do.

I got in the shower straightaway and washed my hair five times.

It's looking marginally better. I am greatly relieved.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

People Around The World Are Dying And I Still Feel It Necessary To Sit Here Being Irritated

Nearly everything that is of no real consequence is bothering me today. If you thought yesterday's complaininess was bad, you don't even want to hear the half of what I feel like complaining about today. I don't want to hear it either, so I'm keeping my mouth (and my little typing fingers) shut.

I'm off to make an attempt at being a little less selfish. I think it will help greatly if I am out of hearing range of Jack's radio, which is, right now, playing some Shania Twain.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Watch Out, I'm Feeling Complainy

When I dropped my young charges off at school yesterday, I noticed a sign on the door indicating that they would be closed not just New Year's Eve, but also the day before New Year's Eve (New Year's Eve Eve, if you will), which means that, SURPRISE!, I get to work tomorrow. I'm sure it must have been mentioned in some announcement sheet sent home, but as it wasn't on any announcement sheet I picked up, I am now stuck with an unplanned extra day of work and a whole list of things I need to get done then.


Mary Liz has been breaking things right and left. If the broken thing can be fixed, I make her fix it herself, sans help, before she can do anything else. She doesn't like this arrangement. I don't care whether she likes it or not; I care that she learns to be responsible. Much wailing and naysaying ensues, which means that eventually I have to use my Secret Nanny Powers (otherwise known as the side hold, in which I hold her sideways at my side, arms and legs flailing, until she's done throwing her fit) to get her to comply. The Secret Nanny Powers require the use of Secret Nanny Muscles, and let me just say that we need to stop feeding that kid because the heavier she gets, the more I risk injuring the Secret Nanny Shoulders and the Secret Nanny Arms and maybe even the Secret Nanny Back.


The kids got a bunch of huge new toys for Christmas, and I have no idea where we're putting them. Their dad wants the house to be in good order when he gets home at the end of the day, so now I'm going to have to work a Secret Nanny Miracle and make something work.


I have one more family dinner to drive to this week. I don't know if I've mentioned this lately, but I'm not overly fond of family dinners. They stress me out. I have to drive far, I have to bring something, I have to socialize with people whose first question is always, "Are you still running?" I should wear a shirt that says, "Yes, I am still running" except then we wouldn't have any way to start a conversation.


My car has a few small problems, so while Dad is fixing it, I am driving the behemoth (Oldsmobile Delta 88--spacious!). This morning when I came out to drive to work, the windows needed to be scraped. But guess what the car lacks? An ice scraper.


Did I mention I have to work an extra day this week?


And that I probably don't get New Year's Eve off?




I think I'm done now.

I think.

What You Find When You Look For What You'll Be Eating Until You Run Out Of Food

(In which I update you on how I'm doing with my little experiment.)

I found five cans of peaches in my cupboard.


What single person needs five cans of peaches?

In order to avoid having to eat them all in a row once I'd consumed all other food products in my cupboards and freezer, I attempted to eat one can for dinner this evening.

The whole can.

Um, yeah. That didn't go so well. Maybe a whole can is a little much?

On the menu for dinner tomorrow night: Leftover peaches! Fantastic!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What Crappy Gift Are You?

Here's what I got--perfect, no?

You Are Socks!

Cozy and warm... but easily lost.
You make a good puppet.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Last Minute Giving

it's christmastime
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
It struck me yesterday as Mary Liz was hugging me tightly enough to break ribs that we three, nanny and charges, are pretty lucky. We have our health, plenty of everything we need to be warm and well-fed, and best of all, we have each other. They don't realize how good they have it, and I am prone to forgetting my own good fortune as well.

This year, more than any year previous, I have been aware of how good my life is, how much I have been given, how little I lack. It has been important to me this year to make those thoughts count by sharing some of my abundance with others. I've made my donations late in the season (um, today), but they're out there now, and I feel good about that. Next year I hope to do more.

Perhaps you are doing your very last minute shopping today. Perhaps you don't have much time to think about what to give and where. Well, don't worry: I am here to help. The following are links to the places I chose to donate this year (one for kids who lack physical resources, one for kids who lack health, respectively). Both are worthy charities. I encourage you to give a couple of clicks and a couple of dollars, either to one of these or to another charity of your choosing. It won't take long, and you'll feel pretty grand about it, I promise.

Donate here or here.

One more thing: Hug the kids you love a little tighter this year, and remind them how much you love them.

On behalf of Jack, Mary Liz, and myself: Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Take THAT! And THAT! And THAT!!!

She tried to play the Grandma card on me. As in, "I know the children were incredibly naughty, but Grandma is here so couldn't you mean what you say another time?" And I said, no, no, absolutely, not, especially not when Grandma is here because then what is an excruciating situation will be made even worse.

Let's review the situation, shall we?

To begin, we spent a lovely morning at Union Station looking at model trains and having lunch at A Streetcar Named Desire (by some miracle, and I mean MI. RA. CLE., the children forgot all about Fritz's and their train food delivery system--thank you, thank you, thank you, amen). Grandma was a bit slow, but fine, and though she was annoyed that I equated the greasy fried chicken fingers with the greasy fried fries (insisting that due to the greasy fried nature of both foods, it didn't matter which the kids ate most of, while she kept complaining that "potatoes are a starch"), we made it home without major incident. I put the kids to bed in Jack's room so that Grandma would have her own space in Mary Liz's room. And here is where the problems began.

I explained to the children from the get-go that for each warning I had to give to get them to sleep without making noise, there would be a consequence. Each consequence was stated plainly for the record previous to its execution. (Warning of Consequence One: "If you talk, I will turn off the music.") We moved swiftly through the consequences until we were faced with the final, most brutal consequence of all, which was missing the school Christmas party. We would drop off the gifts, but not stay. I also explained that, due to the fact that getting to sleep had taken so long, we would not only have to come home, but they would have to finish the nappage once we returned. I emphasized the need to sleep or else. And guess what?

We didn't get to stay at the Christmas party.

Guess what else?

Grandma seems to be the only one scarred by the experience.

The kids know I mean what I say. It was almost as if they were relieved when, after Grandma had played her card, I said, "No, Jack and Mary Liz need to know that I mean what I say. We won't be staying. I'm sorry." Furthermore, upon arrival home after the gift drop-off, both children took off their coats and shoes and headed dutifully up to bed--without even being reminded. They were even smiling. "We'll take the rest of our nap now," Mary Liz sing-songed as she climbed the stairs.

I have rarely been prouder. Jack and Mary Liz, you are the bestest ever in the whole wide universe.

Christmas With Someone Else's Grandma

This year marks the third Christmas I will spend with Jack and Mary Liz, which means it is also the third Christmas I will spend with their Irish grandma from Brooklyn. Every year there are more stories to tell; she's a quirky one, much like a child in her need for care, only more difficult in temperament. By the end of the week she spends here, I will have many stories to tell. I just may be too tired to tell them.

The first Christmas she came I was reeling from a break-up. Nothing much is clear from those days, but I vaguely remember her complaints at the price of substituting fries for chips at Rainforest Cafe and the way she told me she couldn't have soda since she is diabetic, yet poured sugar into her coffee, packet after packet after packet. We took the kids for mall portraits; I had as much trouble keeping her happy as I had getting the kids, then barely three and nearly two, to smile at the same time for the photos.

The second Christmas she came I was accustomed to her style. I shrugged when she commented about the possibility of the children getting snatched over the tall backyard fence while I was cooking lunch and giggled a little watching her try to play kickball with them as she protected them from the imaginary insanely tall kidnappers. The kids' mom and I laughed together over things Grandma had said about me in the evening--for instance, how I had fed them canned vegetables (oh, the horror)--and her daytime antics, which I relayed. By the end of the two weeks she stayed, the kids' mom and I were both sufficiently amused and also well past exhausted.

This year should bring its own special moments. I won't lie to you and say that I look forward to work in the morning. I will, instead, bid you goodnight a little early and slip to my bed. Grandma has arrived, and I need all the rest I can get.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Since You Are So Good At Giving Me Advice

I thought I'd ask you for more. Here's the deal: I'm feeling kind of bad about calling the object of my dilemma (scroll down one entry) creepy. He actually seems pretty nice to me; it's just that I don't think it's appropriate that he should be putting his arm around me while I'm working. I inwardly give him the benefit of the doubt, because, well, that's what I do. It's what I've always done. What if he's not really creepy and here I am giving the poor guy a bad name?

Here's where your opinion/knowledge of Mexican culture comes in: Is he really creepy? Or is this just a cultural difference? Do men in Mexico put their arm around women without asking? Is this acceptable? Or should I feel a little creeped out? I keep thinking, "But he's really nice, he probably just doesn't know that's not appropriate." And thus my reluctance to reject him outright and my impulse to instead be a bit sneaky about it. I tend to err on the side of mercy, to let things slide that I probably shouldn't. So far it's been okay, but at the same time I think it would do me some good to be wiser. Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove. That's what I'm looking for.

Any thoughts?


So I did a photo job for a guy I met running at the park; he is a housepainter and needed some shots of some interior work he'd done to put in a portfolio. I quoted him a fairly low price since I knew he wouldn't mind if I printed on photo paper that is of a lesser quality than my usual. He seemed happy with the deal, so we did the shoot, and now I'm printing...and the photos are turning out a shade too blue. This is a paper problem, not an image problem, though I could fix the paper problem by making the images less blue in Photoshop and then returning them to their original shade later. So you're thinking, "Well, no problem, Mary, just do that and shazam, good photos, returning customer, nice." And you would be absolutely correct in your line of thinking.

Except that I don't want him back as a customer. The whole time we were shooting, he kept trying to put his arm around me while I was showing him the LCD and then at the end he kind of sort of asked me out but not directly and OHMYGOODNESS could I BE less interested? And could I also be more creeped out by the guy? (Well, yes, he's not THAT creepy, but still...)

So my question to you, readers, is this: Is it wrong to give him work of a slightly poorer quality than usual in order that he might not ask me to do more?

Addendum: Dilemma resolved. Boy are you people quick to offer advice when I ask. Thanks! I am reprinting all the photos and practicing saying, "NO! I don't want to do another job for you!" and "NO! I will not go out with you!" And when I say no I will tell you all and you can reward me by saying good job and buying me one of those raspberry cream cheese brownies from latteland.

Monday, December 20, 2004

If Only

This morning when the kids' mom came downstairs, she asked me how my day was going so far. I said, "Well, I got out of bed; I'd say that's a step in the right direction," and then I laughed. She didn't laugh with me; I suspect she may have an idea that I was secretly being quite serious.

It is hard for me to get up every single day of the work week. Whether I've slept enough (or well enough) the night before or not, it doesn't matter. I am never ready for 6:50 am. Out of necessity, I have honed my morning routine to the point of being able to carry it out without thinking about it. Who can think before dawn? Most days, looking back on the morning, I can't remember brushing my hair. I'm pretty sure I do it nearly every day. I'm also pretty sure that some days I don't. (The good news here being that, my hair being the self-styling wonder that it is, I doubt most people can tell.) I somehow stumble to my car, drive to work, and arrive on the cusp of 7:26, an ungodly hour if ever there was one. I tell you the truth: If I ran the world, work wouldn't start until 10 am at the very earliest.

I don't run the world. How unfortunate.

Please Remove Any And All Scissor Or Scissor-like Apparatus From The Vicinity

Mary Liz has discovered the joy of the self-haircut.

I asked, "Why did you do this?"

"Because I wanted my hair to be short," she answered matter-of-factly.

Well, fair enough.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Holiday Cheer Just Never Ends Around Here

us girls
"There are a LOT of people here."

"Yeah, when we drove up we just kept going and going--the line of parked cars never ended."

"Did you have to park far away and take the shuttle?"

"Yeah, I think we're in Lot E, Row 14 or something like that."

Jason threw his annual Christmas party last night. There was a lot of good food, anything and everything you could possibly want to drink, and a lot of good company. The house was full, the music was good, the atmosphere was relaxed. It was a great party. Thanks, Jason.

(To see more photos, click here.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Danger! Danger! Holiday Confusion Alert!

Mary Liz just found an Easter chick in her room. It's one of those that has the two little spots on the bottom that, if touched at the same time, will make the chick chirp. It also has a string sprouting from the top of its head, which makes Mary Liz think that it's a Christmas ornament. She just headed downstairs to put it on the Christmas tree.




Merry Easter!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What I Did This Morning: Another Ofoto Album By Mary

Tonya called last night to see if I would borrow Declan for the morning, and I said "SURE!" Declan is my faux nephew, and I love to borrow him now that Jack and Mary Liz are so big. It is perfectly delightful to take a non-talking, non-arguing, non-snarky child around for the morning.

See our adventure here.

You may notice some inconsistent capitalization and punctuation. Sorry. Can't be helped; I'm too tired.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Another One About My Mom

Oh, wait, really it's about me. Sorry. However, it happened because my mom called me last night to ask me what I'd like as a stocking stuffer, so it's still kind of about her, right? You're going to love this one.

Do you know what I told herI wanted?

Do you?

Do you understand how, with one request, I have proved that not only am I an adult, but also very practical and boring?

I asked for a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap.

For real.

What has become of me?

And Then She Laughed

I was talking on the phone to my mom last night, the same mom who often says, after I've told her something she disapproves of, "Well, I couldn't tell some of my friends you did that," and I just decided to use up all my luck and sprinkle in some mild profanity. What I said, specifically, was, "He's just being an asshat."

To my surprise, she laughed.

And I was proud to call her my mother.

Monday, December 13, 2004

This One Is All Erica's Fault

Erica e-mailed me and told me that she really likes my ofoto albums, so from here on out you can blame her for my ofoto habit. In case you haven't guessed yet, there's another one:

Go on, now,get your mingle on.

In case you were wondering, these are from Todd's Most Wonderful Christmas Party.

Um, Excuse Me?

The problem with me reading magazine articles that advise parents on child-rearing is that I disagree with almost all of them. Take this little gem from Good Housekeeping for instance. Ross Greene is explaining his method of discipline, in which there are three categories: A is for the non-negotiables such as playing in traffic--for this the child has no choice but to follow the directive, B is for the negotiables and allows the child to help find a solution--for instances in which they want something that isn't reasonable, but there may be a better solution, and C is for the things you just let slide--for things such as minor manners violations. It sounds pretty good until he gets into the examples. Here's my favorite:

"Just the other day, a mom was bringing her ten-year-old son to my office. They were running late, but he was whining for pizza. Normally, the mom would have said, 'We're late, we're not stopping,' and her son would have started screaming and, well, made a real scene.

Instead the mom said, ' You want pizza now?' Her son told her he was hungry. ' You're hungry, but we don't have time for pizza,' the mom said. 'Do you have another idea?' Yes, he did. They stopped at a deli for pretzels. That was enough to curb his hunger and they got here on time."

First of all, if your ten-year-old throws screaming fits, you've got BIG problems, and maybe if the guy you're seeing to help out thinks this is normal for a ten-year-old, you need to be seeing someone else.

Second, is this man saying that if the kid is being a brat he should still get to negotiate? In my Nannified Universe, that is not acceptable. If we're hungry, we don't whine, we simply say, "I'm hungry." (We like things to be direct in the Nannified Universe.) If we can't get food right away, we wait. Egads, people, your child won't perish if he doesn't get what he wants or something he deems an acceptable substitute right when he wants it. For crying out loud--no wonder the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Sometimes it seems the whole universe conspires to move me in the right direction. For months now I have been evaluating all that I have, looking into cupboards and closets and nooks and crannies and discovering that, holy cow, I have a lot of crap. And some not-so-much-crap, but still unnecessary items. I've been given a lot. I've also purchased a lot. At times I have been wise, at times I have been quite frugal. In the midst of it all, I've been longing to be able to give more--of myself, of my time, of my resources. The elephant that stands in the way is my debt. I've got a lot of it. I budget and work extra hours and try to drum up more (more, more) to make it work, but somehow the freedom I have sought has eluded me. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of earnest effort and a real commitment to what I say I believe in.

I think I've needed a swift kick for quite some time.

But the swift kick never came; instead I heard whispers and echos and felt that inexplicable heaviness in my heart that indicates that something is indeed wrong.

I choose today as the day to begin doing something about it for several reasons, the first of which is that this day is the anniversary of another day that changed my life forever. I'll skip the specifics and sum up by saying that out of great pain came great promise, and I am grateful.

Today I am beginning an experiment in which I ask myself what would happen if I committed, for one year, to eat what is in my cupboards before buying more and to wear what I have instead of rotating my stock as if Goodwill Industries depends on donations of the things I have tired of. What would happen if I learned, for this year, to be content with what I have instead of buying more? What would happen if I were freed from giving a certain dollar amount and instead listened more carefully to where to give and how much? What would happen if I erased my wishlists and let it all go for a year? What would happen?

Folks, I'm about to find out. I'll keep you updated.

Look for the final evaluation of my experiment on December 11, 2005.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sort through my inventory.

Your Two (FABULOUS!) Choices

Around here in the Nannified Universe, when one of the little someones gets a lot whiny, I am often heard saying, "You're either going to have to deal with your life or just go back to sleep."

Whilst thinking, "Man, I wish someone would offer me that second option."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Exciting Life Of Mary

Tonight is Thursday night--the night before Friday! The night it doesn't matter if I'm up a little too late because there's just one workday left to make it through! The world is my oyster! I can do anything! I did do anything!


I gave my cats a bath.

And I took pictures.

I then finished off a box of Frango mint chocolates and submitted a photo of myself to go next to the entry for pathetic in the dictionary.

Please Help Me, I Can't Stop Making Ofoto Albums

Yesterday the kids and I met some moms and other kids to see some model trains and then go give the long gift request list to Santa. While it is good for the kids to hang out with other kids and good for me to see other adults during a long workday, these things always stress me out and exhaust me. And so, I present to you:

Trains, Santa, Bah Humbug

Otherwise known as: Our Morning At The Gates Of Hell


Holiday Inspiration via Sarah McLachlan

This video was played at church on Sunday, and I missed it, but finally caught up tonight. It's phenomenal. Please go take a look.

Someone at my impact group tonight mentioned that they can't understand what she's singing, so you can take a look at the lyrics here.

This holiday season, let's take some time out to pass on some of our wealth to those who have so little. Some ideas for sharing are posted on Tim Keel's blog here.

'Tis better to give than to receive. Pass it on, folks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

You May Stop Talking Anytime, Buddy. Any. Time.

I'm sitting in the office at the computer and Jack comes in, fresh from his nap, and starts talking. I keep responding to e-mails and commenting on blogs, occasionally saying, "Uh-huh" and "I see" and "Oh, yeah?" but not really looking up. The terrible part is not that I'm mostly ignoring him but that I'm doing it just to see how long he will keep going without any eye contact. It's been fifteen minutes. Still going.

Someday his persistence will pay off.

In candy.

From me.

As an apology for torturing him this way simply for my own amusement.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004


Just some tidbits:

The Christmas party host said, as he set the sausage meatballs down right in front of me (gee, thanks), "Watch out, they call your name." Boy was he ever right.

We never made it into Chicago proper, so my title should, instead, be something like: Dundee/St. Charles/Elgin/Schaumburg/Castigny And Some Other Towns Along The Way.

I went to Chicago(ish) and came back with Mr. Wonderful. It's not what you think. Or maybe it is what you think if you are thinking along the lines of white elephant gifts and Christmas parties with three rounds of gift-trading excitement. I almost came home with a Lite Brite, but it didn't have any of the pegs.

With a self-timer and a trip to a historic estate, you, too, can create beautiful self-portraits.

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

No matter which hotel you stay in wherever you are visiting, the hotel gym will stink. It will also have a television which only plays sports, news, and Anaconda, and a big mirror next to the stationary bike which will allow you to observe that, when pedaling, your legs look like giant grasshopper legs.

Mary: Is there anything you guys want to pick up today in Long Grove?
Judy: don't think so.
John: Maybe there's something Mary wants to pick up, though.
Mary: (unaware that she is totally setting herself up to be the punch line of the new Joke of the Day) Huh?
John: Six two, lanky, dark hair, nice sweater...

May I have another champagne truffle, please?

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Good News, Parenthesized

Despite the rocky start to my morning (see below), I do have some good news. I'm going to Chicago today--all expenses paid by some very good friends. (You know they're very good friends when they won't even let you pay for your own Starbucks.) Not only that, but I get to get off work early to do it. (Thanks, Rach, for covering the end of the day for me.) In addition, I have everything packed into the car already and have even left the apartment in fairly decent order (meaning that I put the clean dishes away, not that I scrubbed the floors). It will be a good day and, most likely, a very good weekend. I'll bring some photos back for you.

Enjoy your weekend.

(One more thing: Thanks to all the fine folks who have fed me fabulous meals in honor of my extended birthday celebration this week. You know who you are, and I think you should be aware of the fact that YOU ABSOLUTELY ROCK!)

Has Anyone Seen My Cocktail Forks?

So I get here early this morning because both parents have to be to work early. It isn't even light yet, and already the children are being snotty and demanding and getting away with it. By the time their mom leaves, both televisions are on (one per kid, how convenient) and the kids are staring blankly at the shiny boxes, pausing only to complain about each other when I come in to say good morning and warn them that TV-time is not going to last long. (It never does when I'm around.) Though the whiny manipulation worked early on, the results will not last.

I am the nanny, by golly, and we are NOT having that kind of day.

We might be having the "Go to your room until you can behave nicely" kind of day, but we are not having a whiny manipulation kind of day. I would sooner poke my eyes out with cocktail forks than teach them to whine and manipulate to get what they want.