Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Truth Is That I Skipped Half of My Running Mileage Today, But Still Feel Entitled to Both Waffle Cut Fries and Bacon

It's been a busy few weeks, and there are a number of things in my life that have suffered for it. There have been a number of things in my life that have benefited from it as well, but still. I've worked hard, I've played hard, I've used up every bit of energy I possess and then some. I'm sure if I outlined the contents of the month, you would agree that I deserve a trip to Greaseville USA and maybe some honey mustard on the side for gratuitous dipping.

Possibly a Shirley Temple, too. We'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The House You Clean May Not Be Your Own

Off and on throughout my working life I have cleaned houses. In high school, when I was short on both life experience and cash, I made a little business of it, charging bargain basement prices and giving the best cleaning any of my clients had experienced or would ever experience again, prompting them even now to ask my mother when they see her, "Would Mary like to come back to Odessa and clean my house? We haven't found anyone to rival her." (I'm sure they haven't, especially since I'm sure my rivals charge more than $20 per cleaning. $20!! I was NUTS!!) At that time I had four houses on my roster, but after that I wised up, not only charging more, but only doing one house regularly at any given time. When I gave up cleaning my mom's best friend's house last spring, leaving me with one job, singular, only one, not two or three, or four, as was my custom, I thought I might never do it again. I liked having one job, singular, only one, not two or three, or four, as was my custom. I thought, "Isn't it time I made a new custom, a one-job custom?" It was a wonderful idea, and a brilliant new custom. I was relaxed and happy.

But then fall hit and I decided to start a photo business to fill in the hours that Mary Liz's preschool time vacated, and that was the end of that new custom; I was clearly on my way back to my old custom. So when a friend who knew of my housecleaning past called to ask if she could offer my number to someone who needed their home cleaned once or twice per month, I said, with some trepidation but with dollar signs dancing in my head nonetheless, "Um, sure." It sounded like good, easy money.


The woman in need of a cleaner eventually called me, and we arranged a meeting. We agreed to a monthly cleaning schedule and a price that seemed reasonable to both of us. Though I've tried to provide a "basic cleaning" before, the truth is that I cannot clean a house without exposing my inner perfectionist, the one that remembers how her mother taught her to clean certain parts of the bathroom with a Qtip, and so it also worked out that she was willing to pay a good deal more than the usual for a thorough cleaning. I agreed to clean all the gunk out of the soap dishes, to dust where no human had dusted before, and she's given me a little extra cash (even above our agreed-upon amount) and fed me lunch each time. It's a good arrangement, albeit a tiring one. I may imagine doing other things with my day once I'm done, but by the time I steer my car into my home parking space, the only things I can manage are showering and napping. The next day, I am stiff and sore from the awkward stretching and reaching and scaling of countertops to reach the tops of wall-sized mirrors.

Yesterday I spent the day cleaning, leaving the glow of a freshly cleaned home for the dinginess that is my own apartment. I thought briefly of trying to clean for myself, but the hot shower and nap won out. My floors would stay dirty, very dirty, for one more day at least, if not longer. It was pitiful, really. Walking into my place, I'm sure no one would guess that I do, in fact, know how to leave a place sparkling and fresh. They'd probably think that I'd never seen a broom. It's a little depressing, really, and I called my friend Nicole, also a part time housecleaner, for consolation. "Is it odd," I asked her voicemail system, "that I can't be bothered to dust my own furniture or wipe up the crap on my floors, yet I am paid good money to make someone else's home shine like the top of the Chrysler Building?" Her reply arrived this morning.

"Girl, if my clients saw my home, the minute I stepped in their homes, they'd fire me. On the spot. Go home, dirty girl. My kitchen floor has enough bits of stuff and food on it to be a feedlot for animals."

I smiled, added my own home lack-of-cleanliness metaphors to the mix, and felt much better. And then I indulged in a little fantasy:

Maybe I'll clean my own home tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Breckenridge Photo EXTRAVAGANZA!!!

blue skies over breckenridge

Go ahead and click the photo; you know you want to.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Just a Quick Note Before There's More

Arriving home today I saw a padded envelope at the top of the stairs, practically creeping under my door. It was my copy of Drunkard's Prayer, Over the Rhine's newest album. The official release date is tomorrow, so I guess this is my special preview. It's on now, and so far, so good. So, so good. The music is beautiful and warm, but before I even heard the first note, I cried. That was from when I read the liner notes.

Pay a visit to Over the Rhine's website and order your copy today. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

For Lunch Today I'm Having Milk and Cookies

Really. 1%. Chocolate chip, still warm from the oven. Perfect.

This afternoon I'll be leaving for Breckenridge with Tim and Julianna, which means that A) I'll be having a great time and B) You won't be hearing from me for a few days. Have a marvelous Easter weekend! I'll return with pictures, I promise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Why It's Good That Kids Act Like Kids: Reason #846

When you come home late from your regular Plaza outing because, hey, you were all having way too much fun to come home on time, and discover that there is chicken parmigiana, but no pasta cooked to serve with it, you can save time by skipping making more pasta and just serve tortilla chips instead. The kids won't ask where the pasta is, they'll just go, "CHIPS!!!!" and act like they've won the lunch lottery.

(And the run-on sentence award goes to:...ME!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Heaven Help Us All, I've Brainwashed Some Children

Shortly after I read Fast Food Nation and stopped eating fast food, I also stopped taking my young charges to McDonald's--much to their dismay. Not only does McDonald's have the greasy food they love, but it is also the location of the incredibly fun PLAYLAND. We'd drive by and they'd look out their windows forlornly. "There it is, Micken Donald's. We don't go to Micken Donald's anymore. Why don't we go there anymore, Mary?" I decided to level with them, not about all of it--how the chickens are fed cow dung and cows are fed chicken dung and how the workers at the slaughterhouses sometimes get injured and even die without anyone holding the money-grubbing corporations which own said slaughterhouses responsible for their poor safety practices and lack of concern for the people they employ--but at least about the fact that the food is less than desirable.

"It's yucky food, guys," I said, "and it won't help make you healthy and strong. It could make you sick, even. I want you to grow up strong and healthy, so I'm not going to take you there anymore. We can eat other fun places where the food is good for you." They nodded solemnly from the back seat. At that point, I questioned my own judgment in this matter, not concerning whether or not it was a good idea that they cease to consume fast food or support the almighty McDonald's corporation, but concerning whether or not their parents might dislike me a wee tiny bit for turning the minds of their children against a place where it is easy to get food--fast--and let them burn off energy on an indoor playset whilst the adult in attendance sips a Diet Coke or perhaps a cheap coffee from the sidelines.

Sure enough, the kids immediately reported back to their parents that McDonald's food was yucky and that they wouldn't go there anymore. Their mom countered by saying that maybe it was okay every now and again. I nodded, bowing to her maternal authority, while silently vowing not to be the one that would take them for that "every now and again." We never went back.

Fast forward to yesterday: Jack's friend Henry came by to ask if Jack could come with him for lunch at McDonald's. At first I said no, with visions of e coli dancing in my head. Then I reconsidered; we'd had a rough day, and it would be a good idea for him to get some energy out somewhere, and I wasn't opposed to separating him from his sister for a couple of hours. Against the fits my conscience was throwing, I said okay. Feeling guilty, I helped Jack into his jacket and waved to Henry's mom to signal that it was okay, Jack could come.

He went. Mary Liz and I sat down to our meal of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and rice. She asked if Jack would eat the yucky food at McDonald's. I said probably, and went a little over the top in my enthusiasm about our own food, which would make us Healthy! And Strong! And Beautiful! Mary Liz started to feel a little sorry for Jack.

This morning in the car, hardly a word was said until Mary Liz looked at Jack and blurted out the question, "While we were eating healthy, strong food, did you really eat that yucky food at McDonald's?'

Jack replied, "I tried to tell Henry that it was yucky food and it's not good for you, but he said it didn't even matter, just eat it. So I ate a cheeseburger, but that's all. I don't want to eat a lot of yucky food."

Mary Liz breathed a sigh of relief, happy that her brother didn't endanger his health a great deal, and I smiled. Mission accomplished. Sorry, McDonald's.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Dear __________

Dear Pillow,
You are a source of comfort in times of stress and exhaustion. Please don't ever leave me. If you do, at least send a replacement, maybe one of those nice down pillows from Eddie Bauer Home. It seems they go on sale several times a year, so this shouldn't be too difficult.

Dear Phae and Eponine,
You are dear, dear cats and I would hate to be without you. However, the hairball thing? Is getting a little old. Could you please vomit into the litter box from now on? Or at least not on my bed? Also, any reduction in shedding would be much appreciated. Thank you and miao.

Dear Megan and Jason,
Thank you so much for the opportunity to photograph your special day. It was a beautiful wedding; I was honored to be a part of it. Here's wishing you much happiness and many congratulations!

Dear Laundry,
I'm really sick of having to do everything for you. If you can't clean yourself, could you at least do your part by folding and putting yourself away once I've made you all fresh and clean?

Dear Recycling,
You've been piling up in that corner in the kitchen for weeks now, and you're starting to make me look like a slob. Please remove yourself to the nearest recycling center as soon as possible.

Dear Dirty Dishes,
How do you manage to multiply like that? HOW? It was enough when the spoons were doing it, but can't you bowls keep it under control?

Dear Jared,
You're my favorite.

Dear Canon Digital Rebel and New Fancy Schmancy Lens,
I heart you. Keep up the good work. You make my job so much easier than it would be if I were still exclusively using film and the AE-1. (But please keep this exchange under wraps--I'd hate to hurt the AE-1's feelings. After all, it was my very first camera love, and there will always be a place for its talents. You can't do everything, you know.)

Dear Photoshop,
As much as I hate to admit it, you've saved me from poor lighting and white balance more times than I can count. I also love the way you allow me to erase unsightly modern conveniences (such as thermostats and electrical cords) from otherwise beautiful photos.

Dear Pajamas and Hello Kitty Hoodie,
You are second only to my pillow when it comes to providing comfort and ease of life. Please don't ever wear out; that would make me very sad indeed.

Dear Jacob's Well,
You may notice my absence from my usual spot in the balcony this evening. Please forgive me; I need some more time with my pajamas and less time with masses of people.

Dear Mom,
Please back off a little on the planning for our annual weekend trip to Branson, Missouri (Home of the Stars). As much as I enjoy this cheesy little tradition that allows me to see movies and ride Fire in the Hole multiple times at Silver Dollar City, I really can't put one more thing on my plate right now. As mentioned above, I need more time with my pajamas and less time with masses of people. Give it time; I'll come around.

Dear Readers,
Thanks for stopping by. Please go check out the photos of Megan and Jason that I've added on my flickr page.

Much love to you all,

Congratulations, Megan & Jason!

on the church steps

Click on the photo to see a few more from their big day. There are six for you to see now, more to come later.

Friday, March 18, 2005

I Don't Have Anything Written For You

But I do have a lot of new photos over at flickr, so you can take a look at those. Click on my St. Patrick's Day Parade friend (who let me have some of her cotton candy, how nice!) Oriana to get on over there.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

If They Were My Children

I'd wear my pajamas to drop them off at school.

But I have a feeling that part of what I'm being paid for is to get dressed to do the job, so that's not really an option for me, now is it?

Oh, well. The folks at Starbucks still appreciate my pajamas just fine.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mary Liz Isms

Coupla good ones for ya:

After hearing that she would, indeed, have to stay at the table until she ate the food she just asked for but decided she didn't want once it was in front of her: "FINE! I'm not going to cover my mouth when I cough!"

[Oh, don't hurt me, Mary Liz, don't hurt me this way--I might die! Or, uh, catch a cold. Whatever.]

Reflecting on how she would behave in the post office in order to get to go to a surprise destination afterwards: "I'm going to stand still and be very nice and a rat."

[Rats are still and very nice and quiet? Huh? I had no idea.]

Friday, March 11, 2005

Three Months Already?

Today marks three months of my experiment. I can hardly believe it's been three months already (making the experiment 25% done) or that it took me nearly that long to need to go to the grocery store.

Last week, after 82 days of eating what I had, I finally graced the aisles of a supermarket. Up to that point I went through several cans of peaches, many freezer-burned items, some dinners with friends who took pity on me, and fifteen days worth of rice and lentils. That's right, fifteen days of just one dish. I thought it was a lot when I cooked it, but I didn't realize just how much it really was. At the end it became a little difficult to have one more bowl, but I calmly reminded myself that around the world there are people who are given the same thing to eat, and not enough of it, either, every day of their lives. I could surely survive fifteen days eating my artificial-flavor-enhanced dish. And besides, after that there was a reward, and boy was it a big one.

I must've spent two hours in the grocery store, rolling my cart slowly up and down the aisles, noticing for the first time just how much food we have at our fingertips. For example, on my list were breakfast bars, so I steered my cart into that aisle and felt instantly overwhelmed. Do I choose granola? Granola with yogurt coating? Ceral bar with fruit? Cereal bar with yogurt? Cereal bar with both fruit and yogurt? Crunchy bar or soft? Full size or bite-sized bits? It was amazing, just the sheer variety, and I had never noticed before. And this? Was only the breakfast bar aisle. Heaven help me when I get to the frozen foods. The variety there is even more astounding, yet I recalled that there had been times when I had come to this very same store and not found anything to satisfy me.

I had been way too picky.

On this shopping trip I became picky in a different way. I considered each of my options carefully based on a nutritional value, price, and how it would feel to eat it if there was nothing left. I passed by the Easter candy and headed for the whole grains. I left the bagel bites and chose pizza with a whole wheat crust. I thought about what it means to live with such privilege, to be able to choose freely what I feed myself, and I bought accordingly. I like to think I bought fairly wisely. Time will tell, I suppose.

By the time I hit the check-out lane, my cart was full. At home, my fridge, freezer, cabinet, and snack basket were quickly filled by all that bounty. I felt abundantly blessed, more so than I've ever felt after grocery shopping. Something that is simple and ordinary and everyday in our part of the world became something special. And that? Was very cool.

On the clothing side of things, I have been having a good go of it as well. I often look in my closet and think, "Why would I ever think I need more than this?" My closet, you see, is quite full. So are my drawers and also the trunk where I store the out of season clothes. I have been blessed indeed; it's just taken a little experiment to reveal the extent of the blessing. Somehow, by being able to pass by all those stores with no cause to go in, I feel a little bit free.

During these three months, I have had many people tell me that they could never do what I am doing. I don't believe that's true. While what I am doing may seem like a lot, I know many others who have given up far more in order to change their own lives, and in turn the lives of others, making what I have given up seem quite small. My sacrifice has caused me to think more about them, and to think more of those around the world who don't have the choice to consume or to hold back, for everything is held back from them already. My prayer this month is that I would learn to be more of a blessing to them, as they, by the lives they live, have been a blessing to me.

Happy Friday, everyone. May you and yours be blessed.

Guess What?!

fresh from the box

It came today.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

That Which Has Never Happened Before Happened Today And May Never Happen Again

Please bear with me while I record it for posterity.

Today the two ragamuffins and I headed over to the pediatrician's office for Mary Liz's four year check-up. I've taken them to the pediatrican many times over the past three years, and let me tell ya, it has never been fun. For starters, the well child waiting room is about as big as my bathroom (which, as many of you know, is smaller than most closets), and the staff hasn't always been very organized. Additionally, the pediatrician himself, while I am sure he is a whiz of a doctor, has the bedside manner of a drill sergeant. Every time I've gone in with one or both of the children, he has managed to make at least one condescending comment (such as, "You didn't KNOW Jack had stuck something in his ear while he was at preschool?" as if I had some hidden monitor on Jack's person and could review the tapes in all my spare moments) and bark orders at me. The man is not very pleasant, really.

So today I steeled myself for the inevitable, reminded myself that I am a capable nanny and that the doctor probably has deep-rooted personal issues which cause him to be such an ass. We entered the tiny waiting room, I checked Mary Liz in, and soon (so soon! miraculous! the efficiency!) we were on our way to weighing, measuring, eye chart checks, blood pressure cuffs, etc. Dr. Ass (name changed to protect the, uh, innocent) came in and informed us that this young guy standing next to him was Josh from KU Med and he'd be checking Mary Liz out first and then the Dr. himself would return and check her as well. Two check-ups! No waiting! Lucky! Josh (who I think I should set up with some nice, single Kansas City girl--anyone? anyone? He's clean and he wears good cologne and he'll be a doctor. Girls? E-mail me if you're interested, or just borrow a kid and take him or her in for a check-up) checked Mary Liz out and then Dr. Ass returned, checked her over himself and asked if I had any concerns or questions. I asked about her dry skin and her lingering cough. We discussed her need for more activity and less food (we spoke in code, by the way, so as not to make a big deal of it and give her a poor body image at the tender age of four) and I shared with him that I try to do little things that will get extra activity in, like parking far away from wherever we're going. And then it happened, the magical moment, the moment I never thought would come: He said, "Good thinking." It was a compliment from Dr. Ass, who only barks orders and insinuates that I'm a failure as a nanny. And then, THEN, when we were leaving, he said, "Nice to see you again," and I thought I would die of shock right then and there.

But I didn't because then he might have said something like, "You shouldn't die of shock in front of the children," and maybe add, "and don't forget never to spank and always to check their ears with a scope so you'll know if they've stuck anything in there or have an ear infection they haven't complained about." During a special moment, a special Nice-to-see-you-again moment, you'd better believe I wasn't about to screw up.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

My Head Would Be Getting So Big That It Would Explode, Except That It Won't Now That I've Been Brought Back To Reality

You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Yesterday afternoon I met with Jack's teacher for a nanny-teacher conference, which was supposed to be a parent-teacher conference, but neither parent had made an appointment, so she asked if she could just go over the information with me and have me relay it. Of course I said sure. I wanted to get some feedback about Jack, and if his mom was too busy to come in, it was just as well that I did it myself. (This is not meant to be condescending towards her, by the way, just a statement of the facts.)

I was a little bit nervous; Jack is sometimes a bit, ah, strange at home, making some pretty interesting noises accompanied by even more interesting body movements, and I was worried that he'd been doing it at school, too, and that his teacher would ask me about it. I was worried that he wasn't learning what he was supposed to or that his short attention span was shorter than most. I was a little afraid to find out what someone else's opinion of him was. Would she think I was a failure as a nanny if he wasn't doing brilliantly in school?

What she did tell me was that his attention span is short, but she believes it will develop in time, that his focus is social interaction, and tasks that reinforce that are the ones he excels at (such as when he works on projects with a friend). She praised his interest in math and his verbal skills. She said that there are some things he needs to work on, but nothing that is unusual given his age and the fact that he attends school just two days per week. She said "nothing to worry about" several times and mentioned how polite he is, even when he doesn't follow through with a task. And then she read what she had written in the additional comments section, which is that at school Jack is "calm, easy-going, and fun. He is a true delight!"



And she thanked me for sharing him with her and my head started to swell and ohmygoodness I know he's not my child, but I like to think that I can take credit for some of that delight. I thought about it off and on last night and then again this morning, and I was pretty proud of myself.

And then I got to work and the kids commenced hitting and spitting on one another and playing with things I told them they couldn't play with, thus revoking this week's Starbucks privileges, and I thought, "Oh, well, nevermind..."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Yes, I'm Having Kind Of A Stressful Day

So to combat that, I'm going to make a list of things that make my day brighter:

1. Thanks to Uncle Sam accepting extra of my pay and then giving it back in a big lump sum, I was able to order an iPod. Finally. It will be here within a week.

2. My injured right leg is feeling remarkably good, making this morning's run the easiest in months.

3. I have Honeycomb cereal in my cabinet. Two boxes, each with 25%! MORE! CEREAL! FREE!

4. I have two trips coming up soon--one to Colorado and one to see Jared in Europe.

5. I just finished a working on a big job (one that was a bigger hassle than I ever imagined it would be) in Photoshop and now all I have to do is print, frame, and deliver. Piece of cake.

6. Babies are cute.

7. My cat is sleeping on my scanner and snoring little kitty snores.

8. I'm about to take a nap.

9. The pajama pants I've been wearing for most of the day have eskimos on them.

10. I don't have a car payment.

11. My apartment smells like clean laundry.

12. I have a very encouraging boyfriend who sends me great e-mails and fun comics all the time.

13. At this moment, I am not in want of anything.

I'll leave it at lucky 13. Do your best to have a good day; you can be sure I'll be striving to do the same.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

This Is Going To Be So Boring You'll Go Back To Reading The Newspaper

So I went to the grocery store the other night (FINALLY!--but you'll hear more about that when I give you my 3 month experiment update on the 11th) and was stunned by the variety. I guess when one grocery shops on a regular basis, it is easy to go in and out without noticing the many enticing foods, some of which you may or may not have read disconcerting things about in the recent past. It is probably also easy to run in and get right out when you are not hungry all the time. And lately, I am hungry all the time. There were plenty of food selections available that would have been less than healthy but probably quite satisfying (like those waxy chocolate mini donuts, which were even on sale), but I had read this article in Runner's World about eating right, and I'd just registered for the Pikes Peak Marathon the night before, so I was all into choosing as many healthy foods as possible. Seeing as I'd be running up and down a freaking mountain in the foreseeable future and all, I thought I should be in tip-top shape, and good nutrition is a piece of that puzzle, no matter how much I wish it weren't. I did pick up some ingredients to make brownies and cookies for when I need to bring a snack somewhere, but mostly stuck to things that are good for me, like yogurt and lean variety frozen dinners.

All that is to lead up to what I really want to say which is: Man, I could really go for those waxy chocolate mini donuts right now. It's probably good I didn't buy them; I'd eat the whole box.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

There's a Whole New Group of Beautiful Folks...

...over at Self-Portrait Day. Click on over and make some new friends.

Self-Portrait Day

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Just Now When I Was In The Bathroom, I Heard The Most Encouraging Thing

After years of being unable to use the bathroom at work without a little someone either opening the door and walking right in or yelling something from the other side, I made a rule: The nanny gets to pee in peace. If you need to tell me or show something? Unless someone is bleeding profusely or their head has fallen right off, you must wait until I exit the bathroom to greet me with news.

This morning while in the bathroom I heard some commotion (commotion meaning: a screaming match between siblings)and then the inevitable sound of feet stomping off to find me so that I might know how the stomping party had been wronged and why the screaming was okay even though we have discussed eighty-five kajillion times that screaming is not an acceptable way to communicate. Before the stomps got close to the door, I called out, "It'll have to wait, and furthermore, you'd better think about how you're treating each other, because we are going to Starbucks today." The stomping stopped, the feet turned and ran back from whence they came. In the distance I heard this sweet sound:

"We're going to STARBUCKS! Let's be nice!"

See how these sorts of situations eventually work to our benefit? Brilliant.

Can You Believe I Almost Forgot To Tell You That There Are More! New! Photos! Yay! ??

I almost forgot a lot of things today. I also just plain forgot a lot of things. But lucky for you, I remembered to do this. Enjoy!

Go ahead, click on the pretty flower.

valentine flower