Friday, December 04, 2009

Mommy's Little Metal Head

Ever seen a kid hanging upside down over the back of a couch, laughing her little head off because the dog is licking her feet? Did the kid you saw have what looked like a piece of metal growing from her gum? No? Yeah, we thought that was pretty weird, too.

A few weeks ago Hannah lost two of her top, front teeth: the big one in front (technical term is “the #8”) and the little one to the side of it (technical term is “I forgot to ask”). The #8 tooth was growing in and seemed to be taking up the majority of the space created by the loss of both teeth. The dentist said the tooth being crowded would eventually make an appearance, but it would be forced to go in front of or behind its pushy sibling.

A week ago, it seemed as though the heretofore-missing tooth was indeed emerging—directly behind, and seemingly glued to, old #8. Hannah said she could feel it, but that it didn’t hurt and, as it was just the slight swelling of the gum, I thought I’d give it a couple of days before calling the dentist.

The next day I saw what looked like metal. At first, Thomas thought it was just that second tooth with spit on it. So he wiped it off. Not spit. Metal. Well, could it be tin foil from a burrito wrapper? But it didn’t move or tear when we wiped it with a napkin. So I had my friend, Andi, look at it. “WTF?? How did she get metal in her mouth?!” Exactly.

Now, most people might have only thought “What on Earth did she eat?” I always like to run a parallel search, so my second—and temporarily dominant—thought track was “OMG—when she was two and tripped in the playroom and got her very first black eye, did she ONLY hit her cheek?” And “Was there ever any other time when she fell and hit or cut her mouth . . .” Fortunately, sanity returned—after all, something like that would have shown up on an X-ray at some point, right? (Turns out, the technical answer is “probably.”)

On Monday, I spent 20 minutes on the phone with the dentists’ office, trying to explain why we needed to be seen, and why it wasn’t going to wait until next week. They couldn’t get her in until Wednesday, so I took a photo just in case the thing suddenly disappeared and they start thinking mommy’s a little crazy:

[[photo deleted.]]

On Wednesday afternoon, as we waited for the dentist, Hannah kept picking at her tooth. For a moment, I thought that it really had been tin foil and that she’d finally managed to remove it. But she had just pushed it further up under her gum, adding to the time it would take Dr V to extract this:

No, not the pencil. That's a 3mm metal disc. Not a sequin. A rigid, metal disc that had been wedged between her gum and tooth. We still don't know how it ended up there, but have to assume that it was in something Hannah ate, and that somehow she hadn't noticed it .

Dr V said we were fortunate that there was no infection, just a little swelling and irritation. Apparently she sees a lot of kids who wait too long before coming in and end up with a massive infection--but this was the first time she had to remove a metal disc.

And it's not just Hannah. One of these days, I'll post the photo of the broken key that Charlotte found in her Jamba Juice.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Morning Ritual

I am not a morning person, as many of you already know. But, as I have children, I have to get up early whether I like it or not (NOT!). To save a lot of strife so early in the day, there is a ritual that the girls have known since infancy.

And now you are so unlucky as to get a peek at it:

Bedhead, or, why I don't go to bed with my hair wet.

Jeezus Edith! Do NOT ask me to do algebra in my head before I have coffee.
Strike that. Do not EVER ask me to do algebra in my head.

Seriously. Not yet. Fine, yes.
Luke Skywalker can come to dinner.

You know the rule! Two cups! Mommy needs two cups of coffee.
Wait . . .

No really. Wait!
Almost there. . .

All better!

Time to go and scrape out the curls!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Do I Get the Crazy Dogs?

I'm starting to think it's me.

Argus was afraid of lightning. Thunder. Fireworks. The vacuum cleaner. All fairly normal for a dog. But he also disliked rain, snow, chirping smoke detectors and the occasional Chihuahua.

Kairos is taking it a leap forward, turning almost overnight into Crazy McTwitchypants. He seems to have hit some weird fear stage--which typically occurs around eight weeks (he's now one year plus)--and the list of things he's afraid of grows almost daily.

First it was men. Not Thomas, but pretty much every other man he came across, even those we had welcomed into our home and introduced to him as friends. Like Scott, for instance. He stayed overnight and every time he managed to leave and return to Kairos' line of sight, he was greeted with renewed barking and growling.

The first time I noticed Kairos being fearful around men was at the dog park. I was sitting at the picnic table when some random guy came up and sat down. Kairos ran over, pressed himself against my leg and started barking. At the time I thought, "Oh! How sweet. He's protecting me." But no. He growls at the man who comes to school to pick up his son. He shies away from men on the street, and those hanging out in their own yards. He doesn't lunge or jump at them; he would just prefer that they take themselves elsewhere.

And then there's the shrub. The same shrub he's seen every day since he was six weeks old. It's in our front yard and he has to pass it every time he goes out to pee, to get Hannah from school, or just to go on a walk. Same shrub, but now he tries to run out into the street to avoid it. I thought, "Well, is it touching him? I wouldn't like branches in my hair, so maybe that's the problem." I trimmed the shrub. No luck. He still doesn't like it.

Kairos also won't go outside by himself. Not even for a romp around the back yard. We put him out; he hops up on a chair and barks at the window until someone opens the door again. And now he won't cross the playroom to get to that back door. He won't even cross the threshold into the playroom.

But hey, I’d rather have him freaking out about the shrubbery and demanding to be carried across the playroom to the back door than have him poop out socks, headbands and other random bits of fabric twice a day.*

Good thing he’s really cute--and sweet. I guess he’s growing on me.

* I’m assuming you’ve already heard enough about that particular quirk!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Me, in response to Charlotte whining about wanting to turn the TV on "all by myselk!" [sic]:

"Dude, stop whining--I said I would give you the remote!"

"Um, I thought we agreed that you would not be calling anyone "DUDE" anymore?"

"We agreed that I wouldn't call you "dude" anymore."

"Yeah, well, I don't think Charlotte likes it, either."

Noted. I'll add that to my List of Things to Stop Saying by New Year's Eve.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Military Spouse Appreciation

Yesterday, Veterans' Day, I was thinking that there should also be a day of appreciation for military spouses. I was very happy to find that there is--it's just not well publicized--well, not to the general public, anyway.

I know that the men and women of of the military truly appreciate the work that their spouses do to keep the family together--often through long deployments, to pack up when it's time to transfer again and a thousand other little things that have to be done to just survive the rigors of the military life.

The date for 2010 hasn't been set, but it'll be some time in May, which is Military Appreciation Month--which I also did not know.

So if you have family or friends in the military, plan to send a little thank you gift in May. An Army may march on its stomach, but it needs someone to make its food*, wash its clothes and take care of its children.

* Obviously when deployed, someone is paid to do the laundry and cooking.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Project Runway, Hannah Style

This weekend, Hannah made her first evening gown:

She constructed it from one of the cloaks left over from her Harry Potter birthday party and a hair clip that looks like a crystal flower. Not bad for a seven-year old, eh?

Monday, November 09, 2009

More Fun With Apraxia!

Charlotte's speech therapy is going well, well enough, in fact, that I'm not as worried about her level of intelligibility when she start kindergarten next fall.


Some sound combinations are still difficult, particularly when there are two hard sounds in the same word, or one at the end of the first word and another at the beginning of the word following.

Take "cupcake," for instance. Say it slowly. Notice how much the shape of your mouth changes between the "p" and the "c" sounds. Charlotte used to insert a soft "a" in between sounds like these, so "cupcake" would become "cup-ah-cake." But now she has decided that it's easier to just replace the "p" with an "m," and so we are left with her excitedly, loudly announcing to the entire store that Whole Foods has "come cakes!"

My friend, Kevin Murphy" is now "Target Monkey," though I'm still not sure how "Kevin" morphed to "Target." "Murphy" to "Monkey" is a bit more understandable.

"Like my book" becomes "Lick my butt," while "Leave me alone," becomes "Lick me alone!" This last one is handy in diffusing arguments, as most people are unable to stay angry while laughing their heads off.

And as for Charlotte's inadvertent adaptation of one of the songs from Phineas and Ferb? I think that Candace, the character who sings it, would appreciate the change from "I'm gonna bust those boys" to "Me gonna bust some balls."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Time for a Little Holiday Baking

This gingerbread is absolutely scrumptious in any season, but to me, it definitely tastes like autumn!

It's from the book With a Measure of Grace: the Stories and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant, by Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle. They own a Buddhist-based restaurant, Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah.

All of the recipes look wonderful (even the pork recipes, which, coming from me, is really saying something!), but the gingerbread is one I keep coming back to.

Dark Magic Gingerbread

3 cups white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp Chimayo chili
1-1/2 sticks butter
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups dark molasses
1-1/4 cups boiling water
1/2 cup diced pear
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13" baking pan

2. Stir or sift well together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter until it's creamy. Gradually add eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on high until batter is light in color and texture, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly beat in the molasses.

4. Add flour mixture and stir with a spoon until it's just combined. You don't want to overmix this cake.

5. Stir in boiling water slowly, mixing well, then add the diced pears and crystallized ginger.

6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed on top.

Butterscotch Sauce

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or Scotch whiskey

1. Combine butter, water and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium hear, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted.

2. Add sugar and stir until it's really dissolved--completely smooth and no linger making gritty scraping sounds.

3. Increase heat and boil without stirring until the mixture starts to brown around the edges. Start stirring as this point, and continue to stir as it thickens and turns a darker brown.

4. When it just barely begins to smoke, remove from heat and pour in cream (be careful here, because it can sputter and get kind of wild). Stir until it's completely dissolved. If it's stubborn and won't melt, place briefly over low heat and stir the lumps out.

5. Add salt and vanilla or Scotch and stir well.

The sauce will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator and is great to have on hand. It can be reheated in the microwaver or a double boiler. (Also very good on vanilla ice cream!)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Random Observation

You know things in the auto industry are bad when they're offering a pumpkin with a test drive.

But it can't be all bad--you can get up to two per family.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Random Act of Kindness

One day last week (Wednesday, if you must know) I left the hospital in somewhat less than a good mood. I'd just had another test in a seemingly endless array precipitated by the recent weight loss. There I was slightly irritated (ok, so that's not far from normal), when I made a right turn into a construction zone I hadn't previously noticed.

"Great. Frickem, frackem. I'm going to be even later. I just want to go home and take a nap. Grumble grumble whine. Effing great."

I noticed a flash of blue and yellow out of the corner of my eye. "Jeezus. Please don't be another symptom."

But, no, Mel. It's not actually all about you today.

The flash I saw was a construction worker who had dropped his equipment* and run to a woman preparing to cross the busy street. I watched as he gently tapped her on the arm and spoke to her. When she turned, I could see the long white cane in her right hand, stretching out to feel for the curb.

She answered him, tucked her hand under his arm and smiled as they crossed the street together, both chatting all the way.

I tend to be a little on the cynical side, but a lot of the time is to hide the fact that stuff like this makes me weepy. Or maybe it makes me weepy because I tend to be cynical. Either way, it was a lovely, touching thing to see and I drove home smiling, with nary a grumble.

* Please. I have no idea what it was. :-)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Seriously. There's Nothing Wrong With Me!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being oddly excited to go for my physical. It was, after all, the first time in years I wasn't dreading the first step of the process: the weighing in. I'd gained . . . . well, let's just say a bit of weight since my late 20s. I realize that this is, in general, a normal part of aging (particularly for those of us not really into the gym culture), but that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

Anyway, quick recap: from around the end of July until the beginning of September I'd lost 10 pounds. The doctor wasn't really happy about that--apparently it's not normal--but agreed to let it go as I was happy and healthy. Caveat: I had to agree to come back if I lost 5-10 more in the next month. Three weeks later I was back, down another seven, rib cage on display.

In the past two weeks, I've had a full blood workup, a pelvic ultrasound (as unpleasant as I'd remembered from my two pregnancies), and a chest X-ray. So far, we've ruled out:

  • Gym-rat-itis
  • Leukemia ("WTF? You were looking for that?!")
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Anything having to do with my lungs
  • Thyroid disease (runs in my family)
Today I "got" to have an abdominal CT scan. Fun! You have to get there an hour and a half before your appointment time so that you can choke down of a delicious mixture of tang and iodine. They gave it to me two cups at a time, with instructions to finish it within half an hour. Then the tech brought two more cups. Half an hour later, praying that I wouldn't vomit, I finished the last drop, putting the cup down as if it were a shot glass on a bar. Done and done.

Not quite.

The tech brought two more cups. I yelped. Involuntarily and not quietly. Part of the reason I was there was because I have no appetite and feel full after just a few bites. 64 ounces of the Tang/Iodine cocktail wasn't going down easy. And while I didn't vomit, I have a sneaking suspicion as to why there are no potted plants in the waiting room.

I won't know anything until tomorrow at least. I'm not worried because I already know what the CT will show. Nothing--same as the rest of the tests. So this may be the one time when it really is all in my head--my body just decided to dump the weight and I'm OK with that.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

LCM Has Not Left the Building

I haven't closed up shop, really. I've just been a tad under the weather and still trying to manage the girls' new and overlapping schedules.

Left Coast Mom will soon return to a quasi-regular schedule.

Now poor, neglected Bipolar Gemini is another story.

Check back here on Monday!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And This is Why You Need Sunscreen

The BlogHer '09 Expo was packed with vendors hoping to win over the hundreds of bloggers who strolled its aisles in between sessions, many of them hawking wares I wasn't really interested in (McDonald's, Tide, Mary Kay Cosmetics) and some I visited just for the freebies (Who am I to turn my nose up at a chocolate star on a stick just because it was handed out by the Bounce laundry fairy, a soft-ish man wearing a diaper and wings?)

My favorite booth turned out to belong to Eucerin, because they had the most useful demonstration and one they personalized and sent home with you. They were promoting their Everyday Protection with 30 SPF and had flown a special camera in from Germany to help drive home the point that, really, you ought to wear your sunscreen (and really, I ought to have posted this a couple of months ago!). Oh, and no smoking, either.

The following photos are 1) what I looked like at 9:00 a.m (after being awake until 4am, putting on almost no makeup and being told not to smile); 2) what I will look like at 72, given that I do wear sunscreen and no longer smoke; and 3) what I would look like at 72 if I didn't wear sunscreen and/or started smoking again.

Eh, not too bad. Next time try getting a little more sleep first.

Seriously? Not even a hairstyle change?
I do like how they got the whole bottle in this shot.

I thought they killed the Emperor at the end of Star Wars/Return of the Jedi?
Maybe this is his sister? She should look into that whole cloak thing.

So wear your sunscreen, even in the winter, even if you do live in an area more apt to be rainy. And I'm sorry if the last photo made you a little queasy.

Monday, September 14, 2009


While we were having breakfast this morning, Zsu Zsu the chicken started squawking.

Be quiet Zsu Zsu! Bad chicken!

Zsu Zsu really is annoying but Sophia is being very good today!

Hannah, um, Sophia is dead.

I know! And so she's being really quiet, isn't she?

After an altercation with her friend Jack:

Well he started it!

No, she started it!


Well then.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Confessions of an Ex-Peet’s Girl, Or: I Heart Philz

My near-obsessive love of coffee came a bit late, which may surprise those of you who assumed that my mother put café au lait in my sippy cup.

In college, I didn’t have extra money to spend on the good stuff, so the coffee was whatever was on sale and the pots of it I drank while waiting tables. In other words, not exactly the finest. There was the occasional splurge at Mischa in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. But it was Thomas who introduced me to Peet’s Coffee. Having lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years, he had become addicted enough to make sure that he received a steady supply once he'd moved to the East Coast. It was not a luxury he was willing to give up.

And then we moved to California and there was a Peet’s within walking distance of our house. The Starbucks was closer but, as Hannah once told a barista there, “Mommy doesn’t do Starbucks.” (She was three years old.) Both Hannah and Charlotte spent not small-ish amounts of infancy and toddler-hood smelling of freshly brewed coffee.

Charlotte’s pre-k is two blocks from a Peet’s. While she was still adjusting to preschool, I’d skulk outside the door for the five minutes it took for her screams to fade away, beat a hasty retreat to the end of the typically long line at Peet’s and then vulture for a table where I could work for a couple of hours.

Being a tad predictable in my coffee habits, I always ordered a non-fat café au lait and a plain croissant. After two years of this, one of the guys at the counter, Mike, started to just ask “café ole with a croissant?” But as the wait for a table got longer and longer, I began to think about finding a new place. And then my friend Elisa told me about Philz Coffee, which had opened down the street.

Philz is an independent coffee shop, founded in San Francisco in 2003. They have five stores there and have finally branched out, with cafes on the peninsula (Palo Alto), in the South Bay (San Jose), and the Easy Bay (Berkeley). I’m lobbying for another in Redwood City. There are currently 20 blends to choose from, which may seem intimidating at first, but the staff are able to suggest a coffee blend based on your usual coffee drinking habits. They also take care of the cream and sugar, so ensure a perfect cup of coffee. Oh, and if you don’t like it, they’ll make you something else.

I felt guilty about it at first, almost as though I was cheating on Peet's. But now I spend a bit of time at Philz, and as soon as I walk in, they ask if I want large Ambrosia. Yes, yes I do. Low-fat and no sugar, right? Yep. One day I’ll branch out, but for now, I like that someone knows what I want. Even if it’s “just” coffee.

The only problem I have with Philz, at least the Palo Alto cafe, is that if you have a Mac you generally can’t get on the network—free WiFi isn’t exactly helpful if you can’t access it. But I’m not going to blame this on my new favorite coffee shop. I’ll blame it on AT&T instead.

If you’re not fortunate enough to live in the Bay Area, order a pound or so. You won’t be sorry.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Again With the Potty Mouth

I'm so glad that the girls are not what you'd call light sleepers.

Last night I was having issues with Facebook, Blogger and Wordpress and so was using the "driving words"*, and not quietly, right there in the dining room.

Though, if I was having problems with Facebook, Blogger and Wordpress, perhaps the issue wasn't with Facebook, Blogger OR Wordpress after all.


* Driving words are those that you are not allowed to use until you are old enough to drive. No matter where you hear them.

Wading into the Healthcare Morass

A few days ago, thousands of Facebook users posted some version of the following as their status:

“No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status.”

I’ve been meaning to do a post on the whole healthcare mess anyway, but one friend pushed me to finally get around to it, and with just two basic points of his argument. The first: In Canada, often cited by proponents on both sides of the issue, it’s not as easy to get an appointment and can in fact, take an absurd amount of time; and two: In the U.S., anyone can go into an emergency room and get treatment. They cannot be turned away.

I can’t speak authoritatively to the Canadian side of the argument, though the Letters to the Editor page of the San Jose Mercury News and many other papers include testimonials from Canadians and former Canadians praising the Canadian healthcare system. There are, of course, also letters from those Canadians who prefer the U.S. healthcare system.

As to the second point, that anyone can go to an emergency room and be treated, that is true. It is also true that waits can be long. It is also true that someone still has to pay for that care. Patients without insurance will be sent the bill, and most likely for a much higher rate than the rates negotiated with the insurance companies.

As you may have read in an earlier post about our recent trip to Wyoming, Charlotte ended up in the emergency room due to altitude sickness. The frequent vomiting had led to a small esophageal tear that caused her to start vomiting blood. The hospital kindly mailed us a copy of the bill they had sent to the insurance company, in case it was denied and we had to pay out of pocket. In addition to a co-pay of $35, the charges included a $135 physician fee and $400 for the four anti-nausea pills they sent us home with. And there is also the matter of the ambulance. The Park Service sent that bill off to the insurance company and we still don’t know if it’s covered or not.

In contrast, a friend of Thomas’s was climbing Mont Blanc in France—another country whose healthcare system is continually reviled by many conservatives—when he also ended up with altitude sickness. He was taken to a hospital where they treated him right away, for the exorbitant cost of 20 euros (about $28 U.S).

I think that what a lot of people don’t understand is that those without insurance are still expected to pay. Every day newspapers carry articles on people who lost their homes or who have to choose between medication and food. Medi-Care will pick up some of the costs, but who pays for the Medi-Care itself? You do. As do the Medi-Care recipients.

From the Medi-Care website:

Medicare Premiums for 2009:

Part A: (Hospital Insurance) Premium

* Most people do not pay a monthly Part A premium because they or a spouse has 40 or more quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

* The Part A premium is $244.00 per month for people having 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

* The Part A premium is $443.00 per month for people who are not otherwise eligible for premium-free hospital insurance and have less than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

Part B: (Medical Insurance) Premium

$96.40 per month*

Medicare Deductible and Coinsurance Amounts for 2009:

Part A: (pays for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care) For each benefit period Medicare pays all covered costs except the Medicare Part A deductible (2009 = $1,068) during the first 60 days and coinsurance amounts for hospital stays that last beyond 60 days and no more than 150 days.

For each benefit period you pay:


A total of $1,068 for a hospital stay of 1-60 days.


$267 per day for days 61-90 of a hospital stay.


$534 per day for days 91-150 of a hospital stay (Lifetime Reserve Days).


All costs for each day beyond 150 days

Skilled Nursing Facility Coinsurance


$133.50 per day for days 21 through 100 each benefit period.

Part B: (covers Medicare eligible physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment)


$135.00 per year. (Note: You pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for services after you meet the $135.00 deductible.)

Also: Except under special circumstances, you are not eligible for Medi-Care until you’re 65. Exemptions include being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or if you are disabled.

NOTE: There are 35 pages of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to wade through. notes that “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allocates approximately $800 or more each month per Medicare recipient to pay Medicare benefits. The amount varies by geographic region on a yearly basis.”

Which means that, for a lot of people, there is still going to be extra to pay every month.

Let’s use me as an example again.

A couple of months ago, our insurance company inadvertently dropped our prescription coverage. I found this out on a Saturday. We were at the pharmacy because the auto-fill on Charlotte’s anti-seizure medication hadn’t gone through, and I didn’t notice until we were down to one dose. The insurance company very kindly gives its employees Saturdays and Sundays off, so either Charlotte would be out of medication for a couple of days, or I would pay it out-of-pocket.

“How much?” I naively asked.

$609 for a 30-day supply. $609. And that’s for the generic. Although we’re fortunate enough that we could have paid for it if absolutely necessary, I panicked. But because I take the same medication (though in my case it’s as a mood stabilizer) in a higher dose, I decided to split my pills, assuming that we would be able to straighten out the problem on Monday. How many people have to split their pills on a regular basis, just because it's medication or food?

$609 for the month. Add to this $482 (retail value) for my medications and you’re looking at almost $1,100 a month, just in prescriptions. I don’t know about you, but $13,000 a year would be a little hard to swing. Of course we could cut that down by almost half because I would drop as many of my pills as possible. After all, Charlotte has seizures. I’m just a little crazy.

This is a seriously long post, so I’ll just close with “More to come.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yay! It's Time for My Physical!

UPDATE: The doctor was a little freaked out that I had lost 10 pounds in less than six weeks, but was willing let it go, for the time being, since I was happy about it and obviously had no other issues. However. If I lose another 5-10 in the next month I have to go back. Something about a scope to look at the lining of my stomach. If ever there were an incentive to eat . . . Sadly, I had to spit out a lovely salmon and avocado roll lost night because my stomach said, "Uh, no. I'm done for the night." Oh and, I didn't get out of having another mammogram Bah.

"Seriously?" you ask, "YAY?"

Yes! For the first time in waay too long, I'm going to hear a doctor say "You've lost a bit of weight since the last time you were here. Which was . . . not that long ago."

Nothing to explain. Nothing to test for. I'm not sick. I just inadvertently stumbled upon what a friend recently told me was the "ELF Diet (Eat Less Food)."

Sometime around the middle of July I just stopped wanting to eat. Even when I was hungry, I'd only be able to manage a few bites before feeling as though one morsel more would be throwing a gauntlet at the feet of the Vomit God.

People keep asking "Are you stressed?" to which I am forced to reply, "Do you even know me?"

I am a medium-beige skin suit wrapped around a compressed, person-shaped mound of stress, nerves, anxiety and irritation. Oh, and caffeine receptors.

In other words, yes. Yes I am stressed. But probably not out of my normal range.

This not eating went on for three weeks or so. I wasn't ever faint from hunger--well, maybe once or twice--so my body was obviously OK with the amount of food it was getting. And I was OK with the amount of extra room I found in my jeans.

And then, one day, the feeling sick part of it just went away and I discovered the truth in the saying that it takes 21 days to form a habit (look, Ma! 14 million results--it must be true! Now go and Bing it instead so you can whittle it down to a more manageable eight million). I eat smaller meals. I don't snack between meals. And in what some might see as a sign that I am seriously ill, I turned down chocolate cake at Pamplemousse.

But here's where the whole thing gets weird, though "obsessive" might be the better word choice.

I caught myself planning the outfit to wear to the doctor's office. Not to look hot or anything--I like my doctor but she's not really my type--but I was doing a mental weight comparison of certain pieces of clothing. And rather than simply tossing this idea and putting myself in time out, I changed clothes three times and weighed myself in each outfit. Yes. I. Did.

You know how the nurse always says it's OK to leave on the sweater, just take off the shoes because it doesn't make that much of a difference anyway? It's so not true. The jeans and t-shirt weighed 1.2 pounds more than the sundress. And when you have two kids and don't get to the gym as often as you should and the last nurse you saw said that no one liked the weigh-in, especially when they didn't feel good about themselves anyway, that 1.2 pounds is huge. I don't care that the number difference is all smoke and mirrors--I care that the number on the "permanent record" is as close as possible to what I actually weigh.

And once I cross that little psychological finish line I've set for myself, I'll probably have to stop by Pamplemousse for a slice of Chocolate Chocolate cake.

I only hope that the doctor won't make me get a mammogram this year. Little known (at least to men) secret of weight loss: The boobs are usually the first to go, making it that much harder to get a pretty picture in the Boob Smasher 3000. Details to come!

Lucky, lucky you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Because It Wouldn't Be a Vacation Without an Odd Sort of Adventure

Thomas had a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a couple of weeks ago and the girls and I decided to tag along.

We arrived at the Jackson Lodge in Grand Tetons National Park on Thursday evening, after a day spent exploring Yellowstone.

Evening at the Lodge

The admonishment of the day, "Drink more water. I don't care--drink more anyway." The admonishment of the evening, "Give me another glass of wine! Er, please."

Friday morning, Charlotte slept way late, even factoring in the one hour time difference.

At 10:30, she sat up and immediately threw up. Once it was cleaned up, she announced in a perfectly normal, happy voice that she felt better. Unfortunately we took her at her word. On a short walk to the stables to see the horses, she ate a bit of banana, promptly throwing it up.

Hannah on Smokey the next day.

Back to the cottage, where she once again, she announced, "Me feel better!" Forty minutes passed with no vomiting, no fever, no real change in her usual behavior. So we again took her at her word and hopped in the car to explore Jackson. Fortunately I grabbed a towel from the bathroom first.

Charlotte and I spent the rest of the day at the cottage, where she alternated sleeping with vomiting. After awhile, she couldn't even swallow the water before throwing up. I sent Thomas to the conference's opening night reception with Hannah and waited for Charlotte to wake up from a three hour nap.

At 7:30, after Thomas dropped Hannah off at the cottage and went back for the opening session, Charlotte said she had to go potty and went to the bathroom.

"Yay," I thought. "Still peeing = not dehydrated!"

But why is she vomiting blood?

The on-site clinic had already closed for the day, so the front desk sent over one of the rangers, who, upon hearing the words "child vomiting blood," immediately called the EMT, who took her vitals, noticed that she was moving between very alert and very sleepy, and immediately called for an ambulance.

After taking her vitals for the second time, Gary (the ranger/paramedic) recommended that Charlotte go to the hospital. Right away. In the ambulance. Hannah was excited that she got to ride in the jump seat and look out the window and talk the ears off the driver and Lou, the EMT, who decided to come along. (He may have regretted that after the 52nd question of Hannah's version of Twenty Questions.) She also got to see a bull elk and a herd of buffalo along the way.

(This was taken a couple of days later--not from the ambulance.)

As for Charlotte, she was sitting on my lap, glucose level dropping, still alternating between sleepy and chatty. Until she vomited blood once more. I apologize--again--to the lodge for taking another of their towels. I didn't think you'd want it back, but it did help the doctor with the diagnosis: altitude sickness and a small esophageal tear caused by throwing up all day. The nurse brought in one tiny pill for the nausea, because, as the doctor put it, sometimes vomiting begets vomiting.

And sometimes putting a pill under the tongue of a four-year-old begets vomiting, as well.

The nurse brought a second pill. I had to pry Charlotte's jaws open, stuff the pill in and hold her mouth shut until the pill dissolved, all the while trying to explain that I was doing it to help her.

Half an hour and two grape popsicles later, good as new.

Conducting the choir as they sing an original composition, "Me Feel Better!"

You'd never know Charlotte was the one there to see the doctor--Hannah passed out in Charlotte's bed well before we were released.

Poor Hannah, sound asleep in her new cowboy boots.

Many thanks to the National Park Service, St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, WY, Lou the EMT, the driver whose name I didn't get, and especially to Gary. Charlotte thinks of you every time she hugs the teddy bear you gave her.

I'm sorry to say she also adds, "Me throw up."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Dammit

Dammit #1
In certain situations, a back pocket is not a good place to carry an iPhone:
1) You’re in the park, on a swing
2) You’re going to be sitting on the tiny little kids chairs in preschool
3) You have to go to the bathroom in a hurry

Dammit #2
Speaking of iPhones: I fell asleep on mine and accidentally took a photo of my boobs.

Dammit #3
Insomnia. Today I
1) Left my credit card on the counter to pay the maid instead of cash. Er, check.
2) Tried to hang the ladder to Hannah’s bunk bed in the kitchen rather than putting it back on her bed.
3) Drove past the exit for Charlotte’s school.
4) Took the clothes from the dryer and put them in the washer.

Dammit #4
I'm kinda hungry, but eating induces nausea. I've lost 10 pounds in a month. Not REALLY complaining about the weight loss, but it can’t be good that it's happened this way. I get hungry, try to eat and then, after a few bites, feel like I’m going to be sick if I continue.

NO!! I am NOT pregnant.

Dammit #5
The Chevy Volt. 230 MPG. Really?? For how many years were we told that it would be hard to meet the 2020 deadline for 35 MPG? And now we’re supposed to believe that, seemingly overnight, they were able to manage 230 MPG?

Dammit #6
Still a little ticked that someone suggested (to put it politely) that I was PMS-ing when I wrote my Dammit re: California’s Prop 8. Especially as that “someone” was a woman. However Thomas may have been right in telling me to let it go. Still working on that.

Dammit #7
Sarah Effing P A L I N. Just that. I’ll waste more time on that later.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When an "A" Isn't Ideal

This past weekend, I went on a quest for a bra that doesn't double as a chin rest. As my sister-in-law noted, it seems very 14-ish to wear a bra that has that much padding--but at least now it isn't actually tissues.

I'd like to say that I never stuffed my bra when I was a teenager, but my older sister, seemingly overnight, joined my mother in D-cup land, while my younger sister hit a C-cup while I was pleading nightly with the universe for at least an A-cup. Instead I had to endure eighth grade boys and their silly “joke that would knock my tits off." The punch line, of course, was that I had obviously already heard it.

Following many years of bras that padded, pushed up and were generally untruthful in all possible ways, I've finally reached a place where the letter on the bra isn't that important anymore. Besides, after two kids, I'm finally up to a B-cup, and over the hugely padded bras available everywhere. But.

Victoria's Secret, the Wonder Bra and Miracle Bra still rule the planet. Bras that don't come with heavy padding are difficult to find. Or, more accurately, attractive—sexy, even—bras without the heavy padding are hard to find.

So on Saturday afternoon, I set off for the mall, determined to find the bra AND to get measured. Just to make sure the 34 was the correct size. Has anyone else ever noticed that Macy's is always having a sale? I figured that would be a good place to start.

I love lingerie departments. The profusion of silk, satin, lace and ribbons. Colors that range from elegant pinks, icy blues and shimmering silvers to sophisticated blacks, eye-popping reds and bold animal prints (not on my list). Demi-cup. Full coverage. Convertible. Strapless. Corset. Thong. G-string. Brief. Hipster. Bikini. Thigh-high stockings, to be worn with or without a garter belt.

I wandered through the entire department, beginning to feel a bit of the perv as I squeezed the cups on every bra that caught my eye, and even felt up the occasional mannequin. After a couple of tours, I'd collected half a dozen bra and panty sets and headed for the changing room before I remembered part two of the plan: I had to ask to be wrapped with the measuring tape to be sure that I had been buying the correct size.

Dutifully I followed Greta into the dressing area so we could keep my impending humiliation as private as possible.

"Hmmm. 34."

("Yay! I got it right!")
I began to walk to the changing room when Greta stopped me.

"Wait--I need to check ze cup size."

I waited.

"Hmmm. You are an A."

"What? No--I'm a B!"

Greta misunderstood me. I almost felt bad that her valiant attempt to choke back the laugh brought tears to her eyes.

This might be a good time to mention that I was wearing a halter dress, sans bra.

She stared pointedly at my chest.

"No. Definitely not a C."

"What?? No, no! I know I'm not a C. I said "B." I thought I was a B."

Greta looked skeptical.

"You can try zem, of course but zey will probably be too loose."

I came home with a bag full of very expensive lingerie, lovely enough to almost make up for the fact that it took me another half an hour to find something in a 34A that wasn't beige or white or unadorned black. In addition to being back to an A-cup, I’m also, apparently, one of those unusual sizes that they don’t stock much of. It’s also a size that typically comes with more than a bit of padding as the designers automatically assume that the wearer would be thankful for at least the appearance a little more boobage.

I’m going to think back to my 14-year old self and just be happy that I don’t have to worry about those eighth grade boys “mistaking” me for my non-existent twin brother. I’ll also be proud of myself for not tightening Greta’s bra straps to hoist her boobs back up to a more natural level. Because that would just have been petty.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Lesson for the Day

Never come between a four-year old chocoholic and chocolate cake.

I took the girls to Pamplemousse this morning. Delectable treats in many different flavors: mango, passion fruit, chocolate mint, triple chocolate mousse, pamplemousse (grapefruit) and of course, a lovely, lovely Chocolate Chocolate cake. Charlotte generally prefers the triple chocolate mousse, but as they were already out of it (at 10:33!) and I told the girls they had to share a little cake and that it was Hannah's turn to choose. Hannah chose the Chocolate, Chocolate.

Charlotte was not amused. Until she tasted one of the chocolate triagles that adorned the top of the cake. Before Hannah had finished one of these triangles, Charlotte had inhaled the remaining four. Hannah was forced to stop mid-way through a horrified gasp that was tinged with laughter as Charlotte grabbed the fork and dove in. A race ensued, which Charlotte won by employing two of her favorite tactics: First: take advantage of the fact that Hannah talks from the moment she gets up in the morning until 12 minutes after she falls asleep; and second: steal my fork and shovel with both hands.

Hannah finally admitted defeat. When asked if she was ever full when there was still chocolate cake to be had, Charlotte answered with a curt "No, " as she finished up the last curls of dark chocolate scattered around the plate.

I should also add that she once stabbed me with a fork when I got too close to her half of the triple chocolate mousse cake that we were sharing for my birthday.

Now repeat after me:
Never come between a four-year old chocoholic and chocolate cake.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

BlogHer '09 a Few Belated and Brief Observations

Whilst strolling the halls of the BlogHer '09 Expo, I kept hearing comments about the sheer volume of vendors targeting the so-called (and somewhat controversial) "Mommy Bloggers." These are the group who blog about their kids and their families. Many of them toss in additional stuff, but by and large it is, well, Mommy Blogging.

In a couple of the sessions I attended, there was also a bit of barely suppressed venom and not a little bitterness about the perceived attention the Mommy Bloggers were receiving, not only from the vendors, but in the actual agenda, as well.

There were questions, occasionally in voices quavering with anger, about how and why the Mommy Bloggers were getting tons of ad revenue and requests for product reviews and so many dedicated BlogHer sessions, and even observations that the non-MBs felt left out, second-class citizens of the blogosphere, in fact.

Many of the vendors did cater more to the family-oriented blogger:

  • Tide
  • Bounce
  • Walmart
  • Ragu
  • all
  • Bertolli
  • Bissell
  • Disney
  • McDonalds
  • Playskool
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Jump Start
  • Sprout
  • Safe Kids
  • Safety 1st
  • Leap Frog
  • Family Fun Night
  • PBS Parents
But then there were also:

  • Pepsico
  • Chevy
  • Liverty Mutual
  • Microsoft Office
  • Bing
  • Bill Me Later (a PayPal Company)
  • Brother
  • HP
  • T-Mobile
  • Wiley
  • Geek Squad
  • Nikon
  • Nokia
  • eos
  • Intel
  • Intelius
  • Frontline/PBS/digital_nation
  • Orbitz
  • she's geeky
  • Engage Her

This isn't a comprehensive list for either side, of course, but it seems to be, if not perfectly, then pretty well balanced between the two camps. And of the actual sessions, only six were specifically labeled as "MommyBlogger" with another two that could have been. There was also a nod to the growing number of male participants, with a session entitled " Vaginally Challenged Bloggers--the Men of BlogHer."

There were 24 sessions devoted to the "geek" aspects of blogging, everything from blogging 101 for newbies to using HTML to making your blog more accessible to how and why to use Twitter, to CSS, CMS tools and SEO. There were also sessions on using social media to promote your blog and video blogging tutorials.

So I'm not sure where the bile came from. In one instance it seemed to be solely for the amusement of one blogher's friends as they had to sit and listen as she bitched about the whole thing to someone on the other end of her phone call. All. The. Way. Through. Lunch. Trust me. I was sitting right next to them. She complained about the Mommy Bloggers. She complained about the swag (perhaps she missed the vibrators in room 704?). She said that no one came to BlogHer to learn anything--it was all about "Mom's gone wild in Chicago." (In her defense, there were a lot of cocktail parties.)

So for Whiny Phone Girl and all the others complaining about it, don't go to BlogHer in New York next summer. Don't worry about the fact that you can actually learn a few useful things. Skip the opportunity to make a few new connections and meet some of the women whose blogs you do read. BlogHer '09 sold out four months early. There was a waiting list. A lot of people who wanted to be there couldn't be there. So stay home. Let these other women come instead and have an opportunity to learn some of the things you mocked.

I didn't go to a lot of sessions this year. The geek stuff scares me (I know, it shouldn't), and some of the others just weren't up my alley--and yes, that includes some of the Mommy Blogger sessions. I had almost convinced myself that I wasn't going to go next year, until the last session I attended. And if BlogHer announces that Neil Kramer and Amy Turn Sharp are going to be on a panel again, I'll book the tickets just for that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Left Coast Mom is on Vacation

Lots of travel over the past month and now we're off to Wyoming!

We'll be gone until Monday night, so probably no posts until Tuesday.

Some of those to come:

  • BlogHer wrap up
  • Couple of product reviews and a pinkey swear that they're not compensated (apparently, the FCC is trying to get in on the action).
  • Possibly a Dammit, since I haven't done one of those in awhile.
  • Perhaps an anti-Dammit, because I don't want you to think I'm always angry!
  • More Hannah-isms, and perhaps a couple of Charlotte-isms--she's getting pretty sassy, too. It
  • It's probably a good thing that we still can't understand all of what she says.
See you in a week-ish!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe for Making It to the Morning Sessions

There seem to be more cocktail parties at BlogHer this year than actual sessions, so this is for this is for any-her in need of a little after-party pick-me-up.

This spicy morning-after cocktail was featured on the last day of the 2009 Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, at a session called "Paying the Piper: Your Hangover and You."

1 serving

* Ice
* 2 1/2 ounces tomato juice
* 1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
* 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
* 1 ounce silver tequila
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
* 3 thin crosswise-cut slices hot chili pepper, such as jalapeno
* 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
* Salt


Fill a highball glass with ice.

Combine the three juices, tequila, honey, onion, pepper slices, Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously, then pour (strained) into the glass.

You're welcome!

Recipe Source:
Created by Wayne Curtis of the Atlantic and John Myers of the Grill Room in Portland, Maine;adapted from "Stir Your Soul: Tales of the Cocktail Recipe Book" (Mud Puddle Books, 2009).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Finally Finding Myself, at 40

I've never really liked having my photo taken, even though I was, for a very, very brief period a "model-in-training" if you will, with a couple of shows to my credit.

I've also never thought I was more than run-of-the-mill attractive. Crooked smile. One eyelid a tad lazier than the other. Chin too pointy. Ears too small. These observations aren't all a result of me spending too much time in front of the mirror--though after 40 years, most people have logged a few hours there, whether or not they care to admit it. I've actually heard all of these comments from various people over the years. One charming ex went so far as to preface anything that even approached compliment-hood with "Don't let this go to your head, but . . . "

But why were some photos fabulous and the others, ah, crap?

For instance, my friend Kat always took really good photos of me. In fact, I never looked like the Me that I saw in other photos, but rather, closer to the Me I thought I saw in the mirror. Other people, it didn't (doesn't) really matter how I felt that day, what I was wearing, if I had dropped a couple of pounds or if I had won the lottery (still waiting!), I always manage to look short and squat and very far from the Me I think I know. Well, the Me I'm trying to get to know, anyway.

It recently occurred to me that it wasn't so much how I looked, but that it was the way in which I was relating to the person behind the camera. Kat felt like a sister from the day we met. We told each other everything. There was no hiding anything, and I suppose it never occurred to me to hide from her camera.

Other cameras are held by those for whom I may have conflicting feelings: I may love them, but may also be afraid that I don't measure up. That I'm going to fall short in some area or another. That I'm not smart enough, or ambitious enough or competitive enough. And on and on and on. This is not the fault of those hands in which the camera rests. The fault is mine, because I think those things about myself and project them on to the people I am most afraid of disappointing. And so I curl in to hide, to protect myself from, well, really, from myself.

I've been in and out of therapy for a few years now working on the root cause of this lack of self-esteem, and even when not speaking with a professional, I've made a huge effort to stop the negative thinking and to stop worrying about what other people think of me. I have good days and bad days, same as everyone else. But I think my better days are more frequent, at least in terms of self confidence, and now I have photographic proof. I think.

Last week I updated my profile on facebook with a photo I had taken myself, using the Photo Booth on my Mac. I was bored with the old photo and thought this would be the perfect little project to assist in my efforts at procrastination elsewhere.

Whadda ya know? I was actually looking right at the photographer--who in this case was me. Clear, direct, unafraid, unapologetic. Maybe it seems like a shallow, navel gazing thing, but I see it as evidence that, after all this time, I'm coming to terms with being me. That I was ok with what I was going to see.

There were two other photos--Hannah likes the sepia-toned one best, but I thought I'd post both of them, mostly because the thought of THREE photos of me being out there makes me squirm. I guess I'll have to be ok with that, too. Even if my chin is too pointy and my eye sort of sleepy looking . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feeling Old, Part 24,364

Our babysitter, who just graduated from high school, doesn't know the band Tears for Fears.


She did say that it was great that we still like to go to concerts.

And this after we sat through the concert (which was AWESOME!) thinking we were insufficiently aged.

Can I spell Karma? (No, not usually. I like to add an "h.")

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Short and Sweet

No, no. Not me. But thank you for immediately thinking that's what I meant! So charming!

It was only this:

I love that public transportation around here doesn't waste time letting you know that a bus is out of service. Which is exactly what the buses in Virginia* always said--that and the route. You'd just have to wait for the entire message to scroll by. But here, you get a short, sweet, one word answer before you can even ask the question:

In case you can't see it, the message in the back is "NOT."

Due to budget cuts, they'll be shortening that to "NO."**

Bah--the front of the buses now offer the very polite "Not In Service."

* That's what it was six years ago, anyway.
** No, not really.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can I Get a Mulligan?

I went to the doctor on Friday because I thought I might have bronchitis AGAIN.

Why do they have to weigh you for that??

Oh, right. In case medication is needed.

Most reluctantly, I took off my sweater and shoes and, for good measure, my sun glasses. You know, because they must weigh all of seven ounces.

Surprise! I didn't like the answer the scale gave to the age-old question of "Jeezus Edith! Who switched my jeans for the not-quite-supermodel size?!" Which would be why I wasn't wearing jeans that day, so I shouldn't have been surprised. And this particular nurse won't even hedge a bit and drop it half a pound. She just murmured something about how no one likes the scale, especially if they don't feel good about themselves anyway. Wow! Dr Phil in drag and orthopedic shoes--at my doctor's office!

On Saturday, I started my period and almost immediately lost five pounds. I want a do-over!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ouch. Form Rejection!

I got the first official rejection of my book today.

Well, the first 10 pages, anyway.

The very first email in my box.

I knew it was coming--especially after I read over the query letter that went with it. It's amazing how many things you can find that should have been worded differently, or the one little typo that most people wouldn't have noticed, Of course, I did--too late. And I'm guessing the agent did. They have this thing, this odd fascination with words.* Of course, it couldn't have been all the fault of the query; I did send some of the book, too.

But now that the dreaded rejection part of the process is over, and I have the crying-over-the-first-rejection part of the process out of the way, I can finish things up and keep sending it out.

And resist the urge to just rewrite the whole manuscript again, first.


*It's a joke, people!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sad, But Possibly True

I'll Be Hiding in a Corner

Perhaps a glass of wine will loosen things up!

Friday, July 03, 2009

I Feel Old

Hannah is the youngest kid in her art class--the others range from 12-16 or so.

This past Tuesday,* they were all talking about Michael Jackson when Judy (the teacher) asked if they wanted to listen to some of his music.

Before Judy could turn on the CD player, a 15-ish year old girl turned to Hannah and said

"Michael Jackson had lots of records. Have you ever heard of those? They had songs on one side and then you had to pick them up and turn them over to hear the rest of the songs! My mom said that records were pretty heavy, too."

This on the heels of an article about the three days it took a 13-year-old, tech-savvy teen to figure out that there were actually two sides to the cassette tape used in the ancient Sony Walkman he was test driving.

It's a lot easier for me to see why kids Hannah's age wouldn't know about the joys of the LP and the jumble-of-tangled-tape agony that was the cassette player. After all, she's only six. But, dammit, a 13-year-old was born in the same century as I. And I'm not yet old enough to refer to the Internet as "that thing you young people use" or as being nothing more than "a series of tubes."

So when the most-sought after gadgets of my middle- and high-school years are spoken of in the tones of awe and wonder usually reserved for the discovery of an ancient civilization, yes. I feel a little old. Not quite hot-tea-and-a-parka-in-July old, but maybe a bit chase-the-snot-nosed-little-bastards-off-the-lawn-with-a-cane old.

Not really.

Well, maybe.

* For some reason I haven't been able to sign in to Blogger for a few days. My excuse du jour for the recent dearth of posts.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It Must Be True . . .

I just read this in The Week, their section "It Must Be True . . . I read it in the tabloids." Haven't stopped laughing yet:

"Two baby flamingos at Britain's London Zoo have developed a phobia of the color pink. The month old chicks, named Little and Large, both have the pale gray plumage flamingos are born with. In an attempt to feed them, zookeepers used a pink sock-puppet of an adult flamingo, but it only terrified the chicks. Their resulting phobia of anything pink has worrying implications for their future mental health. "We'll just have to hope they get used to the color," said keeper Alison Brown."

For some reason this reminds me of a recent-ish (January, 2008) study which showed that the vast majority of children dislike clowns. Are afraid of them, even. And yet, there are still clowns all over childrens', well, pretty much everything--from pajamas to blankets, and yes, even some hospital walls. So I don't hold out much hope for those poor flamingo chicks--they're just gonna have to get used to that scary, pink sock monster. Of course, there's always Prozac . . . .

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ecomomics of Happiness

It's true. The little things do make you happy. And sometimes they do make you spend more money.

Most Wednesdays, I take the night off and treat myself to dinner at the same place. Sometimes I hit the gym first; occasionally I try a new place--only because I keep thinking that I need to break myself of the "creature of habit" habit. But I'm rarely satisfied--well OK, there was the one time I skipped dinner all together and saw Burn After Reading instead--but I generally wind up at Vino Santo. Because food-wise and not-minding-if-I-bring-a-computer-a-book-or-a-friend-wise, this is my absolute favorite place to go for a lovely dinner. Every once in awhile I do take a friend!

Tonight, I tried to talk myself into either staying home (a bad mashup of "I'm too unmotivated to decide on anything" and "maybe I should tighten that belt a bit") or trying something different. But old habits and my adoration of the Vino Santo Caesar salad with grilled chicken won out.

I might call it a habit, but what really keeps me coming back is that, like tonight, when I got there, the only open table was "my" table. There were two couples waiting, but as soon as I arrived I was told that MY table was ready. And after dinner when I confided to the waiter that I loved seeing them so busy on a weeknight, he told me that they had actually turned away a table because the only one open was . . . MY table.

I’m not sure that everyone else would find the Caesar salad to be as tasty, or the pan roasted sole with a white wine, butter and caper sauce to be as divine. In fact, even my favorite Daniel Gilbert* might say that, because of the habituation factor, even I don’t enjoy the salad or fish as much as I did the first time. And yet.

Vanity has ever been an economic motivator and it is always in the merchants’ best interest to make sure you want to come back again and again. After all, why would you not want to go where every body knows your name (Norm), where the staff all know where you like to sit and know which menu items you might like and those . . .well, maybe not so much.

It may have been a complete fabrication--even a partial would have felt good--but the waiter said that it was my table, and they were going to hold it on the (very good) chance that I came to claim it. And I was told that my “usual” house white had been replaced and that I probably wouldn’t like it. I didn’t. It was then upgraded to something much nicer—cost (to them) be dammed. Maybe it was a small exaggeration. But there WAS a couple waiting by the door, and there WAS only my table open.

The upshot is that it made me happy. It didn’t cost them a whole lot.

And it made me want to keep going back.

And this post just reminded me to buy my own copy of Burn After Reading.

* I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t catch Mr Gilbert on the Colbert Report a couple of years ago. But now you can! God I love the Internets!