I Wanna Be In The Room Where It Happens

The Princess, who is now ten years old, has been asking for an African American “Ken” doll for a couple of weeks now. When I asked why she needed another Ken doll at all, she said that it was so she can “pretend that he’s Aaron Burr.”

Yes, I know that Aaron Burr was a white man, but she thinks he’s black because Leslie Odom, Jr. plays him on Broadway.

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I don’t know whether to feel super proud of her for further diversifying her Barbie collection or to have some kind of white lady guilt for not already having a African American Ken doll.

Anyway, African American Ken dolls do not just materialize for no reason. Maybe she will find one in her Easter basket, or as a reward for having blood drawn, which she needs to do this month.

Yesterday she told me that while she’s waiting for the doll, she’s just going to “pretend Leslie Odom, Jr. is sick,” and the Ken doll she has “is his understudy”.

I think my induction into the Theater Mom Hall of Fame might be imminent


Amazing Husband

When I woke up on Saturday, I knew I’d be good for nothing. Migraine. Couldn’t get out from under the weight of my head. So the day went by in a blur, kids bringing my ice water, dog licking my face, kids asking if I wanted anything. Whenever I’d wake up, it was just to roll over to the other side.

Meanwhile, Manfrengensen was a super man. Took care of the kids, made them breakfast for dinner. Took the Princess to her field hockey game (where she scored her first goal and I MISSED IT), even took time away from his ND-football-watching-schedule to drop Edison off at the movies with friends.

Then today, he took The Princess with him to Clooney’s soccer game, so I could catch up on all my weekend chores in peace. As I walked around the house, I realized what an amazing guy he is. Not only did he totally take care of the kids yesterday, but he also brought in wood and set up the fireplace for winter.

But the best part was when I opened up the freezer and found a brand new quart of my favorite ice cream.

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Love that guy. He rocks my world.


Brand New Beginner Yoga

I’ve been having some minor physical problems the last year or two. Until then, I had been a fairly avid (and not half-bad, I think) tennis player. But I began to have pain in my legs, and the pain became more frequent, until I finally just had to leave the court. I saw a few doctors and it turns out that I have chronic exertional compartment syndrome, and though PT helped a few years ago, when I tried that again earlier this year, the pain actually became worse.

At first, the doctor (let’s call him Dr. Paul) told me that there was a surgery that could be performed, but he added that this was an option usually reserved for runners, “…and you’re not a runner.” he said. Seriously, he actually said that, and it reminded me of this bit from Louis C.K.:

But the thing was, maybe I could be a runner, if I didn’t have debilitating pain in my leg every time I run. And when  I look back on my past experiences with trying to be a runner, like that time I tried Couch to 5k, it sure seems like perhaps I may have had this problem for a lot longer than I’ve had the actual diagnosis. What I had once assumed were just shin splints were probably the early onset of the chronic compartment syndrome.

But any way, I ended up seeing another doctor, Dr. Jim, because Dr. Paul didn’t actually perform the surgery, and Dr. Jim is the only one in their practice who does. Dr. Jim sent me to another doctor in a different practice, Dr. Brad, who is the only doctor in my area who actually performs the test for chronic compartment syndrome. And that was really fun, because Dr. Brad stuck a needle into my shins and calves in like eight different places to test the muscle pressure on a little calculator he held in his hand. Then (without the needle) he sent me upstairs to run on a treadmill for as long as I could before the pain made me stop. This turned out to be a little longer than six minutes. At that point, the nurse rushed me back down to Dr. Brad’s exam room, where he stuck the needle in again (in as quick a sequence as he could) to measure the pressure after exercise. It turned out that there was a significant increase, so the diagnosis was (I guess) confirmed.

Dr. Jim was very eager to do the surgery, despite whatever running I may or may not plan to do in the future. But I didn’t really have a great rapport with Dr. Jim, (who basically told me only that they do it in a surgery center, not a hospital; I would have some bruising, two-inch scars on both legs, and I wouldn’t be able to drive for two weeks) so I decided to try a sports medicine guy at a much more respected health institution (Dr. Cool) for a second (or third, I guess) opinion and also to see how he did his surgeries. Dr. Cool confirmed the diagnosis, BUT he explained that the surgery doesn’t always work, nor is it any kind of quick-fix for the problem. In fact, his own college-age daughter had had the surgery, but it took FIVE YEARS before she was able to run another 5K, and that’s a long time to be on the couch.

Plus, he said, “I’m not going to tell you not to walk or drive for two weeks after the surgery, but I will say realistically that when you get up from your bed to go to the bathroom, the pain will be so bad you will feel like you’ll pass out.”

So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to sign up for all that.

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Basically, we want to loosen the fascia around the muscle (which is like that white stuff you encounter when you are cutting up chicken breast) so that the muscle can expand with the increased blood flow of exercise.

Instead I turned to alternative therapy, after someone suggested myofascial release. I went looking for someone who does it, which wasn’t easy to find, though a chiropractor friend said she did have someone in her office who practiced it, and offered to speak to her about it on my behalf. About a week later, she said that her colleague didn’t think I was a candidate for therapy because it would be too intense, and might then cause more damage than was already there. She did, however, recommend kinesio tape to help loosen things up, and that’s been really helpful. Whenever I feel like the muscle is tight, I just put on a few strips of the tape, usually for the day, go about my business, and then it feels better. Overall there’s less soreness and more mobility.

Which brings me to the yoga (long story short — too late!)

I signed up for a Brand New Beginner course at a local studio, thinking it would help to stretch the muscles in a low-impact kind of way. It seems like it’s going to be great — eight sessions, everything explained in detail, just the kind of pace I need at the moment.

For the first class, I arrived early. I had planned on getting there early in case there was any paperwork to fill out, but it turned out that because I am an idiot when it comes to time, I actually got there 45 minutes early instead of the 15 I had planned for. The receptionist was very nice; she’s like Screen-Shot-2013-04-28-at-14.36.26this super-cool older (older than I) lady that you can just tell — nothing gets by her notice and she handles it all with the same monotone interest. Kind of like Roz in Monster’s Inc. (Turned out, I didn’t have any more paperwork.)

So, since I was alone and had some time, Roz offered to give me a tour of the studio; here are the lockers, the showers etc. And then, she pointed to a room where I could tell there was a lot of activity going on.

“That’s the aerobic-yoga cross class,” she said, “You could take it any time you want. You’ll love it.” And then she left me in the lounge right outside the room, where I stretched out and started leafing through a stack of O Magazine issues.

“Get your kettlebells!” called the trainer lady from the room. I imagined a room full of people swinging their kettlebells like they were all going for the bronze in hammer throw to her prompts. The music was pumping like a 90s rave; the place was shaking with the accumulated movement of the people in the room. I turned a page to see how Gayle King was handling the purge and organization of her enormous and very cluttered closet. (Who needs that many purses? How many shades of blue shoes can you wear?)

All of a sudden, the door flew open, and a guy just stood there in its frame with an empty water bottle in his hand. He was just DRIPPING 1118full-posterwith sweat. He was, no exaggeration, built like Dwayne Johnson. I mean, HUGE, sinewy muscles, wearing an itty bitty hanky of a black tank top that clung to his dampened pecs like tissue, the kind of guy you’d see in a GNC ad, and he was breathing so heavily, in such a labored fashion, that for a brief moment, I thought he was just going to fall forward on his face like something in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

He made his way over to the water fountain to refill his bottle, but his breathing never slowed, was never steady, never inaudible. He could not retrieve enough oxygen for what this class was taking from him.

That class? Roz thinks I would love that class? What had I ever done to Roz? Why would she want to kill me? Needless to say, I don’t think I will be taking that class any time soon, and by soon, I mean before Kanye West is POTUS.

Anyway, I’m going to stick with my nice quiet yoga class for now. Two classes in, and  it’s been pretty good. I do feel like it’s going to be helpful, if not for the compartment syndrome, at least just in general. I’m never going to be the poster girl for lululemon, but hey, it’s worth a shot.


An Imagined Conversation Between Me and My Dog, if Dogs Could Talk (Which They Cannot)

Me: What?

Her: Let’s play. I wanna play. See?

Me: Okay, but where’s the squirrel?

Her: I don’t want the squirrel. I want to play with the bully stick I have in my mouth.

Me: Yeah, but that’s like 3 inches long, and all slobbery. I can’t do anything with that.

Her: Yeah, but I want to play.

Me: Okay, here’s the squirrel. Drop the stick.

Her: No.

Me: Don’t you want to play?

Her: Yes.

Me: Want to play with the squirrel?

Her: No, just you and the stick.

Me: What if I hit you in the face with the squirrel like this:

Her: That does nothing for me. Did you see this stick?

Me: I’ve got stuff to do.

Her: Me too. I’m going to lie down here with the stick. Did you see this stick?

Me: I need coffee.

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Oh, no he didn’t.

This morning I read about the controversy surrounding GoDaddy pulling its Super Bowl ad because of a kerfuffle about puppy mills and animal cruelty. Which of course, is something we should all be concerned about, yes, yes. I hear you. But what bothers me about this, whether it’s actually true or just a GoDaddy-staged publicity stunt is that while you can get this kind of action for the rights and dignity of animals, you can’t really say the same thing about the rights and dignity of women. Seriously, just try complaining about the objectification of women in ads like the ones for

Greased, in a bikini. You don't see them eating Big Macs or Whoppers like this, let me tell you. Plus, that position...hope someone is handy who knows the Heimlich maneuver.

Greased, in a bikini. You don’t see them eating Big Macs or Whoppers like this, let me tell you. Plus, that position…hope someone is right off camera who knows the Heimlich maneuver.

Carl’s Jr. or any of the other myriad Super Bowl ads, or almost any ad (one of my favorites is the one where the guy is watching the game on his phone under the table because obviously it’s more interesting than anything his woman has to say from across it…but I digress…) for that matter, and you won’t hear anything about the ad being pulled for a reason like that. If anything, what you will hear is the sound of crickets chirping.

I could go on, but that ‘s not really the story I wanted to tell you. No, this is a story about parenting. A story about how I would like for my boys to grow up understanding that women are human beings, not slaves or sex objects,  and that the way women are portrayed in the media has an immediate effect on how men view them in the real world. And I made my point, in the car on the way to school this morning, by relating it to Congress’s recent refusal to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the fact that women in the United States of America on average earn seventy-eight cents for every dollar that a man earns, even if they are doing the same jobs with the same amount of experience. It’s 2015. The 21st century. The new year came and Back-Future-hoverboard_300everyone was bitching about how we weren’t getting the hoverboards that Back to the Future II had promised us. I’d just be happy if they gave us the 22 cents. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if people whined more about pay inequity than they do about the injustice of not getting hoverboards??

But again, I digress…I’m a stay-at-home mom. Basically, as I’ve said before, that means I am a cook, a laundress, a chauffeur, a judge, jury and jailor, janitor, a pet sitter, a nurse, a cop, a safety monitor, a teacher, a gardener, a comptroller, head of purchasing, a cruise-director, appointment secretary, and all-around shit-doer. So when I mentioned to my sons this problem of the pay gap, I was a bit incensed when the one in the back seat said, “Yeah, but you don’t work.”

That’s right. He said it. After asking me this morning where he might find his freshly laundered gym uniform, and then packing the lunch I had prepared for him into his backpack, this son of mine had the stones (though admittedly not the brains) to say to me, “But you don’t work.”

But the funny part was that he had said this as we were pulling into the parking lot of his school, and not a minute later, he realized that he had actually left his gym uniform back at home. “Can you bring it to me before 8:30?” he asked. (This was at 7:50, and I still had his brother to drop off at another school.)

“But, Clooney,” I said, “I don’t work.”


TBT – A Snapshot of Working for a Passive-Agressive Supervisor

Through the window on the other side of the library, I could see into the fifth grade Social Studies classroom, where the lacrosse coach, Dennis, who’d been hired the same week I had, was readying his classroom. His degree was in Phys-Ed, but the school was on a mission to create teacher-coaches that year, a two-birds-with-one-salary kind of deal. I had been promised an eventual shot at being promoted from the library to the classroom, and mistakenly thought that this fifth grade Social Studies position that opened up mid-year would be it. But, I figured, rubbing my belly as the baby kicked, that it wasn’t my time. But still, I longed for a ticket to my teaching career train, and even more importantly, out of the library.

Helen came out of her office then, sidling up to me quietly in her navy blue Talbots suit and matching Naturalizer flats at the circulation desk. She looked at Dennis, pinning up a map of pre-World-War-I geography on the bulletin board of his new classroom and figured that the two of us were of one mind on the lacrosse coach. She also had territorial feelings about the classroom, though hers were based on the fact that it had once been a small-group-study room in the library.

“Can you believe they gave him that job?” she asked, her voice heavy with disgust.

“No,” I said sheepishly, feeling a little guilty about my desire to run from her as fast as I could.

Helen, who did nothing but surf the Internet from the confines of her office all day. Helen, who worried that the school didn’t appreciate her because it had cut the library from seven MLS-degreed librarians when she started ten years ago to just her today…left with me, an ambitious future-teacher, a so-called assistant, in her mind, not really even a librarian. And what if they decided to let me go? Or worse, what if they did actually move me to teaching? Where would she be then? They might decide to cut back further and leave her with no assistant. Not only would she have to do all the work herself, but she also might then be support staff to me as a teacher. Helen, who made sure to make it seem like she couldn’t do it all alone, by making certain that I did all the work. Helen, who made my life hell.

“I mean, you could do that job.” She said it in a way that wasn’t like she thought I was perfect for the job, in fact her condescending  inflection of the word “you” made it sound as if the job was so remedial that even a pleb like me could perform the tasks required.

I scoffed, “Ya,” since after all, I had a degree in history and was just a student-teaching semester away from getting a teaching certificate in the field. A student-teaching semester I had foregone by reluctantly taking this job after the principal himself had promised me not only a student teaching semester here, but the possibility of a future teaching career at the school.

“But you don’t want that job,” she said dismissively, looking down and the roundness of my belly. “You want a nothing job like you have now.”

“Excuse me?” My back was UP. Did she want to go to the mattresses? First of all, how the hell would she know what I wanted? That she would even presume to know was offensive, but that she thought my job was nothing? My job, which was the job of checking in and out the books, re-shelving them, cataloging new books that came in, dealing with the students’ needs and helping them find the materials they needed for their research projects, or the right work of fiction they might enjoy reading? That was a nothing job compared to sitting in a little glass cubicle watching me do all those things over the top of her computer monitor? Who did she think she was?

She must have sensed, despite her complete lack of usual perception, that I was a bit miffed by her statement, because she tried to explain it to me. “You know, with the baby coming,” she said and then repeated, “you’ll want a nothing job like this in the Fall.”

And then she turned and went back into her office. And I sat there like a cartoon character, a little wisp of smoke over my head.


There Goes Peter Cottontail

Warning: Contains Spoilers

So, I Just had “the talk” with Clooney, confirming his suspicions about the Easter Bunny and Santa. He took it much better than Edison, whose response a few years ago was the dramatic accusation, “You LIED to me!” before storming up to his room and slamming the door.

Clooney said that he had been “testing” his theory about Santa and the Easter Bunny for a while. This testing entailed not writing a letter to Santa, and not telling me what the Easter Bunny should bring in his basket. Overall, he took the news well, and before he went on his way, he said “Wow. You and Dad should really think about doing some professional acting because you guys are good. Dad keeps secrets better than that guy on the Bachelor .”

We don’t watch The Bachelor , so I’m not entirely sure what that means, or where he got that concept, but still, that kid makes me laugh.

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