My Husband’s Rebuttal to My Comic Book Article

zombie husband“So I read that article you wrote about me on your blog yesterday,” my husband John said, as he walked in the door from work.

“You read my blog?” I was pleasantly surprised.

“Yeah, I did. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place for a minute, since it was all about zombies and The Walking Dead, but I read it.”

I smiled as he continued.

“I thought it was good. Very funny. But I disagreed with the way you characterized me in the article and almost wrote a rebuttal in the comments section.”

“You totally should have done that,” I told him. “Actually, tell me what you disagreed with and I’ll write a followup article about it that can be your rebuttal. I’ll write the “wife version” and “husband version” of the same argument!”

“I don’t think I was nearly as militant as you made me come off,” John said. “But I’ll need to look at the transcript to point out exactly what happened differently.”

No problem. I was thinking a husband and wife version of an argument could be absolutely hysterical. In my version, he could be farting and mansplaining and turning down the thermostat. In his, I’m slapping him with a frying pan for breathing and talking in that shrill pretend-lady Monty Python voice.

I wanted to get this gold mine down on paper while it was still fresh. So as John was getting ready to go to bed, I reminded him to please pull up the blog article so he could tell me exactly how he remembered things differently.

For those of you who haven’t read the post, here is the transcript:

Me: My friend George was telling me about The Walking Dead comic books. He said that in the comic books, Andrea is more likable and Merle and Daryl don’t exist.

John: Really? That’s interesting.

Me: He said the comics are really good though. I’d like to get them so I can check them out.

John (looking very stern): Now, you understand that comic books are an investment, right? You can’t go leaving them around your bathroom like your lady magazines.

Me: Lady magazines?

John (very seriously): Yes, your lady magazines and your lady books. You just plop them on the back of your toilet and next to the bathtub.

Me: I also have mystery novels in there.

John (sighing): Well, it’s unacceptable to treat comic books this way. Comic books are investment pieces that need to be kept in dust jackets. You have to be careful when you turn the pages and you can’t go setting your coffee cups on them. Understand?

Me: Yeah “dad,” I hear what you’re saying. You don’t want me to jack up the comic books like I do all my lady mags.

John: Or set your coffee cups down on them.

Me: Because comic books are mature investments for serious grown-ups.

John: Exactly.

Me: If we get a Michonne action figure, can I take her out of the box and play with her?

John: You need to be serious about this.

Me: Yes, because this is a very serious discussion about the importance of comic book integrity.

passive voiceAnd here is a transcript of the discussion we had tonight, where John corrects how he came off in my version.

Me: So how do you think things happened differently? What do you disagree with?

John: Well, here’s one. You said I was “looking very stern.” I don’t think I looked very stern at the time.

Me: No? How do you believe you looked?

John: I believed I looked… “caring.” I cared deeply about the mutual investment we were considering. Loving, even.

Me: Okay, you believe you “looked caring.” What else?

John (continuing to read): A lot of this seems totally verbatim. It’s kinda scary, actually.

Me: You should be afraid. Women, especially wives, are very good at remembering exactly what you said during an argument.

John: This feels shorter than the actual discussion.

Me: I may have edited for clarity, but I think I kept the gist of everything important we said.

John: No, you left stuff out.

Me: What did I leave out?

John: You left out the part where I explained that comic books should be kept in dust jackets because they increase in monetary value over a period of time, and that keeping them in good condition is vital to maintaining their monetary value as a mutual investment.

Me: And you believe that including this information would have made you come off as less militant?

John: Well, it shows more of my reasoning for helping you understand why comic books need to be taken care of. I was afraid that you would leave them everywhere and the kids would walk up and tear pages out of them and then they wouldn’t be worth as much. And coffee cups, I really didn’t want you setting your coffee mugs down on them.

Me: Okay, so if I include that information, you’ll be more comfortable with your portrayal?

John: Yes.

Done and done.

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My Husband Lectures Me About Comic Books

redneckMy husband and I love watching  The Walking Dead together. He couldn’t be happier that I’ve finally gotten on board the zombie bandwagon, since he’s been an aficionado and self-proclaimed expert for years.

I used to think he was crazy every time we were walking down the street and he would point out why some random building would make a great (or terrible) base camp for the zombie apocalypse.

“WHOA, look at that!” he would say, all excited, “That place has no low windows, a roof outlet, and a big iron fence surrounding the place. That’s totally where we need to go after the zombie apocalypse hits!”

Umm, okay. I had no idea how a grown-ass man could spend so much time planning against monster attacks, but I figured he had enough other good qualities to keep around. Plus, he might come in handy if the zombie apocalypse hits.

He had hassled me into watching all kinds of zombie movies,  certain that with enough exposure, I would  understand his vigilance. I would occasionally humor him (because I want to watch stuff like Downton Abbey without resistance), but would be bored the entire time.

For one thing, monsters aren’t real, so I don’t understand devoting loads of mental energy and strategic planning on them. For another, monsters are scary and I end up having to sleep with the lights on.

For over a year, he kept nagging me to try The Walking Dead, but I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t like it. Finally one night, after we wrapped up Breaking Bad, I agreed to give it a go. It went down like this.

John: So now that Breaking Bad is over, you want to try Walking Dead?

Me: Umm. Didn’t we have some other show we were interested in seeing?

John: No, we’ve watched all the shows we wanted to see. You want to just try an episode or two?

Me (sighing deeply while rolling my eyes): Uh… FINE. But if I hate it, I don’t watch to have to watch the whole series.

I sat through a few episodes (despite my terrible attitude) and by the third, I was absolutely hooked. I LOVE this show.

Maybe it’s the great story development, maybe it’s the complex moral dilemmas, or maybe it’s the fact that TWD actually includes well-written, bad-ass female characters, but I found myself not only anxiously awaiting every next episode, but totally sucked into the whole zombie mythology.
shaneI would have long discussions with friends (sometimes involving ridiculously-long Facebook comment threads) where we would dissect all the choices and motivations of TWD characters. We shared quiz results about which WD character we’re supposed to be. We talked about how Rick should be planning better for the Governor’s imminent attack on the prison.

One time, we were discussing Andrea’s gaping character flaws when my buddy George told me how she was a much more sympathetic character in the original comic book series. He told me about a few changes they made in the television show (like the invention of Daryl and Merle) and recommended reading the comic books if I ever had the chance.

Hmm, that sounded like a great idea. I couldn’t get enough of The Walking Dead and this would open up a whole new dimension. So I told John that I wanted to get the comic books. The discussion went like this…

Me: My friend George was telling me about The Walking Dead comic books. He said that in the comic books, Andrea is more likable and Merle and Daryl don’t exist.

John: Really? That’s interesting.

Me: He said the comics are really good though. I’d like to get them so I can check them out.

John (looking very stern): Now, you understand that comic books are an investment, right? You can’t go leaving them around your bathroom like your lady magazines.

Me: Lady magazines?

John (very seriously): Yes, your lady magazines and your lady books. You just plop them on the back of your toilet and next to the bathtub.

Me: I also have mystery novels in there.

John (sighing): Well, it’s unacceptable to treat comic books this way. Comic books are investment pieces that need to be kept in dust jackets. You have to be careful when you turn the pages and you can’t go setting your coffee cups on them. Understand?

Me: Yeah “dad,” I hear what you’re saying. You don’t want me to jack up the comic books like I do all my lady mags.

John: Or set your coffee cups down on them.

Me: Because comic books are mature investments for serious grown-ups.

John: Exactly.

Me: If we get a Michonne action figure, can I take her out of the box and play with her?

John: You need to be serious about this.

Me: Yes, because this is a very serious discussion about the importance of comic book integrity.

My husband is actually lecturing me about messing up my toys.

Why Sitting Up is Awesome

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Psst… come closer and lend me your ears and I’ll tell you a tale of the baby who could sit up!

Bridget can now sit up all by herself and is really having fun with it. She lays on her back and pops up repeatedly like a little prairie dog.

She must have killer abs.
Part of the joy of having children is getting to see the world all over again with new eyes. Most things about the world aren’t fresh and interesting to adults anymore, because they’ve seen it and done it so much that they can live in autopilot mode for about 80% of their day (I completely made up that statistic, by the way).
I’m guessing that’s why we do stuff like get off on the wrong freeway exit. We wear these little paths in our brains, flip the auto switch on, and zone right out.
Generally it works, unless we are tired and accidentally turn onto the freeway exit next to our house when we meant to go somewhere else, or put our keys in the fridge when we pull the milk out then can’t find them for an hour.
Or maybe that’s just me, because I’m the kind of fluffy dork who thinks about what my cat would tell me if he could talk instead of paying attention to what I’m doing. A couple weeks ago, for example, I accidentally poured chicken broth instead of almond milk into my cup of coffee. And it was the LAST cup of coffee in the house.
That was an unpleasant surprise. I figured out what the cat wanted to tell me, though. He had been trying to order 200 gallons of milk off Amazon’s online grocery, but couldn’t pull my credit card out of my wallet because his claws kept getting in the way.
Not really, but the amusing idea helped take the sting out of a giant mouthful of chicken coffee as my body seized into disgusted shivers. So gross.
At least I can now play the Exhausted Parent card in moments like these.  Baby Bridget, on the other hand, is not zoning out to all the daily minutiae of our everyday grind. She still finds everything incredibly new and exciting (plus, she gets a ridiculous amount of sleep. Jealous).
Bridget has been trying to learn how to properly sit up for weeks now, ever since she got tired of diagonally rolling around like a misshapen onion whenever she wanted to get anywhere. I would watch her repeatedly flex her shoulders, try to reach her tiny arms forward, kick her little feet off the floor in a flailing attempt to gain momentum… then finally flop right back down and erupt into frustrated, defeated screaming. Poor thing.
Finally, she did it. She was laying flat on her back and sat right up. She squealed in ecstasy, waves of pride radiating across her face. I grabbed my camera to capture her grand moment of victory.
Even when babies are so young they are barely able to sit up, they seem to understand the function of a camera (Also the phone. It’s bizarre). Bridget caught sight of my camera and instantly started posing for it. Brimming with confidence, she laid down and sat up, again and again, showing off her newfound skill and flirting with the camera.
Kids are so amazingly grateful for the little things adults have long taken for granted. But in this instance, I kind of understood how she was feeling. I remember exactly what it was like, back when I was about nine months pregnant, to get stuck on my back like some kind of enormous, flipped-over turtle. I’d flail my limbs around while trying to sit up, and finally roll onto my side, where I could bend my knees underneath my giant belly and use my arm and leg muscles to pull myself up. It was really frustrating.
I totally get it, Bridget. Sitting up is awesome.
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MOM, this is INCREDIBLE!

The Sisterhood of Getting Changed

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Moment of solidarity

My daughter Brontë is mostly happy about having a baby sister.

I say mostly, because she while she likes to pet her sister’s hair, cuddle her on occasion, and even call her “a good baby” when she’s feeling generous, she also has a few bones to pick with her.

For instance, there’s the intolerable situation of not getting all of mommy’s attention anymore.

Everything used to be awesome, living in a non-stop world of being best friends with mommy. We played all day, cuddled and watched cartoons, and made up incredibly fun games involving making stuffed animals talk and running around the couch.

Then this other kid comes along and screams her fool head off all day. Next thing you know, mommy is taking care of *her* half the time.

Not just that, but this little sister, “Bridget,” thinks she’s entitled to play with toys. All the toys in the house used to belong to Brontë, and now this new kid just walks up and starts slobbering on them. Brontë tries her best to handle the situation by grabbing all the toys in the house and running away while screaming “MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE!”

But then mommy or daddy will always come over and just HAND THEM BACK to the new kid. Unbelievable.

Bridget, for the most part, thinks her big sister is a magical princess. She stares at Brontë with complete awe. She grabs Brontë’s hair, because she thinks it’s beautiful, and is very hurt when Brontë reacts by screaming “OUCH!” and pulling away. Whenever Brontë looks at her baby sister or pays her the slightest attention, Bridget breaks into beaming smiles or squealing giggling. Whatever might keep that goddess’s attention a few more moments.

Bridget’s biggest hurdle in life, so far, is getting changed. She HATES being put on the diaper mat, hates getting cleaned and re-diapered, and will flail, fight, punch, kick, and scream in a crazed attempt to stop it.

I have no idea why. She doesn’t appear to have a diaper rash and her big sister never acted like that. Bridget is also a freakishly strong child, so it’s incredibly difficult to manage her when she’s flipping out. Many times, I’ve had to resort to to throwing my leg across her waist to keep her still enough to be changed. She takes that kind of muscle to manage.

Yesterday I was trying to change Bridget and she was exploding in the mid-freak out when I finally flopped to the floor, defeated. My arms had long scratches on them, my face kept getting slapped, and I was utterly exhausted. I needed to rest for a moment before continuing the fight with my rabid infant.

Wrestling matches with hysterical women aren’t easy to begin with, but they’re even tougher when poop is involved.

I sat for a moment to take a deep breath and wonder how I could possibly make this go easier. I had tried giving her toys when she was getting changed, but she just used them to clock me. I had tried wrapping her arms in a blanket, but it just made her angrier. Sweet-talking her didn’t help a bit. What was this kid’s problem?

Just then, Brontë dropped her Pinkie Pie pony and walked over to the diaper mat. She stared at her little sister, and Bridget stopped crying to look back at her. What was she up to? Brontë reached over and grabbed her sister’s hand, squeezed it, and gave her an enormous smile. Bridget’s face contorted into an stunned, crooked smile. She stared at her big sister, mesmerized, and as grateful as though she were being blessed by a goddess.

I stood up to finish changing Bridget and she stayed on her mat contentedly, quietly, and happily squeezing her Brontë’s hand.

Brontë followed me as I went upstairs to put Bridget down for a nap, then she took my hand and led me back downstairs. She sat me down, looked in my eyes, and thought for a moment about how to phrase exactly what she needed to say.

She had an intensely serious expression on her face.

“Mommy,” she said, while looking deep into my eyes, “You no worry about Bidgie. That DADDY’S baby, You MY mommy. Okay?”

Why I Quit Drinking Coffee

The one that got away
The one that got away

I have been an insomniac for years.

It sucks. There’s really no other way to put it.

I lie in bed for hour after boring hour, dreading how awful I’m going to feel the next day as my cats mock me with endless napping. I flip uncomfortably back and forth while I watch the black light surrounding my windows slowly shifting into gray, then finally white. Daylight.

A nurse friend once let me in on a little secret. Allergy pills, she told me, are as effective a sleep aid as anything else you can buy over the counter.

I jumped on that train and rode it happily until my body was used to the dose. I started taking two pills, which worked until I needed three. Then four. Then eight. Then eleven.

That’s no good. I dropped the allergy pills and realized that Ambien would be much the same scenario. Sure it works, but for only so long. Eventually your body builds a tolerance and you just need more. It’s a dead end.

Last week, my insomnia was acting up again, so my husband made a little suggestion.

John: Hey, remember last year when you gave up coffee? That seemed to work for you.

Me: YOU GIVE UP COFFEE!

John: But I don’t need to. I can fall asleep right after an espresso.

How DARE he? I LOVE coffee. I love the taste, the warmth, the rich scent… coffee is one of the few pleasures we are still allowed to indulge in, plus it’s supposed to contain a bunch of antioxidants that help prevent Parkinson’s and Type II Diabetes. How am I supposed to get through a rough day with the kids without caffeine? These children will drive a chihuahua to throwing up.

Except that deep down, I knew he was right.

John can knock back a triple-shot espresso and be snoring ten minutes later, whereas a single cup of drip coffee leaves my adrenalin pumping for hours. It’s part of why I love it, and also why I shouldn’t have it.

There’s a logical explanation for all this. A couple of years ago, John and I had our DNA analyzed by 23 and me, a genetic testing company. They tell you all kinds of interesting things about yourself, including your genetic ancestry, percentage of Neanderthal blood, and vulnerability to many diseases.

I learned, for example, that all the stories I’d heard about having Cherokee blood are probably poppycock. For years I had heard all about how my great-great-great grandfather, the Scotsman, illicitly married a Cherokee woman. She was supposed to be amazing beautiful, dazzlingly cleaver, and mean as a snake.

We were supposed to have tribal roll numbers, I was told, but my grandparents didn’t apply for them because they could pass for white and being part Native American was nothing to be proud of in those days.

When my test results came back, however, I learned that my blood is actually white, with added white, and an extra dash of white on top. How utterly disappointing.

23 and me also tested the rate at which you break down caffeine. Fast metabolizers, for example, break it down quickly, so it doesn’t stay in their systems very long. Research shows that a few cups of coffee helps prevent heart attacks in fast metabolizers. John is a fast metabolizer.

Slow metabolizers, on the other hand, break caffeine down very slowly, so it stays in their systems for ages. A couple of cups of coffee significantly increases the risk of heart attacks in slow metabolizers.

As you may have guessed, the results showed that I am a slow metabolizer. Life isn’t fair.

Since I was at my wit’s end with fatigue, I was willing to try just about anything to get some more sleep. So, out coffee went.

I had a raging headache for a few days as my system went into caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine restricts your blood vessels, so when you quit drinking it, your blood vessels dilate and a bunch of blood pours into your head a neck, causing headaches until your body readjusts.

It was rough, but temporary, and I was noticing drastic improvement in my ability to fall asleep. I even knocked out before midnight for several days in a row, which is kind of a record for me. The headaches were subsiding, I was waking up with a clearer head, and everything was going great.

Until yesterday. Kids are kind of a mixed bag, though we love them to pieces. Some days they are charming little cherubs who melt your heart with all the adorable things they say and do, while others… well… there are other days when they are so demonically insane, they would drive the Dalai Lama to punch out a window while letting a string of profanities fly.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I'm just a cute baby. What harm could I possibly do?
I’m just a cute baby. What harm could I possibly do?

My baby Bridget is a freakishly-strong infant with a good right hook, who can blow your windows out with nonstop screaming and doesn’t hesitate to claw your lips off in the middle of a tantrum. She told me she was hungry yesterday, but wasn’t happy about anything I gave her to eat.

I handed her a bowl of Cheerios. She grabbed a handful, moved her arm over the floor, and dropped them to the ground.

“No, Bridget,” I told her.

She gave me a hard, challenging stare before grabbing two handfuls, swiveling around in her baby seat, and chucking them halfway across the kitchen.

“NO!” I told her firmly.

She picked up the bowl, stared me dead in the eye, and threw it straight at my face. Grrrrr…

Okay, I guess she didn’t want Cheerios. By this point, the entire kitchen was littered with Cheerios, but since Bridget was frantically screaming while pointing at her mouth, I guessed that she was still hungry and getting fairly impatient about it. I decided to whip up a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich (What kid doesn’t like PB&J’s?). I could slap one together quickly, cut it in half, and stuff it into her angry mouth before she stomped off and burned the place straight to the ground.

I scrambled to put together a PB&J as though my life depended on it, then dashed over to hand it to her.

She stared at it, looked me straight in the eyes, and threw it against the wall. Where it stuck.

She threw up her arms and screamed hysterically, so I frantically handed her a sippy cup full of water. Maybe she’s thirsty. She grabbed the cup, reached out her arm, and clocked me across the face with it.

That’s IT. She’s going down for a nap.

I stomped upstairs to put her in her crib and threw a blanket over her, then walked back downstairs in hopes up rounding up some Cheerios of my own, since I hadn’t eaten yet and that wasn’t helping defuse the situation any. As I rounded the corner, I saw my toddler Brontë carrying her Minnie Mouse potty chair into the kitchen, hiked up over her shoulder.

“I WANT TO POTTY IN THE KITCHEN!” she announced, like it was a completely rational thing to say. By the looks of it, she had already pottied in Minnie Mouse, when it was still in her room, because a toxic sludge of Number Two, dissolved into Number One, had leaked out in a giant trial across the white carpets as she carried the potty across the entire house.

The smelly green trail led from her bedroom, across the living room and couches, over her shoulder, across her feet, and onto the Cheerios and sandwich bits all over the kitchen floor.

“Put it down!” I yelled.

She dropped it. A big wave of dark green poop water flew up into a mushroom cloud hovering just above the potty, then splashed down onto my legs and the kitchen floor. Pieces of torn sandwich bread were swelling green like swampy Barbie sponges as Brontë stared at me and blinked. “I potty in the kitchen?” she asked, as though everything were normal and we hadn’t just experienced a poop hurricane.

“You are taking a shower,” I told her while lifting her up with one arm and marching her upstairs. I cleaned her off and laid her down for a nap, because the last thing I needed was a hyperactive toddler crunching fecal-soaked Cheerios into the tile and carpet as I tried to navigate the mess.

I walked back into the kitchen, surveyed the damage, and noticed the coffee my husband left in the pot this morning after he went to work. It was still hot. The light was still on.

I decided to pour myself a conciliatory cup of coffee to enjoy before tackling the inferno. I figured it was better than grabbing my keys, hightailing it to the car, and tearing off into the sunset while blasting rock music.

The coffee was nice, and it gave me just enough energy to salvage the kitchen wasteland before it started attracting flies. I managed to get the kids up and get through the rest of the day without getting punched in the face again or scrubbing any more waste out of the carpet.

But later that night, when I laid down to finally sleep after an exhausting day, I was still completely keyed up. Damn.

I watched some Netflix. I read a book. I surfed the web. I tried to sleep.

The hours passed by. My muscles ached and yet, I couldn’t relax them. The light outside began to cast an eerie gray.

I checked the clock. 4:50 AM.

Goodbye coffee. I loved you so.

Tragedy of a Broken Egg

The chickens are pulling their weight.
The chickens are pulling their weight.
At long last, our chicken project has paid off.

After weeks of hearing about how our chickens were supposed to lay eggs for us, my daughter Brontë was delirious with anticipation. She would check their coop every morning and scold the chickens for their lack of production.

She would given them a hard, disapproving stare, slowly shake her head, and say, “NO EGGS, chickens, NO EGGS!”

Apparently her persistent and firm corrections paid off, because after  this morning’s chicken-feeding round, Brontë opened the egg box, and what did we find?  EGGS!

Brontë was thrilled, throwing her little arms up and running around in circles, yelling “EGGS! EGGS! CHICKENS MAKE EGGS!” She was so excited, you would have thought Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Princess Elsa just rolled up in an ice cream truck.

“How many eggs do we have?” I asked her. “Let’s count them!”

She peered into the box, began pointing at each egg and calling out, “Two! Five! Eight! Six!” (Because Brontë still thinks the way to count is pointing at things while randomly shouting out any numbers you know)

“There are five eggs!” I told her. “I’m going to go get your eggs basket so we can bring them in the house.”

Brontë has a cute little egg basket with blue trim. I thought it would be fun for her to bring it to the coop every morning so we could count the eggs together before collecting them in an adorable container.

Brontë was too giddy to wait, however. When I was halfway back to the house, I turned around to see her reaching into the coop and pulling out handfuls of eggs.

“Careful!” I told her, “Be gentle with the eggs!”

She ran behind me, squeezing the eggs in her tiny fists with her arms extended over her head. She broke into excited giggling while shouting “WE HAVE FIVE EGGS!” and whirling in slaphappy toddler circles. Then, she skidded over to the porch, scrambled up the steps…

And tripped.

Falling on her shins, she reflexively squeezed her fists tighter… and heard, “CRUNCH!”

Brontë takes much pride in her job as Official Egg Collector
Brontë takes much pride in her job as Official Egg Collector
She stood up, opened her eyes, and stared at broken shells and yellow egg ooze running down her arms. After blinking in quiet shock for a couple moments, she tossed back her head, threw her mouth open and started wailing.

“Eggs,” she cried, “Sad… Egg… Gone.” She looked again at the pile of shell bits and ooze, then whispered, “Oh, eggs.”

The poor girl was absolutely heartbroken. “It’s okay,” I reassured her, “It was an accident. Eggs are easy to break. We will be more careful. It’s okay” I hugged her until her slow sobbing finally quieted down.

She eventually felt better, but the sad image of broken eggs continued to haunt her. Throughout the day, she would be happily playing then suddenly stop, stare off into space, and break into shaking sobs, murmuring, “Eggs….Accident.”

But at least she has hope. Later, John called from work and as I was talking to him, Brontë frantically tried to grab the phone. I passed to her and she smiled and said, “Daddy?”

A huge, proud smile poured across her face. “We have eggs!”

Governor Brown Moves Back Downtown

Whatever your personal politics may be, it’s hard not to love a guy like Jerry Brown.

Just look at his actual, official, portrait, hanging at the State Capitol:

Doesn't look even remotely 19th century
(Don Bachardy, 1984) Doesn’t look even remotely 19th century

It kind of stands out amongst all the stately oil-paintings of serious men standing next to bookcases.

We Sacramentons notice these sorts of things, living as we do in the stomping grounds of California’s governors. We noticed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s smoky cigar tent outside his Capitol office and how he barely spent any time in the city, being too busy hanging out in his Brentwood mansion.

I have no clue, at any rate, why my fellow Californians decided to elect a Hollywood action figure in the middle of an energy crisis, water drought, and deep recession. Maybe we just wanted to be entertained while the state burned to the ground.

We also noticed when Ronald and Nancy Reagan decided they were too fancy pants to live in the Governor’s mansion.

Well… Supposedly, Nancy thought the place was a fire trap, but we all knew the real reason after the Reagans built a two million dollar mansion in the swankiest part of town.

It’s kind of a sore spot out here.

Despite being the state capitol, Sacramento is not a huge metropolitan city when compared to the likes of San Francisco or Los Angeles, and the Big City folk never let us forget it. Outsiders love to tell us how Sacramento is not a “real” city, and our agricultural roots have earned us the sarcastic nickname “Sacra-tomato.”

Still, most Sacramento dwellers have a deep affection for the place. We have the laid-back vibe of river folk out here, nestled as we are between the Sacramento and American Rivers, and we have a great deal of history (at least for the west coast).

We had the Gold Rush, the first Transcontinental Railroad, the telegraph, the Pony Express, Sutter’s Fort, and many historic Victorian buildings that the likes of Mark Twain have passed through. One of the most beloved is the Governor’s Mansion, built in 1877.

Not good enough for the Mr. and Mrs, Fancypants from Fancypants Angeles
Not good enough for the Mr. and Mrs. Fancypants from Fancypants Angeles

The Governor’s Mansion houses the accumulated history of the thirteen California governors who lived there. It’s a charming mixture of turn-of-the-century purple velvet sofas and Italian fireplaces. Photos of famous visitors, such as JFK, line the walls next to a 60’s-inspired turquoise kitchen.  It became a museum, once the Reagans moved out, as well as one of the city’s most treasured landmarks.

My favorite detail is the claw-footed bathtub with painted red nails. When Edmund “Pat” Brown and his family lived there, his daughter Kathleen decided to make the place just a little prettier.

Even bathtubs want to feel pretty sometimes
Cause even bathtubs need to feel pretty sometimes

Despite these adorable quirks, when it was announced that the place was closing for renovations, many predicted it would close for good. California can no longer afford the extravagance of housing our officials in the style to which they’ve become accustomed, and no one has lived in the mansion since 1967. Until now.

Governor Brown is coming back home.

The governor who once refused to move into the Reagan’s former mansion (calling it a pretentious “Taj Mahal”), rides to work in a blue Plymouth and walks his dogs downtown like a regular Joe,  planned these renovations in hopes of making the Governor’s mansion inhabitable again.

Not just for him, but for all future governor’s of California.

Governor Brown thinks our quirky little house is good enough.This move will bring him even nearer and dearer to our hearts.

What Happens to California Babies When the Temperature Plummets below 70

Temperature is a relative thing. I’ve heard tales about mailmen in upstate New York who walk around in shorts when it’s 50 degrees outside. For them, 50 degrees must seem positively balmy, accustomed as they are to Volkswagen-swallowing mounds of snow.

In California, that kind of behavior would make people wonder if you’re a couple sandwiches short of a picnic. We consider 50 degrees freakishly cold out here, though it depends on what part of the state you are from.

Whenever I travel, people picture sunny Baywatch beaches when they hear I’m from California. They think life here is one long kegger party, packed with bikinis and volleyballs. There’s an odd tendency to chuckle and mimic Valley girl accents.

“That’s Los Angeles,” I try to explain. “That’s about 400 miles from where I live. Like from Kentucky to Delaware.”

Yes, California is an enormous state. Not as big as Texas or Alaska, but still large enough to cover a huge range of weather patterns. Los Angeles is the land of constant sunniness, for example, whereas San Francisco lives in constant chilly fog.

I live in Sacramento, on the other hand, a place that would be Death Valley if it were’t for a couple of rivers running through it. This place’s 100+ degree days will blister the brains right out of your head during the summer months. It tops out around 114 (that’s 45.6 degrees celsius, if that’s how you roll).

Yes, it’s a dry heat, but 114 degrees is hot, no matter what kind of excuses you come up for it. No one wants to run a marathon in 114-degree heat. If global warming spikes the temperature out here much higher, the place will become downright uninhabitable.

When the Gold Rush hit, back in the days before air-conditioning, people pouring in from the northeast were in for a nasty surprise. Padded in petticoats, velvet, and other ridiculously stifling outfits, the wives of many gold miners wrote letters back home questioning why their husbands would bring them to Satan’s personal toaster oven.

I’m convinced that when no one was looking, these women locked the door, stripped down to their underwear, and spent their time fanning themselves while muttering under their breath. I picture them saying things like “Modesty, my left butt-cheek” or “Where’s that shovel so I can scrape my boots off the floor?”

We also get a lot of droughts. We’re in the middle of one now, in fact. It’s bad enough that the city has been paying people to rip out their lawns, since they require so much water, and that having a lush green front yard will get you some disapproving stares. You’re not considered a team player nowadays unless your lawn looks painted in napalm.

So when the temperature finally dipped under 70 degrees this past week, people were thrilled. It even misted a little rain for a couple days, which put everyone in a better mood. Since the kids weren’t in any danger of heat exhaustion any longer, John and I decided to round them up and take them to the park.

While we were getting ready to go, John dressed Bridget like this:

Ready for the Yukon.
Ready for the Yukon.

You can see the panic breaking out in her nervous eyes, peeking out from behind four layers of clothes. She’s wearing socks, mittens, a snow jacket, and has a thick blanket burrito-ing her toasty little body inside the stroller.

When I questioned the reasonableness of her attire, John insisted that he “didn’t want her to get cold.”

I figured there was a snowball’s chance of that happening, since she looked prepared for a winter in Minnesota.

Still, I didn’t want to question his parenting choices. It’s actually very sweet for him to worry about her like this. He was being a Papa Bear looking after his little one, worried about how babies get cold easily and the importance of keeping them warm. John tends to live on the cautious side, and wanted to make absolutely, positively, certain that our baby wasn’t uncomfortable.

So I decided to keep quiet as we strolled around the park, letting big sister Brontë run around the swings and tackle the monkey bars. But then Bridget started screaming and flailing her arms.

“Is she hungry?” John fretted, breaking out some of the carefully prepared snack rations she was about to smack out of his hands.

“is she tired?” he asked, while trying to hike down the back of the stroller as she flipped around in desperation, sweat pouring down her little forehead.

“She’s HOT,” I shouted, while scrambling to peel off a few layers of outerwear. I unrolled her damp socks, felt her forehead, and  tried to grab the poor thing some water. She choked it down.

As the breeze hit her drenched little body, she relaxed with a deep sigh. John hoisted her into his baby carrier and she smiled as the air hit her wet baby hair and the beads of sweat sprouting all over her plump legs.

Those are the kind of shenanigans that happen when California summers dip under 70. The Sacramento heat is boiling the sanity right out of us.

Happier now
Happier now

Everybody poops. Everybody.

Monsters put poo in my diaper. It wasn't me.
Monsters put poo in my diaper. It wasn’t me.

Big stink lines wafted from my two-year old daughter. She was blurring the background view as she stood in her overripe diaper.

“Did you poop, Brontë?”

“NO!” She yelled, running behind the couch.

“It’s okay if you pooped,” I reassured her, “Everybody poops.”

Popping her eyes above the couch, she considered what I was saying.

“Mommy and daddy poop,” I told her, “Grandma and grandpa poop.”

She paused to reflect on this as I continued, “Princesses poop. Anna and Elsa poop.”

At this, she burst into choking laughter. “PRINCESS POO!!!!” She screamed, eyes tearing up as she continued to belly laugh.

What a novel concept, the very idea that the goddesses of frozen castles and marshmallow monsters would poop just like the rest of us.

“Did you poop, Brontë?”

“Yeah, I poop,” she confessed, breaking into a giggle. “I poop princess poo.”

Mountain Dew: Gateway to Meth Addiction?

Not cool, 1950's...
Not cool, 1950’s…
Surfing the internet the other day, I came across this ad from the Ladies Home Journal in 1955. It reads:

Why We Have the Youngest Customers in the Business: This young man is 11 months old–and he isn’t our youngest customer by any means. For 7-up is so pure, so wholesome, you can even give it to babies and feel good about it. Look at the back of a 7-up bottle. Notice that all our ingredients are listed. (This isn’t required of soft drinks you know, but we’re proud to do it…)

This is an actual ad that ran in our grandparents’ day, advising moms everywhere that they are doing the right thing, the healthy thing, by feeding their babies soda. Because it’s wholesome. It’s pure.

Pure what… sugar? Is it wholesome because it’s clear? You really have to wonder what kind of crap was in the non-pure sodas back in the day. Battery acid? Crack? Because I’m trying to picture what’s worse for a newborn to drink than sugar syrup with a bunch of citrusy chemicals in it and that’s what’s coming to mind.

Wow, times have changed. In case there was any doubt, the past season of Orange Is the New Black featured child soda-guzzling as a major part of Tiffany “Pensatucky” Doggett’s backstory. They flash back to Tiffany as a small child, showing how her abusive mother fed her a gallon of Mountain Dew before going into the welfare office, hoping she would qualify for more government assistance if she had a kid with ADHD.

That kid better start making shivs, because life can only go downhill from here

Later, Tiffany becomes a young woman with incredibly low self-esteem, who will prostitute herself for a six pack of, you guessed it, Mountain Dew. As fans will know, Tiffany’s life then hits a downward spiral into meth addiction, multiple abortions, murder, and finally, prison.

By the end of Season 3, Tiffany is showing some drastic improvements in outlook and character, which hints at the idea that she wasn’t so bad by design. She just had the wrong environment, wrong family, wrong circumstances, and apparently, the wrong beverage growing up.

I’m not saying that OITNB is pointing the finger directly at Pensatucky’s childhood Mountain Dew consumption, but it definitely becomes a symbol of the abusive, white-trash upbringing that leads to her later downfall. It’s a far cry from 1955’s idea that good mothers feed their babies pure soda.

Back then, moms didn’t worry themselves sick about everything they put on the table. For breakfast, they just fried up some bacon and eggs, without any thought to saturated fats and cholesterol, then slapped a tub of processed margarine on the table for extra grease. Or maybe handed their kids some multicolor sugar smack cereal or a PopTart. Whatever got them fed.

Also known as
Also known as “ADHD sticks”
Parents didn’t fret about TV dinners, processed cold cuts, or sugar content back then. They more processed, the better. With a name brand you can recognize, they knew they could trust the food.  It probably means it’s clean. Hell, they were just happy that modern food science had liberated them from their grandmother’s drudgery of making food from scratch.

“Convenience” was the name of the game. Growing up, my cousin and I absolutely lived off of Day-Glo orange Otter pops, and I can’t imagine what kind of chemical cocktail went into making those.

Our grandparents used to give us each a couple bucks and send us walking to the nearest candy store, by ourselves, to fill a bag with whatever caught our eye. We even bought bubblegum cigarettes. Then we would walk back home and just hang out in the backyard, wolfing it all down at once.

My grandparents’ biggest concern, at the time, was whether we would smear melted Charleston Chew chocolate or Chick-O-Stick crumbs on our clothes.

Nowadays, they game has changed. We no longer trust anything easy and are constantly on the lookout for harmful ingredients: high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colorings and flavorings, MSG, Saccharin, Aspartame, Splenda, sodium nitrate, BHA , to name a handful. And that doesn’t even include the packaging. We are convinced we must ferret out  these substances from our children’s food before they cause everything from heart attacks and emotional instability to brain damage.

The more stringent parents don’t stop with artificial additives. Some won’t cook with red meat, butter and whole fat milk or cheese. Others ban dairy entirely, along with white sugar, flour, rice, pasta, and bread. You might think we could all agree that at least water  is safe, but a number of parents are concerned about the effects of fluoridation.

All in all, it’s absolutely exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m on board with the clean eating movement and try really hard to feed my kids well. I blended up all my baby food from scratch, get fresh produce from farmer’s markets, try to minimize the amount of processed foods my kids eat, and usually cook all of our meals at home, from scratch.

But sometimes, every once in a while, I’m a little jealous of moms from previous generations. They never worried about all this crap. They just pulled out some Wonder bread, smeared on some Jiffy peanut butter and Smuckers grape jelly, and called it a day.