By the time I’ve slaved over a pot of burnt rice and battled the side leg tackles of my toddler, I’m ready to chow down on the (unburned, new batch of) rice and curry stir fry cooked by loving Husband. Throw plates on the table, sweep dead flower petals to the side, plonk down a beer and call it a meal.

Fortunately we’ve already instilled in our daughter a deeply ingrained love of prayer, otherwise we’d be eating like heathens in front of an episode of Lost without any form of pomp or circumstance…which is exactly how we used to do things. What I thought would be a nice family routine of saying a quick prayer before dinner has turned into a breakfast-lunch-snack-and-dinner affair, complete with thanking God for the food and pretty much every single person we know on this earth. Oh, and the animals too. Our grace goes something like this:

Parent (either Husband or me): Dear God, thank you for this food.


Z: Pop Pop.

Parent: And Pop Pop.

Z: Meh-nie.

Parent: And Melanie.

Z: Hay-son.

Parent: And Harrison.

Z: Gamma.

Parent: And Grandma.

And so on, until we finish thanking God for the grandparents, the cat, the dogs next door, Mama, Daddy, and finally, Z herself. Then sometimes we loop back to the cat.

The same thing happens at nighttime prayers. Then yesterday as I put her down in her crib for naptime and her eyes were drooping, she popped her little head up and said, “Gace!” [translation: Grace].

This is hard to admit in front of the Public and God and Everyone Else (including my mother), but I pretended not to know what she was talking about.

It sounds bad, I know. But her little eyes were practically shut, and she would have been wide awake by the end of a recital of the contents of my address book (and don’t forget the animals). Plus I work so hard to get her to sleep sometimes; if she’s already there on her own, I don’t want to mess with that. Sometimes I’ll go to extreme and superstitious lengths to preserve what I have come to think of as our Routine.

So I said a quick prayer for her, because I believe you can just say, “Hey God, thanks for my beautiful kid,” whenever you feel like it.

It’s a Disease

A Friday Free-for-All Entry

One thing that I love about reading Janet Evanovich and Sarah Dessen is the food. All kinds of snack food–everything you can dream of. Donuts are practically their own character in Evanovich’s books, as well as fried chicken and pineapple upside-down cake. And the teens in Dessen’s novels are constantly guzzling giant sodas and buying snacks from the gas station mini-marts. Ah, what wouldn’t I give for that sort of fictional metabolism?

The other day (it doesn’t really matter which day, as in this respect most days are the same), I had to have chocolate. Any kind would do, and the chocolate chips were long gone from their hiding place on the top shelf in the spice cupboard. Taking a leaf out of one of Dessen’s books, I strapped Z into her stroller and headed to the nearest Quik-Zip (in real life known as the Tower Mart).

On the way there I consoled myself with thoughts of how I had been working out every day (until I came down with that blasted cold), and would soon resume the exercise habit. I reminded myself of my virtuous salads, made from the lettuce growing in my own back yard (which of course makes it even healthier). I thought, Why, I’m walking to the store! That should burn the equivalent of the calories in one almond in the candy bar I am about to purchase!

With thoughts of chocolate-coated almonds distracting me, I could totally ignore the part of me wondering what sort of example I was setting for my child. And when I could ignore it no longer, I berated it, because Z isn’t even two yet! She won’t remember one tiny trip to the Tower Mart taken on one March morning when she was nineteen months old. (Whether she will remember repeated trips taken frequently throughout the rest of her toddlerhood remains to be seen.)

As luck had it, chocolate bars were on sale. I bought two. Okay! Fine! I’ll be honest!

I bought four.

As I stood in line, clutching my chocolate, I looked at the woman in line to the front of me, buying a pack of cigarettes. Then I turned to the man behind me who held a case of Budweiser.

I’d like to say that I drew the appropriate conclusion, put the candy back on the display, and wheeled Z out of the store. What actually happened was I drew the appropriate conclusion, bought the chocolate anyway, and ate one of them as soon as Z went down for her nap that afternoon.

Okay! Fine! I’ll be honest!

I ate two.

Eh. Nothing much else to say about that.

Sequoia Weeds

As promised, a photo of my mini-garden. It is confined to planter boxes for the time being, but we have plans to expand into the back lawn.

Hello salad!

That’s the flattering angle of my “garden.” From the other direction, scary. The arugula is just screaming for attention–it’s in the far planter, crowded, insisting on space, and stealing it from the stunted beets and the three sickly soybean plants.

At dinner last night I asked Husband if he thought it was the coolest thing in the world that I can step into the back yard and “pick” our salad just before we eat it. For him, the novelty wore off after the first night. For me, it never gets old. I look at the bright green things in my salad bowl and just marvel at how these used to be tiny seeds. I have loved them. Like a proud parent, I even made phone calls to friends and family when they sprouted.

I’ve been spending so much of my attention on these two planter boxes (and the failed experiments of container lettuce) that I neglected the front and side yards. Now they are SCARY.

Monster Weed

I don’t think this photo can really get my point across. This is only a small cross-section of one-eighth of the tree-sized weed growing in the side yard. It’s–really–big. Well, it was. And it has friends–many friends. And it had these prickly leaves (hence the heavy work gloves…oh, who am I kidding–I’m freaked out about spiders and all kinds of bugs and always wear gloves when I work in the yard).

The gardening stuff gives me something else to think about. This week had a downer (the agent formerly interested in Savage Autumn sent an impersonal r e j e c t i o n letter), and an upper (SA made it into the second round of the ABNA contest). And I’m starting to really think about the next book, which is so much fun, but my brain needs a break sometimes, and it needs to get outside.

Well, the sequel to The Hunger Games awaits. So glad the weekend starts tomorrow!

Poo To Do

I really don’t see how this would be of interest to anyone except myself, but my to-do list (all forms of it updated, categorized, fretted over, and so on, since high school) is on my mind right now, so I think I’ll work with it.

Also, I’m sorry yesterday’s entry didn’t show up until late; I hit the “Save Draft” button instead of the “Schedule [to publish]” button. It’s better than today’s entry, so you could just read that instead. Really.

Poo To Do:

1) read and comment on Ana’s manuscript

2) read and comment on writing for the Sacramento Writers Group (it isn’t posted yet, but since I’m the person who posts them, I can get the head start I desperately need in order to procrastinate until the last minute)

3) rough character sketches for The Black City. Can I please, tonight, NOT get bogged down browsing through 100,001 Baby Names while selecting monikers for my invented people?

4) pick up library books on hold. They haven’t arrived yet, but they should soon. One book I’m especially excited about it Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. No, I’m not obsessively checking and re-checking my library account. Nope, I haven’t memorized my 14-digit library account number because I’ve been typing it in so often. No, I didn’t actually pack Z up and take her to the library to investigate my holds status in person.

5) stop lying

6) turn Z’s car seat around so she isn’t scrunched up like a jack-in-the-box during our many trips to the library

7) pick some lettuce to make a salad for dinner tonight. LOVING my mini-garden. I’ll post a picture on Friday.

8 ) replace batteries in sound monitor for Z’s room

9) figure out what to write for blog post tomorrow–I need to compose these in my mind early (you think all this witticism shows up on the fly? Oh, no: “…and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments…I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.” -Mr. Collins, Pride and Prejudice)

10) talk to Husband about painting bedroom walls

11) clip back the blackened, frost-killed bush in front of the bathroom window–there’s green in there somewhere–it’ll make it!

12) check, re-check, and check again the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards site to see if my novel made the first cut. For the first cut they just read the pitches. You can click here to read mine.

There’s more, of course. But I’ve gotta go, need to check that ABNA site again.

Slug Love

On Wednesday night I enjoyed my very first salad made with lettuce from my own garden. I felt so in touch with the earth, with nature, that I enjoyed it while watching an episode of “Bones” on hulu. In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed that salad. My hands (and my mother’s) put the seeds into tiny trays and delicately covered them with soil, then I watered them and obsessed over them like my daughter’s first breaths, counting each little seedling as it sprouted. I gloried in the leaves growing bright bright green, reaching for the sun.

I did not glory in the slugs.

Okay, so I’m the girl who cried when my brother salted snails or held a magnifying glass over ants. It just seemed cruel. I didn’t even want to hear him talking about such things. Now I find myself wondering how to take care of these garden pests. Geoff Hamilton, the author of Organic Gardening, recommends dropping these little guys into a bucket of kerosene. While probably an instant death, it also sounds A) cruel, and B) dangerous with a toddler wandering around the backyard, managing to get into everything. For awhile my compromise was to launch them over the back fence and into the yard of the empty, bank-owned house next door. Now that people actually live there, it seems wrong. Especially because those people are nice. If they were mean, I’d probably do it anyway. Okay, okay, I threw a couple of slugs over there yesterday, and I feel really bad about it, okay? I’m not going to do it anymore.

My new compromise is probably worse than the instant kerosene death or the slow torture of the salt, but I bet it makes the little suckers happy in the short run. I stick ’em in the yard waste bin. It’s full of damp, decaying vegetation. Slug’s paradise, right? Yeah, until summer when that thing heats up like a slow-cooker.

If my slug-compassion gets too intense, I can always just plant arugula next winter. Bleh. That stuff is so bitter, even the slugs don’t want to eat it.

What You Eat

Is there such a thing as a McDonald’s hangover? Because I think I have one.

After reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I jumped right onto the big green bandwagon sporting the bumper sticker “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The growing dependence I’d developed on soda when I worked at the restaurant (like, seven years ago) was the first to go, and I planted a mini winter garden in awesome redwood planter boxes my dad made for me. (My winter garden is mostly lettuce, and a few struggling beets. Nobody even likes beets.)

Yesterday before the writer’s group meeting I ate an apple in an attempt to safeguard against any unhealthful food temptation. After the meeting, though, I needed something. And what I spied first was McDonald’s. Bummer. Husband and I had sworn that place off years ago after watching Super Size Me. Then during the first trimester of my pregnancy, those crappy cheeseburgers (and those fries–oh, those fries!) were the only things I could even consider eating. Sometimes I wonder how Z is as healthy as she is.

So after eating (mostly) good things for the past couple of months, I do the McDonald’s drive-through. This morning? I feel terrible. Totally disgusting. I couldn’t even get out of bed (okay, so that at least is normal). Next time I’m tempted by fast food, I hope I remember how fast it makes me feel terrible.

Kitchen ‘Capades

This morning I was greeted in the kitchen by the Mt. Everest of dishes, looming precipitously above me and sucking up all the oxygen with their stench. Didn’t I JUST do these? I wondered. Hasn’t there been enough kitchen cleaning for one week? Does it never end? I know I’m not the first stay-at-homie to ponder these philosophical quandaries. With my easy solution, perhaps I’ll be the last.

For those of you interested in my ground-breaking solution, here it is: stop eating. No food means no dishes. I know I can certainly survive until the Fourth of July off of my stomach fat alone, not even needing to use up the fat stores from other parts until much later. Z can survive off the handouts she gets at playdates. Seriously, the kid walks into a stranger’s house and starts begging. I try to convince the other moms that she does eat at home, but they don’t believe me. So I may as well stop feeding her and make the rounds to the other toddlers’ houses. And Husband? He barely eats anyway, somehow getting through an entire day on three cookies. In fact, he doesn’t even have to eat those cookies. He takes them to work, then brings them home; he magically absorbs whatever calories he needs just from carrying them. I magically absorb whatever calories I don’t need just by looking at air.

But this isn’t an article intended to poke fun at my weight, as easy as that is right now. I’m mystified by the kitchen, and the dishes inside it, and how they seem to dirty themselves through the very virtue of being dishes. Perhaps I don’t get it because I don’t cook. So when I see the dishes it’s magical in an Oh-No-Voldemort-Just-Apparated-In-My-Kitchen sort of way.

When I do finally tackle the mess, usually in the morning (I mean really, who wants to waste Z’s precious bedtime hours cleaning?), I vow to never again let it get this bad. “Never,” I say, scrubbing a chunk of enchilada off the rim of a plate. All good intentions are lost as soon as Z looks “thoughtful” and needs a new diaper. My child protects me from doing too much work because after the diaper change she wants a story. And in the face of all those dishes, reading Rosemary Wells’s Bunny Planet trilogy forty-six times sounds like nirvana.