Thursday, April 29, 2010

Q-Tea: The Chosen Frozen

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who Wears Short Shorts

There's a whisper going around among us women over forty. Perhaps you aren't there yet. Perhaps, owing to some wonderful endless flowing cornucopia of self-esteem, you never will. But for the rest of us there is the question which cannot be stopped:

Can I still wear shorts?

I think we're all in agreement that the bloomer short being bandied about this year is no longer for us, but honestly when was it for us? What woman has been heard to moan "Oh, if only something would add width to my hips and then hug my upper thigh with a death grip"? J. Crew defines this as a novelty short. J. Crew doesn't understand that if I want novelty anywhere near my midsection I'll change vitamins.

But even in shorts which don't do anything more novel than expose the bottom half of one's leg, it's still a minefield. Talbots tag-line for the season,"It's always summer somewhere," feels kind of a like a threat to me. I mean, there are my knees. Knees are adorable on toddlers, hopefully functional on atheletes and are what separate us from cacti, but can anyone say they're attractive? I'm sure there are websites dedicated to men and women who are very very pleased at the sight of a knee, but I think we can safely say knee-fanciers are in the minority.

Then you reach a magic age determined by your genetics and lifestyle choices when all of a sudden you no longer just have the Not-Very-Attractive-knee, you have the NVA knee with some newly flaccid skin above it. You're standing there, blamelessly waiting for your dry-cleaning or your number to come up at the deli, and you look down and AUGH! The dermotological version of an origami crane! But it's the last warm day of autumn so you cover up and try to forget.

Then it gets warm again and your corduroy pants look incongrous. So, shorts. What to do? Do you go with the Lilly Pulitzer pattern on the shorts, hoping your knees will go unnoticed as people try to determine why your shorts are bedecked with tropically-hued mutant sperm? A variation of that, known as "MY EYES!!!" can be found at LLBean.

Or do you go with the mid-knee style which, while covering the offending area, gives you the "Lutheran church group at Elderhostel in Prague" look?

Or do I switch over to skirts, which I tried to do last year? Apparently, skirts are what Italian and French women wear instead of shorts. In theory, a casual skirt should take no more effort than walking shorts, but when I put on a pair of shorts I hardly ever think about them again. In a skirt I'm either doing battle with a hurricane-force updraft which seems to be following only me or I'm in search of my zipper, which should be in the middle of my back and yet is constantly migrating toward my sternum.

We were discussing this Monday while the kids ran up and down the field, their healthy legs lean and firm, their knees surrounded by taut skin, when our observations were interrupted by the impatient clicking of a tongue. One of the kids had been delivered by his grandmother and she rolled her eyes in mock contempt. "I don't know why you girls worry about these things," she said, "You all look fine. Besides, my friends and I wear shorts all the time."

It was an epiphany. I might not be wearing shorts this year, but once I hit seventy I can wear them again. I'll be so delighted to have them back I'll wear them all the time. They'll contrast nicely with my sequinned holiday sweaters.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Every Single Night I'm Staring in Her Window

This morning, Consort read me a little blip from the newspaper (I know, but someone had to be the last person reading the Los Angeles Times) about a problem with Windows. Seems the McAfee program had updated their virus protector, only it mistakenly identified a regular file as a virus, causing what I imagined was a autoimmune disorder for computers. The problem was noted when Windows computers kept crashing and having to be rebooted.

"And how, exactly," I said, sipping my tea, "is that different from any other Thursday?"

We chuckled a bit over that. And then we snickered over the idea the idea of everyone in Redmond, Washington running around in paper hats, throwing confetti, shrieking in childish glee, "Today it's not us! Today, it's MCAFEE!!!!!!" Finally, we decided Windows new slogan should be Windows: Shut Up or We'll Really Give You Something to Cry About.

Our hilarity subsided. One of us soberly to the other, "We're really very geeky, you know."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Do I Really Have to Mention, She's the One

The grocery-store line was long so I had plenty of time to admire the infant being snuggled by the woman in front of me. The baby was small enough that she was still in the stringbean phase, long spidery legs and vineline arms; I guessed she was no more than three weeks old. I commended the woman on her lovely daughter and her ability to shop with a newborn and have her pants on the right way. The mother looked to be in her early thirties and the Bjorn was unstained, so I guessed, “First child?” I prepared my little quiver of helpful advice for first-time parents.

“Oh no,” she said, kissing her daughter’s head and adjusting a tiny frilled sock. “She’s our seventh.”

I commended her for her correctly-worn pants with even greater sincerity and stared resolutely down into my purse as if to look for something, possibly my other six children.

It’s not rational but when I, as the mother of a single child, meet a mother of a big family I start feeling inadequately maternal. It’s as if they’re mothers and I’m one of those people who swear they know what motherhood is like because they have a frilled lizard. I'm Marie Antoinette, playing at my little faux maternal farm. This is brought home to me each time I talk to the mother of a big-family and we start comparing notes.

Is your only child, when ill with anything, prone to vomiting? The mother of a big family has a vomiter, a nose-bleeder and at least one who gets strep before every major holiday.

Is your child going through a difficult phase? The mother of a big-family has been through that exact phase multiple times already and has one child going through it right now along with two children in other challenging phases. She tends to say supportive yet vaguely worrying things like, “Ooh, if you don’t like three, wait until she gets to be eleven.”

The school run, the sports schedule, the after-school activities? The mother of an only child might be tired but the mother of a big family doesn’t have the luxury of being tired because before she picks up her middle kid at hockey practice she has to take her older daughter to Michael’s to buy art supplies and stop at the pet store to pick up pinkies for the twins’ snake.

It’s just a degree of difficulty and one I’ll never fully comprehend. If my kid is having a good day we all feel pretty good. If she’s having a bad day, that affects the house. Barring the discussion about how I might want to maintain healthy boundaries between my kid and myself, it’s pretty straightforward. If you have five, one can be having a great day and one can be coming down with something and one is fighting with her best friend and one is convinced he’ll never understand factoring and one is in the bathroom cutting her hair. How on earth do you decide which mood to have?

Sometimes I think I haven’t fully parented because I’ve never had to drive while someone in the back seat whispers “I’” as the other screams “MAKE. HER. STOP!!!” On the other hand, I’ve had parents with big families tell me my job is harder, because their children entertain each other and never have the expectation of unadulterated parental attention that only children do.

Now, I’m opening the floor. What do you think? Tell me about your family and the challenges and joys of whatever size it is. This is purely selfish on my part because I happen to think my readers are so really fine (and fun) writers.

If you have a really big family and manage to find time to get a comment in, know that I will be extra-impressed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Heigh-ho the Derry-O

As far back as anyone can trace, my mother's people in Minnesota were farmers. They were the kind of farmers who could work the frosty and belligerent land of northern Minnesota so well they continued to eat during the Depression but more impressive, they were able to throw a sizable wedding for my grandmother during the depths of those dark times. In my veins flows the blood of ancestors who could look at a cloud or a seedling and know everything they needed to know.

This morning, I weeded the front yard. I looked at a plant and wondered, "Is that the annoying weed with those nasty thorns?" so I stuck my hand into it to find out. It was. A moment later, I shrieked in terror because a spider got on my ankle. To remove said spider, I ran in circles until it became motion-sick and jettisoned itself. Then I blotted my hand and spent several minutes removing a particularly obstreperous weed which turned out to be an exotic and expensive herb I had planted last year. Finally, I started to itch and had to stop weeding because it was Benadryl time.

Leaving the yard, I heard a sound from somewhere above me. It was probably a squirrel chittering at me from the sycamore tree, but it also might have been my ancestors, sobbing into their capable, spectral hands.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tea for Two and Two for Tea

Every Girl Crazy 'Bout a Sharp-Dressed Man

It takes a few years together, but eventually couples pick up on the subtle undercurrents in a conversation. For example, this morning when Consort was getting dressed and I said, "What on earth are you doing?" he gleaned that I was actually saying was, "If I were you, I'd go with other shoes."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Duke of Earl

This is for my friend Mary, who would have loved it.

Apparently, one of the earlier Dukes of Norfolk once turned to the person sitting next to him at dinner and said, "I have two topics; cricket and drains. Pick one."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Younger than Springtime

Allure magazine tells its readers that painted nails and a ring make ones hands look younger. They forgot to mention it, so I'll add this; really short, freshly broken nails and no fewer than three paper cuts are very youthening, too.

Some days I suspect I'll die before I ever look like an "After" picture.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Takin' What They're Giving 'Cause I'm Working For a Living

This morning, I washed out the trash cans. Scrubbed and everything. When you have two cats, this is not an insignificant statement, no matter how vigilant you are about double-knotting the litter-bags. This gave me such a sense of smug satisfaction that for the rest this day, I've given myself a pass on anything unpleasant or emotionally draining:

"Letter about seal-killing from the ASPCA? Couldn't possibly read it, what with having cleaned the trashcans and all."

"Clean out the fridge and sniff things to check their viability? Sure, had I not cleaned out the trashcans, that would be on the to-do list. But I did clean out the trashcans, so the khaki-colored lentil salad will have to wait another day."

"Correct the kid's word problems in math? Oh, all right, but it seems so unfair, coming so soon after cleaning the trash-cans."

You get the picture. I'm a shockingly self-congratulatory slug today. But my question to you is, what chore-- household or otherwise -- causes you to give yourself the rest of the day off?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

I realized this week that my blog has a mission statement. I’m sort of pleased about this and sort of horrified; I’ve decided to call this state of being cringigrin. The mission statement for the last five years has been Somewhere in the world, Quinn is being an idiot. It’s best we track her.

I’ll admit, for the first few months, I worried I’d run through every stupid thing I do and then I’d be left with taking pictures of each and every bean and cheese burrito I eat, but I came to understand that my idiocy is an endlessly replenishing well. The bean and cheese burrito would show up in the blog, not out of a lack of material but because I’d eat it while driving and then spill it and then I’d swear loudly and then I’d notice my open window and the open-windowed SUV full of nuns in the next lane. When you’re me, there’s often a nun-laden car somewhere within earshot.

In September, when I started home-schooling, I won’t say my first thought was “...and so much material of me being an idiot to blog,” but it was in the top five thoughts. And yes, there is an embarrassment of riches of my embarrassment, but it always involves the kid. She swears she doesn’t mind if I write about her, Consort gives me permission as her father; the pets remain indifferent. I could write about home-schooling her and all the idiotic things I do and the funny things she says and I’d be typing so fast and so often that I’d wear off my fingerprints.

And yet.

And yet it’s my kid and it’s her life and not source material and there might be some time when hearing, “Say, aren’t you ‘Daughter’ from Quinn’s blog? I read all about you!” won’t fill her with delight. Or having large chunks of her childhood out there, being read by thousands of people will fill her with delight which will nauseate me. Because it will mean she bought into the collective lie of modern culture which says being known for no good reason is the highest aspiration a person can have. So I need to create a slightly different blog and it began with the new mission statement:

Come to the QC Report party and leave happy nearly all the time.

Sometimes, I’ll lead you to a Q-Tea video blog. If I find objects I think might please you all, I’ll link to them. I’ll still be doing idiotic things and we’ll be tracking them, because if I’m not shaming my family name in public, you can safely assume I’m dead. But I’m giving myself room to widen what a QC Report blog entry will be.

I put up a blog earlier this week. It was meant to commend parents who were divorced from their partners but still showing up for their lives and their children’s lives; I’ve got a few people in my life right now who aren’t having much fun in that capacity and I wanted to send them an unsightly-but-sincere Valentine of a blog. But the first person who wrote in made some very perspicacious comments about the other side of divorced parents, the selfish and mean side. She wasn’t wrong, I wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t feel like seeing what happened in the comments. I thought about my new mission statement and did something I’ve never done before; I took the blog down. I might put it up again it some point, but right now I feel like keeping this part of my life, the writing part, happy and carefree. Obviously, if something icky or sad happens in my life which needs mentioning, I'll mention it. But until then? Buoyancy.

In sum, I’m not going anywhere. I might even put something up more often, whenever I find the right mixture of happy and goofy or whenever I fall up a flight of stairs in front of someone important. The QC Report party will continue until such time as the punch runs out.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The World is a Stage the Stage is a World of Entertainment

I just saw a movie, The Secret of Kells. And then I yammered about it. C'mon, it's a night.

Someone just wrote in and asked about my linking Catholicism, mysticism and fairies into one lump in the review. Please understand, I don't consider them of a piece. I'm not Evangelical, but I have a few friends who are Evangelicals and I know there are story elements in the movie they could find problematic; I wanted to give the heads-up.

I'm proud of having readers of every stripe, belief, and persuasion coming here and to You- Tube. My goal is to continue to create a party where everyone feels welcome and where I can make an idiot of myself.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down to Peep

Whatever holiday you are celebrating, or not, over the next few days, I think we can all agree that Peeps make excellent models.

This is How We Do It

1. Write long email asking large favor of not-quite-close-enough-to-be-called-friend.

2. Upon hitting "Send," realize you forgot to write "Thanks!" Grab it in outbox and attach thanks.

3. Watch email go out as you click "Send" for the second time. Check "Sent" file. Note you've now sent long email asking large favor twice, once with "Thanks!" and once without.

4. Think about sending third email to apologize for the second email. Decide that might qualify as stalking.

5. Chew on cuticles and wonder if you ever had measurable social skills.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

How excited we'll all be when I have a whole hour to myself and I can write a blog. In the meanwhile, might I direct you to a video blog? I don't have to be alone to do those. Unlike my blog, however, I do have to be wearing pants. Not that you can see them, but the other parents flinch when I don't.