Hello there, persons of the blogosphere! I write to you from atop the Green Mountains, or at least atop one of them, or at least not far from the top of one of them! We have left the wilds of the Greater Boston area for a four-day weekend in Vermont, an event that is becoming something of a yearly tradition. It is also an event that strikes me as particularly hypocritical, considering I spend the other 361 days of the year moaning about suburbia and how we need to move back to a city. You’d think being this far from a metropolitan area would make my a bit hyperventilatey, yet somehow it doesn’t. I think the sheer distance to a major city simply overrides my City Gene.

That and the fact that it is absolutely freakin’ gorgeous up here. You can’t spit without hitting a phenomenal farmer’s market (because, you know, that would be the classy thing to do), and the locally sourced produce and bread and everythingdelicious is out of control. Plus you just can’t make up views like this:

Or the fact that you’re just ambling through a side-of-the-road sculpture park and stumble upon the most pristine stream you’ve ever seen, the kind you need to wade into and skip rocks through immediately, lest you go back home and remember never doing it:

And then there’s Burlington. While I may not be the worldliest of women, I have been more than a few places and I still maintain that Burlington, VT, is one of the best spots in the world. Honest-to-god hippies stroll shoulder-to-shoulder with Gap-bedecked UVM students, while tourists and locals alike stop to take renewing breaths of the fresh, Lake Champlain-scented mountain air, the foghorns of ferries and the tinkling of head shops and the melodies of live-music clubs all mingling to make you realize you’re really lucky to be there right at that moment.

Every time we visit Burlington, Adam and I throw around the idea of moving there, temporarily shedding our Big City Dreams for a lake-rimmed college town where we could eat our weight in local goat cheese. Then we remember, Oh! Winter! Samosa stands and charmingly dreadlocked neighbors, sure.  But constant multiple feet of snow? We’re just too feeble of soul for that.

Maybe Aura will realize the Burlington dream some day. Adam’s father and uncle both were born and raised in the city, and we tracked down their homestead yesterday. It, much like the city itself, looks like a good place to have grown up.

After all, and as we reminded Aura, it’s always nice to have a legacy, even if it’s far from the place you usually call home.

As I may have mentioned before, we have no yard. We have lots of mulch and tons of weedy stuff and a downright precipitous rock cliff in the back, but zip for grass. I doubt this would bother me in the least except for Aura, who is a child and is having a childhood and therefore needs Outdoor Childhood Memories. Given this, I am easily suckered into buying any outside toy that can be used on non-grassy surfaces. We have a closetful of bubble toys, a virtual hamper of bouncy balls, the world’s most annoying ring-toss kit…the list goes on. But I still feel guilty.

I tell you this because all that guilt is my excuse for purchasing the following:

Yet I am still scrambling for an excuse to explain why the woman on the pool box infuriates me so. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that I find myself reluctantly subsisting almost entirely on cucumbers and Fiber One bars (Oats ‘n’ Chocolate!). Whatever the impetus, this Mother Who Swims with Her Kids in a Silver Lamé Bikini is really annoying the hell out of me.

A closer look.

As I spent 20 sweaty minutes pumping up the pool today, I kept casting looks over my shoulder, unable to stop glaring at the Mother Who Swims with Her Kids in a Silver Lamé Bikini’s smarmy grin. Or, for that matter, the Mother Who Swims with Her Kids in a Silver Lamé Bikini’s abs, which I am fairly certain are approximately 273% more defined than my own. Also, those fake kids of hers might very well be better behaved than mine. Though I doubt that last one, since the boy looks a bit like a Kennedy and, well, we all know how THAT goes.

Twenty minutes is a long time to glare at one hussy, so I eventually let my gaze wander over the rest of the box. And I started to feel a little better.

The above? That’s information about the pool. In Finnish. Maybe’s it me, but trying to sell an inflatable pool to consumers in Finland seems a little…optimistic. As I pumped and then pumped some more, it occurred to me that selling pools in Finland is kind of like selling snowman-building kits in Ecuador. “Snowmen in Ecuador!” I chuckled to myself, enlightened by my own genius. I tell you, I may not have abs of steel, but I am positively AWASH in marketing savvy.

Then there was this:

Maybe this is also targeted to Finns. Perhaps the Splash and Play! marketing folks believe the Finnish people to be not only a hearty people, eager to thumb their noses at a naturally frosty climate, but also a people equipped with ginormous mouths. A race of humans who could actually manage the attempted swallowing of a six-foot-long piece of plastic, which is the only possible way the Splash and Play! pool could be a choking hazard.

And that right there really put it into perspective for me. I may not have a sculpted stomach, and my closet may indeed be woefully empty of  lamé bikinis. But at least no one has ever believed me capable of trying to swallow a pool. In my book, this counts for a lot.

This one, though, I’ll have to watch out for:

If you could see what she does to Hershey’s Kisses…well. Let’s just say you’d be worried, too.

Since Friday morning, I’ve been wracking my brain for something to post about, something beyond a rundown of the numbingly boring drivel that became my weekend. But it’s SO MUCH WORK. Here, let me show you Post Ideas #1-3, all of which suck equally. I appreciate such equal suckage, though. It seems to make everything so much…fairer.

Failed Idea #1: The We-Discriminate-Against-the Vertically-Challenged Photo Booth

When you feed three hard-earned dollars into a photo booth at Bouncy Castle Kingdom,  you really do think that the camera will catch your daughter and her two equally diminutive friends posing. You believe, even. But no. The booth is apparently only for those 4’5″ and above. I’d write to the manufacturer to complain about the lack of proper warning signage, but when I looked for an address on the back of the machine all I could find was a label that said HAHAHA SUCKER I EAT PEOPLE AS GULLIBLE AS YOU FOR BREAKFAST.

Failed Idea #2: Mulch. A Big Pile of It.

You know that saying A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, in this case, I’m thinking I saved myself about 18 words. They go something like this: HELP HELP SAVE ME I’M STARTING TO ACT SUBURBAN KEEP ME AWAY FROM MINIVANS AND HYBRID DOG BREEDS.

Failed Idea #3: Bubble Guns and the Rage They Inspire

Oh, and by “rage,” I mean mine, not hers. She was fine with the fact that the bubble solution in the Fun Bubbles Gun! just pours onto the freshly hosed-down deck with abandon. And onto my shorts, the only pair that fit properly at the moment. And onto my soul, which may very well never be redeemed by a higher power because I said about five-and-a-half especially bad words in front of an impressionable child when the bubbles floated over to the grill and popped on the burgers. Turns out ketchup CANNOT cure all ills, after all. Effin’ ketchup.

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So, you see. I am completely and devastatingly out of viable fodder. Will you help? Please? Ask questions and I shall answer! Suggest a topic and I will try to address it! IT WILL BE SO EXCITING. OR SOMETHING.

Those who participate might even get a little envelope of mulch sent to them. Or a three-year-old. No promises, though.

You know it’s been a pretty lousy 12 hours when your annual exam with the ob/gyn does not qualify as the worst part of the day. Even when you add in the fact that the exam wasn’t performed by your beloved, known-for-her-brevity-and-gentleness nurse practitioner, but instead by a nursing student. As in a person who has only STUDIED such things, rather than actually NURSED them. 

Hours later, I must commend myself for not immediately bolting from the room when she entered, all 21 virginal years of her. I dealt with the stress like I always do: by cracking questionably amusing self-deprecating jokes. I tell you, nothing beats the satisfaction of making a woman holding a speculum chuckle. Except everything else in the entire world.

But no. That wasn’t the worst part of the day. No, indeedy. The worst part of the day? This:

Allow me to introduce you to the house centipede that skitters his way up and down the walls of our garage at night, as soon as the temperature goes above 60 degrees. Actually, there are several of them, of varying sizes and total appendages, and all equally revolting. They freeze as soon as you put the garage light on, as if they can somehow blend into the walls. If I wasn’t so busy screaming at the sight of them, I would seriously consider discussing the art of camouflage with them. They’d really be better off finding another wall, one that properly blends with their BILLION LEGS and MONSTROUS ANTENNAE. Perhaps a wall in ANOTHER UNIVERSE.

I know I kept saying that I couldn’t wait for summer, but you know what? I can wait.

A lot.

Like forever. 

Times infinity.

The end.

When we reluctantly moved to the suburbs in winter 2008, many of our still city-dwelling friends tried to comfort us. “Think of all the extra space!” they’d exclaim, patting our backs supportively. “Plus you’re only nine miles outside of Boston.  It’s not like you’re in the boonies!”

Adam and I would chuckle nervously. “Not the boonies!” we’d reply. “Right you are!”

And then spring came and the man who owned the grassy lot across the street appeared and started raising a spring crop of chickens and rototilling the world’s largest and ugliest garden. For weeks, the air was heavy with scent of manure, the scratching of the neighbor’s hoe a constant reminder of the horror across the street.

“WE HAVE MOVED TO THE BOONIES!” I screeched to Adam, sounding not entirely unlike the rooster regularly cock-a-doodle-freakin’-dooing across the street. “I can’t take this, this…this RURAL LIFE,” I continued disconsolately. “I hate it here. It’s so GREEN and PLEASANT. There aren’t even any homeless people around to pick the cans out of our recycling bins. DO YOU KNOW HOW HEAVY OUR RECYCLING BINS ARE NOW?” I screamed, stomping back and forth across our disgustingly large suburban kitchen. “Plus there isn’t a single Thai restaurant in town. And everyone here is SO WHITE.” I then finished up with promises to pack up Aura and return to the city if things didn’t change.

Two years later, I’m calmer. I’m even almost used to the guy across the street, a longwinded and curiously bearded fellow who nonetheless proffers homegrown veggies from time to time. Whenever we chat, I cheerily mention “appearances” and “property values” and the benefits of “attractively walled-in gardens and fowl,” weakening him one loaded hint at a time. As it is, this year he is raising pheasants, not chickens. Pheasants are a much more attractive bird, though I am finding that their mating calls can be rather…startling. Whenever I have the windows open it’s a bit like someone is being murdered, except with more rustling and pecking.

Truth be told, I am actually getting used to all of suburbia. I still detest having to drive instead of walk, but there’s something to be said about people who smile and adequately funded libraries. There isn’t a real independent coffeehouse in sight, but there are lots of parks for Aura and lots of other moms for me and a sturdy school system for the future. And sometime in January a guy actually started driving over and picking through our recycling bins on trash day. I don’t think he’s homeless, but if you squint really hard he might be laid-off, and that’s good enough for me.

Then last week, after dropping off Aura at preschool, I noticed a new sign going up on one of the storefronts in town: “Spice Thai Restaurant: Coming Soon!” Well, for the love of God. Next thing you know, some Asian or African American family will move to town and it will be completely unnecessary to return to city life. If that happens, I guess I’ll just invite the new family to dinner. Then I’ll serve pheasant.

A month or so ago, Aura and I were rattling around the latest sale at Kohl’s. Painfully aware that my delicate underthings had lately been looking more threadbare than delicate, I directed Aura to follow me to the lingerie department, where I was determined I would find at least a couple of new bras. 

As I’ve mentioned before, Aura is rather smitten with the idea of bras. Having been informed that she herself will not be able to wear a bra for another 10 or 12 or forever years, she took it upon herself to help me locate one. While I rifled through the underwires, Aura disappeared momentarily, soon popping back with an armful of ruffles and lace and hot pink. I’m telling you, if kindergarten doesn’t work out, I’m shipping her off to those stripper conventions in Vegas and calling her a really short salesperson. She’ll be in heaven, helping Candi/Bambi/Diamond find rhinestone-studded bras to match their g-strings.   

Aura would also feel at home in Frederick's of Hollywood.

After more fruitless searching, I gave up, dragging a reluctant Aura away from the Maidenform racks. On my way out of the department, I noticed packs of Hanes underwear on sale. Normally I’m loyal to Calvin Klein underwear, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I tossed a package labeled “low-rise” something into the cart, too intent on making sure Aura hadn’t stashed a Wonderbra on her person to actually read the package. 

When I got home, I didn’t give more than a fleeting glance to the new underwear as I threw them into the washer. I do remember thinking they looked a little…larger than I would expect. But I chalked that up to 100% cotton and the need to adjust for dryer shrinkage. That Hanes, I thought admiringly. Now there’s a company that thinks of EVERYTHING. 

And then I slipped on a pair. At first, I was just confused, thinking that perhaps I had put a leg through the waist hole? Was wearing them inside out? Had accidentally sewn two together? Then it dawned on me: These were briefs. Unlike the low-rise bikinis I typically wear, or the very occasional thong I don when dressing up to go somewhere without coloring placemats, these underpants were BIG. Like cover-your-stomach-and-some-of-your-hips-and-maybe-a-third-of-your-thigh big. 

So kind of like this. But without Lady Gaga, and bigger.

I really want to say that I hated them right away. Eeeeeeeehhhhhh. Hear that? That’s the sound of me trying to say that.  

But I can’t. And you know why? I LOVE THEM. No, I don’t wear them during the day, when someone might see them peek over the waistband of my jeans or possibly get caught on the hem of my jacket. However, when I change for the evening, slipping on my old sweats and tying back my hair, you better believe I reach for a pair of these babies.  

Such support! Such coverage! Such…stretchability! I tell you, I am a better, entirely more agreeable person wearing these—God help me—briefs. If Adam wants to go out and buy a bottle of rum that costs as much as a small sovereign nation? Sure! A charity telemarketer calls for a donation? Why not? Hell, when I’m wearing these suckers I’m apt to agree to support ALL of PBS’s New England stations, that annoying WordWorld and Antiques Roadshow be damned.  

Big underwear has changed my life. In fact, it reminds me of a story Adam once told me about a coworker named Radu, who hailed from Romania but moved to the United States when he was about 30 years old. Every day at lunch time, Radu would go out and buy himself a big, steaming bowl of clam chowder. This went on for months and months. Finally, Adam asked him why he never bought anything else for lunch. And so Radu explained: “For 30 years, I never knew about clam chowder. Now that I know, I cannot waste any time.”  

I TOTALLY GET WHAT HE MEANT.

Hi. My name is Kate and I hate cooking.  

And this was no big deal until Aura arrived. Before that, there was take-out and there was defrosting and there were Trader Joe’s meat+ beans+ sauce entrées, but dinner was never An Event. Once in a while, just for chuckles, we’d spend a weekend afternoon making an actual meal, after which we’d congratulate ourselves heartily and draw historically inaccurate comparisons. “Look!” I’d yell gleefully to Adam. “We flambéed corn JUST LIKE THE PILGRIMS DID.”  

Then Aura came along and I cut down on work. It seemed…obligatory that I take on the brunt of the cooking, and that it involve things like ingredients and pans and nutrition. So far, I think I’ve done passably, my quiches and Thai peanut noodles and buttermilk chicken uncolored by the hatred I feel while making them.  

You know what I hate most? The pressure. And for that, I wholeheartedly blame:  

  

Before the Food Network came along, a person could just tool around the kitchen, doing her best and then serving the end result. Yes, of course, some creations would be better than others. But that was to be expected, such as with, I don’t know, American Idol contestants, or children.  

No longer. Now EVERYONE is an expert on cooking, because EVERYONE watches the Food Network. Hell, you don’t even have to cook to be an expert, not that this stops most people. The other day, Adam peered down at the cutting board as I was chopping. “Wait!” he exclaimed anxiously. “Is that a three-quarter-inch dice?”  

“Um, it’s a dice alright,” I replied, my grip on the chef’s knife tightening. “I’m not sure how many inches it is.”  

“Kaaaaateeee,” he moaned, shaking his head with a level of distress typically reserved for natural disasters. “If the dice is wrong, the entire dish will be wrong. DON’T YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO MESS WITH THE SUGAR-PROTEIN MATRIX?”  

I’m not sure, but I think that was right around the time I offered to three-quarter-inch dice his left testicle. Let me try to remember. Yep, it was then.  

I place the blame for the matrix comment squarely on Alton Brown. You know where he can shove his food-chemistry diagrams? You get one guess.

From here on out, I’m instituting a severe weekly cap on how much Food Network people in this house can watch. That goes for Aura, too. The other day, she walked into the living room just in time to catch the end of a Rachael Ray episode. “Mommy!” she called excitedly. “This lady just made super yummy noodles and caramel cake for lunch!”  

I sat down to join her on the couch. Slinging an arm around her, I said, “Yum! And you know what that lady likes to cook for dinner?”  

Still wide-eyed with newfound adoration, Aura turned to me. “What?” she answered.  

“Little girls,” I told her, then changed the channel.