There may be alternate realities, but I can’t see why I should care.

My approach to life is “prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” an outlook I like to think of as pragmatism rather than pessimism. There are definite pros to going through life with your psyche braced in the crash position but still singing show tunes, and while I’m often mortified, I’m rarely shocked. Since I’m constantly running horrible hypothetical situations in my brain’s background, when bad things actually happen, instead of panic, I experience more of an annoyed, “well, here we are then” resolve. Blood has little effect on me, even the sight of my own or my children’s, but there’s one sound that momentarily paralyzes and punches me with a wave of nausea. I imagine the sound of a child’s head hitting a hard surface is, for me, the emotional equivalent of someone with testes taking a blow to the groin.

I use to love trips with the kids to the grocery store, but I fear I’ll never again enter the market with anything other than dread and hypervigilance. Traveling lighter than usual with just the girls, I didn’t think twice about putting both of them in a regular cart since no two-seaters or buggies were available. Linda is the default strap-in, with her impressive and perfectly lady-like upper body strength, so she rode up front while Sally enjoyed the roomy “back seat.” Always the alert mother, I corrected Sally each of the countless times she started to stand up, gently tugging on her hood to sit her back down. That is, until I carefully positioned the last item in the her food nest, at which point she grabbed the edge of the cart with both hands, hoisted herself over two gallons of milk and did a full flip before landing on her head and back like the sack of potatoes Linda was chewing through while cradling like a baby.

Several workers responded immediately to my “OHMYGOD!” followed by Sally’s wails, and all three became slightly unhinged upon learning of the accident. My gracious decline of their offer to call for an ambulance and calm demeanor while I comforted her unsettled them further, even though she stopped crying after about a minute. I gently checked for lumps, redness, and dents, found none, and thanked them for their concern as we proceeded to checkout, Sally now being carried and immensely happy about it.

Once we finished our errands, picked up Billy the Kid from preschool, and unpacked the groceries back home, the inevitable nausea I’d stifled for the sake of appearances caught up with me, and I started off the afternoon with a wonderfully empty stomach. It occurred to me to call the doctor and see if they’d like me to bring her in, but then I remembered that I’m her mother and know when my children are absolutely fine. In fact, she began walking on her own for the first time several hours after the incident and put away a half dozen fish sticks for dinner.

I appreciate how fortunate we were today, but I’ll sleep just fine tonight in spite of the scare. While an optimist might stay awake after the fact, tormenting themselves by reliving the incident and imaging all those dreadful what-could-have-happened’s, I’ve efficiently gotten my self-inflicted mental anguish out of the way ahead of time, and the inevitable occurrence was much less horrific than my imagination’s various outcomes. I really can’t say enough about the magnificence of planning ahead.

Product Review! Dole Apple Cinnamon Fruit Crisp: it’s what’s for meal.

I try to play my part in the hilarious global production of Let’s Pretend There’s Time to Fix It, and generally abstain from prepackaged fruit cups for the little ones, instead buying my mandarin oranges and pears by the large tin, then transferring them to plastic containers once opened. Our membership to BJ’s, however, thwarts my efforts on a monthly basis.

If you belong to a warehouse club, you’re aware of the fruit and vegetable aisle (not to be confused with produce), where subtle halos beam from behind hundreds of neatly stacked boxes of every kind of fruit cocktail imaginable. I’ve steeled myself against the snack-pack aisle, but every now and then the left side of that fruit aisle (I ignore the vegetables on the right) calls to me as I try to pass it, like a siren, with whispers of “hey, your kid will absolutely eat this!”

Sometime within the last six months, I fell for the pleasantly packaged, health-ish Dole Fruit Crisp Apple Cinnamon cups, and it turns out that, no, they absolutely will not eat this. Their refusal is for the best, as these little sugar bombs have virtually no nutritional value, aside from the circumstantial fiber present in the “all natural fruit.” You can imagine my growing resentment of eleven oddly shaped containers taking up real estate in my pantry, and several days ago I could no longer stand it. I can’t throw away unspoiled food, and the easiest way to get rid of them would be to just eat them myself. The thirty seconds I spent waiting for my first “apples” to warm were not hopeful ones, and I assumed I’d toss the remaining ten cups into the food drive bin after one bite.

I’m currently down to two cups, with an emergency trip to BJ’s slated for tomorrow afternoon to pick up some more. While the apple adhesive is similar to that in the filling of a Table Talk pie, the apple chunks maintain an admirable level of bite-resistance. The “crispy, crumbly topping” pairs well with the sugary syrup by distracting from its own sweetness with a hefty smack of salt.

The product’s biggest selling point, at least to caretakers of small children, is how impressively quickly you can consume it. Twenty-eight seconds in my microwave yields the perfect temperature, just shy of scalding, and the cup is small enough to hold behind my back as I side-step one or more suspicious toddlers, dart into my office, throw a chair under the doorknob, and pretend to be shuffling through papers out of sight while scarfing down 160 calories of “lunch” in about ninety seconds. I don’t encourage such dietary habits in general, but until my wards stop literally stealing my breakfast, I have to eat on the sly or wait for reinforcements to arrive for dinner.

All in all, a positive rating from the moms-who-should-eat-better-but-don’t demographic. This product should be kept away from children after 4PM to avoid a Gremlins-eating-after-midnight effect, and anyone who takes pride in a healthy lifestyle should probably steer clear as well. That wouldn’t be me, what with my trinity of addictions (nicotine, caffeine, and aspartame). Although I give my gym’s treadmills a good what-for several days a week, it’s really more for bottled-rage management than fitness, as well as the free childcare (thank you, once again, Mr. and Mrs. S!).

New Year’s Eve: Meh.

I’ve never been fond of New Year’s Eve. Save for one perfect celebration back in ’94 (the best of Providence’s short-lived First Nights), a string of failures had cemented my New Year’s cynicism by the time Mr. P and I joined forces, and he accepted that, like my love/try-to-hate relationship with cigarettes, some things are just part of this package. Until my mid-twenties, my self-imposed panic to secure plans and contingencies increased annually, yet I always wound up watching the 11PM Law & Order with my parents until I could no longer justify the wait, and would fall asleep irate and underwhelmed at quarter to midnight. In ’96, some confusion regarding a ridiculous “New Year’s Night” soiree ground my evening to a halt before it started. In ’98, half an hour into a delightful cocktail party at a childhood friend’s home, my obviously-uncomfortable tag-along chum developed a flash-migraine, so once again I found myself ringing in the new year an hour early with those familiar words: “in the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups…”

Several factors in addition to chronic disappointment culminate in my aversion to the holiday. I have some specific issues with authority, so I bristle at the cultural direction to make resolutions; I’m doing things perfectly well, thank you. Then there’s that ball. I’ve always resented the famous orb for its ability to draw crowds of thousands with its promise of performing the most anticlimactic feat imaginable. The ball doesn’t even drop, it descends slowly, and just sits there once it reaches the bottom of its decline. The ball should start at the bottom, increase in speed on the way up, and at the stroke of midnight, it should blast straight off its scaffolding before exploding into fireworks or confetti. I still wouldn’t stay up to watch it, but at least I wouldn’t find it so infuriating.

My mission to ignore New Year’s Eve became less pleasant by the year, and then something wonderful happened. I had a baby, which is wonderful all by itself, but suddenly no one expected me to make it to midnight anymore. And just as Billy the Kid neared the age that would compromise my excuse, what do you know? Two more babies! A pair of free passes to early December 31st turn-ins for another two years!

It turns out that if I’m under no obligation to stay awake, New Year’s Eve is delightful. On Saturday, Mr. P and I paused halfway through the remake of Dawn of the Dead for a 9:30 PM champagne toast, and as I happily headed to bed an hour later, towards dreams of organizing rations and ammo during a zombie apocalypse, I stopped in to give my little monsters an extra tuck and whispers of thanks for my reasonable bedtime.

I try not to judge other parents, but…

… then there’s this.

There are two things that flip my instant-rage switch: weakness and bullying. I don’t mean weakness in terms of physical strength, or lack thereof, but rather weakness of character, of conviction and integrity. The manager that throws his subordinates under the bus, the butcher that uses meat glue, the president that manipulates the constitution. Oh yes, it’s going to be that kind of post.

The current executive and legislative branches could be featured on the reality show Super Nanny, with the perennially disappointed and passive-aggressively “pained” Obama-Dad padding around the house in sweatpants, grumbling that “I guess we just don’t get to have nice things,” while five hundred thirty-five congressional toddlers swing from the curtains and eat whatever they can reach under the couch cushions. Other parents at the playground avert their eyes as Obama-Dad panics at tantrum wind-ups and allows departure time to become a negotiation. When Mom comes home from work to find half-empty bags of marshmallows and strewn Mountain Dew cans, Obama-Dad defensively pipes up before she can even raise an eyebrow, “we got to the market! The important thing is I got some calories in them!”

President Obama is feeling the burn of failure: failure to Ferberize. Just as I accept blame for the 4-year-old who crawls into my bed every morning at 4:00 AM to slap at me while demanding snuggles, Obama needs to own his fault in promoting an overly conversational, pass-the-talking-stick reading-circle method of “leading.” I’ll admit, I experienced only the most fleeting sense of “is this okay?” after Obama pulled the old surprise-you’re-dead on Bin Laden, but the recent assassination of American citizen (and general juice-box) Anwar al-Awlaki shows that Obama-Dad is now losing a battle with toddlers that have grown into overly indulged teenagers.

I’m reminded of the girl in my high-school who received a new convertible BMW for her birthday, and then a new Jeep for Christmas, since she needed something safer for the winter. This recent short-cut in dealing with terrorism and general skirting of the judicial system is not going to turn out to be an exception, but rather is indicative of the new leadership style we can expect to see from Obama-Dad as he tries to win back respect and love with flashy gifts, until his ungrateful kids finally stick him in a state-run nursing home, deciding their new step-dad, though Mormon, is much cooler.

Product Review! FUN da-Middles: when bad branding happens to good cake.

Grocery shopping has become something of an effort, and yet we go to the market at least three times a week; it’s just our favorite place. Our local Hannaford has a nice stockpile of buggy carts that seat two up front, making them one of our easier jaunt destinations.  Like every other constant in our lives, Billy the Kid has developed a strict grocery shopping routine with specific checkpoints which, if met, maintain his cheery disposition and obedience. Apple selection, flower sniffing, cheese slice sampling, meat patting and check-out candy display perusal seem an appropriate trade for a well-tempered public toddler.

A new item has snuck into the ritual grocery checklist over the past few months. As the girls approach the walking stage, I have less time to bake from scratch with BK, so a while back I started letting him choose a mix from the baking aisle every now and then. A few weeks ago I made a huge mistake that didn’t even register until the next time we went to the market; I had authorized mix selection on two consecutive trips, thereby silently acknowledging that this is now something we do. So I’ve spent the last month reviewing all of Betty Crocker’s, Pilsbury’s, Ghiradelli’s and Krusteaz’s confections.

I was exceptionally not excited when BK selected a product with one of the most forced and infuriating excretions of marketing drivel I’ve ever seen. First of all, what exactly is FUN da-Middles trying to do with “fundamental?” Is there anything fundamental about a chocolate cupcake housing a melted glob of marshmallow fluff? Awesome, absolutely. But really, fundamental? What troubles me more, however, is the single dash between “FUN” and “Middles.” It causes the “da” to seem more like a “the,” but then “FIND” seems more appropriate than “FUN.” I feel a little bad for FUN, all alone while the other letters are working on some sort of performance piece together. Combine that with the seizure inducing punctuation tantrum that’s going on, and I did not want to like this. Not one bit.

But I did. Even more than did Billy the Kid. I appreciate that the package omits frosting, since the middle makes up for it in sugar content, and I was surprised that the cake itself didn’t have that super-sweet, chemical undertone that even some of the chicest mixes can’t elude. And the yield was twelve cupcakes exactly. No waste, no batter dinner, no guilt.

I will continue to purchase your wares, FUN da-Middles subdivision, but I will malign you even as I follow your three easy steps, and I will mock you even as I enjoy your delicious and reasonably-sized cupcakes. I’d be tempted to take my concern all the way to Ms. Crocker herself, were she an actual person. There really is no excuse, and I’d like to see every attendee of the product naming meeting receive a good thrashing for their failed bravado and crimes against letters.

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