mother giving pocket money to child

To Pay or Not to Pay?

Flora asked for an allowance this weekend.

In general, I am not pro-allowance. For one thing, my children want for nothing. Usually when they ask for something, we are able to purchase it for them. For another thing: An allowance for what? I am of the opinion that my children are part of the family team, and as such, chores are part of their job of sharing space sanely and hygienically.

However, Flora made a counterargument that I found compelling. Simply put, she wants spending cash.

The conversation came up because Flora was going to a birthday party this weekend. I asked her if she wanted to buy her friend a gift, or if she wanted to give her $20 in cash, which is my usual go-to. She wanted to give her a gift, and asked if we could go to Hot Topic.

Which is how I ended up at the mall at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Flora wanted to buy her friend a t-shirt based on a manga character. I honestly felt like she was speaking a foreign language at this point, so I just went with it.

Hot Topic, just in case you have not had the pleasure, is about all things pop culture: t-shirts, figurines, makeup, and tchotchkes of all sorts. Manga, Harry Potter, lots of goth stuff, and Stranger Things all mix. Flora saw about five t-shirts she wanted for herself.

We got her friend a banana cat t-shirt (the manga shirt Hot Topic had was one her friend already had), Pocky Sticks, and a Dumbledore figurine. Flora asked for a couple of things, as did Michael (of course), and we negotiated. She got a Dustin (from Stranger Things) hat and a Pokémon t-shirt. When she heard the total (under $60), Flora actually *felt bad* that it was costing so much. I let her know it was fine; if it hadn’t have been fine, I would’ve said something earlier. But bless her little heart.

Hence: The allowance idea.

We will probably do an allowance, all things considered. I have kind of left it to Dan (who is pro-allowance) and Flora to work out. We are looking at between $5 and $20 a week, depending on what gets done around the house. Some things are simply expected: bedroom cleaned, dishes put away. When she starts going above and beyond, then allowance will be activated accordingly.

We also talked about spending and saving, and that we will expect Flora to save more allowance than she spends. We talked about expectations and limits.

And then Flora cleaned the kitchen, including the windows. So.

I don’t know who’s going to keep track of this. Hoping it’s on Dan’s radar!

Are you pro-allowance? Why or why not?

ETA: Last night, Dan and Flora sat down and drew up a list of chores for each room. They segmented them into daily, weekly, and monthly chores, and agreed on an amount.

I have no doubt that Kate and Michael are going to want to get into the action.

Copyright for featured image: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo

Seven Things: The Afghan Whigs Edition

As has been documented, I am obsessed with the Afghan Whigs.

1. If you don’t know, the Afghan Whigs have released a new album, In Spades, out today.

2. I pre-ordered said album from Sub Pop, and have been listening to it on streaming since it became available to those of us who pre-ordered the album. That was on Friday, April 21 – the one year anniversary of Prince’s death.

I received the physical copy I ordered (a CD) this past Monday. It has been on repeat in my car since then. Listening via CD is vastly superior to streaming. The individual instruments are much clearer, and the lyrics are more decipherable.

3. Listening to the CD gave me an immediate appreciation for “Birdland”, the album opener; “Copernicus”; “Toy Automatic”; and “Into the Floor,” the closer. Still in love with “Arabian Heights” — I think that’s going to retain top billing for me. I also think that “I Got Lost” and “Into the Floor” may be the best album closers in Whig history.

4. The CD clocks in at a mere 35 minutes, which is just about five minutes longer than my commute. I sit in the car until it is over. Every time. I can’t help it.

I’ve tried taking the long way. Still need to sit in the car. I have tried driving slower, but it’s difficult during some of the louder songs.

5. My Unsolicited Review of In Spades

It’s a killer album, first off. I’ll just make that clear up front. Lean, but not sparse. As well as guitar, bass, and drums, many of the songs feature lush orchestration. Rick Nelson is joined by other multi-instrumentalists to fill this album with gorgeous sound. Other songs are pure rock ‘n’ roll swagger, though. John Curley on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums have outdone themselves. It’s fairly breathtaking the way the songs swing back and forth from celebration to threat.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention guitarists Dave Rosser, who joined Dulli in his Twilight Singer days, and Jon Skibic. In Spades depends on their soaring, chugging workmanship to move things along. Case in point: “Copernicus”, “Light as a Feather.”

Afghan Whigs released “Demon in Profile” as the first single, and that very much set the tone for what came next. “Demon” has Dulli on piano, lamenting desire, and contains my favorite lyrics: “I’m so far inside you now/ I am your silhouette.” They then released the driving, relentless “Arabian Heights”, and “Oriole”, the latter complete with a NSFW witchy video. The album opener, “Birdland” is different from anything the Whigs have done before, a cinematic, swelling letter from the past that leaves us in anticipation. The rest of the album delivers on big emotion with the instrumentation powering it along.

Thematically, In Spades is a departure from former Whigs albums, including their 2014 release Do to the Beast. The lyrics and album art are deeply evocative of the occult. Where in the past, Dulli seems to reflect on romantic relationships, their utter dysfunction, and their endings, on this album, he goes beyond that. In Spades aches with more than a break up. In Spades is haunted. Dulli is immersed in sorrowful memory here, and attempting to pull the curtain aside on loss, grief, and mortality.

6. The Afghan Whigs are going on tour. I bought a ticket to the show in Cincinnati. I am hoping they add a Pittsburgh show; I am not holding my breath, although their 2014 show here was amazing. I purchased the Tour Package ticket, which comes with some swag, a meet and greet – even though I’ve already ‘met’ Greg Dulli twice – and the soundcheck.

If I win a lot of money, I will buy a plane ticket to Chicago, and see that show. I’m really not holding my breath on that one.

7. I don’t do Facebook much these days. I pretty much ditched on it, and a lot of my “friends” there since the election. But I didn’t completely leave it.

Because I found a group there, of like-minded Afghan Whigs/Twilight Singers/Greg Dulli fans. We endlessly dissect songs and albums; we argue about Rick McCollum’s influence on the band; we debate the merits of wearing gold lamé or lace to the shows this tour. If you love a band, especially an off-the-beaten-path group like Afghan Whigs, I cannot emphasize this enough: Find your tribe. They will make your love grow. They will help you articulate the meaning of this artist in your life. They get you.

You need people to get you.

I Am Cranky

It is Wednesday, and I am cranky.

I am cranky because I am not in the woods.

I am cranky because I am sore.

I am cranky because I want to go home this evening and I want to stay home.

I am cranky because I cannot go home and stay home this evening. I have a waxing appointment, and then a meeting at the middle school regarding travel soccer.

I am cranky because I had to make a mid-week appointment for a wax rather than a Saturday appointment because of soccer.

I am cranky because I have no produce at home. Not even frozen produce. I want lettuce, and broccoli, and frozen mixed vegetables, but I need to shop.

I am cranky because I don’t have time to shop.

I am cranky because I don’t know when I can go to the chiropractor and have him address my sore hip.

I am cranky because I am tired of calling my representatives in Congress knowing full fucking well they aren’t going to listen to me.

I am cranky because it is cool and rainy. I am cranky because after I don’t get to stay home tonight, I don’t get to stay home tomorrow night, or Friday night.

I am cranky because Dan and I haven’t had time for quality time for us.

I do not want you to try to jolly me out of my crankiness. I also realize that being cranky, about any of these things, is not the end of the world.

But go ahead and tell me what you’re cranky about.

If the World Is Ending, I Don’t Feel Fine

Look, if the world ends in a nuclear armageddon because T*ump is — the list of adjectives here is too long, I’ll leave it at “thin-skinned narcissist bully utterly unfit for office of President of the United States” — if T*ump blows up the world, I’ll be seriously upset.

I mean, on one hand, I believe in an afterlife. If — God forbid, get it? — the Orange One does end the world, I have faith Heaven is waiting for me. I will be rejoined to God and resurrected in the life. My faith teaches me that, and, it’s true, I am willing to believe it. Your mileage may vary.

However, here’s a short list of reasons that I seriously do not want the world to end in fire (or otherwise). And why, when people ask or comment, I won’t “give him a chance” or stop resisting and writing and calling.

1. My children. Look, I had children rather selfishly, and I selfishly want to see them grow up and become the amazing, fully-realized people I think they are becoming. If the world spins on into their adulthood, I expect that they will do great things. And I don’t mean they will do great things like cure cancer or HIV — although maybe they will. I mean they will do great things by realizing their potential, not letting fear hold them back, and treating everyone they encounter with respect and kindness.

I’d like to see that.

2. I’d like to publish a book before I die. Again: selfish. All about me! But hey, I finally finished a manuscript, and learned how this publishing gig works! I would appreciate having the opportunity to show people a book with my name on the cover. (Er, or my pen name. Whichever I decide.)

3. I’d like to grow old with Dan. Sixteen years of marriage, seventeen years of being together, is not enough for me.

4. I would like the world to go on long enough to see three things happen in Washington DC:

    a. Big Democrat wins in the 2018 election.
    b. The impeachment of T*ump
    c. The true development of a progressive party (and not the Bernie Sanders progressive party). Seriously, if the Democrats response to T*ump is “re-engage with white male voters” count me OUT.

Again, if you’d like to read more about where I’m coming from, please go see (and support) She is getting this stuff Spot. On.

Family Recipes

I’ve talked about my maternal grandmother before on my blog. She was a wonderful woman, and many of the memories I have of her revolve around food. If you do not have an Italian cook in your life, I highly recommend trying to get one.

My grandmother was the proverbial Italian grandmother. If you visited, she fed you — it didn’t matter if you were hungry. Frankly, if she fed you, you ate. It was homemade, and it was good: spaghetti and meatballs, pasta fagiole, ravioli, any type of sauce. And the desserts: lady locks, biscotti, and one of my all-time favorites, ricotta pie.

Most people do Easter bread, but my family does ricotta pie. It is usually an Easter dessert, but I think we’ve had it a Christmas time as well.

I used to ask my grandmother for recipes. “Oh, it’s easy,” she would say to me, and proceed to tell me how to make something. She didn’t write anything down, which, for people like my mother and me was difficult. Some people, like my grandmother, can cook by the seat of their pants — probably the way she learned from her own mother — other people need to read recipes.

Incidentally, this is also how my grandmother tried to teach me to knit. “It’s easy,” she would say, and then flash through half a scarf. I finally had to read a knitting instruction manual.

Well, it turns out my mother started putting my grandmother’s recipes together in a binder, pictures and all. As the tweet above suggests, I am very excited. So far she’s got spaghetti sauce (meat sauce), raviolis, meatballs, wedding soup, lady locks, pumpkin roll, and ricotta pie. I requested pasta from scratch and pasta fagiole if she can track down the recipes.

It’s such a treasure. And I’m hoping to get a copy for Christmas (hint, hint, dad).

What are you hoping to inherit from your family?

Copyright for featured image: dionisvera / 123RF Stock Photo

Invented Problems

In a dream, I am a single mother of a six-year-old boy. I am attending college. The main problem in the dream is that I have to change dorm rooms. At first I think we’ve solved the problem because I will just move in with two other women; there’s a (small) single bed in their room. And then I remember I have a son who has to live with us.

The dorm rooms are long and narrow, but very nice looking. Wooden floors, plaster walls painted pretty colors, good-looking, solidly built furniture. But they really are skinny rooms. I don’t know how we’re going to fit three beds, let alone three beds plus somewhere for my son to sleep.

Another dream has slipped away from me, but it was a similar logistical problem: Space, sleeping, family dynamics. These are the types of dreams my brain serves up to me. They have little to do with real life.

I do wake up sometimes thinking of things to worry about. “What if the Afghan Whigs tour coincides with trick-or-treat night?” Worse, what if the Afghan Whigs don’t come to Pittsburgh at all, and I have to travel to see them?

Maybe it’s part of this writer’s life I find myself enmeshed in. I don’t know if other writers do this, or to what extent, but my mind is constantly worrying at the fabric of my stories. What’s the next scene, what’s the conflict, how am I going to get my characters out of this room? Better: How am I going to get these characters into this room?

Maybe it’s just how my anxiety manifests itself these days. My life involves a bunch of moving parts. All the to-do lists are hard to keep up with, but at least help me compartmentalize the logistics. Maybe my mind needs a little less structure.

I don’t know. As long as my made-up problems don’t freeze me and keeping me from solving actual problems, I’ll try to just let them go. Or work them into my fiction.

What’s a problem you wish you had?

Not Normal: The Cuck and Globalist Edition

Reports surfaced today of infighting in the White House. Steve Bannon, the white nationalist who use to run Breitbart and who is now Chief Strategist at the White House, called Jared Kushner, who is… an adviser to the President? Shadows the Secretary of State — I honestly do not know if he has a title, but I do know: he is the President’s son-in-law. No, not President Bannon’s son-in-law; T*ump’s son-in-law.

I digress.

Bannon seems to be having a persecution complex, and has been complaining that Kushner is trying to push him out of the White House. His insults include “cuck” and “globalist.”

First thought: Steve Bannon thinks cuck and globalist are EQUIVALENT INSULTS.

Second thought: Do you know what “cuck” is?

Third thought: Steve Bannon is insulting Jared Kushner — T*ump’s son-in-law — by impugning his marriage to T*ump’s daughter. In that, Bannon is saying that Kushner wants his wife, Ivanka T*ump, first… daughter, I guess, to go sleep with black men.

Yes, that’s what a cuck is. That term takes the idea of being a cuckold, and gives it a nice white supremacist twist. (A cuckold is not just a man who has been cheated on. A cuckold is someone who wants his wife to cheat on him. It is what he finds sexually exciting.)

Make no mistake, I have no love for Jared Kushner or Ivanka T*ump. I think this is the worst first family to ever occupy the White House and they can all fall into a pit as far as I’m concerned.

But Steve Bannon is putting on a display of racism and misogyny that is… shocking doesn’t seem to quite cover it. Despicable. Stunningly gross.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL. This is not how normal adult people talk to or about each other. This is how internet trolls talk. AND THESE ARE ADULTS IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

The media are laughing about this. It’s funny to them, all the drama (at least the media reports I have seen thus far).

This isn’t funny. These frat boys are running the fucking country, not sparring in an internet chat room. This isn’t something you joke about, this is a situation where you look around for the grownups.

Where are the grown ups? They aren’t in the GOP Congress, that’s for damn sure. McConnell had a tantrum, and ended the filibuster. The President is probably watching cable news and tweeting about it. The Speaker of the House is… I have no fucking clue what he’s doing. Trying to appease the terrible people who want the ACHA to succeed. My own Republican Senator is a coward who refuses to listen to his constituents. He’s in lock step with his party.

Jesus, take the wheel.

7 Things: The Excuses Edition

Here are all the reasons I have not updated my blog since March 21, 2017.

1. I don’t have anything to say.

2. I have too much to say.

For example, I have a rant locked inside my head about how sexist the current administration is, and due to a new outrage every day, I cannot get it out.

T*ump refused to shake German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hand.
Mike Pence doesn’t dine alone with women who aren’t his wife (or attend events with alcohol without her there). TBH, I don’t know if this is more self-loathing on his part or misogyny. But if he’s not sitting at the table with a woman to share a meal, you can bet your ass he’s not having one-on-one meetings with women, period.
T*ump accused a woman (of color, no less) with zero evidence of committing a crime and at the same time says Bill O’Reilly didn’t do anything wrong.
The GOP voted to defund Planned Parenthood, T*ump ended the Fair Pay and safe Workplaces Rule, and the State Department cut off funding to the UN’s family planning agency.

I mean, that’s all in the last, like, two weeks.

3. I am busy. Work is steady, children have been sick, children have been busy, I will be helping to coach Michael’s soccer team once the weather gets better and we actually have games and practices. And so on. Life.

4. Finding an agent is time consuming.

5. I’m writing another book.

6. I don’t have any big life updates.

7. I don’t have anything I want to talk about (i.e. like a movie or book).

I feel, in some ways, at least in terms of things I usually write about on this blog, very much in limbo. Life is moving forward, and I *am* writing.

Just not here.

The Mystery of the #Vaguetweets, Explained

Dan started coughing in January.

He coughed through January and into February.

One morning, I came downstairs to find him asleep on the couch. I gently kissed him.

He said, “I coughed so hard last night, I passed out and hit my head on the kitchen floor.”

“Great,” I said. “Will you go see a doctor now?”

He went to see a doctor. If MedExpress counts as a doctor.

He was diagnosed with bronchitis, and given cough syrup, a z-pack, and prednisone.

He took all his prescribed medications, and kept right on coughing.

Finally, he went to go see his PCP. They did a chest X-ray. “It doesn’t look like pneumonia,” they said. “Maybe it’s post viral cough syndrome.”

They gave him an inhaler.

A few days later, they called him back. “We found a cloudy spot on the X-ray. You need to get a CT.”

He went to get a CT scan.

This is probably when I started asking for prayers and good vibes for health on Twitter. I didn’t want to be too specific. We didn’t know what we were looking at. It’s easy to assume the worst — I am especially skilled at that — but also pointless.

The CT scan found a small, solid mass in his lung.

Which is a terrifying sentence.

They ordered blood tests as well.

The mass is “teeny-tiny,” his doctor’s actual words. It is 2.5 millimeters, which truly is teeny-tiny.

But still, when it’s in your lung or in your husband’s lung, it sounds scary.

The current diagnosis, which came in yesterday, is a pulmonary nodule. It is likely to be benign, because pulmonary nodules are usually benign.

Dan has another scan scheduled for May.

We have a few questions we still have to clear up (risks, prevention, treatment, evaluation), but for now the news is benign.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and prayers. They were comforting in a scary time.

Dan (and my children) is absolutely my life. I know that if worse came to worst, I could probably survive. But it’s also good to know that at this point, I don’t have to test that theory.

7 Things: The Disruption! Edition

1. Today was my first full day in the office this week. Lemme tell you why:

2. I had scheduled a four-day weekend for Dan’s birthday, which was Saturday. (We headed to Oglebay Resort, and I highly recommend their Ultimate Spa package.) We returned home Sunday — and Dan was sick. Michael complained about a sore throat, and he was definitely warm. So, Monday, since I had off, and Michael was still feverish, I stayed at home with him, and, just for funsies, Flora was sick too.

So: PTO day with two sick children.

3. Took Michael to the pediatrician because I suspected strep. I was correct.

So: Tuesday became a WFH day with two sick children, one of whom at least was getting treatment.

Michael is THE LEAST SICK sick child I have ever had. When the girls were sick with fevers or strep, they spent a lot of time unconscious or watching television from the couch.

Not Michael, man. He would watch about half an hour of television, and then play car battle. And then he would get bored and bother me. He ate very well for a sick child too. I suggested napping, but he wasn’t having it. He was literally crying with boredom by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

4. I made a good faith effort to get the office Wednesday — I even made it. Dan spent the morning at home with THREE sick children. I made an appointment for Flora.

5. Flora has been getting sick on and off quite often this year. Headaches, stomachaches, and extreme fatigue. This week was the third or fourth time she has been too sick to go to school. I was unable to get a morning appointment, so I had to leave work and take her to the pediatrician. Thank goodness I am able to work from home, and have an understanding employer (and awesome boss).

We did check for strep (negative), and the doctor decided to test for anemia. Along with the other symptoms, Flora has been suffering spontaneous nosebleeds. So we went and had blood drawn. We are waiting for results.

6. ON THURSDAY EVERYONE WENT TO SCHOOL AND I WENT TO WORK FOR A WHOLE ENTIRE DAY. It was delightful. (Seriously, I love my job. And having healthy children.)

7. BOOK UPDATE! Beta readers finished up, found the weaknesses, liked the book, gave me lots of good feedback. I haven’t blogged much because between blogging for work and doing the final edits (for now) on Lone Wolf, I have spent a ton of time immersed in words. I tweaked my pitch letter, and I am ready to start putting together a list of agents and publishers.