Friday, May 09, 2008


Dear ones. The only excuse I can think of for my delinquency is the fact that my body's every drop of fluid has drained into my sinus cavity. We are a tribe of lame-os, us allergy sufferers. I'm sorry if you didn't already know that about yourself, but it's true. The walking around with a wad of Kleenex clutched in your hand, the fingers pinched around the bridge of your nose, the puffing eye sockets? It's a sign of faulty character.

But my only other excuse is a related one: I cannot tear myself away from our blooming dogwood for long enough to do anything but sneeze! Never in my life have I fallen so hard for a tree. I recommend moving in wintertime, simply so that you can have this kind of spring amazement.

Other things. . . I checked this book out of the library: food porn, rated triple x. I don't exactly cook out of it, but Ben and I do lie around in bed together looking droolingly at the photos and exclaiming. "Ooh," he says. "We should hollow out grapes and fill them with cheesecloth-molded goat cheese!" And I say, "Yeah!" And then we turn the page and he says, "Ooh! Deep-fried wild-mushroom risotto balls!"

I also just finished this book, by my new friend Katherine Center, and it was so compulsively readable that I kept saying to Michael, "One more chapter. One more, and that's it. I swear this time." Until I had devoured every last one. There's one of those hunkily perfect fictional men in it that you think about leaving your own actual real-life partner for, until you remember the impracticality of having a print boyfriend.

Also, allow me to recommend the Godspell soundtrack, on the offchance you haven't listened to it since the mid-70s, when you recorded yourself singing "Day by Day" into the microphone of your tape player. It is just as good as it ever was. The song "By My Side"? Mm. When we took the kids to see it the other week, I couldn't help noticing that all of us who spent our teenaged years singing angsty versions of "Prepare Ye"? All Jews. Go figure.

Speaking of music: thank you, as always, for your advice. I was amazed by how many of you had such fresh, original suggestions for me on the piano lessons front. It was incredibly helpful. On that front, I will take any and all allergy suggestions. . .

New wondertime columns are here, here, and here.

And, finally, a picture of my own hunkily perfect nonfictional partner performing his version of marathon-as-walk-in-the-park.


  1. Anonymous2:51 PM

    Hi Catherine! I too am a long-time allergy sufferer and I've recently discovered my lifesaver--the neti pot. It took a time or two to get used to it, but now I use it twice a day and I've been so amazed by how well it does the trick. I love all your work! Keep it up!


  2. I really wish I had something more articulate to say, but I don't. All I have to say is: your husband? Dreamy.

  3. Anonymous4:00 PM

    I'm not sure where I read this - but supposedly, taking a spoonful of local honey daily should help your body not react to all those same pollens and such during the allergy season. Mind you, I don't get allergies myself, but I work with three miserable sufferers and I casually told them about this after reading about it and they're all hooked and are feeling much better - and then also honey is supper-yummy and those honey bees need some support these days so it might me worth giving a try. If you do try it let me know how it goes - I'm totally curious.

  4. The only things that have saved my sinuses this season are:
    1 - Overuse of my neti pot; two, sometimes three times a day, and
    2 - Massive doses of Sudafed. The real stuff where you feel like a criminal, slinking up to the pharmacy counter with a picture ID to get your fix.

    I hope you feel better soon, and that no one else in your happy house gets sick for the rest of the season.

  5. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I highly recommend Nasalcrom to get rid of the allergic sneezing. It's an OTC nasal spray that you can use as long as you need to (no 3-day limit, thank goodness). I'm not sure if it will help your sinus stuffiness, but maybe once the sneezing is taken care of, the stuffiness will be gone too.

  6. Anonymous5:26 PM

    Catherine, I'm always so happy to find your new posts. Your humor and writing is such a treat. As far as allergies, the only reason I'm human this season is because of a new prescription for a nasal spray (Astelin). As a long-time sufferer, this is like a miracle to me, and no side effects that I can discern.

  7. Anonymous6:54 PM

    Hey Catherine! I keep typing and deleting, trying to figure out what to say, exactly. I want to jump around and make squeaking noises because I feel so insanely starstruck to be mentioned here. Thank you--for this and so many other things, including writing with such comic, aching, bittersweet accuracy about motherhood.

  8. Anonymous8:25 PM

    So if you like food porn (and who doesn't) you need to check out Thomas Keller's cookbook from his Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry. Ooh mama. It's the good stuff. He makes wee little smoked salmon canapes that look like ice cream cones. Vis a vis the piano question...I spent my childhood like Ben, banging away and easily picking out tunes by ear on our vintage 1920's church piano that my folks bought for $50. I was sent to piano lessons but no one ever MADE me practice and I never learned to read music. Now I am so so sad because I fear my brain is too old to learn and I'd love to be able to read music and play fun stuff for my family. Just a thought.

  9. All you foodies out there intimidate me... I'm so proud just to get a decent meal on the table. My aunt swears by this neti pot thing too.

  10. Anonymous11:13 PM

    oh Catherine! I have to admit that I have a problem. I've been checking at least twice a day for a posting here and wondering how I would find out if something had actually happened to you and reassuring myself that before you decided to stop blogging you would surely let us know. I'm not trying to make you feel bad, I'm just reminding you that your fan base is quite loyal -- if insane!! Thank you for your humorous loving insight. Don't worry it's just cyberstalking :o)

  11. I have a confession. I first started reading you back when Birdie and my Jake were babies because you had a picture of Michael. His handsome face caught my attention (hanging head in shame), then I read out of curiousity, and I've been hooked ever since. Let me know anytime you get sick of him and we can play Wifeswap ... I'll even trade kids with you for a few days. Boy would my teenagers give you stuff to write about! lol

  12. Anonymous8:35 AM

    Mmmm....fooood porn. I just ordered Baking with Julia, because I have so much free time on my hands, I will put aside TWO DAYS for making homemade croissants. Actually, scary thing is, I will do it. Ahhh, the luxury/multi-tasking of the freelance lifestyle.

    Re the sinuses, I've had problems with them for 31 years, even with the allergy shots. A once daily snort of Nasonex and Astelin keeps me from getting sinus infections, since I get pathetically weepy taking antibiotics three or four times a year, like resistant staph is going to pounce on me in a dark alley. (I feel like a drug ad. Ick.) I like the neti pot and honey ideas, though I'm too scared to get off my regimen.

    Congratulations to Michael! That's such an accomplishment. I have mine in, holy crap, three weeks. Oh my God, what have I done?

  13. Is the neti pot like nasal irrigation? I must google it...anyway my doctor is always trying to get me to use some saline irrigation thing to flush everything, but it sounds way too close to breathing underwater for me.

    I use a nose spray and pills when it is bad and I have yet to figure out how not to let it linger so that I don't get an infection.

    Congrats to Michael! My sister is training for her fist half marathon and it is pretty intense.

    I love hearing about things...thanks for the update.

  14. My husband, who mocks my sniffling heartlessly, would agree with you: allergies (also, glasses) are signs of deep-seated character issues. Definitely.
    And YOUR husband... Wow. In that picture, he looks like he should be on the cover of a Harlequin. He's running to save a busty damsel in distress!

  15. Allergies are AWESOME. My husband is walking around with red weeping eyes and a snuffling nose right now, which makes me by default the HEALTHY one. I WIN!

  16. Hi Catherine and everybody,
    I've always suspected that my allergies were due to a character flaw! and how did you know that I recorded myself singing into a tape recorder? I probably did do "Day by Day," and I also (blush) did "The Rose," of all things. Then I listened to it play back, and hurriedly erased it as the realization came over me that I was not so wildly talented a singer as I had suspected. Erp.

    Re allergies: I have an embarrassingly devoted relationship with my Neti pot, which my partner insists on calling "the snot pot." Has anyone tried Alkalol? It's an herbal combination that you put in your Neti pot, and a friend of mine swears by it. Just bought a bottle of it myself but haven't tried it yet. Supposedly it fills your nose with a pleasant herbal aroma though, so even if it doesn't work....

  17. Oh, and I also wanted to add, if it's not too weird: what a wonderful boyfriend Ben will be! I had a psychology teacher who said "people should raise their children to be good lovers." I don't think he was talking about, you know, technique, but more a willingness to, say, lie around with a partner and dreamily discuss food porn.

  18. Anonymous7:53 PM

    I will chime in on the Neti Pot motion. We use a nasal rinse system by Neil Med at our house, based on the recommendation of a top allergist at National Jewish hospital in Denver. Just to give it that stamp of hey, even the traditional medical community is into this one.

    Have you seen the Veganomicon (vegan recipe book)? I can't give up my cheese, but the recipes in that book are so lovely.

  19. Anonymous8:01 PM

    I finally had to go to an allergist (went to one as a kid and received those weekly injections till I was 18). Last year, at 48, I discovered I have asthma and if I don't treat my allergies aggressively, then I end up wheezing and, eventually, not breathing.

    So I am taking Allegra (not Allegra D, that will keep you awake) daily and also Nasocort (prescription nasal spray) and these new eye drops called Pataday.

    This combination is really getting me through the spring. Also, I am horribly allergic to dogwood, so I would need extra meds to live near your beautiful tree.

    Most of the year, I am fine with just Allegra.

  20. Anonymous9:17 AM

    I think you allergy sufferers are brave, adventurous people. This thing you do with the neti pot? What??!! I am both in awe of your courage and completely freaked out by you. My husband bought one for his allergies and told me how you use it (jenifer--yes, it's like you pour water into one nostril and it comes out the other. Like some kind of vaudellian routine)and I told him he was never allowed to do it in my presence or in the house while I'm there. But, hey, it sounds like it got a band of loyal followers (shake the visual from my head), so I say give it a try. (Just don't do it in my presence or in my house while I'm there, please.)
    P.S. I love Godspell. I'm guessing Michael played the lead?
    --Cathy K.

  21. Anonymous11:56 AM

    So how does Michael feel having Ben as his "mini-me"? He is definitely his father's son.

  22. Anonymous12:53 PM

    Hi Catherine!

    I love your blog and articles but never posted! Just wanted to say...was reading your ost a few months ago about Ben and his bleeding mouth, and I wondered suspiciously how I would handle such a situation. And I found out... NOT WELL!

    My lovely son came home from the neighbors bleeding profusely from the head (he had walked INTO A TREE, oops) and I gave him a cold compress and showed him to hold it on his own head and then I sat on the floor and called my husband and said "Honey.... will you be home REALLY SOON because J is bleeding from the head and I CAN'T look at it?" LOL He was fine, just a big scratch and now my husband and son are both very amused that I am a big ole wimp! LOL Thanks for making me feel so very not alone!


  23. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Have you subjected yourself to an allergen test at the doctor? It may turn out that the dogwood is doing it. A friend of ours had terrible allergies every morning, waking up all puffy, stuffed, and sneezy, and after taking one of these tests, found he was allergic to the pollen of a massive tree right outside his open bedroom window that was blanketing him with sneeze powder as he slept every night.

  24. Anonymous1:24 PM

    A friend of mine recently wrote this as an update on his doings, "Edward is trying to convince his body that POLLEN IS NOT A THREAT! His body disagrees, and is sure that the best thing to do is sneeze and itch it out." Clearly, he is feeling like a bit of a lame-o, although I can not consider it a sign of faulty character. My addiction to frappuccinos, now THAT'S a sign of faulty character.

    I was in a production of Godspell in high school, and I sang "By My Side." I have always loved that song. Recently, I looked at a video of that decades old production. Y'know, high school kids can be pretty darn good sometimes.

  25. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Nice running photos - and to think it was in my own backyard (St. Louis). We had to take like four detours trying to get to church that morning, but kudos to all those who feel compelled to get up on a Sunday morning and run twenty-some-odd miles. Hope you guys feel better soon!

  26. The best thing about allergies is pregnancy and allergies! And not being able to do anything about them! Yay!

    oh sorry...sarcasm...

    Maybe I should get on the neti pot kick?

  27. There is a great Neti Pot video on you tube... Hilarious and creepy and yet also informative enough that I'm tempted to try it. I'm pregnant again (#3 - surprise!) so drugs are totally out... I am tempted even though the thought of that little pot is completely revolting. Sort of like being trapped underground and wondering what your options are for water..... desperate times/desperate measures? If it helps, my doc said this was the worst allergy season she's ever seen, but it should be receeding here soon, hopefully as the trees all get their leaves.

    And Michael? Well, maybe it's the prego hormones, but he's got some FINE legs. I guess that's what you get for running insanely every day for months, eh? Tell him CONGRATULATIONS from one of your online friends.

  28. The Neil Med sinus rinse is the ticket! It's like a squirt bottle, all measured and marked, with little packets of salt. Easier to use than a neti pot, but works great. You can get it at drug stores. It's weird at first - you can feel it swishing around in your sinus cavity - but really, do it every night and no more sniffling and sneezing and itching and wheezing. Wow, I'm so passionate I even rhymed.

  29. Anonymous3:37 PM

    I just watched the neti pot video on youtube. Awesome. I am ashamed to say I couldn't stop giggling, especially since the lady has a really zoned-out look on her face. Perhaps she's putting something besides non-iodized salt in there...Pretty weird, but as a long time allergy sufferer I may have to give it a try.

  30. I have not had the courage to try the neti pot yet, though I know it's the right move.

    However, as a person allergic to everything so violently that I cannot live without anti-histamines, may I recommend a few things that will definitely help?

    Zyrtec is really awesome. It's available over the counter now and you take it just once a day. It doesn't make me drowsy at all.

    If you want to take something that's much older and likely safer, benadryl is really good. It'll knock you right out though. Take a nice dose before bed and sleep sweetly.

    If you spend any time in the outdoors, you should wear different clothes to bed. (I have a bad habit of just wearing whatever shirt I wore during the day to bed.) Pollen traps itself in your clothes, then you roll around in your bed and your bed becomes a den of pollen.

    Also, pollen gets trapped in your hair. If you spend time outdoors, you should shower before bed.

    Also, vacuuming and dusting a lot helps, as pollen comes in the house and hangs around so that inside your house can become as bad as the outside (which is hard to do if you, like me, don't like vacuuming and dusting).

    Also, pollen moves around the most in the early morning, so it's best to sleep with the windows closed, even if you want to sleep with them open (I mostly sleep with them open anyway).

    Also, good luck.

  31. Apropos of nothing else in this thread....

    Catherine, I literally cried at the last lines of your article in O Magazine this month. And the last time I cried at a magazine article was... um.... yeah, way too long ago to recall. BEAUTIFUL job. BEAUTIFUL writing. Your dad must be so proud. Now if we could just get that immortality thing figured out... (If you haven't read it, it's an article about her wonderful dad in which she imagines what Father's Day cards should REALLY say.)I showed it to my husband, whose father has cancer, and it got him, too.

    Thanks for sharing your gifts with the world.

  32. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Hi Catherine! I too am reading Bright Side of Disaster! I'm about halfway through and I LOVE it.
    No advice on the allergies though, but I hope you feel better soon.


  33. Nasal rinsing. It's so great. Even my 9-year-old swears by it. Just remember to keep breathing through your mouth or you will swallow what seems like half an ocean's worth of salt water. Good luck.

  34. Anonymous10:11 PM

    I learned the word callipygous thanks to your music post and am super grateful--what an amazing addition to one's vocabulary! It was sad that you changed it to "large-bottomed" in the audio version--especially since from the definition I looked up, it seems to be a rather complimentary term.

    Anyway, thanks for it--I think you should use one crazy word in each post. You could even market your writing as the world's most entertaining GRE study tool or something.

  35. Anonymous1:45 PM

    Hmmm, this neti pot sounds a lot like waterboarding to me.

    Turns out we aren't torturing people in Guantanimo- we're curing allergies! Who knew!


  36. I love your latest, Bedfellows, just wonderful as always. The five minute conversations, the ogling, the deliciousness of waking up with the kids, the wonderings of Birdy and the comical response of Ben. So much like life in my home. Loved Birdy Longstockings too ... we LOVE that book. Thank you!

  37. Catherine, I just read the piece you wrote for O magazine for your dad and it touched my heart. My kids, I hope, have that feeling for their father as you do for yours. My oldest always is planning her wedding with my husband. Once she said, "I think Jack(my hasband's business partner/friend) will be Daddy's best man at my wedding." I said, "Well, your husband will pick his own best man, I think." She looked at me like, "DUH!" and said, "Yeah, I'm marrying Daddy." How sweet.
    That piece you wrote was so beautiful and that last line got me pretty bad. Also, whe you wrote about the kids reaching out from their carseats and Michael saying, "I got ya" or something, and I always say that to my youngest. "I gotcha". So much, obviously, that she says it when she is sad. She also says it with a Scottish accent. Very sweet.
    So, thank you for your wonderful talent and for sharing it with us.

  38. Thanks for being brave enough to slip in that little admission about re: 'Brat' in the Wondertime piece. Solidarity in the bad moments :)

  39. Anonymous9:17 PM

    I'll tell you what doesn't help allergies - reading Catherines incredibly beautiful dedication to her father in O magazine (June). It was so lovely I was whimpering as tears ran down from my already red, itchy, allergy irritated eyes. Seriously Catherine - it was so close to all I want to say to my dad. Beautiful. For allergies I found a lot of relief with Flonase (if you're willing to go the pharma route). Thank you for all your beautiful writing!! It's weird but I just love you for sharing all this...hugs.

  40. OK, just read your last two posts on wondertime. I am in favor of supporting interests that the child wants to pursue. So if Ben WANTED to take piano lessons the by all means, he should. But since he doesn't, I vote waiting for him to initiate.

    Then in response to your bedtime post - I feel exactly the same way. I couldn't even move Ben out of my bed in preparation for abdominal surgery. He just had to be extra careful not to kick me and he did great! There is nothing in the world like snuggling and chatting with your kids.

  41. hey you--what gorgeous blog conversations you're having. i've been trying to reach you through various means for ages--and clearly have the wrong info so i'll try this way. check in, i've got a kid to show you and other things. ps neti pot-FANTASTIC. so is this stuff i get at the local health food store called Flight Spray or something like that--it's for nasal dryness on the plane, but works great for all things nasal. xo

  42. Catherine,
    I have just sat and read the entire issue of Family Fun for May - it's all completely you! Congratulations on a fabulous issue full of fun... love the 70's crafts (we have recently rediscovered shrinky dink paper at Hobby Lobby too)... the article on the Cape made me drool with envy... and the backyard play... it's brilliant! Much thanks for the ideas and really, congratulations on such a fantastic editorial endeavor!

  43. Anonymous9:59 PM

    Hi, Catherine! I tried to leave this post on Wondertime, but it wouldn't let me. I wanted to assure you that five years old is not too young to lose a tooth. My son is about a month younger than Birdy, and he lost his two bottom front teeth within a few days of each other back in January - at only 4 3/4 years old! I was panicked about it when I first realized both teeth were loose, but the dentist said, while it's definitely earlier than average, it's not TOO early, especially if his first teeth came in fairly early as an infant. My son's permanent teeth actually came in before the baby teeth fell out, so he had "shark teeth" for a few weeks. It was strange, but kind of cool, too.

  44. I really love your column this week. Truly beautiful. Probably as beautiful as that dogwood. Thank you as always for sharing your thoughts with us.

  45. Hi Catherine! I read your essay in Life Lessons for Busy Moms, and just had to come by and check out your blog. I love reading essays and blogs written by Moms, as they reassure me I am not alone in the chaos that has become my life. I will definitely check back often!

    Wishing You an Abundance of Blessings,

  46. Hi Catherine!
    So there was a piece of blog karma that just happened and I simply had to leave you a comment...
    I just posted something on my blog and after I read it, I thought, this sounds like a story Catherine would tell (it's about poop). Then I went to look at the comments from the day before, and saw a new name. I went to her blog (because I had to be nosy), and was browsing to see whose blogs she reads...
    And there was yours. So I thought, this just must mean I must say hello. I simply must say hi to Catherine. We occupy more than one world together.. and I don't know which one is weirder.
    Hope to see you soon

  47. Neti pot has helped, but don't use it like I do and wait until you have that stuffed up head signaling a sinus infection in progress. I think if you use it daily it can really help. Kind of like flossing, another one of those things that I don't do preventatively but should.
    I loved your post, as usual. They always hit a chord with me and I find myself thinking about them during my day. Thanks so much for sharing.

  48. Gotta' chime in on the Neti pot. Yes. Gross, but yes. Like holding your head over a steam bath, but more effective.

    I've heard and I've read plenty about the local honey, but I don't think it's an immediate solution. I think you're supposed to be taking some every day in the weeks leading up to allergy season, and through. Still, it's harmless enough - might as well give it a try.

    Allergies suck. Hang in there.

  49. I will try and post a link to an article that I read about ingesting local honey as an allergy preventative. It basically works as an allergy shot, boosting your immunity to the local allergens that you're reacting to. Has to be local honey and works best when started prior to allergy season but still, it's not a bad medicine to swallow eh?

  50. Anonymous10:03 PM

    So I tried to buy the issue of FAMILY FUN mag that a previous poster mentioned, with all the articles by Catherine. Where the heck do I buy this? Do I have to subscribe? I have tried Borders, CVS and Target with no luck. Suggestions??

  51. Anonymous (Family Fun Seeker):
    Check your pediatrician or doctor's office. They always have several copies on hand, and when I ask to "borrow", they always tell me to just take it, which of course is just what I was hoping for.

  52. Anonymous1:17 PM

    I am late to comment here but oh boy, do I remember Godspell, and of course singing Day by Day into a tape recorder (it really needs two voices though... wanna sing it with me? :-) On a good day I could put myself into a deliciously weepy melancholy singing By My Side. Which is sort of funny, seeing as how I was an atheist. Now that you've reminded me I have to go get that CD and see if it has the same effect...