Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sick Day

The facts were these:

-Three kids with sniffles and a cough.
-Two others recovering but still not 100%.
-One mom wanting nothing more than to remember where she packed away the electric blanket and crawl back into bed.

I heard there was Something going around. Whispers of *The Flu* and a *Bug* floating around. I crossed my fingers that we’d be spared but no. NO. Generally speaking I don’t pick up what the kids bring home but I’m not feeling so lucky right now. Not at all.

You know Sierra’s sick when she can’t get warm. More than most, she seems to be hot-blooded. She begged me to turn on the heat but one look at the thermostat told me the circumstances just didn’t warrant it yet. I brought her some blankets and DayQuil. Didn’t it used to be called DayCare? We called it DayQuil anyway which is probably the reason for the name change. But I digress. All the time I do.

So it’s more time off for her. When it’s obvious my children are Sick, it’s just so much easier to roll with it. What gets sticky around here is when I can’t quite determine if a child is sick enough to miss school. I hate to have them miss too much and I hate to think of them sitting in school feeling lousy. I hate to think of them giving whatever they’ve got to other people but that, friends, is secondary and embarrassedly so.

I’ve had those days when one child seems to be under the weather. Do I dose them up and hope for the best? Bad, I know. When I’m really not sure I’ve been known to tell them to at least stick with it through attendance. No one wants what you’ve got but the other thing no one wants is that call from the vice principal telling you a meeting is being set up to discuss your child’s many absences. Yeah, I got that call near the end of the last school year.

Once the decision to stay home has been made, do you make them stay in bed? Do you allow TV? We have so few kid-friendly channels that this is the best there was:

“On this special edition of Miami Animal Police, Sergeant Day gets justice for a herd of starving goats.”

(I have no idea how she can stand watching those shows. So depressing.)

Sierra was surprised to learn that PBSKids ends right before lunch. She was not impressed with the grandma on “Sit and Be Fit”:

“Today we’ll be doing some interesting things with a rolled up towel and a rubber band!”

What to do? I found my battered copy of Anne of Green Gables and handed it to her. Eyes rolled. She huffed and puffed.

“I’m not reading that! It’s boring! And probably stupid.”

There’s nothing like a tween to throw down the gauntlet. I sank into the bed next to her blanket-mummified self and began reading. I wasn’t sure if she’d pay any attention but soon the questions came:

“Why is Mrs. Rachel Lynde so bossy and nosy?”
“Why did they call it an ‘orphan asylum’?”
“Why aren’t Matthew and Marilla married? Why do they still live together?”
“But it’s gonna be a GIRL! How’d they make that mistake?”

I finally convinced her to LISTEN. Before long I needed to leave. Frustrated that I wouldn’t read another chapter to find out what Marilla was going to say when she found out the child was a girl, she grabbed the book and began to acquaint herself with Anne and the rest of Avonlea. So anyway, the day wasn’t a total loss.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jesus Is a Ninja

Let me start by saying I’m constantly amazed by what my kids know and by what they don’t know.

Michael Jr. has been under the weather so I kept him home from school yesterday and today. Yesterday as he sat painting a watercolor of a cape buffalo, Sam walked up and asked him if he knew about a lizard that walks on water.

“Yeah. The Green Basilisk. The Jesus Lizard.”
“Jesus Lizard?”
“Jesus walked on water. This lizard walks on water. Get it?”
“Jesus walked on water?! Jesus was a NINJA?”

How does Michael know all this stuff? How does Sam know what ninjas (supposedly) can do but NOT know that Jesus walked on water? You think you’ve covered the basics but there are holes. At least around here. Guess I know what the next Family Home Evening story will be. And by the way, it’s The Jesus Christ Lizard. The Jesus Lizard is an alternative rock band out of the Chicago IL area.

(Jesus was a Ninja. How nuts is that? Being the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, I assumed correctly that it already had an internet presence. Here is one person’s reasoning:

This afternoon I was making myself useful, deep cleaning and organizing a closet that practically has a life of its own. I really wasn’t paying a lot of attention to anything else. The realization of an eerie quiet hit me and I went in search of Josh. I found him in the kitchen with several dump trucks, beach toys, and a pile of sand. In the KITCHEN! How does he not know better? Probably because, as usual, I just laughed and pulled out my beloved shop vac.
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Monday, September 28, 2009


Let’s see. What’ve I got for you today? How’s about we catch up.

We’ve got good news on the middle school bullying front: We’ve had one week incident free. I’d like to think someone got the message. I don’t remember if I mentioned it before but there was an increase in the nonsense right after the child spoke with the counselor. Just as I figured, there were accusations of Michael being a momma’s boy, etc. and the boy went so far as to throw his binder. It was almost funny because that evening there was a message on our machine from a counselor saying the matter should be put to rest; he spoke to the boy and it sounds like there was a misunderstanding. Almost funny. Not quite. When Monday rolled around we were happy to hear that nothing whatsoever had transpired in 6th period. By Friday I was ecstatic.

I hope Michael doesn’t read this. At least not soon. All of this is meant for the family to be able to read later. I just have this hope for him (and his sister as well) that he would think silly. If you’re a mom of a kid who’s a little different, you’ll understand. I pray he’ll find a friend. He talks as if he doesn’t need one but we all know different. We all need someone who gets us, shares our values, and even some of our interests. Someone who doesn’t annoy us (most of the time) and someone we don’t annoy (too much). You know, a “bosom friend”:

Anne tipped the vase of apple blossoms near enough to bestow a soft kiss on a pink-cupped bud, and then studied diligently for some moments longer.

"Marilla," she demanded presently, "do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?'

"A--what kind of friend?"

"A bosom friend--an intimate friend, you know--a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will too. Do you think it's possible?'

"Diana Barry lives at Orchard Slope and she's about your age."

-Anne of Green Gables

Let’s see. Oh! I was going to tell you the story of my secret garden gate. Now remember children, you mustn’t tell The Oddfellows!

(I’m totally serious. Mums the word.)

Once upon a time my pal Tia and her husband were planning on digging out the basement on the other side of their “B” house (very common around these parts with all the government houses and their partial basements). We live across the street a few doors down and our backyard had a bit of a slope to it. Knowing we hoped to level it off at some point, they offered to bring the basement dirt to us. It seemed like a good idea to me. Our yard backs up to the Oddfellows Hall (it’s sandwiched between us and Resthaven Cemetery) so all Dean would need to do was take out a section of fence and go for it, right? Well, it was a little more of a pain than that. But it was totally under control. No big deal.

The night after the work began, there was a knock on our door. Mind you, this was like 10:30 p.m. Two old men were there to tell us that we could not legally be back there and that they were getting lawyered up. Are you kidding me? The way our property is laid out, there’s no other access to the backyard. It’s just an edge of a parking lot that goes unused 99% of the time. Even later that night they showed up at Tia’s place to issue the same warning. Obviously they were paying attention throughout the day—how else would they know where the dirt was coming from? We never heard from them again at least about this. One did ask me to keep my eyes open for drug deals going down. It seems to be a real hot spot for that sort of activity as it’s mostly abandoned aside from the occasional hazmat training and wedding reception. After that bit of nonsense, Dad figured we needed a more discrete way of accessing the back of the garden so he manufactured a gate out of the fence sections. From the Oddfellow’s parking lot it looks like business as usual and no one’s the wiser. At least no one particularly litigious.

To wind up this grab bag I’ll share the soup recipe I made today. It’s by Pam Anderson (not Pamela Anderson) and she is one of my favorite cookbook authors. She takes what we love and figures out how to do it better. This was supposed to be for dinner but I’ve already had 3 bowls . . . I KNOW. But at least it wasn’t one of those $1.99 Peanut Buster Parfaits Tami was tempting me with!

Chicken Soup with Black Beans and Corn

1 recipe Fast Chicken Soup Base
2 (16 ounce) cans black beans, drained
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
tortilla chips
grated Monterey Jack cheese
fresh lime wedges

Prepare Fast Chicken Soup Base. Bring to a simmer.

Add these, then simmer until tender, 10-20 minutes: 2 16-ounce cans black beans, drained; 1 10-ounce package frozen corn; 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes; 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced; 2 Tbs. ground cumin; 2 tsps. chili powder.

Before removing from heat, stir in: 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

Final touch: Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve soup with tortilla chips, grated Monterey Jack cheese and fresh lime wedges.

Fast Chicken Soup Base

2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart water
1 store-bought roast chicken
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, cut into medium dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds or half rounds, depending on size
2 large stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Bring broth and water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large soup kettle. Meanwhile, separate chicken meat from skin and bones; reserve meat. Add skin and bones to the simmering broth. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until bones release their flavor, 20 to 30 minutes.

Strain broth through a colander into a large container; reserve broth and discard skin and bones. Return kettle to burner set on medium-high.

Add oil, then onions, carrots and celery. Saute until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add chicken, broth and thyme. Bring to a simmer. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. Return to a simmer before adding the extras of your choice.)
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Avoiding the Mama Drama: Oh No You Didn't!

I wrote about a play date the other day when the topic of breastfeeding came up. We definitely had a lot to say but the next topic that came up was even more emotionally charged: Other folks disciplining our children.

This is a touchy subject because plenty of us realize it isn’t always a bad thing if by disciplining you mean having words. Most of us can remember a day when you didn’t dare act up in front of another mother; they were just as capable of giving you the business as your own was. It wasn’t something we liked at the time but in retrospect it’s easy to see that it was a good thing. It made us think twice.

Though lots of people keep their mouths shut these days, I admit I have spoken sternly to children I’ve seen destroying private property as well as kids who use foul language in front of mine. If your mom isn’t there taking your inventory, I feel negligent as an adult to stand idly by.

As we talked there seemed to be a consensus. None of us felt it was inappropriate for another adult to say something to our kids if they were misbehaving unless, and this is key, we were already taking care of it. Has this ever happened to you? I don’t know if it bothers me more because there seems to be an assumption that I’m incompetent or if it’s because I figure my kid doesn’t need to be ganged up on.

Once, years ago when my oldest children were little, one of them did something they shouldn’t have. As soon as I realized what happened I began speaking to the child and dealing with the situation. Within seconds someone chimed in. Then another! I have never corrected this person’s children before because a) I didn’t want the drama and b) she was always present. I was furious! I guess it was more to do with feeling judged than worrying about my child.

A few days ago I was folding clothes and selected a Dr. Phil episode on the Tivo. Part of the show was dedicated to two major news stories about strangers not only having words with a child in front of the parent but actually laying hands on them. It’s hard to even imagine. In August a man in an Atlanta GA Walmart slapped a two year old several times (at least four times police say) after warning her mother to keep her quiet. Just recently a woman in a Cincinnati OH Salvation Army store overheard a child talking back to his mother. She grabbed the two year old from his mother and began spanking him. These stories struck a chord with my friends and I because sandwiched in between these two events was one that hit closer to home.

Earlier this month our friend Dana was at the library with her children and their family’s in-home care provider. Dana has two children with autism and one was having a particularly rough time. The caregiver lead him outside and at some point witnesses say a man backhanded him and used some pretty disgusting language. He claims he only swatted his bottom and it’s become a matter for the courts to sort out. One way or the other, hands were laid on someone else’s child. It was something that brought out the Mama Bear in every one of us.

So what do you think? We can all agree that putting the slap down on a stranger (or anyone else for that matter) is WRONG but how about correcting someone else’s child?
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blown Away

Do I blog about it or not? Mindy says yes, but I wonder. I mean why do I feel this need to expose my stuff? It’s been one of those days. I expected smooth sailing but hit rough water early on. I guess keeping it in is isolating and rightly or wrongly, as I keep falling out of this boat, those I allow in have become my flotation device.

“Misery no longer loves company. Nowadays it insists on it.” – Russell Baker

This morning I had a showdown with one of my children. If you’ve got kids you know this happens. Someone decides to cross that line in the sand and you know that if you let it slide you’ll be back 20 paces before it's over. Because you’ve lived it. So whether I’m up for it or not, it’s a showdown.

And today, of all days, I wasn’t up for it. My parents are here. It’s a short visit and I’d like it to be nice. A peaceful family is a gift I’d like to offer my parents because a) OBVIOUSLY and b) Duh. They’re good people. I’d like them to feel like they raised a reasonably competent daughter raising reasonably well-behaved children. I don’t want to give them cause to worry. What would be the point?

The Grandparent Visit is probably, by the child’s calculations, a particularly bueno time to push it. Do the math: Mom wants to keep the peace, doesn’t want them to see her lose her cool. Grandparents are pushovers and hate to see them unhappy. But this equation isn’t factoring in the fact that Mom will not be made to look like a punk in front of her parents. I found myself channeling Madea:

“Say one more thing. I don't hear you. You're quiet, can I buy a vowel?”

The showdown eventually ended with tears, apologies, and a weeded flower bed but not before I was called a string of truly awful things. With my parents standing there. Horrified. I was blown away. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Definitely not a moment I wanted etched in their minds for as long as they’ve got them. Definitely not a moment I want to represent me in any way. Once I dealt with it as best I could, I asked Josh if he’d like to walk to the park. I had to get out of there. He ran ahead, blissfully unaware of the tears streaming down my face.

It’s never hurt my feelings when my kids have said hurtful things to me. Their opinion, when clearly in the wrong, means little to nothing. What gets to me is failing in front of my parents. They just don’t see the kids often enough to get such a huge dose of whatever that was. I think I handled it okay. The fail is the fact that this child would dare pull any of this in the first place. It caught me off guard, like being pulled on stage to perform improv comedy. Only the pros can pull that off.

P.S. By the end of the day the flower beds were clear, I helped take a load of stuff to the dump, and watched my family get a whole lot of other things done around the place. That helped. Sinking my teeth into that Chocolate “O” from Rosie’s that David brought me helped too. What also helped was taking a metal pipe and beating the snot out of the remaining trampoline ring to get it apart, as well as flinging these metal pipes at old windows in the big trash bins at the dump with Michael and my Dad. I wish I could do that every day. And at the end of the day Tia and Dean showed up at the backdoor. My friends have the best timing.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Where's My Tree?

Last night the kids removed the last of the trampoline hardware and metal bars down to our secret garden gate*. There’ll be a run to the dump this weekend while my parents are here with their truck and we’ll finally be shed of this thing.

Since the day we first considered this house I thought the one thing it really lacked that I couldn’t just fix with a windfall of cash was a huge tree in the back yard. We have two massive sycamores and two more good sized maples in the front that offer all the shade we could want but the backyard is a burning wasteland. This house has stood here since the mid-1940’s. In the name of Arbor Day, why, oh why didn’t any of the previous owners plant a stupid shade tree in the backyard? When we decided to pitch the broken down trampoline I had thoughts of where I’d plant my Big Tree and what variety it would be. It wouldn’t be big any time soon but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

My parents arrived close to noon for a weekend’s visit. There isn’t a visit without a project and this project was my new pantry. I have this desk area in the kitchen that I only use to store miscellaneous stuff and one day it occurred to Michael that the large cupboard, counter, and drawer could be removed to make room for some shelves. I’d actually have room for food in my kitchen!

This afternoon Dad began the project and Sam pulled out the Othello game grandpa made me years ago. Did I remember how to play? I popped open a jar of smoked Coho salmon dad brought for me and began racking my brain. Oh yeah. No problem. So we played and ate until my mom walked over and handed me a photo. This photo.

I guess it was lodged somewhere and came loose when Dad pulled the cupboards down. I looked at it for a second and figured it was just some picture someone sent someone for Christmas. Whatever. Taking into consideration the polyester suit and perm on the gal, the mustache (you KNOW how I feel about those things) on the dude, and the Toughskins on the little guy, I’d say we’re talking late 70’s. Then again, if it was taken East of the Mountains, it could be the early 80’s. I set the photo back down and continued to let Sam beat me.

But wait!

I picked the photo up again. Wait a minute. Wait just a minute! Oh! My! Gosh! That’s Mr. Malley’s basketball hoop and shed! That’s my kitchen window! That’s my deck! Why didn’t I recognize it before? Because this lovely family is squatting next to a massive maple tree! In my backyard!

Who are these people and what did they do with my tree???

*It looks just like the rest of the fence from the Oddfellows’ side and we use it to haul stuff in and out of an otherwise inaccessible garden. Secret because the Oddfellows have made it abundantly clear that we are not allowed on their side of the fence. Another story for another time . . .
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Avoiding the Mama Drama: Boobies

(If you don’t have boobs or babies this may be totally uninteresting. Even if you do, I can’t offer any guarantees)

I’ve already written about bras but today I think I’ll write about their contents. Seems like everyone’s got an opinion.

Earlier this week I spent a morning with a group of friends. A play date. As the kids ran around while we talked (well actually, everyone else’s did; mine was uncharacteristically adhered to my lap), one of those topics came up. You know the kind. The ones that fire us up, no matter what side of the debate we’re on.

One woman was nursing her baby, receiving blanket draped over them both. Another told us how weird she used to feel about breastfeeding in public and that the first time she decided to just do it, a man from her church appeared on the scene. She was mortified. This I can’t relate to. Even remotely. I nursed for something like . . . let me grab that calculator and accountant again . . . well, over 5 years for certain. I’ve never been shy about it. Oh, except around my father-in-law because we just don’t see him often and I know it would embarrass him. No one else got a pass though.

Another woman told us about nursing as she shopped in Walmart. She could pretty much do this anywhere undetected. She nurses her kids for as long as they’re interested and it’s definitely longer than your average First World citizen would be cool with. Agree or disagree, I do appreciate her perspective on the whole nursing in public thing. Breasts were designed for this purpose. That they also serve another purpose altogether does not make breastfeeding something dirty that ought to be done in private. That’s just silly and immature.

There are things that just don’t occur to you before you assume the role of Booby Cow (a name my brother once gave me after a “Caroline in the City” episode—sweet, huh?). Like maybe you won’t be able to; you may only produce drip-drops. Will you feel like less of a woman? Or maybe you’ll produce enough to feed a developing nation and leak at the first sign of a baby. Anyone’s baby. And where are you going to nurse your child in a restaurant? We’re becoming more and more enlightened about the whole deal but mostly it’s awkward. Do you do it right there? Head to the bathroom (totally gross but I’ve it done a million times)? Sit in the car? Or better yet, what do you do when you find out someone else nursed your baby?

While Michael was at M.I.T. I took on the job of tending a new professor’s seven month old daughter. His wife was beginning a teaching job as well in Boston and they needed childcare a week before I could start. Someone suggested a woman who lived in the same married student apartments we lived in. Went to church with her too. Seemed like a plan. Until I get the word that this gal nursed her daughter. Talk about some mama drama.

As for me, I felt like a year was plenty and the bottom line was that it was cheap and convenient. I’m also a firm believer in modesty. There are clothes you can buy that makes it easy to discretely whip out those Ready-For-My-National-Geographic-Close-Up puppies without flashing folks (though I never bought any). More importantly, there are WAYS of doing it that don’t draw unnecessary attention. Not that there’s anything wrong with it . . .

I really thought I was as open-minded as it gets when it comes to this until I attended the 2nd birthday party of my young charge back at M.I.T. Like I mentioned, her father was a professor there and other invited guests were a French colleagues and his wife. While we sat in the living room getting acquainted and watching the children play, this Le Leche League pioneer unbuttoned her blouse (from the top down, not the bottom up like the rest of us pansies), pulled out the goods and latched her baby on. No discretely placed receiving blanket (which my kids all batted away anyhow—who wants to eat with a burqa on?), no nothing. She was the real deal, even going so far as scraping frosting off the birthday girl’s carrot cake (Not Her Child) because, “Children don’t need frosting”. *shiver* Isn’t carrot cake just a vehicle for frosting? I think for me, this would be the REAL mama drama!
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feels Like The First Time

Well, the good news is that I somehow avoided an epileptic seizure from the concert light show. I’m convinced it was touch and go for a while. Okay, I’m mostly kidding but I probably did suffer significant hearing loss. I have high hopes it’s only temporary because I can’t wait to do it again.

When Nina asked us all awhile back if we’d like to do a Girls’ Night out to see Heart in concert I almost said no. I mean it’s just not me. I haven’t gone to a concert in a long time. Like a lifetime ago.

My first concert was Neil Diamond. With my parents. I KNOW. I was in 5th grade and it was his “Forever in Blue Jeans” tour. It was something that embarrassed me for years after but I’ve come full circle and now fully embrace my Neil-Love. I grew up with that man’s music and I’m sorry but he ROCKS.

After that it was Journey and Bryan Adams while I was in middle school. I went with the Scheurich girls and their aunt. In 8th grade I went to see The Scorpions and Ratt by myself. I KNOW. Hard to believe my parents actually let me and what’s more, I forgot my ticket and they actually drove back to Yelm for it. The Scorpions truly do ROCK.

In high school Jeff took me to a few concerts. I remember a Lynard Skynard farewell concert but I know there were more (I KNOW. Didn’t they have a number of “farewell” tours?). It’s funny what I remember and what’s a blur. Oh! I remember now! A college boyfriend took me to see a Cocteau Twins and Galaxy 500 concert. Wonder how I forgot that? I think I blocked out that entire misadventure.

So now that you’ve waded through the most boring history in the history of this (or any other) blog you may want to bid me a semi-fond farewell. I’m sorry; when I thought about what to write today, this sounded way more interesting in my head. That actually happens a lot.

The people-watching at this concert was phenomenal. Maybe it always is. Our group sat next to a couple in their 70’s (I’d guess) and in front of us were several young women. There were people that looked like they stepped right out of 1982 and the hair!!! Oh there were some awesome hairstyles going on. There were folks rocking out complete with requisite head-banging and at one point I did fear for my life (or at least my head) as a woman several seats to my right threw her arms around in time to the music with a long neck in her precarious grip. I could just picture it flying at me, slow motion-style, in time to “Magic Man”.

So, it was actually a pretty awesome event and it makes me wish Michael would have joined us. He’d have had to put up with a lot of our goofiness (A LOT) but it would’ve been fun. We’ve never seen a concert together so I think he really needs to find some magical way to score some U2/Black Eyed Peas tickets. Boom Boom Pow!
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Picture Day

Dear Picture Day,

I loathe you.



I remember having to wear things I’d rather not, getting my hair brushed and done up with those pink spongy rollers (Mom used to refer to me as tender-headed and oh! would I howl!). I remember trying to figure out how to sleep with them on my head.

Everything had to be just so because this was It. This was the one going on the wall. The picture to represent the ENTIRE year.

Anymore it doesn’t seem to have the same gravity. Most of us have digital cameras that take great photos and all of us have access to Walgreens, Walmart, Rite-Aid, etc. for printing out specialties like wallet-sized prints. I don’t know why I make such a big deal about it now.

In my own mind it’s not a BIG deal, just a minor inconvenience (have to remember to fill out the forms, write the checks, make sure the checks make it into the envelopes, and make sure the envelopes get in the backpacks of the RIGHT child—last year I spent an hour at school trying to sort out the mess I’d made of it). To my younger boys it’s always a black, black day. I make them wear button down shirts instead of t-shirts. I know. Totally uncool. Over protests of, “This isn’t church!” I wash their faces and give them the once over. I steel myself against their whiny nonsense but a toll is taken and I still have a headache I haven’t quite kicked. I had one yesterday too though. I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. I mean aside from the OBVIOUS.

Picture Day reminds me of kindergarten. For our class picture my best friend and I decided we would both wear our red gingham dresses. They weren’t identical but the fabric was essentially the same. On the day of pictures my friend’s mom told her it was a no-go; her dress had a hole in the front. I don’t remember how she pulled it off but she wore it anyway. Her parents would never know, right? ;) Another year on individual picture day I spent the day before out on our boat with my parents. I guess we weren’t big on sun block back in the day. I woke up the next morning in agony with a massive water blister on my upper left arm but make no mistake, the show must go on and it did.

This is a photo of me in kindergarten. Cut my own bangs and everything!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Two Weddings and Some Furniture

Yesterday was quite a day; two friends announced their engagement on Facebook! I’m just not at that age where this kind of thing happens often so it was quite a shock to hear of two. In a day. Major congrats to Corrina (dear high school friend) and Loretta (one of Michael and Sierra’s first babysitters and one of my Beehives when I was Young Womens President). So folks, here we have even more weight-loss incentive—I don’t fit my pretty dresses at the moment (yeah, she’s going there again). Not that I need any more incentive than Michael growing a mustache. He’s officially growing it until I lose 20 pounds. The man is CRUEL. He could seal the deal by wearing clown make-up daily but keeping his job is a priority in this economy.

I’m so tired of hearing “in this economy” on every commercial hawking big ticket—or even small ticket—items. It’s like that used car dealership that used to be on the corner of Symons and Jadwin. Tim Bush’s first one probably. It had a Jesus fish on the sign. I’m supposed to assume you care when you invoke the blessed economy or the fish? Like you’re just here to help? Puleez!

Speaking of big ticket items, I’m fed up with some of mine.

It’s been close to a year. A year in October to be exact. I was hot to replace our living room furniture and searched online and in stores for what I was looking for. It was kind of frustrating because I wanted simple, I wanted a pull-out bed, and I wanted fabric that would wear well. I am picky but my taste is anything but fancy. It seeemd impossible to find something that didn't have a row of pillows for the back, stylized curved arms, or weird fabric. Or cost a fortune.

The set we were replacing was probably around three years old. We got an amazing deal on it at Fred Meyer’s (yeah, I know). It was on clearance, we had a 40% off coupon, and they gave us the 10% discount we asked for because it was the floor model set. The problem was the color. It was just such a light tan and though it was Ashley Durapella (you can scrub it clean), I was scrubbing it all the time. We got rid of the set in record time on Craig’s List.

I finally found what I wanted on JC Penney’s website. I KNOW. But I didn’t. I thought it looked great and the price was right. When the pieces (couch, chair and a half, and a storage ottoman) arrived they looked and felt great. The chenille fabric bore a striking resemblance to that on our couch in the basement that we bought in 2000. I chose the fabric because in our experience it’d worn very well.

This must’ve been pretty different stuff. By New Years the fabric was pilling and the cushions were sinking in. We contacted JC Penney and they offered to send new cushions. I wasn’t excited about that; did I need to replace them every few months? Well, the cushions never showed up and I just gave up. Which was stupid. I should harass them about it. I just wonder if I’ve waited too long. Shouldn’t furniture look decent after a year? Maybe if I write a really pushy e-mail and invoke the “ECONOMY” I can get some satisfaction.

Question of the Day: Any advice on how I should pursue this? Any similar experiences that stand out in your mind? Tell me, tell me! Misery loves company and occasionally puts up with advice as well.

P.S. Dad sent this e-mail today with another recipe:

Hi; This e-mail may explain where all my cursewords went last night. As I understood it, I must have banged a wrong key and had only "ave a good week; Dad" left of the draft I was doing, so I started over with a whole new one; the original nowhere to be found. Not sent, not in draft storage, nutt'n.

Mother had the world's dumbest mouse. Bagheera must have cut one loose in the bedroom. He would park himself back there by my sink and wait. Mother moved some boxes out of that cover under there and a mouse flew inside the sink furniture. She set two traps and blocked his exit. I called that dumb. However, he came out and got in to the cheese trap before the day was over. Peanut butter?; not so much.

Here's another bread pudding.

1 loaf of nice solid French bread.
4 eggs lightly beaten
1 quart of milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup apples, peel, chop
1 cup raisins optional

1" cube the bread into a large bowl. Mix eggs, milk, sugar, spices and pour over. Stir to coat the bread. Let soak for an hour. Stir in the fruit and pour into a greased 2 Qt. casserole. Bake at 350 for 45 min-1 hr. Check for doneness. Spread open and look into the middle for wetness.

We'll see you on Friday.

P.S. I'll bring the old recipes; maybe I mailed them around the world to the left back to me and Jimmy Carter, 2nd worst president in our country's history. PS2: I'll bring you my second darkest gumbo; the darkest was burned beyond eating-years ago. This one is good; the color of coffee, tastes like it has been filtered thru the bunghole of a rhino.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

No Excuses. Maybe.

Tia, Tia, Tia. Why do you torture me?

I woke up from a well-deserved stolen Sunday nap and asked my Facebook friends what I should write about. I should have a list of topics to choose from and even several blogs written up in advance but that, my friends, is not how I do business. Tia was thinking about how good dessert sounds and how about writing about my favorite kind?

It sure as heck isn’t the Chocolate Coconut Atkins bar I’m gnawing on. I try to avoid talking about the whole weight thing because I wrote about it once and after that I can see how it would become boring and distinctly unfunny. Who really wants to hear about how I threw down my iPhone this morning when Michael couldn’t zip up my skirt? The skirt I bought (and fit) just days after Sam was born.

(Yes, I THREW my iPhone. My PRECIOUS as Kenny calls it. I shouldn’t even be allowed to own one)

This on the day I’d already set aside to give The Incredible Shrinking Woman bit another try. Here I go talking about it. I said I wouldn’t talk about it . . . but yes, today was the day. I needed total amnesty for Sausage Fest but now its No Excuses time. Wasn’t that a brand of jeans once upon a time? Who cares, I probably couldn’t button those either.

So, favorite dessert. Let’s see. I adore burnt cream (crème brûlée) but it usually comes in portions that make me sad. Tiny ramekins half-emptied after my first swipe. I also love peach pie and have nothing disparaging to say on the subject. Oh and a moist chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Sooo fantastic. Above all though, I would say my favorite dessert is my dad’s Bread Rice Pudding. He concocted it a while back when the kids asked if he’d make bread pudding. And rice pudding. They couldn’t decide which. It’s my favorite comfort food and it’s what derailed my last Down-With-The-Pounds effort. We were visiting this summer and there it sat. I wasn’t going to have any. Really. Honestly! And then Dad asked if I’d have some. I doubt he meant for me to come back for thirds but that’s how I operate and it’s how I got to this iPhone-pitching state of affairs.

I’ve been thinking about food and if, at this stage in the game, it would be possible for me to really think of food as anything but entertainment. I really want to care about where my food comes from and to think of food as fuel. But dear interweb friends, there is a massive disconnect in my brain. Wanting to care and caring are two very different things. I’m like the person puffing away at a cigarette despite seeing all the charred lungs. A woman I know from M.O.P.s started a blog recently that goes into a lot of different things you should incorporate into your diet for optimum health. I want to want to eat these things but just can’t wrap my brain around drinking fermented milk , making my own non-sugar sweetener, or steeping elderberries for tea.

I saw this show the other day. I forget if it was Dateline, 20/20, Primetime, 48 hours, whatever; they’re all the same. Oh, except John Stossel is on Dateline and he’s my favorite. Even with that amateur porn star mustache. But anyway, this episode was about where our food comes from. Mostly this sort of thing just grosses me out but this was different. There was an interview with the owner of Chipotle (a chain of Mexican restaurants) where they observe “naturally raised protocol”. I was immediately impressed with the big words. Well, actually I started laughing but anyway, they buy pork from this guy who raises pigs that live in the woods. According to Farmer Joel, “This fully respects the pigness of the pig”. I wonder how much this effects the taste? Because who are we kidding? That’s what it comes down to. Then there’s the question of eating animals in general (which I rarely allow myself to consider): Am I more comfortable eating an animal that’s had a good life that was cut short or a confinement pig whose life was a disaster anyway? But if I eat the confinement pig I’m encouraging more pig confining. Never mind. There are some philosophical questions I’m just too lazy to pursue.

Enough of that. Suffice it to say I’ve almost made it through Day 1 and you should just count yourself lucky that Tiff’s Secret Diet Journal is a private blog. Oh the humanity.

Dad’s Bread Rice Pudding

In a greased shallow baking dish, you load up, then place the dish in another filled with hot water and bake. 350 degrees for 1 hour, stick with a knife for test for doneness, looking for blade to come back clean. Directions call for 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hrs.

In your baking dish layer bread-raisins-cooked rice.

In a bowl mix 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, and 3 1/2 cups milk (3 cups is good, too).

Pour it over your bread or whatever in baking dish and dust with nutmeg. Bake.

Have a good week,

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yes, I Should Be Embarassed To Post A Photo This Bad. But I'm Not.

It’s so loud. Around me voices shout, “Tough D! Tough D! Tough D!”, “Get your SHIRT on!”, and “Aim at the OTHER goal! But you’re doing good!”

Welcome to U9 soccer. We had a great thing going last spring when, in a pinch, a guy coaching another team volunteered to coach our boys as well. The son of our previous coach decided he liked baseball better so we were stuck. This guy had years of soccer experience and pushed the boys hard. They learned a lot, he treated them kindly, and he put up with NOTHING in the whole realm of nonsense. I would pay the man to coach my kid if that was an option.

This fall Kenny was placed on another team and it’s been a very different experience. We have the boy who bursts into tears several times each practice and game. Another who fights EVERYONE for the ball, including and especially his teammates. We have a pusher and a tripper as well. This afternoon the ball hog pushed Kenny down and laid on him in an attempt to get the ball. FROM HIS OWN TEAMMATE. Kenny’s not sure what to think about all of this but I’ve tried to reassure him that we can probably switch teams next fall so he can play with some boys from school. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

On this team of differently-abled kids, Kenny is the gravity-challenged one. This morning we shook our heads as we watched him kick the ball and land on his butt. Over and over. He seemed to be doing this on purpose which was a little confusing but the boy does have a flare for the dramatic.

During the second game the coach put him in as goalie for the first time and it was a beautiful thing. That total willingness to fling himself to the ground paid off as he launched himself at each ball. The parents started calling him “The Wall”. It actually became fun to watch again. If I could just drown out the noise to my left.


The family next to me at Kenny’s second game of the day was sporting an additional grandma and she’s a loud one. At regular intervals she’d let loose with something that sounded remarkably like some sort of Middle Eastern ululation. She looked to be about 85 and seemed to know everything about the game. She appeared frustrated that these 8 and 9 year olds weren’t playing according to the rules and yelled, “Offsides! Offsides!” As her daughter told her they don’t even know what that means, she shouted, “Take it from him! Take it from the little FART!” Grandma was scaring me.

When it was all over including the shouting and the clouds threatened sprinkles, we headed to the car. As we walked I asked Kenny what he thought of the voices he heard from the sides. Did it feel encouraging? Could he make out what anyone was saying?

“No. It’s just annoying.”

Watching the game I thought about how I’d feel having all those parents hollering from the sidelines while I tried to do something. I think the only reason they don’t yell SHUT UP right back at us is because they know how that would play out 9 times out of 10.

Well friends, it’s the final hours of Sausage Fest. I can hear them whooping it up as I sit here in our room. Michael Sr. and I wandered over earlier with Josh and Take 2 was much better. We saw lots of friends, including Jason McDermott and his wife Sonya! I hadn’t seen Jason since Spanish class 21 years ago (Yes, I am that old). Josh played lots of games and the three of us pigged out till dark watching pre-teens perform semi-erotic hip hop as well as a Christian rock band. Sausage Fest has it ALL. And if I walk over in an hour or two I can score half-price corn-on-the-cob too. What more could I ask for?
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Sausage Fest Blues

That was quick.

Sausage Fest started at 5 p.m. and we walked over just as it started. We found a table in the shade and then remembered what an unholy pain in the butt it is to get in and out because there is no room to pass between tables if anyone sits back to back.


Michael and I left the kids and hit the lines for food. He waited for the sausages and I found the burgers, waffle fries, corn, and drinks. We returned and the complaining began. Sam decided he wanted a sausage on a bun. Josh’s sausage was too hot. Sharing drinks wasn’t making any of them happy. The older ones started in with each other and What Was That? Time to GO.

Too bad because I’m jonesing for a funnel cake and probably a few other delicious items.

From my window here I can see Michael Jr. sitting in my swing under one of the big sycamores out front. Brooding. Angry. I think that swing has kept him and Sierra from walking away a number of times. They get frustrated, storm out, then wind up in the swing.

When we came home they were both unhappy we left early. Sierra headed to the basement to use the computer but Michael Jr. was headed in the same direction. For the same thing. He argued that she’d been on it before we left; it was his turn. I told them both that no one was going to use it, she grabbed his arm (the girl has nails), and as I turned I saw Michael hit her over and over. It was absolutely frightening. I’d never seen him do anything like that.

So. Let me tell you what else has been going on.

I wrote the other day about middle school being fine for the most part. That there was one class with one student who seemed unable to live and let live. It finally came to a head (for me) on Wednesday when Michael came home and said the kid threatened to kill him. I really hate to use foul language on my blog (I know Aunt Becky, I’m such a disappointment;)!) but why tip-toe around it? He’s been called a dumb ass and a faggot regularly as well as having his binder thrown down (how sad is it to have your 13 year old ask you what a “faggot” is? Sadder is the telling part).

After hearing about the latest nonsense I decided to contact the school counselors and just ask what they suggested. I was at a loss because honestly, I just want to either follow the kid home and have a private convo with the parent(s) or instruct Michael to beat the living crap out of him. Both avenues have their flaws, I know. There’s that part of me that says, hey, here’s this kid who’s hurting inside. Who probably has a rotten home life and a bleak future if nothing changes. Another, louder part of me wants to knock him into the next county.

Thursday morning I heard from the principal. Seemed like a nice guy and he said he appreciated the tone of my e-mail. Most parents who contact him are out for blood. I guess I restrained myself. He said they were pretty sure who the culprit was (three kids in that class have the same name and Michael didn’t know his last name). They would have a talk with him and Michael would need to let them know if it continued so they could follow through. I had a bad feeling about that. There was just no way Michael was going to avoid the whole Tattle Tale title.

“Thanks a lot!” he yelled when he returned home. Just as I thought, it escalated. Now the boy’s friends were calling him a mama’s boy and making fun of him. It’s just getting worse. I’m considering telling the principal to just pretend we never spoke. Because let’s be real clear, this can only go one of two ways: Michael Jr. will continue being treated like garbage by this kid (and his friends now) and silently take it or this boy will take it a step further and Michael will beat him like he did his sister. He’s being punished for taking his anger out on her but I’ll take him out for ice cream if he returns fire on this kid. I am a BAD, BAD mom.

Michael and Sierra have appologized to each other, hugged it out, forgiven and, for the moment, forgotten. Still though, I'm pretty uneasy.

Question of the Day: Have you had to deal with bullies in your own life or in those of your kids? How did you handle it?
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

What A Shame

Okay, now I'm totally convinced Big Brother is watching. First I have hits from Bentonville, Arkansas straight from Wal-Mart headquarters on the blog I wrote about buying skinny jeans there. Straight to that particular one. No evidence of a Google search or anything. Now today the same thing happened but with Group Health in Seattle. Straight to my blog about managed care. I hope they weren't too disappointed.

I kept Sierra home today. Her ears still hurt and she’s got a fever now but on the up side, the redness, swelling, and blisters have retreated to well inside the Sharpie-dotted outline Dr. Isaacson drew on her leg yesterday. I sure hope she feels better soon; I'd sure hate for her to miss Sausage Fest. Right now she’s lying on the couch watching “So You Think You Can Dance” from last night and pouting because I brought her the wrong thing from Dairy Queen. I didn’t even know you could use “wrong” and “Dairy Queen” in the same sentence but there you go. I just did.

Oh! It must be that T-Mobile/MyTouch commercial because I can hear Sam screaming, “Fast forward! Fast forward! Turn it off!” which he does whenever he sees Whoopie Goldberg. She completely freaks the child out.

I had on some morning program a few days ago when I saw that Jay Leno interviewed Kanye West the night before. I slapped my forehead, frustrated that I forgot to Tivo it. Then I remembered I live in the 21st century, haven't become Amish (yet), and own a computer. I found it online and almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Did Jay really ask him That question? Yeah folks, he did.

Jay welcomed him, thanked him for coming, then asked if he’d had a rough day. He told Jay it was extremely difficult. Next Jay asked him to pinpoint the moment when he knew what he did was wrong. Was it as he did it? Afterward? Kanye said he knew as soon as he handed Taylor the mic and she didn’t keep going. I’d be willing to bet that he knew it was Wrong before that. I think he was referring to the moment when it became apparent to him that it was a This-Is-Going-To-Bite-Me-In-The-Butt sort of wrong.

We think of Hollywood as being full of liberality and loose morals. Don’t get me wrong, it is. But do you see what Jay was doing? He was parenting Kanye and he was doing it WELL. No raised voices, just straight talk. Jay finished by telling Kanye he was fortunate enough to meet and speak with his mother some years ago before she died. He asked him this question:

“What do you think she would have said about this? Would she be disappointed in this? Would she give you a lecture?”

Kanye sat there for a minute, cast his gaze to the ground and tried to fight the tears.

WOW! I was so surprised and impressed by that question. So often we see celebrities getting a pass for whatever lame antics they get up to but this time when a person behaved badly, everyone circled the wagons around the wronged person and leveled an underused and totally appropriate sanction on the perpetrator: Good old-fashioned SHAME. Since the dawn of time it’s how we humans have done business. It’s good to see it still works just fine.

Question of the Day: Do you use shame as a parenting technique or did your parents use it on you? Were you more concerned about disappointing your parents than an actual punishment? Okay, I guess that’s three questions.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sierra's Got Ouchies

Let us heave a collective *sigh*. I do not ♥ Managed Care.

I get that since we don’t pay everything out of pocket we can’t have everything we want when we want it. When it comes to Ann Coulter, opinions differ (though EVERYONE agrees she needs to eat a sandwich), but something she wrote a few weeks ago is just common sense:

“For you newcomers to planet Earth, everything that does not exist in infinite supply is rationed.”

Still, when your child needs medical attention, all that common sense seems like a load of horse manure. I just want my kid taken care of NOW. Yesterday I got a call from the middle school. Sierra’s ear hurts. More sighing. Okay, pack up the kids and drive over. We collected her and as we walked out of the school I noticed she was still walking funny. She complained about a sore spot, maybe a bug bite, on her leg the day before but I didn’t pay much attention. She’s extremely attractive to bugs for some reason and it’s never amounted to anything.

Here’s where it became annoying. I called her doctor’s office to find out if someone could take a quick look in her ear to confirm an ear infection. A few hours later a nurse calls. No, can’t see her today. And hmm, let’s see . . . Nope. No openings tomorrow either. I asked if a nurse could just peek in her ear. I was told something to the effect that they either weren’t qualified to or that it wasn’t in their job description. I know they don’t write prescriptions but it just seems to me, someone medical professionals would refer to as a Simpleton, that a nurse’s opinion about an ear infection should be enough to convince a doctor to write a prescription. Or to at least confirm that yes, in fact there is an infection, now go home and suffer. Or go to the health food store and try some of that I Know Not What that everyone keeps telling me about. But no.

I called Group Health to ask if we were covered for urgent care visits if our doctor can’t/won’t see us. Good news! Totally covered. Which made me wonder why we were charged over $100 for each of three visits I made there last spring with strep throat (WARNING: Do Not French kiss me. I am a carrier). So, Sierra and I headed a few blocks away to Physicians Immediate Care. Once there I was told that yes, they would be happy to see her but no, there was no provider* on duty that actually accepts Group Health. It will just cost more. “Ha Ha!” as Nelson from the Simpson’s would say. There was no way I was going that route.

We found another urgent care clinic in South Richland that did have a doctor in our network and a few hours later she was seen. The doctor confirmed an ear infection in her right ear and a spider bite on her leg. One antibiotic would cover the whole mess.

Or it would if she would quit throwing them up.

But anyway, she woke up this morning with redness, increased swelling, and several blisters of growing size and quantity. This time the doctor felt able to squeeze her in. He didn’t like how it looked (it’s cellulitis) but felt the antibiotic she’s on should do the trick. Also the ear infection is actually double.

I think everything’s going to be fine but boy it would have been nice to time travel to ye old days of yore olden days and have Doc Baker just pull up and take care of things. Then again there’d be no survivors. Maybe my managed care isn’t so bad.

*This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Calling doctors “providers”. They are DOCTORS. They spent years in school to earn that title, please use it. That stupid word makes it sound like they’re doing some sort of kind-hearted charity work.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You are 40 Going On 50


How are you today? I don’t think I’ve ever asked you that before. I mean I sit here spilling my guts to you everyday (why how DOES she do that?) while you sit there patiently smirking (I ♥ a good smirk) but do I listen to you dear friends? No sir, I do not. Okay I do if you comment but you know, it’s sort of hard otherwise.

Yesterday I brought the mail in and as I stood at the kitchen counter sorting it, Sam walked up. He grabbed a pretty pastel box on top and asked what it was. I saw the return address was Kimberly-Clark and the decoration of the box struck me as sort of juvenile so I told him it was probably a diaper or Pull-Up sample. He had other ideas and recited a list of things he was hoping might be inside instead. He began ripping the package apart and dumped out several items.

“What kind of diapers are these?”

It was an assortment of tampons and maxi-pads. I sighed, shrugged my shoulders and whisked them away. Who wants to have THAT talk with a five year old? For that matter what five year old wants to have that talk?

This morning I went to visit a friend of mine who turned 40 today. She was trying to not whine but it was easy to see that this birthday was kicking her butt. As we sat and talked she confessed that like no other birthday before, this one was really bothering her. This was not where she was supposed to be at 40. And, she told me, “It would not be unreasonable for me to date a 50 year old man! I never pictured that.” As she talked she had an expression on her face just like Sam’s when he looked at those tampons and pads. It wasn’t like he had his heart set on a diaper coming out of that box but what was he supposed to do with what was really in there? Total booby prize.

She probably looks at my life and sees someone who has it made. Just where I ought to be at practically 40. But no, she’d be wrong. I too had a different picture in my head when I imagined this age. It’s probably a universally understood feeling. A pretty toxic one too because we all know we can’t do jack about what’s already happened except beg forgiveness and pray we don’t have to reap everything we’ve sowed. So, dear friend, where do you want to be at 50? Yeah, I know the answer is “Not at 50,” but seriously, it’s coming and why not arrive with some life goals accomplished? It’s not so bad; you know 50 is the new 30.

Completely off topic (only because I can), I want to relate something that happened to me yesterday after school. A woman was walking her child to their car and chatting happily on her phone. Suddenly she stopped, turned to me and said, “Are you Brenda?” “No”, I said. She replied, “You look like a Brenda,” and continued with her conversation.

Question of the Day: Do I look like a Brenda?
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Mama Bear

Here's Domo again. This picture reminded me of myself in Mama Bear mode which I've found myself in the last week or so. So far middle school is working out fine for Michael and Sierra. Socially speaking I suppose. Academically it doesn’t seem like anyone is asking much of them but the year’s just begun so maybe things will speed up. The one thing that gets to me is some of the downright unkindness of some kids. It isn’t the majority and it isn’t anyone whose opinion matters to the kids but the Mama Bear in me starts to rise up when I hear of ANYONE calling my kid a geek, or worse yet, laying hands on him. Intellectually I know to back off. My kid doesn’t care and has plenty of other friends. He tells me this stuff as he laughs over a snack after school. He knows the kid in question is just trying to make himself look bigger and badder and he’s just making himself look stupid. But still I think I WISH I’D BEEN THERE. I know I need to just stop and be thankful my son has his head screwed on right and pray for the gift of maturity for the other child in question. But it’s really rough just smiling and acting unaffected. Really rough.

And onto another instance of completely immature behavior, it sounds like Kanye West had a rough go of it last night. As I wrote last night, we don’t get many channels, so I didn’t actually see the MTV Video Music Awards show (though I suppose I wouldn’t have watched it anyway) but it seems to be all anyone could talk about on the radio today. What happened? Well, from what I hear, Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Music Video. She came forward to accept her moon-man award but before she could say anything more than “I sing country music so thanks for giving me a chance to win a VMA award! I . . .” Kanye West jumped on stage, grabbed the mic from her and told her that he was really happy for her but, “Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the Best Videos of All Time!!!” Someone on the radio this morning described the look on her face as just like that of Sissy Spacek in the movie “Carrie” when the pig blood was dumped on her head as she was announced prom queen.

It was completely childish so of course my thoughts ran to my kids. How upsetting it is to see how they treat each other at times. The judgmental outrage at the injustice when something good happens to one whom they consider unworthy. The inability to see that sometimes things don’t go the way you want and that it’s okay. That sometimes, if you take the long view, things work out for everyone. That eventually we all get what’s coming to us.

He got some of what was coming to him almost immediately. He claims to be a genius but I wonder if he really thought even one step ahead of that move. The audience roundly booed him and then did so again when he was up for an award. I imagine even folks who aren’t into her brand of music, even folks who enjoy his, found themselves in her corner. What I don’t know is how long our collective memory is. How long we, as consumers, will make him pay.

Taylor got what was coming to her as well. An entire audience of fellow performers (etc.) cheering for her, chanting her name, loving her up. As soon as Kanye handed the microphone back to a startled Ms. Swift, it was turned off. Unable to finish her acceptance speech, she stood in stunned silence. It could have ended there but the night did have a final shining moment.

Apparently Kanye was right and Beyoncé got what she deserved as well. . She won the award for Video of the Year. If he could have waited, just a little bit, he’d have seen his intercession was in no way wanted or needed. In a really sweet show of humanity, Beyoncé told of her first VMA at the age of 17 with her group Destiny’s Child. How special that memory is to her. She welcomed Taylor back out to finish her speech and the crowd went wild.

Life is sort of like that. So, so much better when we stand up for each other, treat each other with respect, lift each other up. Kanye paraphrases Neitzche in his song “Stronger”:

“Now that that don’t kill me can only make me stronger”

In his case, I for one heartily disagree.
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Search for Sabbath Skinny Jeans

I’m having fun with my site meter. Each day I check out the location of folks who visit and what brought them here (Facebook, NetworkedBlogs, Twitter, Google Reader, a Google search, or just a straight shot). It’s a little deceptive though; when Michael reads it from his laptop it says he’s in Ellensburg, WA and when Jim Barton from Phoenix is here it says Gresham, OR. When I was on my parent’s computer in Yelm it identified me as coming from somewhere in Tennessee. So really I have no idea. The part I really like is finding out what words were used in Google searches to end up here. I regularly get hits from the phrases “Knock, Knock, Who’s There It’s Gilly” and "Happy Falker Satherhood" and I had “Mike and Sarah Wedding Cle Elum” a few days ago, but I think one from yesterday was the best: “Sabbath Skinny Jeans”. I wonder what was on that person’s mind?

Today the kids asked me to play a game of Phase 10 with them. I like the game but like I’ve mentioned before, it’s pretty awful playing with them. Being a glutton for punishment good mom I said yes. Also because I have a short memory and gloss over each train wreck the previous games have been. This game was no different expect this time I got smart and turned on the Yacker Tracker. I ♥ the Yacker Tracker. The first time I saw one at the kids’ school cafeteria I knew I had to have my own. It looks like a traffic signal and you can adjust the decibel level that will make the lights go from green to yellow to red. Yellow is the warning and red means mom quits playing. Because she’s a quitter and will look for ANY excuse. It seemed to work until I won the fourth round in a row and Sierra loudly accused me of being mean. I should also add that Josh enjoys making the light turn red and the siren blare so it’s not a perfect system.

Today Michael Jr. walked up to me with a magazine in his hand and just held the advertisement up to my face. Hmmm. A new show on Discovery Channel tonight. I know what he’s really saying. You see we don’t get that channel anymore. We down-graded to the most basic of all cable options because we felt we were spending way too much and the younger kids were glued to Disney and Nickelodeon. I think the reasoning was sound but I sure miss flipping on the Tivo while I fold or iron clothes. I mean I still do, I just get tired of Law and Order reruns. I miss Project Runway, Top Chef, The Closer, Flipping Out, The Rachel Zoe Project, Clean House, Psych and so many others. So the question is, would we be able to curb ourselves and the children if we upgraded? There are some good deals right now and I’m thinking about it (Michael Sr. says we just need to go to the library—I’d like to see him try to read a book and fold laundry at the same time!). Maybe the answer is to get it and block those channels that cause trouble. PBS Kids is good enough around here*. In fact when “Arthur” comes on all five of them sit down to watch. That and "Cyberchase"**. I’ve also thought about insisting on no TV for the kids during the week but that’s just crazy talk. Or is it? Have any of you tried it?

Michael Jr. made snickerdoodles tonight and I just heard him tell Kenny, “You don’t get to eat all 60 of them all at once!” I didn’t even know that was an option. I’m trying my best to steer clear but these are SNICKERDOODLES so the odds are against me. It occurred to me today that I don’t take enough pictures of Michael Jr. so I snapped this one while he was baking. His eyebrows narrowed and he gave me a look. “That’s not going on Facebook is it? Don’t forget to mention I made these, NOT you.” Message received.

*Well, I would probably have to watch “Phineas and Ferb”.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Bought Skinny Jeans at Wal-Mart

First let me start by telling you that Michael Jr. is practicing “Don’t Stop Believing” on the piano right now. It’s my 40th birthday present and I’m LOVING it.

40 is lurking. So far I don’t care but you know, that’s not necessarily a permanent state of affairs. Who knows, one good wrinkle cream commercial might send me over the edge. Last night, in a fit of Who Really Cares?, I purchased a pair of elastic pants. Yes, I could just lose some weight but right here, right now, nothing fits. So, instead of using a rubber band as a waist-extender I bought a pair of Adidas track pants. I was glad for them this morning when I hopped out of bed and headed to Wal-Mart—at 7 a.m. it almost felt like I was still in my pajamas. Not that pajamas at Wal-Mart would raise any eyebrows.

I haven’t done a big shopping trip in a few weeks so before long my cart was loaded. As I pushed my way toward the next available checker, I spied a sign for Skinny Jeans. Now I have to own up to an aversion to clothes shopping at Wal-Mart. It’s not about the quality of the merchandise; it’s probably no worse than any other sweatshop-child labor produced items I’d find elsewhere. It’s just that it’s Wal-Mart. I don’t need No Boundaries embroidered across my rear end. But if you pay even passing attention to my Facebook page, you know that Kelley is really pushing the Skinny Jeans issue with me. She’s sure they will look Fabulous. So. I looked them over, decided they weren’t totally heinous, then quickly calculated what Juniors size this mother of five would be. I still haven’t tried them on but already I know they’re a mistake. With Wal-Mart jeans on my butt, Michael will never take my ban on Kirkland jeans seriously.

I was on my own today. For reasons unknown to me*, Michael had to work. It was also Kenny’s first soccer game of the season. I cringe at the thought. I know that sounds completely natural awful but it takes this giant bite out our Saturdays. Everything must be planned around When Is That Soccer Game? and as we don’t do any shopping, yard work, or serious recreational type activities on the Sabbath, Saturday is pretty much all we’ve got to work with. Soccer is Michael’s thing and he does a great job of refereeing, knowing the When’s and the Where’s, Home or Away, Snacks?! It’s Our Turn?!, locating the field, etc. But my friends, today it was all ME.

(Don’t Roll Your Eyes at ME!)

A lot of you are probably familiar with how this should play out but believe me, it didn’t go anything like it should have. Before we left I located the TCYSA website and read that we were on field #4. Perfect. It’s close to the main road so we parked right as we pulled in. We hoofed it to field #4 to find that it was full of older girls. Kenny lost it.

“Do you think I’m a GIRL???”**

I pulled out my phone and looked up the website again. Oh. He’s actually playing on U9 #4. At the opposite end of the soccer complex. This is also where Josh decided to walk back to the car. Already loaded down with a chair and my backpack, I threw him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, kicking and screaming. All the way to that stupid field. When we finally found it I set up my chair and took a deep breath. The sun was to my back, thank goodness. As I sank into the chair and began watching the boys practice, I realized I was being stared at by not a few mothers. I was on the wrong side of the field, with the wrong group of parents.

Okay, easily fixed. With a lame smile I picked up my stuff, chair, bag, and 3 year old, and headed to the Don’t You Wish You’d Remembered Your Sunglasses side. Settled again, I looked around and noticed a familiar face a few feet away. How did I know her? She reminded me of Dr. Laura without the turkey neck. Oh! It was Michael and Sierra’s kindergarten teacher! It’s been several years.

I was about to say something when my phone rang. Sierra’s yelling is so loud it can easily be heard by those around me. I try to ascertain what the problem is. I’m able to make out, some how, that instead of practicing piano, Michael is playing the Wii. I’m not sure how it concerns her but the girl is serious about social justice. I tell her to leave it to me and hang up. Again I start to say something and the phone rings. This process goes on until they’re both grounded and I decided to pretend I never saw her. When is the season over?

This afternoon Josh and I walked down to John Dam Plaza for the T.E.A. Party. He was impressed with all the flags and I enjoyed hearing what people had to say. It was a great way to spend the day after 9-11. Great until it wasn’t. It was open-mike time and a man stood to speak. He asked if we remembered the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Sure. Okay. He reminded us that he’d offered a prayer. “God Damn America”. Now he had a prayer of his own. This man went on with a laundry of list of who he was asking God to damn. After the third or fourth I gathered up Josh before he could start a list of his own. That boy is a serious mimic.

*Not for lack of explanation on Michael’s part; I just hear words and phrases such as “safety-significant”, “deadline”, and “millions of dollars” and my brain gets fuzzy.

**In fact, our midwife took one look at his ultrasound and announced that he was a Girl! We don’t talk about that much . . .
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Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th

I read today that September 11th has been changed from a day of mourning to a day of service. Oh really? Call me a jerk (no really, it’s fine; you’re in good company) but I’m not interested in a National Day of Service. At least not on this particular day. I think we need to spend it thinking about what went down this day eight years ago. Talking about it. Praying about it. Remembering about it. And mourning too. I think that’s just fine.

I was thinking this morning about where I was on September 11, 2001. Michael Jr. was just beginning kindergarten and I was getting up that morning to help get him up and out. I remember being in my room when the phone rang and the surprise I felt when I heard my brother’s voice. Tom never called much so my first thought was “Uh oh”. But what he said was confusing. He was explaining to me that he was in Chicago and that he was fine. He wasn’t in New York City where he lived. No offense to him but so what? He realized I wasn’t aware of what had happened and asked me to sit down.

I remember hanging up the phone and turning on the TV. The images are still etched in my mind. Smoking buildings, screaming people, falling bodies. And the wait-and-see game of What’s Next? Was this a game changer? It had to be, right? Was there more to come? Would our lives be completely different after that day?

Immediately the focus became Safety. I remember the days with empty skies. I’d forgotten how used to airplane and helicopter traffic I was. Suddenly travel became a nightmare with new layers of bureaucracy in place to protect us. I wonder about how much protection we can hope for and at what cost? I’m a mom so Safety First is sort of embedded in my DNA but isn’t this country founded on principles of freedom and self-determination? There are so many governmental points of contact in our lives. It’s everywhere you look. I don’t know where the balance is and now I’m totally off topic. Maybe.

Thinking about that day brings up issues I have with personal preparedness. Welcome to my Shame Freedom Spiral. I get all panicky and freaked out when I think about what we would do if things sort of shut down. If we couldn’t rely on Business As Usual. We’ve got some water storage we need to clean out but do we have a good water purifier? I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask Michael. We’ve got lots of wheat, rice, and legumes but do we have enough? I should probably do some inventory checking. First aid? Some but not enough. Guns and ammo? My lips are sealed. Clothes? We’ve got Michael Jr.’s cast-offs for the younger kids but Michael and Sierra would be in a world of hurt if we couldn’t just run over to Target or the mall. I’ve got these cloth diapers I was going to pass on but then thought What If? Not for me but if something were to really go down, those would be pretty helpful to someone. So they’re back in the garage. How about seeds? Do I have enough for a 4 acre Crisis Garden? And how would I get my hands on 4 acres?

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” I Timothy 5:8

That’s not making me feel a heck of a lot better but none of this is about me. Just my responsibilities. I wonder where that balance is between living blindly an artificial existence, where I can only manage with a car, gasoline, the local power utility, and Wal-Mart and just becoming Amish. Like I could pull that off. Michael just reminded me that Amish Facebook means I would have to talk to actual faces.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Will Work For Laughs

[Attention Beloved Readers: I’ve been told that it’s either impossible or a pain in the rear to leave comments here. Anyone know why that would be? I ♥ comments left on my actual blog because they’re attached to what I’ve written and I can easily find them later. Thanks for all your comments; it makes me feel like maybe I’m not just talking to myself=).]

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my two youngest. And not a day goes by that I don’t wonder why I don’t carry a voice recorder with me. Most of what they say is probably only funny to me but for this girl, it makes this job I do totally worthwhile.

I’m deep, deep into Fall Cleaning. Lots of things accomplished. Today I needed a box to pack up some hand-me-downs so the boys and I drove to the back of the 945 building, or as I call it, Box Heaven. It’s fantastic if you aren’t ashamed to pack your things in boxes from a gynecologist’s office. They can raise some eyebrows, for sure.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Josh became upset. Like Pavlov’s dog, his response to our arrival at his doctor’s office building was predictable: “Doctor no hurt me!”

I assured him I was just scrounging boxes but he wasn’t convinced. This was the conversation that followed:

Sam: “The doctor won’t hurt you! Mom, remember when we got shots and didn’t cry?”
Me: “Yes, the flu shot. It’s about time for another.”
Sam: hesitates . . . “That’s okay. I won’t cry.”
Me: “Should we just stop in now?”
Sam: “Oh no! I have a very busy day today.”
Me: “What do you have going on?"
Sam: “Well, I’m tired and I’d like to go to Burger King.”

And with that and a big empty box labeled “Vaginal Specula”, we were off.

Today while watching Dinosaur Train on PBS, Josh turned to me and said, “This program was made possible by contributions from viewers like you. Thank you.” Sounds like we’ve had too much of a good thing. I do like those PBS kids’ shows though. This morning we had on Sesame Street while I was conducting an assault mission on the dust bunnies that recently took up residence under the couches. Out of the blue I heard that Law and Order doink-doink sound—did Josh change the channel? No! It was a Sesame Street version of Special Victims Unit! Oh how I ♥ Sesame Street.

Today Josh came up with a new pastime. He brought a stool over to the drawer full of kitchen tools and held each one up, one at a time for me to name. Mostly he’d repeat after me and follow it with a “Yeth” (he lisps). Ocassionally he would say “No” and tell me what, in his opinion, it really was. Ice cream scoop, pastry cutter, microplane grater, ice cream scoop, bacon press, green bean slicer, potato masher, ice cream scoop, sushi roller, garlic press, candy thermometer, ice cream scoop, pizza cutter, can opener, cheese knife, ice cream scoop.

Me: “Can we be done yet?”
Josh: “No!”

When the drawer was empty he moved to greener pastures; another set of earbuds and a pair of scissors. This time he did a much more complete job, with pieces covering Sierra’s floor. Time to research ideas on either discipline or entertainment for 3 year olds.
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hearst Hell

I woke up with this idea. I would clean my kitchen. I don’t just mean wiping the counters down and sweeping the floor. I was going to move everything off the counters and bleach them, empty the cupboards and rearrange them, sweep the floors and scrub them. The ridiculous part is that I figured I could get most of it done before I picked Sam up from Kindergarten*.

But no. I didn’t figure in things like scrubbing down the oven, cleaning out the cupboards I was rearranging, wiping down the dining room set, and cleaning out under the sink. It took until I was expecting middle schoolers to show up.

Have I adequately set the stage? I made myself a snack and some Crystal Light, set my laptop on the dining room table, and opened a Word Document. I was going to write about something else entirely when Sierra burst in, talking a mile a minute. I had no idea what she was saying and I had nothing to help me with context—until she shoved a magazine sale fundraiser flyer in my face.

This is what she was saying:
“How many will you buy? I only need 18 subscriptions to get a limo ride! They say we have to keep our eyes on the prize. I really want that limo ride!”

Because, as you know, there’s nothing cooler than limos and people who ride them. Good grief. With the move to public school I’ve pimped my kid out to the Hearst Company.

And this is the daughter who scoffs at most everything. She rolls her eyes at her boy-crazy friends, she wears what she wants without reference to fashion or convention, and she most definitely questions authority. But my gosh, the girl loves to sell and the girl loves magazines. This is the perfect storm.

We have magazines coming out our ears around here. Each year we get a number of points and a list of magazines to choose in exchange for our paltry airline miles. Each year the number of magazines we’d actually allow entry into our home shrinks and we opt for multiple years instead. I think we’ll be receiving Time, Newsweek, The Week, and The Atlantic Monthly till I DIE. I also get magazine subscriptions from my mom because magazines ordered for Dad’s office often come with a free one as well.

My dad’s office is the only place of business I’ve ever encountered that keeps ONLY current publications. If you show up for a filling on September 1st, you won’t be finding any August National Geographics lying around. All of August’s magazines can be found spread out neatly on my parent’s coffee table. Mom is no big magazine reader and I’m pretty sure Dad doesn’t touch any of them aside from the Geographics; I wonder why they’re kept out like that. I know I always loved looking through them. Better Homes and Gardens, Redbook, Sunset, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, some declaring wonder diets and all displaying mouth-watering desserts.

So anyway, I guess we parents will heave a collective sigh, roll our eyes, and lower the boom. No, we do not need ANY magazines. Well, except maybe Gourmet. I’d like that one.

P.S. School Code: WC3968. Sierra will totally hook you up;).

*Which by the way, is one of those things about being At Home that I hate. Inevitably I’m right in the middle of some project when I have to make sure Josh has pants on and I don’t look like I was just cleaning toilets. Usually we only as far as finding pants for Josh.
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