Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

I could hear the wind howling when I woke up this morning. It was blowing hard and I wondered if maybe we were crazy to head up to Badger Mountain again this morning. Still, Michael Jr. wanted to try it with Grandma and Tia said it would be fine. Michael, my mom, Michael Jr., Kenny, Tia, Nikki, and I headed up early this morning and the weather was actually really nice. Nothing I would have dared ask for this late in the year. The sun was shining and although it was windy, there were protected areas as we hiked up that weren’t so bad. Also, although it was hard, it was easier than the first time. It gives me some hope! So far there are four of us who’d like to head up next Saturday morning; I sure hope my knees hold out!

Dad has named our tree The Maple of Divine Providence because according to him, “There’s no damn way it got back there.” After our hike he asked me if I knew how tall it was. I said I guessed I didn’t. Did he measure it while it was horizontal? No, none of us thought of that. How tall would you guess it was? Michael Jr. interrupted saying it was 18 feet and he knew because he looked at it and something about an angle or a slant and then he added three extra feet, and well, he just knew. Dad told him he figured it out the way Jesus did and we don’t know His math. I’m not exactly sure what that means but if you knew my dad you wouldn’t be surprised. Dad climbed a ladder and used a rake somehow. The tree is 18 ½ feet tall.

We had a dump run to make today of old lawn debris and railroad ties so I asked Tia if she had anything she wanted rid of. As it happened, she had a van seat that needed to be thrown out. I love going to the dump because we’re usually able to find old windows, mirrors, etc. to throw our junk at. The shattering is cathartic. This time there was a large glass shower door in the bin and I hurled the seat at it as hard as I could (which, I suppose, wasn’t particularly hard). Man, that felt good.

The next order of business was Trick or Treating at Uptown. All but Kenny (he was mad about his ripped mask) and Grandpa headed down the street to the biggest Halloween venue in Richland. The crowd seemed larger than usual this year and the candy lamer than ever. This never includes The Spudnut Shop because they win at Halloween, always giving full-size candy bars. Val Driver rules the Uptown every October 31. Actually it’s more like year ‘round.

We walked around the neighborhood after dark and filled up the buckets again, we watched the World Series for awhile, and I showed my mom how to use her first digital camera. And we finally called it a day. A pretty good one I’d say, in spite of angry knees and a fun-sized candy-induced stomach ache.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Why You Don't Send An Anthropologist To Do An Arborist's Job


I’m pretty sure I won’t ever live this one down. What on earth was I thinking?

I was thinking “Pretty!” and that’s about it.

We spotted it a few weeks ago when we went to Job’s Nursery in Pasco to pick pumpkins. I’d been complaining about how dull the fall colors of Richland mostly are and for a long time I’ve been convinced we needed a shade tree to make the backyard, one day, inhabitable during the summer months.

And there stood my answer.

A tall maple with gorgeous red leaves. The sign said “Autumn Radiance” and it was love at first sight. I took a picture so I could remember, in the future, what variety it was I wanted when the time came. The price tag was hefty but at least I knew what I was looking for.

Two days later while talking to my parents about the pumpkin picking, I mentioned this gorgeous tree. Dad told me to get back over there and have them hold it for us; he’d buy it and plant it for us as a Christmas gift. In that short amount of time someone had beat me to the punch but right behind it stood another just like it and we reserved it. I’ll fully admit being a weirdo; I’ve been excited about this ever since. I couldn’t wait to see it out my kitchen window.

Today was the big day. Mom and Dad showed up with the truck and we headed over to pick it up. I was a little disappointed to see it no longer had any leaves; they would have to use their imaginations to know how amazing it was. When I turned to see their expressions when they saw it, I knew there was a problem. My parents looked at it still in the ground and asked each other how they were ever going to get this thing in the backyard. These folks can McGyver anything but they were stumped, pardon the expression.

A tractor fitted with a device meant to scoop up the tree came and hauled it up. My first worry was how it would manage the ride home as a good portion of it would stick out the back of the truck. Ribbons were tied on its branches and off they went. This was, by far, the least of our problems.

At home Dad pulled up to the house. Several attempts were made making use of Dad’s come-along (a hand operated ratchet lever winch) and a huge sycamore at the other end of the yard. In an hour or so (heavy on the “or so”) we were able to get it off the truck but only gained a few feet toward our seemingly impossible goal of the back of the backyard. It was depressing and for awhile there I figured the tree was going to be planted where it lay.

As a last ditch effort, Michael called to someone at church asking if there was anyone we might know with some expertise in the area. Call Shawn Kogan he said. He may have an answer. Michael did and it wasn’t long before he and one of his daughters showed up with a square board on wheels. It took a lot of muscle power and lever action to get it up on the dolly but once it was there, they gained ground quickly. There were a few hang ups here and there but they did it! They actually got that stupid, gorgeous thing to the hole!

After filling the bottom with decomposing leaves from last fall and homemade compost from the farm, we were ready. It looked like raising the flag on Iwo Jima and it was probably the biggest battle this backyard has ever seen. Several fertilizer pellets, lots of water, and some guy wires and we’ve got ourselves a beautiful, upright (thank you very much) tree. Happy, happy me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh What A Night














It was shaping up to be a nice evening. Sierra and I were trying out a few new recipes and no one was fussing or fighting about anything. It was almost eerie.
As she worked on her Coconut Orange Cupcakes she decided she’d like to start a recipe blog. Fine with me; she’ll have to cook more to do that. You can find her at http://sierrasrecipeblog.blogspot.com/ where her first post is about these treats.

She seemed to have something on her mind. Finally she told me that a certain person was calling her a particularly uncool name during Math. Would I talk to his mom? Sure. I hate to because who likes to be the bearer or those kind of tidings? Still, I knew she’d want to know. I ended up mentioning it in a message to her a little later and promptly forgot about it.

One look at Josh was all it took. Covered in blood.

It was a Mom Fail for me. While we cooked I let Josh play in my kitchen utensil drawer. Like ALWAYS. He pulls out things, asks what they’re called, then repeats it or corrects me and tells me what he thinks it’s really called. Seems innocent enough. I just never would’ve guessed he would a) break the candy thermometer and b) hold it up to his chin (Praise God in Heaven it wasn’t up to his eye). I suppose it didn’t hurt much at first because the glass was so sharp. It took him a moment to realize why I was so upset. When he saw the blood it sunk in.

I tried to remain calm (read: screamed, “We HAVE to go the ER! We HAVE to go to the ER!” while Michael was on the phone with someone) when I saw that one of the cuts was very deep. Michael ran to look and he agreed that we needed to go around the block to Kadlec.

I gave quick instructions to the older kids to set the table, finish cooking the sauce, put out the rolls vegetables, and chicken and feed the younger kids. Honestly, I wasn’t sure any of that was going to happen but I had to put it out there. They’re certainly old enough to handle the job but working together isn’t exactly their strong suit.

Ashamedly I must confess that my first thought at the sight of it all was, “I don’t want to get the flu!” I was sure the hospital was teeming with carriers more than willing to share the wealth. And it probably was. There was certainly a fair amount of hacking and coughing going on. Josh was chilled out by the time we got there (he was actually very cool during the whole ordeal) and was more than happy to sit in the waiting room watching SpongeBob. Not for long though. Soon we were sent to a room to wait for a nurse, someone from accounts, and a doctor.

These waits I don’t like. No TV, and no magazines anymore. Probably too easy to spread germs. We should’ve brought the iTouch because my iPhone was immediately commandeered to play with the alphabet flash cards and Star Wars lightsaber apps on it. And we waited.

When the nurse came in she asked the standard questions and ended by turning to Josh and saying, “Do you feel safe at home?”—I had to laugh. If he does he probably shouldn’t! The woman who glued his biggest cut shut asked about what happened as well. When we finished explaining she asked, “And he behaved appropriately since it happened?” She must’ve been asking if he’d acted differently than normal after it happened. Josh could be called many things but “appropriate” is certainly not one of them. Before she came in he was showing me which Star Wars characters on the lightsaber app have, in his words, “boobs”. Mortification is just part of the deal these days.

So, all’s well that ends well. We came home with a glued up little guy and we walk in to see the kitchen is cleaned up. WOW. I have no other words. Sierra even took a picture of the boys sitting down to eat. Proof? Something else happened while we were gone. The boy who was giving her a hard time showed up at the door with his mother and apologized. WOW. Again. Now that’s some kick-butt parenting! That’s how it’s done folks.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Alright,” but I knew it was going to be a long morning: Josh chose the Lincoln Logs.

I organized the toys in the basement during the summer and we now have a wall of opaque Sterilite bins housing all sorts of collections. K’Nex, Kid K’Nex, Legos, those fat Legos (Duplos?), Mr. Potato Heads, Hot Wheels, and I don’t know, a LOT of other things. Josh pulled me by the hand downstairs and pointed to what he wanted. The one toy that aggravates him and typically generates several calls for me. He has these ideas of what he wants to build but no real idea how to follow through. So he gets mad and yells for me because we all know Mom is a master builder.

My parents are coming on Friday so I’m doing what I normally do and cleaning in overdrive. These are the times when I wonder why I don’t have a regular schedule for these things like those ladies in the book “Side-Tracked Home Executive”. I cleaned upstairs today and like clockwork, the yells of “MOM!!!” came. I told him I’d be down in a minute but that brush off only works a few times and then I actually have to come down to get him to chill out.

I daydream of what I could accomplish if I only had a few uninterrupted hours in the morning to tackle these jobs. How FABULOUS it would be.

Sort of. As I tidied up the boys’ room he played busily at his train table and did his best to tell me what he was doing. I really do love having him around. At his age Sam was in preschool but I really can’t picture it yet with this one.

He met with Mrs. Barber, the speech therapist at Jason Lee Elementary, yesterday morning. His speech is definitely not where we’d like it to be at almost 3 ½ and she asked if we’d bring him in for an assessment. Cognitively, he’s just fine. He knows all his colors, shapes, can count to I don’t know, a good amount, and knows the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. Still, with his speech being what it is, he may qualify for the preschool at Jason Lee, like Sam did. I’ve got the paperwork to fill out but I’m torn. I look at him and melt. The housework means zero compared to spending some extra time with him. I think I’m definitely NOT going to have him attend this year even if he qualifies. Maybe next year. Who knows. I could do it here and just bring him in for speech.

What a decision. He loves social situations. He loves playing with other kids. I know lots of people send their kids to preschool for all of this but I’m not convinced yet. He’s got plenty of socialization with four siblings and there’s also play dates and nursery at church. He’s not lacking for any of that. Still, Sam gained so much in terms of being ready for a classroom setting once he hit kindergarten. I guess in the case of Josh, I’m less worried about him being ready for kindergarten than I am his teacher being ready for him;).
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Momville

Every day, several times a day, I get Farmville and Farm Town requests on Facebook.

Here’s a cow. Will you send a gift back?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

I think I accidently started a farm by trying to see what my oldest two were doing. Now I get notifications that people have “worked” on my farm. Would I like to return the favor? Boy, it must be quite a dump because I’ve never done a thing to it. Though, with my track record, it might be all the more fabulous for it.

My kids are hooked. From the looks of my Facebook home page, plenty of others are too. The kids will tell me they need to get on the computer for just a minute; they need to harvest their strawberries. They’ll say things like, “I wish the wheat took less time to grow,” or “They had to spend real money to get that!” It’s sort of freaking me out. I’m afraid to find out what they like so much about it because I used to think the same thing about Bejeweled Blitz. Unfortunately I now am completely clear about that one.

It’s kind of funny the pride they take in their little farms. Making things look nice. Wouldn’t that be amazing if I could harness that enthusiasm and make it work for me?

Like real work. After school I told the kids we were raking leaves in the front yard at 4 p.m. Be there or be grounded. And I’d make it as cartoony and pleasurable as possible by employing the use of Jack o’ Lantern leaf bags. Yay! It’s not work; it’s decorating! We’re earning pumpkins!

Well, not a lot of enthusiasm was to be found but then again I wasn’t offering gold coins, fruit trees, or tractors.

As I write, Sam is sitting next to me. He just asked if I was writing about my Grandma’s life. Nothing could be further from the truth, could it? Gorgeous farms and no effort whatsoever.

“No”, I said, “It’s mostly about mine.”

“This is about YOUR life? Write that Josh was a bad boy today. Because he really was. Okay, that’s good.”
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Monday, October 26, 2009

She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain . . .

Today should have been one of those days. You know the kind. Josh dumped an entire cup of milk all over the living room floor. Again. Michael Jr. was convinced someone stole his iPhone. I received an irrate e-mail from the library about Sierra’s very overdue book. Josh unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to get to the tube. I realized I was purse-less just as I was about to pay for dinner.

(After listening to me worry out loud about the potential of being pulled over before I could get home to said purse, Kenny asked if it really is illegal to drive without one. So literal is this guy!)

Oddly enough though, it was a GREAT day. This morning I finally got around to taking Tia up on her offer to climb Badger Mountain with me. If you live around here, you know Badger is something you can point out in the distance. I can see it from my front yard. What I didn’t realize it that there’s a hiking trail that folks regularly torture themselves climbing.

I just looked it up; the trail is 1.25 miles. It felt like 20. My legs feel warm. Tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be jelly from the trek down. From the very start up the stone steps that start the trail, my mind raced: What was I thinking I’m not sure I can do this I’m positive I can’t do this what if I just stop I need a nap are we there yet? You see friends, I’m what medical professionals would refer to as Completely Out of Shape with a side of Lethargy.

It was great having a friend along but there were moments when I had to just trudge in silence because talking would leave me breathless. But we trudged along. And talked. And trudged. One foot in front of the other.

And then we made it.

Even with a sky full of gray clouds the view was spectacular. I almost forgot how hard it was for this first timer. I thought about getting one of those chairs you can carry as a back pack. I could take a Personal Day and hide up there with a book! Yes I’d look like a sunbathing lunatic with the wind whipping around me but it was so incredibly peaceful I didn’t want to leave. Had there been an elevator to take me down, I might have been more amenable to the idea . . .

When Tia first told me she was climbing Badger, I thought I’d give it a try too. The photos she posted of her different hikes with friends looked like I was missing out so I finally asked a friend to watch Josh this morning (Thanks Camilla!!!) and we were off to tackle it. I have to say it was HARD for me and I spent the majority of the hike up wondering if I’d lost my ever-loving mind agreeing to do this but sitting here now, aching, I know I’ll go back and do it again in a few days. By the end of the day the experience has towered over all the other lameness, shrinking it down to size.

It reminded me of my high school years when I biked the San Juan’s for the first time. I prepared by riding around the countryside in Yelm and even biked into Tumwater occasionally. I figured I was totally set; I could bike 30-40 miles in a day without much struggle. Unfortunately I wasn’t even close to ready.

The San Juan Islands are hills. I was in pain almost constantly and felt like a total idiot for not preparing better but nothing beat the feeling when I could coast down a hill or come to a totally gorgeous vantage. Gains I'd achieved all by myself despite my weaknesses. The feeling of accomplishment was awesome. Thanks for giving that back to me today Tia!

P.S. This photo is a tribute to Nikki and her fabulous jumping photos!

P.P.S. Michael found his iPhone in his backpack (no surprise there) and I found Sierra’s book in a suitcase in the garage (very cool).
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cuts You Up


















I can see the pumpkins are still lit outside but probably not for long; it’s begun to rain. The weather took a turn for the, well, I guess “normal” would be the word. Yesterday wasn’t exactly what I’d expect for October. Today was cold and gloomy; a real hot cocoa kind of day. I should have made some but it’s not too late. With Almond Roca or raspberry syrup? I’ll give it some thought.

I probably should have carved pumpkins with the kids outside yesterday but today it was just too cold. We pulled the rug out of the living room, covered the floor with newspaper, and hauled out a box of Grandpa’s examination gloves, bowls, scrapers, knives, etc.

Every year I have these big ideas. We pick all sorts of pumpkins and I look up and dream up designs for them. Then reality hits (a running theme for me!) and I remember how gross it is cleaning them out, how impatient the kids are to start cutting, how thick the pumpkins are and how difficult this makes the whole process. And the mess! Oh my gosh! When it was all over (including the shouting), I turned to Sierra and asked:

“Do you think the living room will ever be the same? Will we have to sell the house “As Is”?

“Yes. Then you can buy a mansion.”

“With what?”

“A maid.”

The girl has a sense of humor! Like everything, this took more time than I’d imagined. But then it’s over and the pumpkins sit outside glowing away and looking pretty cool. The mess didn’t take so long to clean up and the seeds will be tasty if I get around to cooking them. It was worth it but I don’t think I would have been able to get so many done if we’d started after school on a week day.

Which is my way of saying Sorry. I really didn’t think Michael would mind if I went ahead and did this without him. It’s always such a production and I was never under the impression that he enjoyed it. At All. I thought I was doing him a favor, making up for being so lame, but I guess not.

I’ve been grumpy with him on the phone since he’s been gone and he doesn’t deserve it. It’s all me. If he was anywhere else I’d be supportive and telling him to have fun. It’s not that I don’t want him to enjoy himself but I’m racked with guilt about bridges I’ve burned and I’m taking it out on him. I’ve always really enjoyed my time spent with his family and I figure those days are over. I guess this is the reason you DON’T share marital woes with family until you have to. We can move on and even improve our relationships but it’s hard for people outside of the situation to do the same. No one’s talking about me, taking my name in vain, but it won’t ever be the same. I’m not stupid enough to think it ever could be. I’m in mourning, I suppose.

And she overshares again. I think I’m pretty much shed of those who judge me for it so I’ve got that going for me. As for the rest of you? You’re the best.

I have to say a maid would have been nice today. One with a sweet pumpkin seed recipe and sense of humor!
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Banana Chip Muffins, Zombie Preparedness, Etc.

I can’t think straight with this music so pardon me if I don’t make any sense tonight.

Josh is sitting next to me in bed playing with my phone and has one earbud in his right ear and another in my left. He’s playing The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”) over and over. He knows it by heart but adds “boobs” in here and there. I shoot him The Look but it doesn’t do much good.

In my mind and in my car,
We can’t rewind; we’ve gone too far.

What an odd Saturday. We usually have errands to run and I imagine there were a few I could have taken care of but I decided early on that I wasn’t doing anything I didn’t feel like doing today.

I made a few batches of muffins this morning and because you are so darned special, I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s from www.allrecipes.com and it’s for banana bread but if you add chocolate chips (or even if you don’t) it makes the best muffins:

Banana Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

This afternoon the six of us walked to Bomber Drive-Thru for shakes, etc. and took some fall foliage photos. There’s so little of it that’s really pretty around here; it’s like an Easter egg hunt. It was an almost startlingly beautiful day and I wasn’t in love with the idea of going home to the remains of the sleepover. We took our time, kicked the dry leaves and had a few (too many) battles with sycamore branches. Those trees cannot seem to keep hold of their branches. But anyway, it would probably have been a super-smart idea to just clean this morning instead of making delicious muffins, laying around reading the paper, and watching cartoons but what’s done was done.

We wandered home and I did a quick clean up—not so bad. I even got all the little kids bathed and ready for bed because if I’m a lucky girl they’ll be tired and hit the sack early.

As I was flipping through a catalog waiting for Kenny to finish in the tub, he asked me, through the drawn curtain, what I thought about a possible zombie invasion. Honestly, not a lot. He told me he figured what a person would need was food and shelter. He’d lock himself in a grocery store because it was food AND shelter. You could get food at the Sausage Fest but no shelter. Sausage Fest? Yes, apparently we think about that year-round. He also said he’d use Michael’s bolt action rifle to lay waste to them but upon further questioning realized he didn’t know where I hide the bullets or even how to use it if he knew. I tried to tell him that God didn’t make zombies but the boy lives next door to the cemetery so there’s no way he’s buying that. Emergency Preparedness for this kid has nothing to do with the wheat and legumes we’ve got lining the basement shelves!

Maybe I need more Saturdays like this. I don’t mean Michael-free; just errand and To Do list free. Like that’s ever going to happen . . .
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Friday, October 23, 2009

It Was a Lame Shirt Anyway

















Where is the volume knob?

No such luck but it is sort of a beautiful noise (didn’t Neil Diamond sing about that?). Sierra has several school friends over and Kenny has one here too. They’re loud, silly, full of The Ridiculous, and making me weigh the irresponsibility level of grabbing the ear plugs and hiding in my room. But again, they’re full of pizza and cupcakes and happy so it could be considerably worse.

Is it weird to feel lonely in a house full of kids? This may run long tonight because you, sweet internet, are my adult interface tonight.

I took Michael to the airport in Pasco this morning, sometime around 5 a.m. I don’t remember. I was bleary-eyed tired from staying up late waiting for him to finish some last minute details. He arrived safe and sound, and is, presumably, having a nice time catching up with his family. Grandma Christine’s 90th birthday celebration is tomorrow and I’m sorry the rest of us had to miss it. Not so sorry we don’t have seven airline tickets on our credit card though. Ouch.

How was your day? I’ve explained Fridays around here and man, today was super-Fridayish. A lot of driving and not so much being here getting anything done. I did find the Halloween box in the garage. That was a major accomplishment and required much excavation. I didn’t actually bring it but reached in, fishing for a shirt I remembered buying a few years back. You know, 75% off at Target after the holiday. I couldn’t remember what it looked like aside from being orange. Oh. Not so bad. Long sleeves and it just said “Boo” all over it. Nothing too ridiculous.

I threw it on this afternoon after showering and the kids just laughed at me.

“Mom! We’re trying to make Josh quit saying that!”

“What?”

“Your shirt says “Boob” all over it!”

No wonder it was 75% off.

I needed to run a few errands this afternoon so I ditched the Boob shirt and headed to West Richland. On the way that ridiculously over-played Taylor Swift song, “You Belong with Me” came on. True confession time: I cry like a baby any time I hear it ever since Alex and Taylor’s memorial service. And like the dork that I am, I don’t turn the radio off. I can’t seem to do it.

So I walked into Petco with my sunglasses on, probably drawing more attention to myself than if I’d just come in puffy-eyed and leaking. As I flipped through channels on the way to Winco that stupid song came on again! I finally managed to turn it off after a minute or so but good grief that song kicks my butt.

I passed that GORGEOUS tree in John Dam plaza on the way home (the second photo in my fall foliage album I posted yesterday) and the thing was almost totally leaf-free! I knew the car alarms going crazy at the store was some indication of the wind we were experiencing but the tree was a real shocker. Why, I don’t know.

So the girls invaded and the loud, giggly fun began. First order of business? Sing “You Belong with Me” at the top of their lungs. Michael Jr. yells, “I hate Kelly Clarkson!” and the girls laugh. What I wouldn’t do for some Bose headphones. Because it is even worse for me hearing actual young girls I know sing it. I think of Alex and Taylor again and my gosh. I never knew I was such a cry baby. Maybe it’s crazy Turning 40 hormone stuff. I don’t know.

I’ve finally, perhaps even for the night, convinced all 10 of them to stop trying to scare the folks at the cemetery behind our house. It’s that time of year when we have Tombstone Tales and local actors and actresses dress in period costume, stand by graves, and tell the story of the person interred there as if they were them. It’s actually very cool but my kids can’t seem to help but act like monkeys whenever they see those tiki torches burning at night. I think I could permanently cure them of it if I snuck outside and scared them. Actually the aftermath of that seems like more trouble than it’s worth!

Well friends, things are quieting down. Michael Jr., who refuses to play the piano in front of “strangers” (except once a year at his recital), turned down the girls and their request for some tunes. The girls retreated to the basement and he finally relaxed and sat down to play. He played for awhile without realizing they were at the stairs, silent as the grave and smiling from ear to ear.

But no, I spoke too soon. I hear Kenny and Jack starting a loud game of Four Square in the kitchen. Bring on the ear plugs!
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Creatures of Habit


















Mrs. McGrady’s Got CANCER!!!

As far as kids’ programming goes, I like “Arthur”. Still, why does PBS or Marc Brown or The American Cancer Society or Lance Armstrong (who by the way, makes a crazy scary bunny) for that matter, think my kids need to hear about Mrs. McGrady and her cancer-ridden self EVERY day for a week? We have only one channel that provides children’s programming and instead of turning the TV off and finding something else to do, the kids sit there and watch it again. And AGAIN. Each morning. Most afternoons. Over and Over.

Sam’s on a hotdog kick. He prefers cheese dogs but really any hotdog will do. Every day after school he asks for one and if he had his way he’d have one for dinner. He thinks he’s died and gone to heaven when he gets a foot-long at Sonic. Over and Over.

Michael Jr.’s been working on “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the piano and as a diversion began flipping through the Journey songbook and playing “Any Way You Want It”. Over and Over. He even pulled out his guitar and began playing it on that! It feels like all Caddyshack, all the time. Which is actually totally fine.

Kenny just started (and almost immediately finished) the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. He will read this book again and again. Over and Over. Just as he has each of the other Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. If he had his way, all books would be poorly illustrated with badly drawn stick figures.

Now that I think of it, there are many examples of the kids jumping into ruts with both feet. Joyfully veering neither to the left nor the right. I wonder what that’s about? Comfort in sameness?

Michael and I have this discussion every time we order Chinese food. He knows what he wants. Mongolian Beef. Beef and Broccoli. Pot Stickers. Spring Rolls (and if we’re in Richland it has to be Mandarin House). I, on the other hand, always think maybe there’s something I haven’t tried that will blow my mind. Knock my socks off. What happens is that I always end up gazing lovingly at his Mongolian Beef and getting the stink eye. He shares but at this stage in the game he always gets two orders to hedge his bets.

Tonight is Thursday, so if I’m lucky I’ll be watching new episodes of “The Office” and “Survivor”. Because it’s Thursday and that’s what I do. Over and Over. Wonder if I could talk Michael into some Mongolian Beef? Some ruts are just plain delicious.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Saga Continues

























I just received the nicest message from a reader who started out apologizing for cluttering up my Inbox. Okay folks, I LOVE messages! I think in this case they’re the equivalent of comments on my actual blog which is now essentially a ghost town (sending “Thank You!”s to all of you who still read and comment there!). You can also write things on the Wall of the group site as well as post photos for all of us to see. You can tell me how much you Love/Hate my husband’s mustache, share your latest parenting FAIL (or WIN!), post a photo of some gorgeous fall foliage in your area or even pass on blog topic suggestions. I’m always up for those. Talk to me! I don’t regret my move to a more private venue but I’ve lost a lot of readers and therefore comments, in the process. If you know of anyone (a spouse, sibling, child, etc.) who was reading but didn’t ask for an invitation to the group site or blog, let me know. Also, if you asked for an e-mail invitation to read the blog and didn’t get it, send me a message. Twenty-two people who asked for one still haven’t responded so I don’t know who isn’t getting the mail and who just isn’t reading the mail they get. I know what that’s like; since the advent of Facebook I’ve become awfully lame about checking mine.

After school yesterday, trying to be casual, I asked Kenny if his teacher spoke with him about The Situation.

He smiled and said, “Yes. She told me she’d take care of it and then she cut off his head with a sword and now it’s not a problem.”

This is my Kenny. Every day after school, if I dare ask a serious question about his day, he regales me with an elaborate account of a fictional day. Multiple refocuses (he’s had two in his entire Jason Lee career), decapitations, beatings, explosions, celebrity appearances, car chases, etc.

I nod and tell him how sorry I am to have missed all the action. If I can keep my cool and not act too interested, he’ll tell me what actually happened. In The Case of the Amorous Lad, it sounds as if his teacher just let Kenny know she was on it. The boy didn’t say or do anything awkward or distressing the rest of the day. So far so good. I’m hoping That is the End of That. I was wondering if there’s a recorded history of this sort of behavior with this boy because his behavior doesn’t exactly sound like a person’s first foray into, well, whatever you’d call this.

So, enough about that. Sierra’s been on my case since she took The Good Babysitting Course at the hospital to let her try out her skills. Tami, my FB BFF, bless her heart, gave Sierra a shot last night. She brought The Cutest Baby in the World over and Sierra tended him while she went to a meeting. It was so fun having a little one in the house again and he was so good. He smiled happily as they played on the carpet and he smiled happily as he ate Cheerios and drank milk in our long-abandoned, recently Cloroxed high chair. Now we just need to find ourselves a cranky baby.

Ideally she’d get a bit of that. The way I see it, it’s important that babysitting function as a form of birth control. She’s got her head screwed on right but it’s important that babies and their care look appropriately unappealing as a teenage endeavor. It’s got to look at least as hard as it really is. Harder if possible. There’s an important and difficult balance to strike between I Want One NOW and I Don’t EVER Want One. I’d settle for I Don’t EVER Want One for the next few years.

It’s a little later and Kenny’s reported that the boy told him he loved him in front of the guys. I wonder how many times I let the teacher know before I let the principal know? Or is that something she’ll do? I’m just ready for this to be Over. I wonder how many people I’d anger if I had a chat with him at lunch? Probably too many.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Don't Want The Flu and Other Problems

I’ve been forced to write in the afternoon, idea-free, because Michael is going to do me a solid and chat with someone from India this evening in hopes of resurrecting my laptop. I’ve been using his and he’ll be needing the both of them.

I spent this morning wiping down surfaces with Clorox Wipes because a) Sierra is babysitting The World’s Cutest Baby here tonight and b) I felt like it. If you’ve ever started wiping light switches and door knobs you find yourself taking a closer look at things. It’s hard to stop because suddenly you’re seeing the fingerprints and dirt everywhere. I would just LOVE for us to escape this flu season without the dreaded H1N1. That would be so full of the Fabulous.

I was wondering why there is a flu season. I think I read somewhere that the whole idea of catching these things because we get exposed to the colder weather is a myth. You’re not going to “catch your death” heading out with your jacket unzipped (though I’ll kindly ask you to NOT tell that to my kids!). I thought maybe it had something to do with being cooped up with windows shut but I guess that’s not exactly it either. I did some reading today (as I lounged on my Tempur-Pedic mattress eating bon bons—whatever those are) and found research that says the virus is more stable and stays in the air longer when it is cold and dry. In the tropics there isn’t much flu to speak of and no actual flu season. Admittedly, a tropical island does sound nice right now or at least it will in a month or so. But didn’t this particular flu start in Mexico? I guess maybe it started there but is making a name for itself in other, more productive locales.

In a few minutes I’ll go pick up Kenny and learn how his day went. Was the teacher able to nip this in the bud? She seems pretty no-nonsense so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt. Still, I sure wouldn’t want to be in her shoes. There are probably any number of scenarios that come up daily for teachers that are totally cringe-worthy. It’s easy to point out problems in public schools but something that stands out in my mind immediately is the massive problem of children coming to school unprepared to learn, pay attention, follow instructions, stay on task, and show respect. A person could probably spend all day just dealing with the kids who fall into these categories. It’s the main reason I think about homeschooling some of these kids of mine. I could do it in half the time the school needs. But hey, don’t even get me started on the drawbacks. I know them intimately.

Someone left a comment on my profile yesterday about this situation. Called the kid in question a “little homo” and wrote something about beating the crap out of him if he’d been Kenny. I deleted it immediately but didn’t defriend him because he’s been in my life since I was 2 and, well, he’s what I would refer to as a Known Quantity. I’ll say nothing more except, "[m]ethinks the lady doth protest too much”. Or the dude. Whatever.

I’ve been worrying more about the other kid than Kenny. He’s uncomfortable, confused, wishing this would go away. The other kid’s got bigger problems. There’s a risk any kid takes when they allow themselves full license to be themselves, filter-free: Rejection. There’s a level of rejection that’s inevitable in this situation but it sure would be great if the kids could have some humanity about the whole thing. If they could remember that we all need friends and we’ll all a little different.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A New One On Me

Ever see a dog run its heart out only to hit the end of its tether, not remembering quickly enough that it was tied up? That’s how I feel tonight. I was going full speed ahead and then CRASH. So tired I can barely think. I took a nap for an hour but I don’t think it was nearly enough.

I spent the morning today weighing and measuring kindergarteners for the school nurse while she performed eye exams. It was an interesting way to spend the morning and I was able to put some faces to names Sam’s mentioned. The scale itself looked to be as old as the original Jason Lee Elementary and all of the children who started off telling me what they weighed were disappointed to find this scale wasn’t giving them nearly as much credit. I’d have been more than happy to get those kinds of results from my doctor’s scale at home but kids are funny that way. They want acknowledgment for every pound.

This afternoon after school as Kenny and I walked toward the car, we passed an Indian friend of his and Kenny just glared at him. Hmm. I asked if his friend had mentioned anything about Diwali. “No.” This child of mine is generally not big on confiding in his dear old mother but he turned to me said, “He’s telling the guys that this kid wants to marry me!”. I was confused and needed to ask several questions, much to his exasperation, before I was able to establish that this wasn’t your typical teasing or kidding around. Kenny was being sexually harassed by another boy AND his friends were getting a real kick out of it.

He asked if I’d talk to his teacher for him. If I’d tell her that this boy refers to him as “Honey Buns of Love” and tries to hold his hand. Wow. This was a new one on me. I told him I’d absolutely pass the word on to his teacher. I also told him that as weird as this must feel, it would really be nice if he could try to be kind. It would be out of character for Kenny to be nasty and call this boy a name but who knows what will happen when you’re eight and embarrassed, you know?

After he told me I thought more about it. Would I feel much differently if it was a little girl doing this? We had a similar situation in first grade with a little girl being very aggressive with him it too bothered him. I guess the big difference is how other people react to it. The guys may joke around with you when a girl makes herself look silly over you but when it’s a boy doing it? Well, suddenly the jokes don’t seem so funny. So far as he knows, none of them are secretly wishing it was them all the fuss was about.

And I wondered about this boy. Where’s that inner filter that helps a person reign themselves in a little? That voice that tells us I may not get the results I’m looking for if I proceed down this path? The ability to read those around you enough to get that you’re upsetting folks? Well, I have no idea but we’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Tonight we went back to Job’s Nursery to tag the maple tree we liked so much when we went for pumpkins. I ran to it only to find someone else’s name on it. Darn it! There was another next to it of the same variety that just hadn’t gone fully red yet so it’s got our name on it. My parents offered to buy it for us after hearing me go on and on about it. I’m a little Anne of Green Gables when it comes to beautiful plants and trees and my parents are huge enablers. Thank goodness. They’re coming with the truck on the 30th and my tree is coming home!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Better Late Than Never

I used to be incredibly dutiful about it. For years and with the first 4 kids I had semi-professional photos taken of them at sometime around birth, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, etc. It was a pain to make sure we had appointments and outfits ready and dealing with all the nonsense involved was a chore but I did it and I have the photos to prove it.

Then came the digital camera. The really fabulous digital camera that made it possible for me to take photos I could be proud of. Combine that with the ability to print out essentially the same sizes the studios offer and suddenly there was no way I was going to waste my time at JC Penney or Target anymore.

Before all this I had as many sittings as I could done at the Target Portrait Studio in Lacey WA. This way I could have Grandma available to help corral the outlaws. It was always a production and I’d never know who would be able to handle it and who would have a meltdown. You’d never know if there would be an unmanageable wait or a photographer with painful suggestions such as woodland backgrounds and artificial flowers. I remember one woman who, instead of saying something like, “Say Cheese!”, asked them to say “Stinky farts!”. They smiled and laughed but as you can imagine, I was hearing that for weeks.

Add to all this the coupon cutting to get the best possible deal, the appointments necessary to pick up the photos, and the unrequested sheets they’d print out to lure you into buying more (who wants to think of photos of their precious kids in the trash?) and I was more than happy to start taking my own.

So why am I writing about this today? Because I found myself this afternoon, about two months after their birthdays, taking photos of Michael and Sierra. It’s not as though I didn’t take any photos on or near their big days, just not the kind I’d hang on the wall. I definitely need to get more dutiful about this. It’s hard though when they’re at that age when they just don’t want to smile for the camera. We use the same backdrop each year now; a huge sycamore in the front yard with a worn patch of dirt in front where they stand. Even Josh knows the drill and hops right up when it’s his turn. Still, the big kids look so serious.

Today Kenny helped me out. I was having trouble getting Sierra to quit grimacing but having no luck. He picked up a fallen branch and approached Sierra like he was a boom mic operator. He began asking her interview questions to see if he could crack a smile:

“What are your feelings about lactose-free cheese?”

One question and I got the shot I was after—that boy is good!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Make A Difference Day

Today is Make A Difference Day. Actually it’s probably not today precisely; it’s a fairly recent made-up holiday (by USA Weekend magazine, no less) and I can never remember. I just know it’s in October and when it’s time to clean up McMurray Park we try to make an appearance. Roll up our sleeves and get something accomplished. Today we planted some native species and spent a lot of time pulling out non-native invasive grasses. I wouldn’t say we conquered the nasty stuff but I think we at least taught it some manners.

What a gorgeous day! It wasn’t the bitter cold of early last week and the colorful trees looked amazing. I miss Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire this time of year but we do have some trees that show off colors besides brown and yellow. Not a lot but some! Yesterday at Job’s Nursery we found a maple tree we’d like to buy for the backyard. I think it was called “Autumn Radiance” and it was a lovely bright red. It was big enough that I wonder how we’d ever get it home. I bet home delivery and planting would cost as much as the tree!

Try as we might, we didn’t get the errands done yesterday so we set out this afternoon to finish. As we drove into the first parking lot I reached for Michael’s huge soda from Sonic. I sucked on the straw but nothing much came out. Without thinking, I pulled off the lid and poured it into my mouth assuming it was just ice. I don’t know if a piece of ice was keeping the straw from getting anything but there was plenty of soda still in the cup and most of it was now on my shirt. Michael laughed and said he wasn’t embarrassed to be seen with me. Nice of him because I looked like a total idiot!

He bought me the Martha Steward pumpkin carving kit I wanted and I can’t wait to start laying waste to those squash and their peduncles! I always get excited about this with a head full of crazy designs and then reality hits. Cleaning them out takes so much time! The contents of the kit should help and they seem sturdy. I break those orange-handled ones every year. Also I found a spicy pumpkin seed recipe so there’s that to look forward to.

Another thing I get overly excited about in the fall is bulbs. I know I want to see those beauties coming up in the spring but the planting is a big pain. I tend to bite off more than I really feel like chewing. Tonight Michael bought a bag of 75 King Alfred giant daffodils and a large bulb spade. Another time consumer but they should be pretty sweet looking come spring time.

Finally, I have to report that the show is over. Nothing to see here. We finally bought roller blinds for both bathrooms. Now the folks at the Oddfellows Hall, the cemetery, and Williams Boulevard will have to find something else to laugh at!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hanford Friday Off

All day long and nothing came to me. No idea sizzled like Pop Rocks in my addled brain, begging to be written down. Nothing. NOTHING. I’m beginning to get a little worried!

I suppose I could abuse you, my captive audience, and tell you about my day although I’ll admit from the get-go that it wasn’t particularly horrifying or funny. You know what it was? A typical Hanford Friday Off.

Around these parts there are several companies out in the Hanford Reservation that have their employees work longer days and give them every other Friday off. I delude myself every other Thursday into thinking that Michael and I will get so much done we won’t have to run around like maniacs on Saturday running errands with the rest of humanity. Either this or that we’ll have a relaxing day enjoying each other’s company. What I ought to do is just tell myself straight up that it’s going to be a chaotic, mostly lame, totally unproductive day. And just go with it. Be done with the pretenses. Paste on a smile and act like that’s exactly what I was hoping for.

One of the reasons these days are unproductive is because our school district has early release for the elementary school kids on Fridays so teachers can have planning time. This means half of a half day for our kindergartener. We pick up Sam at 10:40 a.m. (didn’t we just drop him off??) and Kenny likes one of us to have lunch with him so that means we’re back there at 12:05 p.m. We’re back in a blink of an eye because school’s done for him at 1:15 p.m. Today was even more special because once a month the middle school kids get out at 11:00 a.m. Michael called for a ride and an hour later Sierra was finished with a meeting and wanted one too. No time for Michael and Tiff or really just about anything.

We (read: Michael with a little oohing and ahhing from me and maybe a nozzle twist or two) did manage to blow out the sprinklers between dropping off the boys and picking up Sam. That was the Big Deal of the day and it felt pretty good to get it done. It was fun too; Josh enjoyed seeing the water and air shoot up in the front yard, especially when 3 or 4 sprinkler heads caught Bob Cat unawares as she lay sprawled out in the grass. I’ve never seen her move so fast!

After having lunch with Phoenix and taking her to the Book Fair I headed home for a few minutes before picking up Kenny. Wait a second. Who’s Phoenix? And why am I hanging with her instead of Kenny? I’ll tell you why: Because she lets me. Kenny dug into his Personal Pan Pizza with accompanying root beer, let a friend squeeze in between us, and proceeded to harass several buddies about how many laps they ran (or didn’t) in the Jog-a-thon earlier today. Phoenix, on the other hand, LOVES to eat lunch with me. She’s a dear girl Kenny has had in half his classes since kindergarten and any time she sees me at school she runs up with a hug. She sneaks away from her class in the lunchroom to sit by me and tells the kids I’m her Half Mom. She tells me all the things she’d like to do when she grows up and I tell her what subjects she needs to ace to do them. She reads me Sponge Bob riddles from her cheese stick wrappers and I pretend I don’t know the answers. It’s our thing. Because like I said, Kenny has bigger fish to fry and that’s actually okay with me.

I decided that although we had half a dozen errands to run during the afternoon that we were going to begin with a trip to the pumpkin patch at Job’s Nursery. It’s conspicuously lacking a hay maze, petting zoo, bounce houses, and high prices but this year I was ready for something entirely different. The younger kids ran around like chickens with their head’s cut off looking for the perfect pumpkin and at 17 cents a pound I was more than happy to let them pick more than we actually needed. Still, with 13 pumpkins (peduncles all intact!) sitting outside our front door, it’s looking a little crowded . . .

So, Staples, Barnes and Noble, Costco, Walmart . . .and, well, time’s up, done for the day. Still have plenty left for tomorrow but who knows, maybe I’ll squeeze in something fun ;).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Word of the Day

Today I picked up Sam from kindergarten and like all his other classmates, he stood proudly gripping his pumpkin from the class trip to Country Mercantile yesterday. After he buckled up and asked me not to make his treasure into pie, he said:

“Mom! The teacher cut off Michael’s peduncle and he didn’t even ask her to!”

“What?!”

“The. Teacher. Cut. Off. Michael’s. Peduncle!”

“His WHAT?!?”

“His PEDUNCLE!!! You know, this thing!!!,” and he pointed to the pumpkin stem.

What in the world? As soon as we got in the house I went to the computer and Googled “peduncle”. Here’s what I found:

1. Botany The stalk of an inflorescence or a stalk bearing a solitary flower in a one-flowered inflorescence.

I never thought my kindergartener would learn anything I hadn’t already come across in my 39+ years.

So it was lunchtime. Lunch was so much easier last year; it was served first thing at afternoon preschool. Here Sam never seems hungry and usually rejects all of my suggestions. Typically I just make something and he eats it grudgingly. Today when I asked him it was the same old song and dance but with a twist:

“I’m not hungry. Can I have some blow cream*”

“No. We ran out.”

“You guys wasted it all on pumpkin pie!!!”

“That’s why I bought it.”

“That’s why you’re the worstest mom a boy could have!”

And I laughed. I’m going to miss all this abuse when he’s in school all day.

*whipped cream in an aerosol can.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Couponing But Were Afraid To Ask

Without the necessary forethought generally necessary in planning a crock pot dish, I decided to make the pork chalupa recipe Tia showed me on www.allrecipes.com a few days ago. Probably should have decided it when I was at the grocery store before today but it worked out just fine in the end. I raced to Safeway for a pork shoulder roast and dried pinto beans—both on sale! The whole mess is bubbling away in the kitchen and smells pretty good. It is pork + green chilies so it probably will = tasty. It could be an interesting dinner; Michael Jr. just informed me that he’s also making homemade noodles.

I normally wouldn’t have shopped at Safeway without coupons in hand but today it was out of necessity. Around here Winco is where we cheapskates shop. Walmart brags about low prices but at least as far as fresh meat and produce go, it’s nowhere close.

I used to be a serious coupon user but I’ve become seriously lazy about it. How’s about I share what I know about being a black belt coupon user? Maybe it will inspire me to throw myself into it again. Let’s see . . .

1) Search eBay for coupons for items you always buy. You can generally find them in lots of 10-20. Be sure to check that the expiration date is several months off. You can also search online for printable coupons but be sure to check out your store’s coupon policy. Some don’t accept these.

2) Buy 1 to 3 Sunday papers (depending on the size of your family) for coupon inserts. Be sure these are newspapers serving a large metropolitan area—they have more and better coupons. Locally, we’re able to purchase a “bulldog”* edition of the Seattle Times on Saturday morning. In the past I’ve been able to find them at 7-11. The coupon inserts are from Red Plum, Smart Source, and Proctor and Gamble and depending on the Sunday, you could have 3, 2, 1, or even 0. A website such as http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/2009-coupon-insert-schedule can let you know what Sundays you may want extra copies and which Sundays to avoid altogether. You can also ask your non-couponing friends to put them aside for you.

3) You can use a 3-ring binder and clear pocket page inserts for your coupons but this isn’t my favorite method. It involves tons of cutting and regular sorting to purge the expired ones. The one benefit is that when you bring it to the store you have access to all your coupons in case you see an unadvertised sale.

4) My favorite method involves the website http://www.thegrocerygame.com. They offer a free trial so you can check it out and see how it works for you. The way the site works is that someone takes the weekly sales inserts we get in Wednesday’s paper and compares it with the last few months of Sunday newspaper coupons. Each store you sign up to receive information about will have a grid that tells you the name of the product, the size, the sale, the denomination of the coupon you’re looking for, the date it was published in the Sunday paper, the percentage off the product ends up being, and the final price. What’s fabulous about this method is that you can avoid a lot of unnecessary coupon cutting. Each Sunday you can slip your coupon inserts into a file with the date penciled in and when you come across an item you want to purchase using The Grocery Game, you just go to that date and find the one you’re looking for. Sales begin on Wednesday (unless you’re going to Fred Meyer but last I checked they weren’t covered by TGG) but the information isn’t usually up on the website till Saturday night. If you choose to join you’ll have to pick which local stores you’re interested in getting information about. They’re each a separate charge. Despite the cost I would say it’s definitely worth it if you’re committed to using it. My only suggestion would be to save up a few months worth of inserts so you can get the full value as soon as you start. Oh, and one more thing. This method is best for people who are trying to keep their pantries stocked and are willing to cook what’s been on sale and stored.

5) If I find a great sale I’ll often stop by the store on Tuesday night before the new sale begins and hope against hope that they’ve run out. This is a huge opportunity for savings because you can ask for a rain check. Generally these can be used within the next three months and this gives you a chance to search eBay for coupons to use as well. With the right coupons you can actually get things for free using this method.

I hope I haven’t given you way too much information on a subject you have way too little interest!

*An early edition of a paper, generally for out-of-town distribution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ZZ Top Didn't Have A Better Beard














I was going to write about a memorial service I attended with Sierra this afternoon. About a crowd so large it filled the auditorium and an additional open area set up with a large screen view of the whole sad affair. How Taylor Swift’s voice sang, “This ain’t no fairytale,” and how Uncle Bob said, “Death is a nightmare we wish we could wake up from but we can’t”. About one family member referring to this as a promotion to glory and another’s comment that we will miss them in our humanness. I was going to write about nine lives that were saved through organ donations. The little girl who received lungs and the mother who received a heart. But darned if it hasn’t already been a downer of a day.

I stayed up way too late with a feverish Josh. Some other bug has hit. It’s been cold and rainy all day and although I made a big pot of beef barely soup and whole wheat bread for dinner, in order to consider the meal a success I had to sit and listen to Kenny and Sam complain about it until they finally, finally ate some. Sam was smart enough to eat most of his bowl; he didn’t have to march straight to bed. To top it off, my friend’s puppy died. The weather seems appropriate.

I’d really like to write about something entirely different. But what? Hmm. How about I tell you a story.

Once upon a long time ago, I was a junior in college. I lived in Walla Walla and attended Whitman College. I had a friend with many “townie” friends. People who didn’t go to our school. One of these people was Sean and he attended Walla Walla College in College Place because, I imagine, his folks were Seventh-Day Adventists. He didn’t seem to be much of one.

Sean was from Hawaii. I forget which island but it sounded awfully nice. We got along very well and before long he was spending a lot of his time at my house. I have no idea how he accomplished any school work. I don’t know; maybe he didn’t. But he did paint. He was a pretty talented guy. And darned good looking.

Any time we’d go anywhere, girls would stop and stare. What was he doing with me? I’ll tell you what he was doing: Pretending he wasn’t gay.

I was slow on the uptake. I just didn’t occur to me. Oddly enough, it took him much longer to admit it to himself but I was, my dear friends, a BEARD. No idea why it took me so long to figure it out; when I guy looks like this, your options are pretty limited.

P.S. About the other day: I took the bull by the horns and spoke my mind. I burned some bridges but I there was nothing to see on the other side anyway.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Say My Name

“How do you pronounce that?”

This afternoon I headed to the community center to sign Kenny up for basketball and the gal behind the desk looked at our last name in a bit of puzzlement. I hate that question. I hate it because there’s no good answer.

Quintana

Strictly speaking, as it is a Spanish surname, the proper pronunciation would be keen-TAH-nah. But really, it sounds so pretentious (and lame) when an English speaking person with no accent tries this. I mean I can read Spanish and roll my r’s and pronounce the heck out of that language but I’ll be darned if using just one word all Spanished up doesn’t sound totally ridiculous.

We’ve known plenty of people who pronounce it quin-TAH-nah. That sounds nice and I don’t mind it a bit but I’m pretty sure that across the board Michael’s English speaking family pronounces it quin-TAN-ah. It’s no fun explaining this to people who believe they know better. For Pete’s sake, say it anyway you want.

As she continued to look over the form, she mentioned that perhaps we’d like to go with a shirt size larger than “M”.

“He ordered an “L” last year. Also, are you sure he’s in 3rd grade? He was in 6th grade last year.”
“Excuse me?”
“Yes. He went to Enterprise Middle School.”
“Nope.”
“This is your address, right?”
“Yes, but I’m almost positive he was in 2nd grade at Jason Lee Elementary last year. I mean look at the address.”
“Oh.”

Now I’m beginning to wonder if some other Kenny Quintana (quite possibly pronounced a completely different way) on the other side of town is being accused of being a 3rd grader in need of a very small shirt.

I came home to find Kenny pouring himself a bowl of Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch. It’s on sale this week at Albertson’s for $1 a box if you buy 10 and we’ve got 20 boxes in the pantry. This sounds like a crazy amount but the kids can burn through a box in a day and a half. As I walked up Kenny turned and asked, “Can I pour soda on my cereal when we run out of milk?”. Completely serious. We’ve got several gallons in the refrigerator outside so Request Denied. Thank goodness.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

What's A Friend To Do?

























I have 319 friends. According to Facebook. Facebook doesn’t distinguish between husbands and wives, college roommates, cousins you only see when someone dies, best friends from elementary school, high school sweethearts or next door neighbors. The net is cast and the bar is low. Unfortunately, when Camilla gave the lesson this afternoon in Relief Society about friendship, my first thought was, “How many friends do I have on Facebook?”.

Realizing this was sort of a stupid question in the face of an actual discussion about real friendship, I began to think about how many real friends I have. The kind who are my friends because they love me and not just because they recognized my name on the Friend Suggestion list. A lot of names came to mind and I thought about how blessed I am. But what about me? What kind of friend am I?

I could be better. A lot better.

I’m wrestling with something that happened a few days ago and I’m wondering if I handle it by ignoring the person or speaking my mind. This person is a relative so it makes it more complicated—it’s unlikely I can avoid this person permanently.

An e-mail was sent to me, asking for an old family friend’s contact information. Simple enough. But then my relative-type person went on to bad mouth this person. To make disparaging, completely rude comments about her size. I ignored it and simply answered the question asked but I’m feeling I didn’t handle it well.

I’m not great with conflict and confrontations. I avoid. But you know what? I think Euripides got it right when he said, "One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.” I guess I just have to take the bull by the horns and tell it like it is.

So how do you handle unpleasant people?
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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Waterbeds I've Known And Loved

It’s getting cold. I’m pretty sure it was over 80 degrees a few days ago but just like that it feels like November. Which is fine; you know how I feel about the sweltering summer months. I just wish we’d had more of those weeks that require no a/c or heat. Perfection.

I didn’t grow up with central heat. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was. If you’d have asked me, I’d have said it was the old black wood burning stove in the middle of the living room. We had baseboard heaters in each room but I didn’t realize what they were till I was grown (Quit Laughing!!!). We came home with Michael Jr. and Mom figured my room wasn’t warm enough. As she walked to the thermostat and turned the knob, my eyes grew large as saucers. How’d I miss that?

My parents had plans drawn up for our home sometime in the late 70’s.* The basic layout was one large room with kitchen/dining room on one side, living room on the other, wood burning stove in the middle. Off from the kitchen ran “The Bowling Alley”; a long narrow hall from which all other rooms could be reached.

This design made for a very warm, often overly warm, living room when we cranked up the heat (as I wrote that the sound of the lever being raised was almost audible) and very, very cold bedrooms. The heat never quite made it back down that bowling alley.

I never minded sleeping in a cold room. I could sleep, no problem, but accomplish much school work? Not really. Unlike folks such as my husband or my brother, I am unable to put two coherent thoughts together in the presence of a television. Or even other people breathing. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad but it’s a problem. Which is to say I’d have to separate myself from the family to get my work done. I’d trudge back to my cold room and crack the books. A better plan would have been to get my work done right after school but with no parents around to play Enforcer, I chose rather to watch the last few minutes of “Days of Our Lives” and pass out on the couch. So anyway, in the evenings I’d tear myself away from whatever program we were watching and head back to face the music. Quickly I’d decide it was much too cold to sit at my desk and I’d crawl into my waterbed. I rarely made it past 9:30 p.m.

On nights like this I miss that bed. It originally belonged to my parents but they didn’t take long to decide they really didn’t like the experience. When it became mine it was true love. I’d been racking out on my twin bed since toddlerhood and nothing spelled luxury, oblivion, and 1970's fabulousness in my teenage mind like this did. And it made those cold nights perfectly bearable.

Unfortunately that awesome bed is long gone. The mattress at least. I left for college and began sleeping on a hard twin bed. I mentioned out loud on my first Christmas vacation that the waterbed hurt my back. Must’ve been the change in venue. I came home next at spring break and in a fit of delight threw myself on my beloved bed. Now my back really hurt. In my absence, Dad replaced it with a regular mattress.

For years my brother’s single waterbed, pictured above, kept its place in his room. During any visits the room was empty, I’d sneak in at night and with a sigh fall asleep in its warm embrace. But it too had to hit the bricks; he was married several years back and a larger regular bed took its place.**

Once, years back we stayed at Aunt Marian’s house a night while on a visit in Ohio. Michael and I were given a room with a waterbed and I was psyched! Until we got in and took turns capsizing each other. Any move either of us made was totally disruptive to the other.

Now we’ve gone in a totally opposite direction with the bed from the commercial where they drop the bowling ball next to the glass of wine. Being teetotalers and non-bowlers, we haven’t tried it but I bet it works. It absorbs all energy, giving nothing in return and tonight it makes me wish a little for that obnoxious wave machine to rock me to sleep.

*I remember the architect distinctly because he thought my parents had two boys. My folks had an unnatural affection for short hair on me and I had a complete inability to pull it off.

**I like Charlotte more than any old waterbed anyway:).
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Friday, October 9, 2009

And The Wall Goes Up

























What I really feel moved to write about tonight are the waterbeds I’ve known and loved but I guess tonight’s topic has chosen itself.

Mom called today asking after Sierra. She’s wondering how she’s holding up. Earlier in the week two of her classmates died in a really horrific car crash and as you can imagine, it’s been a rocky week for a whole lot of people. The teachers are deeply affected, the children are a mess. It sounds like the school is handling it well with an army of counselors at the ready but this is the hard stuff. The events that make time stand still and memories indelible. I think of this family (the girls were cousins) and what they are dealing with right now. It’s just too much.

On this end we have nothing to complain about. Our girl is living it up at a friend’s slumber party with all the girls she went to school with last year. Michael Jr. just texted that he’s arrived at camp with his fellow scouts. Our little boys are where they should be. We all know it but mostly we don’t live it: It can all be taken in an instant.

Mother Dear also told me that she was put in the position of having to explain my house arrest and electronic ankle monitor to her sister because someone who read about it on My Space or whatever told her. Just for the record, I’ve never been on MySpace and this bit of info was straight from my blog. She seemed very uncool with it. Add to this that my Site Meter indicates that I have daily readers who in no other way give me the time of day. Extended family members who lurk. I guess what I’m saying is that I didn’t do this to cause embarrassment or discomfort to anyone. I’m feeling overexposed but I love my blog and have decided not to quit writing it. I’ve put up a wall, but you, dear friends, you’re invited in. I want to keep only my readers who take this all in the spirit in which it’s given.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nothing To Do Today Day


















At a quarter past eight this morning I suddenly realized Kenny was the only child on the main floor. Up the stairs, I step over a basket of laundry and turn off the bathroom light, Sierra’s light, the boys’ light because no one understands that lights on = money flushed down the toilet. Muttering under my breath until I look around to see Josh and Sam are both asleep. That’s strange. There’s no accounting for Josh’s state of repose but a hand to Sam’s forehead reveals the return of bug. This blows.

The thing that doesn’t blow is that a sick day for Sam means I give myself permission to go nowhere. To sit with him and watch TV while I transcribe Grandma Huck’s journal or work on the super secret THING I’m making for SOMEONE’S birthday. Secret because I really have no idea what I’m doing and I could be completely screwing it up. This hairpin lace loom is really making me rethink my choice of THING to give for SOMEONE’S birthday. Who even uses these things? Mom found it at Gee Gee’s in Yelm because I couldn’t locate one here. So anyway, if it turns out okay I’ll post a photo later. Because inquiring minds may or may not give a rip.

It also felt like a good day for baking so I made a few loaves of whole wheat bread. I’m totally impressed with myself until I read in Grandma’s journal about making 13 loaves of bread before she started on the cakes, cookies, and doughnuts. The kids didn’t eat all the oatmeal this morning so I figured I may as well make muffins too. I have this great recipe that shows you how to use what you have laying around. I think my pumpkin blueberry muffins would have been great if I’d used some restraint with the pumpkin and added a bit more baking powder. I’d give you the recipe but it’s mysteriously disappeared. Or at least my kids can’t seem to find it. I often wonder if I’m the only one with children for whom items become completely invisible the moment they need to be found.

Later this morning I thought about an article I’d read in Time magazine. Something about hula hooping being some sort of super exercise. Sounded crazy to me so I pulled out the mostly unused Wii Fit. After breaking the news to me that I’ve become Obese and have gained 12.5 pounds since I last stepped on the platform 156 days ago, I found what I was looking for. Much to my surprise it was totally fun! I missed each hoop thrown at me (all knocking me upside the head) and I can’t wait to try it again. Note to David: And no videotaping!

Eventually the kids came home and I had to handle a meltdown about, well, I better not say or it will give away the child. But anyway, I’m trying to keep my cool, be authoritative, etc. It’s hard. This particular child just didn’t seem able to stop, take a breath, and figure out what to do next. Even with me spelling it out. Then I remembered something I heard on a sitcom last night. As punishment for lying to his parents, a boy was made to stay within 5 feet of a parent at all times when not in school. You and I, we know this is insane and much more punishment for the parent than the child but guess what? This child of mine didn’t call my bluff. I need to be careful how often I threaten that. After reading these years of entries from my Grandma’s journal I’m convinced a week with her on the farm would solve a multitude of attitude disorders we seem to encounter around here. That woman would have them cured of that in a snap!
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm Not Saying It's A Good Thing

I cut out the Clorox Wipes 3-pack coupon a week or so ago to use at Costco but we left the store with only a rain check. The next few days I shoved Viva paper towels (The Best Paper Towel. Period.) in my near empty containers scattered throughout the house to soak up the liquid and get me through till I bought more. Today I ran to Winco with a list and a few twenties—they don’t take credit and I forgot my debit card pin number (surprise, surprise) for that same checking account—and found myself with a really ugly choice as I found my last item. The wipes. I had to either put back the hot chocolate or forgo my jumbo tub of Clorox Wipes. Well, at least my kitchen and bathrooms will benefit.

Oh and Bob Cat came back! Who’s Bob Cat? I’m glad you asked. Bob Cat is the most awesome cat around and although she’s the smallest I’d say she’s Alpha among the others here. Since Mr. Beardsley met his untimely end last November that is. For whatever reason, Panchito and Bandita seem to defer to her. I’m sure she’s very wise and probably has mad skills only cats recognize. Like maybe ninja or raccoon fighting or something. I don’t know.

It goes without saying that not every struggle I currently find myself in or every stray thought that crosses my mind is interesting or worth bringing up here.

In the last few days I’ve wrestled a bit with this thing. This blog. The WHY of it. I’ve already written about why I started writing but that isn’t exactly where I’m going with this. Why do I feel compelled to write daily (aside from the prodding by the husband person)? Why do I want to share what goes on in this noggin of mine?

Something you may not know about me is that I like my alone time. I should say I NEED my alone time. I get that when I write. In my line of work it’s easy to isolate yourself and easy to feel like you’re definitely the only one running this particular race. But of course it isn’t true and I know my thoughts and experiences are in no way unique or unusual. And I think I share because I know you’re out there. You who can relate.

Writing is something I love but I’m sure at times (many, many times) I’ve come across as more crazed, stressed, bewildered, and/or freaked out than I actually I am. Tone of voice is a little tricky to convey without the whole voice thing. Tongue in cheek can, at times, go unnoticed. Also, writing every day, writing what’s real (and occasionally imagined), I run the risk of what I’ve come to call OverSharing. This is relative; it’s oversharing to some, hilariously real to others. But it’s me and I make no apologies, even when the cyber crickets start to chirp. Even when “0 Comments” becomes the norm.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s my thing.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Because I Said So

First I should say that I am overjoyed to have the potty training behind us. Josh began ignoring the potty seat last week and even with the diarrhea of this latest bug, he made it to the bathroom without saying a peep. Clearly, a heads up would have been helpful but it’s the progress that counts, right? Not the messes we parents can become almost immune to. Almost. I can say that on at least one level, progress is being made.

But.

Lately I’ve been observing our youngest and sadly realizing that nothing I’m doing is working. Now before you think I’m being mellow dramatic and that I might actually be a good mom disciplining her child correctly, please note that a) Mellow-Dramatic is my middle name and b) Until yesterday I really haven’t disciplined him at all. I’ve got my hands full with three others who take turns questioning my authority (Sam doesn’t count because he’s obsessive-compulsive about being GOOD. This could be a totally separate blog about how this is not only is a spectacular dream come true but also uniformly worrisome).

In years past this questioning of my (our) authority used to be a mere annoyance but it’s grown in scope and size to a point where I’m done choosing my battles. It was an almost overnight flip of a switch in my mind. I am the Mother. Michael is the Father. If we make a request we expect follow through. Discussion is one thing. Compromise is, at times, good and even necessary. Disrespect? I’m having none of it.

Which I have to say is hard for those for whom it’s become rather a way of life. They’re not taking it well. Somehow they missed the lesson that we are in charge. It could be because we didn’t exactly teach it.

I’m not a fan of self-help books in general and those geared toward child-rearing specifically. I’m not saying they have nothing to offer, it’s just not my thing. That being said, I found myself standing in front of the parenting section at Far West Books awhile back. A woman who worked there pointed out a book called Discipline Me Right by Mary Simmons. It was thin and actually looked interesting so I made the purchase. It sat around for days until I finally picked it up Sunday.

The writer is an English teacher and for several years had her high school seniors make a list of 10 Commandments for Parents after reading the book Ordinary People. She kept the answers and tallied them up:

1. Discipline me right
2. Provide for me well
3. Allow me freedom
4. Be a role model
5. Be there
6. Respect my individuality
7. Respect my privacy
8. Love me
9. Don’t embarrass me
10. Have reasonable expectations

These were seniors, not kids the ages of my children and I have to admit to some misgivings about the order of the list. Still, look at #1. Why is the whole discipline thing so hard? For me I tend to think it’s because I’m a bit lazy and don’t want to deal with unpleasantness. Actually, that’s just a statement of fact. But even when I’m on my game I often feel clueless. WHY?

As I look over the list I think of my own growing up years. I knew the rules and knew what would happen if I crossed that line. It never occurred to me that my parents loved me or didn’t love me (those words weren’t bandied about in our home) but I can see by this list that they really did follow the rules. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve found it nearly impossible to emulate those folks. But I intend to keep up the struggle until I figure it out.

So. It will be a different struggle with each child because of course they’re individuals and push us in different ways about different things. As to Josh, we’ve spent a lot of time (mostly me, because remember, She’s In The House) just giving in to any and all demands because a) He’s the baby, b) It’s Easy. Last night at dinner he suffered through 3 time outs (3 minutes each) because he continued to be naughty throughout the meal. Finally, he refused to finish his dinner after hearing someone mention “cookies”. Yes indeed, cookies for dessert. It ended well though. I didn’t raise my voice and by the end of dinner he figured out that I would just keep silently putting him back on the stool if he moved. And, believe it or not, he apologized and finished his dinner. Maybe progress with him will bolster me through my efforts with the others. You know why? Because I SAID SO.
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