Monday, November 30, 2009

You Deserve a Medal or Something.

Time to go home. We left later than we’d hoped considering we packed a decent amount the night before. I kept looking at all the able-bodied people in our family and still haven't figured out why I have to work so hard to convince them to pitch in. There is always an excuse. If there's even one other person not working, there is at least one who will use that as a reason to sit this one out. Other kids hear this and jump on the band wagon. It's mentally exhausting. I can see why my mom just did everything and asked for little help. It's not the greatest way to raise adults (because I see no point in raising children) but I can see how it happens. Some things, in the moment, just don't feel anywhere near worth the aggravation. They actually are but it's sure hard to make yourself bother.

We made an out of the way stop at Wagner's in Olympia for a few loaves of cinnamon swirl bread and then headed up I-5. We stopped at Fat Burger and Krispy Kreme in Issaquah because we couldn't resist then I promptly fell asleep, and woke up on the other side of the mountains feeling horrible. Not really an I Ate Too Much horrible but just not good nonetheless. I'm always surprised that that's just one word. Nonetheless. Seems like it should be three. But anyway.

On the way over Michael Jr. checked the weather app on his phone and said it was foggy in Richland. That seemed odd since it was so sunny even as we approached the Columbia at Vantage. Then it appeared. What a sight! A huge bank of rolling fog was moving up the Columbia toward us. We hit it around Schwana and it was as if the sky had never been blue and the sun had never shined. Bleah. So home we headed. Almost. At some point Michael realized he didn't have the updated tags he needed for his car so it was straight to the county auditor's office, minutes before they closed for the day.

At home I walked in to see everything was still in it's place and the animals were alive. It's great to have friends who will help you out when you need it. The newspapers were piled up which bothers me because I did call in a vacation hold. I am the worst at reading old newspapers. It just doesn't happen. Next to all the mail and newspapers was our Sarah Palin book all signed and awesome. My dear non-Facebook friend who watched the house and tended the animals stood in line for HOURS to get a book signed for us. I didn't even ask! On that happy note, I did a completely unprecidented, uncool thing. I walked into our room, crawled into bed, and let everyone else unload the van. Oh my goodness did that Tempur-Pedic mattress cure a world of ills. I had the excuse of feeling awful but it still felt sort of unmom-like.

You are such a die-hard. I love it. To have read through those last four paragraphs, you deserve a medal or something.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

CBS Cares. Way Too Much.

Oh Dear Internet, how I love you. I love that I can pluck away at my keyboard and imagine I am talking with each and every one of you, pouring my wee heart out. I tell myself The Internet cares because I know you do. You’re Fabulous, really you are.

(My husband is going to read this and roll his eyes because it’s silly and he doesn’t appreciate silly like I know YOU do. Or you don’t. It’s okay, I still think you’re Fabulous.)

So friends, it’s been a weird day. It started out great because the weather is fine (especially for late November in Western Washington) and I slept in. Then it was sketchy because we lined up for the family photo and more than one child felt inclined to opt out. Which of course, isn’t an option. Next Michael and I and Tom and Charlotte drove to visit Brooks and his family. Happy. On the way over we hear the devastating news that four police officers were shot point blank at a coffee shop in Spanaway. Sad. Later in the day I was able to meet my first cousin once removed Facebook friend when she brought her family out to visit. Good. Then her daughter fell in the koi pond. Ungood. I’m left not quite sure how to feel about today.

The end of a trip over the mountains and ending as it usually does. Feeling like it’s time to get back home and get back to normal. It’s always a rough adjustment but there’s no time for it. ‘Tis the season and all and I haven’t got anything related to Christmas decorations up. I’ve got two kids to immerse in home schooling and a house to clean top to bottom before I bring in the tree. No time for fooling around.

After packing up tonight, I sat down to watch “60 Minutes” with the family. We were learning depressing things about the civil war raging in Congo. More than five million people have died during this campaign of rape and murder funded in large part by gold. First we had blood diamonds, now we’ve got conflict gold. Good grief it’s depressing. Then we go to commercial and the sound of jingle bells fill the air. It’s a CBS Cares public service announcement:

“Want to do something special for the woman in your life this Christmas? Call her doctor and schedule her Pap smear. Pap smears save lives. This Christmas impress her. Give her the gift that even Santa can’t deliver.”

Half way through his little speech I shouted, “What What What? DID HE SAY WHAT I THINK HE SAID?” Everyone was pretty sure he did but with a DVR it wasn’t hard to establish the facts. Are you kidding me CBS? First of all yes, most guys want to do something special for the woman in their lives at Christmas. Second, DO NOT call and make that appointment! It’s a deal breaker. You WILL freak her out. If you’re really concerned then speak openly with her but for heaven’s sake DO NOT call her doctor and schedule the ever loving Pap smear! Do you even have her appointment book to know when she’s available for such thing? Of course not. Again, it will not impress ANYONE. Ask your friends if you don’t believe me. It may be the gift even Santa can’t deliver but only because he’s not a gynecologist and it IS NOT A GIFT! No one is going to be impressed by a phone call. Especially not that one. So, to recap, buy her jewelry or take her on a trip or even consult her friends if you’re really stuck but DO NOT schedule the woman in your life a Pap smear. If she’s a woman, a real live grown up woman, she can handle that one herself.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Not Again

Another late night of Phase 10 featuring me, The Biggest Loser. I play because I like to spend time with my family. There’s a lot of talking and laughing. We reminisce about the years we spent growing up on the farm, we laugh at each other. Tonight we discussed the false economy of the low-flow toilets Dad installed that require multiple flushes and about the time Tom made me think there was a stranger in the house when I should have been alone. Nothing that would be interesting to anyone else.

My children were up till all hours tonight. A proper mother with a respectable skill set would’ve had them brushed and put to bed by, at the very latest, 9 p.m. but there’s that small but domineering part of my brain that says, “This is your vacation! Enjoy yourself!”. And I listen. Which is stupid because like clockwork they begin to gravitate toward me, getting louder and more demanding as the evening progresses. Demanding my attention and depending on the age, dissolving into tears of overtired frustration. What I don’t end up with is any real adult time and I contemplate dissolving into my own puddle of tired and done. By avoiding the trouble of facing down the natives and enforcing a bedtime routine I’ve only given myself a different and arguably worse scenario to contend with; lazy doesn’t seem to ever pay off.

Tonight the game (as always) seemed never ending but we actually played until Tom won. We started before dinner and it’s after 11 right now. My mind is officially numb. I asked Tom to give me a topic to write about because I had nothing to work with. His suggestions were:

1) Goat herding

2) The State of Iowa

3) Transistor radios

Lucky for you I know nothing about any of those things.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Today I did NOT get up early (or simply forgo bed altogether like many friends) to hit the stores. I just didn’t see anything in the advertisements yesterday that I needed that badly. We did it last year and saved a lot but somehow things seem different now. Could be because we’re miles and miles from town but whatever the reason, it just wasn’t appealing at all.

We did shop a very little bit though. Later in the morning we all drove to Lacey to go to Cabela’s and a movie. Cabela’s is always a big deal for the kids with all the fake/stuffed game and aquarium. Tom needed something in the fly fishing departments, and the rest of us just shopped around. We bought a “Luggable Loo” (a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat) which grossed out the kids and Aunt Charlotte but hey, you never know when something like that might come in handy. I get it; no one wants to think about relieving one’s self in a bucket but it’s really only gross until you can’t use your indoor plumbing.

All eleven of us went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” this afternoon. Oh my gosh! All of the adults LOVED it! The stop motion animation had a retro vibe and the dialogue was funny in ways the kids didn’t always get. In fact they sort of reacted to it like they do when we pull out old shows we liked as kids: polite indifference. To them it was Okay. Definitely a fun watch for the big people.

Mom and Dad were kind enough to take the kids back home in our van while Tom, Charlotte, Michael, and I went to downtown Olympia to Canvas Works so I could buy some wool yarn. They have a bigger selection than we have in Richland and I was hoping to make Michael Sr. a pair of slippers for Christmas in M.I.T.’s colors: blood on concrete (maroon and gray). We also made a delicious trip to Wagner’s Bakery for cinnamon bread. That stuff is the best.

Tonight we decided to play some games. We started with Apples to Apples. It’s a fun game but when the kids play with us it can get annoying because they don’t know a lot of the people named on the red cards so they either play or judge them in totally wrong ways. I guess we could’ve brought the kids’ version to eliminate some of that. Tonight Michael Jr. judged the word “Dating” as the one best described by the word “Deadly”. Seriously. Kenny felt the word “Cruel” best described Garrison Keillor, and the word “Car Bomb” was chosen when the adjective was “Glitzy”. I think next time we’ll let the kids play with the kids.

It’s late and I should hit the sack. We played several rounds of Phase 10 and it just wouldn’t end. I don’t think I’ve ever done worse in that game but still no one could pull ahead enough to end it all. I’ve written about it before but I still have no idea why we play that game! It always feels like a good idea in the beginning . . .
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eat the Sausage

I know it isn’t a unique take on things and I know you know what I mean: I am so FULL. I couldn’t eat another bite, the thought of eating tomorrow is repellent, and I am thankful, ever so thankful this night for elastic. Elastic in my track pants, elastic in my p.j.’s. Elastic’s making overindulging just a touch less painful right now.

Though not completely. I really did eat FAR too much.

So now that I’ve established the obvious, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving after the fact. I hope it was really great, spent with family and friends. I hope you ate too much and I hope you have elastic pants.

My brother Tom and his wife Charlotte arrived this morning from San Francisco. We hadn’t seen Charlotte since last Christmas and Tom since earlier in the summer. It’s sort of rotten how far flung we all are. Michael’s family is in central California and Charlotte’s very far from her family in the U.K. Although California isn’t crazy far, it’s far enough.

Tom and Charlotte are the only aunt and uncle the kids have on my side of the family and there won’t ever be any cousins. They’re both pretty solid on that one. So, without children of their own, Tom imparts his brand of wisdom on mine. Today he gave Michael Jr. his “Eat the Sausage” talk.

As we sat in the living room talking the conversation turned to people who found themselves working a particular job that most folks don’t want. The kind of job that screams “I did nothing with my life and my dreams have gone down the drain”. I was expressing my opinion that it was sort of sad and must be difficult to reconcile one’s self with. Tom turned to Michael Jr. and said, “No. They need to eat the sausage”.

Of course he didn’t have a clue what his uncle was going on about but listened as he explained. According to Tom, we eat sausage because we always have. We’re used to it. We even enjoy it. We don’t get all wrapped up in the details of what it’s made of. Yes, it’s made of intestines and offal and lots of other horrific, completely uncool things. But we eat it anyway. He told Michael that life is like that. Sometimes you just have to accept the facts of your life for what they are and love it anyway. Just as it is. Because there are going to be things you can’t change. Things that maybe you could have if you’d done things differently but you didn’t. Things that make your stomach turn if you spend too much time thinking about them. Accepting your life where it is and loving it anyway is eating the sausage. Whether it’s cumberland or bratwurst, chorizo or kielbasa, blood sausage or haggis, we all need to eat the sausage.

I don’t know how that metaphor works for vegetarians and to be honest, the thought of sausage is totally revolting after the eating frenzy tonight. Still, I get it. It’s a decent lesson on a day set aside to give thanks. Furthermore, it’s better than his advice about the Victoria Secret commercials. Michael Jr. and Kenny both get embarrassed when they come on. To Michael he said, “Absorb it” and the next time he told Kenny “You’re going to enjoy this sometime; you may as well start now than later”. His sage words of wisdom are clearly hit and miss!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm May Never Be Hungry Again. But Probably Not.

I slept in till 8 a.m. I feel a little guilty when I do that here because I know someone else is running the show and keeping an eye on Josh. Yes, I feel guilty, but not quite guilty enough to not actually do it. It feels so GOOD.

As is the custom here, once I was up, everybody gathered for what’s referred to as The Greasy Breakfast. I know that sounds gut wrenching but it just means there’s an egg product, pig flesh in multiple incarnations, and often pancakes as well. Dad and Mom do breakfast up big time. This morning there was homemade sausage as well as pancakes and pancake French toast (bread dredged in thinned down pancake batter). A person could skip the rest of the day’s meals and wouldn’t know the difference. Food is love around here and they love us hard.

After breakfast Michael Jr. and Sierra came up with a new way to entertain themselves. They send each other texts in Hebrew and then use a translator to see what it means. I realized I needed to put an end to it when I received this translated bit: “He grinned rubbing relationship with you and you threw it.” Seriously. Ick. I think I’d rather them stick with English and forgo the texting altogether. In fact, if they’re so big on communicating with the written word, maybe I should conscribe them into my literary army and have them write our Christmas letter. It could use some humor.

So this is the time of year I generally have the Christmas letter written and ready to roll. For some reason I just can’t/haven’t been able to make myself write it. Usually I have so many things I’d like to share with the people we don’t see day in and day out. Then again, I’ve been sharing and sharing every day since mid April and I imagine there’s not much I can add. Additionally, this has been, hands down, the worst year of my life. Like catastrophically Awful. And when you’re the author of your own awful, how do you sit down and write a synopsis that feels authentic while still encapsulating that must-have vibe of “I’m So Freaking Thankful My Family Is Awesome”? No can do. Because while my family probably is awesome, a list of our accomplishments is not exactly what my letters are about. I strive for something greater than a yearly brag sheet. I’ll probably just take my Dad’s advice and write anyway. Like he says, “Bad decisions make the best stories”.

After eating a big lunch we had no business consuming, we took Michael Jr. and Sierra to see “New Moon”. I kept hearing all this talk about “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” but didn’t get it. I guess when I read the book I didn’t pay much attention to Jacob because Bella was in love with Edward. I think maybe Edward is less impressive on the big screen than in my mind and Jacob, well, you can’t exactly ignore the boy’s abdominal region. My husband gave me a hard time about it but I certainly wasn’t among the post-menopausal, borderline pedophile ladies ooh and ahhing over him in the theater. It was obscene! In fact it was more entertaining listening to them react to the bare-chested werewolf boys than watching the actual movie!

So after a big dinner and another night of watching “Dancing with the Stars” with my parents (because Dad fell asleep part way through it last night), I’m calling it quits. Tom and Charlotte arrive tomorrow morning and we’ve got some catching up to do. And serious power eating. Heaven knows I’ve been practicing.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Domo is My Copilot

Tonight I’m lying in my old bed wishing my dad hadn't adulterated his delicious salsa and listening to Michael Sr. work a Rubik’s 4 x 4. I forgot how noisy those things are. The night isn’t exactly young but I’m regretting the lack of ear plugs in my night stand.

We’re in Yelm. It took all morning but I finally managed to finish the packing, dig out all the winter coats (it hasn’t been cold enough for the heaviest jackets), sweep the floors, finish the laundry, make lists for the pet sitter, put a vacation hold on the paper, call in a prescription, and oh I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. It isn’t interesting and you’ve certainly had to pack up and leave for Somewhere. You know for every one thing you check off the list, at least two more items come to mind.

Michael got the green light to cut out a few hours early today so we were able to leave sooner than we thought. We made it over the pass before dark which is always a bonus this time of the year. For safety reasons of course but also the kids enjoy spotting waterfalls. This afternoon there were plenty.

We usually stop at least once for gas and/or restroom visits; maybe Rye Grass Summit or Ellensburg or North Bend. This time I was driving and no one felt they HAD to stop so we didn’t. It’s a long drive but my kids are good riders and usually put up with my lessons in musicology. I set my music to shuffle and quiz them. The first discussion was about Don McLean’s “American Pie” but mostly I just ask what song they’re hearing and who’s singing it. Today I remember Supertramp, Muse, Journey, B.T.O., B.A.D, B.O.C, The Eagles, Glenn Miller, The Outfield, Bryan Ferry, and Lynyrd Skynyrd but there plenty more. Some they know right off, others not so much. A score from “The Barber of Seville” came on and they asked what it was. Before I could answer Michael Sr. said, “Bad News Bears”. I guess there’s more than one right answer! There’s got to be a gazillion more important things I could be teaching them but goodness I love my music.

It was an uneventful drive with little naps here and there (blessedly, none were taken by me!) with kids discussing the merits of instituting two or perhaps even three Christmases per year. Michael Jr. drew a picture of a Mexican turkey (I was totally expecting a stereotypical sarape and sombrero on it but apparently this a real animal and not some racist holiday joke) and Sierra entertained us with the bumper sticker app on her phone (“It’s not who you know, it’s whom you know”—is that funny? I guess sort of if you’re an English major ). Later I hear Michael Jr. ask his sister about hearing in 3D and I wonder who’s going to be homeschooling who. Or whom. Or whatever. Because I am a liberal arts graduate and should really know these things. But God, not Domo, is my copilot, right? I can handle it. Theoreticaly.

Then I see a church billboard as we head toward McKenna: “If God is your copilot, switch seats”. I smile and sigh. Good to be back in my old stomping grounds. We made our way through thick fog and drizzle to smiling faces, hugs, and a hot meal. I’m happy to be here, even if Dad did ruin his salsa with broccoli and radishes.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Goodbye Nikki Mans!

This was conference day for Kenny and Sam. I have to admit I sort of hate conferences. They just seem pointless. The teacher goes over everything on the grade sheet which, having been a student, teacher, and parent of many years, I could definitely figure out for myself. By and large these are good students so I’m just hearing what I already know. What I’d rather do is go out to dinner with these ladies and get to know them as people. I mean I already know my kids. Of course this isn’t the case for all parents. I’m sure conferences are much needed interfaces for plenty of folks.

Kenny’s conference was definitely the shortest on record. It ended as his teacher handed me a piece of paper from the library; a book was overdue. Not significantly she said but overdue none the less. The title was “Boobies”. She quickly assured me it was about birds. She must’ve seen me break out into a cold sweat.

Sam’s conference was almost as short and just as sweet, minus the false alarm library book scandal. His teacher believes she’s almost done calling him Kenny (she was Kenny’s kindergarten teacher as well) and he’s A Pleasure to Have in Class. Bueno.

While I waited for Sam’s conference to begin, Sierra texted me that their school supplies had arrived.
Let the learning begin! The boxes upon boxes from K12 were finally here. The kids tore them open and separated books, supplies and teacher’s guides between us.

Just in time; Nikki needs boxes

Our friend Nikki, quite suddenly, is moving to Nebraska. Next week no less. Her husband accepted a job pastoring a church in a small town there and soon they’ll be on their merry way. And it will be merry. I just know it. Nikki is fun and will make it fun for the whole family even though it’s far from family and far from old friends. Even though it’s Nebraska.

Tonight some of us surprised her with a farewell dinner and we donned Christmas sweaters in her honor. Not actually owning one myself, I borrowed one from my neat-o neighbor lady Berta. With jingle bells for buttons, it was the most heinous of the bunch! As a group we were quite a sight. And zillions of photos later, some goodbyes were said. I think I actually didn’t quite say any real goodbyes; there’s always the internet to keep us all connected.

So happy trails friend, I know you’ll figure out what’s crazy and fun and totally ridiculous about Nebraska and you’ll tell us all about it.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009


Look! My do’s even cute in the “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” beret I bought Sierra when I was in Paris the summer before last! Do I look more like Rusty or Audrey?

It’s Sunday and it’s almost Thanksgiving so I was able to sing “Prayer of Thanksgiving” more than once at church today. I love that song.

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens his will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to his name, he forgets not his own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining his kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be thine!

We all do extol thee, thou leader triumphant,
And pray that thou still our defender wilt be.
Let thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

I keep noticing that folks are using their Facebook status update box to tell what they’re thankful for. Some are even doing it daily. I think I wrote one, tongue in cheek yesterday but that’s it so far. Tonight I am thankful for the Del Real Pork Carnitas I bought at Costco last week because they are delicious and because I appreciate dinners that I don’t have to cook myself. For the ultra lazy you can also purchase the Del Real Refried Beans and Rice. Couple that with some Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde and some tortillas and you’ve got a recipe for Happy Tiff.

I’m also thankful that Josh and Sam have stopped howling about whatever they were mad about. I think Josh was just mad about having to wake up for dinner while Sam was upset about the actual menu. He really had his heart set on meatballs for some reason. And while I have nothing against meatballs, I’m no short order cook. The end.

I’m thankful Michael Jr. mastered the 4 x 4 Rubik’s cube because it was something he spent two days studying. It’s good to see your kid put effort into something and in the end manage to come off the victor. On a similar note I’m thankful to be sitting next to Sierra as she puts the finishing touches on a dishcloth she’s crocheting for her Grandma. Just two days ago it was IMPOSSIBLE but now she’s got a skill she’s eager to expand on.

I’m very thankful that Kenny’s found something he enjoys reading almost as much as the “Diary a Wimpy Kid” series. He’s discovered the Encyclopedia Brown series and he and his dad try to solve the mysteries each night before turning to the back of the book. I wish he’d put his newly minted detective skills to work around here and solve the mystery of "Who Peed in My Orange Crocs?".

(The fact that I own these shoes is a bit embarrassing to fess up to. I think they’re ugly and I make no apologies about it. Still, Mom gave me a pair awhile back to wear around the house, gardening, etc. and they are, admittedly, pretty comfortable. But they’re still UGLY.)

I’m thankful for grapes Josh just brought me, so firm and delicious they make an audible crunch when I bite into them. I’m thankful for lavender scented baby shampoo and a washer and dryer that aren’t waiting for a visit from the Sears repair guy.

I’m especially thankful for a husband who made salsa this afternoon and washed the dishes. Oh and who also made homemade tortilla chips.

Looks like I’ve got an awful lot to be thankful for!
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Haircut or Only I Could Devote Two Entire Posts to My Hair

Well folks, I did it.

I asked everyone what they thought and the vast majority told me to stick with the longer hair. Most everyone except my husband. He said short and much darker. I decided to take a chance on something different and I think it worked. My hair stylist (Tamara Pruett at The Split End in Kennewick) is a miracle worker. There’s no way my thick obnoxious hair should be able to do this. My kids, on the other hand, aren’t totally impressed. I didn’t warn them that I was doing this so they were shocked when I walked in the door. Josh yelled, “That’s disgusting!”, Sam yelled, “Stranger danger! 911!” and Kenny asked if I could rewind and undo it. Oh well, they’re a tough audience and they’ll get used to it. Or not. I think sometimes (read: ALWAYS) they forget that although I’m theirs in a sense, I am MINE.

That took all morning because I have Difficult hair with various and sundry issues including but not limited to being coarse, frizzy, thick, partially gray, and Ridiculous. So, while Tamara wrangled it, I kicked back and relaxed. It was kind of nice to have a morning semi-alone but of course the mind wanders to the thousand and one things I wasn’t getting done. And continuing in that vein of blowing off chores, soon after I came home we took Josh to the “Superman Can” CD release party at Hastings. He had fun watching Tory sing and dance but tonight he told me that “Wiggles” the fish scared him. I have to admit those eyes do freak me out a little too . . .

Some small bit of business was accomplished today when the kids planted some bulbs. I had a bag of 75 massive King Alfred daffodil bulbs and a smaller bag of something else but on their own they didn’t get much accomplished. After much complaining about hard dirt, Michael came out with the post hole digger and helped them out. Just before dark they’d all done enough to earn Peanut Buster Parfaits.

The Prices stopped by to visit today and we talked about some home improvements we’d like to make. I mentioned wanting to dig out a basement under the kitchen addition (still don’t know if that’s feasible) and Kenny piped up with, “I’ll do it! I’m great at digging!”. We all laughed out loud; this from the child who not ten minutes earlier had announced that he could not possibly dig another hole for a daffodil bulb!

In all fairness I should add that although I was worthless in the chore department today, Michael washed the dishes and changed some light bulbs and the kids cleaned the basement, their bedrooms, and the living room. Maybe I should take off Saturday mornings more often. Just kidding Michael!
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Friday, November 20, 2009


I went to bed last night knowing I was coming down with something. It doesn’t feel like much beyond a cold but I’m moving at half speed and accomplished almost entirely nothing today. I feel blah. Sort of like that black widow looked yesterday. She woke up dead so I guess I'm a step ahead.

No school today for the elementary school kids so everyone was home plus various other children. It’s kind of nice; four or five boys playing Legos inside or war in the backyard. It’s good to see them having fun without computers or television. But then Josh starts throwing Legos or Sam gets mad because he wants to use the expandable vegetable steamer as an alien ship but someone else had it first. It starts to rain and dirt gets tracked all over the floor I just swept and mopped this morning. It’s definitely better when the weather is fair; these boys and their friends prefer the backyard and their imaginations.

Instead of actually doing anything productive today, I worked on knitting a pair of slippers. I’ve never done this before but the picture on the pattern looked pretty cool. It takes wool yarn that’s felted when they’re finished. Right now what I have is a gigantic slipper that was an almost total pain in the eyeballs to make and no earthly idea how small to shrink it down. If I had the recipient’s foot somewhere near I could try it on for size but no such luck. I’ve had a few women volunteer their husband's feet of the same size so maybe I can pull this off. I’m starting to remember why I haven’t picked up knitting needles or a crochet hook in a long time; I’m not exactly in the market for more methods of creating headaches and killing time.

Sierra noticed me sitting in my chair, needles clicking and asked if I’d show her how to make something. “Now?” I thought to myself but “Sure” is what I actually said. So I stopped what I was doing and went scrounging for some yarn and a crochet hook. I showed her how to make a chain and single crochet and here’s the part where I completely gloss over her frustration and hysterics that it was impossible and that I ought to do it for her because I’m good at it. After all of this she got to a point where she could do it and ended only with mild frustration that it will probably take her till early spring to crochet a scarf.

She accused me of being born good at these things. That I probably never dropped or skipped a stitch or ever had anything but uniform rows. I laughed at her and told her the story of how I learned to do all this grandma stuff. I was in Girl Scouts and the leaders had this project for us to make for Christmas. It was really crazy ugly; I’ve never seen it’s equal. They’d taken those plastic things that hold six packs of soda and cut them apart into six circles. We were to crochet around them and after following a few more directions ended up with a thing that held a used Cool Whip container. This was our Christmas Nut Bowl. Hideous! What was worse was that the rest of the girls had no problem with the instructions. I couldn’t manage it to save my soul.

For reasons I don’t quite comprehend, I actually wanted to learn how. These ladies couldn’t teach me but my mom found some instructions in a magazine and I studied it out until I had it down. I immediately started making ball gowns for my Barbies and anything else I could imagine. Not long after, a friend (remember Vanessa Mack?) gave me some beautiful knitted clothes for my Barbie that her mom made and suddenly I wouldn’t rest until I knew how to knit. Too young to become a little old lady but there it is. It was years before I learned to read patterns but now I can take on just about anything.

Sierra wants to be perfect from the beginning and I guess I was probably a little like that too. I hope she can lighten up a little and remember that mistakes and missteps are just part of the program when you’re starting out. The great part for me was that I was actually patient with her as she fussed and fumed about the whole deal. I hope she remembers that part when she looks back.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homeschooling Spider Woman

How are the older kids doing with homeschooling? Hmm. That’s a good question.

They’d be doing significantly better if their books and supplies had arrived by now but according to UPS all the boxes have an ETA of Monday. Or would that be an EDA? Is that even a real acronym? And who ever came up with the slogan “What can Brown do for you?”? I guess it’s famous and we all know it but “Brown”? I don’t know. It just doesn’t work for me.

But I digress. As usual.

What the kids can do right now is arrange their schedule, take some history lessons, and spend some time on Study Island (this is considered a public school option and Study Island is some sort of a WASL prep site). I’ve also checked out a few lecture series on CD from the library that they’re listening to. Anything to make me feel like they aren’t completely wasting their time.

We were a little confused about the math curriculum on its way but I think we’ve got a handle on that. Michael was scheduled to take Pre-Algebra B and Sierra will be taking Pre-Algebra A. I’ve been told that Pre-Algebra is a two year course through K12 but that still doesn’t make sense because she’s a 6th grader and he’s an 8th grader. It also makes no sense in light of the fact that he took Algebra last year. I contacted the virtual principal (who happens to be an actual person) and found out that if Michael can pass the 2nd semester assessment at 80% or above, he can move on to the next level of math. We printed it out tonight and we’ll see how it goes. Theoretically it shouldn’t be a problem but who knows.

What’s been of particular interest to me in the past week has been the relationship between Michael and Sierra. It’s usually (unfortunately) what I’d consider Substandard. They get along some but with a generous sprinkling of lame stuff too. Antagonizing each other, trying to get each other’s goat (I always tell them no one can get your goat if you don’t have one but they just look at me like I’m crazy). During this week of extra togetherness, they’ve actually been pretty nice to each other. They seem able to work together without the usual stumbling blocks. This morning Michael found a recipe for pretzels but he’s not as comfortable in the kitchen as Sierra is. She helped him figure out some things and together they rolled them out, boiled, and baked them. And they were pretty darned good too.

How am I faring? Gosh you’re sweet for asking!

I’m doing pretty well. The kids are asking for jobs to do since we began handing out “Daddy Dollars” so that’s a very good thing. They’re meant to be earned by doing what’s asked the FIRST time it was asked but now they’re trying to earn even more by coming up with jobs. This is bound to drive down the value but whatever; they’re being especially good so I’m grateful.

This afternoon I got to play Kimball Avenue Spider Woman again. Aidan came down to ask if I’d come get a black widow they found while raking. She was probably a good looking specimen earlier in the season but she was slow and wrinkly now. I’ve got her in a jar in the kitchen but I imagine she won’t last long. Not enough flies and other spiders around to make a difference.

Well, enough for tonight. Is “The Office” new?
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Tonight was Pack Meeting for Kenny. This summer when he turned eight he became a Cub Scout and finally, at last month’s meeting he received his Bobcat. It shouldn’t have taken that long but it’s just one more thing I don’t have a complete handle on.

When the boys receive their rank advancements they’re given a pin to give their mothers. In theory they’re supposed to pin it ON their mom but I did the honors because I avoid being punctured whenever possible.

(This and keeping my blood INSIDE my body are two rules I live by.)

So I have this pin and believe me, I earned it. At this stage in the game, if mom isn’t making sure certain requirements are met, mostly they simply don’t get met. End of story. So I have to be all Organized and Fantastic to make sure he’s getting it all done. I am only Organized and Fantastic on a sporadic basis so he’s managing his way through scouts, so far, in fits and starts.

I think it’s hard for me because I’m the kind of person who needs to SEE what I’ve got to do. I look at those handbooks full of requirements and my head spins. I know my boys will do a certain amount of these things with their dens and troops but ultimately, I’ve got to help them get organized and focused and directed. That’s right, Me. The disorganized, unfocused, adirectional Me. I aspire to be all those Fabulous things but let’s be clear, it’s my Struggle.

Kenny’s just starting so I’m hopeful I can stay on top of it. Michael Jr.’s already got five years under his belt with plans to earn his Eagle. It’s a big deal and sometimes I just wish I could hire a professional to be all organized about it. To create a chart, a time line, be connected with Scout leaders and generally point him in the right direction. Like a Scout Mentor. I guess some kids have something like that in fathers who’ve either been scouts or even just involved with the scouting program in some way. Dad’s who know the ropes and who may even count as merit badge counselors. That would help.

You know what else would be great? If more local companies and groups would offer merit badge clinics. If there was some sort of local website that listed the ones that were available. It’s not that it never happens but I don’t hear about it often. Not long ago I read about one at CBC organized by Areva for the nuclear science badge and it was something that took place over the course of two Saturdays. This was great because even with a dad with a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, it would’ve been a pain for us.

Lest I sound like a complete complainer, I have to say I’m awfully thankful to those men and women who devote the time they do to scouting. If I’m overwhelmed with two scouts I can’t imagine what a whole pack of them would be like!
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Yesterday included not just one but two doctor’s appointments. Michael Jr. needed a tetanus shot and the doctor wanted to give him the once over since it’d been more than a year since his last check up. So, more crocheting. I wanted to finish this project quickly because I’ve got two more I need to crank out before Thanksgiving vacation is over. I honestly have no idea why I can’t settle on projects until the very last minute. Nothing ever strikes me as just right until that moment when accomplishing it in the time allotted is virtually impossible.

Michael’s at that age when you don’t want your mom going in with you to see the doctor. You really don’t want to go at all but having mom there would be unbearable. Eventually the doctor came out to get me and brought me back to the room we always find ourselves in. I wonder how many hours we’ve clocked in that room? I know it’s the same room because the painting on the wall never ceases to confuse me. I tried to find it online but didn’t come up with anything useful. It’s a painting of a woman in a hen house gathering eggs. She stands in this hen house with a bowl of eggs, gazing out a dirty window at some nondescript flora or fauna. Or building. Or mythical creature. I don’t know. Some point in space just beyond the hen house.

And this bothers me every time I see it! Generally speaking, hen houses do not smell nice. Why would a woman pause during this chore and gaze at something? If there was really something to see out that window a person would get out of the coop and go check it out. Or is this her Me Time? Her Quiet Place? Is she dreaming of life in the Big City or wondering what life would have been like if she’d become a nun or joined a roller derby team or married that wealthy industrialist’s son? I try on a different story every time I’m there but so far, none of them have explained it well enough for me.

So, back to the reason I’m sitting in this little room looking at this stupid painting. The doctor would like to prescribe something different for Michael’s eczema. It’s especially awful on his fingers and he ends up with cuts that get infected. I always tell him he needs to put hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin on them but he’s not great about it. When I told the doctor how we’ve been trying to handle it he told me that was a bad idea; it dries out the skin. We also tell our kids (especially our oldest two) that they need to shower daily. When the doctor told him to shower no more than three times a week, I just cringed. “See Mom!” He had this look on his face like he’d won the lottery. He was right and his parents were WRONG.

Why on earth couldn’t our doctor phrase it differently? Something like, “I understand why your parents would suggest you use these products but this will help even more, “ or “I understand why your parents would like you to shower daily but since this can be drying to your skin you’ll need to spot wash your feet, armpits, etc.” Back me up please!

Well, the Cat Who Ate the Canary look was wiped off my dear son’s face when he was informed that he needed not only a tetanus shot but also one for varacella and hepatitis A. Poor kid! I guess you can’t win ‘em all.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

I've Had Better Mondays

[This one’s for the women; consider yourself warned.]

Generally speaking I like Mondays. I usually have a good-sized project I’m looking forward to making headway on—nothing exciting or anything unless you count the little thrill I feel when I get to take something off my list.

Such tremendous plans I always have but I’m usually happy if I accomplish half of it. This morning definitely did not work out that way. I meant to get a closet cleaned out but only ended up downloading PAF software for Michael Jr. to work on, entering information about one person, getting confused, and giving up. It was like an accordion problem, expanding to fill the time I had.

It was less time than usual; I had a doctor’s appointment at 10:50 a.m.

I don’t like these appointments but I imagine I’d be some sort of deviant if I did. It’s the Semi-Annual Poke and Prod, as I call it and it’s just something you grit your teeth and will your way through.

As I walked up to the receptionist’s desk to check in, I noticed a sign that read, “Please Turn Off Your Cell Phone While in Our Office”. Are you kidding me? And rely on their magazines to pass the time? I don’t think so. I did bring a project I’m working on so I was able to kill some time crocheting like the little old lady I secretly am.

Once called back I kicked off my shoes and reluctantly jumped on the scale. Nuts. Even without the shoes I weighed more than I thought. On that happy note I was shown to a room, asked a few routine questions, then left to disrobe.

I hate this part. It’s never warm enough in the little room, the magazines aren’t within reach and they’re lame (this time my selection included Conceive, Web MD, and Ebony), and the wait seems interminable. I decided it was just too weird to sit half naked crocheting so I fished my phone out of my purse and played with the Shazam application, tagging the songs assaulting my second sense. I remember Dr. Dre and Ace of Base but the rest were all just as offensive.

(Truth be told, none of it could hold a candle to the Kenny G I was forced to listen to while waiting on hold with K12 Saturday night. Completely inexcusable and it will result in a (most likely) unheeded complaint.)

So, thirty long minutes later there’s finally a knock on the door and the nurse walks in. Inane pleasantries are exchanged, she pulls out the stirrups, and gets down to business. I stare at the poster of pink bougainvillea and happy blue sky on the ceiling and imagine myself somewhere else, decidedly more vertical.

Then it’s over for another six months. Yes, six months. Lucky me.

As a side note, I came home to another classic Josh catastrophe. The older two made the mistake of letting him use the bathroom with the door closed. We’ve already learned that Josh hasn’t earned bathroom privacy but they hate to have the door open when he’s in there. When they went to check on him he told them to go away. The smell told them they’d better not and they opened the door to see he’d dumped out several bottles of nail polish in multiple shades of pink (for some reason I had the reds all on a higher shelf out of reach). Every day it’s a fresh mess, isn’t it?
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Only I Could Devote an Entire Post to My Hair

It’s Sunday and I actually took the time to blow dry my hair and sit in front of the mirror for a few minutes. I don’t do this much during the week; I seem to have hair elastics and clips in every room of the house to sweep it all out of my way. As I looked at my reflection I noticed that the gray is definitely on the march. I started coloring it myself a year or so ago but it just doesn’t last like a professional job. There are a few out there who’ve told me I should just let it all go but man, I’m only 39 (for a few more weeks at least) and see no call for being Drastic. Besides, if I stopped coloring it completely the end result would be very skunkesque.

My hair is big old pain the rear end. I’m thankful I have hair in general and specifically I’m thankful it’s not thin. No doubt about it, I’m thankful for those two items. The thing is, I probably have the hair of three or four people. A heartless hair stylist once told me it was like horse hair. It’s thick and unruly and left to its own devices it frizzes out like, well, I don’t know. I can’t think of a good comparison. It’s just big and frizzy. So I either pull it back or straight iron the living daylights out of it.

When I was a kid my parents had no idea what to do with this hair. It was clearly “Arnold” hair but my dad kept his short enough to not be troubled by it. Mom had beautiful straight hair down clear down her back (she always told me to be grateful mine would take a curl). Despite the crazy hair, my parents had this unnatural affinity for short hair on me.

When I was old enough to pay attention and tired enough of being mistaken for a boy, I opted to grow my hair. They always commented that it must be awfully hot under all that. It was but I stuck to my guns.

My first memories of hair products are from some time in middle school. They existed and I tried them all but none of them really made a difference. I finally resorted to ironing my hair on my mom’s ironing board. I don’t know what possessed me to try it but the results were so good (aside from the split ends) I did it all the time. I could totally fake having normal hair! Eventually I found the Holy Grail of hair devices one day at the mall. I was wandering through a beauty supply store and found myself in the aisle designated for black hair products. I found myself looking at something I’d never seen before: A flat iron.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’d never even heard of such a contraption! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

So, lots of years go by and I’ve sort of figured out the whole mousse, gel, thermal protectant, etc. deal but my hair is still confusing. The current confusion is What’s Next?

40’s coming and I have a cut and color appointment with a FABULOUS woman on Saturday (the ONLY person who’s ever cut and styled my hair in such a way that I didn’t go straight home to wash and style it all over again). What I’m trying to figure out is this: Do I keep on keeping on with the longish thing or do I try something different and go shortish? For some reason, in my mind, I’ve connected short hair and 40-something women. Do I dare go with something I can’t pull back? I’m feeling a little chicken but really it is just hair, right?
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Yard Will Just Be Full of Leaves Tomorrow

This would’ve been a gorgeous day to hike Badger. Instead we set about raking the zillions of leaves scattered about due to an alarming lack of strong winds as of late. I even did the honorable thing and raked the piles on the sidewalk in front of Mr. Malley’s house. I need all the brownie points I can get with my generous pool-owning neighbor; summer’s just around the corner. Sort of. Well, not at all but memories of that sticky hot summer are seared into my brain.

How is it that raking (and raking and raking, and raking) has me digging out the Icy Hot? Hiking Badger doesn’t even do that. There’ll be plenty more leaves in the coming weeks and months so I suppose I’ll toughen up. Great. More opportunities to enjoy Michael and Josh’s rake guitar solos.

Sierra just walked up and showed me the lyrics to “Chocolate Rain” on her phone. Great. Just when I had that stupid song out of my head. Finally. I wonder what it is about it that gives it such brain-sticking power? But, like David was saying earlier, “Male Prima Donna” is just as tenacious. Michael’s been playing it pretty regularly and it’s taken a song as hideous as “Chocolate Rain” to dislodge it from my addled mind.

The last funny phone-related thing Sierra showed me was a message she received yesterday. It was from a man who thought he was calling a guy with an ad in the Giant Nickle. He wanted to let him know that he has a ’69 but it’s a coupe, not a fast back. Actually that isn't a bit funny but we still laughed. We debated calling him back but decided against it. The last time that happened a woman called letting her know she and the ladies would be meeting at Denny’s for mai tais. Doesn’t that sound like a high-class meeting of the minds? We had fun with that one for weeks!

Oh, speaking of Sierra’s phone, here’s something to keep an eye out for: Yesterday Michael was going over our bill and found some third party charges to Sierra’s phone. He called AT&T and found out that some company sent her text messages. If a person doesn’t reply with the word “Stop”, they will begin billing you. She had two monthly subscription charges for $9.99 each! Our account will be credited but it makes me wonder how often these things go undetected. Man, people can be such jerks. Lucky I have so many folks in my life that let me know every day that maybe most people aren’t.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Savor the Flavor

Another night checking in later than typical and tonight I’m writing only because I always write. I am sleepy.

Today is a Hanford Friday off and Michael was looking forward to maybe sleeping in a little and getting some things done around here. By “around here” I don’t mean the house or yard or anything domestic like that but there’s always something in desperate need of doing. Whether it’s bills, his app, church phone calls, or other stuff from work, there’s always something. We stayed up late last night and in the end he had to spend all day and a lot of the evening at work. Some sort of deadline. I wish I knew more about what he does but asking doesn’t help much. He always loses me at Safety Significant and The Inanimate Carbon Rod.

I need Nuclear Engineering for Dummies.

So anyway, this stuff happens. When you’re salaried you work as much as they want you to, without additional compensation, even on your day off. And then you get down on your knees and thank the Lord above that you have a salary. I don’t want to sound like a total whiner (it’s not like I was working) but I definitely am.

Savor the Flavor started today and I volunteered us to work at it from 4-9 p.m. When I said we’d do it I was told we’d be wandering around helping out workers who needed to take breaks here and there. It sounded like a nice way to spend a few hours together and taste some great local food. Unfortunately Michael didn’t make it home before I had to leave. I showed up solo and was told there was a change of plans. I was sent to the box office and there I sat selling tickets and explaining the event until Michael arrived around 8 p.m. I was kind of disappointed because I wasn’t able to see Melissa d’Arabian’s presentation but I did get to meet her before it started. I had no idea I was speaking to someone of any celebrity caliber at the time but with a basic cable subscription I think I can be forgiven.

I guess the time went by pretty fast but I was so hungry for all the delicious food I was smelling. A young girl volunteering kept approaching the guy I was working with and asking if he’d like her to get him some food. And he kept saying yes. And he kept eating it in front of me!

The highlight of my evening up the point of actually EATING the food was when a member of the Benton-Franklin Sheriff’s Pose came up and asked if we could move a mirror. It was tilted at such an angle that the young girl playing the piano and singing gospel tunes was giving the audience a unintentional free show. Goodness!

Once Michael arrived we went around sampling. I had a fried oyster, a chocolate gorgonzola truffle, a pork carnitas taco, brisket and baked beans, cannoli, chicken paht thai, and a weird carrot cake with cranberries in it. How is it possible that I’m still hungry?
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oops, I Did It Again

Kind of a late start. We went to the Reflections award ceremony tonight because Michael Jr. entered the watercolor of the deer. He was disappointed to receive an honorable mention but it’s enough to get him to the city-wide competition so who knows.

This was One of Those Days and it just didn’t seem to slow down enough for me to sneak off and write. I get my Facebook fix by keeping my laptop open to it wherever I happened to be located but as far as accomplishing anything computer/writing related, well, NO.

I did accomplish this HUGE task during the first part of the day. I cleaned and organized my desk and shelves as well as the top of the armoire in our bedroom. That last part sounds like a snap but you cannot imagine (or maybe you can) how high the Stuff was piled there. After it was all said and done I ended up with a box of things for Michael to make decisions about (the box in its entirety will eventually be taped up and stored in the garage, waiting for our kids to haul it to Goodwill when we die). This was the weirdest sort out I’ve ever done. The actual real estate this bit of chaos occupied was small but it took HOURS.

Why the sudden need for organization?

Well my dears, it’s like this: I pulled the oldest two out of middle school and enrolled them in Washington Virtual Academy, an online public school.

That’s right, I’m homeschooling again. That ought to light up the lines.

It’s something that’s been on my mind for a long time but I’ve said no each time the kids asked. I simply didn’t feel like taking it on. And then a few weeks ago something just snapped in my tiny brain and I decided their arguments for it were legitimate. The thing is, my job is Mom. I really do need to evaluate their needs and fill them (or teach them to fill them for themselves) as best I can with a whole lot less thought about convenience. It’s not like I’ve got them for a heck of a lot longer.

So anyway, the two of them feel like a lot of time is wasted in and out of class, they don’t want to be around the foul language or age-inappropriate opposite sex behavior, and they want to work ahead in certain subjects. It seemed reasonable and because they’re both very early risers (between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.), they can get an early start on their work and have some free time while the sun shines. Also, they’re good students so I won’t have to sit next to them all day and crack the whip. Probably. It all sounds pretty good on paper (or a glowing screen) but I know it won’t be easy (for me). It will require me to adopt a schedule as well as help the kids put schedules together for themselves.

That ought to be interesting.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Have you heard this one? It’s Veteran’s Day and a veteran wakes up at the crack of dawn, fries up some bacon for his breakfast and washes a sink full of dishes no one (namely the little woman) quite managed the night before. Off to work he goes while his family is left to rouse when the mood strikes.

Sadly, this is not a joke.

I was feeling rotten about it all morning and decided we should make a special dinner for Michael. While Sierra was making banana chip muffins I asked her if she had any ideas. She held up a can of Pam she was using to spray the muffin tins and said, “This looks good”. The label showed grilled chicken and a variety of steamed vegetables. It looked healthy, I’ll give it that much. She said she was willing to make it but, darn it, we don’t have any broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots, or red peppers. Too bad.

I still had a trip to Albertson to make (buy one Sarah Lee pie for $6.39 and get another pie and two cartons of Breyers ice cream free—run, don’t walk!) so no excuses, vegetables would be on hand. I even made a pumpkin pie with Splenda so maybe the brownie points from that will offset some of the earlier lameness of the day.

Now if I could just stay awake.

I woke up earlier than I had to but clearly not early enough to be of any service. I decided I would do this awful job I’ve been putting off for a long time: Cleaning out the three drawers of the table in the foyer. Yeah, I called it a foyer. Anyway, they’re always jam packed with flashlights in various states of disassembly (thanks Josh), packs of Trident (thanks Dad) and tons of gum wrappers (thanks again Josh), movie stubs, sunglasses (oh so many pairs), utility bills (for trips to the dump), bottles and bottles of hand sanitizer, tons of key chains (I think one of the older kids must’ve removed all their souvenirs from a backpack), receipts, several Rubik’s Cubes (if you’re surprised, we haven’t met), and all the miscellaneous junk we’re sure we’ll need as we walk out the door. It was definitely rewarding; I found all the keys to all the previously useless bike locks, several children’s library and bank cards, as well as my pepper spray. Having unaccountably averted a total disaster, it’s now out of Josh’s reach.

Well, this post is about as relevant to Veteran’s Day as all those sales I keep hearing about. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the men and women who fight that uphill battle to preserve our freedoms (those we still have) and make it possible for me to freely express myself as I do. I’m thankful for a husband worthy of the important role he’s played in our country’s defense. Not that I’ll ever know anything about it. He’d have to kill me first.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

PTA Princess

My name is Tiffany Quintana and I am not a PTA Princess.

This morning I looked through Kenny’s school folder and found a bulky envelope addressed to me (yes, I do that in the morning instead of the night before. Believe it or not, this routine act of laziness has only occasionally backfired on me). Inside was a NestlĂ© Crunch bar with a pink bit of paper glued to the wrapper. Decorated with a bejeweled (literally) crown, it stated, “I am a PTA Princess”.

Is this a national campaign? Or did our locals dream it up? My eternally optimistic, ever-smiling friend Wendy Christensen even dressed as a PTA Princess at Back to School night in September. Hilarious!

So back to the chocolate bar. This was a little late in coming because I was a little late in paying up and joining the PTA. Last week I found the envelope in my purse with the check for it. The check I meant to drop off weeks and weeks ago. But even this is timely for me; I haven’t paid my dues and been a part of PTA in years.

BAD! Bad, bad, bad, bad! Right?

Truth be told, even when I was a member of the PTA I did almost nothing. Almost. I never went to any meetings and my wonderful friend Kerrilynn Robinson, current PTA President and past, present, and future over-achiever, would always appoint me to jobs that were essentially zero work. Like being the parent in charge of the Science Fair. Sounds like a big deal except THE TEACHERS are in charge of the Science Fair. My job was only to be the contact person if the teachers needed any help from the PTA. And they almost never did. I think once I picked up ribbons for the winners. Ta-dah!

Does any of this surprise you? I think a lot of people are quite deceived about me, either believing I’m much more or far less involved and capable than I actually am.

There are women I see every time I’m at school and I know they’re putting in the hours of at least a part time job. I look at them and wonder how they have so much time. I can barely keep up with the laundry and cleaning in the hours I have. I guess when Josh is in school there will be more time but I’m not so sure, even then, that you’d find me spending a lot of time at Jason Lee Elementary School.

My goodness that sounds AWFUL doesn’t it? As if my child’s education means nothing to me. Good grief, enough naval gazing for one afternoon.
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Monday, November 9, 2009

Just Add It To My To Do List

Michael has this beef with me and I’d say it’s somewhere around 90-150% legitimate. It goes something like this: He comes home from work and all I do is complain about what certain children have done, what I have NOT done, and what I have left to do. That I am finished by the time he walks through the door.

Guilty as charged. That window of time between 4 and 6 p.m. just kicks my butt. I call it “The Witching Hour”, my friend Camilla calls it “Suicide Hour”, whatever you call it, it brings out the best in NO ONE. Younger children are winding down (especially if they’re beyond an age where they take naps). And getting Hungry, older kids who’ve already done their time in school can be frustrated at the prospect of hitting the books. And me, well, I’m looking down the barrel of another night full of meal prep, clean up, and all the little things that come with bedtime. Sierra still likes me to read Anne of Green Gables to her (though she reads ahead on her phone) and often I don’t start writing until the evening. The busiest time of the day seems to be when I have the least amount of energy.

(Not to say that I’m doing this alone. Michael helps with dinner, dishes, and clean up all the time. He gets the boys brushed, reads “Encyclopedia Brown” to them (and always knows the answers before it ends), and prays with them. It’s a huge help.)

So anyway, he gets home and what he gets, well friends, it sure isn’t my best.

Yesterday Camilla gave a great lesson in Relief Society. It was entitled “Family: The Sweetest Union for Time and Eternity” . It covered relationships between parents and children, siblings, and husbands and wives. The next two paragraphs are directly out of the lesson book (The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith). This part discusses the responsibility of the man:

“It is the duty of a husband to love, cherish, and nourish his wife, and cleave unto her and none else; he ought to honor her as himself, and he ought to regard her feelings with tenderness, for she is his flesh, and his bone, designed to be an help unto him, both in temporal, and spiritual things; one into whose bosom he can pour all his complaints without reserve, who is willing (being designed) to take part of his burden, to soothe and encourage his feelings by her gentle voice.

“It is the place of the man, to stand at the head of his family, … not to rule over his wife as a tyrant, neither as one who is fearful or jealous that his wife will get out of her place, and prevent him from exercising his authority. It is his duty to be a man of God (for a man of God is a man of wisdom,) ready at all times to obtain from the scriptures, the revelations, and from on high, such instructions as are necessary for the edification, and salvation of his household.”

Sounds awfully nice. Next she read this about the woman’s role:

At a meeting of Relief Society sisters, Joseph Smith said: “You need not be teasing your husbands because of their deeds, but let the weight of your innocence, kindness and affection be felt, which is more mighty than a millstone hung about the neck; not war, not jangle [quarreling], not contradiction, or dispute, but meekness, love, purity—these are the things that should magnify you in the eyes of all good men "…

When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness. … When you go home, never give a cross or unkind word to your husbands, but let kindness, charity and love crown your works henceforward.”

Okay. That’s a lot to work on. We had a good discussion about how nice it would be if we could dig down deep and find the strength to put that smile on when our husbands come home. To go the extra mile and really try to have a meal ready. To do our best to make the dinner hour as pleasant as possible. It’s not only a gift to our husbands but to our kids as well. It can leave them with happy memories for a lifetime.

One older lady told us how much she admires the men with young families these days. They help cook, take care of the children, etc. When she was raising her kids she also had a full time job but she did all the cooking and her husband never changed a diaper. It just wasn’t considered a man’s job.

It got me thinking about my Grandma’s journal that I’ve spent a good deal transcribing. Life was WORK. Granted, it was work most folks did together (thus avoiding so much of the suburban isolation we have today, notwithstanding the advent of Facebook) but it was work. At least in the agrarian lifestyle that was so common, men worked long, hard hours a good portion of the year. Work so rough they kept the patching basket full constantly. My Grandma often mentioned that she spent hours patching the boys’ and men’s clothing. On the one day that she finally caught up with the mending pile, her excitement was palpable. The jobs the women did required long hours and were often difficult as well; it was just different work. It was easy for men and women to see and appreciate how much the other did. Also, the division of labor was not anything that was set in stone. In the summer the women and men worked together to bring in crops and in the fall whole families would come together for butchering. In the winter when there wasn’t so much for the boys to do, my uncles were made to join in with the cleaning and baking alongside the girls.

Today we don’t so much need to divide up the labor. There isn’t women’s work and men’s work; just work that needs doing. And because we don’t see each other all day it’s easy to imagine the other either laughing and having fun with co-workers or sitting on the couch eating bon bons (still don’t know what those are) and watching soaps (proudly, I am soap-sober 11 years next month). At least in my own life, neither of those scenarios is anywhere close to reality.

In fact, I know for certain that my husband has a job with work enough for several people. A job that is very, very stressful. I imagine he’d appreciate coming home to a place that would help him forget about it for a few hours. I mean this is supposed to be my partner in life, right? I could do at least that much. Thanks Camilla; I needed that cold bucket of water over my head;).
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Night

I should be in the basement but I haven't yet built up the intestinal fortitude to face the devastation. Yesterday while I wasn't in the basement, Josh was. As the older kids were basking in the warm glow of the computer screen, absorbed in the game "Spore", he was dumping out board games. So many board games. I'm sorely tempted to dump the whole mess in a garbage bag. None of these games have been played either ever or in years. If you've ever dealt with older kids trying to play a game while fending off a younger, fundamentally destructive sibling, you may understand why.

So I'm hiding out, avoiding. If I was really smart I'd just cut and paste the talk I gave this morning and face it head on. But you know me.

Three of the four talks at church today were about tithing (the other was about fast offerings) and all three of us quoted Malachi 3:10:

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you a windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

That's sort of the go-to scripture for this topic. Only a youth speaker mentioned The Widow's Mite and, not surprisingly, only my husband mentioned Smoots.

(His father lives 210.16 Smoots from the Fresno Temple. And one ear.)

I think it went alright but I never, ever prepare enough to speak extemporaneously and for that I'm bummed. I think it would be great to get up and be so well-versed in what I want to say that I would only need a brief outline. So eloquent that my words easily prompted the congregation to repentance and a fresh start. But guess what? (like you don't already know) I'm super-fallible and marginally articulate and these talk assignments are guided by the Spirit and given to those who need them more than most.

Following that logic, I ought to be giving talks every week.

(Do Not tell Geoff Simm)

What else could I tell you? Tonight I was listening some-what patiently (read: not at all) to one of my children complain about the behavior of a sibling. I responded with, "Forgive them; for they know not what they do". I just assumed the referrence was plain. Not so much. This child turned and said with disgust, "Mom! You sound like Yoda!". Yes folks, I've got my work cut out for me.

Tonight Sierra made an apple pie and it's all gooey and pecany and sticky sweet Fabulous. I'd really like to eat it in it's entirety but in all things Sugar I've become a conscientious objector and (aside from a sweet stolen pecan or two) have only inhaled. Yes, I inhaled. Oh. My. Gosh.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ain't No Mountain High Enough . . . Maybe

I was surprised to wake up to a sunny morning today. It was supposed to be rainy.

(And it is right now--in the immortal words of Eddie Rabbitt, "I love a rainy night".)

I told Camilla we'd hike Badger today because she couldn't do it last Saturday. Last night after the Craft Show at TRAC, Michael and I were walking to our van, and I was wearing my coat AND his. Shivering. In the distance I could see the red light on whatever that metal towery thing-a-ma-jig is on top and my heart sunk. It looked awfully high up from where I was standing. And cold too.

Aren't I a wimp?

Yes, yes I am. And slightly nuts to bring a friend with much longer legs and lung capacity than myself! I was huffing and puffing but Camilla marched right ahead and didn't even make fun of me for stopping to wait for Michael Jr. Like that was the reason I was stopping . . .

At the top we decided that what we really need to do next time is pack a cape for a Super Hero photo shoot. We didn't discuss tights or unitards; I'll leave that for someone else. Nikki? I think it would make an AWESOME jumpy picture!

On the way down we talked about movies and it's the same discussion Michael and I have had several times before. Specifically we were talking about the latest Transformers movie that was released on DVD but it goes for movies in general. The kids wanted to see it because, well, Obviously. It's Transformers. But then there's the panty-clad Decepticon girl with the robotic tongue and just ask Sam, that's not appropriate. We talked about movie ratings. About how "PG" has come to mean "Kids", "PG-13" means "Adam Sandler/Potty Humor", and "R" means Adult. Both of us avoid "R" rated movies and we're left with the feeling that there just aren't a lot of movies out there for grown folks like us. I think an "R" rating is probably actively pursued in order to get that adult audience. It would be nice if there was a rating that meant "Adult" but not "Cinemax Adult". Just saying. We bought ClearPlay DVD players but haven't used them much. I guess that's the option we're left with for now.

Tomorrow Michael and I are giving talks in church about tithing. I wrote my talk a few days ago (completely unprecedented preparedness) but wonder how it sounds. I was trying so hard to make it not sound like my blog that it'll probably come off like an encyclopedia excerpt. Oh well, as far as I know Geof Simm doesn't have that trap door set up under the pulpit (yet) so I'll survive.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

To Rake or Not to Rake, That is the Question

See that not-entirely small house dwarfed by two mega-sycamores? I live in that house and I imagine that would be an awful lot of leaves to rake if they all fell in my yard. In these photos you can also see we have two almost-bare maples (and a dying birch, being slowing murdered by The Bronze Birch Borer) and their leaves miraculously disappeared sometime between last night and this afternoon. Gale force winds blew them Somewhere. I'm not entirely convinced they ALL go down Kimball Avenue to visit the neighbors on our block but Mr. Malley next door puts up a chicken wire fence between our yards each fall just in case.

The top middle photo shows the confluence of Kimball Avenue and Williams Boulevard; our corner. It's great to have that huge grassy area across from us but when the leaves fly off the trees that occupy it, they come tearing down Williams and I have literally seen them turn down Kimball. On a windy day it would appear that there's a leaf magnet at the end of the block. It's crazy.

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the effort to attempt some control of these things. The kids love jumping in them and as they seem to collect nicely on Mr. Malley's portion of the sidewalk, I don't even need to rake them in a pile. I raked up a few blue tarps worth yesterday afternoon but it barely made a dent in what we had laying around. They're mostly all gone now but I guess you can't always count on the wind to do your job.

I remember the first autumn after we bought this house. Busy, busy, busy and never raked enough to keep up with tide of leaves. On Christmas Eve my dad pulled out the blue tarp and rakes and it took us an hour or two to take care of it all. I'd never seen anyone use a tarp to collect leaves before; we didn't have many leaves do deal with when I was a kid so we never had to employ such professional tactics. I say "we" but that would've been Mom. Anyway, the next fall was so windy we never had ocassion to rake anything but the flower beds. You just never know around here.

The sycamores out front take their own sweet time with the whole leaf-losing business. They lose branches and bark and those weird little balls. Eventually their leather-like leaves, too. Last spring we unearthed a pile of these left from years of deposits in the backyard and this archeological dig showed that even after a few years these awful leaves would not totally break down. As much as I hate dealing with them, I wouldn't trade their shade for the alternative. Also, Krista further up the block has to deal with magnolia leaves from her neighbor's yard so I probably shouldn't complain.

The family who lived here before us where known up and down the street for raking their leaves straight onto the sidewalk and letting the vortex of the 1300 block do their dirty work. It's a thought but I guess I like these folks way too much to try a trick like that.
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