Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Twins Separated At Birth





Look closely. The monkey in the top picture is Curious George. You may know him from the beloved children's books and more recently the Curious George movie and the hit TV show on PBS. He is known for getting into trouble and looking adorable.



The eerily similar monkey in the above photo is my very own Baby. I am considering have her name legally changed to George. She loves climbing, bananas and is also known for getting into trouble and looking adorable.


Allow me to expound.

Today I put Baby down for a nap on my bed, which usually works out best if I am putting Sister down for a nap as they do share a room and mayhem and merriment ensue if I allow them to "nap" in the same room. I believe the term is "divide and conquer". So Sister in her room, Brother in his room and Baby in my room.

I had returned to the kitchen ready to relax and enjoy my newly-created kid-free zone when Brother comes in and tells me that Baby had a dirty diaper and had taken it off in my room.

Now, when I say "dirty", I am trying to be polite. A dirty diaper is not merely wet, but...well...how shall we say?...gloppy.

Did I mention my room is very light-colored?

I hurry to the bedroom to find Baby - aka "George" - standing diaperless on the light beige carpet with the aforementioned gloppy diaper lying on said carpet precariously close to the the white bedding and an open box of baby wipes attempting to change her own diaper.

I scanned the room quickly as I know monkeys are known for doing creative things with their...ahem...gloppiness. Fortunately my monkey is slightly tame and the mess was contained to the diaper and her person. A quick bath and wardrobe change later and Baby was napping comfortably in a glop-free diaper.

Where is the man in the yellow hat when you need him?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

For any of you students out there, or any that might be contemplating returning to school, I'll let you in on a new trick I've learned. If you ever want out of taking your finals, all you have to do is arrange for an ice storm to blow through the week of finals and devestate the local trees and power lines, thus throwing your city into a virtual blackout for a solid seven days. Your school of choice will be forced to close due to lack of electricity and light - a handy thing when taking a test - and may consider cancelling your finals.


Hey, it worked for me.


Although you may want to take certain things into consideration. Say, for instance, you have a neighbor with a boat. In this case, the whole ice storm/tree devestation thing could be a bad idea.
.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bad Feet

I have Algebra on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Literature at 9:30, Algebra at 11:00. Lately I have been having a hard time making my feet take me to Algebra class. I have an argument with them about being responsible and that "it will only make things harder if we skip". I have tried telling them we only have a few weeks left. I always win, but still, they fight me.

Yesterday morning I had my usual Tuesday/Thursday morning coffee with friends, but it was made gloriously longer by the fact that my Literature class didn't meet. An extra hour and a half to basically goof off. Two friends left for class as another arrived and she and I spent some much needed time catching up at the coffee shop. She is the friend who knows me. Really, really knows me, inside and out. And if anything is bothering me, for some reason, it always comes out when I'm with her...ususally in the form of tears.

The problem is, I've been walking around on the verge of tears for days, probably even weeks. Don't ask me if I'm okay. I don't have time for the nervous breakdown I deserve. Yes, life is stressful and hard beyond reason, but there are other things. Things I'm not ready to divulge here in this forum, but things she, of course, already knows. So when she sat down next to me, just she and I, and asked me "How are you?", I wanted to sob. But with Algebra class looming in the background, I couldn't afford to open up the floodgates. At this point, there is so much dammed up, I probably couldn't get them closed again. She understands my need to hold it together and we chat about other things. Soon the dreaded hour has come and I'm having that argument with my feet again.

Me: "Just get up and go. You'll be glad you did."

Feet: "That's what you said last time."

Me: "And you were, weren't you?"

Feet: "Never. Let's go eat soup."

Me: "We can't afford to miss class. We will get behind. You won't know what you're doing next time you go."

Feet: "We don't know what we're doing anyway! How about salad? Fuji Apple Chicken salad. We haven't had that in a while since you put us on a budget."

Me: "Wow. That sounds really good. But that's so irresponsible."

Feet: "You know you want to. Here your friend sits, who you haven't had any time with lately. You could hang out for another two hours. You need a break. You need some fun. You need some salad."

I look at the time. 10:28. I would have to leave in two minutes.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

My feet win.

"I'm not going to class today," I announce resolutely.

She stares at me in shock, her eyes like saucers. "Really?!" It's more like a squeal of glee, even though she's trying to be a good friend and not influence me negatively. "I mean, are you sure?"

It is amazing, really, the peace that came with that decision. I would have expected I would feel guilty. But it is surprisingly easy to live in denial and pretend you don't have a care in the world - least of all, Algebra homework - when your feet absolutely must have salad.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Remember Me?

Have you ever had one of those friends you haven't called in a while and then you start feeling guilty about calling, so you put off calling even longer because you know they will want to know why you haven't called and when you tell them it will just sound like empty excuses so you put off calling even longer to try to avoid feeling more guilty and before you know it you decide you can never, ever speak to them again for fear of being a complete and total loser?

That would be me.

A complete and total LOOOO-ZER.

More than a month since my last post. And every time I sit down to blog I can't deal with the guilt so I avoid it altogether.


So let me just sum up in the last month in a nutshell for you.

Two words: Algebra Sucks.

I spent six...count 'em...SIX freaking hours on Algebra yesterday only to score a record-breaking 62 percent on my quiz.

I hate Algebra and I hope whoever invented it died a slow, painful death.

Just when I think I'm getting it, turns out I'm not. It's like that bi-polar friend who loves me one day and hates me the next. But the college won't let me cut her off because I have to have her for my degree.

Stupid degree.

Remind me again...why am I doing this?


Friday, September 28, 2007

Girls Night Out

"Mommy, will you play with me?"
My oldest daughter, the very undemanding child who knows how to entertain herself, asks me this at least a dozen times a day. The problem is, I don't say "yes" very often. Not because I don't want to (although, if I'm being honest, sometimes I don't want to), it just seems like there is never time. When I'm not doing homework, there's all those annoying chores.
And then there's that thing where you go to bed and close your eyes and lie very still. What is it called? Sleep?
Ugh. I never wanted to be one of those moms.
I fear she is suffering from the proverbial "Middle Child Syndrome" and I am suffering from "Chronic Maternal Guilt".
Not just guilt, but I truly want to be with her and do fun "girl" things.
So I planned a night for us, no boys or toddlers allowed. No interruptions. No "can you wait just one minute?" Just she and I. Full, undivided attention. We called it "Mommy/Daughter Date".
I secretly bought tickets to Disney on Ice's "Princess Wishes" and - hard as it was - kept it a secret.
Although Hubby let the cat out of the bag the day of, it all still worked out nicely.
She picked the restaurant for dinner, which was, lucky for me, Carrabba's, and not McDonald's.
Look at her. Is she not the sweetest thing ever?!
And just let me say (Kyle, you would be proud) the staff was so very friendly and attentive to her. They treated her like a young lady and made us feel very special. We felt as though we were the most important people in the room.
After dinner we headed to the show. She requested Van Halen and we listened to "Jump", bopping around the van and singing at the top of our lungs. Then we played a rhyming game, at which, incidentally, she is very good. She rhymed "canteloupe" and "antelope".
Am I being ridiculously biased, or is that a great rhyme?
And then we arrived (after 45 minutes of looking for a parking spot). She literally had me by the hand, dragging me as fast as her legs could go.
We were NOT disappointed. It was a spectacular show. At one point, the dragon from Sleeping Beauty actually breathed fire onto the ice and THE ICE WAS ON FIRE.
Awesome.
But the best part? My little girl was constantly hugging me and holding my hand. If I took my arm from around her to take a picture, she quickly put it back. I didn't have to stop to change a diaper or unload the dishwasher. I didn't have to think about anything but her.
On the way home I told her how much fun I had just being with her. And she said, "We should do this more often."
I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday

Got bows?

Since I have two girls (and a serious addiction to making bows) we have...a few.

Okay, 114. But who's counting?

While I realize most people probably don't have quite that many, this is still a good idea for storing them.

I painted a picture frame, without the glass or the back, and attached strips of ribbon (which you can't see in the picture) with a heavy duty stapler. I clip the bows to ribbon and VOILE! A handy bow holder. Then hang it on your wall and it also serves as frilly, girly wall art.

Of course it will probably only hold 25-30 bows. Ahem. Which is probably just right for normal, rational people.

Celebrate!

It's official.

I'm old.

Today Hubby and I have been married fifteen years. FIFTEEN YEARS???!!!!! It can't be.

Fifteen years ago today I was a child. A month away from 19 years old. And I got married.

Luckily, to the world's most patient man.

Fifteen years and I have no gift. I've racked my brain for months, but how do I buy a gift for fifteen years? What do you give someone who has devoted fifteen years of their life to you?

A sweater?

Fifteen years ago I went shopping with my aunt, who was celebrating her own wedding anniversary. It was their twenty-third. We went to Hallmark and bought a card. That's it. And I remember her saying, "When you've been married as long as we have, it's just another day." That was a horrific thing to say to a newlywed.

Perhaps that's what happens when you've been married twenty-three years. But for me, today, it is NOT just another day. In a society where marriages are made and broken like cheap toys on an assembly line in China, I recognize the significance of another year we have kept our promise.

And we still like each other.

Actually, it's LU-UV. I love him now more than ever. Love in a way I never knew existed.

Do I need a gift? Nothing seems appropriate.

Unless I could find a 1963 Chevy Impala like the one he sold nine years ago so we could buy our house. For free. Anybody have one of those lying around?

Well, maybe this is one of those instances where the thought really does count.

The odds were against us. This could have been a disaster. At times, it nearly was.

But here we are.

And here we'll be for another fifteen...and more.

Happy Anniversary, Honey. Here's the rest of my life.

Sorry it's not wrapped.

Saturday, September 22, 2007



You'll be happy to know The Very Hungry Caterpillar is alive and well. We caught him Thursday.

Have you ever seen anything like it??!!

Baby brought it to me, proud as punch and oh, so fascinated. Of course, I have to admit. I was pretty fascinated, too. It was HUGE.

And all I could think was, "Please don't squeeze it. Please don't squeeze it."

Can you imagine the mess that monster would make?

But she released him onto the trunk of a tree, where he went on to eat his way through one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, five oranges and various junk foods.

After that he probably made some hungry bird very happy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bedtime. Bah Humbug.

I'm going to buy my children new beds.

Hospital beds. With restraints.

Wonder if they make those in bunk beds?

Bedtime is going to be the death of me. Or them.

I have this idea that bedtime should be a time to unwind. A calm relaxing time, where everyone speaks in hushed tones and we read soothing stories and snuggle then everyone shuffles sleepily to their respective beds, where I kiss them, tell them I love them and drift peacefully off to sleep.

Instead bedtime is this:
"Brother, get dressed for bed. Sister, brush your teeth. Baby, bring Mommy a diaper. Sister, did you take your medicine? Brother, get dressed for bed. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Diaper. Teeth. Dressed. NOW. BRUSH YOUR TEETH. DID YOU HEAR ME??!! I SAID GET DRESSED!!! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY IT??!! WHERE'S THE DIAPER???!!! NO STORY!!! NO KISSES!!! GO TO BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDD!!!!"

Then once they are finally in bed, Baby gets up at least a gajillion trillion times telling me she has a dirty diaper (she doesn't) or her Dora doll needs to be dressed (she doesn't) or the sky is falling (it isn't).

Please tell me your bedtime looks like this, too.

And tell me this - Why do my children bicker and/or ignore each other all day and suddenly, between baths and bed they are bosom buddies, frolicking and hanging from the ceiling together as if it were the most natural thing for them to be enjoying one another's company so completely?

Bedtime? What is that? Look, Mommy Dear! We love each other! We are adorable! You can't possibly think about bedtime now!

Uh, yeah. Watch me.

So, the beds. I'm thinkin' it's the best idea I've had all year.

And if the restraints don't work on the kids. I'll use them.

To hang myself.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Braggin' A Bit







Everybody thinks their children are beautiful. And I am no different.
But seriously, look at these pictures!
A friend of mine took these while the kids played at the park last week. He gave me a CD with about 80 gorgeous pictures. Wish you could see them all.
Thanks, Chad. You are a very gifted artist.
And of course, the subject matter isn't bad either.

A Story In The Making

Sunday in church the conversation centered around stories. Everybody has one. Everybody came from one. Everybody is still writing their own. Unfortunately, nobody gets to pick the story from which they came.


And then we were all asked to think about our own story.


Easier said than done.


I've been trying to get away from those beginning chapters and pretend my story starts in the middle. If I reread the beginning and bring it all to light, then there is some responsibility on my part to deal with it.


And I don't want to deal with it.


I'd rather be silly, crack jokes and hide behind humor and sarcasm, because then it will look as though I'm really okay.


But I wasn't in that room by accident on Sunday and I'm just going to say, I'm not okay.




My dad was not an affectionate man. He was gruff and abrupt. That's not to say he wasn't a nice guy. He could be very funny and approachable with most people. Just not with his children. He was critical, and found it difficult to say the encouraging, even the loving words. My entire life I wrestled with feeling valued and loved by him. This is not to say that he never had his moments. I do have a few very precious memories, but they are so small in comparison to the overall feeling that my father just doesn't have any desire to have a relationship with me.




The most recent blow came when the kids and I made a trip to see he and my mom one weekend. He holds his arms out wide to my children and is so happy to see them. And truly, whatever he lacked as a father, he makes up for as a grandfather. But when I tried to hug him he never even responded. His arms hung at his sides. And no matter how I try to rationalize or deny it, it hurt like hell.



Why am I blogging about this for the whole world to see? I've struggled with it all week. I've gone back and forth about posting it. It seems weak and whiney. But it is chasing me. Maybe this is the first step to turning and facing it. My dad crippled me in some ways. I don't hate him for it. I don't even blame him for it. But all I want in life at this moment is to move past it and have some resolution and to stop feeling like that needy little girl waiting for him to notice.



That's my story, in a nutshell.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I was just giving my girls a bath and gave them the neato little plastic measuring medicine spoons full of their allergy medicine, as allergy season is wreaking havoc upon us all. The medicine is a funky purple/gray color, but must taste yummy because they get all excited when I get it out. So I give Sister hers first and she downs it, leaving a little smudge of purple/gray schmootz on the tip of her adorable turned up nose.

Next Baby takes hers and follows suit. Just as she finishes, she glances over and sees Sister's nose. She then takes the spoon and rubs it on the tip of her nose.

Then she hands it to me.

All done.

The Non-Monday Blues

It's not Monday, but it sure feels like it.



We play this really fun game in our family. It's called Automobile Russian Roulette. Because we are students living on one income, we are not in the position to make car payments. Instead, we buy and sell used vehicles every few months in the hopes that we will one day end up with a keeper.



Oh so fun.



Not.



Just last week we traveled a couple of hundred miles to get a Honda Odyssey. A really sweet deal.



Love it.



However, Friday night on our way home from a birthday party, the wheel bearing broke. And we had to have it towed to our mechanic, who was, of course, closed for the holiday weekend. So we left it there for them to discover this morning and, hopefully, repair today.



So we are down to one car. One very old, very large Lincoln Town car, belonging to my husband. It is like steering an ocean liner. Had it not belonged to his father, it would have been long gone, but we keep resuscitating the poor beast. Joy of joys, I get to drive it to school today.



Allow me to switch gears and tell you about my Tuesday and Thursday morning ritual. I meet a couple of friends for coffee at 8 a.m.-ish and we chat until I have to leave for class at 9 to get there at 9:30. It's a very short little burst of socializing to get me through till my next fix. Not to mention the butt-kicking caffeine shot.



This morning I'm feeling way behind and dog-tired and my head is heavy and allergy-laden. I have so much homework and I only got about 3/4 of the way through it. My Brit Lit assignment was reading "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", translated from the Old English, but still pretty wordy and quite long at 50-some pages. I have about 14 left to go.



Now, I actually like Sir Gawain and have enjoyed the story itself immensely. But that nagging little troll called Time has been elbowing me in the ribs and reminding me I will never get through it in time for class, not to mention the mind-numbing, excruciatingly painful Algebra homework weighing on me like a ton of bricks. And, oh yeah, those other two classes I'm taking.



But that's another post altogether.

I'm really very sad that I haven't finished Sir Gawain. I sincerely want to and I feel cheated.



I get to my coffee appointment around 10 after 8, and I'm grumbling about those precious 10 minutes I lose with my homies, but glad to sit and chat with them and a cup of super strong coffee and pretend like I'm going to read 14 pages of Old English poetry in the next 50 minutes.



I have about 20 minutes left of my morning solace when I realize my husband has been trying call me and I've missed him. 3 times. I call him back only to find he has forgotten to leave the key for the mechanic and needs me to take it by.



Right then.



I have to leave my friends and my cup half full and drive all the way back to the mechanic's shop which is by my house about 10 minutes away, the opposite direction of my class. However, I should have just enough time.



But I'm not happy.



So, off I go, to be a responsible adult and do what has to be done, begrudgingly, all the while trying to cheer myself up by telling myself what a good wife I was for not whining and complaining to my husband or berating him for forgetting the key, even though I really wanted to. I arrive to find two other men waiting in front of the shop for them to open. One is a very friendly, little elderly man, who greets me with a warm "Good Morning!" I return it and think to myself how very sweet he is and how he actually made me feel better with his smile. I place the Honda keys in the key drop and head back to the Beast.

I get in.

I turn the key.

The Beast is dead.

This can not be happening.

I try again.

Nothing.

I remember that we had a little problem like this earlier and my husband showed me a neat little trick under the hood to rectify it. I pop the hood and try the trick.

It doesn't work.

The sweet, little man comes to me to try to help, but he cannot. I call my husband and tell him the good news, even though I know he can't do anything because he his home with the kids, without a car. But I need him to be the voice of reason before I have a nervous breakdown right there in the parking lot and ruin this sweet, little man's day.

He walks me through a couple of other tricks, but alas, nothing works. He talks to me calmly and helps me understand that being late to class in this case is not equivalent to murder and it will not throw the universe into a catastrophic state of supernova proportions.

I am frantically searching my book bag for my syllabus with my instructor's number to alert her to my situation. I do not want to be lumped in with the slackers who can't drag their hungover selves out of bed for class.

I know this would not be the case, but one must remember I am not thinking rationally.

Just in the nick of time, Ward, our mechanic, saunters up to unlock and sweet, little elderly gentlemen tells him of my situation and he comes over to take a look.

He uses that trick. You know, the one I tried?

And it works.

Apparently I needed the car in park, not neutral, in order to perform the trick successfully.

I thank him and my elderly friend quickly, but sincerely, and speed away to try and make the half hour trek in 18 minutes.

Hubby finds my instructor's number online and I call her from the car. Of course, she doesn't answer, but I leave a very apologetic voice mail and decide I've done all I can do. I will go to class late and homework incomplete. I will face the music. I will survive.

But I still drive fast.

And I still want to cry.

Several times I blink back the tears and wish I could start this semester over. I feel overwhelmed and disorganized. Instead of having certain blocks of time I can devote to school, I feel as though I've been forced to squeeze in a little here and there between the cracks and I HATE it. It has to even out. The madness has to stop.

I call a friend I left at the coffee shop and tell her what has happened and ask her to say a prayer for me.

If I can make it through the day without crying, it will be a miracle.

And miracles do happen, as I made it to school with about 30 seconds to spare, but not a minute late. I breathe a little easier and rush to class, only to find the door locked and the light out.

And a little sign posted:

"Brit Lit II NO CLASS TUESDAY, SEPT 4
Labor Day Holiday"

I thought I might actually collapse with relief.

So I have an hour and a half before my next class. Time to do homework. Time to blog.

And what makes me most happy?

Time to finish Sir Gawain properly, without being rushed.

I'm such a nerd.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Too Good To Be True

I am not what you would call "well-versed in the fine art of potty training". I am potty-phobic. Potty illiterate. Deficient in potty training skills.

All of the above.

My first two potty training experiences were nightmares. I started Brother a couple of months after he turned two. He finally got it at about age 3. I waited until sister was well over three. She finally got it at 4 1/2. It was a full excruciating, frustrating year for each.

And all those moms that told me how they potty trained their children in a week, a weekend or even a day?


I wanted to hurt them.


Seriously. Hurt. Them.


If you are one of those moms, save the success story. I don't wanna hear it.


So this last time around, with Baby, I've said I was waiting until she was five. Until her curiosity was so piqued she was begging me to let her use the potty. I mean, I homeschool. I could TOTALLY get away with it.


However, she has been asking me to sit on the potty lately and being the sweet mommy I am, I have indulged her. In fact, on one occasion, I had to pry her from the seat kicking and screaming so I could put her to bed.


She is nowhere near five...not even three. We are NOT potty training.


So today, I saw her assume the position. You know...the squat, followed by the quiet, intense stare of focus and concentration. I left her alone to do her business and returned a few minutes later to do mine.

"You poo poo?" I asked, grabbing a diaper and the wipes.


"Uh, huh," she answered. But when I checked the diaper, it was clean. Nothing there.


"Baby, do you need to poo poo?" I asked again.


"Yeah, on the potty!" she exclaimed and ran full throttle to the bathroom. I followed and allowed her to put the Blue's Clue's potty ring onto the toilet seat, take off her diaper and climb aboard, as though she were an old pro. Sister sees her and, feeling it is her duty to impart all her worldly wisdom of five years unto her little sister, asks if she can bring her books.

"Bahbie!" says Baby. (Translation: Barbie.)


Sister brought her a Barbie book and a Sleeping Beauty book and brought over the stepstool next to the sink for Baby's feet. She told Baby what a big girl she was and I tore myself away from the heartwrenchingly precious scene to avoid the pressure...

On me.


I'm feeling a bit nervous. I know this is a pivotal moment. I know she is practically saying, "Mommy, please teach me!" Could it be that I actually have one of those fabled children who practically potty train themselves? I don't wanna mess it up. It's my last chance for redemption.

I return to find Baby hard at work. I sit on the bathtub beside her and watch. A few seconds later, we have success, and Baby looks to me with her face so small and beautiful and expectant, radiant with accomplishment.

I want to cry.

"Baby, you poo pooed in the potty!" I squeal, in a voice about three octaves higher than normal. She smiles proudly and Sister, hearing the merrymaking, joins the celebration. We clap. We dance. We hug and squeal some more.

"I do more!!" Baby announces resolutely and resumes her station.

We wait in silence.

Then comes the telltale "plop".

Again with the dancing. There's a party in the potty.

Just before bedtime, as I was changing Baby into her pajamas, I asked if she'd like to go potty again. She jumps up and runs to the bathroom, as though I've just handed her the keys to the candy shop.

More success.

How do I feel? Shocked. Elated.

So so proud.

Of her.

Maybe tomorrow we'll break out the underpants.

Knock on wood.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I have this light colored comforter on my bed.

I thought it was ivory.

I washed it today.

Turns out it's white.

Huh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Finding Family

It's back to school for me and Algebra is as mind numbing as ever, even on the Intermediate level.

However, I am taking a Dynamics of Family Relationships class that is proving to very interesting indeed.

Chapter One: What Defines A Family?

As you might guess, the definition of a family is very broad and is not neccessarily limited to mom, dad and 2.5 kids. Everyone in the class is pretty much on the same page with this view.

However, our instructor asked us to list 10 Characteristics of a Healthy Functional Family. After completing our lists, we were supposed to team up with another person and share. While I didn't hear everyone's complete list, I got snippets here and there of a few. This is where I was more than mildly surprised.

Here are three (I can remember) characteristics that seemed extra special:

  • multiple cars
  • 4-5 children
  • church going

First and foremost, I don't believe there is a healthy, functional family on the planet. I believe we all have varying types of DYSfunction, some more acceptable than others. But am I doing something wrong if we only own one car? Do churchgoers have a better family life?

Are these things people really see as important to the family life?

So, tell me, what would your list say?

Monday, August 20, 2007

First day of school.

I'm pooped.

I hate Algebra.

More later.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jitters

Breathe in. Breathe out.

No, I'm not practicing Lamaze. I'm trying to recover from a slight panic attack. It's been a wonderful, leisurely summer without homework or papers or 9 o'clock classes.

But tomorrow it all changes.

Tomorrow is my first day back to school.

Time for my pre-term freak out.

What am I doing? How will I keep up? Will my children be ok? And the real question, CAN I HACK INTERMEDIATE ALGEBRA?!

Breathe...

I do this at the beginning of every semester. It will be fine. I will be fine. My family will be fine. No need to worry.

Fine.

Right?

Like Apples?

I have an addiction.

Well, WAY more than one, but this one is relative to this post.

It is the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad from Panera Bread. When I get hungry, I CRAVE it. Crunchy dried apples, succulent lemon-herb chicken and that dressing - DEAR GOD, THE DRESSING! - tangy, apple vinaigrette drizzled over crispy salad greens and sweet purple onions, topped off with creamy crumbles of feta cheese and crunchy pecan halves.

Hungry yet?

Well, since Panera isn't next door to my house and that dreamy salad will cost me seven dollars a pop, I decided to turn to my friend who knows everything.

The Internet.

I found several recipes for Apple Vinaigrette, but this one seemed to be the closest. I bought all the ingredients and yesterday tried my hand at it.

This dressing was so good, it was as though I had died and went to Panera.

And now I'm sharing it with you.

These are the ingredients for the recipe I found online:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons grated sweet or purple onion
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup finely chopped apple

Puree together in a food processor or blender and Voile!

The first time I made it, I substituted dried apples because I forgot the fresh. I also added about a teaspoon of lemon juice and about 1/2 cup of water. It was divine.

The second time I made it, I used the rest of the dried apples I had and filled in with fresh to make it about 1 1/2 cups. I also cut the sugar to 1/4 cup and omitted the lemon juice (only because I was out of it) and it was probably even better. The texture was smoother and it tasted more like a fresh apple. I'm guessing it would be even that much better made entirely with fresh apples. (For the record, I used Gala instead of Fuji.)

For me, it is key to have feta cheese in the salad. It is pricey, but so, so worth it. You can leave out the chicken and pecans and it is still crazy good.

Now, go forth and make dressing. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Clean Fridge Is A Happy Fridge

I need to go buy some groceries today.

However, my refrigerator was a nightmare. I could not, in good conscience, buy fresh food and subject it to those kinds of living conditions.

I had reached that point when the filth is up to your eyeballs and you can stand it no longer so you just have to jump in, hold your nose and get it done. There was yeast spilled along the back wall, sticking to it like wet sand, chocolate pudding hardened like plaster, requiring a knife to chisel it away, cilantro that had passed away and decomposed in the crisper, leaving behind a lacey, green skeleton and a large puddle of something stickey and brown in the bottom.

I don't want to know what that was.

I removed all the shelves and soaped them down in the kitchen sink. I wiped down the inside walls and used my Magic Eraser on the door. Forty-five minutes later, the fridge sparkled. In fact, I kept going back to it, opening the door and admiring my handiwork.

Never mind that the milk jug was sweating from all the warm air coming in. A clean fridge is a beautiful thing to behold.

So now, I head to the store to buy cherry tomatoes that can be pushed to the very back and forgotten and grape juice can be spilled inside. But I am wondering, does anyone out there have a good system for keeping the fridge shiny and happy? Do you clean it weekly or do you have little elves that live inside and do it for you?

I'm hoping for the elf thing, but I should probably be a bit more realistic.

I mean, the elves probably cost too much.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Flirty or Friendly?

There's a new love in my life.


I've admired him from afar for years.


He's large, well built and washes all my clothes. Here's a picture of him and his brother.




Aren't they beautiful? If I could just get them to fold and put away the clothes, they'd be the perfect pair.


But that's not really the point of my post.


A week or so ago Hubby, the kids and I went shopping for these guys, as the old ones were on their last leg. Hubby had been shopping for months, actually, but he wanted to take me along to see what I liked. So we headed to a large home improvement chain to look at the choices. Our helpful sales associate that day was Joe, (we'll call him Joe, because I really don't remember his name, and it's not at all important to the story) who was average in height and skinny as a rail. In fact, the term "squirrely" comes to mind. Joe was a nice enough guy. He made eye contact, cracked the occasional joke and was all to eager to show us his vast knowledge of washing machines. He directed several questions at me, since I am the "little lady" who would, he assumed, be doing the majority of the laundry. I answered a few and redirected some of them to Hubby who will be doing his fair share of laundry once I return to school next week. I was nice. I was friendly. I even cracked a few jokes of my own. We made our selections, arranged for delivery and went home to happily await the new arrivals.


The next morning Hubby said in passing, "You were flirting with that guy."

"What guy?" I asked.

"The guy who sold us the washing machine."

At first, I thought he was just giving me a hard time. That's kinda his way. "Oh, yeah," I retorted. "He was hot."

Sensing my sarcasm, Hubby tried to drive his point home. "You were."

"You can't be serious." Joe was certainly not the kind of guy I would call "flirtable". His butt was smaller than mine. That's a biggie (no pun intended). Not that I was looking at his butt, but judging from his very thin frame, I'm making an assumption.

"It's okay," he replied. "I'm not mad, I'm just saying..."

"I was NOT flirting. How was I flirting?"

"I don't know. You just were."

This conversation went back and forth, though Hubby could never give me any sort of concrete example of exactly what it was I did that he considered flirting.


Men.


A couple of days later, I was at the bookstore with a friend. She was reading a how-to book and I was flipping through a photography book. A couple of chairs away sat a young man doing the same thing. A Joan Baez-ish female was singing along with her acoustic guitar over the speakers:


"Liar, Liar..."


I snickered and looked up at my friend. "I thought she was going to say 'pants on fire'." We got a good chuckle from that one, as did the young man next to us. I looked over at him and said, "Didn't you?"


From there he proceeded to play off my joke and we laughed and talked for a bit, just seeing how far we could stretch that funny line. Pretty soon we returned to our books, the bookstore announced they were closing and my friend and I left.

Once in the car she said, "I think that guy was flirting with you."


What's UP?!


Feeling a bit defensive from my husband's observations earlier that week, I said, "I WASN'T FLIRTING! I WAS JUST BEING FRIENDLY!"

"I'm not saying you were flirting. I'm saying, he was flirting with you."


Do I know the difference?


Truth is, I like being center of attention. I'm just being honest. Perhaps it comes from being the baby of four children and always feeling like I had to fight for it. I don't know. But I do try to temper it. Perhaps there is a really deep-seeded need in me to be noticed. As much as I hate to say that.


Another thing, I just like people. I like watching them. I like meeting new ones. I like talking to them. I find people fascinating. I see an opportunity to talk to someone and I will more than likely take it. But I'm not singling out men. I do the same with the stressed out mom in Wal-Mart or the receptionist at the pediatrician's office. I seek connections.


What's the verdict? When is friendly really flirting?



Monday, August 06, 2007

Lesson of the Day

And this, my little ones, is a lesson in patience.

I've been wanting a child-sized table with chairs FOREVER.

So, maybe not forever. Well, since Sister could climb up to the kitchen table and terrorize Brother during his school lessons, anyway. It seems a good idea to have separate work spaces for them.

But not just any table would do, as it would probably be a permanent fixture in my living room. Fisher Price plastic would have been fine, but I hated to pay that kind of money for plastic that I didn't even really like all that much. Even people selling them at garage sales seemed mighty proud of their plastic. Then there were the flimsy character card tables for $20 at Wal-Mart that could never withstand my family's punishment.

What I really wanted, was the beautiful, wooden, Pottery Barn-style table with whimsical mismatched wooden chairs. It didn't have to be from Pottery Barn, mind you, I just liked that style. But again, my champagne taste far exceeded my beer budget.

Actually, not even a beer budget. More like a "generic cola in a can" budget.

So I've been waiting for the right deal to land in my lap. And last week, I was almost killed by a super-duper, mega, ultra deal landing in my lap.

Behold!

Guess how much this cost me?
Nothing.
Okay. Technically it cost me seven dollars in paint.
A teacher friend gave me the table, which someone had given to her for her classroom and she ended up not needing. It had some water damage and the paint was in bad shape. I bought pink spray paint and some silver glitter paint and Voile! A table fit for a princess...or two.
She threw in the chairs, too. Which are plastic, but hey, they were free.
Tell me it's not the cutest thing EVER.
See? Good things come to those who wait.
And know how to paint.
Eat your heart out, Pottery Barn.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How To Make Good Coffee

  1. Put in clean filter.
  2. Add two heaping tablespoons of ground coffee. Preferably NOT decaf.
  3. Pour six cups of clean, cold water into reservoir of coffee pot.
  4. Turn switch to ON.

Reason # 179 why I should not operate household appliances before 8 am:

I left out step #2.

And the rest of the day has been just like that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Change Is Good?

A friend asked me the other day, "So, why did you decide to return to blogging?"

I can understand why she was curious to know. Especially since I had told her only a few weeks before that I might "never return to blogging".

It's a legitimate question.

So I tried to think of something smart to say that would make perfect sense and make me seem as though I knew exactly what I was doing. In the end, I had to give in to the truth.

I am flighty and indecisive.

Here's proof.

Remember earlier this year when I had this brilliant idea to move all three of my children into one room and make the spare room a playroom? And then I would turn their bedroom into a medieval castle?

Well, scratch that.

The girls have moved into the playroom and Brother has his own room again.

I don't know what I was thinking, putting two girls and a boy in the same room without any space for them to be alone.

Actually, I do know what I was thinking. I wanted to paint a medieval castle on the wall.


So, with Brother alone in the castle room, I had to rethink things. He certainly wasn't digging the princess on his wall. The easier, and perhaps smarter, solution would have been to just paint a knight over the princess and continue with the castle theme. But when have you ever known me to do things the easy way?

I had to repaint the whole thing, of course.

So, this morning, the top half of the wall is a nice football brown and the bottom half is sky blue. What's next?

Wait and see. It could be different tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the winner is...

Loni at My Little Blogging Home!

Congratulations, Loni, and thanks to everyone for participating. If you MUST HAVE the bow, visit my website, http://www.punkinheadhairwear.com/, where you find this bow on sale throughout the month of July. In August I will feature a new bow and this one goes back to regular price.

Thanks again!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Denial

I'm only kidding myself.

In an alternate universe, I scrapbooked. I filled three volumes within Brother's first year. Along came Sister and though I fell slightly behind, I still made time to get two volumes for her first year and two more for Brother.

Then we started homeschooling.

Then we added Baby #3.

Incidentally, Baby has two pages.

So a few weeks ago a friend, who also happens to be an avid scrapbooker, suggested we try to get me caught up before school starts. She began weaving this scenario - a beautiful lie, I know - and like a true junkie being faced with an old habit, I began to believe her.

I'm only four years behind. I can get caught up in a month. Totally.

She suggested we pick a day. I would get a sitter for my kids. She would take hers to daycare. We would rendezvous at her house - a veritable scrapbooking Mecca - and scrapbook.

Without kids.

All day.

I said, "SIGN ME UP!"

We set the date and I wrote it on my calendar. However, two doctor's appointments and four prescriptions came out of nowhere and my Scrapbook Day/Babysitting Fund was quickly depleted. I made plans to cancel.

But then, on a Sunday morning, three days before the Blessed Event, a young dad stood up and announced he was hosting a Mom's Day Out at his home.

On Wednesday.

The very day.

Free childcare.

I took it as a sign from above. A Holy Calling, in fact.

I must go.

So I went.

I spent the day - more like six hours - cutting, stamping, leafing through pictures, and shooting up the creative juices I thought I had long given up. She introduced me to new stuff, too. Stuff I'd never tried before.
Good stuff.
And before I knew it, I was sucked into the swirling vortex of scrapbooking again, giving myself over to the euphoria of creating pages of stickers and stamps and oh-so-adorable pictures. I got six pages done and told myself I could do this. I felt empowered...invincible.

BEHOLD! I HAVE BROUGHT FORTH SCRAPBOOK PAGES!!


That night I left my scrapbook supplies on the couch, because I was going to do more after the kids were in bed.
They were still there the next day.
And the next.
Finally I moved them to the middle of my bedroom floor, because I was totally going to do more.
It's been a week.
But I won't put them back in the closet. Because I'm going to do it. I will make more pages.
Really, I will.
Totally.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

FBI or Mensa?

Yesterday morning I went to Sister and Baby's room to get shoes for my youngest. Lo and behold, all the shoes had been kidnapped from the closet! But a very brief search (just turned around, really) led me to the Barbie box, where all the shoes where standing at attention in nice, neat rows.

Good, little shoes.

Last night, while getting all the kiddie teeth brushed and ready for bed, I noticed Sister pulling out all the shoes from her pretend play stash and lining them up in the same neat rows.

Mystery solved.

This behavior from Sister is suddenly turning up everywhere. Sunday morning in church she arranged the crayons in a perfect sunburst pattern. Yesterday morning she spelled her name with dominos.

It's either creative genius or criminial mastermind.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's A Freebie!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThis contest has ended, but go to www.punkinheadhairwear.com to purchase a beautiful bow like the one you see here.

Shannon over at Rocks In My Dryer is hosting a blog giveaway. (Yes, I know. She always has all the good ideas.) Problem is, I wasn't sure what I, the Bow Lady, who makes bows and has her own bow website and owns over 100 bows for her own girls could possibly give away. A book? A CD? After hours of agonizing contemplation and racking my brain, I finally I decided I would give away a bow.


Shocking, I know.


So, leave me a comment during the week of July 23 and on Friday, July 27, I will draw the lucky winner and ship them this lovely bow for free.


Yes, FREE!

So, leave a comment. Your little girl's hair doesn't like being naked anymore.





Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cleaning Is Overrated

This would be the glass on my storm door. I cleaned this glass today. For the first time in at least 6 months. I cleaned the sticky mouth marks and crayon scribbles from it. It was spotless. Crystal clear. As you can see it is no longer that way.





Wonder what happened? I greased up some kids with sunscreen and they made up a fun new game.

It's called "Stick Your Greasy Gut To The Glass And See The Cool Smudge It Makes On The Shiny Door".

Fun, huh?

This is reason 536 why cleaning is a waste of time.




Thursday, July 19, 2007

Parenting In Absolutes

I before E, except after C...



It was a momentous day I realized my son could read, made even more amazing by the fact that I, without a teaching certificate or even a college degree, taught him. We started out simple, learning the letters by sight. Then we moved on to letter sounds, which became more complicated by the fact that some letters make more than one sound. And then we learned when paired together or put with certain letters in a particular word, those same letters make yet another sound. But then again, they could make a totally different sound for no good reason, defying all rules of phonics.



"But, Mom, why is the "i" in "kind" long when there's no "e" at the end?" And what about the word "wind"? You have to read the sentence and ascertain its context before you can know which way to pronounce it. Very tricky, indeed. Many words are not pronounced at all the way they are spelled phonetically and one has to learn them by sight and just know what the word is simply by the way it looks because...well, just because.



Where are the absolutes?



Sunday morning I had everyone ready for church, all set to leave right on time, without being rushed or panicked or snapping off their adorable little heads in the process. If any of you have tried to do this without the aid of a spouse (mine works all day on Sundays) you understand the miracle involved here. Brother has gone on out to the car and the girls and I are closing the front door behind us. Brother comes back up to me, breathless. "Mom, Tommy has lost his dog and he needs me to help him find it!"

"You can't now. We have to go to church." As soon as the words leave my mouth, something sounds a little off, but I'm concentrating on getting Baby down the front steps without dropping my armful of stuff.

"But, Mom, he's really worried and he needs someone to help him!"

"He's got sisters and a mom and dad. They can help him. Let's go." It just doesn't sound right. Am I telling him he can't help out a friend in need?

Brother is sounding desperate. "But they won't help him!"

I look up to find him walking off down the street, looking back at me to see if I'm going to stop him. He disobeyed me. He defied me. What am I going to do about it?



I'm going to let him follow his heart, that's what. Though there is a voice of reason telling me the most important thing for him to do is obey me at all costs, I can't bring myself to play the heavy when my boy willingly, even passionately, answers a call for help.

So often I look for the absolutes. Absolutes are easy. Do this and it will produce this result. But parenting isn't like that. No matter how many books are written, no matter how many doctors and talk show hosts give us the answers, there is no one right way.

How scary is that?

I get the girls in the car and drive down the road to pick up Brother. He sees me, comes over and opens the door. "You find the dog?" I ask.
"Naw," he answers, getting in. He turns to wave goodbye to Tommy, who is standing by the road, looking as though he's lost his best friend. Suddenly we see a shaggy black and white mutt come running out from behind the house, apparently lost in her own front yard. Tommy is reinflated and Brother closes the car door, smiling at the happy reunion.

"You know," I say, as we drive away. "I'm really proud of you for being so compassionate toward your friend. That was a nice thing you did."

"Yeah," he says. "Are we gonna be late?"

"Naw."

The answers to life's questions aren't written on the wall. So many times I don't know how to teach my children the important things. I'm perpetually terrified.

But this I know.

Love God. Love others.

Absolutely.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Innocence Found

I have often wondered if Brother has an overabundance of testosterone flowing through his eight-year-old man-cub veins. He's a large boy. Larger than most boys his age. He has a very deep voice for a child and a voracious appetite for sports, fast cars and all things mega manly.

This morning we got out and ran a few errands, enjoying the air-conditioned car during the midsummer heat. We were on the highway that runs next to our neighborhood, which has been under construction for what seems like an eternity.

But it's good. I almost sank my car in one of the potholes last year.

So, we're toodling along, being good law-abiding citizens, driving the 55 mph suggested by the signs posted amid the orange cones and barrels.

Okay, it was more like 60, but you go with the flow of traffic, right?

When all of a sudden, a bright yellow Mustang goes shooting past us, going at least 80. Brother rises up out of his seat and lets out a "Whoa! A Mustang!" He settles back once the car is out of sight and says, "Wow, that was sweet! How fast you think that was? 70? 80?"


I sit in silence for a moment, thinking there is no way in this lifetime I can ever let him behind the wheel of a car. I know this is a teachable moment and any good parent would use it to point out the error of Mr. Mustang's deviant ways. However, I also know that he is a boy - a young man in the making - and to expect he will never ever want to drive a car very, very fast because it just isn't safe is a bit naive. So I deliver the speech about how the driver of that car wasn't being very smart speeding like that on the highway in a construction zone and that he put himself and everyone else, including us, in danger. And then I tell him it's perfectly okay to drive fast if you are on a race track.


Yes, I know. My brilliance is astounding. But what's a mother to do?


Later on that day we are going the opposite direction on the same highway taking one of Brother's friends home. He and his friend are reading billboards and commenting on the pictures. We come to a billboard for a casino featuring a lovely, buxom young lady in a bikini swimming in a pool, smiling sweetly at these two innocent, young boys riding in my car.


Brother chuckles. "Hey, look at that," he says in amazement to his friend.


My knuckles tighten on the steering wheel. This cannot be happening.


"Yeah," says his friend, smiling.


What the heck??!!!


"You see that?" Brother asks.


"Yeah," his friend says again.


I cannot believe my ears. These little boys, seven and eight, leering like grown men right in front of me. I know I should say or do something, but I'm completely caught off guard. I need a Daddy...stat! Their conversation continues.


"You know what that is, don't you?" Brother asks.


"Yeah." Oh, no, here it comes. "A swimming pool!" comes the innocent reply.


"Yeah, a deep one, too! You think that's nine feet?"


"Yeah, or maybe ten..."


"Think you could touch in that?"

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Grape Undertaking

Don’t let the big baby blues fool you. My five-year-old daughter has the face of an angel and the iron will of Stalin – a perfectly diabolical combination. This was never more evident than two weeks ago Monday, when I dared to lay down an ultimatum, and having prepped her the day before, she braced herself for the impact.

“Honey,” I said on Sunday, “You are going to have to start eating more fruits and vegetables.” Sister has never liked fruit from the beginning. Even as a baby, she made it clear applesauce and strained peaches were not for her, no matter how many times I offered. She will eat the occasional apple slice without the peel and sometimes part of a banana, but other than that, fruit does not pass her lips. And as I am prone to doing, I picked another new habit that was sure to make life better for us all that would, of course, start on Monday, the magical day of the week where dreams begin. “Tomorrow we are going to try some new foods,” I tried to pick something palatable to normal children. “starting with grapes.” Sister hates grapes, or so she says. Truth is, she’s never actually tasted one. She likes grape juice, grape jelly, grape popsicles and raisins. Grapes seemed like the reasonable choice.

I fully expected a rumble -- some whining at the very least. Instead there was only silence. “Honey, did you hear me?” I asked, not sure what to do with this reaction. She nodded. I took this to mean she understood my resolve and was choosing to quietly submit to my authority, knowing full well Mommy meant business, poor, simple fool that I am.

Along came Monday, soon followed by lunchtime when I asked my crew, “Who’s ready for lunch?” There came a rousing “ME!” from all three and I set to work preparing three lovely plates with half a turkey sandwich, baby carrots and grapes on each. They soon came running eagerly, Sister heading up the rear. While the other two clambered to the table, ready to dig in, Sister stopped short of the table when she saw her plate. “I didn’t ask for those,” she said, eyeing the grand total of three grapes I put next to her sandwich as if they might jump up and eat her.
“Yes, I know,” I answered, “but today you’re going to try them, remember?”
“Uh, I’m not hungry,” she said, almost convincingly.
“Oh,” I replied, not missing a beat. “Well, come sit down and eat your grapes and then you can be finished.”

And then came the whining. “I don’t waaaaaaaaant grapes. I don’t liiiiiiiiiiiiiike grapes. I haaaaaaaaate grapes.”

Finally.

Tantrums I expect. Resistance I can handle. But that cold, calculated seemingly submissive silence is just a little too Children of the Corn, you know? I nonchalantly pointed out that there were only three grapes and went on about my business as if Sister had been eating grapes all along.

Then came the tears.

But I was not to be moved. Even though I knew all the child psychology experts would say it was wrong. Even though I knew forcing your children to eat certain foods would scar them for life. I was out to prove them all wrong. "Just eat those three and if you don't like them, I'll never ask you to eat them again," I said and went on pretending I was the Queen of Stoicism.

12:17 PM - Sister is crying at the table.

12:32 PM - Sister is still crying and asking to go lay down and take a nap. Brother and Baby have finished their food and I have the brilliant idea to offer them Pringles, Sister's absolute favorite, in an attempt to lure her into eating the grapes. "If you eat your grapes, I'll give you Pringles!" Bribery. Another big no-no. This makes her cry harder.


12:53 PM - Sister, still crying, is puffy and splotchy and can't breathe through her clogged up nose. I offer her a tissue and she asks again to lay down and take a nap. "Sure, honey. After you eat your grapes."


1:05 PM - I offer to cut up the grapes and let her use toothpicks to eat the tiny pieces, a fun alternative to eating a grape whole. She thinks this is a splendid idea and I oblige.


1:23 PM - The grapes sit untouched.


1:30 PM - The drama catches up to her and she takes a nap at the table.

1:34 PM - Hubby calls. I tell him the situation and ask him if he thinks I'm wrong. His answer: "You know what Dr. Phil says? Don't EVER enter into confrontation with your child. But if you do, never lose." Great. Another parenting infraction. Eye of the Tiger begins playing in the background. It's the point of no return.

2:16 PM - Sister awakes, refreshed, and ready for round two. She seems to think setting the timer will help her. I am skeptical, but set it for ten minutes.

2:36 PM - The timer beeps. At this point, I'm beginning to think we should all just cut grapes out of our diet completely. They must contain some kind of toxin only she can detect and perhaps she is right to not eat them. She picks up a toothpick with a tiny sliver of room temperature grape and brings it slowly to her lips. "Watch me, Mommy," she says and I feel a glimmer of hope. Slowly, slowly it nears her mouth. I hold my breath. She pulls the grape slice gingerly from the toothpick with her teeth.

I wait.

No gagging. No tiny grape particles flying across the room.

She chews.

Dare I believe what my eyes behold? Can it be?

Her little mouth screws slightly to the left. "Mmmmm, I LOVE grapes!"

Angels sing.

She chokes down the rest, none too quickly, trying the entire time to convince herself that grapes must be her favorite food. For days afterwards she declares to anyone who will listen that she does, indeed, LOVE grapes.

Has she eaten them since? Heck, no! And I'm not pushing it.

That would be wrong.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Horrific Discovery

Three weeks ago I bought coffee at the grocery store.

This morning I made a horrific discovery.

I've been drinking decaf.

That would explain the headaches and irritability.

So not funny.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Pre-Adolescent Pains

Once upon a time he wore white canvas sneakers with frogs and lizards and carried a bear made from drapery samples and mismatched buttons. Then he followed me anywhere, trusted my every word and told me in no uncertain terms where it hurt.

Now he's eight and I hardly remember that little boy.

He's moody, emotional and I struggle to maintain a connection. I can't find the balance between giving him liberty to be his own person and drawing those lines intended to protect him. I can't communicate truth to him. He doesn't believe me.

It was he and I against the world, my firstborn. At six months old he lay next to me, head on my shoulder, smiling as if there were no happier place for a boy than right there with his mom reading Paddington Bear and Stop That Ball. And then in that moment I knew I could do it right. I never dreamed there would come a day when we would spend so much time in conflict and I would feel so completely out of control.

He comes to me when I reach for him. He falls into my embrace, even wondering aloud sometimes why I can't carry him anymore, though he knows good and well. But I wonder often why I have failed to give him more security and if he will grow up to be honest, kind and happy. Or is he destined to always be angry and obstinate?

Is it every parent's dream to raise a child perfectly primed to fit into society's nice little niche? Does anyone else worry they're raising a misfit?

Can I turn him?

Should I?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Evils of Drinking

I'm a pretty straight-laced gal. I've never really been one to bend the rules. I've never toilet-papered someone's house. I have my kids in bed by 9:00 pm most every night. I eat my vegetables. I've never smoked a cigarette.

But Wednesday night, this good girl got a little crazy.

We'd been hanging out with some friends pretty much all day at our house - the kids and I and my friend, Mickey, her two kids and an extra she was sitting. Five-thirty snuck up on us and before I knew it, it was time for me to take Brother to swimming lessons. While rushing around trying to feed everyone, get their shoes on and find Brother's elusive swim trunks that I know I had just seen an hour earlier when I didn't need them, Mickey offers to take my girls to her house while I take Brother to his lesson.

Actually, truth be told, Baby said something to the tune of "I wanna go with you" to Mickey and she couldn't say no. And of course, if you take one girl, you gotta take them both. So, feeling a little guilty that my girls had suckered her into it, I reluctantly agree and tell Mickey I will come pick them up when we're finished.

As promised, Brother and I arrive at Mickey's around 7:20 only to find her just getting there herself after taking everyone to McDonald's and spoiling them senseless. I see my little girls hop out of the van and make a beeline for the house and I'm thinking if they go to Mickey's daughter's room - a veridable Dora shrine - I will never get them out. But alas, I cannot park the car fast enough and they are inside, shoes off, dragging out all the toys before I can protest. Brother follows suit and all the boys are magnetically drawn to the Playstation like drones in a hypnotic trance.

"Hey, guys, we need to get going," I say, but only half-heartedly, as I know my words might as well be bubbles blown to the wind. Mickey, who has spent the better part of the day with five kids, says, "I need a drink. Want one?" She's not listening to me either. She starts putting a Dora video on in the girls' room and I resign myself to the fact that I'm outnumbered and we are obviously staying.

"Nah, I'm fine."

She starts walking to the garage where they keep an extra fridge. I follow. "No, you HAVE to try one of these wine coolers."

Oh, that kind of drink.

She doesn't realize what kind of goody-goody she's asking. I had never even TASTED an alchoholic beverage until I took a tiny sip of champagne on my 27th birthday. Scout's honor. I've tried sips of a few other things before, but I just hate the taste. Everything tastes like cough syrup. Even when they say you can't taste the alchohol, I can taste the alcohol. And beer...I could never get it past my nose.

I giggle. "Hey, I have to drive my kids home."

"Well, don't drink the whole thing." She swings open the refrigerator door to reveal Gatorade, Hi-C juice boxes and Schmirnoff. "Green Apple or Raspberry?"

Aw, a sip won't hurt. Just like every other drink I've tried, I won't like it. "Green Apple." She hands me the chilled bottle, slippery with condensation.

We peek in on the kids who are busy demolishing the bedrooms and I continue to follow her upstairs to the gameroom. She turns on the Jimmy Buffet CD and racks up the balls on the pool table and turns to me with a grin. "If we can't go to the bar, we'll just pretend."

This is not something Supermom would ordinarily do. I mean, it's close to 8:00 and my kids aren't in bed and they need baths and Baby missed her nap and who will watch the kids?

But I'm feeling a little reckless, a little tired of the goody-goody act. And my friend is obviously needing some time with an adult. It's summer. I twist the top off my drink and take a gulp. "Hey!" I'm genuinly surprised. "This is really good!" Yikes. REALLY good.

We spend the next two hours playing pool (another first for me), drinking our fruity drinks (I drank the whole thing) and listening to Jimmy sing about margaritas, cheeseburgers and Mexico all the while wondering if I can really get away with this.

Supermom reinvented.

Even though I didn't even feel tipsy, I give myself a little time before hitting the road. Finally, I gather the kids and their leftover Happy Meals and we head home in the dark, way past bedtime. I'm toodling along, windows down, quite happy with my new grown up self. We are almost home, just around the corner from our house, and I see the lights.

That's right. Lights.

Lights of the flashing red and blue variety.

I'm getting stopped.


Now, I'm a rookie. I've never been drunk. Never even buzzed. But wouldn't I know if the drink I had much, much earlier in the evening affected me? Wouldn't I feel something? I wasn't weaving. I wasn't driving over curbs. Did the Stay-At-Home-Mom Gestapo catch wind of my actions this evening and rat me out to the cops?

I reach for my license and insurance verification, suddenly feeling as though I'm being punished for my sins and right now with no makeup and my hair pulled up and my tired, ragged girls in the backseat eating cold McDonald's cheeseburgers barefoot at 10 o' clock at night, I must seem the perfect candidate.

He shines his flashlight in my eyes. "Hello, ma'am, may I see your license and verification, please?" I have it ready and hand it to him, hoping he sees my preparedness as a sign that I'm not a drunken, neglectful parent. His flashlight beam skims over the kids faces, eyes wide and mouths agape, and he drops the stern cop mask for a split second to say hello in a more kid-friendly manner, as I suspect they were wondering if poor ole' ma was gonna be sent to the pokey.

He takes my information back to his car to check me out with dispatch and make sure I'm not a deranged criminal who has kidnapped three kids in a stolen car on a nationwide crime spree wanted in three states for murder and drug trafficing. Or, for all I know, to get the breathalizer. I swear, officer. I've never drank before in my life. I don't keep my kids out after bedtime. I don't feed them McDonald's for dinner on a regular basis. I'm a good mom, I promise.

Luckily, I check out and he issues me a written warning for going 33 in a 25.

As I am signing for my reprimand, he asks me the ages of my kids. I relax a bit, thinking he's being friendly...making small talk. He probably has kids, too. "Eight, five and two," I reply proudly.

Chatty, he is not.

"The five-year-old still needs to be in a booster," he says, in a voice that is a combination of Dudley DoRight and Batman. Authoratative. No nonsense. A tad condescending. "It's for her own safety."

"Okay," I answer, caught off guard that I'm still being corrected. I left the booster in Hubby's car. Bad mom.

"And how tall is he?" he asks, motioning to Brother who is in the passenger seat beside me.

I don't know. I really don't know. "Uh, I don't know." Is it worse to not know how tall your own child is or to pretend you do? "Uh...42 inches?" That's wrong. I know he's taller than that. But I know I heard that number sometime on one of our recent pediatrician visits. Could have been Sister's height. Could have been the number of times I had to tell Baby to leave the Doctor's instruments alone. It was the first number that popped into my head. Bad, bad mom.

"Well, he still needs to ride in the back." He makes eye contact. He is very serious. "Again, it's for his own safety."

Yes, officer. Perhaps you'd like to point out that my toddler's bangs are too long and are hanging in her eyes because she pulled her hairclip out. And maybe we should talk about how bad fast food is and that I'm putting my children at risk for heart disease and obesity by letting them eat it. Did you know my kids didn't get naps today AND they are out late tonight? I also yelled at my son earlier today and let them play in the mud last week. IT WAS ONE DRINK! GET OFF MY CASE!!!!

I nod politely and accept the bright yellow slip as he tells me to have a good night.

I pull around the corner and steer wearily into the drive. I get the kids in the house with no baths, no tooth brushing, barely even in their pajamas and put them to bed. Brother, in fact, slept in his clothes.

Just say no to wine coolers, kids. It only leads to trouble.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Blog Is Back

Who am I kidding? I have to blog.

Break over.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Delusional

Call CDC. I'm ill.

I have Post Relaxing Vacation Disorder. I contracted it when we returned home from our trip to St. Louis. After a week of shopping, sleeping, sightseeing and leaving wet towels on the floor only to have them magically disappear, I am having trouble preparing my own meals and making my own bed.

My symptoms include lethargy, irritability, and some mild depression. All I want to do is lay on the couch, watch movies and eat ridiculously large quantities of chocolate.

If you know of anyone who has successfully recovered from PRVD, please let me know the cure.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Have To Post This

Oprah says we should reach out to our neighbors. And because Oprah is always one to practice what she preaches, she sets the example by throwing lavish dinner parties for her neighbors complete with celebrity chef and Michael Buble and hires a celebrity gardener to landscape their balconies.

I want to like Oprah. But something about her 400 carat diamond earrings makes me leery.

And she doesn't know my neighbors.

On one side I have the senile widow who likes to call the cops on us for pretend grievances. On the other side of her is the manic depressive housewife who flashes widow lady from her front yard whenever she feels threatened. Across the street from her is the middle-aged, hot tempered wannabe rock star who sings bad karaoke from his garage till the wee hours of the morning.

I have a theory that Oprah had her neighbors balconies beautified so she wouldn't have to see the less-than-glamorous exteriors on her way into work every morning. She only did this for the neighbors facing her studio. Of course, she did give the rest of the people in the building gift cards from Lowe's so they could do it themselves, but they could just as easily go get a new grill or a shower curtain or plastic pink flamingos, and really, why would she care?

I have a new friend who also homeschools her children. Yesterday we met at the park and let the children run amok in that crazy, carefree way kids do when it's 78 glorious degrees and the sun is shining. As it is with most new friends, she has been somewhat guarded, not feeling free to be herself completely until she's felt me out more. But yesterday, she let her guard down a bit and I found she has a pretty good sense of humor, as well as that other thing a lot of us women have...criticism.

Can someone tell me why we love to talk about other women? I'm not saying I'm above it. It's true. I have critiqued people, especially other mothers, behind their backs. And these are people I like.

But I'm tired of it.

While we sat in the shade and watched the kids, a little girl - two-ish - bumped her mouth on a toy. It didn't look like a hard bump, but the girl screamed that scream little ones do when something really hurts. Her mother, who looked to be a child herself, wasn't overly panicked, but scooped her up and patted her curly little head. But suddenly she turns, quickly grabs her backpack and runs for the nearest bench. And as she turns, I see the blood.

I have three kids. I'm no rookie. But this was a good amount.

This poor woman is searching her backpack frantically for something to wipe away the blood while all the other moms stand there and watch, some of them even making snide comments about overreacting. I grab my water bottle and run to her. The toddler is screaming and slapping away her mother's hands as she tries to see what has happened. I offer her the bottle, asking, "Can I help?" and she takes it without answering. She has blood all over her shirt and she is shaking. She begins gathering her things, hurriedly trying to get to the car and carry her hysterical child. Again, I offer to help, maybe carry something, but she is terrified and she rushes off, ignoring me, perhaps even wondering if I think she is a bad mom. I don't take it personally.

Oprah may be on to something, but I think her approach is misguided. Good deeds are admirable, even if it's only a practically empty bottle of water when your child is bleeding as opposed to hiring Michael Buble. But how would her neighbors have felt about an intimate lunch without TV cameras? Or a phone call? Or even having her remember their names?

I'm no saint. I just want to connect. I just want to be me and know when I screw up, the person next to me understands. I'm not interested in finding other's faults so I don't have to think about my own, though I am sure there will be times I fall into that trap.

I'm trying to be friendly to the senile widow and not think about the nights I have lain awake, worried she might call the authorities and tell them I'm abusing my kids.

And yesterday, I even waved to the wife of karaoke man. I heard he lost his job.

Maybe that's a start.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blogger Burnout

I think it's time for a break.

As much fun as I've had with this blogging thing, I think it's time I got serious about my intentions. I want to be a writer. I am a writer. I'm going to pursue that and I feel like this blog is limiting me.

So, for now, I am taking a blogging hiatus and channeling my literary energies into something meatier. Oh, I'll probably pop in from time to time when I have a funny story to share, but my focus is going to be working on some projects I started earlier this year.

I am so excited.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing.

Here's to Supermoms everywhere.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Gift

I had made mention of it about a year ago, but found so many reasons why I didn't need it. Too expensive. Not practical. Didn't need it. Computer labs at school.

But I really wanted a laptop.

Not to look cool carrying it around campus, but because while I had been thrust from never being alone to having hours, even entire days alone with my thoughts, I became inspired. I found myself creating stories and giving narrative to my surroundings in my head and wanted to write them down. However, this inspiration didn't occur within the cold, sterile computer lab. It occured next to the window of the restaurant, watching patrons brace against the chilly, autumn wind. The same wind that gathered the crispy leaves in a maternal embrace and sent them spinning in dizzy, carefree circles through the air. Pen and paper couldn't keep up with words.

A few months ago, my husband gave me a gift. Although I picked it out. I carried it from the store. He gave me the money for a laptop, because he knew I would never do it for myself. In our fourteen years of marriage, this is the single most romantic gift he has ever given me. It surpasses the custom opal necklace, the perfume, the beautiful angora sweater I coveted for months. This gift says more than "I love you". It says "I believe in you. Go and pursue your dream." Every time I use it, I think of that. His confidence in me is astounding.

Now if I could only convince myself...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So, I haven't dropped out of school...or moved to Australia, even though it sounded pretty good Thursday. I woke up at 2 a.m. Saturday morning and could not go back to sleep, all in a panic about my Brit Lit midterm. The more I thought about it, the more I KNEW I had failed. I didn't want to go to class this morning. I didn't want to face my professor. What if she said something to me about it? What if she didn't? I didn't want to know my grade. I wanted to pretend it didn't happen and move on.

I had to ask myself, what would it mean if I didn't get an "A" in this class? Would it mean I was a failure? Would it mean I couldn't be a good writer? I have friends with their baby in ICU. Another friend whose husband is in Afghanistan and may be deployed again next year. People around me - people I know and love - are hurting and I'm losing sleep over one silly exam. An "A" in British Literature suddenly lost its significance and I found myself humbled.

It's hard to shift the focus sometimes, from what makes me happy, to what makes those around me happy. And even harder to dig down so deep I lose sight of myself completely and can give from a place that is real and unaffected.

Pray for this beautiful boy.

Pray for my friend, the military wife, who has been raising two kids on her own for a year and faces the possiblility of doing it again.

God help us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tiny Dresses

It was cotton, crisp and soft, with cheerful white daisies and red, shiny cherries floating in a sea of pink. It was small. So small I couldn't believe it used to fit my Baby, when she really was a baby, also soft and pink with that delicious little crease in her forearm that separated her arm into three sections instead of two. When I took the sundress from the box to prepare it for consigning, I lingered with it, and hesitated to part with it.

But it's only a dress. A dress too small she will never wear again and will only take up space. Besides, you bought one for Sister, too, and Baby can wear that one when she is older and you can enjoy it again.

Right. I'll let it go.

Then it was the blue dress Baby wore to my Sister's wedding last summer. Powder blue taffeta with shiny silver threads woven throughout and a skirt made of layers of tulle and organza and satin and tiny little blue ribbon rosebuds housed throughout its many folds. It was practically a confection. And the color was perfect on her. She looked otherworldly, as if she were an airbrushed photograph in a magazine.

Be practical. You can't keep it all. And that's really what you want, isn't it? Come on.

Yes, of course I want to keep it all. It all means something to me. It all has precious memories associated with it. But it's ridiculous to keep it. I don't have room to keep it.

I hung the dress on a hanger, tagged it, and laid it in the pile along with it's pink sister, trying not to think of how much I wanted Baby to wear those dresses again. A majority of the clothes Baby wears were once worn by Sister. Packing them away when Sister outgrew them was easier. I knew I would probably see them again. But this time I was not putting them in a box to treasure for the next little girl. I was sending them away forever.

I tried to think about the happiness the dresses had brought me and the happiness they would give to another mother, possibly a first time mom, who doted on her new baby and was looking for the perfect dress for her first Easter. She would find shiny white shoes and ruffley socks to match, and hopefully, a bow, and she would think her baby the most beautiful that ever was, and she would, of course, be right. This brought me comfort and I continued emptying the box I had brought in from the garage.

But then I found this. It was the white cotton nightgown I bought at a yard sale for Sister. I remembered the mother who had sold it to me. How she cried as she handed it to me. How she lovingly folded it and asked me to take special care of it. How her tears seemed a little strange at the time, but now I found them on my cheeks as well.

I did not put it on a hanger. I did not tag it. There was no price, no sentimental thought of an unknown mother's joy that could pry it from my hands. I folded it and put it aside. It would not be sent away.

After emptying the box, I loaded up the car and took the many items to the sale. During the inspection process, about four or five employees, young mothers themselves, flocked to my lovely bounty and oohed and aahed over the tiny clothes, some of them intercepting pieces they wanted for their own. At first, I felt protective, as if I needed to swat away the vultures who were delighting in my sorrow. I felt hot tears behind my eyes.

Get away! Those aren't yours! Those are mine! My babies clothes!

But I saw their faces, and the delight in their eyes, and I knew I had made the right choice. They would love them. They would care for them. And it would all be okay. For right then, I knew there was a box of size 2T dresses waiting at home for me to unpack and hang in Baby's closet, and I wasn't going to think of bringing them here next year, but look forward to the spring and the new season life was giving me.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Supermom and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I've had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I think I'll move to Australia.

It was terrible because my husband was irritated with me and even though he didn't say so I could tell because he wouldn't smile and kind of huffed and puffed through his nose like he does when he's irritated and I left the house crying.

It was terrible because I cried all the way to school and was mad because I would meet with my study group with puffy red eyes and splotchy skin and my makeup would be all washed off and I knew it was silly to be crying but I couldn't stop because it's that time of the month and I always get ultra sensitive and emotional at that time of the month and I would have to tell my study group it was allergies or some other lie like that.

Do they have allergies in Australia?

It was terrible because I realized while I was studying that I had taken terrible notes and was not as prepared as I should be and the midterm was less than an hour away and there would be an essay question and I had no clue what I was going to do.

It was terrible because after we studied the rest of the group started leaving and I wasn't sure why because the class was supposed to start at 11:20 and it was only 10:50 but I figured they had plans or something before class so I just kind of hung out and got a bottle of water but then I finally figured out that my class started at 11:00 and that was where everyone went and I was five minutes late for my midterm.

I've been going to class for how many weeks and I forgot what time it started?

I'll bet they don't have midterms in Australia.

I completely bombed the essay part of my midterm and could not put two sentences together in essay form let alone formulate one single cohesive thought about morality and spirituality among Romantic and Victorian writers and compare and contrast two writers to support my analysis.

I cried some more.

I was not nice to a visitor on my blog.

I did not do my math homework and even skipped class tonight.

I cried some more.

I caved to my pre-menstrual monster and ate a chocolate chip cookie. And a Hershey bar. And a Little Debbie.

I'll bet chocolate is a health food in Australia.

But my friend says it will be okay and that everybody has those days.

Even in Australia.

If you have never read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, this post probably seems weird to you. Go and get it today and read it to your children. It is funny and poignant and a great story, even for adults.

Freudian Slip?

I was preparing to make muffins for my children this morning while my coffee was brewing.

Not a smart idea to try and use the oven and potentially dangerous kitchen tools before I've had my caffeine fix.

I got out the large 8-cup batter bowl and the muffin tin and sat my coffee cup next to it, ready and waiting to be filled.

When the coffee pot was finished, it called out to me, entreating me to come and partake. I grabbed the Splenda and ritualistically tore open two packets to prepare my cup to fulfull it's destiny and dumped it in.

But alas, I had emptied the packets into the wrong cup. I was preparing my batter bowl for coffee.

Is 8 cups too much?