Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Today I left my children.

I left them for nearly seven hours. And from the looks of things, I will leave them five days a week for the next ten months. I left them at a school.

Of course this doesn't sound so dramatic if you don't know I have homeschooled them for five years and neither of them - ages nine and six - have ever been to school before.

After a harrowing school year here at home last year while trying to juggle mine and hubby's continuing educations and the kids' educations and hubby's job and all the other stuff life has to offer, we made a decision to send the kids to school on a two-year plan. In the span of that two years I would return full-time to finish my degree. At the end of that two years my oldest would be ready to start middle school and my youngest - age three now - would be ready for Kindergarten. The perfect time for reevaluation.

Much struggle came with that decision, but in the end we did feel it was the right one. So in May, the plan was made. As long as that plan stayed looming in the future, it was easy to live with. Kind of like that long distance relative you send a Christmas card to but never really want to invite over to stay for the holidays. It was great in theory.

I started feeling some nerves about its impending approach last week, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic, sometimes not able to go back to sleep. However, I was holding up pretty well. Surprisingly well. I was able to talk about it without getting emotional even though everyone else seemed ready for me to break down at any given minute. Friends called and emailed me, poised to step in and pick up the pieces, but the pieces never fell. I even managed to make it through enrollment and school supply shopping without even a hint of drama.

But it was very surprising - nay, freaky - that this morning while I walked them to their classrooms in their tidy uniforms and bulging backpacks, I didn't even feel a lump in my throat. I even worried a bit at my lack of emotion.

But see, that's the great thing about denial. I never really believed I would be leaving them. I never really believed the day would come.

It was only after I kissed my daughter's soft cheek and began taking those first steps away from her to the double doors that would separate us did I come to feel what had been hiding beneath all along. I taught them their letter sounds. I showed them how to put them together to form words. I made paper solar systems and peanut butter playdough. I was there for every lightbulb moment to see the spark of discovery ignited.

For the first time in their lives, I had made a commitment to turn those moments over to someone else.

My steps became quicker and more frantic as I raced against the tears I could no longer control. When I arrived at the van, hubby had the tissue box ready. He knew it had to come. Not sure why I didn't. Walking out of that school and coming home without them was...wrong. Leaving them there without knowing what they were doing for seven hours with people they didn't know...it was wrong.

Even though I know it was right.

I have applied makeup twice today in the hopes of fooling my face into feeling good. But it has only been washed away.

I miss them.
The picture above was taken just before I walked them into the building. I would like to tell you that they are indeed crying at the prospect of being apart from me, but the truth is that the sun was in their eyes. I would have taken another picture, but they were in a hurry. Sniffle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chasing Lovely

"Oh my god, did you see that woman in the gingham swimsuit?" My friend and I are sitting in the kiddie pool at the water park watching our little ones. What started out as a conversation about suits we like has become a critique of the bodies filling the swimsuits and I am becoming uncomfortable. She is three months pregnant and looks more svelte than I. I suck in my stomach a little to try to shrink the roll around my middle and simply say, "Yeah, I don't really like that suit." A woman in what looks like a knee-length sundress made of Lycra swimsuit fabric crosses our line of vision. "Now that I like," I quip, pointing her direction. "Lots of coverage. I wonder if it comes in floor length...with long sleeves...and a turtle neck." She laughs at my obvious self-deprecating joke and the conversation takes a turn elsewhere.

I am not a small girl. In fact, one could argue that, on the cusp of my 35th birthday, I am not a girl at all. But since I am being frank about the matter of size, I should be allowed the kindness of lying to myself about my age. So, let's pretend I am a "girl". The truth is, I have never been small. Not even at my smallest have I been considered small by our freakishly waif-obsessed society. And now, let's just say I am not at my smallest. I spent the first seven years of motherhood hiding somewhere on the fringe of the confident-in-a-swimsuit crowd, never getting in the pool, sometimes donning shorts and a T-shirt if necessity required. I mean, I didn't even think about a swimsuit. But somewhere along the way, I grew some wisdom with my gray hairs and I finally decided I wasn't going to let my insecurities ruin the fun I could be having, especially with my children. So when it came time to suit up last year, I actually shopped for a swimsuit. I bought the cutest suit I could find - sort of conservative with a little bit of sexy - and jumped in. This year, I didn't even flinch. At times I've even felt myself feeling - dare I say it? - confident. Dimply thighs and all. After all, who is anyone else to tell me I can't be beautiful the way I am? For crying out loud, it's the kiddie pool, not Miss America.

So, back to the kiddie pool. My friend begins telling me about a conversation between her and a mutual acquaintance. This particular acquaintance - I will call her Marni - has been divorced for several years and was sharing with my friend about how much she would love to be married again. "Of course I didn't say this to her," she says, "but I was thinking that if she really wanted to, she could do something to make herself more...well, you know...fix herself up a little."

I feel a hot flash completely unrelated to the summer heat rise up the base of my neck to my ears and pound inside my head. I hold back the anger that is my initial response. I am pretty sure I know what she means, but I ask anyway, innocuously. "What do you mean?"

"Well, she just dresses so old and looks much older than she really is. She could change some of that if she really wanted to meet someone."

I ponder for a split second that perhaps I should just sit in silence or make a joke that might distract her again, but the words are coming out of my mouth before I can even think about what I really want to say. "Well, that's where I just feel like she should probably wait for someone who loves her the way she is."

"Yeah, but even you fix your hair and makeup before you go out with your husband."

Then my little one needed a minor rescue and the conversation was left dangling. But it ate at me the rest of the day and into the next. She was right. I do spend extra time on my appearance when I go out with my husband. But that somehow seemed unrelated to undergoing a makeover to land a man.

And I left there feeling as if there were whispering going on behind my back. You know, that Supermom would be so pretty if she just lost some weight. Look at her thighs!

Why this preoccupation with appearance?

I want to say that any effort I put into the way I look is just for my own sense of self esteem and has nothing to do with anyone else.

But I can't.

Ultimately, I want to be admired, by my husband and yes, by others.

I'm not saying that is necessarily bad. I believe we were created to work that way. It is called Survival of the Species.

But why is there still this association that beautiful equals good? I read an article once that went so far as to say pretty babies get better care from their mothers. I have no personal experience on which to base this because all my babies were heart-stoppingly, breathtakingly beautiful, therefore I cannot compare. But isn't that what every mother thinks? Don't all moms think their babies are the most beautiful creatures to grace the planet? What happened to beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Are pretty babies easier to love?

We want to see beauty that holds no weakness or flaws. We would rather look upon the taut mom in the bikini rather than the soft, bulging stomach in the gingham swimsuit. Why? Because that woman has a weakness she cannot hide, a struggle manifested in her ample body. And her weakness makes her bad. I actually heard a preacher from the pulpit talk about keeping your weight down so as not to be a stumbling block to others. Of course, I am paraphrasing here, but he said if you were overweight, everyone could tell you obviously wrestled with the sin of gluttony. At the time - fifteen plus years ago - it made perfect sense to me. But then again, I also believed the whole premise of Christianity was to make myself as sinless as possible.

While the mom in the bikini could be a raging alcoholic that beats her children, her beauty is hailed as the standard by which we should all be measured. Because if you look good, you obviously have everything else together, too. And God forbid that you not have everything together. If you care enough about yourself to look good, then you must approach everything else in your life with as much attention to detail. After all, you can't love others until you love yourself, right?

At the risk of sounding completely "After School Special", I believe Marni needs something on the inside more than the out, obviously. However, it seems mean and unfeeling to try to tell her she should be okay with being alone because I am not. I cannot even pretend to know what she is going through. But I certainly will not tell her that the secret to having a lasting, lifelong, intimate relationship with someone is all in buying a new wardrobe.

I find myself at a crossroads. I want to rail against this, but at the same time I perpetuate it. I will shop for clothes that camoflauge my hips and thighs, though there is no hiding them. I will color my hair to disguise the premature gray I have been growing for ten years. I will put my best face forward, yes, to please myself, but moreover because it pleases others. After all, were I on a desert island with no one around to admire me, would I take the same pains "just for me"? Maybe I would. But there is something about knowing what others find attractive that drives my idea of beauty and makes me want to strive for that. Why is it important for me to feel attractive? It means acceptance. In the end, it is still more about society than myself.

However, I am going to the water park today. I am wearing my swimsuit. And if you can't stand the sight, too bad. I'm not hiding anymore.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Phantastic Phourth

So, whadja do on the fourth? Cookout? Fireworks? Sweltering heat? More of the same?

What did I do? Well, nothing much, really. I only sat in an air-conditioned theatre and watched a live performance of the longest running Broadway show in history.

The Phantom of the Opera.

(Cue driving organ theme.)

In the eighth grade I had the soundtrack memorized, never even knowing what the show was or was about. Two years ago when the movie came out, I bought the DVD out of sheer curiosity. It was then that I finally put the music with the story and could fully come to appreciate the hype about Phantom.

On Mother's Day of this year, I received the Mother's Day gift to end all Mother's Day gifts. Tickets to see the show on July 4th, with a dear friend, no less, to spare my husband the, ahem, experience. Independence Day? Celebrate our country's freedom? Screw that. Momma's goin' to see the Phantom.

Walking into the already crowded Performing Arts Center my excitement was bubbling over in the form of schoolgirl giggles. Had I not been surrounded by theatre patrons I would have jumped up and down clapping my hands in child-like glee. It was better than Christmas. Better than blowing out birthday candles. Better than...well, I should be careful. Suffice it to say, I was excited. Silly, sappy, crazy excited.

We found our seats on row N, dead center. That is thirteen small rows from the very front of the stage. And we waited breathlessly. "You know," I said to my friend. "My favorite part in the movie is the beginning, when the chandelier lights up and the organ starts booming out the theme. You think they'll have that in the play?"

"Uh, maybe," she replied, pointing to a large tarp covered mass on the stage. "That might be what's under that sheet that says 'CHANDELIER'."

Hey, how could I possibly be expected to read or spell under such thrilling circumstances?

Soon, the lights dimmed and the MC came out to introduce the show. "...and now I am pleased to present to you, The," Pause. "Phantom," Pause. "of the Opera." Riding high on waves of electric applause and elated expectancy, I found myself getting teary-eyed, a reaction I did not expect. And then we were in the opening scene at the auction. The auctioneer auctioned off the poster, the skulls and the grinding organ monkey music box. Then he came to "lot 666"...the chandelier. He told of the phantom folklore surrounding it and informed the crowd that it had been reworked with electric lights. "Perhaps," he leered, holding up two light switches. "We can scare away the ghost with a little...illumination." He hit the switches and sparks showered the stage with a thundering explosion, ushered in by the simultaneous drive of the eerily familiar pipe organ theme. The chandelier came to life in a blaze of glory. I jumped in my seat, deliciously scared, and for the next two hours and fifteen minutes lost myself. I pouted at the interruption of intermission, wondering how these people could so quickly get up from their seats and walk out for a Coke as if reality had not escaped them. I mean, the masquerade ball was next! Who needs a bathroom break with a masked gala at hand and a killer on the loose?

But it was only fifteen minutes and before long I was at the ball singing "Masquerade" under my breath and crying with Christine in the cemetery. Spellbound.

The end came all too soon and I had to tear myself from my seat to offer a standing ovation to the cast, especially The Phantom. He was brilliant. I clapped so hard my hands stung and my shoulders ached. Could I hide under a seat unnoticed until the next show? Probably not. With leaden feet and an even heavier heart I turned to go, trying to memorize all the beautiful details I knew I could never recall the next day and the last note still ringing in my head. I would have to come back. I resigned myself then and there to be one of those Phantom geeks who have the airbrushed mask and rose on a black license plate on the front bumper of their car. I will have to buy the T-shirt. I will have to drive people insane discussing the wrenching dichotomies and subtle messages within the story, singing the songs throughout my day in ear-splitting operatic falsetto.

As it is written, so shall it be.

I have been obligingly sing-songy ever since. My family LOVES it. Loves, loves, loves it. Really. Yeah, they do.

Wait till I buy the soundtrack.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Alone In My Mind

“Mama, what are these called?” my three-year-old holds up the crunchy cellophane cereal bag, almost as long as she is tall.

I look up from my book – my third in three weeks – and give her a succinctly sufficient answer. “Crisp Rice.” It is a dark, rainy June morning and I have just started reading a new book with perfectly brewed, perfectly sweetened coffee in my bright yellow sunshine coffee cup at the kitchen table. It is a lazy summer Monday that feels like an autumn Saturday. Just me and my book. And those three underage people who live in my house and depend on me somewhat for their existence and livelihood. But other than that, I’ve got the day to myself. I keep reading.

“Mama, I want some cwisp wice,” comes the inevitable response. “In a cup. With a spoon. NO MILK!”

I put my open book pages down on the table to signify that my pause is brief. Bookmarks actually denote a much longer break. Let it be known I am not putting the book down. I am only pausing. I take the bag from her as she holds it up to me. “Really?” and I look at her expectantly.

Pwease?” Ugh. She’s so cute I could almost forget she has interrupted my pretend day off. She doesn’t play fair.

“Sure, I’d be happy to.” I stand to oblige.

The other two are watching TV in the living room and I had managed to slip by them unnoticed. Apparently my disguise as a mere passer-by looking for coffee and a good read coupled with the distraction of television was effective on them, but this one is cunning. She caught scent of my trail quickly and followed it here to the kitchen table. I’ve been flushed out into the open.

I pour cereal into a small plastic cup and grab a plastic spoon, crunching some as I shove it hastily in. “Here.” I offer it to her and she takes it back to the chair beside mine to eat. She no longer has to climb into the chair the way she did last summer, but simply stands on her tip-toes and finds her bottom level with the seat and slides in.

My book – a memoir – has me riveted from the beginning. I am only ten pages or so in, but I am hooked. Exotic locations. A spiritual journey. And though I am by no means a fan of romance, there is even a bit of that added to the delectable mix. The author is locked in an embrace with a mysterious foreigner and the sexual tension is palpable.

He is about to kiss me, I know it. His breath…Mama…is close and warm. His eyes…Mama…are liquid blue and drawing nearer. I close my eyes…MAMA!

No one can say the girl isn’t persistent. I look up at the third and most exasperated chant of my name. “What?” I ask my dark-headed elf, trying to act as though I hadn’t been ignoring her, lost in a juicy, somewhat seedy, scene. I am, after all, immune to such twaddle. Really.

“I pee pee in my pants,” she answers matter-of-factly, continuing to shovel cereal into her mouth with her plastic blue whale spoon. I sigh and look down to find the chair beneath her dripping into a puddle on the floor, mingled with bits of crisp rice. She is looking at me, chewing noisily, awaiting a response. Her face shrinks a little in mock naivete that works in her favor. Large and crystal blue, she can have anything at all she wants in life with those eyes alone.

“Why?” I ask, knowing full well she will have no good explanation for peeing in the floor, but needing to seem as though she should have one.

Crunch. Crunch. “I dun know.” She abandons her spoon and resorts to eating her cereal with her fingers, one infinitesimal piece at a time.

I could jump up and clean the mess, and probably should, but it is my self-declared day off and I’ve already made her breakfast, for crying out loud. She doesn’t seem bothered, as she hasn’t even broken stride feeding cereal into her hungry little pink mouth and the puddle isn’t going anywhere. I continue to read.

After a few minutes, I cannot help but notice from the corner of my eye some motion that seems unrelated to eating. A glance in her direction tells me she has dumped her cereal from the cup and is crushing crisp rice with her thumb. She then sweeps the crumbs to the floor and repeats the process again, further complicating the situation beneath her chair. I sit and watch her in silence, trying to decide if I should say something to dissuade her from doing it or continue to let her experiment. I mean, she does seem very engrossed and it could quite possibly be one of those rare educational moments of self-discovery that could lead to a breakthrough of historical proportions - Something like Ben Franklin and electricity or Marie Curie and radium. Who am I to interfere with destiny? But I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a solid and a liquid, once mixed, form…well, sludge, and once they are unified, there can be no separation.

“No, honey, don’t do that,” I say, feeling more than a little irritated with this, the second and slightly more labor-intensive, interruption of my day of leisure. “You are making a bigger mess.” I scoop up the remaining intact cereal and dump it back into the cup, also making a pile of crumbs out of her reach to be left until I am ready to tackle the clean-up process, which is, at the very least, a chapter away. I may even leave it until tomorrow.

She looks at me, again with the eyes, and reaches her hand out to touch a vagabond grain of crisp rice. Never taking her eyes from mine, she pulls that one, tiny grain back to her slowly – oh, so slowly - underneath her index finger. Unblinking, she slides it off the top of the table, holding it there between her finger and the rounded edge. Then, eyes locked onto mine, in true Easy Rider, “stick it to the man”-fashion, she crunches that little grain into oblivion. I sit, speechless. I could not have been more shocked if my sweet, little cherub-faced toddler had jumped up, flipped me the bird and shouted obscenities across her mushed up, milk-less breakfast. She may as well have said, “What the f---, woman?! Step off, b—ch, and let me eat my ceweal in peace!”

We stay frozen in a standoff stare, both of us somewhat bewildered by what just happened. Her look changes from one of defiance to wide-eyed horror of slow realization. It is written somewhere in that book of unbreakable rules for mommies that thou shalt never allow blatant, outright disobedience to go unpunished. And punishment for such behavior should be as painful and unforgettable as said child might endure, like no Dora videos for a week or hiding all the Barbies. And if the mommy of the offending child fails to follow through, she will be sentenced to a lifetime of bratty behavior.

We sit.

We stare.

And somehow, in the end, it’s enough for me today that she appeared to be afraid. All my correcting, directing and objecting will have to wait until tomorrow. Today I am off.

I pick up my book and continue to read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rock N Roll

There's an obnoxious squeaking in my ears.

Two weeks ago we celebrated Brother's ninth Birthday. A couple of days before the party a friend calls me on her way home from birthday present shopping.

"Okay," she says. "First of all, tell me thank you."

"Thank you?" I'm nervous.

"I found the coolest present for Brother with lots and lots of tiny pieces," she gushes. My knuckles tighten on the phone. "But I knew you would kill me if I got it, so I got something else." Ah, good friend. It's always great to have a sympathizer. She went on to tell me that she got him something equally cool and how excited she was for him to open it and that I would, of course, love it, too.

In that case, I thought, it must be a magic wand. After all, what could be cooler than that?

Party day came and Brother got some pretty cool stuff. None cooler, however, than the present from the afore-mentioned friend. It was a rock tumbler!!

What the heck is a rock tumbler, you ask?

It is - and I quote - "A high-tech tumbler that transforms rough rocks and minerals into smooth, shiny gemstones."

Well, I guess if I, uh...I mean, Brother, can't have a magic wand, a rock tumbler is the next best thing. It comes with beautiful agates and semi-precious stones in the rough and jewelry findings to make your own jewelry.

Oh, yeah. What nine-year-old boy doesn't dream about this day?

I couldn't wait to get started tumbling. I mean...Brother couldn't wait. The first thing we do is read the instructions. We learn the first step takes 2 to 4 days. Then the second step takes 3 to 7 days. The third step another 3 days, at least. And the final step a minimum of 4 days. We can expect to have polished, beautiful gemstones in a mere 2 to 4 weeks.

So, it's a process. We can handle that, right?

Then we move on down to the Helpful Hints section and find that tumbling rocks is noisy. Again, I don't think too much about it. I figure I can plug it into the laundry room with a towel underneath to absorb some sound and we will hardly notice. A little noise is a small price to pay for such a rich educational experience.

So, a little noise for a couple of weeks. I'm game.

However, while I expected some noise to be generated from rocks rolling around against each other inside a plastic barrel, I wasn't quite prepared for the noise emanating from the machine itself.

Here. Take a listen. Be sure and turn the volume up so you can enjoy it as much as I do.

The towel on top has a dual function.
1.) To muffle the sound.
2.) The darned thing won't go without pressure on the lid.

And we get to hear this for 2 to 4 weeks.

But hey, no little pieces!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

How To Know It Is Past Your Child's Bedtime

When you ask them to put away their shoes and put on their pajamas they dissolve into tears and shriek, "WHY DO YOU MAKE ME WORK LIKE CINDERELLA?????!!!!!!"

In the event this happens to you, you will know, without a doubt, that said child has been pushed past the appropriate limit for being awake and you should drop kick, (ahem), I mean, deposit them as quickly as possible in the nearest sleeping recepticle.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Mrs. Ashley died today.

I know to most of you that means nothing, and really, in my day to day, it doesn't mean much. My life has not been altered. I sit here in my house, typing on this keyboard, listening to the dishwasher run and I have no reason to believe that I will not get up tomorrow morning and do the same things again.

Mrs. Ashley was my teacher in the second grade; my first teacher at a new school. She was small and freckled, with dark shiny hair cut like Dorothy Hamill. She was kind and soft spoken and brought an eggplant to class one day and cooked it on a hotplate for us all to taste.

This morning she got up and brushed her teeth and probably put on a sweater as a cold front came in overnight. She got in the car with her husband and they drove. They probably talked about their jobs, their two grown children. Maybe they were planning a trip this summer. Maybe they argued.

Someone ran a stop sign and now Mr. Ashley lays in a hospital trying to figure out how his wife, who was there with him this morning is gone forever this evening.

She was just there.

Monday, March 03, 2008

And the Lord Taketh Away...

I'm a big meanie.

Since implementing the new Clothes In the Hamper rule, the floor in my hall has stayed remarkably clothes-free. Well, when it's not overflowing, anyway. In fact, Sister has been The Enforcer, stuffing any stragglers she finds lurking around the outside of the hamper back in their proper place.


Since that rule worked so well, I thought I'd apply a slightly different version of the same rule to their rooms. I took a tip from my blogging friend, Kelli, and told them whatever was left on their bedroom floors after bedtime would not be there in the morning. This rule, I was hoping, would be especially helpful for Sister, who seemed to take such a liking to the laundry rule and who can never seem to find enough energy to pick up whatever she drags out.

A little back story here: About a month ago I took Sister shopping for shoes as her tennis shoes were suddenly about two sizes too small. But, alas, Sister is not a tennis shoe kind of girl. She is more of a sparkly, make-a-loud-click-clacking-on-the-floor shoe kind of girl. You can imagine the kind of mind-numbing, hair-pulling kind of torture that ensued. I finally got her to agree to a simple pair of white, no-frills tennis shoes, but only after promising to spend an extra eight dollars on a pair of gold, glitter flip flops.

Much to Sister's delight, we have had a few days of early spring and the weather has been flip-flop wearin' warm. She has worn those glitter flip flops more than the tennis shoes.

Surprise, surprise.

However, just before bedtime tonight, they were in the middle of her bedroom floor, along with some valuable Build-A-Bear accessories, a favorite princess lip gloss locket, Barbie's horse and various other trinkets. When I gave the "10 minutes till bedtime" warning, she was very busy playing robots with Brother and I knew this evening wasn't going to fare well for her. Wanting to give her every possible opportunity to rescue her golden shoes, I even reminded her about the rule. "Okay," was her flippant response.

I gave the five minute warning and nothing had been put away.

Then the one minute warning, thinking she might shift into hyperspeed and, by some great miracle, pull it off.

But, no. She didn't get it done. Truth is, she didn't even try. So, when I told her I needed to brush her hair so she could get in bed, she stared at me in disbelief, and then the tears began. She started down her list of excuses, trying to tell me it was Baby's fault and that she wouldn't help pick up (they share a room). I reminded her that I had already been in there with Baby and made sure she picked up her share. She tried to say I hadn't given her enough time, which again, didn't pan out. She was reaching for anything and getting more upset with each new excuse and all I could say was, "I'm sorry." And I really, truly was. Even Brother was upset and almost got himself grounded coming to her defense. After brushing her hair I told her to go pick out a story and I grabbed my trashbag to clear the floor.

Then the real wailing began.

And it didn't stop. She wailed during the three books we read, pausing to ask if I had thrown away any of her favorite toys. "I don't know," was all I said and she continued to sob on my shoulder. Afterwards I got them all in their beds to start the tucking-in process. It was then she realized her shoes had been collected by the mean, stupid-rule-making, mommy monster and her sadness turned to despair. It was heartbreaking. Really, it took every ounce of willpower I had to not turn tail and rescue those shoes from the big, white trashbag waiting in my room for its fate.

Oh, but I wanted to.

I brought her tissues and a drink of water and lots of hugs. "Mommy," she said, finally calming down. "Can you buy me some more sparkly flip flops?"

I looked at her huge, blue eyes and splotchy face. "No, honey," I said, sounding resolute, but feeling like I could crumble any minute.

"But, Mommy," she said, turning on the tears again. "Shoes are a basic need! You can't take away a basic need!"

Smart one, she is.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blast From the Past

More than a week since I last posted. Pitiful, I know. But in my defense I had a couple of blogs started and Blogger lost them.

Lost them.

Like they were saved as drafts and then "poof"! Vanished into thin air.

So today, we're going back in time, to one of my very favorite posts. I came across it the other day and it made me laugh. It was so not funny at the time, but thank goodness I can laugh about it now.

Kind of like Blogger losing my blogs. Not funny now, but maybe later.

Or not.

Oh yeah, I like this one, too. And I'll get to work on rewriting the other posts.

$*#*$@! Blogger!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Review: Deceptively Delicious

Okay, if you have those dream children that eat every bite put in front of them, move on. You are a perfect parent and I suck in comparison to you and I don't wanna hear about it. But if you, like me, have kids that balk at most vegetables and routinely ask, "How many bites do I have to eat?" then you may be interested in what I have to say.

A little more than a week ago I found Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, on sale at Barnes and Noble. I was intrigued. She proposes that she hides vegetables in her children's food without them even knowing...and they LOVE it. She has a brownie recipe containing spinach.


I don't even like nuts in my brownies. Spinach?!

So I brought it home. Well, first I paid for it, then I brought it home. And I couldn't wait to get started on my evil plan to lure my children into actually ingesting vegetables unawares.

The first recipe we tried was Chicken Nuggets with pureed sweet potato in the breading. Sounds weird, I know. Now, the trickiest part is actually sneaking in the sweet potato without them noticing, which I will tell you, if you're kids are always wanting to help cook, is no easy feat. But once I presented the finished product no one was the wiser. In fact, my little ones went wild over these! In fact, I was quite surprised at how good they were.

Our next recipe was Pancakes with sweet potato puree. Another hit. Last night it was Italian Meatloaf with carrott puree and Mashed Potatoes with cauliflower. The potatoes were excellent and though the meatloaf had a nice flavor, the texture was a little mushy, which turned my kids, and myself, off. However, with enough ketchup, you can disguise almost anything.

You might be thinking, as I did, that if you trick your kids into eating vegetables, they will never learn to eat them knowingly. However, she addresses this issue as well and never suggests that you stop serving fresh vegetables on the side and even as crudite while you are making dinner. But if you know they are getting at least some vegetables - however deceptively - then you don't feel like you have to spend the meal nagging and negotiating with them about eating. Personally, I hold the belief that kids are kids and eventually grow up and stop complaining about onions and peas. I eat loads of stuff now that I wouldn't touch as a kid.

Of course, I still don't do liver.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. So far, the recipes have been simple, kid-friendly and tasty. What more could you ask for?

And now I'm off to make Banana Bread with cauliflower.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ooooooo, you're gonna be so jealous when you see what I got for Valentine's Day!


It's the cutest little digital camcorder EVER! Now I can record earth-shattering events like this:

Imagine what this means for my BLOG!!

And it has zero fat, zero calories, zero carbs so it won't make my butt bigger...unless I record my butt...which will add ten pounds...but we won't talk about that.

I did not even ask for this. Didn't even know it existed. And my hubby - the world's best gift giver - surprised me with it, knowing I would go ga-ga. Oh, it's the best Valentine's present EVER!! (gush, gush, gush)

Stay tuned for more ground-breaking video journalism from the trenches.

(By the way, I don't know why it's posted the video twice. I cannot edit it out either. Guess I will have to spend my day playing with my new toy to figure it out. Gosh darn it.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hey! Did I Tell You?

I got an 86 on my first College Algebra exam.

Applause. Applause.

Of course, I was a wee bit disappointed it wasn't an A, but the semester is young...

Mystery Solved

Every now and then I stop to ponder some of life's greatest mysteries, such as:

Crop Circles

Why my family cannot put their dirty clothes in the basket.
Seriously. Note the pink basket inside the closet. Note how empty it is. Note the incredibly large pile of dirty clothes on the floor directly IN FRONT OF the basket, even TOUCHING it. In fact, the clothes on the upmost top of the pile could easily topple over inside the basket with a good stiff breeze.
New rule:
Any clothing found on the floor does not get washed. If it is there for a week, it gets tossed.
Think I won't do it?
Watch me.
I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Memoirs Of An Addict

Coffee is my drug of choice.

I'm not in denial. I fully embrace the fact that I am an addict. I don't even hold the conviction that I should quit.

I'm a full-blown junkie.

One to two cups every morning. Two sugars and a splash of milk.

This morning, I shuffled to the kitchen, as I do every morning, to get the crack a-cookin'. I'd had an especially difficult night with Baby, who has some kind of yucky respiratory thing going on. She was up and down all night coughing and blowing her nose while I kept administering medication and drinks of water, trying to ease her discomfort.

It didn't help that I was up until 2 a.m., either.

So, I go through the motions with my eyes only barely open. Empty old filter. Put in new. Two scoops of coffee. Six cups of water. Flip the switch. I shuffle back to the computer to check my email and wait anxiously for my brew. After a few minutes, I notice I can't hear the familiar sounds of percalation or smell the delicious aroma that would normally have me salivating at this point.

You know how you get in the habit of doing something and before long you don't even pay attention to what you're doing? It's the whole "autopilot" phenomena.

I automatically think I must not have really made the coffee. I can't even remember doing it. Silly me. I need coffee...bad.

I head back to the kitchen to make it for real this time, since I have obviously been on autopilot too long.
But the coffee pot is on.

I check the reservoir. It has water. What about coffee? Check. Plugged in? Check.

But it is not making coffee. It is not doing anything. Not even a pulse.

My coffee pot is...(sniffle)...dead.

A moment of silence, please.

Good-bye, old friend.

But there is no time for a proper memorial. My addiction is greater than even my grief and everything is secondary to my need for a fix. I begin to bark commands and have everyone dressed and loaded into the van within twenty minutes, myself included. As far as addicts go, I look the part. Sunken eyes, no shower, no makeup and last night's dirty clothes. My children cry as I rip their half-eaten breakfasts from their mouths and drag them out into the bone-chilling cold so mommy can score a hit. But I feel no shame. I am numb.

Driving bleary-eyed along the highway I try to formulate a plan. I will stop at the nearest fast food drive-thru and get me the largest cup they have. If it costs me four dollars, I will pay. But I cannot think clearly. In my stupor I drive past every available drive-thru and find myself close to Wal-Mart. Forget the drive-thru. Why pay a dealer when I can make my own at home? I need a new pot. I screech into the parking lot on two wheels. I cannot even speak complete sentences as my children ask me, "Why, Mommy? Why?" Coffee...hurry...can't...please...

The store is warm and bright coming in from the cloudy, gray cold and I steer us to the small appliance aisle. It is full of shiny coffee makers in black, white and chrome. They beckon to me and I am at their mercy. The commercial coffee pot at $94 is enticing. I could make a lot of it really fast. I could share it with my friends. Fortunately I don't have $94 to spend and I grab the $19.95 Black and Decker, ready to find an electrical outlet then and there and have my coffee in aisle number eight of my local neighborhood Wal-Mart.

I make it home with all three children, the Black and Decker, a new bag of freshly ground coffee at $7/pound and a box of Chai tea, shaking as I carry them in the door. In my crazed need for caffeine, I may have overdone it a bit, but I will have to deal with those repurcussions later.



Meet my new best friend:
I can even program it to have my coffee ready and waiting for me when I get up in the morning. Isn't it lovely?
Exquisite, it is.
My precioussss...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lamenting Algebra...Again

It's down to the wire now. After two semesters of non-credit preporatory Algebra classes, I am finally in College Algebra. After this semester, I will wash my hands of math classes and will be the bonafide ownder of a...

Drum roll, please...

Associates of Liberal Arts degree.

Then it's on to the Big Kids College for the B.A.

But for the next twelve weeks I will be sweating through Algebra yet again. Only this time, it counts. Whatever I make goes straight to my transcript.


Tomorrow morning is my first College Algebra test.

I should be studying.

But I don't wanna.

I hate Algebra.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wanted: Grandparents (or anyone else willing to babysit for free)

I have the sweetest little neighbor lady across the street. Ms. Cindy's husband died about five years ago and we try to look out for her. Ms. Cindy has a daughter my age and two grandsons that love to play over here when they come visit grandma...which is every weekend.

Now, I love Ms. Cindy. I love her daughter. And I love her dear little grandsons. But I have to admit, I feel a tinge of jealousy every weekend when her daughter drops off those little boys and leaves them to spend the night at grandma's house and she and her husband go do whatever it is childless grownups do on a Saturday night while I sit here at home surrounded by noisy, messy children and Hubby is at work.

Where do I get one of those?!

Don't get me wrong, my parents are fabulous grandparents. My kids adore them and they are great at coming, staying for an hour, spoiling the kids senseless and leaving. But they've never kept my kids overnight.


Part of it is my fault, really. I was very protective of Brother and wouldn't let hardly anyone hold him, let alone keep him. But with each child, I've become a little less protective and a little more desperate. Seriously. Take my kids. Please.

I've tried to tell myself that my parents probably would sit for us if they didn't live an hour away, but it's little consolation as I have a friend whose parents live in a neighboring state and still make arrangements to take the kids for the weekend.

Was their some kind of secret grandparenting class my parents missed? Shouldn't this have been in their contract? Can I sue for breech?

So who's free next weekend? Don't be afraid. The kids come with their own straightjackets and weekend supply of Benedryl.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brother is 8, about to turn 9. Since he learned to ride his bike, we have given him more freedom to ride down the street about half a dozen houses to where he has two friends right across the street from each other. Their names are Camden and Marcus. Today we got lots and lots of snow and made a special trip to the store for galoshes and gloves. As soon as we got home, Brother was itching to throw on the new galoshes and have a rip-roarin' snowball fight with his buddies. He caught me heaving in groceries and girls and pelted me in the back of the head with "Hey, Mom, can I go to Camden's to play?" Knowing he'd been waiting anxiously all day, and it was already 3:30, I said yes and he said he was going to walk instead of ride his bike. I turned and looked at him. "Okay, but you have to be very careful," I warned, feeling uneasy about his decision. And he, of course, assured me he would.

Later I am in the house with the girls when I hear a knock on the door. I figure it is probably Brother and Camden coming in for hot chocolate or a Playstation break. When I answer it, I see Camden...alone. "Can Brother play?" he asks.

My heart stops and feels as though it will never beat again. "I thought he was with you," I said, already reaching for my shoes. He shook his head. I look at the clock and realize Brother has been gone an hour and has not been where he was supposed to be. "Camden," I reach for the phone. "What is Marcus' number?" "I don't know," he answers, "but I'll run down there and see if he's there." I begin to gather the girls, not bothering with coats, and somehow end up with my purse and car keys, though I don't remember grabbing them. My head is going to very dark places and I see and hear things in my mind on which I can't bear to dwell. My boy...I let him walk.

God, please...please.

I take the girls outside and look down the street. I look for his bike which could be down the street at Tommy's or Tabitha's, but they are not even home. Sister wants to stop and make a snow angel, but I yell at her to get in the van and though I don't want to scare her I can't think of what she is saying to me even though I hear her voice. I automatically buckle up Baby in her car seat but do not wait for Sister to buckle before I back out of the driveway. If he isn't at Marcus' house, where do I go next? What do I do? What will my husband say?

I park the van in front of Marcus' house and see Camden's bike in the drive in front of the gate. I run to the front door and knock. Camden answers the door. "Is he here?" I ask.

He nods his head "yes".

I grab the door frame to keep from collapsing on their front porch. Camden's mom is on the treadmill and calls for me to come in. Brother meets me and that face, with the freckles and the eyelashes and the missing teeth - that face I worried would be lost to me forever - and he knows immediately what kind of trouble he is in. "Get your things and get in the van," I said quietly. He apologizes and tells me he was going to call me but he forgot. "Get your things," I repeat. He is gathering his things nervously and Marcus' mom tries to calm me by showing me their new puppies. I try to be social but I finally just have to say, "I'm sorry. I can't do this...I'm shaking..." and she understands and gives me a smile as we leave.

Brother continues to talk and try to apologize and explain and make excuses but it is caught between my desire to scream at him and take him in my arms. Just before I open the door, I turn to him and my tears will be silent no longer. "YOU DIDN'T CALL ME! I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE YOU WERE!" I choke. He stares at me, his own gorgeous blue eyes welling up. "Don't cry, Mom," he pleads. And here we stand. It is though he sees through me to this love I have for him, so dangerous and intense, and he is wounded that he wounded me. In return, I try not to cry in order to keep from upsetting him more and I silently open the van door for him to get in.

He continues to cry and apolgize the entire 45 seconds home and even into the house. I do not respond except to tell him to sit at the kitchen table. I get the girls settled and go to the kitchen, still trembling. He tries to talk. "No talking," I say. "Just listen."

"But, Mom..."

"NO TALKING! JUST LISTEN!" He is quiet but is breathing heavily and loudly and I finally realize he is having an asthma attack. I hand him his inhaler. I sit across the table from him and wait for his breathing to regulate. Then I begin the emotional lecture. How do I impress upon him how dangerous this world is without scaring him to death? Morever, how do I handle this conversation without beating him?

In the end, he got up and came to me - came. to. me. - and hugged me and I grabbed him, thanking God all the time that I could feel his hair tickle my nose and smell his sweatshirt damp with snow.

And he didn't pull away.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Do you ever find things like this in your laundry? Do you ever ponder ponder what on earth happened to it?

Then do you fold it neatly and tuck it right back in with the others?

I did.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Music Appreciation

When teaching Music Appreciation at the Superhouse, we are sure to expose our children to all the classics: The Doobie Brothers, Van Halen, Toto, Lynard Skynard and ZZ Top. On this particular evening, Hubby had put on "Sweet Home Alabama" and our kids released their inner rock stars.

Is there anything more adorable than a toddler in a pink tutu playing air guitar?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tell me, parents, is the Christmas honeymoon over? Are your children wandering around bored with the umpteen million presents they received - nay, BEGGED FOR - for the holidays? Has the very gift for which they would have sold their souls lost its luster and lay forgotten at the bottom of the toy box?

Well, have I got a tip for you.

Tell your children to clean their rooms.

My kids can be walking around, underfoot, telling me they're bored and pining for something to do. I send them to their rooms to clean and, lo and behold, when I check in on their progress, every toy in their room has seemed to magically hold their attention in a way it never has before. The toys that had only minutes before seemed completely unattractive are now endlessly fun and beguiling. They will literally be transfixed for hours.

Of course the room never gets clean, and it does, of course, reinforce negative behavior, but it's great for a moment's peace.

Hey, I never said I was a GOOD mom.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Voice of Reason

You remember when I bought my new washer/dryer combo, don't you? It was June...maybe July. Ok, it was August. Click here for a refresher. That was about five months ago. But now I am beginning to lose faith in my dynamic duo. About a month ago, maybe two - Ok, it was October - the bleach and fabric softener dispensers stopped working in my washer. Fortunately the repairman came out, ordered the part and fixed within a week free of charge. I say "fortunately" because it was fixed and it was free of charge. However, a family of five cannot go a week without a washing machine and come out unscathed. So, "fortunately" we managed.

This morning, with an hour to go before I must leave for class, I realize I have nothing clean to wear. Lucky for me I have this beautiful state-of-the-art washer and dryer with speed cycles on them, so this is certainly not a problem for a supermom such as I. I throw my needed load in the wash and deposit last night's load of whites in the dryer. I start them up and proceed to the shower. But when my load in the washer is finished, I notice my whites in the dryer are not. In fact, the whites are still quite wet and the power on the dryer is completely off.

What the...?

I poke the "power" button several times successively, thinking a good, hard poke will show it who's boss and scare it into starting. But apparently, I'm not that scary. I remove the lint filter, thinking somehow it was full and tripped a magic safety switch that will keep us all from a dying a horrible, fiery, lint-related death. But no, the lint filter is clean. I send Hubby out to see if we flipped a breaker somewhere, though that has never happened before. Alas, no luck.

So, what does a supermom do when she has Algebra class and no clothes?


Yeah, like that thought didn't cross my mind.

Being the dedicated student I am, I dug out a pair of sweatpants from the dirty clothes and decided there were no noticeable spots and threw them on. I deserve an "A" for that alone.

Hubby got the lucky task of calling GE. As I was packing up my book bag, I got to hear the conversation. Keep in mind that my husband has a nice, deep, smooth voice. He should have been in broadcasting. All the while, he kept a nice, even tone, never raising his voice once. Not even a tinge of sarcasm. This is how the conversation went:

Hubby: Yes, I have a dryer that is not receiving power. (pause) Yes, I checked the breaker. (pause) I don't know, it won't even come on. (pause) Well, we've had it less than six months and had to have the washer repaired a few months ago. I thought it was a fluke, but now I'm beginning to wonder. (pause) Next Monday, the 21st? No, that is not acceptable. (pause) Yes, ma'am, I understand. I would like a repairman immediately. (pause) I spent (insert dollar amount here) on this washer and dryer and have had two problems inside of six months. I want someone out here immediately or I will be a customer service problem until I receive satisfaction. (pause) Between 8 and 5 tomorrow? That would be great. Thank you.


I love that man.