Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer's End Mystery

My son's retainer ended up in the neighbor's yard today.

Just how does that happen???

I can't even imagine, my imagination now being shackled to adult sensibilities.  Such sensibilities would include:

-- You don't hang your head over the fence, face down, with your mouth open.

-- You don't wind up and, with mouth open, swing your head violently in one direction so as to hurl said retainer out of your mouth and clear over the fence.

-- You would never see the occasion to take it out and throw it anywhere.  Ever.

Of course, my son emphatically denies the occurrence of any of these things.

But how else could this happen?  

Since the culprit, the purveyor of such mysteries, the nine year old with a day-glo orange retainer is claiming complete innocence and ignorance in this matter, I am only left to wonder

. . . and count the hours until school tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Efficiently Wasting Time

Please pardon my tardiness today.

First, I lost the battle of logic against the grocery store today, and took quite a tour through it.  And I have yet to put it all away.  So much for paring down the pantry.

Then, we all had a lovely lunch of turkey and tomato sandwiches, and then it dawned on me.  School begins this week.  I've known when school starts, but it hit me that tomorrow is the DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS.  Perhaps the biggest and busiest day of the entire school year for a mother.  This was it.  As of tomorrow, it's alarm clocks, full breakfasts, a definite uptick in laundry needs, packed lunches, carpools, homework, deadlines, and firm bedtimes.

So I decided to use this afternoon to my fullest advantage.  To get one thing accomplished that must be done before school starts -- no time and not justifiable once school starts:  Waste time.  

Yep, I wasted an entire afternoon.  After lunch, the rest of my brood got busy with outside activities.  I slinked back inside.  Stealth-like, I stole away to the sofa and watched an entire movie . . . just me . . . in the middle of the day.  (Ever seen Calendar Girls?  I highly recommend it for a feel good chick flick with a brain.)   I could just feel my batteries recharging. 

At one point, my husband happened upon me, smiled, kissed my forehead, and wished me a nice time.  A keeper, that one. 

It was a lovely two hours of nothingness.  (For any of you who have not yet been there . . . I'm here to tell you.  It exists.  There ARE wastable hours.)  Any thoughts of uniform shirts or bread making were chased away as quickly as they arrived.  'Twas quite lovely.  (You must excuse my quaint British accent . . . the Girls have temporarily influenced me . . . for the better, I might add.)  

Here comes the brood.  They must be finished for the day.

Well, break time's over . . .

Tomorrow's the day.  The Day. Before. School.

Lots to do.

Guess what?

My son still needs school shoes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Assembling an Escape

I have no imminent topic today.

Not much going on, just this and that.

I'm supposed to be grocery shopping, but, really, don't we all have more than we need already?  Perhaps this would be a good week to pare down the stockpiles and thin out the freezer.  Yes, that's it.  I'm on to something.  Done.  No grocery shopping.  Today, anyway.  

Hubbo is assembling a new computer desk as we speak, and I'm staying decidedly out of it.  It's not because we don't work well together, we usually do (with some now legendary exceptions).  It's because he has decided to let both kids "help."  All four of us, when there is a serious task to accomplish?  Not a good combination.  I won't venture to explain why; it just isn't.

So I sit here, chatting with you, hiding in plain view.  I'll be glad when it's over and nothing got scratched or cracked.  My husband seems so calm and sure of things.  It's like he doesn't know the six year old is very likely to kneel on screws any minute -- even while they're on top of the desktop board that is unadvisedly set before her on the floor.  And he seems to think my son is way stronger than he really is.

My son is in the "spaghetti phase," as I call it.

He's tall for his age and growing so fast, you can almost watch it.  And he is currently shaped like spaghetti -- spaghetti arms, spaghetti legs, spaghetti body -- all long and thin (I should only have such problems!), and . . . spaghetti strength.  Bones may grow longer, but muscles don't grow stronger, when you're nine.  So each time my husband sends my son to bring the next piece over, I cringe because I know it is a bit too heavy for him.  And I know my son would sooner drop the piece directly on his feet and have it crack in two than admit to his father, up front, that it is too heavy for him.

So here I sit, talking to you, throwing in my two cents when needed:  "Daddy's right, don't stand on the boards."  "Yes, leave all the screws in the bag."  "No, the dog does not want to help."  My breathing is quite irregular as I have been holding it intermittently and erratically.

Uh-oh, there has been a pause in production.  Confusion seems to have descended upon the group.  The kids have been instructed to stop talking, "just for a minute." More silence.  Nothing, nothing.  Still nothing.

This sounds serious.

Perhaps the grocery store wouldn't be so bad afterall . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Guys and Dolls

I just  love it when a man calls a woman, "Doll."  I do.  I admit it.  Feminism, equality . . . I'm not talking anything about that.  I'm just saying, there is something so "old school," so Sinatra, about a man calling a woman, "Doll." 

I overheard a mature gentleman on the phone with his wife this morning.  He ended with, "Okay, Doll, I'll call you when I'm finished here."  I love that. 

I don't know if my husband could pull that off.  He may be too young.  Perhaps a man must be of a certain age to say, "Doll," and have it sound right.  Maybe there needs to be a certain air.  I'm not sure, but I'm willing to explore . . .

But would that mean I'd have to become a real dame? 


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R + K = 4ever

Today is our anniversary.

Years ago, on this day, the boy who lived downstairs introduced himself to the girl who lived upstairs and they lived happily ever after.

That's our story.  And it's true.

My future husband was first my downstairs neighbor.  I thought he played weird music too loudly and had strange looking friends.

He thought I was cute.  (That's all he admits to, anyway.)

He invited me downstairs for an ice tea and I never wanted to leave.  And I practically didn't.  We were together every minute we could be from that day on. 

It would be over five years until we got married.  We were young and had a lot to do before we got married, and we did it.  It's probably not as exciting as it sounds, it was mostly things like going to college, paying off bills, and making up with parents.  But, through it all, we were together . . . from the first day on.

So we celebrate this day even more specially than our wedding day as it is, truly, the day we began our living our lives together.

This day, all these years later, we will be together as a family, for our union of two has become a family of four.  We will take a leisurely ride heading toward the coast.  Whether we make it all the way to the shore or not will depend on our whim.  We'll stop at interesting shops, tacky landmarks, and whatever else strikes our fancy.

We'll hold hands and walk slowly and celebrate that we are together.  Where we go and what we do isn't really the point.  The point is that we're together.

 Love you, Honey.

A Return to . . . Milk Duds

My son took me on a date a couple months ago.  To a movie.  And he paid . . . with the free tickets he earned in a contest at his orthodontist's office.  He also treated to the concessions.  (Well, his father had given him money and told him that a gentleman always asks his "date" if she wants anything and pays if she does.  (Good job, Hon!))  I chose a reasonable package of Twizzlers.  My son, taking advantage of his imaginary manhood status for this evening, overrode the usual rules and chose Milk Duds.  Milk Duds?  Milk Duds are a well-known no-no with his braces, specifically forbidden by his orthodontist, Dr. Fritz.  He noticed my quizzical look, gritted his teeth, and joked, "Dr. Fritz is going down!"   

Later, during the movie, I looked over at my son.  He was expressionless.  Not smiling, not laughing, nothing.  And not meeting my gaze.  No eye contact.  (Mother instincts alerted!)  What's wrong?  He points to his mouth and then the half-empty Milk Dud box.  He was stuck.  All gummed up.  Slightly frantic, but trying his best to hide it.  Dr. Fritz is going down, huh? 

Well, he survived, but had to admit, maybe Milk Duds really were not a good idea with braces.  It's been a long year.  Trick-or-treat was the low point -- no Milk Duds?  In my son's mind, Milk Duds go with Halloween the way candy canes go with Christmas.  And despite his sister kindly accepting his Milk Duds in trade for anything else, it still wasn't the same.  No Milk Duds on Halloween.  I guess when you're eight, that's kind of a big deal.         

Well, now his bite is right and his teeth are straight.  Today he finally gets his braces off. 

Guess what we'll surprise him with afterward.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dollhouses, Horseshoes, and Featherdusters, Oh My!

I'm writing this under duress, in a hurry, while hiding, in the middle of a sneezing fit (ever tried to hide while you're sneezing?).
I am being pelted with incessant hints and questions about lunch -- what's for lunch?  when's lunch?  is it almost lunch?  are you getting hungry for lunch?

What's with the sudden undue interest in lunch?  It represents a respite from the morning.  It will mean we have come to a common understanding of things.  It will mean -- the children have finished cleaning their rooms.  

It all started when I went into my son's room yesterday and had to step over last week's church outfit to reach the clock.  That was it.  No more gentle hints.  No more suggestions.  No more "personal space" or individualism.  So I declared today the "cleaning of the rooms day." We usually have a very thorough, very formal "cleaning of the rooms day" somewhere right before the start of the school year.  Floor bound dress clothing moved it up a few days.

The kids wanted to do it themselves.  Great.  It's not like my own room couldn't use a dusting and fluffing.  We all went to our respective rooms -- me to my room, my son to his room, my daughter, who is not old enough to have enough domain over her bedroom to have it messy, was charged with cleaning up the common play/hobby room upstairs.  Most of the tiny things on the floor belong to her dollhouse anyway.

Ten minutes into the whole operation came a terrible crash, heard throughout the house.  Nothing has been the same since.  It seems my daughter thought she'd start with her brother's things and knocked over a plant stand, sending plants and dirt all over the room.  Medium-sized job now turned into huge job with angry undertones.  Assumptions were made, indictments issued, and warnings distributed.  

We're all back to our own rooms now -- but anger is simmering, feelings are hurting, and the clock is ticking.  I suspect stomachs are rumbling -- maybe there is something to this lunch thing, but . . . 

My son keeps interrupting me to tell me he's finished.  Must I really keep stopping to point out that clothes hangers don't really belong on the floor?  Must I really define what I mean by "dust all the flat surfaces?"  Do I really need to specifically point out the horseshoe in the middle of the floor?  

I now have the opposite problem with my daughter.  She won't come and ask me anything.  She's been spoken to harshly and will now use her (rather questionable) judgment rather than come ask me for any guidance.  She knows I am much more apt to throw it out than find a place for the 900th dollhouse chair found on the floor.  Heaven knows what kind of decisions are being made in there.

But I just realized how dusty my own bedroom is and am as focused as a laser.  Dollhouse chairs be damned -- let the six year old throw you in with the Legos never to be found again -- have you seen how dusty my nightstand is?!??!!!!  If only I could string together more than 3 consecutive minutes of cleaning.

Well, time's up.  I've been located here at the computer . . . it seems my son once again thinks he's finished.  Wanna bet that horseshoe is still in the middle of his floor?  (Do you realize we don't even own a horse?)  And my daughter may have dug a tunnel to China by now . . . and if she thinks she's going anywhere before she finishes cleaning that room . . .
Wish us luck, we'll need it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Girls in My Backyard

Fair Warning:  This is a long post . . . grab a cuppa; a glassa; a bowla; and hopefully you're in the mood for a read . . .

Due to this past weekend's hatchings . . . er, happenings, I thought it might be time to formally introduce you to the girls.  We got four chicks this past spring.  They came in the mail.  Well?  What's a city girl to do when her family decides to keep chickens as pets and one of us -- okay, me -- just HAS to have a cochin (You'll see why in a minute.)?  Order them online, of course!  Reason #714 why I love the internet.

So it was a late winter Sunday afternoon when the family grabbed a mug of hot chocolate and gathered 'round the ole laptop.  We clicked through pictures and descriptions of numerous chicken breeds.  After a few minutes, the 5 year old wandered off, finding her storybooks more interesting than selecting a chicken, so she lost her vote.  It made complete sense to me that I get her vote, so I chose two.  My husband chose one, and my son chose one.  That makes four precious little chicks, handpicked by us.

My husband, being the ever-practical male, chose a very plain, reliable, utilitarian chicken:  a hybrid black star.  My son, seduced by the name, selected an Easter egger -- he remains in utter suspense to find out what color eggs she will lay . . . it could be anything, he's hoping for pink.  I chose a cochin.  Cochins are the types with the feathers all the way down their legs, even covering their feet.  She is like a walking, clucking teddy bear.  And I used the forfeited vote to choose a little bantam (mini) chicken, a seabright, just for fun.  I thought the big chickens would like to have a little chicken of their own -- sort of a pet for the chickens themselves.

In anticipation of spring, we named them all after spring flowers:  Daisy, Daffodil, Violet, and Crocus.  We chose "Crocus" for my husband's chicken because she promised to be not quite as decorative as the others and we thought the word "Crocus" was much the same way, less pretty sounding.  My son claimed "Daffodil" for his chicken, and "Violet" seemed to fit the tiniest one.  Daisy, I'm afraid, got her name by default, but it turns out to fit her perfectly.

They arrived right on time -- the Monday after Easter -- and have been a large part of our family ever since.  They are only 4 months old, but they look almost like full-grown chickens now and they have quite distinct personalities.

Crocus is the typical "plain girl with a nice personality."  She is the most social and most tolerant (as tested by our ever-enthusiastic children).  She is the first one to volunteer to be picked up and is always willing to go for a ride in the wagon.  She seems to speak for the others -- letting us know when the food is low (or just not what they're in the mood for that day), when it's morning (I think she has rooster aspirations), and when there is simply a noise to be made.  The next complaint to the City will probably be about her noises.  She'll hand over her entire kingdom for a strand of spaghetti.

Daffodil was the naughty chick.  She was the bad influence.  The others were content to roam around the playpen; Daffodil was the one who realized they could hop out -- and nothing was ever the same for them (or us) after that.  Her comb is still growing in, but she has fluffy cheeks that make her unique.  Nowadays, she is the most "go about her business" of the chickens, never too keen to play or visit, but amiable.  She gets into trouble, but, fortunately, gets herself right back out.

Violet is the "fancy girl."  My son mocks her and remarks that "she's the pretty girl who secretly eats worms."  And she is.  She's the most likely to eat disgusting things.  She relishes a good worm and is the first one to try the latest insect they come upon.  However, she refuses to eat strawberries or anything pleasant like that.  She runs like the Road Runner, and she is the only one able to fly more than one hop -- she thinks nothing of hopping up onto the coop roof to escape our grasp.  Luckily, she is very much a follower and the key to getting her to do something is to get Daisy to do it first.  She views herself as the baby of the group and uses that to her full advantage in justifying why she should sleep under Daisy.  And she does.

Daisy is my favorite.  She always looks like she's dressed in her warmest jammies -- with feet.  She runs like she has pockets full of potatoes.  She is the biggest, yet the most timid.  And she's not the brightest -- it took her weeks to figure out how to get into the coop at night (must use ladder) after the others had it down pat.  But she is very maternal and tends to Violet as if she were her own chick.  She is the least likely to cause trouble, and on the occasion that she is in the mood to cuddle, you are in for a treat, because her feathers are soft as heaven.

So those are the girls who live in our backyard.

It's been a bit of a trial, so far, having these chickens.  It's taken my husband months to build the complicated coop and run -- but it will be magnificent when it is finished.  It has aggravated one of our neighbors to no end.  (On the bright side, I never liked those neighbors, anyway . . . and we've gained some great friends in the City's animal control and zoning departments.)  It takes time and effort to care for them properly.

Is it worth it?  Well, to date, I would have to admit, it's been a wash in my mind.  But I'm the only one.  Of course, my children would tell you it is totally worth it -- their responsibilities are light.  My husband, surprisingly, would tell you it's already worth it, too.  He has bonded with the chickens during his hours working on their coop -- they supervise and share their ideas (less pounding, more food dishes).  I think I will bond with them more once the coop is finished and the kids are back in school.  Then I'll be the one interacting with them more and by then they'll be producing eggs regularly.  I'm looking forward to it.

So that there you have it.  Thanks for bearing through this diatribe.  They are becoming a large part of our life, and I thought it would do us all well to know them a little better. 

Oh, and they have two neighbors who live in an aviary right next door.  They are pigeons.  They are bright white, they are rescues, they are beautiful, and they are my true loves.  I'll have to tell you about them someday.

And, when I know you better, maybe I'll tell you about Lester.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How Quickly They Grow Up

It seems like only yesterday we had four little chicks in a playpen, snoozing under the heat lamp.

Tell me, how does this:
Turns into this:

And produces these:
In only 4 months? 

Pretty amazing.

My girls have grown up.

Now, we city kids, have to work up to actually eating homegrown eggs.  It seems a bit strange, but I am assured we will get over that right quick.  

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scenes From A Parking Lot

Today, I spent 90 minutes in the car, sitting in a parking lot. Staring at a church. In the rain. Watching from outside while someone else got married. My lover. And I wept as I remembered all those steamy nights together . . . Okay, okay, actually my son is an altar server and was inside doing his duty. I didn't even know the couple. I know -- snore. But it's the truth. (Are you sorry the above isn't true, or not?) I chose to wait outside rather than getting all dolled up to watch strangers get married while my son assisted. My plan: a bottle of ice tea, some knitting, and my car radio was enough to keep me entertained. I thought. Who knew I wouldn't need any entertainment at all. Watching the goings-ons from a church parking lot during a wedding is entertainment enough. I realize many of you, not having spent 90 minutes of your life this way, may not know what you are missing. So I'll share my observations: 1. Even groomsmen slip on wet grass -- when they run. 2. Umbrellas don't protect the bottom of bridesmaids' dresses, no matter how gallant the efforts of the umbrella-holding groomsmen. 3. Little boys avoid umbrellas and make the most of the situation by fashioning their hair into a perfect point on the top of their heads. All those mothers' hard work, down the drain. 4. Brides are elusive, and if you are distracted for even a moment, you miss them. (Darn.) 5. Mysterious women arrive late, first taking huge bundles of white balloons into the reception hall before slowly strolling over to the church. 6. One gentleman arrives late and spends 10 minutes on his cell phone outside the church, arguing with someone, in the rain. 7. One sporty red car parks in the church parking lot. The driver smokes one cigarette with the window down and then leaves. 8. Hard-working caterers come out of the hall and walk around, stretching their backs and having a cigarette while the ceremony is in full gear. 9. More than one father will come rocketing out of the church as if expelled from a canon. Said fathers will have full-throttle, tantrum-throwing toddlers in their arms. Such toddlers will be arching their backs and stiff-arming their fathers and ignoring repeated pleas to stop. 10. Some fathers put such toddlers in their car seats and take off for rides up and down the road to soothe and distract their toddlers. 11. Other toddlers will not be put in car seats and will repeatedly hurl themselves on the floor before they can be strapped in. Their fathers eventually just close the car door and spend 5 minutes walking in circles around the car, not seeming to notice the rain. 12. Fathers are under appreciated. 13. All such under appreciated fathers will return to the church corridor in time to see the happy couple exit the church; no one, except perhaps me, realizing what they've just been through. The question is, will the father, knowing full well what the couple could be in for, join in the ancient rice-throwing ritual intended to bring fertility to the happy couple? Hmmm? I imagine the wedding reception is in full swing right about now. I wonder what's going on in the parking lot. And I wonder who's watching.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Check Mates

Thank all that is good and right, it is Friday.

I've had a tough week.

My son attended a day camp all week. The camp was highly recommended by my son's school coach and it has recommendations and notoriety outside of school as well. But the minute I walked in the door Monday morning, I felt uneasy. I changed my mind about the whole thing. I just didn't like it. I didn't like the atmosphere. I didn't like the attitude. I didn't like it when I followed my son downstairs to introduce myself to the instructor and rather than greeting me, the instructor met me with a sarcastic, "And here's your mother along to hold your hand." Excuse me? Is wanting to meet the instructor and see the instruction space unreasonable? Wouldn't a professional person readily introduce himself? Was my son supposed to be embarrassed by my presence? I wanted to bring my son right back home with me.

Don't worry, I didn't. But I wanted to.

This week, my son learned about chess. This week, I learned about growing up. Not only him, but me, too.

I had to really think hard. Did I really think my son was in danger? Or did I just not like the people? Was my son at real risk? Or was I just uncomfortable? It's taken me all week. Each morning, it has been a little more difficult to take him. When I found out they were not instructing the kids to wash their hands before eating, I questioned their childcare credentials. When they took the kids to the beach -- when the original plan was laser tag, btw -- and only asked the kids whether they wanted sunscreen -- and took no for an answer -- while readily applying it to themselves, I questioned their judgment and wisdom. (Don't they know you have to insist kids put on sunscreen? Any wiggle room and they'll choose against it!?) I could go on and on. And I have. Ask my husband.

I have held what we'll call "information seeking sessions" and "brainstorming and heartsearching sessions" each and every evening. We've examined at length what these people are thinking and what they should be thinking; who they think they are and who they, in fact, are not; and our cumulative impressions of all such persons. My husband was sent on a field trip of his own -- dropping off my son one morning -- so he had more to offer the discussion that evening. (Predictably, most of his impressions were "fine" or some variation of it.)

But I have gritted my teeth and explored the difference between my son's safety and my comfort. He has wanted to go each morning. He has enjoyed this week. He has learned what he was there to learn and had fun along the way. He learned a lot more about chess. Did he learn that an adult will always remind him to wash his hands before he eats? No. He learned he'd better start remembering it all on his own. Did he learn that, one way or another, someone will insist he wear sunscreen at the beach? No. He learned he has to choose it for himself.

I guess those are worthwhile lessons for him.

As for me?

I know you parents who have older children are probably rolling your eyes at this, seeing the obviousness of these lessons. But I'll bet if you remember back, you can recall the first time you let your child do something that went against your best judgment and really pushed you out of your comfort zone. It wasn't easy. I guess parents grow right along with their children.

This was a tougher week for me than it was for my son. But I did begrudgingly learn that I will survive even if my son is not surrounded by people I strongly admire. I learned that my son will tell me when he thinks something is wrong -- like when they had him ride in the front seat even after he told them he wasn't allowed. I learned that, while it is difficult to let my son go on with things that are not to my liking, it may still be to his benefit.

I'll bet you more experienced parents know that this is just the start of this sort of thing for me, isn't it? Don't tell me. I'm not ready . . .

First, let me pick him up from chess camp today and give him a hug and a kiss when we get home (I know they can't be in public anymore -- learned that last year). Let me get him a snack while he watches Arthur. Let me put him in a long, soaky bath and remind him to scrub his toes. Let me tuck him in bed tonight and relish knowing where he is all night long, safe, warm, and looked after.

What? I played nice all week. Now he's all mine, and I'm not sharing him with nobody.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ferris Fish's Day Off

There once was a little goldfish with no name, no home, no food, and no love. He spent his days in a plastic bag, one of many in a pail at the fair. "Sink a ball, win a fish!" And there the little fish sat, waiting, with no food, no air, and no light.

There once was a little boy who had many things. He had a name, he had a home, he had food, and he definitely had love. He also had a little sister who just loved rides. But the little boy had one other thing . . . a great fear of rides.

One sunny evening, the little boy went to the fair with his sister. His sister saw many rides and longed to go on them, but she was not yet tall enough to ride alone. She needed a companion. She begged and begged her fearful brother. At first, the little boy said no, he was too afraid. Then the little girl stopped him and asked again. They happened to stop in front of the little fish game.

Then they got an idea. He would go on the ride with her if she would then help him win a fish. So the brother and the sister went on the ride. The sister squealed and giggled with delight while her brother closed his eyes tight, held on even tighter, and waited for the ride to be over, thinking of the fish waiting for him.

After the ride, the boy and the girl hurried over to the fish game. They bought a whole pail of balls to throw, but they only needed just one, for first ball the boy threw went right in the empty fish bowl. He won his fish. How excited he was as he received the plastic bag containing a little water, a little air, and a little fish.

The boy named the fish, Ferris, and made him a very happy home in a bowl on the windowsill in the sunshine where he got lots of air, lots of food, and lots of love.

And Ferris and the little boy lived happily ever after.

(That's my fish, Olive Oil, in the corner there; he's been living on my kitchen windowsill for a while now . . . we'll talk about him another day.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chilling Questions

I lose a little more respect for my family each time I clean out the refrigerator. No really. Who lives like this? Who? Are we a pack of raccoons? Squirrels? Who saved all this stuff? And who wasted all this stuff? For example, not one, but two jars of applesauce-- moldy? Two?? One is bad enough, but two?

And who bought the tube of pesto? A tube. Of pesto. We're more of a "pour and go" family. Jars. I buy toothpaste in tubes and that's about it. And bigger tubes than that.

And all those little ketchup and mustard packets? Do we really think we're going to use those? We're going to dig those out from under the giant ketchup bottle that rests on top of all those pitiful, little packets? Sure we will. And how did those get in there in the first place? Perhaps they spawned from the ketchup and mustard bottles, together, right next to each other. I don't know.

All questions for minds quicker than mine.

And here's another one . . .

How does all that lint get in there? Who is changing their clothes in the refrigerator!? That's not that far-fetched, you know. The smell that prompted this latest cleaning tirade conjured images of my son's wadded up socks smoldering in the lettuce crisper. It turned out to be the butter.

Don't ask me. Quicker minds, I told you.

Peanut Butter, Fluff, and Farrah Dolls

I found out the other day that my childhood friend's mother died recently. I hadn't thought about her in years. Have you ever missed someone even though you hadn't thought about them in years? She was the mother of my friend, Cindy. Cindy and I did not go to the same school, so we lost touch every school year. But come summer, we were thick as thieves again. We played at Cindy's house more than mine, I think because she was the third and youngest daughter -- more cool toys and more freedom at her house. But what I remember most vividly about Cindy's house was her mother. She was a wonderfully warm woman who almost always had a smile on her face. She had a high-pitched voice and burgundy hair and she was always nice to me. I can still remember . . . Popsicles the backyard Impromptu ride-along trips to the farmer's market Peanut butter and fluff sandwiches (never seen or heard of at my own house) She could always be talked into a a quick game of "I Spy," even if she had a full basket of laundry in her arms. The way she just shook her head and snickered while she watched us "dance" to Michael Jackson's Off the Wall LP. (We thought we were so hot, doing The Bus Stop!) Riding our bikes up to the school to surprise her when she started back to work a month before school started -- she was the head cafeteria lunch lady. She had a pretty baby-blue uniform. Her constantly imploring her own daughter to let me play with the Farrah doll sometimes rather than always being relegated to the less desirable Cher doll. The way she always seemed happy to see me even on a busy day. You know, there are some people you just assume to be in this world, even if you haven't seen or thought about them in a long time. But when you find out they're gone, the world feels a little different. A little rougher, a little lonelier. Thanks for everything, Mrs. B. Even after all these years, I'll miss you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Keep Tight In Those Shoes


More shoes.

Why do all my roads lead to shoes these days?

So, as you know, I took my son for school shoes the other day.

As if that weren't enough, my daughter, too, needs new shoes for school. Two pair. One pair of all-white gym shoes, and one pair of black/white saddle shoes for non-gym days. sigh

After taking my son, you'd think I'm properly primed and ready -- not. My daughter is the complete opposite of my son. My son says nothing. My daughter? Every pair of shoes "hurt." She systematically rejects every pair of shoes I put on her IF I am to believe her observations as reported. If said shoes are bright and sparkly, however, she'll jam her feet into them like Cinderella's evil step-sister and swear they feel "great." So, again, with her, I'm on my own.

So, we get there. The tension is already palpable because of the predictable tone and nature of shoe outings with my daughter. Things are going as I have previously described. I'm doing the "wiggle your toe" thing and all. I'm getting frustrated; my daughter is getting more and more unhelpful. I'm about to call the whole thing off and head to the store next door for coffee and paper towels when . . . the store telephone rings. It's someone looking for our shoes. In our size! I keep the shoes I was about to rip off my daughter on a bit longer. Yes, they actually are looking for these exact shoes in this exact size! And, according to the store manager, these are the last pair. Gah!

Suddenly, I am channeling Glinda-the-Good-Witch, "Hold tight in those shoes! Their powers must be very special or she would not want them so badly." Amazingly, I sprout new patience and implore my daughter to walk in them one more time. I decide to believe her when she says the shoes hurt around the opening. I tied them too tight. Yes, that's it! Let's not quibble. Without nary another size 13 black/white saddle shoe left in the city, who needs to get all moralistic? I loosen the laces and re-tie. She is finally forced to admit . . . they fit. So I guess they do. Right? Right.

Hold tight in your shoes, my pretties!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I only wish!

Actually, the ole

is requiring my help. The chicken coop is finally getting a roof, and I'm the designated shingle selector and painter. (You'll see.) Anyway, duty calls . . . Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'd Love to Stay and Chat

I'd love to stay and chat, but my house looks like a bomb went off, my kids are filthy, my pets are hungry, and my husband is out of underwear. I won't bore you with the other 99% of my list.

I have spent the morning vacuuming, scrubbing the kitchen counters, doing laundry, returning phone calls, supervising the kids, calling the local fish store about an aquatic concern of my son's, and making lunch.

After lunch, I continued vacuuming, fed the chickens and pigeons, and threw the seemingly bored kids back outside to play.

And I still don't know what's for supper . . . despite the repeated inquiries from my kids. (And why must kids know what's for supper so long in advance anyway?? We'll have to delve into that curiosity on another day.)

So my son just arrived in the middle of the kitchen (filthier yet) wanting to know, "Aren't we doing anything today?"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yeah, But Mine's Crunchy

It's fair week.

Every year, I help my kids bake up something to enter at the fair. My son had success the first year he ever entered. He got first place for his oatmeal-coconut-raisin cookies. He's now become a bit of an oatmeal-cookie snob and insists on making the same thing each year. He's puzzled by the differing results. How can the same recipe that was judged the best last year only be third best this year? Cynicism roots early.

This is my daughter's first year. She's six, highly enthusiastic, and somewhat messy. She's not yet ready for the detailed task of cookie making. She's more of a dump and go kind of girl. Great. So am I.

I've got a killer whole wheat banana-date bread recipe. It's great. Always gets raves. I never even tell people that it is whole wheat. No need for them to adjust their expectations because it's relatively healthy. It's that good. We ground our own dates, for added moistness. And even ground fresh nutmeg -- a secret addition that makes it all her own.

It was all going so well, until . . .

Another stealth ingredient snuck in there.

Egg shell.

Yup, I should have expected this and had her break the eggs into a separate bowl. I know. No need to point this out. I know. She was just so excited about cracking the eggs herself . . . Well, sure enough a big chunk of egg shell went right in. And I couldn't find it for the life of me. I dug and dug in the batter trying to find the dime-sized piece of shell. It seems to have disintegrated. One can only hope.

Perhaps I'll check and see if there is an "Added Calcium" category for the "under 7" sect.


In case you're interested, here is the recipe, but I've been sworn to secrecy about the nutmeg.

Banana-Date Whole Wheat Bread
Prep Time = 15 minutes ~~~ Bake Time = 75 minutes, approx.

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. ripe bananas, mashed (about 4)
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. dates, chopped
2/3 c. plain, nonfat yogurt
2 eggs
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Move oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 350*. Grease bottom only of 9x5x3 loaf pan.

Stir together all ingredients until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake until toothpick comes out clean from center. Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack.

Remove from pan, continue cooling on rack. Cool completely before slicing.

Store at room temp up to 10 days, as if it will last that long; 10 days in the refrigerator.

You'll thank me, and you're welcome. :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Ole' Soft Shoe

"Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? You're not wiggling your toe. Wiggle your toe!"

Ahhh, the sounds of summer winding down.

Sure, there are the crickets and the cicadas. But the surest sign that summer is winding down is the time-honored tradition of buying new school shoes.

There's nothing like it. Kids move so quickly from fearing the measuring plate when they are toddlers to squirming around on it because it tickles. And it is the only time -- the only time -- my son is not given to standing on one foot. No matter how many times he is implored to "stand on this foot," his weight remains evenly distributed between both. That is the only time of year you will see that, because his common stance usually involves just one foot while one arm is wound behind his head and grabbing his chin -- just for fun.

And then there is the actual trying on of shoes. Children go mute at this point. At least mine do. All the way there I have been pelted with millions of questions, some pertaining to shoes, some pertaining to school, some lunch, and most pertaining to things entirely unrelated. However. Put a pair of new shoes on a child and all words leave them.

"How do they feel?"


"Do they feel tight?"

Silence and far away stare

"Can you walk in them a little?"

Slow reaction and then, gasp, something even stranger, even more rare happens . . . he actually walks around. Walks! No hops, no skips, no sideways steps just for added interest. Just walks. Forward facing. I just behold for a second, maybe two. It's such a beautiful yet rare thing to see a nine year old boy just walk. And he has to be coaxed and encouraged to go a little further and a little further -- this for the child who was 5 strides ahead of me in the parking lot regardless of my various threats and pleas. Finally, he returns.

"So? How do they feel?"

Silence, accompanied by a look down at the shoes.

"How do they feel?"

"Good." Hark! A response!

"Does the heel hurt?"


"Does your little toe hurt?"

"I don't think so."

"Does anything hurt?"

"I don't think."

Unconvinced, I assume the time-honored position: crouching over the newly-shoed foot, pressing incessantly, repeating, "Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? Wiggle your toe!" I flashback to my father. I remember him fondly until I suddenly recall the sharp pain that shot through my toe when my father's thumb descended down, through the shoe pinning my toe to the sole of the shoe. "Wiggle your toe. Are you wiggling your toe? Wiggle your toe!"

Now I understand why all my right shoes had a dent just above the big toe.

If you see two kids with dents in the tops of their right shoes, you'll know they're mine. Or maybe they're yours, too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

Dogs, Charming . . . Their Owners, Tedious I couldn't sleep last night. I kept thinking about the little dog I saw yesterday. He was a cute, little, blond thing with big brown eyes. He couldn't have weighed more than 15 pounds. And he was almost dead. He had been locked inside a car while his owners were inside . . . having pancakes and coffee. It was a steaming hot day, 90+ degrees. The car was parked in the middle of a parking lot. No hope for shade, just baking in the sun. Can you imagine sitting in a hot car like that for so long? The police were called. They made pleading announcements in the restaurant, imploring the owner to get out to her car, "Your dog is dying!" No one came forward. Spoons continued to clank in the cups, syrup continued to pour. Even once the police came, nothing. Not until the window was broken out of the car. Then the owner showed up. Upset about the window. She didn't run up and grab her semi-conscious dog from the officer giving him water. No. She, instead, proceeded to scream at the policewoman about her smashed window. Her argument? The window was open a bit at the top and the dog was fine. Unbelievable. The exasperated policewoman asked the crowd of spectators how sad we all felt about the window. Ha! The crowd was ready to run that woman out of town. The woman was probably lucky there were police there, lest she be left in the hands of an angry crowd. The policewoman asked whether any of us wanted to take up a collection for the woman's window. I stepped up. I offered to pay to replace her window. Yes, I did. In exchange for her dog. She actually thought about it. And Animal Control let her keep the dog. The things we do to the smallest among us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Freezer Blindness

Tell me how it is my son can see a popsicle in the freezer without even opening the door. He will find it despite it being buried under several layers of freezer rubble. Under last Easter's ham bone. Behind the package of pierogies I have no recollection of buying. Have no fear, Little Lost Popsicle, my son will come to your rescue; he is the St. Bernard of freezer treats.


Send him in the very same freezer for a package of chicken -- which I describe in advance, to a tee -- and all hope is lost within seconds. In fact, I must subconsciously know this even before I send him in. That's why I painstakingly describe it. The size of the package. The color on the wrapping. Its approximate location -- top shelf right of center. Everything. Yet nothing.

And then I'm left to find it myself. Not an easy task with steam coming out of my ears and various newly-dislodged frozen packages falling on my feet. Yet, there it is. Pretty much right on top, looking just how I said it would.

But you wait and see . . . he will ask for a popsicle later on tonight. I will tell him we don't have any. He'll politely ask if he may look for one anyway. And, lo and behold, he will find one -- all on his own, without my directions, without a description, without any empowering pep talks or lectures on not giving up. He'll dig, he'll persevere, and he will prevail. He will find that popsicle.

Maybe I need to start storing my frozen chicken in popsicle boxes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Neighbors, Tedious; Chickens, Charming

Tedious = Neighbors

So we got chickens this past spring.

Just four little chickens.

They are sweet, and they are our pets.

We raised them from day 1 and moved them outside when they were old enough, mid-June.

Enter: Angry, irrational neighbors.

Now, bear in mind, these are the neighbors that have regular screaming matches. The octaves and decibels reached move most of us to shut the windows. It used to scare my children. Now they're used to it. They are the neighbors whose dog barked herself hoarse nearly every day for years. The neighbors who left a pile of woodchips to grow weeds and take years to recede into the grass. Those neighbors.

Animal control came out upon their first complaint. The gentlemen was enchanted and left here wondering whether he could swing having a couple chickens of his own.

Then zoning was involved. At first, they sided with the neighbors . . . until they realized they were "those neighbors." They asked us to plant a couple of shrubs and sent "those neighbors" a letter telling them to get over it.

Today a new animal control officer was sent over upon their allegation that we have more chickens than we should. She left here telling me she wished we were her neighbors.

What's next, ya think?

Anyone else have "those neighbors?"

Btw, here is a picture of the offenders all grown up:

Aren't they menacing?

Charming = Chickens

But . . . the chickens are SO worth it.

When we alerted the post office that our chicks would be arriving at their post office, the kids and I took the Post Master a little Easter basket filled with yellow Peeps as a "thanks in advance" gift. It worked. Our once giant, gruff, impatient Post Master turned into an excited, giddy little boy before our eyes and promised to call the minute they got there. And he did. Charming.

Chicks feel as soft as they look. Rubbing their little heads along your upper lip feels like a little kiss from heaven. Their peeping sounds signal such fragility and sweetness, you can't hear it and not soften and smile. Charming.

Watching chicks makes your soul smile. I did not make
this video, but I watch it often and it always brings me happiness. I dare you to watch it and give yourself a tune to hum.

They live outside now. The greet us when we go out back. They let the kids pull them in their wagon. They get any bugs out of the sandbox for my daughter. They keep the garden weeded, fertilized, and healthy. And when we call them, they come running like puppies. Charming.

Let the neighbors complain. Pity them the lack of joy and charm in their lives.

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