Wednesday, December 31, 2008

All Hail the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

It can remove yellow highlighter from a wood cupboard door better than a pink eraser and/or rubbing alcohol and/or a Pledge wood wipe.  

Go ahead, ask me how I found this out.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

It Really Is a Wonderful Life

Every once in awhile, something happens that makes me realize just how good I have it.  I have a nice house (albeit a bit cluttered and messed with toys most of the time).  I have a wonderful husband who I love very much.  I have two beautiful children who are smart and sweet and funny and good kids when they aren't trying to kill each other.  

We live in a town that is very much like one you would see in a Frank Capra movie.  We have a Fourth of July parade with festooning over the streets and marching bands and candy for the kids.  Our main street is downtown on the banks of the beautiful St. Croix River.  And at this time of year, the streets are all decorated with Christmas lights.  People say hello to one another.  We have a weekly newspaper that still has a social column where you can read that so-and-so's daughter visited them, or about a baptism in a family, or see a picture of four generations of one family.  

My neighbors are incredibly wonderful, caring people whom I am grateful to know.  If I ever need something, I know they will help if they can, and vice versa.  Our kids all play together on the street, riding bikes up and down the sidewalk and in the parks, climbing trees and playing in the dirt.  

Our kids play baseball and t-ball in the summer while we parents look on from our lawnchairs on the sidelines cheering them on.  

Our kids have school concerts and Christmas pageants at our church.  (This year, my daughter was a narrator in her Christmas pageant, and my son was a shepherd in his.)  

Idyllic is a word I would use to describe my life right now.  We are all healthy and happy.  

I am always amazed at the ways that God uses to show me how fortunate I am right now.  This morning, I was standing in line at Target to return some items.  A young mother was in front of me pushing two little girls in a cart and holding a third girl's hand.  The little ones in the cart were probably nine months and just under two.  The third girl was about three and a half.  I looked at the little ones in the cart, and they stared at me with their big brown eyes.  I looked over at the little girl walking, and she also had beautiful brown eyes.  She also had been severely burned on her face and her nose and upper lip area were all disfigured.  She looked at me and smiled.  I smiled back.  I though about how upset I get in the mornings when I put makeup on over the recent scars on my face.  I hate how they look even with makeup on.  But at that moment in Target, God gave me the kick in the pants that I deserve.  I hope and pray that this beautiful baby can have plastic surgery that will give her the beautiful face that she deserves.  One to go with her big brown eyes and her happy smile.  

"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."  Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes

A year ago, I was a deeply unhappy person.  On one of my last days of work, I sent the following email to family and friends.  I have to laugh when I read it - obviously my sense of humor has gotten me through the bad times in life.  Just thought I'd share.  

"On my commute in to work this morning, I realized that the ending to "It's a Wonderful Life" was probably not going to be a happy one - even if George Bailey was the "richest man in town" and not a failure because he had friends.  If you think about it, if there were 150 people there donating
money to him, they would've each had to give about $53 to raise the $8,000 that he was short.  I guess it could've happened, but back then that was a lot of money for middle-class people.

I like to think that Uncle Billy would've finally remembered that the money was in the paper that he gave to Mr. Potter, and word would've spread through the town and a mob with torches would've terrorized Potter until he gave the money back to George.  Of course, knowing Potter, he was probably one of these gun-toting, self-rightgeous a**holes who would've started shooting into the crowd of townspeople.

There you go - an alternate killing spree ending. 

I'm not well."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hating This . . .

I was doing my usual volunteering in the kindergarten classroom this afternoon, and then I stayed and watched the afternoon performance of my son's Christmas concert.  

Usually, Joe is very excited to see me on Thursday afternoons.  Today, he was busy talking with a little girl named Michelle who sits across the table from him in class.  I have been hearing a lot about Michelle lately.  She is a lovely, bright-eyed and personable little girl who smiles all the time.  I observed a certain dynamic going on between the two of them.  There was much goofy behavior from my son along with side-long glances at Michelle.  There was eye-batting, coy smiling, laughing and hair flipping from Michelle.  She came up to me and told me that Joe is so funny and Joe is so nice.  I watched the two of them work on an art project together with Joe continuing to be goofy, and Michelle working the hair flip.  

During the concert, they were whispering together and smiling and laughing.  My son was totally absorbed in this little kindergarten harlot.  And I am jealous.  

I have seen the future.  I know one things for sure:  I will be the mother-in-law from Hell some day.  

At least she's a brunette.  I'm going to go cry in a corner now.  

Instant Human . . . Just Add Coffee

Two more days of concerts, dances and parties to go.  The husband and I are splitting parent duty tonight - he will attend our son's kindergarten concert and take photos while I go and videotape our daughter's Christmas dance at the dance studio.  I will videotape the afternoon performance of the kindergarten concert, so we will both get to see it.  

Tomorrow are the classroom parties.  I will be helping 22 kindergarteners make snowflake ornaments out of pipe cleaners and beads and ribbon.  What is left of me after that will go to the third grade winter carnival and take photos.  

This was supposed to be the year that I got it all done.  You will remember me bragging that I had my shopping all done in mid November with one sewing project, one knitting project and Christmas cards to be done.  The cards got out early this week.  Half of the knitting project is complete, and I scrapped the sewing project.  The house isn't even fully decorated, but we may just have to go with what we have.  My husband kept coming up with different gift ideas and other things to buy for relatives right up until yesterday.  I am going out this morning to buy the final two gifts, and then I am done.  

The Secret Santa school gift exchange gifts were bought and wrapped last night along with the teacher gifts, and I delivered them to school this morning.  

This final week is for finishing the wrapping and baking and going to see Santa.  

Need . . . coffee . . . quickly . . . 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Wonderland

I soooo love Jason Mraz - enjoy!  

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Wish This Holiday Season

I would like everyone to please reach out to their fellow man and give something to charity whether it be a monetary donation, a food donation, or volunteering your time.  No donation is too small.  Remember the power of one.  The little baby you help may grow up to discover the cure for AIDS.  The homeless man may save your life one day.  They are someone's mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle . . . Give them some love.  


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Way Things Are

"Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth."  1 John 3:18

I volunteer in my son's kindergarten classroom on Thursday afternoons.  Last week, their teacher made each student an ornament with their name on it and hung it on the classroom Christmas tree.  She told them they could take them home before Christmas and put them on their own trees at home.  One little boy told her, "You can keep my ornament here on this tree.  We won't have one at home.  We can't 'ford it."  The little boy is being raised by a single mother, and he has three siblings.  This broke the teacher's heart, and she went out and bought the family one of those pretty tabletop LED lighted trees.  All of the students were very supportive and were happy that the boy was getting a Christmas tree from the teacher.  

I just found out today that one little girl in the kindergarten class lives in a homeless shelter with her mother.  The mother has no car, and the girl can't take the bus since they move from shelter to shelter.  So, the mother sends the girl to school in a cab when she can't find someone to drive her to school.  

There are many children in the same types of situations in our school.  The teachers and staff at the school recently donated new and used coats for needy families.  And they also opened a small "store" for these children to go "shopping" for gifts for their families.  I love our school.  

You all know from a previous post that there is a little boy in my daughter's class who had been physically abused by his father who is now in jail.  There is also a little girl in that class whose father is serving in Iraq and will not be home for Christmas this year.  He wasn't home for Christmas last year either.  The little girl told the class that she is very fearful because her father's best friend was killed over there.  

I am so grateful that my children are being exposed to people from all backgrounds and walks of life and that they have such wonderful role models in their teachers.  I believe it will help them grow up to have empathy, tolerance and respect for all people.  And it kind of puts things in perspective - especially at this time of year.    

"I feel you Christmas.  I know I've found you.  You never fade away.  The joy of Christmas stays here inside us.  Fills each and every heart with love."  Lyrics from "Where are you Christmas?" by Faith Hill  

Monday, December 8, 2008

Leave Elvis Alone

"There have been a lotta tough guys.  There have been pretenders.  And there have been contenders.  But there is only one king."  Bruce Springsteen

I heard a new version of "Blue Christmas" where Martina McBride sings "with" Elvis Presley.  With all due respect to Miss McBride, if I wanted to hear her sing, I would buy one of her CDs.  When I was at Target today, I saw that some genius has released a new CD called "Elvis Christmas Duets" where various singing artists perform Christmas songs with Elvis.  Just seeing this gave me a pain deep inside my head.  (I am deeply disappointed in Wynonna Judd, who is one of my idols and a very talented artist, for participating in this recording.)  

Elvis was an immensely talented man who left behind a great body of work that is timeless.  He was used by people he considered his friends through most of his adult life.  He was exploited by his manager.  He became lonely and addicted to junk food and prescription drugs.  He was very ill, and he died alone.  He was the poster boy for the sorrows of superstardom.  

He continues to make his heirs wealthy.  So, I just don't understand why someone would agree to do this to his music.  

It's just my opinion.  

Don't get me started on people who colorize black and white movies.  Leave perfection alone.  

"If life were fair, Elvis would be alive and all the impersonators would be dead."  Johnny Carson  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Message Received

"You will find, as you look back on your life, that the moments that stand out are the moments when you have done things for others."  Henry Drummond 

Every year, each classroom at my kids' grade school sponsors a needy family for Christmas.  And, every year, we get a list of items that family needs.  I have made a point of taking my kids shopping for these items and teaching them the importance of giving and the true meaning of Christmas.  
This year, I got a note from my daughter's third grade teacher about the special "Christmas Service Project" in which the third grade teachers participate.  Every year, they collect money to provide gifts to the children of one or two families of County Jail inmates.  The project is conducted by a local charity which purchases toys and new clothing, and then bring them to the school for the children to see what their cumulative donations helped to provide.  The children learn how families are affected by unfortunate circumstances and the impact it has on a young person's life.  

I was a bit taken aback by this request initially.  I mean, in my mind, these people are in jail because of their own doing.  The rest of us conduct our lives so as to avoid these problems.  I was going to boycott this project, and then my daughter begged me to send something.  Reluctantly, I sent in a small monetary donation.  

Yesterday, my daughter came home, and she seemed a bit upset.  They had been working in groups in class, and a little boy who sits next to her told her that his father is in jail and he went on to describe how he was physically abused by his father.  I asked my daughter if she knew any more details, and she didn't.  Then she decided that she didn't want to discuss it any further.  We were both upset by this news.  She has known this little boy since kindergarten.  He is outgoing and funny and just a joy to be around.  I have talked to his mother from time to time.  She is very nice but very introverted.  I never knew there was a father in the picture.  

I am amazed at how provincial and self-righteous I really am sometimes.  I silently said a prayer for this little boy and his mother.  And at the end of the prayer, I looked skyward and said, "Message received, Lord.  Thank you."  

"Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance."  St. Francis of Assisi

Sunday, November 23, 2008

In the Blink of an Eye

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."  Dr. Seuss

My son's long-anticipated birthday party has now come and gone in (what seems like) the blink of an eye.  So much work goes into these things even if you have the party somewhere other than your home.  Phone calls, scheduling, invitations, e-mails, buying items for goody bags, assembling the goody bags, ordering the cake, buying the partyware, picking up the cake, picking up "extras" i.e. candles, etc.  

We took nine little kids to see the Disney movie "Bolt", play video games and have cake and presents.  I should've realized that five and six year olds don't stay put like they should.  They don't listen.  They don't always use their manners.  And they use the restroom about four times an hour.  But the best thing is how they are very accepting of one another.  One child might be shy, another a bit wild, and the rest somewhere in between.  In the end, they are a good group of kids, and they are all friends.  

My son was very gracious and had pretty good manners - even after having caffeine and sugar - and he thanked each friend for the present.  He even thanked my husband and I for the party on the way home.  But one of the best moments of the day was given to me by one of my son's friends.  He is a very quiet little boy who rarely speaks.  When you talk to him, he turns bright red in the face and looks down.  He seemed to have fun and played video games by himself.  I payed extra attention to him because he was so introverted.  When I gave him back to his Mom at the end of the party, his Mom asked him if he had fun, and he said, "Mom, it was the best!" This made all the preparation worthwhile.  

Another little friend was returned to his Mom, and the mother told him to tell me "thank you".  The kid walked up to me, smiled and burped.  The mother was mortified.  I'm so glad my kids aren't the only ones who do stuff like that!  

I will try and put pictures in the next blog post.  

I am tired.  

"A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway."  Fr. Jerome Cummings 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Computer Games

I showed my son how to play a SpongeBob game on the computer this morning.  My score was 200.  He started playing and made it through three levels.  His final score was 8,700.  

I'm not sure when his skill level on these computer games surpassed mine, but he's now teaching me how to play them.  

It seems like this happened awfully fast . . . he's not even six yet.  

** Mental note to self:  No video games for Christmas.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Disgruntled Consumers - Vent Here

Just a tip for Sales Associates at retail stores this holiday season.  If I approach you to ask a question about finding merchandise, please do not:  

a)  Refuse to look at me in the hopes that I will just go away.  

b)  Act really pissed if I inconvenience you with a question.  

c)  Give me a simple "no" answer to my request without any attempt to locate the desired merchandise or, at the very least, a polite "I'm sorry, we don't have that in stock."  

d)  Act really pissed if I say "excuse me" and attempt to get around all the crap you have piled in the middle of the aisle while you are visiting with your fellow associate instead of doing your job.  

e)  Look around halfheartedly and say, "I don't see it" with a crabby look on your face and walk away.  

Or (my favorite), 

f)  Throw me a dirty look, stomp off to supposedly find what I'm looking for in the "back room", and then never come back.  Then, when I track you down, tell me that you thought I "would've figured out" that you didn't have the merchandise when you didn't come back to tell me yourself.  

I'm not going to mention store names here, but it starts with a W and ends with a T.  I have lived in this town for over nine years now, and I have yet to be asked by an associate at this store if they can help me.  In that nine years, I have only come across two friendly associates at this store.  Even the "greeters" ignore customers as they walk in this store.  

What the hell???  Every other store is bending over backwards this holiday season to help customers.  I was at one of your competitors this morning, and five sales associates asked if I was finding what I needed.  One elderly employee who was stocking shelves apologized that she was in my way.  At a children's clothing store in a nearby town, sales associates are greeting customers at the door and offering personal shopping assistance - including getting on a phone and trying to track down desired merchandise.  

W-----t, you stress me out, and I hate you.  You are a blight in the field of retail, and you piss me off so badly that I may never return to your store.  You suck, and I hope the competition kicks your a**.  I know I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that happens.  

Just sayin' . . . 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. President Obama

My daughter's Sunday school class wrote letters to President-elect Obama.  Kaitlyn was chosen to read her letter aloud to the whole class.  The church is going to send the kids' letters to the President-elect.  Here is what her letter said:  

"Dear Mr. President Obama:

Congratulations on winning the most votes in the election.  

Please listen to God and make good choices.  

Please stop the war in Iraq and save our troops and our tax money.  

Good luck being President, it is a hard job.  

Sincerely, Kaitlyn"

I think she did an excellent job.  

"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."  Proverbs 22:6

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Building Bridges

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  Lyrics from "Closing Time" by Semisonic

The older I get, the more the past haunts me.  Maybe this is something that happens naturally over the years.  Maybe we just become more introspective with age.  Lately, I see my life as a woven fabric - people weaving in and out of it and becoming part of the fabric itself.  Their stories are part of my story.  And in my memory, we will always be bound together.  

A couple weeks ago, my brother-in-law called to invite us to our goddaughter's 16th birthday party.  We had been estranged from this brother for many years.  Years when we had children, bought homes and forged careers.  We were happy to hear from him after so long, and were looking forward to this chance to reconnect.  

As we drove back to central Wisconsin, the memories came flooding back.  Times we babysat for our goddaughter.  Family holidays spent together.  The passing of family members.  Good times.  Bad times.  And today was an opportunity to pick up some pieces and, hopefully, start to rebuild some bridges that had been burned.  

It is hard to reconnect with people even if you share a past.  For me, the entire day had the feel of being in a kids "jumper" castle.  I was never quite sure of my footing as I made my way around from person to person and joined in conversations.  We had to introduce our kids to their uncles and aunts and cousins which gave me a feeling of sadness for all the time that has been lost.  The kids would look from person to person with interest.  They were trying to figure it all out - same as the rest of us.  

My brother-in-law has gone through some major life transitions.  He is divorced, recently bought a new home, and has a new person in his life.  He is starting over and moving forward and, fortunately for us, brought the rest of us into his new world for the day.  I spoke with him briefly throughout the day.  I saw a person with whom I was so familiar who had changed so much.  I like his girlfriend.  I am adept at "reading" people, and I could not read her.  She is very personable and direct yet quiet.  I imagine it must have felt awkward for her - being among all of us while we were talking about things in our common past - yet she smiled and listened to the old stories intently.  I get a good feeling from her, and she appears to be very good for my brother-in-law.  

It was a good day.  Our goddaughter had 16 candles on her cake.  She opened presents while surrounded by her family.  We are all older, wiser, and have more lines in our faces now.  We are the same people even though our family dynamic is always changing.  We have picked up new threads and have started weaving them in with the old.  Our bridges may lay in pieces, but the pieces are still there for us.  We are stronger together.  

It was a very good day.  

"What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories."  George Eliot  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have one Christmas gift to knit, one to sew, and then I am done with my Christmas planning and shopping.  I just have to get a Christmas card made, buy some Christmas stamps, wrap a couple of gifts, bake some cookies and do the decorating.  


Nanner, nanner!  

Monday, November 10, 2008

Redefining Normal

"Where do we go from here?  It seems so all too near.  Just as far beyond as I can see, I still don't know what this all means to me.  I don't know where to go.  I don't know what to do.  And I don't even know the time of day.  I guess it doesn't matter anyway.  Life is so strange.  Destination unknown."  Lyrics from "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons

I feel detached from everything lately.  I had a dream last night that I was in a small wooden boat out on a lake that was attached to a dock with a rope.  I just sat in the boat looking at the foggy shore where people were wandering around aimlessly, and they didn't take note of me out on the water.  I didn't yell to them, and I felt no need to leave the boat.  I was content to sit there breathing and watching and floating aimlessly.  I felt strangely at peace while the people on shore were in complete chaos.  I remember wanting to sever the rope that attached the boat to the shore, and then I woke up.  

It was the strangest dream that I've had since the one where I had a conversation about my daily life with John Lennon.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a dream that I was walking arm-in-arm with Bobby Sherman (a teen idol from the '70s), down the street singing "Easy Come, Easy Go" and everyone was wearing lime green socks.  I am the Queen of Weird Dreams.  A title of which I am very proud.  

I think some of the weirdness has been brought on by the neverending illness I've experienced over the last month.  First the head cold from Hell.  Then I got this horrible rash/blisters/hives wonderfulness which made it impossible to leave the house without a veil.  Now, I have a hacking cough which gives me headaches.  Not even my go-to remedy of apple cider vinegar, lemon, honey and water will get rid of it.  I've taken to using my son's Albuterol nebs so I can get some sleep at night.  

The second day of the rash/blisters/hives, I made an appointment to see a doctor.  I couldn't see my doctor, or, probably she didn't want to see me because she and I do not get along.  I stick with her because she was the one who finally got to the bottom of my hypothyroidism and the binding antibody problem with my blood tests.  She is extremely bright, competent and professional.  She doesn't like me because I do not take her advice in certain matters, and she told me that she finds my mindset completely irrational which is bothersome to her.  I told her to take a number because everyone finds me irrational and bothersome.  I thrive on it.  She has not "recused" herself as my physician, so I think she must like a challenge.  

The day of my appointment, the clinic was busier than I've ever seen it.  I figured it was just because I looked like a leper and didn't want to be seen by anyone.  The women at the reception desk became very quiet and looked down or at their keyboards when I announced myself and produced my insurance card.  The huge waiting area was packed with people.  I sat down across from an older woman who was there with her daughter and two young grandchildren.  The old woman stared at me for a few minutes while I flipped through a magazine.  She finally leaned down and stared up at me and said, "What happened to your face?  Did a man do that?"  I had absolutely no response to that, and just sat there looking at her.  "My man beat me so bad once that my face looked like hamburger."  I started to feel woozy.  I looked at the woman, and I could see a deep scar above one of her eyes, and her nose looked odd.  I told her "no", and she crossed her arms in front of her, twisted her mouth to one side and said, "Hmmph."  Like she didn't believe me.  I couldn't look at her anymore because my mind just couldn't process her.  

Just then a young man came in, went to the reception desk, and took the only empty seat which was right next to me.  He was male model beautiful.  I am talking magazine cologne ad beautiful.  I squirmed in my seat trying to be invisible.  The old woman kept staring at me.  Somewhere, somehow, I had crossed the threshhold into Purgatory and was being punished for all my previous sins in life.  

I had to wait for what seemed like forever.  It was hot in there, and I wondered when exactly this clinic that I'd been coming to for over nine years had taken on the look and feel of a free clinic.  I looked around and remembered the first time I had ever come here.  It was to confirm my positive home pregnancy test back in 1999.  I drove up in my two-door car and was wearing a Liz Claiborne steel blue pantsuit.  It seems like forever ago.  And now here I was wearing sensible shoes with "Mom" jeans and a faded yellow sweater that had been washed too many times.  I was itchy, feverish and miserable.  

I was finally called by a nurse who stood a head taller than me and was very large.  Her name was Heather, and she had bright bleached blonde hair and a sunburn at this time of year - ?!  When she was going over my medications and medical history, she burped.  I decided to find it charming.  Then the doctor came in.  She was an older Chinese woman with white hair pulled straight back off her face in a bun.  Her eyes were so black, you couldn't see the pupils.  She was very serene.  She did the usual poking, prodding, ear and throat checking.  She stood back and said, "I don't know what's wrong with you."  I begged her to give me something to clear up my skin.  I told her, "I can't go on looking like this."  This was the complete truth of the matter.  I could handle feeling lousy.  But I could not stand looking like this.  She looked at me and tilted her head and said in her broken English, "You look like yourself, just not as good.  You see?"  I felt like sobbing and started biting the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming.  She said she needed to consult with another doctor, and she would be right back.  

She came back with my doctor who seemed very taken aback to see me sitting there in all my miserable glory.  She said, "Wow, you look awful."  I resisted the urge to slap her.  They took a throat culture, they stared at me, and they came to the conclusion that I either had an allergic reaction to a component in my flu shot because I had a low-grade fever when I got the shot; or I had been run down and got a viral infection because my body had been fighting the cold and the flu vaccine, and I somehow came into contact with a virus.  They had to leave and get the results of the throat culture.  None of this made sense to me, but I really didn't care.  I asked them if they could tell me exactly when I would look better.  My doctor smiled an evil smile and nodded her head.  I now officially hate her.  Or maybe I just hate the fact that I have been exposed as the vain, silly and superficial person that I really am.  

The Chinese doctor returned.  I didn't have strep throat, so she couldn't give me any antibiotics.  I could expect to feel and look better in 7 to 10 days.  Other than that, she couldn't help me.  I thanked her for her time and left.  

Since then, I've felt a little bit better every day, though the coughing and headaches have made me a bit tired.  I often wonder why this was part of God's plan for me right now.  Each day has been a struggle just to keep up with the laundry and dishes and basic things around the house.  I am very crabby around the kids who seem to find every way they can to irritate me.  

I looked in the mirror this morning.  I can still see pink spots on my face from the blisters, but you can't see them at all when I put on makeup.  I can pass for completely normal again when you can't see the scars.  

I think of the woman in the waiting room who had been so badly physically abused in the past.  I wonder if she had ever sought out help.  She looked completely normal unless you looked at her close enough to see her scars.  Sometimes there is no explanation for the predicaments in which we find ourselves.  There is no quick fix for some things.  Time passes, our wounds heal, we hide the scars.  Life goes on.  

That's the lesson that I've taken from this predicament.  I realize that this illness isn't worth complaining about anymore.  No matter how bad I feel, there are people who have much bigger problems.  We're all just trying to find "normalcy" and make our way through life as best we can.  

"Physical ills are the taxes laid upon this wretched life; some are taxed higher, and some lower, but all pay something."  Lord Chesterfield  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election Season

"There seems to be a kind of order in the universe, in the movement of the stars and the turning of the earth and the changing of the seasons, and even in the cycle of human life. But human life itself is almost pure chaos. Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own rights and feelings, mistaking the motives of others, and his own." Katherine Anne Porter

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hot Mess

I have the worst cold in the world.  The kind of cold I only get once every five years.  My throat is so sore I can hardly swallow, and my nose hasn't stopped running for 24 hours.  I am in agony.  

To make matters worse, when I was driving my dear daughter to dance class last night, I took the back roads because we were running late (as usual), and I ran over a small bunny rabbit.  I told the daughter that I must've just nicked him because I saw him run off in the rear view mirror, but I'm pretty sure the little guy was road pizza.  

I had horrible decongestant-induced "Watership Down" rabbit nightmares all night long.  

I have to get to the store because I'm almost out of Kleenix.  I've used over two and a half boxes in 24 hours.  Bleeeccchhh!

I'm going to go do some internet research right now to see if alcohol can actually kill cold germs.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Mystery of the Missing Lens

It froze last night for the first time.  At the time of the mad rush for the bus, it was 24.5-degrees outside.  I told the kids they needed to wear their winter coats (my first mistake).  They refused to wear them.  (After I spent almost an entire day last week cleaning out the coat closet, washing coats, hats, mittens, getting rid of what didn't fit, organizing everything on hangars and sorting things into bins.)  At least I got them into heavier jackets and suitable footwear and on the bus (though my son did not have matching gloves, and I believe they were both right-hand gloves to boot).  

When I walked back into the house, I noticed something on the steps in the entryway.  It was an eyeglass lens.  I wondered how my son didn't notice something like this, but I never questioned that it was his.  It was all scratched up and dirty - had to be his.  I quickly called his teacher and reached a substitute that will be in the classroom all day.  I explained the situation and told her I would run the lens down to school, and I may need to take his glasses and get them fixed today.  

I drove to school, signed in, explained in detail why I was there, and walked down to the classroom, lens in hand.  I met the substitute who gave me a funny smile and explained that Joe's glasses were intact.  I looked at the lens, made sure that my son's glasses were indeed fine, and made a joke about things being a bit lax at our house.  The substitute gave me an uncomfortable smile and a twittering laugh that seemed to scream "Give a wide berth to the crazy lady!"  I smiled at her and left.  

I cannot figure out where this eyeglass lens came from.  

Evidently my life isn't bizarre enough already . . . 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Musings on the Worst Banana Bread Ever

I am writing this from the straits of destitution found beyond the abyss which is found just past the brink of insanity.  I officially fell into the abyss last night around 10 pm.  

I decided to bake some banana bread from a recipe my neighbor gave me (thanks Michelle!)  My fatal mistake was deciding to bake it while getting the kids ready for bed and trying to watch/listen to the presidential debate.  I was measuring out ingredients when the kids decided that they absolutely had to help me with this.  It was their bedtime, so there was much whining and complaining as I escorted them to bed.  I came back to the recipe and mixed everything together, put it in the bread pan and proceeded to bake it.  After 40 minutes at 350-degrees, I checked on it.  It was soup.  I turned the oven higher and proceeded to bake it longer - still soup after 20 more minutes.  

I believe in my haste to get everything done with the kids hanging on me and the debate on the TV, I used powdered sugar instead of flour.  In a misguided quest for complete organization around here, I recently put all my staples in clear storage containers in the pantry.  Evidently, I didn't take the time to read the label "powdered sugar".  (See what that organized living crap does for you?)  

I decided to try and put two cups of flour in the banana/sugar soup and see what it would do.  I put it back in the oven and baked it for another 40 minutes.  

The result rivals any scientific experiment I've ever seen.  A brown banana blob.  I tried a tiny bit of it.  It was so sweet, I could feel the decay starting to form on my teeth.  I threw the blob in the trash.  

It has left a very strange residue on the metal bread pan.  I may have to throw the pan out too.  (Sadly, it wouldn't be the first time I've ever had to do that.  Ask my husband about a "fudge" incident in the late '80s.)  

But perhaps the weirdest thing I've ever done was when I was ironing out a shirt for my husband back in the days before we had kids.  I could smell popcorn as I was ironing.  I realized that I had accidentally filled the iron with water from a measuring cup that I had used the night before for measuring cooking oil.  I had to throw out my husband's dress shirt and an iron that time.  

Somewhere in the world, Martha Stewart sensed a disturbance in "the force" last night.  She probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night if she knew that there is someone like me out there roaming free and causing all kinds of culinary/housekeeping mayhem.  

Discuss amongst yourselves.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Right Now

I saw this today on one of the blogs I read, and I thought it was worth taking a minute to write out my thoughts.  

Right now, I am:

Feeling:  A bit tired.  I got up at 5:30 am with my husband.  His work has been crazy busy lately, and he puts in long hours.  If I want to have a conversation with him without constant interruption from the kids, early morning is the best time to have it.  

Enjoying:  The fall colors from my deck - yellow, brown, red, green, all fluttering gently to the ground.  

Wondering:  What to get the kids for Christmas this year.  Some toys are hits, some are misses.  Maybe I should get them some empty cardboard boxes.  They play with those for hours.  

Listening:  To the wind outside, the hum of the refrigerator, my cat snoring.  

Drinking:  The last of my Gevalia Hazelnut coffee given to me by a good friend as a going-away gift when I left work last December.  Thanks Karen!  

Wanting:  Another bite of my chocolate mint Pria Power Bar.  Goes good with coffee.  Yum!

Loving:  A little yellow sunray coreopsis that my son picked me from the garden this morning.  

Looking:  Outside at my fuschia wave petunias in their hanging pots.  They are shaking in the cold breeze determined to show their colors until the bitter end.  I love and admire tenacity.  

I hope you are enjoying your "right now" wherever you are.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vinnie Barbarino, Paper Snowflakes and the School Bus

If I had to describe my state of mind this morning, it would be "fragmented" and heading very quickly toward "shredded".  

These little people who follow me around everywhere and refer to me as "Mom" look incredibly cute . . . but in reality, they are minions of the devil.  

It was not even 40-degrees this morning, and my daughter wanted to wear capris.  I gave her the bad news about that, and was met with the typical crossing of arms and stomping up and down the hallway while wildly gesturing and complaining about her choice of jeans.  

Somehow, I managed to get both of them fed, dressed and ready for school with ten minutes to spare before the bus was scheduled to arrive.  My darling daughter started making paper snowflakes.  Five minutes before the bus, my son said, "Hey, Mom.  I'm supposed to bring a couple of fall leaves to school today."  We went out into the yard and found four leaves in the soaking wet grass.  I went inside to dry them off, and my son was going to go outside and look for the bus.  I got the leaves dried and in his backpack.  The daughter thrust a piece of folded paper and a pair of scissors in my face and said, "Cut a triangle."  When I tried to cut it, I ripped the paper.  More wild gesturing with her arms.  We had a short discussion about her attitude.  She grabbed her backpack and went outside.  

I found my son in the garage (obviously, he thought he could see the bus while he was playing in there), and he had taken off his coat and hat.  Just at that time, the bus passed us to go down the cul de sac.  It would be back in less than three minutes.  I asked my son where his coat was.  Somehow he turns into Vinnie Barbarino (John Travolta's character from "Welcome Back Kotter" - a TV show from the '70s for those of you too young to remember).  He gets a surprised look on his face and says "What".  I told him to get his coat and hat and he says "Where".  

At this point, I can hear the bus coming back.  The daughter starts running.  The son goes into the house, come back out with the coat and hat, and I run screaming "Wait!  Wait!" to our elderly bus driver.  He looks like the Burgess Meredith character in the "Rocky" films - Rocky's trainer - I think his name was Mickey.  I was physically holding the bus doors open, and he says, "Hey young lady, I think you want the high school bus."  

For some reason, that struck me as being terribly funny, and I started laughing uncontrollably.  It was the laugh of the criminally insane.  

I got both kids on the bus, waived good bye and laughed all the way home.  Thank goodness for the bus driver.  He injected some much-needed levity into my morning, and he is my new favorite person today.  Hopefully, I'm his favorite psycho-Mom.  

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Gift of Just One Day

"Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life."  Albert Einstein

In Sunday School today, our lesson was "God can do anything."  I had the appropriate coloring sheets, Bible story, a guessing game involving three paper bags with various things inside, snack, songs, and other activities to keep the kids busy for an hour.  There were only four kids today - my son, the wonderful Isabelle, the little fashion plate girl with the long curly hair, and a little boy who has been there once before.  He's a quiet boy, but always looking for a way to cause trouble.  Today, this boy was sitting and frowning and playing with his shoe lace.  When I got done with the Bible story, I reiterated the theme, "God can do anything."  The quiet boy looked up at me and said, "But God can't do everything.  I said lots and lots of prayers and my Grandpa still died."  I stood frozen with four sets of little eyes staring at me.  What to do . . . what to do . . . my mind was racing.  

I got the other three involved with coloring and snack, and I sat and talked to the quiet boy for a few minutes.  I asked him when his Grandpa had died.  "Two days ago.  His heart wasn't right.  He was supposed to take me fishing.  He puts the worms on the hook for me."  I asked him if anyone had told him where his Grandpa was now.  "In Heaven.  But I know he would rather go fishing with me.  We were always wanting to go fishing.  Grandpa says he needed to go away, but I want him to be here."  I could literally feel my heart breaking.  He was visibly upset.  I asked him if he would like to play the guessing game, and he did.  I let the rest of the hour go by without mentioning the theme again.  

At the end of class, I talked to the boy's father.  It was his wife's father who had a heart attack on Wednesday and passed away on Thursday this last week.  I told the father about my conversation with his son.  It seems the boy was supposed to go fishing with his grandfather on Saturday.  They had not let the boy see his grandfather in the hospital, and when they told him his grandpa had died, the boy sat by the phone for an entire day waiting to hear from his grandpa.  The grandpa would call and talk to him on the phone quite a bit.  So, the mother and father typed out a letter to the boy from his grandpa telling him how he had to go to Heaven, but he would miss him and all the fishing they did.  The boy carries the letter around with him all the time, but he doesn't let anyone look at it.  The grandpa's funeral is tomorrow.  

I gave the boy a hug and told him I would see him in two weeks.  Then I asked another mother to watch my son for a few minutes, went into an empty classroom, put my forehead on the cold window and cried.  

I can't remember if I was three or four when my paternal grandmother passed away.  Not long before she died, my mother had taken me over to Grandma's house and left me with her for an afternoon.  I still remember wearing white tights and black patent shoes that day.  The memory is entirely in black and white with the exception of my Grandma's dress which had little lavender flowers on it.  I remember snippets of the conversations on that day.  I had headed right for my Grandma's sofa and proceeded to climb up on it while wearing the black patent shoes.  "Get down off of there!" my mother scolded.  "Oh, Ella, she's fine!" my Grandma said.  

There are very few other memories of that day.  I remember Grandma's soap dish.  The soap looked new and the soap dish was dry with a neatly folded towel nearby.  I think this sticks out in my memory because the soap dish in my house was used by many people and it was always wet with mushy soap in the bottom of it.  

I remember Grandma giving me a needle with thread on it and buttons to string on the thread.  When I poked myself with the needle, my Grandma took the needle and scolded it which pleased me to no end.  Then I remember eating warm cookies in her kitchen.  And I remember that she could feed squirrels - they would eat nuts right out of her hand.  They came to her front door.  I ran toward the squirrels because I wanted to feed them too, but Grandma explained that they only came to her.  

Then Mom came back to get me.  I went back into the living room to get my button string.  "Do you have to go so soon?" my Grandma asked.  "Yes, I'm afraid so" my Mom said.  "Please bring her back soon" my Grandma said, and she held my face in her hands and brushed some cookie off.  

On the ride home, I told my Mom about the soap dish.  She reminded me never, ever to climb on a sofa with shoes on, and I mentioned the squirrels.  It was the last time I ever saw my Grandma alive.  

I remember her visitation at the local funeral home.  She was wearing a dress with tiny lavender flowers on it.  I looked up at my Mom and asked if Grandma was sleeping, and she shook her head no.  And I was so very young, I never ever questioned what had happened.  And no one ever talked about it again.  

Over the years, I have thought about my Grandma.  I heard recently that she loved to knit, and there was a rumor that she had knit an entire woman's suit.  Supposedly, it was quite beautiful.  I wonder if she was the same kind of knitter as me - did she knit continental like I do?  I wonder what happened to her knitting needles.  Did she find it to be a type of meditation like I do?  

I have a beautiful white felt Christmas stocking that she made me with my name on it.  On it is a beautiful little angel sitting on a cloud and holding a pointsettia like an umbrella.  There are many sequins and flowers.  It is a beautiful thing that I keep in tissue paper and a box in the top of my closet.  I never show it to anyone because it is one of the very few things I have from my grandmother, and I like to keep it to myself.  I think of the quiet boy and the note from his grandpa.  And I realized today for the first time ever that this day I had with my Grandma when I was three or four was a gift.  I had talked to my Mom about it once, and my Mom said that Grandma had asked her to bring me over to see her.  She wanted to spend time with me.  And I have never, ever forgotten her.  

I said a prayer that the quiet boy would never, ever forget his Grandpa and the times that they went fishing.  I hope he keeps the note forever.  I hope he realizes one day that he was given a wonderful gift in the time he got to spend with his Grandpa.  I hope he remembers him always.  

"The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand.  The sun goes down but gentle warmth still lingers on the land.  The music stops and yet it lingers on in sweet refrain.  For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains."  "The Tide Recedes" by M.D. Hughes

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Turning Point

"Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle!" Swahili Warrior Song

My daughter decided to switch from ballet to tap/jazz dance class this year. "Ballet is boring" was her anthem all last year. She started class this year with a group of girls she did not know who all have more tap/jazz experience than she has. She quickly found that instead of just needing to know a few tap steps, she was expected to know an Irish, Double Irish, Buffalo, Double Buffalo, Cramp Roll, Maxie Ford and Maxie Ford Break. To make it even more difficult, she didn't have tap shoes for the first few classes (it seems that all the factories in China shut down during the Olympics causing all shoe orders to be backordered).

When I picked her up last week, I saw her floundering in class. She walked out clutching a list of the steps and counts that she needed to learn for the next class. Seven new steps in seven days without being able to perform them in tap shoes. As I was discussing the steps with the dance teacher (hey, I took tap class 31 years ago!), Kate waited in the hallway. When I came out of the studio, I found her crying. It seems that another girl in the class was telling the other students that Kate "couldn't dance and looked like she didn't want to dance." It was the final straw for Kate. She soon began pleading for a different class or to drop dance altogether. She was so hurt and overwhelmed and all she could do was cry.

When we got home, I sat her down and suggested that, instead of quitting, she prove the other girl wrong. She thought it over that night. The next day she woke up and said, "I'm ready to learn these steps." Game on.

Every morning and night, one step at a time, we learned every single one of those seven complicated steps. I knew just enough of basic tap dancing to be of some help to her. She worked very hard. And when we were confused by a step, we would Google it on the computer and find videos to help us.

Finally, this morning she told me she had it down. She performed every step flawlessly. And when we went to class tonight, we were able to pick up her new tap shoes. She walked into class, and I could see her shaking a bit. One other little girl just sat out of tap class and cried. She also found it very hard, and she wasn't able to gather the courage to try it anymore.

Kate made it through the tap drills, and when it came her turn to perform as the teacher counted, she nailed it. Absolutely nailed it. And with each step performed, she added a little more smile and arm movement. By the time the last step came along, she was working a full-blown flair. That's my girl.

By the end of class, she was doing traveling double buffalos and double Irish steps in a circle. When Kate was very small she once told me that a memory was a picture that you took with your heart. As I stood outside the class window watching her, my heart took a picture of this moment. True joy.

And that other girl from class . . . she didn't have very much to say tonight. And I survived the stress of not being able to rip all the hair out of her snotty little head for being such a jerk to my daughter. Taking the high road sucks. Sometimes setting a good example is downright painful for me. When Kate and I discussed that girl's comments, I would say through gritted teeth, "That girl needs to worry about herself."

But now, I'm almost grateful for the experience. Kate has learned that she's tougher than she thought; that practice makes perfect; and to believe in herself and her ability. She's such an incredible kid.

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall." Confucius

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One of the Greatest Stories Ever

My husband shared a story with me today when we heard that Paul Newman had passed away.  A guy with whom my husband attended a training seminar told the story of how (years before) he and his wife had heard that Paul Newman was in a small northern town filming a movie.  They drove north to the town hoping to catch a glimpse of the actor, but he was nowhere to be found.  

On the way home, they stopped at a small cafe, and the wife went in to get two ice cream cones.  She purchased them at the counter and turned around and was face to face with none other than Paul Newman.  He signed an autograph for her, and she went back out to the car all excited to tell her husband about meeting Paul Newman.  After listening to the story, the husband asked what had happened to the ice cream.  In all the excitement, she couldn't remember what she had done with it, so she went back into the restaurant.  Once inside, she again saw Paul Newman who asked her, "Are you looking for your ice cream? . . . It's in your purse."  


Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Biggest Fan

I took the kids to Sunday School today. The other team teacher showed up today to teach my group. I had tried unsuccessfully to contact her this week to get a schedule together, but she showed up today and wanted to teach, so I explained it to the kids and went to service.

This whole deal made me late, and I got a seat in the back row just as service was starting. Nearly an hour later, when it was almost over, I looked out the doors right behind me, and there was my Isabelle clutching a coloring sheet and looking around. An older girl about 11 or 12 had seen her wandering and had followed her down the hall to the church. When she saw me, she smiled and ran and gave me a big hug and asked if I could please teach next week. I walked her back to the classroom and saw the other teacher, and we put together a schedule where we would each teach every other week. The other teacher was a bit cool toward me, so I'm not sure what the kids said to her or why Isabelle was able to leave and wander around this huge church campus by herself. Anyway, the schedule is set now, and Isabelle and I are both happy that we will be able to spend time together next Sunday.

And I wondered as I gave her another hug goodbye if we were meant to cross paths for a reason. I certainly needed the feeling of "being needed" today. And she seems to feel some sort of connection to me. She started out being my biggest challenge, but I'm thinking that she will end up being one of my biggest rewards.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Canary in a Coalmine

"First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect. Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect. You live your life like a canary in a coalmine. You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line." "Canary in a Coalmine" by The Police

This is how I feel today.

I'm spending more and more time at home; and the more time I spend here, the more I just want to stay inside away from everything and everyone. This is not like me at all. I was always one to go places - even if I was alone.

When I got married, I moved away from all my family and friends and didn't have a job. I would get all dressed up and go to a mall just to interact with people. Needless to say, you meet a ton of freaks this way, but at least they were interesting.

When I was home on maternity leave with my son, it was the dead of winter. I would wait for the mailman and then run out and talk to him just to have someone to talk to. I'm sure he thought I was a complete nut job.

So, when I just want to be home staring at the walls, it is a bit disconcerting. Hopefully, this is just a passing "blue funk" and I'm not becoming some weird hermit who sits in a corner and eats her own hair.

I'll check back in when I'm feeling more social . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sunny Days

This week my son had his first visit with the school principal because he was having a hard time keeping his hands to himself and sitting still and listening to the teacher. I don't know what the principal told him at their meeting, but he has been completely reprogrammed into a sweet, mild-mannered, well-behaved kid . . . at school anyway. I will have to call and talk to the principal about it because: a) I need to know her secret to dealing with this problem behavior; and b) I would like to ask her if she can move in with us so he will be better behaved at home. Whatever she did, it certainly can't be as bad as my grade school principal and her ear pulling and hairbrush. Catholic school was harsh. Kind of like the television show "Survivor" with nuns.

My son's kindergarten class has now adopted a new "classroom behavior philosophy" and a "classroom management plan". The plan is based on weather symbols: sunny, partly cloudy and rainy. Each child begins with a sunny card in a pocket chart. If behavior expectations are not met, the first consequence is a verbal reminder from the teacher.

The second consequence is that the sunny card is removed and replaced with a party cloudy card. The behavioral expectation is stated, and if the child's behavior again meets expectations, the sunny card is put back in the pocket.

The third consequence is that the partly cloudy card is removed and replaced with a rainy card. Behavioral expectation is restated and "think time" is given. A note is sent home or a phone call is made. If the behavior improves, the teacher puts the sunny card back in the pocket.

The fourth consequence is that the rainy card is removed and the child conferences with administration and a phone call home is made. If the behavior improves, the sunny card will again be put back in the pocket.

Whatever your child's behavior was that day, a "sunshine ticket", "partly cloudy ticket" or a "rainy ticket" will be sent home in their folder. We are supposed to give praise for a good day or encouragement for a difficult day.

This sounds like a good system to me. However, I think the best part is that the teacher has also decided that the kids need to work together to reward positive individual and class behavior. If the entire class stays on a "sunshine ticket", they earn a "link". When they have 10 "links", they get a reward like "game day" or "free choice time".

My son is so psyched about this, he is almost killing himself to be good so he gets a sunshine ticket each day. So far, he's gotten a sunshine ticket two days in a row. He doesn't want to let his class down. He's cool like that.

The only bad thing about it is that he is working so hard to be good at school, when he gets home, he has a complete meltdown. Living in this house is kind of like being on a wild rollercoaster ride that just never ends.

I've got no choice but to hang onto the rollercoaster and hope and pray for sunny days.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

In the Beginning . . .

There was a woman who thought she would try her hand at being a Sunday School teacher . . .  

I arrived at Sunday School today feeling very prepared.  I had the Theme.  I had the Lesson Plan.  I had the coloring pages and snacks and activities.  Out of eight children, four showed up today.  A little smiling girl was there before my son and I arrived.  She had short hair and was in a t-shirt and jeans.  She told me all about herself.  Another girl arrived.  This one was a little fashion plate wearing pink leggings with lace under her dress and a hairband and bracelet that matched.  She had big brown eyes and a head full of wildly curly hair.  The last student was a little boy with white blonde hair, and he decided that he didn't want to talk today.  

As I introduced myself, my son would step forward and point at me and say, "She's MY Mom" very proudly.  He is very happy that I am his Sunday School teacher this year.  

The lesson was "God made everything."  We went over the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest.  We played counting games.  We colored pictures.  We danced.  We played a game about the four seasons.  

The little girl with short hair is named Isabelle.  Isabelle makes my son look quiet and well-behaved.  She is a wild thing.  Every other minute, I was having to say, "Isabelle, that is NOT okay."  "Isabelle, use your 'inside' voice."  "Isabelle, please stop drawing on your clothes with crayons."  "Isabelle, please don't step on the animal crackers."  

She calmed down as the class went on, and I could see her looking at me out of the corner of her eye.  I asked her what her favorite thing was that God created, and she said "flowers in a garden."  So, I got her busy "creating" an imaginary flower garden.  She was very happy to be doing this.  

The little boy who wouldn't talk was very captivated by my son who talks constantly.  My son got him involved in coloring and then rolling up the coloring sheets like a telescope and playing pirates.  

The little fashion plate girl was watching people out the room's window and commenting on things she saw that were "pretty".  

Finally, the hour had passed, and the parents came to pick them up.  Isabelle came up to me and said, "You're very nice.  You don't look like you're nice, but you are."  Then she gave me a big hug and ran to her older sister.  I considered that to be mighty high praise from Miss Isabelle.  I think we'll get along just fine now that she has decided that I am, indeed, a nice person.  

I returned the little fashion plate to her Mom, and the little boy who doesn't speak to his Dad.  

I survived the first day.  I'm glad there were just four kids today, I don't know that I could've handled seven AND Isabelle.  I did enjoy teaching today.  It should be a very interesting nine months with these little ones.  

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."  Genesis 1:31

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And So It Begins . . .

The fourth day of kindergarten, my son's teacher emailed me that my son was having trouble keeping his hands to himself and listening.  He had a meeting with the school guidance counselor because he was rough with another child at recess.  His teacher had three "chats" with him this morning.  And she emailed me for my "thoughts" on the matter.  

My thoughts actually consist of a plan to gas up my van, hit the highway and keep driving until I "disappear".  However, since that is not an option at this point in time, I explained what I had put on the school's intake form and her class questionnaire - the kid does not transition well.  When he feels out of control of his environment, he acts up.  She wanted to give him the consequence of having to miss recess when he misbehaves, and I agreed.  I also tried to solicit any ideas for helping him learn to control his aggression, but she didn't have any.  She doesn't want the other children to start avoiding him because he is trouble.  Her heart is in the right place.  

His misbehavior continued into the afternoon.  He refused to line up after recess.  His teacher asked him what happened to his "listening ears".  He told her that "the electricity went out."  He also went on to explain that he "called the man to come fix the electricity, but he hadn't come yet."  

And someday, far in the future, this will all be worth it when I watch him doing comedy routines on television.  

I'd love to tell you that I didn't expect this to happen, but the kid comes by it honestly.  I've got three nuns and a Czechoslovakian lunch lady (who once chased me around the school cafeteria with a wooden spoon screaming "You no damn good!" and swearing in Czechoslovakian) who would testify that the apple does not fall far from the tree.  

It's going to be a long school year.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Debate Team

It has been a bad morning in this household.  The kind of bad morning that leaves me drinking gallons of coffee and searching the cupboards for anything chocolate.  

It started right away when both kids woke up crabby.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over having to eat scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.  There was even more wailing and weeping over their wardrobe.  Their mother hasn't gotten all the back-to-school purchases washed and ready yet.  "Why didn't you get that done?" screamed my son.  "I can't wear anything I've worn before!" screamed the daughter.  "Fine.  Go naked." replied their harried mother.  They did end up finding suitable clothing though the son changed shirts a couple of times.  

This was followed by arguments over which TV show to watch.  I shut off the TV.  Then there was a fight over some toys in the bedroom.  And then the daughter wanted to wear flip-flops and the son refused to wear a coat.  It is 44-degrees outside this morning.  We debated about what would make sense for awhile.  (I just never learn.)  This ended with my daughter telling me that there wouldn't be any problems if I would just drive them to school instead of making them take the bus.  I resisted the urge to scream like a banshee.  My son did decide to wear a sweatshirt, but my daughter clung to her flip-flops in defiance.  

The bus has picked them up.  No doubt they are hitting and picking on each other all the way to school.  I feel bad about unleashing them on an unsuspecting world today.  I doubt that the day is going to go by without some sort of phone call/email about someone's behavior.  

I'm going to my happy place now.  

Friday, September 5, 2008

Letting Go

"I'm sad to see a new horizon slowly coming into view." Lyrics from "For the Love of You" by Hil St. Soul

My baby started kindergarten today. I've dreaded this day for at least five and a half years now.

He started his day off in winning form. He refused to wear the new red polo shirt I bought him (the very one he wanted when we were at the store). He refused to wear a different polo shirt, and he finally settled on a too-small old t-shirt with a picture of a motorcycle on it. He picked on his sister and pushed her down on the sidewalk causing her to cry because her new skirt now had dirt on it. My husband and I stood at the bus stop with them and gave hugs and kisses goodbye. If my son was nervous, he didn't show it. He walked right up onto the bus and never looked back.

I had fought back tears all morning. My neighbor came up to me after the bus left, and we chatted for awhile. I did some yard work. I came in the house and helped my husband get ready for a trip. I sat and drank coffee and read the newspaper uninterrupted. Every once in awhile, I'd stop and pick up a truck or a toy sword off the floor, and felt a pang of sadness that my little guy wasn't hanging around me asking to go to the park or play a game or read a book. I always thought I needed to do more things with him one-on-one, but in reality, we did quite a bit together.

I had volunteered to help the kindergarteners in the cafeteria at lunchtime. My little guy saw me all the way across the cafeteria and gave me a huge smile and waive. I am so happy that I helped out today. Quite a few of these little ones were scared stiff. Several were in tears. They had no idea how to put in their lunch code, how to take silverware or napkins, and they didn't know where to sit or where anything was. I watched my son sitting with his best friend - who happens to be in the same class - eating his pizza dippers. He was chatting up a storm. He even engaged the principal in conversation about the food. I helped the kids take their trays to a cart, empty them and put the silverware and trays in a stack. One little boy dumped the contents of his tray on my right shoe. My shoe will probably smell like pears for awhile. One little girl walked up to me and said she was done and pointed to her tray on the table. I told her she had to bring it up to the cart, and she looked at me in complete surprise. She brought the tray up to me and held it out and smiled. I had to show her how to do the whole process. (I feel very sorry for whoever her maid is.) Several of the little ones knew me from my son's preschool, and they seemed relieved to see a familiar face.

My son went out to the playground without ever saying goodbye to me. I thought about how he is the complete opposite of his sister. I could only go eat lunch with my daughter a couple of times a year because she would cry and put up a fuss when I would leave. I thought about how independent he has always been. He took his first few steps toward me, and then he's walked away from me ever since. I watched him on the playground for a minute and then went to sign out at the office and leave. He was fine.

Now I'm hanging out at home, putting on music and dancing around just because I can. No one is here. There are still pangs of sadness, but there's a feeling of freedom too. I had looked forward to this time. Finally, time to clean out closets, cupboards, basement, etc. However, now I find myself as busy as ever with volunteering at the school. I've even taken training to be (gasp) a Sunday School teacher at our church. I can just see several of you falling off your chairs as you read this. I know, it's an odd vocation for someone who is as fond of the F-word as myself, but I think I may have a lot to learn from these little ones (I'm teaching the kindergarten-age kids).

And right now, I'm hanging around waiting for the time when the bus comes and brings my kids back. I've got eyes as dry as marshmallows and a headache from crying this morning. I could run errands, but I've decided to stay in the house today. You know, the school might call me for some reason . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eighteen Million Cracks

"Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before." Gloria Steinem

I have different views than Hillary Rodham Clinton on many different subjects. But today, I have to give a shout out to her for what she has accomplished.

The first year I was in Catholic grade school, girls had their own side of the playground. The boys had the basketball hoops and the slide, but we "were allowed to use it if we asked permission." Soon after that, it became a co-ed playground.

Girls were not allowed to serve at the altar with the priests during mass. When I asked about it once, our parish priest said it wasn't allowed because "girls play with their hair too much."

There was no girls little league baseball in my home town.

In seventh grade, our class had to submit questions on a certain subject to the teacher. For no reason whatsoever, the teacher (a man) mentioned that the boys in class submitted much more intelligent questions. I'm not sure how he came to that conclusion as we had not put our names on the slips of paper we turned in. I'm sure he thought the better handwriting belonged to the boys also.

The father of one of my grade school classmates told my father that his daughter wasn't going to college because "I'm not going to spend the money on education for a girl."

When I was in my early 20s, I was pushed into a corner and groped by one of the partners in the firm where I was working. When I managed to free myself and tell this guy just what I thought of him, I was warned that, if I told anyone what he had done, I would never work in that town again. I was a secretary working for not much more than minimum wage at the time. And it happened more than once.

When I was in my 30s, I guy I worked with lectured me on how women are all poor drivers because they aren't competitive enough.

These incidents in my life are small potatos compared to the stories of women in our country and around the world who suffer discrimination and worse, but they have affected me in many ways. To this day, I still remember how inferior they made me feel.

"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time." Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Thank you Senator Clinton, from the little six-year-old girl on her first day of first grade who stood segregated on the side of the playground looking longingly at the slide she wasn't sure she was allowed to use. Things will be different for my daughter.

"I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay." Madonna

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Would Captain Kirk Do?

Why is it that other people always seem to have it together and I never quite get anything right?  I do have my good moments.  Once in awhile, I have a day where everything seems to go right.  But for the most part, I feel like I'm on the hamster wheel getting nowhere fast.  

And the most irritating part of it all is that the people in my orbit who do have it together are completely oblivious to the fact that their spotless homes and manicured yards are unattainable for some of us.  It really pisses me off.  

I'm sure there will be a day when I have the house organized.  You will be able to eat off my floors.  The yard will be free of weeds.  I will be oblivious to the plight of others who try to emulate me.  And no one in the world will notice because they will all be busy talking about how Hell has just freaking frozen over.  

In the meantime, I just keep plugging away at the impossible.  And somehow I always manage to drop one of the balls I've been trying to juggle.  Something should've been done or washed or ironed or mended or bought, etc., etc., etc.  

In my heart, I long to be Captain Kirk from the old Star Trek TV series.  Captain Kirk always got it right.  He solved every problem, saved every galaxy, won every fight against every enemy, and he never, ever doubted himself while he was doing it.  He boldly went where no man had ever gone before armed only with a faser, his good looks and an ego the size of the Milky Way. Captain Kirk had to be the inspiration for the phrase "Git R Done".  

And then there was Mr. Jones.  In every Star Trek episode there was a landing party that would beam down to explore a strange planet.  The landing party usually consisted of Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Mr. Spock, perhaps one of the other series regulars - Scotty or Sulu or Uhura.  And then there was Mr. Jones.  The neophyte.  The unknown ensign.  The expendable fifth wheel. Mr. Jones usually got turned into a small container of dust or died after uttering his one two-word line and then vanished completely.  He boldly went nowhere.  Done in by the evil forces inhabiting the strange planet.  Mr. Jones did not have it together.  

I feel like I'm in a perpetual "Mr. Jones" mode in a world of Captain Kirks.  And no one can beam me out of here.  

"Remember - you can't beam through a force field.  So, don't try it."  William Shatner  

Friday, August 22, 2008

State Fair

We took the kids to the Minnesota State Fair.

We had the most wonderful day, as you can see.

I found out that my son is just like me. He starts out thinking that these rides are going to be fun, but very quickly into it, he looks like he wants to get out in the worst way. It takes him until the ride is almost over to relax and start to enjoy himself. If you look closely at these pictures, you can see that his sister is having a great time, but he looks like he just wants to get out.

It struck me that these fair rides are a lot like life. There may be something that seems like a good idea, but once you're caught up in it, you just really want to get back to where you were. Where it felt safe. But you're caught up in the motion, and the force of everything going on keeps you right where you are. And once things die down, you swear you will never, ever do that again. Until the next adventure that looks like it might be fun.

The fair itself was incredible. Some things I observed there:

Cutest thing: A sign that said "Minnesota: Bring a Coat".

Scariest thing: Being in a ferris wheel cart with my two kids who were rocking it back and forth and asking, "You're not SCARED, are you Mom?" I'm hoarse from screaming at them. Little smarta**es.

Most embarassing moment: My young son watching a man being carried out on a stretcher and asking the rescue worker, "Is he dead or something?"

Tackiest thing: Matching his & hers Vikings tattoos on a lovely couple walking the Midway.

Most recommended thing: The Leinie Lodge. Alcohol at 10:30 a.m. . . . need I say more?

Most wonderful thing: My "thrifty" husband willingly shelling out big bucks to buy ride tickets so his kids could go on any ride they wanted to as many times as they wanted to. And the smiles on all their faces.

What a wonderful day. I am not a "fair" person, but this was the cleanest, nicest and most well-run fair I have ever been to. And (here's the strange thing), I did not encounter one single "freak" the entire three and a half hours that I was there. (I am usually a "freak magnet".) I highly recommend this fair. We had a day that I will always remember.

One final caveat: Giant slide + my little fat self = very, very unflattering photos. Fortunately, you will never see those on this blog. (Talk about a bad idea . . . )

"Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it." Eileen Caddy

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey Mamanista, This is Your Wakeup Call!

About a year ago, I went to a new hairstylist. I sat in her chair and told her what I wanted to change about my hair and asked for her opinion on the subject. We formulated a plan and she quickly got to work. She asked me to tell her about myself. I started in immediately talking at warp speed about my kids, my job, my commute, cooking, my husband, my house and my cat. She stopped combing out my hair and looked at me in the mirror. "And what do you like to do when you're not working or taking care of your family?" Silence. Why did she have to ask me such a hard question? My brain felt like it was stammering and fumbling for an answer. "I like to knit" was what I finally said, though I couldn't remember the last knitting project that I had actually finished.

This should have been a big moment. This should have tipped me off that something wasn't right. This should have been the moment in the story where, metaphorically speaking, the operator tells me that the calls I've been getting all night are coming from inside the house - or the moment where the guy who has been convinced that there's a serial killer at the party finally loosens up and admits he was wrong, right when the rest of the partygoers see the serial killer over his shoulder. It should have been like that. It bothered me a bit that I had such a hard time answering her question, but I quickly discarded the feeling.

I was cleaning out my bedroom closet one day. I stumbled on a small box labeled "master bedroom closet" from our last move many, many years ago. I laughed about how I always seem to have one box that never gets opened after each move. They just sit in a basement or a closet, and no one can ever remember what exactly is inside. I cut the tape on the box and opened it.
It was a time capsule. Two jewelry boxes containing my past. Abalone jewelry bought on vacation once, pins, silver barrettes with designs hammered on them, rings, and a cream-colored hair bow. Memories came flooding back. I once had a Chrisian Dior suit with a detachable collar that was the same exact color as this hair bow. I had matching shoes in the same color also. I used to wear white suits with pale camisols and all kinds of accessories. I used to go out for drinks with friends. I used to shop like it was an Olympic sport - and trust me when I tell you I would've medaled in it if it were. Matching handbags. Three-step skin care programs. Things I had long forgotten. When did I let it all go?

I carefully packed up the box, folded the top together and packed it back away in the far corner of the closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

Yesterday, I was driving home from the grocery store with my kids. I was reminding them that their bedroom floor needed to be picked up. My son started talking about how he wanted "a hundred million dollars" so he could get servants. He would get someone to clean up his bedroom floor. And while he was at it, he would get someone to do all the cleaning, cooking, laundry and dishes. My daughter looked at him and said, "Don't waste your money on that - Mom does all that." The child is subtle.

I've finally heard the wakeup call. I have to end this blog post now. I have a knitting class and a cooking class to sign up for. After that, I'm going to call about touring a new local gym. And then there's some earrings that I want to wear today, but I've got to get them down out of a box in the closet first.

"What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now." Author Unknown.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This Mess is a Place!

"If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it." Erma Bombeck

I just found something on the rug behind the recliner that looks like it had been an orange M&M once.

After cleaning that up, I found something that looks like dried Diet Coke on the wall.

I'm wondering just what goes on in this house the twenty minutes a day that I'm not here. Then again, I would probably be better off not knowing.

"Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity." Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Self-Adjusting Universe

The boom has lowered. The other shoe has dropped. Murphy has written a couple of new laws in my honor. Chaos reigns supreme.

My house is a pile of puzzle pieces, glue sticks, Barbies dressed like hookers and little Army men who are fighting some unseen enemy. I know how the Army men must feel. I am having the type of day where I feel like I'm suffocating. It has become a major chore to get things done around here between playdates, school registration, registering for various extra curricular activities, and back-to-school shopping. I have had so much coffee today, my hair is growing nerve endings.

I took my darling daughter clothes shopping recently. She talked me into going to one of those trendy pre-teen places with the thumping dance music, bright lights and perfectly-accessorized, very fashionably-dressed mannequins. She was in Heaven. She floated about the store pulling things off racks while my young son found all kinds of things to get into. While two teenaged size zero store employees with bright blonde hair and bright white smiles were helping her, ("Maybe we should help her" they said after seeing my attempts to get my daughter interested in some jeans that would actually cover her rear end) my son found it highly amusing to spin the circular clothes racks and hug the mannequins. I foolishly took a minute to look at some scarves, and while my back was turned, my son somehow ended up in the store's window display. (BTW - The look on the faces of the passers-by was priceless.) By the time we selected three outfits (out of about 20), I felt like I had been beaten with a baseball bat. I have seen a glimpse of Hell, and it is filled with overpriced sequined preteen clothing that has skulls on it.

This is all probably payback for last weekend when I told a Jehovah's Witness that I was a practicing witch. Who knew those people could move so quickly?

I need more coffee. Coffee is going to get me through this day.

"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." Winnie the Pooh

Sunday, August 17, 2008


"A vacation is like love - anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia." Author Unknown

We took a day trip to Duluth to see the tall ships. The day could've been made into one of those "Vacation" movies with my dear husband playing the Chevy Chase/Clark Griswold character.

It was incredibly hot when we got to Duluth. When we arrived, we took an off ramp to find parking, but the police had closed down the streets to the parking lots since they were all full. Lines of people meandered around the entire city waiting to tour the ships. We asked a policeman where we could park and got the wonderful response, "Probably nowhere for at least five miles." Helpful.

I got out of the car with the sunscreen and my knitting and walked about three blocks from the off ramp to the end of the ever-growing line of people. My husband drove off with the kids to find parking.

At the end of the line I met a wonderful little old couple from Northeast St. Paul - Erv and Rosemary. Rosemary and I chatted in line, and every once in awhile she would send Erv off to get her something from their car which was parked five blocks away. I asked her how long it took her to train her husband, and she replied "Fifty-seven years." I asked her how they met, and she didn't remember exactly. I asked her if they had a big celebration on their 50th anniversary, and she said that they did, but all she remembered was being outside in a tent with a lot of people. As we stood in line in the sweltering heat, we talked about raising children, living in Wisconsin and Minnesota, marriage, real estate, farms, cats, dogs, knitting, and the weather - and that is just as partial list. Rosemary loves to talk as much as I do.

Sadly, my husband found out that the line to tour each tall ship would require hours and hours of waiting in the hot sun. We decided to bag our plans and simply take pictures of the beautiful ships and then go to the Lake Superior Zoo. So, I said goodbye to Rosemary. Erv was off fetching something from their car. I wish I had taken her picture. Talking to her was one of the highlights of the day for me.

As you can see, the tall ships were beautiful.

We had fun at the zoo even though most of the animals that were kept outside were laying low because of the heat which didn't allow for many photo opportunities. The kids still had a great time.

Unfortunately, nearly every person we came into contact with in Duluth was incredibly rude which is really too bad since Duluth is a beautiful place. And, in the end, the kids had a great time and have only good memories of that day.

Then again, these two manage to have fun wherever they go. (They really don't look that much alike, but they sure do in this photo.)

As for me, I'll be staying close to home for awhile. And my poor husband still can't bring himself to talk about that day. I left out most of the really bad parts about the day, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

"No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one." Elbert Hubbard

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Morning Musings

"Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town."  George Carlin

When is the boom going to lower?  When am I going to discover something that I should've done but didn't?  When is everything going to start going wrong and completely fall apart?  

From time to time I get nervous that something is going to happen.  I don't know what.  It's just a nagging feeling at the back of my mind all day.  I try to tell myself that I'm just being silly.  Everything has been smooth sailing around here lately which just makes me worry.  

Sometimes I think I've pushed past the brink of insanity and am now residing in the abyss.  

"Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts."  William S. Burroughs