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