Monday, December 28, 2009

Happiness Is a Red Tupperware Container


I'm still tidying up after the whirlwind holiday. As usual, I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do before Christmas and, as usual, I fell short. The woman who started Christmas shopping in September didn't quite get it all done. Again. I guess you could say that not getting everything done is now a tradition for me.

We celebrated all of the family traditions that are important to us: We cut down our own Christmas tree at a beautiful farm near Somerset, Wisconsin. The farm has a big beautiful barn and a straw mountain for the kids to climb with ropes. There are also wooden tunnels and hot cider and fresh donuts. It is one of my favorite days of the year.

We went to see Santa again. I know my kids love it, but sometimes I believe that my husband and I enjoy it the most. We had smiles on our faces the entire time. My son wore a suitcoat, and he had his list for Santa folded in the inside pocket. Santa actually laughed when the son pulled the list out of his pocket. He looked like a little James Bond.

My daughter was the Angel in the Christmas pageant at our church. She was a narrator last year. She did a wonderful job with her lines, and she looked beautiful with her tinsel halo. My son spent most of his time on the stage pulling at his tie and looking uncomfortable in his white shirt and blue dress slacks.

I helped with my son's first grade Christmas party. One of the Dads is a musician, so he had the kids doing a musical game with Christmas songs. Another Mom helped the kids make mouse ornaments/candy cane holders out of construction paper and glitter paint. Yet another Mom had a bean bag toss game. And I coordinated the whole event so I took the easy way out and made trail mix for a snack (no baking required), served a beverage, prepared candy bags for the kids to take home, and I helped out the other parents. The kids had a good time and weren't too hyper.

Early on the morning of the Christmas party, my daughter and I mixed up the trail mix for the first graders. I needed a fair amount for 22 kids, so we mixed up a big batch with Cheerios, raisins, peanuts, pretzels and M&Ms. I looked for a container large enough to transport all of it to school. And in the back of my cupboard I found a large red Tupperware container that I inherited from my Mom. It is huge with a sweet little kitschy Pennsylvania Dutch-type design on the front of it. Perfect.

When I was younger, my Mom used this container to store her wonderful spritz cookies at Christmastime. No one can make spritz cookies like my Mom. In later years, she even had a recipe where she used Jello in the cookies to give them color, and it added flavor and made them even more moist and wonderful - though she doesn't remember doing this. I have my Mom's old cookie press though I'd never try making a spritz cookie. Can you imagine how many ways I could mess those up? I tried making my Mom's Mexican wedding cookies this year and messed them up so badly that my kids begged me not to leave them out for Santa because "they are really bad." Evidently, you aren't supposed to use light butter in the recipe. Who knew?

I kept the red Tupperware container on my kitchen counter all through the Christmas holiday. Just looking at it made me smile. It brought back a happy memory of a simpler time. When I was little, Christmas was a wonderful season. We would make gifts and drive around town to see the Christmas lights. At school, the choir would practice Christmas carols for our annual performance. We would practice an hour each day - usually in place of math class which I believe is why, to this day, I suck at math. Our school would have Mass in the cafeteria before school let out for the holiday. We would honor our parent volunteers with little gifts during the Mass, and we always brought canned and boxed items for a food drive collection. We would have a Secret Santa gift exchange in our classroom, and we would always give a gift to the teacher. Some years I would have to sing in the choir at Midnight Mass, and my parents would always let me open a small gift after Mass before going to bed. We celebrated St. Nick's night on December 6th with small gifts. And my Mom was the queen of Christmas baking. To this day, the smell of rum brings back memories of her Canadian rum cake.

And every time I would see that wonderful old red Tupperware canister on my kitchen counter, all of the good memories came back to me. The warm wonderful happy times of my childhood in a drafty old farm house on an acre of land just on the outskirts of a little town in central Wisconsin. I cherish these memories so much. They are always in the back of my mind as I celebrate my new holiday traditions with my own family. They still envelop me like a warm hug from the past. They still live on in my memory.

This was a strange Christmas for me this year. Normally, I would trim the tree while the kids are in school. Unwrapping each individually wrapped ornament gently and placing it on the tree. Thinking back to when and where I got the ornament. Some were from old friends that I'm no longer in touch with, which always makes me sad. Some are from the Christmas trees of my childhood, beautiful antique glass ornaments. Some are handmade loveliness from my children when they were in preschool full of glue and glitter, each containing their name and the year it was made. I even have a beautiful pewter ornament of a cat with my darling Josie's name on it. I always hang it on the bottom of the tree - a place she used to lay and enjoy the lights on the tree. It usually takes a couple of hours to decorate the tree. And this year, I didn't feel up to trimming the tree at all. So, I let my daughter do it. And she did a wonderful job. She even decorated the house with nutcrackers and a nativity scene, snowglobes and a Christmas village. She was so proud, and so am I.

So, the holiday was a bit incomplete for me. I never got to watch all of my favorite holiday specials and movies. I didn't do a lot of Christmas knitting. I lost my Christmas card list, and I didn't get cards out to everyone. It's as though the holiday just passed me by. And now it's almost time to pack everything away. No more holiday music. The stores are bare. The snow and cold seem colder somehow. Time to move on.

And here I am staring at 2010 with my usual feeling of dread in the face of a new situation. I've got that feeling of being on the edge of a precipice afraid to move. I normally don't believe in resolutions. Yet, I have the funny habit of writing a note to myself each year when I pack the Christmas ornaments away. I always remind myself whether the lights worked well that year, or if I bought new lights and where they are located. I leave reminders for myself to do certain things, to give myself more time to accomplish certain tasks. It's hope in a note. And I always like reading the notes from myself the following holiday season. A gentle nudge from the past to get my act together. The constant striving for perfection.

This year, I've decided to write notes to myself to open every three months. Notes that will force me to take stock of things as the year goes along. Ways to measure whether I'm making progress on my goals. Nudges to help me get my act together and take it on the road. A reminder that I am a work in progress.

Yes, next year is the year that I will actually write a Christmas newsletter. I will get it all done. I will even bake spritz cookies, dammit. 2010 is going to be my year. I can feel it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Content

I am in a quiet house with the Christmas tree lights glowing and snow falling softly outside.

All that is left to be done is to bake some Christmas cookies and get brunch ready for tomorrow morning.

My house is filled with the happiness and peace that only Christmas can bring.

Blessings to all of you and yours this holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Triumph!


Every day I have to get the kids to the bus stop, and every day it is like pulling teeth to get them out the door. Last week, I decided that I would start a little "competition". So, each kid throws snowballs at the stop sign on the corner. If they get a "bullseye", I pay them a quarter.

Those kids can't wait to get out the door in the morning now. Victory is mine.

It should be noted that snowballs aren't very aerodynamic, and kids usually can't throw them very accurately. But that doesn't stop them from trying.

Who just outsmarted her kids? (It's me! It's me!)

(. . . goes off to do an interpretive dance of joy for the cat who will be very unimpressed as usual.)


Thursday, December 17, 2009

And That Is Where It All Went Wrong


Yesterday, I helped 22 first graders make gingerbread houses out of milk cartons, graham crackers, coconut and candy. It ended up being a wonderful day. It did not start out that way.

All of the first grade parents were required to donate an ingredient for the gingerbread houses. The teacher requested that I make the frosting/mortar which holds the house together. Looking back, I think the first red flag may have been the word "mortar".

Early yesterday morning, I got out my KitchenAid mixer, put the egg whites and cream of tarter in it and started it up. I was supposed to beat the mixture until "stiff peaks form". I mixed and mixed and mixed. I realized I didn't know what a "stiff peak" looked like. I contemplated calling my elderly mother, but it was 7 am, and I knew she wouldn't be awake. I kept mixing.

Finally, the whole mixture globbed up in the whisk of the mixer, and I decided that should be stiff enough for any recipe. I took a spatula and got it out of the whisk and into the bowl. Then, I was supposed to add four cups of powdered sugar SLOWLY. And that is where it all went wrong. Did you ever try to pour powdered sugar? At the exact moment that I fired up the mixer, the whole cup of powdered sugar dumped into the bowl and exploded back onto my glasses, hair, stove and floor. I stood there looking at my reflection in the microwave door wondering what exactly my problem was when it comes to baking.

I managed to get the mortar made and poured into an airtight container before it solidified. I had to literally chisel the remainder of it out of the bowl. Nasty stuff.

I went to get ready to go to school. I toweled as much of the powdered sugar out of my hair as I could, and I fired up my hair straightener. The fact that I couldn't get all the sugar out of my hair should have been the second red flag of the morning. Some information which you may or may not find useful in the future: powdered sugar burns into tiny hard brown bits when you put it in a hair straightener.

There was no time to rewash my hair. So, I stood there with my Diana Ross - Ain't No Mountain High Enough - hair. I realized that it wouldn't be proper to drink Kahlua before visiting a first grade classroom, and I felt like dissolving into sobs. I'd have to deal with this sober.

I threw my hair into a ponytail, grabbed my mortar and headed to school. There was another mother there who also brought in a batch of mortar frosting, and she asked me, "What exactly is a stiff peak?" She had tried looking it up on the internet. Evidently, she did not mix it right because her mortar was glossy and smooth and didn't harden. She and I came to the conclusion that baking skills must skip a generation.

And in the end, the kids did a great job. Fun was had by all. I was concerned that someone's fingers were going to be superglued together by that mortar, but everyone survived unscathed.

Here's what I know for sure: KitchenAid mixer + powdered sugar + hair appliances (or any combination of these) + me = disaster.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Cherie Amour

Years and years ago, I worked downtown Minneapolis. For lunch, I would take a walk through the skyways. In those days, there were people who would sit and play their instruments and passersby would throw money in their instrument case.

There was an African American gentleman who used to sit outside the Baker Center and play his cello. I would put money in his case and request "Silent Night" at Christmastime.

After a few weeks, I would notice that whenever I would walk by him, he would start playing "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder. I would smile at him, and he always smiled back.

And then 9/11 happened, and there wasn't anymore music in the skyways for a long time.

The cellist's name was Hubert. I have no idea whatever happened to him.

Wherever you are, Hubert, this one is for you. I will always remember your smile. Thanks for the music.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Bee Girl Has Found Another Member of Her Tribe


So, last Friday I went to the vet clinic to buy my Gita her prescription cat food. The clerk at the clinic asked me how she was doing. I went on and on about how shiny her fur has become, how alert and playful she is now, etc. We started talking about the different types of cat food, and I told her how I had a cat (who died over ten years ago) that was on a particular type of food. Then, because I'm kind of pathetic and sad, I explained how I still have my cat's ashes in a box in the top of my closet at home. I usually bring this fact up in team-building activities or ice-breakers in a social setting. I like the shock value.

I stood there smiling - all proud of myself and my dead cat's ashes. The clerk looked at me and smiled and told me how she has all three of her deceased pet's ashes in glass urns in a curio cabinet with lights on them. They have photos and name tags by the urns.

I do believe I've found another member of my tribe.

This video is a dedication to my dearly departed cat, Josie. We were kindred spirits. I still think of her every single day, and when I do, I sing this song.

"Love you forever and forever. Love you with all my heart. Love you whenever we're together. Love you when we're apart." Lyrics from "I Will" by Lennon/McCartney



Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Bipolar Morning

8:10 a.m. this morning. The kids were getting coats and boots on before catching the bus to school. There is a snowstorm in the forecast today, so I got snowpants out (each kid has a pair that fits and are clean - the planets must be aligned just right) and packed them in the backpacks. The daughter was searching through her hat and mitten bin for a hat that would fit just right over her Christmas tinsel and bell hairband. She tried on five hats and didn't like any of them. I started digging through the bin, throwing hats and gloves about until I found a pink hat that fit just the way she wanted.

Both kids were wearing boots today, so I went to pack their shoes in their backpacks, and I couldn't find my son's shoes. He always takes them off upstairs in the living room, so I went up there and looked around. Nothing. I asked my daughter to look, and she said she couldn't find them. Then she yelled, "And the bus is coming!"

Panic. I started screaming like a banshee, wandering from room to room. Finally, my son found his shoes in the entryway right where he is supposed to take them off each night, and just about a foot from his sister who claimed to have no knowledge of their whereabouts.

I lost it. I looked at my son and said, "Since when do you take your shoes off where you're supposed to?" The look of confusion on his face was priceless.

We raced to get out the door while I apologized for my tirade. No bus. Seems my darling daughter "thought" she "heard" the bus, so she announced that the bus was coming.

It was at this point that I lost what tenuous hold I had on my sanity. Who am I kidding? Sanity is way back there in the rear-view mirror for me.

And all I have to say for myself is that Kahlua is really good in coffee in the morning.

Here's one of my favorite videos - "No rain" by Blind Melon. The bee girl reminds me of myself searching for my "tribe" - someone to listen to my song and dance as silly as it is. One day I know I'll find my bee people. And we'll all be drinking Kahlua in coffee.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Hiatus


Not blogging much lately.


Enjoying every moment with these kids so much.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Initiation


"Initiation: A rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role."

The H1N1 flu hit our family hard last week. Fevers, coughing, chills, body aches were found all around. During the afternoon of the first day that the fever arrived, I watched my son sleeping and noticed that he was breathing quite rapidly. He wasn't wheezing from asthma. There was no stridor sound from a croup virus. He wasn't blue, so I knew he was receiving adequate oxygen. But he was breathing fast nonetheless. I made the decision to take him to the pediatrician's office - much as he didn't feel like moving.

The clinic was overrun with sick kids and their parents. I got my son a mask to wear, and we waited in the sick child area for what seemed like forever. Finally, a nurse took us into an exam room. When I explained his symptoms and she checked his record, she started moving very quickly. She tested his oxygen level, and it was 98 out of 100. It was good. She seemed relieved. We waited for the doctor.

My son was uncharacteristically crabby. He started banging his foot on the exam table. He started yelling at me because he was irritated that we had to wait so long. Nothing would distract him. I tried to play tic tac toe with him. All he wanted to do was sit and frown.

The doctor finally came in. She was new. And she looked like she should be in middle school. I assessed her every move. It was easy to see that this girl/woman was trying not to be overwhelmed with the situation in the clinic. Her tiny little girl voice was slightly quivering when she spoke. She had pale red hair and freckles on her face. I explained the situation at hand, and she reiterated that my son's oxygen level was fine. I told her that something was very wrong because my son was breathing rapidly. She watched him breathe. She told me that, while she knew that I wasn't lying, she didn't feel that he was breathing rapidly. I told her to watch him again. She did.

I decided that now was the time to put a "full court press" on this girl doctor. I asked her what we could do to prevent my asthmatic son from getting worse. She nervously took her little computer that she had in a bright lime green case. She tapped into it. Her fingers seemed to be shaking. She finally told me in a shaking voice that the test for H1N1 was only 10-70% accurate at any given time, so they didn't administer the test. I must have looked confused because she looked at me and said, "You don't understand what I'm saying." Poor choice of words. I smiled at her, crossed my arms in front of me, and said, "Why don't you explain it to me?" She grabbed the computer and tapped into it with shaking hands. She made only slight eye contact with me when she explained that it would be assumed that he did have H1N1 as that is the only type of flu in this area right now, but before she could prescribe an anti-viral, she would have to rule out strep and pneumonia. I told her to go ahead and do that.

The throat swab was tested and came back negative. They gave my son some Tylenol for his fever which was getting worse as the night wore on. They took chest x-rays. We went back to the exam room for what seemed like eternity. I finally went looking for the doctor. When I walked down the hall, I could hear her tiny voice in the radiology lab talking to the x-ray technician. They were having a disagreement. The tech was adamant that there was nothing on my son's x-rays worth noting. And the doctor was concerned about something on the x-ray. I walked back to the exam room. About a minute later, the doctor came back in and told me that the x-ray didn't show anything, but she was having it sent to the radiology department at Children's Hospital to be sure. She prescribed the anti-viral and we left.

She called me later that night to let me know that my son did have pneumonia in one lung. An antibiotic would be prescribed, and I provided her with the pharmacy information.

That doctor called me once a day for the next three days to ask how my son was doing. He went through nearly two days of throwing up. I had to call the triage nurses twice. At one point, I had to give him gatorade and water through a medication syringe to keep him hydrated.

The last time the doctor called, I was able to tell her that he was well on his way to making a full recovery. I told her that I made an appointment to have him rechecked since he was still coughing at night. There was a moment of silence on the phone, and then she asked me, "How did you know there was something else going on besides the flu?" I said, "He was breathing rapidly." Silence. I spoke her words back at her - "You don't understand what I'm saying." Silence. Then I asked her what made her send the x-rays to Children's Hospital when the clinic's x-ray tech was adamant that there was nothing remarkable about them. I could hear a smile in her voice when she said, "You were so sure there was something wrong. And you are very persuasive."

We saw a different doctor at last night's recheck. The pneumonia has now cleared.

I wonder if I made a lasting impression on this brand new doctor. I think I know the answer to that, and it makes me smile.

All hail the Queen Mother.


Monday, October 12, 2009

That's How It Goes Whenever It Snows

We're having a freaky fall here this year. Two weeks ago, we were having temps in the 80s. Today, we woke up to snow, and we now have 3 inches of the fluffy white stuff.

I thought I was prepared. I put the snow shovels by the garage door. I bought new snow boots for the kids last week. And it was still pure chaos getting out the door for the school bus this morning. I had to put the fleece liners in the winter coats (which were hanging in the coat closet and were supposed to be sent to the drycleaners, but somehow they never made it there.) I dug out snowpants. My daughter's snowpants fit, but her winter coat is a bit snug in the shoulders. My son's coat fit, but his snowpants were so snug, he looked like a shiny black sausage casing. I had washed and put away all hats and mittens; however, most of the mittens are now too small for my son. So much for being prepared.

On the other hand, I've completed almost half of my Christmas shopping, and (remind me that I said this in December) I'm on track to have everything wrapped and ready by December 1st. Yes, I have a self-imposed deadline this year. No more wrapping gifts until the wee hours on Christmas Eve while watching "White Christmas" on the tiny TV in our basement.

Of course, I just decorated my front porch for fall on Saturday. I see that the corn stalks are all full of snow, and the towels that cover up my mums are full of snow as well. My Stella D'Oro lillies by my mailbox are still blooming in the snow. My beautiful Purple Dome Asters bloomed late this year. I tried covering them up for a couple nights, but I think it's futile to save them at this point.

Part of me is still hoping that we get temps in the 60s once or twice more this month. Who knows? Right now, I see myself and the kids slogging through snow on Halloween.

While it makes me sad to close the door on summer and fall this year, the snow is very pretty. It is one of those light fluffy snows that seem to float down from Heaven. My kids made me a tiny little snowman in the front yard. My daughter told me that I can look out the front window today and think of them when I see it.

I'm going to close this post with my favorite version of Carol of the Bells. I love the kettle drum. Beautiful. Enjoy.


Friday, October 2, 2009

The One Where I Rant About Parenting Advice From Playboy Models, Celebuspawn and Cats Who Eat Yarn


Not a good week here. The daughter came home sick on Monday afternoon. The son got a "croup virus" and was home sick on Wednesday and Thursday. There have been pediatrician visits, pharmacy visits and the usual mayhem.

Last night my son was put on a very strong steroid for the croup cough. This steroid is four times stronger than Prednisone. I researched it online and found that it did have a good record for helping kids get over the croup in its clinical trials. The information I received from the pharmacy contained half a page of warnings of possible side effects. This is what kept me from sleeping last night. I was up until 12:40 am this morning constantly checking on my son to make sure he was breathing alright, not swelling up, not coughing, not throwing up, etc. I am tired.

I got both kids to school this morning and came home to sit and eat breakfast in peace and then start in on what I hope to accomplish today now that I don't have sick kids hanging on me. I sat down and saw the message light blinking on the phone. It was a message from the daughter. She forgot her glasses. Again. She only needs them for school and reading. I put her glasses case in her backpack and told her to keep them in there. She keeps forgetting the glasses case in her desk at school. I trotted off to deliver the glasses to school.

After leaving school, I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things that I need for dinner tonight. In the checkout line, I saw a tabloid touting some pregnant Playboy model and a pregnant Kardashian sister giving "baby advice". What the hell? Like these two bimbos are ever going to change a diaper, stay up all night with a sick child or run their kids to 50 different activities. Something about this made me want to scream. And just why are those Kardashians famous? Because their father was an attorney . . . for OJ Simpson?! Or is it because their stepfather won a decathalon in the '70s? Something about that tabloid story really flipped my b**ch switch. It must be from the lack of sleep last night.

And while I was up into the wee hours, I knitted to pass the time. At one point, I heard a smacking sound coming from the floor. I glanced down to see my cat chewing on my beautiful hand-dyed Vesper self-striping sock yarn in the rare and very beautiful Witchy Woman colorway. She chewed the strand of yarn in half. Much as I love my cat, I would've had her stomach pumped if she had swallowed very much of that yarn. I had to re-join the yarn and knit it into the fingerless gloves that I'm making. Hopefully, it won't unravel the second time that I wear the gloves. I'll be sure and post a picture of them when I am finished knitting them. They will be gorgeous.

And now my whole day lies ahead of me. Much filing and cleaning and organizing to be done. I need to paint my bedroom which I am looking forward to doing. My To-Do list is neverending.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Johnny Appleseed and the Burnt Applesauce a/k/a Cooking Disaster #259

My first grader celebrated Johnny Appleseed's birthday today. They took a field trip to a theater where they saw a play about Johnny Appleseed. My son was one of a handful of kids chosen to go up on stage and participate.

This afternoon, I went to the classroom and helped with an apple "taste testing" party. Last night and this morning, I had peeled and sliced two pecks of apples (four little white bags of MacIntosh apples to be exact). It took forever even with my apple peeler. I washed, peeled, sliced and bagged five gallon-size Ziploc bags and carted them to school.

I was put in charge of the taste testing table. I washed and sliced six different apples for the 20 students to test and rate on a sheet of paper.

I was also put in charge of making applesauce in a wok sitting on a hot plate in the back of the classroom. I put one bag of the chopped apples in the wok, and they reduced down to applesauce. My fatal mistake was in not removing the first applesauce. I was in a hurry, so I simply added the next bag of chopped apples and went back to the taste testing table.

A few minutes later, I see the teacher run across the room as the smell of burning apples filled the air. I went over to the wok and started to stir the applesauce but the teacher informed me that the applesauce was scorched. However, it wasn't all that bad, and there was enough unscorched applesauce for each student to try. The teacher is going to take the other three bags home to make more applesauce there and bring it back for the kids. That way there wouldn't be any chance that I would f**k it up again.

I have set off smoke detectors with my cooking. I had to throw away pans when I tried to make homemade candy with a candy thermometer. I can't follow a recipe to save my life as witnessed by this old blog post.

My son saw what was going on, slapped his hand on his forehead and shook his head. All the kids had a good time even if the classroom smelled like burned apples.

I haven't been this embarrassed since last year when I lost a third grader at the Minnesota Children's Theater. I turned my back for a minute to get everyone lined up, and this little snot took off. I think I gave that teacher a heart attack.

Some mothers are like Martha Stewart. I am not. But one of these days a teacher is going to want to teach their class to knit, and then they'll come crawling back.

I'm going to my happy place to try and forget about this day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Time of My Life

"It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer." Shanna LaFleur

I will always love Patrick Swayze. He was the perfect combination of cowboy and gentleman. Whether he was portraying an outlaw, an outsider, a dancer, a motivational speaker, or an ordinary guy facing extraordinary circumstances, he lit up the screen, and I was mesmerized. No one was cooler. No one was more dangerous. No one could dance better or was more handsome. No one will ever replace him. I had the time of my life watching him.

I will always love Patrick Swayze.



"I wanna be the lady he loves with all his heart and soul. I wanna be the lady he keeps warm when the nights get cold. Yeah, cowboys are my weakness." Lyrics from "Cowboys Are My Weakness" by Trisha Yearwood.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Cat's Throwing up on my Shoe . . . Tales of the First Day of School


And they're off. The bus just picked up my two kids. They are unleashed into the wild.

The morning went about as expected. They woke up early with the anticipation of going back to school. They ate breakfast with no complaints. They grew more quiet as the morning wore on. I made sure they each knew their lunch PIN number and classroom number. My daughter ended up writing her lunch number on her arm so she wouldn't have to worry about forgetting it in the lunch line.

There were some tense moments when we couldn't find my daughter's neon pink arm warmers. She argued about having to wear her glasses again. I reminded her that they are non-negotiable when she is in school. (I'll bet money that she walks off the bus tonight without having them on.) My son refuses to use his new Clone Wars backpack that I bought him. He insisted on using the same Pirates of the Caribbean backpack from last year. It has two holes in it and a stain from the last day of Y Camp this year when it rained all day. I was picking my battles this morning, and that just wasn't going to be one of them. The pirate backpack was reenlisted for duty.

All was going according to schedule when I heard a piercing scream from my daughter. "The cat's throwing up on my shoe!" Sure enough, the cat was throwing up near my daughter's new Rosy Hodgepodge Hi-Top sneaker shoes. The brand new ones with the crochet flower details. My daughter's favorite possession at the moment. I ran down the stairs to the front door where the cat was throwing up all over the floor. Evidently, she had the "first day of school nerves" also. Fortunately, the shoes managed to avoid the cat puke. I cleaned up after her, and all was well again.

I took their pictures. Together. Individually. With their backpacks. They didn't complain too much. Every year I take their pictures on the first and last days of school. It's amazing to see how much they grow each year.

Finally, it was time to be at the bus stop. We were there the requisite ten minutes early. The bus was right on time. The driver was the one from last year who had been hurt last winter when he fell on the ice. The kids were overjoyed to see him again. I stood looking at the kids getting on the bus. I smiled and told them to have a great day. The driver looked at me and grinned. He held his hand up, and I went up on the bus to give him a high-five. Then, in a great fit of grace and maturity, he and I both chanted, "First day of school! First day of school!" I laughed, gave the kids and driver one last smile and waive and went into the house.

It was quiet. The cat came and looked for the kids. I swallowed down the lump in my throat. I told myself it's just not possible to miss them already. I looked around the house at the reminders of the summer that has just passed by all too quickly. There is a Lego creation on a table. One of my daughter's drawing pads is in the living room. I feel like I'm perched on a precipice for some reason. I'm afraid to move. New beginnings don't upset me the way that goodbyes and endings do, but they make me nervous.

I'm sure I'll be nervous all day today and feeling like I'm inching my way around a steep drop-off. Every once in awhile I'll look at the clock and wonder what the kids are doing right this very minute. Are they having fun? Are they making new friends? Are they resilient enough to shake off any disappointments that may have happened? I may throw up myself.

I worry too much. I'm a Mom. And that's my job.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sands of Time

"Life's like an hourglass glued to the table." Lyrics from "Breathe (2 AM)" by Anna Nalick

We took a family vacation last week. On one of the days, we headed to Rib Mountain State Park. We took in the scenery from the scenic overlook.

We climbed the observation tower. (96 steps to get to the top . . . just sayin'.)

The mountain is one of the highest elevations in the state of Wisconsin and is made up of shiny quartzite rocks. (Technically, an Archaean Supercontinent split 2.5 billion years ago. Erosion of the ancient continent produced sand that accumulated and formed sandstone. Subduction started to happen about 2 billion years ago, sweeping oceans and continents back together. The Penokean Mountains were formed. At this time, it is believed that the sandstone metamorphosed into quartzite. Then an intrusion of syenite incorporates various large blocks of this quartzite. The Penokean Moutains and some of the syenite in their roots eroded away between 1.5 and .6 billion years ago, revealing the quartzite zenolith of today's Rib Mountain. ) It's easier to say "shiny quartzite rocks."

I had been to Rib Mountain several times before, but I never took the time to read about how it came to be. I was fascinated that I was standing on something that had fully emerged sometime in the past 300 million years. I stopped at one rock formation and was amazed that you can still see some of the original ripples of the sand from the sandstone that had buried the quartzite. (You can see a photo here.) It made me feel small and insignificant. As my husband said, our lifetimes are not even a mere "hiccup" in the history of this mountain. I thought about all the history that I had ever studied in school, and how this mountain had been around for all of it. I wondered how many people through the ages had stood where I was right now.

We walked around the mountain on top of a spongy layer of several years worth of leaves from the giant oak trees that towered above us. Tiny acorns were embeded in the leaves, and I thought of the saying "Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow."

At one point, we stopped at a concession stand near the campground and walking trails. When we bought our state park pass, we had been given a coupon for some free popcorn from the concession stand. We bought the usual souvenirs: a t-shirt for me, a hat for my husband, a bear tooth necklace for my son, a pink rabbit's foot necklace for my daughter, a bottle of water and, of course, we got our free popcorn. We sat at a picnic table under the oak trees and ate the popcorn. I sat back and listened to the conversation of my family. My son was getting over the disappointment of my not allowing him to buy a cheap plastic toy at the concession stand. My daughter was talking to her Dad about the rabbit's foot and how it wasn't "lucky" for the rabbit who lost the foot. Her Dad was trying to convince her that the pink rabbit had been out at a party and then inexplicably woke up in an alley on crutches without one of his feet. My son was wondering how someone got the tooth out of the bear to put on his necklace. At one point, the kids were telling us a joke, and the punchline was "under where?" Of course, the word "underwear" makes every nine and six-year-old laugh hysterically. My husband was laughing appreciatively at the very effective marketing technique of the coupon for free popcorn employed by the State of Wisconsin to get you to their concession stand where you will likely spend money as we just had.

And right then and there at a picnic table on a mountain of quartzite that had been around since practically the dawn of time, under a canopy of towering oak trees, I fell in love with my family all over again. I wondered if my kids would remember this moment from one of our family vacations. Would they keep the photos from this moment to show their children one day? Would they tell the story of this family vacation to them? Would some part of this moment on this day survive the generations like the ripples of sand on the ancient quartzite rocks?

And I felt sad, as I often do, that time goes by so quickly. My children are growing so fast, and time is passing by so quickly. It's like watching sand go through an hourglass, and I'm powerless to stop it. But I believe that the love we feel continues forever, starting like an acorn and growing into a mighty oak tree. And through the generations, our families help make us who we are. All of our experiences are buried within us like the shiny quartzite rock on the mountain. They remain inside us forever.

And I hope that one day my children will remember this early afternoon on a Monday in August on a park bench on one of the oldest geological formations on earth, and know how much I loved them.

"Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone." Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dreaming of the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Eighteen days and counting until school starts.

Here's a video brought to my attention by Mrs. DPM of the comments. What a hoot! I love how he's dancing on the cart at the end. I know how he feels.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Elderly Couple in the Park

"Every day that will pass you by. Every name that you won't recall. Everything that you made by hand. Everything that you know by heart. And I will try to connect all the pieces you left. I will carry it on and let you forget." Lyrics from "Silent House" by the Dixie Chicks

Just about every night there is an elderly couple that sits in the park across the street from my house. They sit in silence, hand in hand, watching the children play, watching the older kids play basketball, or watching nothing at all.

I've said hello to them when I've been outside watering trees in the evening. The man always speaks to me. Sometimes the lady will smile, and sometimes she shuffles along with her head down, leaning on the man. I see them walk back and forth from the park to an assisted living facility near my house.

My husband took our son to the park one night, and he spoke to them. The lady suffers from alzheimers, and the man is her husband. Not long ago, he had to move her to the assisted living center since he can no longer care for her at home. He visits her every day.

I wonder what it must feel like to watch your spouse slip away bit by bit each day and not be able to do anything to prevent it. I wonder what must be going through his mind as he takes her hand and walks with her on one of her bad days when she shuffles along, leaning on him with her head down.

I wonder how horrible it must have been to have to move her out of their home and into a care center to be taken care of by strangers. I wonder how he feels each day that he arrives at the care center not knowing if this will be one of her good days or not.

I wonder how he will feel the day that she is no longer able to go for a walk. But mostly I wonder how he can stay strong while he watches the woman he loves slip away a little bit each day.

And I am in awe of the strength this man has. What a wonderful thing it is to have such a great love in your life.

"The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it." C.C. Scott



Monday, August 3, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm . . .


Why is it that:

1) There is a popsicle flavor just called "blue".

2) My kids can be in the water for hours every day, but my insisting that they take a shower is an abomination.

3) The best tasting raspberries are in the crazy neighbor's yard.

4) I sent my son to a very wholesome YMCA day camp, and he came home knowing dirty lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

5) Summer seems to last forever, yet it goes by waaayyy too fast.

Enjoy these last weeks of summer wherever you are.


Monday, July 27, 2009

When Kids Ask Questions We Aren't Prepared to Answer

I was brushing darling daughter's hair this morning before going out to play tennis. Out of the blue, she asks me, "When was the first time you slept with Dad?"

I am rarely rendered speechless, but I have to tell you that, much like a drowning victim, all I could see for a split second was bright whiteness, and there was a buzzing in my ears. I thought I might faint.

As I blinked and stared at her dumbfounded, she asked, "Was it like a sleepover or something?" I told her that it was something like that, and it was too long ago to remember. Thank goodness she accepted that answer, and went to find a ponytail holder.

I've got to start preparing for things like this. Any words of wisdom out there for me? Similar experiences with kids?

I'm still lightheaded. I may have to go knit a few rows until I calm down.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sorry Just Doesn't Mean What It Used To

All of this summer togetherness is starting to take its toll. My darling daughter said something snarky to her brother today. He replied by hitting her. When I got him under control, I told him to apologize to his sister for hitting her. He took a deep breath and through gritted teeth said, "I'm sorry I've got such a stupid sister!"

I knew I couldn't help smiling, so I faked a cough and sequestered myself in the bathroom until I got myself under control.

I'm at the end of my rope, but I've tied a knot, and I'm hanging on for dear life.

Say prayers for me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

My blog is one year old today. I must say that this last year went by really, really quickly.

I'd like to thank all of my readers for checking in on me here and reading my ramblings. Hopefully, I've made you laugh or cry or made you think at some point this last year.

I'd especially like to thank my loyal readers: Our Lady Celia of the Comments - my number one supporter. I probably kept up with the blog this long because of you. Mother Heller - I'm glad you can share in the antics of your grandchildren and have a good laugh. Mrs. DPM - my very best friend always. What would I do without you? Kayla Joy - Thanks for always telling me how much you enjoy the blog. You will always be my extreme cheerleader. And my friends Karen and Gayle who email me often to check up on me. I'm glad you keep in touch. And to my husband and kids - my greatest inspirations - thank you for all the great material to blog about.

I frequently get questions about the blog. The most popular are: 1) How come you never show any of your knitting projects when the blog is titled "Knitting and Mayhem"? Answer: My last couple of knitting projects did not turn out very well, and I don't really get much time to knit lately. Since I started reading the "Twilight" series of books by Stephenie Meyer, I don't knit much at all.

2) Do you make up some of your stories? Answer: No. My life is really that strange. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Yes, I really do swear at Japanese beetles, fall off of chairs in the doctor's office, start fires in my bathroom, throw defective hair styling equipment into snowbanks, and use powdered sugar instead of flour in banana bread recipes. That's just me. I'm cool like that. And I hope someday that will all be mentioned in my obituary. My life is like one long Carol Burnett show full of ridiculously funny skits.

3) Where do you get the ideas for some of the blog posts/how do you go about writing the posts? Ideas pop into my head all the time. I can wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, or I can mull something over for a couple of days. I do keep a notebook with ideas for future blog posts. Most of the time, my thoughts just come barreling through as I'm typing.

Now, I have a request of all of my readers. I'd love to hear which of my blog posts is your favorite. Please email or comment.

Thanks again my loyal readers. This blog has helped me so much. Being a stay-at-home Mom can be very isolating - especially for someone as social as myself. I originally created this blog as a way to get through the long days. I've discovered so much about myself along the way - mostly I learned that I am in charge of my own happiness. Just like Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz" - I learned that I had the power all along. I can't wait to see where this next year takes me. You can read about it here.

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains. And we never even know we have the key." Lyrics from "Already Gone" by the Eagles

Sunday, July 12, 2009

But Who's Counting????

Fifty days until school starts. Only 50 more days of crabby kids, crabby Mom, arguments, kids hitting each other with tennis racquets and damaging my shrubs with tennis balls, throwing clumps of dirt into their swimming pool, catching frogs and scaring their Mom with them, leaving dirty socks and Capri Sun packets around the house, and gluing sequins on the cat.

I even told my son that I would send him away to live in a camp if he kept being crabby. I threatened to take away every one of my daughter's possessions if she lost one more thing. My life has reached a whole new level of suck.

There isn't enough alcohol on the planet to get me through the next 50 days.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another Day, Another Trip to Urgent Care

My son cut his knee open yesterday and had to have stitches. Of course, I was right behind him when it happened. Every time that child has gotten seriously hurt, I've been right there by him.

Around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, he got out of our pool, ran up onto our deck, through our carpeted dining room and into the kitchen where he slid on the floor and into the corner of a wall by our refrigerator. I knew the minute I heard him screaming that it wasn't good.

I drove him to our clinic's urgent care because it wasn't bleeding a whole lot. They cleaned it and numbed it which took about 45 minutes. His sister and I sat there with him in the tiny waiting room. She was in her wet swimsuit with a cover-up on, and she was freezing. To pass the time, I got a pen out of my purse and let them play tic-tac-toe on the paper cover of the table in the waiting room. My daughter was on the rolling stool, and she bumped the table causing the roll of paper to come loose from under the table. I tried to replace it, and I asked her to get off of the rolling stool so that I could sit on it and try to replace the paper roll. Leaning over the table was making me dizzy.

As I tried to sit on the stool, it shot out from under me, and I fell on the floor and the roll of paper went everywhere. Just then, the nurse came in the room, and the look on her face was priceless. I started babbling about what I was doing. She seemed completely understanding. Obviously, her years of working in pediatrics with small children gave her the skills she needed to deal with me.

After an excruciating ten minutes of the doctor stitching up the cut, we were allowed to go home. Now, the fun begins. I have a very active six-year-old who can't bike or run for at least two weeks.

Please send good thoughts my way . . .

Monday, June 29, 2009

Incentive

Last Friday was a difficult day. Both kids had just finished up a two-week session of Red Cross swim lessons, and I was told that Joe did not pass Level 1 because he needs to work on his backfloat, but he was close. Kate did not pass Level 3 because she didn't have a strong front crawl, but she was close. So, I took the kids to the park after swim lessons, and then gave them an ice cream treat that afternoon to ease the sting of not passing.

Today was the start of the second session, and both kids were troopers. Kate went back to Level 3, and Joe was back in Level 1 with a little girl he knew who also didn't pass on Friday. Things were fine, I started reading my book, and a woman tapped my arm and asked, "Isn't that your little boy?" Before I could look up, I started wondering what he had done now. Then I saw him being switched over to Level 2 along with the little girl. Cool. Joe now has a wild swim instructor who likes to lipsynch songs and dance at the edge of the pool. They seem to be bonding given their mutual love of all things fun, and Joe's backfloat is fine now.

Just when Joe got settled in Level 2, Kate was being led up to Level 4. Her instructor is the brother of the wild and crazy guy who teaches Joe now. She still struggles a bit with her front crawl, and she's slower than the other students, though her technique looks good to me. She really tried hard all through class doing her best on her backstroke and treading water. At the end of class, instead of having free time, she asked the instructor if she could jump off the diving board. She loves diving.

When the class was over, she came over to me for her towel, and her little face was all lit up by her smile. I said, "Look at you! You are really working hard and trying your best!" She kept smiling and looked me in the eye and said, "I want to stay in Level 4 with the cute instructor."

My genes have surfaced again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Everything

I'm not sure what my problem is lately.  I'm jumpy, crabby, and I can't remember anything at all (I forgot the word "popsicle" the other day.)  All of this end-of-school-year stuff just has me so preoccupied.  And then there are the day-to-day hurdles.  Yesterday, my daughter handed me her eyeglasses, in two pieces.  This is about three weeks to the day that her brother also handed me his eyeglasses in two pieces.  I suppressed the urge to scream both times.  

I am nervous about my daughter's dance recital this week.  She did beautifully at her dress rehearsal last weekend.  All of the other girls in her dance class (except one) knew each other from a parochial school here in Hudson.  And those girls were not accepting of Kaitlyn for most of the year.  Kaitlyn has handled it like a trooper.  I see her making attempts to talk to the other girls from time to time.  Sometimes they dismiss her by completely ignoring her.  Sometimes they are nice.  This "girl stuff" just keeps getting more and more frustrating all the time.  I spoke to the other little girl who was an "outsider" in this class at dress rehearsal.  She is giving up dance after this year.  She seems to want to turn her back on all of it and start something new.  Either gymnastics or karate she told me.  Kaitlyn is not letting herself be affected by any of the things that happened this year.  She is becoming more resilient with time.  (This should serve her well in the future.)  Ms. Jennifer has given her such a love of dance that she has not only signed up for tap and jazz again next year, but she wants to be in ballet also.  I will be living part-time at the dance studio next year.  

I am seeing a subtle change in my daughter lately.  She is still very, very shy, but she has become aware of a way to break the ice with people she doesn't know.  She smiles.  This has proven to be a very effective way to get attention.  She smiled at a boy in the local grocery store, and he turned around to stare at her while he was walking, and he walked right into a pole in the middle of the aisle.  We had a good laugh about that.  In any event, she seems to be making baby steps out of her shyness, which is a very good thing.  

And then there is my boy.  He draws pictures of me and him on little post-it notes and gives them to me.  He always draws us smiling with hearts and trees and birds and flowers surrounding us.  And he always scrawls "Joe" and "Mom" and draws a little heart between the words.  I am keeping all these little scraps of love notes in a box to look at when I am old(er) and gray.  

I had lunch with him last week.  One of the recess monitors at school saw me with him.  Her son is in the same grade as Kaitlyn, and she knew I was Kaitlyn's mother, but she didn't know that Joe was my son.  She could not believe that my two kids were siblings because they are polar opposites.  I hear this all the time.  Kaitlyn is shy and Joe is, well, he's something else.  I guess the world would be pretty boring if we were all the same.  Sometimes I think it would make my home life a little easier though . . . 

So, this video is dedicated to my two kids.  You get me through my crabby days, and you love me in spite of myself.  I love you right back.  You are my everything.  


Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Simpler Time

I listen to the radio a lot.  It is usually on in the house as I go about my day.  It is always on in the car.  It always amazes me how a song can bring back such vivid memories.  Smells can do that also - a certain perfume that I wore in college will always remind me of that time.  The smell of lily of the valley and lilacs always reminds me of playing in the front yard of the house where I grew up.  The front of the house faced north, and in the northwest corner of the house there was a square flower garden where we had rose bushes, irises, a bleeding heart bush (I just bought one of them and plan to plant it on the north side of my house), snow on the mountain, and lily of the valley.  We had three lilac trees in our yard right next to the long gravel driveway.  A light purple one by the road that went past our house, and another light purple one and a white one further up the driveway.  The white lilac tree was tallest, and it had a branch on it that I used to swing from when I was very little.  I actually have a picture of me swinging from that branch.  How I cherish that picture.  

The other day, as I was driving around town, I heard an old country song "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" by Donna Fargo.  Immediately, I was transported back to a cold winter morning when I was little.  Mom would bundle me up in a blanket and sit me at the kitchen table where she would serve me chocolate Malt o Meal and milk in my favorite white mug with red roosters on it.  I have the mug packed away somewhere, and it just dawned on me that maybe the mug is the reason I recently decorated my kitchen in roosters, and I love it.  

I would sit at the table early in the morning, and a small white radio would be playing the local AM radio station music.  There was nothing spectacular that ever happened that stands out in my memory, but it is that wonderful, drafty old house, and my Mom, and the feeling of love and safety (for lack of a better word) that I remember.  Funny how after all the things my parents did - road trips, county fairs, presents at Christmas - it is the smallest, most ordinary things that I treasure about childhood.  

And so, this video is dedicated to my parents.  They were (as my father would say) "solid as Sears", and they always made sure that I had everything I needed.  And they have provided me with a lifetime of good memories that I hold close to my heart and think of often.  


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Doors

"When God closes one door, He opens another."  Proverb

Sometimes, I think I stare at the closed door for so long that I miss seeing the open door.  

This is my least favorite time of year.  Endings.  Goodbyes.  Moving on from one phase of life to another.  I have always believed that my kids don't transition well, but really it's me who resists change.  I don't always take time to stand back and enjoy the process of things.  I'm in such a hurry to see the end, the final product, the culmination of so much time and effort.  And when the end is in sight, I can't believe that the end is near.  

Last Sunday was my last day teaching Sunday School.  All my kids were there on the final day, so I had my hands full.  The wonderful Isabelle wore a pretty black dress and had her hair crimped in honor of the last day of class.  Her dress was held together in the back with safety pins.  She told me it was really her older sister's dress.  

The little fashionista girl was there in a very fashionable outfit.  The smiley boy was there.  Joe was there.  And the quiet boy whose grandpa had died last fall was there too.  We had our last small-group class, and then we joined all the kids ages 6 and under for large group lessons.  It was time to sing and dance to some songs, and Isabelle turned around and told me, "It's time for us to dance and for you to drink your coffee."  Guilty.  Those kids pick up on everything.  

At the end of class, the kids got a dilly bar, and I asked each one of them a question about themselves to pass the final minutes.  Then I asked them if any of them had a question for me.  Isabelle's hand shot up in the air and she asked, "If you got a yellow dog, would you name it Goldie?"  I told her that I would name that dog Nala like the lioness from the Lion King.  Then the fashionista girl asked me, "What color are your eyes - really?"  I have very green eyes, and I wear blue gas permeable contacts, so my eyes look like a weird murky green color.  

Then it was time to go.  I offered each child the choice of a handshake, a hug or a high five.  The girls gave big running hugs.  Two from the fashionista, and then her father came to get her.  One hug from the smiley boy.  Joe met up with his sister and went to sit on the couches in the lounge area of the church.  The quiet boy had put his hands in his pockets and took off without my noticing.  No goodbye from him.  And then it was me and Isabelle who stood with her blonde crimped hair and ill-fitting dress looking up at me smiling.  "I like you" she said, "I didn't think I would."  I asked her if she still thought that I didn't look like a nice person.  She said, "Sometimes.  You need to smile more."  And then she hugged my leg and ran off to meet her Mom.  She didn't look back.  I stood for a minute with a picky feeling behind my eyes which always signals oncoming tears.  I blinked them back and looked back at the empty Sunday School room.  And I smiled and shut the door.  

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."  Alan Cohen  

My daughter tends to see everything negatively.  Every day after school, I ask the kids how their day was.  Kaitlyn always gives me the same "Napoleon Dynamite" answer, "It was the worst day of my life!"  Last Tuesday, I had lunch at school with her.  She sits with a wonderful group of girls.  We talked all through lunch, though Kate remained quiet.  One little girl remarked how much Kate and I look alike.  We smiled at that.  Then we went out for recess, and Kaitlyn had to show me all the stuff she can do on the monkey bars.  Various little third graders would come up to me and strike up a conversation.  I had a wonderful time.  And then it was time to go and Kate was sad.  She has had a rough year in third grade.  She never made friends with any of the girls in her class, just girls in the other third grade classes.  Her teacher was very nice, and Kate liked her very much.  I believe Kate learned a lot this year, and she's getting excellent marks, but there was something about this year that just never "clicked" for her.  There is a rotten girl in her class that picked on her for most of the year.  I hope and pray that kid either goes to a different school or she isn't in Kate's class next year.  For the first time ever, I think I'll be happy to see her graduate to the next grade.  This is a door that I'm happy to close.  

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."  Victor Frankl

And then there is my "Almost First Grader".  I am sad beyond belief that my last kindergartener is moving on to first grade.  He brought home a note from his teacher yesterday that said, "Joe had a terrific day today - not one reminder about a thing!"  He was so proud to show it to me.  I put it up on the refrigerator for everyone to see.  I am so proud of him and his good report.  

A couple of weeks ago, I chaperoned the kindergarteners on a bumper bowling field trip.  We walked to a local bowling alley and bowled six frames.  What a fun time.  I have so many good memories of his kindergarten year.  I was able to volunteer a lot in that classroom, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I am so sad to see this special year end for him.  But he is ready to move on, and he's really ready for summer vacation.  Every year on the last day of school, I take the kids pictures and give them a kiss for the last time as a Kindergartener, third grader, etc.  And then I compare that picture to the picture of them on the first day of school, and then I cry for about an hour.  I will cry the last time we walk out of the kindergarten room and that door shuts behind us.  This year really went by quickly.  

"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change.  If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change."  John A. Simone, Sr.  

This was a special year for Kaitlyn in dance class.  You might remember that I blogged about it last fall.  She has worked so hard.  And she has had the most fantastic dance teacher.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked the teacher if she would be teaching the 9-10 year olds next year, and she told me that she gave her notice and won't be teaching next year.  She wants to spend some time with her husband, and she teaches for the Park and Rec Department in River Falls.  I practically started crying right then and there.  This lady is such a wonderful teacher and free spirit.  She literally dances through life, and she is the best teacher that Kate could have ever had.  Kate learned so much from her and had a lot of fun while she was learning it.  

The last day of class was Thursday.  We got the teacher, Miss Jennifer, a pink rose with baby's breath and a thank you card from Kaitlyn.  I wrote her a letter thanking her for all her hard work.  Sometimes Kaitlyn has two left feet, but she has the heart of a dancer, and Miss Jennifer helped her shine.  She instilled so much self-confidence in Kaitlyn, and when Kate looks back on her years of dance lessons, she will always remember Miss Jennifer.  



At the last dance class, Miss Jennifer drew face paint on the girls.  One symbol was for a warrior, and the other symbol was for the first woman president.  Each girl got to show off a move that she learned that year, and then was presented with a certificate.  Miss Jennifer thanked all of us parents for the gift of letting her get to know our daughters.  And yes, I blinked back tears.  I gathered Kate and her dance shoes and her certificate, and we got ready to leave.  Kate was bouncing off the walls from such a fun last class.  I felt a pang of sadness as we walked out the door for the last time this year.  Her dance school isn't a very friendly place.  It is very competitive.  It wasn't until Kate got in Ms. Jennifer's class that she really started having fun.  Kate is determined to earn a "five-year pin" from this school, and she has two more years of lessons before she can do that.  I hope she has fun these next two years.  And Miss Jennifer told Kate that she might come back for the 2010-11 classes.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.  This door might not be fully closed after all.  

"It's always something."  Roseanne Roseannadanna

And now we're starting up t-ball for Joe and junior fast-pitch softball for Kate.  Joe is quite serious about baseball this year, and he's loving it so far.  Kate is holding her own on a team of very talented softball players.  

The dance recital is coming up complete with dress rehearsal, costumes, and lots of other mayhem.  These next two weeks are filled with field trips and school picnics.  And soon, the kids will be enjoying summer school, summer swim lessons, more t-ball and softball, an art class for Kate at the local performing arts center, and day camp for both kids.  I'm keeping them busy.  I know the end of summer will come all too quickly, but I'm usually ready for them to get back to school in the fall, and that transition won't be so hard.  

And soon I'll file away the last school papers and art projects from this school year.  I'll retire the worn-out backpacks they used all year.  We'll turn our attention to all the fun that summer has in store for us - the newly opened door.  

And what makes me really sad is that soon I'll get over missing the kindergarten room, and the Sunday School class, and Ms. Jennifer's dance class.  They will become fading memories in a whole sea of fading memories.  But when we look back, we'll smile and hopefully will be able to open the door of our memories enough to catch a glimmer of the happy feelings we once had.  

"Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.  Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour.  Then leaf subsides to leaf.  So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day.  Nothing gold can stay."   "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Letter to My Sweet Girl


Dear Baby Girl:

You turned nine almost two weeks ago.  I was just looking back at the photos, and I swear that I don't know when you got so tall or skinny or leggy or even prettier than you have always been.  


You are so grown up, but still such a little girl, playing with Barbies one minute and doing hip hop moves the next.  I live in fear for the first time you go out on a date.  (Your father always clenches his jaw and narrows his eyes whenever the subject of boys comes up.  He may not survive your teen years.)  

And lately you and I argue.  A lot.  We argue over whether or not you should attend dance camp, about homework, softball, chores, clothes, bedtime, and much, much more.  

My sweet girl, I know that I'll never be fully ready for the roller coaster ride that has just begun.  I'm doing my best to steer you through all the emotion that is your nine-year-old life.  I fully realize that it is the tears and drama that make your smiling sweet moments shine all the more.  


We are so very different from each other.  I look forward to seeing the woman that you become someday.  I just hope that someday doesn't come too soon.  

I love you little girl.  

Mom  

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hopelessly Out of Touch

To say that this weekend was not a good one would be a massive understatement.  I'm not quite sure where to begin.  Last Monday I felt a sore throat coming on.  It was worse on Tuesday.  On Wednesday and Thursday I was still feeling awful.  Friday was very bad, and my little guy didn't have school on Friday since next year's kindergarteners were visiting his school at Kindergarten Roundup.  My hub was expecting a UPS delivery that would require a signature, so we needed to stay home all day.  It was a nice day outside, so I decided that the best use of my time would be to rake the lawn and tend to the landscaping - weeding and cutting back last year's plants.  

The budding trees and the wind and the pollen made by sore throat/head cold much worse.  My son kept leaving basketballs and scooters outside near the sidewalk which is against the house rules.  I yelled at him over and over.  The daughter came home and started playing with a swimming noodle.  She accidentally whacked me hard in the eye with it, and I spanked her rear for that.  I could've lost a contact lens like I did the time that my son whacked me in the eye with a toy sword.  

The UPS delivery finally came around 4 pm, and I didn't need to sign for it though he may not have left it at all if no one had been home.  The electronic thing that was delivered did not come with an instruction manual, and this transformed my husband into a giant mass of crabbiness.  My son fell in the back yard and hurt himself, and the neighbor boy came and got me.  As I was running to get to my son, I twisted my left ankle and did something to the muscle in my left calf.  It now burns every time I stand on it.  My husband made the mistake of asking how my day was, and I dissolved into tears.  

By Saturday morning, I was having a hard time breathing, so I used some of my son's Albuterol nebs from his pulmonary doctor.  I was limping and tired from coughing instead of sleeping.  My husband was on a mission to rearrange the living room because our nine-year-old TV has bitten the dust, and we are getting a new flat screen.  This will require getting rid of our old entertainment center that we've had since 1989.  We affectionately call the massive piece of wood furniture "the behemoth".  (We have a strange custom of naming almost everything we own; my van is named "Sara"; my husband's car is named "Frankie"; our house is named "Olivia".  It goes on and on.)  

So, we shoveled furniture around as my husband sunk further into his crabbiness.  I couldn't lift the furniture with my leg the way it is.  We kept finding Legos everywhere . . . even inside our stereo speakers.  I had to deliver and pick up the son from a birthday party.  The daughter fell outside on the sidewalk and our neighbor brought her in with blood all over her knee.  The house looked like a tornado hit it.  I had to keep using Albuterol.  Well, you get the picture of how the day went on Saturday.  

Today it rained.  I promised the kids a trip to Dairy Queen if they would clean out the floor in their bedroom closet.  My son found all kinds of things to drag out and play with.  My daughter took all of her brother's folded jeans and pants off the shelves and replaced them with her clothes relegating her brother's clothing to the bottom shelf or the floor.  I almost pulled my hair out, and it ended up being a much bigger mess than it was to begin with.  I took them to Dairy Queen anyway and then we went to Target.  

On the way to Target my daughter mentioned that she wanted to buy a new dress for a "Dad/Daughter Dance" that is coming up next month.  I mentioned that she would wear her beautiful springy pink and white polka dotted swiss dress, but that we needed to buy her new shoes.  She completely freaked out, screaming (and I quote):  "Mom!  That dress says nothing about who I am."  In my confusion, I asked her exactly who she was.  "Mom!  Seriously . . . Hannah Montana, sequins, rock music!"  Each syllable was getting more and more shrill and hurting my congested head.  

On the complete opposite side of the coin is my son.  He was changing into pajamas tonight, and he asked me if I would like to see how he keeps his ears warm.  He put his dirty socks over his ears and looked at me and smiled.  Yes, what we wear does say a lot about who we are, but HOW we wear things sometimes tells even more about us.  

And as if I don't already feel completely out of touch with my kids, my son brought home a goody bag from his friend's birthday party.  These are typically filled with trinkets and candy.  This particular bag had a t-shirt in it, giant-sized candy bars, a light-up toy, wood whistle, marbles AND a hand-held device with seven video games on it in addition to a helium balloon and a giant tubular helium balloon with dinosaurs on it.  What the hell???  The goody bags from my son's last party had a SpongeBob water game, a Darth Vader bracelet, candy and a card game.  !  I know that my son has received gifts at past parties that I know cost in the area of $39.  Have these parties gotten a little out of hand?  Seriously though, I have to email the birthday kid's Mom.  Those goody bags rock.  I guess the goody bags that we create say a lot about who we are too.  

I'm feeling a bit better this evening.  The daughter was all tearful over her scraped-up knee.  The son took his dirty socks off of his ears.  The husband's unhappiness is dissipating.  My leg feels better, and I'm hoping to get some sleep tonight if I can control this cough.  Just as we are all "leveling out" from this roller coaster whirlwind weekend, it is time to start the school/ work week.  

I've never been happier to see the end of a weekend in all my life.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Did You Talk To Me Before My Morning Coffee?!?!

I have two beautiful children who are actually minions of the devil in disguise.  This morning, they dragged around the house, taking forever to get dressed and eat breakfast.  I warned them at 8:05 am that they needed to get their shoes on and get ready because the bus comes at 8:10 am.  They dragged around, and then darling daughter discovered that her red sweatshirt was missing.  She looked in the van, and it wasn't there.  She looked in her bedroom, and it wasn't there.  She refused to wear a different coat and wouldn't move despite my threats to make her walk all the way to school.  I actually screamed like a banshee.  It was not my finest hour.  

My son waited until the last minute to go to the bathroom, and he looked for (and found) his sister's coat instead of getting his shoes on in time to get on the bus.  So, I had to drive him in to school.  I couldn't be mad at him.  He was just trying to help his sister.  

I am now officially giving these two the "Mother's Curse".  I hope you both have children JUST LIKE YOU.  I hope they frustrate you every morning until you are ready to pull your hair out.  And when this comes to pass, I will laugh.  

There was a silver lining to this day though.  I ran into the school art teacher this afternoon, and she told me that Joe makes her smile all the time.  "That kid really 'brings the party.'" were her exact words.  Yes, indeed, he has a party going on in his head all the time.  Finally, an appreciative assessment of my son.  When he got home from school today, he got off the bus, walked up to me and said, "Hey Mom, is this the weirdest dance ever?" and then he performed an interpretive modern dance with lots of arm movement.  I am a deep aficionado of all things weird, and he knows this.  There is something to be said for people who like to make us laugh.  They give us the silver linings that we seek out.  They make life a little bit easier with their efforts.  

In the meantime, here's a video for my two Tweedle Beetles.  If you weren't so cute, there would be a bounty on your little heads.  I'm biding my time until you two have kids of your own, and then I'm going to have some fun.  


Saturday, April 18, 2009

City Limits

I come from a small town in central Wisconsin. All my young life, I couldn't wait to graduate from high school and shake the dust of that small town off of my feet and move on to bigger and better things that I was sure I would find out in the world beyond the city limits of Antigo, Wisconsin, population 9,005. I found everything in that town to be oppressive, provinical and parochial. Everyone knew everyone else, and at times I literally felt like I was smothering in that atmosphere.

But now that I've been gone from that small town for 25+ years, I can look back on my childhood years with a certain nostalgia. It was a place where you could ride your bike all over town, and your parents had no reason to worry about you. I had my close friends, and our parents all knew each other.

One of my very best friends called today to let me know that the father of a close mutual friend passed away early this morning. He was a man that everyone in town knew. He owned a restaurant that was undeniably the "social pillar" of Antigo. He was a hard-working man, a veteran of World War II, a Purple Heart recipient, and a father of seven children. He and his wife were two of the nicest people I have ever known.

So, tonight as I tuck my kids into bed and go about my evening routine, my thoughts are with my friend and her family who have lost their father, and my old home town which has lost a wonderful member of the community. I say a silent prayer that they will have the strength to get through this difficult time.

And I want to say farewell to my friend's father. Safe journey Mr. Ourada. I remember your kind words at my father's visitation, and I thank you for that. And thanks for all the good food over the years.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury . . .

like me on a bad day.

This has been a bad week for me.

I am seriously contemplating doing what Angela Bassett did in "Waiting to Exhale" and put some of my husband's crap out on the driveway and set it on fire.

You could say that I have a bad attitude today. I may be able to pull myself out of it, or you will read about my hijinks on CNN.com. I haven't thought it through yet.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blackbird

"Cause I will soar away like a blackbird.  I will blow in the wind like a seed.  I will plant my heart in the garden of my dreams.  And I will grow up where I wander wild and free."  Lyrics from "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans

When I was a little girl, I used to play in the backyard of the old farmhouse in the country where I grew up.  My whole world was an acre surrounded by a white fence.  My father and I used to look at the different birds that would come to visit us, and he taught me all their names - goldfinch, mud swallow, snipe, robin, sparrow, kildeer, mourning dove, meadowlark.  One day, a red-winged blackbird sat on our fence.  I think it may have been my father's favorite.  He admired the tips of red on its wings.  My father showed me how blackbirds look black from far away, but if you got up close, you could see beautiful subtle deep jewel tones of color in them.  He taught me that black was the presence of all color and white was the absence.  

He told me that many people don't care for blackbirds.  Mostly because they are as mean as a bluejay, they are usually very large, and they make a sharp caw instead of a beautiful song like a meadowlark.  But if you look at them hard enough to see their colors, they are one of God's very beautiful creatures.  

Blackbirds have a bad reputation thanks in part to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven".  Just about every depiction of a haunted house or graveyard or Halloween scene shows one.  They are ostracized because they are different.  

Some days I look at my son and I see a blackbird.  There are so many facets to his personality.  He is a wild thing, and he is thoughtful.  He is intelligent and has a marvelous intellectual curiosity, and he is impatient, stubborn and temperamental.  He is a study in contradictions and dichotomy.  And I wouldn't have him any other way.  

He finds it hard to behave the entire day at school.  Now that it is spring, he finds school "borin".  He would much rather be playing with swords or light sabres.  Pretending to be a spy or sailing off on an adventure.  

I'm having a hard time accepting that people just don't always "get" him.  He's one of those kids that people either love or hate - there is rarely someone who has come into his orbit who doesn't fall distinctly in one of those camps or the other.  My job is to love and accept him unconditionally and try to make him conform to all the rules and regulations that we all live under.  There are times that I feel like I have to break his beautiful spirit for him to get along in this world.  But I hope that he can eventually channel his boldness into something he loves doing.  Whatever that is, I know he will be very successful at it.  

This video is for my son.  

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night.  Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.  All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free."  Lyrics from "Blackbird" by Lennon/McCartney 

PS - I changed the settings on comments, and you no longer need to log into Blogger to comment, so that will be much easier.  You can even comment anonymously.  


Friday, April 3, 2009

This is Why People Hate Me

I took darling daughter to dance class last night.  There is another mother there who avoids me like the plague.  I was talking to her last week while our daughters were in class, and she mentioned her daughter, Madison, and her son, Lincoln.  I made the mistake of asking her if she had been going for a dead President's theme or small Midwestern cities theme with the names.  It seemed like a logical question to me.  Unfortunately, for some reason, she was quite offended and hasn't spoken to me since.  Now, I'll have to wait and see if her third kid is named "Lansing" or "Carter" before I can have my answer.  

Then, last night, I asked the wonderful dance teacher if I would be able to enroll my daughter in her class again next year, and she said put her hand on my arm and told me, "I may not be teaching in the fall because I may be dancing in a circus just outside of Zurich, Switzerland.  I have some Turkish friends that I'm auditioning for."  I laughed.  Surely this was a late April Fools joke.  It wasn't.  She was serious.  I wished her good luck and told her that we would miss her if she ran away to join the circus.  There was a slight look in her eyes and a set to her jaw which told me she believes that I am the odd one here.  

Seriously, some times you just have to say WTF?????  

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'll Have a Cafe Mocha Vodka Valium Latte To Go Please!

I saw the title of this blog post on a mug at Hallmark this morning.  

Another mug said, "I listed Starbucks as my emergency contact at work"  

This morning my son couldn't remember the title of the movie, "The Wizard of Oz".  He asked me which movie had "The lion, the scarecrow and the recycling guy."  

I'm having way too much fun today . . . 


Monday, March 30, 2009

On the Surface

Last week, a few blocks from my house, an elderly couple died in their home.  They were prominent business people and livelong residents of our community.  Both graduated from the local high school.  He was 83, and she was 81.  They were very active in our church.  They had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  They had just come back from their winter home in Florida last Monday night.  

The police were summoned to their home overlooking the St. Croix River on Tuesday morning.  Evidently, their daughter and son-in-law had found the couple shot to death in what they believe was a murder-suicide.  They looked like they were sleeping.  

The theory behind this is that the man's health was failing, and his wife had early stage Alztheimer's.  It is believed that the man shot his wife while she was sleeping, and then shot himself.  No other facts about the case are being released.  

This has bothered me all week.  It's one of those things that I push to the back of my mind, but it stays there.  My mind insists on dwelling on it.  

Yesterday in church, our Pastor briefly mentioned the matter.  He is of the opinion that so many of us are preoccupied with the economy and our day-to-day tasks that we don't notice how others might be suffering.  We need to be aware that others may need our help.  

I went out today to run errands.  I actually put my hair up and makeup on.  I watched the people out and about.  I saw an elderly couple at the grocery store pharmacy, sitting on a bench waiting for a prescription to be filled.  They both had canes, and she was telling her husband (I assume) about how she couldn't sleep last night.  He reached out and put his hand on her knee.  I watched them waiting there together at the pharmacy.  

In the frozen food aisle, there was a young couple dawdling over the frozen vegetables.  The man was cracking some sort of joke, and the woman hugged him from behind.  I watched them smiling and hugging while grocery shopping together.  

I can't imagine what it is like to have a soul mate for 60 years.  To have a lifetime of memories and suddenly be facing an uncertain future.  Did they not want to live without each other?  Was one of them suffering more than anyone else knew?  Why would someone do this?  

We only know what we see on the surface.  What goes on inside the houses with the manicured yards?  What is going on in the mind of a person as they are celebrating 60 years of marriage?  What causes people to snap and do the unthinkable?  We may never know.  

And what lesson is to be learned from all of this?  I haven't got a clue.  

A man and a woman shared a life for 60 years and it ended tragically in a beautiful home overlooking the St. Croix River.  Whatever burdens they were carrying are gone now.  New burdens have been put into place for the loved ones they left behind.  I want to believe that a great love was the cause of this act.   

Life, for the rest of us, goes on.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.  We go about our lives.  And I hope, wherever this couple is now, that they are together free from the troubles of this life.  

"Oh my, justifying reasons why is an absolutely insane resolution to live by . . . And oh, let's take it easy and celebrate the malleable reality because nothing is ever as it seems, this life is but a dream.  Live high, live mighty, life righteously."  Lyrics from "Live High" by Jason Mraz