Wednesday, November 30, 2005


On my kitchen table sits a wooden bowl full of festive autumn gourds and lumpy decorative vegetables. An orange ceramic Halloweenish container adorns a canister. Our late-shedding deciduous tree in the back yard is dropping leaves. My Thanksgiving recipes are still taped to the kitchen cabinets, as is my Thanksgiving timeline for cooking. The giant electric roasting pan is in the other room, too, awaiting storage.

But I'm not entirely unprepared for Christmas. For instance, my Christmas china (Spode, Christmas Tree pattern, in case you feel like sending a gift) is on display. (Nevermind that it's on display in the hutch year-round.) And I do have those wrapped Christmas gifts stashed under my bed. The Spode tea kettle that I never managed to get put away last year after Christmas is finally appropriate sitting on my stove. It looked kind of weird in July, but now it looks just right.

I'm in a slump, but at least my tea kettle has the Christmas Spirit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Cellophane Made Me See Clearly

You know how people think their little one is The Cutest and The Smartest Child Ever? I have never been under that delusion. And that is yet another reason why I wonder if perhaps something is wrong with me.

I suppose it all goes back to my early days as an elementary school student. I thought I was The Smartest Girl in the school because I was a mighty fine student. I loved learning. I loved writing. I loved all things academic. I loved spelling and I especially loved Fridays in fifth grade when we'd have math games at the blackboard. I always won. I was very smart, indeed. (And humble.)

Then, the world collapsed and my parents divorced and I realized I was fat (though at a completely normal weight and normal size). And then *cue ominous music* sixth grade happened.

I easily won my classroom spelling bee and went on to the all-school spelling bee. I intended to win, as I was The Best Speller. Or so I thought. Then I encountered the word, "cellophane," and I fell apart. Cellophane? I was out. Back in my homeroom, I found a small folded paper . . . I unfolded it and found "C-E-L-L-O-P-H-A-N-E" pencilled in block letters.*

That was the beginning of my personal realization. I was not the Smartest Girl in the School. I was definitely not the Cutest Girl in the School. I was just another kid, an tall girl with brown eyes and dishwater blond hair who couldn't spell "cellophane."

My quest for perfection was not yet over, though. I intended to graduate with a 4.00 grade point average. And then came that fateful class in high school in which I received a B+. Stupid, stupid, alcoholic choir teacher. Not that I'm still bitter, but that woman gave me a B+ for the semester grade, even though I had excellent attendance, participation and an A for my first quarter grade. I received a B for the second quarter because I missed a choir contest--which I explained to her in advance that I'd have to miss due to a prior commitment. She gave me extra credit so I could make up the deficit. She implied that the extra credit would make up for the missed contest.

And then she ruined my grade point average. The grown-up Mel would have protested, but the teenage Mel accepted the unjust grade with dismay. If only I knew then what I know now.

So, where am I going with this long-winded dissertation? Well.

All I have to do is look around and I see people who are smarter than me, more talented than me, cuter than me, skinnier than me, and who understand poetry and politics. And I dearly love my children, but I see them clearly. I know they are not the cutest, smartest, cleverest children ever.

Maybe I'm just a little crabby tonight. As you can see, I have no illusion that I'm correct . . . but I am definitely sure that I am irritable and unlikely to win Miss Congeniality. And my kids? They are terrific, but so are a lot of other kids . . . and mine aren't spoiled rotten brats who think they deserve to be treated like royalty.

*I never did find out who put that little slip of paper in my desk.

Grumpy + Margin Deficit + OCD = Bad Start

There are three things you ought to know about me:

1) I am not a morning person. As my husband likes to joke, "Do you wake up grumpy in the morning? No, I let her sleep."
2) I give myself a very small margin of time in the mornings. Why waste time being alert when you can be snuggled under the covers on a dismal morning?
3) I refuse to get out of bed until the clock shows a multiple of five. For instance, I will not get up at 6:44 a.m. Instead, I will wait with one eye open and the rest of myself fast asleep until 6:45 a.m. And then, if I accidentally sleep until 6:46 a.m., I must wait until 6:50 a.m. (Obsessive? Compulsive? Or just crazy?)

This morning, these three truths converged and the doorbell rang while I was still showering. When I emerged a few moments later, my husband--strangely awake and dressed in sweatpants--informed me that my daycare child had already arrived.

I said, "What?!? It's not 7:15!"

And he said, "Yeah, he said he left early this morning in case the roads were bad."

And I said, "Well. You should have told him to sit in the car until 7:15." Because I am just that merciful and accomodating first thing in the morning.

It was only 7:12 a.m. when I stepped outside of the bathroom, more than enough time to get dressed and half-heartedly dry my hair.

When I say 7:15, I mean 7:15. That's something else you might want to know about me. I'm kind of particular about things like that.

p.s. We have cold rain this morning and it's pretty hard to make a snowmen out of cold rain. Update!!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Weather Alert!

An inch of snow might fall tonight and that's the lead story on the local news.

You have to love the Pacific Northwest!

Update: 10:35 a.m. The rain has turned to big gloppy flakes of wet snow. The children are entranced and stand outside in this miserable weather soggy winter wonderland. I took photographs, documenting our first snow fall of the season.

I suppose Seattle will now officially shut down for the day.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Brain Floaters

Only snippets float around in my brain, kind of like those floaters you get in your eye which are extremely distracting during a boring lecture on the pentateuch at 7:30 a.m.

For instance, I thought just a second ago about how I used to put myself to sleep with visions of a plump-cheeked baby back when we used to be childless. I never once envisioned a twelve year old. Nor does the same image put me to sleep anymore.
I vowed to myself to eat only vegetables and fruit tomorrow. Will I ever actually feel hungry again?
In what universe do women wear pointy high heels with jeans? I mean, besides Oprah-land?
I'm so not ready for another week of childcare, school-at-home and preschoolers.
Nick and Jessica broke up? What? Doesn't anybody stay together anymore?
I feel silly for looking forward to Oprah's appearance on David Letterman next week. But I feel completely justified in looking forward to the new season of "24."
Today, I read about googlewhacking. I'm afraid I now have another way to procrastinate and avoid my housework. Great. Just what I needed. As if Hawaii and Tahiti aren't distracting enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

From Real to Fake

We have a fake Christmas tree and I'm only a little not ashamed to admit it. This is practically sacrilege here in the Pacific Northwest, the Evergreen State, the home of lots of trees and at Christmas-time, lots of lots of trees. Oh, sure, there are photographs of the childhood me posing in front of an shiny silver tree which had its own cool color-changing spotlight, but when my family moved from the Midwest to the Northwest, all that fakery ended.

From that moment on, no more imitation trees. In fact, after my dad married his second wife, we took things a step farther and had living trees, their roots wrapped in burlap, in our living room. (We planted them after Christmas.) Some of my relatives had fake trees and I thought that was weird and wrong. (One of my great-aunts kept her fake tree up until February, which is beyond weird and wrong.)

When we moved to Michigan, our twins were 19 months old. Since we moved right before Thanksgiving, we decided not to have a tree at all. We reasoned that the boys would never remember and the daunting task of protecting a Christmas tree from lively almost-two-year olds was too much. But by the time they were three, we not only had a tree, but we did the fairytale family outing to a Christmas tree farm. We tromped through deep snow, pulling the children along by their arms, until at last, we found an acceptable tree.

Felling said tree was not a joyous holiday event. The saw the farm gave us was faulty or we were uncoordinated, but the task frustrated us and sucked the holiday joy right out of the experience.

That tree left sharp needles in our carpet which poked into our tender feet when we least expected it--even months later. And for whatever reason, I ended up being the person prone under the tree, wiggling and screwing the pitchy wood into the rickety tree stand. Snow melted and dripped into my eyes.

The next Christmas season found me great with child and I and my pregnant belly insisted that we get a fake tree. I couldn't stomach the thought of struggling with a real live Christmas tree. So we abandoned our smug family ideas and kissed the picture-worthy cutting down of tree outing goodbye and joined the fake tree club.

My husband purchased a fake tree at Sears for a hundred bucks. We've been using it ever since, so I figure that the current cost of that tree is about $12.50 a year. Do I miss the smell of an evergreen tree in the house? Sure. That's where Yankee Candles come in handy. Do I miss stepping on pine needles? No. Do I miss trying to keep a tree from becoming a flaming fire hazard? No.

Am I deeply ashamed to feature a fake tree in my home? Well, let's just say I am shallowly ashamed of my fake tree. At least it's a fake pretending to be real, unlike the silvery fake of my earliest days.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thank You! A Thanksgiving List

I am giving thanks for the following:

1) A closet full of good shoes. When I was a teenager, volunteering at the hospital, I had to have a pair of brown loafers. I bought a cheap pair of fake leather shoes at Payless because that was all I could afford. I will never forget the day my handsome cousin held one of those shoes in his hands and made a disparaging remark about it. He was kidding me, sort of, but I was mortified and I never bought another pair of cheap fake leather shoes again.

2) My 1972 house with its sparkly ceilings and brown door. Sure, I get jealous when I visit custom-made homes with bamboo floors and black marble kitchen counters, but this house is perfect for us. We bought it without even seeing it. At the time, we had three boys--this house has three bedrooms, plus a converted garage. The converted garage (which is like a rec room) is big enough that my mom lived with us for almost two years . . . and now that we had another child, my twins have that room. We had no idea we'd have four children (being infertile and all--ha ha ha ha) but our house is just the right size for all of us. ((Yes, I was unfaithful, but that only happened once and you would have been, too, don't deny it.)

3) My husband. The first time I saw him, he was sweating in the South Carolina heat and spitting and who knew that my Prince Charming would come from Texas, but he did. He thinks I'm hilarious, he overlooks my neurosis, he encourages me to pursue my individual dreams and interests. He's the most fabulous father and as far as I can remember, he's never slammed a door. He thinks we're very different from each other, but that's just because he's a boy and I'm a girl--just beyond those differences, we share common bonds, values, backgrounds and goals.

4) Kids I never thought I'd have. Back in the Dark Days of 1989, infertility loomed over us like a storm cloud. The doctors said it was unlikely we'd ever have kids and all I wanted was to be a mother. And now, all these years later, I have a house full of children. Today, my boys peeled potatoes, one of my twins made the much-maligned green bean casserole, and my daughter helped make pies. If my heart had pants, I'd have to unbutton them because I am just that full.

5) My faith. Philip Yancey says faith is believing in advance what makes sense only in reverse. I'm beginning to see what that means. As the map of my life unfolds, my journey makes more sense. I can see where I've been and I have a better idea of the direction I'm headed. I am thankful to the Creator and for glimpses of heaven here on earth.

My thankful list could go on and on, but I was on my feet most of the day and I'm eager to crawl into bed. Dinner was delicious. My habitually late guests were actually on time. The children were cooperative and well-behaved today. For all this, I give thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Pajama Thanksgiving

Lately, I've heard some people pine for a Pajama Thanksgiving, one where street clothes and obligatory visits to in-laws and relatives are not required. I have a long history of untraditional Thanksgivings, though I've never spent Thanksgiving Day in my pajamas.

I have no memory of a single Thanksgiving with both of my parents in attendance. But I do vaguely remember shuttling from household to household in the post-divorce era. I also remember one particularly horrific Thanksgiving Day spent at my stepmother's sister's home. The sister had a three or four-year old son who spoke with careful, slow earnestness. This boy was a nasally, preternaturally curious, annoying kid with a penchant for big words. I was a self-conscious teenager, which is why I wished for death when he said to me (in front of God and everybody) in his loud voice, "WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCH LARGE *BREASTS?" (Okay. Maybe that's too much information, but I'm telling you, I was mortified.)

In college, once I went to Wichita, Kansas, for Thanksgiving with a friend. Her parents were out of town and the heat was off in the house. She didn't know how to get the furnace to kick on--it must have been malfunctioning--and we couldn't get a fire lighted. We froze. We ate dinner at her friends' home. I have no idea who they were. Our return trip to Springfield, Missouri, was a nightmare. What should have taken five hours took ten because the roads were covered with a shiny layer of slick ice. I thought for sure we would die.

When our twins were three and we lived far from family, we went to a buffet restaurant for Thanksgiving. I remember that day with fondness. All the wonder of a big feast with no dishes to do! And the boys ate like birds in those days and their meals were free. What's not to love?

Usually, though, I cook. I like the smell of turkey cooking. I like leftovers. I like to relax in my own home with my own family. We don't stay in our pajamas, but our attitude is pajama-like. Sit down, relax, we aren't trying to impress anyone. We have nowhere to go, nothing to do but eat and digest.

And for you skeptics, that's okay if you don't want a helping of my stuffing with sliced green olives and raisins. That just means there's more for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Now Doing the Work of Four People

My mother had four kids, just like me. So when she says on the phone, "I don't know how you do it," I have no ready reply. What do you mean, you don't know how? YOU HAD FOUR KIDS! Just like me.

But when my mother's youngest child was three and her oldest child was eleven, her marriage crumbled and she lost custody of us. So, I guess she really doesn't know. I can't imagine what that would be like, to go from sticky Cheerio bowls and bickering in the backyard to visit once or twice a month. After the initial relief, does deep, dark depression set in?

So often, I feel like I am doing nothing, just refolding the same laundry, sweeping the same floor, cooking the same meals, wearing the same jeans, picking up the same toys--and it feels like nothing. I know, of course, that I'm doing everything, what with raising human beings from cradle to adulthood, but the progress is slow and I'm not even sure if we're heading in the right direction some days.

And then my mother exclaims, "You do the work of four people!"

I laughed. Maybe four extremely lazy, unambitious people.

She said, "You homeschool." (I mentally correct her and say school-at-home in my head and then I think of how many times in the past week I have yelled at my Reluctant Student who drags his feet.)

She said, "You take care of other people's kids." (Well, true, but only for the money. And they nap.)

She said, "You have your own children and you're the chief cook and bottle washer." (I think of my inadequate housekeeping, my pitiful meals, my disgusting toilets. I think of the board games I don't play, the times I am desperate to get away from these kids, how insane it makes me to hear them chew.)

She said, "Then you volunteer at the church." (But I know that really, all I do is teach a Sunday School class for preschoolers and direct Vacation Bible School, and compared to other pastor's wives, compared to other Church Ladies, even, I do practically nothing. I am a sorry excuse for a pastor's wife.)

I wonder if it feels like I'm doing nothing because I do what I do simultaneously? I am hardly ever focused on a single task. Even at this moment, I am half-watching the American Music Awards. Can I just say that I thought Mariah Carey's opening song was dreadful? And I think Mariah Carey is one of the most amazing singers ever. I also practically blushed with embarrassment on behalf of Hilary Duff--how can she not be mortified at herself, bopping around on the stage, singing a silly song about heart beats? What ridiculous lyrics and crazy dancing and what a truly ugly dress she wore.

Um, what was I saying? I seem to be a little sidetracked.

Well, tomorrow is a half-day of school, then Thursday is Turkey Day. I'll be staying home, cooking everything myself because I am just that stupid fabulous. And because I turned down an invitation to my mother's tiny apartment because my children annoy her (let's just be honest) and there isn't enough room in her abode for us to spread out, especially in light of the fact that my brother (The Prodigal Son) and his wife and my grandmother (almost 100 years old, be impressed) and my cousin and her new boyfriend and her same old daughter will also be there, taking up square footage.

Seriously, there isn't enough room for us. We'll probably go over for dessert. Maybe. Well, probably. It's only three minutes away. How can we not?

One final note. In my family, we put green olives and raisins in our stuffing. What else would you expect from someone who grew up thinking pickles and ketchup belong on tacos?

I'm So Proud

My daughter is three years and three months old. She is a delicate child with long fingers and short reluctant-to-grow blond curls. For three years now, since her first Thanksgiving, she has been markedly reticent around people she doesn't know well. (On that first Thanksgiving at Grandma's house, she screamed her head off until I brought her home.) She is sensitive and a big fan of fingernail polish and pretty dresses.

This morning, she climbed onto her kid-sized table in the kitchen and proclaimed, "Ladies and gentlemen!" She noticed me watching and shot a shy, sly glance my way. She paused dramatically. I waited for a song, a dance, a recitation of the alphabet.

Then she announced, "I am going to kick your butt!"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Colorblind Me

I can remember the combination lock to my junior high locker (14-36-24), but I can't remember if I'm living in a "red" or "blue" state. During the election last year, I figured it was a short-lived media catch phrase, not worth committing to memory. Who cares if my state is red or blue--all I know is that my vote doesn't really "count," because my state always vote along liberal Democratic lines and I don't. (Yes, I know--"every vote counts"--but surely you understand what I mean.)

But a year later, the media keeps referring to us as "red" and "blue" and I am puzzled each time. I miss the entire point of the report because I can't remember what color I am. Or what color my state is. Am I red? Or blue? Or really purple, as some have suggested?

I propose that "red" and "blue" labels be eliminated immediately.

* * *

In other news, a 20-year old man shot six people at my local mall. Luckily, no one was seriously injured. My neighbor and I were discussing this shocking event and she confided, "I don't think I'll ever go back." And I said, "You know, I think there must be something wrong with me, because it won't stop me at all."

After a crazy incident like that, what are the chances it will happen again soon?

* * *

Last week, I wept as I finished reading My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. A couple of nights ago, I picked up Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and although I love her writing, I am weary of her constant bashing of George W. Bush and all Republicans. I'm starting to take it personally, because how else can I take it? But I will persevere. I am loyal to a fault.

Even if I do live in a red blue red blue red blue state. Or red state.

Never mind. I'm colorblind, as only a white Republican from Washington state can be.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"Regrets - I've Had a Few" Meme

I've been tagged by Sallyrogers at Picture Fool. I never do these things, but for Sallyrogers, anything.


1) Call the meme "Regrets - I've Had A Few"
2) Always refer (and link back) to the blogger who tagged you
3) Always tag (and link to) at least two new bloggers
4) List as many regrets as you like, but list a minimum of one (even if you have to re-interpret the term 'regret' because you feel strongly that you don't have any)
5) Include these five rules in each post as the meme instructions.

All right then.

I regret not attending a secular college and earning a "real" degree when I had the chance.
I regret not having enough confidence in my intelligence to apply to Ivy League schools.
I regret that it didn't occur to me that serving God could mean more than just going to Bible College and entering "the ministry."
I regret selling that house we used to own.
I regret not going to nursing school before we had children.
I regret selling our townhouse in Portland.
I regret asking my sister to photograph my last homebirth .
I regret taking an Amtrak train from Houston to Orlando last summer.
I regret putting my twins into public school.
I regret not flossing every day.
I regret using our Chevy Blazer to pull a U-Haul trailer to New Haven, Connecticut because we had to replace the head gasket as a result.
I regret not buying two gallons of milk the last time I was at the grocery store.
I regret staying up so late last night.
I regret leaving the carseat in the driveway where a cat peed on it.
I regret not going to the ocean last summer.
I regret not taking more photographs.
I regret burning my childhood diaries.
I regret selling my piano.
I regret all the times I've cut off my hair.
I regret sending back those letters to their original writer without making photocopies first.
I regret not picking up the toys last night because now they are scattered.

Now. I'm supposed to tag two of you . . . but go ahead and tag yourself if you want to play along. Let me know if you do play, and I'll put a link to your blog here.

A Rotten Night of Sleep Thanks to Robots

Why is it that when I stay up too late--way, way, way too late--one of my children wakes up in the middle of the night?

I was snoring my brains out at 4:30 a.m. when I came to my senses and heard my daughter calling my name. I hurried to her room and found her standing in her crib. All her stuffed animals and dollies had been unceremoniously tossed out and she was doing the Potty Dance.

"I have to pee in the potty!" she said.

Afterward, she told me solemnly, "I had a bad dream about robots. They scared me." And then she insisted she wanted to watch a video.

And I let her. I placed her Piglet-fleece covered pillow in front of her small tv/vcr combo and put in "Finding Nemo." I covered her up and went back to bed.

But that was not the end of that. Soon, she crawled into bed with me--in my king-sized bed--and cuddled right next to me. Please explain to me why a three-year old gets six feet of bed-space and I get six inches? Why do kids push adults right to the edge of sanity the bed? She kicked me for an hour before we both feel asleep again. At some point she got up again and went to her room, but honestly, things are hazy. I have no idea what happened in those pre-dawn hours.

All I know is that at 8:08 a.m., I woke with a start and struggled from bed as quickly as I could. She was sleeping. I don't set an alarm clock because she wakes up every morning by 7:00 a.m., so now I was late, really, really late. I teach the preschool Sunday School class at church and I have to be there by 8:45 a.m.

We made it to church by 8:55 a.m.

And home by 11:55 a.m. In another hour, I will load up the kids in the car and we'll go to my 7-year old's end-of-the-season soccer lunch at a pizza place. I suppose it will be loud, but I have taken two Advils and consumed some Diet Coke in preparation.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Don't Click Away . . .

. . . you are still at "Actual Unretouched Photo." I just decided it was time for a change.

This morning, I took my four children in my small sedan on an hour-long bundle of errands, in this order:

1) Bank;
2) Take'n'Bake pizza shop;
3) Video game store;
4) Donut shop.

Four kids in one car grate on my nerves. Why can't they just gaze out the window and ponder the universe and the meaning of life?

We were home in time for my sister and her family to stop by. They will be borrowing our old van (The Deathtrap, we like to call it) for a week while my husband's away. My sister and her husband have had a run of bad luck (oh, lasting about ten years) and their only car has broken down, possibly irretrievably.

The problem with being the working poor is that you are living so close to the edge that you have no margin for error. If your car breaks down, how can you get to work? And if you don't get to work, how can you keep your job? And if you don't keep your job, how can you pay to fix your car? And if you don't fix your car, how will you get to work? It's a vicious cycle, familiar to too many people.

So, we do what we can to help.

They were here for an hour or two and we ate pizza together. When they left, I put my 3-year old down for a nap ("I want to sleep all by myself!") and spent the remaining bit of the afternoon doing my grocery shopping online for the first time.

The evening hours have flown by in a bleary haze of html code. Time flies when you have no idea what you're doing.

Friday, November 18, 2005

All By Myself

Dear Blog Readers,

I am alone. Sort of. Two of my four children are nestled all snug in their beds. Two are out at a movie, due home at any moment. My husband is in Texas. Please keep this in mind when you consider whether or not to comment on my riveting (and dull) posts over the next week. When in doubt, comment. It's been so quiet around here. (Quiet is relative, of course, but I meant in the cyber-sense of the word.)

Today was a long day because I babysat the baby boy at 6 p.m. tonight rather than at 8:30 this morning. So, I had a half-hour between my regular day-shift and this night shift. Really, I didn't mind. I intended to stay home with my kids anyway since my husband's out of town, so what did it matter, really? He is the cutest baby ever (except for your cute baby, of course).

Oh! And guess what happened today? My other baby, the 6-month old, was on her tummy on the floor. She is fairly immobile because she is built like a sausage, but twice, she's rolled from tummy to back, but I haven't seen her do it. Today, I noticed her stretching her neck and reaching her arm and sure enough, as I watched, she rolled over.

She hasn't done this trick for anyone but me. Seeing this baby reach a milestone was kind of cool. I went over and applauded and she giggled and we clapped and clapped at her brilliance.

Oh! And guess what happened last night at the science fair? I had carefully poked holes in each end of an egg and emptied it by blowing the insides out. This empty egg shell was part of our simple display about making eggs rubbery. Well, as we sat on the bench in front of our display, waiting for a grown-up to come and query my son about the project, a small kid, probably about four years old, wiggled next to me at the adjoining display. I kind of scooted over and then this little kid reached behind my back and GRABBED THE EGG. With a crunch, it broke.

I let out a very undignified yelp, followed by a "HEY! DON'T TOUCH!" He broke my empty eggshell! The nerve of some kids. Where were his parents?

Well. That's it, I guess. Don't leave me sitting here in silence. Really.


Love and kisses,

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Injured While Asleep: How?

I must have slept last night with the house pressing upon my left shoulder blade (a la the Wicked Witch of the East with those natty striped stockings), because when I woke up at 7:00 a.m., I could barely roll over. I've spent my day with rigid good posture to compensate for the unrelenting pain in my shoulder and back. How does one become injured while sleeping?

And then the day marched on. I've been pushing my boys along, insisting that the complete the required number of school lessons for the week. My usual daycare babies were in attendance today and my own 3-year old was a whiner all day. I so often feel like I'm doing nothing at all, and yet, it is so exhausting.

As soon as we finished dinner (cooked by one of my 12-year olds), I went to the school science fair with my second-grader. We did a poster and experiment showing how you can make eggs rubbery. And not by cooking them too long . . . no. You soak an egg overnight in vinegar and the calcium in the egg reacts with the acid in the vinegar and forms carbon dioxide . . . and the bubbles carry off the calium until the egg is naked. It's pretty cool.

And it's a very simple experiment, which is essential to me, the Hater of Science Experiments.

At the science fair, I counted six volcanoes, powered by vinegar and baking soda. I saw an assortment of colorwheels and a few displays of carnations dyed different colors. The coolest project was a giant (four-feet across?) hot air balloon created from tissue paper and filled by a hair dryer.

My son was enamored by the Stomp Rockets similar to the ones described here. We are definitely going to make our own this summer. They are really, really cool! What cheap fun!

Now, I must go upstairs and iron pants. Some of you more enlightened feminists don't iron your husband's pants, but I am old-fashioned in some ways, plus I realize when I am up against an implacable situation. My husband is leaving in the morning to spend a week in Texas where he's going to a family wedding on Saturday, then to a family birthday party (on Thanksgiving Day).

I think I'll just stay home and take care of the kids.

How'd You Like To Do A Good Deed?

I received an email today asking me to answer a survey about toys. Larissa Wojciechowski wrote:

I am conducting a survey for a UC Berkeley student market
research project on children's toys. I found your blog and
was very impressed by the content. If you have a few
minutes, I would appreciate your help in filling out this
survey. It should take less than 15 minutes. Please feel
free to forward to your spouse, family, or any of your
friends with children.

I appreciate your time and effort. Thanks for your help!!!

Larissa Wojciechowski
2008 MBA Candidate
UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business

I corresponded with Larissa a bit to make sure she wasn't sending me a crazy link which would cause my computer to explode . . . then I did her survey. Sometimes I feel like helping out a fellow human being. Don't you?

If you like to take the survey, click the link. It took me less than fifteen minutes. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Waxing and Waning

When my twin boys were three, without any thought or planning at all, I began an exercise regimen which started with this thought: I wonder if I can exercise every day for a week? Then, after the week ended, I thought, I wonder if I'll see any changes if I exercise every day for six weeks? Then, after six weeks, I decided to exercise for one hundred days in a row. When it was all said and done, I exercised every day for a whole year. And then I got pneumonia.

All this to say that since then, nine years ago, I have never managed to get into an exercise groove again. Never. Soon after my exercise streak, I became pregnant. When that baby turned three, I joined the YMCA and started exercising again . . . only to become pregnant again. And I'm infertile, so what kind of craziness is this? Two pregnancies when the doctors said it was "unlikely" to ever happen even once? Just when I think I have my life ordered neatly on a shelf, someone bumps into me and everything falls in a heap on the floor and I have to start from scratch.

It turns out that life is less like an Dewey-Decimal-ed stack of books and more like a sheaf of mismatched papers, collected piece by piece, with scrawled messages penned by dozens of writers with an assortment of pens. And those pages keep falling to the floor when they aren't shuffled together in a messy pile, an untidy work in progress with an unknown denouement.

The moon is a perfect circle tonight, but tomorrow? No. The tide recedes, but not for long. The milk jug is full, but soon will sit empty (and still inside the fridge because I have boys). Everything done will come undone and nothing will ever be the same again.

Why does that thrill me and depress me?

(And will I ever get into a satisfying rhythm of exercising again?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. (If you don't get that reference, click here.) Hate me because I've already done my Thanksgiving shopping.

Yeah. You got that right. I wrapped my Christmas presents last week and this week, tonight, I am prepared to cook a complete Thanksgiving dinner. Next week, I'll be dyeing Easter Eggs.

But wait. There's more. Prepare to be even more impressed. You might need to sit down and breathe deeply. My grocery receipt is thirty inches long and I saved a grand total of $46.36.

Hate me because I am good with coupons and because my twenty-pound turkey was free.

(My husband is going to Houston, Texas, on Friday. He'll be gone for a week, so I am doing everything in my power to avoid going to the grocery store with four kids in tow. I cannot shop while people talk to me and my kids--oh those talkative kids!--never stop talking. As my 3-year old says when subjected to a loud noise, "I cannot hear my ears!!")

Monday, November 14, 2005

When I Imagine Another Life

Sometimes I imagine a life different than the one I lead. This life involves an actual hairstyle and interaction with adults--or at least people who do not insist on standing on the bathroom counter and licking my chapstick while I'm prying open my eyes and pressing contact lenses to my eyeballs. In my imagined life, stuff (like shoes and magazines and clean dishes and the remote control and the cushions on the couch and the crocheted afghans) would stay put. I could sit on the toilet seat without wiping it off first.

I would get a paycheck and a W-2 form and tote a leather bag back and forth to a Very Important Job. I'd eat lunch in restaurants with silverware and work out at the gym on my way back home. Weekends would be for sleeping in, seeing movies and getting pedicures. Only the telephone would interrupt my reading and I wouldn't have to answer it, unlike the whining voice calling from the bathtub which will not be ignored.

And in my spare time, I'd write Meaningful Prose which would magically work itself into novel form, find itself an agent, get itself published, garner itself glowing reviews, and sell fifty thousand copies. And then I'd go on Oprah and become Very Rich.

I'd spend time at a cottage at the beach with friends so witty and amusing that I'd overcome my natural inclination to hibernate and laugh my head off instead.

And while I walked barefoot along the frothy beach, shivering in the always chilly ocean wind, I'd imagine another life, the life I have right now, the one full of life and noise and unmatched socks.

Spiders, Ants and More Than You Need to Know

Not long ago, I picked up a tangled bit of black yarn off the floor. You'd be surprised (well, maybe not, if you have boys) how much debris ends up on the floor. I'm forever picking up straw wrappers and broken plastic bits and string. It was only after I fingered this squishy bundle on the way to the trashcan that I realized I was fondling a dead spider.

That reminded me of the time I picked a speck of chocolate off my shirt and popped it into my mouth. What should have tasted like every other Oreo cookie crumb I'd ever eaten tasted bitter and spicy and . . . like an ant, apparently.

Remind me never to go on Fear Factor, despite my nifty parlor trick of never throwing up. (Until my two pregnancies--I threw up exactly twice, once each pregnancy--I hadn't vomited since seventh grade. For those of you who are not math whizzes, I was in seventh grade way back in 1978. My stepmother made porkchops-on-the-run which involves a can of cream of mushroom soup and rice and a packet of onion soup mix and I became violently ill. A coincidence? Probably, but I cannot look a porkchop in the eye without remembering how skinny I felt when I returned to my seventh grade classroom after barfing for a few days in a row.)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Answer is No

I have seen previews for "But Can They Sing?" on VH1. I have not watched the show, but my ears have bled as I have stopped to listen to a commercial for this atrocity of a television show.

But even though I haven't watched the show, I can say with certainty that the answer is no. They cannot sing. Please, no more singing by D-List, has-been celebrities.

In other news, the weekend flew by, my son's science project is now late, I'm behind on the laundry, I made eggrolls for dinner tonight using those wrappers you see in the produce section, I've had a low-grade headache for three days, my sister is in another financial crisis, the $4 helium balloon I bought for my daughter at the grocery store where we were buying eggroll wrappers flew into the sky and I had to stop and buy another helium balloon because I am a pushover, my twins are going to be gone all day tomorrow, my husband's leaving Friday and he'll be gone for a week, I wrapped all the Christmas presents and shoved them under my bed on Friday night, the autumn leaves are barely clinging to the branches, and I can feel the seasons rushing by with all the force of a swollen waterfall.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Missing Purple Lollipop

My daughter skipped her nap yesterday. As mothers everywhere know, a missed naptime is the beginning of the End of the World As We Know It. That is why today's nap was essential.

Minutes before she was due to nap, she realized that she needed a lollipop, pronounced "lellipop." And not just any lellipop, oh no. She needed a purple lellipop and she needed it RIGHT NOW. Now remember, she is my fourth child and my first daughter. What did I do?

I got the kid a purple lollipop, stat.

When I checked on her half an hour later, I found her sound sleep. She clutched the purple candy near her chin, like a wilted wedding bouquet. I pulled a comforter over her and turned on the oscillating fan for white noise.

Two hours later, I heard her footsteps. She stood at the top of the stairs and called for me. "Can I come downstairs?" she hollered.

I hurried to the bottom stair, flipped on the light (because by 4:00 p.m. it's getting dark here on rainy days), and greeted her. As I climbed the stairs, she blinked and said to me, "I cannot find my lellipop."

Of course not. It was firmly stuck to the center of her black turtleneck. She cannot get any cuter or I will die of having a heart too full.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

About Last Weekend

So, about last weekend. I slept in late on Saturday--too late to get breakfast at the hotel. The mall was calling my name, so I headed straight for the Eddie Bauer outlet by way of the Bass Shoe outlet where I purchased two pairs of shoes for less than $30 total, thanks to the 75% off sale.

My phone rang while I was in the middle of the Liz Claiborne outlet. My New Best Friend was calling! Hooray! Only not so much because she wasn't feeling well. She said she'd call back if she felt better later.

I checked my watch and decided to see Shopgirl. I have been a fan of Claire Danes since "My So-Called Life."

In contrast to the movie the night before, the theater was not even half full. I'm still not sure what I think about the movie--I expected something different, but I'm not sure what exactly. Perhaps this is another case when reading the "novella" (by Steve Martin) would be helpful.

When the movie ended, I ran through the rain to my super-duper rental SUV, unsure of what to do next. On a whim--and sort of in search of a bookstore--I drove north. The rain made the dark highway shiny and sparkly. I thought I was going one direction, when suddenly the road swerved and I seemed to be heading away from civilization instead of toward a big shopping district. I obeyed a hunch and turned and found myself near the giant mall.

Then the phone rang. It was her! My New Best Friend! And she was at the mall! "Which mall?" I said as I navigating through heavy traffic. I am your worst nightmare, talking on my cell phone while I drive.

Uh, the other mall, the one thirty minutes south, the one I left behind. We agreed to meet at Red Robin (by that other mall). Traffic crawled through one stoplight after another and finally, I had that big red car turned around, heading back.

My New Best Friend and I ordered salads and she talked while I ate. Then I talked while she ate. Then we talked more and ordered dessert and talked more. Finally, our cute young waiter abandoned us with the bill, but we kept talking until our bladders spoke up. I checked my watch and saw it was close to 10:00 p.m ., and so we rushed to the bathroom, talked more, walked outside, talked more and finally said good-bye.

On Sunday morning, I slept late. I wasn't sure what to do with my final day of freedom. I toyed with the idea of strolling around Pike's Place Market, but almost without conscious thought, I packed up, paid the bill and drove north.

I drove past the exit where I used to go to my job in customer service at Blue Cross. I drove past the exit where we used to find bargains at the annual garage sale at Mill Creek. I drove past the exit with the Taco Time where I worked in high school. I drove past Alderwood Mall, which used to be the "new" mall, but now is an old mall.

I drove past the spot on the freeway where my stepmom's little yellow truck died while I was driving to work and thought about how I crossed the traffic on foot and ran up a hill and knocked on the glass door of a closed department store to beg to use the phone. I drove past the spot where my husband and I ran out of a gas years ago on the way back from Wild Waves because we were so devastated and distracted by the news that a key family was leaving our tiny church. I drove past the hospital where I worked as a volunteer when I was a teenager. I drove past the fields where I planted strawberries that summer I was thirteen.

And then, I took the exit right by the pie place where my dad used to take us. I passed the gas station where I filled up my tank on the way to mind-numbing job back in my weepy, infertile days before kids. I noticed that the strawberry processing plant is a furniture store now.

I drove down the main drag of the town where I grew up. The new businesses were distracting, yet I recognized the shop where my dad sold and repaired computers next to the Taco Bell. Then the Junior High, which looked nearly unchanged, and the little building where my dad had a repair shop before he had the computer shop. It stood vacant--no one has ever had a really successful business in that tiny place. I used to sit behind the counter while my dad sat nearby soldering things. I loved to play with the soldering iron and watch metal melt and smell that peculiar odor. He repaired ham radios there and after school I'd hang out sometimes. It was in that shop that he asked me to choose whether to live with him or my mother. "The other kids have already chosen to live with me, but it's up to you. If you want to stay with your mother, you will all stay with her. I won't split you up." I was ten or eleven and I cast the final vote.

As I drove further, I remembered the time he took us out to breakfast at that place near the grocery store. I was aghast that he disregarded the starting bell for school, but he was reckless that day and said it didn't matter. So we were late for school. It only happened once, but I will never forget it.

I drove past the bowling alley. He took us bowling after The Divorce . . . never before, only after. Some kind of penance he chose, I suppose, to suffer through our bickering on Sunday afternoons and to feel guilt for what he'd done to our family.

I passed the place where a fabric store used to be and thought of how I used to ride my bike everywhere in town. In fact, on that road, a tree branch whacked me as I rode by and I have a scar on my eyelid to show for it. The bakery . . . oh, the bakery. As I drove, I was stifling sobs. My dad spent most every morning at the bakery, drinking coffee and eating a donut with the other old geezers. He was such a regular that the owners--from the "old" country like his grandparents--were like family. The bakery was his "Cheers." Everybody knew his name.
Now, it's an Orowheat bakery. The original owners sold it when they retired.

I recognized the place that used to be a drive-in. What was it called? "Wink's"? I once won a coupon for a milkshake during a "Lassie League" baseball game redeemable at Wink's. They had really greasy fries and I can remember Karla mopping off the grease with a napkin.

Then I saw the KFC where my sister worked the summer my dad was dying. That long-ago afternoon, I drove the mile from home, heaved open the glass door, asked for her and stood by the case full of desserts. When she appeared, the awful news stuck in my throat and I could barely choke out the words, "It's time."

She wept in my arms by the dessert case and then I drove her home in silence. When we arrived home, my aunt stopped me at the front door to tell me he was having seizures, but I pushed down the hallway anyway. His eyes were open, unseeing, and his stiff body jerked. I retreated to the darkened living room, pulling my sister with me. A few minutes later, I returned to the bedroom but he was gone. His body was still and I fingered his graying beard and said to myself, "Poor daddy."

Between the KFC and our house was a tavern. I used to hurry past the tavern, scared a belligerent drunk would accost me. After the tavern, the cemetery. Our street was off of Cemetery Road. I didn't drive past the house, though, not yet. First, I turned the SUV into the cemetery. I parked at the back and walked to the spot where my dad's ashes are encased. I remember the day he waved the deed to the cemetery plot at me. He'd been to the funeral director and made the final arrangements himself. He planned to be cremated and despite his preferences, he realized that we'd need a place to go, a place to remember him.

And so I brushed aside a wet autumn leaf and fingered his name on the brass nameplate. Gary W. M______, 1942 - 1989. The tears puddled in my eyes and blurred my vision for a moment. I wished that I'd purchased the adjoining spot. He's stuck in there with strangers and that seems so wrong.

I turned to look at the back of the cemetery. The house we'd lived in bordered a vacant lot at the back of the cemetery. As a teenager, I'd pick my way through the strip of woods, push aside branches and wander through the cemetery. I was a solitary girl with a morbid awareness of the brevity of life. I'd stare at the gravestones for babies and children and imagine that crushing loss. But I never thought the day would come that I'd be the one standing over a particular spot in the ground, crying. That only happens to other people.

The cemetery has expanded since I lived in that house fifteen years ago and a driveway is where the woods used to be. The open grassy area where we'd play on those rare snowdays is now full of graves. I walked all the way to the fence and tried to peer over it into the backyard, but I heard voices and didn't want to be discovered.

I left the cemetery then and drove to the street where we used to live. The thing about driving past your old house is that the casual observer might think you are a stalker or perhaps a thief. I turned the car around in the cul-de-sac, noticed that the house next to our old house looked nice. I remembered the mean old biddies who erected a six-foot fence so they wouldn't have to see our messy yard. Before they did that, they sent us snotty letters, demanding we clean up the yard. They hated us. And they had some kind of local Christian television show. No wonder my dad left the church because of hypocrites.

The garage door at our old house was wide open and my dad would have been so proud to see all the stuff shoved into that garage. He was a man of many interests and a packrat, besides, so in his day, ham radios and computers and SCUBA equipment and campstoves and shelving and books and boxes created mazes in the garage. If we lost something in our family, we'd say, "It's in a box in the garage," because we had boxes under the never-used pool table which were never unpacked from the time we moved in.

In the front yard, the Christmas tree my husband and I planted the year after my dad died stretched high into the sky. The afternoon we planted that tree, I burned a pan of rice on the stove. I hadn't intended to do that, of course, but a multi-tasker to a fault, I left the rice cooking while we went out to dig a hole for that tree. And instead of turning it on "low," I left the burner on "high." Smoke filled the house and the smoke detector was shrieking by the time we finished. My saucepan was partially melted on the burner.

Good times.

That Christmas tree has thrived in the front yard and whoever lives in that house has no idea that it was once an actual indoors Christmas tree, a symbol of hope and love and peace, a living memorial of the first Christmas without my dad.

When I finished cruising by my old house, I was done. Just finished. I had no desire to see my old high school or to drive past the church where I grew up. I'd driven down memory lane and found it changed, though the same, bigger and yet smaller than I'd remembered. How life can simply march on without the band leader is a mystery I still cannot understand, but it has and that little brass nameplate is proof.

And so my weekend ended with a pilgrimage to my past and then a return to my future where my little girl flew into my arms with cries of "I missed you so much, Mommy!"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Awesome Power of My Bladder

My bladder has Superpowers. With a simple twitch of my bladder, I can alter events clear across the yard. My bladder creates a rift in the space-time continuum with nary a strain. My bladder causes otherwise calm children to run shrieking into the house, sobbing hysterically. Whenever my bladder speaks, havoc ensues among the docile inhabitants of my house, wherever they are.

In other words, when I pee, all hell breaks loose. Previously sleeping babies wake. Children enchanted by their favorite shows bicker and come to blows. The phone rings. The doorbell chimes. I'm telling you, my bladder has mysterious supernatural powers.

You don't want to know what happens when my colon rumbles.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Post-Holiday Slump

As I anticipated, I am suffering from the post-holiday slump. And two daycare kids have goopy noses and now my daughter is coming down with a cold, too. The 3-year old boy has an illness every other week during the fall and winter. I can't begin to express my dismay and annoyance when I see his nose begin to run and I realize that a new virus will make its way like a forwarded email joke through my family. My own daughter didn't have a cold for her entire first year of life, but the first day I watched the little boy, he arrived with a disgusting snotty nose and my daughter got sick.

On Thursday morning, my husband leaves town for a three day business trip. He'll arrive home in time for church Sunday. The following Friday, he leaves for a whole week. He'll be gone for the second Thanksgiving in a row--celebrating with his family in Texas because Thanksgiving will also be the day of his dad's 75th birthday party.

And so I'm trying to work up some enthusiasm for childcare and schooling at home and vacuuming, without much success, I might add. This is a short week of school--they have half a day on Thursday and no school on Friday because of Veteran's Day--so I just need to hang on.

My husband called at one point this morning and heard my daughter wailing in the background. He inquired and I explained that I was sick of her dumping out all the toy bins, so I began picking up everything and putting it into a trash bag. At that point, she went berserk and so I sternly warned her that if she dumped them out again, I would put them in the bag. I ordered her gently suggested that she might want to pick them up--and that's when the phone rang. She was picking up toys, but she was crying--loudly.

He reminded me that she isn't feeling well and that she's had a rough week. I hate it when he's right.

Last week, after her nap we sat in the Big Green Chair (as she calls it), rocking. The weather outside was blustery and I had a moment of clarity and really saw the fleeting nature of that scene. She's my last little one, the last baby who will curl herself into my lap and insist that we rock.

She's my final chapter, the last song, the lingering scent of perfume in the air. When she "reads" every word of Goodnight Moon in her sing-song voice, I wish my eyes were a video camera so I could capture the sweetness forever.

And then I tell her it's time for bed, even though I know she'll wake up and graduate from high school and enroll in a highly-regarded college and meet Mr. Right and move across the country. "One more time!" she pleads and I relent because I can't stop time, but I can try to memorize the curls on the back of her head while she reads. One more time.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Triangle-Haired, Straight-Spined Man in the Movie Theater

Friday night found me driving north in a fire engine red 2006 Dodge Durango. A rented 2006 Dodge Durango. My husband sent me off in style.

The windshield wipers beat a steady rhythm as I peered through the rainy darkness. By 6:30 p.m., I had checked into my hotel room and left again to traipse around the Supermall. When it closed at 9:00 p.m., I wasted some time in my hotel room for thirty minutes. Then, back out in the rain in my fancy-schmancy car.

My timing was perfect. "One for Jarhead," I said to the guy behind the window.

"The 10:05 show?" he asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Uh, it's sold out," he said.

Thinking quickly--and determined to see a movie--I said, "How about the 10:45 show?"

He consulted his register and said, "Well, there are still 239 seats, so that's okay." Well, yeah, I thought. Practically empty theater! Who's crazy enough to watch a movie that starts at 10:45 p.m.?

I handed over my money and he slid a ticket back to me. I went back to my hotel yet again (it was very close to the theater) until it was time for the movie. I congragtulated myself on my perfect timing. I had fifteen minutes to purchase popcorn and pick out a seat.

I walked into the theater clutching my popcorn and Diet Coke (caffeine at 10:45 p.m.! talk about living on the edge!) and then turned to survey the vast crowd. The only available seats appeared to be in the front. I tentatively sat down, but immediately rejected this seat at the end of the second row. I stood and walked up the stairs, hoping against hope to find a single seat next to a nice, pleasant-looking mom like me.

I did not. But I did find a couple of seats in the very back row next to a teenage girl who appeared to be with her mother. With joy, I sat and then, I saw it.

Triangle Hair. Atop the head of a straight-spined, tall man. Right in the middle of my view. I was so distracted by the shape of his bristly hair that I started writing this blog entry in my head. I christened him Triangle Hair Guy and thought perhaps I should alert him to his impending inclusion in my blog. Then I thought a more important thought, but an impertinent thought, one which I could not express out loud. What I thought was, SLOUCH DOWN! SLOUCH! SLOUCH DOWN!

But he did not slouch. He was a middle-aged kind of guy, the kind with a balding head who resorts to cutting his remaining hair shortish and then drying it straight up with a dab of gel for staying power. I watched the entire movie through his triangle fringe of thinning hair, despite maneuvering sideways and striving to sit up as tall as possible.

I scanned the length of the row and decided that theater must seat at least five hundred people. And it was full of a shockingly respectful and responsive crowd. For once, I didn't hear or see any preschoolers at movie rated R. (I suppose even the most irresponsible parent doesn't take a preschooler to a movie at 11:00 p.m. One can hope.)

As for the movie itself, Jarhead, the story of a soldier who served during the Iraq war of 1991, gets my thumbs-up. I did wish, though, that I'd read the book first and now, I'll have to get my hands on a copy of Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. Some reviewers complain that the movie was "plotless," but really, the story is about a soldier who doesn't see combat and it reflects that frustration.

(Please note that this movie contains material which is offensive, including a lot of vulgar language and quite a few sexual references. We are, after all, talking about Marines. This subject matter is not for everyone. I did note that the soldiers I personally know are nothing like those depicted in the movie, but I have no doubt that the world the movie portrayed was more or less accurate. The use of profane language in this movie far surpassed that used in The 40-Year Old Virgin--which I have criticized precisely because of its excessive use of the f-word--but in this movie, it seemed entirely appropriate. However, if you are extremely sensitive to this sort of thing in this sort of setting, beware. Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost really hated this movie--as a former Marine, he found it an inaccurate portrayal of that life.)

When the movie ended, the crowd responded with utter silence and then, someone yelled out the military "Hoo-yah!" cheer. (Did you know that "Hoo-yah" actually means something? It's actually HUA . . . which stands for Heard, Understood and Acknowledged.) Then people applauded.

And that was the end of my first night of freedom.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Curfew Was Extended

Last night, I telephoned my husband while I drove back to my hotel. He suggested that I postpone my return home until 4:30 p.m., which stretched my parole to almost forty-eight hours. I was gone from home for forty-seven glorious hours.

I watched two movies in the theater.
I shopped at two different outlet malls.
I ate dinner with a friend and we sat talking until she admitted she must pee or bust. Then we realized how late it was.
I stayed up very (very) late and slept in very (very) late.
I read a People magazine.
I came home with five new pairs of shoes, five new shirts, four new sweaters, a game for the kids, a book for my daughter, a pair of pants, an umbrella, a new comforter for our bed, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Movie reviews and an open letter to the Guy with the Triangle Hair Who Would Not Slouch later.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Five And A Half Hours Until Freedom

The rain slants sideways in the wind and though it's just 12:17 p.m., the Yankee candle on my windowsill emphasizes the gloominess of the day. I am down to the last two loads of laundry. The school books are put away. The three-year olds are upstairs making what I'm sure is a devastating mess of toys in my daughter's room. But I don't care.

I feel like I'm running away from home. I have makeup stashed in a ziploc bag and hair-care stuff in another. My blue jeans are clean and folded neatly, ready to slide into a suitcase. Speaking of which, I'm taking the big rolling one, though I'll only be gone two nights because I am taking my pillows, both the feather pillow and the long plush body pillow. A good night's sleep demands these pillows.

In yet another ziploc bag, I have three books--Jodi Picoult's "My Sister's Keeper," and Anne Lamotts Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, and a guide to Seattle. I intend to sleep, shop, eat, shop, see movies, and roam the antique shops with a friend, shop, eat and then sleep some more. And read.

Only five hours and twenty-three minutes to go. Not that I'm desperately counting the minutes. No-sir-ee-bob. Not me. (At this very second, my 3-year old begs, "I want some more candy!" and the 5 month-old baby is crying and the t.v. is blaring and one of the twins is making a whooping sound.)

Have You Read This Blog?

It's not everyday you come across a mother of twelve children, especially a mother who has such a varied background as Barbara Curtis. I count Barbara among my internet friends, one of the best people that has happened to me since I started writing this blog just over two years ago.

Barbara is a professional writer, an adoptive mother of three boys with Down Syndrome, and former homeschooler who now sends most of her children to public school. (She is homeschooling her 12-year old daughter this year.) She had homebirths and hospital births (in the opposite order of most people who've had both). She lived through a childhood full of tragedy and became a Christian when she was in her thirties. She has quite a story!

I read Mommylife every day. Check it out and maybe you'll want to do the same.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Counting Down

Remember a long time ago, when I suggested that perhaps we each take $150.00 and a bad haircut and see how far we could get?

Well, now I have this:

And I happen to have a bad haircut.

Tomorrow night, at 5:45 p.m., I will pull out of my driveway for forty-five hours of kid-free time.

I'm thinking of making a run for the border.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Ridiculous Soundtrack of My Life

Sometimes, I wish life had a preplanned soundtrack. You know how when you sit in the theater the background music ebbs and flows and sometimes even tells the story? Music fills in the awkward silence with harmony and melody and rhythm. At those times when you are speechless, a soundtrack would be just the thing.

The soundtrack to my life is a mish-mash, a hodge-podge, a hoot.

The soundtrack to elementary school years included such popular songs as Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. My dad crooned this song while we drove in the car and soon, I was crooning along.

In third grade, I auditioned for the school choir and that's when I first learned "Sing" . . . which more recently can be heard on Sesame Street. We also sang a Ray Charles hit called "Fifty Nifty United States." I can still recite the states in alphabetical order thanks to that song.

I won the first record album I ever owned. Most of you have probably never heard of Love Song, but it was released in 1972 and began a new era in Christian music. I still have it somewhere.

I started playing the piano when I was in second grade. But as you can see, I had aspirations to be a lounge singer from a very young age:

When my parents divorced, my siblings and I moved in with my dad and my stepmother. She was (and still is) a classical flutist. Perhaps that led to the decision to buy a new piano just for me. From sixth grade on, I had a piano in my bedroom. No stereo, just a piano. I spent many hours playing classical music and also accompanying myself as I sang.

My abilities as a pianist were somewhere limited by my inability to play by ear. I could read notes, but I couldn't pick out a tune, at least not with more than one finger. So, I tended to pick songs to sing that I could actually play. This ruled out anything uptempo. My favorite songbook was (WARNING! WARNING!! Locate your barf-bag if you are prone to seasickness) by Barry Manilow.

Okay, so that's really embarrassing, I suppose. While I'm at it, let me also admit my teenage adoration of Olivia Newton-John. Until, of course, she went and got physical. I was strictly a fan of the 1970s stuff.

In junior high, the other kids were rocking to heavy metal, but I was devoted to "The Morning After" from the Poseidon Adventure. I also had a short love affair with Gordon Fitzgerald's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzegerald."

In a school gong show, I dressed up as a war-protesting hippy and sang "The Merry Minuet" by the Kingston Trio. I was gonged. That might be the most humiliating moment of my life, actually, eclipsed only by this written confession of my shaky musical history.

In high school, I was fond of The Second Chapter of Acts, Amy Grant, and Keith Green. In fact, when I was fourteen (in 1979), I heard Amy Grant and Keith Green sing in at Jesus Northwest, an outdoor Christian festival near Portland, Oregon. (Keith Green's music that night literally changed the direction of my life. From that moment on, I have been attempting to follow God with all my heart. I'm not kidding, either.)

In high school, I worked at Taco Time with a heavy-metal fan. I am shocked to realize I can't remember his name, though I remember his face. He introduced me to Iron Maiden and Motley Crue, but you knew that I never became a fan, didn't you?

Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart peformed at my college and I became an instant fan. Much later, I'd meet his daughter (who ended up marrying Peter Furler of the Newsboys) and date a roadie. No really. Look here: (Okay, well, really, we just went out a few times because--and I apologize, Ryder, I really do--he just wasn't my type, despite the fact that we had the same hair.)

I introduced myself to Michael W. Smith once and saw him in concert. (He must have given me tickets.) I listened to Kathy Troccoli and Russ Taff. I spent a lot of time in the music building, playing, singing and listening to other musicians. That rickety old building was my haven in the emotional storms of college.

The music that evokes the most emotion from my college days is Chicago, specifically songs like "Hard Habit to Break." How can you not weep when you listen to that album? (You're weeping now, aren't you?)

One road trip (with Mindy in her Mustang) featured Janet Jackson's Control. That was a long, long road trip, full of rhythm and marshmallow pinwheel cookies. And delirium and caffeine.

Nowadays, I have a collection of hits by The Carpenters in my CD player. I wanted to be Karen Carpenter when I was young. I sing along now, fully aware of my nerd status of musical tastes.

But I don't care. And it doesn't matter if "You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore"-I have my slipshod soundtrack and I. Can't. Hear. Your. Laughter. At. My. Expense.

What's in Your Pocket?

If I ever lose a jacket and must offer a description to reclaim it, this is what I'll say:

"Check the pockets. You'll find three crumpled, used tissues in one pocket. In the other pocket, there will be a small wad of new tissues, two black hair rubber bands, and an empty candy wrapper. You may or may not find a rolled up dollar bill and a penny."

Every single jacket or sweater I put on has these items in the pockets. I am extremely predictable. Plus, I have a sniffling nose all winter. And I eat too much candy.

So, what's in your pocket?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What Day is This?

Last week, I gave my daughter some toast before bathtime. Some time later, as she was climbing into the tub, I asked, "Did you eat your toast?"

She eyed me for a moment, then flashed a quizzical grin, lifted her foot up and stuck her toes into her mouth. I stared at her in some confusion until I realized she thought I said "toes," as in "Did you eat your toes?"

I just had a moment of utter bewilderment in which I could not remember if it were Tuesday or Wednesday. My thoughts went something like this:

Wait, today the boys went to P.E.
But today is Tuesday. P.E. is Wednesday.
And Monday.
Wait, Monday was Halloween.
But this morning was quiet.
Oh no, that was yesterday morning. This morning we caught up on all the half-done and incorrect assignments.
Are you sure it's not Wednesday?
No, Halloween was Monday. That was yesterday.
So it's not Wednesday?
No, it has to be Tuesday because the Real World was just on.

A little more than three years ago, I told my husband I needed to get away. Overnight, at least a couple of nights. Time was running out and I had realized that I had never spent a night away from my then-four year old son. I was about to give birth to another baby and I knew I'd be sticking close to home for a long time after the baby arrived.

I ended up having my little fling a few days before my daughter was born. She was born three days early. (I returned home on Saturday night and Monday night I gave birth to her at home after six hours of almost complete denial of my labor.)

But the point of this story is that I haven't had a break--an overnight break--away from my children in over three years now, since that time away when I was forty weeks pregnant, give or take a day or two.

On Friday, I am leaving. My husband hatched this plan for me to go away to a hotel for two nights. I'm not going far, but far enough. I'll be shopping, reading, seeing movies, sleeping, and basking in the silence of solitude.

To say that I'm eager would be an understatement. That's why I was hoping it was Wednesday, even though it's just Tuesday. Only three more work days and I'll be footloose and fancy-free.

That Wild and Crazy Guy

I described my father as a somber kind of guy in that Halloween post. And he was when I was a very little girl. But after my parents divorced and we moved in with my dad and stepmom, his wacky side came out.

As proof of this wackiness, I offer this photograph, taken at the same time as a passport photo, about twenty years ago:

And here is me, when I was about two:
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