December 27, 2010

My Love Affair with Bacon

It's starting to get embarrassing, this love affair I have with bacon.  And it's not actually like I eat bacon all the time.  In fact, I think I love bacon so much because I don't eat it much at all.

Over the last few months I've chosen to pursue more healthy eating habits -- moderate portions, fresh foods, less processed food, very little sugar.  I thought it would suck, but far from it.  I have had more energy and have noticed quite a few other health benefits that would be of interest to no one but me.  The great bonus is I'm 25 pounds lighter and my husband is about 40 pounds lighter.

But back to this bacon thing...

The other night I had the most amazing dream in which bacon had a starring role.  I was in a tight little galley kitchen that was mostly stainless steel counters and industrial looking kitchen doo-dads all around. My niece was there.  I think she was cooking.  I might have been cooking, too, or rather "over cooking" as I frequently do.

But what was special about this dream was not what was happening as much as the level of sensory detail that was occurring. It was if it were really happening.  The details were rich.  I could smell bacon cooking, hear and feel the popping of hot grease, feel the cold stainless steel on my hands, feel the awkward moment when you must squeeze past someone in a tight space as you try to slip by, your body rubbing against theirs. I could hear the clink of the spatula, the pan rubbing across the cooking grate. Ambient noises.

In the dream, I slipped past row after row of extensive "bacon production" and as I went past I snatched up a cooked piece that I thought would go unnoticed and bit into it heartily, hungrily. And just as I was about to experience the wondrous burst of flavor would send me into artery-clogging nirvana, I woke up.

Why? Because I had just bit into the fingers of my right hand.  In real life.  In my sleep.  I'd say that's a dream gone too far.

Honestly, if I'm gonna have a dream like that I'm disappointed I wasted it on bacon.

November 19, 2010

What I've Been Doing

For two months I've been silent -- not writing, not reading, not doing anything that I always do.  I have, in fact, been doing a lot of things that I've never done.  I'm not sure if it's an effort to ignore the parade of dead people that stand in a circle around me as if waiting for me to do something.

Five people in three years, five family members gone forever. For two months I've felt like they were waiting for me to say something about them, but I couldn't. And it seemed rude to write about anything else without acknowledging their importance in this world or their importance to me.

And so it was easier to write about nothing.

Instead I bought a spinning wheel and started making yarn.  I sit for hours and watch the fibers pull themselves into the wheel and twist themselves into something beautiful. It's a soothing addiction, mindless, peaceful and it seems somehow productive and important.

The dead sit patiently by while I spin as if they understand that I'm about to wake up -- in just a while it seems like I will be back to my old self. We are getting used to each other, I guess, and I can think of them without feeling sad and paralyzed.

I guess that is "healing".

September 1, 2010

Mmm, Bacon

I have always said that most things in life are better with bacon.  It's a topic that the family and I discussed tonight while I was cooking some bacon.  It was one of those nights where nobody could agree on what dinner should be and the Beef Stroganoff that was planned didn't seem to be exciting to anyone in the family, so it became an impromptu free-for-all planned by the 7-year-old in the family. This explains why the menu tonight consisted of BLT(una)s, BLs, a plate of tamales and a big plate of something Rob ate that I didn't look at because half of it was covered in celery which makes me vomit.

As I was working on the bacon the following conversation ensued:

Me (to Rob): You want some bacon?

Rob: I'm not having tuna. Or bacon. That's just not... I don't know. That's not good.

Me: Of course it's good. Bacon is great. Bacon goes with everything. Like... even orange and bacon sorbet or bacon and raspberry lemonade. I thought guys love bacon.  You know, like that commercial...

Me: In fact, I should make homemade soap out of this bacon grease. I mean, why not? It will drive men wild.

Rob: Right

Julius: Can I have some bacon? It smells so good.

Me: See?

Later I was lying in bed cuddling Julius for a few minutes before he was to drift off to slip. He snuggled against me, his head on my chest and breathed a big, cozy, happy sigh.

A few seconds later he says, "Mom, are you wearing PERFUME???" (I never wear perfume.)


He breathes in deep again and says, "Mmm, it smells like you have on perfume."

I pulled the neckline of my shirt up to my nose and took a big whiff. "It smells like fabric softener to me. And maybe bacon. Fabric softener and bacon."

He leaned in tentatively and sniffed. "OH MY GOSH MOM, IT'S BACON!" He scooted over to the middle of the bed and had a horrified look on his face that he'd been busted snuggling his bacon-scented mother and liked it. (You can bet I'm saving this story for future girlfriends.) "DAD! DAD! Come smell mom, she smells like bacon!"

And from then on the snuggling was over and I had to hear a lecture from the 2nd-grader now lying far across the bed giving me a lecture on how I should only cook bacon in old house-shirts.

"Admit it," I demanded. "You love the bacon!"

"Mom, you're so weird."

"I know it. Totally." Then I kissed him on the forehead, tucked him in, and turned out the lights. Good night!

August 13, 2010

Wendy vs. McDonald's, Round Two

A little over a year ago I posted about a crazy interaction I had at a McDonald's drive-through. I thought, at the time, that it couldn't get much weirder than that, but it turns out I was wrong.

Yesterday I went through the drive-through again to get a quick snack wrap before a meeting I had to attend. Just a little fat and protein (okay, well a LOT of fat) to keep my brain cells active so I didn't do something embarrassing like slide out of my chair in a sudden moment of blood-sugar narcolepsy.

I ordered a bacon and Angus beef wrap which is basically a tiny, overpriced tortilla with half a beef patty, a slice of bacon, some pickles and a piece of fake cheese that the dairy industry calls "American" cheese. I love pickles but not on a snack wrap so I asked if they would substitute lettuce for the pickles. She said it would be no problem at all and I drove around to the window.

While I waited for my food I looked at my receipt because I find that to be less disturbing than looking inside the restaurant to see what's going on in there. I noticed as I perused the list that there was a line item on there that read:

Lettuce                                         .20

Huh. My brow must have been all squinchy because when the girl handed my drink to me she said, "Something wrong?"

"I don't know. Did you really charge me 20 cents for lettuce?"

She nodded. "Yeah, they charge for lettuce."

"But I said I wanted to substitute lettuce for pickles. Wouldn't you think it would just be a wash?"

She shrugged. "It's weird. It sometimes depends on how you ring it up, too."


She nodded again. "Yeah, like mayonnaise. They charge if you add mayo to a sandwich but if you ask for it at the window we give it to you for free. Here's your order.  Is there anything else I can get you?"

"Yes, I'll take some free mayonnaise."

She paused and looked at me for a moment. I think she was trying to figure out if I was kidding or not.

I added, "And while you're at it, throw in some ketchup packets, too."

By gosh, I was getting my 20 cents worth back.

* * *

Just FYI, I was curious to know what cost more, lettuce or pickles.  I suspected the pickles but went online to see if I could find something more substantial than intuition. I found a very amusing sandwich price calculator. You should check it out.

Not only does this site prove that in bulk sales McDonald's is totally ripping you off by keeping your pickles at the same time as charging you for lettuce, but also proves that many people on the Internet have a lot of time on their hands.

August 2, 2010

Surgery #17

Just FYI, Julius is having his 17th procedure today. We'll be at the hospital and progress noted over at the "family update" blog. You're welcome to peek in there if you'd like to learn more.  You can learn the back story at:  this post.

July 27, 2010

RIP Grandpa

It's been a trying two weeks. Two days after my last post I got a call saying that my grandfather was dead unexpectedly. Then suddenly he wasn't dead after all.  Then several hours later he WAS dead. It was a strange and horrible roller coaster of hospitals, nurses, doctors, friends, family, strangers, police and more. 

I'll probably write about it eventually, but then again, maybe not.  I've not written much about my lovely, vibrant niece who was murdered. I didn't write much about my grandmother (with the exception of her hospital stay) or uncle dying - one expected, one unexpected. I don't usually write about sad things on this blog.

On the other hand, sad things are part of life and I'm beginning to think maybe I'm not being totally honest by simply trying to be funny all the time. On the other other hand, does anybody care about reality? Probably so since reality TV is big.  But on the other other other hand, is that really reality?

You can see the state I'm in.

All this is my way of saying I'm here, but not here. No plans to take a formal hiatus and yet I feel like I'm on a hiatus.  But I've not forgotten here, or you, or anything.

July 9, 2010

What Happened at Mile Marker 95

An open letter to the Texas State Trooper at Mile Marker 95:

Dear Officer,

I wonder if you noticed me because I was the only car who actually used a turn signal and moved into the passing lane in order to go around you as you were sitting on the side of the road under the overpass. You say it's because I was speeding, but I'm not sure how that is possible since I was going 70 in a 70-mile-an-hour zone.

You also marked my ticket as the violation occurring while in a construction zone yet there were no orange signs, no workers, no cones, nothing to indicate that there was anything construction-like going on with the exception that the road was very rough with some asphalt overpatching. If that were the case, my entire city and county would be a construction zone and nobody would get anywhere quickly. We might as well declare ourselves Amish and save some gas money while we're at it.

I thought it especially creepy how you were google-eyeing all my junk in the front seat. Yes, I know those knitting needles can look menacing sitting there in my army-green canvas messenger bag, but as long as it has taken me to knit that dishtowel that's on there, believe me, I'm not about to lose it all by whipping the needles out and yelling, "EN GARDE" no matter how tempting it seemed at the time.

All of that is fine, I suppose, but I did begin to resent our visit when you started asking me nosey questions like how long I had been in your state, as if I was an uninvited, unwelcome guest who needed to be hurried along. I further was offended by your additional questions as to what my business was in your state, who I was visiting and what was the nature of my visit.  I felt like if I didn't produce some citizenship papers soon that you'd call the INS and have me shipped off to, I don't know, Ireland, I guess.  I've been asked less questions crossing borders with my passport.

Seriously, do I look like a drug trafficker? A chunky, middle-aged woman with half a bag of licorice jelly beans, some knitting and a drop spindle of freshly spun yarn?  Always the optimist, what I CAN say is that at this rate nobody could ever accuse you of racial profiling, so if you need someone to be a witness as to your equal opportunism, I'm your girl.

I was annoyed with myself later after we parted ways because I thought of all the things I could have done like name-drop the semi-famous person that I was off visiting for the weekend. Or I could have gotten my city council colleague who is also a state trooper to put in a good word for me. Or my nephew who is a deputy sheriff with his drug dog sidekick named Kilo. Or I could have casually mentioned that I am an upstanding, respected minor political figure in my town. None of which I did because the truth is I'm only a lowly human being who was going 70 in a 70-mile-an-hour imaginary, unmarked construction zone because it's a recession and Texas needs its money. Well, and also because I didn't think of any of that while I was scrambling around trying to find the papers you asked for.

Strangely, though, you didn't give me a ticket for speeding.  You said you'd just give me a warning, but would definitely give me a ticket for handing you a proof of insurance card that was expired.  Although that's not what the ticket said.  The ticket said, "Failure to maintain financial responsibility."  Really?  I've paid off all my student loans, my credit card debit, paid off my business, never filed bankruptcy, have good credit.  I wish I had known that having a piece of paper in my glove compartment with the right date on it was enough to qualify as "financially responsible".  I would have a lot more walking around money instead of wasting it on paying my bills and making good investments.

I'm just glad I got pulled over last week instead of this week because otherwise you would have noticed the case of sodium hydroxide (lye) I was hauling around in my car.  Had you seen that you would have surely taken me in on suspicion that I was a mobile meth lab or on my way to my non-mobile meth lab. Or maybe sent me to Guantanamo Bay to hang out with my terrorist homies.  But no, it's just for soap making, Officer, like your great-great-granny used to make way-back-when before people were addicted to fancy smelling soaps that make them smell less like authentic humans and more like the spritzer lady in a department store.

What I do want to say, though, is that I appreciate the job you do (for the most part).  I have dear friends and family in Texas and I want to know they are safe. I want to know that you are being diligent, thorough, and, hopefully, honest in your job.

However, I do worry that in the eleven minutes that you had me pulled over by the side of the road, 2.5 violent crimes occured (according to Texas crime statistics) -- murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- crimes that you were not able to attend to because you were busy asking me about my weekend lying in bed with my best pal while we ate copious amounts of Thai food, had pedicures, knitted and watched pay-per-view movies all night.

But, I do understand that someone needs to stop those speeders because they can cause a lot of problems, too. However, in my humble opinion it's just better to wait until they are actually speeding.



P.S. I had to fill up my gas tank but I waited until I was on the other side of the state line so my own state could benefit from the sales tax generated from my purchase. Boy, did I show you.

July 3, 2010

If You Need a Conversation Stopper You Can Borrow My 3-Year-Old

We had company over last weekend. They brought their baby with them... a cute six month old butter chunk. They plunked him down in his walker and my kids began surrounding him with toys, stuffed animals and other goodies.

The grownups began talking about whatever boring stuff grownups talk about. I glanced over to make sure my kids were not accidentally suffocating the baby with an overdose of love. He was fine and gnawing happily on Winnie the Pooh, the only toy that hadn't fallen out of his short reach.

About five seconds later I heard Tristan yell, "Mom, Baby Isaiah is eating his penis!"

The room, as you might imagine, went dead silent. My head whipped around and there was Winnie the Pooh on the walker tray with the baby gnawing happily in his crotch.

"Oh wow," said the mother sitting next to me.

I cleared my throat, my mind casting about for something appropriate to say. Rarely do I come up with the appropriate thing however.

"Tristan, he's a stuffed animal. He doesn't have a penis."

"Yes he dooz! Baby Isaiah is EATING his PENIS!"

I do know enough about my son to know that he gets loud and indignant and there was no good way to make this conversation disappear by reasoning it through. So I did what any sensible mother would do... Offered him some chocolate milk.

I've never seen a kid leave a room so fast.

June 26, 2010

One Clue That Nagging is the Norm

Two recent conversations with my three year old:

One night he's looking through the bookcase to find just the right bedtime story. I sit on the floor behind him waiting patiently (for once) because I had some knitting handy.

He's looking, looking, looking, then finally said, "Tell me to hurry up."

Happy to oblige, I say, "Hurry up, Tristan."

"Say it again," he commands.

"Hurry up."

In a very annoyed voice he snapped, "I am hurrying!"

* * *

Today after the fishing derby I tried to pull the same kid out of the car and he starts screaming, "MY SHOES, MY SHOES!"

"Okay, sorry, put your shoes on then."

I stand in the heat and the blazing sun not saying a word, just waiting for an agonizing long time while he struggles to get his shoes on. I stare out across the yard in a small zen-mommy moment which is so unlike me because I'm more like the "go go go commando go" kind of barking drill sargent mom. And not in a cool attractive way, either.

While he's still bent over struggling with his shoes I hear him say, "Tell me hurry up, Mommy."

"Hurry up, Tristan."

"Say it again."

"Hurry up, Tristan."

"Say it again."

We did this about ten times until finally he said, "Why do you keep saying hurry up to me?"

"Because you told me to."

"But why do you keep saying hurry up to me?"

We went through two or three more rounds of that until I finally just gave up and come to the conclusion that 1) I totally don't understand children and 2) obviously I'm such a nag that my children freak out when I'm quiet.

And finally, you can see the results of the fishing derby at: Observations from an Ozark Life

June 21, 2010

My Evening with Liev Schreiber

I have awesome dreams. They are vivid, life-like, almost always pleasant as if, upon sleeping, I've teleported to a slightly more strange reality than the one I currently live in. It's nearly like my current life, but leans slightly to one side like a carnival funhouse (except without the creepy clowns).

One of the peculiarities of my dream life is that I frequently dream of celebrities. I am not enamored with Celebrityhood. I'm not a big follower of pop-culture. For more than a decade I didn't even own a television. And yet, my subconscious makes good use of these convenient icons to entertain me and process the days events all in one amusing little package.

My husband refers to these dreams as "Celebrities on Parade."  My brain doesn't have a preference about what celebrity it picks and there's no pattern to its themes. I've dreamed of celebs I knew by face, but not name. I've dreamed about has-beens, oldies, currently popular icons. I still remember a really weird dream I had about Chuck Norris and my friend Ginny back in the 90's. (Chuck didn't like me in that dream.)

Two nights ago I was surprised to find myself in a pasture with Liev Schreiber. He was working on a house. In fact, I think he had MOVED an old house to a lovely rolling plain with a big hillside. Up on this hill sat a very shabby plantation-style home with peeling paint. The house was painted red, white and blue in the pattern of an American flag. As I faced the house the blue field of white stars was on the upstairs floor to the far left with the rest of the house in a faded red and white stripe. To most people it would sound hideous, but in the dream it was an inspirational beacon symbolizing freedom of expression.

We strode up the hill with purpose. I'm not sure for what purpose, but something. When we got to the top of the hill, Liev indicated that in order to enter the home we had to do so from the second floor. The only way to get to the second floor was to shimmy up a pole and scramble over a dilapidated and none-too-sturdy deck railing.

In real life, I couldn't shimmy to save my life, but in my dream I wasn't too bad. Not graceful, but at least I could defy gravity enough to get my ample caboose up off the ground. About nine feet off the ground I was winded and called down to Liev.

"You know, I don't know how you're going to do this with groceries."

"It'll be okay. It's not that bad."

"Really?" I said doubtfully and kept shimmying.

At about 12 feet off the ground I shouted down, "Now what?" Liev indicated I should throw one leg over the balcony railing and then go down the balcony toward the stars and find the door to get inside. As I threw my leg over the balcony railing I noticed the balcony wasn't there -- just the railing. So, I just held on to the fragile railing and tip-toed over to the end where there was a gap between the end of the railing and the place where the door was supposed to be. In fact, I'm not sure there was even a door there. And when I looked back, Liev was gone.

In real life I would have been totally freaked out by the entire scenario. But in my dream I was a very matter-of-fact girl and took it all in stride -- the house, the shimmying, the danger, my disappearing friend, as if these were things that happen in every day life.

It's just as well anyway, cause I still swear Liev Strieber could totally not get groceries into that house.

June 1, 2010


For the last year I have been planning various posts about some frogs in the ditches in front of my office.  The biggest, fattest alpha frog (and frog progenitor, I assume) was named Whiskey by my oldest son. I have no idea where the name came from since we don't drink in our household and if we did it certainly wouldn't be whiskey. Maybe a nice tequila shooter or a fancy umbrella drink.

So, I have been toying with various posts at the back of my mind like, "I Love Whiskey" (because it's such a provocative title) and in the winter when the frogs were hibernating it would be "I Miss Whiskey".

Unfortunately I never got a chance to do either of those posts because the other day I found Whiskey floating bloated and dead in the ditch. And I haven't told my son, either.

All this is further complicated by the fact that Whiskey is now in our freezer (triple bagged) and I haven't told my husband, either, and I'm afraid pretty soon that he will ask me what's in that bag... or worse, open it to see for himself.

I don't know how I get myself into these things. Well, I do -- it's because I just can't mind my own damn business.

It all started about two years ago when I walked to my car and looked into the ditch to see it filled with bright red fluid. It looked like someone's throat had been cut and the blood was pooling right there in front of me. Freaking out, I called my mom to come out and look. More worldly wise than me, she realized immediately that it was transmission fluid from the repair shop just a few doors down from us -- slightly less sinister than a dead body in the ditch upstream.

I had to leave to pick up my youngest at daycare, but the report back from Mom informed me that a hazmat team had been called, the ditch had been cleaned up and the transmission shop promised never to have an accident like that again.

Every day I check the ditch when I leave the office to see if there's anything horrible down there. It happens that the ditch feeds a nearby creek which then flows into a nearby lake which flows through my bathroom tap and I brush my teeth with it. There's actually something that happens between the lake and my teeth, but I don't know what that is and don't really want to. I think it has something to do with removing the dirt and fish poop which could give me an intenstinal disorder and replacing those with chemicals that will give me cancer.

That summer a bright green frog appeared with gigantic bulbous eyes. He was strangely out of character in a place that is mostly inhabited by small brown toads and I was certain he was some kind of mutant life form fueled by transmission fluid and whatever other chemicals were flowing through that ditch.

Julius was madly in love with that frog and visited him whenever he could, gave him the name Whiskey and I checked on him on all the days that Julius couldn't be there to do it himself.

Pretty soon another googly-eyed frog appeared and it looked like they would be starting a green mutant frog family. Winter came and we missed them and couldn't wait for them to return in the spring. We hoped they would, but weren't sure.  And then in April they came again with more just like them.

Periodically we'd fish trash and styrofoam and other litter out of the dish. The frogs would hide in a panic. Sometimes the water had a sheen to it and I'd worry again, but eventually we relaxed since the frogs not only seemed to be surviving, but even thriving. In the ditch downstream were crawdads and we'd fish them out with bacon on a string, look at them for a while and then put them back in again.

We were nature farmers. We were cool.

I went from cool nature farmer to Erin Brockovich in about five minutes after finding Whiskey floating on the way to a meeting. I ran back into the office yelling that Whiskey was dead and how we must immediately get water samples because I was sure he was killed by toxic waste. My husband rolled his eyes and said, "We don't have time for things like this. Why don't you do some work instead?" He's very aware of how little it takes to send me off on a world-saving crusade that has pretty much no benefit to anyone including the world I'm supposedly saving.

I was not to be deterred, but for the sake of love and marriage I took my crusading underground. From the secrets of cell phones in cars and in bathrooms, on walks to mailboxes and between aisles 6 and 7 in Wal-Mart I called the Office of Emergency Management, a friend in the Department of Environmental Quality, the municipal water office, the Game and Fish Commission. I learned how they would grind up my dead frog in a blender to test him for toxins. I had someone else tell me that they really would also like to take a live frog and test it too. I asked if that involved killing the live frog. The answer didn't please me and I vowed to not let anymore amphibious carnage happen.

My next task was to get Whiskey out of the ditch. This involved putting an inside-out gallon zip-loc baggie onto my hand, grabbing the floating frog and then turning the bag right side out and the frog would end up inside the bag which I could then seal.

There were several problems with this scenario. One was simply that I'm short and I couldn't figure out a way to get the frog without falling into the steep-sided ditch full of tainted water. The second, and more critical, was that every time I thought of grabbing that bloated frog with my hand I felt like I was going to vomit.

On such a stealth mission I couldn't call my husband or he'd know about my world-saving antics. The next best thing was to call in a favor to my brother who wasn't afraid of anything at all and didn't even mind gross stuff. I mean, this was a sibling who once got a tick out of my belly button with a pair of tweezers. This is a guy you want on your side when grossness is coming down the pike.

Unfortunately, I couldn't reach him. His wife answered the phone. This is how much of a sport she is...  They've been married all of two months and she dropped what she was doing and raced down in her little white economy car to slide into the ditch and retrieve my dead frog. This is true love and compassion for your family.  That's probably about the limit she will go to, though. She was looking a little green as she drove off to do her shopping.

And so now in my freezer at work is a frog that, no lie, is about a foot long and weighs at least a pound. And I'm hoping the wildlife officer hurries over to my office ASAP before my husband gets curious about that yellow Dollar General bag in the freezer.  If he opens it, I hope he doesn't think its in there for frog legs.

May 25, 2010

Mom: The Technology Post

Over the weekend I was on the phone with my mom checking in with her.  She has another kidney stone. Three, to be exact.

I was calling to see if she was getting stir crazy yet and asked if she wanted to go ride in the car with me while I went on the fundraising Dice Run. She declined.  I told her the boys were really excited about it because the first place prize was $250 and Julius already had a plan on what he'd be purchasing with his winnings.

Mom: You're not going to let him spend all that money are you?
Me: Of course not.  I told him he had to split it with his brother if he wins.
Mom: What about putting it into the bank?
Me: Yeah, but they get to spend some of it anyway one of them wins.
Mom: Well what does he want?
Me: A DS.
Mom: You're not getting him a DS. He's 7 years old.
Me: What do I care if he gets a DS if he's won $250 dollars? Every kid his age has one.
Mom: No they don't.
Me: Mom, they do too.
Mom: *I* don't even have one at my age.
Me: (laughing out loud) You totally don't even know what a DS is.
Mom: (without even pausing) I know, but I don't have one. What is it?
Me: It's a Nintendo handheld game thingy. Basically, a babysitter. 
Mom: (grunts) Oh jeez. Kids these days.
Me: Yeah, tell me about it.

May 17, 2010

Learning to Let Go

One big trick of life is the art of learning to let things go. I'll be honest about it right up front... I'm terrible at this.  I hang on to nearly everything -- physical, emotional, mental.  I get this from my dad's mom, my middle namesake, who used to write notes on food wrappers. She'd jot down what she was doing at the time and a quick basic review of the product and then send them to me. For years I just called these "letters from Grandma" because that's what they were to me. It wasn't until I was quite a bit older that I realized most people don't write letters that way.

When I became a mother I was aware enough to realize that no matter how good my intentions are, I will eventually inflict a bushel of neuroses onto my children. I came to this realization after a conversation with my mother during which she was complaining that I seemed more independent and detached than she thought was healthy. She blamed herself because she didn't want me to be weak and vulnerable and so now she thinks she overcompensated and sent me swinging on the pendulum all the way to the other side.

And then there is the matter of genetics. Some of the children in our family who are from divided homes and haven't been able to spend much time with one parent or another still carry echoes of their missing parent with them -- with two it's their smile, with another two it is the shape of their fingers and a particular look in their eye, with another it's the way she wrinkles her nose. It is strange and disconcerting to see when I know these things come from deep within the genetic layers of us.

* * *

Two nights ago we went to a pro baseball game in "the Big City". At this particular ball park they have a section where you can pay a few bucks extra and your kids can go in and run madly from one bouncy-house to another until they pass out from exhaustion or vomit, whichever comes first. We let the kids go in and Rob and I took turns staying with Tristan, our youngest.

At one of the inflatable fun houses he got very tired and when he slid down this huge slide and finally reached the bottom he just didn't get up again. He had an ecstatic look on his face and gazed up to the roof of the house as if he were seeing angels come down to carry him away to an afterlife of nothing but whipped cream, cookies and strawberry milk. At the top of the slide a couple of big kids started yelling at him to move and finally it was obvious they were going to come down whether he moved or not. I said, "Tristan, you've got to get up and move out of the way."

He struggled his little body up out of the cloud of air-filled plastic and was trying to heave himself back out onto the pavement when two girls, much bigger than him, came down and pushed passed him, knocking him off his perfect cloud and down onto the hard surface. He began to cry.  He stood up and looked over at me and I smiled and gave him the thumbs up and yelled, "You're AWESOME!"  He blinked, then smiled and ran back to the front of the line.

The event was forgotten (except for a small psychotic moment in which I yelled at the girls when Tristan wasn't looking and told them to stop knocking down little boys half their size) and we played for another half hour until the game was over and it was time to leave.

All the way back to the car Tristan cried because he was tired and didn't want to walk anymore. It was a long, agonizing journey of cajoling "almost-theres" and finally he was in his car seat and buckled in.

As we pulled out of the parking lot he said from the dark back seat, "They knocked me down."

I said, "Mm-hmm. They sure did. But you're fine now." I told Rob briefly what had happened.

Tristan reiterated, "They knocked me down, Daddy."

Rob said, "Sorry about that, buddy. Did you have fun anyway?"

Tristan said, "Yeah, but they did it. They knocked me down."

"But you're okay now, right," Rob asked.

Tristan said, "I'm okay, but they knocked me down."

I covered my mouth and snickered quietly. We tried not to say anything in case it unleashed another torrent of accusations about the girls who knocked him down.

Then Julius started in, "I got knocked down too. This boy jumped on me and wrapped his arms and legs around me and knocked me to the ground."

I nodded. "Well, sometimes those big kids play rough. You have to just try to stay out of their way."

"He wasn't a big kid. He was half my size..."


Tristan said, "They knocked me down, too."

I snorted, Rob chuckled.

Trying to change the subject, Rob said, "You boys had fun tonight right? What was your favorite part?"

Julius said, "The bouncy houses were the best part."

Tristan said, "Yeah and they knocked me down..."

Obviously I'm not the only one who has a problem letting go.

May 7, 2010

Hunting for a Diamond (a Touching Mother's Day Post)

Here's a great activity for Mother's Day.  I recently got this mail from one of the people I stalk on the Blogosphere.  (Apparently I'm not a very good stalker since he's noticed.)  Anyway, he's just recently published a book and as part of his book promotion he's designed this very nifty treasure hunt for people who love mysteries, intrigue and puzzles.  Oh, and diamonds.

* * *

Hi Wendy:
I wanted to make sure you knew about an "armchair treasure hunt" I'm conducting to promote my novel The Tavernier Stones.  The contest is up and running at
The prize is a one carat diamond, but I hope to increase its size, if the contest lasts long enough.  Please share this with anyone you know who likes puzzles, codes, treasure maps -- or diamonds.
The novel debuted 1 May and has garnered some good reviews, including this one from Booklist:
"As the legend goes, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a seventeenth-century explorer and trader, was robbed of a small fortune in precious gems that remain unaccounted for to this day. Using this intriguing premise as a jumping-off point, Parrish, a cartographer and gemologist, fashions an enjoyable thriller in which a cartographer and a rather disreputable gemologist join forces to solve the mystery of the fabled Tavernier stones. The author clearly knows his subject—the details about map-making and gemology ring true—and even better, he knows how to tell a good story. His odd-couple protagonists (John Graf, the Amish cartographer, and David Freeman, the gemologist and jewel thief) make an interesting pair of heroes, and their jaunty relationship gives the novel an agreeable, lighthearted feel. The story itself, which involves a race against time to find the stones, is intricate without being annoyingly elaborate. This is a quite good first novel that, one hopes, will launch a series of Graf-Freeman adventures."
Thanks for indulging me,
* * *

Get to it. Maybe you won't even have to buy flowers for Mom this year. (And, no, this is not a paid ad.) Personally, I'm thinking maybe I should just get the book for my mom and then she can find her own diamond.

This year I was actually thinking of stealing my brother's idea for Mother's Day. Every year he brings her cut flowers from his garden and some kind of plant that he's dug up from somewhere that she doesn't already have. She always calls to tell me how fabulous her new garden addition is.

I am notoriously bad about the gifts I get her. They are almost always wrong. Although to be fair she has the same problem when buying gifts for me. What I've started doing lately is getting stuff that I personally don't like and I think I'm getting much closer to the mark.

Recently, her feud with the neighbor has escalated so perhaps I should get her a big stand of invasive bamboo to plant on the border of her property. Or maybe something that attracts ground hornets or rodents. Or I should bottle up some of the ants that won't stay out of my house and thrown them into the neighbor's yard like a Molotov ant bomb. That will teach her.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 3, 2010

My Not-so-Secret Addiction

As a mom, you just have to every now and then put your foot down and be determined to act in a recklessly selfish manner.

For me this manifests itself in stopping off somewhere while I'm out doing errands and getting a cool drink and a snack and, for once, not asking anyone if they want anything. It's not that I want to be selfish or deny anyone a treat, but it's also heavenly and feels decadent that for a few minutes during my working day I can not worry about anybody but me -- no kids, no clients, no family, no constituents.

So, I do this and generally don't mention it to anyone and I drive down the road singing loudly with the radio while swilling down some exotic concoction from Sonic, always with real cherries included.

The other day it was cherry Dr. Pepper (with real cherries) and my latest obsession -- cheddar peppers. I was on my way to go get some photos of a house and picked up a snack along the way. I thought briefly of my hubby slaving away at the office while I'm driving down the road with a pepper in one hand and Sheryl Crow blasting from the radio. Not only did I not tell him I was stopping for cheddar peppers, but I'm listening to his CD, too.  Poor guy.

I didn't think much of it until later when I was back working and he took the car to go do his errands. My phone rang.  It was him.

"I see someone has been to Sonic for cheddar peppers..."

"Oh, well, you know there is a funny story about that. You see, I was on my way into town to pick up those papers and go get a picture of that house. I had to slow down where all the construction was going on because the traffic was jammed up around that time of the day. And there were these guys out there -- some hispanics, and they were with the oil and gas company, I think.  They had the orange vests on and there was a lot of those survey markers out there and I think they are probably doing some seismic testing for the gas company. Anyway, I had the windows down because it was such a nice day and since I was going slow it wouldn't blow my hair very much and suddenly I hear one of the guys yell, 'Arriba, arriba!' and all of a sudden some trash flew into the window, nearly hitting me and I almost ran over one of those orange construction cones. I looked down and it was a bag from Sonic. I think there was some other stuff, too, but all the other parts of the trash went all the way across the car and out the other window. I hope nobody thought it was me actually littering. Anyway, it was the craziest thing..."

There was a very long silence and finally Rob replied, "Well, I was going to tease you about not getting any for me, but after that I'm too tired."

Oh yeah... mission accomplished.

April 29, 2010

Year of the Snake

Supposedly, according to the Chinese this is the Year of the Tiger. After the things I've experienced in the last few weeks I'm considering putting in a call to the Chinese government to discuss with them the possibility that there might have been a mistake. Surely it is the Year of the Snake.

This revelation hasn't come upon me suddenly, but only after an accumulation of various incidents that began with a casual Facebook post and ended up... well, I'll get to that in a minute.

About four weeks ago I was sitting in my office and during my post-lunch what-should-I-do-next motivational regrouping I checked my Facebook account and noticed that one of the people at my son's daycare posted the following on her status: OH MY GOSH!!!!!! I almost just got bit by a snake! Everybody be careful.

So I sit there for a moment and contemplate the urge I'm feeling to call the daycare and start screaming questions like WHERE IS MY SON and WHY ARE THERE SNAKES AT DAYCARE and THIS IS MORE PROOF THAT GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL AND THAT WE'RE LIVING IN A TROPICAL NIGHTMARE FILLED WITH DANGER AND DEATH AT EVERY TURN! But then I managed to not do any of that and went on to do some really important stuff like look at knitting patterns and blogs work.

Another couple of weeks go by and I have to show some houses to a new client. I live in the country, so I'm accustomed to going out and tromping in the woods and being careful where I step and all that. Occasionally I do what I call "city real estate" and show houses in a subdivision. It's a nice change because I don't have to worry about ticks and snakes and people playing banjos.

I showed three or four houses, the last of which was the best and I thought this could possibly be the one they would decide was right for them. We finished touring the house and went out the garage and their very tall son reached up to pull the garage door down and, unbelievably, winding its way toward him was a ginormous black snake on the garage door.

Calmly he said, "Uh, there's a snake on the garage door."

I said, "Whoa. Yeah.  Hrm.  Well, you know it's spring.  They're starting to warm up and come back to life.  Welcome to country life."  I looked around at house after house that all looked the same in this cookie cutter subdivision and rolled my eyes at myself.

There's really no good way to put a marketing spin on a snake crawling across the garage door that you're holding onto.

So, we did all we could do which was basically slam the garage door onto the snake which then proceeded to wiggle its way out, but into the garage. I called the agent who listed the house and told her what had happened. She asked me if the snake was in the house.  I said, "Well, I don't know... I didn't go back in and look."  Probably she will never let me show one of her houses again because the time before locking a snake in her house I accidentally locked some of her renters out of a house. (How was I supposed to know they didn't have a key to their own house?)

I finally recovered from that episode and it was nearly forgotten for a while. Last weekend the weather was wonderful and I spent a lot of time out on the screened porch and daydreamed and watched neighbors walk by and birds swoop in and out of view. Rob and Julius spent time on the street practicing on the bike with no training wheels. They'd go down the street for a while and eventually appear back with Julius pedaling furiously and Rob huffing and puffing behind him.

Once they returned with them both walking and I was certain they'd probably been in an accident. They looked rushed and walked with purpose. As they got closer I noticed Rob had something in his hands and finally could make out that it was a very long snake. Nothing I wanted to see, that's for sure, but the boys insisted.  This is the thing about living with a man and two boys... they like all this stuff.  Nobody wants to talk to me about crafts, but they are all over it if it has scales or monster truck wheels.

Wound around Rob's arm was an electric green grass snake. And even I had to admit it was a wonder among snakes. It was sleek and elegant looking and the most brilliant color I've ever seen in nature. They found it when it had lunged out of the trees by the road and snapped up a spider to eat. We looked at it a while, got pictures of it, got pooped on by it and then the boys took it back out to the trees and let it go.

All day long, no matter what topic I brought up, all the boys would talk about was the snake and how they wished they could keep it and why can't they have a pet snake and why aren't there more cool snakes in the yard and why can't I take it to school and let's show grandma and let's go back and look for it again and on and on.

But even then it really wasn't until tonight that I decided we're really in for some kind of reptilian adventures this summer.  I called my mom on the phone to tell her that Tristan was ready for their fun day tomorrow. The sitter is out and Tristan and Mom will be hitting all the carport sales. He came up to me while I was doing the dishes tonight and wanted to know if Grandma had a car seat. He's quite concerned that she come prepared for tomorrow.

She answered the phone a little breathless. I knew she would be outside doing yard work because that's what she always does when spring comes around.

"What are you doing," I asked.

"I just killed a copperhead," she panted.

"That's so gross."

"Well, it almost got me."  I could hear her walking as we talked on the phone.  "I saved it for Julius so he could see it."

"Oh, great because that's what I like him to see is a snake with a big bloody neck gash." I assumed she had wacked off his head with a hoe or shovel because that's how most people do it around here.

Then she said, "Oh no."


"I left it here on the rock so Julius could see it and it's moved..."

Oh why can't she just do things normally like most moms -- like throw her tools to the ground and run screaming into the house or maybe just dance around in a panic until the snake slithers off terrified into the underbrush.

"Seriously? Are you sure you killed it? Did you cut its head off?"

"No, I smashed it with a rock. Well, I had to do it twice.  The first time I threw a big rock on it and it didn't kill it so I had to get another rock and hit it in the head again."

"How do you know you didn't just knock it unconscious?"

"Because I smashed it's head."

"Listen... I read about a guy today who got shot through the eye into his brain and also shot in his jaw and he wasn't supposed to live, but he did. That's way worse than some lady throwing a rock on your head."

She thought about it for a minute. "No, he's dead. He's here just next to the rock.  I'll put him back on the rock and leave him and if he's still there in the morning, then he was dead, see?"

"Yeah, and if he's not there he's probably lying in wait for you, hoping he will have better luck next time."

And so, at another mother-daughter impasse, we said our goodbyes. There was nothing left to say about it until tomorrow morning when she walks across the dew-covered yard to see if there is still a dead snake lying on a rock.

I never thought I'd find myself saying I hope a snake is there when she comes back.

April 22, 2010

How NOT to Clean Your Bathtub

I have a great system for maintaining my tub/shower between weekend cleanings. After the last person gets out of the shower, but before the shower dries, I spray the entire shower and tub with Clorox Clean-Up. Since I've started this system I haven't had to scrub any mildew and soap scum out of the shower and my back and knees feel a lot better.  (Nevermind that I might be giving myself cancer from the chemicals or destroying the earth's precious biodiversity, but at least my shower isn't gross.)

This method, however, doesn't really work when you put two muddy, pollen-covered boys into a tub full of water. You still have to scrub the tub afterward since it pretty much turns the tub brown from that one bathing incident.

So, that Saturday, I had the brilliant idea that I was going to utilize local slave labor to clean the tub. I yelled out the bathroom door, "Hey boys! I have something cool for you to try!" Unsuspecting innocents that they are, they came running in bright-eyed and enthusiastic.

"Hey, how about you guys get in the tub and I'll turn the shower on and you can play in the water for a while. Oh, and scrub the tub while you're at it.  I'll get you the cleaning stuff!"

They clapped their hands together and pulled off all their clothes and jumped into the tub and wiggled and jivved under the shower water. They experimented with the various settings on the shower (from slo-mo to "aqua cannon") while I got rags and pulled out the non-slip mat so they could clean everywhere.

The quandary was what to use for cleaning supplies. I didn't want anything harsh on their skin, but I needed something with more oompf than water to get things sparkling white. I couldn't find baking soda anywhere in the house. Then I had this brilliant idea to use washing powder. It suds, it's a powder, so it might be slightly abrasive. I thought it was a perfect plan.

I took a big scoop in and sprinkled it around the tub and told them to rub it it all around. Then I went back into the kitchen where Rob was cooking to tell him just how brilliant I was. After I told him what I did he said, "That's really a bad idea."

"Why? No, it's brilliant."

"No, it's dangerous."

The man was trying to keep me down. "How is that dangerous?"

"Laundry soap is really, really slippery."

Just then we heard a loud crash in the bathroom and I ran down the hall to see who had fallen. Julius was lying in the bottom of the shower flopping around like a fish that had found his way into the bottom of a fishing boat.

"I can't get up," he yelled.

"Don't move, don't move. Just lie there a second and let me figure this out."

About that time Tristan started screaming, "IT BURRRRNS, IT'S BURNING MEEEEEE."

He tried to get up to show me where it was burning him and fell on top of Julius.  I tried to pick him up and couldn't hang on to him because he was so slippery.  Julius started flopping some more.  Tristan kept crying.

"Okay, okay, lemme rinse you!" Finally I got him just unslippery enough that he could stand upright if he didn't move much. I rubbed him down and got all the detergent off of him, THEN realized how stupid this was beyond the slipperiness because of Tristan's chronic exczema.

So, after nearly knocking one child unconscious and giving the other one chemical burns I got them both out of the tub, dried off and dressed. They looked relaxed, recovered and we all stood and admired their handiwork. The tub was perfectly clean and fresh.

As we walked out of the bathroom and turned out the light, Julius said, "That was fun. We should do that again."

I said, "Oh no, definitely not."

And Tristan said, "Yeah, das bad idea."

[photo by Tricky]

April 19, 2010

A Recipe from Tristan

Here is a recipe Tristan made up over the weekend and I thought I would share it with you in case you'd enjoy it.  He certainly does.


1 cucumber, peeled and cut into thin strips (like McDonald's fries), seeds removed

Put ginormous handful of cucumber slices on a plate.
Put liberal dollop of ketchup on same plate.
Dip "cucumber fries" into ketchup and enjoy.

(I shudder every time I see the image in my mind, but he sure likes them...)

April 15, 2010

Thanks for Outing Me, Netflix

My mom moved from a roomy three bedroom house and downsized to a 192 square foot cabin because... well, because she's my mom and She Has Ideas.

She's also very frugal and doesn't like to spend money on certain luxuries like a television, and yet she is totally addicted to movies.  I keep telling her she needs to get Netflix and then she can get all the movies she wants and it will be cheaper than cable. And besides, she hates the cable company.  But that's another whole story.

Finally, after nagging her a very long time, I tell her she should at least try the streaming videos from Netflix over the computer and I tell her she can try it out on my account for a while and see how she likes it. I wasn't particularly worried about her snooping around in my stuff because she's not really that computer savvy and, besides, the worst thing you can say about the movies I watch is that they are stupid and violent and not good for much else but taking your mind off work.

So, I was very surprised when I got a call from my mother one random day during which she asked me why I had so much "gay and lesbian stuff" on my Netflix account.

"What do you mean 'gay and lesbian stuff'?" I quickly began thumbing through my mental files to remember if I had rented any "gay and lesbian stuff" from Netflix, but couldn't think of anything except "Three to Tango" which is an awesome movie, but not really what I would call "gay and lesbian stuff".

"Well, you know... it says right here on the front page, 'Wendy, you'll really like these movies from Gay and Lesbian...'"

"It says that? No it doesn't say that. Are you kidding me?"  (I knew she wouldn't be kidding me. That's not something my mother would joke about.)

"I'm telling you it says right here that you would like all this gay and lesbian stuff."

"Mother, I have no idea what you're talking about.  Netflix recommends stuff all the time and they're just going through categories or something. It's not a big gay conspiracy."

"Well, you need to look at this. Are you sure there's not something you want to tell me?"

I sighed. "No mom, there's nothing I want to tell you."

What I really wanted to say (but didn't) was, "Even if there was something I wanted to tell you I wouldn't tell you because you'd be berzerk about it just like you are right now. And by the way, I want my Netflix password back."

"Really? Are you sure?"

I sighed again. "Yes, I'm sure, Mom."

She asked, "Would you tell me if there was?"


"Uh, no. Absolutely not."  Seriously, I can't lie to my mom.

"Oh, Wendy."

"Okay, I'm hanging up now."

You know, of course, the first thing I did was go log into my Netflix account and find out what the heck was going on and sure enough in big bold letters was something like WENDY YOU WILL LOVE THESE SELECTIONS FROM GAY AND LESBIAN.

After digging around a bit I found where you can select a place to tell them to make recommendations to you and sure enough, Gay and Lesbian was selected along with Horror films (which I don't like at all) and a couple others that were not things I normally watch.

However, I do like keeping an open mind, so I'm off to go rewatch "Three to Tango" (which I highly recommend) and whatever else Netflix thinks I should watch to broaden my horizons. But not those horror flix.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

April 13, 2010

Early-Onset Schizophrenia

I was down the hallway when I heard Tristan's "crazy voice".  It's a voice he uses when he likes to be silly or when he is imitating a monster or a superhero.  It's gravelly, fast and slightly lower than his normal voice.

He said, "Stop making me do that. Stop making me do that. Julius, stop making me do that."

One of Julius's hobbies is trying to get Tristan to do things that will either 1) annoy me or 2) get Tristan in trouble.  I slowed down and tiptoed down the rest of the hallway and eased my head around the corner to catch them in the act.

Tristan was sitting on the arm of the couch (a no-no in our house). Again he said, "Stop making me do that, Julius."

He noticed me in the doorway and grinned really big.  I looked around the room and Julius was no where in sight.  I yelled, "Julius, where are you??"

"Back here!" He was in the bedroom, nowhere near Tristan.

Three is a little early to start hearing "the voices".  I hope it's a phase and not early-onset schizophrenia.

April 6, 2010

Always Read the Fine Print on the Contract

Sunday was a bright, sunshiney day, warm and perfect. We have a large yard which stretches out in a green span of clover and tiny flowers before the hot summer starts and the clover gives way to the more pedestrian grasses that most people have for a lawn.

In a yard this size it's great fun to hide things for the kids to find over the Easter weekend. We hold their baskets for them so they can run free and we make the offer to carry the baskets not to lighten their load, but so we can secretly drop eggs out of it for them to refind.  This is the first year that our oldest son has figured out that he's finding the same eggs three or four times and finally pleaded with me, "Maaaaaahhhhm, stop dropping the eggs!"  Busted!

My husband keeps telling me we have very few years left of this sort of pagan madness, but I came up with several ways that we can keep the fun going. While we stuffed candy into eggs I regaled him with stories of sleepover scavenger hunts and geocaching and cryptic notes that lead to a smorgasbord of stuff boys like... electronics, cars, movie tickets. He scoffed at me and said, "No boys want to go out hunting for stuff in the woods with their friend's mom."

Is this true? Am I that uncool?

So I showed him. I ate about half a bag of Hershey's chocolate cherry kisses. Heck yeah, I showed him.

That afternoon my husband went out to massacre the clover with the riding lawn mower and possibly several plastic eggs that the kids never found. I launched into a food-making episode that looks like cooking but is really just some kind of random firing of neurons that makes me put certain foods together that sometimes work out (chicken cauliflower indian stir fry) and sometimes doesn't (cinnamon beef).

While I was cooking the boys ran between the bathroom and the front door doing something, but I wasn't really sure what. I suspected they were making easter egg water bombs but they were quiet and nobody was crying, so I figure it would probably be just fine.

Below is a list of facts I didn't realize at the time:
  1. When you mow clover it's very wet and clumpy.
  2. Wet clover sticks to boys.
  3. When wet clover dries it stops sticking to boys and becomes subject to gravity, thereby falling to a freshly swept floor.
  4. Three year old boys in particular don't understand about the physics of water and the waste of natural resources and how if you are done with the water you are supposed to shut it off.
  5. Seven year olds are really crummy babysitters.
At some point the dinner was nearly prepared and I told Julius to go sign to his loudly-mowing father that it was time to eat. I spent a moment or two showing him the sign for "eat" and "now" and after properly executing them, Dad shuts the mower off.

That's when I hear the water running and become irritated because the boys have left water running in the bathroom. I couldn't put down what I was doing as I was putting the magical finishing touches on the dinner. Rob walks in and I tell him the boys left water running in the bathroom and could he please take them in there and explain to them how many different ways that's Not a Good Thing.

About 30 seconds later I heard the most horrible, barbaric bellow that sounded like a grizzly bear getting a bikini wax. I dropped the spatula into the pan with the food and ran to the bathroom to see everyone standing there in horror as we all realized that the water had been running for a very long time and that the sink stopper was closed.

You can now add these facts to things I didn't notice prior to that Sunday afternoon:
  1. I can't hear water running while my husband is mowing.
  2. Our bathroom sink doesn't have one of those emergency overflow valves.
  3. Three year olds don't understand that water that can't go DOWN the sink goes OVER the sink.
About eight towels later we had 525 gallons of water soaked up from the floor and the carpet in the hallway. And at about 2 a.m. when I had to pee and nobody had gotten out a new roll of toilet paper when they used the last bit I noticed that about eight rolls of bathroom tissue were competely soaked and bloated as well.

In Genesis Chapter 9 the story goes that after God flooded the earth and transformed Noah from a bipolar pariah (to his neighbors) to a legendary hero (had anyone lived to notice back then) he spoke a promise to humankind that he would never make another flood. The symbol of that promise is the rainbow.

The promise, if you read the fine print, apparently only covers worldwide flood-borne catastrophes that destroy all flesh. It does not, however, cover New Orleans during a hurricane or my bathroom when occupied by an unattended three year old.

The good news is that dinner was awesome. Even though I cooked it.  Except Rob did end up throwing up in our still-damp bathroom twice but I think it was completely unrelated.

I hope.

March 22, 2010

Recent Conversations with My Family

Cast of Characters:

Tristan, an energetic and willful newly-turned-three-year-old
Julius, a smart, befreckled seven-year-old who is only a foot shorter than his mother
Rob, the loving husband who is a great cook and fix-it guy, but accident prone
Wendy, the harried, but well-meaning mother

* * *

On the way to daycare:

T: It stinky in here.
W: Really? What does it smell like?
T: Skunk. Somebody hit it.
W: Oh.
T: Why they do that?

Wendy explains in the most clinical and least-gross way possible about skunk roadkill.

T: Okay. Tell me story bout when my a baby skunk bited me.
W: You didn't get bit by a skunk when you were a baby.
W: Okay then.  Once upon a time when you were a baby...

* * *

At school pick-up, Dad learns Julius got in trouble again for talking in class. Mom is on the cell phone.

R: So, tell me the news for today.
J: (downcast) I pulled a card again...
R: For talking?
J: Yes...
R: Wasn't the teacher moving you?
J: She did move me.
R: And you STILL got in trouble for talking?
J: Yes.
W: Tell him I'm going to have to put a clothespin on his tongue and he can wear that to school. Maybe it will help him remember about the talking when all he can say is, "Buh buh duh bub dub buh."
R: Mom says we're going to put a clothespin on your tongue.
J: What's a clothespin?
R: Honey, he doesn't know what a clothespin is.
W: Seriously? Man, I feel old.
R: It's like a chip clip, sort of. Only smaller.
J: Oh, I've put a chip clip on my tongue before.

March 21, 2010

Quote du Jour (from Mom)

"He's so cheap he wouldn't pay a nickel to see the Devil ride a bicycle!"

March 18, 2010

I'm Happy I'm Not a Dog from 1936

Supposedly this is an ad from a 1936 Popular Mechanic, but I'm hoping it's just one of those jokes that is going around the Internet.

March 15, 2010

Now Taking Applications for the Adoption of My Mother

Last week I had to drive to a nearby town with my mom to do a quarterly in-service for CASA. The plan was to make the 40 mile drive to a St. Peter's Episcopal church, eat the food provided, learn about this quarter's topic (which happened to be drug addiction) and survive another 40 miles home through various speed traps and curvy roads.

We went in mom's smooth riding car and she asked if I wanted to drive. I was shocked since I'm a real granny behind the wheel (some of this you know from the last road trip we took). About halfway to our destination I realized I hadn't printed out the directions. I assumed mom would know where we were going since she's a savvy neighboring city visitor, so I was surprised when she said she had no idea.

Only half-joking I said, "Oh, I thought you knew everything."

The joke didn't go over well. She answered, "People always say that. Why does everyone always say that?"

I shrugged. "I think I know where the church is. If I can't find it I will just call Mary." (My brother's girlfriend who grew up in that town.)

About 20 minutes later we pulled up to St. Joseph's Catholic Church and I realize I'm definitely in the wrong place. I called Mary. "Hey, Mare, did you know St. Joseph and St. Peter are two different people?"

She laughed, "Well, of course. One is Catholic and one is Episcopal." I thought about that one for a minute and couldn't decide if she was kidding or not. I then asked for directions, not knowing she's one of those people who just aren't adept at giving directions. So, I ended up staying on the phone and she "flew me in" by way of "Which street are you crossing now? Okay, then turn right at the next one..."

We finally arrived and stood out on the street in front of St. Peter's. I'm sure we looked lost as we weren't sure which of the many doors to go through. Finally we saw a pregnant woman come out of the building, get something from her car and walk back. It was a CASA sign, so we followed her at a non-stalkerish distance.

Within moments, people began filing in and we got our food and settled at a table with other people we knew. At the height of the hubbub, talk turned to a particular local doctor and why none of us want to go see him. Everyone took turns telling their Dr. Smith stories.

Mine was about the time my oldest son was terribly sick for the very first time. I was a new mom and Julius seemed very ill and I couldn't tell if it was just a cold or something more horrible that would require antibiotics. (In retrospect, being a veteran now it seems silly to have taken him in at all, but it's a new mom thing.) Dr. Smith looked him over and told me he thought it was just a cold and let it go for a few more days and if it didn't get better I should bring him back.

I said, "Okay. So, you don't think he needs antibiotics then?"

Dr. Smith said, "No, but I will give him some if it will make YOU feel better."

Needless to say I was mortified and haven't been back since.

My mother is a natural born story teller. She's a magnet for the strange and bizarre, although in her case these are frequently unfortunate and disturbing. She begins her tales of Dr. Smith by describing the time she threatened to punch him while he was in rounds at the hospital and he threatened to counter with some tae kwan do.

Her second story describes a visit in which, horribly ill, she sat on the table in the exam room and the first thing Dr. Smith does upon entering the room is say, "You REALLY must do something with your hair..."

It would have been great for her to stop at that point because they were two really awesome and really funny stories. But no, she had to go further by telling one more story which happened to be about me. While I love my mom's stories, I prefer them to be just about her and her own life. I say this realizing how hypocritical this is of me considering I'm writing this about someone else and that most of this blog is about me writing about other people and the things they do that I witness. I'm not sure how to resolve the hypocricy other than to say, "Oh well..." and then just move on to the part where my mom humiliates me in public.

For this story she must delve back to the year 1984 to one of my first serious miscalculations in the romance department. I put my fork down and stop eating because I'm pretty sure I know where this is going.

"You see, she met this boy and they decided to get married. Well, I took her down to Dr. Smith's office because we were thinking the best thing would be for her to go on the pill. And I wanted to explain to Dr. Smith that she was, well..."

She paused, trying to think of the best word. Her hands flapped around like startled bats as her brain kicked into overdrive. I sat there frozen, staring at a cherry tomato I had pushed to one side of my plate.

"She was, well... CHASTE. You know." Then she nodded vigorously to get some affirmation that they did all know.

I muttered, "Thanks, Mom." The formerly stone-silent denizens of our table erupted into laughter.

My mother then went on to finish the story about how she described to Dr. Smith my status as a "chaste person", and he said, "OOOH LA LA!" The table erupted into laughter again at which point everyone around us turned to see what they were surely missing.

She fumed as if the insult had happened just that afternoon. "I tell you what, I was so mad at him. I grabbed my daughter by the arm and dragged her out of there so fast. That old pervert."

The woman to my right leaned over and patted me on the back and said, "I think your mom is so funny."

I said, "Well, that makes one of us."

March 9, 2010

Stupid is Relative

My husband is an awesome cook and the other night he made a very fine something-or-other that we sat down to as a family, the four of us, just like a real functional TV family who doesn't normally keep clean laundry stacked on the table until it's time to put it away.

It was nice.

What I like to do when we sit down to eat is ask the kids about their day and engage them in open communication in an effort to prevent them from doing drugs and having unprotected sex. Sure, they are only 7 and 3, but I like to think ahead and the teenage years are right around the corner. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

But, unfortunately, asking kids that age isn't terribly productive and our conversations frequently go like this:

Me: So, Jules, how was school today?
J: Fine.
Me: What did you learn?
J: Nothing.
Me: Did you do anything exciting?
J: No.
Me: Did you have fun playing with your friends?
J: Yes.
Me: Anything you want to tell me? Talk about? Reveal about yourself so that I understand exactly what's going on in your mind at all times and so that we bond in a mother-son way, deeply, so that we have a continued good and healthy relationship so that when you eventually leave me to go out and have an life independent from me (despite all the dire warnings I give you beforehand) you'll call me on the phone every now and then and ask my advice on things and tell me how your day is going even when you are 20 and even though doing that is really uncool?
J: What?
Me: Nevermind. Tristan how was your day?
T: Good.
Me: What did you do today?
T: Eye no no... (shrug)

And so instead of doing that I talk to my husband. When Rob and I talk we chat about this and that and don't really take into consideration that the kids are listening because mostly what we talk about is boring work stuff and we assume they don't care anything about it and, therefore, ignore it.

On this particular day Rob was entertaining me with a story of something he did at the office that he classified as "stupid".  And in the telling of the story I didn't really think what he'd done was that stupid.  Maybe ineffecient, maybe the long (long, long, LONG) way around solving that particular problem, but I'd certainly not be as harsh as he was and call it stupid.

He ended the story by saying, "Anyway, that's why it seemed like a really stupid thing to do..."

I said, "It's not really that bad."

And then Tristan pipes up and says, "Yeah, that's what makes you STUPID, Dad." And then he laughs raucously (because second to the word "penis", the word "stupid" is one of Tristan's all time favorite words).

So much for our dull work conversations being too boring for those boys.

February 21, 2010

Two Weeks of Me

I'm adding something new to my life. You can read about it over at the latest post on Spread Change.

I've got a couple of funny posts in the works if I can ever get them done!

February 12, 2010

Man Babies

Just thought I would share a profoundly disturbing web site I ran across.

Take a heartwarming picture of a man and a baby, swap the heads around and VOILA... you have MAN BABIES. Go check it out so I'm not alone in my post-bizarro stress disorder.

February 8, 2010

The P-Bomb

Recently on the phone my mother admonished me about my children's prolific use of the word "penis."

"You know you will be sorry one day about that word. One day they will use it in a way that will completely embarrasses you to death. Then you'll wish you'd never gotten that started."

I sat for a moment, bewildered. "Got what started? What was I supposed to do... pretend there isn't a word called 'penis'? Are we supposed to call it a 'wee wee' or 'weenie' or 'pee pee' or 'wing wang' or... or... well, you get what I mean."

"Well, I don't know, but you just mark my words. You'll see."

* * *

The other day I was on the phone with a client discussing her impending closing which wasn't going very well. It's been a very long, protracted transaction full of twists and turns, bumps and bruises. My children were babbling in the background as usual. One of my ears was tuned into her, the other was listening to the Charlie Brown "wah wah" of my children droning.

As my client took a deep breath to launch into another paragraph of things that were not going well I heard, "Wah wah wah wah wah wah PENIS wah wah wah PENIS..."

And then I heard my client says, "Oh."

To which I responded, "Um, yeah. Sorry."

* * *

The boys and I were on our way home at the end of the day. One of the things I really enjoy about my oldest son is that he frequently has interesting observations about the world around him.  I love getting his perspective about the things he is learning and am often amazed at his notice of many things I take for granted. Child development is fascinating.

This particular day he was discussing the movie Avatar. We've not seen it yet as he is still 6 and isn't allowed to see PG-13 movies at the movie theater. (Sometimes he is allowed to watch PG-13 movies on video if his dad or I have pre-screened it.)

Julius said, "Mom, did you know what the guy who made that movie saw the whole thing in a dream he had -- the whole movie in one dream?"

"You mean he dreamed it and then made the movie?"

Julius nodded. "Yeah, that's what I mean."

"Huh. I didn't know that.  Where did you hear about that?"

"I saw it on Oprah."

I glanced in the rear view mirror. "When were you watching Oprah?"

"Sometimes I watch it with Dad in the afternoon when he watches it."

I cracked completely up at the image of my husband and son sitting around the house in the afternoon with their feet up watching Oprah. I made a mental note to myself to mock my husband about it at the first opportunity.

Suddenly, Tristan, who had been silent the entire time, pipes up.  Looking over at Julius he says, "Stop talking to me."

I laughed even harder and Julius started laughing, too.  He said, "Tristan, I'm not even talking to you. Nobody is talking to you."

Tristan said, "Stop talking, penis head."

Man, I hate it when my mom is right.

February 3, 2010

(No) Help for Haiti

Snow. We got it. And in our awesome snow-boundedness, my stir-crazy six year old son decided to make a video with his personal plea for Haiti. Except he's not a videographer. Also, he's not particularly focused. What he does have is enthusiasm and a good heart, so that's a great start, right?

Without further ado, here is his debut as a spokesman for Haitian charities.

January 26, 2010

The Smell of Change

I love living in the country. I've lived out of the city most of my life except for a small stint in a big college town in my 20's and a longer stint in a big coastal California town where I could hang out anonymously and not know any of my neighbors until I learn later on the news that they all committed suicide because of a comet.

When you live in the country it's a lot easier to become in tune with the natural world around you. The smells are different, there is little light pollution, noise pollution, and general... pollution pollution.

The other night I stepped out onto the porch and on my first deep breath I thought, "Hmm, smells like snow is coming."

Seriously? On a conscious level I have no idea what it smells like when snow is coming, but apparently my highly evolved limbic system does because that's what it was telling me.

This coincides with an interesting conversation I had with my brother the other day.  I drove to where he works to give him a late birthday present I made for him. I dreaded handing it over to him because I was certain that he would hate it.  First of all, it's homemade and what guy likes homemade crap?  Second, you just have to know my brother -- he's half Farmer's Almanac, half UnaBomber. And what I made him was knitted cowl out of camo yarn to keep his neck warm while he is hunting or working in the woods. It's a gift that was doomed to fail on so many levels.

Turns out after an agonizing three minutes that felt more like ten minutes of him looking in the mirror and turning side to side and peering out at me with one eye he proclaimed, "You know... I like it."  At that point I had to sit down for a minute.

He then walked me outside and took a smoke break and complained that people were putting their cigarettes out in his pansy planters. My brother the UnaBomber Almanac loves to plant pansies in the winter. He describes them as "hardy as hell."  We went on to discuss the unseasonably warm weather we were having and how nice it was compared to the icy abuse that Mother Nature had heaved on us a couple of weeks ago.

"It will be like this a few more days. It's always like this until your birthday. Every year right after your birthday we get it again. It will be bad."

I stood there staring at his butt-filled pansy planters and didn't say much, wondering how in the world he remembers stuff like this that there is always a cold snap after my birthday. Who pays attention to that stuff year after year? We stood in silence for a while longer with just the sound of him blowing second-hand carcinogens out into the fresh air.

Soon I went off with not much thought about it again until I stepped out onto my porch the day after my birthday and realized that a cold snap was coming. And sure enough it's here with more to follow this weekend.

Who knows if we will get snow. We'll see. I'm no weather girl, but I do smell a change comin'!

January 25, 2010

Two Years Ago This Month

Just for the heck of it I wanted to see what I was doing two years ago this month.  So much has happened for all of us in the last two years with storms, a horrible economy, fabulous milestones, cataclysmic Earth events and sad, unexpected losses.

I thought I was due for a short trip down memory lane.  Here's what I was doing in January, two years ago:







What were YOU doing two years ago?

January 15, 2010

Attack of the Gingerbread Zombies

Last Sunday my husband was going through Julius's backpack in order to get him ready for back-to-school after a two week holiday vacation plus one week of being snowed in and school being canceled.

After some digging around in the backpack he pulls out what, at first glance, appeared to be a very adorable Gingerbread Man that the teacher had made for the kids to decorate. At second glance my husband realized that our son had turned the potentially cute gingerbread guy into a crazed gingerbread zombie with a black screaming maw and blood streaming from the corners of his mouth and down his chest.

Rob gasped, "Oh, JOOOLIUUSSSS...." This was followed by a long conversation about how a guy in first grade needs to stick with the expected holiday agenda and on Christmas draw joyful, carefree pictures of gift-giving abundance, well-endowed gingerbread houses and fresh, plump holly berries and mistletoe.

My son's response was to grin maniacally as if what he'd done was the funniest thing in the universe. (As if we hadn't already had conversations about inappropriate artwork such as swastikas and landscapes that make it appear as if his mother must beat him and lock him in the closet sometimes.)

I think we might be safe so far.  We've not gotten any calls from the school just yet, although, maybe they are afraid to call me considering already I've yelled at them once about my kid getting beat up on the bus and also about Jesus.

Secretly, though, the real problem is I think the picture is cool.  I mean, really... bloody crazed Gingerbread Man?  That's some good Hollywood horror material.  I'm thinking about scanning this guy and using it as our family Christmas card next year.  Rob says no, and adds he understands now why our son is like he is.

I'm not sure, but I think he means me.

January 13, 2010

The Curse of the Crazed Toilet Ghost

I've done something very bad.  I have no idea what it is or who I did it to, but I'm really sorry and truly would like to apologize and take everything back. Just please, please, please Gods Who Regulate Karma, please leave my plumbing alone.

I was in the kitchen at my office tidying up after lunch and I saw something black zip past the kitchen door. It looked like a person, so I opened the door and ran out into the side driveway to see who was going into the backyard of our building.

It was a young man in pajama bottoms, no shoes and a sleeveless black T-shirt. He walked in a sloping gait, limping with one arm drawn up to himself kind of like a chicken wing.  At the time I only registered the troublesome walk and the pajama bottoms and wasn't thinking too swiftly because I was wondering why someone in his pajamas was walking through our yard. I ran to the other room to look out the window and that's when the rest sunk in... that he was barefoot in 20 degree weather.

I ran back out to try to catch him. I thought maybe he was perhaps a special needs person who had gotten away from his caregiver. I ran into the backyard and he was gone. Our backyard is part chain link and part barbed wire. He wasn't in our yard, wasn't in any of the neighbor's yards (there is a subdivision behind our office). It was like he vanished into thin air.

Walking back I noticed the immediate area behind our building is flooded. I could hear water running and followed it back to the source -- the source being a gigantic fountain of water erupting from the side of our building, creating a swamp in our backyard and over onto the property next door. Had I not been chasing this oddity, we would have not discovered the leak until our next meter reading.

We hastily shut the water off and I called the water company with the meter reading to see how bad it was. Thirty-eight thousand gallons of water! Just to put that into perspective -- an average family of four (in our area) uses about 5,000 gallons in one month. So, that's almost 8 months worth of water for a family of four. That's also about 23,750 toilet flushes.  Or about 7-8 fills of a 15 foot round swimming pool. And, finally, the amount of money I will have to pay for thirty-eight thousand gallons of water would pay for nine Africans to have drinking water for 20 years.

I'd like to send thirty-eight thousand gallons of water to Haiti right about now, but instead it's swamping up in my backyard like a big useless waste of Earth's resources. (Our planet is 70% water. And 97.5% of that is saltwater which means only 2.5% of all the water on Earth is available for the 6 billion people that inhabit the planet. Makes me thirsty just writing about it.)

Apparently, I did not learn my lessons of appropriate gratitude the last time I had no toilet, so instead of doing it at my home we're now learning the same lesson at my office where the water is currently shut off and we can't reach the plumber (again). And I'm blogging about it (again) because apparently I'm (still) a slow learner who won't stop whining about her plumbing (still and again).

If anyone knows some kind of exorcism mantra / banishment / remedy for toilet ghosts, please let me know. In the meantime, I'm getting us back on our regularly scheduled program which consists of me mocking my family and people I work with.


I just got off the phone with someone in town who called to ask me if I really did see a barefoot angel walking through my yard.

Hmm, maybe so.