Monday, November 30, 2009

Mistakes Not To Make

Well, one would think I would have learned from the trauma last year, would have known not to switch the kids' bedrooms around ever again.  But no!  The little girls requested that I take down their bunkbeds; and I was only too happy to agree, seeing as how I am too old and fat make up the top bunk properly and Rachel is too young to do it herself.

But that, you see, meant that the girls had to be moved to the bigger room.  They would have to switch rooms with Anna...Simple?  I think not.

Our upstairs right now looks as though the closets vomited all over the place.  Vomited shoes, clothes, forgotten art projects, shoes, school papers, tiny decorative boxes, hangers....have I mentioned shoes?  Half the stuff is in the right rooms.  Half isn't.  It is too late to go back and too daunting to move forward.  We are stuck.  Tell me, how many bobby pins does a teen girl need, anyway?  For that matter, how many hoodies?  And does a little girl really need a doll she never plays with?  You know, the one her Auntie gave to Big Sister years ago, complete with a handsewn wardrobe?

Can I confess something?  I shoved some stuffed animals in the trash earlier today (while the little girls were watching cartoons). The guilt is killing me.

I didn't even know their names.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kenny Rogers Would Understand

Have I mentioned that, when it comes to games, I'm a tad competitive? I've made Rachel cry at UNO; Larry's pathetic lack of interest in things like cards and backgammon and Yahtzee is a source of conflict in our marriage; and I've got an ineradicable need to win at Monopoly, due to my brother's never, ever losing a game to me while growing up. Given my proclivity for this sort of thing, it's no surprise that our family's peaceful Thanksgiving Day was made more complete (in my opinion) with a game of Texas Hold 'Em for me and the children. Because what's a holiday without a little gambling?

Brian, unfortunately, drove us all crazy by betting randomly, refusing to absorb any of the strategy of the game. He would put in 20 dollars, we'd all fold, and he'd win with literally nothing in his hand. I would call him a good bluffer, but he doesn't know enough about the game to do that. At the close of betting, he puts his hand down and asks, "Do I have anything?" I cannot believe this kid is my son.

4-year-old Susie, much to my disappointment, is a tad conservative. She folded with a pair of queens when she could have won the hand. Caught up in the excitement of the moment (see above re competitive), I yelled, "I can't believe you did that! Never fold with a pair of queens!" Which made Susie, in all her fat cuteness and her little girl tights and pretty party dress, cry. She cried. And cried. And cried. Big, fat, sloppy tears rolling down her cheeks and splashing on my hands while I begged her to stop before Larry heard her.

But she wouldn't stop, because she was so ashamed (I'm guessing) of her poor poker decision-making. Larry, however, (who did come running and witnessed her humiliation) seems to think that it had something to do with her mother traumatizing her.

Look, I don't care if she's only four. It's never too soon to know when to hold, know when to fold 'em...

What is it about that song, anyway? Gets me every time...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Day

I'm sorry, folks, but the activities of cooking and eating and making small children cry seem to have taken up all my waking hours the last few days.  Tomorrow, I promise, I'll be back to explain how I traumatized my 4-year-old so that she'll never play Texas Hold 'Em again.  In the meanwhile, enjoy:

I know we've all seen this already, but - for me - it never gets old.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Who's slacking? Could it be me? I'd like to say I didn't post this weekend because I was too busy cleaning the house; but, looking around me here, I'd have to say that couldn't be true. The past 2 days went by so fast, I don't even know what happened to them.

I know I didn't spend them buying a phone battery at Target, because our house phone is still running out of charge after each 4.8 seconds of use. If you call me, talk fast. And if you called and left a message? Forget it.

And wouldn't you know, it's Thanksgiving on Thursday! Maybe I should find a turkey somewhere. Although, really, the kids should be perfectly happy with just corn, right? Corn and pie. Harris Teeter has pies on sale.

There! That's taken care of. I'm nothing if not efficient.

Efficient and unrealistic...I decided our family needed to do something different today, something fun that would provide our children with fond memories of parents who were willing to abandon the drag of the daily routine and hop in the minivan in search of adventure. Have potty seat, will travel - that's us!

So we trekked almost an hour away to see a friend's son perform in The Music Man. Music! Dancing! Skittles at Intermission! The young'uns were enthralled. Then, as if that weren't adventure enough, we went back to the friend's house for dinner. Just like normal people who aren't totally overwhelmed by the day-to-day requirements of living with children! Of course, now we're exhausted; apparently Larry and I are too old to have fun anymore.

By the way, our friends had a Wii. This was exciting, because my kids had never seen one.

I know! We live in a cave.

Anyway, I had no idea you just plug the Wii into a TV to make it work. I thought it would be way more complicated than that. As in, input cables and ethernet cables and special electronic boxes and all that...

So the children were enthralled, and I was grateful that we adults were allowed to talk in peace. But, folks? You know, you folks who say that the Wii is good exercise for the kids? Get out of town. Every time I looked towards the den, I'd see my kids standing in front of the TV (hey, at least they were standing - is that what y'all are raving about?) and sort of waving their forearms around in the air. It looked very abnormal and not at all strenuous.

I'm thinking that we've lowered the bar on our definition of exercise these days.

[Wii image credit: Technology Universe]

Friday, November 20, 2009

7 Quick Takes: Better Late Than Never

35 minutes more, and Friday's over - I have to do this fast, because I don't know how to change that sign up there to 7 Quick Takes Saturday.

  1. Mrs. G has a post up at the Women's Colony in which she reminisces fondly about 8th-grade roller-skating nights.  I, too, remember going to the roller rink in 8th grade.  I managed to fall on my butt so hard that I must have bruised my tailbone.  All I know is that I could hardly walk and my mother had to write a note to get me excused from gym that Monday.  Whatever she wrote made the gym teacher laugh at me.  Thanks, Mom!
  2. I pulled out all the stops for dinner on Thursday:  I roasted 2 chickens, meticulously carved them up, made gravy from the drippings, and mashed my own potatoes.  At the last minute, I realized I had forgotten a vegetable and threw some frozen corn into the microwave.  Guess which item the children raved about?  That'll teach me to make an effort, won't it?
  3. Larry thought the above incident was very funny.  He kept saying throughout dinner, "Gee, honey, they really like that corn you made" and "Boy, this corn is delicious!"  I'm thinking that if he didn't have me around, he'd have to amuse himself by going downtown and kicking homeless people lying on the sidewalk.
  4. Larry would never kick a homeless person.  I am in no way advocating the abuse of homeless people.  #4 is an example of hyperbole, a writerly trick used to make a point.  The point being that Larry gets his giggles by rubbing salt in my wounds.  Is that nice?  I don't think so.
  5. My best friend met me at Starbuck's tonight with a bag of Halloween candy she had stolen from her children.  We sat around and ate their candy and complained about them.  Also, I helped her cast on for a poncho she's knitting for her 7-year-old.  Whose candy we ate.  Go figure.
  6. I finally convinced Susie to wear a pair of overalls that were in her drawer.  Half of her wardrobe this winter consists of cute overalls with matching shirts handed down from Rachel.  Susie's been refusing to put any of them on.  Why?  I know not why.  Perhaps she was holding out for something more sophisticated.  She's got quite the fashion sense, for a 4-year-old. 
  7. 10 minutes to go - I made it!
Go on over to Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes - I promise she won't be making jokes about homeless people.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Grand Experiment

For the past decade I've tried subscribing to the "get everything done in November so you can relax and enjoy the holidays" school of thought. You know - address Christmas cards, buy and wrap the presents, plan menus, bake cookies, etc. And you know what? It never worked out that way. Instead, it felt as though Christmas lasted 2 full months. The season of Noel and Ho, Ho, Ho became an albatross around my neck. By the time 25 December rolls around, I'm sick of the whole thing and can out-humbug the most Scrooge-ish Ebenezer.

So I'm being a maverick this year, folks - going rogue, as it were. I'm not doing anything for Christmas until December 15th. Yup. Nothing. My favorite Christmases were the ones I had in college, when my friends and I might wander out to find a tree when finals were at last over and done with, and then we would hitch a ride to the mall and walk around and buy goofy presents. Afterward we'd all go to someone's apartment and make hot cocoa and watch stupid TV. Those were the days - no agonizing on finding the right gift, no fussing on when or how to trim the tree, no worrying about fancy food or matching plates. Just a pleasant little respite at the darkest part of the year, a time to hang with people you love and eat fattening food and waste money on frivolous purchases...

Low expectations, people - that's what it's all about. My own little experiment in recovering my Christmas spirit is now underway. If anyone cares to join me, feel free to sign up in the comments. Maybe some tech-savvy soul can even come up with a button for the "Save Christmas for Christmas" movement. Or, at least a better slogan...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review (Sort Of)

I know it's hard to believe, but I'm not in the mood to post. Life is just smacking me around a bit too much the past couple of days...

Plus, I've been spending my spare time reading an actual book. If you haven't read The Glass Castle yet, check it out. The description sounds depressing, but it's not. I mean, it should be; but for some reason it isn't. The author is definitely not a whiner. Unlike, say, yours truly...

I'm thinking of doing a giveaway once I'm done with it, but I guess I'll have to buy it first. Right now it's still over at Barnes and Noble where I've been sneaking peeks at it rather than doing my editing work. I'm just proud of myself for reading something that has paragraphs that are longer than 2 or 3 sentences each. I think my brain's been shrinking.

Oh, and things got so bad in the refrigerator that Larry cleaned it out while I was gone on Saturday. I think it was the liquefied tomatoes in the bottom of the produce drawers that got him. When I came home, both produce drawers were sitting on the counter and filled with soapy water. And the fridge was half-empty. I don't know what he threw out and I don't care. Free, I tell you - I feel free!

I did clean out one of my kitchen cabinets the other week. I do regret not taking a picture of a (very old) bag of pita bread I found - most of it had turned into this weird brown powdery substance and the remaining solid parts were green. Come to think of it, I probably threw out the cure for cancer.

Oh, well, there's more where that came from...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Let's Play Santa

I thought I would take a break from meaningless drivel that does the world not one whit of good and inform y'all of a coat drive that Sue is running for refugees in Salt Lake City.

I know! I had no idea there were any refugees in SLC, myself. But Sue says there are. They come from war-torn areas of Africa and Asia.

(You wouldn't lie, would you, Sue?)

Now, Sue and I go back a long way (I mean, in blogging years); and, although we may have had our disagreements now and then, say, like when I had to defend her mother's honor against Sue's slanderous post about her childhood eating habits, I remain convinced that Sue has a heart of gold and deserves our support in rounding up 100 winter coats for refugee children.

(Hmmm....that still sounds fishy....maybe they're just for Sue and her family? We all know how many kids those Mormons have running around.)

(More than 6)

(6 is normal, dammit)

Where was I? Oh! Oh, yes - coats. Sue came up with the idea of asking people to buy coats online and to have them shipped here:

Gayane Manukyan
Att: 100 Coats for Kids Project
Refugee Center at AAU
1588 South Major Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115

Which may or may not be a legitimate address, but hey - according to my husband, Sue is an imaginary person, anyway.

This is all getting very confusing.

Anyway, if you are moved to purchase a coat for a kid who is being forced to share a coat with 3 siblings and to ship it to an address that was given to me by a person who may or may not actually exist, that would be a good Christmas-y thing to do. Any size coat will do, baby through teen...

Speaking of refugees sharing things, I have a story for you. Larry knew someone who used to work for a Jewish Social Services agency; this agency assisted recent Russian emigres to the US. One of her jobs was finding apartments for the new arrivals and getting them settled in. So! She drove one such family (with 5 or 6 people in it) to their new 3-bedroom apartment and told them she'd be back in a few days to see how things were going.

When she came back, she found them with their belongings unpacked and set up all over the living room. The bedrooms were empty. "What's wrong with the bedrooms?" she asked them.

"Bedrooms?" they said. "We thought those rooms were for other families."

So, yes - we are fortunate. More than one room to a family, more than one coat to a group of siblings. Let's spread it around a little, eh?

[Sue did a much better job of this appeal thing, I'll have you know. She managed to tie it in to that scene in The Little Princess where the Indian gentleman sneaks all sorts of lovely things into Sara Crewe's bare garret room and Sara thinks it's Magic that does it. And then Sue wrapped up her post by saying we're lucky - we can all be a part of that Magic (by donating the coats). That Sue has the writing mojo, all right. Compared to her, I'm just a hack.]

(Santa image courtesy of Free clipart, animations and web graphics)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glass Houses

As previously reported, we traveled more than 3 hours with the kids on Monday to take advantage of the free admission to a living history museum. While there, we received a frantic phone call from Anna - she was locked out of the house and she had a horrible headache. We told her that the headache medicine was in the kitchen, suggested a neighbor's house to check for an extra key, and reminded her that we were too far away to come home and rescue her. She sounded upset with that.

After hanging up, I was mentally rehearsing my already well-polished "See? This is why it's important to remember your key LIKE WE TOLD YOU" discourse and thinking of following it up with a supplementary "You're old enough to keep track of important things like keys, you know" speech - when I noticed Larry staring at my shoulder. My, uh, empty shoulder....

"Where's your purse?" he asked.

"Purse? Where is my purse? Did I have it when we left the car?"

Larry, with nary a word of complaint about my apparent senility, jogged back through all the exhibits we had visited, looking for the missing item. Oh, we greeted him like a conquering hero when he returned with my purse in his hands!

Anna would have greeted Larry likewise that evening had she known that his lack of reproach over the purse incident saved her from a big fat hypocritical lecture - a lecture that could not now reasonably be delivered by her grateful yet chastened mother.

Score one for poetic justice.

["Lost and Found" Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

There's a lot of talk on a day like today about how selfless military people are.  People left and right in the blogosphere are thanking veterans like me for our service.  So I just want to set one thing straight.

I joined the Navy because I needed a job.  I had student loans to pay; I was ashamed of not being on my own (unlike many "kids" in their 20's nowadays); and no one wanted to pay a fresh-faced History major anything close to a living wage.

In other words, I joined the military for totally selfish reasons, as do many in the armed forces.  I joined for money, I joined to gain my independence, I joined in the hope I would get a chance to travel.

What I got was a lot more.  For the first time in my life, I worked and lived alongside people of another skin color.  For the first time in my life, I saw African Americans in positions of power.  And I came into close contact with those heretofore exotic people known as "Southerners" and "Texans." (And I learned very quickly the difference between the two.)  I met people who were from comfortable backgrounds and people who had signed up because they were tired of crashing at friends' houses and getting food from dumpsters.  I met people with college degrees like mine and people who had never even considered college as an option.  I also encountered people like my husband-to-be who were taking advantage of the tuition subsidies the military gave them to earn their degrees.

I learned in the military that America is a lot bigger than any one of the segregated social bubbles in which we live and are brought up.  I learned that an organization as hidebound and conservative as the military could still be in the forefront on issues such as equal opportunities for minorities and for women.  Most importantly, I learned that people of different races, religions, and beliefs are able to work together toward a common goal.

I think that last is a lesson that a lot of people in our country today have forgotten.  Maybe they've never even learned it.  It's easy in this country to stick with your own kind, easy to become convinced that your reality is the only reality.  You can watch "your" channels, read "your" news, listen to "your" radio stations.  But the truth of the matter is, this is a really big country with all sorts of people in it.  And none of them are better or more "American" than any of the others.

Go ahead and thank me for "serving."  But realize that I benefited from my service to my country more than anyone else did.  I hated a lot of what I had to do, and the military does have its own particular brand of crazy; but I came away knowing a lot more about my fellow citizens than I could have learned by staying in the familiar bubble of my particular upbringing.

Would you believe that lately I have actually had people say to me, "How could you let your son go into the Army?"

How?  Tell me, how could I not?

[Recruiting poster image: Wikimedia Commons]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Technology Goes Rogue

Last night we came home from our road trip (more on that tomorrow) to find a friend's email informing us that our computer - apparently feeling angry and betrayed by my absence all day - was sending out spam messages to everyone in my address book. Larry spent the next 3 hours (and let me tell you, after driving over 7 hours in one day, this was not what he had in mind for his evening activities) doing whatever magically tech-y things he does to erase viruses and build firewalls and generally batten down the hatches on both our computers.

[Ladies! If your husbands are ever similarly engaged, let me advise you - it is not the best time to helpfully mention that the clothes dryer is drying too slowly and maybe it's time to clean out the dryer vent pipe again. His response, as I can sadly attest, will not be a positive one.]

This morning I sat down to send an email to all my contacts explaining that actually, no, I was not trying to introduce them to an "international trade company" that sells "many kinds of famous electornic (sic) products." And I certainly don't think it is "really a good opportunity for us to do shopping." But, as it turns out, I never had a chance.

My contact list was gone.

Let that sink in for a few minutes. E-mails, street addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries - all vanished. Evaporated into thin ethernet, as it were...

Sometimes things really are as bad as they look. But, as always, we've got a bright side - that Christmas cards mailing thing? This year, it seems, I'm off the hook.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Only The Strong Survive

I know there are families who like nothing better than to pile everyone in the car and go off on a road trip for a day or two. I mean, I've read about this strange phenomenon. And we do have friends who managed to cross the entire country with 4 kids (ages 2 - 8) in a station wagon in a mere - are you ready? - 4 days. (No DVD players involved - they hadn't been invented yet.)

Our family, sadly, is not of that ilk. The kids' bickering during a 90-minute road trip last July almost put me in the loony bin. I've blocked out how we made it to our vacation spot 12 hours away last August without abandoning someone en route. And the logistics of preparing for a family car trip are enough to make me cry.

Which makes it all the more puzzling why I brought to Larry's attention the "Free Admissions For Veterans" week at a living history museum we've been too cheap to visit all these years. Why don't we just pop down there for the day? I asked brightly. It's only 3 and a half hours away!

I don't know what's wrong with me, really.

Of course it might have been that Theo's college is on the way, so I'm planning to finagle a stopover there for dinner. It is his birthday, you know...

Anyhoo, all that to explain why I can't post tonight - instead, I need to pack sandwiches, find water bottles, locate travel games, and (most important) plan my knitting for the trip. Larry is already abed, having just returned from a weekend encampment with David. That man is not as young as he used to be, I'm afraid. Camping in subfreezing temperatures and peeing in the woods seems to be taking its toll.

Let's just hope tomorrow doesn't finish him off.


Check out this ode to station wagon living - babies stretched out for a nap, children playing in the back while Dad motors down the road. Ah, the simple life before seatbelts and car seats!

Friday, November 06, 2009

7 Quick Takes: Warm and Dry

  1. Larry went camping with David's Civil Air Patrol this weekend, in sub-freezing temperatures. Meanwhile, I'm home eating the rest of the Halloween candy. Sometimes Dads do get the short end of the stick.
  2. Yes, it is surprising there is any candy left to eat. Don't rush me. These Twizzlers are chewy, you know.
  3. Hot Tamales, too - yum!
  4. Readers of this blog possess an impressive amount of scientific knowledge, if one can judge from their explanations yesterday of why the moon sometimes looks orange. I feel smarter just from reading all of their comments. And I like the way "Harry" (whoever he is) managed to combine a science lesson on the wavelengths of light with a little bit of child-rearing advice.
  5. Gah, 3 more? This calls for candy. Smarties, anyone? We have a surplus.
  6. Theo's 18th birthday is coming up. I should write a heartfelt letter to him on this momentous occasion, expressing my love for him and my pride in his growing up to be an independent young man. It would be a missive he would keep for the rest of his life and perhaps pull out at my funeral to share with his fellow mourners. "You were so lucky," they'd tell him, "to have had such a wonderfully eloquent mother." But, honestly? All I've been able to come up with is this: "What have you done with my little boy and can I just give him one more hug?"
  7. I also have this strange urge to ask Theo if he likes the name we picked out for him all those years ago. I mean, now that he's a grown-up and all...
  8. (8, because I can't count.) When Larry's not here, I leave all the lights on in the house when I go upstairs to bed. Which is only an effective safety measure, I'm guessing, if your armed intruders tend to be of the vampire variety...
Check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes. There are some that are sugar-free!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Too tired to write tonight - no jokes, not even a good link. The 3 fun-sized Snickers I consumed this evening may have something to do with my current malaise. I'm going to bed (before midnight!). But if someone could explain to me why lately the moon looks orange while it's rising but not orange when it is way up in the sky, I sure would appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Exercise - Who Needs It? Not Barbie...

Every once in a while, scientific research comes along which reaffirms my faith in the ultimate justice of our universe.  This article, for instance, talks about a study which found that exercise does not help people lose weight.  Take that, all you self-satisfied early-morning joggers...

[Please note that I was way out in front on this important issue, as shown by this post from 2005, wherein I asserted that exercise can actually make one fat.]


David spent today teaching Susie how to joust with the craft-stick-and-duct-tape swords that he created.  I must say, Susie is a very giggly jouster, even when (especially when) theoretically cleaving her unfortunate opponent in two.

Whatever happened to playing with dolls, anyway?  Do little girls do that anymore?  My best friend and I used to spend hours playing with our Barbies.  At my house, my Barbies led a cloistered existence, focused on fashion and undisturbed by any love interests or significant others. It was only when they got around my friend's Barbies, with their swingin' Country Camper and their slightly randy Ken, that things got a little wild.  There was skinny-dipping, too, if I'm remembering properly.

I'm getting off-topic here.  Which was....what was it?  Oh, yes - don't exercise.  And watch who your daughter is playing Barbies with.  And, um....Barbies are skinny because they never, ever exercise....

Maybe it's time to sign off for the evening...


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Prose And Poetry - A Twofer!

Larry took my giganto bag of candy away today, forcing me to break into my secret stash. Be prepared is my motto; he's done this to me before.

This year I tried to be one of those people who save the pumpkin scoopings and pick out all the seeds and roast them. I managed to do the "save the pumpkin scoopings" part all right. But there wasn't room in my refrigerator for them (not surprising). And then I forgot about them all day Sunday, even though they were sitting in a huge bowl on my counter.

Monday morning? Wow. You know, I had no idea that vegetable matter could smell like dead fish. Learn something new every day, eh?

And where's that NatureMill electric composter when I need it?

I leave you with a bit of doggerel (apologies to Joyce Kilmer):

I think that I shall never see
A day lovely as Halloween.

A Snickers bar with peanuts packed,
Fills up my mouth and gives good snack;

A Reese's cup with peanut butter,
Why, yes, I think I'll have another;

What's this? A bag of M&M's?
Both plain and peanut are my friends.

Some minty dark 3 Musketeers,
Will chase away those ghoulish fears.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only chocolate makes Halloween.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled diet...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sexy Prairie Women Love Reese's

For the second year in a row, we saw a slide in our trick-or-treaters index - a mere 18 cute costumed children showed up at our door last night. That's down from the more than 70 we had come by 2 years ago. It's even less than last year's all time low of 27.

I don't know about you, but I find these numbers disturbing. And when I find something disturbing, I blame the Obama administration. You know, you get those government nannies interfering in your life, regulating your chocolate consumption and banning flammable flashlights from China; and all the fun is drained out of the holiday. What we have now is a population too demoralized to even think about trick-or-treating. They're all huddled at home, hoarding their Reese's peanut butter cups and hiding from the vaccination police.

Or else, it was the steady rain that deterred them. That's a distinct possibility.

Speaking of Reese's peanut butter cups, there seems to have been a bumper crop this year. Or, at least, my kids harvested a lot of them last night. Yum.

Anna woke up sick (again) this morning. Worse, she seems to have given it to me. So, instead of doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and getting some editing done, I spent the afternoon sleeping off a headache. To keep the kids busy, I popped in the 2-hour TV movie that kicked off the Little House on the Prairie series. I thought it was a safe choice. I was wrong. Thank you, Michael Landon, for embarrassing my children by kissing Ma Ingalls full on the mouth. Repeatedly. And one time in a drenchingly sexy downpour...

You know, that just didn't happen in the book.