Come play in my world for awhile!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm bucking the system

I started a post about my resolutions for the new year. And I just deleted it. I'm being bombarded by the media recommending ways that I can better myself. Now, I'm not saying there's no room for improvement here, but I like the way I am. And I like where I am. So this year I resolve to stop running in circles trying to be a better version of myself and just be KathyB!
If you care to join me, this year I will be:
  • Spending more time watching TV / movies.
  • Spending more time goofing on Facebook.
  • Reading more.
  • Quitting exercise that is drudgery, and doing things I like to do.
  • Procrastinating more (2009 is going to be interesting).
  • Eating out more.
  • Having more fun.
So, what are your resolutions? Anybody got any good ones that might make me re-think mine?!

Whatever your resolutions may be I wish you a healthy and happy 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recent revelation

This is the second part of the rumination post from yesterday. I was honestly going to post them together, but the second tidbit really isn't a result of any ruminating on my part. And I loved that title. There's just something about the word ruminate.

The second tidbit is one that I've heard many times in my life and one that I really try to embrace: Never make assumptions; go with what you know. The problem is, this can be tricky to embody. Sometimes you think you know something when in fact all you really had was a glorified assumption. Or maybe that's really just misinformation. Or worse yet, ignorance. I'm sticking firmly to the assumption label, though, because I really was feeling wiser on my birthday and that made me feel peaceful. I need to stretch the peaceful times as long as humanly possible.

So you're probably wondering about my erroneous assumption? Well, I assumed (and remember, to assume is to make an ASS out of U and ME) that when a critter hibernates it stays in hibernation until spring. Hibernation, in the world according to me, is a function of time and not temperature. Unfortunately the world according to me is sadly limited to the confines of this little blog. My definition of hibernation was probably formed as much by watching Yogi the Bear cartoons as a child as it was by actual science. So I assumed that I would encounter no snakes on Sunday as I happily trekked through the woods on a sunny 72 degree day. I even joked with one of my children about the fact that the snakes were sleeping.

My oldest daughter had been lagging a few steps behind the three adults. The rest of the herd had taken a shortcut. I knew what her scream meant the minute it passed her lips. That scream crosses languages and cultures; it's the international sound for SNAKE!

Apparently, one of the three of us had stepped on the snake before Rachel saw it (let's not dwell on that, okay). Greenie was a bit off his game and allowed me to pick him up with a stick. I know, I know, just a tad out of character, but I needed to diffuse the situation so as not to impart my fear of snakes upon my daughter. Fortunately, Dad had his phone and was able to snap a quick picture. It's a Rough Green Snake -- non-venomous and very docile.

The good news is that the snake didn't make it's appearance until we were almost home. I kinda lost my enthusiasm for hiking after that. The bad news is we found the little guy about 100 yards from the house. Shudder.

Never assume you are safe from snakes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recent ruminations

Yesterday was my 39th birthday and either I've been thinking and reflecting on life (ruminating) or I've magically morphed into a cow and I've been chewing cud (ruminating). I'm definitely going with the first choice. Now that I'm a year older and a year wiser I have the following tidbits to offer. Bear with me if it takes a quick second to get to the point:

Today I feel dehydrated, fatigued, and slightly nauseous. I'm irritable, lethargic, and sensitive to noise; especially the noise made by four overstimulated kids. According to my symptoms I have a hangover. The only flaw in this conclusion is that I wasn't out getting drunk last night; I was playing Wii. Quite the conundrum, isn't it?

And so it is, without further ado, that I offer my first tidbit. It is possible to be hungover without having actually consumed alcohol. In order for this to be plausible I've decided to create a separate class of hangover called a holiday hangover. Just as an alcohol hangover occurs as a result of overindulging in liquor, a holiday hangover results from, well, too much holiday. I have been baking and hosting and eating and wrapping and shopping and baking and staying up late playing Wii and baking and entertaining. Did I mention there's been a lot of baking going on around here?! And now I'm shot. And it's my birthday. And I am clearly hungover.

Yep, that's pretty much the way I'm feeling at the moment.

The good news is that the same things that are supposed to work for a regular hangover should also take care of a holiday hangover. A few websites that I perused recommended the following solutions. I've made a few edits to clarify:

  • Sleep. 'Ya think? Of course sleep will help. I'm taking it one step further and advising that you step away from the Wii. Maybe even go to bed before your guests. I know it seems obvious but I'm fairly certain this is how the whole cycle begins.
  • Replenish your body with fruit juice and water and avoid caffeinated beverages drink lots of caffeinated beverages. I'm fairly certain that Diet Coke is the nectar of the gods.
  • Eat mineral rich foods like pickles or canned sardines. In Poland, drinking pickle juice is a common remedy . Seriously. What would that accomplish? Instead I recommend that you avoid Christmas cookies at all costs. Other foods to avoid include, but are not limited to, sausage, red meat in general, cheese trays, and pretty much any type of appetizer.
  • Drink a Bloody Mary. While your blood is dealing with the new alcohol it's ignoring the old, and the juice and celery are full of vitamins . The whole "hair of the dog that bit you" thing has always sounded suspect to me, but then I'm not an authority on hangovers, either. In the case of the holiday hangover, though, a Bloody Mary might just do the trick. Or maybe a nice glass of Cabernet.
I know I said that I had tidbits (plural; as in more than one) to offer. You're going to have to wait until tomorrow for the next one. I'm older now. I'm moving a little slower...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Dear interpeeps,

I offer you this beautiful writing courtesy of bad mommy moments. If you have a chance, stop by her site and tell her what a wonderful and talented writer she is. When I grow up I'm going to try and write like she does :)

Merry Christmas!


a journey

She stared at the back of his head as he led the animal down the bumpy, uneven path. She really needed him to stop again, but was nervous about asking. They’d already lost so much time because of her.

The baby kicked again. She grabbed her stomach and shifted slightly. Everything hurt. Upper back, lower back, head, legs, stomach, bladder. She wasn’t going to think about that, though.

Other than the rhythmic clopping of the animal, it was quiet. A peaceful quiet. Neither of them had much to say. They didn’t really know each other very well yet. Even still, she pondered his behavior.

She wondered how he could look at her as calmly as he did. Her greatest hope had been that he wouldn’t allow the people to stone her. She prayed that he’d divorce her quietly. That he was really as righteous as her family said.

While she waited at her cousin’s house for the news, she wept over his imagined reaction. His shock. His anger. His refusal. When her parents finally sent word, she was astonished to learn that she was still engaged.

She wasn’t sure that she deserved such a man.

She was afraid that at any moment she’d do something, or say something and he’d change his mind and send her away. And an unprotected woman with a baby in a foreign land would be in great danger. Which made it all the more hard to tell him that she needed to stop again. So she didn’t.

The cramping increased. The pains shot up her back. She shifted again. Stiffness seared through her body. She fisted her hands and pressed them into her sides. Arched her back.

He sensed her movement and stopped the donkey. He turned, read her eyes and reached out his arms to her. Offered his hands and helped her down again.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

He shook his head and smiled. He had yet to accept an apology. There was no one on the road other than them, but he shielded her anyway as she relieved herself.

They were on the fringes of a large group when they left Nazareth, but her constant need to stop soon left them behind everyone. And then they were alone. She was glad. She preferred it that way. She’d decided months ago that she wouldn’t care what everyone thought. Or said. Or how they looked at her. But when she was alone, sadness often overwhelmed her.

And she hadn’t counted on the way it would hurt to see how they treated him.

Because of her.

As if he’d done something wrong.

But all he’d done was protect her. Shouldered her shame. Accepted who she was and her situation. Accepted what that meant for his life. The stares, the whispers, the refusal of business.

He’d saved her life.

He was a good, good man.

But still, she feared what would happen when the baby was born. How he’d feel when he looked into the face of a child each day that wasn’t his. How good could one man be? What if it was too much? What if he changed his mind?

She was glad that they were leaving Nazareth. Relieved to get away, even if just for a little while. Part of her heart missed her family, but even they weren’t the same. They wanted to believe her. Some of them did. But it was an impossible story. And she knew that.

She never expected that it would be easy.

She just had no idea how hard it would be. The looks in they eyes of everyone in her small town. The stories. The voices of the girls who used to be her friends. She had no idea how lonely it could be as the sole owner of the absolute truth.

With the exception of her cousin, the only other person who seemed to fully comprehend and believe her truth was the man leading the donkey.

And even she didn’t understand his resolve.

He seemed hopeful that things would be different in Bethlehem. He’d told her parents that they’d remain there with his relatives for a while. Maybe return in a few years. She wanted to believe him, but she had little hope. The town was small, only about 300 people. And while many were relations of his, the large crowd that they’d traveled with would arrive before them. And she was pretty sure the “shame” of her situation would make it to Bethlehem before they did.

But she kept it to herself. Maybe she was wrong.

The pains started just after they were turned away from the second relative. She’d grown up learning firsthand the cultural obligation of hosting relatives. No one was to be turned away. She’d never seen her family refuse someone in need.

But there were so many relatives in town for the enrollment that there simply wasn’t one guest room.

For her. She tried not to be bitter. But she couldn’t help but think that if it were any other married woman about to give birth sitting on the back of a donkey she would be rushed inside. She’d be crowded by every woman in the house, ushered to a spot, made comfortable and assisted.

The pain hit again. It was excruciating.

She was glad it was night. She turned her face so he couldn’t see her expression. She wasn’t going to upset him. She breathed deeply. Her sides squeezed in; fire shot up her back. She forced back the sobs.

When it passed, she looked up as he was turned away from yet another relative. They were staring at her. They shrugged and pointed her husband towards a stable.

He arched his back, insulted, and turned away from them.

So, it would be no different here. She wept for her husband. What his life turned into. She wept for her child, unable to imagine what his life would be, starting out with the “shame” of his mother. And she wept for herself.

She cried out to her God.

A warm hand clasped her fingers, tangled in the donkey’s mane. She looked up.

He smeared the tears across her cheek. He leaned his forehead against hers. He promised her that he’d find a place. That there would be someone among his relatives who would take them in. That it wasn’t her, it wasn’t their circumstance, it was the enrollment. But he couldn’t look at her as he said it.

At that moment, she felt how great his pain was. He wasn’t used to being refused by family. He never dreamed that he wouldn’t be able to meet the basic needs of his wife. He wanted so much to provide comfort, yet he was helpless.

And that comforted her.

She pointed to the stable and asked him for it. Something close, quiet, and away from all of the people. He was appalled. It was unsanitary. It was beneath them. Their child would not be born where animals defecated.

She squeezed his warm, rough hand. For a moment the pain ceased. And she saw him. She saw his heart.

And she was no longer afraid.

She knew he wouldn’t change his mind. He wouldn’t send her away.

And at that moment it didn’t matter where the baby was born. Or that their first experience together would be something he shouldn’t have been a part of. She didn’t care.

Her God had already provided more than she needed.

She assured him that the stable was perfect.

And there wasn’t time, anyway.

He nodded his head and grabbed a bag of rags and blankets from the side of the donkey.

He lifted her up and carried her towards the low braying of animals.

She leaned her head against his and let the pains consume her.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Love hurts

Yesterday we went to mass at the Duke University Chapel. I'm going to showcase the fact that I'm not feeling particularly articulate at the moment and just say, "Wow!" The architecture, the North Carolina Boys Choir, the acoustics, the stained glass, the pipe organs that make your chest vibrate with the strength of their music. Wow.

I'm a huge fan of baroque architecture. When I noticed a posting in the church bulletin that there would be a docent available after mass to lead a tour I was thrilled. When the tour began my children's faces were bright with expectation and curiosity. After about 15 minutes I could tell by their glazed eyes and vacant stares that they were not engaged in the docent's description of the symbolism of each enormous panel of stained glass. I surmised by their fidgeting that they didn't care how many pipes each of the four individual organs contained. And yet they were respectful and quiet and polite for the better part of almost three hours. It was a proud mommy moment. Restraint and respect are elusive qualities in children, and yesterday we had them in spades. Cross your fingers for tomorrow.

We were nearly through the tour of the chapel when Emily whispered in my ear, "Mommy do they have weddings here?" I told her that they certainly did. She was quiet for a minute and then asked if you had to be in love to get married. I of course told her, "Absolutely!" She was quiet again briefly and then proceeded to tell me she wasn't going to be falling in love. Surprised, I inquired about this new development and she told me, "Well, to fall in love I think you have to get shot with an arrow or something. It usually gets you right in the rump. And even though the rest of it isn't supposed to hurt that much I really don't want to get shot with that arrow."

Well, that's a relief! I'll be sure to remind her of that when she's 16.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How do you measure success?

Today was a busy day, but that's really nothing new. It seems I start almost every post that way of late. I spoke with someone who asked an off-hand question, "Was your day a success?" They weren't trying to be profound, but it got me thinking. Does accomplishment of all items on your to-do list constitute success? What if you accomplished nothing but you had fun? What if you did lots, but nothing turned out quite right? Was it technically a success?

Today I did the following:

  • Spent a ton of time at the barn with Rachel. Rach had a fantastic ride and made some significant progress on her riding course. I, on the other hand, spent a lot of time watching Rachel. Now, don't get me wrong -- I really enjoy watching Rachel, but it takes 4 hours from doorstep to doorstep. That's a lot of doing nothing. But if Rachel was successful does that mean that I, as the mom was successful? I'm going with yes on this one.

  • Showered when I got home from the barn to get the horsey smell off of me and then wasted a bunch of time doing a Sudoku puzzle. I'm pretty sure that's not a success of any sort. I didn't even solve the puzzle. But I did have fun. But does that qualify as successful? I'm not sure. I wasted time and I didn't complete the puzzle, but I'm not sure how to factor enjoyment into the equation. Let's go with moderately successful.

  • Decorated a gingerbread house with three of my daughters. This was supposed to be fun, but the constant jockeying for position between my daughters got really old really fast. The girls enjoyed themselves. My heart wasn't in it. And on top of that we made the saddest little gingerbread house in the world. I consider myself to be a fairly skilled cake decorator. This should have been a piece of cake (pun intended). All I can say is thank God I didn't pursue a career in engineering. I guess since the kids enjoyed it and I tolerated it we'll go with successful on this one.

  • Helped with dinner preparations (although really not much) and then I helped eat the dinner. Dinner was good, so I guess that was a success. Afterwards I immediately started plotting a way to get to bed by 8:30. I succeeded in changing into my pajamas so I guess that was a successful start?

  • Watched my sister try to make a plaster of paris ornament of some sort with the kids. It was a hoot watching her try to figure it out, and I think she and the kids had fun. I'd have to call it unsuccessful, though, as this is how it turned ended.

  • Went for a walk on the golf course. Remember I mentioned that I hopped into my pajamas right after dinner in the hope of sneaking off to bed early? Well, my husband decided to rally our family and guests for an evening walk. I did not want to participate. I was on a mission to get to bed, and instead found myself walking the neighborhood and golf course in my pj's. I put a sweatshirt on over top and it's really dark here with no street lights. I'm sure no one saw me.... Mid-way through the walk it started to rain and I ended up running through the golf course instead of walking on the cart path to get home. I returned from the walk damp and wide awake. No debate here, this was not a success.
So as I tally up the votes I had more successes than non-successes and mostly I had fun. I think that qualifies as a successful day? How I turned a simple question into a complete analysis of the minutiae of my life is beyond me.

And please, don't anyone ever ask me that question again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's your size?

My dear friends,

I want to get you a little something for the Holidays. Unfortunately, it is t-5 days until Christmas. I'm still not finished with my shopping. I have a house bursting with guests. Again. I am strung out from parade, and parties, and Girl Scout meetings, and birthdays, and the fact that my holiday baking has yet to commence. So, in a fit of desperation fueled by my strong desire not to step foot in a mall again until 2009 I have decided that I will make you a gift instead. And I will only use materials from around the house. Please let me know your shoe size as soon as possible as I am making slippers. I'm sure you'll agree that this is a splendid idea. I thought you might even want to make some for your own friends so that you too can slow down and enjoy this wonderful time of year, so I’ve included the instructions as well as a picture of the finished product:


  • 4 maxi pads
  • Tape or glue
  • Miscellaneous decorative pieces such as silk flowers.


  • Lay two maxi pads out flat. This is the "foot" part of the slipper.
  • Wrap the remaining two maxi pads around the tops of the "foot" area to form the "toe."
  • Tape or glue each side of the toe pieces to the bottom of the foot part.
  • Decorate the tops with whatever you like!

These slippers are the perfect gift! Their features are numerous but let me share the high points:

  • They are soft and hygienic
  • They have built-in non-slip strips on the soles
  • They have an ingenious deodorant feature that keeps feet smelling fresh
  • But best of all, no more bending bending over to mop up spills
I am eagerly awaiting your reply. It’s crucial that I get the right size for each one of you so that I can get your gift mailed out quickly.

Warmest holiday wishes,


Note: The concept and photo do not belong to me. I received them in a forwarded email with no author or photographer noted. I tweaked the content to suit my needs. Feel free to let me know if they're your ideas so I can give you credit :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

She nailed it!

You really have to watch this YouTube video. It's called, "The Mom Song" and this ridiculously brilliant woman has adapted it to the William Tell Overture.

In the mornings I like to wander into the girls' bedrooms singing, "I'm alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic..." If you're not familiar with that morning melody, it's an borderline obnoxious little ditty that I learned on my last camp out. I swear the kids scamper out of bed some mornings just so that they won't have to listen to me sing it.

Rachel was watching the video with me while simultaneously watching me out of the corner of her eye. When it was over she rolled her eyes and said, "You thought that was hilarious, didn't you." It was really more of an accusation than a question. I grinned at her with my most mischievous mommy smile. Rachel rolled her eyes again and turned to leave. As she made her departure I could hear her mutter, "Great. I wonder how long it'll take before she figures out how to blast us out of bed with that in the morning."

Is it wrong that I secretly love to pester them? Eh, who cares. Score one for the mommies! I may be losing the battles, but I'm winning the war....

Monday, December 15, 2008

9 things I never wanted to know about felt

Saturday my Daisy Girl Scout troop marched in the Wake Forest Christmas parade. I didn't want my girls to just march and wave, so I decided on a mini-float for "Cookie" (our troop mascot), a large banner with our troop number and name, big signs for the girls to carry, and bags of candy to distribute to the crowd. I am not a crafty person. I have good ideas but execution of anything artsy is not my forte. And I can't sew. In spite of my limitations I felt good about what we had decided to do.

We were supposed to get these things done as a troop a week beforehand. Instead I found myself at 10:00 Friday night trying to get everything ready -- 12 hours before I needed to be lined up with my troop of merry first graders at the parade.

It was quite an educational experience. In fact I learned a lot about felt fabric. Here are the high low points:

1) You can't iron felt. Trust me on this. If you google this question they will tell you the answer is yes. They'll say, "Go ahead! Just use the polyester setting." Don't believe them. They are evil people. The iron will singe the stupid felt.

2) You can't spray felt with water and hang it with the expectation that the wrinkles will magically be gone when the felt dries. All you get is wet felt. And then you have to wait for it to dry. The same evil elves who thought that ironing would work suggested this as an alternative. Why I tried the second recommendation after the first was such an utter failure is beyond my comprehension.

3) You may consider putting your felt in the dryer to facilitate the drying process since time is of the essence. But what if the dryer causes bad things to happen to the felt like the iron did?!

4) You can't use Downy Wrinkle Releaser to get rid of the wrinkles either. Apparently once you've wrinkled felt you're screwed.

5) You should disregard fabric glue instructions when using felt. Instructions say it'll take 2-3 hours to set. Give yourself 24 hours.

6) You should put something underneath your felt project when using your hardwood floor as a work surface. Otherwise the glue will soak through the felt and your project will either a) be glued to the floor, or b) leave glue blobs that may or may not remove the finish when I go to clean them up.

7) You'll get excited when you discover that hot glue holds really well. And you'll be sad when you notice that the heat from the glue (apparently heat is a huge problem when you are working with felt) alters the texture of the felt.

8) You'll be positively giddy when you realize that you can just staple your stuff directly onto the felt. You might even do a little happy dance.

9) You'll notice the silvery sparkle of the 10,236 staples that you used to "hem" the top and bottom of the banner, but rationalize that it's a Christmas parade. Tinsel is sparkly. The staples are an homage to tinsel and all the other sparkliness that is Christmas. Right?

You can't see my finished products, but don't we look cute? I'll have to do a second post about what happened when we were waiting for the parade to start....

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Because I am the most fabulous, organized, and on-the-ball mother in the world I can put on a facade of serene calm even when I am gritting my teeth so hard I am afraid they will crumble inside my mouth, I had a pregnant woman approach me when I was out with my four kids at Target the other day. She was round and glowing and beautiful in the way that women are when the creation of new life is imminent. You know, that time when you think you have all the answers. The time when you know that your child will sleep through the night, eat all their veggies, and eventually cure cancer. The time before reality sets in.

The woman approached me and complimented me on my beautiful daughters and asked me, "What's the secret?" Now that made me pause.

First off - did she not just see me teeter on the edge of sanity as I threatened one of my daughters with a lifetime spent in her room? The daughter in question had been stepping on the heels of her sister after being told to stop stepping on her sister's heels twice already. Disciplining children in public when you are really irritated, without looking like a lunatic is an art form.

Followed by - there's a secret?! Crap. If someone would have told me the secret, like, 10 years ago my life would've been seriously improved.

And finally - if there is a secret, what on earth would make you think that I know it? I'm standing in Target clawing to hold on to my sanity with a mouth full of crumbled teeth courtesy of all the tooth grinding. Clearly I am not the keeper of "the secret."

I smiled benignly, double-checked to be sure that my facade was cemented firmly in place and scanned the children's faces. I wanted them to be very clear, courtesy of my stern mommy eyes, that this was not the time for monkey business. I then told that sweet, innocent woman that she should love her child with all of her heart, every single day and always try her hardest to be the best mommy she can be. Even when she's not in the mood. I told her that everything else would fall into place. She seemed pleased with the response and went blissfully on her way.

But I neglected to elaborate. You see, everything does fall into place. But sometimes when it falls it makes a very loud crash and the earth trembles a bit.

Making things complicated

The other day I was teaching economics, and we were working towards differentiating gross profit from net profit. I was using a website called the lemonade stand game to illustrate the correlation between quality and price, and how those two factors influence profit. The kids had been experimenting with these variables to see how they impact long term sales at their virtual lemonade stands. They caught on quickly, and tried to sell water with a hint of lemon for $1.00 so that they could get rich quick. Such greedy little capitalists! Their scheme worked the first day, but by the end of the week they were almost bankrupt.

The extension of this activity was to talk about gross profit as opposed to net profit. I asked the kids for their theories without giving them any inkling as to what the terms actually meant. One little girl's hand immediately shot into the air. I asked her for her definitions, and this is what she said:

"Gross profit is the money that the people paid who bought that bad lemonade with no lemons in it. Net profit is money from the people who got the good lemonade and liked it."

I then lost all control of the discussion as the kids had a brief yet spirited debate on the parameters for defining which lemonade was "gross" and which lemonade was "net." It's amazing how fast you can lose control of a discussion amongst children. And this is exactly why I have such love for kids. There's no double meaning. Life is black and white with no shades of gray. Actions are right or wrong. If something is gross, well, it's GROSS.

I wish I had my camera with me so that you could see the puzzled looks on their faces when I finally wrestled myself back into control of the conversation and explained the real definition. They were completely silent. That in and of itself is noteworthy. I think kids are like lions on the prowl. They can smell weakness in adults, and they pounce on it. I am not a trained teacher - just an enthusiastic volunteer - and I am constantly getting pounced on.

As they filed out of the room at the end of the segment one little girl was stage whispering to her friend, "Who makes this stuff up anyway? I mean, who calls something gross and then says that it doesn't mean gross. Why didn't they just make a new word for it. It's no wonder we have to go to school for, like, fifty years. I think they make it confusing on purpose."

This kid is in for a real treat when she gets to story problems. You know, the ones that start out:

Sam, Sarah, and Sally all have birthdays coming up. 10 years ago Sam was twice as old as Sally. Sarah's age is the same as Sally's divided by two, plus three. All three of the ages together equals 89. Solve for Sally's age. (This is not a real problem. DON'T try to solve it.)

'Cuz she'll know that you could just ask Sally and save yourself some grief.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shopping, shopping, shopping, and more shopping

When you're lobbed a gentle pitch right over home plate you just have to whack it....

I spent the entire day shopping. Start to finish. I thought about a few blog ideas but frankly, I'm pooped. I finished helping the kids with homework and sat down at my computer to check email even though I should be making dinner. I can't cook when I am not hungry, and for some completely inexplicable reason I'm not. Go figure. Dinner is overrated anyway, right? I'm sure my family will be thrilled when I tell them. Anyway, I opened up an email and found the following:

Dashing through the mall...
On a mid December day,
Through the $tores I go
Charging all the way...

Ching ... Ching ... Ching ...

Bell$ on register$ ring
Making checkbook$ light,
Oh, what fun it is to buy up
Everything in $ight!

Oh, Ching ... Ching ... Ching
Ching ... Ching ... Ching...

I wish I could take credit for that little Jingle Bells knock-off. And if you wrote it let me know. The email didn't credit an author.

It's the perfect summary of my day. The good news is that I think I am pretty much finished. I love wrapping up (pun intended!) the Christmas shopping. Once you know you're finished it's as though the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders.

I feel 10 lbs. lighter already!
And if you want a good chuckle go on over to Lost in Suburban Bliss.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day

Yesterday I got out of bed early so I'd have time to lounge around and leisurely read the newspaper before church. I didn't quite get up early enough, though. It was time to get ready, and I wasn't even close to finished perusing the ads. I pushed it to the last possible moment. I cut corners on the make-up, I rushed into the closet and threw on an outfit that, in retrospect, Iwouldn't have normally picked, and I skipped breakfast.

Now, skipping breakfast is pretty much the norm for me. I essentially live in a state of semi-starvation to keep from gaining weight as I roar towards middle age. And, yes, I've heard that ridiculousness about eating breakfast boosting metabolism and helping with weight losss... blah, blah, blah... I'm not listening. I'm not getting any fatter. Mission accomplished. End of discussion.

By the time we get to church I am crazy hungry. Usually when I get hungry like this it gnaws at me for a few minutes and then the hunger dissipates, or even goes away entirely. And sometimes it doesn't. Today was one of those days.

After I complained about being hungry en route to church my daughter Hannah suggested that I eat a mint to curb my hunger. Oh boy, here we go again with the karma. Just last week we were at the mall with our out-of-town guests. Everyone was on different schedules, and Hannah was starving. I told her that I sometimes eat a mint when I am hungry and can't take time to eat right away. I told her that the mint taste sort of kills your appetite for a short time. I fed her, like, 50 mints to try and kill the hunger long enough to get everyone home for a meal. She didn't think it worked. I dug to the bottom of my purse (and it was a long dig. There is a lot of crap in my purse) and popped a mint into my mouth. It didn't help one single bit.

At this point we were solidly in the middle of the church service and I kept getting hungrier and hungrier. My tummy was starting to rumble, and believe me when I say that my stomach can rumble like a caged lion. I poked my husband and apprised him of my situation. He smiled a little and shook his head. What can you say to someone who intentionally deprives themselves of food and then has a growling stomach? I'm lucky I didn't get a full eye roll.

So my stomach starts rumbling but is gracious enough to time the grumbles so that they coincide with singing or responsorial parts of the service. Then the pastor said, "Let us pray," and the church fell deafeningly silent. You could have heard a pin drop in that church. And of course my stomach roared. Not grumbled -- ROARED. I wiggled in my seat to try and make some creaking to cover the roaring, but it didn't work. It was loud. I was embarrassed. People noticed. I didn't even have any of the kids with me so that I could pretend it was them.

Thankfully the silence was brief. The pastor led us toward communion and background noise was created to mask a few follow-up grumblings. We headed up to receive communion and all I could think about was food. Pat jokingly whispered that I was going to get some bread, and told me to hang on. Very funny. Glad I married a comedian.

I approached the deacon who offered me communion and as I reached for the bread I don't know what happened but instead of taking one, I got two. What? Am I seriously so hungry that I just subconsciously swiped a second piece of communion bread?! I swear I did not intend to take two. I froze for a second and briefly contemplated putting one back. I could see Pat grinning from ear-to-ear out of the corner of my eye as I shoved the bread into my mouth.

And then it really got bad. I'm in church, I'm starving, I've not been paying attention to the sermon as I'm too busy obsessing about food, and now I'm loading up on communion bread in some sort of Freudian attempt to feed myself. The situation is so stupid and so completely of my own creation that it becomes funny. I have the overwhelming desire to burst into laughter. And not little chuckles. We're talking giant guffaws. You know, the type of laughter that surfaces at completely inappropriate times and is even funnier because of the fact that it shouldn't be funny at all. By the time I got back to my seat I could barely contain myself. I could see Pat, and he was laughing too. I could feel my face turning red from the effort of stifling the laughter, and I had to keep my head turned away from Pat or I would have been unable to keep from bursting into peals of laughter.

By the time I got home the hunger had gone. I made the kids lunch, had a few spoonfulls of their mac-n-cheese and a handful of grapes, and then ate 47 enchiladas for dinner at the new Mexican restaurant.

It makes me hungry again just thinking about it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I guess there's hope for me yet

By Associated Press

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) — A dog weighing more than 120 pounds survived being frozen to a sidewalk overnight, probably because he was insulated by layers of fat, authorities said....

Let's not talk about the fact that the dog was left outside in the first place. Because that's just sad. Instead, let's focus on the silver lining. There is always a silver lining.

Ever since moving to North Carolina I have been battling the cold. This is where the brilliance of the dog story comes into play. Tomorrow when my husband comes to pull little Miss Lazy-Bones away from the computer to go exercise I can respectfully decline because I must save, not burn the 19,486 calories I consumed over Thanksgiving just in case I ever get locked out of the house (again).

It's a shame I'm so tired today. Otherwise I'd tell you about the time I locked myself out of our house, in the middle of the afternoon, in my pajamas, while my husband was traveling in another time zone, in a state where I knew no one... sigh. It's a pretty good story. I promise I'll tell you later. But in the meantime it's good to know that if it happens again at least I won't die.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to drive yourself crazy in 5 easy steps

1. Agree to every volunteer request that comes your way. This is the first and most critical step. If you don't accomplish this step all subsequent steps will yield only minor annoyance, and you will not be able to successfully drive yourself crazy. Please note that in order to generate maximum stress it is advisable to volunteer for activities that are cyclical. Even though cyclical activities are supposed to stick to a prescribed schedule the likelihood that the schedule will change is enormous. This affords plenty of opportunity for double-booking yourself, thus generating more stress.

2. Get the kids ready for the day without getting yourself ready first. This is a sure-fire guarantee that circumstances will demand that you converse with friends, delivery drivers, neighbors and teachers while you are still in your pajamas and with your hair in disarray. You earn bonus points for this step because you generate stress and embarrassment simultaneously.

3. Host your family for a major holiday. This ensures that you will have unequivocally lost track of your everyday life by the time everyone departs. This is particularly useful as it allows you to do things like: 1) Discover that you are out of juice, sandwich fixings, and fresh fruit for the kids' lunches 15 minutes before they need to be out the door, or 2) Forget what day of the week it is, drive to school, drop off kids, return home, sit down at computer, do a double-take when you notice the date and realize you are supposed to be at the school teaching small group writing.

4. Start baking Christmas cookies while you have Thanksgiving wreaths still hanging in the window. And turkeys on the window sills. This will inspire you to get crackin' on the cookies so that you can get rid of the last vestiges of Thanksgiving and dig out a festive platter for the cookies. And then you'll be motivated to multi-task so that you can get through your epic list of things to do, so you'll chat on the phone with your neighbor as you prepare the cookies. While talking on the phone try to remove a tray of 48 cookies that have been cooling in the freezer in preparation for their dip in white chocolate. Lose control of the phone that is pressed tightly between your shoulder and your ear and drop the entire tray of cookies all over the garage floor. Note to self: Next time drop the phone and save the cookies. Dessert always trumps electronics.

5. Refuse to actively resolve your self-inflicted chaos and instead, sit down and blog about it.

Don't they look yummy?! Actually, it really isn't a great shot of the cookies (fudgy, chocolate cookie dipped in white chocolate), but I love the juxtaposition of the Christmas cookies and the Thanksgiving decorations -- so just pretend the cookies look fabulous. 'Cuz they certainly taste good.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Eh, who am I kidding? I don't really do wordless. Maybe I should change the title of the post to "Almost Wordless Wednesday." But that doesn't have the nice ring of alliteration so I guess you'll just have to work with me.
Today I received an unexpected gift at the school from a fellow mommy. It was particularly appropriate given that I was so overbooked that I spent the entire day racing around like a chicken with it's head cut off and scrambling to prepare for all of the volunteer "stuff" that I've gotten myself sucked into. You'll likely hear about that in tomorrow's post.
Wow. Foreshadowing and alliteration all in one post. I am good.

I'm not addicted. It's not as though I can't control my volunteer committments. I can stop any time I want.
Tucked inside are a pair of longer bigger socks. Leigh clearly understands that size matters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Making a mountain out of a mole hill

"Look up at the sky Monday night to see a bright cosmic frown. The planets Jupiter and Venus will briefly align to form (nearly upside down) two eyes and a frowning mouth in the southwest.

In what's called a planetary conjunction, the two planets —the brightest in the night sky — will appear extremely close, separated by only the width of a finger held at arm's length. They won't be this close together and well-placed for evening viewing again until May 2013.
In fact, some astronomers think a similar alignment of the planets on June 17 in the year 2 BC is behind biblical accounts of the Star of Bethlehem present during Christ's birth. The bright planets would have appeared so close together they could have been taken as a single shining star.... Source

I read about this event on Sunday and it really piqued my interest; so much so that I mentioned it to the kids. We talked about it at length. We imagined how it might look. We made a mental note to go outside around 5:30 so that we could be certain to see it. I want them to be excited about these things because, frankly, they are fascinating.

Yesterday as we drove home from gymnastics at around 5:10 we could see the moon out the window, and I started excitedly refreshing the kids' memory and pointing out the planets and the upside down frown. I enthusiastically called home to alert the herd (we still have 7 visitors from Thanksgiving -- don't worry it's a good thing!) to the exciting news.

I had four kids in the car with me and we excitedly pulled into a clearing to observe the events unfold. I had done a fantastic job of building up enthusiasm for this unique event, and they tumbled happily out of the car and into the frigid early evening air. They looked at me with expectant faces, and a question in their eyes, "Now what?"

Somewhere along the drive home while I was generating all of this excitement I neglected to mention that the planets weren't going to do anything. The fact that they were there -- in that position -- was the object of my intrigue. I measured the distance between Jupiter and Venus with my finger hoping that maybe their position would shift. Hoping that I could show them something that would justify the build-up.

I could really have used a couple flashing stars or multi-colored comets at this point. We watched for about a minute because everyone was freezing (we came from gymnastics, and no one was dressed appropriately for the weather -- I'm beginning to see a trend here in this blog), and then piled back into the car. The kids indulged me and sat with the heater blasting, singing along to the Miley Cyrus CD while I gazed at the stars. I have to give them credit for being good sports. As we finished the drive home Hannah said, with as much feigned enthusiasm as an eight-year-old can muster, "Thanks for stopping to show us that, Mom. It was really amazing."

I guess the manners coaching that we constantly cram down their throats might be starting to stick (you thank someone when they've tried to do something nice for you even if you didn't like or enjoy it -- it's the thought that counts). Imparting a love for astronomy might need a little more time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Size does matter

Lots of people will try to convince you otherwise, but size really does matter. It's not politically correct to talk about the subject, but let's go there. Just for a minute. Do you want the ginormous slice of delectable pie or the teeny one. How about the 2 carat, flawless engagement ring versus the one plucked from a Cracker Jack box. A thick , cozy comforter on a frigid winter's night or a thin cotton throw. Sure you'd be thrilled to have any of them. Something is better than nothing, right? Of course. But which would you rather have?

This weekend we had a house full of guests for Thanksgiving. It's hard to get a large group of people moving let alone motivated to do the same things. Football, apparently, is the common denominator. Sigh. We had tickets to the Miami at NC State game and, as is typical for me, the weather was moderately uncooperative. I'm sure you're wondering what on earth any of this has to do with size. Well, stay with me.

The weather forecast for the game was not great. Cold. Windy. Light breeze. RAIN. Brrr. I tried to dress appropriately for the weather. I had on a turtleneck, down vest, winter coat, long underwear, jeans, shoes and socks and one mitten. I may or may not go back to explain the one mitten thing. When I arrived at the game I felt good about my clothing choices. I thought I'd be comfy -- as long as it didn't rain.
I thought wrong. At the end of the first quarter the chill was starting to seep through my layers. I commented on this to my sister-in-law who appeared to be snug and warm. She lives in Aspen, and understands how to dress for serious cold. So she looks me over, and in the blink of an eye explains why I am pretty much going to freeze. Are you ready? Drum roll, please....

My socks.

You're kidding, right? I was wearing those short little footie socks that you're not supposed to be able to see when you're wearing tennis shoes. Frankly, they are the only type of sock I own. In contrast, my sister-in-law pulled up her pant leg to show me her thick, knee-length socks. My mother-in-law then proclaimed that she was wearing not one, but three pair of socks. Hmmm. I haven't worn knee socks since middle school P.E., and I seriously don't think I've ever worn more than one pair of socks at a time. Multiple socks sounds like the express route to a foot full of blisters to me. But what do I know? According to them, that sliver of exposed ankle skin was going to make me freeze. I looked at them dubiously but let it go.

As I sat there getting chillier by the quarter I did notice a trend. My upper body was toasty warm. However, my long underwear only reaches to just below my knees, and from the knee down I was not feeling toasty. There was a constant draft of frigid air infiltrating my warmth. I pondered this between touchdowns, and late in the third quarter, as a gargantuan blocker for NC State literally squashed a little runner for Miami (Yes, I am the go-to-girl for all things football) I had my epiphany:

If I had longer bigger socks and longer bigger long underwear I could thoroughly have enjoyed the game instead of mostly enjoying it because I was slowly turning into a human Popsicle.
So the moral of the story is that size does matter. And the proper socks can save your bacon.
And also that your in-laws are usually right, but I'll reserve that for another post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 signs you've reached your pie making quota

1. You have to send your husband to the market because you've run out of pie plates.

2. The daughter who is currently assisting you with the massive pie production looks at you with eyes as wide as saucers and asks incredulously, "You mean we still have to make ANOTHER ONE?!"

3. You get busy chatting with a mommy who has dropped your daughter off and suddenly you remember the pie in the oven. Didn't the timer go off already? How long has that thing been in there anyway?! ACK!

4. The next daughter-helper is pensively stirring pumpkin custard and counting egg shells. She looks up with an expression of mild concern and says, "So how many eggs was I supposed to put in this thing anyway?"

5. The same daughter looks down at the next bowlful and cheerfully exclaims, "Hey Mom! I don't think there's any egg shells in this one!"

6. Change helpers again. This helper is measuring dry ingredients into a bowl. I casually look over to check her progress only to gasp, "Holy cow! How much sugar did you put in there anyway?!"
7. Amble over to asses progress on pies and notice a strange crunching noise underfoot as you approach the daughter who just had the excessive-sugar-in-the-dry-ingredients problem. The excessive sugar, apparently, was not confined to the mixing bowl. It's all over the floor as well.

8. Yuuummmm. Something smells really good in here!
9. Let your gaze wander around the war zone that your kitchen has become. I think we used every stinkin' mixing bowl I own. And I have a fairly impressive array of bowls. Trust me.

10. Open a new bag of flour so we can bake the last.two.pies. Peer closely into the bag to try and ascertain what those funny little flecks are. Pull your head back abruptly when you realize they are bugs. Oh my. Tell me that wasn't the last bag of flour?!

Pie making is finished.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On becoming your parents

I was reading a post from one of my favorite blogs the other day. And yes, I realize that most of my posts start this way. Yada, yada, yada.... the other day. There is a reason for that and it's called I'm behind and I can't catch up. If I wrote about today then I'd never get around to what happened yesterday. I like to think of it as running to stand still.

Anyway, in her blog post she basically concludes that she has turned into a geezer. I'd say she's turned into her parents. And I'm reading this and thinking, "Oh well. Another one bites the dust." No matter how hard you try, it's inevitable. Because eventually, sooner or later, in spite of the promises that you made to yourself in your youth you will become your parents. I guarantee it.

For me, the realization that I had made this disturbing transformation came while sitting at a ridiculously long traffic light with my mom and sister. We had been there so long that I was in that zoned out sort of half aware state of consciousness. It was a looong light. Through my haze, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the car next to me was jumping. Seriously? I instantly snapped out of my comatose state and watched in fascination as the car continued to jump higher and higher. And then POOF! it happened. Without thinking twice, I started belting out an enthusiastic rendition of Low Rider.
The song complete with jumping car video can be heard/seen below. .. Just in case you aren't as fabulously hip as I am.

My mother has a long history of singing commercial jingles, and oldies songs. Usually it's in response to something someone has said. For example, if you ask her if she'd like another cup of tea she might start singing, "Have a nutter, nutter butter, peanut butter sandwich cook-ieeee." Or she'll see one of the kids do something silly and do, "Sometimes you feel like a nut -- sometimes you don't. Allllmond Joy's got nuts..." Or you're talking about dinner (not necessarily a hamburger - just dinner in general) and she might go with, "I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes... (Jimmy Buffet, of course). When I was a kid I thought this was great fun. As I got into the teenage years it got annoying. As an adult it drives me bananas. She has been singing the same jingles for pretty much my entire life without adding anything new to her repertoire. Enough with the Nutter Butter jingles already.

So the fact that I burst spontaneously into song, and an oldie to boot, was the death knell. I had officially become my mother. The light turned green as I sat staring in fascination at the jumping car and belting out Low Rider for all I was worth. The car behind me honked, so I stepped on the gas and looked over at my mom and sister. I had a big, stupid grin on my face and I was mentally congratulating myself for nailing all the fun musical effects in the song as I turned to glance over at my passengers. Mom and Julie were staring at me with bulging eyes and mouths gaping open. For decades I've been pleading with my mother to stop singing jingles. The fact that I was sitting there and behaving exactly like my mother had them literally frozen in their tracks.

And then the dawn of realization. Oh crap. And as my face fell my mom burst into laughter. "Oh Kathy!" she said, "You are just like me!"

Monday, November 24, 2008

The other day I was at the police station...

...waiting for someone to post my bond with the Daisy Girl Scout troop that I co-lead. We were doing a unit on respecting authority and I figured, what better place to see authority in action than at the police station? Personally, the sight of a loaded gun always inspires me to feel respectful.

We did the tour of the station, and concluded with a discussion about calling 911. 911 always brings a smile to my face. I have fond memories of 911. Are you curious yet? Of course you are. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a mommy named KathyB! She had four young girls: Rachel was 4, Hannah was 30 months, and Abby and Emily were 6 months. The mommy was having a hard time adjusting to life with her four young girls. Everyone seemed to need her at the same time, and yet she only had two arms with which to meet everyone's needs. One day she was upstairs nursing her twins, and praying that they would both fall asleep. And stay asleep. Her two year old toddled in with an empty sippy cup and asked for some milk. If you've never nursed twins then trust me when I say that you can't exactly get out of your seat without shutting down the whole operation. And I really needed those twins to take a nap. I told Hannah to be patient and sent her on her way.

Hannah returned a bit later. I was still nursing the twins. Hannah really wanted milk. I begged her to wait just a few more minutes. I was so close to being able to put them down. If I got up.... heaven help me. The moment would be lost and the colic would intrude and the chance for an afternoon free of crying and rocking would evaporate forever. Or at least for today. I assured her that I was almost done, and I sent her on her way. Again. And made very little progress with the twins.

Poor Hannah. She looked a little deflated when she left the second time. It pulled at my heart strings that I couldn't meet her needs. I wasn't too worried, though, as she was a pro at filling her cup from the dispenser in the refrigerator door. I rationalized that she wasn't dying of thirst, and I let it go.

I really under estimated how badly she needed that milk. Apparently she went downstairs, picked up the phone and dialed 911. She had been going to preschool two days a week and Ruff the Crime Dog had come in to teach them how to dial 911. He even brought in a phone that they could use to practice, and a sticker to wear on their jacket to remind them. Well, Hannah took that lesson to heart. She embraced the lesson. She was desperate for that milk, she needed help, and mommy.couldn't.get.up. In her two-year-old world she had met all of the criteria to justify an emergency call.

The sheriff's department came in full force. After all, there was a two year old who needed milk. And her mommy couldn't get up. When the 911 operator pressed her on this crucial detail Hannah replied emphatically that I could not get up to get milk or come to the phone or even talk for that matter (I had told her that I couldn't talk to her or read her a book while I was nursing that day because I was hoping, hoping, hoping that those crazy babies would go to sleep!) and that the only other people at home who could help her were her new baby sisters. Can you imagine what the 911 operator must have thought? Medical emergency, baby.

I heard the sirens in the distance and didn't think much of them. I heard them coming up the street, and that got my attention. When I heard the authoritative banging at the front door I remember thinking I was trapped in the Twilight Zone. This is a joke, right? My husband's out of town. I'm not in control. And now the house is burning down. I think. Because why else would there be sirens and loud banging at the front door. I disentangled myself from the twins, and winced when the screaming started. As I rounded the corner at the top of the stairs I could see the officer peering through the window by the front door and Hannah standing in front of it looking confused. She's not supposed to open the door, but maybe policemen don't fall under that rule? By now I am running as fast as I can while carrying screaming twins and descending stairs. I was convinced that the house was on fire at this point even though there was no sign of smoke. Miraculously I didn't fall down the steps. It's not easy to carry wriggling, colicky, infant twins while racing down steps as though your life is at stake. Although I guess if I had fallen it would've been okay since all of the necessary emergency personnel were on hand to put humpty-dumpty back together again.

Once the officer and I convinced each other that there wasn't a problem he was very understanding. As were the other three who had been called to the scene. And the EMT, too. Sigh. They were just glad that we were all okay. Hmmmm. They seemed to think we were okay. At that exact moment I knew for sure that "okay" was a subjective state of mind because I felt anything but "okay" at that moment. I think I cried a little when they left. And then I got to explain it to the curious neighbors. Why is it that I can never have a humiliating moment in privacy?

Mother of the Year I was not.

Hannah, on the other hand, was so proud of herself. She had done what she had been taught at school. She had waited patiently just like mommy asked. And when push came to shove she got her milk. We did have a very specific conversation about what constitutes an emergency that afternoon. And I took the "Call 911!" sticker off of her jacket. I didn't think the men and women in blue would continue to be amused if the milk emergency became a daily occurrence.

At the time it was not funny. At the time I was truly at my wit's end. But now, looking back... I still smile when I think about it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I hear you got a new pet!

I was at the school (shocking, I know!) the other day when I ran into a mommy whom I haven't seen in quite some time. After the initial pleasantries she inquired about our new pet. I was a little surprised as we've had the rabbit since August. I think. Maybe it was September? Anyway, she asked how we were getting along with the new pet and then commented enthusiastically on what an unusual choice we had made. She really put a lot of emphasis on the word unusual.

Hmmmm. I'll admit that a bunny isn't the most common pet, but it surely doesn't qualify as unusual either. Given that I don't have much of a poker face I'm pretty sure that I gave her at least a moderately odd look as I assured her that I knew at least a few other people who had made the same pet choice before us. She looked astonished and exclaimed that, "No, I'm quite sure that I've never known anyone with a pet beaver before! What did you name it again?"

Yikes! Did not see that one coming!

I really had to fight to keep from laughing out loud as I had a pretty good idea how this had all transpired. And so it was that I had the ridiculous task of explaining that we don't actually have a pet beaver. In fact we have a pet rabbit. Who I think must have been cross-bred with a beaver because she chews everything. Like a beaver. So instead of calling her Cutie, which is her name, I call her Beaver Bunny or Beaver McBeav or even Beav for short. The nickname stuck (as my weird nicknames are prone to do), and now everyone refers to her as The Beaver.

Apparently, Emily has been running around town talking about her beaver. One of Emily's teachers was even under the impression that we'd gotten a beaver. She admits that she thought it was a bit odd, but not odd enough to question it. The teacher just laughed and said that she could, "See me doing it." As in she could see me having a pet beaver. Hmph. I can't decide if I should take that as an insult or not. I guess after teaching for awhile you hear some pretty good stories. But a pet beaver? Sheesh. I'm going to have to do some serious work on the image that the Belinski family is projecting.

How many times do you suppose I'm going to get to explain this little bit of misinformation before word finally gets around?

She's a cute little beaver, right?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I am thankful for...

Since we are exactly one week away from Turkey Day I thought I'd fuel the anticipation by writing about something for which I'm thankful. That and with my first guests beginning to arrive today the likelihood that I'll be on the ball as Turkey Day draws nearer is slim.

Today I volunteered in one of my daughter's first grade classrooms teaching small group writing strategies. I do this two times a week and I always look forward to it. First graders are an interesting group. Their minds are beginning to mature and they are able to look at events with greater perspective, and yet their logic and reasoning is still so linear and simple. No matter what we do they always say something interesting or funny or completely unexpected.

Today we read a long and detailed story about a Pilgrim boy named Samuel. The objective was for them to listen to the story and then write about their favorite parts. They needed to have a distinct beginning, middle and end to their writing and they needed to provide sufficient detail to explain their choices.

We had finished the story and the children were engrossed in their writing with the exception of two little boys. Assuming that they were outlining their plans for recess I went over to help them get back on task. As I drew nearer I could hear their conversation, and it was so sweet that I stopped to listen:

Boy 1: I don't think so many Pilgrims would have died if they would have worn the right types of clothes.

Boy 2: Yeah, those white fluffy collars make them look like a bunch of dorks.

Boy 1: I know but, I mean, what if they used that material to make warmer clothes instead of fluffy collars. Maybe they would have stayed warmer and not died so much.

Boy 2: Grunts.


Boy 2: More like they died because no one knew what anybody was talking about back then. Some guy probably said go find food, and the other guy went looking for firewood instead by mistake.

Note: The story was written in the voice of Samuel who lived in the 1600's. It was peppered with thou, and whilst, and coney and all sorts of stuff. It actually was a little hard to follow. Especially if you're in the first grade.

Boy 1: Grunts.

more silence.

Boy 1: You know what I'm thankful for? I'm thankful that turkeys are slow. If they were fast they would have gotten away and then we'd be eating something gross like a squirrel for Thanksgiving dinner.

Both: Ewwww!

Boy 2: I'm glad we don't live back then. I wouldn't want to wear those funny clothes. (Pause) Do you like my new Pokemon shirt?

Boy 1: Yeah, it's awesome. (Pause) But people still wear funny clothes now, too. Did you see that HUGE collar on Mrs. B's shirt? She would make a good Pilgrim.

At this point I stepped in. After all, they just called me a Pilgrim for pity sake. The cuteness had passed, and it was time to get back on task. As I took a seat between the two boys I glanced down at my charcoal gray cowl-necked sweater that had seemed quite fashionable this morning.

I know one of the things that I am truly thankful for:
other than the fact that we don't eat Thanksgiving squirrel - ewww!

first graders
sweet and innocent
observant and thoughtful without malice
blissfully uninhibited
brimming with promise

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This video got me thinking

A friend forwarded me this commercial from about a year ago, but I hadn't seen it yet. It's quick - only 30 seconds or so. After watching the commercial I honestly wasn't sure if I was amused or mortified. I've never owned a dog. Do they actually do that?! Ew.

Once I got over the mental image I started thinking about Stanley Steemer. I know it's random but that's how my brain works. Anyway, Stanley Steemer used to clean our carpets growing up. And remembering that made me reminisce about my childhood....

I have one sibling, Julie, and she is almost five years my junior. We got along fairly well growing up which means we were only actively trying to kill each other 50% of the time. Fairly normal.

One day, when I was 8, I was in our playroom painting. We had the best playroom. It was big and low maintenance and we were allowed to do all sorts of fun, messy stuff in there. Like paint. There was a pocket door that divided the playroom from the rest of the house, and the rule was that the mess could not pass that threshold.

I had my paper and my cup of red paint laid out on the floor and I was working diligently on a masterpiece when Julie pranced into the room and, of course, wanted to help. Obviously I was not interested. So she proceeds to do the typical little sister routine by pretending she's going to stick her fingers onto my still wet masterpiece and render it a finger painting. Or picking up the paint cup and pretending she's going to pour it on my masterpiece. Or dancing around like a loon singing stupid songs and laughing like the little nut that she is was.

This continued for what seemed like an hour. Really, it was probably only 3 minutes, but I had reached my boiling point. I got up from my painting and was prepared to... I don't actually remember what it was that I intended to do but I ended up chasing her in cirlces around the play room. Apparently Julie is part leprechaun. She jumped and ran and zigged when I zagged, and I could not catch her. Finally I lunged at her and almost got her by the ankle.

At this point I think Julie realized we were no longer engaged in a little bit of sisterly mischief. I was really ticked that I couldn't catch her. The impish grin left her face and she started running again in earnest. And so it was that she ran right across my very-wet-red-painting and through my cup of red paint wearing what I swear are the world's most absorbent socks. She streaked over the threshold, and she was gone.

I froze briefly as she zipped through that door. I shrieked for her to stop. I chased her for all I was worth -- over the snowy white, brand-new carpets and even over the couch. The farther she ran the less distinct the footsteps became until she finally stopped.

I can remember looking in horror at her little footprints. They were everywhere. I can also remember that sick, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach when my mom walked in to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The clock is ticking.

I pride myself on being organized. Multi-tasking is something that I view as a challenge. I think I have previously alluded to the fact that I like it when my schedule is the slightest bit crazy. It keeps things interesting.

On Thursday I had a full day. Not crazy full, but there wasn't any down time. It went something like this:
- Shower the night before because you recognize that you are a massive morning procrastinator.
- Wake up at 7:20 (we need to be out by 8:00) and walk room-to-room rousting sleepy children.
- Begin to run late when you snuggle too long with a particularly drowsy kiddo.
- Head downstairs to make breakfast and pack lunches before getting yourself ready for the day. This is a mistake. A wise mommy would get herself ready first. But then again, a wise mommy would have gotten up earlier to begin with.
- Get distracted discussing child's oral presentation and lose 5 precious minutes. Now you're officially pushing it.
- Race to change out of jammies, and become presentable - in 10 minutes. I am good, but 10 minutes is tight.
- Herd kids into the car and begin the drive to school.
- Contain grumpiness with the kids (which really should be directed at yourself as you were the one that cut the schedule too close), and crank up the Jonas Brothers in a vain attempt to drown out their conversation.
- Drop kids off in front of the school.
- Sit in the school parking lot for 20 minutes until it's time for volunteer stint.
- Enter the school to teach small group writing strategies in the first grade.
- Leave the school two hours later feeling as though you've been accosted by ornery wood elves. A room full of first graders is a force of nature.
- Sit in parking lot, again, for 25 minutes. 'Cuz what can you really accomplish in 25 minutes if you have to return to the exact spot you just left?!
- Enter the school to retrieve eldest daughter for quarterly doctor's check.
- Sit in doctor's waiting room for 15 minutes.
- Lie to doctor when daughter states that there was no milk in the house for breakfast this morning. There was no milk, but there were bagels and cream cheese. Sheesh. She made it sound like I was starving her for pete's sake.
- Lecture daughter about making mommy look like a putz in front of the doctor on the way back to school.
- Make mental note --
- Drop daughter off at the school and race home for lunch so that you can get to the market to pick up milk before you have to head back to the school to pick up kids.
- Arrive at house and switch into multi-tasking mode. The goal:
  1. hard-boil eggs for lunch,
  2. check email,
  3. vacuum mountain of crumbs created when cereal had to be poured back into box because we were out of milk.
  4. finish a blog post, and
  5. head back to school to teach advanced math.
  6. complete tasks in 35 minutes.
The clock is ticking. On your mark... get set... GO!

- Place eggs in water to boil while you dive into the emails.
- Lose track of time by getting completely engrossed email.
- Hear popping sound, ignore it, and then hear it again.
- Decide to investigate and then start running for the kitchen when you remember that the eggs have been boiling way too long.
- Peer into the pot where the eggs used to be boiling. I say "used to be" because all the water has long since evaporated.
- Retreat in alarm as egg explodes and shoots toward the ceiling.
- Watch in horror as cooked egg splatters all over the cook top and the floor.
- Shriek when the second egg explodes en route to the sink and nearly hits you in the eye as it rockets out of the pan.
- Dance around like a fool trying to get the pan to the sink before additional explosions detonate.
- Curse (eh, no one's around to hear so you can use the creative ones) at the sight of cooked egg, literally, all over the kitchen.
- Curse some more when you realize the pan is probably ruined.
- Marvel at the stench and crack a window.
- Clean hastily.
- Dash out the door to go to the market to get the milk so that you won't be late to pick the kids up from school.
Time's up.
I tried to take a picture of the tiny egg fragments that were everywhere. It didn't come out so you'll just have to use your imagination. The first picture was the explosion that occurred as I was peering into the pot. The second picture is of the yolk that nearly shot me in the eye en route to the sink. The pictures really don't do justice to the brief chaos.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I give up

About a year after we brought Abby and Emily home from the hospital we began to feel cramped in our home. This was unfortunate as we had just moved in to this particular home. We began what became a constant and pervasive quest to cram ourselves into a space that was clearly too small. Abby and Emily shared a room that could barely contain their two cribs and a rocking chair while Rach + H shared a reasonably sized bedroom.

We knew we were going to have to get creative to make the home conform to our family, but had no creative ideas to fill the void. So, one day we were in Costco and I noticed they brought in furniture. I love that about Costco. The regular stock is always there, but they throw in some new stuff every couple months to keep it from becoming drudgery. I took the bait and browsed, and to my delight I discovered the answer to at least one of our space issues: loft beds.

As a child I would have killed for a bed like this. What could be more fantastic? I really wanted to get those beds. In a fit of rationalization I concluded that loft beds are cheaper than an addition to the home and, just like that, we became the proud owners of some new furniture.

It actually turned out to be a great purchase. The kids adored the beds. They thought we were amazing; possibly even brilliant. It opened up enough space in their bedroom to allow the kids to cohabitate fairly seamlessly for the next four years. And then we moved. Once we stretched beyond the confines of the expensive California housing market we were able to give the kids their own bedrooms. And now the loft beds were up for grabs.

A significant amount of negotiation and bartering took place. When all was said and done Abby and Emily ended up with the beds. I felt good about the turn of events, and I was glad that all of the girls were going to have an opportunity to sleep in the "special" beds.

Except Abby and Emily don't even like use the beds anymore. They're sleeping underneath the loft beds. On the floor. I guess we could try to broker a bed swap amongst the sisters, but that would require the beds to be disassembled (to get them through the doorway) and then reassembled in the new room. I know better than to even raise the subject with my husband. And I'm certainly not going to do that. Even if I felt so inclined the likelihood that I'd incorrectly assemble them and maim one of the kids in the process is just too great a risk. Conversely, I could try to orchestrate a room swap. Talk about opening a can of worms! Noooo thank you.

They look comfy. Right?

And so it is that the beds that were once the envy of all the Belinski sisters have been shunned. There is no accounting for the logic of children. I give up. I actually helped them make nests under there so they'd be comfortable.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!