Friday, August 31, 2007

a lesson in tolerance

Last year, at this time, my middle child started her first year in kindergarten. She met a really good friend who happened to have a twin brother who was missing his right hand and forearm. Most impish little boys you've ever met. Fun, funny, bright and adorable.

Now, the first time I saw a teacher walking around with a small spare arm under her arm, I have to say, I was a little taken aback. She didn't seem the type to go pulling off little kids' arms, but I was pretty sure there was a kid who belonged to that arm. I eventually spotted him, and was reassured that it wasn't a fresh wound. He just really had no use for his prosthetic arm -- I think it slowed him down.

My daughter met the brother with both arms first, and thought he was the coolest kid. But then, about a week or so into school, she'd found a favorite girl, Hannah, who she ran around the playground with and chased boys. Here's the part where my heart fell into my sneakers.

"Me and Hannah think that Ethan is a robot," she says while we're walking home from school.

"Why do you think Ethan is a robot?"

"Oh, because he only has one arm and his eyeballs are two different colors. We don't chase him because we think he'll turn us into robots." She was dead serious, and I wanted to cry.

"Baby, no, he's a real boy, he's Jonathan's brother, just like you have brothers, and he laughs and cries and feels sad and mad, just like everyone else. He is most definitely not a robot."

"Well, I know he's Jonathan's brother, but we still think he's a robot. I think his eyes change colors and shoot lasers."

I tried, in vain, the whole way home to convince her that he's a regular boy. I finally quit, resolving to take it up later. I did, at bedtime, when I asked her if she would just smile at him. She promised that she would try. I brought it to the attention of her teacher, so that she would make sure and stop my daughter if she even started to act ugly toward him. She assured me that she would take care of it.

She decided about a month into school that he wasn't a robot, thankfully, but that she still didn't want to play with him. That was okay with me - I can't force her to be friends with anybody.

Fast forward one year, this first week of first grade. She told me tonight that she chased both Ethan and Jonathan, and that Ethan even touched her with his arm that didn't have a hand. She said, with a shrug of her shoulders, "it felt kind of, well, normal!"

I told her it most certainly was normal. And my heart breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Onions

I had onions with my lunch today. Onions are something that I swore I'd never eat, eww, gross, who would eat that? Well, as promised, by my mother, tastebuds change in your thirties. Mature, whatever.

My four year old's taste buds have not matured yet, obviously. He spotted the heap of onions on my pizza and said with his two fingers up his nose (that's how he plugs his nose, don't ask, I don't know), "Don't even fink about talking close to me wif your onion mouf."

I had great fun threatening him with my onion mouth. I even threatened to breathe on his woop if he didn't hurry up and get in the car. He went from whining that he couldn't get in to scrambling, practically falling to get himself in the car.

I should start eating onions with every meal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What my resume might look like

At the beginning of the school year, talk always turns to "what are you going to do when all your kids are in school?" which is the politically correct way of asking when are you going to start contributing to society again? As much as I want to answer, "eat bonbons and watch soaps, don't be ridiculous!" I usually bite my tongue.

A friend is updating her resume after being out of the workforce for a year, and she was having a hard time remembering what she did at her last job. And I realized that I haven't had a regular job in nearly nine years, and not only could I not remember what I did, I could barely remember the name of the company! And then I wondered what my resume would look like.

Would it just have a giant blank space in the middle?

Would I list the tasks I was responsible for in the last nine years? Because that might be a little frightening.

  • kept clients' bottoms clean after daily, sometimes hourly, constitution
  • responded in a timely manner to usually unreasonable demands of client
  • wrangled unwilling clients in the presence of other competitors and maintained convincing smile
  • used unorthodox methodologies while convincing clients to do things that were in their best interest, even though they didn't know it
  • managed daily quotas of hugs, kisses and milk for all clients
  • kept meticulous records in my head of all illnesses and medications of all clients, while successfully fighting insurance companies and hospitals unreasonable requests for unavailable resources

I wonder what kind of job I would be qualified for. And if I were qualified, would I really want that job?

A novel idea

I was speaking to a friend this morning, really, I was whining to a friend about how hard it was for me to get up in the mornings. "Oh, whine, whine, wah, wah, I have to get up at seven. Boo hoo hoo. I hate school." Fortunately my children weren't present, because I'm still pretty sure they think I take great pleasure in waking up before the sun and rousing them with glee. We'll just leave it that way for now.

Anyhow, she made the comment that their family meal is breakfast. She wakes up at six (!) and gets ready, makes breakfast for all and they eat at seven. As a family. Together. In the mornings. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this, if you must know.

Just last night, I'd been worrying, as I tend to do, that since Sarge starting working nights again, we're not eating a family meal. The two nights he has off this week, I have evening meetings, so those evening meals are shot, too. And, because I'm a worrier, my mind automatically jumps to all the studies that conclude that if you don't eat a meal together each day, your child will automatically end up pregnant, on drugs, and on welfare. By the time they're ten. So my head was still trying to figure out what my family was going to do to avoid definitive disaster, when I had this conversation this morning.

I'm pretty sure she saw the lightbulb go off over my head. Why not us? Why could we not eat breakfast together? Sarge is home to see the kids off to school and eats breakfast before heading off to bed. The children eat breakfast. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! I could cook! In the mornings! And I'd have an excuse for feeding them cereal for dinner!

The only thing I have to figure out is how to get myself to get up earlier in the mornings. The wheels are turning. I'm excited.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hahahahaha!

Seriously, this wouldn't be so funny if my parents hadn't owned three of the ten cars on that list. In fact, I wouldn't have cared anything about it if I hadn't seen so many cars I've ridden in. My parents always got them in colors that made them WAY cooler. Like avocado green and Kodak yellow. Too bad Mom's potato car wasn't on the list.


Ah, the seventies. I can't wait to see what kids will make fun of me for.

(I know I'll be able to get my oldest back at least, though, because I know about his plans to take my minivan when I'm done with it and repaint it with fire above the wheels and do some other work on it to make it "cool." Um, yeah, it'll still be a minivan, babe, and I can't wait to tell your first girlfriend about that. And all subsequent girlfriends. Oh, heck, all his friends.)

I only cried a little.

The older children are off to school today. We had a big bang-up dinner bash last night, complete with a slip-n-slide, a kiddie pool at the bottom of the slide and water balloons. And there was food. Lots and lots of food. Everyone went home early, because everyone had a little one starting school today. It was great fun, a perfect way to end the summer.

I only cried a little, when the now-third grader demanded that we go see his second grade teacher for a hug, before he went off to third grade. It was very sweet, and, fortunately, the second grade teacher is quite used to seeing me tear up. So all is well.

And now we have one. Who told me last night that today, when we were just three, that we would go to the donut factory, the playground, and then we would do math. So we could help the older two with their math homework.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I. Survived.

And even had fun. So much so that we're doing it again tonight, but with the crowd that I could have piles of laundry around and wouldn't care. But since the house is already clean, we have lots of leftovers, we decided to have a back-to-school celebration with friends. And water balloons.

The biggest problem I had all day was the constant explosion of the tupperware cupboard and not enough room in the fridge. And if that's as bad as it gets, that's pretty darn good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

All grown up.

If you're like me, you always wonder when you're actually a grown up. When you marry? Is it when you have children? When you get a mortgage? Is it when you successfully deal with something difficult? I think that it's none of those.

Recently, I decided that it's much less of a profound or planned moment. It's the moment that you feel compelled to apologize to your parents for your behavior as a teenager. Or as a child.

Which means I'm a grown up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why you should have company over every six months...

I am a firm believer that you should invite acquaintances over to your house about every six months or so. Not people that you know too well, and not people that you could care less about (because that would be miserable).

Let me explain. I'm not one that really cares what her house looks like. What? You're surprised? I invite friends over and then ask them to step over the giant dirty clothes pile in the entrance way. I don't actually care. We walk over the clothes, scrape off a spot at the kitchen table and chat. Come in, I hope you don't care, because I really don't, and let's just be, and can I get you a drink?


But I am also a person who has lots of projects to finish, lots of ideas, and lots of stuff she wants to get done around the house. However, I don't do anything unless I have a deadline. No matter what. This is where the dinner party comes in. It gives me a finish line, a drop dead date.

One time, we were having a group of friends over to our little tiny house. And I *needed* to paint the hallway. A different shade of white. It had to be done. And it was. Thank goodness we had people over, otherwise the hall would have never been painted and pigs would have started to fly. It would have been awful.



Now, we are having friends over this weekend. And my house would have been fine the way it was a week or so ago, but I now I have a deadline to get the things done I'd been putting off for over a year, since, I don't know, the day I moved in. It gave me the push I needed to call the plumber and have a spigot put in the backyard. And have the playstructure put back together. And fix the rigged window treatment put up with tacks.


And what doesn't get done before this weekend will likely not get done again until we have people over again. Unless you're family - don't expect much, you already know what my house looks like.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the sleepover


I know, I know, enough with the pictures already. I can't promise I'll stop. Sorry.


We promised the children a sleepover in the littlest one's room as soon as it was finished (and at a time where I wouldn't be taking them out in public the next day, because no one *actually* sleeps at a sleepover). So finished it is, and all we have to do today is wait for the drywall man for the twelfth time, because he never actually shows up.
We pulled out a tent and three sleeping bags. The sleeping bags barely fit in the tent, and the kids played and played for at least an hour. Sleeping bags were moved, pillows were switched, giggles, tattletales (mo-om, she pinched me! mo-om, he kicked me! mo-om, he sniffed my pillow! You know, all the normal stuff.), and pretending to see constellations in the glow-in-the-dark stars.
The oldest one gave it up first. He fell asleep while the other two were still fort building and tattling and plotting their takeover of the world. Finally, about 10:30, I made them get in their own beds. They cried and wailed about the end of their sleepover. For about 28 seconds. Because that's when they fell asleep.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

conversations

In the car today, the discussions moved to talk of when Mom and Dad were young. You know, the olden days.

The middle child, for some reason, asked if Clifford was on television when I was a little girl.

"Well, no, baby, it wasn't, because..." I prepared to explain that the books had been written, but no one had put it on TV. But she already had the answer.


"Oh, I know why, Mommy. Because there was no television when you were a little girl, right?"


Yeah, the olden days.

Who tackled whom?

So there's this thing, on this blog. It's called "tackle-it tuesday." And I've known about it for weeks and weeks and weeks. And I've been reading what other people have done, and been generally inspired and scared all at the same time. But here goes.

Before the littlest one was born, you'll recall that we were super-poor, Sarge was in the police academy and we lived in a teeny-tiny house. And so I purchased our new baby a dresser from the Salvation Army, complete with mis-matched handles and not a scrap of real wood. It went nicely with his hand-me down crib and clearance rack bedding.


I thought he should have been grateful for a dresser at all. I had been tempted to keep his clothes in buckets under his crib, but I needed that space for other things. So I replaced the handles on the dresser and moved on with my life.


Fast forward four and a half years. The Salvation Army dresser still functions, though one of the drawers keeps breaking. Oddly enough it's the underwear/woop drawer, so it gets heavy use (until he gives up on underwear for the day, usually around pair four). And he changes clothes at least seventeen times a day. So his dresser looks like this most of the time. Fortunately, it sits in his closet, so I can just shut the doors to the closet when I can't stand it any more. Well, I usually have to shove some things around to get there, but it's at least possible, most days.


But, you know, we're having a dinner party this weekend, and random ridiculous things are being done. And the drawer made the list. Mostly it made the list because it sat in the upstairs hallway for about three weeks, then downstairs, completely in the way, between the garage and the laundry room, for another two weeks. And I'm totally under-exaggerating those times, to make myself feel better, just so you know. The timeline was way longer, and I will admit on my deathbed how long it actually was.


So the gorilla glue, the hammer and random nails found their way into the awkward corner where the drawer lived for an unspecified amount of time. I'd done this once before, so I knew just what I needed (double up what I used the last time, because obviously it didn't work really well!). And to the drawer I went. No matter that Sarge was trying to sleep right down the hall after working all night, I was determined!


And I think I won this round. Until the little one decides to change his clothes again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

on collecting.


This post is part of a writing project at Scribbit. Check out what she's got going on! Oh, wait! Read this first, then go check it out. Phwew!

Once upon a time, before I packed up everything I owned that was breakable (read: had children), I wanted to collect salt and pepper shakers. I really did. I just thought it would be a neat collection, but I found myself struggling too hard to make it work. What I didn't realize was that I was already collecting something, something that brought me far more happiness and sense of worth than a new set of salt and pepper shakers ever would.

I know, I go on and on about sewing. But here's the deal: I collect fabric. I love everything about fabric - the colors, the textures, the way it feels under my fingers, but most of all, what I love about fabric is it's potential.




I gravitate toward the remnants and the clearance section. It's like the lost souls of textiles. I want to bring them home, tell them they are loved and then cut them up and make them new and useful. I found my living room curtains in the remnant section - I just didn't know they were my living room curtains at the time.


I'm pretty sure I'll never run out of fabric. In fact, I bet if I sat down to use up every scrap of fabric that I owned that I would be an old, very arthritic woman when I was finished. I'm also pretty sure that I won't stop adding to my collection (I just hope that I can use it faster than I can add it at this point - I'm kind of running out of room).


I find that having my collection around me fuels my creativity. There have been times when it's been necessary to pack up the bulk of my fabric in places where I can't see it and visit with it. But one of the first things I did when I got to this house was put up shelving, and load up said shelving with all the fabric I own. I still have a few tubs and boxes, but most of my fabric is out where I can see it and be inspired by it. It gets me in trouble sometimes, as I should be working on other people's fabric and I find myself inspired to make something with my own.


And sometimes, just sometimes, I can make smiles with my collection. This is my most recent subtraction from my collection. Five yards of fabric, true to form - found in the clearance section - that became pajamas for the kids. It was supposed to just be the boys, but I had some left over, and the girl wanted to match her brothers. And match she does.

What digital has taken from us.

We had several disposable cameras and canisters of film that were over a year old that I just had developed. There was a familiar feeling as I hopped in the car and practically tore open the envelopes to see what was in store for me. It has been a long time since I've done that, and I think I kind of miss it.

Now, I love the fact that you can see your pictures immediately and know whether or not you have to take another, but there is something about that excitement that I miss. The surprise of seeing some really sweet pictures. And some really bad ones.

The disposable cameras were from our vacation from last year, to Mount Rushmore. We gave each of the children a camera and allowed them to take pictures. Surprisingly, the little one took several fairly good pictures of Sarge and me. We were laughing in the pictures, fairly certain that the pictures would be of our midsections or the tops of our head. There's a great picture of the little one's chin, one of my shoe, and a few of his brother taking pictures.

Next on my list of things to do - get funny pictures converted to digital.

These are the photos that would have been deleted before they would have been downloaded, but they make my heart so happy. That and the adorable picture of the middle one, before she got all, "Ugh, Mom, I'm practically a teenager now that I'm six, you should know that. Duh."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'm such a sucker!

I'm the one they plan for. I'm the one they hope for. I'm the one for whom that they created "tax-free shopping weekend."

We cleaned out the childrens' drawers this morning. We had a fashion show, and determined that the middle one had no pants, just shorts, the oldest had one pair, and the youngest only two. So, I decided that we would brave the tax-free weekend shopping.

Really, it's not much of a deal. I've never thought the sales were that great, it's just a plan to get people in the buying mindset into the stores. It's an 8.25% discount. Pitiful. But we went. And we purchased.

Mind you, none of the children really needed shirts. They had plenty. But, oddly enough, they all got new shirts! And pants! Except the one with no pants! And new sneakers! And Snickers! And Dr Pepper! And a new handtowel!

Yeah, I didn't save much by going on tax-free weekend. I think that's their plan.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I failed the nerd qualifications.

My oldest son is attempting to learn how to be a Navajo code talker, which involves learning Navajo and Morse Code. I think it will last about a week, but it's a noble goal nonetheless.

But he reminded me that I have learned and forgotten Morse code, as has Sarge. Sarge learned it as a part of his training in the Navy and then never used it, so the nerd factor wasn't so bad. I learned it for a far nerdier goal. I attempted to get my ham radio license when I was a teenager.

I tried to be a card-carrying nerd, but failed -- how sad is that? I took AP Pascal (hello, I'm old *and* outdated!), but only got a 3 on the test. I tried to get my ham radio license, but couldn't pass the test. I was in the color guard, but only made assistant captain, never captain.

Who on earth ever tried so hard at something so pitiful and failed?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Little capitalists.

So I'm going through a phase. A cleaning out phase. That would have nothing to do with the fact that I'm having a dinner party in a week. Nothing at all. The painting doesn't have anything to do with it, nor does the finding of the kitchen counters. Nope, nosirree, just a coincidence.

I asked the children if I could sell their Little People. We have a lot of them, because I love them so much, but they are taking over my junk closet, and I have more junk I need to shove in there. And they agreed, with two exceptions. The littlest one wanted to keep certain sets that are his favorites. Fine, agreed.

The second exception. The oldest one said he would only sell them if we could split the money four ways, one part to each of the children and one part to me. Um, really? How do you come up with these things, and why does it not seem altogether unreasonable?

So we're splitting the profits. And it helps for getting them in the car when we go randomly somewhere to meet someone - but you'll get five dollars, get in the car and no, you don't need shoes! And they do think they've won the toy lottery, because when this is all said and done, we'll each have about $20 (we have a lot of little people!)

But we'll try to keep it hushed that we're getting rid of the lazy-mobile, also known as the jogging stroller, that's never seen any jogging, just riding the lazy one to and from school while the older two walk. He has to walk this year - otherwise, he'll lose all credibility with his children when he tells them that he rode to school everyday in his pajamas under a blanket with a snack, while his mother sweated and sludged six miles uphill in the snow everyday, pushing him and his snacks.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

snapping.

It's like when the oldest child learned to whistle. He couldn't stop. He was so excited about his new skill that he wanted to make sure that he didn't forget how to do it.

Well, the middle one learned to snap at the beginning of the summer. With both hands. And she hasn't stopped. It could be that she doesn't want to forget, it could be that she just can't stop herself, and it could be that she just wants her brothers to know that she can snap and they can't. I don't know what it is, but it's making me crazy!

And she's desperate to lose a tooth. "Mommy, will I lose my teeth when I'm ten?" I don't know, baby, those teeth don't feel like they're going anywhere, anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is it over yet?

Honestly, since the marble thing, I'm actually liking my children. They've been pretty fun to be around, the name-calling has subsided and there is harmony in my house.

But I had the opportunity to be out without my children today, in places where mothers brought their children but would have preferred to have been without them. The grocery store. A meeting. You know, the places that you only bring your children when there's not a drop of milk or a slice of cake -- desperate.

And I decided that the summer was wearing thin. That it was really time for the children to go back to school, and the moms to go back to doing what we do when our children are at school. The place where I was a week or so ago. The mothers I witnessed seemed to be, um, at the end of their ropes.

Tie a knot and hang on girls, it's getting close! Less than two weeks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tanner, the pooping dog.



Ugh. What's a girl to do? She gets the pooper-scooper barbie, then they tell her she can't have it anymore. It's "dangerous."

Dangerous? How about disturbing! Okay, I'm fine with the whole pooping dog thing. Yeah, dogs do it. And yay for Barbie, she's socially responsible, she cleans up after her dog. Fashionably and neatly. No grocery store bag for Barbie - she keeps it at arm's length.

The disturbing part is near where the label "scooper" is. She dumps the do into the little can she's got her foot on. And the poop goes right back into the food container! Voila! Poop is magically food again, with no composting needed! Yuck, yuck, and yuck again.

I have a good friend who mentioned once, when I showed her my daughter's magic dog and her daughter finished squee-ing, that she tried to imagine the meeting that they had at the Barbie company. "Hey, I've got an idea! We've done Doctor Barbie, Veternarian Barbie, Sleepover Barbie -- how about Pooper Scooper Barbie? Whaddya think, Bob?" "John, I think it's positively brilliant! Press on the dog's tail, and out drops a load!" Surely it actually came about at a happy hour gone too long. Forget about the dangerous magnets.

It's no wonder my mother never let us have Barbies. She always claimed they were promising us something we'd never have (read: giant rack), but maybe it was to protect us. From being disturbed.

25 marbles

We're halfway there. They all have their critters.

The middle one had two marbles to go this morning, and her brother only had one. I heard rustling early this morning. I woke up to her bright little face.

"Mommy, I did my chores, I got the newspaper, I've cleared off the kitchen table and now I'm working on the treasure chest [the coffee table]. Excuse me please, I need to feed the dog now."

Think she wanted her two marbles this morning?

dreams

This morning, when Sarge came in from work, it woke me up, as it usually does. I ask him how his night was, as I usually do. Then I got annoyed.

"I was dreaming that Martha Stewart was teaching me how to make milk chocolate. We were just about to add the milk!"

"Oh," he says, "I guess that's better than the other day when I woke you from your dream about the neighbors suing you."

That didn't make me feel better. I really wanted Martha's recipe.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

confessions

I really don't want to admit this one, mostly because I've been living the opposite way for more than eight years. But here goes anyway.

I find that I work better when my work space is neat. Tidy. Clean. Not covered in scraps and thread.

My mother will tell you that I taught her something very liberating. She saw me working a bunch of years ago and noticed that I never aimed for the trash can when I clipped seams or when I snipped threads. I simply let them fall to the floor. "Oh, it just slows me down. I just pick them up later."

The problem was that I never did pick them up later. I just left them there. And when I did clean up, I reminisced about the projects that I'd completed months before. And I'm not really exaggerating when I say months. I might even be hedging on the other side there a little.

I always have fabric on the floor, on the table, in the corners, everywhere. I always have weeks of work stacked up in my little room, and I'm usually working on eight different projects at a time. I got a little bug the other day, in between projects, to rearrange and clean up a little. Oh, honestly, let's just admit it. People were coming over, and the scraps and threads had migrated to the front entry. There. Fine.

So I rearranged and cleaned up. And then, about four days later, I found that the floor was messy again and wanted to vacuum. And here's the crazy part: I DID! Seriously, in the year plus we've lived here, I've only vacuumed that room a handful of times, and two of those times were in the past week.

But I like it. And I did recover a chair since then, and made a couple of roman shades, and curtains and a valance or two and a table cover. And I can find them -- I just need to deliver them, extraneous thread free. So I might even be a little more productive. And :::wince::: happier in there.

I hate it when I'm wrong. And I especially hate it when I'm wrong for a really long time.

can't wait! giddy!

Sarge was painting the littlest one's room today. Well, he's still painting it, hopefully we won't ever want to change from REALLYDARKBLUE, because if it's anything like getting the paint on, the room will be three inches smaller. Fortunately it's only one wall. The rest are a lovely gray color. I'll post pictures, once it's actually put together.

The oldest child was in the room with his dad today while he was painting. I happened to be in there, also, and the oldest child was complaining about how loud his father's music was. And how it sounded really bad.

All the while, Sarge was reminiscing, "hey, babe, did I ever tell you that I saw Faith No More in concert? At the Superdome? In 1993?" And while I was wondering if they made the doors bigger on the Superdome to get all that hair through, a thought struck me.

MY SON WAS COMPLAINING ABOUT HIS PARENT'S MUSIC. AND THE CEILING DID NOT FALL IN. PIGS DID NOT FLY.

I so wish I'd had a tape recorder.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

the ding ding chair

When Sarge and I first married, I was fresh out of college and he was enlisted in the Navy. Neither of us had ever had a place of our own and everything we owned fit into the back of his pickup truck.

We started out with a table that had been left in one of the dorm rooms I lived in and four folding chairs (with cushions! living large!) that I'd borrowed from a roommate. We spent our wedding gift money on two couches and dressers from IKEA. We had a TV Sarge owned and an entertainment center someone had given him. We thought we were living pretty well.

Finally, my roommate needed her chairs back, and we were going to have to do something. So we sucked it up and bought the table of my dreams. It was very 1996, light wood farmhouse table - we only just barely didn't buy the one with tiletop. All you people who bought a kitchen table in the late nineties know what I'm talking about. It was rectangular, and I insisted on six chairs, even though it was just the two of us. "Company," I explained to Sarge, terrified of having one child, much less four, "and we need a computer chair, don't we?" So we purchased six chairs and the table of my twenty-year-old dreams.

And we threw it all in the back of the pickup truck. Table on the bottom and three boxes of chairs on top. And flew home down I-95 in Maryland back to the Army base. I kept looking back at our big boxes, so excited about our new purchases. But the strangest thing was happening. People suddenly started waving at us and making gestures like something was wrong. And it was.

One of my precious boxes had flown out of the back of the truck, smashing two chairs all over I-95.

Sarge wanted to keep going -- there was nothing that we could do about it. But I needed to go back, make sure that no one was hurt and that my chairs weren't miraculously salvageable. Being a very smart newlywed, he went back. And he was right - there were chairs parts all over the road and the police were already blocking the road. And we turned around again, with only four chairs in the back of our truck, and a crying wife.

I never was able to justify purchasing two more chairs - we already had more than we really needed, and we didn't have another $100 to spend on more chairs. Until we found out that our family wasn't going to fit in those four chairs, seven years later. By then it was too late to find a matching chair.

I had time, I told myself, the baby won't need a chair for a while. I'll find a cool chair that doesn't match. Or I'll buy a bunch of chairs that don't match. We don't want him to feel like an "extra." But for the time being, we put one of our folding chairs (no cushions, too cheap) at the table.

But something magical happened. The children began to fight over the "Ding Ding Chair." Apparently you could hit it with your fork while you eat and really make your mom annoyed. But it makes the coolest sound! And it wasn't the extra chair anymore - it was the special chair.

And so, the baby is way past four years old, and I never have dealt with the chair issue. I'm not sure that I will.

like being in a bathtub with a bunch of strangers

One of Sarge's friend's put it so eloquently: going to the community swimming pool is like being in a bathtub with a bunch of strangers.

And it is. Sometimes.

I love going to the pool when there's not too many people there. Heck, we were there the other day when it was just us and another family with kids the same ages as mine - they hit it off beautifully and had so much fun together. But no one else was there, really.

But then there's the other times, where adults are consuming adult beverages in large quanities while simultaneously taking care of a number of children wearing floaties. And the other people who are taking all of the tables, because they're having a private party and glaring at you for using one of them. And there's the kids who splash and shoot water guns at you. And who jump in the pool right on top of your kid who can barely swim. There are the teenagers who use the excuse of being barely dressed to fondle each other in public.

And the ignoring, oh the ignoring. I dream of the day that I can sit on a lawn chair and read a book while my children swim. I dream of the day that I don't have to get in a bathing suit to take the kids to the pool. But those dreams will never be reality. Just recently, I've gotten to the point where I can sit by the edge of the pool or sit on a step in the pool and watch the kids. But I still get in to throw them, or to help them with their diving toys or just play with them. I don't think that I'll move much further away from them. Because going to the pool is family time for me. They always have a new trick they want to show off or a new skill. And I want to be there when they say, "watch, mommy, watch!" But this sentiment is not shared by so many.

I love that our neighborhood has a pool that I can use. I love that I've been able to watch my children really learn how to swim over the last two summers. I love that we can cool off on a hot summer day.

But I really wish that I could figure out a time that not everyone and their brother is going to the pool. Because I'm not fond of being in the tub with bunch of strangers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

all in a day's work





















This morning, my chair looked like this. I bought it for $15. A while ago. Maybe even a year ago. And I knew, just as soon as I'd bought it which fabric I'd use to cover it.

When we moved, I saved my curtains I'd used in our old house. It was a great ticking stripe, beige and black. I bought eleven yards of it for $50. And I used all eleven yards for the windows. And I loved them. But I'd not found a spot for them in this house. Until the chair.

I'll tell you a little something, though. I hate re-using old fabric. Because it smells and it's dusty and it's usually a big pain in the neck to take apart and put back together. This was no different.





This was what I found in the hem. Of curtains I'd used only three years. And even though I'm not the worlds best housekeeper, can you imagine the dust in thirty year old curtains? Or pillows? 'Cause yuck. And we sneezed all day. I wonder why?




I soldiered on, though, determined to work around the spots where the curtains had been used as napkins (one of the reasons I cite when not recommending curtains, eating and small children in combination). And I was determined to finish in one day, because otherwise, it would end up like my last chair, which was half finished for over a year. This was just a slipcover, though, and I now have a new, $15 and one day's work chair. I present to you, my newest pride and joy:





sheer brilliance

Seriously, you've never seen such well behaved, eager-to-please children. I was awoken by the oldest, whispering, "Mom, I did my chores. Do you want me to make breakfast?" Fully dressed. Before 8:00 am.

I had told them early on that they could earn a marble if they helped me with laundry. The mistake I made was telling them that before any of the laundry was washed, and I told them the could help put it away. So they were begging ALL day to do laundry.

They were so sweet and good. And it's all going to backfire on them. Because now I know for a fact that they can.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bribery.


So, yeah, my kids are behaving badly. Lots of whining, complaining, refusal to comply with the horrible things their mother asks of them, like, oh, I don't know, take a bath or clean up their rooms or brush their teeth. Heck, even getting up off the couch to go pee seems to be too much trouble for a particular child. They're arguing more, getting along less.


I think mostly they're just pretty sick of each other. Tired of being around one another, but at the same time don't know enough to get on with their lives and go play by themselves already.


So, I've resorted to bribery.


I had a bunch of chore-ish errands to run. I had clients to visit, groceries to shop for, banking to do -- just the errands that need to be done, but of course I waited for a day that Dad couldn't help. You know, that whole working ridiculousness. It so gets in the way.


Webkinz. I have a love/hate relationship with them, but today, and for the next week or so, I'm all about the love. As a reward for decent behavior today, even when we were all crammed in a little bathroom while I was hemming drapes and they were coloring (there was only one argument!), we went to a particular store that we were fairly certain would have the lovable creatures. And they did. Even though purchasing said objects were not a part of the bargain, which they knew, I let them each choose one.


And then I did the most evil thing of all. I purchased said Webkinz. And then proceeded to tell them that they couldn't have them until they'd earned them.


"But, WHYYYYYYYY, Mommy, do we have to WOOOOOOOORK for them???"


Oh, yes, my little loves. To the marble jars we go. 50 marbles. Each. They are allowed to give the Webkinz a hug before bedtime, so long as there is at least one marble in the jar. At 25 marbles, they are allowed to play with the stuffed creature, and at 50 they will get the secret code, which enables them to play online. Marbles can be earned with chores and good deeds. But if you ask if a deed will earn you a marble before you do it, you forfeit all rights to a marble.


I'm not sure if the littlest one has the stamina or desire, but I know that the older two will be all sweetness and charm. For about 50 marbles. And then we'll see, won't we?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

busted, again, but this time by the eight year old.

The littlest one was not allowed to go to the pool. Aside from the whole yelling and general rudeness of demeanor, the pinching of mommy and yelling that it's all her fault that he pinched her because she made him wear the Winnie the Pooh swimsuit made it clear that he didn't belong out in public. With me, at least.

So he had to stay home. And he ended up falling asleep, looking like a sweet angel, still sniffling in his sleep because he'd been crying so hard. But that's not the story here.

Sarge took the older two children to the pool. Apparently, on their way there, they discussed why the whole family didn't go. And Daddy told them that we'd been fairly lenient lately, and that we were pretty tired of the bad attitudes and the talking back, and that we really weren't going to put up with it anymore.

And the oldest one told him, "Yeah, sometimes you and Mom don't really follow through on your threats."


Um. Oh. You noticed. Shoot.


But, now that it's been brought to my attention, there will be consequenses, buddy. Oh, yeah. Just let me think of one that I actually feel like carrying out. 'Cause it's summer for me, too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

freebies

I think I may know now why drug dealers give the first hit of crack to the new guy. It's just good business sense.

Seriously, when I went to see my hairdresser, she pleaded with me to let her tame the caterpillars above my eyes. Please, she asked, I just went to a class and learned some great new tricks, so went the excuse. And I let her. And it wasn't so bad.

And now, all I can think of is how badly I want to go back and have her do it again. I'm an addict after the first hit. She has a client for life.



And P.S. to my dad -- please, when my car breaks down, will you fix it like you fixed mom's?

Monday, August 6, 2007

TV

Sometimes it's better not to talk with other people about the shows that you love. Unless your goal is to not watch as much TV.

For example, Sarge and I watched CSI: Miami, and there was something that we didn't like about it, but we couldn't put our fingers on it. Until we discussed the matter with my sister. And she expressed something about the show that we agreed with, but hadn't necessarily noticed ourselves. But then we couldn't stop seeing what she saw and only watched about two more episodes. But I won't tell you, in case you like the way the red-headed guy delivers his lines all extra-dramatic-like. Oops. Sorry.

Much further reaching than this, though, was a conversation I had with my mother. She expressed how much she disliked it when a show starts harming the main characters. She felt like that was done when a show was deteriorating (if she knew the term "jump the shark" she would have used it. But she's not eight years ago hip, like me, y'know). And now, it affects me. I mean, if you really think about how really Bad Mark Greene's life was for the time that he worked at County, I would have quit, too. Or whatever it was that he did to exit gracefully. I worry that I won't be able to watch Grey's Anatomy that much more, just because poor old Meredith keeps having terrible things happen. And then, Brenda Leigh keeps having trouble. First this week, and then it looks like next week, just when she recovers from the cattle prod incident, she'll get in a car crash. That's not really an accident (cue suspenseful music).

I guess, though, it's just my family's way of trying to make me more productive. Because I'm supposed to be making curtains, and I really should make it possible to open my front door before I have company tomorrow morning. But I need to get back to Army Wives now.

All Grown Up

We all went out to lunch today, and the middle child decided that what was on the kid's menu did not appeal to her sophisticated palate. So she ordered - soup, salad and 1/2 sandwich. She liked the black bean soup, for the first few bites. She didn't like the turkey (apparently it wasn't processed enough) and the fruit salad met with her approval, except for the blueberries, cantaloupe and honeydew.

So, she may be all grown up at six, but I think she'll stick with grilled cheese or chicken nuggets next time.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

on strike

When we were kids, my mom would periodically lose patience with all of us and go on strike. In her defense, she worked a demanding full time job and would come home at night and take care of us, including making dinner every night. I don't recall take-out ever being an option. She had piles of laundry that she'd do on Saturdays and she did the grocery shopping until we learned to drive and discovered the joy of bag-boys.



My most vivid memory of this was that she was cooking in the kitchen, all the while hollering that she was going to go on strike. Now, I'm not entirely familiar with the details of going on strike, but I'm pretty sure that you're supposed to leave the ruthless dictators in a lurch rather than finish up your task. Finishing cooking dinner is like teachers going on strike all summer long.



She'll tell the story of the time that she ate in the kitchen while the rest of us ate at the table, trying to prove the fact that she was a servant to us. Not sure it worked, because I don't remember that one.



We laugh about it now. Even she laughs about it now. But there are days when I feel like going on strike.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

He's a boy, he's an eight year old boy.

Overheard from downstairs. The oldest child, to his friend, "I'm going to the restroom. Code 2."

Seriously. Not sure if I'm ready for this next phase.

crushing their little bodies with my own bare hands

The ants are back. And I'm not really happy about it.

Day late, dollar short.


I've been thinking about my Thanks, Mom post for a while and I thought about just letting it go, because the project is over, but I thought I'd go ahead and write it out, because it won't really leave my head until I do. And goodness knows, there's plenty of junk swirling around in there for it to get lost in. So here goes.


I promised myself that I wouldn't get used to her fancy sewing machine. I promised myself that I didn't like the button for the presser foot rather than the lever. And then I discovered that you didn't even have to push the button, that you just could start sewing and it somehow, magically, knew that the presser foot needed to go down. And there was no tangling of thread and cursing. And I was pretty sure that I still wasn't going to be spoiled.


But then I got home. And I started to resent the simple task of lowering the presser foot. And as I was annoyed by the simplicity of the machine I own (which I LOVE, by the way), I realized the gift my mother had given me.


She gave me the gift of being able to work from home. She gave me the gift of a job that I love. She gave me the gift of creating unique things. I can make things for my children that are one-of-a-kind. I can turn a piece of fabric into a dress for my daughter or a pair of pajamas or a quilt.


But it all started when I was about seven or eight. I'm sure I just ran her out of "no" by asking so many times to "help." She finally relented. I remember sitting down in our giant yellow laundry room at her giant green sewing table at the Singer with a hibiscus sticker on it. She turned it down to snail speed and allowed me to sew the side seam of a nightgown. I'm sure it took about ten minutes to do something that would have taken her less than one. But she let me.


She gave us a giant box of scraps in a hall closet that was ours, just for me and my sisters. We made doll clothes, I think with tape and staples at first, then with needle and thread. I'm sure we made a huge mess -- it makes me cringe to think that I might one day need to do that for my children.

She led me through patterns and fabrics and bought me fabric at the fabric store. She ripped countless seams for me and fixed my mistakes. Heck, she still fixes my mistakes and makes patterns for me and takes me to the fabric store.

So, thanks, Mom. For giving me such a gift. You'll not ever know fully how much I appreciate it and the depth it's given my life. I hope I can share the gift you gave me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Family Vacation for $200 a day?

I used to think that we could vacation for $100 a day, all five of us. Well, actually six, because I count the dog's luxurious accomodations in our vacation budget. But then I started adding. And I reconsidered.

So, now I'm thinking that we can be under $200 a day. This is what I'm thinking:

We're going about 2500 miles. I'm only counting gas for these purposes, not the whole "wear and tear" thing, because, well, frankly, it would blow my vacation budget, and my car repair budget is high enough to cover all that garbage. Because when you drive an old clunker, you'd better budget a lot for repairs. Sorry, back on track: counting on 18 miles per gallon and $3.00 per gallon (Guess what? We're NOT driving to California!) Per my math (which may be a little fuzzy), that's about $500. Ouch.

The dog's hotel costs $18 per night. Which includes a $1 charge for giving her medication. Do you think we could save money there? Hmm. Sarge did ask which would be cheaper - putting her down or boarding her. He was joking, of course. Please, please don't take me seriously on that one -- $216 it is. We'll round up to $250, though, because she might have to stay an extra night or two if we can't get to her in time.

I think that lodging for us will be about $450. This is the best source of saving money for us, though a little contentious at times. I'd be perfectly happy in a tent all 12 nights. Sarge would prefer to stay in hotels part of the time. But we'll spend three nights in a hotel while we are visiting the city, and the rest of the time camping at state parks. Because we're in a tent, we don't need electricity, so our sites will run us about $12 a night, averaged. The hotel we're staying at is about $100 a night, so again with the rounding, we're at $450, and lots of prayers for good weather.

Admissions. There are a bunch of places we'll go where we'll need to pay an entrance fee. Fortunately, we still have one that is *sometimes* free, so that helps a little. I think we'll go about 6 places that we'll need to pay an entrance fee, at about $50 for the family. I might be estimating low on that, but we're NOT going to Disney.

Food. This is a hard one to estimate. Usually, when we're on a road trip, we stop to get ice every morning and stop at WalMart or a grocery store every other day. That way, we eat a meal with meat every other night, and I don't have any questionable meat issues. While we camp, we eat breakfast and dinner at the campsite, but we'll also include fun stuff, like s'mores or ingredients to make ice cream in the ice cream ball. But we'll eat most every lunch on the road and then when we're in the hotel, I can't cook dinner. So we'll eat out there, too. But we don't ever eat anywhere that expensive, and the locations that we're going aren't notoriously expensive, either (NOT going to New York City!). Oh, and we'll need snacks for the car, also, preferably things that keep them quiet for long periods of time, like Laffy Taffy and peanut butter. So I'm guessing $500 for food.

The last budgeted item is souveneirs. We each end up with a T-shirt from one of the places that we go and the kids end up with something else, like a stuffed animal (we have stuffed prairie dogs and coyotes and a burro so far.) or some other good memory. I'm guessing high on this one, hopefully, at $250. But sometimes a really good book shows up, and I'm a total sucker for good books.

The only other things I haven't included are the things that I'll buy for the actual road trip. We have so many great car things already, and I'll probably make a run for stuff the kids have never seen before the day before we go at about $50.

I'm going to write down all that we spend and see how I do, in order to help budget for next year's trip. Hopefully I'm not forgetting anything! Can YOU think of anything I'm forgetting? 'Cause I'm all ears!