Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mother of the Year

I am working on something for the New Year, which may turn out to be a good idea, poorly executed. Or, just a bad idea. We shall see. But, until then, here is one last glimpse at Christmas.

This is Samuel and Catherine playing with Cate's new doll stroller. This is also my video submission to the Mother of the Year Nominating Committee.

video

I shall see you all back here in the new year, or as Jonah has been calling it, two thousand and then.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What Rhymes With Babylon?

After all of the holiday excitement, today has been blessedly boring.

I have yet to find a home for the new toys, but I did get them sorted into three laundry baskets; one for each child.  (What am I doing about the laundry while my baskets are thus employed?  Don't ask.)

We played three games of Chutes and Ladders, which Jonah got for Christmas.  Jonah describes it as, "very chute-y and ladder-y."  That's good, right?


We started eating the ginger bread house.  It was a bit tough.  I had to dunk my piece in my tea.  Luckily I have a big, new mug.

We built three new train tracks on the train table we got last year for Christmas.

We are learning all the words to the Veggie Tales sing-a-long video, which we got two Christmases ago.  And I have to admit, any children's song with the lyric, "We could use him as a footstool or a table to play Scrabble on, Then tie him up and beat him up and throw him out of Babylon!" is okay by me.  (It makes sense in context.)

I'm sure there is something in the back of the house which needs tending (like the pile of laundry taller than my second child) but I'm okay with that.

I hope your ordinary life is getting back to normal.

My Afternoon Smile

Well, it is Hubband's first day back to work after Christmas.  The kids and I are back to our routine.  Well, sort of.  The boys have not had naps in three days and there is some sugar detox going on.  But, finally, I have a chance to write again.  So, here I sit at my computer while the children watch Sesame Street.  (Don't judge me.  Television can be educational.  Just last week Samuel informed that every dinosaur poops.  I didn't teach him that.)  Where was I?  Oh yeah.  Here I sit at my computer, and I got nothin'.

Well, I have this.  Another reason to smile


SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED!!!!

It was a gift from my mother.  I love the statement it makes.  (Unfortunately my kids can't read.)  But, my favorite part is the ermine trim.  So regal.  It holds an obscene amount of coffee.  Too much coffee makes Mommy crazy.  So, I have changed my own preference for drinking tea out of a cup and saucer, and made this my afternoon tea mug. 

And while I am smiling...I logged on this morning to find that Hubband had changed the desktop photo to this.

HE WHO MUST BE OBEYED?

I don't know where he got it or what he is trying to say by using it as wallpaper, but it did give me a chuckle.

Hopefully inspiration will strike today, or at the very least this week, and I will  be back with some actual writing.  Until then, I hope I have made you smile.

Or you can check these out.  They are some of my best work, in my opinion.

Eulogy
Halloween, One Boy's Obsession

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cookies for Santa

We made cookies for Santa.  Chocolate chip.  We heard they were his favorite. 

We mixed.


We may have tasted a little.


We baked.


I hope Santa likes them.


My little reindeer certainly did.


Merry Christmas to You and Yours!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Smuggersons

I found this in my "draft" box.  It is a bit snarky.  I must have been in a mood when I wrote it.  But, I still like it.  So, excuse my snark, and take it for humor, as it was intended.

I have been on a little blogosphere adventure. Blogger has a "next blog" feature. If you look at the top of the page you will see it. Everyday since I started blogging I have hit that a few times just to see where I land.

At first, all I got were sites in Arabic, porn, and so many sites for Micronesian "hair bands" that I was beginning to think those were code words for something nefarious. Recently, however, Blogger has greatly improved this feature. They now send you to site that might actually interest you. Or, are at least in a language you can read.

Because of the nature of my own blog and my Google searches, I get sent to a lot of parent blogs. (Or, medieval armor blogs if Hubband has been using the computer.) These are blogs by parents that purport to tell you about the cute doings of Jaden, Kaden, Payton, Leighton, Addison, Madison, and Huck. But, really, they are where these parents can come to tell you how superior they are.

After a few weeks of reading these, I have compiled a list of things I am sick of hearing people be smug about.

Cloth Diapers
Home Birth
Organic and/or Locally Grown Produce
Homeschooling
Baby Wearing
Family Bed
Fast Food/Processed Food/Any Food not made of Bark


Don't get me wrong, I am not against cloth diapers. I have used them. I am not against home birth, but my first one was in there sideways people. Only one way he was getting out. We have done the immunization research and made the right decision for each child. We have locally grown organic produce delivered, but it does not make me superior to anyone. You either, Mr. and Mrs. Smuggerson. So, by all means, extol the virtues of the above, but don't be smug. We're all doing the best we can with what we've got.

Now, I want to make perfectly clear that Mr. and Mrs. BLOG Smuggerson are not to be confused with Mrs. PARK Uppity-Smuggerson. (She only started hyphenating after the child was born as a concession to practicality.) She of the $200 hair cut, $400 jeans, and $1000 stroller, with one clean kid (named Jean Pierre or Walter) in an adorable $50 outfit. The woman who cringes and stays close when my child comes too near hers. Germs, you know. Or maybe she is worried my boy's "ordinary" is contagious. Fine lady. Whatever. I get it. Your son is going to run the world. But mine is going to have a lot more fun being a kid.

Samuel having fun being a kid.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Busy Mom, Defined -- Part 2

A woman who must mop her floor more often that she gets to wash her hair.

 
Maybe I should try this approach.

(Photo by LIFE)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Clean, Well Lighted Place

I have been sick.  And my children have been sick.  And  I am trying hard not to get overwhelmed by the "To Do Before Christmas" list which goes undone because I feel like doing very little.

Instead I have become obsessed with manipulating the look of my blog.  Like I am a 13 year old girl with her first myspace page.  Oh, the things we find relaxing.

I have tested out several colors, schemes, themes, pictures.  I have even found the hex codes for every color in God's green html, because the blogger colors are just not palate enough for me.  But, I have changed nothing.

Why not?  I fear cluttering it up.

My whole world is sticky, messy, cluttered chaos.  Toys, dishes, and stray laundry that has escaped its hamper and is fomenting rebellion amongst the linens.  I am okay with that.  My children are small.  My house is small.  My energy is sapped.  My resources stretched.  It is what it is.

But my blog...  My blog is the grown up corner of my life.  Tidy.  Kempt.  I need it like this.  Simple and controlled.  I don't need the cutest shabby blog on the boulevard.  I need a place where I can lose myself because I can find everything else.  Even if it is a bit visually boring.

So, come for the writing and stay for the writing.  That's why I come here.


As a big P.S., and since people have asked, my title picture is my mother.  It was taken by my father in 1968 on the day of her graduation from college.  It was his idea to pose her in front of the stove.  Probably not a good sign, in hind sight.  But, I like the picture because it seems to sum up my life.  Educated housewife.  Unlike my mother, who was a chemist and is still the most brilliant person (not just woman) I know, I prefer the kitchen.  And, she is pregnant with me, so it's kind of like I'm in it.

Okay, this picture is just gratuitous, but have you ever seen a cuter baby?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

History

Theme Thursday -- History
This is a work of fiction.

There was a man in front of me in line at Target talking to his young daughter.  She had on tights with mulit-colored horizontal stripes.  I remember them because I would love to wear a pair just like them, if I were not 37 and they would not look ridiculous on me.


There was something far-away familiar about the timber of his voice.  Familiar enough to make me look up from this weeks tabloid magazine covers.  (Boy, is that Tiger Woods in some trouble!)

I glanced.  His eyes caught mine.  And lingered.  Just a split second too long.  It happened like a flood.  Recognition.  Mine and his.  The far-away familiarity replaced by the vividly intimate.  How long had it been?  Twenty years?  Really?  That should feel like a long time, but it does not, standing there, exposed, in the check out line at Target, flashes of teen-aged pain and drama blurring my vision.

My fingers went to ice and my face to fire.  I looked away quickly.  Back to Tiger.  My face still burning.  Struggling to steady my breathing.  Panic!

There was nothing I could do but wait my turn, pay for my toothpaste and toilet paper, and move along as if nothing had happened.  As if the most humiliating and painful experience of my life was not standing in front of me, wearing a Cal sweatshirt and a wedding ring, buying toothpaste and toilet paper.

As he was leaving, just putting his bags in his cart, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, him turn to me, as if to say something.  I waited a beat too long.  When I looked up, he looked away.  And then it happened.

He looked me straight in the eye and gave me a wan smile.  I returned his with a weak smile of my own.  My eyes closed, involuntarily, and I felt the ancient history pass between us.

This is a work of fiction.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Afternoon Snack

We've been playing with our food. 


These are Cinnamon Schoolbook Cookies from Trader Joe's.


This is a baby covered in spaghetti. 

My Morning Smile

I love this mug.  It makes me smile every morning before I embark on my illustrious career, scrubbing toilets, changing diapers, cooking meals for little people who won't eat them.  You know.  The usual.


I'm only doing this job to keep myself busy between films.

An old boss gave it to me.  I tried not to read too much into that.  She also said I should be a stand up comedian.  And she wasn't the first boss to suggest this.  I tried not to read too much into that either.

This isn't my first "morning smile" routine.  Years ago, I had a sunshade for the windshield of my car.  One side had a picture or something, but the other side said in huge red letters.  HELP NEEDED.  CALL POLICE.  Well, I worked at the police department.  I got the biggest chuckle out of parking my car facing the street putting up the "call police" side of my sun shade.  Okay, maybe the chuckle wasn't very big, but it was a chuckle.  That is the most we can ask of some mornings, isn't it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Toast O.E. and the Toddler Menace

Every book we own, every movie, every CD, every video game, is hidden away.  Hidden, in plain sight, on the various and sundry shelves that we, like all new marrieds, seem to have acquired through our adult lives, and still retain for their utility, not their style.  While the various media are out in the open,the shelves themselves are locked away in our bedroom.  Why?  The toddling menace that is Samuel, that is why.


 Samuel as Woody

 We have toddler-proofed the door to our bedroom, and he is very seldom left in there unattended.  Or, even attended if I can help it, because the kid is, as I have mentioned, a menace.

One of the few exceptions is if I need to shower.  It is generally true that my bathing activities, like those of most mothers with small children, are usually relegated to the wee dark hours, while the children still sleep.  But not always.

A few months ago, was one of those exceptions.  Jonah was at school.  Hubband was at work.  Sam and Cate were underfoot.  And, Mommy needed a shower.  I can't remember the occasion, but it must have been something big because I needed to shower, shampoo and shave -- the Housewife Triple Crown.

I just had to go for it.  Bathe as quickly as I could, let him make a mess, and clean it up later.

I would like to pause here to address those parents who will inform me that I don't need to live like this.  There is a way to train ones children to immediate obedience every time.  Using a switch, a wooden spoon, or a cattle prod.  To these parents, I say...This is true.  But it is time consuming.  And traumatic.  And hardly seems worth it for some dusty old books, and a VHS copy of Tequila Sunrise.  I save this sort of training for the truly dangerous.  So, back to a few months ago, and my shower, worthy of an audience with the Queen. 

"Sam, Mommy needs to take a shower.  Do you want to watch a movie?"

"Toast O.E.  Toast O.E."

"Toy Story it is.  Now be a good boy, and stay on Mommy's bed."

With Samuel thus distracted by Buzz Lightyear and his friends, and Catie, only 10 months old at the time, on the floor with her favorite toys, I make a mad dash for the shower.  I peeked out every few minutes to find Samuel still sitting where I left him, on my bed, watching Toast O.E.  This is going very well.  Fingers crossed.

When I got out of the shower, he was still there, happily watching his movie.  It's been awhile since he has been in here, I thought.  Maybe he has finally out grown this particular brand of curiosity.  Oh, happy day!  

I stepped all the way into the room to find books and movies strewn everywhere, and little Catie looking up at me with the cutest little hey-mommy-look-what-I-did smile.

The toddler menace torch had passed.  Oh. happy. day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Samuel

Here is a collage I made from a photo of my son Samuel, 3.



I tried it out as my title photo for part of the day, but I don't think is suits the blog as well as the lady cooking in her cap and gown, so she is back for those of you who noticed her missing.  But, I liked this look at Samuel too much to just take him down all together.

He is a great, quirky kid.  I imagine that this might be how he sees us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow is...


It snowed here this week. The last time that happened was 1976. This may help you understand my interesting relationship with snow. Below is my (somewhat tongue and cheek) description of what snow is to me.

...SURPRISING

Snow, when first experienced, is surprising.

Snow fall is silent.

Fluffy white snow is not fluffy. It is cold and wet. That "snow angel" thing could cause pneumonia.

...WORK

Snow is kind of a pain in the hiney.

In places where it snows a lot, people have to plug their cars in. Not new fangled electric cars. Just their boring old Dodge Dart or whatever. To keep it warm. Like an electric blanket. So it won't freeze and crack. The guy who invented this should be rich.

Snow buries things. You park your car, you go to bed, it snows, you wake up and where your car used to be there is now a heap of snow. You have to dig it out. With a shovel. But not until you dig a path from your front door to the street. And, I'm guessing it is cold out there. Good times.

...SCARY


Snow is scary.

I have cousins who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, but returned to New Orleans. We suggested that they re-locate out here in California, but they declined. They didn't want to live anywhere there were earthquakes. Too dangerous. Huh? I have a similar feeling about snow.

Several years ago, in the mountains around here, (where I will only go in July and August), a man got lost hunting in the snow. He was found safe and sound, but he couldn't get his truck back until spring. Spring? Really?

A friend of mine who used to live in Missouri tells stories of driving, or rather sliding, the wrong way down the interstate into the path of a big rig because of snow and ice. People live like this? No thank you.

And these are just the stories without tragic endings. I am still haunted by several took-the-scenic-route-and-got-caught-in-a-freak-snow-storm stories. They did not end so well. I will leave it at that.


...INSIDIOUS

Snow is insidious.

Unlike other forces of nature, snow has some how passed itself off as beautiful and nostalgic. No one dreams of a Charred Christmas. Or sings, "Let it flood, let it flood, let it flood." Volcanic ash that stays on your nose and eye lashes? Not romantic. But, snow, obnoxious snow, has managed to charm it's way into our collective consciousness. Well...your collective consciousness. I'm not fooled.

You can keep the real stuff. I will be dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to watch on TV. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, singing, dancing, fake snow as far as the eye can see. I have the DVD now, which is even better. White Christmas; no commercials.

Come Join Us at THEME THURSDAY!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christmas Blessing Tree


Earlier this month, I had a conversation with Jonah, aged 4 and 3/4, about the true meaning of Christmas. (For my own views on this subject, you should see my earlier post.) Our conversation went something like this.

"Hey, Jonah. You know Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birthday, right?"

"Yeah."

"What happens when you have a birthday?" I asked, trying to get to the issue of gifts.

"A bounce house. Can we have a bounce house for Christmas?"

Hmm. Interesting thought. Honestly, I can see no reason why not. Our weather is fairly mild. But, this is a digression. I want to have a meaningful conversation about gift giving. This is when I realize that I might be the kind of mother who can suck all of the child-like joy out of anything.

After we work through bounce houses, parties, cakes, and pinatas, he finally gets around to remembering that you get gifts on your birthday. I find this frustrating (as I have an agenda) and odd, because he is the first one to "help" his siblings open, play with, and break their birthday gifts.

So, I finally get to say, as I have rehearsed, "Jesus is in heaven with God. What could we possible give him that is better than that?"

"Nothing," he says. And, he means it too. He has a very keen sense of heaven.

"Well, I have an idea," I continue. Again, as rehearsed. "When Jesus was here on earth he gave two commandments. 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Silence. I had expected this. Finally. The kid is on script.

"So, the best thing we can give Jesus is to show God we love him. And to give to others. We can show God we love him by praising him and thanking him for all He has done for us. And we can give to others by praying for them and doing nice things for them."

"Uh-huh." I can tell I'm losing him. Maybe he is just not old enough to understand. But, I won't know unless I try.

So, I proceed to tell him about the Christmas Blessing Tree. We are going to make new ornaments and tie ribbons on our old ornaments, each inscribed with the name of someone we have blessed with a prayer, or with a blessing God has given to us. This will be a great way to give birthday gifts to Jesus. AND, Little J can earn extra little ornaments every time he does a good deed.

He listened. Asked a few questions. And then when I was finished, he burst into tears.

"No," he wailed. "I want normal Santa ornaments. I want lights and gold balls. Like a real tree!"

Big sigh. (Mine) I was not trying to ruin the kids Christmas, just alter his focus a little.

Well, we made ornaments, prayed for friends and loved ones, thanked God for our many blessings, inscribed ribbons to tie to our old ornaments, and decorated the Christmas Blessing Tree. Jonah was a good sport, though I got the distinct impression he was just indulging me at first.

The tree is lovely in that primitive, decorated-by-a-small-child sort of way. But, more importantly, my son may have learned something. I know I have. I am just not sure yet what.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go call a man about a bounce house.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stick and Crumb

I sweep.
I mop.

I dust and polish.

Wipe. Wash.
Shine. Scour. Scrub.

No matter.

A world with three small children
maintains a fine patina of stick.

And, crumbs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

All That Glitters

Pictures from Christmas crafts.

All that glitters is not gold.

Sometimes it is just gold glitter.

"A Glitter Sandwich" ~ by Sweet Jonah

Crafts, cookies, short books with great pictures. This is why I had children. Lest I forget.

Add a little glitter to your life today.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The True Meaning of Christmas?

I’m a Christian. I take my Christianity seriously. Another thing I take seriously is Christmas.


I love Christmas. I love the smell of the Christmas tree, how it fills the whole house. I love waking up to Christmas lights in the house. They make it so much easier to get out of bed on a dreary December morning. Christmas carols everywhere you go. City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas. Even my beige, suburban street looks beautiful with the Christmas lights up. I love Christmas shopping. I love wrapping gifts, giving gifts, and (yes, I’ll admit it) getting gifts. Santa Claus. Cranberry bread, fudge, Sees candy, egg nog. Peppermint mochas in red Christmas cups. What is not to love?

But, you see, none of this stuff has anything to do with Christ. And, I am okay with that. Jesus is not the reason for the season. Not really. He never was. No more or less than he was the reason for summer or Wednesday-before-last, and I could make the argument that he was both, but that's for another day.

Most scholars agree that Jesus was born in the spring. And in any event, there is no biblical imperative to celebrate Christ’s birthday. There are no birthday celebrations at all in the bible. Christmas only became Christmas so that converts to the early Roman church could keep their traditional winter solstice celebrations. I can imagine such feasts would have been hard for early Christians to part with. Since man left the garden they have been finding ways to break up the boredom of winter (and the backbreaking labor of the rest of the year) with feast days. Christ’s promises are awesome, but we are human, and sometimes, faced with the daily grind, heaven seems far away.

So, I am prepared to just let go and let Santa. Let’s all celebrate the secular holiday of good cheer and consumerism. Within reason of course. I am not encouraging celebration to the point of gluttony and sloth. That is what Thanksgiving and New Years Eve are for.

But, I have kids. So, this is where I am conflicted. Most of the world is clinging to the pretense that this is a Christian holiday. Not so much the non-observant Buddhists in Japan singing carol-karaoke in polyester Santa suits, but most of the people in the western world. So, I must too.

I am trying to teach my children the “true meaning of Christmas” without my cynicism over the true "true meaning of Christmas" showing through. Luckily, I have years of practice at stifling myself. Most of them unsuccessful, but at least I have been practicing. And, I also have this. I try to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas everyday. Everyday belongs to Him. So, it is that upon which I will focus. The True Meaning of Christ.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas is Coming...and the Goose Isn't the Only One

Christmas is practically here. I mean it. It is just around the corner. And while I am the first to grumble when I have to listen to Christmas music while buying Halloween candy, I must say, that this year, the season is just not long enough.

Thanksgiving was late. Yes, I know it is the same day every year...in theory. In reality, all the fourth Thursdays in November are not created equal. This one was late. I awoke from digesting my Thanksgiving meal (3 moderate ounces of turkey and 4 butter laden pounds of carbohydrates) to find I have less than a month until Christmas. Less than three weeks until the big trip north to the in-laws. Less than a twenty days to shop!!!

How can this be? I thought we were all about "economic stimulus" in these parts. I say a presidential mandate moving Thanksgiving up a week might not have been out of the question. I will vote for the next president who campaigns on it. Because I need MORE TIME!!!!

Fall Food

Here are some of the prettier things I have cooked this season.

Stew using the organic vegetables we have delivered from the local farm.

And my addition to the Thanksgiving feast.

The True Meaning of Scalloped Potatoes


Friday, November 27, 2009

Messy French Bun

Apparently, the messy French bun is currently the height of French chic and will soon be trickling it's way over here. It is lovely. And easy to do. But, it must be for the young or lithe. Because I tried it. And, while my hair looked lovely, the over all effect was Mrs. Clause. Back to the "messy housewife bun" it is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

As Fall Becomes Winter

It will happen soon. Within hours. The Thanksgiving turkey will be eaten, and then...the PDCs (public displays of Christmas - thanks Rebecca) will begin in earnest. The browns, greys and oranges of fall will be replaced by red, green, silver and gold. So here, is my last look at the season I wait all year for, and that somehow, this year only managed to last a week.

I used to hate oak trees. I was young and foolish.



A walk in the woods, worthy of a four thousand calorie turkey dinner.

There is a spider web between these two reeds.
You may need to click to see a bigger picture.


The first rain breaking up over our back fence.

The red on this plant is actually new growth, not very "Fall" at all. But it is a lovely color.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Blame thirtysomething. Or, Men are the New Women? (Redux)

I have been thinking about the modern male quite a bit this week, and I can come to only one conclusion. I love the one I’ve got and I’m going to keep him. Everyone else is on their own.

First, came the home improvements.

Despite the decade and our upbringings, my husband and I have a traditional marriage. He earns all the money and I do all the housework. That is fine with me. I got married at 35. I worked plenty. I know what I’m missing and I don’t miss it.
One of the realities of being single so long is that I learned to do a lot of things for myself. My sister and I used to joke that if we had a pick-up truck we wouldn’t need a man for anything. We'd laugh. Then we’d go back to crying in our Ben and Jerry’s because we did not have a man.

"If we had a pick-up truck we wouldn’t need a man for anything."

That was then. Now, I am the female half of a traditional marriage. The problem is, my husband is not handy. Or maybe he just wasn’t single long enough. Either way, I am the only member of this family who knows how to use a power drill. I’m self taught and, despite all of my tool-man bashing when I was single, I am not very good. I would not mind having a man take over the power tools.

This week I had to get out the old power drill to baby-proof the kitchen cabinets. At first I was a bit puffed up. Look at me. I’m handy. I can use a drill. But, by the time I was flat on my back (on a floor which I sweep and mop) with my head under the sink (which I keep stocked and organized) dropping screws in my eyes trying to attach spring loaded plastic latches (which I researched and purchased) I was a little annoyed.

At that moment, right or wrong, (and I admit it was a bit unfair) I began to see the division of labor a little differently. It was no longer, “He earns all the money; I do all the housework”. It was, “He earns all the money; I do everything else. Except mow the lawn, and that is only because he can afford to pay a guy.”

Then came thirtysomething. In the mail, I mean. The original came twenty years ago.
For those of you who weren’t around in 1987, thritysomething was a bit of pop-culture phenomenon. A TV show about the angst and loves of seven friends in their thirties. What was note worthy about it at the time was all of the emoting (some called it whining) that went on, especially by the men. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t really notice. I was only 18. My life was full of angst and whining and I knew very few actual “men”. It was released on DVD recently and I was feeling nostalgic so I gave it a re-watch. What I found interesting is that the male whining is not note worthy any longer.

"It is unfair, but true, that a man who is sensitive about our feelings is attractive. A man who is too sensitive about his own feelings is just oogy."

Men “in touch with their feelings” are all over the place, at least in popular culture. This was supposed to be a good thing, right? Back in the day when men drank and smoked and didn’t talk much, (think Robert Mitchum) women said they wanted a sensitive man. But did they really? Did they want their man to stop drinking, stop smoking, and start talking? Or did they just want him to start listening and maybe hit the hamper with the dirty socks once in awhile? Saying you want a sensitive man is too vague. Let’s face it. It is unfair, but true, that a man who is sensitive about your feelings is attractive. A man who is too sensitive about his own feelings is just oogy.

Finally, I read Men in the ‘mirdle’, an article from the Chicago Tribune.

I quote: “When it comes to underwear, men are the new women. Guys are experimenting with color and styles. In fact, bucking a dismal retail trend, men's underwear sales are up. And -- get this -- men are starting to discover ‘body shapers’ to smooth their love handles, lift their posteriors and knock off a few pounds without dieting. In short, men are discovering the benefits of the male equivalent of Spanx.”
No, no, no, no. My fore-mothers did not want this. They wanted the vote. They wanted equal pay for equal work. They did not want to use power tools. Well, okay, maybe they did. But they certainly didn’t want to listen to their husband whine because his girdle was too tight.

I have forgiven my husband for not being handy with a drill. He is great with the kids, and he can, on occasion, out of necessity use a broom or bake a pizza. No. Even that is unfair. He’s awesome. He does a lot more than just earn the money. He just doesn’t do it with power tools.

Our arrangement works for us. So, I will keep doing the minor home improvements and the laundry. As long as he doesn’t whine when I shrink his mirdle.

[If some of this sounds familiar, it is because this is the original from which an earlier post was an excerpt. I apologize to all who have slogged through both. But, thank you.]

Busy Mom, Defined

A woman who can reheat the same cup of coffee five times before lunch and never get to drink it.

A woman with banana mashed into her yoga mat.

A woman who can shower, dress, and put on make-up before her kids get up, but won't realize until she sees her reflection in the sliding door at the super-market that she has not combed her hair.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey and Pie, the Children's Book Edition

This what the children and I have been reading to get in the mood for the big day. They are both great fun. The boys just love them!

Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr

and...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall

It is now fully Fall.

I know in some parts of the world, it is already snowing. In some parts of the world it is almost summer, for that matter. But here, Fall has finally fallen.

The leaves are vibrant red, yellow, orange. They are at the peak of their crunchiness.

I can see my breath. I need a coat every morning, and even some afternoons.

Hot tea, not iced.

It is dark at dinner time.

Bed time stories are about turkeys and leaves.

There are flannel sheets on the bed at night.

Jonah's Thanksgiving pageant is today. He has been practicing his "turkey dance" and the cutest lyrics I have ever heard to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

I can smell turkey in the oven. And how warm it gets in the house on Thanksgiving with all of the family gathered there. I hear football in the other room. And the children running around. I'm full, and sleepy, and warm. And, by afternoon there is a November sun lighting up the red and yellow and orange leaves and shining through my window. Perfection.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eulogy

My grandmother, Bernadine "Bunny" Thielen died four years ago today. The following is a copy of the eulogy I had the privilege of delivering at her funeral. I miss you Grandma.
1924 - 2005

On Tuesday, November 15, my grandmother, Bunny, woke up to tell her daughters and her nurse that she’d had a dream about my grandfather. “We have a date tomorrow night,” she told them. The next day, shortly before noon, surrounded by her children, she left here. She had to go get ready for her date.

I don’t know if it is appropriate to start a eulogy by saying that she kept a clean house. But she did.

She was a good cook.

She was a meticulous seamstress.

She ran a frugal household, but was still a generous hostess.

In this day and age, these may not sound like compliments, but they are. She took great pride in them. Homemaker, wife, mother -- that was her career, though I am sure she never thought of it in those terms. To her, it was just her life, and she lived it.

As a girl in Nebraska, she was a cheerleader who dreamed of becoming a nurse. After high school, she moved, with her parents and brothers and sisters, out here to California. She planned to go to City College, but World War II changed her plans.

Aged 16

Grandma always talked about the war like it was fun. And, I suppose for her it was. The town was crawling with boys in uniform. She liked those boys, mostly because she loved to dance. She didn’t have a favorite or a steady boy. She told me she didn’t see the point in dating just one boy until she was engaged. If she stuck with only one guy, she’d have to sit too many out.

The war also brought her a husband. My grandfather, Ray, was an eighteen year old Army lieutenant from Waukegan. They met on a Saturday morning in December of 1942. She told me she remembers thinking he was obnoxious, and he didn’t dance. But somehow, he had talked her into going to lunch with him that day…and then dinner later that night. By Wednesday night, a mere five days later, he had proposed. She says she still thought he was obnoxious, and he never would be much of a dancer, but three weeks later, on her nineteenth birthday, she married him anyway. It sounds crazy, but they were crazy about each other, and they made it work, for over 57 years. The right partner was more important than the dancing.

Wedding Day, 1943 (They are on the left)

They spent the next twenty years in the Army. I say “they” were in the Army, because that is how they thought about it. They were a team. One day he came home early from work to tell her he had new orders. He had to leave immediately. That meant she had to pack up the house, the four kids, the dog—their whole lives—and move. She had to do this by herself. And she had to do it in three days. Years later when she retold the story, there was no sense of self pity. Bunny never had time for self pity. She was simply proud of her contribution.

The Army also provided this small town girl from Nebraska the chance to travel. She lived on Army posts in Germany, Okinawa, and six different states. Of course there were three separate postings to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, so it wasn’t all glamorous.

While stationed in Germany

After the Army, Bunny went to work so Ray could go to law school. They did that as a team too.

Later, when her kids were older, she golfed, and traveled. She spoiled her grandkids. Then her great-grandkids.

She always loved a party. Holidays, weddings, picnics, family over for a visit and a swim, you name it. She was a fun-loving and gracious hostess.


In 2000, 57 ½ years to the day after their wedding, her husband passed away. She was saddened, but not destroyed. They had a good life together. She had no regrets.

Her own health had started to deteriorate even before my grandfather died, yet she remained as social as ever. Her house was still a hub of activity. And it wasn’t just because she had a pool.

I spent a lot of time with her in the last year. She had good days and bad days. But she handled her illness with grace and courage. She thoroughly enjoyed all her visitors, to the end.

If you had asked Bunny who she was, she would have told you, in her own way, that she was the wife of one man, the mother of five children, the grandmother of nine, the great-grandmother of nine more, the sister to ten siblings, and Aunt Bunny to everybody else. I can add that she was friend to pretty much everyone who ever met her. Don’t be too put off by the fact that her life seems so defined by the lives of others. She wouldn’t be. She was all of those things, but still very much, Bunny.

Bunny and her "immediate" family. I'm not kidding.

I have one more thing to pass on before I close.

Her one regret. She told me that if she could have done anything differently in her life, she would have cleaned less and played more, while her children were young. They were only young once. That is true of all of us.

Every single one of us is younger right this minute than we ever will be again. We’re also probably thinner, better looking, and have more hair. So, go have a good time.

And in the next few days and weeks and years, when you think of her and you miss her, do something Bunny would do.

  • Get your hair done, with the back combing and everything.
  • Squeeze every last bit a toothpaste out of that tube, even if you have to use your rolling pin to do it.
  • Make apricot jam.
  • Dust something that no one can see.
  • Sew something. Then rip it out and sew it again.
  • Make an in-law feel like family.
  • Give to charity.
  • Invite and unexpected visitor to dinner.
  • Be the life of the party.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Dance.

But don’t worry about Bunny. She made it to her date on time. Wearing her dancing shoes. Because, in heaven, even my grandpa can jitterbug.