Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Sweet and The Bitter

A few short hours after meeting my husband, I agreed to go home with him. But it is not what you think.

I was in law school and working at the County Jail, in the law library, helping inmates access legal information. This is where you start to suspect I married an inmate. Don’t worry. I didn’t.

Hubband was in law school too. The same law school. But we had never met, until there was an opening for a clerk at the library. He showed up for his first day of work, took up the desk facing mine, and began training for the job. I was training him.

It could be boring work, trapped in a dusty, windowless corner of a warehouse. So we passed the time chatting about ourselves, our lives, our families. Sometime before lunch that first day, he told me in great detail of his family’s farm in Washington. It had horses, blueberry fields, two ponds, the original barn and a windmill.

“Oh, that sounds beautiful,” I said.

“I’m going home for Thanksgiving. Do you want to come with me?” he asked.

“Okay,” I said.

Who does that?

Before we left, my father gave me a piece of advice. “This boy is proud of where he is from and he going to want to show that place off." he said. "You had better be appropriately impressed.”

My dad was right.

We drove north together in a dusty old Ford Bronco that smelled like dog and made so much noise I could barely hear Metalica playing. (This was a plus.)  As soon as we pulled off I-5 Hubband began pointing out the highlights. “There is so-and-so’s farm. We helped them with their livestock when it flooded. There is the river. There is where my uncle used to live. My junior high Spanish teacher lived there. She kept llamas for a while.” On and on it went. He was so happy to be home.

With my father’s words in my head, I did the best I could. I looked where he pointed. I “oohed” and “ahhed”. I asked meaningful follow up questions. I was as impressed as a girl could be. The only problem was, I couldn’t see a stinking thing. It was nine o’clock, on a November night, in northern Washington. It was as black as pitch.

The next day, and in the day light hours of the weeks, months, and years that followed, I really was impressed with his home. It is beautiful. Green. Quiet. Quaint. With noise and activity not too far away, lest you feel too isolated. A good Bible teaching church right on the river. Good book stores, good markets, good coffee. A tea house. Many times since, I have taken that same drive with him, and each time I feel same way I did the first time (I could see anything).

I feel like I belong there.

Hubband is getting laid off at the end of June. We are moving back. We had planned on moving back soon anyway, but we had wanted to do it on our own terms, not un-employed and living in his parent’s attic. It’s like a dream come true but not the way we dreamt it. We are overwhelmed and in a place of just processing all that is happening and all that must happen.

It is sweet and bitter.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Theme Thursday -- Felt AND Impression

This week the, er, wise folks over at Theme Thursday, who are much more creative than I, gave us two themes.  Felt and Impression.  Well, I have don't my best.  The following is a bit longer than my usual posts.  If it's too long, don't read it.  Just give me credit for completing this very hard (for me) theme.  Oh, and this is (very obviously) a piece of fiction.

The woman on the television was very blond, very tan, and had strangely exaggerated diction.

“Hang on to your hats Hollywood.” She said, as elaborate computer graphics and punchy theme music played in the back ground. “It’s true! After months of speculation about the reason behind the 'break-up of the century,' Jax Crawford and Kate Gillian are coming out and coming clean as the new hottest couple in Hollywood. Here’s Smithson James with the details.”

Cut to a metro-sexual man in his late twenties (so says his bio) standing on an empty red carpet in the blazing sun.

“That’s right, Janie. After their red carpet walk at last night’s Golden Globes there is no question that co-stars Jax Crawford and Kate Gillian are in love and in leather.” Cut to more graphics showing pictures of the couple. “She wore a red leather Kaja Prive halter dress cut down to there and up to there, while he sported a black leather vest with his Armando tux. But even her reported twenty, yes that’s right, twenty million dollars in bling from Fred Meyer Rodeo Drive could not blind us to the sight of two stars in love.

“Speculation has been rampant about the status of the two stars, even before Kate, and the second hottest man in Hollywood, Matt Powell, announced their break-up six weeks ago. Powell was noticeably absent from last night’s award show. Well, we noticed. But, I don’t think Jax and Kate did.”

Matt Powell sat on a 20 year old couch in his mother’s 90 year old basement watching TV.

“Don’t feel bad Matty,” said his older brother Davey, from the other end of the couch. “They just say that stuff ‘cause they have to fill up the space between commercials. You are not the second hottest man in Hollywood.”

“Can we turn this off now?” Matt asked half heartedly.

“You aren’t even the second hottest man in the house.” Davey found this very amusing and laughed heartily.

“Why are you here?” Matt asked.



“Hey, I’m a student,” Davey said, as if this explained everything.

“You’re 32 years old. You drove 150 miles to do your laundry?”

“No. I drove 150 miles so mom could do my laundry. And yes, I am aware that that makes me some kind of loser. But, at least I didn’t just get dumped on Hollywood Tonight.”

Matt ignored him. He did not just get dumped. He got dumped six weeks ago. And he had been sitting on his mother’s couch ever since. This gave him very little advantage over his brother in a you’re-a-bigger-loser-than-I-am contest, and they both knew it. But, he could probably beat his brother’s philosophy-studying library-carrel-riding PhD-candidate ass. They both knew that too. They were at an impasse.

Matt took the remote control out of Davey’s hand and turned on ESPN.



“You stink.”

Matt ignored him.

“No, I mean it. I mean, it may be true, that while you have been out in Hollywood, your shit has ceased to stink, but the rest of you, my brother, most certainly does.  Go take a shower.”

Davey reached over and took the remote control out of Matt’s hand and turned it back to Hollywood Tonight. “…the new couple, dubbed Jax and Gill…”

That did it. The battle was on. Two grown men, wrestling around on the floor of their mother’s basement, like they had done since they were boys. And, Hollywood Matt was right. PhD Davey was no match for his younger brother. Within seconds, Davey was pinned to the ground, with Matt straddling him.

“Good God he smells,” Davey thought, as he felt the impression of the buttons on the remote control being bored into his face.


To read more brave Theme Thursday participants click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to Tame Your Wild Oatmeal

Have you ever made oatmeal for a hungry three year old?

He’s eager, because he’s hungry. You’re eager, because you want him to eat healthy foods and (be honest) quit whining about being hungry.

So you whip up a batch on the stove or in the microwave. Either way is pretty quick. But you cannot serve it right away because it is hot enough to melt steel. Seriously! It is a bowl of molten beige goo. Even in the freezer it does not cool very quickly.

I have taken to using a little less water and then tossing ice cubes or frozen blueberries in the finished product. This actually works pretty well, if you are in a similar situation. But, the blueberries stain if flung around the room, so pick your audience.

How is such a mundane grain, when boiled in water, able to hold heat like that? It would take a degree in thermal engineering to invent a material with similar properties. And the opposite is true too. Have you ever tried to re-heat cold oatmeal? It takes so long you might as well make a fresh batch.

Does NASA know about this stuff?

The caveat to this is the cookie. I have found that making cookies out of oatmeal, i.e. oatmeal cookies, renders the thermal dynamic power of the substance inert.  So, less porridge, more pudge.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Most Modern of Conveniences

Did you you know that they make dishwashers with garbage disposals now?  You don't even need to rinse the dishes.  Just pop them in the machine and it does it for you, with the detritus from dinner going into the disposal.  I thought this was insane when I first heard it.  I mean, how hard is it to rinse dishes?  I find it rather soothing myself.  But, then again, this is America, where we are so lazy we have battery powered tooth brushes.

I have not really changed my mind on the dishwasher thing, but I am hoping that, at least for mothers with small children, they will soon invent the washing machine/garbage disposal combo.  I won't burden you with the colorful details, but let's just say there are times when some of the edible bits of a little boys life make it to the laundry room, carried there in pockets I presume.  At these times, a disposal would be good.  I'm just saying.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Morning

I woke up tired and stiff. I didn’t move more than enough to peek out and see that it was still middle-of-the-night dark. Then I heard it. The reason I had awakened in the first place, I am sure.


It was Samuel at the side of my bed, so close I could feel the warmth of his breath on my face.  I didn't hear him coming, he was just there, like a little pre-school ninja.

"Yes, Sam." I whisper. It took every ounce of strength I had.

“Hugs?" he asked.

I gave him a big hug, knowing that if I did not he would only climb into the bed and take one. Plus, I like hugs. The clock said 5:36. So close to a decent hour for a three year old, yet so far from anything resembling morning.

“Go back to bed now Samuel.”


He toddled away, but I knew he would be back.

As I lay there in the dark, trying to get back to sleep, the day ahead of me began to unfold in my mind. There were groceries to be put away. The non-perishables which I had been too tired to deal with last night. The living room was a jumble of toys. Portions of dinner were still residing under the dining room table. Dishes. Oh, and the laundry. Basket after basket. Family is coming on Thursday, so the press is on to get Cate’s room in some kind of order. My thoughts continued.

The more overwhelming my day became, the more tired I felt. I realized that what I craved was not more sleep, but less responsibility. This made me feel like a horrible person. Emotionally ill-equipped to deal with these feelings, I drifted back to sleep.

Sam returned about a half an hour later. I told him it was the middle of the night (it was really about six) and sent him back to his room. I felt like a horrible mother. Emotionally ill-equipped to deal with these feelings, I drifted back to sleep.

About six thirty, I heard a loud, clanking noise, like nesting glass bowls being jostled about. (I'm a mother. Even sound asleep I can identify potentially dangerous noises.) Oh, no. He is out of his bed, breaking things. He is going to wake his sister. Or, his father!

I opened my eyes in the semi-darkness to find a warm but empty space where Hubband had been. He had gotten up with the boys. They were both up now. I could hear them. He was getting them juice and such. What a great guy. But, there was no coffee made for him. Making coffee is squarely within my half of the division of labor. I began to feel like a horrible wife. Emotionally ill-equipped to deal with these feelings, I drifted back to sleep.

I finally woke up at a quarter past seven. The middle of the morning to this family. I could have slept longer. A horrible day of work beckoned. Why not hide under the duvet just a little longer?

What finally rousted me was the smell. I came into the kitchen, my guilt barely covered by my red flannel robe, to find a hot cup of coffee and a warm bowl of oatmeal waiting for me.

I still have a whole lot of work to do today, but at least I have a really great guy to keep me company.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Teresa by Any Other Name

My mother wanted to name me Catherine.  My father wanted to name me Tracey.  They compromised.  They named me Teresa.

Women Named Teresa

Teresa?  But your name is Tracey?

Well, yes, and no.

My mother did not like the name Tracey, and also thought that it was a name I would outgrow.  Not a suitable name for a grown woman.  So, she suggested Teresa, the name of her best friend.  And, if my father insisted, they could call me Tracey.  Well, insist he did. So, the name on my birth certificate is Teresa,  but I have always been called Tracey by my family.

Women Named Tracey

I have had to explain my name several times throughout the years.  "Teresa?  I thought your name was Tracey?"  people ask, often with a tone that implies, I have somehow gotten it wrong.  "How do you get 'Tracey' from 'Teresa'?" people want to know.  Shrug, ask my dad.  Cashing birthday checks from my grandmother (written to Tracey) could be tricky.  I even had some brain-dead bouncer outside a bar accuse me of trying to use my twin sister's ID to sneak in.  Even if I were, I'd still be over 21 you dumb ass.  (Pardon my French.)  Or maybe he was just flirting with me.  You can see why maybe I didn't date much.

It would have been simpler if Tracey were a common derivative of Teresa, like Terri or Tess, but it is not.  I've been told it is common in Ireland.  Yeah, whatever.  I didn't grow up in Ireland.  But my high school trigonometry teacher did.  Mr. McGuigan.  He said Teresa in such a way--Trrayza--that the Tracey became quite obvious.  Thank you, Mr. McGuigan, for validating me and my deviant name.

As I understand it, Tracey is also a of bit a derogatory name in the UK.  A girl who is a bit vapid and stupid.  A waste of space or oxygen.  Too many of them I guess. 

It's not a great name.  I don't love it.  I don't even really like it all that much.  It's just my name.  Ho-hum.  But it is my name, so after September 11, I had it legally changed to Tracey, so as to avoid any more (serious) complications.  Only to find out, that on the birth certificates for my children, the State of California requires, not my legal name, but my birth name.  Big sigh.  So now, on paper at least, I am not even the mother to my own children.  Which is going to make it difficult to get them passports.  Maybe they are my twin sister's children.  Ugh!

Bureaucratic red tape aside, I have come full circle. When our daughter was born fourteen months ago, I wanted to name her Catherine.  Hubband didn't really like that name at first, but I talked him into it.  "My mother wanted to name me Catherine," I explained.  "But my father wouldn't let her.  They are divorced now."  So, our little girl is named Catherine.

Emotional blackmail?  Maybe.  I know you have to pick your battles in a marriage, but because of my (and my mother's) history with this issue, I wanted to win this one.  And, Catherine is a lovely name.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Didn't See This Coming

So, I'm sitting at lunch. On a sunny Monday afternoon. With my husband. And no kids.

Greek place. There will be baklava for dessert.

I should check my phone, I think. I have a new ring tone. It is to the tune of Where is My Hairbrush, but it is Where is My Cell Phone, sung by Larry the Cucumber. The kids love it. But, I never hear it. So, I think I should check my phone. Maybe Abby (the best babysitter in the world) called for something.

Oh, good thing I checked. I have a text message. What is wrong, I wonder. Abby can usually handle anything. Yes, she is only 15, but so far there has been nothing that my kids have thrown at her that she could not handle.

The text message reads, and I quote, "Hey, where do you keep your plunger?"

Where is my plunger? Oh, where is my plunger? Oh, where oh where oh where oh where oh my plunger?

Play the video for a good smile.
C'mon. You have three minutes and six seconds.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Snap Shot

I posted everyday last week.  And they were long posts too.  Thank you all for your patient indulgence.  Today, I will be brief.  Just a quick snap shot of our weekend.  Hubband's parents came to visit from Washington State.  Here is Grandpa with our whole brood.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Jubilee Year for Jonah

Jonah turned 5 this month.  Five is an age when a birthday party full of friends, family, and rented entertainment, or at least themed paper cups and napkins, seems appropriate, but when I broached the subject with the young prince, he replied, "Oh, Mom.  I don't want a big party.  All of those people get in my way."

Jonah likes people, and excitement, and fun.  But, he does not do well in crowds.  He gets over stimulated and starts to  loose control of his limbs and his manners.  Those of us who know and love Jonah, know this about him.  What I find amazing, is that he knows this about himself.  What a kid.

So, there was no big party this year.  It was replaced by a series of good times, the sum of which, is turning out to be better than any party.  Except there has been no bounce house.  Yet.

The night before Jonah's actual birthday, I informed Hubband, in case he did not know, that I have three small children to raise, a house to tend to, and, let's face it, a blog to write.  I don't have a lot of time.  As a result, I did not have a present for the boy.  (Well, I had a t-shirt with his new favorite character on it, but nothing fun.)  I was expecting him, Hubband, to go out and get one after dinner.  Would he mind?  He didn't mind.  In fact, he liked the idea so much that he took Jonah with him.

A late night (half past six) trip to Toys-R-Us, with Daddy and his wallet, was a dream come true for our little boy.  He came home with a Nerf six-shooter.  He promised he would be surprised when he opened it the next day.  He insisted, in fact, that we wrap it, so that he could act surprised.  The kid deserves an Oscar.  Foam bullets with little suction cup tips have been flying around the house ever since.

On his birthday proper, he had school, so I delivered the obligatory cup cakes to his classroom.  They sang and he blew out candles.  He liked it.

After school, Nana came over, which he always loves.  She came bearing gifts of course.  A Hot Wheels track.  Battery powered.  It spits cars through two spinning wheels, much like a pitching machine, and they go shooting around the figure eight track.  We are going to have to buy batteries in bulk, but it is worth it for the wonderful moments of peace this has brought.  All three children just stare at it, and the, now familiar, "whir whir clickety whir" sound lulls them.

That night Hubband and I took (just) him out to dinner at one of those Japanese places where they cook the food on a large grill right in front of you.  He loved that too.  He shrieked at the flaming onion volcano, giggled when the guy flipped the salt and pepper shakers up into the top of his hat, and used chopsticks.

That weekend, Tante (what he calls my sister) and Uncle Jim arrived at our house with Sock Monkey.  Sock Monkey is, well, a sock monkey, but the socks he is made out of could have been worn by a giant.  Sock Monkey has become, in a few short days, a part of the family.  He eats with us.  He sleeps with Jonah.   He wears clothes.  Including pajamas.  Today, Jonah took him to school.

Sock Monkey was only the beginning of what Tante and Uncle Jim had to offer.  They took him out to lunch and his food came served in a box that looks just like a 1964 Ford Mustang.  Yellow.  Like the one my dad had when I was a kid.  Next, they went to a train show.  And, it does not end there.  He came home from the train show with a wooden train tunnel that whistles whenever a train goes through it, and has a record function that allows you to holler into the tunnel and it will play it back with an echo.  Oh, the cleverness.  Oh, the noise.  This thing cost a small fortune, but I'm sure it was worth every penny to my sister, who knows I must listen to it.

So far, that has been all.  But his other grandparents are coming this weekend and Hubband's sister and her fiance are coming next weekend.  And, I still want to rent a bounce house.  This is more for us than him.  Those boys are so happy just bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, that they leave us alone and sleep really well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Loving the Beige Off

I love my house.  My family dwells here.  We run and play and grow and love here.  We make noise and messes and memories here.  We gather in, and go out, and always return to this small house that is part of the family now.  But, I must admit.  I never thought I could love anything so boring.

My house is twelve hundred square feet of beige, in a neighborhood of beige houses, in a town of beige houses.  There are twenty identical houses in a quarter mile radius.  It is a soulless little cube of America.  Or it was, until it became ours and we loved it.  Now, it is like the Velveteen Rabbit of houses.  It is something more than the sum of its beige parts.  Now it is our home.

Not my neighborhood,  or even my town, but honestly, who can tell the difference.

I grew up in a similar house.  They weren't painting them all the same color back then, but every sixth house was identical.  I was not rebellious by nature, but I wanted out.

I remember the first time I went to the older part of town as a child.  Brick.  Color.  Every house was different.  I wanted to live there.  And, for awhile, I did.  I never had the nicest house on the block, in fact, it was usually an apartment or a flat conversion, but when I was single and childless, I made a point of living in those older neighborhoods.  I was never going back to the suburbs.  Never.

Something happens, though, when you get married and have kids.  Good schools and modern wiring have an allure.  So, here I live.  In a good school district.  With modern wiring.  An easy commute for Hubband (which was the big selling point).  And, an open floor plan.

Have you ever heard of an "open floor plan"?  This is the new thing in American tract homes.  It has its pluses and minuses.

On the plus side, the kitchen, dining room, and living room are all one big room. It is called the Great Room, which is over stating it a bit.  As a mother with three small children, this is perfect.  I am queen of all I survey from my kitchen sink.  Pretty handy.

"I am queen of all I survey from my kitchen sink"

On the minus side, the master bathroom has no door.  That's right folks.  No door.  There is a tiny "water closet" in which to tend to the very private, but that is all.  The sink and shower are, uh, open, to the bedroom.  As a mother with three small children, this is not so perfect.

I have taken to dressing in the closet.  And I must perform an elaborate "fan dance" with towel, curtain, and robe to get in and out of the shower when the children are in our room, if I want to maintain any privacy.

I could just lock them out of the bedroom, but then they would scream and cry and wake someone.  I'd rather my children see me walk naked down our beige street than wake some one.  Come to think of it, that might liven things up around here.

I know we won't live like this forever.  Though he loves our house as I do, and for the same reasons, Hubband isn't fond of beige either.  Someday we will have a house with a little more character.  Until then, I must provide it.  That is why when giving instructions to first time visitors, I always say, "You can't miss it.  It's the beige one."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In my next life...

I live in Northern California, in the central valley.  This is not southern, 78 degrees and breezy, California.  Nor is it fogged in until noon, sunny until four, fogged in until noon, San Francisco.  But the climate here is mild enough.

Well, that is only half true.  The summers are so hot small children have burst into flames crossing the street.

The winters however, remain uneventful compared to the mountains and mountains of snow blanketing most of the northern hemisphere lately.  The main feature of winter here is the cloudy sky.  By winter, I mean mid-December through mid-February, because that is really all we have to offer.  Almost every day of those two months is overcast.  High, dull, impotent clouds.  Broken up sometimes by fog.  Sometimes by rain.  Though most of our rain comes in early spring.  Day in, day out, there is a grey blanket of gloom as far as the eye can see.

But, not today.  For the first day in about twenty, the sun came out, strong.  It was not warm, but it was bright.  Today, I sat in a sun beam.  I sat in a sun beam drinking a cup of tea and I resolved that in my next life I shall come back as a spoiled house cat, because this sitting in a sun beam thing is for me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Assassin of Sleep

About three weeks ago, Sam started climbing out of his crib.  We were surprised it had taken him so long.  I am sure he could have climbed out much sooner, he had simply chosen not to.  Once he started to climbing out of it whenever being in it did not suit him, it was time for it to go.  In fact, due to the perpetual bouncing and sheer strength of the boy, the crib itself was held together with wood glue (broken slats) and zip ties (broken springs).  The whole thing was probably a death trap (I exaggerate) and should have been scrapped ages ago.  The only reason we left him in it was so that we could leave him in it -- when he wasn't asleep, but was supposed to be, or he needed a time out.

Well, the crib is gone now, dismantled and taking on rain beside the house, waiting for the next big-garbage-pick-up day.  Samuel now sleeps (if you can call it that) in the bed that was the top bunk of the now de-bunked bunk bed.  My boys aren't ready for two story sleeping.

The first day, he was so excited about his big boy bed that he declined to take a nap.  No biggie.  But around four o'clock he got down on the floor to chase a car under the train table, and...well...fell asleep there.  He slept like that for ninety minutes.  At one point, Catherine even used him as a chair to sit at the table and drink her juice, but he did not budge.  This was to be the last good sleep Sam had for awhile.

The first week, he did not stay in his bed for nap.  The second week, he would stay in the bed, but not sleep.  He would sing and talk loudly to himself.  But, at least he stayed in the room, so I was happy to have the break.  Yesterday, finally, he took a nap, with sleeping and everything.  Here's hoping for a repeat performance this afternoon.

Nighttime is a different matter.  Sam has become a sleep terrorist.  He goes down okay.  He is usually exhausted from no nap.  But he wakes up very, very early.  Sometimes as early at 2 am.  He turns on the light and carries on loud conversations with imaginary trains or Veggie Tale characters.   Poor Jonah is trying to sleep in that room.

Then there is the sneak attack.  Do you know how disconcerting it is to roll over at 4 am and find your 3 year old sitting bolt up right, in the center of your bed, staring at you like some would-be assassin, waiting to whack you?  He has startled me more than once.  It takes a long time for the heart rate to recover after that.  Forget about sleep.  Apparently he climbs over Hubband to take up this position, which begs the question, why doesn't Hubband put him back to bed, but I digress.

A few mornings, after an hours or so, I have coaxed him back to sleep, only to have to turn around and wake him up to get him ready for school.  This madness must end!  It must end I tell you!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coming Clean

In my family, well, not my whole family, but among many solid and entertaining members of my family, we have a motto.  You can't let the truth get in the way of a good story.  And, I don't.  I am not a liar, it is just that sometimes I like to exaggerate for effect.  It is usually quite obvious.  But not always.

It is with this in mind that I must confess, my last post about the accordion band, featuring the Dorothies, named the Polka Dots, is a fraud.  Well, an elaboration.  Calling it a fraud implies that I am trying to get away with something.  Which I am not.  I was just trying to tell a good story.  And the theme was polka dots for crying out loud!

dotty: adj. informal, chiefly Brit. slightly mad or eccentric.

You see, I do have an Aunt Dorothy, who we all call Dot, or Dotty (and she is dotty).   Her mother was also dotty but was called Dorothy, and though she was not technically my grandmother, because Dotty only became my aunt once she married my mother's brother (that would be my uncle if you are having difficulty following), she was my cousins' grandmother and I always called her Grandma.  Come to think of it, there were many Grandmas in my family, only some of whom were, strictly speaking, related to me, but I digress.

While both Dotty and Dorothy are lovely piano players, neither, as far as I knew, played accordion, and the band, the Polka Dots, was a complete fabrication.  The picture is from a mid-western news paper in the 1950's.  I believe they were called the Accordion Queens.  That's a good name too, if no one in the band was named Dorothy.

When I mentioned my story to Dotty, she told me that Grandma Dorothy did play the accordion.  She lost two sons and her husband over the course of a few years and during that time she taught herself to play the accordion because it brought her great joy.  I bet it did too.

Grandma Dorothy was a character.  She was from Minnesota and the real person behind a Garrison Keillor  tale.  (Speaking of people who don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.)  I don't know where he first used it, but most recently he retold it in his Prairie Home Companion movie.  It was about a woman whose husband accidentally left her behind at a gas station and she talked the local law into giving chase.  And this story is completely true.  I swear.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Theme Thursday, Polka-dots

Theme Thursday -- Polka-Dots

I must be psychic.  My post from last Thursday featured polka-dots.  It is a fable for the new year, featuring a girl named Mia who lives in a polka-dotted toadstool.  You can check it out here.

For this Thursday, I offer the following.

My Grandma Dorothy, and my Aunt Dorothy used to have an accordion band called the Polka Dots.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Okay, I finally broke down and read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  Well, I have started reading it.  I was not sure that I would like a book about vampires.  I like some fantasy writing.  Harry Potter, for example.  But, Vampires are creepy.  I don't like anything too disturbing.  I really am a rated-PG kinda girl.

Well, so far, I like the story.  I must, because I keep finding time to read it.  But, the words are slowing me down.  I come across sentences like, "The tall one was statuesque," the awkwardness of which stops me cold.

There are other quirks to her writing too, which I find distracting.  The vampire-hero, Edward, is good looking.  And, lest you forget, it is mentioned every time he is.  The book could have been twenty-five pages shorter had just half of the adjectives describing this boy's beauty been edited out.  He has ocher eyes and bronze hair.  Really?  He sounds like a paint-by-number set gone wrong.

I applaud any woman who can craft such a popular story while her three children sleep.  Good for her.  But, what about the women who don't have blockbuster films made out of their work?  What about some of my favorite women in Bloggyland?

Instead of Twilight, may I suggest the following.

If you want super natural stories, visit Tina at The Clean White Page.  She even does vampires.  Check out her Velvet series.

If you want to read about a small town in the Pacific North West, Rebecca from Letters to the World has lived in several and writes lovingly about them.

If you want to read a love story written by a Mormon (Stephanie Meyer is Mormon, but if you are a big fan you probably already know that.) then Fruit of the Carolyn has just that.

If you want to read someone dreamy and funky at the same time, go see Leah at The Weather in the Streets.

For heartbreak and happiness, nothing beats Kate at Calamity, Kids, and Other Stuff.

And these are just the ones suggested by Twilight.  So, put that book down!  And spend more time at your computer.

I am half way through the book.  I like the main character.  She is very likable.  And I am enjoying the story.

As an added layer of enjoyment, the hero's eyes have now been described as like honey, butterscotch, and liquid topaz.  Each new one give me a giggle.

High Five

The delightful young Rebecca, she of Letters to the World, has forwarded to me, with much compliment to myself and my blog, the High Five meme ~ My Top Five Highlights of 2009.

A meme, or internet meme, if you were wondering, and I was, is defined, according to  google, as "a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet."  You know the questions, quizes, fill-in-the-blank posts that get past about? 

I prefer to think of it as something that is about me, me!

So without further ado, the five highlights of my 2009, in no particular order, are...

  1. I turned 40!  I was a nursing mother in need of bifocals.
  2. Samuel learned to talk.  After three years of living in a house with two lawyers and Jonah, he figured his only way to stand out was to not talk.  But in 2009 he gave it a try.  He says great things, like, "Hello, Mommy.  How are you?"  and "Pappanono peeza".
  3. Hubband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary.  That may not sound like a lot to most of you.  But it is the first marriage for both of us, and we feel like we have worked hard at it.
  4. We bought our first house!  Well, okay we closed on New Years Eve 2008, but I am still going to count it.
  5. Cate learned to walk.
Now the nature of this meme is that I am to pass it on to five friends.  Well, the 2009 thing is going to get stale pretty soon.  And I have been working on a way to highlight some of my writer friends.  So, look for my next post.

A Green Bucket, a Pink Cow, and My Laundry Room's Dirty Little Secret

Okay, I have been blogging a little over two and a half months now, and I keep telling myself that I am not writing a "mom blog".  I am not.  I.  am.  not.

Well, lets face it.  I am a full-time mother and a full-time housewife.  If you are counting, that is two full-time jobs.  I spend a lot of time thinking about those things.

So, today, I decided not to fight it.  I am going to share a few of the things that make my life a little simpler.

The Green Bucket That Saved Five Thousand Steps

I have a small green bucket that cost a dollar at Target.  My mom left it here.  I kept it.  It sat on my kitchen counter for a few days until I realized it was the best invention EVER.  I call it the green bucket that saved five thousand steps.

It used to be, that any time I found something in my kitchen that didn't belong there, I would pick it up, carry it to where it belonged, and put it away.  This happened five-thousand seven-hundred and eighty-two times a day.

The situation was the same each time I needed to sweep.  I would pick up one or two toys, books, articles of clothing at a time and return them to their proper place, several times, before the floor was clear enough to clean.  Well.  No more!

I have my magic bucket.  It still sits on my kitchen counter, and now, when I find things in my kitchen that don't belong in my kitchen, into the bucket they go.  Size permitting of course.  Even the greatest invention ever has its limitations.

Then, about twice a day, thrice if necessary, I take the green bucket and make a sweep of the house.  I start at one end, and anything on the floor, or in the wrong room, goes in the bucket.  When I get to the other end of the house, I turn around and go back, putting every thing away where it belongs.

The empty bucket, goes back on the kitchen counter.

Why did I not think of this before?

Holy Cow, It's Pink

Holy Cow is a non-toxic, and PINK, multi-purpose cleaner developed by a mom who did not want to poison her kids, her pets, or her planet, but still wanted a clean house.

I swear by it.  And it is dirt cheap.  I pay under two dollars.  It is available at Wal-mart and other locations nationwide.  There is also blue cow for windows and green cow for your barn or boat, or in my case, bathtubs.

The Holy Cow company is nearby, but I don't know the people and they are not paying me.  (Though I am beginning to think maybe they should.)

My Laundry Room's Dirty Little Secret

It doubles as a diaper changing station.  Actually, the only one in the house.  

Once we had more than one child in diapers, and they were sharing rooms, having a changing table in the bedroom did not make sense.  We could not afford two changing tables, and didn't have room for a second one anyway.  And, one child would invariably need a diaper while one of the other ones was sleeping in the room.

Our solution was the centrally located laundry room.  I change diapers on the washer and dryer.  I have a front loader now, but I did not always.  I just moved the pad off to do laundry.  The diapers and paraphernalia are in the cabinets about the machine.  And best of all, I am right next to the door to the garage, so that is where we dump the dirties.  No diaper pail in the house!

So, there you are.  My housewife blog.  If any of you found any of this useful, I am glad.  I hope I have it out of my system for awhile.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Argyle Sunday

Most of you probably haven't heard of the long-ago tradition of wearing argyle on the first Sunday of a new year.

That would be because I made it up.  But, it is kind of a neat idea, don't you think?  The boys and I wore argyle to church.  Cate doesn't own any argyle.  This will be rectified by Argyle Sunday next year, I assure you.  And, Hubband?  "Unless the Queen makes me the Duke of Argyle, there is not a chance," he informed me.  Not even socks!  Party pooper.

Well, it is a little late for this year, but here is hoping you can all participate in Argyle Sunday next year.  Spread the word!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Fable for the New Year: Mia and the Two-Measure Bucket with a Hole in the Side of it, About Half-way Up

For the new year, I have written a fable.  It is about a girl named Mia who lives in a mushroom, and her bucket.  Mia has an extensive and fanciful back-story which I have edited out for brevity.  However, it is still not very "brev" for a blog post.  Thank you in advance to those of you who honor me by finishing it, and
Happy New Year to One and ALL!!!!!

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl named Mia. She lived with her family in a hollowed-out toadstool on the forest floor, painted with polka-dots. The toadstool was painted with polka dots, not the forest floor. That would just be silly.

Mia’s was a family of nomads. They moved from place to place, taking their toadstool with them, usually stopping close to a creek or river to have use of the water.

Mia fetched the water in the morning, her little brother Boonedoggle fetched it at midday (when they needed the least), and her older sister Catilda fetched it before dinner (when they needed the most).

Unfortunately, the bucket had a hole in the side of it, about half way up. Every morning Mia walked to the creek and scooped out two measures of water, for it was a two-measure bucket, and every morning, by the time she arrived home, she only had one measure of water to pour into the family cistern. Every day, day after day, it was the same thing. She would scoop out two measures of water and arrive home with only one.

This never seemed to bother Boonedoggle, the Dawdler or Catilda, the Perfect, but it made Mia very grumpy.

When she complained, which was often, Mother would only say, “You’re doing a fine job with the bucket, Mia.” Complaining to Catilda was no better. “I think it is a lovely bucket,” she would say. “I like to watch the water squirt out the hole,” was Boonedoggle’s contribution on the subject. Mia was vexed beyond description.  Until one day she had an idea.

The New Year was coming; the time when all the children of the forest can ask the Forest King to meet a special need. Mia was going to ask the King to fix the family’s bucket. She was sure this would be the end to her unhappiness.

So it happened, that on the eve of the New Year, after their chores were done and Mother had enough water in the cistern to wash the dishes, Mia, Catilda, and Boonedoggle, sat down to make requests of the Forest King. Each one written on a scrap of paper, and placed into a bottle, which Father corked. The children then walked down to the creek and dropped the bottle in. All water in the forest flows to the King.

The next morning, when Mia awoke, she went straight to the front door, and the hook upon which the bucket was kept. There it was, just like before. A two-measure bucket, with a hole in the side of it, about half way up. Inside the bucket was a note. It read,

There is nothing wrong with your bucket.
The King

Well, Mia was beside herself with disappointment. She showed the note to Mother, who smiled and commented that not every little girl gets a note from the Forest King. She showed the note to Father, who laughed gently and ran his hand through her curls. She was going to show the note to Catilda, but by now she had gone from disappointed to angry, and figured there was no point anyway.

So, Mia grumpused off to fetch the water.

By the time she got to the creek, she was so angry, that when she scooped a bucket full of water, and it started to flow out the hole in the side of it, about half way up, she had no reasonable action left to a girl of her nature but to dump all the water out and throw the bucket into the forest.

There was a loud crack, and a yelp. Then a voice came booming out of the trees. “Who is throwing buckets!? I demand an answer!”

It was Winchester, a wise (and often extremely cranky) old hare. He emerged from the woods holding a sore spot on his head and Mia’s bucket. “So it was you, mercurial Mia? Explain yourself!”

“I am so sorry, sir. I was just so mad at the bucket, and…”

“Wait, wait, wait! Say no more!” he interrupted. “How can you be mad at a bucket? You are being ridiculous. Explain yourself!”

Now Mia was a bit scared, and crying, but she did the best she could to explain her predicament.

“Hmm. I see,” said the hare, somewhat less cranky than before. “Let me ask you this. Did the bucket have a hole in it yesterday?”

“Yes,” Mia answered.

“And the day before that?”


“And the day before that?”

“Yes, yes, yes. Every day it has a hole in it and has had for as long as I can remember!”

“Then why are you mad at the bucket?” asked Mr. Winchester, sounding cranky again. “It is what it has always been: A one measure bucket that looks like a two measure bucket with a hole in the side of it, about half way up. To expect it to be anything more is folly. So, GO! Be mad in my woods no more, unless it be at yourself for expecting too much.”

With that, Winchester returned to his place in the forest, leaving Mia alone with her thoughts and her new one measure bucket.

Mia’s unhappiness did not leave her all at once. It took her some time. Luckily she had many trips back and forth to the creek during which to think. Eventually, she began to see the wisdom in what Winchester, the wise and cranky old hare, had said, and she learned for herself, what we would all do well to remember.

Every expectation is a potential disappointment. Expect accordingly.

Here at the threshold of two thousand and then, (Jonah's term for the new year) I resolve, with Mia in mind, to
  • Stop expecting my five year old to act like an eight year old just because he has the vocabulary of one.
  • Stop expecting to feel rested.
  • Stop expecting my house to stay clean.
Hmm, I feel happier all ready.

( Original Art Work by Me, 
ball point pen and crayon
on copy paper, 2009
I take full credit because 
 no one else wants any.  )