Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Remember When Records Had Grooves

I have been thinking about the 80s lately.

I turned eleven in 1980.  It was a big decade for me.

For weeks, I have been knocking around ideas for a 1980s themed post.  Then, last week, Leah over at The Weather in the Streets beat me to it.  She did a fabulous job, and really lit my fire to write about my own 80s memories.  The problem is, I can't get them all to fit.  Every memory, every song, every lipstick shade, just sends me off onto another tangent, like a big box of nostalgia chow mein.  You can't pull out just one noodle.

And, I can't write just one post.  So, I've had to prioritize.

Many of my trips down memory lane, I found ended here.

 The corner of 16th Street and Broadway in Sacramento, California.  The home of the original Tower Records, and still the home of the Tower Theater after which it was named, by way of a drug store, but I am getting ahead of myself.

First, the disclaimer.  I have not researched this story, but it is well known in these parts and I did use to work there.  This is what I have picked up over the years.

The Tower Theater opened in 19-I-don't-know-what.  I would guess the 1930s, based on the architecture and the neighborhood.  In the 1950s, the Solomon family operated the Tower Drug Store, adjacent to the theater, when their son Russ asked his parents if he could sell records at the back of the store.  Soon, the store was more records than drugs.  Eventually, Tower Records became it's own entity, right across the street.  Then across the world.  Until and then iTunes ruined record stores forever.  But in 1983, when I began attending the all-girl Catholic high school a mere five blocks away, business was booming, and records were still made out of vinyl.

Sometimes in groups, often alone, I would walk down there after school, still wearing my blue and white hearing bone pleated skirt and white ankle socks.  My taste in music changed often and the list of records I bought I has no reason, thought there might be rhyme.

I bought a Def Leppard album, and Loverboy.  The very first Maddona album anyone I knew had ever seen.  We'd never heard of her, or any of the songs on it, but I thought it looked interesting and I was an adventurous spender.  That is also how I ended up with imported 12 inch singles from bands with names like Strawberry Switchblade.  Joy Division, then New Order, the Cure, OMD, ABC, A-ha whose lead singer looked just like this German boy I was madly in love with and secretly kissing when my parents weren't looking knew.  Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel.  U2 , INXS.  My mind boggles.  I can't even remember all the music I bought there.  And this is just the high school years.  I went to the Junior College not too far away too and that opens up a whole new can of Edie Brickell (the first CD I ever bought) and 10,000 Maniacs.

All this talk of music reminds me of Friday Night Videos.  Before MTV, before the whole country had cable and could see MTV, there was Friday Night Videos.  I think it was on after Johnny Carson.  Super late.  Once a week, for 90 minutes, you could see videos of some of your favorite songs.  And some of other people's favorite songs, which you hated, but you had to sit through, because this was before the DVR.  I remember staying up with a friend until 1:30 in the morning to see the video to Wham's Wake Me up Before You Go-Go.  We had heard the song, but never seen the group.  We were stunned.  Man, that was a lot of neon, and boy were they tan.

Do you see how I got off on the little television tangent when I was meant to be writing about Tower Records?  I haven't even gotten to the part where I tell you that there was a Tower Books, too (before Borders and Barnes & Noble and, again).  You could buy copies of Melody Maker, imported from England, which always seemed cool, because all the English bands talked about reading it.  One of my classmates was even so bold as to go down there, in full Catholic school girl regalia, to buy a copy of the nudie magazine Playgirl, because it had an interview with Paul McCartney in it.  I bought my copy of The Bell Jar there, so that I could be bleak and depressed like any self-respecting fifteen year old girl.

Oh, I could go on.  A little later in the 80s there was zinc pink lipstick and a job at, not one, but two ice cream parlors.  A little earlier, and there was my tween obsession with Princess Diana, which sort of dove tails into my own coming of age story.  But, I can't.  I just can't go on now.  Twenty-ten beckons.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Of Marriage and Breakfast

A happy marriage requires strong communication.  Ours sounds like this.

Me:  What would you like for breakfast?
Hubband:  How about pancakes?
Me:  Um, no.  Too much work?
Hubband:  How about waffles.
Me: No.  Even more work.
Hubband:  French toast?
Me:  How about eggs and sausage?
Hubband:  Can you poach them?
Me:  No.  It's too much work.  How about scrambled.  That's all I have time for.
Hubband:  Then why did you ask me what I wanted?
Me:  I was expecting you to be reasonable.  You don't have to be at the library until noon tomorrow (Sunday).  I will make you pancakes tomorrow.

So Saturday night, I went to the market and made sure I bought all the things I needed to make pancakes for my wonderful husband.  I also bought four pounds of strawberries.  When I got home, we communicated some more.

Hubband:  Why did you buy so many strawberries?
Me:  They were cheap.  And they looked good.
Hubband:  They look like they are about to turn.
Me:  They look ripe.
Hubband:  You won't use them all before they go bad.  You have to stop wasting food.
Me:  I'll use them.
Hubband:  Can you make strawberry waffles?
Me:  Sure.  I'll make waffles tomorrow instead of pancakes.
Hubband:  Did you buy any whipped cream?
Me:  Well, no.  But I didn't know I was going to be making waffles.  Why would I buy something I was had no plans to use?  That would be a waste of food.

So, Sunday morning, I set about making waffles.  (By that, I mean, I set about cleaning a patch of kitchen, and the required dishes, to make waffles.  I've been a bit behind the curve on the kitchen lately.)  Hubband loves to communicate while I am puttering about the kitchen.

Hubband:  I need some exercise.  I think I'll go for a walk.
Me:  Why don't you walk down to the market and get whipped cream?
Hubband:  I don't want to go to the market for just one thing.
Me:  Well, I need other things too.  I have a list.
Hubband:  You really want me to go the market to get whipped cream?
Me:  No.  I really don't care.  You are the one who wants the whipped cream.  And you want to go for a walk.  You could do both at once.  I just want you to be happy.  (Why is it that this never sounds sincere?)
Hubband:  Give me your list.

My list had three items on it.  Polenta, one whole cut-up chicken, and hollandaise sauce mix, as I had promised to make him eggs Benedict on Monday.  Yes, I make my hollandaise sauce from a mix.  Do you have a problem with that?

Hubband went off to the store.  An hour later, he returned.  By then, the waffles were done, the strawberries were cut up, and the children were STARVING.  It was nine o'clock.  They usually eat breakfast by half past seven.  But this day, what with the messy kitchen and the groceries being delivered on foot, we were a little behind.  They had been begging for food for at least an hour and I kept putting them off with the promise of breakfast,  soon.  Any sooner and they were going to eat each other.

Hubband:  They didn't have a whole cut-up chicken.
Me:  Yes, they did.
Hubband:  No, they didn't.  So, I got you chicken breast fillets instead.
Me:  What?  That's not going to work.  I'm making Chicken Teresa.  I need actual chicken.  Breast fillets might as well be a different animal.
Hubband:  Do I like Chicken Teresa?
Me:  Yes.
Hubband:  No, I don't.  Isn't that the stuff you make with polenta?  (I see the light bulb going on as he realizes he also bought polenta.)  I don't like polenta.  (Poor guy.  I had him dig his own gastronomic grave.  In all fairness, I also use polenta to make corn bread which he loves.)
Me:  Well, I like it.  You're mother loves my Chicken Teresa.  (To him, his mother is the final word on food.  I beat him with this stick when it is convenient.)  Where's the whipped cream?
Hubband:  I didn't get whipped cream?
Me:  What?  Why not?
Hubband:  It wasn't on the list.
Me:  But, whipped cream is what you went to the store for.
Hubband:  But, you didn't put it on the list.
Me:  How could you forget the whipped cream?
Hubband:  Why didn't you put it on the list?

He knew this argument was weak.  He was just mad that he had no whipped cream for his strawberry waffles and no one to blame but himself.  So he went back to the market and got whipped cream.  This time he drove.

The beauty of serving breakfast at 9:30 is that the children didn't pester us about their ten o'clock snack.  We used the time to read the Sunday paper and rest up from all that communicating.  Because sometimes, a happy marriage requires resting peacefully in each other's presence.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Week in Kids, #13

This week's post is either late, or early, depending on how you want to look at it.
This week...

Samuel dressed for breakfast.

Also this week...

Samuel found an old cell phone Nana gave him to play with.  He opened it and said, "Hello.  Oh, okay.  (something incomprehensible)  Talk to you later.  Bye bye."  Then he hung up, and looking down at his footie pajamas, said "Uh oh.  Where's my pocket?"

Also this week...

Nana came over to bake cookies with the boys.

Jonah was a little disappointed to find out that Samuel was going to be included in this activity.  "But, I don't want to play two-player," was his response.

Poor Catherine, wasn't even allowed in the kitchen.

But she did get to eat some cookies.

Also this week...

Jonah graduated from pre-school.

Jonah and his teachers, Misses Jennifer and Debbie

Now, I know, pre-school graduation seems a bit ridiculous.  I mean, what have they done, really?  Learned to line up and not eat the paste?  But, once I saw him in his shirt and tie, I was so proud.

He was the best liner-upper, no-paste-eating boy ever!

See you next week!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baby Mario, We Hardly Knew You

I had my ten week obstetrics appointment yesterday.  The baby did not have a heartbeat.

I sat in my car and cried, for about five minutes.  Then I took myself out to a nice breakfast.  I sat, ate perfectly poached eggs, drank iced tea, and worked the crossword puzzle, though not well.  I mourned the loss of our baby, the baby I was surprised to find out I wanted, for exactly one hour.  That was all the time I had.  I had to get back home to relieve Abby (the best babysitter in the world).

I had to tell Jonah that the baby he had named Baby Mario (from the video game) was not going to be born into this world, but we would be able to meet him in heaven.  He was sad, but tried to cheer me up.  "Don't worry Mom," he said.  "I'm sure God will dress him like Baby Mario while he is waiting for us."

Life goes on here.  I have three beautiful and healthy children, whom I love, and would, even if they were ugly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I Learned Today

What I learned on June 15, started on June 14.

Monday, June14 was not a very good day for my family.  I was still parenting without a voice, and the children, who for the last few weeks have been living with a pregnant and/or sick and/or grumpy mother, were very bored.  Bored children are unhappy, disobedient, and very difficult to manage.  To sum up, mommy + pregnant + kids + bored = no fun.

I realized that the next day had to be better, or it was going to be worse, and worse might kill me.  Or, someone.  I purposed to make it better.  I used the rest of Monday to get the house squared away.  Not completely cleaned, not completely organized, but at least up and running, and the kitchen and dining room, (the heart of all parent-child activity) was clean and ready-to-go before bed.  (It helped that my mom came by in the afternoon to distract the children.  Love you, Mama!)

I tried to think of some activity I could do with them in the morning, and I hit upon coloring home made play dough.  It is good for finger strength.  Very important pre-writing skill.  So, I got on the internet, found a recipe, and made the play dough, in anticipation of our big day.  This is when the learning began.

You can't make homemade play dough with course ground sea salt.  It does not dissolve, leaving salt crystal in the dough, which simultaneously cut your hands and rub salt in the resulting wounds.  I went to bed disappointed, but not defeated.  We would find something else to do.

In the morning, I had everyone fed and dressed and ready to leave by eight o'clock.  Hubband took Jonah, and my car, to school and then himself to work.  With only two-thirds of my children, I was determined to be at least one-third better at being their mother.  But, I still had no car.  We walked to the park around the corner.  Well, actually, only I walked.  Catherine was pushed and Sam road his bicycle.  The park is a great place to learn stuff.  For example:

Those who don't move have no advantage over those who can't.  At that hour of the morning, the only people in the park were four ancient Asian women.  They walked in small circles around the play ground.  They used the play ground equipment to do strength training.  They stretched.  They talked fast and happy in a foreign language, laughing often.  Note to self:  If you want to live to be ancient, get up off you duff now, while you still can.  And bring a friend.

Sam is fast.  When he is not riding his bicycle around the outside of the playground, he likes to run around it.  A gaggle of older teen girls came jogging through and he followed them, keeping up for quite a distance, until I finally managed to call him back.

Cate is tough.  She wanted to swing on the big kid swing, but I was worried she would fall off, so I showed her how to swing by laying on her belly.  She slid off face first, followed by her feet which, thanks to the momentum of the swing, manage to bend back over body and kick her in the back of the head.  It looked like she should have broken her neck.  She was completely still for a blood chilling second.  Then she screamed for 20 seconds and went about her day.

It takes all kinds, and I am the judge-y kind.  As it got a little later, other people wandered through the park.  Like a very skinny and heavily perfumed woman of indeterminate age, carrying a fluffy white toy-poodle.  She wore a red straw hat and a bright yellow dress that just begged to be called a frock, which I refuse to do, because I won't be manipulated by inappropriately whimsical fashion. You must understand, this is a (figuratively) beige park in a (literally) beige neighborhood, in a (deliberately) beige town.  Who are you, lady?

After awhile longer, we were alone again, until one of the McMansions across the street opened up, releasing a woman and her son.  She was about forty-five with unfashionable hair, shorts, and a heavy sweater.  She screamed "scientist".  Her son was about five.  She used big words with him.  I'm all for that.  But they were words I didn't understand.  The mom smiled and said hi and then went and stood in a patch of shade to do her sudoku puzzle.  Her son never left her side.  He just stood there in the shade staring at me and clutching his homemade bow and arrow.  He made me sad.  He could have done this in their own yard.  The kid didn't know how, or did not have any interest in, playing, and the mom had no interest in showing him.  But, what do I know.  We sort-of shared a park for twenty minutes one Tuesday morning.  And, it takes all kids.

His bow and arrow was really cool though.  Which brings me to the next thing I learned.

Don't bring your most prized possessions to the park.  In fact, as a mother, I don't see why anyone needs to bring any toys to the park, ever.  The best thing that can happen is that they get lost, or broken by someone else's kid.  The worst thing, is that they lead to a toddler world war.  And the more attractive the toy (probably the reason it is the child's prized possession in the first place), the more likely it is that other children will be drawn to, and not easily distracted from, it.

The bow was awesome.  It was made from a real unfinished branch, and well strung.  He had an arrow with a point whittled at one end and a notch cut in the other.  But, he only had the one.  I found this out when the kid first arrived at the park and Samuel peddled right up to him and said, "I play with stick?"  The mother replied "That is not a stick, it is an arrow, and he has to be careful.  If he breaks it, he won't have any more arrows to play with."  Poor kid.  He had the coolest toy in the world, but he was afraid to play with it.  Sam wasn't afraid.  He tried again, "I play?"  The mom said, "No, he is playing with that now.  It is his.  He is not going to share."  Those were her exact words.  You might think that is a bit harsh, but I found it refreshing.

Which brings me to the next thing I learned.  Well, I've known it for awhile, but it is worth mentioning now.

Sharing is for suckers.  If I walk into Starbucks, and there is a guy in there with a new iPad, what do you think the chances are that I can walk over, try to take it, raise a fuss when he refuses to let me, and then have some authority figure, (a barista, say) make him "share" or "go home right now, young man"?  The whole idea that kids need to learn to share their toys at the park is absurd.  Why do they need to learn this?  So they develop the instincts necessary to protect their stuff when they are adults?

In our house, we try to teach our kids that things belong to people.  You respect their stuff and they should respect yours.  This does not mean that we don't encourage them to share.  We do.  But we don't make them share.  That is not really sharing is it?  It is wealth redistribution.  I want my kids to share things with each other, but by choice, out of a generosity of spirit and kindness toward others.  I know this sounds foreign and naive.  But it works.  I'll admit, it doesn't always work well, but that is life.  And they're young yet.

Don't count your mother of the year award before it hatches.  When we got back to the house, I had a brilliant activity for the children.  Samuel has sensory issues.  If your kids have them, you know what they are.  If they don't, you don't, and it doesn't really matter.  But one of the therapies is to let him experience different textures.  Like a box full of beans or rice.  I took two two-liter boxes and put stale useless rice and quinoa in one and stale useless coffee beans in the other.  I also put about ten M&Ms in each box.  It was a sense therapy treasure hunt.  I rock.

We have a picture of her Auntie Cara making this exact same face when she was Best Man at our wedding.

I stepped into the house to call Hubband and tell him "I rock," when the phone rang and I had to schedule a pediatrician appointment.  Good thing.  I went back outside to find Samuel spitting out chewed up coffee beans.  Ugh!  When I came back out with a damp rag to clean him up, Cate was out of her high-chair sitting on the table, eating coffee beans out Sam's box.  And, she wasn't spitting them out.  Double ugh!  Boy I am glad I never made that call to Hubband.

He dug up the candy, but ate the coffee.  I am such a bad mother.

I should pace myself.  By eleven o'clock, I decided it was "free time."  Young children should have plenty of unstructured play.  All the experts say so.  So, I slept on the couch while they took turns "riding" me.  "Gimidy up, Mommy...Gimidy up."

What did you learn today?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Week in Kids, #12

This week...

Catherine hung out on the front porch with Daddy.

Also this week...

Samuel took to the number "five."  As in, "Sam?  Would you like a cookie?"  "FIVE cookies!"  It is always "five."  I think that is the highest empirical number in his current universe.  It does tend to the impractical, as in, "Sam?  Would you like an apple?"  "FIVE apples!"  Or the impossible, as in, "Sam?  Aunt Heather is coming to visit to day."  "FIVE Heathers!"  At least he made Aunt Heather feel special.

Also this week....

Samuel and Catherine played at taking a nap on the couch.

As you can see,

no sleep was had.

Also this week...

Jonah expressed concern for his eternal soul.  When I was handing out snacks, or whatever, he made a point of asking me to serve him last, so that "I can be first in heaven."  Now there are many people, adults even, who make a big production out of their sacrifices-for-eternity's-sake, which is really just sinful pride.  That is not the case with Jonah.  At least not yet.  He genuinely wants to be put last in some things because he wants to have his rewards realized in heaven.  Not all things, of course.  He is only five and, like most of us, a selfish creature through and through.  Mentioning it here, is my (sinful?) pride showing.

Also this week...

Jonah had fun helping Grandpa Scott with the dishes.

See you next week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Say a Little Prayer

I will not say that things have gone from bad to worse.  It sounds melodramatic.  But honestly, we just can't catch a break.

Hubband and I have been so sick, that for four straight nights all we did was lay awake and cough on each other.  (Or is it "lie" awake?  I can never remember.  I am too lazy to look it up and too sick to care.  Besides, I digress.)  Come morning, he packed all that was left of himself in his brief case and went off to work.  I stayed home and tried to conserved as much energy as possible while (in)effectively parenting three small kids.  There was no energy left for the house or even the cooking.  How many times a week can you serve your child Taco Bell before Child Protective Services gets involved?

Monday was so bad.  I just begged God to send help.  I didn't care what it looked like.  Random lady from church stopping by.  A second cousin calling.  UPS deliveryman.  I would take it as a sign and beg them to help me.  No such thing happened.

When Hubband got home from work he said, "My dad called.  He said he'd like to helps us out if we need it.  Just let him know.  He can be down in a day."

Well, that's just crazy, I thought.  Why would we ask him to fly down from Seattle to help us?  Then it occurred to me, we would ask for help because WE NEED HELP!

Grandpa Scott and Samuel, July 2009

So, Tuesday morning, Grandpa Scott descended, like a Marine on a rescue mission.  He cleaned, he cooked, he wrangled my children with a tone of voice and a look.  (Why can't I do that?)  And I rested.  For two whole glorious days.  He ran this place so well, I was ashamed.  Even his cooking was good.  Though he does butter the bread on his egg salad sandwiches (butter and mayo seems excessive) and his preferred method for cooking breakfast sausage is to boil it in oil, it can't be worse than Taco Bell.

Oh we love you Grandpa Scott!!!!!

He left today.  I thought I was doing better.  But without the hourly bouts of rest Grandpa's presence afforded me, I barely made it to noon.  But I made it.  To noon at least.  Thank goodness Jonah is in school today.

And, I must do it again tomorrow.  With all three kids.  Did I mention I have completely lost my voice?  How am I going to handle three kids with no voice?  I am trying not to think about it.  Thinking doesn't help.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gorillas (Dancing) in the Mist

I know this is where the week in kids post usually goes, but I have not been up to it this week. I do have some cute shots from today.

Sam, ready to hit the road.  He dressed himself, as you might imagine.

Cate, catching up on the day's sports.

The weather around here has been crazy. Usually, by June it is 95 degrees and sunny. Everyday. Day in. Day out. Without end. Until the day it is 100 or 110 or (as it is about five days a year) 113. After that we are blessing 95.  (See comments for Celsius equivalent.)

This year has been different. It rained clear through May. And it was mostly cold rain too. It is starting warm up, but the cloud cover remains. This morning we ate breakfast on the back porch where it felt like Maui. At 7am is was 65 and cloudy. Still cool enough to be pleasant but muggy like the bathroom after a shower. I kept thinking I should open a window, then I would remember I was already outside. When my vision started to go a little fuzzy, it took me a few seconds to realize it was from drizzle. It was drizzling on our breakfast!

Hubband convinced the children that weather like this required dancing. So, here you have it.  My little gorillas dancing in the mist.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Dark End of the Tunnel

Hubband may or may not be losing his job at the end of the month.  His employer can't say for sure yet.

I may or may not be losing my baby.  In one elaborate and fanciful scenario, it may be twins.  My doctor can't say for sure yet.

Jonah will be starting kindergarten this summer.  It may be on August 24, or as early as July 19.  The school district can't say for sure yet.

We may or may not be moving to Washington at the end of the summer, at Christmas, next year.  We can't say for sure yet.

Meanwhile, Hubband gets up every morning and goes to work full time.  He spends every evening and weekend in the library studying for the Washington State bar, so that we have options.  This makes me a quasi-single mother of three young children, who aren't in school right now, and going stir-crazy.  And, I still feel pregnant--nauseous and tired.  Did I mention the cold that we all have?

I know there are great tragedies in the world, and none of them have befallen us here.  But, that's the thing about a tunnel.  I can only see what is in front of my face -- my family and a long road of uncertainty.  It is hard to keep perspective in this dark, narrow place.  It is easy to scream, and be comforted by the sound of my own voice echoing back at me.

I miss my happy blog and my sense of humor and hope both return soon.  But, I can't say for sure yet.

Photo found here.