Thursday, November 3, 2011


It is a November day, but most of the leaves are still green.  The weather is moody; first sunny, just warm enough to not be cool, then bright grey and gusty, and now I see more sun in the west.  Moody, but perfect.

My children are playing in the backyard.  All three of them.  Together.  I am not privy to the rules of their game, and probably won't be, absent an egregious violation requiring my intervention, or a ride to the hospital.  There is an elaborate fantasy world out there, involving costumes, weapons, negotiated loyalties, and the not infrequent use of the word butt.  And, (this is my favorite part), as for as I can tell, they are all on the same side.

But, it is a school day, and at some point, I must make them come in, sit still, and learn something on purpose.  They won't like that. And neither will I.  So, for now, for a just a few more minutes, I sit at my desk, my cold toes telling me flip-flop weather is over, listening to my children make friends with each other in the whole wide world that they have imagined for themselves.  Because it is important to learn how to do that, too.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Little Riddle

My keys.

Jonah's favorite toy.

Three containers of yogurt.  One full, one empty, and one half-eaten with a spoon stuck in it.

What do these things have in common?

I found all of them hidden in Catherine's room.  The yogurt was under her bed.  And my keys, which had been missing for three days, were under her pillow.  Her pillow!  So, when I asked her the day before, "Catie, have you seen my keys?" her confused look was well acted.  The little, grr....

Catherine as a lion for Halloween
Princess, and I use the term ironically, will turn three next week.  Three, as in, not two.  I take some comfort in this.  But, I am afraid it is still going to get worse, before it gets better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There Ought to be a Law

In California, where I live, you need permission from the government to do almost everything.  To drive a car, you need a license.  To ride a motorcycle, you need a different license.  Your car and your motorcycle each need a third and fourth license of their own.  You need permission to open a business.  If that business sells food, you need another license.  If  it sells liquor, you need license.  If it allows dancing, you guessed it, you need a license.  You can even smoke marijuana legally if you have the right license.

At this point, you may think I am on some political rant about how big government has insinuated itself into the minutia of our lives.  But, no.  This is about Halloween candy.

You should need a license to buy Halloween candy.  And I don't mean the mail-in-or-pay-online kind that you need to become a certified navel piercer.  I mean the kind you need to carry a concealed firearm.

There should be a back ground check, complete with blood work, an assessment of need, and a psychological questionnaire, at least, if not a full profile.  Is the applicant diabetic?  How much trick-or-treat traffic can reasonably be expected on the applicants street, based on historical trends and census data (adjusted for the fact that Day Light Savings Time now ends after Halloween).  Has the applicant ever consumed twenty mini Recess Peanut Butter Cups in one sitting, or more than fifty in a twenty-four hour period?

These are questions we, as a society, should ask before we let people walk into Target and buy seventeen pounds of candy a full six days before Halloween.

That brings me to the last step in the application process.  A waiting period.  Successful applicants would be required to wait until noon on October 31 before making any licensed purchases.

You see, this, like seat belt laws and cigarette taxes, will allow the government to protect us from ourselves.  And, set a really good price for the seventeen sixteen and a half pounds of black market candy hidden in the back of my closet.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Give me a good reason...

I took this picture on Monday.

They were gone by Wednesday.

Give me a good reason why I should not send my children to live on a banana plantation.

We used all of these bowls in one day.

Give me a good reason why I should not pull a heist at the nearest Correlle plant.

Catie got into the permanent markers.  Again.

Give me a good reason why I shouldn't lock her in the garage with the periodic table and some solvents until she invents Sharpie Remover, safe for...

...white boards...

...and, laminate floors.

Go ahead.  One.  Good.  Reason.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Nothing New Under the Sun?

Our grand-children may never know what either one was for.

I read  a short story* in high school, set in the not too distant future, where over-population was such a problem, society had resorted to intentional and organized mass disaster.  Every year, on the appointed day, the government would cause an oil refinery fire, collapse a busy bridge, etc. as a form of population control.  Eventually, these disasters became a national spectator sport.  Like the Olympics of Death. 

For weeks up to the event, people would talk and speculate about what they thought would happen this time.  And how they themselves would be safe.  But, boy watching from a distance would be fun.  The year in which our story is set, was no different.  Everyone gathered around to watch.  Imagine Monday Night Football in a bar.  Or a royal wedding, or an inauguration.  Everyone, watching, waiting, anticipating...  Then all of the televisions exploded.

Do you have an iPod in your pocket, an iPhone in your purse, an iPad in front of you?

As most of you know, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and the creator of all things i, died last week.  Most of you know, because most of you cared, at least a little.  And not in a fellow-human sort of way, but because Steve Jobs had in impact on your life.

By contrast, someday, Bill Gates will die.  He will be remembered as a genius and a great philanthropist.  But no one will care the way they care about Steve Jobs.  And, why not?  Bill Gates has touched as many of our lives as Steve Jobs has.  Probably more.  Anyone reading this has used a Microsoft product.  But no one has ever said they love their Microsoft Word.  There is something about the i line of products that has wooed us.  Infiltrated our daily lives.  Made us happy.  In little tiny increments, like a successful level of Angry Birds.  And, we keep coming back for more.  Because it makes us happy.  In little tiny increments.  And, we keep coming back.  Because it makes us happy.

Bill Gates and Microsoft were sued for anti-trust violations.  All Bill Gates wanted to do was corner the market.  Steve Jobs, I've often joked, wanted to take over the world.  And an argument can be made that he did. 

My mother was born before television.  When I found that out, it blew my six-year-old mind.  She might as well have told me there was a time without cars, or electricity, or running water.  That's how much Steve Jobs changed the world.  I can't wait to regale my children and grand-children with tales of the pre-i world.  Well, okay, the old iMac was just marketing, in sorority girl colors.  But, the iPod and iPhone were true innovations. 

And if anyone ever figures out a way to blow them all up, we are in big trouble.  Just sayin'.

[*I can not remember the name of this story.  I thought it was written by woman named Ute Hagen, but the only one of those I am able to find was an actor and wrote about acting.  There could, of course, have been another Ute Hagen, but since she can not be found on internet, she no longer exists.]

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cook It If You Got It.

In honor of National Clean Out Your Fridge Week, I did just that.  Well, sort of.  I examined the contents of my refrigerator, and considered the possibilities.  That is how I came to serve what can only be called Bacon-Tilapia Noodle Casserole for lunch.  I also grated my thumb (which really hurts) and am sporting a Lightening McQueen band-air, for my trouble.  But, the kids ate it.  And I am comforted by the knowledge that my future daughters-in-law will thank me for setting the bar so low.

[Editor's Note:  According to the internet, which is never wrong, National Clean Out Your Fridge Day is November 15, or the third Wednesday in November.  I may have been misled.  But the deed is done.]

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Want to Hear All About Your Trip!

Okay, so no one has actually said that to me.  No one really wants to hear ALL about anything.  (Unless it is how to get rich and thin without effort or moderation, in which case they will stay up way past their bedtimes watching obnoxious infomercials on tv.)  But several people have asked quick questions, here and there, as our busy paths have crossed near enough to hear the sound of each others' voices.  Is the apostrophe in the right place there?  Other's, others'?  I am rusty at this, can you tell.  I can barely type anymore, let alone proof read for grammar (with two Ms--thank you Blogger spell check).

My home for ten days -- Planet Cruise Ship

Just yesterday Hubband, who heretofore would like to be known as Fabio, who sees all and knows nothing, but that is a story for another time.  Just yesterday Fabio asked, "When are you going to tell me about your trip?"  I have not told anybody about my trip.  Well, I was pretty vocal about my ill treatment at the Quebec City airport, but that happened on the way home.  Two weeks ago.

Yes, I have been home two weeks.  I have not talked about my trip.  I have not written for my blog.  Why?  Because when a homeschooling housewife with three little kids goes away for ten days, she must hit the ground running upon her return.  Like anyone who leaves a job behind, the work does not stop (or get done) while you are away.  So, two weeks ago, I rushed back into my daily life, refreshed and happy to be home.  Two weeks, and I am just about caught up.  Just about. was fabulous.  (Fabio-lous?  Ew.  Okay, I won't do that again)  He really was.  But there are things that only I can do.

Like blog.

Am I back?  Yes.  Am I back to blogging?  All I can say is, maybe.  Do you want to hear all about my trip?

My apologies to all my fellow bloggers for neglecting them.  My thanks to Jen at Sunshine SAHM for standing vigil, eager to bear her responsibilities in the event of my untimely end (in a brawl with a skinny blonde French speaking airline employee at the Quebec City airport).  And extra special double hot fudge thanks to Hub...Fabio for making it all possible.

Hope to be back soon.  Really.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Housewife, Ahoy!

I am going on vacation!  No kids.  Sadly, no husband either, as he is staying home to care for the kids.  Have I mentioned that I love this man?

A ten day cruise from NYC to Quebec City.  I am packed and ready to go.  Nothing can go wrong now.  Not the wild fires near my layover city, not a freak earthquake, not a hurricane, not a terrorist attack, not a flood, not a tsunami, not an iceberg.  It's all been done people.  That lightening won't strike twice!  (Add lightening strike to my previous list of things that will not go wrong.)  I'll say it again...Nothing can go wrong now.

Say a little prayer anyway.

If anything exciting happens, I will try to post from the road.  If anything exciting happens which results in my death or permanent incapacitation, my friend Jen from Sunshine SAHM promises me she will come over here and let you all know.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Next Bottom You Wipe Might Be Your Own

Today, I asked Jonah to go around the house, find the dirty dishes, and bring them to me so that I could wash them.  He just looked at me, confused.

"What?  Why are you looking at me like that?  There are two glasses sitting on the table next to you."

"But...I'm not a woman."  His tone was not disrespectful, just really confused.

My mouth dropped open, and gaped there for a good while.

"Well, I'm not," he said.  "Do I have a pony tail?  Do I have an apron?"  Now he was sassing me.

We had a little chat.  After which he went and gathered up the dirty dishes.  Well, most of them.

"Jonah, you brought me one glass from the end table, but not the other one."

"Oh, that one's not mine."

This is when I lost it.

Not yours?  I don't care if it is not yours.  I asked you to bring it to me.  Do you see all of the dishes in this sink?  Do you know how many of them are "mine"?  I do ALL the dishes.  Even the ones I don't use.  I wash all the clothes.  Even the ones I don't wear.  I brush the teeth in four-out-of-five mouths in this house.  Even though I don't have four mouths.  I wipe three-out-of-five bottoms in this house.  Even though I don't have three bottoms.  So, I don't want to hear about how that one glass, sitting right next to your glass, is NOT your glass.  I want you to pick it up and bring it to me, like a boy with a generous heart.  Or, failing that, like a boy with some sense, and some respect for his mother, and some interest in living in MY house until his seventh birthday.  Because I don't have to do this.  I am a lawyer.  Do you know that?  I went to school for a very long time and I took a very hard test so that I would not have to be the hired help.  I am not the hired help.  I am way overqualified to wipe butts and be disrespected by you.

Then it occurred to me...who isn't overqualified for this?  You usually have to pay someone to do what I do.  And, if you disrespect them, they will quit.  Why would anyone put up with this?  Maybe, as their mother, I am the only one who is qualified.  Well, if that is the case, then a few things need to be set straight.

So, listen here, little man.  Listen closely, and tell your brother and sister.  Tell them that The Woman, the one with the pony tail and the apron, has lost her mind and she has something to say.  This is OUR house, and OUR dishes, and OUR laundry, and yes, even OUR butts.  I am not doing all of this for you, and I am certainly not doing it all for me.  WE are doing this for US.  Just because you are too young to do most of it, does not mean you are off the hook.  So, I would appreciate it if, in the future, you would do what you are told, all the way, right away, and with a happy face.  And if you ever tell me that what I do is "woman's work" again, well...God help you, because even Daddy won't be able to.

XOXO ~ Mommy

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Counting by Trillions

How many zeros in a trillion?

 This has nothing to do with the national debt.  It has to do with skip counting: what modern education calls counting by twos, fives, tens, etc.

Jonah, little ball of brilliance though he is, had a really hard time learning to count by twos.  Wailing, rending of garments, gnashing of teeth.  A typical school day, really.  And, as usual, he seemed to think it was my fault, like I invented the idea or something.

He often acts as though the things I teach him aren't really important, just chosen arbitrarily and capriciously by me to torment him. (Like I have time for that.)  Or, maybe he just thinks they are hard, and he needs an excuse for all the dramatics he uses to avoid them.  In an attempt to further his point, he test me.  If this is so important, let's see if Mom knows it. 

"Mom?  Can you count by 2's?"

"Yes.  You know I can.  I have been counting with you all day."

"Can you count by hundred's?"


"Well, do it then."

"100, 200, 300..." and so on, I counted to one thousand.  Thwarted, but not satisfied, he continued.

"Can you count by a trillion?"  It was clearly a dare. 

"One trillion, two trillion, three trillion..."  I began to wonder when I could stop.  What comes after a trillion?  And how many trillions does it take to get there?  What was that going to be like?  "Two hundred million trillion, three hundred million trillion..."  My mind boggled.  I didn't have all day to stand in my kitchen counting by a trillion to prove something to my six year old.  Somewhere around twenty trillion, my counting trailed off.

"Why did you stop?"

"Well, I..."  I started to explain to him, what I just explained to you.  But, I didn't get very far.

"I guess you aren't so smart after all," he said, and he kind of wonder away.

"Maybe not,"  I hollered after him.  "But at least I can skip count by two,"

Okay, no, I didn't.  But I did get to show off my skip counting skills for the rest of the week while we practiced and practiced and practiced, until he was ready to kill me, or get it right.  He got it right.  And, he was so proud of himself.

The hardest won victories are the sweetest. 

Now, onto telling time.  I anticipate more first.  I"ll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Back To School

We are homeschooling again this year.  Officially, only Jonah is in school.  Hello, first grade!  But, Sam and Cate need some learnin' too.  Sam is pre-kindergarten, and Cate is pre-pre-kindergarten.  We keep each other busy.

Three students ready for the first day of school.  Two of them are even happy about it.

Her very first letter.  Ever!  Don't worry.  She went right back to writing like a two year old and has not written anything legible since. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I Did This Summer -- Part 5: Oods and Ends

We are in our second week of school, so for us, summer is as good as over.  Except for swim lessons, and the heat.  But, while the days are still a little longer than not, I thought I would share with you some of the smaller bits of our summer.

You must remember, that as a homeschool mom, it is my vacation, too.  So don't judge me too harshly when I tell you, I watched seventy-two episodes of Doctor Who, and played a hundred seventy-two hours of Angry Birds.  Both of which I had never done before this summer.  (Well, okay, I had seen some of the old Doctor Who from back in the seventies, but I saw it in the eighties, late Saturday nights on PBS.  This tells you loads about my social life in the eighties as well.)

Jonah took a cupcake decorating class, in which he was the youngest student and the only boy.  Or, "a good place to find a wife," as he described it.  Combine his cupcakes with my summer(waste of)time activities, and you have this...

An Ood cupcake.  You can see the Ood inspiration here

Other monsters.  These are Sam's.

And, in other news...

We picked up souvenirs, or pictures thereof.

When passing through Weed, California, you do not need to buy one of these at the local gas station, but you can take a picture of one with your phone, while pretending to use their bathroom.  (Which you know I would never do.  See Part 2.)

We played in the water...

We helped Uncle Jim launch some homemade rockets.

It is never too early to teach a little girl about things that go boom.

Once the missile is launched (too fast to be photographed by me), someone must go get it.  Have fun, Uncle Jim.

And, someone must bring it back.  But Catie will make the walk seem shorter by chatting your ear off.


Catherine caused us some concern.

I am posting this, so that when I tell you she is trouble, you know just what kind of trouble I am talking about.  Daddy's little girl  trouble.  Do-I-look-like-I-would-cause-trouble? trouble.  Gunna-break-your-heart-and-steal-your-truck trouble.
It's all fun and games until someone becomes a stripper.

And, we rested.

His sister gave him her bubba, which was really sweet.  Maybe she's worth the trouble.

The End

I hope to be back soon with some Fall adventures, but until then, if you missed any episode of What I Did This Summer you can catch up here...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I Did This Summer -- Part 4: Ghosts and Posers

Since our first child was born almost seven years ago, Hubband and I have driven from our home in northern California to his parents home in northern Washington many times.  The drive has never been anything but a miserable slog,  up to twenty hours over two days (if we were lucky enough to stop) with one, two, or three screaming children, depending on the year.  This year was a little better.  All of those years of experience paying off?  Perhaps.  Or, maybe it was because we packed cupcakes, borrowed Nintendo DSes from a friend to keep the boys busy, and stopped in Salem, Oregon at a place called The Enchanted Forest.

This place is great.  It's like a story book village, with rides.  It was the perfect way to break up a long drive.  And inexpensive.  For a family of five, we spent under $100, including lunch!  (You can't even get mouse pancakes for that at some other places.)

One of the main attractions for Jonah, was the haunted house.  He wanted to go in there so badly.  And, so did I.  So, we bought our tickets and went.  Just Mommy and Jonah.  Is this an excited boy, or what?

After we waited in no line what-so-ever, we gave the delightful girl our ticket.  When she saw Jonah, she told us that if it we got too scared, we could just come back out the way we came.  As soon as the door closed behind us, it was pitch black.  I felt Jonah tense up beside me.

"It's okay, Jonah," I said.  "We don't have to stay if it is too scary."

"Are  you scared, Mom?"

"No," I said.

"I think maybe you are.  You should hold my hand just in case."

We came around the first bend, and my eyes were still adjusting.  A witch, at a table with a crystal ball, lit up and cackled at us from the left.  Jonah jumped and pulled me away from her.  I backed into a wall and tried to convince Jonah to just look at the lady for a minute, so that he could see she was not real.

"Are you sacred, Mom?  I think you are."

"No, honey.  I'm fine.  But we can go if you want."

At this point, something in the wall behind me moaned and rattled. I am not a scared-y cat, but I am tightly wound.  I jumped and shrieked.

Jonah yanked on my hand, and said, "That's it!  You're scared.  We need to leave!"  And, so we did.

If anyone asks, I am afraid of the haunted house at Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon.  My brave son rescued me.

I brought my camera on this trip, but never once took it out.  This is all I managed to capture on my phone.  (There is a disciplinary hearing in September.  My mommy-blogger credentials may be yanked.) 

Jonah and Abraham Lincoln

There were ghost and guns everywhere.

Forget Daddy-on-the-porch-with-a-shotgun.  I got this covered.
 And, I'll trow this one in, just because they are cute.

If you missed any episode of What I Did This Summer you can catch up here...

School started for us this week, but there are a few more bits and pieces of summer to show you, before I start writing about that.  I hope to be back soon.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I Did This Summer -- Part 3: No One Slept Here

One of the joys of traveling with your children is not sharing a hotel room.  I am used to sleeping close to my children.  We have a small house.  None of them sleep more than thirty feet from me.  I sleep with my door open.  I can hear Sam breathing.  I know what my children sleep like.  But, if we are in a hotel room, each of them, in turn, will sit bolt upright in bed and scream.  Scream, like their hair is on fire.  Then, flop back on the pillow, and resume sleep.  I, thanks to the rapid rise in blood pressure, will be awake for at least the next hour.  This is not good sleep.

During our trip to Nevada this summer, to visit my father and grandmother, we were blessed with a two bedroom, two bathroom suite.  (Thank you, Daddy!)  It was bigger than our first apartment.  There was one room with two beds for the kids, and one room with a huge bed for us.  We were so excited.  But sleep was not to be had.

For reasons that are boring and so shall be skipped, Hubband put the kids to bed that night, while I was out.  (Again, the details aren't important.  Don't be so nosy.) 

When I returned to the room at 10:30, I was met at the door by a wonderful husband, but a frazzled father.  "Cate won't stay in the bed," were the first words out of his mouth.  "I just can't keep her in the bed."  It was true.  She was running around like a crazy person.  Or, an over-tired two year old.  Same thing, really.

"Okay, well.  We'll have to put her in our bed until she's asleep.  Then we can put her back in with Jonah."  My plan sounded reasonable.

"Well, no," he said.  "I have to sleep in with Jonah.  He is having bad dreams."

"I told you not to let him watch When Gators Attack on the swap people channel."  It is so easy to be the superior parent when you are out all night.

"Oh, he was fine with the alligators.  It was the live-action  Scooby Doo  movie that scared him."

We paused to take in the absurdity of the situation.  Ferrel two year-old.  Six year-year old afraid of a crime-solving dog.  Four year-old presumed sleeping.  Got it.  I quickly developed a new plan.

"Okay, so you sleep in the bed with Jonah until he falls asleep.  I will get Cate to sleep in our bed.  Then you and she can swap." 

"Well, maybe."  He sounded doubtful.  There were other issues.  "Sam fell asleep crying because you weren't here to sleep with him."  When we travel, Sam and I usually share a bed, so that the kids are split up.  This has become, second only to make-your-own-waffles, his favorite part of traveling.  It added a wrinkle to my plan, but Sam was asleep, and if he stayed that way, it might just work.

Hubband and Jonah were quickly asleep in one of the beds in the kids room.  Sam was asleep in the other.  That left me in the master bedroom with my demon possessed daughter.

I finally got Cate to sleep, but could not do the same for myself.  Perhaps it was the human pinwheel with whom I was sharing the bed.  After about three hours of jostling, kicking, rolling, and two screaming sit-ups, I left.  I went into the living room.  Yes, there was a living room.  I hung out there for awhile, reading.  When I finally went back in, Cate, all three feet of her, was taking up the entire king size bed.  I know, it sounds impossible, but I saw it with my own eyes.  There must be some sort of pre-school physics that allows her to do this.

I was about to scoop Cate up and move her onto her reasonable share on the bed, trying not to wake her of course, when Sam came in.  "Mommy," he whimpered.  "I want you to sleep with me."

It was three in the morning.  I had not slept.  I had no fight left in me.  I went into the double room and got in bed with Sam.  I did not sleep well, but I slept.  A little.

That is how a two year-old girl got an entire master suite all to herself, while the rest of us were billeted as usual -- four to a room, two to a bed.  And, though the boys had us up by six, Princess Catherine slept until 9:30. 

When we went to Washington, later in the summer, we had our usual accommodations -- the in-laws' attic.  It is a nice attic.  Large and nicely finished, two windows at each end, plenty of beds and room to play.  The kids even have shelves of toys.  A short adult can only stand up in the middle of the room, but other than that it is quite cozy.

On one of our last night's there, Cate was suffering from a fever.  She sat up every fifteen minutes or so, moaning.  A sort of rhythmic chant of discomfort, until one of us went over, laid her back down, and told her it was going to be okay.  I don't think she was every really awake, but we certainly were.  Every fifteen minutes.  I know because I looked at the clock.  Hubband and I took unofficial shifts.  He would get up with her for an hour or so, then I would.  But neither of us slept, even when "off duty."  It went on like this until four in the morning.

Then it got worse.

Cate started screaming.  Like I have never heard.  I thought she must be hurt.  I lept out of bed and went to her as quickly as I could with no head clearance.  Then I saw it.  Well, not it, but its shadow, cast by the glow of the night light.  It was a bat.  I'm sure it was a small bat, but its shadow looked like that of an albatross.  Have I mentioned that I am deathly afraid of bats?  Deathly.  Afraid.

I let out my own primal scream.  At which point Hubband ordered me to quit screaming.  He was trying to find out what was going on, and I was not helping.  So, I quit screaming.  I fell to the floor at the foot of our bed, cowering under a bit of quilt.

"It's a bat.  There's a bat in here," I whimpered.  My heart still races at the memory.

Cate continued screaming, "Flies.  Flies."  She had not learned the word "bat" yet, but she would.

Finally, Hubband managed to pass her to me, staying as low as possible.  She and I escaped to a lower floor.  Hubband stayed behind to conquer the bat, enlisting the help of his father, a broom, and a fishing net.  The flying rodent was returned to the wild, unharmed, but with an abiding fear of screaming women.  As it should be.

No sleep was had, by anyone.  Except my boys, who managed to sleep through the entire thing.  I remember when I could sleep through anything.  It was 2004 b.c.  Before Children.

Stay tuned for Part 4, Ghosts and Posers.  More pictures, fewer words.  I promise.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What I Did This Summer -- Part 2: Toilet Tourism

The Gaches Mansion, LaConner, Washington, 1891

Nothing says "Happy Birthday, America!" like the smell of gunpowder and grilled meat.  I know this, because my Fourth of July contained neither.  No fireworks.  No barbecue.  Just a three day weekend full of fast-food play areas and public toilets.  Well, okay.  There were some breathtaking giant redwoods, a visit with family, gorgeous beaches, an indoor pool, and waffles for breakfast every morning.  But talking about the good stuff is easy.  And, quite frankly, a little boring.  It's been done to death, hasn't it.  So, instead, I offer you this.  Not just the Fourth of July weekend, but my entire summer vacation in potty stops.  Toilet tourism, if you will.

Yelp, the website that allows real people to write real reviews about all kinds of services -- restaurants, shops, even radio stations -- does not have a category for public toilets.  They really should.  Travelers could use this information.  Especially travelers with children, or other disabilities.  Since I have no website designing-launching-marketing experience I am going to 1) give away (yet another) million dollar idea and 2) tell you about a few places you should avoid and/or go out of you way to visit, if you happen to be in the area.

I will start with the bad.

Any chemical port-a-loo should be avoided.  Especially if you have a child with you.  Open sewage.  No running water.   Unless you are at Burning Man or Glastonbury where they are part of the charm.

I hate gas station bathrooms.  If you have to ask for a key (ew, gross) and go "round back," the room will not be sanitary.  No exceptions.  In the winter, it will be freezing.  In the summer, it will be sweltering.  And you will get more germs washing your hands than not.  I know you are "already there for gas...why make two stops...the rest of the place looks clean...yada yada."  Do not ask for that key, thinking that this place is an exception.  It is not.  It. is. not.

Some gas stations have bathrooms that are not "round back," but even then you are better off going to a fast-food restaurant.  So, after you pay for your gas, get back in your car, and drive across the street to the McDonald's or Taco Bell or whatever.  But not Arby's and Dairy Queens.  For some reason, they are seldom what one would hope.  And, don't feel guilty about using their facilities without buying anything.  They don't mind.  Really.  While you are using their toilet, they are imprinting their logo and brand onto the minds of your children.  Everyone is happy.

There is a town -- yes, an entire town -- called Willits, that should be avoided.  It is named for the rare infectious disease you can get from using their facilities.  Sorry, Willits, it's true and you know it.  (And, no, I'm not just cranky because you have put three stop lights in the middle of an interstate highway, just so we can all sit in soul-sucking traffic and crawl through your dismal town.)

Now, for the good.

In Ferndale, California, if your husband refuses stop and you drive past the old churches and restored Victorian homes, past the sidewalk cafes and quaint tourist shops all the way through town, you come to a park.  It is lovely.  Wide open spaces, hemmed in by blackberry bramble and bocce ball courts.  And the nicest park bathroom I have ever seen.  Ever.  It was clean.  It was well lit and ventilated with windows.  There was real toilet paper.  Warm water.  Soap.  Paper towels.  I talked about it all day.  Seriously.  Hubband thought I was crazy, but he can go in the woods.  He has no idea the toilets I've seen.  Uff da!

Burlington, Washington.  Cascade Mall.  Macy's.  First floor behind housewares.  The best bathroom in the (parts of the) WORLD (I have been to).  Toilet, clean.  Sink, clean.  Floor, clean.  You could eat off that floor.  Warm water, scented soap, soft paper towels.  There was a changing table, also clean, that did not creak, or bow, or threaten to rip from the wall while my child was on it.  This was a five star bathroom.

There are also a few honorable mentions.

Most Adventurous   The Woods, Arcata, California.

I won't say where exactly, for reasons that will soon be obvious.  We were in Arcata visiting my cousin Jake and his family.  On a "hike" in the woods, Samuel announced to the world, "I gotta poop!"  Not happy news, as this meant a "hike" back to the parking lot and the aforementioned, to-be-avoided-with-children chemical toilet.  Cousin Jake to the rescue.  With his patience and expertise, Sam pooped in the woods, in a hole Jake dug with his shoe.  Jake even cleaned him up.  I don't know how, and I don't want to.  Port-o-potty averted!  Of course, Samuel thought that was the most exciting thing in all his four years on this earth.  We weren't even out of the woods when he needed to "go again."  So, we have set a few boundaries.  Pooping outside is to be a "with Cousin Jake only" activity.  This should work, since we only see Jake about twice a year.  I have to warn my mom before we meet at her house for Christmas.

Most Inspirational   703 South 2nd Street, LaConner, Washington.

If you have a smart phone, you have used it in the bathroom.  You know you have.  You have read the paper or checked your e-mail or played Angry Birds while pretending to use the bathroom just to get a few moments of peace.  (I won't tell your boss if you won't tell mine.)  If you haven't, you should, and I am going to tell you why.  On July 18, 2011 at 3:55 pm, I sent the following message to my sister, with whom I have swapped many texts while in the bathroom (don't judge me):  "I am in the bathroom at the LaConner Quilt Museum, housed in the old Gaches Mansion, built in 1891.  I am going to start toilet texting from exotic locales."

Again, don't judge me.  Join me.  402-317-5229.  That is my text number.  It is not a cell phone, just a free text service.  Go ahead.  Save it in your phone.  Right now.  Don't wait.  Save it in your phone and use it for all your toilet tourism.  Are you at the Eiffel Tower toilet?  I want to hear about it.  Have you found a restaurant with heated seats?  Let me know.  Just want to gripe about the condition of the john at your local Wal-mart?  I'm listening.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What I Did This Summer -- Part 1: Strange Amish Waffles

This summer, we have been traveling.  Like crazy.  If you have ever traveled with children, you know what an exhausting, soul-sucking, memory-of-a-lifetime adventure this can be.  If you haven't, I am here to tell you a few things.  We have found a two day driving strategy that works, with or without cupcakes.  But, one six hour trip took us ten, and we aren't even sure why.  I am developing a website where people can rate public toilets and fast-food playlands.  Jonah learned that vegetarians don't eat bacon or sausage.  Jonah is developing a website to raise money to buy bacon and sausage for poor vegetarians.  Samuel learned to poop in the woods, in a hole dug with a shoe, and he can't wait until Thanksgiving so that he can do it again.  More bedrooms don't actually make for less crowded sleeping.  How many ninety-year-old women are too many?  A house so haunted we had to leave.  So many stories.  So little time to write them all down.  Where to begin...

BEWARE BREAKFAST:  Medium-Rare Waffles with Amish Strangers

Samuel's favorite part of any trip, is the Free Hot Breakfast offered by most mid-priced hotels.  These are usually a make-your-own waffle set up, but all Samuel has to do js place an order with one of his parents, and keep repeating, "I want a waffle, I want a waffle, I want a waffle, I want a waffle," until one appears on the plate in front of him.  As one of his parents, I can tell you it would be easier to pay for waffles at the Denny's across the road.

When people hear that make-your-own waffles come free with the room, they are going to make their own waffles, dammit, even it means pulling at the frayed edges of polite society.  You'd think that we as a people would have evolved past the primal urge to pounce, cheetah like, on the nearest warm food.  But no.  It is still a jungle out there.

This particular jungle story happened over Fourth of July weekend when we went to see the California Redwoods.

The first thing I had to do was jockey for position with my fellow hotel guests, most of whom were just hovering around waiting for their waffles to finish.  There is a timer on those things, people.  It takes three minutes.  You have two minutes and twenty-seven seconds left.  Go stand somewhere else, would ya.  No one is going to steal your waffle.  I promise.  Because if they tried, the whole crowd would turn on them.  It is the Law of the Free Hot Breakfast.

Once a waffle iron opened up, I had to push forward, reach across the blazing hot contraption, and get the batter.  This required I do five things simultaneously:  1) hold a sloppy plastic cup under a waffle-batter glopping machine with one hand, 2) pull a lever on said glopping machine with the other hand, 3) monitor the fill level of the sloppy cup, 4) hold off the encroaching horde of waffle-zombies with my backside, and 5) not sear my left breast.

With glop in hand, I lifted up the heavy top of the waffle iron, and began to pour batter onto the beeping, steaming, hissing mess.  I had about half of the glop in there when the top of the waffle iron slammed down, barely missing my hand.  No.  That it is not true.  It did not miss my hand.  It tried to burn my hand clean off.  And it would have too, but for my lightening-fast reflexes.  I yanked my hand away, just in time.  Disaster averted.  Except that I flung half a cup of glop behind me.  Amazingly, none of the waffle-zombies were hit.  And, none of them saw what happened.  Fifteen people, all focused on two waffle irons, and not a single one of them saw the thing try to bite me.  They looked at me as if I were a mental patient having some kind of episode.  But they all managed to look away as I cleaned up the mess.  Even the man who stepped over me to steal my turn at the waffle iron.

When I finally shoved my way back to the front of the non-line, and successfully applied glop to iron, I returned to sit with Sam while I waited the three minutes.  Like civilized people should.  It was then that Sam looked slowly around the room and loudly announced, "Mom, these people are all strangers."

"Yes, Sam," I replied quietly.  "They are."

"I'm not going to talk to them because they might take me," he said and glanced around suspiciously.

This did not endear me to the other diners, who, I could tell, were wondering why such an adorable child would be left in the care of an obviously deranged woman who had hallucinations involving kitchen appliances.

Ten minutes later, Sam tucked into his pink waffles without a care in the world.  Did I mention that the waffles were pink?  Well, the glop was pink.  Strawberry they called it, but I recognize waffle batter made with artificially-flavored strawberry milk when I see it.  The waffles were some kind of hybrid; brown on the outside, pink of the inside.  Like a well cooked steak.  I found it troubling.

Among the strangers was a large group of Amish.  (They avoided the waffles.)  This is a very rare sight in California.  Sam had a million questions.  (Luckily, he kept his voice down this time.)  And, to be honest with you, it was just as hard explaining to him why the Amish dress the way they do, as it was explaining to him why a lady in our sub-urban supermarket was wearing a burqa.  Sometimes, having kids makes my brain hurt.

In the end, and after breakfast, the trees were nice.  Big.  Really big.  And, old.  Thousands of years, I am told.  Big, old, and not nearly as boring as I thought they might be.  (Don't tell Hubband I said that.)

Now...which story should I tell next?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Samuel Explains A Lot

This morning as I was dressing, Samuel bolted into my room.  I could have sworn I locked the door.

"Mommy, I'm all dres..."

He stopped mid-sentence as soon as he saw me.  I was mostly dressed, but from the waist up, I wore only my bra.  Lovely bra.  Pink it is.  Hubband says it reminds him of a doughnut he once knew.  But, enough of that.

Where was I?  Oh, yes...When Sam stopped mid-sentence, I realized he was staring at my breasts.

"Samuel, don't stare at my breasts,"  I said, as I covered myself.

His eyes did not move.

"Samuel.  Don't do that it is rude.  Look at my eyes."  I pointed at my eyes.

He looked at my eyes.  Then back to my breasts.  I couldn't believe it.

"Samuel.  My eyes."

He looked at my eyes.  Then back to my breasts.


"I can't look at your head when you have breasts."

I'm sure this means something.  Something big.  If only I could put my finger on it.  Ah, yes.  I need to get a better lock for the bedroom door.  And maybe a pink doughnut.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And the winner is....

Anonymous.  Seriously.

I had an anonymous comment, so just as a joke, I included her in the drawing.  Of course she won.  But, as Ann Onymous was vague as to her exact location, (She didn't even give me a fake name!) I had to draw again.  Actually Jonah did the drawing.  He thought the whole thing was great.  He even wore his Jelly Belly t-shirt for the occasion.  So, why does his picture, taken with the winning entry look like a mug shot? 

Rebecca S.  from Letters to the World is our lucky winner!  Congratulations, Rebecca!  Just e-mail your address and your jelly beans will be posted forthwith.  As for the rest of you, don't be haters.  Go over and visit Rebecca.  She's Canadian.  Everyone likes Canadians, right?

As for this space here, I may be away for a short time.  I have a little extra help with the kids the next few weeks, so I am catching up on all of the housework I neglected during school.  I want everything to be spick and span and organized for when school starts up again in August.  Only six weeks left of summer for us.  I'm already excited.  So, miss me, people, miss me.  (I can't possibly stay away that long.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

International Sam of Mystery

Samuel has taken to wearing disguises.

He calls them disguises.

I call them extra laundry.

I'm glad he is able to express himself.

Now, if only he would learn to fold.

Just a reminder that the Uno, Dos, Tracey Jelly Belly Give-Away is still going on.  Make sure you check it out; follow the link and leave a comment.  All that sugar-y goodness in a decorative tin can could be yours.  You still have a 1 in 12 chance!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Jelly Belly Field Trip and a Give-Away. Yay, Give-Aways!

It is officially summer vacation, for almost officially everyone.  Since we homeschool, day to day life has not changed much, except that there is no school.  In it's place: swim lessons, family visits, and field trips.  Yay, field trips!

A few weeks ago, my brave and adventurous mother, known forevermore, and to all, as Nana (Okay, maybe not to all, but to all who matter.  Me, my sister, our spouses, our kids.), offered to take us to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, California.  Yay, Nana!

Samuel, Baby Lucas, Tante Tricia, Me, Catherine, Jonah, and Nana rocking the mandatory paper hat before our tour.
Have you ever heard of Jelly Bellies?  They are gourmet jelly beans.  They started with eight flavors and now have over fifty, like pomegranate, chili-mango, and buttered popcorn.  If those flavors are too exotic for you (buttered popcorn is gross), they also have licorice, green apple, watermelon, and strawberry jam.  My favorite is cinnamon.  Yay, cinnamon!

President Ronald Reagan was a big fan when he was Governor of California, and took his passion national when he became President.  A special jar was made for his desk in the oval office, and on Air Force One, just to hold his Jelly Bellies.  When news of this spread, so many curious candy eaters ordered them, that the poor Jelly Belly people, caught unawares, were seventy weeks behind on orders.  No fear of that now.  They run a huge, state of the art processing plant.  Tours are free and include a Jelly Belly Portrait Gallery, and samples.  Yay, samples!

President Ronald Reagan made entirely our of Jelly Belly beans.

Again, entirely our of Jelly Bellies.

I brought my three kids, and my sister brought her one baby.  That was a ratio of three adults to four kids.  Baby Lucas was pushed around, strapped securely in his carriage.  We knew we could trust Jonah and Sam to locomote and not wander too far (we had their sugar).  But, Cate was a different story.  We weren't taking any chances.  We kept her on a very short leash.  Yay, toddler leash!

They told me this leash was the latest in pre-school fashion.  I was deceived.

Yes, look closely.  I am tied to a chair.

I'm not going to let it stop me though.

Of the four kids we took, only three had teeth.  Now, only two do.  It was like Halloween, and the Easter Bunny, came all in one day.  Yeah, they were a little hyper restless, vomiting nauseated and crying tired at the end.   But, we had it under control.  (See leash above.)  And it was worth it!  Yay, worth it!

So. much. sugar.

Now for the moment you have been waiting for.  The BIG Jelly Belly Give Away.  Jelly Belly Jelly Beans come in fifty flavors, forty-nine* of which are featured in this box, and I am giving it away to you.  Yes, you!  Well, one of you.  Just leave a comment here, or on Facebook, and you will be entered to win.  The drawing will be held seven days from today.  (Any longer than that, and I am likely to eat the prize.)  Good luck!  (Nana and Tante Tricia not eligible.)

*Forty-nine flavors, not forty-nine beans.  There are a whole bunch of beans.

To learn more about the family business that changed the jelly bean, you can go to the Official Jelly Belly Website.  They also make the most amazing candy corn, so book mark it for October, when you will be in need of just such a confection.