I know that someday you'll find better things.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer of The

2011: Summer of the Never-Ending Move
Hyperbole it is not, because I still have two sealed and mysterious boxes in the corner of my bedroom. Perfectly packed and mysteriously unlabeled, I have challenged myself to see how long I can live without the contents.

Or without knowing the nature of the contents.

How could something so unnecessary to daily life (for 691 days, thus far) have warranted the precise packaging?

***

2012: Summer of the International Road Trip
If we're aiming for accuracy, I suppose I should revise this to 2012: Summer of the (slightly) International (but mostly interstate) Road Trip.

During the final week of July, we embarked on the single grandest and longest journey our family had ever attempted. This trip also has the distinction of being the only one of its kind we will ever attempt.

It started as well as it could. We'd hired a driver to bring us to the airport. He was probably cursing his fate when he came to pick us up-- Mia was getting over pneumonia and Hannah and I were both getting over bronchitis. We were not good company. How Russ and Caleb escaped the germs is beyond me.

We flew into Boston where we were met by my parents. We then drove through New Hampshire to York Beach, Maine, and stayed with them in the campground for I don't remember how long.

Next, we headed south to Connecticut. We stayed in Putnam for another indeterminable amount of time before departing--in the middle of the night-- for Niagara Falls.

I honestly don't know why or how that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Then it was through Canada, which turned out to be disappointingly similar to Texas, except for the speed limit signs and gasoline prices, both of which were extremely confusing. Further detracting from the mystique, there's significantly less hoopla at the Canadian border than the Mexican one.

Not that I've been to the Mexican one, but I've heard the stories.

The next destination was Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where we stayed for I have no clue how many days. Since irony is at the heart of almost every family adventure-- at least for our family-- it is appropriate to mention that while we stayed with my parents at the campground in Maine, we had access to every creature comfort from home, but during the Michigan portion of the trip, which included an actual house, we were essentially camping.

There was no electricity or running water, but there was a porta-potty, and a proper latrine if you were willing to walk down the road to the boat launch.

We were willing and enthusiastic.

Eventually we drove south through states I'd never been to: Wisconsin and Iowa-- lush, beautiful, hilly, and green.

We stayed in Russ's hometown of Moline, Illinois for several days before heading home by way of Memphis, as every road trip worth its salt should include a trip to Graceland.

All of mine always have. Why break tradition?

Was the St. Louis Arch before or after Graceland? I cannot remember, but it sure made an impression on Mia. She was obsessed with all things Missouri for the better portion of this past fall, checking out encyclopedia-esque books from the public library and the school one, and sneaking on to google maps on my phone whenever she could.

Finally, it was through Arkansas and back to Texas, where we returned to two busted toilets and a broken pool pump, but it didn't matter.

We were home.

There are conflicting reports on how long we were actually gone. Some say 17 days, others say 21. I say different amounts each time I'm asked, depending on which part of the trip I happen to remember first.

72 days, 89 days, 43 days...

***

Here we are, mere weeks into Summer of 2013, and a new and horrible theme has started to emerge:

Summer of the Incessant Questions.

If you saw this exchange on facebook during the summer solstice, consider it forewarning. That was just the tip of the iceberg.






Friday, June 28, 2013

Soaking Wet

Ever since the Clean as a Whistle conversation, I've been considering expressions and their all-too-frequent inaccuracies.

Today I was thinking about 'soaking wet' as it relates to weight. Well, human weight.

She was 98 pounds, soaking wet, I once heard someone say. The phrase puzzled me. How much water could the human body really hold? Enough to make a perceptible difference?

It was time to find out.

I'm something of an expert in weight, or the theory of the weighing process, at least. From a young age, my mother taught me that to get an optimal reading, one should weigh herself at first light, after using the restroom but before consuming any food or drink, water included.

Completely naked.

This experiment would be easy. I couldn't believe I'd spent so long wondering. I'd weigh myself before getting into the shower and then again afterward. The only challenge would be resisting the habit to reach for the towel.

The results were exactly as I'd expected. No difference. Not an ounce-- and the digital scale does reflect ounces.

The only way I can see this making a significant difference is if the person being soaked and weighed was either fully dressed or had an excess of hair. I bet the expression would apply to that girl who played Topanga in Boy Meets World. Or an alpaca.

At least I finally had the answer to my musing.
And the puddles on my bathroom floor to prove it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Censorship Cycle





A mix tape created by me would be an irreparable disservice to my generation.

When my peers wax nostalgic about the eighties, I have to fake it. Truth be told, I was ten and a half years old at the height of the 1980s, and as the eldest child in my family, my primary influences paralleled those of my parents—namely my dad. His musical interests were rather narrow:


Luciano Pavorotti, Placido Domingo, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, and Linda Ronstandt.


My mother had a fondness for John Denver, so we also owned two of his tapes. One of these involved Christmas and Muppets, so it doesn’t count.


Go ahead. Ask me anything about those eight musicians. Just don't ask me about Def Leopard, AC/DC, or Madonna. I always mix up those three. 


As I’m sure you’ve concluded, I was not the life of the party during those instrumental middle school years, and I was more than a tad resentful about this obvious social handicap which my parents had imposed upon me.


Until, of course, I became a parent myself.


We first realized the need to censor our music selections when five-year-old Caleb came home from a visitation weekend with his biological mother, singing


"Shush girl
Shut your lips
Do the Helen Keller
And talk with your hips.
Don’t trust a ho"


We were appalled!


No longer would we turn a blind eye and distracted ear in our own vehicles, that’s for sure.


Around that time, barely-two-year-old Mia began to explore her singing skills.
“I’ve got straps, straps around my shoooo-ulders,” she belted from the confines of her carseat.


Russ and I high-fived each other and air-fived Johnny Cash in heaven. Satisfied with our parenting, we continued to listen to whatever we wanted, until the day the Modest Mouse from the backseat gave an impromptu performance of Polar Opposites.


“I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’
To drink away the part of the day
I cannot sleep awaaaaay!”


Whoops.


Gramma Merry and Opa’s gift of the Raffi boxed set could not have arrived at a more perfect time. It was Baby Beluga, Joshua Giraffe, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot from then on.


Crisis: averted.
Conscience: clean.


One day, while passing through rural Frisco on the way to urban Frisco (and presumably Ikea) the pipsqueak perked up.


“Corn!” Mia yelped excitedly.
“Yes, dear,” I placated.
“Rain makes corn,” she informed us.
“Good job, sweetie.” Wow, I thought, that expensive preschool is totally worth the cost.
“Corn makes whiskey,” she continued.


WHAT?!


Something was happening to the bloodflow to my face. Was I blushing with embarrassment or paling in horror?


I yanked down the visor and flipped down the vanity mirror to get a better look at her. You know, because if I saw, say, a cat in a feather boa neatly buckled into the carseat then this would be a dream.


“Hi, Mommy! I can see your eye—and part of your nose, too!” she said brightly.
I’d been hoping for the cat in a feather boa.


“Hi, Sweetheart. I can see you, too. Now, what’s this about whiskey?” Things you never imagined you’d be asking your three-year-old, I thought.


“Whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky!” she proclaimed.
“Whose baby?”
“The baby in the song, I guess.”
“What song?”
“The song about the rain and the corn.”
“Honey, who sings this song? Is this a school song?”
“No, Mommy. Me an’ Daddy sing it, when it comes on the radio in the jeep.  Want me to sing it for you?”


That’s quite alright.
Where’d that Raffi cd get to?


As hard as it is to accept, we can’t censor our kids from society’s influence forever. Not that we shouldn’t try, of course, but things will always find a way to slip through the filters. Who am I to tell my ex-husband what he can and cannot listen to in the presence of the daughter that is part him, part me? All we can do is try to be the best we can while they’re under our guidance and hope for the best when they’re not.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Just Let Go

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

According to Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, there's a poster in their workplace that says just that.

It is meant to inspire.

She recommends that everyone name that thing and then go out and do it. Conquer it! Live life to the fullest extent!

It's not a new concept, of course. It's been around since at least 2005, because that is when I tried to embrace it.

It did not go well.

It turns out that being afraid of water skiing and tubing is the right decision for me, because I darn near had a heart attack as I was dragged across the lake behind that boat.

Rebecca and I gripped the ginormous tube for dear life. 

We were yanked and tugged and dizzy.  Everyone on the boat was shouting and waving. It seemed very likely there was something awful behind us that they were trying to warn us about. Alligator, probably. Maybe a fresh-water shark, or a helicopter that was crash-landing. I couldn't turn around to see, so I had no choice but to hold on.

My fingers were cramping. When would it end?

"THIS IS AWFUL! WHEN WILL IT END?" I shouted to Rebecca, who maybe almost looked like she was enjoying the experience, although I don't see how that could be possible.

She grinned at me and nodded in an 'isn't this fun' kind of way. I tried again.

"I'M GOING TO DIE. HOW DO WE MAKE IT STOP?"

"JUST LET GO!" she yelled.

Let... go? That didn't seem right. The directions for almost everything in life were to hang on, hang in there. Would letting go really make it all stop?

I needed time to think.

If I let go, they'd loop back around to get me. I'd seen that happen to the water skiers who'd accidentally fallen off. Could somebody do that on purpose? It seemed like cheating. Then again, I wasn't sure how much longer I could cheat death.

But if I held on, they'd think I was still having fun, and it would never stop. Never.
Framed like that, it seemed more dishonest to hold on and hang in there.
On account of my friends-- on behalf of my friends-- I had to just let go.

Maybe wisdom isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

Maybe 'confront your fears' works well for half the population. For the other half of us who prefer to embrace our fears and hold on tight, maybe the greater wisdom is to just let go.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fair Pay

You'll never hear me complain about the exorbitant income of celebrities, rock stars, and pro athletes.

I think they deserve every penny they earn.

Autographing is harder than it looks. Ever had to sign a stack of documents?

After six or seven times in a row of writing my own name, I start to make mistakes. They look like spelling errors, but I think the culprit is a combination of hand-fatigue and brain-stray.

You couldn't pay me enough to sign on for an entire career of that.

But the bigger reason--the biggest reason--is the sacrifices they must make.

Having a job in the public eye usually requires a good deal of time away from home. What might they miss?

First words, first steps, and that first magical visit from the tooth fairy. Little league games. Home-cooked meals. Hugs. Sunrises and sunsets. Autumn leaves. Quiet nights. Stars in the sky.

Privacy.
Independence.

Love.

If someone offered to trade money for those memories-- those luxuries-- at what price would you be willing to permanently part with them?

I wouldn't do it.
I couldn't do it.
Not for a million, trillion dollars.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Neighbors' Briefs

On days that we’d walk home from school, we would try to help our neighbors by stacking the daily free Dallas Briefing newspapers to reduce trip hazards for the owners and passers-by. When too many briefs piled up, a week’s worth, maybe, I’d enlist the kids’ help in gathering them up and bringing them home.

“Are we stealing?” Caleb asked, a little too loudly, the first time we did this.
“We most assuredly are not,” I replied, a little too emphatically, perhaps.
“But we’re taking something that belongs to someone else. That’s stealing,” Mia chimed in, a little too morally conscientious for the situation, if you ask me.

“We are doing a kind and helpful deed for our neighbors. What if they’re out of town? Having all these papers in their front yard is practically advertising to the burglars. It’s an invitation to be robbed. By gathering them up, we are doing the neighborly thing.”

They were not convinced. I had to offer further proof.

“Plus, we’re saving the earth by recycling these papers and the bags they came in. When free things-- like this newspaper and those pizza ads-- get loose on the lawn, it’s practically littering. Do you want to just stand by and watch while the neighborhood gets all littery?”

Just as I’d hoped, this seemed to satisfy their suspicion. They gathered them up and we continued walking toward home. When we arrived at the house, they started toward the recycling bins out back.

“Wait!” I called out. “Don’t throw those out. I need to sort through them first. We need to thank ourselves for this act of kindness by keeping their coupons.”

Mia and Caleb set the papers down, mirrored “I told you so” faces, and went inside.

“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind—after all, we just kept their houses safe from burglars!” I called after them. While I combed through the circulars for the coupons, I sent up a silent prayer that they wouldn’t grow up to be juvenile delinquents.

Frugal delinquents are far superior to the traditional juvenile variety, anyway.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bear Problems

People who live in the suburbs have bear problems, too, you know. Just ask Tom Selleck.

The Berenstain Bears was one of my favorite series as a kid. It seemed like there was a book to address just about every childhood situation.

My children needed those bears. How else would they learn to cope with life's challenges?

We scored a ton of them at Recycled in Denton. The prices were so odd --25 cents for some, 37 cents for others. I think the most we paid for one was $1.36. We even got a couple of the old-school hardcover rhyming ones-- The Bike Lesson and The Bears' Picnic.

We made out like bear bandits.

Shortly thereafter, we found out that the book series had become a television show and subsequently, a dvd series.

We had to own it.

[Sidenote-- I verified which dvd we'd purchased. 'The Bears Mind Their Manners' is currently available on Amazon for $29.99. There is NO chance I paid that much. No possible way. My maximum would have been around $8.]

The cartoon was a reasonably responsible adaptation, and it stays pretty true to the picture books' plots. The main problem was the theme song.

They're kind of furry around the torso/
They're a lot like people only more-so.

What the heck does that mean? How can a bear be more like a person than an actual person?! Two giant steps backward for bearkind on that one, PBS.

Guess what? I'm not the only one who has grown skeptical of these bears.

During a Friday night Blue Bloods episode, a promo for the ten o'clock news indicated that Tom Selleck would be revealing his deepest thoughts on parenting, his role as the spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative, and his disdain toward the Berenstain Bears.

Thank goodness some bold soul was finally going to bring this oxy-moronic grammatical problem to light. And it was someone I already respected: NYPD's finest fictional commissioner!

Normally the news is too traumatic to watch, but this seemed manageable.
Manageable and worthwhile.

Sesame-seed Synopsis:
Tom is proud to be a parent.
Tom thinks parenting is important.
Tom feels that our culture has allowed-- and even promoted-- the characterization of fathers as bumbling idiots.

Doofuses.
Dopes.
Dolts.

Case in point: Papa Bear of the Berenstain dynasty.

Gee whiz.

Could that be accurate? What kind of messed-up society would place my two heroes in this moral contrast?

I’d have to investigate this for myself.

So, I hauled out our collection of bear books—all 34 of them. (We have two copies of Visit the Dentist, Too Much TV, and Trouble with Friends… not quite sure how that happened…)

As I read through them, I did see shadows of Tom’s concern, but it certainly wasn’t overt oblivion. If what he was saying about Papa Bear was true, Mama Bear was the sister of Stalin.

It seems to me that like so many other things, the truth stands somewhere between the conflicting beliefs.

Papa Bear could be perceived in the way Tom was portraying him, but only if you willfully neglected the intended audience, author’s purpose, and context of the stories.

The books are intended for young children grappling with the monumental task of absorbing morals and values and virtues.

Papa Bear often faces the same challenges as his cubs. Whether it is the temptation of sweets and junk food or the desire to indulge in television instead of physical activity, I think the authors weren’t attempting to denigrate fathers. They were probably just trying to eliminate hypocrisy and show that adults can struggle with these same challenges, too—that it is all part of the human experience.

More(so) or less.

Again, considering the intended audience, I understand why the authors consistently placed Papa in this role. Most children aren’t quite ready for complex characterization. By creating predictable, steady roles for the four main characters, the authors have a greater opportunity to showcase the challenging situation and develop the solution and moral within the constraints of a child’s shorter attention span.

Why not share the ‘humanity’ with Mama? Switching up the fall guy and aligning Mama with the kids might compromise the readers’ trust.

Is this an accurate representation of life? Of course not. Mothers cave to temptations all the time. Mothers have weaknesses, too. I speak from experience—I’m about as flawed as they come.

Papa Bear’s persona isn’t a political statement about fatherhood. He’s just a victim of typecasting.

Surely that is something that Commissioner Reagan—I mean, Tom Selleck—can identify with.

Commissioner Reagan always errs on the side of integrity, even if it conflicts with popular preference.

Does Tom?

Tom, if you’re reading, consider this.

Hero or villain, your most believable character roles were decisive men of action and moral compass. Not all roles—nor all men—share those traits. Would you be willing to trade places with Papa Bear for a bit to give him that opportunity to be the dad you want him to be?

Besides, box office successes are different from critical ones.

Have you no memory of your lackluster saccharine-sensitive side-show in Three Men and a Baby?

It seems to me that you’d likely be as inept at handling bear problems as Papa Bear would be at handling police commissioner problems.

And that’s okay, because I’m starting to realize that maybe actors are a lot like people, only more-so.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ralph and Me

They say you'll never forget your first time.

For me, it was Ralph.
November 7, 2000.
A Tuesday.
Possibly at a synagogue.

I'd turned 18 in the spring of 1997, so I had to wait a long time to cast my first vote in a presidential election.

Ralph was my man, and I was devoted to him. I was on the email list and everything. I even had a bumper sticker and the good sense to know not to stick it on that blue Chevy S10. It was a lease.

I'd made a few flyers, too, with quotes from the internet, which was not nearly as vast back then.

"The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it."-- PJ O'Rourke

VOTE GREEN!
VOTE NADER!

Under Republicans, man exploits man.
Under Democrats, it's just the opposite.

NADER 2000! 

Mostly, I stapled them to telephone poles that already had other flyers on them. I'm not one to break rules.

As it turns out, my first time was memorable for more than the virgin voting population. That was the year of one of the closest races in history.

And all the drama in Florida, remember?

Dangling chads.
Dimpled chads.
Pregnant chads.

Sheesh. Chads everywhere must have really resented all that chatter.

Apparently I was the only one who was surprised when Nader didn't win.

Later, I found out that I was not the only member of my family to have voted Green.

Both my parents had voted for Nader, too. One is a staunch Republican, and the other is decidedly Democrat. I can never remember which is which, though.

At least one--  possibly both-- of my grandmothers also voted for Ralph.

To my knowledge, nobody declared their intentions in advance.

It just sort of happened naturally, I guess. I remember when we all sat around the table and sheepishly revealed it during my trip back to CT around Christmas.

***

I've been to the ballot box twice more since that first time.

Never went Green again, though.

Not that I'm anti-green, of course. I compost. I conserve water. I recycle. We even have TWO of those city-issued roly-bins.

I do not, however, support wind-power any longer. At least not on our electricity bill. Turns out that the concept currently has more in common with sponsoring a child in Africa (for just pennies a day!) than pumping clean green energy through the veins of your home. Remind me to tell you all about it sometime.

But, as one of Russ's little sixth grade students so poignantly once wrote,

"With maturity comes adultery."

Some might say I've cheated on Ralph, but I choose to view it as moving on.
Growing up.
Choosing someone who has a better shot at being a winner.

Hasn't worked out so far, of course.
Maybe next time, though.

Maybe next time, I'll finally get lucky.








Friday, June 21, 2013

Watch Better

I realized last night that if you remove (or accidentally forget) the 't's in better, it makes 'beer'. Noticing those weird little things makes me feel better. Sometimes beer makes me feel better, too.

Movies and TV shows aren't compatible with my attention span, but there are a few that are so good that even I am compelled. We have a running joke in this household that I've only seen sixteen movies in my life. Half of them are listed below. They are not in order of preference. They are in alphabetical order, of course. It's only fair.


The Avengers (2012) Imperfect superheroes joining forces to fight crime imperfectly. It's like a modern version of the Battle of the Alamo with a fantasy-twist. What's not to love?

(500) Days of Summer (2009) Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a greeting card company, and a catchy soundtrack.

Garden State (2004) If I had to pick a favorite, this one would be it. Absolutely, unequivocally. Your previous experience with New Jersey doesn't matter-- this will remind you of home no matter where you are from. PS: I realized in the usual way-- too late, and while watching with Hannah-- that it is deceptively (and highly) inappropriate for younger audiences.

Life is Beautiful (1997) You don't have to speak Italian to have an appreciation for the love and bond in this family. Never was there a more devoted and optimistic father.

Paper Hearts (2009) Documentary-style with artful little shoebox-dioramas along the way, this is the sappiest movie of the bunch. Still, we own it. I really want to learn how to make those dioramas.

Romeo and Juliet (1996) Modern-day retelling of Shakespeare's classic. You'll get used to the language. I wish Baz Luhrmann would do this to every classic ever written-- maybe it would deepen my appreciation for Chaucer.

True Grit (2010) A remake of the 1969 John Wayne western, the cinematography in this film is outstanding. The bonus material that came with the blu ray disc (which, I think I discovered is also accessible on youtube) is equally fascinating. So much effort and consideration went into the creation of this historical film.

Honorable MentionGood Will Hunting (1997) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008)



Better take a moment to note these great TV shows, too.

Blue Bloods (currently airing, CBS) They're a conservative family of police officers and attorneys in New York City, and they try to do the right thing.

Downton Abbey (currently airing, PBS) They're a conservative family of feudalist England in the early 1900s, and they try to do the right thing.

Duck Dynasty (currently airing, A&E) They're a conservative family of rednecks in rural Louisiana, and they try to do the right thing.

Elementary (currently airing, CBS) Sherlock Holmes is a recovering addict and a consultant for NYPD. The lovely Dr. Watson is Sherlock's sobriety companion and apprentice. He's a blazing mess. She's logical and lovely. Even though the crime scenes are sometimes a bit gory for my sensitive soul, I still wish they'd present two or more episodes a week.

King of the Hill (aired from 1997-2010 on FOX; we watch it on Netflix) It's an almost embarrassingly-accurate portrayal of life in suburban Texas. I love the little details. The show ran for 13 seasons, and the cartoon characters--who were pretty rough in season one-- became more and more three-dimensional in spirit as the years went by. If you only watch one episode in your life, let it be number 228, 'Behind Closed Doors'.

The Middle (currently airing, ABC) They're the weirdest family I've even seen, but somehow they are still loveable. Their home is authentically cluttered, which is sometimes reassuring and sometimes excruciating.

24 (aired from 2001 to 2008 or 2010, took a hiatus, and is supposedly returning soon!) Jack Bauer is conservative patriot and hero, and he tries to do the right thing.

Honorable Mention: New Girl (currently airing, FOX)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Big Dig

Remember trips to the beach when you were little? You'd kneel in the sand and dig and dig.

Sometimes with official tools, colorful and plastic.
Sometimes with improvised ones.
Sometimes with your bare hands.

You'd dig and dig, and that hole would grow. It was going to be the deepest one. You were finally going to get to China, just like your parents had said.

You'd pause to brush away a wayward strand of hair or maybe to blink away the sunscreen or sand at the edge of your eyes.

In that tiny moment of absence, your hole became a pool.
Then a pond.
Now a lake.

One moment it was empty; the next, it was full.
Water rising, and with it-- mystery.
Magic.

That's how it is with the Grand Canyon-- a hole so big they say it can be seen from space.

No amount of calendar pictures could ever do that place justice.

When we arrived, the first thing I did was take one giant step backward. Something that big makes you feel very small. Fragile. Leaf-like. It seemed as if one stiff breeze could lift us up and blow us in.

Vast though it may be, the Grand Canyon is not an expanse of emptiness.
There's magic in there.

Ask the Havasupai, who've made it their home for over eight centuries. Their entire culture and community exists in there.

Whole lives and lifetimes are being lived at this very moment, deep inside something that looks so vacant.

Nothing is ever quite as empty as it seems.
Remember that the next time you feel hollow.



Canyon Magic:
How can two miles feel like ten?
How did that tree grow with so little light and water?
Who placed those pebbles in those crevices? One person? Many people?



Yes, that's a toilet with a view.
No, we weren't the only ones in the canyon.
Eventually you get used to it.



The eleven miles down the canyon to the Havasu reservation? Totally worth it.
The eleven miles back up and out? TORTURE.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Doubt

After you’ve added the marinara sauce to the meat is not the optimal time to start second-guessing how thoroughly the sausage was browned.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quality Time

Two of the MANY reasons why summer 'quality time with the family' is not all it's cracked up to be.


Hannah: Mia may need a nap. First she tried to cut her own hair, and then she threw the scissors at me.
Me: Good grief. Did you put her in her room for a time-out?
Hannah: She put herself in her room, actually.

Me: [calling up the stairs] Mia! Did you give yourself a time-out for those naughty choices?
Mia: Yes. I'm thinking about my choices... [lowers volume considerably] while I play with my toys...

***

Russ: Where do you think the loaner-dog will want to sleep?
Me: I don't know, but I'm going to close my door so he doesn't choose my room.
Russ: Why not?
Me:I have so much paperwork stacked everywhere, and the laundry-- it's a disaster.
Russ: Seriously? He's a dog. He's not going to judge you.
Me: Seriously? I don't want him snacking on my paperwork and getting fur on the laundry.




If you don't hear from me by this time next week, please forward all my mail to the insane asylum.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Alpine Fresh

Woodsy scented men’s deodorant baffles me. What kind of self-respecting man would want to smell like Pine-sol floor cleaner?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Futility

Mia keeps trying to rally the family into organizing the dirty silverware into utensil categories in the dishwasher, but it hasn’t caught on yet.

Even I think it seems a bit excessive.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hawaiian Shirts

Russ had been tasked with getting the stamps for our Christmas postcards this past year. “Sorry, it’s all they had,” he said when he returned home. There was no need to apologize. The tiny colorful Hawaiian shirts were sublime. Festive, even.

Hawaiian shirts on stamps are kitchy-cool.
It’s Hawaiian shirts in person that are abominable.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dam Expert

When hydrologists first got into the civil engineering business, did they realize they’d be able to lay claim to such an awesome informal job title?

How cool would that be?

How many kids each year are sent to the principal’s office for saying (earnestly) "Xyz, and my dad should know, because he’s a dam expert"?

If you need a few immature giggles, check out this site (pdf) dedicated to dam safety professionals. http://www.damsafety.org/media/Documents/Interviews.pdf

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Clean as a Whistle

“When you get inside, put your backpack away and then go straight up to the shower.”
“Why?”
“I’m bringing you to your dad’s, and I want you to be clean as a whistle.”
“Whistles aren’t clean. They’re germy. You always say—“

She continued, but she didn’t have to. I know what I always say.

‘Don’t touch that whistle. You don’t know where it’s been.’
‘Put that whistle down and go wash your hands. And your face. And brush your teeth, just to be safe.’

Sometimes I look forward to when she gets old enough to understand the concept of expressions.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Out the 'In'

The foyer in the nearest Kroger is a perpetual clustermuck, and today I think I discovered why.

All of the doors are marked ‘In’.

Now that I have this in mind, I’ve decided to stop being annoyed at the customers who are trying to exit through the entrance. It’s not their fault. Without civil disobedience, there’d be no way out.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

When It Rains

When it rains in the early morning hours, I dream that the pink fiberglass insulation up in the attic is absorbing leaks from the roof.

Between slaps at the snooze button, I imagine climbing up the fold-down ladder in the hall and surveying the scene:

puffy pink mounds,
swollen from floor to ceiling,
wobbling like Jell-o
with the weight of all that water.

At 6:19, I poke Russ in the ribs.
“Wake up. Wake up! Before you shave, will you go check the attic? I think today’s the day.”
“I think you’re crazy,” he mumbles.

That's what happens.
Every time it rains.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cassette

Caleb and Mia found a book on tape today in the bag of toy parts that had been gathered for departure. They had no idea what it was, so they brought it to Hannah. She tried to explain it to them, and then she asked Russ if we had a cassette player.

“What kind of cassette?” he asked. Wasn’t it obvious?
Was I the only one humming the Twilight Zone music in my head?

“I’m pretty sure there’s one on the boom box in Caleb’s room,” he said.
Boom box?” Mia repeated, perplexed but tickled by the term.
“I think I know what he means,” Caleb announced. “C’mon!”

The two tromped up the stairs.
They were back within thirty seconds.

“Done already?” Russ asked.
“Well, we put it in and it made a screechy noise and then all this stringy stuff popped out."

Before they went outside to play, they turned and gave us one last glance. The expressions on their faces said it all:

You really expected us to believe that there were words on that string?
 
 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Primo Parking

Let somebody else have the Front-row Joe parking places. I’m happier away from the crowd and close to the cart-return corral.

When you park next to the corral, it’s easier to remember where your car is and you are rewarded with not having to travel too far to complete your civic responsibility of safely returning the cart.

This is why I hate Market Street. They don’t have cart corrals, because they always send a helper out with you to either push the cart or carry your grocery bags. Without the cart corral as my beacon, I can never remember where I parked. As if the pressure of having a helper at my elbow wasn’t stressful enough!

While I try to stall long enough to locate my vehicle, small talk with the helper is obligatory. In these instances, my favorite conversation starter is this:

“So, is this escorting thing as awkward for you as it is for me?”

This usually tips them a little off-kilter and the person stammers and stutters for a few moments, which buys me more time to scan the lot. Occasionally a follow-up question is necessary if I am having a very hard time finding the car.

“Did you realize you might get stuck doing this when you applied to work here?”

Now if things are getting really desperate, I will sometimes have to enlist the person’s assistance. In order to do this and still retain at least a shred of pride, one must be very subtle about it.

“So, do a lot of people have a tough time remembering where they parked? Do you ever have to help search for the car? Like, if the customer was looking for a navy blue Town and Country minivan—“

“Like the one over there?”

Precisely.

Why can’t they just have cart corrals like everyone else?

For once, I am not the only one who feels this way, and I have proof of it. There’s only one place in the store where you can escape unaccompanied, and it’s over by the coffee shop/deli sandwich area. I guess the management reasons that if the customer is just popping in for a cup of coffee or sandwich, assistance isn’t necessary.

You should see the line at that one register—usually at least ten people deep, all juggling as many items as their arms can hold. Milk, salsa, bacon. Charcoal. Cat litter.

They cheerfully depart with the heavy plastic shopping bags cutting off their circulation. Their fingertips are bluish-purple and starting to swell before they even exit the store.

But they are happy, happy, happy because either they know where they parked and can head there independently, or they can at least stand there and figure it out without the pressuring presence of the parking lot helper.

Choosing Produce

It has never occurred to me to be picky when selecting corn. Corn has always seemed appropriately mysterious, all cloaked in husk and silk.

Corn is maybe the only produce I haven’t been picky about, and yet here was this lady, all edges and elbows, crowding me away from the crate at the supermarket so that she have first dibs and squeeze them all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Train Table

Hannah loathes the train table in the family room. She has mentioned--with increasing frequency--that perhaps it is time to trade it in for a more grownup coffee table.

“Nobody even really uses the train part anymore,” she reasons.

My counterattack is two-fold: first, even if they don’t use the inside as much, everybody uses the surface every day for activities such as coloring, legos, paying bills, etc. Second of all, it is very handy for when company with younger children visit (which is almost never, but still.)

The truth of the matter is that I can’t part with the train table. To upgrade to a more grownup one is to acknowledge that our babies are no longer babies. I’m not emotionally ready for that. Maybe when Mia goes to college, I tell myself.
 
As you can plainly see, the surface is quite functional.
 
 
Shazam! The whole room is a little brighter and better when it is in train mode.
PS-- the thing on the end table is a Christmas Snake. Oh, there's a story there!
 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Previously Fr

There was only one package of ground turkey left at Sprouts, and the price wasn’t that great. Upon closer inspection of the packaging, something unusual caught my eye. At the bottom corner of the store-printed label, it said “Previously Fr”.

There were so many things this could mean!
Previously frozen?
Previously from Thanksgiving turkeys?
Previously fresh, but on its way out?

The possibilities were infinite, and they were getting more and more disgusting the more I thought about it.
 
Our ground turkey purchase would need to wait. We used TVP in the spaghetti sauce that night.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wasted

Too much of my life has been wasted worrying that the birds in the Walmart pharmacy drive-through are going to swoop into my open car window.

From now on, I'm just going to go inside to pick up our medicine.