Wednesday, December 31, 2008

She's not wearing tap shoes

But I guarantee* she'll still charm your socks off.

*Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. Some restrictions apply. No refunds for neck injuries due to awkward camera rotation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Guess who I got to hold last week.

This little guy.

He's just as sweet as he looks.

And the rest of his family's not bad either.

It was so good to see you, Lion family. Let's do it again soon.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Yesterday was my brother, Michael's, birthday. And he's the best. And I love him. Even though I forgot to send a card. Or call him yesterday. Or wish him happy birthday when I talked to him ten minutes ago.

So I'll say it now, and I'll say it real loud:

Happy Birthday Michael! I love you!

(I hope that didn't wake anyone. It's quiet time around here.)

Update - 7:14 PM:

What's that? Michael's birthday is today? Not yesterday? Don't be ridiculous! I'd never mis-remember my brother's birthday! Never! You stop with those lies!

Bed Head

Perhaps it was the unspeakable outrage of the rat hair, and the fear that she'll have to face similar public humiliation next Halloween. Or maybe our patience has finally paid off. Whatever it was, something's got the follicles on Grace's head all a-twitter.

As evidence, I submit the following:

Stunning, isn't it? Here's a shot from another angle.

And from the front:

Do you think it's time for me to buy the child a hair brush? Maybe for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ten for Tuesday

1. Coach has been out of town all weekend. In Orlando. ORLANDO! When he left on last Thursday the weather here was gorgeous: sunny and breezy. By Friday we were up to 72 degrees. I used the air conditioner in the van, and called Coach to say "neener." Who needs Florida, with all those crowds and roller coasters? I'd rather stay right here in Buffalo, thank you very much. Except then on Saturday I had to turn the heat on again. On Sunday I turned on the fireplace too. And by Monday we had snow on the ground. It had melted by afternoon -- much to Sam's disappointment. (The new rule, "No Snow Angels Before School," was not a popular one.) I told him not to worry, there will be plenty of chances to play in the snow over the next six months. And then I died a little bit inside.

2. Since Coach was out of town, I hosted a little girls' night on Friday. We ate yummy food and made gorgeous jewelry and it was awesome. I should have taken pictures of everyone's creations, but that would have required some kind of forethought and preparation (like charging the camera). Perhaps my friends can take photos and post them on their blogs (hint hint), but until then, here's mine.

[The camera's still not charged, so pretend there's a picture here. Lovely, isn't it?]

3. I'm totally on a jewelry kick. I got a new bead catalog the other day, and have probably spent a total of 3 or 4 hours perusing it since. (Mostly while trying to get Grace to fall asleep. Someone's gotta train that girl to settle down without a fistful of my hair, cause this is getting old. Preference will be given to long-haired applicants.) When the last bead catalog came a few months ago, Coach saw me reading it intently and said, "I'm so glad you have a Dell Catalog of your own." (Although, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure a Dell Catolog will attract Coach's interest anymore, not since the arrival of the ipod touch. He's the one who thought up Apple's "funnest ipod ever" slogan, not that he's getting credit from Apple or anything.)

4. Have I mentioned I love thrift store shopping? I stopped in a Salvation Army the other day to find more goblets to hold my beads, and came out with a lot more than stemware. Probably my best find was a pair of tiny tap shoes that fit Grace perfectly. I put them on her in the store and let her down to try them out. That little girl was beside herself with glee: Shiny! Pretty! Noisy! Shoes! She ran laps around the store. And you know what else, turns out if you want to keep track of a mischievous toddler who likes to run away and hide in the racks of clothes, putting a pair of tap shoes on her is a good way to go. Of course I bought them. Probably the best $1.50 I ever spent. Now I just have to find a dance studio that accepts 20-month-olds.

5. I also bought a dusty old doll cradle that I'm going to pretty up and fill with dolls (hand-me-downs from one of Coach's supervisors, whose daughters have outgrown them) and dolly clothes for a certain little girl for Christmas.

6. The hand-me-downs also included a powerwheels car, which is going to be another big hit on Christmas morning (once we buy a new battery for it). The trouble is, this model is only a one-seater, and both children have expressed interest in it. Extreme interest. I hope no one gets run over while "taking turns."

7. Remember last week, when it was election day? I voted. I mean, I'm pretty sure I voted. The apparatus was a little confusing. And there was no place to write in my candidate of choice. So I just went ahead and voted for that one guy, and pulled the lever. I'd already decided I wasn't going to submit a vote for any local offices, just the president. I'd put quite a bit of time into researching, and could not find sufficient information to make an informed decision on the local races. So I took my friend Amber's suggestion, and instead of voting randomly I DIDN'T VOTE AT ALL (except for that one guy). It felt like a defiantly patriotic gesture, until I realized (when we discussed the process at dinner) that I'm the dumbest (non)voter in America. Does not voting still (not) count when you don't know how to work one of those voting machines thingies? Why couldn't we use one of those straightforward paper ballots, you know, like they use in Florida?

8. Sam summoned me to this room the other day, shrieking "Mom, these sunglasses fall off my head when I dance. And I need to dance." Thinking I could suggest some less acrobatic maneuvers, I asked what kind of dance he was doing. I was then informed that it was a private dance, and I was not permitted to watch. But I was permitted to listen to excessive complaints about those pesky sunglasses, and their inability to stay on Sam's head.

9. Grace is a TV junkie. If she is left to her own devices for even the briefest moment, she will click on the power switch on the TV, and then bring me the remote. She grunts and squeals to direct my channel flipping until we land on one of her favorites: Dora, The Backyardigans, Little Einsteins, Yo Gabba Gabba, Wonder Pets, Sesame Street, Wow Wow Wubbsy, Tellie Tubbies, Diego. (She's not very picky, actually. Except about having the TV on.)

10. I have a headache around my eyeball. Does that ever happen to you? It's not pleasant.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

For the Record

Today is Carolioness's birthday.* She's still as sweet as ever.

I love you, Carolioness! Happy birthday!

*And I didn't even miss it yet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Taffy for Tuesday

I'm dedicating today's Ten for Tuesday to my cousin, Taffy. I hope that this break from longstanding (ahem) tradition does not alarm anyone. I'll go back to talking about myself tomorrow. (Or, honestly, probably next week or the week after.) But today is Taffy's birthday. And she's so great I could write Ten for Tuesdays about her for the rest of her/my life and never be done telling you about her. So clear your schedules, folks. Here goes.

1. So,Taffy is my cousin, but she's not your average, ordinary every day cousin. She's a double cousin, and so, genetically she's really more my sister than anything else. I know what you're thinking. I have four sisters already. Isn't it getting greedy to claim more? Maybe. But take a look at these, and then we'll talk.Can you even tell which one of these lovely ladies has different parents?

Do I need to point out the resemblance?

2. So, yeah. There are some alarming physical similarities. But I think what really trips people up is how much we act like sisters when we're together. Taffy roomed with my sister, Peanut, their freshman year of college in the building where I happened to be a resident assistant. That year was one of the best of my life, due in no small part to the hilarious adventures we had together. We ate together, we played together, we sometimes even napped together (to disastrous consequences).

It's no small wonder that other people were confused about the specifics of our family relations. People would often ask, "Which one's your sister again?" I can't say I always got it right. More than once I mistakenly referred to "my sister, Taffy," only to be met with a puzzled look and a question, "I thought she was your cousin."

"Oh yeah, she is." My mistake.

3. These days, we just settle for the term "fake sister." And as far as fake sisters go, she's a keeper. For one, she's an awesome cook. And she makes a kick-a apple pie.

4. And that's just one of the many reasons that, as Amy B. said, "It's always a Party when [Taffy's] around."

5. Here's another one:
I don't remember why we donned the cat costumes, or what purpose we had prowling around BYU campus in them. But hoo boy, we sure had fun.

6. Silly as she can be, however, Taffy is as kind and compassionate as they come. I remember a handful of sister/cousin squabbles throughout the years, but whatever the source of the trouble (usually yours truly), Taffy was the peacemaker. Even when we were very young. She found a way to make us laugh until the injustices no longer seemed so important. Eventually, she even made a joke about being the peacemaker, when in the midst of a playful argument she'd declare defiantly, "I'm the peacemaker!" Cracked me up every time.

7. And while we're on the topic of cracking me up, another childhood memory comes to mind. When our families would get together, us girls would always stay up way too late telling stories. Taffy's performances were always wildly creative, and long after we were supposed to be asleep, her stories would have us giggling uproariously. Eventually, some parent or other would come in and tell us to knock it off (perhaps threatening to turn off the light). We'd try to blame Taffy, but she was always good at pretending to be asleep.

8. I think she still has that child-like sense of fun, even though she's all grown up with kids of her own. Here she is proving that with her impersonation of a Roman fountain. Impressive work for a mother of (at the time) two.

9. Now Taffy's a mom of five, and you wouldn't believe how well she's got it together.

Her kids are just what you'd expect -- cute, clever, spunky, and just oozing with talent. And Taffy is their number 1 fan (OK, tied with Tee). She she coordinates their dozens of activities, throws enchanting parties with creative cakes she makes herself, and still manages to squeeze in educational outings, crafting, and political activism. On top of all that, she's put many hours into finishing her degree by independent study -- no small feat, even with easy courses. But Taffy's not one to take the easy way through things. Instead of picking electives like Shoelace Tying or Walking for Leisure, she opted to learn Hebrew to help her better understand the scriptures.

In all of this, I know it's important to her to be a good example to her kids, but I wonder if Taffy realizes what a good example she is to the rest of us.

10. Especially to me.

And there's noting fake about that. I love you Taffy. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween 2008

Here's a little snapshot of our Halloween night.  It was a pretty awesome night, all things considered.

Oh, and if you're wondering about that soundtrack, the song is Night on Bald Mountain.  FYI.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nine for a little bit after Tuesday

I'm stealing the idea Boss stole since she's had a good two weeks to make good on the weekly post thing.

Here are my 10 not nearly as entertaining things for this week:

I'm so completely and utterly sick of politics right now, and so guess what?  I'm running a campaign for a spot in the AMA.  I will be printing campaign stickers, pins, cards... it's gonna be out of control.

Speaking of being out of control, my son is really excited about halloween.  Not to steal the Boss' thunder, but she has made some super cute costumes for our kids.  She was even specially nominated to be our ward witch for a party tonight (I'm still not sure whether coming immediately to mind for that special role is a compliment or not). 

Speaking of compliments, I aced my physics test this week.  Which is reassuring considering that I have NO idea what's going on in radiobiology.  I remember loving school SOOO much as a kid.  It was fun, social, and exciting.  Now, after 20+ years of school, it's getting a little stale.

Speaking of stale, I'm on the Atkins diet again.  I hate it.  But it works.  At least, it works for the first two weeks and if you actually follow the guidelines strictly.  I sorta shot myself in the foot with some snacks during the last couple weeks, but I've still lost ~17 pounds in a month.  Some would say this is dangerous.  I would agree.  Do not try this at home.

Speaking of danger, last night some of the areas around Buffalo got several inches of snow.  Why?  Why?  Summer is so beautiful.  Don't let it go!!!

Speaking of beautiful things, I got an ipod touch.  Well, in theory, anyway. I bought it on ebay but it still hasn't shown up.  Actually, this is going to take some explaining.  I convinced myself that if I could buy it with our cashback refund for using our credit card (free money, sort of) that it would be okay to splurge on something so extravagant.  AND I need something to listen to while I work out all my Atkins calories, right?  So, I found one on ebay and figured out that Microsoft is shelling out 30% cash back on ebay purchases under a particular promotion they've got going on.  After weaseling the price down to where I felt it would work, I bought the thing and then realized it was an older version.  So, then I sold it and bought a new one.  With another 30% cashback, I'm making good on the bottom line.  Now I just have to wait for what seems like forever, because hey, it's a random guy in a second floor apartment in Pennsylvania that sold it to me, and he's taking his time.

Speaking of taking time, I'm taking time off to vacation in Utah in Dec.  Go us!  It's not during Christmas, but getting 4 people across the country for $600 is a lot easier if you massage the details.

Speaking of massages, do you know that I get a free massage at work from massage therapy students who come to treat patients but get bored?  How great is my life?

Speaking of a great life, have you met my wife and kids? They are so great, it's unbelievable.  This a warm up for Thanksgiving.  When everything in my life is going wrong, there's one place that I know that I can escape to and be happy.  I love going home, and I know that counts for a lot in our world.  Oh yeah, I should probably include Malcom in that list of people/creatures I love, cuz he does read this blog religiously. Hi Malcom!

Speaking of dogs who can read...

I've got nothing.  I guess it'll just be nine for a-little-after-Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

10 for Tuesday

My friend Shelley does this "10 for Tuesday" thing on her blog, where she writes about 10 not-necessarily-related things currently going on in her life/head. I've been meaning to steal this idea for a while, cause I always have not-necessarily-related things going on in my life/head too.

Plus, I like the notion of committing myself to weekly* blog entries, as a way to both record the little daily details, and to get me off my parents' naughty list. I'm tired of all the good kids always showing me up with their weekly e-mails. I mean, I love hearing about what's going on, but it's really starting to make me look bad. I'm not saying I'm worried about losing standing as Mom and Dad's favorite kid. I'm just saying it's time for me to shape up a little bit.

1. Speaking of shaping up, after a celebratory slice cake on my birthday, Coach put himself on a diet. I decided I should probably join him, since it was my birthday cake and all. So we've been watching what we eat and exercising more, and now a couple weeks later we're each down a few pounds. I'm encouraged but ambivalent. On the plus side (ha ha) losing weight will make us both healthier. But meal time has become quite complicated; Coach is following the Atkins diet and I'm doing old-fashioned calorie counting. I've come up with a few meals we can all eat together, but between diet plans and picky eaters, we usually each have something different on our plates. The whole process is time consuming and expensive. And it makes me a little bit grumpy. And I'm not sure I wouldn't rather be fat and happy than less fat and grumpy.

2. Speaking of snacks, I noticed a couple days ago that Grace's car seat had become so encrusted with cheerios and cracker crumbs that it was attracting ants. So this morning I hauled out the power washer and sprayed the whole thing down. It was awesome. You know how those woven straps trap in the crud and get sticky and twisted, and really quite unpleasant to have to handle several times a day? Well, let me tell you, spraying the crud out of those things with the high pressure hose is really quite satisfying. When the car set was finished, I brought out Grace's booster seat. And then I realized I was soaked and freezing, so I went inside.

3. Speaking of stuff that's not dirty, Coach bought me a beautiful ring for my birthday. I've been wearing it a lot. Almost every day. (This is unusual for me. ) Like I'm married or something. It's so sparkly, I don't even miss getting hit on.

Here I am modeling it while practicing hand positions for a scary shadow puppet show. (OK, the truth is that although I took several shots with my hand in a much more natural positions, every single one of those was out of focus.)

And here it is as it was intended to be displayed: on an invisible hand in a studio with bright lights and a professional photographer. (Thanks Overstock! Copyright, schmopyright!)4. Speaking of copyright, initially I misspelled the word "copyright above." No worries, though, because Firefox alerted me. "Coyright" is not a word. "Schmopyright," however, is. Apparently.**

5. Speaking of words that aren't words, Grace has an adorable collection of them. Airplane sounds a lot like "ooooh!" Pretty is pronounced "pe-ay." Squirrel, cat, and bunny, are "goggie." Doggie is "goggie. To the untrained ear, these vocalizations might be unrecognizable. But no one could misunderstand Grace's requests for a cookie. That, she enunciates perfectly: "COOOOOOKIE!"

6. Speaking of cookies, I made some for Sam to take to his school bake sale today: round sugar cookies frosted orange and topped with gummy tarantulas. They weren't what I'd call delicious, but elementary students don't seem to be particularly discriminating when tarantula-shaped sugar is involved. Am I right?

7. Speaking of fundraisers, the bake sale was just the latest in a string of school fundraisers. Over the last few weeks, Sam has come home with practically every fund raising catalog ever printed. Should you find yourself in need of wrapping paper/chocolates/calendars/popcorn/candles/novelty items, you'd better check with some of the kids in your neighborhood or something. Because I threw all of Sam's catalogs away. Sorry.

8. Speaking of stuff I'm not really all that sorry about, Coach "accidentally" ran over one of Sam's orange cones this morning. He said it made a satisfying crunching sound, and that when he saw it shattered to bits in the driveway he couldn't help but laugh a little.

I doubt Sam would have seen the humor. But lucky for all of us, I cleaned up the carnage before Sam happened upon it. Now let's just hope he doesn't count his cones and realize he's down to just three.

9. Speaking of counting, if I've done mine right, I'm just about finished. And not a minute too soon, cause it's time for me to go pick up Sam at the bus stop. This is one of Grace's favorite parts of the day, because as we stand at the corner she gets to point out every bus ("buuuuh") and car ("uuuuh") and van ("uuuuh") that passes by. I admit, it's one of my favorite parts of the day too.

10. Speaking of favorite parts of the day, what's yours?

*Don't bother pointing out that today is not Tuesday, or that I've been working on this "weekly" post for a week and a half now. There are all kinds of irregularities in the space-time continuum. Let's just say this is one of those.

**FYI, eventually, Firefox did alert me to my misspelling of the word "schmopyright."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

All that we let in

Planets hurling and atoms splitting
And a sweater for your love you sit there knitting.

~"All That We Let In," Indigo Girls

I've had this song running through my head a lot lately. And it keeps making me cry.


Steve Inskeep wakes me up every morning at 7:00. Amiable as he is, I usually don't want to hear from anyone at 7:00 AM, so I hit snooze at least a couple times and plunge back to sleep. Between snoozes, though, I catch up on current events. And by the time I'm up and moving at 7:30, I've heard about hurricane refugees, financial collapse, and political scandal.

And then I help Sam get dressed. He picks out each item carefully: underwear, socks, shoes, shirt, shorts. The mornings are getting cooler, and he's not happy about having to wear pants more frequently. But there's no time to dwell on that, because we've got a lunch to pack. He chooses cheese and crackers, apple slices, juice, and candy corn. We pack it all up and head to the bus stop on the corner. He boards easily now, without a glance in my direction. But just in case he does look back, I smile and wave. He's happy. I'm happy.

Then Grace and Malcom and I take a walk around the neighborhood. I love fall mornings, cold with dew and warm with sun. Why was I ever sad to see the summer end? This is the perfect time of year. We return home to do chores or run errands. Grace stands on a stool next to me while I chop or wash or clean in the kitchen. She helps me pick up toys, and moves her vacuum back and forth right next to mine. We move outside to work in the back yard. While I sand and paint, she runs around the driveway pushing Sam's bigwheel. She stops and climbs on sometimes, to check if she can reach the pedals yet. She's happy. I'm happy.

It's time for lunch so we pull out some leftovers. Grace isn't nearly as picky as Sam is, but she won't turn down a handful of candy corn either. And then we gather her provisions: a pacifier, her musical bunny, and a fistful of my hair (still attached). I lay her down in my bed and snuggle next to her. I read while she twirls my hair and falls asleep. Sometimes I nap along side her. Or I get up and read blogs or make phone calls or work on projects. We're both happy.

By the time Grace is through napping it's almost time to pick Sam up from his bus stop. He's always tired at the end of the day, so I turn on The Backyardigans and try to needle some information out of him. "Who did you sit with at lunch today?" "What's Barnaby up to?" He avoids my questions while he nibbles on his after-school snack.

Grace snacks and watches TV with Sam while I start to think about dinner. Or she helps me in the kitchen. When it's all ready, Coach comes home and we eat. After dinner we might go for a walk, or play video games or work in the yard or hang out with our friends. We're happy.

And before we know it, the time for jammies has come. We brush teeth and read books and work on Sam's homework. If Sam's up for it, there may be some snuggling. He falls asleep pretty quickly these days, and then we're down to just Grace. She loves climbing in and out of her new toddler bed all by herself, but she'd still rather fall asleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed, if she can get away with it. (She usually can.) Either way, she's fast asleep, and back to her own bed soon+.

And then Coach and I read or blog or watch TV. There may even be some snuggling if we're up for it.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Of course, we have our ups and downs, our grumpy slumps, tantrums and fights. But on days like these, when the weather is perfect and the kids are adorable, I can almost forget about everything else. Well, maybe "forget" isn't the right word. I know it's all out there: horror and destruction; financial disaster; private heartbreaks and global tragedies. And even some honest-to-goodness atoms splitting. Steve Inskeep's told me about it all in the last couple weeks. But none of it scares me as much as it probably should. I just sit here (figuratively) knitting. And this is the part that gets me all emotional -- realizing that for all the madness going on in the world, from the other side of the fence to the other side of the globe, I have everything I need right here, right now. I am happy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Who's crying now? An update from pre-k.

So, after all the reported trauma of Sam's first day of school (during which I never left the building) (and which lasted less than two hours), I could hardly be expected to make it through his first full day (Friday) (which began and ended with a solo bus ride) (and lasted eight hours) without shedding a tear or two.

But it was just a couple tears, and I held them back until the bus drove away.

I spent the day getting stuff done at home, where I could stay close to the phone, just in case. It rang lots of times, but it was never the school telling me Sam had already had three accidents and soiled his last set of clean clothes. Success!

I don't think Sam would have described his day as successful, however. In fact, moments after getting off the bus that afternoon, he was in tears again because his teacher wouldn't let him bring home his (stuffed) puppy. I also learned about a tall five-year-old named Barnaby* who told Sam he couldn't sit on the storytime rug. He didn't really have anything positive to say about school, and by bedtime that night Sam had concocted a plot for the two of us to sneak into the school and take back his puppy. After that, he planned to be done with school forever.

I'll admit I was a little bit worried about all of this. And he did get me a little vaclempt with his earnest pleas to let him stay home with me and Grace. "I just love you so much," he told me. But I made it a point to be upbeat and enthusiastic. I reminded him that last year he didn't like ABC School** very much at first, but once he got used to it he loved it. Always ready with his next objection, he said, "But I don't want to go to a school with a teacher."

I fretted all weekend, until we had an unexpected breakthrough. On Sunday night, when Sam saw the snacks I'd stocked for his lunches, he suddenly couldn't wait to pack up his selections and get going. "I wanna go to school," he said enthusiastically.
Sam ready for the bus on Monday morning. ( He picked out his own clothes.)

There were still a few tears about Puppy on Monday morning. I suggested that we pick out another stuffed animal to take to school so he could bring Puppy home. "That won't work," he assured me. He still didn't think his teacher would let that puppy out of her sight. "I'll write her a note," I explained. "She'll send him home if I write her a note." He looked doubtful, but finally agreed that we could pick out a new animal after school. "It has to be snuggly with soft fabric and have airplanes and frogs on it."

I wasn't sure I could really meet his specifications, but I nodded my agreement and we headed off to the bus stop without further incident. When the bus arrived, Sam took Ray's hand and boarded without looking back.

He came home Monday afternoon cheerful, without a mention of Puppy or the hypothetical new snuggle toy. He did mention that Barnaby said he wanted Sam's lunch, but Sam didn't give it to him. I'll wait it out a few more weeks before I raise the alarm about the Pre-K bully. But be warned, Barnaby. I've got my eye on you.

All in all, I'm surprised at how quickly Sam has transitioned from anxiety to enthusiasm. I'm still alarmed at how small he looks in that giant backpack. And I still think the school day is a little too long for a four-year-old. But I just love him that much more when he comes home. Look at him standing there. How can I not?

*Not his real name, just in case he's innocent.

**A once-a-week co-op preschool with a group of friends from church.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I cried

Sam started school yesterday. It's just pre-K. But it's not that pansy kind of pre-K, all singing and playing and snack time. No, this is the real thing. All day, every day at a public school with eighth graders! And there's going to be some hard-core learning at this pre-K, I'm told, a regimented curriculum of letters and numbers animal sounds.

So this is serious stuff, and it's no wonder that I cried when I dropped Sam off. Right? Right?

Also, before you judge me for being a hyper-emotional maniac*, you should know that Sam was also crying, clinging to my leg and running out of the room after me screaming "I want to go to your class, Mom! I want you to stay with me forever."< At that point, I knew that it would only get worse if Sam saw me tearing up, so I had to turn my back and walk away while a classroom aide shuffled him back to the classroom.

The good news is the first day was only a half day, and the parent orientation ("my class") was pretty short. I was back to Sam's classroom within an hour, and found him sitting in a tall cubby, holding his frog blanket. When he saw me, he asked "Mom, can you snuggle me a little bit?" (Cue waterworks.) The aide told me he sat in that cubby the whole time, but he didn't cry. I wish the same were true for me.

The even better news, though, is that I really like this school. And I like his teacher even more. In a district full of failing schools, we lucked in to one in "good standing" with a teacher who is not just "highly qualified," but kind, patient, and down-to-earth. So, I think that if Sam can bring himself to leave his cubby, he'll have a really great year. Me too. I think.

*A fair assessment, considering my track record with public waterworks: the rental car place, the doctor's office, Wal-Mart. Yep, I'm a basketcase.

**I should note that "forever" to Sam means something like "until I think of something else." But, I should also not that apparently he has not yet thought of something else, because just moments ago as he buttoned himself into his school clothes, he came in and told me "Mom, today, I don't want you to do what the teacher says. I want you to stay with me in my class."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Indulge Me

Here's a little bloggy game I swiped from a friend.

Here's how to play...
1. As a comment on my blog, leave a memory that you have of me. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!
2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see who leaves a memory about you.

If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you.

See, it's fun! Is there any better way to spend the next few minutes than reminding me how funny I am re-living those special moments we've shared? You'll play, won't you? Please play. Don't make me beg.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A day late and a quarter short

I am often approached by strangers asking for money. I'm not sure what it is exactly that makes me such an easy mark, but it's happened often enough that I instated an Official Personal Policy with Regards to Strangers Asking for Money. It was recorded several months ago in the (imaginary) family bylaws as follows:
If I can comfortably part with the cash, and if situation is one that I could reasonably see myself (or someone I love) in, then I will do what I would hope a stranger would do for me (or someone I love) in that same situation.
Like, say you're at the gas station, totally on empty, and you realize your wallet's not in your purse because you took it out to pay the Girl Scouts when they delivered the cookies you ordered. So you just need $2.00 worth of gas (or at today's prices, $5.00) to get home. No problem. I can buy that. And I'll happily pump a couple bucks into your tank if you want to pull your car up right here behind mine.

It's not that I believe every reasonable explanation is the truth, or that if I can "just spare 65 cents for bus fare" it won't end up in the cash register at the liquor store. I know I've been duped. But still, I want to live in the kind of world where strangers help strangers when they can. So I have to be willing to do it myself. Whether you call it karma or the golden rule or a categorical imperative, it's how I want to live my life.

But an encounter yesterday almost made me want to ammend this family bylaw (despite all the red tape I'd have to go through). I was in the van with the kids outside a Family Dollar store in Buffalo's West Side. A guy came up to the driver's side window and asked for three dollars for bus fare. I knew I didn't have any bills in my wallet, so I checked the ashtray for coins. As I was turned sorting through the change, he asked impatiently, "Are you going to give me three dollars?"

"I'm going to see what I have," I answered, sifting through the pile of mostly pennies. Moments later I handed him a stack of six quarters. "This should get you started." I said. He counted it, craned his neck through the van window to check the ashtray and said, "Can I have that quarter there too?" Though I was irked by his nerviness, I handed him the additional quarter; I can spare $1.75 as easily as $1.50, really. He took the seventh quarter and walked away without another word.

Half an hour later, as I was digging through the ash tray again--this time to feed a parking meter outside Coach's work--I thought about that last quarter and started to get annoyed. It really would have come in handy right then. And I remembered how the day before, I'd decided to cave to my weeklong craving for Chinese food and get the lunchtime special at the local hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. $3.59 for an entree with ham-fried rice! I planned to get sweet & sour chicken, but when I saw it cost more -- $3.95! -- I opted for sesame chicken instead. At the time I laughed at myself for the choice. "It's only 36 cents. You can get what you want," I told myself. But I like sesame chicken too, and its in my nature to save money wherever I can. Even if it's just 36 cents at a time.

And as I thought about it more, I got even more irritated. The "save wherever you can" mentality is what allows us to survive (quite comfortably) on our single modest salary. We have everything we need and lots of what we want and I'm definitely not complaining. I feel like we've really been blessed financially throughout our marriage to always be able to make ends meet, and I'm very grateful. But we're barely outside the cutoffs for public assistance; I think about every dollar I spend before I spend it. And though I can easily part with a quarter (or seven) here and there, I find myself wondering why I bother pinching pennies if I'm just going to toss them out the window to anyone who asks.

This of course leads to a dizzying whirlpool (cesspool?) of other questions about the responsibilities of the individual vs. the collective, the practical and moral bounds of charity, the consequences of poverty, and the requirements and limitations on any system that attempts to define or promote the public good. I'm not smart enough to answer these questions, which is why I tried to keep it simple in the first place: if you can spare it, share it.

In retrospect, what I should have done was not stop at $1.50 just to make things quick, but keep digging through the ashtray until I'd come up with $3.00 in a combination of nickles, dimes and pennies. Especially pennies. I certainly had plenty to spare.

Would that cancel out my good karma? I think I'm willing to risk it.

So strangers, take note. If you come up to me and ask for money, I will give it to you. But I may ask you a few questions first. Like, "What bus are you waiting for?" and "Did you order Samoas or Carmel deLites?" I'll still hand over the money, even if I don't like your answer. And I'll resist the urge to sarcastically scream "You're welcome!" at your back as you walk away. But I won't resist the urge to give you what you ask for in the form of seven quarters, two nickles, and one-hundred and fifteen pennies.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Too long to title

Perhaps I've mentioned I have a little catching up to do. Well, here you go. In no particular order, here's (some of) the stuff I've been meaning to tell you.

First off, we've had some birthdays around here, which were observed but not blogged. We celebrated Sam's fourth birthday with friends who joined us for an Independence Day pancake feast. Grandma and Grandpa Frogmorton and Aunt Daisy also made the long trip here and made Sam's day (in addition to saving my life re: party setup and execution). The party and Sam's new four-year-old attitude each deserve their own posts. So I'll just leave this little photographic teaser of Sam decked out in his poker dealer/pirate/spy/teacher regalia. (Special thanks to Dyson for the spy gear. It definitely comes in handy with all the high stakes espionage activity around here.)

Coach had a birthday too, also celebrated with help from Aunt Daisy. She came up to visit for the day, and watched the kids while Coach and I went out for dinner and a movie. (We saw Iron Man (good show) and ate at Red Robin (good food).) When the kids were in bed, we each enjoyed a slice of (you guessed it!) coconut cake (just the frozen Pepperidge Farms variety, not the delicious monstrosities Coach is now famous for). Still it was yummy. Just ask Grace, who gave it a try herself the next day, after Daddy had left for his niece's wedding in Utah.

Unfortunately for Coach, Grace (and her mommy) liked the cake so much that there wasn't any left for Coach when he returned from his trip. But seriously? Could you say no to a frosting-covered face like that?

Lucky for Coach, we didn't gobble up all his birthday surprises. This is the happy little fire pit we picked out for him. We've all enjoyed it a lot, especially when we can coax our friends into bringing over fixings for s'mores. Here's Sam with his friend Abygail, preparing for a future in pyromania.

And while we're on the topic of fueling fires, indulge me a moment as I brag about the new-and-improved poop situation in our home. I've mentioned before that the pounds of poop around here were getting a little unwieldy, and that the Schmopkins family was using much more than our fair share of landfill space for excrement disposal. Well, I am pleased to announce that my four-year-old Sam has now been reliably peeing and pooping in the potty long enough that I can pretty much call him potty trained. He certainly took his time getting around to "readiness," but when the time was right (for him, 3 and 3/4 years) and the motivation (Diego underwear) was in place, things went pretty well. He still has accidents when he's too busy playing to attend to business. But I'll take what I can get, can count my blessings to be down one generator of poop bombs.

But while human poop disposal was down, canine poop production was way up. For a few weeks in May we had this adorable pooch staying with us.

And while Clementine was sweet and agreeable and affectionate, I definitely noticed outdoor output was high -- doubled even! (On average.)

Poopy piles aside, we're glad to have good friends willing to trust us with their canine companion, who still like us (or so they say) even though I lost Clementine for a couple hours. But I got her back safe and sound, so there's no need to even mention the frantic drive around the neighborhood, or the 1:00 am call to the police. Right? What about how I nearly kissed the nice young man who saved her right on his double-pierced lips? Do I need to tell you about that? Or how, the next day, I was still just so grateful that I wanted to take him cookies, but decided against it thinking that on top of my exuberance the previous evening, cookies might give him the wrong idea.

Of course, just because I decided not to take cookies to that guy doesn't mean there hasn't been plenty of baking around here. Long-time readers will remember Sam's keen interest in the culinary arts. Turns out, he's still interested. The difference now is that giant piles of dirty ingredients aren't as endearing from a nearly-four-year-old as they were from a two-year-old.

I didn't get too cross with him for this mess because he was really proud of himself; he constructed this beautiful, mountainous terrain not for himself, but for his little pony to enjoy. And he was sure I'd be proud of him for making the mess on the table instead of the floor. (Apparently in previous discussions about this sort of thing I'd over emphasized the "dirty floor" portion of the lesson, so in his mind this dry-goods table scape should have been just fine.) Anyway, I couldn't argue with the look of contentment on Pony's face. She really did seem to enjoy her new home.

That is, until I started scooping up piles of ingredients for a baking bonanza. From the table pantry, I made two loaves of french bread, several dozen muffins, cookies, poppyseed bread, pizza dough, breadsticks, and cinnamon bread. Plus a giant bowl of smelly sludge. Despite the inexact proportions, everything but the smelly sludge (which I couldn't bring myself to taste) turned out well. At the end of the bakeathon, I looked around the kitchen and thought I might have some idea where Sam got the idea that making a giant mess while baking is OK.

The good news is the produce of this baking bonanza lasted us many weeks -- I just used the last of the frozen pizza dough yesterday. The bad news is, Sam got into the pantry again less than a week after the pony incident, and this time he wasn't so courteous about keeping ingredients separate and off the floor. I ended up throwing away pounds and pounds of drygoods, and I was very frustrated. I was so mad, in fact, that after seeing the mess (which I did not stop to photograph), I had to shut myself in the bathroom to cool off and come up with an appropriate consequence. I decided that I wanted Sam to understand that purposely making a mess is naughty, but being wasteful is even worse. So after I swept the pile of flour/sugar/beans/rice into the garbage, I brought Sam out of time-out and made him watch me throw his prized possession -- a set of kid-sized orange cones picked out at Dollar Tree after a week of successful pottying -- into the trash, right on top of all the ruined ingredients. Then I pulled the bag out, tied it up, and took it outside to the dumpster. He was horrified. I'll admit that I did find some satisfaction in this cruelty, although I think that if the cones had cost me any more than $1.00, I wouldn't have been able to toss them. Wasting is bad, no?

Sam cried and cried and cried. And for the rest of the afternoon he repeatedly asked "Why did you throw my cones away, Mom?" And commanded, "Never do that again!" And threatened "I'll put cramps in your tummy!" By the next day, he was no longer crying every time he remembered the trauma, and had transitioned to more gentle requests, "Can we get some more cones and the dollar store?"

"We'll see," was my answer. And to tell the truth, I still haven't officially decided. I'm ambivalent because I want to teach him that consequences stand. But he really was so adorable playing with those cones while he "operated" his bike, and cruel as I am, I do like to see the child happy every now and then.

As it is now, Sam speaks of the incident matter-of-factly. If you ask him about it, he'll tell you, "The cones got in the garbabe because I wasted the ingredients." He doesn't even mention the sadistic mommy who "got them" in the garbage. I thought I was really in for it at a ward activity a couple weeks ago when I saw that someone brought a couple sets to use for relay games. To my surprise, Sam handled it well. He played with the cones eagerly while at the church, even telling ward members about the orange cones he used to have at his house before they "got in the garbage." Once home, there was no mention of acquiring another set for himself.

It's probably a good thing that our local Dollar Tree no longer carries them, because that kind of maturity just makes me want to run out and get him everything he wants. So instead, I content myself buying stuff I want from the dollar store. Like this little beauty:

Lovely isn't it? This was the prize awarded to the lucky winner (me) of my wildly popular American Idol Guess-the-Song Challenge, brought to you by the letters Neil and Diamond. I've been using it as trash receptacle in the van. I like it because the bottom is flat so it stays upright and open between the seats. And it looks cute while storing used baby wipes and apple cores. And just think, all of this could have been yours, if only you'd won (or entered) my little contest. Let this be a lesson to you.

But let's move on from the subject of trash to trash reduction, shall we? As you may know, a year ago, we got off to a bit of a rocky start in our new house here in Buffalo. One complaint (among many) was that the previous owner of our home left a bunch of trash around the house and yard. Because we were slow to get settled in, and because we were naive about the whole process (which went much more smoothly with our home in Iowa, by the way. I love you, Iowa!) we didn't get him to get rid of it while we still had leverage. After all the papers were signed we got no response, despite repeated attempts to get it all straightened out. We decided we didn't want the hassle of taking it to small claims court, so we'd just have to get over it and get rid of the junk ourselves. As an exercise in personal therapy, I vowed to get as much use and/or money as I could out of every item he left. One year later, I'm pleased to report on our progress.

Two used and dusty kitchen cabinets left in the attic became toy chests for the kids' rooms.

Some cupboard doors left in the basement became picture frames.

And see that easel holding up the cabinet-door-picture-frame on the left? I dug that out of a corner in the basement.

This plate hanger was behind the tub in the upstairs bathroom. It was covered in years of nasty filth, but I cleaned it up and hung it in Grace's room to display the dress she was blessed in.

And speaking of nasty filth, some of you may remember last summer's rug saga. Here's the happy ending: after a good cleaning, I was able to make about $100 selling these on craigslist.

But probably my favorite lemons-to-lemonade saga from the past year is our upstairs bathroom, which had irritated me with its ugliness since we moved in.

But behold! With a new shower curtain, a little paint and a few accessories, our little eyesore isn't so bad afterall.
Of course, these before-and-after photos are completely unfair because I was already mid-renovation during the before picture. And the lighting was bad. But whatever. This is about trash reduction and personal healing, not scientific objectivity. And guess what else. See that glass apothecary jar filled with cotton balls? I found it in the basement, covered in fake holly disguised as a Christmas decoration. Doesn't it look smug there on the back of the toilet?

To tell you the truth, I'm a little smug too. Who knew another man's trash could look so great? Of course, there was some genuine trash in all of that trash. We threw out boxes of moldy books, a couple of baby gates that I couldn't ever get to close properly (despite too many hours with a screwdriver and a downloaded users' manual), and about a dozen old tires. And there's still some junk left to go. We have a bunch of old glass-paned interior doors in the basement, plus a one piece kitchen sink/cabinet. There's also a big pile of assorted molding and trim, and a couple boxes of tile -- including some marble tiles that I plan to use to make a "cold stone" just like J and M. I also have plans to make better use of a rickety card table and a little wooden stool left under the stairs. And there's a large file cabinet that would be perfect for all the folders full of random papers we're not ready to throw away yet. I just have to haul it out of the basement to give it a good hose-down.

Those projects will have to wait, however, because I had so much fun re-purposing the trash in my own house that I've started collecting everyone else's trash too. Earlier this spring our neighborhood had a bulk trash pickup day. Both of my kids had fallen asleep on the way home from somewhere, so I found myself driving around the block a few extra times to give them a few more minutes of shut-eye. I couldn't help but notice a few treasures in my neighbors' trash, and before I knew it I'd carted home two vanloads while my kids slept. These are just a few of my finds.

When I showed him my treasures, Coach's reaction was somewhere between dismay and disgust. He warmed up, however, when he saw a toddler-sized Adirondack chair among my stash. He'd been wanting a kid-sized chair to use for photo shoots, and after a few new screws it was perfectly stable. And comfortable, apparently.

It's become a little weathered from all the rain this summer, so I think I'll add a coat of paint one of these days. I have plenty left over from other projects, like this one.

I don't have a before picture, but imagine a rickety piece with a couple broken drawers and a sloppy coat of white paint over an outdated 70's composite wood finish. I'm not sure I'm in love with the pulls, but I'm definitely in love with the price. I spent less than $10 on paint, hardware and fabric, and now we have all the storage we needed for the bathroom stuff that won't fit in the bathroom.

This red planter used to be a home-made country curio cabinet. I ripped the door off and filled it with dirt; I like it a lot better this way.

This is one of my more useless acquisitions, but I still kind of like it. It was the base for one of those sets of folding TV tables. Sam uses it for lots of things in his various adventures, but I like to think of it as a child-sized valet. You know, to encourage kids to hang up their clothes. (Hasn't worked yet, but I'll let you know.)

I finished up these projects just in time for a visit from Coach's family, who arrived last week to see the sights of Buffalo and watch the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Their visit, the pageant, and all of our sight-seeing adventures deserve their own post, so watch for that sometime mid-November. Until then, Grandma & Grandpa Zootenhorst, L&T and L&S and families, we're so glad ya'll came. We just hope you had half as much fun as we did. Come again soon! And as for the rest of you: Why haven't YOU come to see us? I still haven't put the air mattresses away, so now's a good time. What are you waiting for?

Plus, is anyone else hungry? It seems like I've been at this computer a long time. And things are disturbingly quiet downstairs. Perhaps I should go check on that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I've been meaning to tell you

Oh hello! You're still here! What a surprise! I didn't think anyone would still be hanging around, but there you are. Do you need anything -- a pillow, a cold beverage, maybe a snack? You must be starving, after all that time left alone in here. But I'm glad you stuck it out, because there's a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to tell you . You comfortable? Sure you don't want that pillow?

This could be a long story because I'm easily distracted. For example, every time I hear the phrase "I've been meaning to tell you," (even in my head when I'm composing an imaginary blog entry about all the stuff I've been meaning to tell you), my brain immediately follows it up with the phrase "I've got this feeling that won't subside," which many of you (not you whipper-snappers born after 1980, but everyone else) will recognize as the first line in the 80's rock ballad "Hungry Eyes," which became wildly popular during the Dirty Dancing Craze of 1987. And I can't remember the Dirty Dancing Craze of 1987 without remembering the Dirty Dancing Scandal of 1988, wherein it was revealed that I had seen the movie Dirty Dancing (at a friends' slumber party) ! ! ! And that fact was then used by other friends to justify watching it at other slumber parties ("But Boss got to watch it!"), which led to other parents asking my parents why on earth they let me watch such filthy trash (answer: they didn't). And so a Scarlet D was appliqu├ęd jumper and the decade (the 80's) danced awkwardly to a close.

And that entire distraction lasts less than a minute, because in the meantime I'm still humming through the rest of the lyrics to "Hungry Eyes" in my head, and before long I'm at the chorus, which goes a little something like this:

With these hungry eyes
One look at you and I can't disguise
I've got hungry eyes
I feel the magic between you and I

And then I start to get twitchy because someone needs to send that dude's hungry eyes back to 11th grade English class because the magic ain't "between you and I," it's between you and
me." And maybe he knows that and just took certain liberties for the sake of rhyme and rhythm, which I'm OK with if there's a good reason. And a good rhyme. But this is the thing: It's not a good rhyme. Rhyming "I" with "eye" is lame, because rhyming is about a word's sound, not its spelling, and phonetically "I" and "eye" are the same word. And using the same word twice isn't rhyming, it's just redundant. (Unless, says wikipedia, you are French. )

Still, even though I think it's my right -- my obligation as an American! -- to ridicule pop songs that make it through the echelons of writers, performers, agents, producers, sound mixers, studio executives, and janitors without correction, none of that is what I've been meaning to tell you. What I've been meaning to tell you is that -- wait -- is it really 12:23 AM? Schniekies! I've got to go to bed! You're sticking around, right? I won't be long, I promise. Now pass me that pillow, would you?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Garden time

I found a website for social networking for gardeners, and went ahead and signed up. It's I don't know how well I'll keep up, but I do like gardening. This site allows for keeping track of plants and trading cuttings and starts with people nearby. That seemed like a good way to go on a budget.
The tulips I planted in late November (yes, I was behind) came up beautifully. I didn't get any photos while they were at their peak, but this one is pretty good.
Of course, this is what you'll see if you turn just a little bit to the left when you're standing where that last picture was taken. At least the jungle that was there last year is gone! I've planted seeds for lawn and they're coming up now.
Had to prune back the maple. Now we get to use the firepit Boss got me for my birthday!
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