Saturday, November 29, 2008

moosey moose


Looking forward to a happier, sillier, more carefree week.

I love that all it takes is a pair of paper antlers to make this girl giggle! Tickles me, she does.

Hope your week is a good one!

And if it starts to go downhill, get yourself a pair of paper antlers, and quick!

waiting...

I am 43 years old and I am sitting here waiting for my dad to call me up and yell at me like I'm still a little kid. Turns out there was a lapse in our auto insurance. I don't know what yelling at me is going to do to help anyone, except that maybe he'll feel better.

Daddyman and I know what a gigantic deal an uninsured driver is! We know how bad it could have been - and we know how hugely lucky we were.

It sucks!

I know. My stomach hurts like a mother f**er. I want to eat everything in sight - I am not doing that anymore, but I really, really want to.

I am not asking my family for financial help. This is a financial mess that Daddyman and I are taking care of. I don't even really care if I get my dad's emotional support - OK. That's a lie. I just don't want him to yell at me.

I wish that I could explain to my dad what it's like to try to raise a family in this economy. When my parents were young, they were lucky to go to college. Both of my parents have graduate degrees. They were also of the generation that after college, they found a job and there they stayed until they retired. It seems that almost everyone of that generation did that very same thing - one job, one career - moving up the ladder in one company, if you were lucky.

Now, I don't know ANYONE who has had one job for the last 10 years. Everyone I know moves around.

I am trying to budget, but our jobs are so piece-meal. I pay our bills and I juggle the finances and I sometimes steal from Peter to pay Paul. And - luckily! - everything is OK. It's not great, but it's OK.

My parents cannot understand why a budget is so hard to figure out! I have some income that is steady, but a lot of it comes from all over and at randomly different times.

I thought I was alone in this financial stress, until I started talking about it to friends. Oh, was that scary. Do you talk about money to your friends? I certainly was brought up to believe that money was secret and private and NOT polite conversation. Even people with "real" jobs. It turns out that almost everyone I know that is in my age group is doing the same thing. And we all work our asses off to make certain that everything looks like smooth sailing and stress free living on the outside.

No one talks up big purchases, but we take pride in bargain hunting and consignment shopping and the great coupon deals we get at Target. We smile and laugh and share potluck dinners - each bringing something to put on the table. None of us go out to eat anymore. Few of us shop as often as we've done in the past. The gadgets are fewer and farther between - we claim to be "looking for quality and craftsmanship." We proudly state that we are "older and wiser."

What do you think? How do you live? Is it going to get better? Does attitude mean anything?

I read The Secret, and I do believe in the power of positive thought. I do believe in the power of prayer, in this way: God gives us the opportunity to create the reality that we want - but rarely just drops the new car in our front yard... although, we have our fingers crossed and we're searching the skies.

I hope that all of that works on my dad. I am really, really dreading the conversation that has to happen.

(I know. Grow the f*** up! but still...)

Friday, November 28, 2008

done


This is how I have felt for the last couple of days as we deal with the car stuff. It's almost like a sitcom - except sort of tragic. I guess that's what humor is - being able to laugh through the difficult stuff.

So, we hit a couple of deer and totaled the car. It's just a car, and I've come to believe that the deer had a suicide pact. It only took them four lanes of heavy traffic to successfully reach their goal. I'm going to think of it as an act of kindness. We were sort of like Dr. Kovorkian for deer.

The car is still on an extended vacation in Wisconsin. We're still negotiating how to retrieve it from the "Car Spa." It's had quite an experience, and it is not ready to return. I guess if I'd had such a traumatic experience, I'd be reticent to return as well.

Lucky for us - we thought - that we'd recently purchased a new/old car. It's a finicky beast! Several nights ago, she decided that she would no longer tolerate coolant in her system and she sprung a leak. OK, leak is a delicate word for the geyser that occured under the hood of our tank. She basically vomited radiator fluid from Saint Paul to Minneapolis...

We had the whole family out for a nice evening with friends (We to see Wicked!), and the more radiator fluid we put in, the more radiator fluid that ran all over the floor of the parking garage. Soon, we were standing in a giant puddle of radiator fluid. We were beginning to feel like Noah in a flood of car liquid.

We inched along the highway - stopping every 10 feet to replenish the golden liquid in the radiator. It was not unlike nursing a child through the flu - a gentle sip every 5 minutes in hope that she'll keep it down and get better. It only took six hours and several moments of whining from everyone in the car - children and adults included - to reach our goal of home!

Upon returning home, I tucked the Littles safely into their beds and Helpful Hubby spent many, many hours on line researching our old/new car and finding a trust-worthy place to take it! At last, he found a reliable mechanic - and within walking distance - Hooray! We had a plan in place for the following day! We both fell into bed exhausted but reassured that all would be made right.

Daddyman and Volvo limped the six blocks to Tuan's Auto World. They gently encouraged the car into the shop and Daddyman waved goodbye. He walked home, and together we worried and nibbled our nails as we awaited the estimate... they could fix it, but they'd have to replace the timing belt and the water pump. Only $600.00!

"Go ahead," we said. "We need a car."

So, our 'trusty mechanic' toiled away the day. We got a call - no new timing belt needed! We celebrated. It would only cost $300.00! We got another call - car is ready. Daddyman set off on the hike to retrieve our once again trusty tank!

During all of this, we wiggled around our budget as we tried to find a way to pay for all of this. We live pretty much check to check, and this was going to be tricky. We were bound and determined not to ask for help. We also do not live on credit. We are a cash and carry household. The girls were relentless in their inquiries: How long until Daddyman gets home? Are we going to Auntie's house then? Can we stay all day? Can I watch the parade until Daddyman gets home? Are they putting a tv in the Volvo? That would be neat? When they fix the car, will we be able to eat in it? How long until Daddyman gets home? Is Daddyman home yet?

**Gee, my stomach hurts. Can't imagine why!?**

Daddyman was triumphant and returned with a working car! It wasn't long until he was sent off on a couple of errands - extra vanilla, forgotten ingredients - with one request: please, fill the car with gas and run it through the car wash. I guess that the guy who sold us the car failed to mention that the seal for the sun roof doesn't really seal. Daddyman found this out during his second shower of the day - this time INSIDE THE CAR in the car wash. The car was clean on the outside and soaking wet inside. And yet, he laughed. He said he was pretty certain that if anyone saw him they might call the guys in the white coats to come and take him away.

Daddyman return, wet but victorious. Car works! And all of the forgotten ingredients were gathered. The meal was prepared and we could now journey to join our family to celebrate and give thanks. (We all agreed that we are thankful for crumple zones and thrifty mechanics.)

Off we headed to celebrate Thanksgiving with our wonderful, extended family.

Note: This is my favorite holiday. My auntie hosts at her home about 20 minutes away - and it is a terrific day!

About 10 minutes into the drive, the car begins to act "funny." OK, not funny HAHA, but funny "OMG Why is everyone staring at us and pointing to the back of the car? Oh, that smoke that is billowing out of the back of the car. Interesting. It wasn't doing that before. Oh, neat. Now the smoke is coming over the top of the hood. I wonder what it is. Great. Now it's actually coming into the cabin of the car. It's kind of exciting. Can you still see to drive? Yes? Good. Open your windows, girls. I wonder if we should pull over or if we should try to get closer to Auntie's house? Put the flashers on. As long as there's not any flames, we're probably OK."

Feel like a rerun of Malcom in the Middle yet? Yep. I thought so, too. Except they are making a shitload of money for their pain and torture! And they are in reruns so they are getting residual checks!

We almost make it to Auntie's and we call for a rescue. This brings cousin to the rescue. We transfer the kids and the food to the next car and head out on the Family Fun - not really feeling fun, but certainly a couple of bottles of wine will help dull the pain I feel.

The feasting continues. We laugh and talk and hug and ignore the car and laugh some more, and finally we plan how to get all of us back over the river and home safely... it only takes 3 cars and several attempts to put radiator fluid back in the volvo - nope. Still won't hold her fluid! Even with lots of guys peering under the hood, because as we all know the more people who look under a hood the more likely it is to magically work again.

So, this morning, we are calling AAA. Nope, they can't begin our towing service until Sat. Our membership is too new. We call Papa - he'll help,but he's not awake yet and the family that stayed at his house is still there... We call the 'Trusty Mechanic' and he is anxiously awaiting the return of our new/old car... We are back to the bank statements trying to discover secret money somewhere... We are trying to eat everything out of our freezer and cupboards before we go to the grocery store again. We still haven't been to the grocery store after our trip to the Dells, and our cupboards are almost bare. (Does anyone have a good recipe for black beans, tomato soup, and brussel sprouts? Oh, and I'm serving it with Kix cereal, if that helps!)

So far, there will be no shopping on Black Friday. (Not my favorite thing anyway, so no big deal.) But it's beginning to look like a black Christmas as well.

"Mommy, why aren't there any pretty presents under the tree?"

"Oh, honey, your present is a car that works. C'mon everyone! Let's go outside and sit in the Volvo again. Bring a blanket - the heat doesn't work yet! But it will by spring! Hohoho!"

And yet, I am reminded: It is just stuff. Someday, we'll look back at this and it will be one of our 'family stories.' We will laugh at all of this soon, I am sure. We are all healthy. We have a great house and we are all relatively happy. I just don't want to have to solve this great puzzle. I want to be the child, not the adult! I wish it were all a hell of a lot easier than it is right now. But if it was, I guess we wouldn't value the important things...

I'll keep telling myself that. Maybe, I'll believe it by spring.

Monday, November 24, 2008

damn


So, I'll fill you in about the trip to the Dells a little later. This is the last scene of our vacation. It happened on our way home from Wisconsin.
We had a wonderful week. Swam, played tennis, worked out in the gym every day! Ate out a couple of times during the week, saw some movies, relaxed and bonded with the family - very lovely!

Then, on the way home, we hit a deer. Well, two deer actually. Hitting one is so easy, and 2 at a time just racks the points up a little faster.

We thought that the deer would be bedded down at dark, but apparently, because last week was the opening of deer hunting season, the deer were a little nuts. In Wisconsin, the hunters have to "earn a Buck." What that means is this: They have to shoot and register a doe before they can shoot a buck. And, according to the strange looking, but very kind young man at the rest stop #63 on WB 94, it is also rutting season - could you imagine the stress on those poor does? They are either being shot at by people in bright orange hats or they are being pursued by sex crazed bucks. I guess I'd just keep running, too.

The problem is, when they run across a very busy highway, they get run over.

I don't know how Daddyman did it. We were driving 65-70 mph in heavy traffic. I heard him say, "Oh, sh**!" Then, there was a mighty thump! I saw one of the deer tumble over the top of the van and felt the other one get pulled under the van...

Daddyman, pulled off the highway and stopped the car. We took a deep breath and got out of the car to check out the damage. The front of the family van was pretty much flattened! Amazing! The bumper was pulled under the front end of the car, but both tired were fine.

We felt most nervous about being on the side of the road in the dark on a busy highway, so we started the car and limped along the shoulder to the rest stop - a very lucky .5 miles up the road.

Once there, we could assess the damage a little better - lots of fur and blood, no fluid left in the car, not driveable.

We called my dad who agreed to drive into the night to rescue us in the dark of Wisconsin!
We called the state trouper who filled out a report and called a tow truck and marked the deer (apparently hunters are scooping up the deer that get hit on the road so they don't have to shoot a doe, and can go right to hunting a buck. Go figure!)
We chatted up the watchmen at the rest stop - very nice guys.
We ate sandwiches and cheese sticks ....

And I still feel shaky - two days later.

We are so very, very lucky. Daddyman did exactly the right thing - he didn't swerve. He just kept going. The deer did not come through the windshield. The car did not go off the road. Other cars were not involved. We didn't get hit by another car or a semi-truck as it barreled down the highway. We are all safe and healthy.

But, gosh, I am still shaky!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

a letter of apology to an old friend

Sometimes, it's hard to say "I'm sorry." Especially, when you don't think that you've done anything wrong. I see that with the Littles all of the time. They drag their feet and hang their heads and sort of mumble an apology when asked to "make things right."

Well, now it's my turn to make things right.

I wrote a blog entry several days ago. An old friend read it, and her heart was hurt. I thought that she was a little defensive, but - after several days of reflection - I think that I owe her an apology.


Dear T.
I am sorry that you felt that I was unkind to your family. I loved your family. Very much! I loved your brother - he was my first love and will always have a huge place in my heart and my memories! The story that I told was just a memory. I meant it to be full of humor - can you imagine if that whole 'parking episode' had happened when your dad and my parents had been home? Thank goodness your mother was the only adult home! She handled everything with a sense of humor and love!

I am sorry if you thought that I was being unkind to your mom. I would never knowingly say anything to hurt her. Your mom made me feel loved during a time in my life that I felt invisible and full of teenaged chaos. She always made me feel safe and loved. In fact, I probably would have chosen her as my mother at that time in my life, because I thought she always listened to me when no one else would.

I ask that you re-read the post with an open heart and mind. Read to hear what I was really saying! And then, if you want to continue this conversation, I would love to hear from you! I truly hope that life has been wonderful for you these past many years, and I look forward to a chance to catch up with you!

Sincerely,
Ahna

Saturday, November 15, 2008

we are outa here!


Guess where we are headed?
That's right!
To the Wisconsin Dells.
In November.

For those of my friends who are not native to this part of the country, November is NOT the height of the tourist season. It is cold. and gray. and - for a place that thrives on water slides and theme parks - there will be absolutely nothing to do.

AND I CAN'T WAIT!

We pack the car with as little as we can get away with - which, as the Littles get less little, seems to be just the bare necessities - jammies, toothbrush, swimming suit for our indoor pool and a little cash, and off we go!

When we arrive, we vow not to get out of jammies until well after lunch, we eat cereal for dinner, we watch a LOT of tv and movies (what a treat!), we sit by the fire and play games and do silly crafts and then, we wander around the vacationland-turned-ghost town, and we are blissfully happy!

This is a much needed vacation! We all feel the stress of this year - an election, difficult financial outlook, issues with discipline at school (not mine, the 'other' kids and seriously little follow-through by the administration.) The girls are fighting - a lot. Daddyman is like a stress-volcano, waiting to blow up at any moment. I feel like I'm living on too many cups of coffee - always on edge and tired of being needed! It is a much needed time away.

Why, you ask, do we venture into the Great American Family Vacation at such a strange time of year? Well, because I teach at a year 'round school, and that is what our schedule affords. Besides, off season is a heck of a lot cheaper!

(Here's how the year 'round thing works: 9 weeks of school followed by 3 weeks of 'summer.' It's like 4 quarters with a short break in the middle. Plus, we have all of the holiday breaks. It turns out that just when I think, 'I don't really like children. Why am I a teacher?' It's time for a break! We love this schedule in our house!)

We're going to take a computer and keep an on-line journal, of sorts. Maybe. Stay tuned - you'll surely see some strange things! :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

random favorite things...


I was visiting my friend - "the other Ahna" - and she'd posted some of her favorite things. Here are some of mine...


*The tea kettle - bubbling water for the coffee press (of course, that may be the psychological thing of KNOWING the coffee is coming!)

*The Littles in jammy feet sneaking into my room in the middle of the night

*My dog's snoring next to me while I write at the computer.

*My husband's key in the door at the end of the day.

*My father playing the piano - his studio was below my bedroom when I was growing up. He is a composer and a conductor of choral music. He is a wonderful musician. Hearing him working as I was going to sleep was the safest feeling I can remember.
Noni singing - not so great, but wonderful and exuberant! And so LOUD!
The dirt road crunching and rumbling under the car tires telling us we're almost at the cabin.

*My sister/friend's voice on the other end of the phone - so happy to hear me. I love knowing her well enough to hear how her day is going over the phone. I love feeling so needed and cared about that she'll share herself with me.

*The hiss of the pressure cooker - I don't have a pressure cooker. My Grandma Picklepuss had one and the Fabulous Mrs. Byrd has one. It always means something spectacularly yummy is on it's way. G'ma P = pot roast. TFMB = curried cauliflower or some other wonderful concoction from Lorna Sass!

*The music of the ice cream truck. You know those nasty little songs that you can never stop singing. I hate the ice cream truck and those silly little songs and overpriced, nasty colored 'ice cream' treats. I LOVE how happy my girls are when we say "yes, you can get a treat!"

*The sound of the jar opening - that quick little woosh - when I open the pickled beets. I love how the juice makes everything else on the plate turn slightly pinkish. I also love roasted beets, but I just can't figure out how to roast them really well. I'll keep practicing. In the mean time - if you've got any suggestions, please let me know!

*The sound of my girls as they arrive home from school: "Ma-ah-ah-ah-m! I'm ho-o-o-o-ome!" Drives me nuts when they shout from one end of the house to the other, but I'd hate it if they quite!

What are some of your favorite sounds?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the new, older me



so....
Today is my birthday. And you know what that means! More about me.

Suffer. Or don't read - up to you.

Notice anything different? Yep. A little darker. Cheaper than plastic surgery and less permanent than a tattoo. My dad hates it, that means it's a winner!!! (OK, truth be told - I really wish that I had gotten a tattoo, but I can never decide on what to get inked into my skin. There are so many factors to consider: Where? Why there? Why get a tattoo at all? What to get tattooed? Who should do the tattooing? Do I really want to trust the guy who offers 'free inking' so he can get certified? Should I put it someplace that people can see, or hide it where only a few may find it? If I get a tattoo now, what do I tell Noni when she comes to me in a month asking for one of her own? You get the idea. I had enough difficulty choosing a new hair color, and that is something I can change when I grow weary of it.)

(Pecan. The color is pecan. With tastefully placed highlights.)

(It looks really brassy in the picture - but it's not. It's warm and yummy.)

Daddyman asked me this morning what the best thing about last year was, and I told him it was all good. He agreed. This was the year that I took myself back. It's good to be in your 40's. I feel young enough to 'get it,' and old enough not to care what anyone else thinks about it. It's good.

My mom made the best birthday meal tonight - thanks mom! - homemade pasta and meatballs (pretty good for a Norwegian girl from North Dakota!), salad, crusty bread and - yes! - homemade angel food cake with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. It was heaven. I felt so pampered and loved and taken care of!

This was the first year that I enjoyed my birthday meal without any guilt! I let my family take care of me, and it was good. Someone once said that it is a gift we give other people when we let them give a gift to us. OK, that's maybe the complicated version. I used to feel totally guilty when people spent their time and/or money on me. Now, I feel great about just saying 'thank you' and enjoy it. It was a wonderful night. My Littles were so sweet! No fighting, very little whining. My parents were happy and relaxed. Daddyman was happy and relaxed. I was happy and relaxed - and all of it BEFORE the bottle of yummy red wine! Life is good.

My new guilty pleasure is Craig's List. La-la-LOVE it! I don't know why. I guess that I like to 'window shop.' I've posted things - some free and some for sale. It's always worked out. I've purchased clothes for Via from a lovely gal in an outer ring suburb - they were wonderful. I've purchased shoes from a young airline attendant who claimed to buy lots of shoes while traveling. (We met in the parking lot of the Cathedral. It felt like a spy novel.) I even bought my car through a listing on Craig's list, and you know how I love my very old car! Thanks, Craig. Wherever you are! I love you and all of your long, long lists!

I wish that I could go back and enjoy the birthdays of my childhood as much as I have enjoyed this birthday. I wonder why it is that my memory is not of enjoyment, but rather stress and tears? Is it just kid stuff. My mom and dad did all of the right things? Maybe, I just remember what I saw in pictures, and most of the pictures from my childhood birthdays include me in tears. Probably wanted to be first in line or the leader and had to be the 'host.' Funny now how much I love being the host AND being the first in line. (embracing my inner flake!)

I hope that my kids enjoy their birthdays - there sure is a lot of stress on the parents for kids birthdays. Just had Noni's birthday. 14 little kids - am I NUTS? All went really well for the first 2 hours. We aren't the parents who rent clowns or limos or giant, inflatable jumping things. We send home modest party bags that have no candy inside. We plan games and activities at our house! We take lots of pictures and laugh a ton and the whole family joins in the activities with the kids - ie, 3 legged races include the littlest Little and Daddyman. The parties are a blast. Usually. Then, in the last half hour, all hell broke loose. The teasing between the kids got totally out of hand. Hair pulling and tears and sassiness to siblings and swinging belts above heads and hitting friends across the face with the buckle because he was "listening to my secrets." Everyone was naughty, and no one was at fault, really. It was a little episode of The Lord of the Flies. Everyone was OK - no blood. The kids barely noticed. I, however, collapsed in a heap of tears and anger. How could these lovely little children be so damned MEAN!? And my child was one of them.

It hasn't been completely resolved yet, but it's ironing itself out. I called many, many parents to apologize and explain. (Most had no clue.) I talked with many, many children - some mine, some not. I implemented house arrest for those who participated without a thought of consequence...

I wonder what Noni's birthday memories will be?

I wonder what Oma's memories of my birthdays are?

And still, it's been a wonderful year!

What are some of YOUR favorite birthday memories?

Monday, November 10, 2008

more of me!



I like the sun, even though my people prefer the snow - as is evident by our creamy, pale skin. (I once worked as a nanny. The delightful little girls - HA! - once announced that my skin was so white that it looked like the underbelly of a fish. Sweet. The same family sent me and their precious little children into the belly of hell - level 20, or something - they gave us a limo and tickets to see "The New Kids on the Block." I didn't actually hear the music. Too many little girls shrieking at the tops of their prepubescent lungs. Again, another delightful memory from the nanny job. Isn't it amazing that I now teach small children and have given birth to - and actually enjoy - 3 Littles of my own?!)

I fart. I like to fart. It feels good.

I don't like to fish. In MN, that is mostly unheard of. People fish in the summer. People fish in the winter. People build shrines to fishing in the winter, then they haul them out onto the middle of the frozen lake and stake their claim. Some people spend days and days in their fishing 'shacks.' Of course, I say shacks lightly - most of them have wall to wall carpeting, heat, plush furniture, several fridges and cooking appliances, and - of course - flat screen, wall mounted, HD cable TV. Crazy! I hate fishing. And I don't much like people who like fishing. Except my dad. But he only fishes in the summer so it doesn't really count.

My dog farts. I hate it when he farts. It is so stinky.

My favorite cake is angel food cake with strawberries and home made whipped cream. Like mom made when I was little. I have a pretty serious sweet tooth. Sugar and booze. love 'em both. And in my world, pretty interchangeable - just depends on the time of day or the day in the week. However, I hate sweet booze. Crazy!

When I was in High School, my boyfriend's mom used to make us ice cream drinks after a long week. I think she just wanted someone to drink with. On the weekend, she'd pull out the blender and whip up Grasshoppers and Solid Gold Cadilacs. Her husband was in the army - Lt. Col. He was the head of the ROTC at a state college in Northern MN. He was pretty absent most of the time. I don't really remember him very well - he was stern and believed that women had their place in life - serving the husband. Not a real surprise that I didn't marry into THAT family (even though the romantic boyfriend MAILED me an engagement ring when I was in college.)

(Of course I kept it.)

My high school boyfriend and I got 'arrested' by a State Park Rangers when we were 'parking' on grounds after hours. We were totally making out - steamed windows, the whole nine yard - when he knocked on the window of boyfriends very snazzy yellow sports car. Boyfriend panicked and stepped on the gas and we drove off the road and crushed a poor, helpless little tree. Park Ranger brought us in to State Park Headquarters - a lovely, little log cabin complete with cozy stone fireplace. He very seriously called our parents. My parents would have not handled the call well. Luckily, they were in Europe and we were being watched by a college student who wasn't really watching at all. Boyfriend's dad was on 'maneuvers' in South Carolina. So BF's mom drove out to the State Park and agreed that she would take us into her custody. She drove us home and made us fancy ice cream drinks. Hmmmm. Then we created a plan to replace the poor, helpless little tree.

I love my husband. He makes me laugh. He doesn't make me ice cream drinks. He's fixing my kitchen situation - more on that later!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

me me me me me me me


I have been passionate about my children & husband...
I have been passionate about my faith and politics...
I have been passionate about my job...
I have been passionate about my garden...

but hang on to your socks, because for the next several days, this whole stinkin' thing is about ME.

I am close to celebrating my birthday, you see, so I am going to - as shamelessly as a Norwegian Lutheran Midwestern girl can do - celebrate myself a little!

Lucky you!

I am going to be 43 on Tuesday. Tuesday is veterans day. I am not a veteran. I do like that my birthday is 11-11. cool.

When I was little, I thought that they flew the flags just to honor my on my birthday.

I used to hate pickled beets, now - love'em. (but I prefer them roasted, but pickled is still pretty good. I like when they turn everything else on my plate pink. Weird.)

This is the best thing that's happened to me in the last year: I am learning how to laugh at myself - even when others are around. I no longer freak out, look for the nearest dark corner, turn deep crimson red, cry while pretending to laugh... you get the picture. Now, I actually think I'm kind of funny.

I really want to buy myself some fancy underwear, but I can't bring myself to spend the money. It's like buying a new wallet... why spend the money on something so few people are actually going to see and/or appreciate?

I need to see a dentist. I hate dentists. I bit my dentist's hand when I was 11.

I like my boobs, but they are getting a little flat. (I met a woman this weekend. She had her boobs 'done.' I know. She told me. Then she showed me. Stripped necked from the waist up in the middle of a cocktail party. She asked if I wanted to touch them. Well, kinda. But not really. Then she pointed to her nipples and told me that her doctor was brilliant. He made hers stand up forever. Really? Why? Now, she has perfect boobs but she wears a padded bra to conceal her forever pert nips. Her husband likes them, she says. I wonder, "can she feel anything any more?" I'll keep my floppy, tingly little pancakes, thank you very much.)

I love my life. When people ask me, "if you could do anything other than the job you are doing right now, what would it be?" I am the one who tilts my head to the side, with that ridiculously puzzled look and glassy stare - like the dog - and I think, "Why would I want my life to be different than it is right now?" I actually really dig my life! I like my job. My family brings me more joy and laughter and chaos than I ever imagined possible. When I don't like things, I change them. Some people call that flighty. They wish that I'd make up my mind. Some people - my mother - prayed that I would be more calculating. Instead, I learned to embrace, no CHERISH my inner flake and dance the crazy dance with it. And guess what? I AM DAMNED HAPPY! go figure.

It took me until I was 42 to believe the people that said "a healthy diet and regular exercise will make you feel good." Here's what I think: Why the F*** did it take me 42 years to learn that lesson? Good grief, if I could just learn to listen to what smart people say every now and then, instead of ALWAYS having to experience everything first hand. Do you know how F***ing hard it is to loose 40 pounds when your are my age and you've had 3 c-sections. But - I DID IT! So, I guess that makes ME an expert on eating healthy and exercising regularly - just ask me. I'll tell you. "I lost the equivalent of a first grade child by eating healthy and exercising? Yes, you can, too. I believe in you. Now, are you going to finish that 3 Muskateers Bar? If not, I'd love a bite!"

I tend to find random soap boxes to preach from every once in a while. It's quirky, right? Probably, it's just really, really annoying. Maybe that's why I like teaching elementary kids - because they HAVE to listen to me go on and on and on....

If I do give in and buy some sexy underwear (is it sexy if you call it underwear?) I am going to show everyone my flat boob pancakes covered in expensive, sexy lace!

Maybe.

So, there's a start. Read or don't read. It's all about me anyway! :-)

Monday, October 20, 2008

super heroes


I was writing with my students today - a lesson called "The Fantastical Binominal" - and we were writing about super heroes. It's one of my favorite lessons! As a large group, the students generate a list of nouns, a list of prepositions, and a list of nouns. They choose one word from each list - in that order (ie, Spiderman Into Cheese Grater) - and then, they write the story as a 2 minute quick write.

The results are usually fabulous because there is no time to censor their ideas. No one gets to say, "that wasn't funny enough" or "I don't know how to spell..." or "that doesn't make any sense." The students just write!

It made me think about how much we censor ourselves in our everyday lives. Granted, some of it is totally necessary. True, I'd like to punch the bill collector in the wiener, but I don't. I censor myself.

However, sometimes we censor ourselves from the necessary, the good, the indulgent...

I wish that I had told my husband how much I appreciated that he changed the lines on ALL of the beds, especially because I know that he doesn't feel very well. Instead, I grilled him about what time he thought he'd be home and prattled on about how tired I was and how I just couldn't put the girls to bed one more time...

I wish that I had told the mom who was behind me in line at Target that I was impressed with how calm she was while her children were squabbling next to her about some kid thing, instead of just sheepishly smiling and ignoring the conversation...

I wish that I had told the crabby lady that not everything is bad and evil, instead of rolling my eyes - again - because I just didn't have the energy to get into it...

So now, I challenge myself - and you - to do a "2 minute quick write" with your life! Don't censor. Trust your instincts! Be kind. Be honest. Be available!

Be a super hero in your own life!

Monday, October 13, 2008

curious minds


This little Montessori mind is working every minute! This particular photo was snapped yesterday afternoon when Noni convinced her sister that they could suck the apple juice out of the apple. They tried for a long time. Puncturing the apple with hard curly straws was more than half of the appeal, I'm sure. They did not get much juice out of the apple, and then refused to eat the apples because they were wounded and used.
*sigh*



On another interesting Noni note:

When I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate her 7th birthday, she said she'd like to have a theme party.

"What kind of theme would you like?"

long pause.

"I'd like to have an 'Art Party.' You know, come dressed up as your favorite artist."

"What artist would you choose, Noni?"

long pause.

"I'd have to pick between these three: Frida Kahlo, Miss Betsy - my art teacher, or me. I think all of these people are my favorite artists. And we're all girls. I might have a hard time finding a Miss Betsy costume, and I'm kinda used to pretending to be me, so I think I'll have to go with Frida Kahlo. Do you think that we could go to Target after dinner to get my Frida Kahlo costume for my birthday?"


Anyone....?!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

in search of the great pumpkin


Fall in Minnesota can be glorious! The colors of the trees are so warm and beautiful - reds, yellows, oranges - like a postcard or LLBean catalogue ad. The weather is often crisp, yet sunny - sweater weather. Yesterday was one of those glorious days - it was a day when people smiled at strangers knowingly, as if to say, "This is why we live in Minnesota."

Daddyman, the Littles and I decided early in the day to spend the whole day together as a family - as much time as we could squeeze in between sun up and bedtime! We simply had no other choice. These sunny, happy Saturday's in Minnesota don't last long and this day was glorious!

It was a 'pumpkining' day.



So, we filled water bottles and topped of the gas tank in the Odyssey, and set off on a voyage of epic proportions: to locate, secure and return home with the biggest, best pumpkin in the patch.



Apparently, we were not the only people in Minnesota that realized that these sunny, happy days are few and far between, and therefore, we should spend every single minute of them outside, enjoying the photo opportunities that present themselves on days like this.

It was an EPIC day at the apple orchard/pumpkin patch. There was a 10 minute line to get into the parking lot!

Upon securing an adequate parking spot in the vast field of similar suburban gold minivans, Daddyman and I smiled at each other warily, and trudged forward. We reminded each other that we had all day. It's about being together, not about getting somewhere... blah blah blah.

We paid our entrance fee, and followed the vast stream of Minnesotan 'stay-cationers' into the picture perfect orchard. Of course, we sampled apples and self-pick raspberries. We devoured hand-dipped caramel apples. We fed the sheep, the goats, the llamas, the goats, the llamas and the sheep, each time sanitizing our hands with 'magic soap' so we didn't spread colds between our furry, four-legged friends (according to Yaya, llamas don't do so well with colds. I mean, c'mon. They already have a problem with spitting. And a sore throat in that neck would be a bum-mer!)



Then, we hopped onto the hay wagon and bumped our way through the orchard. Every couple of rows, the seed-capped tractor driver would shout out the name of the closest variety of apples: "Harralson! Honey Gold." And then, he'd wait for someone to stir from their straw perch to indicate that THESE were the apples they were going to stuff into the plastic bag that had been so thoughtfully provided to every patron upon entrance at the orchard gate!

We were not tempted by the siren's call of fresh, crisp apples. We held firm, and waited. Then, after the third turn around the orchard, we saw them. The pumpkins, beautiful orange amidst the dark earth and the drying vines. Our pumpkins were in that field. Somewhere.

Then, the call came from the tractor driver: "Red Delicious. Pumpkins."

We unfolded ourselves from the bales of hay, and headed into the gloriousness that is pumpkinville!

We have only one rule for pumpkining: you may pick any pumpkin that you heart desires, but you have to be able to carry it back to the car ALL BY YOURSELF. No rolling of pumpkins is allowed, they must be carried in your hands!

This seems like a remarkably simple rule, but it is one that promotes great care and study of each and every pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Each pumpkin is turned and touched and examined and evaluated for shape and texture ("I might want to paint it instead of carving it, you know!"). Finally, if the pumpkin in question has passed these grueling tests, it is picked up and the weight is judged by each child. "Can I carry this ALL the way back to the car?"


After almost 45 minutes in the pumpkin patch, each child and each adult carefully choosing their very own pumpkin, we were ready to return to the main gate where we would weigh our pumpkins, pay for our pumpkins, beg & whine for a homemade apple doughnut, and take our bounty home, safely secured in our laps.

Dirty and tired, we waited at the 'hay wagon transit' spot with all of the other tired 'stay-cationers,' carefully protecting our orange orbs from the swinging feet of nearby toddlers and frisky dogs.

Finally, the hay wagon came. It was full. Really full. Lots and lots of people heading back to the main gate. The tractor driver sighed and waited. No sounds, no apple announcements, he just waited. Like a parent waiting for a toddler to choose their candy at the end of a shopping trip, he waited until the riders figured out that they would have to move over so the rest of the weary pumpkin-eers could shove onto the hay wagon. And they did. And we did.

And then, as we rounded the last corner back to the main gate, it started to rain. Really, really hard. Big, juicy raindrops!

The Littles looked frantically from me to Daddyman and back to me. Daddyman and I looked at each other. We shrugged... What could we do? We had searched and we had found THE pumpkins that were obviously grown just for us! We smiled tentative, reassuring smiles at the Littles, and they sighed a little.

It was at that moment, the moment that we were getting soaked on the hay ride that we saw the line of other pumpkin hunters waiting to weigh their bounty. These people had a lot of pumpkins. I mean, really. Infants had been displaced from their comfortable rides by strollers full of pumpkins! Wailing toddlers had given up their radio flyers to wagons full of big, fat pumpkins! Dads and uncles and grandparents stood in this ridiculously long line with towering stacks of pumpkins to appease the women and children who were crammed into the store, searching for apple butter and pumpkin cookies.

And it was still raining. Really hard.

And the line was still waiting. Barely moving. Waiting to weigh their chosen bounty.

Daddyman and I took one long look at the line - easily 45 minutes to reach the front of the line - and shook our heads. No pumpkin was worth standing in the pouring rain. Oh, fickle Minnesota fall weather!

We set our pumpkins down under the nearest tree and turned to urge our girls to do the same.

Yep. That went over as well as you just imagined.

After we talked Noni down off the ledge, we headed through the mud-strangled parking lot in search of our ark that would float us out of the apple orchard. Noni's face painting (kitty nose and whiskers) was running down her cheeks in muddy rivers as a result of the hot, angry tears she cried all of the way to the car and the cold, pouring rain. Via and Yaya protecting their black cheek spiders with cupped hands and bent heads - following their family by sound and touch alone - never looking up once for fear that this artifact would be stolen from them, too.

Luckily, we found our car in little or no time, and we joined the exodus from the orchard and headed home.

It was a joyful, family-time car ride back into the city.

Noni was sobbing hysterically.
Yaya was whimpering with tired confusion.
Via was just plain pissed off.


And I understood all of it.

What kind of rotten parent would spend all day for NOTHING!?


Luckily, we found a little, tiny pumpkin stand on the side of the road on our way home. We thrust 8 dollars into the honor box, and came home with pumpkins.

Tiny, tiny pumpkins.

Our pumpkins.

And the girls were happy as little clams! They are already making plans for the next sunny fall day in Minnesota - a circus on the lawn or kayaking on the Mississippi!

Monday, October 6, 2008

what do YOU make?


Thanks, Rose!
After a perfectly awful day teaching in an inner-city public school, I felt sort-of better after I saw this!
A

Saturday, October 4, 2008

old: favorites


This photo was taken when my sister-in-law was visiting with her family from sunny CA. I love the gentle feeling of this photo. I love the little Scandinavian heads. I love all of the girls gathered together on our big green sofa reading together.

I bought myself a "new" car. It's a 1987 Volvo wagon! I lovelovelove it. It runs really well, is in great shape (what's a few wrinkles and age spots when you are THIS old?), and it has really low mileage. I paid almost nothing for it, and I suspect that I will have to put a little more into it - new tires, new fluids and filters - but I love it. The Littles are already calling it "Mom's car." Daddyman calls it the Battlestar Galactica

Daddyman says that I am seriously channeling the '70's thing. He may be right...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

it's hard to be this fabulous


So I read a quote yesterday - while feverish and ill - and it made a lot of sense.

"We've been told we can do anything, so we think we should do everything."


My generation of women has been told that we can do anything! And we can. Thanks to the very strong women who fought for this right for us. It hasn't always been this easy, and we take it for granted.

I don't even know if it's about the choices.

Maybe I just feel like I don't have any choice.

I feel like I should do everything. And not just do everything, but do it really well.

I feel like I should be at the top of my pay scale.
I should be 5'10" with an tremendous sense of good taste and style.
My house should glisten.
I should drive an earth friendly vehicle for which I grow the hemp to weave my own organic seat covers. (This vehicle comfortably fits my family of 5 and our black lab, but shows no sign that anyone has ever traveled in it. I may want to sell it/donate it tomorrow. I will need to get the top blue book value of course, for I am going to fund a mission trip to Nepal!)
I should be involved in multiple good causes throughout my community, to which I give all of my free time as a volunteer.
I should be involved with my children's schools - actively involved in all of the committees and "fun groups." (This, of course, implies that I get along famously with all of the other over-achieving mothers. We are instant best friends. We do not judge each other one tiny little bit. We do not cast side-ways glances at each other - we know instinctively that we are a sisterhood and openly support each other!)
I will grow all of my own food in our tiny back yard. I will compost all of our left-overs - of which there are few. I have taken years culinary classes in my spare time, and I am intuitive about the healthy food choices that my children eat without a single whimper or whine.
I will grow organic cotton on the roof of our bio-dome from which I will weave lovely frocks for the girls that not only speak of our commitment to the environment but hint at the fashion forward sense my girls have at the tender age of 3, 6 and 9. (BTW - none of the clothing that we fashion from our solar powered sewing machine is the least bit tarty. My girls look like girls, not teenage hookers!)

Oh, and my husband? My husband and I have oodles of time for each other. We laugh and giggle together like we did when we were dating. I know it's because we take yoga together 3 times a week, just to ensure that we stay connected.
We certainly have no stress over our jobs - pure bliss! We are exactly where we want to be. Or where we should be, but we're on the way up, up, up!
Or money stress ? - who needs that much anyway? Isn't it obvious that I am making oodles and oodles of money as a blog-writer?!
Or our home - Daddyman is so handy. What he can't fix, I can. I took a couple of classes at the local tech college in plumbing and electrical wiring. I am certified in both, not to brag, of course...
Or our health - we don't need health insurance. Gave it up long ago... We are all so healthy from the non-toxic, all-organic environment we've created and the gentle, loving world that we live in. There is no stress. There is no illness. IF one of my beloved Littles should get the sniffles, I'll just whip up an organic tincture from the herbs in my windowsill gardens. They'll feel better in no time at all!

IT'S ALL GOOD. I DON'T EVEN NEED TO REST. WHO NEEDS TO REST WHEN YOU'VE CREATED SUCH A FUCKING LOVELY WORLD FOR EVERYONE AROUND YOU! IT'S PURE BLISS. 24/7. EVERYONE LOVES ME AND I LOVE EVERYONE AND THE WORLD IS A HAPPY,SHINY PLACE AND EVERYTHING IS IN IT'S PLACE AND AS IT SHOULD BE!

I feel sort of hypocritical complaining about being overwhelmed by choices.

But I am.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

the window to the soul


I don't always understand my children. Does anyone, really? But sometimes I really wish that I could see inside their lovely, complex minds and figure out who they really are. This is one of the most interesting, complex, creative, loving, stubborn, thoughtful, wise little souls I've ever known. And I just don't get her.
Is it just me, or do we sort of grow away from our children as they grow older. It's very bittersweet. I felt like I knew her every thought and need as an infant, and then, as she grew older and more independent, I often feel like I'm living with a stranger.
Any parent advice on this situation would be most welcome on this soft, sad, rainy day.

words matter

This was sent to me in an e-mail. Perhaps you've seen it?

Subject: Language

Author: Unknown

If you're a minority and you're selected for a job over more qualified
candidates you're a "token hire."
If you're a conservative and you're selected for a job over more
qualified candidates you're a "game changer."


Black teen pregnancies? A "crisis" in black America .
White teen pregnancies? A "blessed event."


If you grow up in Hawaii you're "exotic."
Grow up in Alaska , you're the quintessential "American story."


If you name your kid Barack you're "unpatriotic."
Name your kid Track, you're "colorful."


If you're a Democrat and you make a VP pick without fully vetting the individual you're "reckless."
A Republican who doesn't fully vet is a "maverick."


If you spend 3 years as a community organizer growing your organization from a staff of 1 to 13 and your budget from $70,000 to $400,000, then become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new African Amerian voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, then spend nearly 8 more years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, becoming chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, then spend nearly 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of nearly 13 million people, sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you are woefully inexperienced.


If you spend 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, then spend 20 months as the governor of a state with 650,000 people, then you've got the most executive experience of anyone o n eith er ticket, are the Commander in Chief of the Alaska military and are well qualified to lead the nation should you be called upon to do so because your state is the closest state to Russia.


If you are a Democratic male candidate who is popular with millions of people you are an "arrogant celebrity".
If you are a popular Republican female candidate you are "energizing the base".


If you are a younger male candidate who thinks for himself and makes his own decisions you are "presumptuous".
If you are an older male candidate who makes last minute decisions you refuse to explain, you are a "shoot from the hip" maverick.


If you are a candidate with a Harvard law degree you are an “elitist, out-of-touch” with the real American. If you are a legacy (dad and granddad were admirals) graduate of Anapolis ,with multiple disciplinary infractions you are a hero.


If you manage a multi-million dollar nationwide campaign, you are an "empty suit".
If you are a part time mayor of a town of 7000 people, you are an "experienced executive".


If you go to a south side Chicago church, your beliefs are "extremist".
If you believe in creationism and don't believe global warming is man made, you are "strongly principled".


If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
If you have been married to the same woman with whom you've been wed to for 19 years and raising 2 beautiful daughters with, you're "risky".


If you're a black single mother of 4 who waits for 22 hours after her water breaks to seek medical attention, you're an irresponsible parent, endangering the life of your unborn child.
But if you're a white married mother who waits 22 hours, you're spunky.


If you're a 13-year-old Chelsea Clinton, the right-wing press calls you "First dog."
If you're a 17-year old pregnant unwed daughter of a Republican, the right-wing press calls you "beautiful" and "courageous."


If you kill an endangered species, you're an excellent hunter.
If you have an abortion you're not a christian, you're a murderer.
(forget about if it happened while being date raped.)


If you teach abstinence only in sex education, you get teen parents.
If you teach responsible age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'll be damned!


He IS the Funniest Person in the Twin Cities. Get a load of this funny guy as he performs around town!

The finals were last night at ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis. It was a sold out crowd. There was an MC, 5 finalists, a featured comedian and a headliner. Daddyman performed 3rd in the competition - and he blew the house away! Of course, we had to listen to the featured performer (Tom Steffen) and the headliner (Shane Mauss) - both guys were REALLY funny. I laughed so hard that my ribs hurt this morning. We all waited until the end of the night to learn the results of the contest. When they announced that Rick was the winner, the audience gave him a standing ovation!

I am so proud and happy for him!

You can watch him do some of his thing here:



Rick here - My friend Ed filmed my set at the finals, and now it's up on YouTube!

Here it is! WARNING: It was done in an adult comedy club - Rated PG-13!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

what do you do when...


What do you do when it's late at night and you are trying to go to sleep and you just can't quit thinking and the dog is lying on your knees and the baby's sticky body is draped across your thighs and your husband is running his 3 minute comedy routine in his sleep except that he's not quiet, he's actually quite loud and annoying and the cat is softening the pillow (that you are trying to sleep on, by the way), she's pushing and poking the pillow for the 100th time tonight...?
Well, I'll tell you what you do.
You veryveryveryvery slowly slide your body out the side of the now sweaty, fur covered sheet and drop to all fours in your husbands old blue t-shirt and your not-so-sexy cotton undies and you gracefully crawl-slither to the hallway, doing everything in your power to insure that all of the occupants in the overcrowded bed remain relatively undisturbed and you tip toe down the stairs in the dark and stumble to the computer and take pictures of yourself using all of the strange effects settings on the 'photo booth' option of this imac so you have something to post on your blog.
I think this black and white one is particularly lovely, thank you.
Now, to make a cup of tea and try this sleeping thing all over again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

balance

Vital change can't be forced. It begins with embracing where you are right now.



I am seeking balance in my life. For the most part, I think that I've found some. I've been walking and singing, a lot. Not necessarily at the same time. Sometimes. Not always. It makes my dog very nervous when I sing and walk at the same time. So, when he is my walking companion I mostly just hum.

Balance.

I am eating a much healthier diet. But sometimes I eat junk food. C'mon. Who doesn't? I mean, really? Get over yourself! If you have the 'willpower' to eat grains and vegetables 24/7...good grief! You probably just go out and get stoned.

Balance.

I wear shoes I find on Freecycle (They are great - Doc Martins - super comfy and already broken in.) I shop for mid-century modern furniture on Craig's List. (I got a great price for 2 Danish Modern Lounge chairs. OK, so I need to recover them, but I know people who sew...) I reduce, reuse and recycle. Usually. Except for yogurt containers. Why can't we recycle yogurt containers. I eat the most lovely organic yogurt and I can't recycle the damned plastic containers.

Balance.

I laugh at myself. I try not to laugh at others. Unless they are my kids. Then I might laugh a lot. They're pretty ridiculous. Oh, and I laugh at my husband. But his mid-life crisis currently involves stand-up comedy. And, truth be told, he's funny.

Balance.


What do you do to find your balance?

Monday, August 11, 2008

ahhh... youth... age... alzheimer's,,,


Sometimes, I think that I am still 12.
I push everyone's buttons until my kids (OMG - I have kids?!) are wound up and Daddyman is pissed off.

It's really fun!

We've been married 11 years. Go figure. I guess all of the button pushing doesn't keep him from sticking around...

I've got to go and figure out where Daddyman is right now. There are some serious buttons to be pushed!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

gratitude: balance




Ok
So I took some time away and started to breath again. Thankfully. Not breathing is difficult.

I have begun my "summer vacation." Finally. My girls spent last week at Vacation Bible Camp. They loved the long days of sports themed activities. I loved the long days of sports themed activities that left me with time to do what I wanted to do.

Boy, that makes me sounds like a bad mom. But don't scold me just yet. Time away is vital to refresh our souls and appreciation of each other.

During our VBS days, after walking the girls to "camp," Daddyman and I walked for an hour each morning, then stopped for coffee and time to read the paper. It was bliss. It felt like we were dating again (BTW - today is our 11th anniversary!) We laughed and talked and enjoyed each other without the pressure to finish a project or the interruption of a child or the urgency of work. It made us both begin to find that balance in our relationship that we have been scrambling for.

I read the latest issue of Body & Soul. It's about gratitude and balance. It really struck home.

Recently, I have been feeling the awe of being gifted so many things - without asking. Mama Byrd shares clothes, neighbors show up with wine and treats or dress-up stuff for the Littles... In fact, we were at an art fair last weekend, and the girls saw something they loved - stained glass pendants. They weren't expensive, and we choose something else from this artist's booth and I was ready to pay - she didn't take credit and I didn't bring cash. As we were getting ready to leave the booth, the artist approached the girls and asked them each to choose the pendant they would like - and then she gave them to the girls!

With all of this generosity, I have been feeling, well, weird. Am I attracting that kind of energy? Do we look like we are "in need?" Why do people keep giving me and my family things?

Then, last week, I opened this month's edition of Body & Soul and read: "Learn to Receive what others have to offer and you'll enable someone else to give."

So, now I am simply grateful. I am grateful to my friend who knows how much I love beautiful clothing, so she passes on things to me to share! I am grateful to our neighbor who knows how much little girls love to dress up so she passes on her daughter's fancy clothes and costume jewelry! I am grateful to the friend who calls and offers to take my girls - ALL THREE - for the afternoon so I can have time to myself. I am grateful to Mama Byrd who, even though she is dramatically sleep deprived due to Baby Byrd's random sleep habits, hosted our Littlest Little so Daddyman and I could have an impromptu lunch date because Mama Byrd is a romantic at heart and wants everyone to feel special!

Thank you world, for bringing these people into my life!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

dig it


This is the scene out my front door. It's so glamorous! At 6:30 AM the diggers start digging and the construction fellas start shoutin' and cussin' and the mixers start rumblin' and the dust starts a flyin' in the finest powder. Looking down the street is like looking into an old western town, the dust hangs in the air and the construction fellas face off while mounted on their metal steed.

It totally sucks!

My house and my children and my dishes and my shoes and my teeth are covered in the finest soft brown layer of dust.

It won't be done until NOVEMBER!!!

Ughhh!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

best-cousin-friends


Oma's Birthday, 2007
Bemidji, MN

Oma's Birthday, 2008
Bemidji, MN
Oh, how we love our cousins!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

memories of childhood & family


I love summer. I love my family. I mean the family that I grew up with and the family that I created and the family that I've chosen. I love the time spent with those people. I am present at the very moment we are together, then, the memory fades into a feeling...
I love this sticky heat. I love the big trucks outside my house, shaking the street as they dig the dry, hot earth from under the asphalt, shaking the dust into my windows like confectioners sugar on the forbidden sweet bun. My whole house is shaking to it's very foundation, and yet I feel safe tucked inside, the shades drawn down and the fan pushing the inside air lazily around the room...
I love my life. My very simple, complicated life. My girls are draped across the pillows on the floor, sweaty legs and arms akimbo, drowsily watching yet another movie while we stay, stuck, inside our dusty, shaking, non-air-conditioned home on this 98 degree day in urban Minnesota...
I am so happy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

cabin happy


We went to the cabin up north to celebrate my mom's birthday! My family from California (Uber Uncle and Sweet-n-Sassy-Sister-in-law and lovely, lovely nieces) were here to help celebrate. We had a wonderful time. We shopped and chopped and laughed and grilled and ate and drank and chatted and laughed and boated and roasted lots of edible things over open fires and swatted mosquitoes and laughed and relaxed and...

...do you notice? No bickering?! Not once! Hooray!

Even with all of that joyful familial merry making, no one was happier than Shadow.
Go figure.

We love this dog!

And he loves the cabin!

Happy Birthday, Oma!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

didn't stay inside to clean...


Guess what we did instead?

5.25 miles
3 times around the lake
one banged up knee
2 traded-up bikes
2 fast, 3 slow
1 sore bottoms
579 whiny comments
2 weepy girls
5 tired people
1 good night's sleep!

We're going to do it again tomorrow night!

Monday, June 23, 2008

reeder, nd


this is the town that I loved as a child.

1908-2008
celebrating 100 years...

I wonder if it will survive another 10 years...

I don't think the cars will survive. They will become garden art...

We - my mother, 2 aunties, cousin and cousin-in-law, visited this favorite old prairie town. Just the gals...
We visited, perhaps, for the last time.
I think that I am OK, but it was a lonely feeling knowing that it may be a forever goodbye.
There's really no reason to return.
My family has all moved on.
I guess I will take the good memories and the re-found best summer friends.
That's OK.
We certainly laughed a lot together in this hot-august town.
The parade went around twice...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

arghhh!

Children can be rather hateful little creatures.
Even mine...
Mostly other people's...
I wish that I could lock my bedroom door and take a serious time out!
I am so done, I am crispy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My, how times change

I just returned from my early morning workout. Funny. I used to hate "workouts." Now, don't think that I could live with out them.
Yaya is telling me these days that she is "exercising." I think that she may end up with healthy habits as an adult. The other 2..? I've still got some work to do.
Via is dancing and Noni is a soccer queen. Maybe we are all finding our place in this moving world.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Grandpa's Bank


Every hot-august morning, after the 8 o'clock train whistle blows, we leave Grandma's bakery warm kitchen and head downtown. I walk with Grandpa - hand in hand - the 3 blocks to his bank. Sometimes, he lets me carry the enormous ring of 16 ancient and important keys.

"It's our secret," he says, slyly, with a wink.

147 steps from Grandma's back door to the chipped-up cement steps of the bank.

3 minutes, more or less.

We step-stumble around the muddy puddles from last night's cloud burst.
We wave at the 2 women in the Post Office.
We shake our heads at the neighbor's pregnant dog. "Go home, Daisy!"
and then...

We're here!

Grandpa's Bank.

Together, we unlock the heavy door. Number 7 Main Street West.

The clunk of the trusty lock...
A gentle push on the brass handle...
The door swings open wide...

We're inside!

It takes a moment for our eyes to adjust to the darkness of this quiet room. It smells warm and dusty and familiar. The early morning sunlight drips onto the dozens of crackling grey tiles, spelling the bank name backwards in the shadows on the floor. The dust dances in that morning light.

First things first: I step-jump up onto the old church pew that sits along the front wall, my summer clog-sandals cha-chunking against the wood of the seat. I check out the 6 "Wanted" posters. Whew! No one I know.

Then, I take my bank-place securely under the cashier's counter. I slip out of my shoes, and shimmy into my spot. I am crouched low, sitting behind the secret door. The top of my pony-tailed head skims the underside of the solid oak counter. My back presses against the cream-painted stucco wall, and my pink city-girl legs slap onto the chilly floor. I fit perfectly!

I sit here for hours...
well, minutes maybe,
carefully examining the red dust on my 10 pale naked Norwegian toes.

Waiting...

For anything...

1 single person...

1 single phone call...


Waiting...


Waiting...


Then, it happens!

The phone rings! 2 quick rings, and Grandpa answers it. He talks for a while. He hangs up and fishes a quarter out of his pants pocket.

"That was Grandma. Time to go home. Here's a quarter. Stop at Mabel's for a treat. I'll see you at lunch."

And so, I go, stopping at Mabel's to pick out 25 pieces of penny candy. I go home, paper bag crunched in my hand, and I wait for the 12 O'clock train whistle that tells me Grandpa is coming home for lunch.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Giants on the Playground

It is hot-august.

I am 9 years old.

I am sweat-stuck to the flowered sheets. My bathing suit is pretending to be my pajamas. I am blanketed only in the hot-august heat that has laid its heavy self across the plains of North Dakota, covering this house, my bed, my toes, my sweat-sticky hair…
It is 7 AM.

I am spending another summer at Grandma's house. I wake slowly in my mother’s childhood bed – listening to the prairie town come back to life in the early morning stillness.

It is so… quiet. Nothing like my own home. Nothing like my loud city mornings.
First, the breeze – the curtains dance around the windowsill – and now, the slow, rhythmic clanging of metal against metal.

The wind has woken the Giants on the playground.

We all hear them. Rusty, Donny, Dopey, Shawn, David, Shannon and me – each of us in our own home - each in our own bed - we all hear them. And we know without asking that the others have heard the Giants, too.

Today is the day.

I suck in my breath – hold it for a moment – then I unstick my sun-freckled self from the bed and reluctantly trudge outside.


CLANG. CLA-CLANG. CLA-CLANG.

The wind is picking up – stirring up the Giants. Twirling them, metal against metal, steadily twirling them. Tinging, and taunting every child who's ever been defeated by the Giants...

Silently, our gang of summer-best friends gathers in the dusty street in front of Grandma’s house. It feels like the rest of the world has gone into hiding, waiting out a storm. The birds seem to have stopped singing and the crickets have gone quiet. We are alone, the bunch of us, on this hot, dusty road.

We begin our walk to the playground. No one whistles today. No one flips a nickel or kicks a stone. We kids are quieter than we’ve ever been in our lives. Silently, somberly walking to meet the Giants, a cloud of red dust kicking up behind us.

All I can hear is my heart in my ears!
All I can see is the end of the street.
The playground.
The wind picks up.

CLANG. CLANG. CLANGCLANGCLANG…

The Giants!
We all know the rules by heart. Every kid who's ever challenged the giants knows the rules.

Rule number one: Only one try per kid per summer.

This is it!
Our one shot at defeating the Giants for the whole summer.
There is no going home now.
We keep walking.
Then, suddenly, we are here.
The playground.

CREAKCLANGACLANGACLANGA…

I scan the playground.
The slide…
The swings…
The merry-go-round…

And there,
Off to the side,
Stand the Giants.

THE GIANTS!

That’s what we call them. Two really tall silver poles with twirling chains and handles to hang on to, like metal may poles, with dangling human-child ribbons.

The Challenge: run as fast as you can and grab the handles at the end of the chains and twirl around – feet off the ground – at least 3 FULL turns.
If you let go before 3 turns, you are out.

This is really. Serious. Business!

Rusty – the oldest – goes first.
He runs really fast. He grabs the handles and twirls.
One time around.
Two times around.
Then, his hands slips. He falls. He dusts off his school-new sneakers, and blows a raspberry at the metal Giant. He didn’t beat the challenge.

Donny and Dopey go next.
(You can do that. It’s in the rules.)
Donny misses all together and Dopey let’s go after one time around. They end up in a boy pile underneath the mighty Giant. They didn’t beat the challenge.

David and Shawn are too little to reach the handles and Shannon chickens out at the last minute.

That means it’s my turn.

“C’mon, City Girl!” Yells Donny.

“She won’t do it, I bet. She’s too short.” Says Rusty.

I step back, wiping my sweat-muddy hands on my cut-off shorts.

I take a deep breath.

I give this Giant a long, hard look.
And then,
I run.

I run faster than I’ve ever run before.
I jump for the handles.
(I’ve got them! I’m twirling.)

One time around…
My feet kick at the hot air, encouraging my circular journey.
Two times around…
(Hold on! Hold on!)
Three times around…
(I am doing it! I am doing it! I am beating the challenge!)

“Wow.” Says Shawn.

I go for a fourth twirl...
(This is like flying. I am twirling and flying!)

I twirl-fly around the Giant four and one half times before I choose to let go. I’ve hardly picked myself up off the red dirt ground before Dopey, Rusty and Donny all give me stinging, open-handed slaps on my back.

“Way to go, City Girl!” They are laughing and happy.

Shawn punches my arm. Hard. Shannon is jumping up and down, clapping and laughing and shouting for joy!

Me? I am kind of stunned into silence.
(That was really, really fun!)

The 12 o’clock train whistle blows, calling the men and children home for lunch. The gang of summer-best friends scatters, running home, thinking about how they will go around and around the Giants next summer.

I don’t run.
I walk - slowly – reluctant to leave this place.
The place of my 9 year old’s victory over the Giants

I turn and face the big metal Giants before I too go home.

I suck in my breath – hold it for a moment – then I twirl my sun-scorched self around and skip-hop home.

For one short hot-august afternoon on the North Dakota prairie,
I am the Giant on the Playground.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

summer: joy


I don't know of anything that looks like a happy summer afternoon than this photo of our dear friend Otto and Noni!
Do you remember what it felt like to feel that free?
To fly on a swing?
To have no worries?
No responsibilities?
The sun felt so good on our shoulders and the breeze felt so tickly in our cheeks and someone else was making dinner adn watching the clock and worrying about bath time and bed time and homework and the price of gas and... Do you remember those days?

Well, I challenge you to find time in your day today to feel those things again.
To feel life so deeply that you forget to worry about the things of this world and you drench yourself in the beauty and freedom of life!

Celebrate you.

Swing as high as you can.
Laugh as loudly as you dare!
Say "yes" every time you really want to say "no."

I dare you!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

mad, mad, mad

So, I had a lovely post to share with you all this morning, but I am just to damned pissed off to share something lovely and sentimental!

I woke up as the sun rose this morning. I put on my flip flops and headed downstairs to let the dog out. I noticed our gate was wide open - we have a dog. A big dog. We are religious about keeping our gate closed, and there it was in the twinkling morning light - wide open! I took a quick look around.

SOMEONE STOLE OUR STROLLER!

OK, It's just a stroller. I know that. It could have been worse. They could have taken all three bikes, the Razor scooter, the funky skateboard... They could have broken into our home and taken things, or worse...

Actually, this feels pretty rotten. I folded the stroller - the lovely stroller that had been shared with me by my sister-in-law and my brother - and I set it against the side of the house. Behind the front shrub. Where it can't be seen from the street.

I AM REALLY PISSED OFF!

I walk everyday with Yaya in that stroller. We go to the grocery store and run all sorts of errands and walk Noni to school and walk and walk and walk. And now I feel crippled. And pissed off. Did I mention that?

And the really sucky thing? We can't afford to replace this lovely $300 dollar stroller until JULY!

SHIT! POOP! DAMN!

I hope that whoever took our lovely stroller gets a lot of use out of it. And if they try to sell it, I hope that they don't make anything for it!

STUPID DUMBHEAD STROLLER THIEF!