Sunday, January 16, 2011

New New New

OK, it's all new. OK, not new. Just changed.

So, shortly after my last post (Jan 2009--yes, I know, I suck as a blogger), my husband and I decided that it would be fiscally prudent for me to go back to work. And, well, it was quite a chore. But, it happened, and it did, and the kids did, and I did.

So, here I am, two years later, and I'm still sane. Really. I've been pushed to the edge, but sanity reigns.

Now, I'm teaching college English. (OK, a little less than sane.) And still doing all the kid stuff. And still being community orchestra president. Oh, yeah, and my husband is now the Cubmaster. I guess that makes me Mrs. Cubmaster, right? Aye, aye, Cubmaster. Heh.

But, really, it's all good. The kids are older. They eat lettuce now. Really, they do! I keep harping on the detritus around my house, but, then, I lie in bed at night and think that, in a few years or so, they won't be around enough to make it, so, oh well. What do I care if there are Webkinz on my living room floor and Playmobil battles strewn across the bedroom?

The big discussion topic this week has been my 9 year old's casting as Schroeder in the middle school production of "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." Apparently, the older kids have proven themselves to be not well-behaved. I won't say that my 4th grader is a model of good behavior, but he seems to produce his drama for me, and for me only. Well, and for his father. Drama is for the home. Good behavior and good acting skills are for school. I asked some friends about this, and the consensus has been that kids these days seem to be overprivileged and disrepectful, and those kids who are not are getting the Golden Ticket.

Now, I self-admit that my kids are total jerks at home. My husband and I call it the "Rule of Three." Any two boys are fine (well, except this afternoon, when we took Thing 2 out for "linner" after his piano recital, and left Things 1 and 3 at home to beat up upon one another), but, add the third, and World War 3 breaks out.

But, elsewhere? I get told what nice boys they are. Sometimes, I feel like we are too strict with them, but they are, essentially, happy. And, again, they are dorks to us, so I guess we haven't scared them too much. But, I don't know--I guess if teachers take the time to tell me how nice they are, then I should believe them.

And that's my silver lining for today.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Feed Me, Seymour!

Before I begin, I must point out that the title of this post is appropriate, as I did open a vein for my oldest child last year at the blood drive his science class sponsored as part of a unit on--you guessed it!--blood. So, I've been singing that song to him ever since and milking it for all it's worth. But, rather than blood, this diatribe is about children and food (although, that topic leaves me feeling out for blood at times!).

The first thing you should know is that I like to cook. I've even thought about becoming a chef (then I start thinking about the working hours and contemplating the idea that your 20's really is the best time to "pay your dues"). My husband, who burst forth from his father's forehead defiling McDonalds and somehow managed to grow up in the 60's and 70's without ever being forced to eat an overcooked vegetable, likes my cooking, and has even decided that brussel sprouts are extremely edible the way I make them. During the first years of our marriage, having company come to visit was always fun because it gave me a chance to try new recipes. And when we traveled? New restaurants, new foods, daring culinary adventures.

Then came the children. Let me begin by saying that these cannot be children of mine because they think stuffing is disgusting, and I consider that opinion to be an abomination. Things went OK for the first few years. Our oldest ate pretty much everything, but, in retrospect, we probably never made him eat anything he didn't ask for himself. For example, I didn't FORCE him to eat duck. I made him something else, he ended up eating half of the duck on our plates, and, after that, professed to like duck and demanded to be included in all duck-eating activities. And, since I was working, and my husband and I were low-carbing a lot, dinner was quite often a (nicely cooked and presented) meat/fish and a plain vegetable. If it was something that took longer (i.e. it had ingredients and flavorings), I very often gave Thing 1 something easy to make while our dinner was cooking so he didn't have to wait until 8 pm to eat. Needless to say, he doesn't have a problem with meat or fish, eats almost every vegetable out there (except the leafy kind), and has a particular affinity for (whole wheat) cheese toast with steamed zucchini.

It was when Thing 2 came along that it all went downhill. I really don't think Thing 1 realized that it was possible for him to complain about his food. And, as I said above, I don't think that we ever gave him anything to complain about. But, when a new baby comes, you start making things like big pots of chili, or large casseroles that get multi-night appearances. He also hit first grade around the same time that his baby brother entered Toddler Pickiness, so I imagine he started hearing about "yucky" and "disgusting" food in the cafeteria and at home all in one fell swoop. That Thanksgiving was the year he accused me of hiding spinach in the green beans (it was HERBS!). The era of food dissection had emerged, and it was a long time before we managed to stop our little scientist from doing a forensic analysis of his dinner.

Today, there is at least one child who doesn't like what I cook for dinner almost every night. I've learned to ignore it because most of the meals that they ALL like are things like hot dogs and chicken nuggets (although, for whatever reason, half-whole-wheat pasta with green olive sauce has a 100% acceptance rate). So, I'll push the envelope for a few days, and then give them something they all like. I'll generally ask each of them to suggest a meal for the week, and I'll make sure that no one is being served something they detest two nights in a row. They know we don't short-order cook for them, so they grin and bear it. We sometimes make them take a bite if it's a new food that they are simply rejecting on principal, but we don't push it if we know it's something they just don't like. After all, I don't make lima beans because I don't like them. Why should the kids be forced to choke down something they don't like when, overall, they eat a lot more than a lot of kids I hear about?

So, all in all, things are getting better. Thing 3 eats almost everything. In fact, he's the one who caused a bow wave of improvement in food acceptability around here ("Your baby brother is eating it! Why don't YOU try it, too?"). Thing 1 has a few things he's picky about, but he's old enough now that he's learned to be polite about what he doesn't like. He still has a knee-jerk reaction to beans, which we're trying to coax him out of through bean exposure--my husband and I love them and, when I realized that I was avoiding making things like chili or other bean-containing dishes even though WE liked them, I decided that Tween Boy was old enough to shut up and deal. Thing 2 proves my theory that some kids are just born picky, and, other than serving different foods and exposing them to them, there's not much about it that parenting can fix. But, at least he eats all of his vegetables, is learning to like salad, and will happily have a vegetarian platter if he doesn't like the main dish. I swear, he'd be a vegetarian if his diet could include sausage and pepperoni.

And that's my silver lining for today.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Cheese Stands Alone

I did a bad thing this morning. We never got the mail yesterday (it was 15°F yesterday, I was deep in the throes of designing the program for my concert this coming Saturday, and I was getting ready to take Thing 2 to the doctor--yes, I know, excuses, excuses). So, I stopped and picked it up on the way back from the bus stop this morning. In there was a letter addressed to my five year old from one of his classmates.

Now, my five year old's mail falls into only a few categories:

1. cards from grandparents
2. National Geographic Little Kids magazine
3. thank you notes from birthday parties already attended
4. birthday party invitations

Based on forensic evidence, I determined that this must be a Category 4 missive. With the holidays coming up, and knowing that he was very put out the last time we had to decline an invitation, I opened the letter to get an advance peek at what was inside. Analysis proved to be sound, and I, with much dread, opened an invitation to a Chuck E. Cheese party, the second one from one of his classmates this school year.

Now, as you must know by now, I have two older children. During the past twelve years, eight of which have led me through prime whole-class birthday party territory, we have only ever once been invited to Chuck E. Cheese. When the kindergartener was invited to a party there last month, I figured that, based on the law of averages (and the fact that CEC is about 40 minutes away from our town), this would be the only CEC party he ever got invited to, so we accepted and went. He was gleeful and had a wonderful time, and I gambled (in CEC's glorified slot machines) with his coins and got him prize tickets. That said, it was packed, the parents are stuck there but are not fed anything or even given drinks for two hours (not that I couldn't take care of that myself, and, hey, at least they serve Coca Cola products!), and the birthday girl sat at the table the whole time, looking shocked and not even playing with the other kids. Really, the place was nutso.

So, while all clues pointed to the fact that I'd be opening a birthday party invitation, I was not expecting yet another one to CEC. Eek! Really, I don't consider myself to be a mean mom. I take my kids to these parent-accompanied parties as much as our schedule allows. But WHY can't we have something else scheduled during this one? The idea of driving to CEC, forty minutes away, through holiday shopping territory, and making my way through the mall parking lot in which it is located, on the Saturday before Christmas, and THEN having to actually spend two hours in CEC, just does not float my boat. It makes me wonder if these people scheduled it at that time in the hopes that no one would come (yes, I'm in an evil mood today).

Luckily, I have reasonable children. So, I'll tell him about the party (I don't like to hide this stuff from the kids--it'll just come back and bite me in the butt later), but we planned to go to Mystic Aquarium (at HIS request) that weekend, and, guess what? That trip is now scheduled for the Saturday before Christmas, at the same time as the birthday party. Darn the luck!

And that's my silver lining for today.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Turkey For You, And a Turkey for Me

Well, I've come out of my turkey coma (there should be a new holiday song: The Five Days of Turkey), and I guess I need to get writing again.

I did a different thing this year. Almost every year, my husband's family comes here for Thanksgiving (my own family sticks close to Pennsylvania, because Thanksgiving there is merely a preparation for the real holiday: The First Day of Deer Season). In years past, the imminent arrival of the inlaws and outlaws has inspired me to do strange and unusual things. Paint rooms. Redecorate the bathroom. Remove the handles from the sinks and soak them in Oxyclean before reinstalling them. Clean the dryer vent. Run around with touch-up paint and a roller brush "erasing" the marks from the walls. Scrub the toilets with a toothbrush (an old one, not my husband's). Climb on the kitchen counter and clean the tops of the cabinets (you know, because my mother-in-law MIGHT just look up there).

Last year my brother-in-law brought his girlfriend to meet us for the first time. While I've slacked off a bit over the years on pre-mother-in-law preparations, I kind of went wacko, scrubbing and cleaning and making things white and purty again (our well water, as lovely tasting as it is, has this wee rust issue). Then they all got here and spent the week discussing the evils of cleaning products to the environment. I was not amused.

This year, I decided that "Good enough for government work" was my mantra. So, I did clean up. I dusted, I vacuumed, I mopped. All at once, not the slap-dash way I normally do it (that was what was nice about having a cleaning service back in the day--coming home to a house that was ALL CLEAN AT THE SAME TIME). I made the family put away their detritus. I changed the sheets. It was all good. But, instead of rabid toothbrush-and-paint-roller wielding, I spent the pre-visitor prep time prepping what people really want at Thanksgiving: the food.

The end result was that I was not exhausted before it all even started; I had half of Thanksgiving dinner already made when I woke up on T-Day morning; and I got to relax a bit instead of pulling a four-course meal out of my you-know-what. It was good enough, everyone seemed just as happy as they always do, and I got to join in the fun instead of either watching from the sidelines or falling asleep before it started.

And that's my silver lining for today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The other day my five year old dragged me to McDonald's. I haven't been there for lunch in years (we went for breakfast a few times last year, when he was still in preschool) because, really, the food just doesn't taste good to me any more. Perhaps you need to be a starving, dining-hall-bound college student to appreciate it. But, anyway, I ordered a Big Mac. And it was actually good.

Now, the Big Mac, unlike many of it's calorie-ridden compatriots, has been around for a very long time. I still remember seeing commercials for it when I was in elementary school, back in the Dawn of Time (that would be the 70's). One in particular showed people saying the ingredients backwards. Unlike my offspring, who can recite the entire script to any movie they've seen more than once, I have a hard time memorizing things. Always have and probably always will. My brain just doesn't want to do it. However, I was totally entranced by Backwards Big Mac, and I worked VERY HARD to learn to do it. Despite forgetting many a memorized classic poem and Shakespearean speech, I can still do it today. Bun seed sesame a on onions pickles cheese lettuce sauce special patties beef all two. It's probably more impressive in person, a few hours into a cocktail party, but there you go.

Another thing I memorized in my youth was this:

Drink Coca-Cola cigarettes,
Smoke Wrigley's spearmint beer.
Kennel Ration dog food makes your complexion clear.
Simonize your baby with a Hershey's candy bar.
And Texaco's the beauty cream that's used by all the stars.

Take your next vacation in a brand new Frigidaire.
Learn to play the piano in your winter underwear.
Doctors say that babies should smoke until they're three.
And people over 65 should bathe in Lipton tea....with flow-through tea-bags.

I think it's funny what we remember. I cannot remember the phone number I had for seven years in Virginia or even what I had for dinner last Tuesday. I'm not one of those people who can tell you their seventh grade locker combination. I don't even remember the addresses I lived at over the years. I'd say that I'm like Sherlock Holmes, purging all extraneous information from my brain, but I'd also make a poor witness to a crime--I can't even tell you what vehicles my neighbors drive, and I stand next to their cars every morning at the bus stop. But, I can still play the first song I ever memorized in piano lessons, and I can still remember Backwards Big Mac and Mixed-Up Billboard. Sometimes, for whatever reason, these things will pop into my head from nowhere. I'll be driving along, mulling over adult problems and kid logistics and what's for dinner tonight and suddenly my head will be singing "Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts/Mutilated monkey meat/Itty bitty birdie feet." And it makes me smile.

And that's my silver lining for today.

Fix or Repair Daily

I have vehicle envy right now. Every once in a while, my current vehicle gets to the point where I get this itch to ditch it and get a new one. Have you seen the LG washer commercial where the woman dreams of destroying her old washer in order to be able to get a new one? Well, I've started having those fantasies (note: if something DOES happen to my car in the near future--a tree falls on it, a sudden hailstorm squashes it like a bug, a freak tornado whisks it away to Kansas--I assure any and all insurance adjusters who stalk me and find this blog that I had nothing to do with it!!).

We bought our first Ford right after my husband moved to Connecticut in 1998 (I moved later, but that's a story for another day). OK, he bought it, and told me later. During our (large)-dual-income-one-kid period, this was not really unusual or a big deal, and he had asked me about it beforehand. He just didn't wait for the official concurrence. He traded in his Volkswagon Cabriolet sport coupe for a Ford Explorer after he decided that the combination of being out of warranty, not liking the service at the (then) one local VW dealership, and slipping on icy roads in October did not bode well for his sporty little pre-kid Grapemobile (yes, reader, it was PURPLE). It was a wise transaction, and the only lingering bit of annoyance I hold is the fact that he had conned me into trading in MY Saab 900S for our minivan because he really wanted to keep the sports car, and then, less than a year later, he got rid of it. I mean, I gave up my heated leather seats and sporty spoiler for this?

Our second Ford came about by happenstance. We had decided to get rid of the Dodge, as we did not really need two large vehicles, and the Explorer was, by far, a "keeper." So, I started shopping for a New Beetle. The terms of the loan from our credit union were extremely good, but the trade-in would have negated it (there was a minimum loan value), Beetles being not that expensive to begin with. So, we decided to sell the Dodge ourselves. Right about then, Consumer Reports rated the 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan as one of the worst deals in used cars (which was true--as I mentioned, Moby was a lemon). Plus, the husband I married--the one who subscribed to Smithsonian and National Geographic--started subscribing to Motor Trend and Car and Driver. I suppose this was his mid-life crisis. A wad of Navy severance pay and Moby in hand, my husband went to his trusty Ford salesman and purchased a 25th anniversary edition Mustang convertible, trading in Moby for $8000, which was far more than he was worth. We call it Convertible Summer: my husband was out of the Navy and very happy in his new job; I was preparing to get out; we were renting a home at the time, having sold our house in Virginia; and we had one easy-breasy toddler child. It didn't last long, but it was certainly fun while it lasted. That fall, he went back to his same trusty Ford salesman and sold back that Mustang for only $1000 less than he'd paid for it. So, we essentially laundered The Great White Whale for $7000, in a deal that I don't think we'll ever repeat in this lifetime. The proceeds of the sale were the down payment for the house I'm sitting in now.

So, now we're on our third Ford. We bought the Windstar when I was pregnant with Child Number Three (trading in the Explorer, which we really liked--it wasn't big enough for two carseats and three kids, though). It's been paid off for over a year and, like any six year old vehicle, it has its share of quirks, the biggest being that, despite repeated repair attempts, the internal lights don't work and neither does the now-totally-useless entertainment system (our number one suspect is the mouse that my husband trapped in the car a few years ago). It's a little disturbing to travel around at night and get in and out of the car with no cabin lighting. Unfortunately, our dear Beetle bit the dust two years ago, after setting the record for Longest Held Automobile, coming in at 8 years in service and over 150,000 miles traveled. My husband bought a 4WD Subaru Impreza for his commuter car, and it's a great little automobile. Luckily, he gets home from work in time for me to use it for my evening activities, so I don't very often have to drive the Lightless Wonder after dark. I say "unfortunately" because we really can't afford two car payments right now. Plus, we're at kind of a crossroads in the car-buying zone: we're almost to the point where there's only going to be one car seat to worry about fitting in.

That said, I don't know. My husband and I both remember car trips with three or four kids in the back seat of the car. Cars were wider back then, I guess. At least the seats were. Plus there was that really cool station wagon trunk to roll around in. We rented a medium-sized SUV on our trip to California, and the kids were crammed into the back seat like sardines. It wasn't very pleasant. But, they persevered and, really, we are considering buying a mid-sized hybrid sedan or SUV. In the meantime, we can afford to repair Wonder Windstar, and we're having fun looking at cars, discussing alternative energy sources, and seeing what we can see. Not to mention, dreaming about sudden car-destroying meteor showers!

And that's my silver lining for today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Have you ever started something and suddenly found you were in over your head? I've never been the journaling/diary-writing type of person, so doing this blog just seemed like a good way to mess around with the blogging software and learn how it all fits together. I have another blog where my performance has been spotty at best. The topic and format I set up take a lot of work because my ideas come from needlework projects I'm working on. Well, you may have figured it out by now, but I'm a bit of a Jane of all Trades. I don't chug away daily on projects like that. I tend to go in fits and starts, and then totally go and do something else for a few months. So, I'd do a few entries and then...poof...disappear for six months when I ran out of steam/interest/desire to knit and crochet things. Or I'd have a few months when all I was doing was mindlessly knitting dishcloths and, well, there isn't a lot you can say about that!

A friend of mine was after me to get blogging (waving at Kristin). When I was getting my other blog up and going again (note that I've since gone into yet another lull over there), I started this blog on the spur of the moment, and, as they say on 'Seinfeld,' it was pretty much about nothing. The first couple of weeks, I was doing really well in posting every day. I'm in some community activities; have neighbors; have kids; have a's all good fodder for rambling thoughts and colorful commentary.

Then I started playing around with blog gadgets. I installed this thing called "FEEDJIT Live." You can see it on the edge of my blog (well, you can now--if you read this post a month from now, it may be gone, for reasons I'll get into). It lists people who visit my blog, by location of their server. And, suddenly, I had this overwhelming feeling of writing to an audience because people were actually visiting my blog! Then the fretting started. There was pressure. Was it all too sicky sweet? Did you like it that way? Why the heck are you all coming back here to read this, and how do I give you more of it?

OK, so I psyched myself out. I'm still a bit addicted to the FEEDJIT thing. When I should be blogging, I'm watching it to see who pops in. It's kind of like watching the news ticker at the bottom of CNN--once you see it, it's all the same, but you keep watching, anyway, because something new might pop up. But I'll try harder to not worry so much about what I'm writing and, as I originally intended, just write things as they occur to me. I'll trust that you'll let me know if I cross the border into the Land of Syrupy Sweetness. Because, after all, you're reading!

And that's my silver lining for today.