Thursday, January 31, 2008



The day of school cancellation we buffed Child 1's nose with The Rug - you know, because why stop with lucky knees if you can throw in a blessed nose as well. And know what? Child 1 won 2 games of bingo in German class. We're analyzing results now to see if they're outside statistical probability or if we can write immediately to The Old Church of Chain-Mail Blessings and let them know.

Also we're eying Child 3's anatomy trying to figure out what to bless next. Holy elbows perhaps?

In other news we had a conversation last night which ended up with Child 3 saying, "I have lured them in with my poo," in character as Hedley Lamarr from Blazing Saddles. We rolled around on the floor for a while, then Child 1 insisted on recording it for posterity on its digital camera. I believe that tells you nearly everything you should know about our family.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lucky Knees

I've been blessed.

No, really blessed, by very enthusiastic people who have apparently recently discovered the joys of two-color printing. They sent this blessing in an envelope COVERED with IMPORTANT information HIGHLIGHTED and UNDERLINED for my entertainment.

They also lovingly referred to me as "resident" which is a sure way to the very cockles of my heart, and then they (still on the envelope) announced that I should be sure to PASS this BLESSING along after it had helped SOMEONE in MY FAMILY. A mass-mailed chain letter blessing - it doesn't get much better than this...

... Oh but it does. You see, inside was the LOAN from the [unnamed] very OLD CHURCH which was going to produce all of these blessings. Because I care, I actually have taken the trouble to scan it. However, I am not entirely sure about whether the blessings survive translation to digital media so just be aware.

Here's the loan (partial, sorry, it's too big for the scanner):


It's a Jesus prayer mat. A paper one. It comes with instructions just in case you were confused (all of the following should be assumed as [sic]):

Look into Jesus' Eyes you will see they are closed. But as you continue to look you will see His eyes opening and looking back into your eyes.* Then go and be alone and kneel on this Rug of Faith or touch it to both knees. Then please check your needs on our letter to you. Please return this Prayer Rug. Do not keep it.

*This is quite true. Only you have to sort of focus on Jesus' Bridge of Nose rather than Jesus' Eyes. After a couple of seconds He starts giving you a rather creepy Mesmer stare. Well, unless you're Child 3 who was incapable of working the trick. Personally I think it's because Child 3's goldfish-length attention span simply wasn't up to the task.

Well, we're not about to pass up such an amazing opportunity. Child 1 was ruled out because of excess blanket at the moment; Child 3 had extensive bruising/scraping on its knees thanks to a weekend obstacle course so was considered invalid and unavailable for Prayer Rug Blessing. Child 2 however was ambushed and forcibly blessed. We then looked at the x-in-the-box categories of needs and decided that definitely the one that had a dollar sign and a nice long blank line looked good to us. We figure we'll fill in $1,000,000,000 - it's a nice round number and we can always negotiate down if necessary.

Now, you might have some minor skepticism about the power of this fine object, but you should know that last night was the Night of Kneeish Blessing, and this morning?

School was cancelled due to inclement weather.

Hey, according to the envelope I'm supposed to pass this Paper Rug of Blesserifficness along. Please, form an orderly queue.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Parenting 101 - The Eye Roll

There is so much guilt in parenting I think it's nice now and then to look back on the actual successes.

When Child 1 was about 9 we began to teach It to roll Its eyes. It was my idea actually (I do have the odd intelligent one), partly inspired by some of Child's friends who were precociously irritating when it came to adults (well, sometimes).

Whenever a moment came when we might anticipate a bit of attitude in a Child we'd simply leap in with some thoughtful advice. "Honey, you're not getting the full sweep on your eyes there. Try really looking hard over to your left, and then WAAAAAY up. That's it!" or "No, sweetie, you need to sigh WITH the eye roll. And if you can start the sigh with that little sort of grunt that's even better." As they got more proficient with it we moved on: "No, it's 'MohAAAAAWuhm,' with a really firm emphasis on the AW." and "Right, now a bit of a head flick and say, 'you're RUining my LIFE!'"

We even got them to perform the eye roll for friends and family, alternating now and then with the other trained responses such as, "no blood, no foul," or, "pain is weakness leaving the body" both of which were delivered in a bored monotone while we looked on with fond pride.

To this day when I have the chance to really cause angst to the Children - you know, by asking them to put away the dishes in the dishwasher or return the milk to the refrigerator - I can increase my own enjoyment of the situation by insisting, "Wait, wait, what do you say?" and get in return a beautifully exaggerated and histrionic, "you're RUining my LIFE-UH!"

Sarcasm. A terribly underused parenting tool.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Love in a Phlegm Filled Climate

Child has a cold. I nearly typed the number but I do make an effort to disguise, however badly, the real-world identities of the Children and I'm afraid it might give things away if I go on to tell the entire internet that Child [NUMBER] has man-flu.

To be fair, It is congested and has an impressive, barking cough that kept Its sibling hurling Halls cough drops at It all morning yesterday (something I learned when I came home to find the living-room floor covered in paper wrappers). However.

It droops, It oozes around the house - often on the floor because oh. the cold. It just makes. It. so. tired. It lies on the couch and then rolls pathetically down to the carpet since couch lying is so very, very exhausting. Then It whimpers a little about the fact that It has a headache - Oh! a headache! - that means if Its sibling raises a voice even a leetle the pain! Oh! the pain! Mind you, video games don't have any negative effect at all, it's just the piercing tones of Its loved ones.

When I ask if It has taken any of the cold medicine that I made a special trip to purchase It informs me, in a low, almost inaudible murmur, that no... It hasn't because... it's just so... difficult... to heat up... water in... the.... microwave. Then it perks up remarkably when I mention that honey can be added to said medicine and hops happily out to squeeze half a bear's worth into the mug.

This morning It puddled itself sadly in the hall, scrunched as well as It could (given its long and ungainly limbs) into a small, blanket covered ball. I asked with reasonable kindness if It was feeling any better and, when It answered with Its last croak that no, not really, It wasn't, I kindly wrote It a note asking that It be released from volley ball and push ups. I didn't even harass it for blocking access to the bathroom because I'm a loving mother and even man-flu deserves some sympathy.

It better not give it to me though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's Testiferous!

No one's leaving MY kids behind doggone it. Oh no. Thank goodness for the Mandatory Testing program that ensures my little darlings are neatly sliced, diced and shoved into the appropriate pigeon hole because without that I might never, ever know just how many percentile points are above or below them.

Actually I think in my city these darn tests are a means of reminding us that we are eternally grateful for certain States To Be Left Unnamed which keep us from bouncing off the absolute bottom of all of those national results (except for things like teen pregnancy and drop-out rates - we rock those! Play to your strengths, that's what I say).

Our middle school failed mandatory tests so many times it was into the even more fun Mandatory Re-organization phase. According to the new principal things were so bad they were supposedly going to have to fire the entire faculty and staff. Yeah. I thought that made a heck of a lot of sense as well: eviscerate the school and then turn around and say, "NOW you're going to pass those tests, aren't you!" Right. To avoid that the idiot school reworked itself as a "Arts Magnet School." Except... they didn't train any of the teachers to be arts teachers, they didn't hire anyone new, and the one Golden Apple teacher they did have (who was a music teacher naturally) had to quit because their new schedule made it impossible for him to teach at the other two schools on his contract. Bravo guys, bravo.

So I might be just a little bit down on the whole mandatory testing thing, particularly when this one is just for the sophomores (and my poor Child who wasn't in the area for sophomore year and thus gets tagged for this year) and the other three years get another day off school. I mean, nothing really says commitment to academic achievement like state mandated time off, now does it?

It doesn't help that the other two naturally are not being tested and so might, just might, have been a little smug about sleeping-inness and other glories that happen when school is out. Gits.

The poor Testing Child dutifully roused itself (its own self! This is a new and impressive thing brought about by my loving and detailed threats), dressed, secured its pencils and wandered mournfully out to the bus stop.

Which is why it was so particularly annoying to get a phone call from said Child letting me know that it had waited in the cold for half an hour before giving up and calling the school to find out that the bus had broken down. So Mandatory Test day now becomes Mandatory Make Up Test Days later this week. Child assures me that it will not be missing any classes in order to do this but for some reason I'm having a hard time believing it.

I wonder why.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Conversation Mine Field

It happened again.

I've written about it before, the strange effect that talking about Kirk has on people who know the story, but it happened again just yesterday and I still find it odd.

A friend was talking about a job her husband was offered with a company that did government work, a job that would have entailed (eventually) a security clearance so I mentioned that for much of our marriage Kirk had a top secret clearance - in Virginia he had a few compartmentalized clearances as well I think - and as soon as his name was spoken she reacted. Her face took on an immediate sobriety, she stiffened a little and, inevitably, she put her head to one side and looked firmly in my eyes. And the conversation came to a screeching halt because, apparently, now We Were Talking About Kirk.

But we weren't, we were talking about her husband, about her life, and I was simply bringing up my own experience.

What's really funny is that she often says things that really do flick on the nerve and yet she remains blissfully unaware. "Everything happens for a reason," she says, "I really believe that." Or "Hey! Haven't seen you in a few days - I know, I know you thought I'd gone missing or something..." And because she's well-meaning and kind, because it would hurt her to think she had inadvertently hurt me, I don't say anything I just let it go.

And I know now that I will think before talking about Kirk with her just as I do with the other friends who wince when his name comes up. Funny, isn't it? I protect them from their perception of my distress.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


We're not big television watchers. We don't have cable and I've never remembered to see if we get more than the standard five channels (doesn't WB or whatever they are have a broadcast channel these days? Or did I dream that along with the talking moose in my garden...). We do watch Mystery on PBS and often Nature, but that's assuming I remember in time to turn it on, or PBS isn't doing one of their irritating and interminable fundraisers where they take off everything I'm remotely interested it and replace it with Change Your Life Through Finance, Diet and Yoga!! or Lord of the Dance Meets LOLkatz! I'd like to say it's because of solidarity with the writer's strike, or a strong protest against "reality" shows or something but honestly it's because I fell out of the habit at some point.

Movies, however, we do - not in the theater mind, too expensive, too irritating (WHY do people use cell phones in theaters?), too much fuss and bother. I wait until something comes out on DVD, and even then I often wait until it's in the super-knocked-down-unbelievably-cheap section at Target before I'll buy it. But yesterday I made an exception and bought a sight-unseen, even trailer-unseen movie simply on the recommendation of a movie review site I trust (sorry, not linking, too many of you would be unhappy at the very, very naughty words they use. For anyone who doesn't have delicate sensibilities and desperately must know, send me an email but you probably already read it yourself) and, homework being done and Child 1 being unhappily confined to the couch with a nasty cold virus we sat down to watch it.

It was absolutely fantastic - best movie I've seen in ages.

Disclaimer: it is rated PG-13. There is some implied animal sacrifice and there are some moments of (to quote the rating board) "risque humor." But it was funny, charming and absolutely delightful.

Stardust - highly recommend.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Night Off

Last night Child 2 was dragged to the CAP meeting with its siblings. The deed was accomplished like this:

Child 2: 1? Can I read this book that is yours that you are currently reading?

Child 1: No!

Child 2: What about now while you're eating?

Child 1: No! I read while I eat.

Child 2: What about while you're at CAP??

Child 1: ... no. But! If you'll come to CAP with me you can!

Child 2: *thinks* ...okay.

Child 3: *being forced to call their CAP ride to see if there's space in the car* Wait, 2 are you going because you want to, and you're thinking about joining or just so you can read that book?

Child 2: *with great sincerity* Oh! Because I'm thinking about joining! *Child 3 wanders off to make its phone call* Hey 1, can I start reading that book now?

So all three were bundled into a car and whisked away leaving me with an unexpected evening alone. The luxury! The opportunity for decadence! The...

... so naturally I cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed the living room, tidied up my bedside table and went to sleep early.

I'm a maniac.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Safety Lecture

Child 1 received a phone call the other night from a member of the Civil Air Patrol. He would, he announced, be out of town for a month and so would like Child to take on his CAP Safety Lecture for the month.

Now, Child does not suffer from excessive shyness. Nor does It demonstrate much in the way of social ineptitude or self consciousness. In fact, and this still stuns me, It once volunteered as a brand-new freshman to throw a basketball somewhere in the vicinity of a basket in front of the entire student body [note: even more amazing, it made the basket]. Child 1 is, I think it's safe to say, its father's child in this way. Kirk was gregarious, charming, funny, and endlessly delighted to speak in public [eta: he was also, of the two of us, the only one remotely talented at basketball]. Therefore Child 1 immediately snapped up this marvelous chance.

That's where things get fun though, because we jumped at once at the thought that this was a Safety Lecture and we have been (as mentioned earlier) slowly working our way through old MacGuyver episodes! Who, I ask, is better qualified than we to ghost write this lecture?


First we all decided that obviously a lecture is boring and a multiple-guess, audience participation, scenario based learning opportunity is FAR better. Second we also decided we would plagiarize shamelessly from the television show. We chose an early episode because A. it had a plane crash in it and this is the Civil Air Patrol darn it and B. it had a rattlesnake in it and that's just cool.

We're still working on the full glory of the whole thing, but I'll give you a sneak-preview with two of the questions as written by Child 1 (with a certain amount of well-intentioned family interference) including the possible answers. Premise: one is in a small plane (crew of 4) which has unfortunately crashed due to pilot error (the pilot made the error of eating a large and fatsome fast food meal and expired with a heart attack).

Question: The first thing you do after the crash is:

A. Bury the pilot
B. Pat him down for small change and gum
C. Assess the condition of the rest of the crew
D. All of the above

Question: You wake in the night with the unfortunate knowledge that a rather large rattlesnake is cosying up in your nether-regions. Do you:

A. Shriek like a girl and whack in the general vicinity of the snake with your handy hatchet?
B. Use your ninja skills to reach down and remove the snake with one swift motion?
C. Have a friend use an alternate heat source to lure the snake away at which point you carefully grasp it behind the head and take it away to do something secret that will probably offend any nearby animal rights activists?

I don't know how the lecture will go, but we're enjoying ourselves tremendously.

UPDATE: The lecture takes place next week! I'm thinking of suggesting a question regarding the ethical implications of cannibalism simply so we can make gingerbread men from my favorite recipe.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why I Have Children

I have a topic!

I tried to do the lucky frog post yesterday, I really did, but I forgot to steal nick acquire lovingly borrow Child 1's digital camera so I could take a picture of said lucky frog which would make the post basically: I have a frog. It's very lovely. So we call it our lucky frog.

Desperate, I actually considered posting about toilet paper - seriously, I was mentally composing all about whether free end over or free end under really mattered and somewhere deep down there was this terrible sadness that I was already reduced to a toilet paper post (not that toilet paper style is not a deeply meaningful topic mind, just it should be saved for a real emergency, don't you think?)

However! Last night Child 2 came to the rescue and so I give you - the genuine transcript of our family discussion. Added benefit - you may all now be deeply grateful you don't live in our house.

Child 2 (doing dishes): There aren't enough songs about kitchen things.

Me: Such as?

Child 2: Like, "The Soft Side of the Sponge"

Me: Sounds like a hit for Tinkerbell and the Sacreligious Cats* *singing* ooooooh, baby, you sooth me like the soooooft side of the spoooooonge*

Child 2: *Rifs a spectacular and surprisingly musical interlude*

Several minutes pass, conversation moves on. I take a swipe at Child 2's nose.

Me: Sorry, it's just your nose was shiny so I was un-shinying it for you. Or I could buff up your forehead instead!

I lovingly polish Child 2's forehead with my very-nearly-clean sweatshirt cuff.

Child 2, looking me soulfully in the eyes: *sings* Santa Baby, won't you bring me my potato masher toniiiiiiight?

Child 2 claims the full lyrics are available for the interested customer.

*This splendid rock band name was, as described in an earlier comment, dreamt of by Child 1 and has joined our family lore along with Sparkle Princess Fairy Head as the best ever name for just about anything (has been suggested but inexplicably rejected for a stuffed shark and a soccer team. Some people have no vision).

Monday, January 07, 2008


Sort of umphey (word. true) about writing the last few days. I've half-heartedly started and stalled on several posts only to have Blogger dutifully save them as drafts for me and then act all hurt and appalled when I want to delete them. Yes, Blogger, I really and truly do wish to delete those three posts that all start, "so. Yes, ummmmm." and I'm not even feeling guilty about it.

Posts started but not finished:

Sending the Children back to school (sob! Whine! Complain!)

The very frumpy transvestite I sometimes see on the way to work (if you're going to cross dress, why do it with black socks and Birkenstock sandals? Why??)

De-holidaying the house (whoo yeah that was an exciting post. I had some sort of mild stomach bug and the whole thing was me lying around and feebly asking the Children to do various tedious tasks - which they did, happily and nicely. S'okay, I gave 'em sugar).

So even worse I have now written a post about not posting. And, as I have no shame and also nothin' better up my sleeve, I'm even going to hit "publish post." I haven't even proof-read, that's how bad it is this Monday.

Tomorrow if you're lucky I might tell you about my lucky frog. Yup, just keep on bating that breath.

Friday, January 04, 2008

People Watching

There is a tiny, frail old man I pass nearly every day on my way back to my car. He used to walk the few blocks from his apartment building to the gas station on the corner to buy a paper but this year he has just been coming out to the pavement and slowly shuffling back and forth in front of the building.

He is a scant few inches over five feet tall and has the rheumy blue eyes of the very old. He wears beautifully pressed trousers and an immaculate shirt; now in the winter there is a soft ascot showing at the neck of his fawn coat.

A few months ago as I passed him by I began to smile and say hello and now he returns the greeting in a surprisingly deep voice, pausing in his slow walk and nodding at me but flickering his eyes quickly away from my face.

It was cold on Wednesday and he wasn't out at his usual time and I wondered briefly as I always do when he isn't there whether he was ill. Yesterday he was back, determinedly inching along the pavement, stopping every few feet to muster his energy before starting off again.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

And a Very Soggy New Year


Christmas went well, particularly as I gave my children the loving instruction, "look, now you're not 6 any longer and I'll tell you right now that Santa gave up when it came to finding inexpensive small gifts appropriate for a Male Child of a certain age* and so while your stockings will be filled they will be rather sugarfull and unexciting. Therefore there is NO reason for any one of you to be making any noise whatsoever before 9 o'clock." The Children wisely heeded (helped along by the fact that they are all teenagers and incapable of voluntarily peeling themselves out of bed before 10) and we were thus all reasonably awake AND willing to see each other (even the don't-touch-me Child**) by the time present opening happened.

One of the Children had been breaking my heart by listing its Christmas-wants rapidly and then softly, nearly inaudibly adding the one rather expensive item it really truly wanted but was sure it could never have. By dint of taking on some very timely extra work however said Child and it's sibling did indeed have a happy Christmas (other Child got its expensive item for a birthday and was well warned that Christmas would be rather less impressive. It did express great delight in two sweaters - with long enough [for now] sleeves and an additional small item that at least eased the pain of a practical present).

Two Children were shipped off the next day to a winter encampment for the Civil Air Patrol while the other was driven to do a house/pet sitting job leaving me with utter and complete peace and quiet for a grand total of four days. That's four days in which: dishes did not spring up like mushrooms in various areas of the house that should be dish-free; floors once vacuumed remained vacuumed; counters wiped down did not somehow acquire crumbs or sticky spots of jam; there was no accumulation in corners or surfaces of spare books, pieces of paper, wrappers of any kind, discarded socks, games, movies or other detritus of living. It was, in short, a very tidy four days. It was also very quiet and, after a day or so, quite boring. So I was more than happy to welcome them all back - Child 2 on the 30th and Children 1 and 3 on the 31st.

New Years Eve then, having recovered said Children and their huge amount of gear we spent a loud few minutes discussing what the day should include. Child 1, who had not only spent five days attending lectures, viewing planes, doing exercises and team-building activities and generally enjoying itself, but had also contracted a nasty flu somewhere around day 2 and had done all of these things while feverish - that Child seemed to favor rather a lot of lolling around and being generally recumbent. Child 3 (it of the endless energy) felt that five days of constant activity had fitted it out for MORE activity, preferably with rather a lot of noise. Child 2 went straight to the main point and suggested food.

As a rare treat each Child was allowed to choose one snack item. Child 3 predictably and popularly opted for potato chips, Child 1 chimed in with "Starburst! Or Skittles! Or Jelly beans!" Which, considered in combination with the chips made me feel just a leetle green. Child 2 however shouted loudly for a particular kind of cheese we had discovered just the day before - a lovely French sheep's-milk cheese which smells rather like dirty socks but tastes fantastic, particularly on crackers. We got all three. You may take a moment to rinse your mouth out now if you like.

So a happy day of sort of oddly assorted snacking followed. Since Netflix had kindly delivered while the Children were away we had a MacGuyver marathon*** and generally rolled around on couches most of the time. Eventually however I decided that as a parent I would have to insist on some sort of food-other-than-junk and I staggered into the kitchen to start parboiling the potatoes preparatory to roasting them.

Which eventually meant that said potatoes had to be drained, which when I returned to the kitchen a few minutes later to set the sausages (apple and chicken - lovely) to sizzle meant I stared down at the large damp patch on the kitchen rug and wondered if I had somehow sloshed the water without noticing. Which eventually led to a closer examination which resulted in an emergency call to all Children to present themselves at once for flood abatement duty.

Upon further examination it became clear that the u bend had developed a rather impressive hole - one Child has said it should be described as considerably larger than a single square of Hershey's chocolate (not the whole bar mind you - just the one square). We applied mop, towels, and a bucket and (after a small incident the next day where one Child started the dishwasher and learned a valuable lesson about where said dishwasher drains) we managed to sort things out.

So we started our New Year a little more damp than we would have liked, but still with our heads above water. Toasts were made to the Child Who Will Graduate (gulp) this year, to to change and to achievement, and to a better This Year than Last.

And then we all went to bed early because we're sadly not as young as we used to be.

Here's to a New Year - a good one, I truly hope, for us all.

* St. Nick, in our house at least, does not condone small pieces of junk which accumulate but serve no purpose. Such items are, in my opinion, along with plastic Easter grass among the smaller works of resident evil in our world.

** We are exploring releasing our own version of a popular toy to celebrate this particular Child. It will be called "Don't-Touch-Me-Elmo," and if you try to hug it it will elbow you in the stomach.

*** I forgot! A few episodes ago we learned the use for that toothpick thingy in a Swiss Army Knife! It is meant to poke small holes in plastic bags when one is constructing a water clock for the purpose of creating a diversion so one may rescue the hostages on the bayou. You're welcome.