Friday, February 29, 2008

Natural History

Walking a long way to and from work gives me a lot of opportunity to observe the surrounding life forms. Not so much on the flora front - 'round these parts flora comes in two varieties: defeated ornamental (you know, the kind that has been beaten into submission until it will survive being planted in a super-store parking lot) or native (which means prickly, hostile, and only green in relation to the dusty-brown that surrounds it on all sides). Fauna however we get in infinite variety, and much time can be happily passed attempting to categorize it.

The game can be simplified as Panhandler, Professor, or Student? The recent boom in hands-free devices has made this a little more difficult as it's not always easy to tell if someone is talking to themselves or to the little electronic parasite in their ear, but the premise is simple enough. Using only clothing and accessories attempt to classify the following into the appropriate slot. I've started you off with some easy ones (answers at the bottom if you want to cheat) and then thrown a poser onto the end that I saw just yesterday and has me baffled.

A. Middle aged man, suit, cap, briefcase.

B. Older male, wild hair, frayed jeans, brown loafers with cracks in the toes.

C. Young woman, pink bicycle, flannel pajamas with penguins on.

D. Male, indeterminate age, green felt fez with yellow tassel, bright red guitar strung over back, leather coat.


A. Panhandler. Specializes in varied religions: "Jesus loves you ma'am, he loves you, any spare change?" (heard last week); "something good is going to happen to you today sir, something good. Your karma is really good now, it's good." (heard this week)

B. Professor - humanities of some sort, not sure which branch. I know, that one was easy.

C. Trick question! It's either a pseudo-student or a proto-professor. It's a Teaching Assistant and should therefore be treated with great kindness poor little rabbit.

D. I honestly have no idea. The guitar could mean student (angst-ridden and hoping that being a sensitive musician will help him pick up girls) or pan-handler (of the "pay me for my endless repetition of the one song I can remember with the three chords I know how to play," or the "put enough change in my case and I'll stop singing" variety). He didn't have a case to collect money, but that could be what the fez was for. If he were wearing a bicycle clip around his leg I would have opted for professor but honestly this one has escaped me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Child 2

*NOTE - these birthday posts are not linked to actual birthdays because we have this mad Birthday Blur for three weeks and I wanted to take the time to actually THINK about what I wanted to write. For once. Child 1's post will come in time too. *

Child 2 was born in a snow storm. It has always known how to make a dramatic entrance. Which is funny because Child 2 is the Shy Child, the Child who can think of seven different reasons other people wouldn't even WANT to talk to It before there's even time for a "hello." Child 2 is My Child - the one like me (sometimes).

It is our Germany Child, born in a little Medieval city called Fulda. Maybe the narrow streets and the yellow stone buildings seeped into its veins somehow because Child 2 does live a little in a fairy-tale past given the chance.

It is our Book Child, our Reading Child who gulps down a new book in an hour and then has to go back and read it again because, in the mad dash for the end (and because it's like me) it has skipped all the bits where it looked like things were going wrong.

It is our I Meant To Do That Child who can turn a slip into a glide and a fall into an entirely purposeful sit, staring triumphantly up at you and defying you to prove that there was any accident involved.

When it turned ten it reached back, took a firm grip on its childhood and stubbornly refused to let go. Adulthood was dangerous waters; it was going to stay in the safe and well known shallows. Maybe it was wise, maybe it knew best that there is nothing wrong in taking your time and coming to things when you're ready.

Because this has been a year of growth for Child 2. Not, sadly, in the way it wants - my darling Child, I'm afraid you will never be taller than Child 3 - but in the way it does small things for other people simply to make them happy, the way it stops, then stops again before getting angry, before letting its quick temper flash out of control (yes, that one was me as well), the way most of all that it has begun to learn to be comfortable, to be graceful, to be beautiful, within its skin.

Happy Birthday Child 2. I love you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Scrambled Brains

I like structure. Yes, I do a creative job but it's a highly structured creative job and it's the structure, in my opinion, that makes everything else possible.

The trouble is when something shakes up the structure because that makes everything else wobble and, often, crash around my ears.

Take this week. This week is Testing Week. But it's only Testing Week for Lucky Child 2 - the entire rest of the school (well, yes except for other students of It's year, but that's not the point) is having three days of totally unearned vacation. (go on, ask me how Child 2 feels about this!) This means that yesterday all three Children woke up (eventually) and wandered off to school (except for Child 2 who claimed Unfair Flu and was allowed to stay home with a blanket, an i-pod and a pile of books). It means that this morning Child 2 was roused (sort of) and at least jump-started so in theory It would be ready for It's ride, but Children 1 and 3 were allowed to sleep in. That would be fine, that's just enough variation from the norm that I could, theoretically, cope.


Children 1 and 3 are the JROTC Children and for some unknown reason the JROTC people have decided this is the perfect chance to have many! many! practices! (don't ask, I still haven't sorted out the nuances in the various things. I can only tell Armed from Unarmed because of the rather large chunks of wood and metal one group carries around) Child 1 has... one practice I think in the afternoon and possibly another in the morning but Child 3 definitely (maybe) has 2, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and not one of them is in the same darn place.

I discovered all of this about... two days ago. Now I do make an effort (sometimes) so I was trying to wrap myself around how I was going to go to work AND deliver Children to their various appointments and then I realized that I have: 1 meeting this afternoon, immutable as the tide which wipes out any delivery ability; 1 training session tomorrow morning which will doubtless go late thus meaning I could, if I bent space and time, possibly get one Child, late, to one of its practices but only one and; 2 meetings and a project on Thursday.

I shall don my tiara and sash at once for the Mother of the Year awards.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dad Pasta

So we made Dad Pasta on Sunday. Actually, the Birthday Child made it really, having grasped the family philosophy that the best part of dinner is the Wielding of the Really Sharp Knives. We haven't had Dad Pasta in five years or so, not since California, not since before everything happened.

The Child did beautifully, chopping the garlic to a fine mince, producing bite-sized chunks of sun-dried tomato without spending inordinate amounts of time ensuring that each chunk is precisely the size of the previous one. I gave a few rudimentary instructions and was allowed to put the pasta in the boiling water.

At the end of it all the Children each dished up an enormous bowl and there was an extended silence. I admit to being nervous. This was Dad Pasta, after all - what if we got it wrong? What if our collective memory had somehow let us down?

You see, we have memories of Kirk that go beyond the stories. There are the CDs he burned, some of them simply labeled "KVA," or "Mellow Mix," one saying "Mountain Bike Mix." It's not the songs that matter, it's the particular selection and order that's like an imprint of his personality. His fishing gear is carefully saved because that brown case evokes hundreds of small moments: of Kirk's first salmon, of the prize King he caught, of the way we laughed on the Virginia lake when Child 1 tried to set the hook when It got a bite and ended up flinging the small sunfish twenty yards away and into a tree... aural memories, visual memories, and, now visceral memories of taste. If we got it right.

I was the only one concerned. It was fantastic.

Dad Pasta - Now with measurements!

4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (or, you know, if you have a garlic press you could do the wimpy version)
1 small jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 C kalamata olives, quartered
2 C fresh spinach, stems removed, roughly chopped
1 16 oz package fettuccine
5 oz feta cheese

While the fettuccine is cooking: in a heavy pan lightly brown the garlic in the olive oil. Add tomatoes and stir until fragrant. Add olives and remove from heat.

Place spinach in serving bowl. Place hot, drained pasta over the spinach and allow to wilt. Stir in garlic, tomatoes and olives, toss to coat pasta with oil. Add feta cheese and serve.

We didn't add any salt or pepper because the olives and cheese are already so salty. The flavors are intense enough not to need any additional seasoning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Random Friday Thought

Do you think there's some sort of resource out there, a compendium of some sort maybe that is available only to certain people? It would have, alphabetically or maybe by subject, thousands of brief, bright messages intended to uplift and inspire in a single sentence. Maybe there would be a rating system with little icons so you could quickly sort through and find those that:

A) included a pun or other play on words
B) paraphrases or otherwise bowdlerizes well known quotations
C) are overtly religious

I'm convinced it exists and is the source for: all "inspirational" signs outside of certain American churches; a large range of greeting cards, most of them pastel and sporting doe-eyed creatures or floral arrangements; the fortunes in the ginormous bag of fortune cookies donated to Child 2 by its friend.


"God does not respond to e-mail, he responds to KNEE-mail"
"Don't turn over a new leaf, turn over a new LIFE"
"It is okay to have butterflies in your stomach, just get them flying in formation"
"Before you can do something you must first BE something"

There was one from a cookie though that I think missed its mark a little:

"Catch fire with a passion for something and the world will come to watch you burn."


Yes, maybe I'll stick with organizing those butterflies instead.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Suppah Time

The Birthday Children get to pick what they want for dinner on their birthday. It only seems fair really; that way the Anti-Mushroom Child doesn't end up with Fungus Amungus a la chantorelle or something. So last weekend it was steak and salad, with just one instant of trouble when The Friend clapped its hand to its mouth and blurted "oops! It's Lent!" This weekend it's going to be Dad Pasta.

We used to make a pretty big deal out of cooking dinner every night. There is something deeply satisfying in taking a mixed group of ingredients from raw form to finished product, and we loved every step. We wrangled (nicely) over who got to have the fun of Wielding The Knives. We asked for and received appreciation from each other as various stages were achieved ("oooh, look how nicely that scallop is caramelizing!" yes, it was fascinating being us!) and once the food was actually served it was assumed that voluble reaction would be made - preferably positive.

I was usually the chef since I worked from home and didn't have to wrestle with the various commutes Kirk had, but when we were living in California he had much more time in the evenings and he began experimenting with some recipes of his own. His tilapia was a favorite, for example, and he had a potato/pasta dish that was delicious. I left those to him, and unlike me he never bothered to write down his inspirations so this Sunday I'm going to be working off of memory.

Dad Pasta:

Fetuccini - enough to serve five (one or two of whom are Male and voracious)
fresh spinach - about... maybe 2 cups raw?
sun-dried tomatoes - in oil, to taste (what? I go by how it looks! Put 'em in until there are enough)
Kalamata olives - not so many as tomatoes but enough so you get one with each bite (there, was that more specific?)
feta cheese - a handful. Or so.
olive oil

Cook the pasta, toss with remaining ingredients. Serve with flair.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Someone let these darn Children grow up and I want to know who.

There was the ROTC Military Ball on Friday, attended by the two JROTC Children. Then there was a Dining Out on Saturday, attended by the two female CAP Children.

It was one of the Children's birthday on Friday (we overdo the whole February birthday thing; mine and two Children's fall in that month) and after some discussion about earrings and boxes and scented lotions and things (it has decided it is a Girl and should maybe express that sometimes) I brought up the possibility of attending the Dining Out and maybe getting a nice dress as its birthday present. There was a little complaining about Lack Of Danceability and a smidgen of Someone Might Talk To Me but when weighed against the chance to have a formal(ish) dress of its very own it caved like the feminine creature it is.

Hence we faced the mall on Saturday. It was painful. There were many, many people and it's entirely likely I tipped over more than a few as I walked quickly and firmly to the one store I was willing to try. (Note: I hate shopping. I hate crowded malls. I had previously discovered that one particular store had a reasonable selection AND a decent price so I headed directly towards there, no passing Go, no $200. Anyone who was injured in this sort of bee-line approach totally deserved what they got because they were walking four abreast and sloooooooowly drifting along). Once at the store though we found a huge collection of quite nice dresses at huge sale - got lucky.

The non-birthday child (its turn comes next week) quickly got into the spirit of things and hauled off several things for itself but meanwhile The Child, the Don't Touch Me Elmo Child, the one who resists all efforts to cuddle or otherwise soften it willingly zipped itself into seven or eight dresses and then wandered into the hall for expert critiquing.

And you know that magic thing that happens with dresses? The one that happened last year? It happened again. The non-birthday Child chose a black and white number that twirled and switched and made its waist look about 10 inches around. And the Birthday Child? It found something swingy and elegant, simple but stunning and just a little sparkly.

And when they both were dressed and had brushed and tinted and generally gilded the lily I looked at them and realized:

They're OLD


and I'd really like to know who authorized that because it sure wasn't me.

Excuse me, I know I stored Kirk's shotgun somewhere...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Military Ball

The ROTC Children are going to a ball.

The military does a lot of formal dinner/dance type things so the theory is that in high school the young cadets should be dragged into a large room (hopefully after a general clean-and-buff) and taught the rudiments of etiquette. I'm not sure how successful this is. I vaguely remember Child 1 talking a couple of years ago about pre-ball lectures on "this is a fork, this is a knife - no! Not THAT kind of knife!!" and how not to suck up your spaghetti until the end whips around and splatters your companions with Sauce Bolognaise. There does not seem to have been any such effort this year. I'm not sure if its because this cadre is considered to be slightly less knuckle-dragging than the other, or that the poor commander is simply beyond such minor concerns.

Child 1 is on The Committee which has meant fact finding missions to Target and an exciting discussion about whether or not female cadets were going to be required to wear their polyester blue class A skirts (1 vote) or could blossom out into sequins, tulle and teetery high heeled shoes (entire female cadet population, very loud and extremely shrill). It also means it must remain behind after the ball to clean up which sounds, to be honest a little Cinderella in reverse to me.

Does this place me in the role of Lt. F. Godmother? In anticipation I will try to locate a reliable source for glass combat boots. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mus Musculus

We have a mouse!

Well, not we the family but we the place-where-I-work.

That is, it might be multiple mice I suppose but it does have a distinctive personality so I suspect A Mouse, singular. If so it should definitely go out for meece Olympics because this Mouse is an impressive sprinter. It was definitely seen taking a hard corner from the lounge into an office at which point the Mouse Eradication Professional was alerted. He came and informed us that sinks are bad (we have two) as is food (we have much - many, many people who like to do surreptitious snacking at their desks). Then he wandered around for a while with steel wool and caulk.

At which point the mouse somehow evaded detection and arrived at the other side of the building where it intelligently took refuge in one of the more tender-hearted colleagues's office. So tender-hearted is she in fact that she abandoned the entire office to the mouse and came out to spend useful minutes with us in the lobby where we were helping by talking about how it was A Mouse! In the building! And the hall! (we're good in crises like these: we really know how to best employ them).

To complicate things we have several splendid men from maintenance rooting around in the ceiling trying to discover why most of the floor above is being heated to a toasty 85 degrees. The mouse apparently took their hall-full of ladders as an opportunity to practice the cross-country/obstacle event because it sped back to the lobby, wove skillfully through the ladders, made a dash for the Boss's office, thought better of it and finally disappeared into another occupied room whose tenant simply noted there was now A Mouse in the room and phlegmatically went on working.

This has led to a bit of division among the work force.

There are the humanitarian types who are hand-wringing and fretting over the thought that the sweet little Mouse might be harmed (say, by having its sweet little neck snapped in a little old trap). Then there are the practical types who think it's A Mouse for heaven's sake and all us big girl's blouses should just man up and kill the darn thing already (stupid plague carrying rodent...).

Then there are the really intelligent types like me who figure if the Mouse stays around for a few more days we could establish a Committee for Rodent Understanding and Integration with a lot of off-site planning meetings, a few working lunches and a fact-finding trip or two.

I just might need to write up a proposal.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In the Zone

Last night.

Child 1: Wow, Mom! You got in three nags and you didn't even have to take a breath!

Right, I dominate the regionals, I think I'm ready for nationals now, don't you?

Friday, February 08, 2008


I didn't vote on Tuesday.

Not that I don't have an opinion. I have multiple opinions, and in places other than my blog (say, to my long-suffering children - and sometimes their innocent and bewildered friends) I express them fully, at length even, with historical anecdotes and little Venn diagrams and everything.

But I didn't vote.

I can't, see, because I'm a registered Independent. Kirk and I made that choice together about.... wow.... long time ago now because of a lot of complicated feelings about the electoral process, about our two party system, about party politics in general.

We chose it after a lot of thought and a lot of discussion and every four years I revisit all of it and ask myself if I still believe it enough to give up the chance to have a say in the primaries.

And I do. I still do.

I didn't vote on Tuesday because I couldn't. But as soon as I can?

You'd better believe I'll be there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

They Aren't For Sale [Today]

I have the best Children in the world.

No, honestly, they are, and even the most devoted mother of Prayshuss Little Twirly Princess or Darling Mister Mini Man will have to step away from the scrapbook glue long enough to hand me the award on this one.

You see, we have new furniture. It didn't take much really to get it in the end, just several months of minor budget scrimping (you know, reducing the kids down to two meals a day instead of three, backing off the imported pate on Thursdays and regrettably reducing the Norwegian Lawn Boy's hours by two) and a fairly miraculous clearance sale find. So Thursday the fine Fed Ex man cracked three jokes, called me Ma'am AND My Lady and dropped a ginormous box containing one square black ottoman off on my doorstep.

The next day he returned, cracked exactly the same three jokes (which made me feel a leeetle less special), called me Miss and gave me two more ginormous boxes which coyly hinted at their contents by being remarkably chair shaped.

The children were mildly interested and willing to express approval of my choices (Ha! Like they have any say in things....) but Children 1 and 3 didn't really perk up until I mentioned that we were going to be getting rid of the Bane Of My Life Couch - the one with the broken arm (thanks Child 3!) and the horrid stain (thanks unknown Child so all blame is shared out equally!) and the un-fitted drop cover that needed twitching after anyone so much as looked at it. No one will want this couch - it's that horrible. I don't think we could even hope to pass it off on some hapless college boy looking to outfit his first apartment with a mattress found on the side of the freeway and a set of vinyl covered folding chairs stolen from a local Moose Club. So there are two options - call for a large-item pick up which could take ages, or set the Children free on the thing and reduce it to a whimpering pile of shredded upholstery. Guess which one they want! Just guess! Child 3 cannot imagine why I refuse to let them at it until I have a reasonable way of disposing of the remains.

ANYWAY - the point was about my marvelous Children.

Since we now have TWO chairs I actually like AND an ottoman it meant that Saturday became redecorate day. Now, I solemnly pinky swear that this is absolute truth. On Saturday my Children:

1. Happily moved couches, chairs and tables around in what felt like an endless working of one of those slidy square picture puzzles I hated as a kid.

2. Collected and moved the contents of a table-cum-bookshelf, including a large collection of fascinating but very heavy National Geographics.

3. Dusted as each surface cleared - without prompting.

4. Swept and swiped at counters while I vacuumed.

5. Pounded nails and re-hung pictures.

6. Willingly came and stood with heads to one side or another to give opinions on art arrangement.

7. Stood around with me and listened while I mentioned again how much I liked the new furniture and how horrible it was before and how much better it is now and...

8. Accepted without argument that they MIGHT be allowed to sit... well... near the new stuff but There Shall Be No Food Nor Shall There Be Drink Nor Shall There Be Excessive Breathing.

9. Did all of this without a single word of complain or even a theatrical eye roll.

And... and this is the trump card people...

After all of that when I was sort of flollopped on the remaining old couch and admiring our hard work Child 2 quietly began rubbing my neck, Child 3 immediately began giving me a foot massage and Child 1 out of desperation for SOMETHING left in need of pampering brought out its own Christmas lotion and worked on my hands.

Yes, yes I think I shall allow them to live. At least this week.