Saturday, February 28, 2009

let it snow



The kids fell asleep with visions of snowmen dancing in their heads. The poor kids have only seen snow a couple of times (better than many of their friends however) and really, really want to play in it. My experience with snow is that I hate to be cold and being cold and wet at the same time is even less enticing. But since no one has to go anywhere tomorrow, if it's gonna snow... let it snow. I wonder if either boy has a pair of boots that fit....

Thursday, February 26, 2009

tissue time

Cough. Snuffle. Cough. Allergies or virus? Virus or allergies?

I vote for the allergies and send them both to school. They tell me everyone in the class is coughing. The pollen count is already up there with trees starting to bloom. Must be allergies. I pull out some antihistamines and start dosing them both at bedtime. No clear improvement. Maybe it'll take a few days. Bug coughs during the night and is tired the next morning. A call to the pharmacy to check on drug interactions and then I pour out the cough syrup. Moderate improvement on the cough. But now noses are sore. C'mon guys, it's just an allergy. You'll be fine. Cough. Snuffle. Cough.

I wake up in the night coughing. By morning I have a sore throat from a runny nose. Cough. Snuffle. Cough. I hate being sick.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

cold ball

It must be baseball season, because there are cars parked up and down my street. But it can't be baseball season, because it is 47°. However, it is baseball season.

I loaded up the layers. A fleece under my coat, silk long underwear under my jeans. The bleachers are metal and my tush is always cold anyway (more than you wanted to know about me, sorry). Bug, one of the t-ball Owlz, had on a microfiber long shirt, a turtleneck and a baseball t-shirt. I packed a sweatshirt too, which he later needed. Pook, the bored audience member, added a sweatshirt and a winter coat. None of us brought mittens, not that Bug could have practiced ball with them on, but all of us had freezing fingers. And ears. Bug complained about cold ears. By the time we got home it was 37°. We gratefully sat down to a meal of 16 bean soup, simmering in the crock pot. Tomorrow is Pook's first practice as a Sand Gnat and we'll probably look like we're ready for arctic exploration.

I know some of you are living in cold climes. Many of you. But we're weenies down here and we don't do cold very well. Baseball is a spring sport and none of you northern folks have started your seasons yet. Hockey is at least indoors! Seeing the sunscreen in the bottom of the Kids Sports Bag improved my mood somewhat. By the end of baseball season we'll be sweating and sunburning while we're at the ballpark. Right now, it sounds great.

Monday, February 23, 2009

beware of birthday parties

Watch out! It must be birthday party season around here. Each kid has been invited to two. Not only am I scouring the shelves at Target looking for deals, but I'm also having to get out my glasses to read the birthday party... waivers.

We had a short, postcard sized one about a bouncy place. Ok, got that covered. The next one was similar. Again, I'm ok with anything ice and bandages can probably fix. Then came the rock climbing party. It arrived with a two page, small typed "Waiver of Liability; Indemnification Agreement and Covenant Not To Sue".

Much, much later, I read, "I, the undersigned user, agree to release and, on behalf of myself, my heirs, representatives, executors, administrators and assigns, HEREBY DO RELEASE xxx, its owners, shareholders, officers, directors, employees and agents...including but not limited to the negligence of xxx.... including, but not limited to death or paralysis..." If I'm ok with this, then my kid can go celebrate his buddy's birthday.

Now, to be perfectly honest, it is pretty unlikely that Pook will even attempt to climb a rock wall higher than five feet. But he might. And so if I'm going to allow him to celebrate one of his best friends' birthdays, I have to acknowledge that they probably have good lawyers writing up that long, long Waiver of Liability; Indemnification Agreement and Covenant Not To Sue, and I really have to agree to be responsible myself.

What happened to good old running around in a back yard until someone fell and scraped a knee, and then eating cake?

Friday, February 20, 2009

free samples

February in Atlanta is my most hated and most loved month. It can be cold and our best chance for snow is early February meaning that usually we have cold rainy days this time of year. We had 17° temps with a windchill of 1° at the start of February this year. But, just as the Midwesterner in me starts to feel hopeless about winter and convinced that the sun may never return, and I begin to think I should get treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, then Atlanta starts giving us free samples of spring. Really- it hit 71° and stayed near there for several days just a week later and other than the tornado day, we've had some good warm days. Waking up to 26° this morning, I have trouble believing that I opened the windows to hear the birds just a few days ago.

It will get warm again soon and then it will surely freeze again. Our last frost date is not until April 10. The flower buds on my neighbor's cherry tree have frozen and turned brown since their January bloom. (But they still look great on my desktop!) You'd think the plants would be used to this treatment and they'd hold back just to be sure. But no. They take their chances and they bloom. Optimists. The chipmunks must have talked to the groundhog up north because they're out and dashing to pick up sunflowers the sloppy birds have dropped before the squirrels get them all. Our southern groundhog predicted more cold.

I once hand carried a just-bloomed daffodil on a plane and through Canadian customs so I could share it with a friend's mom when I visited for his wedding. Daffodils may be my favorite bloom, coming so early and so loudly. There are other blooms around here already- winter daphne, quince, forsythia. But none of them bring as much attention to themselves as does one bright yellow daffodil. Which is why I like to see this when I look in my front yard:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

just not good

I ran over Bug's new bike. The one he got two weeks ago for his birthday. The one he'd needed badly because his old bike was so small for him. The one he could have parked in the driveway, in the yard, or- put away in the garage. The one he left directly behind my car. The frame is bent. There is no chance of repairing it.

ole scruffy face

I'm actually encouraging CD not to shave. He didn't shave for three days over the camping weekend, and since he's blond, it took that long to actually notice it from a distance. When I realized that was the longest he'd ever gone without shaving, I suggested he wait a little longer "just to see".

He's never done this before so he's curious too. After I see how he looks with a bit of a beard and satisfy my curiosity, I'm assuming he will shave it all off so that he can kiss me again. Curiosity can only go so far.

I like beards in general. On some men I like them a lot and it adds considerably to their face. I have a couple of friends who change their beard status so regularly I can never remember if they have one or not but I think most of them look best with a beard of some size. The soul patch trend is not appealing. I think it looks like a guy has a gerbil on his chin and can be very distracting.

I'll be sure to get a photo of him for all of you who are mind-boggled at this idea. We have a family website you can check in to see anytime. If you need the website, just let me know.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

yes, ma'am

I live in The South. When I first started working down here, at an elementary school, I was amazed at the good manners I encountered. A group of children would stop in their tracks to let me pass. Children always let grown-ups go first. All adults went by a title with their name. Kids answered every teacher, "yes, ma'am."

I got used to the manners and stopped appreciating them. I didn't see any reason to refer to adults as Mrs. Lastname or expect to have my kids say "yes, ma'am" to me. But I'm coming to regret that decision.

When Pook was little, all the moms and teachers went by Miss Firstname and when I mentioned them to CD or to him, I usually skipped the Miss portion. He then became familiar with the first names of all the neighborhood moms. Suddenly, at age three, all the rules changed and teachers became Mrs. Lastname. Neighbors referred to me as Mrs. My-mother-in-law! And, all the kids started yes ma'aming. Not being used to it myself, I continued as I had and taught Bug the same as I'd taught Pook. Usually I remember to add "Miss" to the first name, but not always. Most of the time I'm lucky to remember someone's first name and having to remember both that and their last name is a serious challenge I'm unlikely to achieve.

Now my kids look rude. I know they're good kids, but they're good Yankee kids without being Yankees. Just Sons of Yankees. At our weekend camping, I listened to my friends' children responding to their parents "yes, sir", "yes, ma'am". Mine answered "uh huh" or "yeah" if anything. I think I need to introduce better Southern manners before it gets too late.

At the dinner table tonight, Bug kept sliding down in his chair and putting his knees against the table. Again and again I'd ask him to sit up. "Nuh uh" or "But mama" or "I don'wanna" were my answers. I hardly want robots, but a "yes, ma'am" would go far.

Monday, February 16, 2009

go play

Go outdoors and play. The ultimate torture apparently.

I hate that feeling I get when I have a fun day planned for my kids and behaviors are so bad, so early in the day, that I can't figure out a way to justify doing the fun activities since they seem to be rewards for the misconduct. Bug has a birthday Lego gift he wants to exchange and Pook has a bookstore gift card he wants to use. Presidents' Day seemed like a great day for both. After the first squabble this morning that led to hitting, I told them both that they needed to earn the errands and I didn't want to see any more hurting. They wisely moved on to other, separate activities. After a while of calm, I read a few chapters to them from their book (Pippi Longstocking) and thought all was well. I asked them to get dressed while I showered so we could go start our errands. I don't know what started it, but I was soon hearing screams and I got to witness punches and kicks involving both parties. As far as I was concerned, that was it. I couldn't figure out a way to not make my threat count.

As I showered and meditated and tried to calm myself (door locked so I wouldn't have to be subjected to the whining and crying going on outside the room) I tried to decide how to keep the day from being a total disaster. After all, we had about ten hours left. I was just about as disappointed in the consequence imposed as they were. I just cried less. All I could picture was ten hours of misery. I knew I needed to try to keep them busy- maybe in the backyard for a while, then the front yard with a ball game, then maybe a walk or bike ride. And I left messages with no less than four families with little kids who might have been free to join us to bike or play. Then I calmly (really, truly) asked them to put on their shoes and to go into the backyard. To play.

Oh how they lost it: "You can't make me!" "You're the meanest poopyhead mama ever!" I tried to hide my smile and continued helping with the sock and shoes. I closed the door behind them and went upstairs to dry my hair. I could see them from my window. Pook was determined that He Would Have No Fun and was sitting at the picnic table. I came back down and started a load of laundry, again in the line of vision. They tried sneaking into the house. They pounded on the doors. They screamed loud enough to alert neighbors. They said they were going to call Daddy to tell on me. And I maintained my calm and offered suggestions of toys and games that might be Fun.

I am so mean.

Friday, February 13, 2009

how much is too much

How many pieces of Valentine's candy can you have before you look like a pig or get a tummy ache? That's how many you can have. Bug answered "three" to that question and showed me his choices to see if I approved. Pook decided to wait and see after his first slow-to-consume choice. He ended at three too. We usually dole out the candy slowly after the initial holiday gorge, but this worked well. We're going to a State Park with several families for the long weekend and I may suggest that they bring it and finish it off/share it to get it over with quickly.

I've been experimenting with Bug and allowing him to pick his own punishment for some behaviors. I've made suggestions to help him along, but it has seemed to work well. Once he's calm, I've told him he'll need to choose a consequence for himself. If he doesn't choose, I get to choose for him. He spit at Pook yesterday, chose to lose his dessert, and didn't pitch a fit or even need reminding after dinner. (Maybe I'm going to like having a five-year-old!)

Pook voluntarily took a nap the other afternoon. He'd woken up out of sorts, picked fights with us before and after school, and when I told Bug to go rest with music or books, Pook decided I meant him too. It was strange to get an "oh, ok" to something I didn't actually ask, but would have if I'd thought of it. The weekend of camping (in cabins) will wear them both out. I'm sure the other kids stay up later than mine do, and there'll be no chance to nap. We'll see if self discipline kicks in or if Mean Mama will have to drag them from the fun to get some rest before meltdown time.

And, Happy Friday the Thirteenth to everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

r is for run

Our weather yesterday consisted of many thunderstorm and tornado watches, although hardly any rain. The kids overhear this stuff and get scared, so I explained to them the difference between watches and warnings. My friend, K, taught me to remember them by the letters. The T in waTch stands for Think. The weathermen Think this is tornado/thunderstorm weather. The R in waRning stands for Run. Run to a dry/safe place if they say there is a warning.

We headed out to dinner at our church during a Tornado watch. When they mentioned it on the radio the kids remembered the lesson. We admired the bright sun reflecting on high clouds partly obscured by other, lower, gray storm clouds.

We'd just finished eating when the church secretary came in and announced that they'd just declared our area to be a Tornado Warning. Everyone to the basement. As we gathered our kids I scanned their faces to see if they were scared. Pook was calm, Bug seemed to be waiting for my reaction. We waited it out in a crowded room while the kids played a game one later labeled "The Loud Game". Finally we were dismissed. (Fifteen minutes can take a long time when you're in a small room with ten kids playing The Loud Game.)

On the positive side, as we exited to the parking lot in the high winds, CD told me that I looked glamorous with my hair blowing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

socks and broth

"I don't have any socks left!"
"We don't have any chicken broth."
"We're out of tape."
"My prescription is gone."

Come on, family, join me in some... (oh horrors, prepare yourselves for the following word!) planning.

Let's try these sentences instead:
"This is my last pair of clean socks."
"This is the only can of x in the pantry."
"I'm using up the tape."
"I'll need my prescription filled this week."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A spring sprung this morning (a post on the weather later) and our metal garage door buckled. Two cars trapped inside. Just what we wanted today! The repair company has a 24hr emergency service just for such emergencies, so I called. Amazingly, they said they'd be out between 8:20 and 8:30 am. I sent Pook to school with his carpool buddies, no problem. (One!) CD got a ride to work with his carpool buddy. (Two!) I left a message with Bug's carpool buddy to see if they could drive and took a quick shower. Bug wanted to play. I was too anxious about the uncertain schedule for the day and I was a lousy playmate. He made a tent of blankets in the den. He took a "camping bath" in a hamper. He refused to eat the pretend marshmallows for his camping breakfast that I proposed he eat. (They weren't healthy. He settled on pretend French toast, bacon and juice. This from the mom who eats chocolate at 9am when she's stressed.) Finally, when I was ten minutes late to pick up the carpool buddy, his parents called me. They came and got Bug and set him on his way. (Three!) Hooray for carpooling!

And then I waited. (This comes as no surprise to anyone, does it?) The kid (I swear, he wasn't shaving yet) showed up only an hour and a half late. First comment: "Ooh. Not good." He looked around, he poked and tugged. He finally came to the door and offered two options. We could pay to replace the spring and make a wish on the door, probably having to replace it, or we could just replace it. Estimate: $284 for the spring, ~$1200 for a new door. Oh crap. (mantra: we are stimulating the economy, we are stimulating the economy....) "Um, also, the strain of the broken door cracked the motor. It was a really cheap plastic motor; I'd never have sold it."

The new door and the new motor for the door will be installed sometime tomorrow. They'll call to set up a time. Because I have nothing better to do than wait. But, the cars have been set free and they are happy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


silly: dogs having meals in a hotel
sillier: anything spoken by Bug to two four-year-old girls and one four-year-old boy from his class

good line: "Who did let the dogs out?"
best line: "underwear" said repeatedly with no context while driving in my car to the movie

good invention: stationary car windows for the dogs with a movie of the road for them to watch and a fan to blow their ears
great invention: a candy/popcorn/drink combo that is unlikely to spill

annoying: cold movie theaters
more annoying: four children needing five trips to the bathroom during the movie, making me miss the last five minutes of the movie (At least CD had to take three of the trips!)

cute: the movie "Hotel for Dogs" seen for Bug's fifth birthday
cuter: four pairs of four-year-old legs dangling off the edge of the seats in the theater

Friday, February 6, 2009

what's for dinner?

People are amazed that I cook almost every day. I try to feed my family healthy stuff and I enjoy cooking, but I really don't spend much time doing it. We usually have only an entree and a green salad. Most dinners are prepared in about 30 minutes, start to finish. However, rather than Rachel Ray, I'd rather be like Michael Pollan. CD and I both dislike repeating meals very often, so our repertoire is huge. We printed out a list of menus which filled two typed pages, but we're still bored with most of them and always searching for new ideas. I beg my family for help menu planning and I go to the grocery only once a week unless we have a dire emergency. We eat as seasonally and as locally as we can afford. That translates to: I buy local organic produce when my farmer's market is in season and I buy bargains and Kroger brands most of the time for the rest. I'm trying to decrease the amount of meat we consume, but I'm not sure I've made any progress.

For a sample, here was our planned dinner menu for last week:

Mon: ham and baked sweet potatoes, sauteed kale
Tue: BBQ brisket in crock pot, leftover mashed potatoes from last week, green salad
Wed: eat at church
Thurs: chicken lasagna, green salad
Fri: meatloaf and roasted parsnips and onions, steamed peapods
Sat: homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, green salad
Sun: no plans

Here is what we actually ate last week:

Mon: ham and baked sweet potatoes, green salad. (I forgot about the kale)
Tue: BBQ brisket in crock pot, leftover mashed potatoes, green salad
Wed: They had a great variety of soups at church. I had a southwestern soup I'd enjoy making sometime if I could reconstruct it.
Thurs: take-out Mexican (I had a terrible headache all day and couldn't kick it. I froze the leftover chicken I'd planned to use.)
Fri: meatloaf and roasted potatoes and turnips, steamed peapods. (I think I was supposed to have put the parsnips and onions on the grocery list and never did. We had a sad, sad turnip in the fridge, so I added it to the potatoes. )
Sat: homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, sauteed kale (since it needed to be used still)
Sun: oven fried chicken drumsticks and green salad eaten in front of the Super Bowl

We almost always eat in our dining room because (1) I hate to see the messy kitchen while I'm eating and (2) it was a habit from my own childhood and (3) I somehow think that sitting together in the dining room will make my boys more civilized. We also light a candle on the table because, again, it is habit and also because I just like candles. We don't say a blessing however and I'm trying to change that. Just spending a moment saying something nice might rub off on my kids who are going through some less-than-pleasant sibling-relationship-issues right now. I've tried Mir's idea of sharing compliments at the table and I like the idea.

We've made mealtimes a big priority here and other things get compromised instead. When baseball season hits our mealtimes become more lax, but I still cook almost every night. I'll try to throw a week's menu up here again come May when life is crazy.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


My friend vb and I work out at the YMCA pretty regularly usually. We got a bit off schedule around the holidays and I've missed some days because of my sore foot. I thought I'd worked out a bit more than this, but the Y keeps me honest:

Progress Report for January 2009

Now, to defend myself, I have been over there for yoga classes. I've moved to an easier beginner/intermediate class once a week plus "Old Folks Yoga" whenever I can get to it. But as far as cardio exercise or weigh training, well, uh, yeah, not a single African Elephant.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

strawberry fields

I must admit that the melamine scare bothered me. So in the middle of the peanut butter scare (which doesn't bother us since we don't eat it) the mercury in High Fructose Corn Syrup caught my attention. I avoid HFCS despite their claims of health (1, 2) but it sneaks in as ketchup, salad dressing and fruit cereal bars. (I, too, used to figure that if ice cream came from cows and cows ate grass then ice cream was a vegetable, but then I learned more about math.)

The list of products seems to include many strawberry and fruit items. This is why, when Bug asked for a strawberry cake for his birthday, I paused. I'm sure I'm over-reacting, but I'm just not interested in buying a cake mix right now. When I looked online for a recipe they all called for Jell-O. Also not interested. This is why I am now baking a cake that calls for, yes, strawberries. I've just put it in the oven and the batter was very very thick, so I'm a bit worried about texture. But not taste.

Here is the recipe. I didn't decorate it like a bike wheel, but instead with cream cheese frosting (strawberry glaze between layers) with extra unsweetened strawberry goo on each slice. It turned out fine, although the cake did seem too dense. The extra berries on top of each slice were great to balance the sweetness of the cream cheese frosting.

Know how much tall I weigh?! 46 1/2!

Monday, February 2, 2009

cheap or practical?

Tomorrow is Bug's 5th birthday. He wants to take a cookie-cake to school for his birthday snack. He'll be line leader and wear a crown and pass out snack. This is big stuff in preschool. I went to Kroger and looked at the cookies, picking out one with minimal frosting and orange details. Then I saw a couple on a different table with footballs drawn on them, but no team names. $4! I deliberated briefly. Would my child think I'm cheap? Answer: he'd have no idea. Would his teacher think I'm cheap? Answer: possibly, but she'd probably laugh. Did I care? Answer: no. I had them add his name at the top, above the football, and ta-da! half-price birthday. I think one year Pook had a Mother's Day cookie for his birthday at school. I just can't resist a bargain.

For his gift tomorrow he's getting a bigger bike (and I'm making a bike wheel cake, pic to follow). His 10" wheels are just too tiny for him. We've also got a neat CD/book combo about the symphony. The year Pook got a bike he also got scissors (age 3) and guess which was the bigger hit? He told everybody he saw all about the scissors. Hopefully the weather will be ok tomorrow for bike riding, otherwise the music may end up being the more useful gift.

Hard to believe my baby will be five.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

super something

My neighbor is having a Super Bowl party tonight. I know this because when I remarked that she must be having some sort of major repair done since I'd seen a pick-up in her driveway with a logo on the side and it was a Sunday, CD took a closer look and told me it was (yes, I'm serious) a Margarita Delivery Service Truck. Well, if you're going to be needing some serious margaritas, perhaps this is necessary. I wasn't invited, so I will never know, but I have experienced some serious margarita needs before.

The kids wanted to see the game. Preschool water cooler stuff I guess. Then Bug insisted on putting on his football costume (Tennessee Titans, thank you cousin from TN) and going out with CD to play "Super Bowl". They played until CD worried about his back. Meanwhile I started some oven-fried chicken and put a vinyl tablecloth under the coffee table so my messy boys could eat in the den despite new carpet.

I made them take an oath before it started. "I promise" (I promise) "that no matter how cool the commercial, I will not ask you to buy me anything." They agreed to not ask for a new car. Then the game began and Bug asked at least sixteen times which team was which. CD's brother-in-law, living on the other side of the globe from us, is a huge Pittsburgh fan, so he decided our loyalties.

"What happened?" Bug then asked every time play stopped briefly. I tried to explain about four downs, touchdowns, yards and tackles. CD didn't laugh, but he showed great restraint. I know virtually nothing about football. I failed football in junior high school PE when one of my two attempts at passes dropped behind me (and I made a touchdown for the wrong team. Truly.) I went to the Peachbowl in Atlanta once, with a boyfriend who had played football, and he explained every play as it happened. It was the first and only time that I felt that my brain had room in it for football. Before then and since then I've just assumed football was a Y chromosome thing.

I won't let the boys play because they might just like it and I'm not ready for the brutality of it. "When grown-ups play it's tackle football but when kids play it's touch football?" Uh, no. The kids down the street are playing tackle after the age 5/6 league. But on TV, I'll call it a good experience in American culture and that's fine. Me, I'm wanting a margarita.