Monday, January 31, 2011

the accidental shoplifter

Pook decided that he wanted to get a Webkinz for Bug's upcoming birthday.  The ones he has are expiring.  (insert grumbles here)  We've intended to get out to go shopping alone, but it just hasn't happened and we're running out of time. Having not gotten it done this weekend (yard work Saturday, trip to the zoo Sunday, both in spring-like weather) there was no easy opportunity left.  We could let Bug know what we were doing and ask my parents to babysit, but that would take more time, interrupt homework a bit more, and be less fun. 

I told him I'd run a few errands this morning and find a source so we would only have one store to go to at least, and if necessary, I could tell him the choices and return to the store myself to make the purchase while they were at school. I stopped to pick up a prescription for CD.  Since there were two cars in line at the drive-up window, I parked to go inside.  After picking up the eye drops, I browsed the toy aisle and found just what we needed- the smaller version of Webkinz that Pook could more easily afford, in about a dozen choices.  The problem of when to purchase it was still an issue.

Later in the day I decided that tonight was a good night for a steaming hot baked potato.  The warm weather wasn't completely gone, but it was supplemented all day by rain and felt chillier than the thermometer implied.  We had no potatoes around, and my thoughts of going to pick some up coincided with my need to get back to the drug store right next door to the grocery.  I'd take the boys with me after school and somehow get Pook an opportunity to shop alone.  We'd split up and he'd go get the gift while Bug and I got foodstuffs.  Now, how?

Not having any cash myself, I got his wallet. Just in case we couldn't talk privately, I wrote him a note.  "Go to CVS. Webkinz are in the back by other toys on the bottom shelf." I shoved note and wallet into a tote bag that could conceal the gift. My hope was that Bug would come out to carpool considerably slower than Pook. 

Nope.  Bug came to the car first and there was no chance to talk to Pook.  I told them we were going to the grocery and drug store.  When we parked I suggested that we split up.  I managed to give Pook a wink and show him the note.  He seemed excited to attempt this plan.  But then I confused things.  I wanted to distract Bug, so I told Pook to "get Daddy's eye drops. When you tell them his name they'll be able to give them to you."  At the time I was thinking that a bit of detail was important. In fact, Bug was paying no attention and it wouldn't have mattered what I said as long as I avoided the words "birthday" and "Webkinz".

Just as Bug and I came toward the front of the store, Pook appeared.  I peeked in his tote bag and saw brown fur.  Success!  "Did it go ok?" I winked at him.  "Well, they said I needed a note from you to get the eye drops."  Ooops.  He didn't seem terribly flustered by the error, so I sent Bug to find us an open register and quickly explained to Pook that there was no need for eye drops.  He started to run off anyway.  "Don't worry about going back.  They won't care if you never explain the confusion." 

And then he dropped the bomb, "But I haven't paid for the present yet."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I owned a stack of books when Pook was born; I had been a preschool teacher.  But instead of putting all the books out on his bookshelves at once, I introduced a new book about once a week.  He'd get a new book and we'd read it to death for a week.  He knew it inside and out and loved each book separately.  He knew which books had been given to him as gifts and he (and I) had memories of the introduction of each one.

With Bug, I simply shifted all the picture books from Pook's shelf to his.  Pook still read them some, so I couldn't pack them up. (I used to pay Pook 5c to read a board book aloud to Bug!)  Instead Bug has always had a full bookshelf and all the books have been equals to him.  My favorites are not his.  I don't know if he has any favorite picture books.

My purging has moved on to books.   Last summer I ruthlessly emptied the house of board books.  It was a bit sad, but they have not been missed.  (And I've saved the good ones anyway.)  It made space for the early readers that Bug was starting to use.

But now Bug is well into chapter books.  We still read picture books but we don't need them.  I just removed a pile which I put in storage, but left accessible.  Then I brought a dozen downstairs.  I will try a new idea.  When they come home from school, I will read a picture book to them both, for old time's sake, and then we will pack it up to put it away.  One book at a time (for the next 4000 days).

I hate to push them to grow up too fast.  I want the happy balance between getting big kid stuff and keeping little kid stuff.  I also want it all to fit on the shelves, which it does not.

Our other book problem is ownership. As Pook got older, he sometimes used his own money on books.  I know he saved for a long time to buy hardback copies of a few.  So, should these now go to Bug?  I can't keep up with who owns what book.  I don't want fights over who is allowed to own which.  I know Pook is attached to books he paid good money to buy, and someday when he's older he should have the right to sell them or keep them.  But for now, Bug needs to read them.

Bug is overwhelmed right now by the number of books which we own at his reading level.  He can read most any simple chapter book and wants to devour them all.  I want to hand out the books slowly so he can enjoy them one at a time.  Removing Pook's books from the shelves so that I can slowly give them to Bug seems unfair, but it may be what needs to be done.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

up, up, and away

I'm in a cleaning mode still.  A New Year's purging of Stuff mode.

I dug all sorts of random things out of the playroom closet one day and threw it all in the garage trash can while the kids were out.  I repeated the effort with the "invention table".  I discretely purged some scrappy Christmas decorations.  They didn't notice any of it.

Then I asked the kids to help me sort through some toys in the playroom and in the den.  "But we use that".  (Uh, you played with that in 2009 and I haven't seen it since.)  "We can't get rid of that!"  Oh, my sentimental offspring.

I tried to spin it differently.  We'll share some of our little kid toys with little kids who don't have many of their own!  No go.  I explained that when they were little I put away items that were too babyish, but now they were old enough to do it themselves.  I explained that a "hoarder" is someone who never gets rid of anything.

And then I started to do it myself again, while they were out.  Some of the toys I put in the storage room to see if they really do want to play with them again.   Maybe I'll even tuck a note with the date so I can see how long they go without missing them before I toss them out.

If we're honest around here, the only toys my kids use are Legos.  I don't want to part with some things because I hope they'll use them.  I like the train track that Pook used so much before Destructo Baby Bug was born.  But it seldom gets used unless a friend pulls it all out. I love that Kinnex has a motor and a way to hook to Lego.  But no one bothers.  I like the matchbox racetracks.  They say they play with it all and I want to give them a chance to do it.

I tried a different idea.  The playroom is only a bit bigger than the "bouncy bed" (a queen sized mattress for just that purpose.  It saved my furniture from Destructo Baby.  And yes, we did call him that.)  Maybe it is time to get rid of the bouncy bed.

Oh my.  They freaked out at that idea.  Not gonna happen.

The playroom remains largely unaltered.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

happy pig, happy cow, happy us

We've had our Happy Cow in the freezer for two months now, but haven't used much of it besides the ground beef.  Now I have some Happy Pig in there too, and Happy Farmer has asked for some feedback on the quality of the Happy Meat.

I have a long list of recipes I make, and most of them use chicken pieces, pork chops or ground beef.  We toss a steak on the grill in the summer sometimes and I put a chuck-o-beef in the crock pot for stew or BBQ now and then.  But my cooking habits aren't in line with my Happy Freezer contents.

CD and I went out in the cold morning to check out the contents of our freezer and make a list so we can Google recipes.  I've got a few plans now. 

For our first pork recipe we decided to keep it simple so we can really taste the meat.  Salt and pepper pan fried chops with Cinnamon Rice Pilaf.  This goes well with pork but could be made with anything.  It originally called for linguine broken in 1/2" pieces.  Ha!  That was so hard on the fingertips if I hadn't had the idea to use orzo it would never have been made again.  Now, simple and good:

Cinnamon Rice Pilaf
2 shallots or 1 small onion
1 c. uncooked rice (of the cook ~20 minutes variety)
2 oz. uncooked orzo (or more orzo and less rice, however you like)
3 T. oil or butter
14 oz. chicken broth
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. cinnamon

In oven proof skillet, saute onion until opaque.  Add rice and pasta and cook,stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
Add broth, salt and cinnamon.
Bake, covered, at 350° for 25 minutes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

pop, twist, stomp

I had my just-a-bit-late birthday with CD and the kids.  We ate homemade caramels that they all think were a birthday gift from my parents but really I've been nibbling on since before Christmas.  (I didn't exactly plan to keep them a secret, but dang they're good.)  Among other lovely gifts was a gift from Bug, who was grinning ear to ear with excitement.  It was a sheet of My Very Own Bubble Wrap.

He had apparently had the idea for weeks and couldn't wait to give it to me.  I think I'm allowed to decide how to pop it any way I choose, but actually both boys have helped out already. 

I was always a one-bubble-at-a-time popper until Pook introduced me to the twist-the-plastic-and-it-sounds-like-fireworks method.  Once the boys had a chance to jump on some, outdoors.  That was pretty good too.  But deep down I'm still a one-bubble-at-a-time popper.

Why did he decide to give me bubble wrap for my birthday?  I don't know.  I haven't asked.  Maybe in a few days.  I don't want to pop his bubble by implying that I think it was an "interesting" gift.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

new desktop

It was time to choose a new desktop for the computer monitor.  For the past few months I've had a picture I took last February:

Instead, I found a picture to give me something to dream about.  Again, from my own files, I've put this up:

I will have my hands in the dirt.  I will uncover new sprouts from under piles of leaf mulch.  I will notice a tender bud on the Lenten Roses.  I will plant a new dogwood tree.  I will feel warm sun on my face. 

The day will come. And if I've learned anything from living in Atlanta, it will come sooner than I can believe.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Atlanta is a mess.  I can now say that with certainty.

You see, yesterday was my birthday.   (Thank you.)  Having been cooped up in our house all week, I assumed we were postponing my celebration for better weather.  The kids and CD had not "finished with" my present/s-- I knew that since Bug isn't the best yet at keeping secrets (although I don't know what the gift/s is/are which is really the important part) and while my mom had invited us for dinner and cake, getting to their house seemed impractical.  Next week was fine.  (Somehow after a few decades the actual date becomes unimportant.  Pook, on the other hand, wants us to celebrate CD's half birthday on the 16th.)

CD had gone into work Thursday afternoon.  Some roads were in the sun and drying.  My father reported the worst road by his house to have been cleared.  We decided to change our postponement, and head over for dinner.  Now, call me a pessimist, but under the circumstances I say pragmatist.  I packed pj's, clean underwear and toothbrushes for each of us. I grabbed Teddy and Pookie Bear.  Just before walking out the door, I turned off all lights, including the fishtank.  It wasn't that I wanted to spend the night there, but just in case.  Plus, if we had to walk a long way, maybe the extra layers would keep us warm.  I don't know exactly why I did it, it probably has something to do with being told to keep a blanket and a granola bar in the car when I was a teen driving in the winter.

My parents live about 2 1/2 miles from us, the direct route.  The roads we chose to take were a bit further, but bigger roads and hopefully more clear.  We left at 5:20 and started with the worst hill.  Slow.  Like rush-hour-on-ice-slow (a new descriptor I hope to never use again).  We took half an hour to go the first mile.  If you are moving a reasonable 15-20 mph and you see an icy patch, you simply coast through it until you feel traction again.  If you are moving one car length at a time, and crawling along stopped more than moving, and then you find yourself on an icy patch.... your wheels spin.  And the car in front of you, and the car in front of that car all have wheels spinning and someone skids sideways and....  It is not a pretty experience.

We discussed turning back.  In fact, just at the point where we might have successfully turned back, we discussed turning back.  And we didn't.  A mere few car lengths later we realized it was too late.  Heading home the way we'd come was now no longer a steep wet road, it was a steep road covered in black ice.  Night was coming quickly and all the wet pavement was freezing.

We arrived at their home after an hour of agonizing driving.  We were greeted with wine/beer and after a while we actually relaxed.  (And ate scallops, risotto, green beans and salad, plus angel food birthday cake with peaches, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.)  But CD and I knew at that can-no-longer-turn-back moment, that it was also a cannot-go-home-tonight moment.  We were stuck overnight.

(Clearly there are worse places to be stuck overnight.  We had warm beds and hot oatmeal for breakfast.  We even had clean underwear in the morning!)

*****     *****     *****
Now we are home and I have sent the boys outside to slip and slide on the ice.  The ice is so thick they can walk on top of the 5" of snow without breaking through.  I gave them opened Lego boxes to use for sleds.  They are throwing hunks of ice at each other.  We'll see how this ends. At least now I have milk for hot chocolate.

*****     *****     *****
As my friend Harriet says, " I have it on good authority (i.e., random blogs by people I don’t know) that today is national delurking day, an annual event in which blog authors like myself encourage readers to introduce themselves, all friendly-like. I myself am a veteran lurker and completely understand the impulse to read and not get involved. But at the same time, I love to know who’s reading. So if you are so inclined, say hello and let me know how you got here."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the charm has worn off

Schools were just canceled for Thursday.  That means that since the holidays we've had four days in session and four days called off.  If they don't go in on Friday this will roll into the MLK holiday.  I am greatly concerned for the sanity of all the parents education of the children in this city.
So, you ask, why does Atlanta shut down when it gets a few inches of snow?  Well, the answer is that we don't.  Meaning, we don't shut down for snow.  We shut down for ice.  Because of our latitude, we often get sleet, freezing rain or wet snow in the first place.  But if the circumstances are just right and we do get snow, the snow doesn't get plowed (because our 271 sq.mi. county owns only two plows). The temps go up slightly during the day, the snow turns to slush, then it freezes again overnight, making the second day worse than the first.  In this case, we actually had sleet during the day on Monday after the Sunday night snow.  (My boys measured it at 5 1/2".)  The forecast indicates a thaw on Saturday.  The charm has worn off.
Day One:   I saw that our county had canceled Monday's school before I went to bed Sunday.  I whispered to Pook, who had stirred a bit as I'd kissed him goodnight on my own way to bed.  He sat up, opened his eyes wide and gave an "Oh Wow!".  After I'd climbed into bed I heard him trying (unsuccessfully) to wake his brother to tell the news.

They were outside before breakfast making snow angels.  Seeing that we were almost out of eggs, we had a hearty oatmeal breakfast before I took them sledding with neighbors.  CD hid in the dining room with a laptop and worked from home.  I saw that we were low on milk and couldn't really spare enough for hot cocoa. I dealt with wet and muddy clothes.  They played a second time, this time with Daddy.  I dealt with wet and muddy clothes again.  Made lasagna.  Saw that we were out of lettuce.  Physical Therapy got canceled. We had a combination of a fun snow day and a productive get-four-loads-of-laundry done day (even though I think they made two of those loads that day.)

Day Two:  Learned with surprise that school on Tuesday was canceled. The boy's haircuts were canceled.  I began to wonder if I'd made a mistake not laying in supplies.  I decided I'd go to the grocery Tuesday afternoon.  But by Tuesday afternoon I had dealt with more wet and muddy laundry and discovered that the roads were worse than they'd been Monday.  By 3pm school for Wednesday was canceled.  Clearly we were in for the long haul.  I began to feel stressed and checked in on Faceb00k a dozen times.

Day Three:  Bug's piano lesson was canceled. My Christmas gift massage was canceled. Based solely on the state of my mind and the state of the refrigerator, and not at all based on the state of the roads, I ventured out, with both boys, to the grocery this morning.  (Did I mention that CD has worked from home each day? He's accessible, but I'm trying to give him peace and quietishness.)  The roads were slippery but we got there ok.  There were very few shoppers and even fewer employees.  There was hardly any produce and we took one of the last twenty gallons of milk.  Clearly they haven't gotten in normal shipments of food. Nor had they done any work to clear the parking lot. 

Driving home was worse than driving there, but we made it without incident, only to have the wheels spin hopelessly in the driveway.  The walk up the driveway was equally treacherous, but no eggs were lost!  By afternoon, school had been canceled for Thursday.

Here we are.  We have wine and chocolate.  (The peppermint ice cream was awesome but gone after two nights.)  We have milk, eggs and lettuce.  We've baked cookies.  We've seen The Best of Looney Toons. Almost every Bionicle in the playroom has had pieces excavated so it can be rebuilt.  But we also have bored kids and if Bug doesn't get some exercise tomorrow we will all pay. (Our first "I"m bored" came at 9:30 this morning.)  I'm not yet bored but I am craving alone time.  I never did sit down with my book today and I wouldn't mind a day of pj's and books, but I don't see it in the cards.

Monday, January 10, 2011

snowman poop

The fourth grade holiday party in December served hot cocoa and sent some home as a favor.  The kids were asked to choose from one of two bags- one marked Naughty and one marked Nice.  Interesting to see who decided to see what was in the Naughty bag.  In the end they got both.  In the Nice bag were packs of cocoa mix with the accompanying poem:

Snowman Soup
I'm told you've been quite good this year.
I'm always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near
You'll need to warm the spirit.

So here's a cup of Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It's sure to do the trick!

In the Naughty bag was this poem...

Snowman Poop
I've heard that you've been naughty!
Now listen, here's the scoop.
I'm running short on coal this year,
So you get Snowman Poop!

...and a baggie of marshmallows.

Today, in Atlanta's "Snowpocalypse" we've already needed hot cocoa, but we had no marshmallows.  I suppose I should have joined the bread and milk lines at the grocery yesterday to buy them.  We were home making candy cane ice cream instead. (The best possible use for a candy cane.)  Plus, as a friend pointed out, if you have wine and chocolate, what need do you have for bread and milk anyway?

As you can see in the photo, at least the birds are well fed!

*photo taken before breakfast


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

all about me (Bug)

Bug was chosen for (his turn to be) the star student of the week.  He wrote on and colored a large poster all about himself, which due to the holidays, never got posted outside his classroom door as expected.  Instead I am posting it to the world.  Here, world.  Here is Bug:

Fascinating facts about me:

I am 6 years old

My birthday is Febuary 3rd

I live in Georgia.

I am in the 1st grade.

I get to school by  walking.

When I grow up I would like to be an adult.

These are a few of my favorite things!
color: terquoys
animal: bear (he meant teddy bear)
food:  desert
book: Ordinary Boy
sport: baseball, swimming and biking
thing to do in school: P.E. and fresh air (the school's word for recess)
thing to do at home: play legos

I am a star because.... Because I am good at school.

Three super-cool facts about me:
My birthday is on 2-3-4
I have super powers but they are secret
I've lost eight teeth.

I show others I care by being friendly.