Tuesday, November 18, 2014

how to grow a project

This How To tutorial can be used in almost any circumstance. Simply replace your verbs and nouns with more specific words applying to your task.  However, if you follow this tutorial I am not responsible for your ensuing troubles, including but not limited to wallet shrinkage.

Stage One: Awareness
  1. Notice the water on the floor of the laundry room. Mop it up and wash yet more towels.
  2. Notice the water on the floor of the laundry room.  Note that it has happened before but put it to the back of your mind.
  3. Notice the water on the floor of the laundry room. Note that it has happened before and decide to pay attention to when it happens.
  4. Notice the water on the floor of the laundry room. Note that it is happening more regularly. Remember to mention it to your spouse.
  5. Notice the water on the floor of the laundry room.  Tell your spouse that this is the night the washer has to come out to inspect the situation.
Stage Two: Investigation
  1. Remove baseboards so washer can be moved. It fits tightly into the space. Very tightly.
  2. On the count of three, heave the washer out of the space. 
  3. Run a load of dirty towels which were used earlier in the day to mop up from the washer.
  4. Use three more towels to mop up from the washer which leaks while it washes the towels from before. Wonder where you got so many old towels.
  5. Note that the outside and underside of the washer are totally dry. Realize you're going to have to call a plumber.

Stage Three: Worry
  1. Panic when you see mold on the wall. Investigate black colored mold and discover that Black Mold is something really, really awful. 
  2. Buy gloves and face masks.
  3. Decide it is ordinary mold. Notice that the plumber is just using a sponge and bleach. 
  4. Decide that maybe you don't really care what kind of mold you have. Correct that to "had" and feel much better about decision.
Stage Four: Money (Technically this stage is easy)
  1. Regard calendar and daily schedules and arrange for plumber (conveniently also contractor.)
  2. Do it again when he says the problem is in the pipes inside the wall, not in the washer.
  3. And again when he says he needs to rip out the wall and possibly part of the slab.  
  4. Give him a key so he can come back three more times over the period of two weeks to check on the dampness of the wood studs in the wall and proclaim them, "still too wet" to close up the wall.
Stage Five: Adapting
  1.  Remain flexible about location of washer, which has been positioned in front of dryer and in front of door for three weeks now.
  2. Hit your head (again) and wonder how many more days until you can put the washer back.
  3. Wrench your back (again) and wonder how many more weeks until you can put the washer back.
  4. Get estimate for permanently moving both washer and dryer for future convenience. 
  5. Say "thanks anyway" to plumber (conveniently also contractor) and continue current discomfort for several more weeks.
Stage Six: False Congratulations
  1. Feel relief that the wood in the wall is finally dry enough for the wall to be rebuilt. Yay! The laundry room will return to its original state!
  2. Realize that plumber (conveniently also contractor) is putting up drywall. And coming back the next day to remud it. And the next Monday to sand it.
  3. Notice that drywall is green, mud is white. Room used to be dark blue.
  4. Realize that the new section of wall needs a coat of paint.
  5. But primer first.
Stage Seven: In for a Penny, In for a Pound
  1.  Discover that you have no dark blue paint since the room was this color when you bought the house in 1999.
  2. Think that it makes more sense to paint the room with one of the many leftover cans of paint you own. Maybe the kitchen's pale yellow.
  3. Two coats of primer. On the whole room.
Stage Eight: Start the Project
  1. Look at the amount of Stuff kept in that small space and watch it grow like a wet sponge as it comes out and fills the whole kitchen. Try to squeeze a step stool into the space vacated by all the stuff and see that it barely fits.
  2. Remove the switch plate covers with a screwdriver.
  3. Remove the shelving with a different one. And a hammer.
  4. Dust the dang walls so the spiderwebs and dryer lint don't get painted.
  5. Start priming the trim/edges, moving the step stool in and out multiple times and tripping over the washer hoses each time.
  6. Hit your head, elbow, hip and knee in a continuing sequence.
Stage Nine: It Will Never End
  1. As you wash primer from your brush, roller and hands, realize how many more times you'll need to do this since you can't even start half the room until the washer and dryer move to their original locations.Wonder if it will ever get done.
  2. Notice the build up of laundry around the house. Wonder if it will ever get done.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

train wreck

I haven't talked much about The Paid Job here. Funny Kid Stories are harder to come by than Stupid Kid Stories, and seeing as the kids aren't mine, writing about them even anonymously worries me.  But I'm with all those kids regularly and, for the most part, feeling useful and good.

Most of my time recently has been with Vomit Girl.  (See how I use a fake name to keep her anonymous?) Even after all these weeks, Vomit Girl is so anxious about school, that she-- (do we really need to fill in the blank here?)  I took a change of clothes today in anticipation.  (Joy, Fun and Goodness!) But Vomit Girl was out with a stomach bug today.  (I feel like the straight man waiting for the comedian to get the punch line here:  "How would you know?")

Nevertheless, I was in my boss' office discussing who I might go see and work with instead. She mentioned Impulse Control Boy and I brought up Control Freak just as the girl's teacher walked in and asked me if I could come see Mr. Hurting People Lately because his lack of social skills is becoming a problem in her classroom and his mom is concerned.  It occurred to me that In Your Face Girl also needed some follow-up and maybe I could do a social skills group.  Then it was obvious to all three of us that Chaos Boy would also need to be included and suddenly we all got quiet and serious. Chaos Boy's mom is a teacher at our school and his behavior is a Very Touchy Subject.

I was full of confidence at this point. A social skills group! I could do this regularly and teach that little group of four year olds how to make friends and how to play without controlling, hitting, grabbing, kissing (yes this is a problem) or otherwise causing chaos and repelling their peers.

I had a couple of minutes to think about this plan before the day started. I grabbed a book about personal space and confirmed that I could use an empty classroom. What else would I need? (As I said, full of confidence.)

The five were all excited to come with me. (Cool. All's well so far.)

We entered the empty classroom and they all started grabbing toys off the shelf.  I dealt with that and gathered them on the carpet. (Doing ok...)

I showed them my book and asked if any of them knew what 'personal space' meant.  In Your Face Girl could easily have licked my nose while she told me with much excitement that Yes! She knew what it was and she had the very same book at home!  All five of them proceeded to tell me what it meant-- (although I doubt they knew-- everyone was talking at once and I really have no idea what they were saying.)

I read the story, then got into In Your Face Girl's face when I spoke about it again. I thought she'd back away, but she didn't notice (hmm.) I tried it with Impulse Control Boy. He began to incessantly tap me on the arm while telling me that I was too close. (Yay? He learned something?) Control Freak was also telling me what I was doing wrong (technically she was right) and with her authoritative face she looked ready to lead the group.  (Nothing like getting a finger waved in your face while being told by a four year old how wrong you are.)

Chaos Boy was trying to escape. I touched him lightly to encourage him to come back, and he cringed away from my hand. (This child needs lots of personal space!)

We finished talking about the book and I decided I wanted to do a group block building activity. They each pulled out a toy. I insisted they put away all the toys. I chose one that none of them had picked. I put a box of train tracks on the floor and talked about how putting it in the middle helped everyone reach. (They gave me "yeah, whatever" eyes.)

Immediately Control Freak told everyone that we were going to make a track in a circle. Impulse Control Boy and Chaos Boy had already started making their own tracks. Hurting People Boy seemed to be doing fine until I noticed that he'd pre-counted the trains and realized there weren't enough for everyone. His method of solving that problem was to sit on them hoping no one could see them. Impulse Control Boy is also Copycat Boy and so he grabbed two from Hurting People Boy and did the same. (Oh my, what am I doing here?)

The result of that would have been blows if I hadn't been right there. In Your Face Girl (who was also right there) and Control Freak tried to intervene.  Chaos Boy tried to escape again. In Your Face Girl was making it hard for me to get him back to the carpet because she was wanting to hug me. I told her she needed to ask (she did) and then I answered no. (God help me! Have five minutes passed yet?)

There was no way they could make one track as a group, so I helped shape the track into something oval-ish. We drove (shared) trains on it for 30 seconds (Hurting People Boy looked like he was seething) and then I could tell we needed to clean up and be done. Control Freak Girl told everyone to line up at the door while In Your Face Girl tried to hug everyone. Impulse Control Boy had run down the hall and was already in his classroom. Chaos Boy escaped.

I couldn't decide if I should just sit on the floor and laugh, or make plans to try again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the year of the lentil

Costco does something to me.  I have gone in there and bought one item. Really, I have. But if you get a cart, there is no way that you're getting out of there with just what's on your list. Assuming you have at least some common sense and go with a list. If you don't, I have no advice for you. I am a list person.

To begin, let's just acknowledge that nothing at Costco costs less than $20. There is much at Costco that costs more.  And our state allows Costco to sell wine, which I must say, they sell at a great price. I'll buy most brands of wine that cost less than $10 (which is less than $20, I know, but isn't the same so I'm not counting it.) So there are big items and there are glass bottles, but nothing is exactly cheap. A good bargain, yes, but cheap? No.

I try not to go there hungry. My kids very much want to accompany me when I go near lunch because they want to enjoy what we refer to as "Costco dim sum." I will taste some things and I will sometimes buy those items, but I think I only buy them if I wanted them anyway. Usually.  I realized last time I went to Costco that there's a "What the Hell" point after you've spent a certain amount.When my huge-assed cart gets full I know I'm passing the $200 mark and at that point what difference is a bag of dried mangoes? It can progress quickly after that. And that is why I have a three pound bag of lentils while having only one recipe which calls for lentils.

Please send lentil recipes.

My new little car can easily hold $300 worth of Costco goods even with my yoga mat in the back. It looks like it could hold much more but I am uninterested in testing it. 
This all reminds me of a story I meant to write here but never found the right time.  This summer, when the kids were home from school and around to beg me to wait on my Costco trip until closer to lunch so they could do their dim sum thing, Bug saw a stuffed bear. It was not just a stuffed bear though. It was a five foot tall stuffed bear. He drooled. I stood firm (yay for standing firm at Costco!) and told him he had to think for 24 hours before spending his own money on a five foot tall stuffed bear.  He waited. He dreamed of nothing that night but what to name his new bear. I should have told him to wait 48 hours. The boy is nothing if not determined.  But the next day I drove back over there with Bug and his wallet, and he dropped $30 on this:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

past peak, prime, prepping

I've neglected the gardens during the hot summer. I always do.  But the last few weeks have been beautiful weather to get outdoors, so I've been digging in the dirt and assessing the membership of some plants. It seems as if the plants which have looked poor to mediocre for several years then thrive when others are faltering. I seldom get rid of a living plant. They're all welcome to try.

The Autumn Sedum has never looked more than meh here. It takes no care so I've kept it and now have three large clumps. This year however it shone. And I missed taking a picture of it in its prime.

The Beautyberry is just barely past prime. The berries on the lower branches haven't yet attracted the attention of birds like the ones on top. The branches which have fed the birds are stripped almost bare.

The second wave of fall color is approaching. I see subtle hints of color on the trees and the late bloomers are getting ready for their show. 

Here is the Obedient Plant. Buds start opening from the bottom and are only still developing. I'll have a sea of purple until Christmas.

Perhaps the chrysanthemums will come sooner. I'm hoping to have some purple/pink again, but the main location for them was totally wiped clean by last winter's cold. The yellow which were the primary color in this location are welcome, but will look better with company. We'll have to wait to see.

 I've dug up our whole mailbox area to replace the mailbox and redo the garden around it. There are piles of daylilies and iris buried in our compost right now. I intended to mark the date and color as the daylilies bloomed this summer, but few bloomed. They were very crowded which could explain it. I'll just put some in and see what I get. I'll sell the rest at a charity garden sale which is coming up.

I also potted up daisies. They don't look like much this time of year, so I don't know if they'll sell. A purchaser needs to have confidence and plant knowledge to buy spring and summer perennial at a garden sale in the fall.

Friday, October 3, 2014

parenting points

I did not say "Well that was stupid."
I did not say "Why the H*** did you do THAT?"
I did not say "You did WHAT?"
I did not say "You should have...."
I did not say "I guess you deserve this."
I did not say "Natural consequences, dear."

But dang it was hard to hold it in.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

where we are

 I found $68 today in the pocket of some pants I haven't worn in a while. Oddly, it included a $50 bill and I can't figure out why I had a large bill. Or when.  Not that I can't spend a $50 bill, but nevertheless I am curious.

*****     *****

We just went a full week of school and work and all the accompanying errands without using any gasoline. CD has taken to biking Bug to school and then continuing on to his office. Pook either takes the bus or I drive him with the electric Leaf. I drive myself around to work and errands in the Leaf. Great feeling!

Update on the Nissan Leaf: Electricity consumption has gone up more than expected but not really very much. I think our bills are about $20 more each month.

*****     *****

Pook decided that carrying a purse is really practical. This hasn't swayed him to actually carry one, but he did make a list of what he would put in it if he did:
  • Swiss Army knife
  • iPod
  • matches
  • penlight
  • pen and pencil
  • small notepad
  • playing cards
  • fishing line (hmm?)
  • handkerchief (?!)
  • wallet
  • charger
  • earbuds
I don't understand what the matches or fishing line are for, and he's never used a handkerchief, but whatever. I think with the pocket knife, iPod with charger and wallet he's covered for any emergency. He isn't a boy scout, but I think they'd accept him.

*****     *****

Update on the fishtank: Years of fishes have proven to me that I should just keep my mouth shut. Soon after showing off Freddy to the world, my fishtank acquired a nasty disease and every single fish died. I felt particularly badly about losing Freddy and his/her parents. Only a few fish have ever been named.

*****     *****

Pook will be passing me up in height this year, at age 13. He's about an inch shorter still, but can make himself a three egg omelet for a snack. For a while we thought Bug might catch up with him, but he's suddenly looking much older.  He likes to point it out to me when his voice cracks. He also thinks he's growing a mustache but I haven't pulled out a magnifying glass to confirm this.  The child is way too fair for any facial hair to show anyway, so I think I'll be spared the shaving for a while yet.

*****     *****

We've opened windows, at least at night. I love to hear the night noises as I go to sleep. If we turn on fans in the early evening and early morning, I think we can be done with air conditioning. Ahh, fall. It still looks like summer here, and days are still warm, but hopefully the night temperatures will encourage plants to start fall shows.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

of no monetary value

I've been teaching Preschool Special Education almost all of my working career. I spend my time with children who will not remember me. It used to bother me, but then I realized that I don't work for the children-- I work for their parents. If I can give a parent a good start down that long dark road of special educational services (and for some families it will be a forever road) then I'm doing it right. If I show them how it should be and what they should expect then I'm ahead of the game.  Sometimes they come back and thank me.  This came in my email yesterday:

"I have YOU to personally thank for getting into that program.  You personally were the only one who brought up the school.  Thank God you put it in my ear.  It is going great for Jay.  His facilitator has a Masters in Special Ed.  She is fabulous and is even willing to learn his play therapy. (appointments scheduled.) On a personal note, I have seen great improvements in Jay- in a wider range of interests, manners ("No thank you, " " I don't care for that…" etc.  He is growing by leaps and bounds and it is exciting to see him in a place that is equipped and used to kids like him.  They have a sensory room- as you know- and have lots of kids with sensory issues.  

God Bless you and thank you for caring.  Because of a kind and interested person like YOU- we found help for Jay.  I had not heard about it from anyone else…..really…thank you a million and know you have changed your lives.  Tonight when you go to bed, know that God is smiling at you because you have changed the life of a child.

All My Best,

(Jay's mom)"

Yeah, I'm wiping off the tears.

Friday, August 22, 2014

something fishy

Seriously fishy stuff has happened here and, Sherlock that I am, I think I've got proof of my theory.

You see, this past spring, when I was feeding the fish one morning, I noticed something someone new. There was a tiny, maybe one-centimeter-long fish in the tank. I am quite sure this fish hadn't been bought. This was a baby.  But not that tiny in fish terms, and not that new, and well, only one.

My knowledge of fish isn't extensive but I've had some experience with fish born in a small tank. A swordfish had babies once, and as she swam around with loads of teeny tiny (2mm) babies popping out of her hindside, other fish followed her around and had a fish breakfast.  I thought the fish in my tank were all tetras now, and I thought tetras laid eggs and were not live bearers. Google confirmed this.

I had previously been a bit concerned that this fish:

was picking on this fish:

by chasing it/him/her around.  (Or maybe the opposite, I couldn't remember who'd done the pursuing.) The striped one is probably a tetra, but I wasn't sure.  In any case, I suspected now that the attention was perhaps not unwanted.  (see above reference to Sherlock)

The result of this fish on fish attention had to have been this fish:

Bug named it/her/him Freddie. I told him it would probably be eaten by the end of the day, optimist that I am.  But yet Freddie thrived and has more than doubled in size since then. (Photographed now, at about 2.5cm in length)

The mystery of it all, other than the larger mystery of life, is just exactly how did Freddie live so long unnoticed without becoming a meal to one of the other fish? I'm not the most reliable at cleaning the fishtank, so I'm surprised it was healthy enough to hatch eggs or keep a baby alive. Really, even one baby tetra in captivity is pretty rare. Coming from an egg, they've got to be really small when they hatch.

Then, today I was doing that responsible thing, cleaning the nasty algae covered fishtank, and I noticed something interesting. (Again, see above reference to Sherlock)  this:

The little dots on the glass (I see at least six, maybe seven here) must be eggs!  Freddie's brothers and sisters!  Lots of brothers and sisters!

So, I'm going to keep an eye on these fishy happenings, and see if anything develops. Google tells me they hatch within as little as 48 hours!  I will be back with any news next week.

Well, no news. Maybe they are eggs, but caviar and not embryos. If tetra breeding conditions have to be as strict as what they say, Freddie was a miracle.

Friday, July 18, 2014

recipe time, cherry tomato episode

CD wants me to share a recipe I just made up. The kids certainly devoured it and it was so simple that I know I'll make it again.

We (read that as I)  am responsible for the middle school gardens this week. And next, because the payoff has been great and I'm ready to sign up for the rest of the summer. Or at least until the tomatoes are done producing.  I filled my colander with tomatoes the other day and then came home and picked another dozen off our own plants.

The first night we had pasta with cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and Parmesan. Can't beat it.

But sometimes you need another cherry tomato recipe.  Today I made one up.

1 can corn (drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed)
1 cup pearl cous cous (measured uncooked-- you then have to cook the stuff)
lots of cherry tomatoes, halved
red wine vinaigrette, from the salad dressing shelf.  (Feel free to improve upon store bought dressing. It's what I had.)
parsley, chopped
basil, chopped

I served it with fish, but it could have held its own as a summer salad.  Yum!

Friday, July 11, 2014

letter to camp

Dear Pook,

Just wanted to make sure you were ok with us renting out your bedroom. You know, since you're not using it. It was a little crowded in the room for our renter, so we've put all your former books and toys into your brother's bedroom. He's enjoying them. It'll just be until we turn it back into a guest room like it used to be, after our trip to Florida for Harry Potter World.

I keep looking at the clock and wondering "I wonder what Pook is doing right now." And then I think of telling you what we're doing at that moment, but I've resisted (mostly, except that one other email) because I don't want to make you too jealous.  Our renter would be upset if you came home early.  Plus, I know you'd be disappointed to know that we've eaten the first of the cherry tomatoes, with basil on pasta. The day at Six Flags won't be anything exciting compared to KP duty in the dining hall.  And none of the parties planned here will be a big deal to miss in comparison to your daily opportunity to share a tiny cabin with seven other stinky boys.  So I told Bug not to mention that stuff.

Your brother would send you a note here too, but he's out at the moment seeing the new Captain America movie with your friends. I thought they'd notice you were missing but it turns out that as long as someone "likes" their pictures on Instagram, it doesn't really matter who it is.

It has been hard to squeeze all this in because of Bug's tennis camp, but having given up bedtime rules we find that we can do much more.  Plus, our mealtimes last much less time when we don't have to wait for you to finish. Such a relief.

Anyway, I just wanted send my love.  Hope you're having a good time!

yours truly,

p.s. The renter says thanks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

fun with a funyak

Sorry I've been gone so long. Summer vacation does that to me.  You'd think I just sit around all day, then lounge at the pool, then hang out for the evening. I have very little to discuss.

We went to the mountains for the weekend, near Highlands NC.  Pook was about to stay for a week of camp and we were invited to stay the prior weekend before saying goodbye.  It was a beautiful and relaxing place, all meals included, so we enjoyed ourselves. 

I love driving places up in the mountains. First you pass the produce stands with "boiled p-nuts" and the fancy spots with both cold beer and live bait.  One place advertised (on little signs stuck in the ground at intervals along the road) "frog jam" and then "toe jam." I'm assuming that the people who want those know what they're getting.

Then you get into reading the street names. They're awesome. I can just picture some town council telling everyone that the map makers have requested that they name their roads and everyone needs to turn in their road name by month's end.  Some think for weeks before choosing. Ted writes his down immediately.  Ted was probably ten.

My favorites:

Lingering Shade Lane (the winner, in my book)
Grasshopper Lane
Pumpkintown Road
Buttermilk Road (and then Upper Buttermilk Road)
Teds Road
Mirror Lake Lane
Turtle Pond Road
Turtle Creek Road (not near each other)
Gold City Lane
Corn Creek (or maybe my writing is messy and it was Cow Creek?)
Lazy Bear Ridge
Rebel Ridge (It is the South, remember)

While we were there we took an excursion to go rafting on the Tuckaseegee River, a smaller and less crowded river than the Nantahala. The outfitter had these wonderful inflatable kayaks, called "funyaks" which we chose.  They were about ten feet long and relatively comfortable. Paddling was simpler and more responsive than in a canoe. I thought they were easy to guide but the boys ran a lot of rapids either backwards or spinning around uncontrolled until they hit a rock. The rapids were Class I and II, so nothing requiring a helmet (which is good because I lied about Bug's age) but we all got wet.

The camp had started a week prior for those wanting two weeks away, so we came in on the middle. We met three other families doing the same thing, and hung out with them part of our time. I enjoyed seeing how bonded the kids were after a week together (think of lots of young teenagers hugging, dancing and singing and generally making a ruckus.) I hope the newcomers like Pook were welcomed in.

(And now, sniff, I'm missing our boy.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

the future is here


is for sale.


is in my garage. Plugged into the wall. Charging.

The car, as a lease, is a bargain. Here's my math:
    $2000 down
+  $5520 payments ($240/mo for 23 months)
+  $2400 estimated annual addition to power bill across two years
+ $350 fee when you turn the car in, in two years
-   $2800 gas for two years (I'm guessing, and that's probably low)
-   $5000 Georgia tax credit (There is a $7500 rebate from the Feds which brings the cost down also, but it is worked into the original lease price by the dealer.)

    $2470 for two years. And, no maintenance costs either.

I'll update in a few months with any corrections in those numbers.  Meanwhile, I'll be the one silently zipping around town!

Friday, May 23, 2014


Tomorrow is the last day of school. They just keep moving on. Next up, fifth and eighth grades.

Today was the last day at the preschool where I work. Parents were tearfully snapping end-of-year photos of their five year olds. Their children are done with preschool and ready for kindergarten.  The parents are not ready for kindergarten. I know I wasn't. I wasn't ready for middle school. And the talk of high school makes me dizzy.

Pook's first day of preschool was the beginning of a big change for me. For the first time he'd had a day full of new experiences and I hadn't been part of them. And he told me nothing about them. I wanted to share in his day. I asked him open-ended questions to lead him into longer stories. In the end, all I ever learned about his preschool days was who he sat with for lunch. In elementary school I learned what he ate for lunch. In middle school I only know that they do eat lunch, but what else happens is a mystery. Just like all of Pook's days.

Bug tells me a bit more. Sometimes I hear stories about his friends and the silly things they do. And yet it is still all factual. There is no commentary. Maybe this is a trait held by more girls. How do you feel? What are you thinking? Can I see inside your brain and into your heart?

Friday, May 9, 2014

life choices

While tucking Bug into bed, after his first ever band concert, I complimented him on being so well rounded. I love that he plays the trombone AND the piano, plays baseball, basketball, and swims, plus likes to read, write and draw. He seemed uncomfortable at the compliment, but apparently not for modesty.

"I know. But when I'm good at so many things, how do I choose a career path?"

Thirteen years ago when CD and I turned off The West Wing and headed up to bed, my waters broke. Many hours later I became a mom. Tomorrow I will have a teenager. Pook, I couldn't love you more.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

got pants?

"Hey, guys, your piano recital and band concerts are coming up. Do you have dress clothes and shoes that fit?"

"Uh, mumble, mumble, uh huh"

"Can you pull them out for me to see?"

(multiple sighs)

Bug has his bedroom organized these days into the following piles (to the best I can discern): dirty clothes in hamper, dirty clothes under the bed, baseball clothes in milk crate and the floor around the milk crate, cardboard box of shorts and swim suits which I pulled out but which are getting worn without ever being put in a dresser, clean laundry still in a laundry basket, dress pants on a shelf in the closet, a scattering shoes on the closet floor (mixed with toys and clothes which have fallen off hangers.)

He pulls out the dress pants and says "Here, see" in that 'duh, mom' sort of way. I clearly decided to torture him because I then said, "Try them on."  (ack, horrors!)

Pook's floor looks better, there is only a hamper of dirty clothes and a cardboard box of shorts and swim stuff but if you look in his closet you will see scores of shoes from years gone by, clothes I hardly recognize because they have collars and therefore are never worn, and well, you really can't get in the closet to see what else is there. That might be for the best.

"Try 'em on guys."

(multiple sighs, groans and "aw, mom"s)

Bug: "I just wore them. They fit fine."

"Prove it."


"Why don't you button them?"

"Uh, maybe they're too small."

"What size are they?"


The next pair was the same. The third pair fit. Size 12. They get pulled off and left, inside out on the floor. I'm picking my battles, so I fold them and set them aside on top of the khakis he's planning to wear to the first concert.

"How's it going, Pook?"

He hasn't started trying on clothes but is instead standing in his underwear playing with the Electronic Pocket Distraction (EPD) he removed from his pocket when he took off his pants.

We find him pants which fit, but he can't locate the dress shirt he says he owns. Turns out, it is two sizes too small and I'd put it in Bug's closet. Nevermind, he needs a tux shirt one night and anything with a collar the other.

Now to Pook's shoes. He pulls out five pairs of black dress shoes, two pairs of holey running shoes and two pairs of sandals from his closet. I immediately throw some in the trash can. He begins to try on dress shoes. Bug grabs a pair and puts them on.

"They're fine."

I suggest socks be added to the try-on process. They begin an argument over who owns which black socks.

Pook is still working on shoes. Bug is now at the top of the stairs looking classy, wearing shorts and t-shirt, black dress socks, and shoes which maybe would fit Pook better but Bug got to them first. Their feet may be the same size.

"Hey everyone!"  My mom is standing at the bottom of the stairs. (Holding a cookie jar!)  "The garage door was up and the door was unlocked and no one heard me, so I just came in."

I'm trying to avoid losing control now. "No cookies until you're wearing clothes!"  She eases herself away and I get them back to the business of trying on shoes. Finally, success. I put aside the remainder and offer them online to Friends With Boys.

If I had a chance to do it again, I'd join with a few families of boys and suggest we buy one pair of black dress shoes in every size. We could swap them around for 18 years.


It is ten minutes until we should leave for the recital.

"Mom!  My pants don't fit! I can't button them!"

Sure enough, the khaki pair Bug wanted to wear today (did I ever see him trying them on?) is too tight. Size 12. Super mom that I am, I locate a pair of 14s.  I'd cut off his head but it wouldn't make the pants fit any better.

5 minutes later:

We will never get out the door.  Bug came down in khakis (which fit, with a belt) but black socks.

"But I don't have any khaki socks!" (Clearly I am guilty.)

I find the child some khaki socks.
 in the car, running about five minutes late:

"I guess these shoes are a little too small."

between the car and recital hall:

"My shirt is missing a button."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

it must have been the right "stuff"

A camping Pook will go!

Pook and his friend Tuck attended a weekend retreat in March, up in the North Carolina mountains. They must have had a good time because when they came home they began to talk about possibly going there for summer camp.

I don't know how many of you have sent kids to summer camp in the past thirty years (that leaves out you, Mom) but oh holy hiking trails are the prices high. It isn't unusual to find week long sleepover camps priced over $1000.  I have looked and I have considered and I have then distracted the interested child and looked at day camps instead. (Although $250 for a camp that sends them home after they eat their self-packed lunch is still pretty crazy.)

This time the price was $600. But then came an email: "Thanks for attending our retreat. Any of the children who attended the retreat and come to summer camp for the first time can receive a $100 discount."

Ok, this we can work with. I spoke to Tuck's parents and they were feeling the same way. Child interested, parents on the edge.

"What if the boys helped earn the money?" The church had been saying that they needed people to make Wednesday dinners. Having done this with a group before and made about $250, I found a good date and picked the menu. The boys wrote out emails to help advertise and Pook made a list for me of possible baked potato toppings. I thought they had a chance of making $100 each, maybe more if they plead their case well and put out a tip jar.

Then the organizer told me to expect more like 40-50 people, not the 100 plus I'd had last time. It was too late to back out, but suddenly it didn't feel like it would be worth the effort. The other mom and I each made a large pot of chili, we bought cheese, butter, sour cream, broccoli and all the rest.  We sent the boys' emails to the youth director, who sent it to all the families with children. The choir director sent it on to his members, who rehearse Wednesdays. I decided to aim for 60 people. Leftover potatoes make fine potato salad and everything else was usable or freezable.

Wednesday night Pook put a sign on the tip jar, his Nana put seed money in, and we began.

Twenty minutes later we were out of potatoes and chili. I offered to take Pook out for fast food if he'd sell his meal to one last customer.

An hour later, eating the remaining cookies, Pook and Tuck counted their money. $399.  It must have been the advertising:

Come to this week’s Wonderful Wednesday Dinner!

Help us go to summer camp

April 30 at 6:15

Social Hall

Potatoes with chili and other stuff

Saturday, April 26, 2014

from the box

Bug has been itching to make a recipe he read on the side of the graham cracker box. I finally took a look at it, decided he had good instincts, and bought chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk so he could give them a whirl.  He finally found the chance to test them this quiet* Saturday morning, and the results are quite good.

Odd little recipe--no eggs.  They didn't rise up much so they don't look like the picture on the box, but how often does that actually happen? Here's the recipe. I nixed the nuts and coconut because in my opinion they should not be in a good cookie anyway.

*Yes, I said that we were having a "quiet Saturday morning." Yes, it is baseball season. Yes, the calendar is developing a case of the rainbows. But not today. Today it is noon and we are all in pj's and we have fresh, hot cookies. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

a baker's dozen

I’ll have my first teenager in… 24 days. He’s not there yet, but I see the changes in his friends. The babyish curves on the boys' faces are gone, replaced by angles. I hear voices of men in my house when they come over and I still startle. It scares me because it means the end of the tunnel exists. As tough as it is doing this parenting thing, I don’t want it to end either.

I’ve got to say, I adore the stage my about-to-be-a-teenager is in. I even like his brother at ten. Each stage is so fun to greet and get to know. Each might be better than the last. But also, each day for work I go to a childcare center which includes babies. And I can borrow a baby anytime I need! Right now I’m in a toddler infatuation stage and I’ve got a cluster of barely-twos who I adore. I can give them back when they stink or fuss but when they want to climb on me and ask for tickles? I’m there.

Last week was spring break for us and we went to Florida to see family and spend time at the beach. After a great visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, we went out to eat at a Spanish tapas restaurant for "Tapas Tuesday!" (If you ever find yourself there, it was called Ceviche.) While I had little doubt that an evening of cocktails and appetizers would disappoint my boys, I had a great time watching them. There was nothing on the tapas menu that they wouldn't try. (Never had mussels? Well, have a mussel.) We sat for two hours eating and talking. And the conversation was good. It was truly a relaxing and fun evening out.

Pook spent some time on his electronic, pocket-sized distraction with either games or texts to friends back home, but he put it away for family times. He cooperated on sand castles, tested the still-cold waters of the Gulf, screamed on roller coasters at Busch Gardens, and harassed Bug just enough to remind his brother that he was still around.

One night he woke me, sometime after midnight, to tell me that he couldn't sleep. Had he not been a good sleeper as an infant, I'd probably have thrown a shoe at him. But this insomnia just started this past fall and doesn't happen often, so I sat with him, rubbed his back, kissed his soft cheek goodnight once again, turned the thermostat down a notch, and went back to bed. (To lay awake for hours thinking it was a mistake to have not thrown the shoe.)  The next morning I gave him a hug and realized I couldn't get my chin on the top of his head any more.  He'd grown overnight.

So he's still sweet, he's still sane, he's getting taller by the minute, and I guess I'm as prepared for a teen as I can be.  Happy Not Yet Birthday Pook.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

storytime by Bug, fourth grade language arts

Sucked Back in Time
by Bug

     "Houston, We have a problem." They were aboard the Explorer, a spacecraft on it's way to Pluto. This was the year 3264. The engines had cut a long time ago, and they were hurtling through space at speeds of 986,734,976 miles per hour. In just a few days, Captain John Richards, and his crew, Nathan Brown, Jimmy Johnson, and Mike Samson would reach their destination. The radio cut in.

     "What is the problem? over."

     "We are exelorating too fast. The speedometer is rapidly climbing, and we have no way to induce drag!"

     "We can't do anything for you! We wouldn't be able to reach you!"

     Pluto began to come into view, but they were going too fast. The hurtled past pluto, and out of the solar system. Suddenly, the radio cut. They were on their own.

     The Explorer started to ignite from the sheer speed. The craft was burning up. Suddenly, the ship was sucked into a worm hole.

Part 2
     The crew of the Explorer woke up in a spaceship. A different spaceship, but still a spaceship. This spaceship was Apollo 11, and the year was 1969. The captain of this spacecraft was Neil Armstrong. If everything went right, then his crew would be the first people to ever set foot on the moon. Unfortunately, not everything went right. Four spacemen in very strange clothes apeared inside their craft. Unconscious. Two of them were badly burned, at it was all they could do to help them. The hopes of the whole world were begining to collapse.

     As the queerly dressed people woke up, the crew of Apollo 11 was terrified. They had no idea who these people were, though they had name tags. The person that appeared to be the captain said, "Where--"

     "You are aboard the Apollo 11, we were scheduled to land on the moon later today, but we may have to change plans, because you people came!"


     "I don't know where you're from, I Just know this is 1969."



     "Are you sure this isn't 3264?"



     "Well, it's awfully crowded here, so we'll have to get out on the moon pretty soon. We have some extra space suits in the cargo hold, they're only for emergencys, but this appears to be an emergency."

     "The Moon is in view!", said Buzz Aldrin. he had been quiet the whole time.

     "Eject the parachutes! Ready the landing gear!

     The crew landed on the moon with a thump. They landed on the dark side of the moon.

     What happened next went by in a blur. An alien empire took them in. Neil Armstrong and his crew were able to return home succesfully, thanks to that alien technology. John Richards and his crew were also able to return home, with a great story to tell, thanks to a portal that the Gronks made just for them.

     As they got home, they realized that Nathan was still clinging to some wreckage of their spaceship.

     "What an adventure," Jimmy said.

The End

spelling/grammar  -3
You wrote an adventurous story! 
I really enjoyed 
reading it. You have 
great "voice" in your 
writing. Super work!  


Monday, March 17, 2014

will you eat them here, or there?

Happy Saint Paddy's Day to all. We had Green Eggs and Ham for dinner tonight. I started with this recipe, but I'm a bit prone to making changes. I think I doubled the bread b/c I had some nice Challah that was already stale, and so I also used some milk to be sure the bread would soften. I know I added extra spinach, just 'cause. I probably put more cheese on it too, come to think of it. Oh, and I skipped the seasoning salt and put salt, pepper and nutmeg in instead. But I stuck to just eight eggs because CD is out tonight and it only needs to feed three of us. Other than that, (!) this is the recipe I used.  And it is very green.


  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
  • 6 ozs ham (chopped)
  • 1 cup bread (cubes)
  • 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese (shredded)  

So, what I really cooked was probably closer to this:

Green Eggs and Ham breakfast casserole

  • 5 slices thick challah bread, torn into bits
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 eggs, beaten 
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 8 oz ham cubes (could have gone with more, had I had more)
  • 2 cups shredded swiss cheese
It sat for about an hour before cooking to let the bread get good and sogged. Then it baked for 30 minutes and was lovely and green and filling. We ate about half of it. We'll have it for breakfast another morning.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

under a rock

I shelter my children under a rock. But that rock is getting too small. They barely fit under it. Sometimes life splashes on them. Sometimes life rains on them.

It could be that the rock is the same size, but my children are bigger. But they're not that big!

I am happy to have been raised naive. I had plenty of time to learn about The Real World as I became an adult.  I want the same sheltered life for my own kids.

I received a text from Pook today, just as school was getting out:

Maybe I over-reacted.

First of all, I saw 'lockdown' and 'gun' and totally missed that it was the high school, not his school. Second, I heard quite soon that it was a suspended student with a 'cache' of guns who had hidden them under the bleachers with intent to sell them. (He had two loaded guns on his person.) Third, by the time I heard about it, the kid was already in custody.

Over-reacted. Under-reacted. Reacted.  I don't want that to be the issue. How I act when there is a gun near my child's school is not the point. The point is that I have to react at all.

At dinner I asked Pook how he felt about it. He barely understood why I'd ask. "It was just a lockdown. Nothing happened."

I grew up knowing fire drills and tornado drills. We did not have lockdown drills.

I hear about a school shooting and I turn away. I don't turn on news on those days. I don't want to know anything more than "It wasn't here." I know the issue, I have strong anti-gun feelings, and knowing the sordid details just upsets me.

We never watch TV news anyway, so that isn't a concern. But sometimes I listen to news on public radio while I cook.  We almost always listen in the morning. There are times that either CD or I have shut off the radio when something dreadful has happened and we don't want to get into a discussion with the kids about it.  I had no intention of telling them about the Newtown, CT incident until our church said that they would "help children process recent events" and I decided it was better that they not find out in a group setting.

His principal wrote, after a different gun event in Atlanta, "the real things that matter are you and your family. Are they safe? Are they happy? Are they healthy? If you can answer "yes" to those three questions, then all is right with your world, and all the other problems of life will work themselves out. Slow down. Count your blessings. Be thankful. Be in the moment and breathe. Make it a great day or not. The choice is always yours."

Yes, I get it. But I don't want to have to get it. I don't want to have to count my blessings when not every parent can easily do so. I want for it to just. not. happen.

Another blogger I follow said, ages ago, after yet another tragedy, "I wish I could send my kids to school wearing a button that says, 'No, I don't know. Please don't tell me.' Maybe it's pure wishful thinking that I can keep them naive even a few days longer. A single day. An hour."


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


This has been a really tough winter already. Right now, Atlanta is under a Severe Winter Storm Warning. But, if I look carefully, there are signs of life in my gardens. There may also be some significant deaths, but we'll have to wait and see.

One morning last week, I came downstairs and peeked out the window into the front yard. This is what I love most about living in Georgia. (above, last week; below, this week)

Our groundhog (Beauregard Lee) expects us to see spring within six weeks. We always do. We see glimmers every February and I begin to breathe again.

I set out to look for more signs of optimism in my garden.

There are always the winter bloomers to count on down here. The hellebores didn't miss a beat. I will continue to spread them around until I can see them from every window.

And, Daphne. Wonderful, temperamental, fragile, fabulous Winter Daphne. If she can get just a few more days of sunshine, the whole neighborhood will smell her sweet scent.

Flowering Quince is another of my cold weather saviors. It will pop out first of all the spring bloomers. I'll know we're safe from the threat of an eternal winter if the Quince blooms.

So, while my grand plan to have fresh swiss chard has not come to pass, I'll cut some branches of Quince to bring inside to cheer me up and I'll try again next year.

swiss chard: not dead, but not happy

Monday, February 3, 2014


The time has flown. My little one! My baby! My Bug is a decade old. Double digits.

He pointed out to me, at my January birthday, that our whole family has significant 2014 birthdays: I am a prime number, his brother becomes a teen and his daddy turns fifty.

I would not have realized that I belonged in that crowd my dear. Thank you for including me. But I shouldn't be surprised. Even if I had been a totally nondescript age (was 46 less interesting?) you would have found a way to have included me. Because that is the way you are.

You already have the long, lanky limbs of a much older child. You like it when you're mistaken for a middle school peer (or twin!) of Pook. But you still fold up those long limbs to squeeze yourself into our laps. Anytime. After dinner laps, scary movie laps, nowhere-better-to-sit laps. I will cope with the numb legs for a while yet, because I don't know how long this will last. And then I will miss it.

You have so much to give. When your daddy and I were asked to describe you in one word, we chose "more." You've always been more, liked more, given more and needed more. Liking more action, more tickles and more spice to your food is fun, but you also have more worries, more emotions and more stress.  Giving 101% to everything can be exhausting, and sometimes you have a tough time shouldering it all. I want to be able to make it easier for you.  And so, whether you want it or not, I will always be nearby. Just in case.

Your energy draws people to you. So many people care about you.Your piano teacher adores you. (All your teachers adore you.) I'm so glad you talked us into letting you start piano so young. You were still four when we met her and convinced her to let you start lessons. You'd only been asking for two years. I'm waiting to see where you'll go with your new trombone. While I write this, I am listening to you play new piano music. No, you aren't required to learn it, but when it arrived in the mail you found you couldn't stop. For a while, sight reading fun music won over eating. That might be a first. You're pretty fond of eating.

Right now you're playing basketball for the winter and you'll join the swim team again for summer, but baseball is your passion. You even called yourself "Ball" when you began to talk. Pook loved it and gave you all the laughs you desired. You may take baseball seriously, but you take laughs any time you can get them. Your own laughs are so contagious! (Seriously, I should offer a prize to anyone who can watch this video snippet and not laugh aloud.)

I think I understand what they mean when they say that we are all ages at once. Just because you are turning ten does not mean that sometimes you aren't in need of the emotional support of a three year old and the time reading aloud with us like a five year old. And sometimes, you are so mature you are well beyond those ten years.You have been a challenge to me for all ten of these years. I can't rest on my laurels when you're around. But Bug, you make my life exciting.

I love you.  Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

snowmaggedon? snowpacalypse? snow jam 2014? a mess

For all you Yankees laughing us Southerners for being in such a mess because of two inches of snow, I will present to you The Reasons.

Yes, snow was predicted. I heard that between "a dusting and a half inch" would come to Atlanta and the deeper stuff would be further south. We wanted snow, and so discussed that irony as we lamented our poor, unused sleds in our garage. I heard that the weather pattern was unusual and difficult to predict.

At noon I finally saw white stuff coming from the sky and sticking to the grass. I thought about making plans with the families of Bug's walking companions to pick them up, but decided that walking would be much more fun for them than driving. Then I considered picking up Pook so he could be part of the fun. Before I'd made a clear decision, I heard the announcement that schools were closing early. The elementary kids at 1:30, high school at 2:30 and middle schoolers at 3:15. I knew from my days on school buses up north that they'd run late so I decided to get Pook. (Thank you FB for declaring me a Good Mom for getting him.) I persuaded CD to come home early, "just in case" and "why not?"

My drive to the middle school was fine, and I claimed Pook, his good friend and the friend's brother whose mom works further away. I'd have picked up a whole pack if I'd been able to reach all the parents. Cell phone towers were overwhelmed. The line to pick up kids was out the office door. The drive home was much more treacherous as cars were jammed on a steep hill and we were moving only one car length at a time. As I reached the bottom of the hill I studied the cars ahead of me, wondering if everyone had traction, or if the pile would slide down the hill like an avalanche of vehicles. I strongly warned the boys that if I skidded or was hit, they were to remain calm regardless. They were relatively sober considering they hadn't had snow to play in for three years.

Since all nearby school systems let out early, and suddenly, all parents began to leave work early and businesses closed. Atlanta rush hour traffic is not for the faint of heart anyway, and I consider evening rush "hour" to be 3-7pm. This was much, much worse. The snow that had been hitting the pavement and melting soon began turning into ice. I was home, cozy, my boys and friends were out sledding, but this was the rest of the city. I shall share a picture from Slate Magazine:
View image on Twitter 

Why did the roads get bad? Weren't they salted?  Yes, and no. We have a few trucks (30 spreaders, 40 snowplows (versus just four pieces of equipment three years ago) for 5 million people in a car-centric city)) but the trucks were in gridlock too. As the ice got worse there were close to a thousand accidents. Some drivers ran out gas, others got tired of the lack of progress. I know many people who drove 4-12 hours to make it home, but many began to abandon their cars to walk. The school buses weren't able to get the elementary school kids home, so the high school and middle school kids were stuck until parents arrived. Parents were stuck on the streets. Teachers and administrators were stuck at school, away from their own families. All around bad.

 I was serving a warm happy-cow pot roast and obsessively reading FB.

Yes, better ice-driving skills would go a long way. Maybe we could buy more snow removal equipment, but I'd rather use government money in other ways, personally. Yes, canceling schools for the day would have been a good idea. In hindsight. But you Yankees laugh at us for canceling school in advance of two inches of snow too, so we can't really win. You'll just have to come visit during one of these storms someday. Just be forewarned--you might not be able to leave.

How could I have forgotten to show you Pretty Pictures of Southern Snow?!