Friday, December 30, 2011

Relationships

The best thing about Facebook, in my humble opinion, is catching up with people you really want to know about, but haven't a clue as to where they might be. Carol is one of those people. Last year, I happened to look her up on Facebook and to my delight, there she was. It has taken almost a year to see her, but with our trip to Michigan, she and I finally caught up.

Carol was one of just a handful of people that actually spoke to me on my first day of ninth grade. I was a newcomer to the city, and a poorly dressed one at that. What I mean to say is that, just like now, I was fashion challenged. To this day I remember the blue skirt and shirt, and white cotton sweater I wore. I felt uncomfortable in it, which probably made the whole ensemble even worse. If you feel awkward in what you are wearing, there is absolutely no way that you can pull it off, you know? Well, that first morning, when I walked into the cafetorium (Cafeteria and auditorium all in one? What the heck is that?) Carol was the bright spot in an otherwise dull group of people. She had a 1000 watt smile, as they say, and the nerve to say hello to the new girl. Thank goodness she did.

High school was a bad time for me. I never felt as though I fit in. Part of that was being a newcomer with the wrong name. Someone at that school already had our last name, and it wasn't a very common one. For whatever reason, a new group of people having that same name just didn't sit well with anyone. Neither did a freshman taking Biology or French II (this was a small town high school after all, for those of you that don't know). But Carol (and in turn another friendly yet more hesitant soul named Tasha) didn't care about any of that. They both allowed me to be me, and liked me for it (or, in spite of it!).

Carol was my saving grace. The four years of high school stretched interminably for me, but spending time with Carol and calling her my friend kept me sane. I despised walking in the doors of that school, but knowing that Carol was there helped me do so every day. We had classes together, joined some of the same clubs, and hung out on the weekends. We talked about classes, jobs, boys, dreams, and colleges. We ate fast food (probably too much), drove around the city, and saw movies. We did other more irreverent things, too, and to this day, some of them are unbeknownst to my parents. Ah, the memories.

One of the best things about Carol was that she called the shots as she saw them. She wasn't hurtful, but she was honest. If you didn't know that about her, it might surprise you. But for the most part, that characteristic just made me laugh. Oh how I wanted to be like her! I had trouble expressing myself, except in writing, but writing didn't help with making friends and influencing people. And unlike myself, most people liked Carol. Funny thing, though...she didn't care if you did or didn't. Carol was a one of a kind, a diamond in the rough, a real gem, someone we should all have tried to emulate. I know I never told her any of this, and I bet no one else did, either.

Well, I could go on, but I won't. Carol and I played a bit of phone tag 2 days before Christmas, but we managed to set up a time to meet. Some of the descriptions and tidbits I was telling Tim about Carol made him say, "She really doesn't sound at all like you." When I thought about it, though, I realized he was wrong. I just couldn't do Carol justice in the few seconds I had before I ran out the door, so I didn't even try. I just hoped that Carol was still Carol. And if so, we'd have a great time.

When she opened the door, I swear I could have been in a time warp looking at a high school version of Carol, save for the big hair (she has long, sleek, straight hair now). Pink cheeks and her 1000 watt smile greeted me, along with a big hug. We sat for the next couple of hours and shot the breeze, much like we did so long ago. Along with drinking two diet Cokes (hair might change but apparently, favorite beverages do not) she told me that she had lost her mother 2 years ago, and that her father is having trouble adjusting. She told me that her relationship with her brother isn't as tight as it was in high school, that she loves her job, her kids and her husband. She isn't thrilled with living where they do, but her Dad depends on her and the kids. And the kids now depend on her Dad. She just can't see changing things right now. Overall, Carol is happy. I was thrilled to hear it -- who could ask for anything more?

On the drive back to my parents, I thanked the good Lord for Carol. I thanked him for allowing me to meet her back in 1987, and I thanked him for helping me find the time to meet up with her. So many times these days I think, "I am too busy to do X." I could have been too busy, but in my heart, I wanted to see Carol. I reflected on the ways in which we are different, but also on the many things we have in common. Most importantly, our morals and values and the way we are raising our children are so inline, you can tell why we were such great friends in high school.

Thinking of my relationship with Carol has made me think of other relationships I've had in my life, some of which remain strong, others that seem connected by simply a thread. These relationships will likely be discussed here, as I walk down memory lane. I'll try to be discreet, but if you find yourself among any of my next posts and you don't like being there, please let me know!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Hot Are You?

That isn't meant the way it looks.

Remember the thermometer I bought Tim for Christmas? It is an infrared one, and it has a laser. The laser can be turned on and off, and is really only there to show you what you are aiming the thermometer at. (I just ended that sentence with a preposition, AND I will not correct it.) This week, we've pretty much measured the temperature of everything (all in degrees Fahrenheit).

The inside of Tim's mouth? 94 degrees.
The backsplash in the kitchen? 65 degrees.
The tile floor in the kitchen? 68 degrees.
Zoe's forehead? 97 degrees.
Aaron's eyeball? 88 degrees.
The scrambled eggs? 87 degrees (and cooling quickly).
The ice cream in the freezer? Zero degrees.
The metal back of the oven (preheated to 300): 313 degrees.

I could go on. The kids have had a blast, although both Tim and I have had to remind them that it isn't a toy. (Isn't it, though?) And, this thing is so handy. This evening, I was making Naan and needed to make sure the milk was heated to a certain temperature. I quickly grabbed the thermometer and found out that the milk was 167 degrees, and in need of cooling.

I plan on sending these thermometers out to the people I love. Nerd or not, I think everyone will love them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Growing Up

We received pictures of the kids in the mail the other day from the orthodontist. The orthodontist documents everything, and uses many pictures and x-rays in their quest to help our kids get the best mouths possible. I know I already posted about the girls getting their braces off. This one isn't about braces. It is about the pre-teen children I now have living in my house! I about fell over when I looked at the pictures.

Here are the before pictures, the ones in which my girls look (to me) still like babies.




And here are the after pictures.



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Presents

We're back.

You might not have known we were gone, and that is as it should be. I often wonder about the people that broadcast via blog, Facebook, or any other social media that they have vacated the premises for a week. Isn't that just an invitation to the malicious to come over?

Anyway, we made it to Michigan and back with very little fanfare. In between those driving days, there was very little fanfare. And with 6 young cousins all mixed in, little fanfare is a very good thing. In short, we all had a good time, and it was nice to see both of my sisters and their families.

Tim and I don't usually exchange very large presents. This year, is no exception, considering we will likely be giving each other a kitchen makeover next year. Or a new computer. Or any number of things that will likely go wrong with our house in the next couple of months. He got me a set of cookie cutters shaped like laboratory equipment, and I got him a thermometer. It is a pretty cool one, considering it uses a laser to read the temperature of anything and everything. It is somewhat difficult to get past being a nerd in this house.

Santa had the foresight, again, to leave presents here at home. He is always so thoughtful! With the load the kids got this year, it was great to have many of them left here. We didn't have to leave any of the children back in Michigan with my parents!

The kids tore into what was hidden around our house. The gifts are always placed under something, so that the cats can't rip into the paper or try to ingest the bows. One year, Tim found Lucy eating some of the thin ribbon from a package. Tim started to pull the ribbon out of Lucy's mouth, and found himself pulling, and pulling, and pulling. Tim was literally pulling the ribbon back out of the stomach of the cat. I kid you not!

I personally think that Tim should have just left that ribbon where it was. Lucy isn't in to giving very good presents, and he should be taught a lesson. When I went upstairs to put something in Melina's room, I found the present he left his year. A large smattering of feces, right on Melina's comforter.

So much for a White Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wednesday In A Nutshell

Yesterday was the kids first day off for the Winter Break. They woke up late, played a bit together, and watched a movie with lunch. We didn't have too much to do until the afternoon, when we needed to get to an orthodontist appointment. So, we waited to do our errands until then.

The girls each were fitted with their new retainers. Zoe's is a dark bluish/purple color, while Talia's is clear with sparkles. And I can say that we are all grateful for the girls choosing two completely different colors for their retainers. The alternative, and what can happen, kind of gives me the shivers.

On the way back from the orthodontist, and en route to the gas station, the kids were talking about Santa. I think just about everything was said with respect to the jolly man in Red. The Belief is strong here, and I'd like to cultivate that just a bit longer, if possible. The funny thing is, kids notice things, you know?

Melina's school had a Christmas party on Tuesday. (Yes, it was a Christmas party. She attends a preschool that has a religious affiliation, so we can go ahead and call it what it was.) After they spoke about the religious significance of the holiday, they had a visit from Santa. I remember the girls and Aaron absolutely loving the visit from Santa! They had been so happy to see him and I clearly remember the girls arguing over whether or not it had been the real Santa. Melina was very excited, but our conversation was much different.

Melina: Mom, we got to see Santa today!
Me: Oh, that is so great! Did you have fun?
Melina: Yes, he had a sack. He gave us a gingerbread man.
Me: Wow! I love it.
Melina: But he was the pretend Santa.
Me: How do you know?
Melina: Because it was Mr. Glenn in there.
Me: (Curious) How do you know?
Melina: Because it was. Mr. Glenn was Santa.
Me: Did someone tell you that?
Melina: Nope.

Melina repeated this conversation with every adult with whom she came into contact. To her, it was just an observation, but to me, I can see that stringing out the Belief might be a bit difficult with my last born. Of course, every adult (including myself) told her that the real Santa always needs help, especially when it gets close to Christmas. And in reality, Santa does need all the help he can get, right? Many of us have taken on that role to help spread Christmas love and cheer, and whether I've been on the receiving or the giving end, the feeling I get is the same: that fullness of heart that reminds me of that scene in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" when his heart grows back.

After the gas station, we stopped into the Italian store to get some frozen ravioli. I have never been in this store, which you might think is a horrible thing for an Italian to say. But, we cook at our house. So, if we want Italian, we usually to it ourselves. I don't make homemade ravioli (at least not yet), though, so we needed to go there.

The place smelled delicious, but I got a couple of looks from the people inside. A dark-haired family was waiting for their deli food to be brought to the table, and they looked at us. The little old man in the hat, he looked at us. I can't decide if it was the fact that I had 4 kids by myself (again, we've gone over this...it isn't even a large brood in this neck of the woods), or if it was the fact that I had 3 blondes and a red head in a store where most people had dark hair. I wanted to shout out: "My last name is *blank* and I am 75% Italian! My kids, although they don't look it, are 5/8 Italian!" I refrained from doing so, as I am sure that they would have escorted the crazy lady and her camouflaged Diego children out of the store.

And now, it is Thursday. Let's see what sorts of trouble we can get into today! Have a great day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Au Secours!

The first part in fixing a problem is admitting you need help, right?

I helped with Aaron's holiday party yesterday. Unlike last year, Aaron's class this year is almost begging for help! While we had an abundance of parents at the kindergarten parties, this year, that is not the case. Therefore, the homeroom mom had asked me to bring in some pretzels, juice, and chocolate chips, and then to also be a helper while the party was happening. Melina and I had planned on attending anyway, so it wasn't any trouble.

Luckily, Mrs. H (the homeroom mom) had decided to make the party very low-key. Instead of a craft and a snack, she made the craft the snack. The kids each had a sugar cookie, some frosting, a few chocolate coated candies and some chocolate chips. We bravely gave each child a plastic knife, and let him or her go to town decorating. While that was going on, we passed out pretzels and juice.

At some point, Mrs. H asked that I help pass out bananas. The "Wellness Committee" at the school really wants the holiday parties to be more healthy, we try to bring in something nutritious at each party. Last time, it was grapes and cheese, this time, bananas. We figured that each child only need 1/2 of a banana, and we'd ask if a banana was wanted so as to cut down on waste. I went around to each child and asked him or her if a banana was needed. And that is when I got in trouble.

I made it to Edward and this is what happened:
Me: Would you like 1/2 of a banana, Edward?
E: Yes, please, but I will share it with my dad (who was there to help).
Me: Well, if you share it with your dad, what part of the banana will you each get?
E: We will each get a small part.
Me: Yes, but if I split 1/2 of a banana into 2 pieces, what part of the banana do you and your dad get?
E: Hmmm.
Me: That is okay, Edward! Fractions are hard!

I split the banana and went on asking other kids if they wanted any. In the background, I heard Edward's dad explaining the problem to the kids at the table. Just so you know, I only asked Edward because I have worked with him at math stations before. I really thought he would have known the answer, based on how well he works at those centers!

So, I have admitted that I have a problem. Now, what to do about it?!?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Projects

We just had the electrician here to install fluorescent lighting in the basement. Our basement was old and dark, and while we will probably never have it finished, the kids like to play there sometimes, and we have a desk there for the kids to do their homework. Up until now, it really has been too dark for the kids to do their homework (what homework, right?), and with my eyes, I have always complained about not being able to see down there. Hence, the call to the electrician.

I just went down there to put away some boxes, and my first thought was, "Wow!" I really am not a fan of fluorescent lighting in stores or elsewhere in the home, but these lights really lit everything up! I can now see anything I want: the top of the box at the top of the shelf, the crevice behind the air hockey table, and the corner shelf that houses the cat litter. If the kids are looking for something in the toy bins, they should now be able to find things without my assistance.

Unfortunately, it is so light down there, I can see everything I don't want, too. The cat litter is much more apparent now, and the dirt on the old floor seems to stand out like a beacon. The dust bunnies that aggregate in the corners and the spot on the rug where Ferdinand or Lucy got sick seemed to jump out at me.

Which brought me to my decision for a nice, long, winter project. Since I won't be teaching, you will find me in the basement, cleaning, sorting, and making my newly enlightened rooms a bit more pleasing to the eye. If I give myself a timetable, I am betting that Melina and I can get it down before we start on identifying spring projects. One can hope, right?

Monday, December 19, 2011

If It's Not Nailed Down, We'll Dip It!

(These long titles as of late are getting to me! Whew!)

Anyway, as we do every year, the kids and I (well, Melina and I this time) have just finished dipping our pretzels into dark chocolate and white chocolate. The last batches are cooling as we speak, waiting to be used as filling for a couple more treat bags for the teachers. These pretzels will join homemade iced sugar cookies and chocolate drop cookies in a cute little holiday bag. We bought the teachers a small gift, and contributed to their wish lists, so I don't know why I feel the need to feed all the teachers junk. I think it is just that I like to make the junk. I might as well spread the love, you know?

As I said, we do this dipping each year. In the past we've thrown in the safe bets (for us anyway): peanuts, walnuts, cranberries, raisins, and granola. I've tried some other fruits, and even put lots of nuts and fruits together. I've tried different cereals, too. Each year, we get a little bit more bold when we dip our pretzels. Last year, we tried Cheezits dipped in chocolate -- the hot and spicy variety. Aaron loved those! He asked for them again this year. Our experiment this time was chili-spiced dried mango. I knew Tim would love it, because Trader Joe's used to carry chocolate covered chili-spiced mango. Alas, it has been discontinued, except in our house.

In essence, my strategy is this: get enough chocolate to cover everything, and then throw everything in. If we don't like it, we don't try it again the next year. Got anything you'd like for us to try?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Consequences Of Living With A Would-Be Mathematician

We took the girls to see a local professional production of The Nutcracker yesterday. Their good friend had two small parts in the ballet, and has for the last couple of years. Yet this is the first year I've been coordinated enough to get tickets early and make our way there. Aaron expressed zero interest in seeing the production, and we thought that Melina was a little young to come. So, Tim, the girls, and I made the short drive downtown.

Both Zoe and Talia are practicing pieces from The Nutcracker for their piano lessons, and they are really enjoying them. I have always loved the music, but I had never seen a live production of the ballet. Tim says he saw one so long ago, he really coudln't remember.

Our seats were awesome! Mrs. D picked them out for us, and she placed us right in the center part of the lower balcony. We could see everything at once, and no one tall was sitting in front of us. In fact, for most of the show, no one at all was sitting there. The girls were excited for the ballet to start, and once the lights dimmed, I could tell by the smiles on their faces that it was going to be a lovely afternoon.

In short, the production was nice. There were a few minor mishaps: one ballerina fell briefly, some of the movements were not completely coordinated, etc. But all the little children in the production were adorable, and of course, the big things all went well. There were no lighting issues or scene structure problems.

In fact, the only problem really had to do with me. I guess I am not really a fan of the ballet. I can truly appreciate the hard work and dedication that go into being a part of the dance and I could never purport to be able to do anything near that. (Why do I enjoy running? It is easy to put one foot in front of the other, and even then, I sometimes trip!) But I wasn't moved by the production. It could be the lack of story, as I mentioned to Tim; it could be that The Nutcracker is geared toward children. I don't really know how to explain it. But the part that really did me in came just before the intermission. And this problem is all of Tim's fault.

The last scene of Act I shows a smart little dance with the Snowflakes: 12 ballerinas dressed in light, fluffy, snowflake-like costumes. Melina would have loved to see these young ladies twirl. I saw the twirling, all right, but then I noticed something. The groups of 3. Four groups of 3 to be exact. Then, they were in groups of 4. Three groups of 4, of course. At some point, the girls lined up in two lines of 6. I think you can see where this is going. I could not get out of my head the factors of 12! It was like a scene from the old Sesame Street episodes where they would show a number of dancers and say things like, "Twelve." And just repeat that number, over and over and over. "Look boys and girls, how many ways can you come up with 12?"

The same thing happened in Act II, when the Flowers came out to dance. It didn't happen during the scene with the German children, so there must have been something in the choreography of the Flowers and Snowflakes that just lent itself to math.

At some point during the production, I whispered to the girls, "Did you see that? Four groups of 3s. Twelve. Math is just about everywhere."

It was really dark, but I am sure I heard them both roll their eyes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Time For A Tea Party

Melina and I enjoy drinking tea and having little parties. Usually, we brew the tea in one of my cups, and then we pour the tea into some of Melina's little plastic tea cups, once the liquid has cooled down quite a bit. Most of the time, Melina and I are the only ones drinking tea, but sometimes, Melina brings a stuffed animal to the table.

A couple of weeks ago, Melina expressed interest in having other people at our tea party. I thought maybe she'd ask about inviting her friend up the street, who is four. She did ask about having a friend of the street, but it was Mrs. S, who is clearly not four! Melina then added that she wanted to also invite Mrs. D. I think her wanting to have these ladies over is because she encounters them often. Melina sees Mrs. Sherick five times a week at the bus stop, and Melina sees Mrs. D often because the girls are good friends with her daughter. I am friends with both Mrs. S and Mrs. D, so I was happy to try to plan a little tea party.

I don't own a tea set, but I did purchase a tea kettle that sings so that we could really achieve the best effect for our tea party. We planned a light menu of sandwiches and salad, and then had some treats for when we drank our tea. We even set the table, using a complete set of dishes and cutlery.

Don't you love the plastic tea bag holder?!? We had to settle for folded napkins, because neither Melina nor I could do origami.

I stepped back for the next one, just so we could see the whole thing. Obviously, we cleaned the place up for this occasion!


Mrs. S and Mrs. D did not dress up for the tea party, although both admitted to thinking about it. I didn't, either, but Melina (in usual Melina form) took out all stops! She had a great time wearing the flower girl dress she used for Aunt Teresa's wedding and a new headband. As you can see, a great time was had by all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Braces Off!

When I speak to people on the phone, particularly those with whom I haven't spoken to in a long time, I usually say that not much is happening around here. I equate uneventful with doing well; sometimes, I am just fine with status quo, you know? But on Monday, there was quite the celebration going on! Finally, after long last, the girls have passed through Phase I of their orthodontic adventure, and the braces came off! They are thrilled: They can chew gum, eat popcorn with abandon, and bite into apples! I am thrilled: I don't have to pick them up and cart them over to Dr. M's office every 6 weeks.

I don't have very many good before pictures. I took a few that were early on in their Phase I adventure. If you look closely, you can see the space and crookedness of their mouths.

Zoe:

Talia:
But I did capture two pretty nice pictures for the after shots.

At the orthodontists office on this momentous occasion (Zoe is on the left):


And with their new nicknames, Teeth 1 and Teeth 2:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He's All Right

Back in September, Ferdinand was diagnosed as having diabetes. Since that time, we have been giving him insulin shots twice a day, and going in periodically to have his blood glucose levels checked.

The vet started him on 1/2 of a unit of insulin. Apparently, they always start with that level in cats, and then see how the cat responds. You'd rather underdose than overdose on insulin. Bad things can happen if you have too much insulin.

After Ferdie had been on 1/2 of a unit for probably a week, we had his blood checked. No change was detected in the glucose levels, so the vet ordered us to go up to 1 unit twice a day, and then come back for a blood check. Well, we went from 1 unit, to 1.5 units, to 2 units, to 2.5 units, to 3, then 3.5, and we are now at 4 units. I love the vet's office, but I am truly tired of seeing the lovely ladies that work the reception desk! In fact yesterday, when I took Ferdinand in, he whined (loudly) the entire car ride. He whined (loudly) in the waiting area, AND he whined (loudly) throughout the blood draw (I could hear him from the waiting area). It is obvious to me that he is a bit tired of seeing the vet's office as well.

At one point in this whole ordeal, and because Ferdinand's glucose levels weren't dropping sufficiently, the vet opted to do periodic blood draws throughout the day. This was in an effort to more accurately get a count of his blood glucose. When I went to pick Ferdinand up that day, the vet simply said, "Cats are special. Your cat in particular is very special." Well yeah, to us, he is! That isn't what she meant. Usually, in healthy animals, blood glucose levels increase slightly after eating, but for the most part, the level should stay pretty level. In diabetic animals, there isn't as much stability in the levels, so the vet should see some crests and troughs in the curve. Not in Ferdinand. His level was stable, but unhealthily stable. A level of 381 mg/dL isn't what they wanted to see at all!

In the end, it seems that the 4 units of insulin twice a day is (finally) working pretty well. He and Lucy are playing more, we see Ferdinand snuggling with the kids, and I actually SEE him more during the day. Ferdinand doesn't seem to be drinking as much, nor is he urinating as frequently or as copiously. I hope we are on the other side of this. I guess we'll see.

I should mention that cats really are special when it comes to diabetes. The vet also told me that in cats, sometimes diabetes just goes away after a couple of years!! Doesn't that just make you wonder? Is anyone doing research on that component of the cat? They very well should be!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poetry By Tim

Tim and I both like to write. He admittedly doesn't get to do this that often, but he is good at it. In a former life, I believe he won an essay contest. And, if you read his dissertation, it reads like prose. Both of us try to impart our love of writing onto the kids, and so far, we haven't had any luck. But because the girls are in 4th grade, they have more writing to do. They've been working on friendly letters, business letters, and persuasive paragraphs, as well as trying to become a better writer overall by including more details and being aware of topic sentences.

One of the things Tim likes to write are poems, in particular, Haiku. He usually tries to write humorous ones, so that they interest the kids more. To be honest, I don't think these poems of his adhere to the strict Haiku guidelines, but for what its worth, we think they are nice.

I present to you Tim's latest.

How he describes his writing:
My prose is purple.
My nights are dark and stormy.
The butler did it.

Talking about Doctor Who, one of our favorite TV characters of all time:
The Doctor is stuck.
The angels have the phone box.
Sally Sparrow, help!

Putting a little math into it (of course) and I can't get my Greek font working:
(Edit by Tim: I put the right character in)
Richard Dedekind
was feeling sort of hungry.
He η function.


And for those who like Christmas poetry:
I want an iPod,
but Santa says I've been bad.
Guess it's coal this year.

and
Santa, we've been good,
but we don't need lots of junk.
Cash or check will do.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Card Pictures

Each year, we get lovely photos and photo cards from friends and family at Christmas time. Each year, I vow to get a great photo of our brood, and send it onto said friends and family. Each year, I forget how difficult it is to get a good picture of the kids.

I was going to use this one, which was actually taken not that long ago. But when you try to print it, Talia's head gets cut off. That was my fault, as I was the one taking the picture. So I guess in this instance, I can't really blame the kids.


We tried to take a nice picture with Santa. But of course, not all the kids cooperated. Times like this make me thank my lucky stars we don't have more children to add to the mix.

Take 1:


Take 12:

The one I'd really like to use has only one of our children, but so much potential for blackmail later on in life. If I send it out, Aaron will have a harder time of deleting it from our files!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Young Love

The girls are in 4th grade this year. If you don't know that already, then either you are new to the blog, or you just haven't been listening. Up until this time, boys have been relatively innocuous. The girls have had play dates with several of their boy friends, they've called the boy up the street to play, and they have complained about the rambunctiousness of some of their boy classmates.

This year, however, things have been different. The girls have been slightly distracted by boys, one in particular. I will call this boy Brandon, for the sake of clarity. From the beginning of this year, it has been Brandon this and Brandon that. I knew who Brandon was, for we all saw him at meet-the-teacher afternoon. Over the course of the year, though, I have gotten to know Brandon just a bit.

If the girls are going to like someone, I am glad that they picked someone like Brandon, and I can see why they have. He has long blond hair and warm brown eyes. He has two little brothers, I think, and seems to care about his siblings. He is intelligent and funny and more importantly, he is polite! At library time, when I check out his books, he always says "Thank you." What more can I ask for?

Well, yesterday we were talking about liking boys and the girls wanted to know who I liked in the fourth grade. Easy! I liked the same kid for three years in a row! He was tall, had dark hair, a cute space between his teeth, and dimples! Oh how those dimples came out when he smiled. I am sure there were quite a few of us 4th graders that swooned the day he walked into school. He was somewhat shy, but genuinely a kind fellow. The kids and teachers all liked him. His name was Bob. Okay, it wasn't really Bob. But he did have a very simple first name and we'll stop right there. I told the girls his name, but out of respect for everyone's privacy, I won't reveal it here.

Why? Because you can actually find this Bob on the internet. Turns out that the boy I went to school with for three years (he moved into the school and out again all within those 3 years) ended up doing some really good things over the years. He excelled in a sport in high school, such that a very good university offered him a scholarship. (That university, just so you know, is not one liked by a Wolverine fan, such as me.) Bob was, according to many accounts, a real student-athlete: very intelligent, hard-working, and gracious, both on and off the field, or court, or whatever. After college, he didn't make it in the big-leagues, but did play with some quasi-professional teams, and moved onto coaching. In that arena, he has done fantastic. This really is not a surprise, as his father coached several professional teams, as far as I know.

Well, the girls were curious. "Can you find a picture of him, Mom?" they asked. We hopped on the computer and looked him up. There were a couple of easily identifiable pictures there. Bob looked like a grown-up version of himself. And yes, the dimples were still there. In my opinion, he has grown into a very nice-looking fellow. Apparently, the girls disagree. Their response? "Was he cuter in the 4th grade?"

Friday, December 9, 2011

God Bless Mrs. G!

Aaron was lucky enough to be assigned to Mrs. G's class this year. As I have said before, Zoe had Mrs. G back in first grade, and we loved her. She is organized, patient, and has the students' best interests at heart. We also found out that she adapts well, as some things in the curriculum have changed since Zoe was in first grade, and she still manages to be a first rate teacher.

Over the course of the year so far, I have been in to help Mrs. G with various activities. I usually try to get there to help with the Science Lab activities, and I've been around to help with parties and lunchtime. Just recently, I started coming in each week to help with the math centers.

It became apparent to me very early on in the year that Mrs. G's class was a little lopsided. She had been given mostly boys, and to be honest, some of the most difficult boys in the first grade. (I do wonder if this wasn't by design, as Mrs. G has a reputation for being a good disciplinarian; she is gentle, yet firm with the students, and from what I can tell, she gets results!) When I have been in the classroom, Mrs. G has had to deal with talking, crying, general malaise, and arguing. Half of the class wants to talk to the new person (me) at a time when Mrs. G would like to explain what we need to do. Mrs. G usually looks at me, and in an effort to not roll her eyes at the students' behavior, instead widens her big, brown eyes at me. Any parent would know what it means!

I just want to give Mrs. G a shout-out and a large pat on her back! She has been an educator for 30 years, and nothing seems to have phased her. I think I'd actually like to ask her for an interview, off the record of course. I'd like to understand why she became a teacher, specifically a first grade teacher, and ask her what the secret is for being so patient and understanding. For 30 years! I'd probably try to get at the heart of her philosophy and then spread the word. Many of us can learn quite a bit from a lady like Mrs. G.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweet Success

Once my quarter was over, I told the teachers at the kids' school that I would be able to come into the classroom and help out a bit more. Since I like science and math, both the 1st grade and the 4th grade teachers jumped on that. I have been going in to help the first graders with math centers (I have 6 kids at a time for 15 minutes), and I have also been helping the 4th graders. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the same 4th graders and I head to a quiet spot in the school and spend 30-45 minutes on whatever the teacher needs us to do.

On Tuesday, Mrs. M requested that we go over some of the concepts that the kids will see on the standardized tests. She gave me a copy of the quiz (not graded) that is similar to ones that the students take every couple of weeks. Mrs. M's philosophy is this: the more they see it, the better they will do. Hmmm...sounds like practice to me. Perhaps that should carry over into homework. But, I digress.

Anyway, the students and I looked over what they had done, and tried to concentrate on the concepts that most of them hadn't been able to grasp. One concept: fractions. At this point in the public schools out here, the students have only a rudimentary understanding of fractions. They can identify what a fraction is, and how many parts are a part of the bigger whole, but many of the kids don't know how to add or subtract fractions yet. So, we went over that. We added and subtracted fractions like there was no tomorrow. By the end of the 45 minutes, we had it down. I said to them, "My job is done. Now, you need to remember it!"

Well, imagine my surprise and delight when I walked into school today. Sydney had a big smile on her face and burst out: "We took one of those tests and I got all the fractions correct!" She was so clearly proud, it made me want to cry just a bit. Once I got the other kids in the group, I asked how they did. And all of them said the same as Sydney. "Mrs. C, it was easy! We knew exactly what to do!"

I think I felt just as great as they did about their small success!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis

First a reddish-pink stripe in my hair, and now a pair of black leggings! I must be going through a mid-life crisis. I will, however, still hold onto the notion that a pair of jeggings will never be seen in my closet. If I go that far, then will one of you please call in the authorities? Thank you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Balancing Acts

It is that time of the year again. The time where I find it difficult to juggle everything: school, shopping, cleaning, laundry, list-making, volunteering, etc. Part of it is due to the weather. I cannot stand the gloominess that comes with rainy December days. I live for the sun, and right now, that big star is hard to come by. I hope we see it tomorrow.

I also find it difficult to find the balance for what Christmas means to us. As Catholics, we primarily celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. I try to imprint that onto my children when we speak about Christmas. At the same time, though, the magic of Santa is a huge draw, and rightfully so. Many of my fondest memories come from Christmas when I was a child, especially with respect to the man from the North Pole. The lights of the Christmas tree in the living room, the apprehension I felt when heading up the stairs (maybe I'd see Santa!), heading out to look for Rudolph's nose in the sky. All of those memories are to be cherished, and we try around here to replicate them in some way.

So, in our house, it just might be that the two sides (for lack of a better word) overlap. Celebrating a person's birthday is always (in our house) a happy occasion! Why shouldn't Jesus' birth also be that way? And the warm feelings that come with Santa? Those feelings can put smiles on most anyone's faces! Didn't the Grinch prove that? Either way, there are lessons to be learned. Giving presents, showering people with happiness, donating time and energy to those in need, and generally trying to spread Christmas cheer can be done whether you celebrate the birth of Jesus, or only talk about the man in red. I just need to remember to breathe, and it will all turn out okay.

Do you find it difficult to manage the two sides of Christmas? I'd like to know. [And don't get all righteous on me here. Some of you might say, there is only 1 side of Christmas, and that is the birth of Christ. That conversation can be for another time. As I said, lessons can be learned from either stance. So, we will continue to celebrate from both sides.]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

According to Melina...

Caterpillars, snakes, and worms are too slobbery to hold.

But, when she is a grown-up with blond hair, and if she calls herself Kita, then she might want to touch a caterpillar.

From the mouths of babes, you know?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Funnies

Melina likes to tell me all about her day at preschool. She attends school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so usually, Friday is a day where we can catch up on what happened.

Apparently, at school yesterday, they started singing Christmas songs. She recognized "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on the radio.

Melina: We sang that at school yesterday!
Me: Oh really? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Melina: No, Rudog, mommy. His name is Rudog, and he has a shiny nose.


Later on, when we were at the grocery store, we walked by the seafood counter. Melina pointed to the lobster tank.

Melina: Is that crab talking? (It was moving around in the tank.)
Me: That is a lobster and it is moving. It is alive.
Melina: Do people eat them?
Me: Yes, people eat lobsters, but you have to cook them first.
Melina: Do you cook them alive?
Me: Well, I think you put them in a boiling pot of water alive. I don't know, as I don't like to eat lobsters.
Melina: Well, mommy, I don't think I'd like to eat hamsters either.
Me: Lobsters, Melina, they are called lobsters.
Melina: Oh!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Bits

Just for the record, I didn't understand what Tim meant in his post yesterday. Once I told him that I didn't, he explained it, in very easy terms. I guess Tim isn't always as clear as he'd like to be, either. If you need an explanation, feel free to ask him the next time you see him. Since Tim and Aaron share a brain, I do wonder if Aaron would understand exactly what he meant.

***
I picked up Melina from preschool today, and I realized that I am the old lady in line. I guess it makes sense, as Melina is the last of my children to be at the school, whereas some of the ladies are dropping off their first born children. Still, it hurts to think of it. My friend says, and rightly so, that the kids are closer to college than birth. Yikes.

***
I never did get around, in the month of November, to admitting one more deep dark secret. Of course, it isn't that deep or dark, considering Tim knows about it. What is it, you ask? Are you ready? I have a soft spot in my heart for Zachary Levi.

Way back when the TV show Chuck first came out, I'd be sitting at the computer doing school work while Tim watched the show. The music (which to this day I still really like) was the first thing that made me turn my head. Then, it was Chuck himself. At the inception of the show, the character really did look nerdy; the same can't be said for the more suave version of him on the show now. (In retrospect, I prefer the nerdier version.) I don't know exactly why, but something about a tall, dark, and handsome nerd just makes me giggly. This is in direct contrast to my penchant for bad boys, you know?

Anyway, not that it matters to me much or has any bearing on my liking of Zachary Levi, but the show has jumped the shark, as they say. I think this season is the last, and probably, it is for the best. I do hope that Zachary Levi does other shows, though. The only other thing I know him from is Tangled, which I loved, but because it was an animated film, I probably would have loved it even without his voice. Anyone know if there is a Zachary Levi Fan Club?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Super Powers, continued

Chrispea discussed super talents previously, and time travel, as DS commented, would be a great one. Supposing, though, that one had to choose among more modest selections than the ability to bend space and time to one's will, I think I'd like to the power to visualize function & vector spaces in more than three dimensions. Imagine knowing exactly what a hypercube looks like, or picturing in your head an infinite dimensional Hilbert space.

I'd be like a Sphere in Flatland.

Not Like Me II

Melina and I went out this morning for a day of shopping and lunch. Sounds like fun, right? I did enjoy myself, since I was with Melina. But a day of shopping is not my idea of fun. Melina, however, enjoyed herself immensely! She put much thought into which outfits she chose in the little girls department. When we got to the ladies' section, I literally looked at a sweater and a dress, thought about them for 3 seconds, and threw them in the cart.

If there was ever a child who is Not Like Me, it would be Melina. I've said it so many times on this blog, you are probably tired of hearing it. But if I didn't see her come out of me, I'd have thought she wasn't mine!

Yes, the child looks like me. She speaks like me: "Aaron, I told you 5 times to stop doing that!" She eats like me: she just put away an ice cream treat after having an enormous slice of pizza (before you go off on bad parenting, we usually don't have ice cream after lunch and without having had a fruit or a vegetable, but we were out to lunch after all!). But somehow, she just isn't like me. Melina is always hot whereas I am always cold. Her favorite color is pink, while my favorite color is green. The color we wear most often? Hers again would be pink; mine is black. Her favorite shoes are strappy sandals while mine are running shoes. Melina's favorite pastime is looking in the mirror (!) whereas mine is running. I am telling you, I am raising a little diva, and I don't know how or when or why! The complexity of genetics leads me to believe that Melina's genes are more like those of Aunt Tara's than of mine. But that is a whole new blog post, and one that I am not qualified to even discuss (though the field of genetics is quite interesting).

There are a few things I can seeing shining through this little lady that are characteristics I have, but cannot claim all to myself. Melina loves to read, she loves letters, and she loves music. Tim and I share those characteristics, though, so they might have easily been what he contributed (that, and her ample little tushy!). I am holding out hope for her, though, because as of the last couple of days, she has been exhibiting common sense! At the tender age of 3! Woo hoo! if that says around. We could use it in this house.

***
I should mention that this is the last day of November. I made it all the way through the month, and posted every day! In fact, there was even that bonus post I put up to amuse you. From here until next November, I will not have to post every day, and you, lucky reader, will not have to read every day! Aren't you happy? Even so, I'll do my best to keep posting glimpses of the zoo. Just be patient with me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not Like Me

I have a feeling that this might be a really long post, and when you get to the end of it, you might not quite understand exactly what I am saying. I apologize in advance if that is the case. Sometimes, the blog is here just to get things off of my chest, or to put thoughts on paper that I'd like to try to express so I remember the feeling later. Emphasis on the try. Sometimes, I still have trouble making sure the meaning is clear by the end of the post.

I have thought quite a bit over the last couple of months about my kids. They are growing up, so quickly, it seems, and I feel lucky to have an age range. I am able to still experience the wonder of the blue sky while at the same time trying to dodge the bullet of boys. Different, yet all good, at times. I have chronicled the mess that sometimes is 4th grade, I've talked about giving up nursing, I've clued you in to the joys and frustrations that go along with our little redhead. But I think the issue that is the most distressing and rampant and not fixable is the issue that the kids might not be like me.

That statement, at a first glace, will seem arrogant. Of course I don't expect the kids to be like me all of the time, and to be sure, I wouldn't like for them to be. I would hope that the kids might be more outgoing, more confident, and more decisive. Only time will tell on that. I do, however, want them to possess the same work ethic and determination that I have. I'd like for them to have some drive, and always put forth their best effort. I'd like for them to possess an insane amount of common sense, and I'd appreciate it if they thought of others at least as much as they think of themselves.

When I look at all the characteristics the kids have to offer, I smile. They are so blessed with many things. The girls have amazing voices and are doing well on the piano. Aaron has a sponge for a brain. All three of them (we'll talk about Melina next time) are creative: they construct things out of boxes, they draw and paint well, and they use their imagination in unique ways. They are kind and quiet and silly and lovely. But at the end of the day, I am realizing that the girls are not always like me.

First off, I have to remember that Zoe and Talia are two separate people, and that each one, while different from the other, will be different from me. It is hard to stand by and watch Talia struggle with what I consider a simple math concept. Of course it isn't difficult for me. I've been doing that math for years! At the same time, I might have struggled with it in 4th grade, but I don't remember that. I do remember having homework, assigned by the teachers (ahem, are you listening Mrs. M? Mrs. A?) that reinforced what we learned in school. Not a ton of homework, but enough. Then, my mom, against the majority at the time, had us do workbooks in the summer to keep up our skills. At the time, I didn't like doing the workbooks. Now, I realize why my mom did what she did. And, I have spent many a dollar at the local school supply store on math and language workbooks.

The question I ask myself is this: Did I get the workbooks to make the girls more like me, or did I do it for them? I am pretty sure that I bought them the workbooks and ask them to do homework so that they can become confident in math and grammar. Math is everywhere, and I constantly tell them that. I don't want them to grow up and be the adult who cannot interpret the graph in the newspaper, or the mom that doesn't know how to double the recipe. Tim and I find grammatical errors, constantly, in newspaper articles and advertisements. I do want them to become more like me -- able to do math and grammar -- but in the process of becoming that way, they will be bettering themselves. I want the kids to be able to find the errors, and not make their own.

That statement is telling, if you think about it. I am not a micro-manager, but I could easily be one. When it comes to the kids, I try so hard not to just do the work for them, whether it is clean up the mess they've made or do their homework. I struggle each day to let them make the error, find the error, and learn from the error. My toughest job as a mom is to sit back and let the kids live life and actually become themselves.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Craziness

We've had a bit of craziness around here lately. The stomach bug, as of this morning at 5:30 am, finally made it through the last of our human family. Aaron caved and is lying on the couch right now. The laundry is in, and another pile is waiting to be done. Speaking of done, I know I am. I can do without the craziness that seems to hover with sickness.

Perhaps that craziness was behind my need to get out of bed two nights ago to post. I only posted because way back on November 1, I said I would post each day. But who is counting? Maybe you, dear FRN, are counting, but I doubt anyone else is. However, I happen to be the type of person who tries to do what she says she is going to do. Hence, the post, even though it was only a post in the most transparent sense of the word.

I do wonder what other craziness we have yet to behold before the end of the year. With Christmas coming and winter vacation for the kids, I can only imagine what is yet to come. Have I just jinxed myself with that? I hope not.

***
I apologize for the short lengths of these last few posts. You can tell the end of this month is approaching, and none too soon! I love blogging, but sometimes, it is tough to sit down and do it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Aaron's Friday Fun

Tim and I bought Aaron a whiteboard for his birthday, and Tim hung it on Aaron's bedroom wall. Aaron has been enjoying the board, using it for drawings, games, and most recently, math. On Friday, while everyone else was downstairs playing or watching Scooby-Doo, Aaron was upstairs doing this:


Apparently math outweighs Scooby-Doo in the fun department. I think he would have gone past 2,097,152 if I hadn't told him he needed to eat. I guess at least food comes in before math. For now, anyway!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

55 minutes

Until midnight.

I just came back down here because I remembered that I hadn't posted anything today!

Last year when this happened, I didn't get out of bed. This year, I did. What does that mean? Am I more dedicated? More anal retentive? Crazy? All of the above?

We'll think about that and perhaps get back to it tomorrow.

Good night!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Doh!

Every once in a while, I goof.

Melina woke me up this morning at 5:30 am. That is a bit early for her, but not too much. I heard Melina's little sighs, but let her go a bit, and then decided I better go in and try to get her to go back to sleep. I crawled into bed with her, and realized the problem. Well, I could smell the problem. The poor thing had wet the bed. The sheets, the mattress pad, her pajamas -- all of it -- were reeking of urine. It wasn't a diaper fail, it was a mommy fail.

Last night, Melina had taken a shower, and put her pajamas on before her snack. When we went up to bed, after snack, she went potty, brushed her teeth, and climbed into bed. I read her 3 stories, and turned out the light. If I had had to put the pajamas on after doing the bedtime potty and brush routine, I would have remembered to put a diaper on the child. Instead, I sent her to bed diaper-less, and thus, the deluge.

Melina has been potty-trained since before she was 2, but at night, we still need the diaper. However, it is clear that she probably stays dry up until really early in the morning. I think she'd have noticed wetting the bed before 5:30 am, if she had done so.

I told Melina she needs to remind me to put the diaper on her each evening. I don't know if she will, but considering I don't want to have to do any more laundry than I do, I'll make up some mental checklist and put "Melina's diaper" on it. Otherwise, I'll be doing repeated dope slaps to myself, and I think I can without any more of those.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We're Full

Full of love, full of laughter, and full of food.

We called off the Thanksgiving festivities today with my parents and Brooke and Ian. We figured that no one wanted to have a side of vomit with their turkey (sorry to be crude). But we woke up healthy, and made a nice meal. We even made it to the park to play after eating said meal.

So while we didn't get to have a nice visit with family and friends, I do think we had a pretty nice Thanksgiving.

I hope you and yours can say the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Need Your Help!

Of course, there could be many reasons why I need your help. But I don't have much time today, so I won't go into any of the other reasons why I might need your assistance.

I need to buy some sort of computer that will help me in my quest to get everything done. I won't find one that will do laundry and homework or anything else, but I'd like to be able to have something small, something that works on a wireless network, and something larger than a phone. I would use it for checking email (work and personal), doing small bits of research, and perhaps typing up documents. My thought was to get an Ipad, but I've never used them.

So, does anyone have an Ipad? Does anyone have any suggestions? All are welcome!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunchokes, Anyone?

Last week, sunchokes (or sunroots) arrived in our Happy Box (the box we get from the CSA). They used to be called Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus), but they aren't related to artichokes, and are actually a species of sunflower. The tuber is what is harvested and eaten. The CSA provided a nice description of the sunchokes, as well as multiple ways to prepare them.

I found it interesting that the sunchokes store the carbohydrate inulin, instead of starch. When I think of inulin, I go back to grad school where we first learned about Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) in the kidney. Essentially, the body filters and clears inulin, since it is neither secreted nor absorbed by any of the tubules in the kidney. In fact, the clearance of inulin is used clinically to measure GFR. Hmmm. Food for thought there (yikes, bad pun). What does this mean as far as digestion? Well, I could guess, that is for sure.

Instead of looking it up, I prepared the batch (coating with olive oil and spices and then baking them), and we ate them. Tim and I had the most, and the kids all tried them. The sunchokes tasted, to me, like a slightly different version of a potato. Unlike potatoes, though, they didn't agree with the digestive system.

Bloating and gas were the result of our experiment with sunchokes. It stands to reason, considering inulin is indigestible by the body. I was just rooting around (get it?) for some information, and everything I read said to introduce the sunchoke gradually, so the body can adapt.

Duh! Sometimes, I should just go with my gut, don't you think? (I am so full of puns today, I outshine myself, don't I?)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movie Review of Sorts

Despite the fact that Melina was sick yesterday, I went with some ladies to see the newest Twilight movie. I checked with Tim as to whether or not he wanted to be left with a sick Melina and 3 other children, and he said he didn't mind. Actually he said, "What is the worst that could happen? We all get sick and you come home to everyone on the couch. And the power is out." Thank you, Mr. Optimism.

Anyway, we headed to the matinee. A friend of mine picked me up, and while I hesitated about driving in her car and giving her GI germs, she had, just the night before, cleaned up a GI mess when one of the kids at the birthday party she was holding decided to get sick. I figured that we'd be even.

I haven't been to a full-pay movie in a decade. The last movie I saw in the theater, the first half of the 7th Harry Potter movie, was seen on a Tuesday night for $1.75. I couldn't believe it cost me $8 for a matinee, but I don't get out often, so in the end, I didn't care. The cost of concessions was even worse, but I treated myself.

After sitting through 15 minutes (!) of previews, the movie came on. Have you seen the other Twilight movies? The first one had two overriding themes: blue and bad makeup. I remember watching the movie in my family room and laughing! The acting wasn't very good, Bella's character was constantly huffing, and no one smiled! I guess living in a place where it rains all the time can do that to you, but I think the movie was perhaps a step above a B-grade movie.

The 2nd and 3rd movies, in my opinion, didn't get much better. There were things I would have put into the movie, to explain the story better to those that haven't read the books, and there were things I would have left out. The acting was slightly better -- perhaps because the actors were getting more comfortable in their characters, or, I had developed an immunity to the bad acting. Either way, my expectations for this movie were very low. Tim asked why I was going, then. My reply? I'd rather sit and laugh at the movie with friends than in my family room by myself!

Well, wasn't I pleasantly surprised! I guess the team had a bigger budget to work with, as the makeup was better, the sets and transitions seemed better, and the writing was also better. Theme here? Better, if you couldn't figure that out. The writers had injected some humor into the dialogue, and it worked. I was laughing at the movie, but not necessarily in the embarrassed for the actor sort of way.

I don't want to give anything away, in the event that you actually want to see the movie. One of the ladies I went with hadn't read any books, and she enjoyed the movie, too. The movie is only 1/2 of the last Twilight book, which makes complete sense. To try to make the entire book into one movie would have been disastrous. Luckily, the powers that be got it right as to where to end this first movie.

How many stars would I give the movie? I actually think it was a 3 star movie. I can't believe I said that, considering the other Twilight horrors that came before, but I'll stick with it. I hope they do as well with the 2nd half of the book as they did with the first.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jinxed!

Yesterday, at dinner, I was looking at Melina eat her food. She was packing away a huge amount, which wasn't too odd, considering she hadn't had an afternoon snack. While I was watching her, we spoke about preschool and what she liked, and how the teachers were, and whether or not she saw James on Thursday. Melina really likes James, and plays with him often. He has red hair, so it really isn't difficult to figure out why she gravitates to him.

Anyway, while we were talking, I was thinking that Melina hasn't brought home the deluge of germs that the other kids did upon entering preschool. It makes sense; she has already been inundated with many germs from the other kids being in school. Mid-November, and except for a slight cold and a double ear infection (neither of which kept her from school), we'd seen nothing.

I should not have even let that thought go through my head, I tell you!

At 1:30 am, I heard Melina complaining in her room, something she usually doesn't do. She wanted me to sleep with her. I said I could rest for a couple of minutes, but that I wanted her to sleep alone for the night. Again, I usually don't have to even say that. I told her to hold on, and I went downstairs to see Tim, just to tell him that I might be in Melina's room.

When I got back up to Melina's room, it was obvious something was amiss. She was whimpering, and there was a distinct odor. I am sure you know the one about which I am talking. I swung into clean-up mode. I stripped her bed, and dragged her to the bathroom. I ran downstairs to tell Tim that vomit-cleanup was underway. Melina had a bath, new sheets were put on the bed, and the first load of laundry was started.

Unfortunately for Melina, she continued to have vomiting spells. It is now 6:46 am, and she has used the bowl 8 times since that initial spread of glorious chyme across her bed. She and I have had little sleep, but we did catch a few winks. I hope she clears this easily, and that of course, it doesn't wreak havoc with the rest of the crew. Of course, I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

La Leche

Disclaimer: this post will use anatomical terms, such as breast and nipple. If that offends you, please leave now.

Someone asked me recently if I still nursed Melina. The short answer is no. But there is a longer story to this, and I thought I'd share.

If you are reading this, you probably know that I had, at least in my head, some cut-offs established as to when I would be done nursing. My first cut-off was at 12 months, but at the time, stopping just wasn't feasible. I then said I would stop nursing at 18 months. That is plenty of time on the boob, you know? That is what I thought, but Melina wasn't on board. Two years went by, 2 and 1/2 years went by, and then I said to her: "Once you start school, you cannot have any more mommy milk." She said okay, but didn't really mean it. After school that first day, she asked for mommy milk. And I gave it to her. I know, I know. I gave in.

What are my reasons for the extended nursing? There are a whole host of them, I think. Melina certainly didn't need the mommy milk for nutrition, as she is a pretty good eater (although a little heavy on the macaroni and cheese). Therefore, that was not the reason. But Melina enjoyed the snuggle time with me, and to be honest, I enjoyed the snuggle time. Unless she was sick, we nursed only at nap time and bedtime. It was a comfort to her, and therefore, I allowed it. She is the last of four, and I think I was hanging onto the knowledge that she'd be the last baby I ever nursed. And, of course, she slept well after nursing. You all know how important good sleep for a child (and parent) can be. The funniest reason for extended nursing? During our time together, I would read my book. I actually read quite alot during that time, and now that we don't nurse, I don't read as much! I miss that reading time, I have to say.

However, the time did come to stop, just a few days after Melina started school. For whatever reason, a crack developed on my left nipple, which is the breast from which she took milk (she had stopped the double sided nursing ages ago). When she started to suckle, enormous pains shot through my breast, up the side of my body. I winced, I cringed, I actually almost cried. I let her nurse once this way (the pain subsided after while) but spoke with the OB, who suggested having her lay off for a while. I jumped on that one.

The next day, I explained to Melina (and showed her) that I had a crack on my breast, and that it was very painful to have her take any mommy milk from it. I told her that I could read a book and rest with her for a moment, but then she'd need to nap by herself. She said okay.

That same night, I reminded her of the crack. She said okay again, and has been fine ever since. A couple of times Melina has stated that when the crack is done healing, that she'd like to have more mommy milk. As much as I hate to lie to the child, I just nod my head and say okay. What she doesn't know at this point, can't really hurt her.

I often ask myself if I would do it again and I don't really know. I am of the mind to do what is right for yourself, the baby, and the rest of the family, and during those years, extended nursing worked for us. A different child, a different time, and who knows?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tim's Mom's Turkey Recipe

It is that time of the year again. People will be calling me (you know who you are) for Tim's Mom's Turkey Recipe. I am not a fan of Thanksgiving turkey, mostly because as a kid, the turkeys weren't that tasty. Sorry, mom, but you know it is true. I always loved the smell of the cooking turkey, but the taste never quite lived up to the name.

Then, I met Tim (and Tim's mom) and realized that Thanksgiving turkey can be good, great even.

So, here is the recipe. Try it. You might find that you, too, are a Turkey convert. Remember, I was once completely vegetarian, too.

For a 14 pound bird:

7 tsp salt
7 tsp garlic salt
Italian seasoning
pepper
3/4 stick butter (soft)

Mash up the spices and the soft butter together in a bowl. Put under turkey skin, on the legs, and in the cavity of the bird. Put bay leaves and rosemary (if you want) under skin. Put the bird in the fridge overnight (or for two nights). Take out the bay leaves/rosemary before cooking.

Tie the turkey legs, put water and wine (cooking sherry will do) in bottom of pan, and bake at 350 or 370. Get it good and brown, and then seal it tightly with foil and turn the oven down to 330 or so.

I don't have any other instructions. Tim just looks in the oven and knows when it is done. The result? A flavorful, and moist, turkey breast, and yummy legs to boot! If you are just using a turkey breast, this works, and it works for whole chickens, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I never knew, as a kid, just how many decisions adults had to make. I was always ready to grow up, and now, I think I'd like to head back into the womb.

My life isn't full of big decisions. I luckily have made a few good ones in what might be considered the big decision category, such as 1. husband, 2. whether or not to have kids, 3. what sort of house to buy, and 4. pets. But each day, little decisions come up. The one that gets to me the most is deciding what to have for dinner. If someone just told me each day what to cook, I'd do it. But the deciding what to have is the big problem.

Dinner isn't the issue today. What is then? I'll tell you.

We have this refrigerator that will need to be replaced soon. Right there -- a ton of decisions! What type? What style? What color? Water spout? Ice maker? But I might have the style, color, and type down. I don't need help with that. The problem is that this refrigerator is wedged into the corner of our kitchen. Previous owners tried to fix that problem, by putting in a side-by-side type refrigerator. It might help a little, but you cannot open the freezer door all the way. Getting food into and out of the freezer can sometimes look like the person is trying to wrestle with the freezer door. And, the door is winning.

So, what to do about it? We have thought about replacing the appliance with the type that has French doors on top (refrigerator section) and the freezer on the bottom. Even though the left side door won't open all the way, because of the wall that lies next to it, the top is open, so we could slide things in from the right. This would be the most cost effective, as we would only have to buy the appliance, and perhaps fix a bit of cabinetry if the new refrigerator is higher than the old one (which is probably going to happen, because our old one is pretty old, and everything these days seems to be bigger and taller). We'd likely need to replace the countertops, too, because we now have a tile countertop. Who knows if anyone ever sealed the grout, but the tile is coming apart, and water is getting beneath it. Soon, the cabinets may rot, and I actually like the cabinets.

The other option is to move the refrigerator out of the corner, and then replace that corner with new cabinets. At that time, the countertop should be replaced and since we'd be moving some cabinets around, the floor ought to be done. Our floor right now is a dull shade of gray tile. I don't like it, but I could live with it longer. However, it is cracked in spots and needs some major repairs. Furthermore, my guess is that the tile is not under the cabinets right now. If we need to move those cabinets to put the new refrigerator there, we either need to find matching tile or get a new floor. Also, moving things around would likely mean that we'd need to replace the backsplash, and decide if we want to take down the wainscoting, or put new wainscoting up in the walls that have been revealed. Oh, and we need to fix the ceiling. We never fixed the ceiling when we had water damage from the pluming upstairs because we knew that we'd have to do something with the kitchen. We figured we'd to it all at one time.

So, we actually got an estimate for the work, and you know what? Moving the refrigerator and getting new counters and cabinets for that corner is not that bad. The big cost is in the floor. Demolition for the floor is quite a bit, and if we want to replace with tile (which, to be honest, I don't need and I think I'd be just as happy with a vinyl or laminate floor) the cost is pretty high. High enough that it would be best to get a home equity loan. Do we really want to go down that road?

Can you see where I am? At this point, I'd rather scrap the whole thing. But Tim says that since we rely on the refrigerator for so much, we need to be proactive, and buy a new one before this old thing goes. He is right. So we need to make a decision. Anyone out there care to do it for me?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super Talents

FRN asked what I'd like to have for a super talent. I am not sure that I the answer to that question, but it certainly got me thinking. (You will have to go with my stream of consciousness post here, sorry!) My enormous amount of common sense might, to some, be considered a super talent. So far, I don't know what it has done for me. What if I had the power to be invisible, something akin to Harry's invisibility cloak? I don't think so. There isn't much more that I'd do if I were invisible, so that won't quite work. Unlike Harry, I don't usually need to fight the dark powers that lurk in the night. I thought about being able to run at the speed of light, having more than two hands, and being able to do without sleep, and all of those would be great, but I realized, after having thought some more about it, that those talents (if you can call them that) are purely selfish.

So, in this week or so before Thanksgiving, I thought that maybe a talent that would be considered super and be extremely helpful, would be the ability to transform common dirt into food and clean water. Can you imagine the people I could help with that one? I'd be able to help people not only in this neck of the woods, but I'd be able to travel to third world countries and make sure they had some of the necessities of life. Wouldn't that be cool?

Of course, with every super talent or super power comes something bad. But since I don't feel like dwelling on that, we are going to stop right here.

I hope you all have some good plans for Thanksgiving this year, and I also hope you have alot for which to be thankful. We sure do. That will be yet another post later.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tattoos

Tim now sports a tattoo (albeit temporary) on the skin covering his deltoid muscle.

If you don't know why, go back and read this.

I thought it was hysterical when he showed it to me. And, he had no idea. I've known the guy for 13 years, and have been married for 11 of those. I guess I never mentioned that secret of mine to him. Perhaps, that is why they call it a secret.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Monday

Mondays are used for cleaning up around the house and running errands. I usually have a list of things to do: laundry, general clean-up, run to Trader Joe's, etc.

Today, the quest was simple: Find a pair of clip-on earrings.

I am sure the first question is why? But I bet you can guess the who.

Apparently, Melina felt the need to have a pair of earrings to go with her wedding outfit. She has had the dress, the veil, and the shoes for a while. This weekend, at the Spaghetti Dinner, Mrs. D gave her a ring that will work. The only thing missing? The earrings. Can't you just see my eyes rolling right now?

We tried Goodwill first, but they only had black earrings. They had a nice fuchsia pair, too, but in classic Melina fashion, she nixed them, as they wouldn't match the rest of the outfit. Right next to Goodwill is an Elder-Beerman store. If there isn't a store that screams I'm Old! more, I don't know what it is. There just had to be a pair of clip-ons in there.

And there was. A nice (and cheap) pair that matches her outfit perfectly, at least according to Melina. Happy Melina = Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forgotten pictures

For some reason, I leave the uploading of pictures from the camera to the computer for Tim. I guess I do alot of other things around here, and I just haven't put camera pictures on my priority list. I need to put it there soon, because I often forget that we have some pictures that people might want to see.

Therefore, this will be an easy post. We have pictures from Teresa's wedding, fall here at our house (including some Halloween pictures), and ways that the kids keep busy. Easy on the eyes, and easy on the writer!

Below are Aaron and cousin Jacob in the church at Aunt Teresa's wedding.


The girls had their hair done, and loved the pink, poofy dresses.


So did Melina.


This kid made it well past 11 o'clock that night. Don't worry, it is just a Shirley Temple in the glass!


***
Halloween was nice for everyone. The weather cooperated, and friends were able to come over and trick-or-treat. We never did get a picture of everyone, but maybe next year. Here are the older kids in their ghoulish garb. Aaron was a zombie, and the girls were vampires.


Of course, Melina was Cinderella. Would she be anyone but that?


***
I can't forget to put a picture of Aaron's birthday cake. He turned 7 (!) on November 1st.


***
With the weather getting colder, the kids have been inside creating. The other evening after dinner, this is who showed up in our kitchen.



Saturday, November 12, 2011

Identical

The girls came home with their school pictures yesterday.

I set the pictures in front of Tim, who spent a good minute looking at them. You could tell he was thinking hard about trying to guess correctly. His eyes narrowed, and his gaze was sharp.

"That's Talia!" he said, as he pointed to the picture of Zoe. He looked sort of proud of himself.

Alas, even the dad can't get it right.

Because of times like this, when your kids are so identical that your husband can't see the differences, we decided it would be okay for the girls to each put a permanent stripe in their hair. We went to see Miss Chrissy, who first bleached some hair on each side of the girls' heads, and then put the color on. Talia opted for orange, while Zoe chose purple; the color frames the length of their face, and actually, looks great. Now, if you can remember which color goes with which girl, you won't make a mistake.

It is a bit difficult to see the purple in this picture of Zoe, but in real life, the color stands out. Melina asked why she couldn't get a stripe. I told her Miss Chrissy doesn't put color on 3 year old children. Both Miss Chrissy and Melina were fine with that excuse.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Little Secret

So, did I ever tell you that I have always been attracted to bad boys? Well, it is true. You wouldn't know it by my husband or by any of the people I dated in my previous life.

The guys with the tattoos and piercings? Intriguing. Rocker boys? Always caught my eye, especially if they had dyed their hair. The crazier they looked, the more they attracted me. Have you ever read the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty? Thanks to my friend Kelsey, I did. Marcus Flutie? So my type when I was younger. I would have gone for him in a heartbeat. Bad boy, plus he was intelligent. Perhaps that is why I really enjoyed reading those books; I lived vicariously through Jessica.

The bad boys I met in real life, while outwardly attractive, just weren't attractive on the inside. This is going to sound like a generalization, and I apologize. But the bad boys I encountered? They tried to play it so cool, that they didn't care. The apathy was something I could do without.

So, aside from not wanting an apathetic partner, why didn't I end up with a bad boy? To be honest, I just don't think the good girl with the lack of confidence ever attracted those bad boys. In fact, I am somewhat glad of that. If some of those bad boys had actually been attracted to me, my life might have been a whole lot different. As in, my life might have been full of trouble.

What did I get instead? I found a guy who has the soul of a bad boy, but the exterior of a saint. Tim was somewhat of a class clown in school, although he was smart enough not to get caught (or the teachers just liked him and let him get away with whatever it was that he did). Tim also painted himself blue once in order to impersonate a Smurf. Not quite the hair dying type, but close, right? And one time, Tim chose to wear blue toenail polish. This was at a time when men wearing toenail polish was not the norm. (Okay, maybe it still isn't the norm, but almost anything goes these days.)

You might think the description of Tim and what I used to be attracted to are two completely different pictures. But upon thinking about it more, I think I figured out where the two pictures actually overlap. I tend to go for a guy that exudes confidence, sometimes even bordering on arrogance. The bad boys had it, and so does Tim. Now if I can just get him to put a tattoo on his bicep and a streak in his hair, we'll be golden.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Headache

That is one of the words I would use to describe my husband. Not because he is a pain in the neck, but because he gets headaches often. Little headaches, cluster headaches, and especially migraine headaches. Early on in our relationship, I discovered that Timmy would be out for the count due to a debilitating migraine headache. I can't stand the least bit of pain when it comes to my head, so I never could quite understand how he managed to get through.


But this time, the headache isn't his. It's Talia's headache.

For the second time this month, she has woken up with a pain in her head. The last time, it lasted for 2 days. We tried Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and cool washcloths, but nothing helped. Only time did. On the third day, it was gone. I spoke to the nurse at our doctor's office about Talia's headache. She said that migraines could develop this early, and if it happened again, to bring her into the office.

I sent Talia to school this morning, as she didn't have a fever or any other aches and pains that might indicate something else was wrong. Talia did say that she had a stiff neck. In any other case, I might get panicky and start thinking that meningitis was the problem, but again, there were no other symptoms, and I plan on watching her. Plus, Tim gets a stiff neck often, which then leads to a headache.

So what did we do for Talia this morning? I loaded her up with water (she didn't drink much yesterday, and perhaps this all stems from dehydration), Ibuprofen, and -- I can't believe I did this but caffeine helps Tim quite a bit -- some Pepsi. Pepsi for breakfast! What a mom I am! Luckly Aaron and Melina didn't notice what was in Talia's glass; Zoe noticed and sneaked a couple of sips from a different glass. I am sure this will go down as one of the best breakfasts in the history of our family, at least according to the girls.

I told Talia to call at lunch if the pain wasn't any better, and I will call the doctor in the morning and get her in if the pain continues. I just hope we aren't headed down the migraine road with her.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Letting Go

Today is Wednesday. I try to run on Wednesday mornings around the time the kids leave for school. When I came downstairs this morning to start my day, I just felt like I was going to run fast today. I stepped out into the light rain to start my run, and I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen. The rain was a bit cold, and coming down harder than I expected. In the end, I did run faster than normal, and the rain was like a cleanser. That jog this morning was one of the best I have had in a long time!

With such a glorious run behind me, I decided that I can no longer harbor these (ridiculous) feelings about 4th grade. I am letting go of the whole situation. I am putting my trust in the teachers, and my kids, and I believe that whatever ups and downs occur this year, in the end, the girls will have learned. I expect they will learn about more than just academic subjects...they'll learn about rules, and having to follow them, even when they don't feel like it. They will learn that teachers aren't always right. And most importantly, I think, they will learn that sometimes parents don't always get what they want.

***
Speaking of learning experiences, the kids and I were out enjoying what very well may be the last warm day of fall yesterday. Aaron was up the street at a friend's house, but the girls and I were outside making piles of leaves. The elderly man across the street came out of his house with a rake and wheelbarrow in hand. He started to rake his front lawn.

This man's wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. I haven't spoken to either of them directly about it, as I don't want to intrude. But I have thought about letting the man know that I am often home, in the event he or his wife need some help. I looked over at the man, just starting to tackle an enormous pile of leaves. I then looked at the girls and said, "Let's go help out Mr. S Okay?" Zoe, Talia, and Melina all smiled and said "Yes."

We grabbed our rakes and crossed the street. We headed up his front lawn and said, "Mr. S, Can we help you rake your leaves?" He looked at me, dumbfounded, and replied, "Now why would you want to do that?" Several things came to mind, but I didn't want to say any of them. I know Mr. S can be a bit brusque at times, and I can't even imagine what he is going through right now. I simply said back to him, "Because we'd like to?" He agreed.

We had all the leaves to the curb in under 15 minutes. The kids were great helpers, even Melina, and I think we all felt great. Mr. S thanked us and went inside, and the rest of us headed back to our side of the street.

The neighbor on our right came out and we started talking. She mentioned that she saw us across the street, and seeing us had brought tears to her eyes. She essentially patted me on the back for what we did, and said that lessons like that are hard to come by these days. I hadn't thought about it directly, but she is right. I don't need to be patted on the back, but kids these days don't often see neighbors helping neighbors, and learning lessons about life and giving are often few and far between. Lessons like this remind me that 4th grade troubles really aren't that much trouble at all.