Thursday, April 28, 2011

Interesting

I have a very good friend, Eben, who called me once on my use of the word interesting.

"Chris," he said. "You use that word when you aren't quite sure what to say to me. You use it when you disapprove, but are too polite to say so."

I thought about what he said, and I found he told the truth. Not that I expected him to lie to me, but each time I used the word from that time forward, I checked to see in what context I used it. I still can call a film or a book or a story interesting, as in something that holds my interest. But if I pull out the old in-ter-est-ing, in that slow tone of voice, chances are that I just might be trying to tell you that I don't agree, or that I disapprove.

Well, this week, I was corresponding with a person via email, one that I do not know well. I had reason to email him, considering he did our taxes. Yes, this year, we farmed it out. With Tim's regular job and teaching schedule, as well as my regular job and teaching schedule, there was no way either of us was going to get to do our taxes. Aaron probably would have offered, but right now, I just don't trust the kid! So, we called up our friendly financial advisor for a recommendation and went with the person he recommended.

Long story short, he did our taxes, but I needed to contact him with a question. A couple of emails later, and a question from him regarding a quote that I use in my signature, and I get back an email that ends: "You are interesting -- thanks."

I wasn't quite sure what to make of that. Does he really think I am interesting, and if so, how so? Did I make his day with my explanation of why I have that quote along with my signature? Does he dispprove of me somehow, and here's one I just thought of: Was he flirting?!? Who knows. Corresponding via email is definitely hard on actual communication. Things get lost in translation, as they say. In my mind, the translation just isn't there without the tone of the sender's voice and the body language that goes along with it.

Either way, I guess interesting is better than boring, right?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Books That Get Me Thinking

I am about 2/3 of the way through a book I picked up from the library. Because I like to be surprised with books, I usually request some titles that I know will be good, but I also wander through the stacks to see what books look interesting. The jury is still out on this one, but it is called "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough" by Ruth Pennebaker. Definitely not a book that Tim would pick up. It has a readers guide inside, so I can only imagine that it might make a good choice for a book club. It is definitely a book written for women.

Now, I should mention that this book is the story of 3 generations of women, all living together under one roof. Joanie has recently gone through a divorce; her mother, a widow, is financially unable to live alone and has moved in with Joanie; Caroline is Joanie's 15 year old daughter. The story is told from all 3 point of views, and the author successfully paints a portrait of these characters and what each is going through at the time.

Inside this book, on page 45, the author writes,

"A passerby might have thought the two girls, both in the lighthearted, sunny days of youth, were sharing a memory of the fun they'd had at school that day. He might have even envied them for being young and happy and carefree. But they might as well enjoy themselves while they could, he would have thought, since life became so much grimmer and more difficult the older you got."

When I read that paragraph, I stopped. I then went back and reread it, twice. I then literally took a moment to think about my life now, and then. What was life back when I was 15 in high school? Not a very good time in my life. I was awkward and gawky, had a mouthful of braces and permed hair. I had a few good friends, but was frightened by boys, and I detested my school and the people that ran it. Did I have times of happiness and feeling carefree? Indeed. Did I think of my happiness as fleeting? No. I would never have thought that, despite the youthful angst that permeated much of my high school years.

I then reflected on my life in the present. Would I consider life to be grimmer the older I got? I don't think so. I think I have so many more joyful moments now compared to when I was younger. Yes, life is slightly more involved because my responsibilities have increased. And perhaps some of those moments are more difficult. But with age, I have figured out how to best respond to what lies in front of me. My fifteen year old self would have only reacted to everything in one way: panic. The wisdom of age has allowed me to see things differently, perhaps more clearly, and I tend to enjoy many things just a bit more than I did back then. I am able to see the humor in many more situations as well as just appreciate the moment for what it is.

Reading the paragraph above also made me recall a conversation I had this past weekend with Zoe. She mentioned that she didn't want to be going into 4th grade next year, as she really didn't want to grow up. My mind raced when she said that. I remembered all the anxiety from studying for tests and test taking. I thought of the way I'd get nervous before basketball and volleyball games, how I'd get frustrated with friends, and all of the seemingly little molehills I made into mountains. In the span of about a couple of milliseconds, I thought of all that, and then of all the moments of clarity and joy I have experienced, especially since the kids have come along. All I could say to Zoe was that growing up is daunting, but at the same time, there is so much to look forward to. We didn't have time to chat about it, as we were packing up to leave Grandma's house, but I hope to return to the conversation in the future.

Granted, this book is, for the most part, a picture of these women at a point in their lives when they are disgruntled. They don't have the fortitude to see beyond what is in front of them and find the humor, the happiness, the joy that might just be in that moment. I am betting the author will bring these ladies and the story around toward a positive end, but in the meantime, I appreciate the books that get me thinking. I'll keep you posted on whether or not I'd consider it a great read.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eggs

Not a single picture was taken by me yesterday while we dyed eggs. At one point, I looked around for the camera, and then I got distracted by Melina trying to crack, peel, and eat the egg that was to be dyed.

In the end, 7 hard boiled eggs were put into the lovely colors, 1 hard boiled egg was eaten, 7 uncooked eggs were carefully colored as well, and 1 uncooked egg was dropped (by Zoe) onto the table. It cracked, but lived.

Here is what I already knew about coloring eggs with kids (the golden rule, in my mind):
  • Let go of your expectations and let them do their own thing.

Here is what I learned yesterday:
  • No matter how many eggs you actually cook, there will never be enough to go around.
  • There is a reason you cook the eggs, besides the obvious cracking issue. The shells soak up the dye much better, and wax adheres to the shell better, too.

I am sure that I learned more, but it was the end of the day, and my brain only retains so much in a day.

Happy Easter to you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Tornadoes

We have had some wild weather around here lately. Lots of wind and rain. Yards are flooded, as are some streets. And while we haven't yet had a spring tornado outside of the house, we have one inside of our house. It goes by the name of Aaron. But I bet you guessed that.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who do not clean up after themselves. That lesson is a tough one for kids to learn, I suspect -- based on the number of moms I know who complain about that same thing. I find myself, daily, asking the kids and Tim to please put things away when they are done with them. If everyone put the things away that they used, then really, I spend a lot less time during the day spinning my wheels.


Aaron is the king of not putting things away, and truth be told, he reminds me of a tornado. You can follow his path of destruction from the kitchen, to the dining room, the living room, and family room. You will even find evidence in the bathroom. I find crayons on the floor, towers that are half built, books open to pages where he stopped reading, and pedometer skeletons waiting to be rebuilt. He is curious about everything, and I really don't want to squelch that characteristic when I ask him to put his things away. But at this point, things have gotten out of hand.

I don't have enough time, energy, or resources to build Aaron his own space in our house, but I can get him a shelf in the basement. I'll probably end up getting everyone their own shelf. The blocks and toys will need to be put away, but projects that are partially finished and random computer parts and batteries can each have their own little home inside our home. Hopefully, that will cut down on the number of tornadoes we have around here!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Busy Tuesdays and Other Things

Yesterday was a busy day. I didn't teach. Well, I didn't teach anyone but Aaron and Melina. But I had things to do all day.

Melina and I met with Mr. C, the kids' principal, for a nice chat in the morning. We then headed to the store to pick up a few things to round out dinner. We headed home, played some games, made some lunch and I talked to a representative from a company that fixes siding, porches, etc. By the time he had left (and Aaron had arrived home), the kids and I finished up lunch, and I put Melina to bed. Aaron was reading while the next appointment of the day stopped by: a landscape architect that had come over last week. He had finished his plan, and wanted to show it to me.

After he left, I started dinner, and cleaned up the place a bit. Melina got up from her nap just as the girls got home. I loaded all 4 kids into the car so that we could drop the girls off at piano. When we came home, Melina and Aaron watched a program while I made more progress on dinner. Then, I spoke with the next person in my lineup: another landscaper. I wanted to know what his opinion and estimate of the front of the house would be. At that point, we had time to kill before the girls needed to come home. What better time to make banana oatmeal cookies. Melina put the sprinkles on top of some of them. She did a great job.

By the time the end of the day came, I had picked the girls up, dropped some clothes off to a friend, finished making (and ate) dinner, did the dishes and straightened up the rest of the house, not to mention put the kids to bed (Tim helped a bit with that). I plopped my backend on the couch, and could barely stay awake. Can you blame me? Sometimes, it is easier to just go teach!

***
Speaking of landscapers: the plan the man brought? I love it! Right now, the front of the house is ratty, and just old and green. Don't get me wrong, I love green. But there is a thing as too much green. We don't have any color, and usually, to combat that, I put out impatiens. I really like those flowers, but they can only do so much.

The man suggested some flowering dogwood, which in the spring, would bloom pink. The cool thing, and something I didn't know, is how the dogwood behaves in the fall. The color of the leaves change and a lovely red berry shows up.


The landscaper also plans on putting some ladies mantle, which is a smaller perennial plant. I am not a botanist. He could pull one over on me even if he didn't try. He says that these plants have lovely yellowish-chartreuse flowers. I could live with that, and will believe him.

He also would suggest some form of geranium, the Bevans variety. I like the idea of purple flowers that he says will bloom.


The final flowering piece is called the Snow queen Hydrangea. I love hydrangeas. I am more familiar with the rounded flowering plants, but find the idea of a cone-shaped flower just as appealing.


We are considering this plan seriously. We have a couple of other repairs that need to get done around the house this year, but our shrubs truly are on their last leg over here. If nothing else, we'll pull them out this year, put some planters in for color, and go with this plan next year.

By the way, while I didn't share any pictures, Wikipedia has all of these plants there, so feel free to check them out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Plain White T's Fan Club

It is my fault. Really, it is. I enjoyed listening to "Rhythm of Love" on the radio so much, that I thought it would be best to request the CD from the Library. Before the CD came in, I did some research and found out (duh!) that these guys also sang other good songs, namely "Hey There Delilah" and "1, 2, 3, 4" to name a few. How did I not figure this out?

In any case, the kids were thrilled with all of the songs on Wonders of the Younger. The liner notes did not contain the lyrics, but 3 out of 4 of our children have figured out the words, and sing (quite loudly) most of the songs. They love "Irrational Anthem," and Aaron pretty much break dances to that one in the living. "Boomerang" is also popular. I have to be honest: the Plain White T's get me going, too. I appreciate that, for the most part, their lyrics are clean, and if I ran while listening to music, their tunes just might give me my best time yet.

The second CD we borrowed from the library, Every Second Counts, was also popular with the kids. Again, no lyrics in the liner notes, but that didn't matter. Only one of the songs had a bad word in it, and we've discussed appropriate (and inappropriate) use of words with the kids before. Melina didn't even notice the word, most likely because we just don't use that kind of language around here. The girls were happy to know that "Hey There Delilah" was on this CD. It is a good song, in my opinion.

Last night, we picked up the 3rd CD from the library (Big Bad World). The girls were at piano when Aaron and Melina went with me to get the CD. Aaron was so excited, he just had to slip the CD in the car audio system to hear the songs, even though it takes maybe 2 minutes to get from the library to our house. He was happy with the first song, and I figured that, yet again, we'd struck gold with the Plain White T's. Aaron found one song in particular that he liked, and by the time the girls got home, we were bopping around the living room to "That Girl." Aaron had set the radio to repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

This morning, when the song came on, and I was moving to the beat while slicing strawberries, I decided to look at the liner notes. Hey, there are lyrics! Woo hoo! I thought. But imagine your good mood coming to a startling and complete halt! The first part of the song is fine, but it eventually gets to the very catchy refrain (and then some):

And now I'm singing
Do do do you wanna be on top
Or on the
Ba ba bottom don't make me stop
Cause I know oh oh
I'm in la la love with you girl
I can't stop singing
Do do do you wanna spend the night
And wake uh uh up
Under the morning light

Really? I had no idea that is what the Plain White T's were saying when I was bouncing around the room. Do the kids know? Have they figured it out? More importantly, do they know the liner notes have lyrics? Should I hide the liner notes?

I do have a plan. If anyone asks, I am going to say that they are talking about bunk beds. And as they say, that is my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our House (In the Middle of the Street)

I always did love that song. And, I love our house. I've loved the house from the minute we walked in the door with Frances S., the real estate agent. "I have this house," she said. "You will love it. It is a bit out of your price range, but I think it will be worth it."

I still remember driving up to the house, looking at the lovely (and small at the time) lilac tree in the front. The green bushes and the semi-mature trees in the front were enticing. When we walked into the front door, I was sold. Literally.


I remember having a feeling of peace, serenity, and a "this is it" moment. And I had only taken a glimpse of the dining and living rooms, and the kitchen. I told Tim that I didn't even need to see the upstairs. This was the house I'd like to buy.

Was it something in the dining room itself? Probably not. JM's decoration scheme varies far from what I like. The way she had her house is probably considered much more traditional. See what I mean? Striped drapes? The yellow walls didn't bother me too much, but the color really was too bright for my tastes. And the chandelier? It got ditched last May for something more contemporary.

The kitchen and attached 1/2 bath were a powder blue, which looked okay against the light grain of the cabinets. The kitchen was somewhat updated, but not nearly enough for anyone that was looking for stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. However, it was good enough for me.

We did eventually go upstairs to see everything. The home was originally built with only 3 bedrooms, but a master bedroom and bath had been added over the garage a while back. That bedroom was huge! I think it is bigger than the entire living room/dining room we had back in our old apartment. I also think it is sometimes too big, as we tend to pile things in it until we can take of them (especially clean clothes -- ahem, Tim). I don't have a good picture of the master bedroom. I felt a little funny photographing the owner's private space.

The other bedrooms were equally pleasing. Each one had enough space for a double bed and other furniture. The one that we planned to put the girls in had 3 closets and was considered the old master bedroom. Three closets! Woo-hoo! Somehow, those 3 closets still can't seem to house Zoe and Talia's clothes, books, and toys.

I think maybe the little rocking chairs just added to my euphoria. The room just exuded a sense of warmth and innocence, at least to me.

The kids bath had two sinks and plenty of cabinet space, there was one bedroom with hardwood floors, and the rest of the upstairs (and most of the downstairs) still had gleaming hardwood floors, there was a large linen closet in the upstairs hallway, and a family room and basement. The house had everything I was looking for inside. When I got to the back yard, that was when Tim realized it had what he wanted.

Yes, the backyard looked much better at that time. The owner's had grown kids and a lawn service. And no vegetable garden. Need I say more?

In the end, we made an offer that night, and went through the process of negotiating just a bit. When it came time to go to the inspection, I took my father-in-law with me (that is where I got the pictures) and waited anxiously for the report.

And the report? Not so great. We looked at the things that needed to be fixed, and foolishly perhaps, still forged ahead. Since then we've done the following:

New windows (39 of them)
New back door
New siding on the family room
New furnace
New gutters and downspouts
New carpet in the family room and up the stairs
Installed a basement drying system and sump pump
New plumbing in many areas
Painted most rooms
New light fixtures in dining room and foyer
New electrical box
The list could go on, I think.

I might need to remind you that this is our first house. We came here because Tim took his first job. And, it was a little out of our price range.

Would I do it over again? Yes, I would. The fenced in back yard, the neighborhood, the neighbors directly next to us, and proximity to things cannot be replaced. We have decided to take special care of this house, considering that very few people before us did. So far, we seem to be treating it right.

This whole topic came up because this old house needs some curb appeal. The outside of it no longer looks neat and tidy. The arbor vitae are dead, as is the lilac tree. The taxus need replacing and ivy needs to be clipped. I had a landscape architect come out today to give us an estimate, and I fear that (while it should be done) the budget might not allow for it. So I question myself. We have taken very good care of the inside of this house. Shouldn't that care extend to the outside of the house?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Birthdays

Two of our favorite people are born in April. Ava celebrates her birthday on April 13, while Aunt Gina was born on April 29. This year, Ava turns 4 and Aunt Gina turns 40! We were able to be at Ava's party this weekend, but I am not yet certain if we will make it out of state to celebrate with Gina. Either way, Happy Birthday to those lovely ladies!

No one else in our family was born in April, least of all Melina and Aaron. Yet last week, we baked two layers and sang Happy Birthday to both of them. It all started with Melina and a cake book. It is my fault: I have this great recipe book, full of every kind of cake you can think of, AND it has pictures. Melina was lying on her belly, carefully perusing the book, with her feet in the air and her ankles crossed. When she got to the layer cake that had a ballerina on it, she jumped up and said, "Can we make the ballerina cake?" Luckily, it was nap time, so I scooped her up and put her to bed.

When I went in to get her after she had woken up, the first words out of her mouth were, "Can we make the ballerina cake now?" Melina is lucky that I love to bake: I had a from-scratch recipe and the ingredients to make it. Melina, Aaron, and I set about making the cake, each of the kids adding flour, sugar, and eggs at the appropriate time. Aaron wanted to make the white cake green (with chocolate frosting) and Melina wanted to make the white cake pink (with pink frosting). They settled for a layer each in the combination they chose.

According to Melina, we still had to sing Happy Birthday. Why? I don't know. Two year old children get things in their heads, and you just are supposed to do them! She gathered up the candles she found, positioned them on the cake, and waited patiently until after dinner to have cake. We sang Happy Birthday to her, and she blew out the candles. How old did she turn?

Yep. She turned 8, 420 that day. The other kids thought it was hysterical to sing that number in the Happy Birthday song. Notice the ballerina on that cake? I didn't have icing to pipe, so I had to resort to making a drawing and sticking it on the cake. Melina was thrilled.

And with a look like that on Melina's face, it was all worth it!

How about Aaron? We sang to him, too. He wanted to turn 102, so he had to use a small candle in front of the 02 in the picture, and it is difficult to see.


I was really careful to pull the cake layers out of the oven just at the right time. The cake was moist and yummy, and a good time was had by all!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Body Parts

Excuse me if we already have a post with that same title. I am too lazy to look back and check. It is probably obvious that around here, living with a physiologist, the kids would know their body parts, and quite a bit how they function. Being the youngest, Melina has had the largest opportunity to learn body parts -- their correct names, and their incorrect names.

Now, this post could take a really big, nasty, turn right about now. But that isn't the point of it. The point is to (once again) highlight just how funny kids can be. The girls aren't that funny anymore, because they speak correctly and understand many things. Aaron can sometimes be funny, but Melina is in the thick of being funny. Her latest?

Melina: Aaron, I see your breasts!
Aaron: Melina, I don't have breasts.
Me: Technically, Aaron, you do. We all do. But with boys, we usually say you have a chest.
Melina: Aaron, you do have breasts! Someday, when I am a mommy, I will have big breasts. Mommy, you have big breasts.
Me [Looking down at what most people would consider a not-so-well endowed bosom]: Relatively speaking, I guess they are.
Melina: They are! They are! You have big breasts.

If you didn't find that conversation remotely funny, then I don't know why you stopped by.

***
Melina had an ear re-check to go to on Tuesday. The doctor couldn't see her eardrums to check because of all the wax that had built up. About two weeks ago, when Melina was watching Little Bear, she said, "Mom! I can't hear the TV." I wondered what the problem was, and checked her ears (she has a habit of sticking her fingers in them). They were fine.

Apparently, though, they were not. Dr. T took out the curette and removed the wax from each ear. I am not exaggerating when I say that each piece was 1.5 times the length of a pencil eraser. I was quite embarrassed, actually, but Dr. T said she sees it all the time. Then, she asked if Melina puts things in her ears. Of course! All those fingers going in her ears have pushed that wax all the way back!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Influences

Melina is sitting -- right now -- in her little rocking chair, whispering quietly to the baby she has in her arms. The baby is no ordinary baby doll or animal, though. She has swaddled Tim's measuring tape in a pink polka dot blanket.

The other day, Aaron was running around the house, chasing the girls and wielding a light saber. On top of his head was perched a Disney princess helmet, in a lovely shade of lavender.

Moments like this were never a part of my upbringing. I grew up with two sisters, and while we may have been tomboys, there are many experiences I just didn't know about until Aaron came along. So far, we have been blessed with children that enjoy each other's company. That isn't to say that there aren't arguments and VERY LOUD discussions, but for the most part, the girls are willing to play with Aaron and vice versa. And so far, this seems to be a good thing, as the children are not only playing with one another, but also learning from one another (and not just from Tim and myself).

I like to think that the kids will grow up confident, and not let gender roles get in the way of anything they want to do. And I think the kids get it already. We all cook and bake in this house, and we all try to fix things (although I admit that many times, Tim is better simply because he is stronger or understands how the structure works). The girls show interest in gears and Aaron is (most of the time) gentle with babies. Many times, if the girls are doing something, Aaron will watch, and the same can be said of the reverse.

So, around here, I'll just keep on watching Melina nurse the power tools, while Aaron straps the rockets onto the animal babies.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Little Things

Sometimes, it is the little things that keep me going on a dreary, gloomy, rainy, April day like today.

My warm cup of coffee that takes off the chill.

The smell of ripe (but not too ripe) pineapple waiting to be eaten.

The beauty of the pansy faces that sway in the wind.

A phone call from a friend just to check in.

I know that around here, the lugubrious nature of early April will eventually give rise to warm and wonderful late April, but 4 days into the month, it is difficult to shake the cold and keep hopeful.